Preparing for Change: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Spiffy new upgrades for The Grocery Store, courtesy of Cob, Jack Walter, Nik, and Katherine! Photo by Zach.

Spiffy new upgrades for The Grocery Store, courtesy of Cob, Jack Walter, Nik, and Katherine! Photo by Zach.

Living seasonally means you’re always preparing for something. Who doesn’t like that feeling of being ready for a major transition or big event? It comes with a sense that positive change is coming, filling one with a sense of possibility and hope.

Zach here, online teacher and consummate preparer. That’s what it takes to teach a course digitally — having as much as possible planned out before the semester begins because it is hard to ask a class to pivot too hard when we don’t meet in person. It’s also a big part of everyday life at Dancing Rabbit.

For example, the co-op I eat in has been busy preserving an overflowing bounty in anticipation of the winter months. We’ve had several parties for the shucking of corn, the chopping of tomatoes, and canning of a great many veggies.

Our newly-rebuilt dehydrator is full all day every day preserving as well. New resident Jake has experimented with drying mustard greens, and Cob has even put sweet corn in there this year! We’ll see how each of those turn out when it comes time to re-hydrate, but even if they’re a bust the freezer and the pantry are busting too — at the seams — so it’s worth experimenting.

Speaking of the bounty, Sharon will be hosting and co-teaching a permaculture design course this week. The students coming here will learn the principles and practice of creating “permanent agriculture” and how to set up their physical surroundings to echo the patterns of nature while returning useful goods to the hands (and pantries) of their keepers.

Another preparation has been the cutting of firewood. Even before temperatures dipped in to the high fifties this past week, people had been stocking up their loads of biomass for (what they tell us will be) a likely colder-than-average winter. I spent some time sawing and splitting wood with Jake for Ma’ikwe’s home, Moonlodge. After we stacked it high, she came out and remarked “that looks like security right there!” Indeed, that biomass source of heating is invaluable for many here.

Yet, chopping all that wood led me to ruminate on being prepared for a more sustainable future. All these wood-burning homes are definitely a step in the right direction, by approaching carbon neutrality and being non-reliant on fossil fuels. On the other hand, is there really a future in asking every home in the country to burn wood? That’s a recipe for wide-scale deforestation. Instead, there are members here like Nathan, who this summer installed an air-source heat pump (which also cools) to explore the merits of using electricity to heat, as many people do, but with a focus on efficiency and timing to minimize its impact. Both wood and electricity as heat sources were deliberately chosen with the same image of the future in mind: one where fossil fuels are no longer employed to live in comfort. Dancing Rabbit is preparing for that future in a plurality of ways.

Finally, there is preparation for the future of the community. The past few weeks have seen a major transformation of The Grocery Store. Frequent readers will recall several weeks ago, when Nik’s post was accompanied by an image of new artwork painted on the side of the shipping container that comprises the core of the store. Now, the image accompanying this piece shows an even greater transformation: a larger concrete pad has been poured with an accessible ramp, a roof constructed overhead, electric hookups prepared for installation, and a rainwater catchment system put in place, all thanks to Jack Walter, from neighboring Red Earth Farms, and his helpers.

Cob (the person, not the material) has even transformed the inside, with gravity feed and scoop bins replacing buckets with screw-on lids, and a fancy-schmancy new digital scale. A high-efficiency refrigerator/freezer will soon be on its way too. With all of this, he hopes to offer more Dancing Rabbit produce and animal products to fellow Rabbits.

In the more immediate future, work is also underway cleaning the land in preparation for the village’s annual Open House on September 12th. Paths are being repaired and new mulch laid, grasses scythed, and wood piles stacked neatly, all in the anticipation of showing off the hard work that’s done here to the rest of the world.

The future here is looking bright. Metaphorically, of course, since we know that winter is around the corner. But I’m feeling more and more prepared everyday. As I’m writing this, my clock tells me that school will start in a few short hours, at which point I will have to go about preparing for other things like student performance reports and academic conferences.

Likewise, Dancing Rabbit will soon move from the building phase to planning phase (with some vacation phase in there as well), or from the stacking of wood to unstacking and burning.  Perhaps it is living here that makes me feel a greater and more urgent need to be prepared, but if that’s so it also gives me a greater sense of satisfaction in reaching that state, because it is indelibly linked to preparation for a more sustainable future.

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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.

Songs & Kids: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Dancing Rabbit's youngest resident, Hazel, blows out a birthday candle. She's 3! Photo by Dennis.

Dancing Rabbit’s youngest resident, Hazel, blows out a birthday candle. She’s 3! Photo by Dennis.

