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.

 



Wonderings: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Rabbits and neighbors participated in a Climate March solidarity event on Sunday. Photo by SunGee.

Rabbits and neighbors participated in a Climate March solidarity event on Sunday. Photo by SunGee.

I sit alone in Bella Ciao, swaddled against the cold and wrapped in darkness at the base of a broad windowsill.  I pause a moment and prepare myself for a glimpse into Toon’s World of Wonders, a jar filled with water from several ponds at Dancing Rabbit.

Click.

The titanium-white glow of a headlamp filters through the gallon-sized glass jar set before me, casting iridescent patterns of watery shadow onto the earthen walls around me.

As my eyes slowly adjust, I become aware of a plethora of aquatic lifeforms busily coalescing into strata disturbed by my intrusion.  I study their behaviors, marking the characteristics of each wee beastie by increasingly minute degrees.

An almond-shaped crustacean swims frantically past half-submerged fragments of gnarled driftwood, unable to escape the parasitic embrace of a leech nursing at its back. Snails scrub oxygen-producing algae from the slick surface of the glass, while swarms of black mosquito larvae wriggle where air and water meet, oblivious to the circuitous business of a chili-red beetle in their midst. Opalescent fairy-shrimp, like motes of dust spotlighted in a sunbeam, strive on gossamer wings toward the brilliant halo of the flashlight’s fiery filament.

As I marvel at this captivating microcosm, retrospection leads to awe –  and wondering.  I wonder what consciousness might be like for Toon’s Lilliputians.  I wonder whether beings on distant worlds orbiting unknown stars have thoughts like mine.

Hey y’all, Resident Vick here – sit with me by the fire as the days grow shorter, the nights grow colder and autumn ushers in the final frenzy of the harvest season.

This week was the last for our most recent group of visitors to the village and I am delighted to have spent a great deal of time with them during their stay. Our conversations often dwelt on the subject of intentional community, and as the week progressed I found myself repeatedly consociating Toon’s microcosm with the village here at Dancing Rabbit. Maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing fairy-shrimp, but I see new parallels all the time.

Our visitors, for instance, are a diverse class of organisms adapting to a new environment, each of them in search of the niche for which they are best suited.  I watched as they made subtle adjustments to their behaviors following some new insight they had gained in one of our workshops.

I listened with relish to their wildest ambitions and most cherished dreams as they speculated about the roles they might play in our particular human ecosystem.  My imagination reeled with the many possibilities ahead for Dancing Rabbit in its ongoing evolution as a community.

When several members of the visitor group decided to apply for residency, I realized that their arrival will mimic genetic mutation in our population, introducing new material to the pool of ideas, experience, and knowledge available to us right now.  I can’t wait to see what new things they bring, as we pursue our mission to share sustainability with the world.

Dancing Rabbit is a microcosm, but we are also part of a global network of people. The March on Climate Change took place in New York City and around the world this week, and at Dancing Rabbit we participated in this global demonstration with a solidarity event on Sunday. Knowing that millions of people share a piece of our mission fills me with hope, and stopping disastrous climate change is only phase one – our potential is much greater than that.

The first electric car rolled down a Scottish road in 1839 – I wonder how 175 years of research and creative thought could have altered our situation today. Project Orion would sweep up the world’s nuclear warheads and use them to propel us to the stars, where we may find new worlds of wonder to explore, like Toon’s jar on a windowsill.

In less cosmic news, we’re gearing up for our annual Open House and Village Fair, this Saturday Sept 27th, from 1- 4 pm. Free tours happen every half hour, and there will be lots of friendly Dancing Rabbit folks on hand to answer questions, a Village Fair selling unique crafts and goods, and some complimentary refreshments. See our website or Facebook Event page for details. Hope to see many of you there!

•                    •                   •

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.



Visitors and Memories: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Alex brought out the scythe to trim grass for "Land Clean Day" at Dancing Rabbit. Photo by Dennis.

