Reverence: A Guest Post

by Karen Hanrahan

Karen was an Artist in Residence at the Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage four times, in four seasons, in 2013-4. She captured many amazing images of our community during that time. Four of these images were chosen for an exhibit opening November 8th at the Jackson Junge Gallery in Chicago with the theme “Eat, Drink & Be Merry”. Over 200 artists from around the world submitted work for the show; the following is from the commentary Karen included in her submission. Please note that the topic is butchering, some of the photos that are linked to are graphic, and that people at Dancing Rabbit make diverse dietary choices, including vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore.

FromTheCoop_Hanrahan
If you had asked me as a suburban child where our food comes from I would have said… from the store.  My relatedness to farm was none.  I trusted that the store would provide, and it did so in its own manipulative way.

My questioning of food as an industry began when I was a new mom.  As my skepticism grew I found myself advocating choice. I became a zealous scratch cook, an advocate of the alternative food movement, especially organics.

Even then, with all my ideals, I was very naive. In recent years I have had the opportunity to befriend many a farmer through my community farmers’ market.

HandandFeet_Hanrahan

My understanding of where my food comes from has evolved. My utilization of locally sourced food, and eating within the availability of the season, has been enthusiastically implemented.  I feel tremendous regard for the organic and small farm movement.In 2013 I was awarded an artist residency at the Milkweed Mercantile, located at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, an intentional community.

At the off grid village, 70 residents strong, the relationship to where their food comes from is vibrant and intimate. While there I witnessed an expanded expression of food processing from folks raising their own meat, and was able to watch and photograph the harvesting of chickens and ducks.

My being at the right place at the right time was synchronistic, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to decide how I felt about watching animals being butchered, it was happening and I was capturing it.

WholeBird_Hanrahan

I eat meat, and do not have any issues doing so. Yet, I feared for a small moment that the process might freak or gross me out. Instead I found it amazingly beautiful.

One of the villagers commented on the reverence they have for their animals. The word reverence really struck me. They had raised their animals humanely, fed them well, let them roam and peck at the dirt for bugs. They let them be ducks and chickens. They raised them with the intent of eating them.I photographed four seasons at this village.  I saw the tail end of an autumn harvest, the bleak severity of winter, the tremendous potential of spring, and was just stunned by the abundance of summer.  I thought what a disconnect the average grocery store is in comparison to this beautiful relationship these folks have to what they eat.

I wish that there was more of this experience for all.

•                     •                   •

 

Karen Hanrahan is a self-taught photographer. Utilizing a simple point-and-shoot camera, she captures organic, up close, authentic images. See more of her work on her website.



Defrosting All the Little Lights: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Who wants to watch 'Frozen'? Photo by Josi.

Who wants to watch ‘Frozen’? Photo by Josi.

Hello friends! After a hiatus away from Rabbit-land I’m thankful to be enjoying 77 degree days in late October, and the company of friends, old and new.

Josi here, writing my views on this week at Dancing Rabbit; a viewpoint now closer to that of a visitor trying to construct a cohesive whole from brief glimpses of life on-farm.

The most poignant event of the week was one affecting Rabbits as well as millions of people around the world, an event capable of capturing your heart and mind and linking you to something much bigger than yourself.

I’m not talking about the birth of the NEMO Citizen’s Climate Lobby Chapter, or the weekend program presenting the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta, but something with even more universal appeal than either of those.

“Frozen”. Yes, the Disney movie. Even here at Dancing Rabbit, where modern American culture has less influence than most places, the impassioned voices of children singing the anthems of “Frozen” were a frequent event of the past week.

I’m pretty sure that every child from the tri-communities was gathered Friday night to watch a special screening in La Casa de Cultura. I snuck in before it started to photograph the girls dressed in their elaborate princess costumes, but refrained from staying for the viewing. (The boys, while there to watch, emphatically did NOT want to be in any pictures.)

Feeling I may have missed something important to this column in not watching the film, I was lucky enough to have a second viewing with Althea, Mae, Aurelia and Rae. Curious as to how this had taken little Rabbits by storm, I sought out Mae (who always has motherly wisdom to share, oftentimes turning my perceptions upside down) and learned that the tri-communities “Frozen” phenomenon took parents by surprise. It’s as simple as the sweet love of grandparents for their little princesses. From what I can tell, every girl here was introduced to the songs and stories of “Frozen” by family far away.

