Ah, the confusion of spring weather! It seemed so clear in March that we were headed for an early, steady spring; but of course spring around here typically includes all sorts of weather swings, and up through this past week, the threat of a last frost lingered. We waited and waited to fill in the gaps in the brassica beds where earlier transplants had succumbed to the hard frosts of a few weeks ago… and now we’re in our standard last frost range and we’re looking toward a projected high of 90 later this week! As abrupt as the swing feels, by the calendar of past seasons we’re in about the right spot, and our tomato seedlings in paper pots are going to be very happy to start hardening off for the garden in the warm weather this week. Time to get the sweet corn and beans in the ground.
Ted here at Dancing Rabbit to offer you this week’s update.
Construction progress on our house this week included getting the first of the raw wool insulation for our addition’s ceiling installed. Four or five years ago a local sheep farmer offered to sell her fleeces for the cost of shearing, around $5 a head, and I readily jumped at the opportunity despite not having an immediate project to make use of the resource. Last weekend’s semi-annual land clean uncovered the large burlap-bagged bales of wool, almost lost but not forgotten, in the machine shed. The time had come to claim them: our project was ready! Some had ended up in ground contact with some of the burlap rotted away, but aside from some superficially rotted edges, the raw wool was moist but in good shape. Early in the week my crew and I moisturized our hands with all the lanolin as we spread the fleeces on large black tarps in the sun, fluffing and turning them every hour or two to allow the sun to dry them out. Now they’ll spend fifty or a hundred years or more keeping the temperature in our house right about where we want it.
Speaking of sheep, Dancing Rabbit welcomed its first livestock larger than chickens this week when Kyle brought home four full-fleeced ewes from a nearby farm. The morning rapidly developed from an excited neighborly welcoming into a minor rodeo. The ewes, understandably skittish from their transportation experience, all went along with the plan for a while, being walked on halters from the van toward their new fenced paddock. But with equally skittish dogs around, one finally jerked itself loose from its human lead en route, and in fear and confusion went a long way off on its own before it was caught again.
As you may know, sheep are most comfortable in a herd, and the lone ewe, back on tether but without fleecy friends, refused to go more than a few steps back across the fields toward her very distant companions. Weighing in around 200 pounds, and with four feet to hold her ground, she was not easily influenced. There seemed little option but to bring the truck out to the field, at which point four of us picked her up into the bed and ferried her more successfully back to the fenced enclosure to rejoin her compatriots.
The four are now settling into Ironweed’s orchard while awaiting group agreement to let them graze in the shared orchard near the entrance to Dancing Rabbit. I’m excited for the future, which I hope will bring more grazers before long! As a budding cheese maker, visions of goat and sheep cheeses aging in our root cellar seem to be floating constantly through my head now…
This weekend’s contra dance event Contra Culture brought in dancers from near and far and kept the dance floor in La Casa jumping at intervals through the weekend. While I’m not very comfortable with the gender and power dynamics in swing and other partnered social dance genres (namely, the expectation to lead smoothly), I fell in love with contra while living in Maine. Every dance is taught, so once you know the basics, the learning curve is a forgiving one. One piece that pushes our cultural standards is the contra norm of staring your partner or neighbor in the eye as you swing or turn with them, the purpose of which is to keep you from getting dizzy. The unity of everyone in the room dancing in unison, and continually progressing up and down the hall, dancing with new couples each round, is strongly reminiscent of the joy of living in community. The live fiddling and guitar (and the occasional upright bass) sweep me right off my feet.
This weekend’s event took the dance one step further with an emphasis on de-gendering the dancing roles. In place of the default assumption of men as leads and women as follows, each participant could self-select which role they wanted to dance, with leads donning an armband to signify their choice. Having danced mostly lead in contra prior to this weekend, I quickly found the wisdom in the callers’ recommendation to stick with whichever role you chose for the duration of a three-hour dance event. Switching mid-stream, as I eventually did, was extremely confusing!
I was a proud papa, watching my five-year-old Aurelia loving the dance all weekend, finding her own partners, and participating capably. She and new friend Lucy, three years of age and visiting for the weekend with her dad, partnered with each other for one square and made it through with some adept shadowing of the younger by one of the experienced dancers here for the weekend. Cheers to all participants for their inclusion.
Holding the dance weekend at Dancing Rabbit meant that we got to share some of what we do here during some workshops with participants. In addition to getting our groove on to the excellent live music, Sara and I each lead a short workshop in gardening and earthen plaster, respectively. The plasterers were ready to get dirty, and dove into stomping sand, mud and straw into a batch of plaster and then learning to apply it on our addition’s walls. We hope we’ll see lots of the weekend’s guests return for future events.
In other events, Morgan and new residency applicant Elea headed to the Prom at our local high school Saturday. Elea spent several hours with her team of stylists and fashion consultants preparing for the event in Mandy and Ryan’s new tent house down our way. She emerged radiant and the two headed off to the event in full form. Somehow Aurelia managed to come home with painted fingers and toes… no surprise there; she’s on a three-month bender of wearing almost nothing but fancy dresses. We don’t emphasize boy-girl cultural norms here with our kids, wanting to let them learn for themselves what feels comfortable; but some of these things seem to be built-in, as far as I can tell.
Ultimate Frisbee players finally got back on the field Thursday with enough players for a great short game. Several of our regulars have been out of town, so we’re itching to get into a steady schedule again. Sadly, it looks like we won’t be headed back to the Show-Me State Games tourney this summer owing to scheduling conflicts, but with our fab new full-size field to play on now, we’ll be ready to show our stuff again next year.
This second week of our first 2012 visitor session brought a number of new residency requests. The membership committee interviewed a lovely family of three from Chicago this week, recommending them to the group for residency beginning in June, and will interview two more this week and a third next. Despite membership having grown from 10 or so when I first came to Dancing Rabbit in 2001, to 62 and growing now, every new residency request still feels like an unexpected windfall. The larger we grow, the more ideas we convert from concept to reality. Nine years on now from taking the plunge myself, I remain proud of what we’re doing and excited to see and do ever more.
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is a growing village whose mission is to experiment in, and demonstrate, ecologically sustainable living. Our twice-monthly tours, 2nd and 4th Saturdays at 1p through October, are free and open to the public. The next will be Saturday, May 12. For more information, please check out our newly updated website at www.dancingrabbit.org, or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.