Spring is in the air and birds are everywhere! Living in the pastoral village of Dancing Rabbit here in northeast Missouri we are very close to nature, and of course, we are part of nature. We still have chilly weather but the snow is done and many of us are busy in our gardens. We have had some rain and seem to have good soil moisture and the trick is not to compact the wet soil as we prepare to plant vegetables and flowers.
John here to relate to you the goings on in our busy village. Though we have curtailed our community dinners and group singing and dancing we still have a fair amount of socializing, though at reasonable distances and often with protective masks to reduce the chance of spreading the COVID-19 virus. I have been gardening in our ‘front’ garden along the main driveway near our parking lot, so I get to visit with lots of folks who stroll by. It is very nice to visit and share what we are doing around the village.
There are several ongoing construction projects and many people are fixing up their homes for more comfort and convenience. I am living in Skyhouse, a large boarding house, with just two other residents and we doubt we will have many visitors this season. Hassan is redoing the floors in the back half of the building and it is nice to have him around with his subtle sense of humor. I told him I was going to go out to do some weed eating in the garden and he asked me what kind of weeds I was going to eat. Well I thought a minute and told him that the sourdock was very good but I am still looking for the lambsquarter!
This is a wonderful time to garden, before the weeds and bugs show up en masse. They are already around and waiting for our tasty organic produce. I planted a dozen raspberry cane starts last week, and something, maybe rabbits, ate a few choice leaves off the primacanes, (new growth). So I have put chicken wire around the patch since it is outside our fenced garden. Dancing Rabbit lives up to its name with a lot of prancing rabbits looking to our gardens for treats!
Last Saturday Alyson, of Red Earth Farms, led a birdwatching hike through the woods and meadows that lie between our adjacent communities. Alyson is quite knowledgeable and could recognise a tremendous number of birds by their beautiful songs. With binoculars she and Kurt would try and spot the bird singing and so positively identify the bird. (I was the one of our trio without binoculars).
There were many highlights for me. Seeing a Baltimore oriole’s wonderful orange plumage darting through the woods and then roosting a few minutes to show off for us was nice. I also learned that the female red-winged blackbird is a plain speckled brown. I had always thought the male and female had the distinctive red shoulder patch. The trilling song of the red-winged blackbird is a sound I have always associated with summer since I used to hear it a lot in the heat of the summer as I walked the fields and meadows of our farm as a child. The robins chattered incessantly during our hike and made picking out the songs of other birds more difficult for me. But as we spent nearly 2 hours listening, my ability to discern the different calls improved.
Earlier in the week I went out hunting morel mushrooms, because a sunny day after a half inch of rain seemed a good time to look. I bushwhacked for over two hours checking around dead trees and south facing slopes along a creek hoping to find the tasty fungi. Being fairly new to Dancing Rabbit and knowing there are many wildcrafters here I figured my chances of finding morels were slim.
But about the time I started thinking of turning home empty handed I found a lone morel just a couple of feet from the creek and right under a heavy vine trunk. Well that got me motivated and in another 10 or 20 minutes I had found seven more nice-sized mushrooms! Though I was motivated now to look quite a while longer, these would be my take for the day. I was elated and marched home with high steps and a song in my heart thinking of my treasure in hand. I did share these morels with a few fellow communitarians and one friend who had never tasted morels before and was very delighted with the taste.
I think we have a nice advantage being here in Northeast Missouri, far from crowded cities with people coming and going and some not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. We do practice social distancing here and we even wore masks as we went birdwatching the other day.
Around the village we have a lot of foot traffic and so we get to visit outside at a respectable distance. But we also have a large piece of land held in a community land trust where we can hike and wildcraft and listen to nature. Though we have very few visitors and are far from movie theaters and restaurants we have quite well-rounded lives, and each other in a close-knit village.