Thankful that Mae convinced me to watch, I got to experience the movie through the eyes and voices of the girls (spoiler alert, courtesy of Aurelia: “It gets a wee bit scary, but everything works out in the end”).

Given the popularity of “Frozen”, I wish I had some brilliant revelation to share with you about its transmission to children in this intentional community, but alas, it is only another piece of the puzzle I’m working on in my mind. A puzzle that can’t be completed for another 20 years, when the little pig-tails return from college and I finally get to see what kinds of adults grow out of childhoods spent in ecovillages and homesteading communities. I’ll let you know when I finally put the pieces together. I’m sure the answers will surprise us all.

I ponder their lives a lot, wishing I’d had that kind of childhood, watching for clues as to how it will shape them as adults and how they will shape the world they inherit. I tried to equate “Frozen” with “Aladdin”, the most moving Disney movie of my childhood, but just can’t. Have things really changed that much in a quarter century?

In other Dancing Rabbit news, the FIC (Fellowship for Intentional Communities) Board meeting took place in downstairs Skyhouse last weekend. Representatives from all around the world attended, several of them via internet, as the FIC was doing inter-organizational collaboration with several other groups, including the Canadian and American branches of GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) as well as NextGEN (GEN’s youth caucus).

It’s hard to convey how inspirational it was to brew my morning coffee and get to overhear leaders of these groups discussing the future of their organizations. I may err slightly in my assertion of DR being the epicenter of intentional community, but from where I stood this week, it rang true.

In other news, new roads are nearing completion on the northern edges of the village, and landscapes I’ve learned to traverse by starlight have been transformed into infrastructure better suited for development of the built environment. It’s amazing the difference a culvert can make!

Seeing fields change to accommodate development here at DR isn’t as sad to me as watching the same activities transform the suburban fringe of St. Louis; at least here I know that painstaking process took place before the laying of new roads, planning that will allow for a supportable expansion of the human footprint created by this ecovillage. Over plates of vegetable soup, Bear related how much attitudes have shifted to accept this expansion. He also reassured me that the gravel was as local as possible, coming from Edina, only 16 miles to the south.

Speaking of local, a quote by Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money, has been much on my mind: “Local is the distance the heart can travel.” Despite living three hours to the south, DR is still my local.

I save my organic staples shopping trips for when I’m in Rutledge and can visit the mecca that is Zimmerman’s. This Mennonite general store is my destination for replenishing everything from organic coconut oil to neem toothpaste and mason jars. I also frequently carry fresh eggs and meat – raised by friends in the tri-communities – to gift to friends in St. Louis.

Maybe this column is less about what happens at DR and more about what flows through the village, connecting with the rest of the world: popular culture capturing young hearts and voices, environmental activism birthing new chapters of citizen’s groups, humane food making its way to St. Louis dinner tables, philosophical teaching studied in India and shared at DR.

All of these things are made possible in new ways by the love of a community that practices what it preaches, giving me a framework for personal sustainability in any place I call home. Ultimately, that is why our world needs more ecovillages: this cooperative culture, experimenting as it grows, provides a model for living in harmony no matter where you reside.

No longer being able to call DR home has given deeper meaning to the elusive truth that personal sustainability is a worthwhile goal wherever you practice it. I’m thankful for a new perspective of the little lights we can all ignite, lights that can benefit from having a place like DR that shines as such a bright example.

So many Rabbits I’ve come to know are now scattered far afield, from Berkeley to Bay, Arkansas, to Manhattan; Rabbits whose paths, like mine, have led away from DR. But those paths are lit by the lights of community and the lessons learned while immersed in this expression of cooperative culture.

Living in community can awaken a desire to be of service on a scale previously unconsidered. Sometimes, as I’ve found now, one must leave community to find the path one is best suited for. I’m thankful my path includes continually returning to Dancing Rabbit, and the people who daily live the values I find so inspiring.

I didn’t have a chance to get to know many of the visitors who came and went this season, but I see them through the eyes of others. So many amazing people who have sought out the life and lessons embodied at Dancing Rabbit, some returning to faraway homes with a new perspective on living, and some choosing to remain and begin a new chapter of life as a Rabbit.

If you’ve always wanted to experience for yourself the village written about in this column, consider a 2015 sojourn to northeastern Missouri. There’s something of value here for everyone, and perhaps the greatest lessons are those that are carried out of the ecovillage and into mainstream culture.

