Winter Sleep: A Dancing Rabbit Update

So, I woke up this glorious Sunday morning to the still toasty, snap, crackle, and pop of logs burning in the custom-built rocket stove of my neighbors’ house. I am house-sitting for them, you see. (Did I mention it is a self-feeding rocket stove? Yeah, that’s right, self-feeding. Simply put, it’s an amazing structure.) Their cat, Grommet, is darting back and forth through the house clawing and kneading, first there on the wood post between rooms, then here on my leg . . . ouch, trying to hint I should let him out. This is when I say, “You know what, Grommet? That sounds like a great idea. But, here’s the thing. I don’t have my own permanent fur coat. So, you’re going to have to give me a minute while I get layered up.” I’m almost positive he rolled his eyes at me. I proceed to slip into my insulated coveralls, don my cloak (yep, I totally own a cloak like something straight out of the 1800’s when they were still the hip thing to wear) and open the front door to greet the new day.

A snow blanket covers the sleeping village (photo by Cat)

Greetings and salutations, folks! Guest writer Colwyn here, wishing you a warm “hello” from chilly, snowy, northeast Missouri. Looking out on the land from the front porch of Shì Róng Lǐ (also known as Osage), I can’t help but notice all the sleeping. Sleeping trees (save for those old stubborn oaks and the never-sleeping pines that refuse to shed their leaves), sleeping gardens, sleeping grass, sleeping chickens, sleeping peoples (it’s 6 o’clock in the morning), and even sleeping weeds. Being amidst all this sleeping, I can’t help but feel my synchronicity in relation to this sleeping. Thunderlodge, where I’ve been working for much of the season, is now sleeping. No more laying railroad tie foundations. No more framing for straw bale insulation. And no more lime or earthen plastering.

Thistledown is tucked in for the winter as well. The house is oiled. The berm is reconstructed. The chimney is clean, and a fire is roasting in its warm winter belly. The time has come, too, for my season here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage to come to rest, to sleep and hibernate through the depths of winter, and reawaken next spring new and refreshed. I’m not the only one either. The season seems to predict sleep for the village at-large as well.

The nonprofit’s on-farm fall board meeting has come and gone. Some friends and neighbors—those that prefer it at least—are pursuing their winter plans and migrating away from the community for deep winter; only to return in the spring, revitalized for a new year to come. As am I, as I head back south to Texas for the winter. Yes, it seems to be a time for sleeping. What was this season that is coming to rest? What did it feel like?

For me, this season was a season of “new.” Where do I even begin? Oh, yes! Snow. Coming from Texas, I was hoping to see Dancing Rabbit with its winter coat on. Wish granted! For the second time in my life I have experienced snowfall. Real, legitimate snowfall; not some freak occurrence of nature that isn’t even supposed to happen in that climate. (The first time, crazy enough, was in the heart of Texas about six years ago. Barely a quarter inch fell that time.) Well, this time, I had the pleasure of experiencing two-plus inches in a single night, and in November no less! That just blew me away. Doesn’t winter start around winter solstice? And I’ve never experienced anything like snow coming from the side and smashing me in the face, pushed by the wind; white winter, indeed!

But I’m getting way off track here; I was telling you about my season of “new.” New houses, new piglets, new ducks. New veggies. And for me, brand-new experiences. First, in June, shortly after arriving at Dancing Rabbit, I attended the timber-frame workshop where I learned how to make a barn out of just wood that will stand for a hundred-plus years. Then, there was construction of Thunderlodge, a straw bale insulated home built on a timber-frame skeleton with a rooftop already in place, to be continued next year. There was also the butchering of ducks and chickens later in the season. From bleeding to evisceration, I did it all! That was a sort of right-of-passage for this city boy. I’m omnivorous and proud of it, but I wasn’t proud that I lacked the knowledge and experience of how meat gets from the pasture to my belly.

On the social side of things: I joined the kitchen coop at Thistledown and, for the first time ever, I cooked for more than a dozen people at a time. One of my most successful meals was taco salad night (an oldie but a goodie, I say). Being a baseline vegan kitchen, instead of beef I made fried tofu with a marinade that blew people away (I still served taco meat for us omnivores, haha). I can honestly say I had no idea how good it feels to have all the food you cook completely devoured. Someone must have liked it!

I attended dance parties and arranged community movie nights. I paraded in the Progressive Halloween Fiasco. I dehydrated sweet Asian pears with a friend. I led an alternative energy workshops and transcribed for the non-profit board meeting where I also had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with some of the long-time members and benefactors of my community.

Wait! I can’t forget scaring friends in the deep darkness of night as they walked mere inches away, so close you can’t help but say, “Boo!” Priceless. I’m barely scratching the surface of all the “new” I’ve had the pleasure and blessing to experience this year at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. But alas, all good things must end, right? Well, maybe not end; maybe just sleep, for the winter. And with that, I, Colwyn, will also sign off for the season. Looking forward to chatting again come spring!

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