Here I sit, trying to recall what happened in the last week, and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I returned late Monday after being totally off-line for over a week, camping in the Michigan woods at a wonderful women’s music festival. I had a fabulous time, and came home to a very busy village, and a ton of email. Zoinks!

Tereza here, sharing news of the week here in the ecoville.

Just after I returned there was a work party at Critterville, helping them put in fencing to protect their animals from predators. They lost a number of birds a few months ago and Vick organized a neighborly support campaign to replace the birds and help install fencing. I hear there was a good turnout, so cheers to increased security for the Critters’ critters!

Some folks from the Peace and Permaculture Center (neighbors to the Possibility Alliance in La Plata) came to Sandhill a while ago and taught a lot of new songs. Some Rabbits attended, but I was out of town and unable to go. Luckily the Sandhillians brought songs to us! Frankie, Mica and Emory came to song circle at DR and taught us several that they’d learned. A number of no-longer-regular song circle folk came too, so it was an extra fun one. I especially enjoyed seeing what an excellent memory Emory has for songs! I’ve been singing bits of the new ones in my head, but don’t have them all down quite yet. I’m hoping we’ll have another big circle this week, so we don’t totally forget all the new songs in our repertoire.

Later in the week Rae and Illly hosted a plastering work party at their house. I ran into Loren on her way out to the pond just after, and while I can’t speak for what happened at the party, from the amount of mud on her it sure looked like she’d been working hard! I hope they made amazing progress on Woodhenge, the lovely timberframe home built on the former Wabi Sabi kitchen foundation.

Friday night after community dinner there was a gathering of mostly kids and parents out at the pond. There was swimming, hot dog roasting over a bonfire, singing, telling stories, plus plans to sleep outside all night. It was a farewell evening for Jasmine and Kaylyn, who will be heading back to Colorado shortly. I only stayed for a bit but had a good time singing and chatting. According to insider reports, a stalwart few actually did stay out the whole night, braving the bugs and other night creatures… Kudos to them!

On Saturday Ironweed and the Critters got together for dinner. Apparently it started as an attempt to make more room for summer’s bounty in the Ironweed freezer by cooking up some of the large pieces of goat meat that were in there. Ted wasn’t sure how best to prepare the cuts and asked Ben for advice, which (luckily for me) blossomed into a cooperative and very tasty summer picnic dinner. There was corn on the cob, cabbage, eggplant, and goat cooked on the grill, plus potato salad, pickles, a curry dish, the best melon of the season (according to me) and perry (pear cider), not to mention lots of conversation and laughter– hip hip hooray for summer abundance shared with friends!

On Sunday we had another plenary (aka full group) meeting to choose the new OT (aka Oversight Team). The OT is the committee that oversees all the other committees by recommending staffing, making sure committees are functioning smoothly, that job descriptions are in order and sent to the Village Council for approval and/or updating as needed, as well as helping to notice any gaps in community functioning and help us figure out how to fill them.

You may recall from last week’s column that we just chose our newest Village Council, so there’s quite a bit of shift in who’s who in our community governance these days. The new OT will be Ted (the sole carry-over from the current incarnation), Thomas (returning to the team after a multi-year absence) and Katherine (who is just getting off the Council but loves the village so much she’s willing to get on another high-responsibility committee right away). Here’s a smiley just for you, Katherine ;-) We all really appreciate Kassandra and Toon’s OT service, and wish them both a very happy retirement (for now) from this committee.

And now for something completely different… kids! (The human kind, not the goat kind.) One thing I often appreciate about living in community is being able to connect with kids. For many reasons I’ve never wanted children of my own, but generally enjoy and get along well with younger humans. Here at Dancing Rabbit I get to have close connections with kids who aren’t mine, in ways that feel very fulfilling to me (and I hope to them!).

Examples? Why, yes, I can offer some… First off is that I share food and a kitchen with some of my very dearest friends. One of them just happens to be about 40 years younger than I am, and I held her the day she was born. Now, nine-ish years later, I love that Aurelia and I talk about things that interest us both (books! cats! butter!), that I can offer different perspectives than her parents and other friends, and that I learn so much from her and what she’s learning in homeschool and Spiral Scouts and from her life. The fact that I can sometimes step in when things are challenging between her and her parents to offer support, or a listening ear, or even just distraction, is icing on the cake. (Funny how her mom or dad and I might be saying the exact same thing, but it’s sometimes easier for her to hear it from me…)

Another example: at Tuesday night potluck we celebrated Hazel’s third actual birthday (happy birthday, Hazel!), and Jasmine’s not-birthday. (Jasmine’s birthday is early in the year, but she wasn’t at DR then, so she wanted to celebrate it again here.) After potluck there were games, during which Jasmine’s sister Kaylyn fell and hurt her leg. Ouch! She was crying for her mom, Kassandra, who was back at their house, so (with Kaylyn’s permission) I picked her up and held her on my lap, offering her soothing words and reiki. I asked Aurelia to go get Kassandra while I continued to offer support.

