Where the Wild Things Grow

I continue to be surprised at how different the weather is here in the Midwest from year to year and this year is no exception. Liz here, with the latest from Dancing Rabbit ecovillage.

Just as I braced myself for a hot and humid early summer, having put away my winter clothes and taken the blankets off my bed, along comes weeks of overcast, rainy days and nights in the sixties. June has been a roller coaster, with hot days in the nineties alternating daily with impressive thunderstorms and cool nights.

Over at SubHub, the straw bale building I’ve been working on for the last few years, we press on, regardless of the weather. This month we hosted a natural building workshop for an afternoon, teaching eight people how to mix plaster for filling in cracks in the kitchen subfloor, getting it ready for the final slate tile layer. It had been a year and a half since our project last hosted a workshop, and it felt good to be back to sharing our vision for this resource-sharing community building with people from outside the village.

The village is also back to hosting visitor programs, having completed our first one just weeks ago and getting ready for our second two-week session this week. The first program began for me with an awkward feeling as strangers passed me on the gravel road every day, and ended with my usual appreciation for how those same strangers shift and change during their stay here as they catch on that it is a cultural norm here to smile and make eye contact when passing each other.

This spring over at SubHub, we worked intensively on two loft spaces upstairs, closing up the gable ends of the building, and installing roof insulation and beadboard ceiling panels. With the closing up of the building, it immediately began behaving as a straw bale building should: cooler inside as the temperature outside got warmer, and warmer inside as the temperatures outside got cooler. And all of it without any heating or cooling units. So now when it’s in the nineties and humid outside, we have a cool place to work inside the building. This month we added cellulose insulation to the upstairs wall spaces and finished the downstairs subfloor. My son, Graham, created some beautiful walnut window trim for the west loft windows and began installing reclaimed maple floor boards for the final loft floor. It is so satisfying to see these spaces come together!

All these rainy days and nights, combined with warm temperatures, have made ideal weather for prairie grass and wildflowers to grow in the gardens here. Our village is on one edge of 280 acres of former farmland and it seems like each week, the wild growth stubbornly insists on invading every inch of my garden. It is always ironic to me that I moved from a native garden in urban California that only had to be minimally weeded and trimmed back once a year, to a garden in a rural area that has to be mowed extensively every few weeks at a minimum. I let some volunteer plants grow, if it can be accommodated, like my thriving wild rose hips bush and some shading mulberry trees. 

As is always the case, people who live here come and go. Visitor Bill stayed on from our first visitor program and became a new resident. Javi has departed to fight wildfires on the West coast. Robey and Sara returned to the Seattle area for the summer. Apple departs soon to walk the Colorado Trail for a few weeks. Angela has returned from Iowa where she was waiting out the pandemic. Katie, who was a visitor several years ago, has moved to DR and joined the SubHub crew. The Pott family, with their four boys, recently visited us for a few days. Lauren and Taylor, who have lived here for a bit over a year now, returned from a stay in St. Louis.

And in the spirit of an approaching post-pandemic world, I offer a thought from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “We are all the leaves of one tree, we are all the waves of one sea, we are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”

Liz Hackney aspires to be a mover and shaker in the world through the SubHub subcommunity that is slowly forming at DR. She has tried her hand at cooking for visitors at the Milkweed Mercantile, ushering new residents into DR for three years, helping with natural building workshops, building a straw bale house for the subcommunity for the last two years, being a Village Council member, leading qigong classes, participating in retreats, restoration circles, women’s groups, and so much more.

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