“What do we say to power tools?”
“NO!” The crowd roared in response. A man stood on a wooden stage in the middle of a crowded 10-bent timber frame barn; he held a broad ax aloft, like a mustachioed viking.
Roy Underhill, long-time host of PBS’s The Woodwright’s Shop, which you may remember flipping the channels and seeing two lumberjack-looking gentlemen talking about mallets in a set that looked like a falling down barn, was speaking at the Handworks Hand Tool Convention in the Amana Colonies in Iowa, just two hours north of Rutledge. It was a bit like Woodstock for wood workers…kind of. A ship of foolhardy wood enthusiasts from Dancing Rabbit biked up or carpooled for the event.
Weaving together woodworking, mythology, satire, and even a few Star Wars references on his soapbox…er, wood bench, Underhill had the whole crowd hanging on every word. Woodworkers and tool makers from across the globe gathered in the timeless little town of Amana.
There were chisels, hatchets, travishers, moulding planes, and saws as far as the eye could see—but not a single corded (or cordless) power tool. Mark, from Red Earth Farms, wielded his banjo all day at the event, and was spontaneously asked to warm up the crowd before Underhill took the stage—and he filled that barn and those people with beautiful tones.
Returning home to Dancing Rabbit that night, I not only thought about how for years I’ve been improperly sharpening a drawknife but also about how doing things by hand, or doing things “the old way” has a strong hold for many at DR. But then again, using technology and making the community a more prosperous place through engineering and science also has strong roots here, back to the founders. They were not cart-and-donkey back to the landers, but students and computer programmers who cared deeply about the future of the planet. Now there are Rabbits with a cart and a donkey, but that cart was still beautifully engineered!
When does “the old way” need help from “the new way”, and when does “the new way” become unsustainable? Ask ten Rabbits and you’ll likely get ten very different answers, but it’s one of those questions that make this such a dynamic place to live! How do we conserve energy and water and still wash clothes? “Scrub and wring by hand!” “Energy efficient washers!” “Hook up a bicycle to an old washing machine!” “My aroma is my cologne!”
Every need from the modern world translates to Dancing Rabbit, and finding out if that way is sustainable or not goes through everyone’s head and consciousness. Can we plant this by hand and still make a living? Can we cook this with a solar oven? Will this natural building material stand up to Missouri winters and Missouri rains?
Questions that can seem so minute, can have a very long thought process, especially when building—like how much insulative material needs to go in a roof, what that material is, whether it fits within the building covenant, and how much wood is needed to make that a well-engineered roof and is the wood salvaged or locally cut.
One of the biggest broken-record moments is when guests and visitors come very excited with new, grand ideas and ask, ‘Why haven’t you tried this?” or “Hasn’t anyone ever thought of doing that?” and almost always, not always, many people who have come and gone have tried and put it through the process and it hasn’t proven to be sustainable in either this specific village sense or the global sense. Ideas are the blood that keeps Dancing Rabbit alive, but yes, we know about earthships.
Most stances on that “new way” v. “old way” debate are all over the board with members of Dancing Rabbit, but some issues are definitely fought with hard stances. Like on the “new way” end of the spectrum, food production seems to be a big issue with many here. This past weekend, one of our own, Lucas, was invited to speak on behalf of Veterans for Peace at one of the March Against Monsanto rallies across the country, this one in Springfield, Missouri.
Monsanto, or at least its seeds and products, are well known in any agricultural area. Better yields and more pest resistant, but in exchange for restrictions that the seeds cannot be reused and a worry that genetically modified seeds (which fall into the GMO category) are not healthy for a biodiverse and productive land in the long term, or healthy for people.
From reports by his Rabbit support and cheerleader, Katherine, Lucas spoke in true Dancing Rabbit fashion—emphasizing what we can do on our own for good, instead of just slandering what they see as bad. Lucas is still fighting the good fight at home to make this a better place. We thank him for all his service.
While I sharpen my drawknife to start building a more sustainable home, I know every detail will be agonized over. But that’s what I want. I want answers and, even more so, I want questions. I want to question where that board comes from and how it was treated (in its milling process, not ethically) and how can I stain my shake siding naturally. And after a long day’s work on those questions, what’s for dinner? That’s a much bigger question!
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Have you been wanting to check out Dancing Rabbit live and in person? Now’s your chance! There are still a few slots left in the next visitor program session, happening June 1- 22, 2015. If you want to be part of the fun, get in touch with us soon to request a visitor program application!
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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! Find more info here.
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Finally, here’s a nice piece about us and our work: Sustainable Development in Action at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage — please share and enjoy!
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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.