Alex brought out the scythe to trim grass for “Land Clean Day” at Dancing Rabbit.
Photo by Dennis.

Don’t know about you, kind reader, but I’m reeling from too many days in full-bore, too-much-to-do, holy-cow-autumn-is-approaching-WAY-too-fast mode…

Tereza here, and it’s my turn again to regale you with stories from Dancing Rabbit Land, a wonderful place where the living is… well, perhaps not so much easy as it is meaningful. A place where the ducks will give you a good quackin’ if you dare to run by them too quickly on your way to a meeting, and the torrential rain brings gifts of mulch to those of us on the downhill end of town…

Yes, that last bit was my attempt to mention the weather without calling too much attention to it, but I can’t help it! My goodness did we get some rain this week! The ducks were loving it, and I truly do appreciate the Mulch from Elsewhere, but I have to say overall I was not a fan. I am not fond of chilly, and chilly it has been.

Yes, I’m needing to get my head around the fact that winter is on the way to northeast Missouri, whether I like it or not. I find it helps to recall the joys I find in winter here in the heartland: a warm wood stove on a cold night, hot chocolate made with direct-trade cacao and local milk, smaller crowds at community supper so I can actually hear the conversation…

But those are past (and future) dreams, and right now I’m meant to be telling you about the present, or at least the last week here at DR. So on to that…

Dee, Hassan, Nathan and I had appointments in Quincy on Tuesday, making for a great rideshare, but we were excited to also be able to pick up a new visitor to DR, a photojournalist for a major magazine who is working on a story on exemplary ecovillages and sustainable communities. He was great fun to chat with on the way home, and has since been wandering around, getting to know the village and taking lots of pictures. Bonus points for our stellar, full-car, five-person rideshare! Woot!

Speaking of excellent rideshares, I also had a trip to the dentist this week (thanks for the help, doc!), joined by two other humans and one dog. Two of the humans were bound for the dentist, the other human and the dog for the vet. (Um, only the dog was actually seeing the vet. Like for treatment. The human was accompanying the dog. And probably paying the bill. In case that wasn’t clear. But I digress…) Penny (the dog) was excellent in the car, plus she’s super cute so I don’t mind that she won’t pay a share of the vehicle co-op fees for the trip. (Note: Cob, Penny’s human, was fairly well-behaved as well.)

The second-to-last visitor period for the year is more than halfway through as I write, and this group has been fascinating and fun. Hassan and I are their liaisons, which means we meet with them regularly throughout their stay to go over the workshop (and work party) schedules, check in to see how they’re doing, and assign them assistant cook slots to help the Rabbits who make lunch and dinner for them. We answer questions large and small about DR, and generally try to smooth their way as much as possible.

These folks not only came together as a group really well, they did it very quickly, cooking cooperative breakfasts (the meal we provide ingredients for but that visitors make for themselves) after just a day or two. Quite impressive!

They are an interesting bunch, and if I’d thought ahead I would have gotten permission to tell you more about some of these interesting individuals who have come to see what we’re about, but since I didn’t plan better I’ll just have to say that a few are considering making DR a more permanent home (yippee!) so perhaps you’ll hear more about them in updates to come…

One of the biggest events in my week was the anniversary of Tamar’s death. For those of you who don’t know, Tamar came to DR as an intern around the same time I did (14 years ago now) and became a member a year or two later. She influenced our growing village and culture in many ways, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been four years since she died of pancreatic cancer.

It’s a bittersweet time– a time for grieving her loss, of course, but also an opportunity to remember the good times, and to connect with her parents, Eva and Amos, who made the trip from the East Coast to be here. I remain so grateful that her family chose to bury Tamar here, far from them but close to this land she loved and all the community folk whose lives she impacted.

We had a short ceremony by her graveside the drizzly afternoon of the 12th, with songs and chants in English and Hebrew, a few reminiscences, and of course tears. Then that evening, in the Great Room she helped build, we had a huge song circle, where those of us who knew her well, and many who never met her, shared more songs, many of them ones that she had taught us, or that she liked to sing, at song circle. It was a lovely connecting gathering in memory of a special person, and I was especially happy that so many newer Rabbits and visitors joined in.

