News from the Sunflower Kingdom: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Henry keeps cool during the dog days of summer. Photo by Katherine.

Henry keeps cool during the dog days of summer. Photo by Katherine.

The Sunflower Kingdom has again taken root in Ironweed garden, and indeed in much of the land surrounding it here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Ted here with the latest.

Sunflowers are native in this part of the world, and it shows: naturalized sunflowers, descended from various cultivated varieties planted by us in our garden as early as 2004, and re-planted lavishly by the local bird population each year, grow without any help from us in nearly all the cultivated space we tend.

Despite our self-impression of being ever more ruthless each year in culling volunteers before they root deeply in undesirable locations, the sunflowers in our garden every summer manage to look like a forest, with a nearly complete canopy. Last year’s champion reached a measured 17+ feet in height, thick and bony as my forearm, and there are numerous similar contenders each year; so you may understand that in our garden, with such tall, consistent cover, we often dwell in light shade from July through September when the sunflowers reign. That keeps the surface temperature lower, and gardeners happy!

When viewed more closely, it is possible to notice that the gaps in the canopy are strategic, and directly related to the presence of intentionally-cultivated plants we’re maintaining solar access for, like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, carrots, chard, and so on. Some don’t mind a little shade through the day and like the cooler ground temperatures, like the cabbages and kale, so a few sunflowers might be left in those beds. The corn and climbing beans are competitive enough to make it alongside the sunflowers, and I love to watch them vie with each other as the summer grows full.

This past week we hosted a one-week visitor session, which I had unfortunately very little time to participate in. It is times like these that I’m grateful to have lots of other community members willing to do some of the hosting when I can’t. I hope that our visitors had a good experience.

Much of the village energy last week seemed preoccupied with the extensive excavation and installation work going on. Horst Plumbing extended county water lines for us up Main St. and out to several locations radiating from town center, with Kyle directing both that and the installation of his own new rainwater cistern. Meanwhile Illly and Tony were hard at work in various locations on the latest round of laying cable and installing meters for houses to connect to our net-positive power grid, BEDR (Better Energy for Dancing Rabbit).

Progress comes with a cost, with roads and paths torn up, dirt heaped here and there, clay brought to the surface to turn to trenchant mud after the next heavy rain. In the past it has taken a few months for similar excavations to settle and return to more-or-less normal. But for those who’ve been waiting to join the power co-op, and those without running water who will now be able to access water much closer to their homes, this is a good step forward, and contributes ultimately to the continued growth of the village.

A good part of my time last week went to food preservation, starting with dilly beans and pickles. We have officially reached the time of year when the volume of produce coming in dictates that dehydrating, fermenting, and canning must be a primary task if we’d like to have a subsequent abundance in our kitchen when the snow flies and the temperature drops.

This week we’re into a first round of tomato processing. Sara just filled a dehydrator with slices, and we’re set for canning diced tomatoes tomorrow. Dan supplied us with two enormous trays full of the fruit Sunday as part of our CSA share, and soon our own will start coming in. If we’re willing to put in the time, those beautiful jars full of tomato-y goodness will smile back invitingly from the pantry shelves each time we contemplate a cook shift in winter.

At the weekend the Red Hill Rabbits (comprised of players from Red Earth, Sandhill, and Dancing Rabbit) once again journeyed down to the Show-Me State Games to compete in an Ultimate tournament with other teams from around the state. We were missing some of our more experienced players for various reasons, and though we were lucky to have some late additions to the roster, gelled as a team, and played hard, we didn’t manage to win any of our games this year. I still had a great time just being in it, and in spending some extended time off-farm with friends I often only get to see in snatches here and there.

Terra Nova, an intentional community down in Columbia, kindly hosted us once again for overnight tenting and a potluck meal. It is good to have friends in diverse locations, and the opportunity to renew connections now and again.

May your gardens be productive, and your temperatures as mild as ours this summer!

•                    •                   •

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.

Summer Potpourri: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Rachel (front left) took off Wednesday for a 500 mile fundraising bike ride. In true Dancing Rabbit spirit, a group of villagers rode with her to see her off, including her partner Tony (front right). Photo by Dennis.

Rachel (front left) took off Wednesday for a 500 mile fundraising bike ride. In true Dancing Rabbit spirit, a group of villagers rode with her to see her off, including her partner Tony (front right). Photo by Dennis.

It was a dark and stormy night. In fact, I think we had a couple of dark and stormies the past week, in addition to the bright and moonies around the so-called “supermoon”. This is Sam, back from a little hiatus when Cob stepped in to write for me. This week’s update is just a potpourri of different dimensions of DR.

This past week I enjoyed sharing time with other writers in a workshop at the Mercantile. Their artist in residence for the week was poet and friend Frankie, who guided us through writing to prompts and exploring each others’ work.  We came up with some memorable turns of phrase, and some beauties I hope turn up in published work some time. If I can, I’ll try to work the phrase “blistered flicker” into a blog post for you. Someday.

In other news, Rachel is on a 500 mile bike ride with friend-of-the-community Snack, in an effort to have fun and raise some awareness and money for the cause of improving access to disease-free water in Nicaragua. I checked out her website and was impressed by how little money can translate to a major improvement in quality of life.

We were treated to musical performances by Dream Girl and a couple of members of Eyelit. Our entertainment correspondent reports that she loved it, and was impressed especially by Dream Girl’s particular style: “An intriguing mixture of gypsy/cajun/bluesy synth pop, suffused with musical excellence and fun.” They did a show in the Casa Friday night, and a more laid-back acoustic gig at the pond the following afternoon. Rumor has it that the band really enjoyed their time here and intend to return.

