Autumn News: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Sewing on a rainy dayprintweb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                    •                   •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Exploring Dancing Rabbit: A Visitor’s Perspective

Our September 2014 visitor session.

Our September 2014 visitor session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                     •                   •



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

Chopping, Carrying, Celebrating: A Dancing Rabbit Update

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

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

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

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

I really think he was onto something there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                    •                   •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Sharing Our Lives: A Dancing Rabbit Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                    •                   •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Adventures in Homeschooling: A Michaelmas Dragon Story

by Alyssa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                       •                       •

Alyssa Martin has been living a rich life at Dancing Rabbit since 2006. She spends her time gardening, homeschooling her young son, serving pregnant women and their families via her work as a Certified Professional Midwife, 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.


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!

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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.

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…

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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 details.

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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