In other news, a generous donor has offered the nonprofit outreach and education arm of Dancing Rabbit a challenge — if we meet it in time we’ll get $3000! The money goes toward our efforts to share sustainability with others, and I’m hopeful our supporters will help us make it happen! Check out the email with details if you’re a subscriber to our email list, or go to our website’s donate page for more info.

And last, but certainly not least, this week we also had not one but two Land Clean days (folks could choose whichever day worked best for them), in which visitors, guests, and Rabbits worked together to spiff the place up. It looks great, and just in time for our annual Open House, happening Sept 27th from 1-4 p.m.! You don’t want to miss it, so mark your calendars! If you know you can’t make it, or to whet your appetite if you can, check out the short video of last year’s event!

•                    •                   •

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.



Natural Seasonal Flow: A Dancing Rabbit Update

So much solar in the courtyard! We have solar panels powering the Common House, a solar oven baking bread, and the newly designed solar parabolic cooker (aka the death ray) that can boil liquids in minutes. Photo by Nik.

So much solar in the courtyard! We have solar panels powering the Common House, a solar oven baking bread, and the newly designed solar parabolic cooker (aka the death ray) that can boil liquids in minutes. Photo by Nik.

Howdy y’all. Ben here, with another field report from our little post-petroleum oasis here in the rolling hills of Northeast Missouri. As I tingle from the sunburns of the recent past I am simultaneously nipped by the cold of autumn approaching. Transition engulfs our environment. Clusters of ripening honey locust pods hang heavy on the branch. Hickories, walnuts and oaks begin to shed their masts, casting dice in the craps game of survival.

The evening hour is thick with the persistent buzz of cicadas, some of them intercepted in mid-air by cicada killer wasps. I am occasionally pelted by their twitching corpses, which descend from treetops overhead. In the lull of twilight, an enormous moon appears. Tonight shall be the harvest moon. Grain corn, sunchokes, turnips, and young roosters all await my knife this week. The forecast calls for nights in the upper 40s to lower 50s. The muskmelons in my garden languish on the vine, the eventual victims of frost or rot.

I must seem a bit maudlin to the reader. It happens every year. This is the springtime of death. If only I could go to seed like the prairie grass, put forth into this soil some encapsulated embodiment of my life’s energy to ensure the survival of myself and my species, then the winter which blows daily nearer might not dampen my view of this year’s work. Then I could truly go dormant.

But I am not prairie grass. My work is unceasing. I am nearer to a squirrel than anything, triggered into one last frenzy of toilsome action by the appearance of acorns. I split a cord of wood per week. I stuff cob into cavities of my unfinished home. I seal a cache of turnips, intern cabbage forever inside crocks and jars. I keep a keen eye on the fattening fowl as my last pair of usable trousers begs for a belt or suspenders. Strolling downs paths of the prairie I glean seeds of trefoil, partridge pea, bundleflower and clover for distribution among the pastures and paddocks of our hoofstock. Donkey manure, hedgeballs, and mown indian grass sit in buckets about my warren. The stuff of my current existence.

At night I dream of rabbit, deer, and duck. I am the coyote. I stalk the edge of the draws, and lay in wait. I am not prairie grass, I am a human being. I set no seed, I harvest the life-stuff of other beings, plant and animal. I am human, and though I attempt not to wage war with my environment like so many other humans, my relationship with my habitat is fraught with challenges. I have perennial allergies this time of year, feeling physically shut down at times. The tops of my feet are scarred by chigger wounds and poison ivy. Vermin steal from me.

Surely, fox and mink are not far away from the barnyard. Give them their tax, I say, but no more than a few birds. At other times it seems my survival is aided only by this habitat, even in a village of like minds and open hearts. I feast on astringent autumn olives near the pond with my daughter. Together we walk an old fenceline, gathering the fallen boughs of osage and oak for cooking fuel. We chew on the fresh oily kernels of sunflower which heavily hang drooping on heads seemingly lowered in prayer.

