Go Dig a Swale!

A Permaculture Nugget

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

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

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

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

Berm: a small ridge or wall of soil

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

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

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

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

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



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



Busy as the Bees: A Dancing Rabbit Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                  •                 •

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



What Are You Doing Here?: A Dancing Rabbit Update

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

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

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

“Eatin’ hog,” he replies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                  •                 •

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

•                  •                 •

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

•                  •                 •

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



Life on the Ark: A Dancing Rabbit Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dear Mom,

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

Love, Ben”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•                  •                 •

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

•                  •                 •

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.



Planting Perennial Polycultures of Multipurpose Plants

Why, it's a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants! An apple tree, comfrey, milkweed and more! Photo by Dennis.

Why, it’s a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants! An apple tree, comfrey, milkweed and more! Photo by Dennis.

A Permaculture Nugget

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

Want a new tongue-twister? Try saying “I’m planting a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants” three times!

Planting a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants is what I’m doing in my forest garden at Dancing Rabbit. Understanding this permaculture concept, though, might be a bit easier than saying it. Here’s what I mean.

Perennial

Perennials are plants that live for at least two seasons – often more. Trees, berries, and a surprising number of vegetables are perennial. I prefer perennials because they:

  • save on human energy (you only have to plant once!)
  • build soil (you don’t have to disturb all the little critters in the soil each year as you do with annual)
  • are low-maintenance (once well-started they need little care)
  • have a long-term role in the ecosystem (critters can count on them for homes and/or food from one season to the next)
  • extend the harvest season (they’re already in the ground, so they have a head-start for spring growing)

Polyculture

This is the opposite of monoculture. I plant various species of plants all together in one bed, often centered around a fruit or nut tree, to form a diverse little community. Each plant has a different role to play within the community.

Multipurpose

Every plant in the polyculture has multiple purposes by design. A single plant might have deep roots that draw up nutrients to share with other plants, attract pollinating insects with its flowers, and have leaves that are medicinal for humans.

Figuring out which plants work well together and what roles they play is just one fascinating part of permaculture design. You can learn more about creating perennial polycultures of multipurpose plants through the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, August 29-September 6. Earn a permaculture design certificate while experiencing life in an ecovillage! Click here for more information and course registration.



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



Here Came the Sun! The Dancing Rabbit Weekly Update

Ted and Thomas having fun with Dancing Rabbit's newest photo op, courtesy of DR's Big BAM prep team (especially Nik the artist and Illly the constructor). Photo by Alline.

Ted and Thomas having fun with Dancing Rabbit’s newest photo op, courtesy of DR’s Big BAM prep team (especially Nik the artist and Illly the constructor). Photo by Alline.

Hi friends! This is Alline writing from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

First, of course, I am compelled to discuss the weather. The big news is that the sun finally came out! Great rejoicing was heard throughout the land. The garden beds previously despaired over have now dried out. Some tomato plants survived, although many did not.

Zillions of bulbs of garlic have been harvested, and are drying on picnic tables and in rafters all over the village. As a first-time garlic farmer, I found the harvesting directions a bit challenging. “Do not water garlic for four or five days before harvesting,” the book said. Since we were in the middle of a storm front that was dumping inches of water on our gardens every single day I feared that that wasn’t going to happen until October.

Another casualty of too much rain was the Big Bike Ride Across Missouri, aka the Big BAM. We were very disappointed, not only for ourselves and the town of Rutledge but for the riders and organizers who put so much time and thought into the week.

For those who are reading this somewhere other than Northeast Missouri, Big BAM was an inaugural event modeled on Iowa’s RAGBRAI. The Big BAM ride started on the western side of Missouri, and the last day’s 80-mile route was to bring 1,200 cyclists through Dancing Rabbit, Rutledge, and then on to Quincy, Illinois, where the ride ended.

Unfortunately, we were inundated with rain of Noah-like proportions. Three and four inches fell in a single hour, and our soil and rivers and tributaries had no time to catch up. All roads leading into Dancing Rabbit, except Highway 15 from the north, were flooded and closed. Unfortunately, this was a bicycling and not a kayaking event, and we were, as the saying goes, up a creek.

