Howdy y’all. Ben here, just a little soggy and chilled, providing for your education and amusement yet another report from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and the greater wilds of Northeast Missouri.
I’ll most certainly describe the weather to you in great detail. In short, it has been raining, and it will continue to do so, in the most dreary of fashions well into this week. As reasonably insulated as my modest home of straw and earth is, I can still hear the continual drone of rain on tin outside.
A quick scamper to the outhouse reveals an auditory world of drips and drops among buckets and barrels, not to mention the squish and squelch of my boots along the sodden foot path. In the daylight hours, woodpeckers and jays flitter among the oaks, some leafless, some stubbornly adorned in desiccated ochre foliage. Down along the bottoms, a sentinel crow squawks and scolds some unseen bird of prey. I have forgotten that skies are blue, goats aren’t always miserable, and that toilet paper is primarily a dry item.
Yes, there are dark days ahead. The battery bank in our home solar system is nearly at half mast, and I currently have fewer matches than I do candles. Still, I got the creature comforts, like a roof over my noggin, some new used boots, and several pint jars of rooster meat, which is more than a lot of folks in the big picture have.
It’s rough out there, and I ain’t just talkin’ bout the weather, but that’s a part of it. Every day I crank up my little emergency radio, place it up in just the right spot in our house and receive news of bombings, shootings, civil war, xenophobia, race hatred, and a hundred other kinds of brutality as monotonous as the driving rain. It’s enough to make a person wanna go get lost in the woods, so that’s what I do. The dog, who knows little about media-driven paranoia, knows the weather is lousy and won’t come with me, so I take the kid instead.
Kicking through the soggy duff among osage, sycamore, and honey locust, we look for coon and coyote prints, plan secret houses, pick up a few walnuts, and marvel at the returning carpets of chickweed, resurrected by the cool, short days. We wend our way upland, through towering stands of Indian grass and past antler-scarred colonies of sumac.
We creep along the obvious spots where the deer have been bedding down, but excepting the depressions in the grass and the buck rubs, there are no whitetails to be seen today. They’re probably eating the dozen or so trees I haven’t finished protecting for the winter. Soon we are back near our own homestead, distinguished by the unique scent of billy goat.
Back at home, things are overwhelmingly wholesome enough, if not perhaps a bit less glamorous than the ecovillage life you may be accustomed to hearing about. Some chickens are playing touch football in the pouring rain with an unidentified rodent carcass. There are weird little piles of wood everywhere. I can’t explain why I don’t have one neat stack of fuel wood like in the homesteading books, it’s just my system. The house itself smells like drying kale. Kale tastes good, even dried, but it kind of stinks when you’re drying it. Mae’s in the kitchen, mixing up the perfectly fine, slightly expired sugar cookie batter liberated from a dumpster over at a nearby supermarket. Their loss, I guess.
Our lawn, if you can call it that, is bedazzled with a fine coating of duck pin feathers. We try our best to make use of every part of everything we can here at Critterville, sometimes to the detriment of our curb appeal, and we do a mighty fine job with the feathers of our birds in particular.
We are saving duck down for comforters and perhaps clothing, and the more ornamental feathers are a part of our small natural crafting supply business. In fact, the feathers make us more money than the meat. On the other hand, you can’t eat money, or feathers. Without mayonnaise. Now that the weather is sufficiently chilly, we eat indoors, with our friends. Our little house can be pretty tight at mealtime. I like to think of it as a confined human feeding operation.
After dinner, Althea usually works on making dresses, draws, thinks up rather poor baby names for her soon-to-be sibling, requests a Grandfather Frog story, and goes to bed. But this night, having apparently heard the radio and the horrors of modern life it brings into our home, she asks me what a bomb is.
How do I explain this concept to a child? A child whose best friends were caterpillars for the first few years of her life? It’s a rhetorical question, by the way. There’s no good explanation for it. They’re ain’t no good reason for people to shoot each other, or blow each other up, or harm one another in any of the multitude of ways that people do sometimes. There are causes for it, sure. And hot dog are they complex! It all leaves me more confused than a goat on Astroturf.
Take Syria, for instance. Though there had always been signs of strife and civil unrest under the Assad regime, it was perhaps the changing climate which catalyzed the nation into war. The current chaos in Syria was preceded by four years of drought and failed wheat crops, which led to higher food prices. Though there is an enormous list of horrors to blame for the quagmire, climate instability is clearly a big one, along with all the usual suspects, like resource scarcity, despots, and ideologues. With all the recent talk of whether or not to accept refugees, it may be of interest to note that Springdale, Arkansas, of all places, has become host to numerous refugees from the Marshall Islands, which are vanishing under rising sea levels. But what do I know? I’m just a guy who knows about ducks, not geopolitics.
I can assure my child (and myself for that matter) that no one will ever drop a bomb in Northeast Missouri, but four years of drought is entirely within the realm of possibility, ironic as it seems this week. Then she reminds me that even if the violence can’t affect us here, it isn’t right for it to happen in other places. Shucks. I hadn’t thought of that.
I’d like to think that all the politicians are gonna get together in Paris this week for the UN climate talks and work out some sound solutions for getting us outta this pickle, maybe take a look at our quaint little ecovillage and put some real changes into motion. Then they can all fix the next big problem for us. Chances are more likely that folks’ll just wheel, deal, and make sausage like they’re apt to until they come to an agreement which pleases no one and helps not one iota. But I’m often wrong.
At my best, I’m fairly proud of the simple life I am living here. Dancing Rabbit is a fine place, with some fine people trying hard to work and play with solutions for an ever confounding world. And we can offer a lot of answers for how to live lightly on the Earth, or how to cooperate with one another to build a community.
But there’s a lot of big, dark stuff out there we don’t have the answers for yet. At least not me, and it is unfortunate to think that it may be our children sorting this mess out. Then again, for people who cry about cookies and sometimes wet their pants, they’ve got a lot more sense than the adults, it seems.
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Non-profit Name Change Town Hall Meeting – say that ten times fast! In case you want to join in the fun, next Wednesday Dec. 9th at 7pm CST we’ll be holding a Town Hall meeting to discuss the nine remaining candidates for our nonprofit branch’s new name! More info here.
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Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.