Kaylyn distracted herself by looking at the picture of the swim team in the local paper, pointing out her, her sister, and Aurelia (and telling me that Jasmine’s name wasn’t listed, while their friend Cole’s was, even though she wasn’t in the picture). By the time her mom came a few minutes later, all Kaylyn needed from her was a hug and some reassurance, and she was ready to play again. I felt glad that Kaylyn trusted me enough to step in, that I was able to help in that moment, and that her mom got a bit of a break from being “on”.

I also occasionally spend Saturday mornings with the two girls so their mom can have connection time with other grownups, and sometimes I go over around bedtime and read stories and sing songs with Kassandra and the girls, which I love. In my experience outside of community these kinds of connections among non-related folks seem to be rare, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Kids who have a lot of engaged adults around are incredibly lucky. For the most part here at DR we talk to kids like they are people, ask their opinions, really listen to them, and give them interesting opportunities, all of which helps them thrive here. (Spending a lot of time outside and eating healthy, homegrown and seasonal food helps too, I’m sure.) To me community kids seem much more articulate and emotionally mature than kids raised outside of community. I imagine it’s annoying for them sometimes, having what might seem like a bunch of “authority figures” around, but I hope and believe that to be outweighed by the benefit of almost always having someone there who can offer support or advice or help, or even shared giggles, games, and funny faces.

Community can work really well in a lot of ways, and this is one of them. Figuring out how to learn from and support each other, no matter what age (or other) differences exist is important and valuable work.

Wishing you all rich and fulfilling connections in your community!

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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.

Making Cheese & Keeping Bees: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Mama hen and her new chick. Photo by Ted.

Mama hen and her new chick. Photo by Ted.

Whew! I thought I had lots to write about as the week drew to a close, and then this Sunday turned out to be as full and eventful as any other day of the week. August is unquestionably among the busiest times of year for me, so this should not come as a surprise, but with the earlier part of summer washed out by endless rains, this August feels more vital than usual to working down my to-do list for the year. Ted here to bring you a taste of ecovillage living from this week.

Produce from our gardens finally started rolling in with noticeable abundance in the past couple weeks. I made tomato, cucumber, and basil salads to my heart’s content and we still dehydrated several rounds of tomatoes and started a gallon jar of pickles fermenting… and we’re not even growing any cucumbers in Ironweed garden this year.

Saturday evening Kirksville-area grower Mark Slaughter dropped by with a truck bed of sweet corn, and upon returning from goat milking in the evening I was glad to see that Sara was already there with a wheelbarrow acquiring a goodly mound of eight dozen or so. There is nothing so wonderful as an unexpected mound of corn sufficient to satisfy the village’s collective desires in August.

I’d expected to help shuck corn first thing Sunday morning, but upon the arrival of Mae with the morning’s goat milk and Alyssa with those pickling cukes, I had to shift my focus to brining the pickles and making cheese, and leave the corn processing in Sara and Kale’s capable hands.

With the kids weaned a month or so ago, we of the goat coop have  gotten into a regular take of half a gallon of milk each morning and each evening from our two milking does, Curly Sue and Alice. Workhorse Mae milks every morning, week in and week out, while Rae and I are alternating weeks on the evening shifts. We each take the milk from our respective shifts, so I end up with a good three-and-a-half gallons or more minimum per week, plus some of Mae’s when she has more than she can store. In addition to the couple gallons of cow milk from our local dairy that I’m still getting each week for yogurt making and kitchen use, it sometimes seems that a majority of our fridge space is going to one form or another of dairy product. Don’t get me wrong, this dairy boy is happy as can be! But our kitchen can only consume so much in a week in any one form.

Therefore cheese-making has featured more and more regularly in our kitchen of late. I’ve experimented now and again with making cheese over the years here, and acquired the equipment I need, but never managed until now to make it with any regularity. The steady influx of raw ingredients makes it hard to avoid if I want to preserve the bounty. With work-exchangers Kale and Amy as my milking buddies and Kale my partner in cheese-making, we’ve so far produced a cheddar, some chèvre and another soft cheese, a cow-goat haloumi (a brined style native to Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean), and finally feta.

