Alline Tells All: A Dancing Rabbit Update

A "starring" rendition of the theme from Star Wars was a room-pleaser at the first ever Dancing Rabbit piano recital. Photo by Katherine.

A “starring” rendition of the theme from Star Wars was a room-pleaser at the first ever Dancing Rabbit piano recital. Photo by Katherine.

Hi friends,

This is Alline, back in the writing rotation after a few years off.

I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to this column. Fourteen years ago, when Rachel Katz first proposed the idea to Chris Feeney, editor of the local newspaper the Memphis Democrat, the column was intended as a way for Dancing Rabbit to be as transparent as possible with our local neighbors. Our goals were, and are, to inform readers about what we’re doing out here in Rutledge, and why, without judgment.

Now we have far more readers online, so we walk an interesting line in trying to decide what information to share with our local neighbors that will also be of interest to our sometimes far-flung internet fans.

Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we miss the mark. But Dancing Rabbit, like every town and city everywhere, is made up of unique individuals. While we share a few basic values there are many different styles and attitudes, which we demonstrate here weekly. And while we’re all writing under the Dancing Rabbit banner, the thoughts and opinions are solely our own, and not necessarily those of other members of Dancing Rabbit.

One of the reasons I enjoy this column is hearing from readers. Back in the “early days” of DR I tried to include activities of all the members, mostly so that their parents would know that they were still alive. It was a bit easier then – when Kurt and I joined Dancing Rabbit it 1999 there were about ten of us. Now, inching towards 70, I won’t even try to get everyone in (is that a sigh of relief I hear?).

Another reason I enjoy writing this is that it gives me a good excuse to be nosy. I get to channel my inner Mrs. Kravitz (remember the neighbor from “Bewitched”?) and ask everyone what they did last week. Some folks, like Dan, laugh and say “absolutely nothing.” However, I know that’s not true – I remember that Dan headed up the delivery of a huge supply of mulch, which was put into service by scores of Rabbits with wheelbarrows. Perfect timing to cover the muddy paths between storms.

One of this week’s highlights was a piano recital featuring students of Amy “Meadoe” Carleton. The timing couldn’t have been better – the grand piano in our Community Building had just been beautifully tuned by Davie Kreuger (we highly recommend him!).

Four of Amy’s students played: Mariana, with characteristic humor, played the theme from Star Wars; Rae demonstrated her sophisticated side with “Alpine Melody;” Ewan rocked the house with his rendition of “Jingle Bells;” and Aurelia, channeling her inner Liberace, emoted her way through “Indian Song.”

Amy, a talented musician and teacher of voice, guitar and piano, still has a few openings for motivated students. If you’re local and interested in lessons contact us at the Milkweed Mercantile and we’ll get the message to her.

Jibran, Ma’ikwe’s son, was featured in an article on Shimer College, the school he attends in Chicago. Tiny and extremely non-traditional, Shimer was recently ranked “the worst college in the US” and British newspaper The Guardian came to find out why. Author Neil Gaiman tweeted about it, and a Shimer graduate wrote eloquently on how everything that makes Shimer “the worst” is precisely what makes it so fantastic.

We were all excited to hear from Sharon, who is in Malawi. For those not as familiar with African geography as they wish to be (like, embarrassingly, me…), Malawi is a small country in Southeast Africa, surrounded by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Sharon is spending three months as a volunteer for the Kusamala Institute for Agriculture and Ecology.

Excited about being able to devote so much time to her passion for permaculture, Sharon is developing a very simple step-by-step “how to” permaculture manual for farmers. In her spare time she is working hard on learning Chichewa, the Malawi national language. We’re looking forward to her next update!

Back at home, on Saturday a number of tri-communitarians took a break from busy-ness and conversation and spent the day in silence. In addition to private contemplation, participants had several group meditation sessions, and a silent walk on DR’s land.

In contrast, and as an example of how diverse the interests in our extended community are, our neighbor Natalie celebrated her birthday with a Harry Potter marathon at La Casa (a cooperative community building). All eight movies were shown over two days. Folks came in and out, and some even got big projects done; Mica from Sandhill was able to weave two rugs over the course of the movie extravaganza.

In other news, Alex, Bri and Dmitri have returned from their Thanksgiving travels to visit family and Camphill Communities. It is nice to have their smiling faces back!

