Hi friends, Prairie here! This month I took my Dancing Rabbit adventure to the next level by work-exchanging with the Ironweed kitchen co-op, and I have since been enjoying my meals in their cozy cob and straw structure. In this co-op there is the opportunity, every Sunday before lunch, for each member to check in with others about how they are doing, how their week was, and what their internal experience is/has been. As someone who leans heavily on the extroverted side of the spectrum, these check-ins have been an excellent way for me to process what has been going on for me.
What does a work-exchange entail? One commits to and carries out thirty hours a week of labor wherever one’s host needs them. In return, the host pays for one’s monthly living expenses: food, housing, and access to the Common House facilities, which includes showers, wifi, library, water, hang-out space, etc.
Historically, folks from Dancing Rabbit have accepted applicants from around the world to work-exchange. My arrangement with Ironweed differs in that I have established a life here for a year and a half, and I am committed to other responsibilities like managing the dance studio, La Casa de Cultura (in English: The House of Culture), and working to make our second annual Singing Rabbit event a flourishing success; I am also in charge of my education. My goal is for these activities to land on me less like a pile of overwhelming chores to maintain and more so the fun, challenging, out-of-the-box experience that I initially desired upon arrival at Dancing Rabbit. So far the latter has been the case.
I’ve transplanted seedlings, weeded garden beds, harvested nettles and mushrooms, and hauled supplies for water catchment, not to mention learned the names and uses of dozens of plants. I have also begun a journey into cheese making. Ironweed kitchen is part of the village’s goat co-op and receives goat milk regularly, and also purchases cow milk from the dairy two miles away, making it the main center at Dancing Rabbit where local milk finds its way into many forms, from hard cheddars, to yogurt, to melt-in-your-mouth chevre.
Speaking of milk, this season we have more than we know what to do with thanks to (dun-du-dun-dun!) the newest addition to our community: Sugar, Dancing Rabbit’s first cow! Mae, member of the Critter Collective and long-standing contributor to the goat co-op, has wanted a cow for years. I still can’t believe her wish has come true. Sugar is a generous sight, all brown and curious and BIG in comparison to the goats around her. It is incredible to be so close to such a gentle and loving animal; and with a calf on the way, she is producing approximately two gallons of delicious milk a day — more than my kitchen can keep up with! Welcome, Sugar!
We are still overflowing with water from the dark days of rain this week, and I had forgotten how the perspective of my surroundings changes when the sun finds its way around the clouds and brings its innumerable gifts to the rest of the world. I feel grateful the sun decided to shed some light for us on the fourth day of May, Sandhill Farms’ annual May Day celebration!
Sandhill is a decades-old community that rests upon a steep slope surrounded by tall woods. I always feel a hush, like the air around me is taking a deep breath, when I enter their property. The place hums with color and a mysterious quiet. It holds the sort of beauty that can only be found in undisturbed areas of nature, and I cherish this one.
May Day draws friends in from various earthly corners like Red Earth Farms, Dancing Rabbit, Memphis, Missouri, and more. Those commuting via bicycle began the trek after two o’clock, and though the distance is comparatively short, just three miles to the southeast of Dancing Rabbit, it was the first time I had hopped on my bike this year, and my legs could feel it.
It’s difficult for me to decide which activities were my favorite. I laughingly enjoyed the field games, like tug-of-war, three-legged races, crab walks and the like. My mom and I almost won the last race but stumbled off balance in the middle, so Nina and Cole took the lead. There were many painted faces to be found amid the rush of celebration and activities: there was a butterfly, several deer, a blue jay and other beautiful animals painted by Cole and Taylor. Weaving the May Pole lifted my heart to the wind, even as people paused in confusion over who was supposed to go over or under who. Members of Red Earth, Sandhill and Dancing Rabbit carried us along with their musically woven melodies: flute, guitar, oboe and drums in synchronized harmony. After the ribbons were bound, kids ventured to climb the pole, taking twigs to mark how high they were able to reach. I found myself struggling up the great post, and I did not manage to pull myself to the top. Maybe next year. Finally, there was potluck, which was the biggest of this year so far. Let’s just say I ate so much I was sure I wouldn’t be able to eat again. The day wound down with a fire circle and music created by Emma and Emory.
The night was deep and clear, starry and full. I was ready to go to bed. One of the aspects of life I enjoy here regularly is feeling attuned to the rhythms of the sun. My sleepy time approaches with the stars and ends with the emerging dawn.
A BIG thank you to everyone who donated on Give STL Day! The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture raised $5,279 last week, thanks to you all. These donations support our non-profit’s ability to continue to provide scholarships for workshops and visitor programs, to share information about sustainable living, and spread the word about how we humans can make changes to foster deep connections with one another and contribute to a more harmonious existence on this Earth.
Every idea, action, inspiration and light step on this soil can make an incredible difference if one is willing to acknowledge the potential around us to create it. You will most likely find my feet bare on that soil, especially around the Ironweed garden and kitchen, trying to remember the difference between carrot greens and poison hemlock.
You can visit Dancing Rabbit and see Ironweed Kitchen, along with many of the other awesome features of our village, by coming to one of our free Saturday tours! The next one is on May 11th, and starts at 1:00 pm. Thank you for reading!