Hi friends! Alline here, writing from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. The weather is warm and sunny, and if I were actually a gardener I’d be outside basking in the sunshine, planting seedlings, applying layers of compost and mulch, and thinking deep, organic thoughts. Alas, my brand of gardening is more Darwinian, as in “survival of the fittest”. I begin with such good intentions. I spend the month of February drooling over the dozens of seed catalogs that land in my mailbox, turning back pages, circling precisely which variety of kale and peppers I want most, and then drawing beautiful designs of just where in my garden everything will go. I order seeds, and paw through them excitedly when they arrive. Then, while icy weather rages outside and just about everyone else here at DR is nurturing their seeds into seedlings in their greenhouses, I’m watching movies on Netflix, learning to crochet granny squares, and planning a trip to visit the best bookstores in all 50 states (the first leg, which is in October, begins in St. Louis and stops at ten bookstores, the Crystal Bridges Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the National Quilt Museum. Wanna come?). Whoops, sorry, that’s exactly why I don’t have a garden.
Sometimes in the late spring a few of my seeds do get planted outside, and do actually come up.This makes me feel very accomplished, and exceedingly proud of myself. For example, last year I harvested 12 whole okra pods. I’m finding I do best, however, with perennials such as asparagus, rhubarb, berries, and mint, used in juleps (see below). It seems absolutely miraculous (to me) that they all come back year after year, regardless of how neglectful I have been. Fortunately, I have friends who have incredible green thumbs who always end up growing waaaay more produce than they actually need. I am happy to purchase their leftovers, they are delighted to not have to can 4,356 dozen quarts of tomatoes, and it’s a win-win for everyone.
That said, not all of my gardening news is bleak; we are currently hosting our first Visitor Session of the season, and the group is scheduled to join me and Angela in a clean-up of the garden area surrounding the Milkweed Mercantile. There are a lot of native plants such as rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), echinacea (purple coneflower), rattlesnake master (the coolest plant ever), and, of course, milkweed, which need to be divided and moved a bit. We also have seeds for zinnias, hollyhocks and marigolds to plant along the edges. Visitor Work Parties (we call them “parties” because we have fun!) are a great way to get to know one another — somehow working alongside each other enables the conversation to flow more freely than sitting still and facing each other. Plus, a lot of good work done gets done.
I am able to join these work parties because I finally have some spare time in my schedule. When the Milkweed Mercantile went from two owners (my husband Kurt and I) to a cooperative board of eight, I gained peace of mind and a lot of my time back. Even better, I still get to do the things I like best, like bake ooey-gooey desserts for our Thursday Pizza Nights and cook for special events, like our annual Mother’s Day Brunch, coming up in just 18 days (Sunday, May 12th, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm). For the record, everything at the Mercantile is made from scratch — you won’t find a frozen entree or a microwave here. We have all of our favorite items on the menu, from French Toast stuffed with our own raspberry jam, to biscuits and gravy, to asparagus and Swiss frittata, and so much more. In addition to mimosas and bloody Marys, we have the most delicious, locally harvested grape juice. Last fall we canned a zillion quarts of Concord grape juice from the vines surrounding Liz’s house: Sparrow’s Nest, which we have been saving for Mother’s Day. If you’ve never had real grape juice you owe it to yourself (and your mom!) to come check it out at brunch – it is heaven in a glass! (Reservations are required. Call 660-883-5522 to secure your spot!)
With some of my newly-gained spare time I am able to attend the weekly Dancing Rabbit Writing Group. A group of folks (often including Tereza, Vick, Prairie and Benji) gather each Wednesday morning in the Mercantile. We close our eyes and take turns choosing a few slips of paper from a bag, all of which have a single word scrawled on both sides (blue paper for nouns, red for verbs, and yellow for adjectives). We read the words aloud and then then give ourselves 14 minutes to use them in a piece. The chosen words often seem to have nothing in common and are really fun to try to put together. Examples of some of the past word groupings: continue, irritate, and colossal; x-ray, scrub, and boundless; phobic, drum, and mean; garbage, substantial, and encourage. Ha! When the time is up, we each read aloud what we’ve written. I am constantly in awe of the talent of my fellow writers, and amazed by just how differently we use the same words. We follow the guidelines set by Frankie Voeltz and Jennifer Morales in the Milkweed Mercantile’s annual writing workshops, such as: we assume all writing is fiction (even if the story sounds suspiciously like the writer’s own life, we assume it is “made up,” helping the process feel much more easeful and adventurous), we treat each other respectfully, and we make no disclaimers for our writing (this one is so difficult!). Writing with this group is one of my favorite things to do each week, just as the writing workshops have become my favorite week of each year. Our 2019 five-day Writing Workshop will be in August this year, led once again by Frankie Voeltz and Jennifer Morales. If you’ve ever been interested in trying a writing workshop but haven’t felt brave enough, or if you’re a writer who would like to surround yourself with support, encouragement and kindred spirits, I encourage you to take a look. Frankie and Jennifer create a safe space where laughter abounds and tears are welcome, where creativity flows as fast as the encouragement, and where all talent is nurtured. Plus, the food is really, really good.
One last event to share with you all: on Saturday, May 4, everyone is invited to join us at the Milkweed Mercantile to watch the Kentucky Derby and the quest for the Triple Crown. Post-time for the race is 5:46 pm. You won’t want to miss what has been called “the most exciting two-minutes in sports”. Who will win? Will it be Omaha Beach (son of War Front), Improbable (at 10-1), or Roadster (5-1)? Our bar opens at 4 pm and will, of course, be serving mint juleps. There will also be a contest for best hat!
That is pretty much my (non-gardening, excuse-filled) life in a nutshell: cooking, baking, reading, writing, and avoiding the garden. I feel fortunate that it takes all kinds of people to make a village, and am grateful every single day for the farmers and gardeners among us. Have a great week!
Want to join us in some work parties and learn all kinds of interesting things firsthand from gardeners and non-gardeners alike? Sign up for our visitor program, where you will partake a wide array of workshops, experience a little of life in our village and the nature that surrounds it, and enjoy some scrumptious homemade food.