If you’ve never made cheese, you may be surprised at how minimal are the differences in recipe between one variety and another… a few degrees higher or lower temperature, pressed versus hung to drain… waxed and aged or brined instead. But the source milk does make a notable difference, both in flavor and in how the curd behaves, and the flavor of some styles like feta traditionally made with goat or sheep milk can’t be completely duplicated with cow. As an aspiring cheese maker, I feel blessed to have access to this variety of organic, raw, local milk.

With all the whey produced (each gallon of milk generally produces a pound of cheese and still leaves most of a gallon of whey) we’ve also boiled it to produce ricotta, which still leaves gallons of nutritious whey for feeding our dog, cat, and chickens as well as use in cooking.

The hardest part of breaking into a new skill set like this is just gaining familiarity with the techniques and rough shape of the process. In the case of cheese, there are lots of steps in developing the curd, but lots of resting stages as well; as I gain that familiarity, I am more and more able to integrate other tasks into the time between steps. The next frontier is working on developing aging facilities for hard cheeses. Come fall and spring our root cellar will work nicely with its high humidity and cool temperatures, but it is too warm in high summer, too cold in winter. A small refrigerator running at about 50 degrees may be my solution until the berm on our house is finished and the temperature in the root cellar stays within the appropriate range for more of the year.

Numerous other events kept me busy this week, from erecting a shed addition to serve as a pottery studio, to repairing small plaster cracks and oiling the newly-plastered cob bench in our home and floor in our kitchen, watching baby chicks hatch under one of our hens, and re-capturing a swarm of bees that had escaped my too-crowded hive.

Illly and Rae had two swarms issue from their hive recently, as you may have read in our column, and when the second occurred, Illly and I made a quick trip out to the Dadant factory in eastern Illinois to pick up the more hive bodies and supers and other supplies we each needed. When Dennis alerted them Friday to the swarm erupting from my hive down in our orchard, my fellow bee keepers called me over and also supplied me with the now-built hive bodies I needed to catch them in.

Kale and I suited up in the new bee suits I’d bought, and we went out and successfully caught the swarm. As my first experience in catching a swarm, it could not have gone much more smoothly, and I certainly benefited from having watched the Rae and Illly do it recently. Now I need to get the other supers built so that each of my two hives will have enough expansion room to keep them from wanting to swarm again. No rest!

Sunday the village gathered for a plenary (a consensus meeting of all villagers willing/able to attend, which was our baseline decision-making structure for our first 15 years) to select the slate for our next village council. In recent months the existing council agreed to reduce the size of the council from seven to five members, reflecting both the cost of sustaining the council (councilors are compensated for some of their time) and the village’s current population, holding around 60. With four of the current seven cycling off of their two-year terms, that left two to select to keep the council at five members.

Many considerations go into the choice, from gender balance to longevity of village experience, the ability to bridge between different points of view, facility with a variety of skills important to the functioning of the council, and ability to represent a range of villagers’ standpoints on any given topic. Group discussion in this case suggested that the two slates nominated would both generally meet the village’s and the council’s needs. Ultimately we decided to add Alyssa and I to Dan, Hassan, and Mae, who are at the middle of their 2-year terms. Tereza, Bear, Sara, and Katherine are cycling off and filtering back into their non-councilor village lives with our collective thanks.

Hassan and Danielle returned from most of a month’s trip to Europe, where they met up with also-traveling Ironweed members and Rabbits Stephen and Erica in Erica’s native Torino (Turin), Italy. Their trip included visits to several ecovillages and intentional communities, so kitchen conversation since their return has included some thought-provoking descriptions of how people in other countries and cultures are approaching cooperative living. Wrapping up their time in Scotland, they also noted the weather differences, traveling in short order from cold and windy North Sea exposures to the dog days of our Northeast Missouri summer.

While in a lull between visitor sessions, we are anticipating the Permaculture Design Course being taught at Dancing Rabbit starting the end of August, followed shortly by our annual Open House September 12. Here’s hoping we’ll see you here for one or the other! Meanwhile we hope your summer harvests are abundant and your preparations for the coming turn of seasons successful.

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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.

The Creative Act: A Dancing Rabbit Update

The shipping container grocery store is a work of work, inspired by Japanese nautical-motifs. Photo by Nik.

The shipping container grocery store is now a work of art, inspired by Japanese nautical motifs. Photo by Nik.

After the sun dropped behind the black locust trees by the Casa de Cultura, the outdoor concert became even more of a zen experience as we became breakfast for legions of hungry mosquitoes. The man playing a mountain dulcimer didn’t let a single note fall short as his fingers were most definitely being eaten alive. A crowd sat in the blue light, in solidarity, listening to his beautiful songs—it reminded me of Bruce Springsteen if he had wandered India for 20 years instead of sticking with the E-Street Band.

