Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/15/10
So it was another smashing good week at Dancing Rabbit. The cloudy weather continued throughout the week keeping us in low power and restricted in our lifestyles. It seems like we went from bitter cold winter to now having a string of nights without freezing temperatures and with lots of rain. The weather has made this a poor maple sugaring year as the sap hasn't been running much. The mud pit that is DR in the spring deepened with the warm weather and made for difficult maneuvering within the village and out on the gravel roads. We had to have a load of rock dropped in front of the machine shed so we could park our vehicles without getting them stuck in mud. Some friends of Brian Toomey got stuck on the western section of Woehrle and when our 4WD truck was sent to the rescue it got stuck as well.
Fortunately, I was able to make it out this week with the trailer to pick up a chicken tractor I'd bought in Memphis. While there, a couple of us went to a meeting for organic farmers at the NRCS office. We were looking into getting funding from the USDA for implementing conservation and organic practices in land-based businesses we are starting. This year there is funding for installing “high tunnels” or “hoop houses”, which are kind of like greenhouses only they aren't heated. The insulating qualities of the hoop house trap the sun's energy and allow a farmer to extend their season and grow and harvest specialty crops during times of the year when they wouldn't normally be able to. It's a great idea for Dancing Rabbit because we are trying to eat foods that are produced as locally as possible. If we could get a couple of these high tunnels growing food for the village, we wouldn't have to rely as much on canning vegetables and we could continue to enjoy fresh produce through the winter. I am also hoping to get grant funding for my vineyard because many of the eco-friendly practices I would like to implement might be eligible for funding. I see my vineyard as an experiment in organic viticulture (grape growing) in the eastern winegrowing regions of the US. Because some of the investment in the experiment is risky, it's fortunate to have a little help in sharing the cost. Hopefully, in the future others will benefit from what I learn.
Clearly the big event of the week was happening at the Milkweed Mercantile. Alline and Kurt hosted their first seminar of the year and officially opened the bed and breakfast and cafe at the Mercantile. Sandor Katz, author of numerous books about fermentation of foods, among them *Wild Fermentation*, gave a weekend-long workshop on how to make all kinds of fermented foods, from sourdough bread to refreshing tonics. Many members of the tri-communities attended and a number of participants came from far and wide as part of a package that included attendance of the seminar, meals, and stay at the bed and breakfast. Part of the workshop was eating the foods we were making or learning about. Anthony, the chef at the Mercantile, prepared delicious meals featuring all kinds of fermented foods, some of which were made during the workshop. There was kefir, a fermented milk drink somewhat like a runny yogurt with a sour flavor and carbonation. We enjoyed a variety of fermented pickle vegetables, such as kimchi (a korean pickle with radishes and Chinese cabbage) and saurkraut. We made tempeh, a fermented soybean cake, and ate it in vegetarian Reuben sandwiches the following day. Some of the other interesting fermented foods we made were kvass, a Russian fermented tonic beverage not unlike a lemon soda with a yeast aftertaste, and natto, another fermented soy product, that has a slimy texture and an ammonia overtone. Some of the foods definitely have an acquired taste, but others are immediately pleasant and nearly all are centuries-old traditions in the parts of the world they come from. Most of these foods came about during the long span of human history before there were refrigerators, when people had to preserve their food by other means. Thanks to beneficial bacteria and yeasts, people were able to preserve their abundant harvest longer while at the same time creating a unique and delicious food. We all look forward to future seminars at the Mercantile and offer congratulations to the Milkweeds and all those involved in getting this new local business started.
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. We offer tours 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month April through October. Our first tour of the season is April 10th at 1:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org.