Whether the community that grounds you is an intentional one on the scale of Dancing Rabbit, or a more spontaneous expression in a larger city, I hope this little slice of life here leads you to discover what is local for your heart, and how you can grow and be of service in exactly the space you find yourself now.

•                    •                   •

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.



Time and Transitions: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Construction on Dancing Rabbit's new Town Center Road broke new ground this week. Photo by Dennis.

Construction on Dancing Rabbit’s new Town Center Road broke new ground this week. Photo by Dennis.

Resident Vick here, with my mind on transitions and transitions on my mind…

See, lately, I’ve been spending time getting to know some of our most recent guests at Dancing Rabbit. Namely, the woolly bears – fuzzy-wuzzy orange and black tootsie rolls, larval adolescents of the Isabella tiger moth – who I repeatedly find myself needing to rescue from the bicycle path near my tent.

I’ve been watching them inch their ways along on some mysterious business and I can’t help but wonder: where are they all going? What are they looking for? Will they recognize it when they find it? Do they see their silken gold cocoons as a kind of dignified auto-enterramento, self-imposed deep-six, each believing it has reached its natural end? Or do they go into it knowing they will metamorphose into something new and different, with talents unattainable to them in their current state?

I have to admit, my train of thought was largely inspired by Kassandra and her innovative birthday celebration earlier this week. She turned forty, and chose to see this milestone in her life as an opportunity to reflect on how the experiences of her past have led her to be the person she is today, while looking forward to her future in a state of awakened anticipation.

Everything started with a brief session of art making – I chose to draw a diverse collage of creatures representing the evolutionary progression of life on our planet, culminating in humankind and journeying into space. Meadoe and Loren chose colorful, free-flowing forms and brocades of interlocking patterns, while the children hung out nearby for a knitting session.

Kassandra’s piece was a take on the number 40, its zero signified by a sunflower borne aloft on a stem of time marked by key years in her past, its seed head an open door to the future with her likeness, complete with characteristic long hair and fuchsia pants, taking the first step across the threshold. At her request, Tereza appended a few piquant feline attributes to the four.

Afterwards, many people came together to offer Kassandra something I have come to call (not knowing its proper term of reference) the Angel Walk. We stood abreast in two long rows, forming a corridor between us and humming in unison. As the blindfolded birthday co walked through, we each offered her a kind nudge further on her way, whispering words of wisdom, love and appreciation. Nathan took a turn as well, face split ear to ear with a Cheshire cat smile, and ended his journey with a group hug, after some spontaneous, and anonymous, partner dancing.

Other transitions are in the works, inside and outside of Dancing Rabbit. The trees have donned their autumn colors to mourn the passing of summer. The gardens have undergone their final harvests. Preparations have been laid for the flush of spring, and heavy rains have shifted the course of meandering paths once more. (By the way, did you know that “petrichor” is a word for that refreshing smell after a drizzle?)

Bagels and his band opened a show for our friend John Craigie, who came back through on his circuitous journey busking across the country. He has a style not unlike Rambling Jack Elliot – I would have made the comparison even if it wasn’t on his website– based on charming folksongs, storytelling and invocation of the indomitable Chuck Norris.

Having seen him play twice, it was interesting to compare his last show to this one, which took place in Dancing Rabbit’s own eco bed and breakfast, the Milkweed Mercantile, which was packed as full as a can of sardines following Thursday’s Pizza Night, which is totally open to the public, by the way. All I can say about the music that night is that one song’s chorus has been haunting my dreams all week – “Let’s talk it over, when we’re sober, and we’re not at Burning Man…”

Our current visitors have undergone a transition of their own, shifting from an insular group of outsiders abiding in a state of culture shock to a real and integral part of our sustainable society. They’ve spent the week learning about what life is like at Dancing Rabbit, helped some of our members with projects around the village, and even put some of our social practices to good use for themselves.I think every visitor group is an interesting group, but this one is especially so, and I’m sad that they will be our last until spring of 2015. There will be plenty of opportunities to visit next year, so keep your eyes peeled for an announcement of program dates, early next year at the latest.