Josh “Bagels” is currently singing for his supper – literally. He brings his guitar and entertains cooks (and diners) before and after the meal. He is booked almost every evening and reviews are glowing. Unfortunately, I don’t think he travels beyond Dancing Rabbit for his performances.

Ultimate Frisbee games continue while the weather remains unseasonably warm – it is always a delight to see players returning from a game, cleats in hand and out of breath, with flushed cheeks and big smiles on their faces.

Work continues, too. Mae still has eggs for sale, the Mercantile is slinging pizza every Thursday (except Christmas Day!), and the Village Council meets (almost) every Sunday afternoon. Committee work is never-ending, as is chopping wood (thanks, Ben!).

But seed catalogs (aka “veggie porn”) are beginning to arrive, and gardeners are dreaming of next season, while enjoying the fruits of last summer’s labor. Next Sunday is the shortest day of the year; and so the cycle of the year begins again.

•                  •                 •

Dancing Rabbit, Inc. is excited to announce a nationwide speaking tour by our Executive Director Ma’ikwe Schaub Ludwig. The message we want to spread is that people can live rich full lives on just 10% of the resources of the average American! Ma’ikwe’s TEDxCarleton talk has been quite popular, and we want to expand and spread its hopeful message all across the country.

We’re in the early stages of planning the tour and we’d love your help! We’re especially interested in connecting with universities and colleges, sustainability organizations, churches with Creation Care programs, and other intentional communities. Do you have connections with these kinds of organizations? Can you help organize a stop on the tour? If so, we invite you to contact Mariyam Medovaya, tour coordinator. As always, thanks for all you do to promote our work!

•                  •                 •

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.

DR Investor Making Headlines!

Rabbit Nathan Mackenzie Brown invests in his community.

Rabbit Nathan Mackenzie Brown invests in his community. Photo by Everett Sizemore.

We wanted to let you know about this cool article on, and this one on Triple Pundit, about Dancing Rabbit member Nathan Mackenzie Brown and the impact investing he does here.

Nathan has cared about integrating his values into his financial decisions since he was in college in the late 90s, but living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is what’s given him the context and experience he needed to make headlines.

“Before moving to Dancing Rabbit I cared about using money to make a positive difference in the world, but my understanding of economic sustainability was fairly superficial. By living in our community I’ve gained a deep understanding of how economic sustainability is intertwined with cultural beliefs about money and issues of class and privilege.

“I now know that making a difference with money is more complicated than simply investing in socially responsible mutual funds. It requires strategically using money in ways that contribute to a complete restructuring of our financial institutions and cultural values, so that social justice and sustainability are at the core of all financial decisions. This knowledge hasn’t just helped me be more effective with my own investing, it’s made what I do worthy of broader attention.”
—Nathan Mackenzie Brown

Nathan is one example of how Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage fosters leadership that influences positive change in society at large. You can help increase his positive impact on the way people invest by checking out his advice and then sharing it with others.

Thanks for all you do!

Passages on Time: A Dancing Rabbit Update

'Tis the season for cooking with a wood fire at Dancing Rabbit. Dennis prepares to flip his eggs while heating the house. Photo by Dennis.

‘Tis the season for cooking with a wood fire at Dancing Rabbit. Dennis prepares to flip his eggs while heating the house. Photo by Dennis.

It is 12:06 P.M., December 8, 2014, and I have two hours to write this article – wish me luck!

Vick here, feeling keenly aware of time as I mark the expiration of each passing second. As I embark on this journey to the final sentence, I cannot escape the realization that I am simultaneously approaching my final moment on Earth, one nanosecond at a time – it’s a thought that occurs to me rather often.

Whenever I find myself tempted by the siren call to contemplate my own mortality, her solemn chant is inevitably accompanied by the phantom of my desire to achieve something great with the time that is left to me between now and the advent of my demise.

This time, the phantom whispered Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 into my ear. When I was younger, I spent my fair share of time with my nose in a Bible, and knowing that many of our local readers in Memphis, MO share that experience, I feel at ease mentioning scripture in the local newspaper column version of this, but if you find that objectionable for any reason, feel free to skip the following paragraph:

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit has one in the work in which one labors?”

It goes on to say – I’m paraphrasing: there is no profit in work, except to rejoice and to do good in one’s life.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about what happened for others in the community this week – I spent most of my time barricaded in my room doing income work online and writing away on my novel. Even so, I know that everything under heaven is represented here and even the lowliest dimension of the human condition had its due time.

