The Approach of Fall: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Sara and I went out for a lovely walk on the land this morning, with early autumn growing all around us. We have not yet seen any frost, putting this year on the late end of typical (third in a row, by my reckoning). The odd sprig of New England aster or goldenrod and a few fleabane are still flowering, but I’m thinking my bees’ final honey flow must be at an end now. Most of the osage balls have dropped, but black walnuts still fall intermittently from the adolescent tree outside our bedroom window in Ironweed courtyard. The raspberries in my front yard seem content to keep pumping out rafts of plump berries as long as the weather holds.

In the garden we’re still harvesting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and pole beans, and the sweet potatoes are growing happily yet, but I’m gearing up to prepare garlic for planting because we’d like to have it in the ground in the next few weeks to set some roots before winter takes hold. Sara’s best-ever crop of Brussels sprouts wait in abundance to sweeten up on the stalk after frost, potatoes are mostly harvested and curing for storage, and I’m trimming away the skeletal sunflower stalks ’round our house now that they’ve mostly been stripped of their seed by the birds. In the wee hours I find myself scheming as to how to help my fig ripen lots more of its many immature fruits before giving up for the year, and thinking about rooting some fig cuttings as well, for to plant out next spring.

Ted here with this week’s news from Dancing Rabbit.

Sara out for an early autumn walk on the land. Photo by Ted.

The beginning of our week still felt like the ebb tide of our 20th reunion, with a handful of visitors and past members and residents sticking around through the early part of the week. Inevitably there were lots of folks I didn’t get to bid farewell to, and some I barely got a proper conversation with during the gathering, but I consoled myself that it is all in the nature of the event. I know I felt a long glow as the weekend bloomed and faded, and I reviewed the newly re-embroidered tapestry of our community’s story in my mind. Having cooked one of the big weekend meals with stellar co-cook and former member Nani, I was also relieved that that part was finished, and I was tired, ready to rest.

By mid-week I had recovered enough to offer a workshop on food preservation to the student group from Ritenour High School in the St. Louis area, here visiting us for a couple days. Rain threatened but held off long enough for us to check out Ironweed garden before going inside to learn how to make a simple goat cheese and shredding up some purple and green cabbage to fill a crock with sauerkraut. We wrapped up by sampling an array of our dried foods from the season, and they proceeded on to other workshops. I hope they had fun—I know I enjoyed sharing with them some of the food preservation tasks I most love.

My cat Gromit came in the other night just before I was heading to bed, and though he hid it well at first, I finally discovered that he had the most amazing mass of burdock burrs stuck in the fur between his forelegs. This is certainly a rough season for burrs if you’re covered in fur, with agrimony on one side and sharp-seeded coreopsis on the other, but this burr ball was unquestionably the largest he’d ever brought home at one time. It took a good day before he allowed me to work at it and remove the majority, and every time he got up from resting on a rug or blanket in the interim, it sounded like two opposing sections of Velcro being ripped apart.

Rain finally did fall steadily most of Friday, with a soothing, steady beat on our steel roof, no thunder or major fireworks. I had finally managed a planned intervention to address a roof leak around the solar tube flashing above Aurelia’s room just before the rain, and watched with anticipation to see whether any evidence of the leak persisted. So far, so good! Think like water, Thomas had advised (I sought his advice as he’s just completed the roof of his shop this season and is almost always well-researched in his work). It is gratifying when my work is successful. Lots more fall work to come now that the schedule is opening up…

Saturday brought continued wet weather that delayed our Ultimate game by a day, but by the afternoon it had cleared plenty for Stephen and Erica to host an Italian-foods-themed gathering over at Casa Caterpillar. Erica’s mother had generously sent another installment of tasty Italian specialties of all sorts, from an array of olives to cheeses, meats, and chocolate, and the two shared the largess with those of us in attendance as Italian music played in the background. Whew! I didn’t need a lot of dinner after that luxurious taste extravaganza. We will miss them when they head out next Monday, first stop Mumbai, India, but are still storing up the pleasure of having had them back in the neighborhood these past couple months, and looking to next year when we’ll meet again.

Bear and Zane hosted a mega-sleepover event for the 9-and-older crowd later Saturday night at the Casa, with games and a movie and sleeping bags plus an unexpected herd of small elephants, if the sounds coming from there were any indication. Aurelia reported falling asleep some time after 2am, and being up at 7:30 again to play some more. Sounded like a good time, and I bet they’ll all sleep deeply tonight.

Katherine and Vick are the primary liaisons for our final visitor session of the year, whose participants began arriving Sunday afternoon from all over. It takes a village, though, and Sharon, our education coordinator, has been tirelessly scouring for volunteers to plug the last remaining gaps in the schedule, from cooking to childcare, work parties, and escorts to Sandhill and Red Earth for tours. My first duty comes Thursday when I talk to the group about land use planning at Dancing Rabbit, and then cook for them that evening. We’re glad to welcome them, and to wonder again who among them might decide to stay and join our village.

Coming from the northeast US originally, I fell in love as a child with the lavish displays of color in the natural world each autumn. Despite the occasional year of unusually vibrant color here, the overall palette is narrower in range, and yet on a small scale, all the most vivid colors are in evidence. Virginia creeper looks like fire on the high branches of nearly leaf-stripped honey locust just now, and rains crimson leaflets in the breeze.

Perhaps even more strikingly red are the sumac leaves, suggesting an infrared glow just beyond my visual perception. Even the prairie grasses get in the game. From afar, the hillside is a rich, tawny color of toasted sourdough crust, but up close, individual clusters of Indian grass display a range of hues I’d expect out of a plastic toy factory. Bright purple, vivid green and dusky red share space on a single blade, and the seed heads progress to the sort of purple majesty over burnt umber that must have inspired some of the songs we learned as children.

I’m grateful to live in such beauty, even if I have to look a little more closely than I learned as a kid, and I hope that all of you are heading out into whatever wild or semi-wild spaces you may have available to you as well. Feels good for the soul to absorb the bounty to nourish me through the cold months ahead.

Don’t forget our final two public tours of the year, coming this Saturday, October 14, and again on the 28th, each at 1pm. If we haven’t seen you here yet this year, I hope we will. Until next time, cheers!


As Ted mentions above, our last visitor session of the year is in progress. And in a few short weeks our last program for 2017,
THRIVE: Inner Sustainability for Healers, Leaders, & Lovers of the Earth, is happening. If you want to join us for it, register now!


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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