In and around the village, I absorb the sensual meanderings of our shared simple life. The creaking of cart wheels on gravel, the joyful noise of children and adults at play, the sight of visitor groups about the commons, on their way to workshops and work parties.

Bucket by bucket, villagers put up homes of earth, straw, and wood. The serene prairiescapes are occasionally broken by the appearance of a truck bringing sand and gravel to worksites. I hear the whine of planers and table saws just beyond the nodding, waving heads of blooming goldenrod. Likewise, others in the village hear the consistent splitting of oak almost daily from near my home. I spend a good deal of time performing acts of constructive destruction, which sometimes spill over into destructive destruction, such as when I ever so slightly rock a splitting maul over my left thumb, or drop a log on my foot. My curses blacken the air momentarily before I return to the steadfast thumping of steel on wood. I am the still pond, concealing a current of fearsome unknowable lifeforms underneath.

I am tormented by nasties, not unlike the goats, sheep, and donkey currently struggling with swarming flies. Skeeters buzz in the evening stillness, manifested by my endless collection of buckets. It’s been a good year for spiders. They don’t bother me none, but the cobwebs spread across the newly plastered walls of my house so quickly that they appear ancient. Tent caterpillars dangle in silky nests above, dropping dung as they devour the leaves of my baby hazelnuts. Once in a while I find one crawling on me, callously crush its green innards, then thoughtfully toss it to a chicken. Rodents of various sort gnaw tomatoes off the vine and find their way into our harvest of sunflower and sorghum seeds, leaving behind a telltale collection of chewed up hulls.

If I sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. Well, perhaps I sort of am.

My musings these days are merely the result of a life spent increasingly integrated into the natural flow of the seasons, though I am lucky enough to be insulated by some type of economy. Were my lifestyle to be truly subsistence, I would probably starve to death. However, this is an ecovillage, and I can get by as a person who’s really only good at growing turnips.

On the other hand, if I really was a squirrel, I’d get by fine in this mast acorn year, without communal support. Or not. And it wouldn’t matter, because I wouldn’t have the leisure time to mope around musing on the rodent condition. As a human, I don’t starve gracefully. I spend these autumn days retrospectively saddened by what hasn’t been accomplished, and what has been lost.

Still, there are successes this year. The house is much more well sealed. The goat kids are growing by leaps and bounds, the pastures are becoming richer, our roof is now covered in dirt and planted to winter wheat, our drainage has been perfected, my firewood is mostly split and seasoned, and I still contend that we Critters have the finest compost on farm.

But pride in my work is no different than a lack of pride in my work, and I am left to wonder if this land would be more harmonious if I were to shed my humanity and become a coyote, a squirrel, or a stand of grass, thrashing about my existence, sticking to my role in this habitat, all without complaint, or pride. Relearning harmony with the earth at this time in existence is a great undertaking, in a world where bug spray, Big Macs, smartphones, and petroleum are readily available.

And as I sit on the sagging porch of rotten soft maple that I never got around to fixing this year, amid buckets of clay, feathers, and dreams left unused, duck manure under my feet, I cannot help but feel some glimmer of hope for the whole remarkable enterprise we have undertaken, as an ecovillage, as a subcommunity, and maybe even as a species.

Because in a year in which I got more inches of rain than dollars, a year in which I found a grand total of five blackberries, a year in which I can officially check off less than a third of our outlined goals as a homestead, I can look northward in the direction of an approaching winter and see the bobbing head of my child combing the woods and fields for puffball mushrooms, tender leaves of violet, healing yarrow leaf and bee balm.

This is the springtime of death and I am the tired drying prairie grass that sets seed in the soil I’ve manured with my own sweat and blood. And my own manure, too. Autumn is here, or will be soon enough, and I may as well lay dormant like the slumbering grasses and forbs, or expire as surely as the rooster who likes to crow into our window every morning, or lay beneath the nearing snow, confident in the seeds we’ve cast if not the fruit of our collective labor.