People went to committee meetings and discussed matters great and small; sometimes it was boring, challenging and emotionally charged. People gathered the last remnants of their harvests and stored it away with great hope for years to come. People shared games, music and meals with their friends.

They hugged their loved ones, soothed crying children and renewed old connections. They tended their animals, prepared their taxes and nursed aching backs. They whispered tender secrets in the moonlight and embarked on the pursuit of their most cherished dreams – just like everywhere else in the world this week, and we did it with an eye to the care of our environment.

Our community came together because we each have a mission to learn what it means to live a sustainable life, because we rejoice in nature and the vitality of our planet, and because we can think of no greater work than to empower humanity to follow in our footsteps on the road to turning our world into a more sustainable one.

My internal narrative about our mission usually resounds in my imagination like the clarion call at Jericho, but right now, I’m appreciating that achieving global sustainability doesn’t have to be bold and valorous – inheritance of the earth might really be the fate of the meek.

If it is true that everything has its season, surely that includes every generation in the ongoing lineage of the human race. What is the character of our season? What is the critical matter that will define the time we all have shared together on this planet? For me, the answer cannot be doubted: global climate change.

On the verge of peak oil, it is we who stand at the brink of irreversible, human-made climate change and look out to a grim horizon indeed. Alas, it is our children’s generation who will suffer the consequences – poverty, famine and war. The time for unmitigated progress, at the expense of our natural world, has passed.

A new season is on the way, and at Dancing Rabbit I believe we represent the voice of one crying out in the wilderness to step back from the brink before it’s too late. It wouldn’t take much, if everyone took a small part in the change in small measure and by small degrees.

So here we are, fellow time travelers, voyaging boldly into the future at the speed of time. My deadline has arrived sooner than I thought it would and I must submit my article right now, lest I face my editor’s wrath.

Let me leave you with this memento mori – what good will you do with your life? If you feel passionate about ecology and community, consider how you might engage with us. Learn a thing or two, incorporate it into your life and share it with your neighbors; that’s how we operate, and it seems to be working out well so far. You might even be able to pay us a visit sometime next year – we would love to spend a bit of our lives with you and rejoice together for a while.

•                  •                 •

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.

Giving Thanks: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Thanksgiving at Dancing Rabbit: Tereza starts in the dessert section, while Alline smiles in the doorway. Photo by Illy.

Thanksgiving at Dancing Rabbit: Tereza starts in the dessert section, while Alline smiles in the doorway. Photo by Illy.

Greetings! Tereza here, with a busy week behind us, and another one ahead; at least it will be for me, as I’ll be away for a long weekend and so have a fair bit to do to prep for that. Here’s my (perhaps thankfully) brief update on the week that was at Dancing Rabbit.

The theme was one of gratitude, and the highlight of course was Thanksgiving. Many folks are away, for holiday or extended winter travel, but we had folks from the surrounding communities, plus a number of young’uns home from college and school, making for a full but not overcrowded dinner on Thursday. The Great Room felt homey and warm and comforting, and dinner was one of the tastiest of these events in my memory.

In the non-dessert realm there was venison curry, two roasted ducks, fried chicken, baked tofu, mashed potatoes both vegan and non-, gravy, green bean casserole, greens, squash, several kinds of cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed rutabagas. Reading that last I imagine many of you thought “ugh” (or maybe even something worse). Well let me tell you it was one of the best dishes at dinner. I felt grateful that so many people have so little appreciation for this humble root vegetable, as that meant there was plenty for me to have (yes, I admit it) thirds. Yum!

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the mains and sides, but want to mention my thankfulness that my community mates remember and provide the kind of cranberry sauce that makes it Thanksgiving to me. The fancy, gourmet, “make it yourself with fresh cranberries and orange zest and walnuts” stuff is super tasty, don’t get me wrong, but for me it isn’t Thanksgiving without the uniform jellied kind, from a can, served on a dish as an entire sauce-log with its can-ridges proudly showing… Mmmmm…. Thanks Cob and Alline for feeding my memories and making me happy!

Something I especially loved about this meal was how many of the dishes were local, prepared with ingredients raised with love by my friends and neighbors. I appreciate how many of us value homegrown food so highly, and take such pains to make our special meals so… special.

