It has been 16 years since Sara and I took up residence at Dancing Rabbit, and every year I learn again that there is nuance and change within long-term patterns. Certain features of my life, like weekly potlucks with friends and neighbors, groups of interested strangers coming to visit our village for weeks at a time, naming our houses, and cooperative labor, remain the same, but the specific shape those things take does change over time: for instance, redbud and plum are about to burst into bloom as they do each year, but do they always coincide so closely, or was their bloom time influenced by the persistent cold of later winter and early spring?
Ted here to bring you this week’s update from our fair village. One of my favorite daily rituals lately has been to peek at the tawny, spotted rock dove nesting in the far end of the gutter on Tereza’s House, The Haven, which is just a few dozen strides from our front door along a public path running through the area. This is the first time I have witnessed a bird doing this. The thing is, she (the dove) isn’t alone: immediately adjacent to her position, down in the piping of the downspout, there is a pair of starlings scrabbling constantly against the metal, coming and going with nesting materials. We haven’t had any strong precipitation in a week or so… How do I tell them the folly of their plans? I cannot help picturing the inevitable deluge to come in the next hard rain, when a season’s effort might be flushed down the spout in a few minutes of downpour. Or, just possibly, they might hatch out their young during a time with no major rainfall. One way or the other, that dove peeking over the edge of the gutter all day is a member of our neighborhood, and I find myself saying hello each day while wondering at her seemingly imperturbable calm as the starlings come and go right under her nose.
That brings me to water catchment: Sara and I have committed to setting up a new irrigation scheme for our garden this year. For years now on our homestead we have collected rainwater in above-ground tanks as well as in-ground cisterns; by pumping batches of water into elevated tanks, we’ve been able to meet our year-round needs for a low-pressure supply to our buildings and garden with about 4000 gallons of storage capacity. We are installing drip emitters that are meant to work with a low-pressure, gravity-fed water supply (as opposed to a pressurized supply) such as our rain barrels and cubes provide. It feels really wonderful to be able to rely on this year after year, and to have the passive filtration system for drinking water that supplies all our needs. The water just tastes better here than anyplace else, and I appreciate the connection to how things were formerly done. There are still cisterns and root cellars attached to old barns and homesteads here in northeast Missouri, though not so much in use anymore. I think these are resources whose time has come around again.
Bob recently led our first public tour of the year, which benefited from last weekend’s spring land clean and the first signs of green life in the village clearly in evidence. (I hope you’re planning a visit to our village this year!) We’ll have another public tour on Saturday the 27th, starting at 1pm. You might even catch a glimpse of the village’s first cow in the not-too-distant future, if all goes well.
Saturday was the fullest of my recent days. For many years our friends at Sandhill Farm have been the adopt-a-highway sponsors for the several miles of route M that thread between Rutledge and the road crossing to our west toward Memphis. That morning a truck-full of Rabbits, and a couple bicyclists, joined their crew at the start of the route. We peeled off in teams to walk each side of the road collecting trash and items to recycle.
Helping to tidy the highway is usually satisfying enough, but this year we had an end goal of lunch at the Rutledge Fire Department BBQ chicken fundraiser, where village hero and fire chief Javi was making the rounds with other department members and their families. We’re glad to support our local fire department, and excited to hear about their newly acquired vehicles. Though ice cream cones and other desserts featured at the fundraiser, upon our return to the village we had to face a whole new round of ice cream for Javi’s son Max’s ninth birthday.
With energy to spare, the kids drifted off to the trampoline in the Grassroots neighborhood, which seems to be the designated kid hangout lately, while ultimate frisbee players met at our field for a game in the late afternoon. If you are an Ultimate enthusiast living in the area please get in touch! We’d love to find more local players.
New village residents, Avi and Anya, have been making many trips throughout the week back and forth from a far-away pile of mature manure to a garden where they are planting potatoes this season. Their paths crossed mine repeatedly, and I called out encouragement while steeling myself for the same effort soon to come for me. (If they can plant 30 pounds of potatoes, so can I, right?)
Meanwhile, Sara has been spotting out our little seedlings, while I’ve been preparing garden beds. With warm weather coming on soon, more and more wee plants will be headed out into the garden. We’re sprouting sweet potato slips off of the last of 2018’s crop, and I’ve just seen that one of the lemon seeds I brought home from Italy last year is putting on new growth, determined to survive after making it through the winter with a single leaf.
Thankfully I am looking forward to some extra hands in the garden soon. Our first visitor session of the year began on Sunday, and will last for a couple weeks during which time we will introduce these 10 visitors to our village, how we live, and what we’re trying to accomplish. Along with informational sessions about everything from conflict resolution and land use planning to natural building and alternative energy, we also mix in work parties where visitors can join us in garden work, learn hands-on building techniques, and other cooperative tasks that keep the village running.
Soon I will have the chance to spend a couple hours in Ironweed garden introducing our visitors to permaculture-oriented thinking about the gardens and orchards we tend, then get into digging and planting. Hopefully we’ll get lots of our seed potatoes in the ground during the work party, with an eye toward the biggest harvest of locally-grown calories we produce in a year. In the meantime, we’ve been eating the first shiitake mushrooms off of our logs, and I’m slowly relaxing into the warm season despite the rapidly growing to-do list.
Best wishes of spring to all our readers, from your friends here at Dancing Rabbit.
Craving a deep dive into community and sustainability, but can’t take off work for our two-week visitor program? Join us for one of our Ecovillage Experience Weekends, where you can get some firsthand experience of a planet friendly lifestyle. Come be part of the magic of creating a sustainable future.