Then again, all of this is a lot of words and high falutin’ metaphor, and there’s wood that needs splitting, walls that need plaster, and ducks that need processing. The cold is a-comin’, but it ain’t here yet, and I reckon I’ve done enough yammerin’ about my situation for up until the snow hits the ground, and between now and then I think I’ll just keep hiding turnips and chopping wood like I’m prone to do. Even if I envy squirrels, or feel like a coyote, or aspire to be grass, the fact is I’m merely human, and I have a lot of human things to do right now, not to mention all the human things I’d like to undo…

•                 •                 •

Dancing Rabbit’s Annual Open House and Village Fair is coming up: Saturday Sept 27th, 2014, 1-4 pm is your chance to see all the changes since the last time you were here, or to attend for the first time if you’ve never been! Free tours happen every half hour, and there will be lots of friendly Dancing Rabbit folks on hand to answer your questions, a Village Fair selling unique crafts and goods, and some complimentary refreshments. Check out www.dancingrabbit.org/ohfor details.

•                 •                 •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. A regular free tour of our village happens on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, April through October: the next will be Saturday, September 13th, beginning at 1:00 pm. Tours usually last one and a half to two hours, and you don’t need a reservation. Or come to our Open House (details above) on the 27th! If you need directions, please call the DR office at (660)883-5511 or email us at dancingrabbit@ic.org.



Into the Sunset: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Thanks to all the Rabbits who helped overhaul the Common House kitchen as we begin yet another visitor session (Yes, that is Toon hiding behind the stove...) Photo by Katherine.

Thanks to all the Rabbits who helped overhaul the Common House kitchen as we begin yet another visitor session (Yes, that is Toon hiding behind the stove…) Photo by Katherine.

This week at Dancing Rabbit has been simply pleasant and ordinary in a lot of ways. Progress was made on building projects, gardens produced in abundance, we hung out at the pond, carried on our committee work, worked our income jobs, and did our chores. Same old, same old. For me though, everything I did and witnessed took on a special sparkle of affection or patina of nostalgia, since many of them I was doing or witnessing for the last time.

Hi, this is Sam, and I’m writing to you as I begin a sort of encore week at Dancing Rabbit, since I had planned to leave at the end of August but will stay for one more week. This will be my last time writing this update for y’all, though if you subscribe to the March Hare blog, you’ll likely see more of my work there in the coming weeks.

It’s a little harder than usual to recall what happened this week, since I’ve removed myself from the announcements email list, so I can’t use my inbox as a cheat sheet. A lot of the Critters have been out of town, at sheep conventions and what have you, so Mae was enjoying some quieter time between chores.

Plaster work is going on at Moon Lodge and Rae and Illly’s house. Tereza has a new shed, The Grocery Store is looking tidier than ever under its new management, and the planted beds in The Bean Field community gardens are looking impressively prolific. Wildflowers are continuing their colorful slow-motion annual parade, and I saw the first Monarch butterfly of the season. Cicadas are now at peak noisiness, I think.

This week we said “see you later” to our friends the Bushmans, as they moved away from Rutledge for family reasons unrelated to the tensions they felt around recent meetings and ordinances there.  They weren’t members of Dancing Rabbit, but so many of us knew them through the children’s friendships, work relationships, and general socialization that their departure was notable enough to warrant a going-away brunch.

Some folks stopped by Thistledown to enjoy finger foods and cocktails in honor of my going away, too. I was so touched at one point by a gift I received, I had to go have a little cry before rejoining the party. (Thanks for the bowl, Thomas.) Cob had promised folks there’d be prizes, and he declared some winners that night. For my part, I declare Katherine and Nik tied for winner in the vegan category, and I’ll bring them their prize of my purple sunshine t-shirt just as soon as I’ve washed it.