There were also lots of amazing desserts: several pumpkin pies, including one with a really excellent gluten-free crust, apple pie, the “famous wafers and cream” thingy, pumpkin mousse (so good on top of pie!), magic cookie bars (you know, the multi layer ones with coconut and butterscotch chips and chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk?), spice cupcakes, cookies, and scrumptious chocolate cake with a very tasty glaze. Are you feeling hungry? I am. Feel free to take a break and go get a snack. (I just did.)

Welcome back.

In the afternoon, before dinner, some folks got together and shared what they felt gratitude for. The theme was continued at my table at dinner, as many of the folks I sat with hadn’t been at the gratitude sharing. Ben said something that really resonated with many of us:  “I’m doing exactly what I want to do… and it’s harder than I thought it would be.” There’s a lot to be grateful for on both sides of that statement…

After the meal, quite a few of us played The Best Game Ever. Similar to Exquisite Corpse (featured in a recent update) but with a much more pleasant name, The Best Game Ever starts with each player writing a sentence or phrase at the top of a blank sheet of paper. Hand it to the person next to you, who has to illustrate the words. Fold down the top so only the picture can be seen, and pass it on again. That person has to caption the illustration.

Continue folding and passing, alternating drawing and captions, until you reach the end of the sheet of paper, ideally ending on a sentence. Unfold and enjoy. Comparing first and last sentences highly recommended. As is pointing out to your neighbor that, in fact, that word was “chicken,” not “children,” and noting the highly amusing drawing their mis-read created.

Meadoe was literally falling out of her chair, she was laughing so hard. I was much more staid, merely cackling and snorting madly. I am not sure the other players will ever play with us again. Hilarious. Dan has a habit of adding in bonus cats or UFOs or celebrity names, to increase the hilarity factor. Next time I’ll try to remember to do that too. (“Oh, I just thought making you draw a squash bug invasion would be interesting… Is that a problem?”)

Friday saw yet another Dancing Rabbit tradition, one I refuse to look up because I am afraid it will turn out to be a complete fabrication of Thomas’, said in jest many years ago but now enshrined in hallowed ritual. Yes, I’m referring to the Feast of Gloria Tubman (Harriet’s lesser-known, under-achieving sister).

Taking place the day after Thanksgiving, it is a time to bring the leftovers out and share them with one and all. (Don’t tell, but it is perfectly acceptable form to bring your non-Thanksgiving leftovers too. That red bean stew that was really good the first two times you had it but that everyone in your co-op is heartily sick of? Nobody else has had it before and it’ll taste great to them!) And before you ask, yes, there were rutabagas. And yes, they were delicious.

In other news, several regular denizens of Ironweed kitchen have been away, so there have been many intimate dinners with just Ted, Sara, Aurelia and me. Quite pleasant, despite the many nights without a cook. These “no cook” nights are sometimes fun, with spontaneous sharing of what folks make on their own, but it can also be annoying. If I forget there’s no cook and don’t realize until dinner time that instead of a well-prepared meal I have to figure out what I’m going to eat, and if it isn’t Pizza Night, so eating at the Mercantile isn’t an option, well, that can sometimes be less than fun. But these last few weeks have been lovely mellow affairs, with cooks often making enough food the night before that warming up tasty leftovers is an excellent option.

As our numbers will be low for the next month, and Bobolink numbers have also decreased, Nathan, Illy and Rae will be joining us down Ironweed way for December. It will be fun to spend more time with folks we don’t see as often, and get to experience their cooking and conversational styles.

I’ll bet you were thinking you might make it through an entire weekly update without a mention of the weather, but nope! (Be brave, though, there’s a kitten at the end…) It was cold. And then more cold. And even colder, for even longer. Then suddenly we had a lovely sunny day, offering a much-needed respite. High in the fifties meant folks were out in their gardens and yards, tidying things up, chopping and carrying wood, and doing other tasks that are so much more pleasant done in sunshine.

I had already stocked up on wood but I took the opportunity to eat lunch outside, basking in the unexpected warmth. There was a bonus kitten-sighting, as Wallace, the new kitten in my neighborhood I hadn’t yet met, wandered by and was eventually persuaded (after taking time to hiss most adorably at Isis the dog) to be petted a little bit. He is the cutest recent addition to the neighborhood for sure. I’ll close with saying how grateful I am to be surrounded by so many friendly creatures of the human and non-human variety!