Visitors Andy and Stephanie decided to host a dance night at La Casa de Cultura, where even I could not escape the inevitability of transitions this week. In my case, I was dragged kicking and screaming away from a state of total-non-dancer into a semi-willing isomer of fidgeting around in a dance-like way. I learned a couple of swing steps from Andy, I waltzed for a while with Sharon, and Bri showed me how to cut a rug polka style. It will be a long time before I can keep up with the acrobatic capers of some of our more agile dancers, but at least I got to cross something off my bucket list.

On Saturday we had our first, and maybe only, No/Talent Show of the year, in which truly talented people from our community bare their souls for all to see in performance of art they have worked years to perfect – while the rest of us keep the stage warm between sets by goofing around.

Farmer Dan, guitarist of some twenty-five years, presented a beautiful acoustic Neil Young cover. Cob, in the guise of Mrs. Freud, interpreted dreams for some of the audience with extemporaneous humor, leaving us with the sage advice to include more cookies in our lives.

Meadoe and a partner performed an outrageously funny variety skit including song, comedy and piano playing, for which some folks have been waiting over a year.One of our visitors, David, read tarot cards, and another visitor, Ryo, demonstrated a few Aikido techniques from his native Japan. Then, with musical accompaniment from visitor Nabil, our very own resident Olivander, fabled wand merchant and tallest descendant of the Bullroarer, Bandobras Took, sang a gut-busting rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”, which we couldn’t lampoon if we tried.

Just another week in the life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where we bear ongoing witness to climactic transitions that will impact our entire planet, and strive to empower the world to cope with them. I heard that some of the warmer days this week smashed long-standing temperature records for this time of year. It’s nice wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of October, but what does it mean for the kind of planet our great-grandchildren will inherit?  I like to believe that we humans are like the woolly bear, tucked away in its cocoon, changing by small degrees into something new and wonderful, awaiting the right time to emerge and take flight.

•                    •                   •

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.



Autumn News: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Sewing on a rainy dayprintweb

Darleen making good use of a “sew-sew” rainy day. Photo by Kyle.

Hello again, from Ted here at Dancing Rabbit, in that time of year where work takes on a survivalist edge.

As Nik said last week, as you split and stack, there is a tangible connection between the work you do and the ease you’ll feel later as the snow flies. And with the weather trending cooler, that old adage about wood warming you twice comes readily to mind. I’ve always thought it warms me more than twice. Maybe I need a more efficient set-up, so I’m not moving wood from one place to another as much.

We lit our first fire of the year at home last night, on the same day I got down to splitting wood in earnest. Preceding me to the pile of log rounds in the morning was new resident Lucas, who has been accumulating social capital all over the village since his arrival by helping out with this and that, including splitting plenty of wood. Oliver, another new resident, has likewise been offering up help, and on behalf of this village that benefits so much from that spirit of pitching in, I say thanks!

Aurelia and I returned the day before Land Day from a trip of nearly three weeks that took us to the coast of Maine (stopping to see Niagara Falls along the way). We hiked, climbed, collected rose hips and driftwood at the stony beach, studied the local native plants, helped a friend working on building a cabin in the woods, ate some lobsters, and spent a day at the Common Ground Country Fair, among other adventures. En route home we basked in the early glow of New England leaves turning every possible color, and also stopped to visit family in the mid-Atlantic.

Coming home from “out there” is always a bit of a process, feeling both relieved by a return to the familiar and confused by how I can be in love with places and people that are so far away and hard to get to. Sigh.

Land Day served to hasten the process of re-acclimation, with a good strong dose of remembering why we love living here.

Two days later, freshly imbued with the spirit of our home, we welcomed the final visitor session of the year, and within a couple days had a chance to host the whole group (12 or so) down at Ironweed kitchen for dinner and lunch the next day. I love seeing how many we can functionally serve in our smallish space down there. Instant cozy atmosphere. And still the tail end of the season’s bounteous produce to serve up.

Mid-week we were treated to the lunar eclipse late in the night. Aurelia, Sara and I awoke around 4:45 am to go out and watch the last half of the moon disappear, leaving that moody reddish hue behind. I heard indications that others might be out as well, though I didn’t see anyone.

Once the moon was fully eclipsed the cold seemed colder and we soon went back to bed. I’d hoped to get up again and watch the moon growing full again as it set at dawn, but I slept right through. I’ve heard we’ll have two more lunar eclipses in the next year, so maybe I’ll get another chance.

