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Nature is fierce on the edge of the village where the SubHub neighborhood is forming. It is a permaculture concept that diversity in living organisms flourish where habitats overlap, on the “edges.” As we close up the building over time, we see how persistently birds find small holes to get into the building and build nests and fly around inside, and one by one we are able to plug them and keep them on the outside. Ants, powder beetles, and mice are now our primary challengers for the space, and I’m not in the mood to share. Liz here, with the latest from our humble village at DR.
I have been concentrating on applying a finish coat of lime plaster to the outside of the building. It started out as a group effort and I am the only one left (crew members move on to other important/fun tasks that keep the SubHub project chugging forward). I am cultivating patience working in this heat wave, my thoughts alternating between feeling like I should be hanging out in a cool place inside like everyone else, or pushing myself to finish this task that we’ve been waiting, for one reason or another, to do for several years now. After the finish coat has dried (in this weather, within days), I will mix a limewash paint with some colored pigment in it, and paint the exterior of the building. And then SubHub will finally blend in with its surroundings and take another step toward completion!
Several days ago, I hoisted myself and my buckets of plaster up onto a scaffold and prepared to smear some creamy white lime finish plaster on the exterior wall, when something caught my eye at the top of the wall. What looked like hairy tarantula legs were peeking out from a gap between the wood trim and the wall. I watched for a while, mentally running through my list of Missouri insects; I didn’t think there were tarantulas here. The thing was about a foot from my face; so naturally, I decided to touch it with my trowel. Out of the gap dropped a bat, free falling, then it unfolded its black wings and flew off!
During various stages in closing up the building, we unintentionally created habitat for various creatures, like birds, wasps, ants and now bats. The trim had only been installed for several months, but we see how fast creatures move in to take advantage of potential homes. Another several more days of plastering, and there won’t be any gaps between the wall and the trim. But we were inspired to perhaps put up some bat boxes for their use.
Along with patience, finish plastering is also an exercise in managing my perfectionism. This is the final layer, the layer people will see. The layer I’ll have to look at for years to come. Working with lime plaster in the heat means working quickly, before the plaster begins to set, applying the plaster with a certain amount of pressure to make it stick to the wall, and then smoothing out trowel marks left on the wall surface. My want for a smooth, flat wall surface and needing to work quickly in the intense heat are all at odds with each other. I try to concentrate and notice what works and what doesn’t, even as I accept that because I am working by hand, the wall will never be perfect.
In separating from my ex, the one thing I thought we were going to fight for possession of was a traditional Welsh chair that my son, Graham, made while being an intern at an environmental education center in Wales called Felin Uchaf, (amazing examples of timber framing and roundhouses). When we picked him up at the airport, upon his return from Wales, all we saw was him and his enormous backpack. Later for Christmas, he presented us with this amazing chair that he had made in Wales, having smuggled the chair in pieces across the ocean in his backpack! Thankfully, I got the chair in the separation. After a few years in my little cottage, Morel, I finally felt it was time to bring the chair over to SubHub, where it slid effortlessly into SubHub’s kitchen, looking like it had always been there.
There are several film projects in the planning stages this year from outside film production companies that want to film what it’s like to live at DR. A film crew from Kansas City visited our village several weeks ago, and featured a segment on the SubHub project with me and Graham answering questions and showing people around the building. It was a great opportunity to gain some public speaking chops and introduce more people to our project. The episode should air on PBS in August. The other DR segments featured interviews with Executive Director, Danielle, and Cob as Programs, Outreach, and Research Shepherd and a tour of natural buildings in the village with Alis.
The social event of the month (and perhaps of the summer!) was Cob’s birthday pizza party. We all miss our weekly pizza nights at the Mercantile, which ended with the closing of the Mercantile co-op at the beginning of the pandemic. Cob resurrected our memories of those times with a pizza party for 60 people (villagers, two guests, visitor program attendees and some tri community folks). He had Mae and Christina make the dough and offered many toppings for each person to design their own. Out on the Thistledown porch he had a tabletop pizza oven set up and cooked each pizza himself. Thanks Cob!
This week we say goodbye to the visitors in our second visitor program of the season. Each visitor brings with them a story of how their corner of the country is faring, what their struggles and successes are, and what they are looking for in coming to our remote corner of the world. As a regular coffee group person, I end up having conversations with a fair number of the visitors and I enjoy it immensely. I also enjoy answering questions about DR and our way of life.
There are still workshops and visitor programs coming up this summer! Our third visitor program starts July 17 for two weeks and a three-day cob oven workshop starts July 15. Visit the www.dancingrabbit.org website for more information and to register.
Liz Hackney has lived at DR for five years and is the editor of this newsletter. She is also a licensed acupuncturist who has recently reopened her practice after being closed for several years in response to COVID. In this recent heat wave, it takes her an hour and a half to change from wet, plaster-covered clothes to dry, clean semi-professional clothes for her client acupuncture treatments