•                  •                 •

Many of you are already planning your handmade gifts, local crafts, and family time together for the holiday season. But if you’re also planning to purchase items through Amazon, please consider using AmazonSmile instead, so your gifts can help make a greener world. When you choose Dancing Rabbit Inc., our educational nonprofit, as your beneficiary organization, 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases is donated to the organization, at no extra cost to you. With your support we can reach more people, teaching them how to live more lightly. Thank you from all of us who are working to bring the lessons of Dancing Rabbit to all those who want to create a sustainable culture!

•                  •                 •

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.

Heartfelt Thanks to All of You!

Thankful Rabbits show the looooong gratitude chain made by the community. Each link has something someone is grateful for written on it. Photo by Nik.


I considered a lot of ideas for what to write in this Thanksgiving-themed post, and made many drafts that were eventually deleted.

Because when I found the following quote I knew I had found what I wanted to convey:

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Thank you, all of you who are reading this. By simply reading these words you are expressing support to those of us “living the dream” here at Dancing Rabbit. Your enthusiasm, encouragement and generosity are invaluable, and we don’t say “thank you” enough.

Thank you to anyone who has attended an Open House, a Saturday Tour, or a Visitor Session.

Thank you to every single person who has spent time here working and learning as an intern or work exchanger.

Thanks to the parents of all of those interns and work exchangers, for trusting us with your idealistic, hard-working children.

Thank you to our parents, for supporting and loving us.

Thank you to all of the bright, talented people who have served or are currently serving on our Board of Directors.

Thank you to everyone who has responded to our requests for donations, both financial and material.

Thank you to all former (and future) guests of the Milkweed Mercantile, and to all of our pizza fans.

Thanks to all of you who, sometime in the last 17 years, have volunteered your valuable time working on a task here, be it plastering, weeding, or hauling straw bales.

Thank you to all of our local friends in Rutledge, Memphis, and beyond, who give so much in time, energy and love.

Thanks to all of you for opening your hearts to the possibility of making a difference. Thank you for your kindness, your humor, the times you may have mentioned Dancing Rabbit to friends or family, or strangers on the train.

Thank you for helping us grow, and for helping us spread the news that while we live in an imperfect world, there are ways to make it better.

Without you there would be no Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

We wish you all an abundant and gratitude-filled holiday season!

•                    •                   •

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.

No Matter What the Weather Does: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Rae and Ted lend a hand at a strawbale-raising party at neighboring Red Earth Farms. Photo by Illly.

Rae and Ted lend a hand at a strawbale-raising party at neighboring Red Earth Farms. Photo by Illly.

Brrrrrrr! The recent cold period here in northeast Missouri felt startling in its earliness. Ted here, with a hat on, to share the latest from Dancing Rabbit.

I know it’s all subjective, that my memory of previous seasons is imperfect. But I don’t remember a 10-day period that didn’t get above freezing in November before. It’s the sort of thing to make one look at one’s store of firewood and wonder how it’ll last when we’re not technically into winter yet, with December, January and February yet to come. Needless to say, I’ve been plugging away at processing the last of our firewood before it gets buried in snow.

Somebody said the other day that this weather pattern that brought us the cold and dumped so much snow in the Buffalo area has been declared a clear result of climate change, with the jet stream pushed off its typical track for this time of year. As much as I believe that human-induced climate change is real, I’m still dubious that any given storm can be chalked up to climate change so specifically, or that we’ll just keep having frigid winters like the last one regularly from here on. But if this is a sign of the “new normal”,  I’m not super excited, I must say.

On the other hand, we did get a brief respite, hitting 50+ for a couple days at the weekend, and even managed to get a game of tri-communities Ultimate Frisbee in, four-on-four. Once I realized it was going to really rain a decent amount, I also got water diverted into our two cisterns, topping them up before the low-recharge winter period settles in.

In the continuing saga of Ironweed kitchen’s low-tech water system, just before the cold set in, I’d piled straw over the mound of the cistern. The 1700-gallon polyethylene tank was originally installed well below grade, where the warmth of the earth would keep it and the supply lines running into the kitchen thawed through winter.