The pond weather has been just right, and I’ve enjoyed reading my book while the kids frolic in the water. For me, the pond is really one of the most important aspects of life at DR, and besides personal relationships, it’s the thing I’ll miss the most. Access to a clean swimming hole, with views of rolling wild prairie and lush draw, where everybody knows your name and herons come to visit, is something hard to achieve without community. I’m going to miss it a lot.

I’m also going to miss pizza night, and having a neighborhood bar where they don’t mind if I don’t buy anything, so long as I come in to spend time, and when the barkeep asks how I’m doing, I’m pretty sure he really cares. I’m not going to miss feeling responsible for the selection of the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization, but I will miss living with others who are passionate enough about some of the same things I am to spend their time and energy making decisions like that. From what I hear, the Board, as selected on Sunday, is chock-full of awesome people. I have high hopes for what Dancing Rabbit can accomplish with their leadership.

It will be interesting to see what the next few months and years bring for Dancing Rabbit. How will the ever-changing cast and crew, not to mention team of writers, perform over the next seasons? I may have dumped my last bucket of humey, but there will always be a part of my heart here at DR. You can picture me in chaps, with a duster flowing dramatically in the wind and my charming sidekick close beside. I’ll say, “Well, it looks like my work here is done. I’m needed elsewhere now,” and then ride off into the sunset.

•                    •                   •

Editor’s Note: We’ll miss you, Sam and Kody! Thanks for being here and doing all you’ve done over the years– wishing you the best of luck in your away-from-DR adventures!

•                    •                   •

Dancing Rabbit’s Annual Open House and Village Fair is coming up! Saturday Sept 27th, 2014,  from 1-4 p.m. we’ll be showing off all we do to friend and neighbors. Free tours will happen every half hour, with friendly Dancing Rabbit members to answer questions, a Village Fair selling unique crafts and goods, and some complimentary refreshments. Check out our website or our Facebook event page  for details!

•                    •                   •

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.

 



Ecological Cooking—Food Co-ops, Dancing Rabbit-style!

In the Skyhouse Kitchen Coop. Photo by Rachel Katz.

In this third installment in her series on Ecological Cooking, Dancing Rabbit member Sam talks about food co-ops, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage-style!

It’s been a few weeks since we had an installment of our series on more sustainable cooking. That’s my bad; I’ve been out of town, and this particular topic is one that’s a little less straightforward than the ones I’ve covered so far. Nevertheless, without further ado, let’s learn a little bit about the ecological benefits of… Food Co-ops.

So far, with hayboxes and solar ovens we’ve talked about technologies that make smart use of facts of physics to use heat more efficiently. The food co-op is a technology that helps optimize not just the efficiency of heat, but also some more subtle impacts of feeding ourselves.

You might be familiar with one kind of co-op, one that’s almost exactly like a grocery store, with maybe a membership fee and an accompanying discount. At DR our food sharing manifests in different ways, often with a deeper involvement than store-type co-ops. Often there are chore rotations, shared kitchens, cook rotations, and meetings to decide what kind of leftover storage containers to use or whether teabag strings should go in the compost.

One term we hear a lot when talking about ways to improve our efficiency is “embodied energy” or “embodied impact.” That’s referring to the energy or impact that is used or incurred in order to get an object to us for use. A solar panel, or example, has a certain embodied impact from the energy used in manufacture, energy used to transport it, the energy and other impacts of mining for materials, and the infrastructure for the factories, transport vehicles, etc. Everything has an embodied impact “cost”.

One of the ways we can minimize our personal share of the impacts due to our kitchen appliances is to share them. When we share the object, we share the cost. If ten people are sharing one stove, fridge, sink, teakettle, etc, that divides each of our share of that impact by ten. Those of us living in intentional communities and large families have an advantage over those of us who live in single family homes. Many folk at Dancing Rabbit live in “cabins” within easy walking distance of each other and that don’t all have amenities like running water, a stove, a fridge, or even a table and chairs.

Preserving in the Ironweed Kitchen Coop. Photo by Stephen.

