Hello all, and happy flowering season to you! Ted here to bring you the news from Dancing Rabbit. Everything seems to be in bloom this week, all-in on spring’s arrival. Green is the new gray/brown, and our honey bees are often a good clue for me, as I roam about our gardens and orchards and out on the land. Where the buzz is, I find pollen sources and nectaries… until nightfall.
In recent years we’ve realized that right around sundown, the bees go home to the hive and the moths come out. As busy as our courtyard peach tree is with bees during the day while in flower, so it is by moonlight, only far quieter and thus harder to notice. The flowers are clearly a good source of nutrition for a variety of species, regardless of the hour of day or night: if one stops and looks up into the tree at night while it is in flower, they’ll see hundreds of moths moving quietly from one flower to the next and feeding, busy as bees working the night shift.
Sometimes, though, life is snuffed out all too soon: one afternoon this past week I was in the kitchen on a windy day when I heard a great crashing sound outside. Having had our 80′ wind turbine tower fall on our kitchen in a windstorm once upon a time (back in 2008), I braced for the worst as I stepped outside to investigate. I saw Tereza, who had also come out to see… a giant oak tree in the holler below her house had fallen.
We walked down to marvel at the spectacle. Hundreds of thousands of tiny leaves sprouted from the reposing branches that had so recently been catching the sun’s rays 60′ in the air, bursting into their annual new growth. The flower catkins sat there still manufacturing (for the moment) the airborne clouds of yellow pollen settling on water surfaces outdoors these days.
But they would soon lose turgor… the tree, probably 60-80 years old, give or take, had snapped off cleanly near the four-foot-diameter base, well rotted-through and grown thick with medicinal ganoderma fungi all up in the interior. Just a narrow band of live surface tissue had sustained all that annual growth in recent years. Such resilience! And a huge canopy hole to fill, so much biological potential, made possible by the sudden loss of one of the oldest standing trees in the village. I’d thought I was wrapping up firewood work for the season, but now I’ve a whole new project.
Friday morning, despite some intermittent spitting rain, we gathered for our annual spring land clean, working as a group to attend to as many needs of the commons as we could of a morning. One core group led by Thomas took on the re-finishing of our common building’s plaster exterior. The team daubed and painted on a mixture of lime, fine sand, and iron oxide pigment in water, returning the building’s exterior to a rich brownish-orange that reminds me strongly of the Southwest. Oh, and it improves the building’s weather resilience as well. I love the sharp new contrast against the new green of spring all around it.
Numerous paths received fresh mulch, flower beds were renovated, footpath bridges re-built, and rainwater drainage improved. Another team re-envisioned our village recycling center in hopes of making it easier for individuals to take materials away when they head to a larger town, thereby reducing the volume we accumulate on-site. I love this group work party each year, and the visible progress a few hours can produce.
It is no surprise that part of our timely motivation for cleaning arrives shortly after the land clean. The various members of our first visitor group assembled during the day Sunday for a two-week intensive on village life through seminars, work parties, celebrated moments, lots of shared meals, and more. Some of them may eventually become stalwart members of our community, and this is the moment we meet.
Another notable event this week took the form of an article by one of our nonprofit board members, Professor Josh Lockyer, published in the Journal of Political Ecology. He synthesized data from several years of research done here as part of our ecological auditing, tracking members’ travel and various forms of consumption. Very exciting for me to see this work in a peer-reviewed journal! And hard that with the imminent departure of DR member Brooke, who has led that research on the ground here, we do not have anyone immediately available to continue it. Anybody out there with research chops interested in relocating? Get in touch!
These thoughts connect for me pretty directly to the efforts by the current administration to strip away all manner of environmental protections established under presidents of both parties in recent decades. I understand that businesses have been asked to suggest regulations and laws that hamper their economic growth and that they’d love to see done away with. Not surprisingly, EPA regulations are among the most targeted.
It is hard not to see this as akin to inviting the fox or weasel to suggest ways of “improving” chicken coop construction and security. To ask the one who is regulated what they’d like most to make their work easier (i.e., more profitable) is to indict every regulation enacted for the greater good that increases the cost of doing business.
The challenge with environmental protection is that there is no firm value attached to things like breathable air, healthy soil, clean waterways and oceans—all of which are often impacted negatively at their roots as a result of most economic activity. These essential elements of our planet’s health are also essential to the health of every being, including us, but those corresponding values rarely show up on the balance sheet of any economic entity. These are the commons: a collective good that nobody takes entire responsibility for. When profit is the only goal, the commons lose badly, and eventually so does the profit.
If you also feel like it makes sense to balance economic growth with care for the environment, I urge you to contact your Congressional representatives and tell them so, as the proposed federal budget deconstructs decades of painstaking work to protect the common wealth, and proposes to slash the funding and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Ted mentioned above, the first visitor session of the year is happening now. If you’ve always wanted to come visit Dancing Rabbit but it never seemed like the right time, why not this year? Find out more about our visitor program here. Or if a workshop is more your speed, check out programs happening at DR this season here.
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.