But in a failure of judgement at the time, in the autumn drought we had two years ago, I didn’t ballast it with water prior to a 4″ rain that ended the drought. Next morning, the cable and short anchors I’d installed proved they hadn’t been up to the task; the empty cistern had floated when its pit filled with rainwater.

The following spring I had it pulled out, but the ground water I could not pump out of the pit turned what remained to mud, which the backhoe couldn’t remove, and I could not get it re-installed at the proper depth. Thus we have had to build up the earth around and over the second, shallower install, which is more exposed to freezing temperatures.

Last winter the surface of the water in the cistern and the water in the supply lines to the building froze, which meant opening the cistern lid every three or four days, breaking through the ice, and manually running a hose through a vent pipe into the building to a spigot just before the pump to allow it to fill the 55-gallon storage tank inside. In sub-zero temperatures, and with a pump that isn’t great at priming itself, that was not a lot of fun.

In tying things up for this winter, we’ve added the straw cap in hopes of keeping the water in the cistern from freezing, and laid down foam insulation and layers of straw and earth over the places where the pipes pass. The last section, where it comes out of the ground to go through the wall into the pantry where the pump is, has a length of plug-in heat tape attached to it.

The last step for winter is to build a small insulated hut over that spot, in hopes that in an insulated location, the heat tape running for an hour or two ought to successfully de-ice the emerging pipe and allow water to flow. Under these conditions, I am less than excited about a winter as cold as the previous one. Mild would be just fine with me.

In other news, this past week saw my long-hoped-for dream of a goat co-operative start to take shape. If you’ve read our updates for a while, you’ve doubtless heard something about Mae and Ben’s goats and other livestock, and the additional character they’ve added to village life.

I’ve been interested in helping care for ruminants ever since working with sheep and other livestock the first time I worked on a farm, up in Maine in 1996. Somehow, though, we have not found ourselves moving beyond chickens in the Ironweed realm. I had begun to despair of ever getting there on our own, and had resorted to throwing the goat co-op idea out there in village conversation any time I thought a potential co-op participant might be in hearing range.

One way or another, the Critter folk heard my desires and opened the door a week ago. Rae and Illly and I joined Mae, Ben, and Sparky to talk out the idea over brunch last weekend, and by this past weekend, we were gathering for a work party to prepare space to store hay we’re planning to acquire in the near future, and to walk one of the female goats over to a neighbor’s place at Red Earth to be bred.

The latter effort did not pan out– it seems it’s not always a straightforward assessment as to whether a goat is in heat or not. I couldn’t have been happier, though, to participate in all of this and start to feel like my hope of working more with goats was a dream no longer. The prospect of sharing in the milk and making cheese come spring will keep me going through the cold months as I take my turns at hauling water down to the barnyard for the animals.

Dancing Rabbit is experiencing its typical population contraction just now, as various folks have taken off or will soon take off for holiday travels and winter absences of one sort or another. Having traveled more than usual for various reasons this year, I’m really excited to be sticking around for Thanksgiving and Solstice. Ironweed is taking on a few additional eating co-op members for a while, as Bobolink’s numbers are too low to sustain. Game nights and other diversions are growing in frequency, too, as we all spend more time inside and the sun sets early.

Nonetheless, at our smaller-than-usual weekly planning meeting Sunday, we were able to shop for holiday gifts, among them Thomas’s hand-carved wooden bowls and spoons, and neighbor Kim’s artisanal herbal soaps, not to mention a goodly quantity of new-to-us auction items various people were letting go of.

With more diverse foods and more of them put up for winter this year, I’m excited to start making good use of the abundance. The Thanksgiving meal Thursday evening will kick us off in style. There’s local venison and duck on the menu, despite the lack of turkey, alongside all the standard sides, desserts and other fixings.

Down at Ironweed, we’ve just about gone through the last of the fresh kale harvested before the cold snap and kept in the root cellar, so now we’ll move on to the dehydrated and frozen stores. The potatoes in the cellar and the various winter squashes stored in the kitchen loft mean we’ll be eating well no matter what the weather does. If I’m really on it, I’ll soon start up a regular practice of sprouting seeds to provide a bit of green food for both the humans and the chickens through the winter.

From Dancing Rabbit we hope you gather with friends and family for much deliciousness this week. May you have a few moments of peace to consider all that you have to be thankful for in life, and relax a bit in warm, bundled comfort.

•                    •                   •

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.