Ohioan is on tour from Tucson, AZ, and made a stop at Dancing Rabbit to play with a partially Sandhill band, the Slime Sisters. As a counterpoint to Ohioan’s dusky and intimate outdoor show, the Slime Sisters had blew out the dance floor with some seriously loud garage rock, complete with complimentary ear plugs for the audience.

Nik writing this week at Dancing Rabbit, and as an arts advocate I am the most excited when musicians and artists find their way to our wee village. We talk and do a lot about shifting practices to better serve the environment and the world—like not being reliant on coal and other fossil fuel power, water conservation, developing sustainable local food sources—but without art and creativity, it feels like playing to an empty room.

“Creativity can solve almost any problem,” writes George Lois, the creative revolutionary ad man, “The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”

The defeat of habit, or at least replaces old habits with new, is one of the most important parts of life we adopt at Dancing Rabbit. Composting food scraps. Habit. Plugging in the electric car and asking if anyone needs anything from town to save a trip. Habit. Slicing tomatoes and filling the solar dehydrator with them on sunny days. Habit. Even just turning off the light when leaving an empty room. All new habits.

Looking around the Common House at the brilliant, artful informational signs like “Is sunny enough to do laundry?” and such classics as “How much does an inch of rain amount to in our cistern?” (The answer is an amazing 1,600 gallons!) Just reading these facts on a sheet of paper might inspire a few, but not many. For that, I am thankful for art and creativity.

The DR grocery store, which was once a freight shipping container, is now a work of art, and ever evolving to meet the needs of a village that is working to develop sustainable food sources. Cob and Sam had the vision to make something much of the country takes for granted, available to the village. The nautical Japanese-inspired motif pays homage to what was a very non-local way of transporting goods across the world, to what now holds goods from an ever-increasingly local radius.

Photographers, artists, and musicians all have left their mark here and seeds of Dancing Rabbit have left with them, like burrs on your socks that you find even after washing them…

This past Saturday, the poets/musicians/advocates over at Sandhill Farm brought back a presentation from their stay in the Black Mesa area in Arizona. They also put on a dinner of traditional Navajo dishes to help fund more support to those people who are fighting for their land and rights to live there. I went for the fry bread, which was warm and nostalgic for me, but I left with a great need for more action against what happens when big energy and the government are too single minded. For more in check out Black Mesa Indigenous Support.

There was a big focus on solidarity, and not just charity. To take action and be an advocate. Our Sandhill friends dedicated their time to help people directly, but they said that one thing that would help even more is to eliminate reliance on coal power… and that they were so happy that their neighbor Dancing Rabbit is able to do that. That was a proud moment as a Rabbit!

Artists and advocates, working together to overcome the habits that are harming this world. That’s the power to change.

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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.

Go Dig a Swale!

A Permaculture Nugget

On-contour swales and berms help with water issues on this sloped forest garden land. Photo by Dennis.

On-contour swales and berms help with water issues on this sloped forest garden land. Photo by Dennis.

We’re offering several “permaculture nuggets” over the weeks leading up to the Permaculture Design Course. You can find the previous one, on Stacking Functions, right here, and the second, on Perennial Polycultures, here. Please enjoy!]

Swale: a trench dug on contour for the purpose of holding water on the landscape.

Berm: a small ridge or wall of soil

Summertime on the rolling hills of Missouri can bring challenges to food-growers: it can get really hot and dry, and when the rains do come, the water can roll on down the hills, often taking precious topsoil with it.

A permaculturalist in Missouri – or anywhere else there might be hills – might say, “Go dig a swale!” and then “Berm it up!”

And that’s what we did this spring in the Sharin’ Abundance Forest Garden at Dancing Rabbit. We dug two long swales following the contour of the land to slow, stop, sink, and spread rainwater as it naturally flows downhill. We put the dirt we dug out on the downhill side of the swale, forming a little hill, or berm, to create an extra barrier for swift-flowing water.

It’s been amazing to see the results! The water remains in the swale days after a storm has passed. It slowly soaks into the ground below the berm, giving the soil and plants time to absorb it. This makes the berm a great place to grow trees and other plants with deep roots.

You can learn more about swales and other water management techniques at the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) being held at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage August 29-September 6. Earn a permaculture design certificate while experiencing life in an ecovillage! Click here for more information and course registration.