The good news is that the Big BAM/DR crew did an amazing job preparing for the day, and the village looks beautiful!  Thanks to Dee, Illly, Rae, Nik, Lucas, Brett, Kyle, and Oliver for all of their prep work! (My apologies to anyone I may have missed!)

Here on the edge of the prairie wildflowers are abundant and changing every day. The monarda (bee balm) is blooming, and the milkweed buds are ready to burst into flowers any day now. The asters are gathering their forces for bright purple mayhem, and the black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers are adding bright accents to garden beds and fields alike.

The Milkweed Mercantile’s new button bush (cephalanthus occidentalis) is exploding with the goofiest, Martian-looking “flowers.” Purchased last fall at a St. Louis nursery in a section that I thought said “Missouri natives, 3’ tall, 3’ wide” I had forgotten what it was; I am grateful that I accidentally put it in a spot with ample room to support its eventual 10’ spread. Since it started blooming, sprigs of buttonbush have been added to every guest-room bouquet that we create.

In other news Ma’ikwe’s friend Eric McEuan came for a visit and presented a well-received concert on Saturday. He posted this on Facebook (I learn more about my home on FB than I do walking around the village!), and wanted to share his impressions:

“I came out to this place in rural Missouri to see Ma’ikwe, and to learn from the ways the people here do community. And it’s a lovely thing. A mixture of independence from the advertising-driven consumption machine (which is driving us all towards destruction) and interdependence – of the humans, the ecosystem, the local economy – making life work through relationship with one another. I know it has its challenges, but I’ll keep quoting Ma’ikwe on this: what they’re up to here is “sustainable life that doesn’t suck.”

The Mercantile held a Yoga Retreat over the July 4th weekend. Our massage therapist, Sandy, is also a certified yoga instructor, so she did double duty. Yoga instructor/massage therapist Cathy Rasmussen of Jefferson City taught two classes, as did our own Kassandra Brown. Bob gave the group a fabulous tour, and Nathan led a meditation class. There was a lot of convivial conversation; it was a quiet and contemplative way to spend what is often a loud and noisy holiday. Not only did participants get to refine their yoga skills and make new friends, they learned about life at Dancing Rabbit.

Learning something while visiting Dancing Rabbit is one of the best ways to experience life here. If you are at all inclined to visit, I encourage you to consider participating in the upcoming Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Aug 29-Sept 6, 2015. Taught in conjunction with Midwest Permaculture, this is a MUST for anyone interested in sustainability.

The course blends theory and inspiration with practical, hands-on, how-to activities. Teachers Bill and Becky Wilson of Midwest Permaculture guide participants to explore the comprehensive, yet simple and practical, solutions-oriented framework that permaculture provides. And Rabbit villagers will add to the richness by sharing experiences with creating cooperative culture in intentional community. Please help us spread the word about the course to others who might be interested.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

•                  •                 •

A quick note to “thank you for the lift”!

Earlier this year, on May 5th, we participated once again in GiveSTL Day, and raised over $5000 from many wonderful donors to support our nonprofit’s outreach and education efforts! We recently found out just how much we received in “lift” bonus money, from sponsors who “lifted” donations made at certain times of day. The total bonus amount was almost $1000, so our grand total for the day was just over $6000! Woo hoo! Once again, thank you all so much for your support!

•                  •                 •

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.



Saving Testudines at “Drenching” Rabbit: The Weekly Update

 Visiting former Rabbits Sam (shown here) and Kody (not pictured) installed a turtle saving device around the outflow pipe on DR's pond this week. Photo by Sam.

Visiting former Rabbits Sam (shown here) and Kody (not pictured) installed a turtle saving device around the outflow pipe on DR’s pond this week. Photo by Sam.

Hello everyone, from Drenching Rabbit! While it seems like there was probably a time when northeast Missouri was not like the Amazon, that is simply a distant memory right now. We have been getting wet on the regular with little chance of reprieve in sight. Some of the plants are happy, though not always the ones we want happy, and the cisterns are completely full.

Zach here. Long time reader, new time writer, and new time Rabbit.

Some say that we talk about the weather too much in these newsletters, but it’s hard to avoid since it seems to affect everyone’s daily business, even for someone like me who spends his days staring at a screen. With an online job, it has been easy in the past to sit at a desk all day and listen to the delightful pitter-patter or booming thunder outside my window with little to care about in the world.