Happy Rabbit Retelling: A Dancing Rabbit Update

One particularly beautiful example of a completed game of "Exquisite Corpse". Photo by Nik.

One particularly beautiful example of a completed game of “Exquisite Corpse”. Photo by Nik.

Another calm Sunday night sittin’ here by the fire with my trusty dog, Henry. The day was a brisk one with 25 degrees readin’ on the gauge and a slight breeze headed out of the… sky.  :)

Katherine here to give you the goings-on in Rabbitville as a long time reader, first time writer.

My morning started off just right with a nice brunch made by Nik at the Mercantile. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I just have to agree when that warm plate of food comes out pairing ever so nicely with my hot coffee and seat by the fire. The company is pretty nice too as we mingle with the locals and B&B guests. Today, however, found us just with the Rabbit folk in what I like to call our fluffle (rabbit family).

I do enjoy my fellow communitarians in our various shapes, sizes, and personalities. While I would call Ma’ikwe more of an extrovert, I would call Bob more of a trapezoid and Dan more of a farmer. We are all so very different in our passions and even daily functions, yet share a value that looks something like sustainable community. So if you ever find yourself itching to wax philosophical with an activist, a vegan, or a rhombus, come on over to brunch (served every Sunday at the Mercantile) and see what’s cookin’. Every course is served with a side of smile and a cup of good cheer. Just be sure to ask for the duck joke.

And speaking of the Mercantile, congrats to Alline on her new cookbook, “Beyond Toast: 40 Wonderful Ways to Use Jam”! I am personally pretty stoked to see all 40 ways during a reading/tasting from the book, happening later this week.

The first two inches of snow blanketed the town just a few days ago and the snowballs and giggles are already flyin’. ‘Tis the season to stretch one’s throwing arm before endeavoring out amongst the snowball ninjas that have found their way into our village.

Every year I attempt to be classified as a snow ninja and every year my giggles seem to hold me back. I doubt much will change in that department, though one can hope.

With the snow comes warm fires in our stoves, and with our stoves comes wood, and with wood comes my next topic of choice— our clarification of the lumber covenant.

Eco Progress, a very hard working and awesome committee that helps keep DR fine tuning our ecological super-powers, has researched for many months the particulars of our 5th Ecological Covenant: “No lumber harvested outside of the bioregion, excepting reused and reclaimed lumber, shall be used for construction at Dancing Rabbit”.

They have conducted surveys with Rabbits, read extensively about bioregions, interviewed founders as to their intentions, and so much more in an effort to ensure that we are all on the same page, and that that page is made of vellum.

The clarification came to the Village Council meeting and was eagerly discussed by more than a few interested Rabbits. While we still need to come back for a second meeting, we got through and decided upon most of the proposal in what turned out to be a polite and lively discussion. When even the definition of construction is up for debate, you know it’s gonna be a good time for all.

Speaking of good times, Ellena left us with a farewell party this week that was something of a smash. The wexer (work-exchanger) turned friend invited us to drink hot chocolate and laugh at the funny faces in the mirror as we painted them up for a rousing good time. While baboons and princesses are a must-have at any good paint party, one can never go wrong with a good tribal or leaf around the eye.

As if that wasn’t enough to get the imagination going, we played a game of Exquisite Corpse to round out the affair. This game entails just a pen, paper, and ingenuity. One starts a drawing on the top of the paper, covers the image, and passes the paper on to the next artist, who adds to the work without seeing the previous contribution. The result is a sometimes hilarious vision that is sure to please at least one in the room.

On a interesting intellectual note, I just read that this game was inspired by the French Surrealists of the early 1900s, and was found to be both fun and enriching. Remember that for your next DR Trivia Night.

One last momentous celebration that I would like to mention is Alyssa’s 40th Birthday! Our village has what I think a most grand tradition for birthdays ending in the “Big 0″, known as the Birthday Spectacle. Dating back many years, Rabbits have seen silly, bizarre, and brave sights that live on in our stories which are passed down into legend. If only I could regale you with the tale of Cecil and the Death Defying Cistern Drop! But that my friends, is a story for another day.

Alyssa’s birthday was a lovely time to get together and appreciate friends, food, music, and dance! As for her Spectacle… that is her story to tell…

And as for this retelling of events passed, it has been my pleasure to share with y’all just one Happy Rabbit’s experience. Thanks for readin’ and ‘til next time, *K*.