Sharon has lived at Dancing Rabbit for the past six years. She has studied and practiced permaculture for close to twenty years, receiving an advanced design certificate and, most recently, a teaching certificate. She is the author of a permaculture curriculum for children, and will apprentice teach with Bill and Becky Wilson at Dancing Rabbit’s permaculture design course in August.

Busy as the Bees: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Eager beekeepers Illly and Rae in the process of finding a new home for this swarm. Photo by Ted.

Eager beekeepers Illly and Rae in the process of finding a new home for this swarm. Photo by Ted.

Good morning, readers! As I click-clack away our home is being serenaded by a bee swarm that has chosen a nearby branch to rest on just beside our east window. The hive has outgrown the home our neighbors made for them, and our beekeeping friends are now in scramble mode. It is a sight (and a sound) to behold!

While to some that may conjure an ominous feeling, I (and the scrambling keepers) take it as a very positive sign; an inconvenient but welcomed byproduct of their efforts to help stem the troubling tide of colony die off. Luckily, they didn’t move very far, and are soon to be boxed and transferred to a larger hive. Here’s to hoping they remember where my back yard is, wherever they go; we’ve enjoyed their company in our gardens this season!

Lucas here, doing some buzzing (in your ear) of my own on behalf of the DR hive. We too are in high gear, swarming around ideas for growth, improvement, and partnerships, while continuing our mission of conservation, education, and outreach. Here are a few of the upcoming opportunities we’re offering to inquiring minds:

DR has come together with Midwest Permaculture to present our first Permaculture Design Course, August 29-September 6! This 9-day course is designed to immerse its students in permaculture technique and, by sheer bonus of being held at DR, ecovillage life! Spots are filling up, so get in while you can!

We’re excited to be gearing up for our annual Open House, coming up September 12th! We’ll be offering a village fair, full of local sustainable goods, and free tours! Come and see what all the buzz is about!

Have that itch to take a road trip? We’d love for you to stop by and see us at the Mother Earth News Fair, October 24-25. We’re delighted to be taking part in such a massive event, and we think you would be too! Featuring over 150 workshops and a slew of exhibits, there will be much to see and do!

For those who wish to dive deeper into what it means to live sustainably, we’d love for you to come and experience it for yourself! We have two remaining action-packed visitor sessions in 2015 – with fewer than 16 slots left in them – chock FULL of useful hands on workshops and classes that can give you the tools to help manifest a more sustainable (and more affordable) future!

There are many ways to explore what DR is all about from your computer as well. Many of you may be familiar with our website, but have you checked out our YouTube channel? Some of our members and residents also keep individual blogs for even more insight into who we are and how we choose to honor the values that bind us together. Dan also has a new venture with some great videos at Check them out: you’re bound to find useful tips and tricks that can be applied at home! Knowledge is power!

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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.

What Are You Doing Here?: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Feeding the "Brain Trust". Visiting researchers Josh, Ian and Bridget eating breakfast with Ma'ikwe. Photo by Katherine.

Feeding the “Brain Trust”. Visiting researchers Josh, Ian and Bridget eating breakfast with Ma’ikwe. Photo by Katherine.

“So, what are you doing here?” I asked.

“Eatin’ hog,” he replies.

Yes folks, those words are just a few of the gems that come from the esteemed wit of Doctor Joshua Lockyer, Ph.D. of Arkansas Tech University, Dancing Rabbit Board member, and all around cool guy. Doc Lock is here again visiting the village as he continues studying Dancing Rabbit’s ecological movement in the form of an eco-audit. This visit he just happened to bring a 17 lb. heritage pork shoulder from a local happy pig farm down his way.

Dinner was delicious as I, Katherine, dined on fresh sweet corn and chatted up the visiting “brain trust” academics, including the Doc. (Have you ever tried to chat up a table full of corn-on-the-cob eaters? It’s not easy!)

Ian MacDonald and David Sloan of the Evolution Institute are here meeting Rabbits and explaining their study on how humans use culture to adapt to existential challenges. What caught me about this particular research was when it was deemed the “happiness study”. This happy rabbit is so into that!

Interviews have been going on for months and even years as people try to get to the bottom of our Rabbits’ motives for living this communal lifestyle. With over 50 people here making their own individual choices regarding ecological values and social interactions, the on-going studies seem to attract more researchers with new and evocative questions. It is a totally great way to meet awesome folks and learn about myself in community.

Brooke, our on-farm eco-audit researcher (turned DR resident), has kept the data crank turning and interns in-line. Our latest intern Carlina is a super sweetheart attending Grinnell College, where she is studying anthropology.

