The day after Thanksgiving dawned bright and balmy. There was an easiness to the air that invited tired bodies to wander out and stay out, staring into the sunlight.
We had a full house the night before, a mixed crowd of newcomers, old-timers, live-iners and old friends come back for a visit after a long time away. Everyone shared a huge feast of local goose and turkey, salads, breads, pizza and, of course, home-baked pies that had been part of the inaugural bounty of our newly-plastered cobb oven. An able bodied crew of volunteers pitched in to clean the kitchen until it was shining. With soothed minds and satisfied bellies, many of our guests nestled into the Gratitude Lodge for the night.
When morning came, it found stragglers wandering in to the farmhouse to enjoy an impromptu communal breakfast, and a general spirit of ease and friendliness.
In exchange for a night’s boarding, guests had agreed to pitch in for a few hours on Friday morning. Morning became late morning became early afternoon, but energy and forces built with time. Some folks headed off to chop wood for the sauna or clean the dorm. The rest of us hoisted our collective efforts to accomplish an impressive task: transplanting a large number of plants from our outdoor garden into the greenhouse, where they can spend the winter cozily growing and sustaining the Earthdance inhabitants.
The process was simple, but effective; within 3 hours, and with no more than 4 people working at any given time, we weeded out the burdock, mullein, and any remaining tomato plants, spread and incorporated our compost into the soil already in the greenhouse, dug up four rows of kale plants from outside (including purple-tinged Russian kale as well as the more familiar frilly green variety), and replanted them inside the greenhouse. Kale has been thriving in our garden over several seasons, and provides a tasty and available veggie for anyone cooking in the Earthdance kitchen. We also salvaged some green mustard plants, arugula, and parsley that had survived the cold and interspersed them, diversifying our kale forest.
As we lovingly labored over transplanting, digging holes to create the perfect rows of plants, a conversation broke out about the existential crisis of weeding (what ethical boundaries are we breaching when we arbitrarily decide that a certain plant, or even a certain species shouldn’t be growing somewhere and try to remove it?) and the self-consciousness of plants (do plants even view themselves as individuals? Or are we simply applying overly westernized notions of individualism to an entirely alien intelligence?)
I think everyone who participated (a couple of whom were visiting Earthdance for the first time) felt newly connected to the land by working directly with it. I know I certainly established a relationship with the kale I have been picking all autumn by digging it our of the ground and ferrying it into new life. As I surveyed our flourishing three-hour forest, I realized that whether or not plants consider themselves as individuals, each and every one of those plants now felt special to me.