A full moon fire circle took place that night up near our swimming pond, while others of us gathered at the same time for Song Circle back at the Common House. Most traditions here wax and wane over time. Sometimes we can go weeks without enough collective energy to get a Song Circle together, but this time we had a good group show up and the songs flowed easily. I heard from Aurelia and Sara that the fire circle was likewise a good one, in a tradition that has been strong this year.

Friday evening we heard the rumble of large machines coming and marching up Main St. toward town center. They proceeded through the weekend to work on the long-awaited new road there and out into the newest neighborhood in the village. Kyle, our project manager, has been acquiring culverts, drainage tubing, and road membrane for some time, and thinking through all the details.

We’re grateful for the work of all involved, improving access for the continued development of our village. I heard the rumble again this morning for a little while before the skies let loose with a downpour. Hopefully it won’t slow things down for too long.

As the machines rumbled around to the north, many villagers took part in a workshop called “The Gift of Anger” Saturday at the Casa. Led by two experienced outside trainers, it offered tools, tips, and training on that very human emotion and how to work with it in our lives. I did not attend, but heard lots of jokes about being angry about this and that, as well as plenty of discussion afterward that suggested it had brought up plenty of good food for thought.

I finished digging our last bed of potatoes the other day (Sara having done the majority of it in our absence), to cure and put up in our cellar for winter. We grew more spuds this year than ever before, with the cool and steadily moist weather, so we’re looking forward to lots of warming meals this winter, whatever polar vortices or other excitements the winds may bring. Now we are preparing those potato beds with more manure for planting garlic, and getting down to the work of grading and sorting our seed garlic in the evenings. Lots of big bales of straw for mulching arrived this week, so we have all the ingredients for a successful planting.

Alongside dehydrating, juicing, and otherwise storing the last of the season’s plenty, we’re thinking on the last outdoor construction projects and generally hunkering down. I did not think I’d ever be ready for winter again after the bitter last one, but autumn has a way of easing me into it, keeping me too busy to think about it much until it is here. May all your preparations for winter be equally successful!

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Dancing Rabbit for a tour this year, please note that our last public tour of the year will happen Saturday, October 25th at 1pm.

•                    •                   •

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.



Exploring Dancing Rabbit: A Visitor’s Perspective

Our September 2014 visitor session.

Our September 2014 visitor session.

Hello everyone! My name is Lucas, a recent visitor in Dancing Rabbit’s latest wave of curious explorers. It is my delightful honor to share my experience with all of you.

While I wouldn’t assert that my opinions are held by the entire group, I do feel my experience is in relatively close alignment with the majority of the others in my visitor group.

The three weeks I spent at DR very revealing in a deeply personal sense. The baseline level of intimacy between members and residents was very awkward for me at first, but has shown itself to be an essential component in changing cultural norms and extinguishing the sparks of isolation, stress, exploitation, and violence. In a world where these are prevalent for many, I was pleasantly surprised to find that stress levels (both in general and personally) at DR seem to be much lower than the norm.

That is not to say it is an easy life– but I would argue that real progress has never been simple. The contrast, I feel, lies in the motivations of the residents and members. They are not spending their time and money serving the desires of someone who may or may not have the same values.

Though I have now seen the complexity of self-governance by consensus (a daunting task), I have also seen that the people here are willing to invest significant personal effort to overcome the obstacles that such a system can pose. Personal opinion is regularly checked against the interests of the community as a whole, sustainability guidelines, and ecological covenants. It seems a promising possibility that stands in sharp contrast to our national political strategies.

I was also delighted to find an infrastructure robust enough to allow for many of the same creature comforts that I have at home. There are movie nights, game nights, song circles (which I have been hesitant to jump into so far), and the occasional bonfire. Events are held as community activities, which facilitates bonding within the community while reducing waste and energy usage; two birds with one very powerful stone.

There is a Bed and Breakfast here, the Milkweed Mercantile, which boasts a five-star rating and a large selection of snacks and wines. They also host a pizza night once a week, which is a consistent point of excitement within the community. The food co-ops here have all impressed me. I prepared well, bringing some commercial “energy bars” with me in case I found the food inedible, but they turned out to be totally unnecessary. I have eaten very well here, and have an abundance of energy! I have also dropped two belt holes (BIG smile). I feel healthier than I have in years.