Here, I can’t help think of the burgeoning friendships with my neighbors, many of whom garden, farm, husband animals, and are building their own houses. Their work is delayed or dismantled by the torrents from above – I’ve heard of gardens being overwhelmed by weeds, building projects put on hold, seen paths washed away, and people hunkered inside going a little stir-crazier than they would want to this time of year.

But such stir-craziness also means that when good weather comes around we take full advantage. This Saturday several Rabbits and guests held a float trip on the pond in the full sun, bathing in the warming light while imbibing cooling brews – as summer should be, and made so much more sweet by this year’s limited opportunities thus far.

Despite the rain and because of it, former Rabbit Sam and her son Kody, here for a visit, installed a turtle saver at the swimming pond. Now, the indigenous testudines no longer have to fear getting stuck in the bowels of an outlet pipe designed simply to alleviate the pressure of heavy rains.

Living at DR, I’m constantly reminded of the contrast between groups of humans merely inconvenienced by the weather (former urbanites like myself) and those whose whole lives are upended by nature’s whims. Here, those groups exist side by side and work to support each other when possible. I can’t stop the rain, but I can help cover something half-built with a tarp or prepare a warm beverage for someone stuck out in a storm.

And yet, the mood here is not totally dependent on the weather – as evidenced by the uplift I felt all around when the Supreme Court ruled this week on the Affordable Care Act and Same-Sex marriage.

I’ll leave you all with some of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “Hymn of the Big Wheel” by Massive Attack:

The big wheel keeps on turning
On a simple line, day by day
The earth spins on it’s axis
On [co] struggles while another relaxes

There’s a hole in my soul like a cavity
Seems like the world is out to gather just by gravity
The wheel keeps turning, the sky’s rearranging
Look my [child] the weather is changing

There’s a certain timelessness to life here, one centered around humanity’s inextricable dependence on the nature world. Yet, there’s also a sense that we’re moving forward in some way, and that with each spin of the big wheel our work is leading toward something better than what happened the last time around.

•                  •                 •

News to Share:

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

Plus there are two awesome events happening over Labor Day that we want you to know about:

August 29-Sept 6 the first ever Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is happening and we’d love to have you join us! Find more info here.

Sept 4-7 in Virginia the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is happening! The conference offers people interested or involved in intentional communities, cooperatives, and community based projects and organizations a place to share ideas, network, and enjoy a weekend together.

•                  •                 •

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.



Stacking Functions: When is a Garden More Than a Garden?

Sharon waters a great example of stacked functions: Robinia’s rooftop garden. Photo by Dennis.

Sharon waters a great example of stacked functions: Robinia’s rooftop garden. Photo by Dennis.

A Permaculture Nugget

We’re offering several of the following “permaculture nuggets” over the weeks leading up to the Permaculture Design Course. Please enjoy!

When is a garden more than a garden? When it’s designed using the creative Permaculture Principle of “Stacking Functions.” Everything in a permaculture design has more than one use!

Robinia, my house at Dancing Rabbit, is a great example of stacking functions – the garden is literally “stacked” on the roof. Designed with a very walkable pitch, and covered with 10 inches of soil, the roof provides open space to grow food. My partner Dennis and I have successfully grown potatoes, squashes, greens, and tomatoes on top of Robinia.

But that’s not all the garden does! The thick layer of earth on the roof mediates the temperatures inside the house. In the winter it’s warmer than it would be with a metal roof, and in the summer it’s cooler.  And that means we burn less wood in the winter and use less electricity to cool the house in the summer.

And rather quietly, the rooftop garden is also capturing carbon. The plants on the roof – cultivated and non-cultivated – replace the ground level prairie grasses destroyed when the house foundation was dug. The garden on the roof takes in carbon in a way a metal or shingled roof never could.

Dennis and I like to mention at least one more function for Robinia’s rooftop garden: it provides a great place for watching sunsets!

You can learn more about “stacking functions” and many other permaculture principles at the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, August 29-Sept. 6. Earn a permaculture design certificate while experiencing life in an ecovillage! Click here for more information and course registration.


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