New Folks and the Mighty Mushroom Hunter: A Dancing Rabbit Update

There was bountiful morel mushroom foraging this week. Photo by Nik.

There was bountiful morel mushroom foraging this week. Photo by Nik.

Hi friends. This is Alline, reporting for Dancing Rabbit.

As I write this the date is April 27th – by the time this appears in the local newspaper, the Memphis Democrat, it will be Thursday, April 30th. How the heck did that happen? Pretty soon it will be May Day! Our neighbor Laura is reviving the age-old May Day custom of the May Basket (leaving flowers anonymously for friends and neighbors), and soon we’ll gather at Sandhill Farm to dance around the May Pole. Before I moved here I hadn’t done this since kindergarten. I love the opportunity to gather in the warm spring sunshine, while musicians play, and watch the ribbons of cloth become woven as we dance around the pole.

The theme around the village this week is New Folks. We’ve sailed through the first week of our first visitor session of the year and are having a great time. It is always amazing to me the number of people who continue to be interested in what we’re doing here; it is always a delight to discover what excellent human beings they are. Our recent group is no exception – they are talented, thoughtful, articulate, smart, and excited to pitch in. We are excited to let them!

This group of visitors come from all over the country (and one from Italy!), and have a wide variety of skills to contribute. In a group of 11 adults we have teachers (of English and a variety of musical instruments), farmers, a chef, web designers, electricians, a couple who spent time working at the Catholic Worker House in New Orleans, a family from a forming ecovillage in Bloomington, IN, and a bunch of fabulous kids.

I have the opportunity to lead the workshop on Dancing Rabbit history for each visitor group. This time we were able to show a short documentary film made in the fall of 1999 by an Iowa film student. It is in VHS format, but we found an old VCR and hooked it up. What fun to watch!

The difference between Dancing Rabbit then and now is startling. In November 1999 there were three buildings started (Allium, the Timberframe and Skyhouse), hardly any trees, and just eight people sitting around the dinner table. Flash forward to 2015 where there are 28+ buildings, thousands of trees, and 19 mailboxes. Whooee!

During the three weeks of their stay at DR the visitors eat in different kitchens throughout the village. This not only spreads the workload among many Rabbits and their food cooperatives, it also gives the visitors a chance to meet and interact with many members of our community, and to experience food “dogma” that may be different from their own. Reflective of the spectrum of ecological sustainability represented here at DR, each food coop/kitchen has its own approach to food. One might be local & organic, another exclusively organic (but not necessarily local), and a third might consume only produce the co-op can grow itself.

Since eating is such a social ritual, it’s an excellent way to connect with one another – meals often last much longer than the time it takes to actually eat. There is something elemental about sharing food and drink that seems to allow folks to open up, and more willing to divulge a bit of themselves. On Sunday evening it was the Mercantile’s turn to host the visitor group.

Kurt and I have been running the Milkweed Mercantile for over five years, but since I’m not a professional chef, a large group of diners often rattles me; it is daunting to look out into the dining room and see 30 expectant faces. I worry: will there be enough? Will they like it? I was blissfully relieved to find that once again the visitors’ positive attitude triumphed; there was enough, and they did like it.

With the influx of new people, this week’s song circle was downright spectacular. Brought to the community years ago by Tereza and Alyssa, song circle is held almost every Wednesday night. We don’t use instruments in song circle, but instead depend upon those who can carry a tune; the rest of us join in joyfully and with gusto (no skill required!).

There are lots of harmonies, and new songs often become part of our ongoing repertoire. It is great fun to sing a song while remembering the person who originally taught it to us (“hey, let’s sing the one Liat taught us about the alligator!”). Even though these friends no longer live at DR, they live on through the songs they brought to us.

Odd as it may seem, I glean an enormous chunk of my daily DR intelligence through Facebook. It’s funny what I can learn about a person who lives a mere 30 feet from me by what they post on their page (much more, sometimes, than actual conversation!). Facebook is where I learned that Nik came back from the woods with over two quarts of morel mushrooms.

Inspired by his dazzling foraging success, the Mighty Morel Hunter (um, that would be me) followed in his intrepid footsteps and set forth to bring home my own bounty. Oh, my poor ego. While I did find six morels, that was all I found. I still don’t have a good understanding of where exactly they will be. I never know if I just can’t see them or if they’re simply not there. I can imagine them hiding in the woods, whispering and giggling while ducking under a violet: “hee hee hee – she can’t see us now!” The bad attitude of these mushrooms does not make me love them any less.

This next Sunday and Monday (May 2 and 3) members of Dancing Rabbit and Dancing Rabbit Alumni will be participating in the Baker Creek Spring Planting Festival down in Mansfield, MO. You may have seen the Baker Creek Seed Catalog, which seems to be a favorite of every gardener I know. Filled with photos of organic, heirloom vegetables and fruit, it is pretty much considered “veggie porn.” That is, one look and you are filled with lust and desire to have each and every one of those plants in your own garden. Mrs. Milkweed’s Jams & Pickles, Artemisia Soaps and a couple other local-to-DR businesses will be selling their wares at the Festival.  If you attend, we hope you’ll stop by!

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Also coming up, on Tuesday May 5, Dancing Rabbit will be participating in Give STL Day, a 24-hour online giving event put on by the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation. We’ll be joining hundreds of communities across the country to raise money for the greater good—all on a single day. Prizes and incentives will be awarded throughout the day, both for donors and organizations, so we hope you’ll consider joining in on Tuesday and multiplying your impact. Last year we raised almost $5,000 for Dancing Rabbit’s nonprofit organization, thanks to our awesome supporters!

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Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

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