In addition to the wealth of information presented to us during our stay, we participated in the construction of new homes, most of which are absolutely stunning. Why so many are tricked into purchasing “cookie cutter” homes is beyond my understanding. The homes at DR embody the soul of the family/couple/individual. They are sustainable, highly customized, and most marry technology, passive solar, and rain collection techniques with simple yet elegant design.

Often built by their owners’ own hands, they seem a labor of love above all else. Most homes seem to take 2-3 years to finish, as winter doesn’t allow for much productivity in the building arena. In my opinion, they are very much worth the effort and patience.

The other visitors were perhaps the biggest surprise to me. I expected to have a somewhat similar level of knowledge to those who I came here with. I was mistaken in that assumption. I was, by and large, the “Village Idiot”, so to speak. For many, this wasn’t their first go-around with sustainable living.

Some came from living at other intentional communities, while others have been traveling from place to place, evaluating for their “best fit”. I have learned that ecovillages and intentional communities are plentiful; many names of many places are consistently tossed around. Whereas at home I was typically the most outspoken in environmentally-oriented conversations, here I am often simply an observer, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have so much to learn.All in all, this experience has shown me that I am not alone in my deep concern for the problems confronting our species, nor in my desire to have my actions mirror my words. I was delighted to find that ecovillages and other intentional communities have been springing up like wildfire for the last 20 years or so. They are growing both in number, and in their cumulative effect on their surrounding communities.

This is a wonderful place; it is a springboard for the development of our species and the maintenance of our planet. I don’t believe I could have been more impressed– which is why I have asked the community to consider me for residency. I can’t think of a healthier, kinder, or more responsible way to live my life. Thanks to all at Dancing Rabbit for an inspirational visit!

•                     •                   •

lucascircle

 

Lucas hails from Smyrna, TN, and has fostered a growing concern for climate change and fossil fuel dependence since 2006. He is a military veteran, and currently works for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.



Chopping, Carrying, Celebrating: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Althea's capterpillar circus was a pretty big deal at Dancing Rabbit Land Day. Photo by Nik

Althea’s capterpillar circus was a pretty big deal at Dancing Rabbit Land Day. Photo by Nik

A thousand years back, in a secluded monastery, an old man put these words to paper:

“Magical power,
marvelous action!
Chopping wood,
Carrying water.”

I really think he was onto something there.

Nik here, between rounds of chopping wood and carrying water.

Those words mean just as much today as they did so long ago. Although today’s modern equivalent would be other physical yet meditative work like gardening, working out in those “gyms” I’ve heard so much about, or re-flooring the rumpus room. At Dancing Rabbit, we keep that adage pretty literal, with so much wood to chop and water to carry.

When the world seems a bit too heavy on the shoulders, or you just can’t seem to find the right way out of a labyrinth of bad days, the magical power of physical work clears the mind, or at least slows it down…just enough.

While splitting and stacking wood, you watch the cords pile up. There, in front of your eyes you begin to estimate how many warm and cozy night are in that pile; how many comfortable mornings lie ahead this winter. If that doesn’t make your heart do a little dance, I don’t know what will. I just know my stout little Vogelzang stove will be well-fed.

Speaking of wood, my seasonal book recommendation to anyone interested in building, heating, and crafting with wood is “Hammer. Nail. Wood.” by Thomas Glynn. It’s especially good by a crackling fire.

In DR news, aside from canning and stashing away firewood like responsible little ants, it’s finally rounding the end of the visitor and tour season. The final visitor session starts this week.

Last weekend we celebrated our 17th annual Land Day, the anniversary of purchasing the land. A day-long celebration our surroundings and the home that everyone (those who’ve stayed and those who have passed through) has created here. We celebrated and told our collective story. Sandhill Farms folks joined us as well, and they were a huge part of the initial decision to settle here; the 40-year-old sister community continues to be a mentor and a constant inspiration of what community can be.

Land Day started with a community-wide pancake breakfast (236 jacks were flapped!) and ended with an acoustic jam session of musicians from the tri-community area. Though my favorite, low-key part of the day was when most of the community just went for a walk.

We walked all the trails, really taking time to enjoy the land. Here and there a member would talk about the history of the old farmstead or about the flora and fauna. Every now and then, someone would pick something and tell the group to try it. From the banana-citrusy flavored innards of a fresh honey locust pod, to plump red and tangy autumn olives. The more we know and love the land, the more it provides.