[Editor's note: Katherine generally peppers her writing with smileys, and asked me to leave at least one in. Can you find it? Yup, up at the very beginning! Perhaps we can tempt her to write more often by promising more smileys next time...]

•                    •                   •

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.

Night Sky Wonder (and other news): A Dancing Rabbit Update

Skyhouse against a particularly picturesque sunset. Photo by Nik.

Skyhouse against a particularly picturesque sunset. Photo by Nik.

Hello, Readers!

Allow me to introduce myself…

My name is Lucas. I participated in the September visitor program, and got a strong sense that something profound is happening on the ground here. I have since become a resident, leaving a cushy cubicle behind in Tennessee.

It is my great honor to have the opportunity to “speak” with all of you on a regular basis.

I hope you enjoy my perspective. I sure do!

Though the final visitor session and tour of the season is over, DR remains a hub of connection, hosting a gathering for the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), as well as the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of DR Inc., the non-profit arm of Dancing Rabbit.

I was pleasantly surprised to find these guests remarkably down-to-earth, full of great ideas, and just plain good folks. The community’s been thrilled to host so many seasoned leaders and minds, and have taken full advantage of the opportunity to get to know them better.

I find it comforting to know that we’re all more or less pointed in the same direction. It was wonderful to see the Board and village members so in-tune with one another; I’d argue that this week has served as a testament to DR’s solidarity in the quest for sustainable progress.

The predicted cold snap is pushing the village into the final stages of winter preparations a bit sooner than expected. I’ve heard the Brussels sprouts and lettuce will be harvested earlier than normal this year, and the egg supply is steadily tapering off, along with the sun’s warmth.

I’ve found myself wondering what a foot of snow will be like; I’ve been in cold climates, but never much snow; maybe 6 inches at best. It seems this year I may get the chance to hop on a sled and do something ill-advised. Perhaps y’all will see a fun photo of me this winter, terrified and tumbling! I will do my best.

Construction on the town center road is progressing nicely. Its completion opens up new areas for development by prospective home owners and entrepreneurs. It’s exciting to watch, and I wonder what the area may look like one day. I imagine it bustling with local, sustainable, fair-trade activity; perhaps hosting large community dinners and events…so many possibilities!

Halloween certainly didn’t pass unnoticed here at DR. The holiday was celebrated with the yearly “progressive fiasco”, a house-to-house tour where the community dresses up in their scariest/favorite costumes, and Rabbits open their homes, sharing food, drink, stories, and music until the early morning hours. I’ve never been to a costume party full of “grown-ups” before; I had a blast, and I’m pretty sure everyone else did too!

Another wonderful aspect of living away from the city is the night sky. The stars are amazing here. I often find myself gazing upward on clear nights in awe and reverence of the sheer number of stars, and scale of our universe.

As a budding astronomer with the goal of bridging into astrophotography, I have been learning about the celestial navigation techniques that humans have used to explore the Earth. No matter what our individual heritage or ethnicity, the stars have been guiding our ancestors, inspiring stories, and keeping our time. It is a shame that so many now live under constant illumination, missing out on an ancient light parade so profoundly subtle, magnificently silent, and historically significant.

In the city, there just doesn’t seem to be much to see. It’s no wonder that millions now rarely look up, choosing instead to constantly stay indoors, separated from the environment and sights that drove countless generations forward. I wonder at the consequences of losing our connection with the stars.

It took about 40 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight for us to get to the moon. It’s now been another 40 years, and we have surprisingly little to show for it. Perhaps people are losing their wonder. Perhaps we feel too large, too important now, with no great expanse to humble us each evening.

As someone who has mainly lived in cities, I’ve also very much enjoyed watching the trees and landscape change. Never before have I seen fall manifested so suddenly, so dramatically. Being surrounded by the natural environment is an equally humbling experience. It is an untamed power, one that can sweep the land barren, or bring plentiful bounty. It is a consistent reminder that our ability to adapt to changing environments could very well face its greatest test in the next few generations.

Projects such as Dancing Rabbit serve to restore my hope that we can ultimately respond to climate change as responsible people. I am proud of my choice to live in and serve with this community; I see the choice as one of responsibility and patriotism, and I believe that over time more and more citizens will as well.

•                    •                   •

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.