Preserving in the Ironweed Kitchen Coop. Photo by Stephen.

Here, also, we know each other well enough and share enough of a commitment to good communication and peaceful sharing of things, space, and chores, that having one kitchen every several households is a pretty natural decision. I know not everyone lives in an ecovillage, so sharing appliances with your neighbors might take more of an effort than it does for us. Honestly, that kind of thing is what makes places like Dancing Rabbit so special. That said, I have some ideas to help you get some of the benefits of food co-ops without tearing out your kitchen.Even without spreading the impact of our appliances over more than one household, there is efficiency to be gained by cooking larger batches, and sharing among more people. For one thing, cooking a large pot of stew, baking an oven full of baked goods, or sauteing large amounts of onions and garlic is more fuel efficient than doing the same amount of cooking spread over several kitchens.

That’s because each burner has its own heat loss and other inefficiency, and using more of them compounds more of that wasted energy. Having a dinner club to share meals with once a month, week, or day, can save a lot of fuel, even if everyone has their own kitchen. Of course, if everyone is traveling by car to get to the dinner club, you lose some or all of that advantage, but at least you get to hang out with your friends.

Eating in a big group might not appeal to everyone, and for those who prefer to dine alone or in smaller units, I have a solution as well. Try cooking very large batches of stews, pie filling, sauces, and other food that can be canned in family-meal size servings, canning them while they’re hot (which does add to the fuel used) and then either storing them for your own use or trading among friends. You get all the convenience of packaged food without the disposable waste. It doesn’t get you quite the efficiency that group meals will get you, but it does have some ecological advantages, allowing you to buy unprocessed food in bulk, cook in big batches, and buy produce (i.e., impactful-to-ship food) in season only.

Canning, glorious canning at Skyhouse. Photo by Rachel Katz.

Canning, glorious canning at Skyhouse. Photo by Rachel Katz.

If you can find a bulk natural food buying club in your area, you might be able to save money and packaging by buying your staple foods in large amounts and having them brought straight to your neighborhood, instead of to a store first. Check out www.UNFI.com to ask about buying clubs in your area. While I’m plugging unaffiliated websites, let me say that my favorite way to store, say, 25 pounds of rice, is in a reclaimed 5-gallon bucket with a Gamma Seal Lid on top. My favorite supplier of those lids is www.freckleface.com. Buy in quantity (with your neighbors and buying club members) and save!

Sharing cooking chores has an advantage outside the fuel savings as well: time savings. It might seem like a bit of a stretch to call it a more ecologically sustainable choice to spend less time cooking dinner, but consider what you, good citizen, might do with that extra time. Might you build a compost bin? Walk or bike instead of driving somewhere? Plant a garden? Write for a sustainability blog? Or maybe you’d spend more time cuddling your children, lifting weights, knitting, or getting a little more sleep. That’s cool, too.

Another advantage to food coops of all kinds is the efficiency of space they yield. Houses without kitchens, or high person-to-kitchen ratios are smaller, per person, than houses with kitchens, and that smallness leaves more room for wildlife, carbon sequestration, growing food, or some combination of those or other worthy uses of space. Plus, smaller spaces are easier to heat in the winter, saving fuel that way, too.

Food co-ops like those we have at Dancing Rabbit, with shared kitchens, rotating cook shifts, and shared gardens and garden chores, enable us to cut our use of energy, time, space, and the embodied impact of appliances. If more people in the world could find ways to share kitchens, the savings would add up. Since you probably live in a house with a kitchen already, perhaps getting to know your walkable neighbors well enough to share a meal occasionally, or making large batches and gifting them around the neighborhood, could make a positive difference both socially and ecologically.

•                       •                       •


Sam’s had experience as a scientist, a sailor, a dive guide, a bartender, a housewife, a teacher, a farmer, a vagabond, and a business owner 
before coming to live at Dancing Rabbit from 2009 to 2014 with her son. Now Sam spends her time working online, homeschooling, watching Netflix, reading, writing, and running a couple of tiny businesses.