As I scrawl this, a woolly bear caterpillar is crawling across my yellow legal pad. I’ve heard the Midwestern folklore all my life of the Nostradamus-like ability of the woolly bear: the blacker the caterpillar, the more severe the coming winter.

Well, I’ve seen fully tan ones, completely black fuzzy ones, brown bands of all sizes, fat ones, skinny ones, ones that climb on rocks… So what the winter holds is still uncertain. But I’m feeling warm and secure with those neatly stacked cords of wood outside my cabin.

•                    •                   •

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.



Sharing Our Lives: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Bob lead one of the happy tours during Open House last weekend. Photo by Zach.

Bob leads one of the happy tours during Open House last weekend. Photo by Zach.

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun… It’s another update from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage! Tereza here, with the biggest news of the week: another successful Open House! You can check out the 2013 Open House video to get a sense of what you missed, or relive the memories if you made it to that one.

About 150 folks came to DR to find out more about what’s happening in this demonstration project we call home, and to see in person the buildings and gardens and people and animals that make this place what it is. It was fun to meet so many interested people, who came from as far away as St Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia, MO, and from as close as Red Earth Farms.

There were tour stops on sustainable agriculture and village growth, natural and green building, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, sustainable food choices and kitchen co-ops, as well as how we creatively use infrastructure to reduce our resource consumption. Tour groups were shown between stops by tour guides, who also answered questions about the village.

I was one such guide, and my name tag said I would answer questions about anything (other Rabbits listed more mundane items such as gardening or natural building) so I was expecting at least a few doozies, but they were all fairly run of the mill. Or maybe after 14 years I’m not very easily surprised…

Tours ended at the Milkweed Mercantile, where folks could cool off under the fan, buy a cold drink or tasty snack (the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes were yum!), and sample some of Alline’s amazing jams and pickles.

There was also a Village Fair, where Rabbits and neighbors sold soaps, jewelry, fresh organic veggies, and many other items, including value-added products like salsa, jam, kombucha, and cajun jerk seasoning. The Grocery Store was in fine form, showing off its new digs (a refurbished container building) and offering samples and sales of some of Cob’s fine comestibles.

Another fun part was that Mae and Ben brought out some of the Critters’ critters so kids could see them (and pet the more tractable ones). They used the movable fencing they use to pasture the animals in various places on the land (no electric in the fence of course). There were chickens, ducks, goats, and a donkey, that I recall, and the kids I saw in there sure seemed to enjoy it.

Bear entertains a tour with tales of natural building in his family's home, Lobelia. Photo by Zach.

Bear entertains a tour with tales of natural building in his family’s home, Lobelia. Photo by Zach.

I like when the goats go on their hind legs to eat leaves off the trees, myself. Cracks me up no matter how many times I see it… One of Ma’ikwe favorite moments was seeing Ben heading back home after it was over, pulling his cart loaded up with chickens and fencing down Main Street. Not a particularly common sight here, but unimaginable in most US cities and suburbs…

Huge shout out to Rae for all her organizing efforts, and to Bagels and other Outreach Committee members as well. It’s especially awesome and appreciated when newer folks take on this kind of responsibility. And of course big thanks to all the Rabbits who did so much to make Open House the success it was!

In other thankfulness-inducing news, the nonprofit outreach and education arm of Dancing Rabbit was very excited to have met not one but two fundraising challenges recently! A generous donor offered us extra money if we met them, and we did, resulting in a bonus $6000 to support our outreach work! We’re very thankful to that donor, and to all our supporters who helped make it happen by giving money, by sharing our emails and social media posts, and by offering words of support during the campaign– thanks, all!

I also heard tell of a bonfire held one evening in honor of some folks from Acorn, a community in Virginia, who were out helping Sandhill with sorghum harvest and came over to spend some time with Rabbits.

And last but in no way least, my birthday! It wasn’t this week, but didn’t make it into the update when it happened, so I’m mentioning it now. I had a fantastic birthday dance party (if I do say so myself, and I do!) with fabulous DJ Ben, and many fine friends dancing and hanging out and helping me celebrate. I had a wonderful time and feel so grateful to live in a place where it’s easy to share each others’ joys and the turning points in our lives.

•                    •                   •

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.