Brooke and Carlina have worked hard this season collecting our 2015 numbers having to do with water consumption, trash/recycling weight, and electrical energy usage, just to name a few. Rabbits were treated to a presentation Friday night on the data collected in 2014 and it was awesome to see how we are doing compared to the numbers of ‘13.

While some numbers went up, others went down. All sorts of factors are weighed, including population fluctuation, getting an electric vehicle, and even the amount of rainfall each year. *Slaps forehead* of course rainfall matters; we have rain catchment systems all over this town!

Yet another “I Heart DR”: I heart that when presented with numbers that our villagers use an average of 10% of the resources that the average American does in some areas, we still challenge ourselves to do better! There is constant talk of conservation, not only by just plain using less, but also by sharing what we do use. Rideshares and kitchen co-ops are only a couple pieces to the puzzle that is living sustainably with this earth.

Now feels like a great time to write a little about why I have such a positive outlook on my being (at least to the extent of boasting the pseudonym Happy Rabbit). I hold space in my awareness for occurrences that happen around the globe and their negative influences while living my life to an extent that is fulfilling to me. I value service to others and enjoyment of my work.

This means that I spend a lot of my days hanging with kids, cooking, gardening, and doing DR mission work (non-profit and committee based). There is a contentedness to my life that I relish and an appreciation with my abundance of choice. The choice lies in how I will serve this earth, whether it is through an ecological means or a societal path. In this case, it seems that I have chosen both.  :)

Case in point: this was the first week (of three) in our current visitor session, in which amazing folks come from all over to give our village a gander. While some folks are super jazzed to move here, others are more along for the ride and choosing this time to get to know us and maybe take some ideas home with them. It has been so fun for this rabbit to interact with all of the new energy emitted from the 16 new beings in our midst (11 adults, 5 children).

While living in rural Missouri does have its perks, like awesome community folk and endless cornfields, I know that it is certainly not for everyone seeking a more intentional way of living. What I love about our demonstration village is that you can take a piece of us home with you! Not only are we exporting ideas and energy (sorry folks, that was a grid-tie joke), we are also raising positive awareness that there are other folks out there who also share these values.

Just today I was discussing the social web that we are weaving all over the world. While Bob is giving a tour of our village to out-of-towners, Alyson is across the ocean attending a conflict resolution conference, Ben is speaking to the local college about local food sourcing, and Rae is doing Skype interviews with social scientists across the country. Our web that we weave ripples through the consciousness and awakens people everyday to new realizations of this world and its cultures.

Since I was a little girl I have always had this idea of “saving the world”. I don’t think that I was ever quite sure what that meant, though I’m sure it somehow tied in to my young love and fascination with whales and trees (only one of which I could play with in the backyard). Now, as a kid of 30, I feel that somehow I am doing a little more of my part in that super-hero role. I love my day-to-day bustle in the village and I also treasure my trips off-farm for art, protest, and the movement of ideas. On the happiness scale, I rank myself right up there with sunshine and unicorns.

One last note to really convince you that my life is awesome; I totally have a Mogwai living in my greenhouse and serenading my sleep every night. Some may call it a frog, I prefer the name Gizmo.

Until next time, thanks for reading and keep on dancin’! Best wishes, *Katherine* Happy Rabbit.

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Don’t forget! This summer we’re hosting the first ever Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, August 29-Sept 6, and we’d love to have you join us, and your help in spreading the word! Find more info here.

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And here’s a way to have fun and support our work: Dancing Rabbit, Inc. is a beneficiary for Climate Ride, so you can have an amazing biking or hiking adventure while supporting our outreach and education efforts! Anyone who participates in Climate Ride events (like bike rides in New England or the Midwest, and hikes in Glacier or Bryce-Zion National Parks) can choose us as their beneficiary and support our work. Now’s the time to register, so check it out for more info.

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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.

Life on the Ark: A Dancing Rabbit Update

In a rare moment in which it is not actually raining, Ben scythes a path to a tent platform. Photo by Katherine.

In a rare moment in which it is not actually raining, Ben scythes a path to a tent platform. Photo by Katherine.

Here I sit, clicky clacking away at this infernal alphabet machine, my child, slowly but assuredly growing to become a six-year-old, ensconced in our family sleeping bag. The three of us lie on the floor, Althea, myself (Howdy, I’m Ben), and what seems to be my other child: a quickly developing orphaned Muscovy duck, named Martha. Or is it Banana bread? I just call it Duck Duck.

Well, the three of us are just sitting here relaxing on the half-built floor of our too dog-gone tiny strawbale home. I only call it that because it’s too small to eat dinner in, unless the dog’s gone. She’s not a tall dog, just a wide dog.