The Biggest Dipper: A Dancing Rabbit Update

A blossom in our rain garden. Photo by SunGee.

A blossom in our rain garden. Photo by SunGee.

I am not a singer.

Nik here, and don’t get me wrong, I can carry a tune with a group. I even fronted a wailing band back in high school. But unlike some folks, a tune isn’t floating in the air as I walk down Main Street.

Coming home to Dancing Rabbit after a three-week-long trip, I am afraid that we brought an oppressive front of heat and humidity along with us. Overwhelmed with a feeling of homecoming gratitude mixed with a need to escape the heat, the first thing I did when we got in was head to the swimming pond.

Thankfully, not a lot had changed in our time away, though Hassan’s long, golden tresses are now short and he’s looking mighty dapper. Cans of seasonal jams and pickles have stacked up on the shelves of the Milkweed Mercantile, as well as a lot of progress on the building of the Milkweed’s honeymoon cottage, with the help of work-exchanger Irene and her dad, Norm (who has been an entertaining and cheerful guest for two weeks). The cottage will be a new rental space for guests of the Mercantile, and it will boast a (hold on to your skorts) solar-powered hot tub!

One change that Katherine was dreading on our trip was the inevitable growing up of her baby ducklings. What were peeping ping-pong balls of cuteness when we left had matured into peeping brown footballs!

As someone who hadn’t spent much time raising birds before this year, I hadn’t even thought of something that happens to all of us at a very special time in our lives. The ducklings’ voices started to change! They were hitting poultry-puberty, and their peep-peeping was gradually turning to little quack-quacking.

It was also a fantastic week to return for celebrations—Sharon celebrated her birthday with a Fiesta de Chocolate; sweet and savory dishes made with cocoa filled the table of her and Dennis’s timberframe and cob home, Robinia. Dan played a set of Latin-American songs on guitar, and everyone spoke Spanish for a chunk of the evening…well, some of us spoke and some of us stumbled.

Later, the very same evening, a group of us from Sharon’s party climbed the hill into Critterville. The candle-orange glow of a fire and the rhythmic sounds of drums grew as we neared the gathering. Didgeridoos buzzed alongside the cicadas. There was steady chatter of conversation and two of Bagel’s visiting friends from Chicago were dancing with flaming hula-hoops and juggling sticks. Our baker-extraordinaire intern, Dandelion, picked up a flaming hoop and joined in their dance. Jaws were collectively dropped, because we had no idea of her talent!

They all made patterns and movements that must have been practiced for years, and this doesn’t even touch the fact that not a single bit of fabric or flesh was burnt! Trails of fire danced in the night air for hours, along with the hypnotic drumbeat and didgeridoo roar (and more hidden talent was exposed, as I do now believe our didgeridoo competence ratio puts most places to shame).

It was a night like one I have held in my dreams of what Dancing Rabbit would be. I know that Dancing Rabbit and communities in general are never just one thing or one idea. But it was a perfect night that tickled my once-held preconceptions.

That first evening back home, as I emerged from the cool water, the last pink light of the sun faded from the horizon. Stars spattered across the Milky Way, already bright, and the frog and insect chorus crescendoed as I sat to dry on the wooden dock. Ursa Major hung in the northern sky.

Since I was a teenager, I would point out that most famous of constellations, and to whoever was my companion on that late-night stroll I would say, “That… is the BIGGEST dipper I’ve ever seen!” They’d groan, or sometimes even laugh if I was lucky. But me, I’d always laugh at my own lame joke.

Looking at the Big Dipper in the purple Missouri sky, I smiled to myself. For the first time in three weeks, I was without my companion; there was no one to groan at my joke. There is a joy in solitude, especially when community and companionship surround you all day. I smiled again at that thought, looked up at the stars, and began to quietly sing a song I learned at Dancing Rabbit:

We are living ‘neath the great Big Dipper
We are washed by the very same rain
We are swimming in this stream together
Some in power and some in pain.

•                    •                   •

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.