Adventures in Homeschooling: A Michaelmas Dragon Story

by Alyssa

Zane wearing his cape and brandishing his sword, ready for any dragons that may come! Photo by Bear.

This fall marks my second year sharing the adventure of homeschooling with my seven-year-old son, Zane. While I relied on plenty of experienced homeschoolers and resources, my first year was truly a year of figuring things out as we went along. My conclusion was that kindergarten is great (and I highly recommend it for every adult)!

As part of our homeschooling adventure last fall, Zane and I celebrated Michaelmas. We have enjoyed incorporating the seasons and various celebrations into our weekly school schedule. Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with Michaelmas until last year, so perhaps you are too.

Michaelmas happens at the end of September and is a celebration honoring St. Michael, an angel who is seen as a protector against the dark of night. St. Michael is often depicted with a shield and a sword restraining a dragon underfoot.

Throughout the week, Zane and I learned more about St. Michael. We sang songs about courage and we recited verses about bravery and good deeds. We daily read a Michaelmas dragon story. Zane constructed, sanded and oiled a beautiful wooden sword. Together we dyed a silk cape golden yellow. We even constructed a “dragon” out of construction paper and old paper bags. We were ready for anything.

On Friday, the last day of school that week, we got a phone call. Zane’s papa had run into a neighbor on his way to a meeting that morning. This neighbor reported a dragon in the area and wondered if we could help.

Zane’s eyes lit up. He quickly ran to his room, donned his new golden cape, grabbed his sword and we ran out of the house in the direction of this neighbor in need.

The scene was worse than we imagined. When we got there, our friend Caleb shared a dramatic story of barely escaping the wrath of the dragon. Luckily, he walked away with only a cut in his clothing. Their favorite chicken, Captain Cluck, however, didn’t live through the experience. They showed us the charred feathers and wing of the beloved chicken.

“Where is the dragon now?” Zane asked. The dragon had left and flown in the direction of the Milkweed Mercantile. Without hesitation, we were off!

Zane asked a lot of questions along the way. Did I really think the dragon ate Captain Cluck? What if the dragon found other friends in the village? What will we do if we find the dragon? He didn’t seem to really be seeking answers, just posing the questions and processing the experience.

Zane dying his cape a deep golden yellow color. Photo by Bear.

Before arriving at the Mercantile, we ran into Alline. She was devastated. The dragon had come into the Mercantile and eaten all the cheesy puffs! None of us had any knowledge of dragons liking cheesy puffs in a culinary kind of way.

Luckily Alline was okay (minus the cheesy puffs) and the dragon had moved on. She thought she heard the dragon mutter something about jewels at Sara and Ted’s house. Zane quickly remembered that dragons love jewels. We had to make sure our friends were okay!

Sara was in the path by her home. She was in tears. The dragon had come into her home and stolen all of her jewelry. She was distressed and didn’t know what to do. Zane’s sword was drawn. He would find this dragon. Sara last heard the dragon mutter something about thirst and noticed the dragon flying toward the pond. We couldn’t run fast enough.

All was quiet when we arrived at the pond. We didn’t know what to make of that. We crept closer and closer and then noticed something. The dragon, the one we had constructed earlier in the week, was sitting by the side of the pond. Zane swiftly drew his sword and bravely slayed the dragon. The village was safe!

Zane carried the dragon back into the village. We showed our neighbors and friends that they would now be safe. There was an audible sigh of relief from all those affected by the dragon’s antics.

In the subsequent days, Zane asked even more questions. How did the dragon get here? Did I really think the dragon ATE Captain Cluck? Was the dragon really real? Like for real, real?

Throughout this experience, I wrestled with the fine line between dishonesty and story, reality and imagination. In the end, I told Zane the truth. Yes, I put our constructed dragon at the pond and asked our neighbors to help with the hunt.

At first he was disappointed. And then, he decided that the story was just too good to let go. He loved the story. He continued to live the story. In the end, he was just as brave and courageous as St. Michael when called by his friends in need.

Furthermore, we both learned a little bit more about ourselves than we had known before. And so, the adventure continues!

•                       •                       •

Alyssa Martin has been living a rich life at Dancing Rabbit since 2006. She spends her time gardening, homeschooling her young son, serving pregnant women and their families via her work as a Certified Professional Midwife www.homebirthnaturally.com, dancing, playing ultimate frisbee, knitting, and loving life in a vibrant community.