I’d like to think that it isn’t too uncommon for folks to live in a home built of straw, sand and earth, or have a pet duck, or have many multiple ducks, or all three. In fact, I predict that sort of thing will become a lot more popular in the future. Y’know, like sharing vehiclesrenewable energysunchokes, and Google spreadsheets.

Here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, we’ve basically got a bunch of creative, skilled, and dedicated people who are living and experimenting on the edge of some new sustainable frontier. We are doers, makers, builders, growers, parents, superheroes, bakers, nurses, midwives, and accountants. Me, I’m on the very sustainable frontier of edible pets and compostable chicken houses.

Well, if I’m here to describe the week to you, I may as well start off with the weather. Weather’s been rough.  I may as well paraphrase the postcard I sent home from Scout camp, twenty years ago:

“Dear Mom,

My patrol mates left the zipper of our tent opened, then it rained 5 and 5/8 inches, and it flooded a little, and my socks got wet and now it’s sixty degrees on the eighth of July, so I have cold feet and mosquitoes at the same time. I’m okay. Troop leader Bill says we’re out of baloney sandwiches and we have to eat oats from now on. He says if we want baloney for the full two weeks, we gotta sell more popcorn. And the foxes are eating our livestock.

Love, Ben”

That’s pretty much what happened. Except that my tent is bigger, and more compostable, and has batteries in it. And there is no troop leader Bill.

Weather can be especially hard on eco-villagers. We are actively building and growing our lives. Weeks of heavy rains can ruin a crop of potatoes, flood a foundation, spit a cistern ten feet out of the ground, drain batteries, prolong construction, wash away cars and rust bike chains. Some of us, mostly the goats, get the mush foot. That’s when your feet make a mushy sound, even on dry earth, ‘cuz they’re caked in Northeast Missouri clay. I’ve got it chronic.

I’ve got a puddle between the door to my house and the door to my outhouse. It gets powerful deep on a stormy night. And then you’ve got to jump two foot over some very vigorous squash vine. We have no immediate solution for keeping firewood dry in 35 mph horizontal rains, and we rely on it for every cloudy day meal, which is a lot, these days. I heard the governor is going to ask the president for some flood money. Can I get some potatoes?

I live at Dancing Rabbit because I’m living my dreams. Sometimes, it means that I’ve got to live my bad dreams, too. I don’t know of anywhere else where that isn’t the case. But I never had any jobs where I got to hold ducks all day, or build super cool forts with my friends, or teach my own child. Perhaps some folks would rather be audited than have to wear a sweater indoors on a winter’s day, let alone forage greens for dinner, or use an outhouse. Don’t worry, you can get audited here, I’m pretty sure. But I’ve got great neighbors. I can get advice on pruning a fruit tree, laying a wood floor, delivering a baby, harvesting soybeans, or installing a wind turbine, all within a walkable distance. It’s like the internet, but healthier, and probably more accurate.

This morning I mowed a path around a chin high paddock of bee balm and partridge pea, seemingly blossoming in the morning heat. It didn’t get a degree below 77 last night. I have heard my first cicada buzz. Dewberries abound, while the blackberries groggily darken. The blue heron that hangs out down in our bottoms has found a mate. The fields are so serene I almost forget that I have gnats buzzing in my chigger bites, third degree sunburn, one trench to fill, two to dig, and we’re out of oats.

Still, this is the simple life, perplexing as it can be. I see no sense in lying about sustainability being easy. It is at times an exceedingly difficult undertaking, especially when the climate we are trying so hard to keep stable winds up and tosses a curveball at us. Still, it isn’t as futile as, say, keeping your lawn green in Malibu, or extracting tar sands. For the last month or so of my life, my quest to remain sustainable, stable, and sane has more or less paralleled Noah and his troubles. A lot of walking animals, often two by two, out of the torrents, and a little bit of people thinking that I’m crazy. Like a fox.

When the waters recede, I hope to stick my head out of this here ark and probably look across a soggy vista of gleeful, worm devouring ducks and mud streaked children, carrying sheaves of lambsquarter and and feral mustard across the dawn meadows, beneath puttering windmills in a global village of our making.

This ark’s a bit tight for seven billion and one of us humans (not to mention everyone else) and it ain’t no pleasure liner. But when I look at the alternatives to the alternative, I think it’ll have to do. By golly, we may all have to learn to get along if we wanna make this thing work.

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By the time you read this, a new group of visitors will be exploring Dancing Rabbit, learning about community and ecological living, and finding out if DR might be home. If you want to be part of either of the two remaining visitor sessions in 2015, apply soon, as spots are filling quickly!

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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.