The World Cup soccer finals happened, and a few of us watched in the Mercantile or our own homes. I’d tell you who won, but I’m sure if you care you already know. At the same time as the very last game, there was a plenary (aka full group) meeting going on.

Attentive readers may note that we have very few of these now that there’s a Village Council. But we still have plenary meetings for a few reasons, including choosing said Council. The first of two meetings scheduled to work on figuring out who will serve on this year’s Council happened Sunday afternoon.

As it turns out, the group present reached consensus on a slate, so the new Council, starting in September, is chosen and no more meetings, polls, emails, or salons will be needed on that topic this year. It is very unusual for a topic to resolve into a decision in less time than anticipated. Almost as unusual as a world class soccer game ending with a score of 7-1.

Our internal power co-op, BEDR, upgraded some equipment this week, at the cost, in addition to money, effort, and time on the part of co-op administrators and workers, of a half day of no power for those of us without batteries. It wasn’t too bad. We lived right through it.

Friend-of-the-community Lu is moving out of her house in Gorin, and sold her greenhouse to Cob, who enlisted the help of many able bodies to move it down to the rental gardens for folks to use who don’t have seed starting spaces in their own homes and greenhouses. It should be ready for use next growing season.

Throughout all of that, imagine us all sweaty from the humidity, and itchy from all sorts of plant and insect ailments, and some of us stuffy from allergies or sick from a stomach bug. There’s also always the sense that some folks are experiencing their dreams being bigger than their beings, and feeling their days are a little stuffed. The pond feels blessedly refreshing, and is well populated these days, especially in the afternoons. Floating on tubes with friends is a simple way to experience gratitude for the place we live, and the efforts of those who dreamed big before us.

•                    •                   •

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.

Community Corroboree: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Rehana plays her very unique rendition of "House of the Rising Sun". Photo by Amber.

Rehana plays her very unique rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”. Photo by Amber.

is a word that we don’t often enough hear. It’s an Australian term for a rowdy gathering or meet up. Its true meaning, though, is far more complex. Not only does it include physically bringing people together from different areas, but the meeting of minds, ideas, and philosophies to promote social and spiritual growth.

Nik writing this week, to bring you affirmation that, yes, communities need corroboree—be it festivals, block parties, quinceañeras, or an all-singing/all-dancing/cooking/natural-building team talent show…This last is precisely what occurred at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage last Saturday afternoon; it was a true corroboree of DR, Sandhill, Red Earth Farms, and Rutledge.

After a listless, rainy morning (the kind where everyone is content with the lazy grayness) four teams of four contestants each dragged each other, kicking and singing, to go have some fun! After the first round of song and dance stylings, the whole Casa de Cultura was in it for the long, happy haul.

A bevy of talented mermaids, voices, artists, and noses…yes, noses…all represented. For such a closely-knit community, some hold their cards very close to their chests. Who knew a nasal-flautist/contortionist was in our midst?

An Iron Chef-inspired cooking competition was underway next, utilizing the mystery ingredient: Chia seed! For anyone fortunate enough to have not had the…pleasure…to dine on the snotty, yet subtly crunchy, coagulant taste sensation that is chia seed, be glad to have not been in the judges’ box. That said, the dishes were creative, beautifully plated, and (dare I say it) even tasty. No doubt, years of needing to become culinary alchemists to feed others on a sometimes-vegan, sometimes-gluten-free, sometimes-raw, sometimes-paleo, foraged, local, and seasonal diet of many hungry rabbits and visitors, has made for many scrappy and capable cooks.

Lastly, in true ecovillage style, there was a natural building competition. Using only cob (the muddy and durable building material of straw, sand, and…mud) and any other natural-found materials, teams built fairy houses. The tiny house movement had nothing on these abodes. Flowers, branches, reeds, sticks, skulls, all were constructed into beautiful fairy-sized dwellings. There was a brief “parade of homes” and then the victors were crowned. The day was theirs.

And just the day before, a spelling bee for adults was put on. My face still hurts days later from the laughter.

To me, seems that as the village hosts visitors and guests, we put a lot of energy and excitement into those duties, and as the latest visitor session ended early, we had a lot of extra energy with no place to go…I, for one, am glad it went into fun and corroboree.

The tail end of that energy could still be caught, because we have one more (one week) visitor session in July! Visit the website for more info on signing up to see the village, learn techniques, see life work here, and eat your weight in chia seeds! (Maybe not that last one…)

Just like anywhere, life here isn’t always fun and easy, but when we come together for the sake of gathering minds, talent, and creativity, I find that there is no place like it. Hours and days and weeks of hard work on the behalf of many community members go into governance, policy writing, volunteer work, economics, and infrastructure, and that has made Dancing Rabbit run smoothly as a village and an entity. But truly it’s the hours of time we take to connect with one another that make us laugh until our faces hurt, hug, sing, and also connect by communicating difficult truths, that really keeps a village going. To create community, create corroboree.

 •                   •                  •

Please note! As Nik mentions, there are just a few spots left in our upcoming 1-week visitor program, July 14 – 21. If you’ve been wanting to visit Dancing Rabbit, now is your chance! Email us at to request an application!

 •                   •                  •

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.

Songs of Summer: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Detail of the new mural adorning the Larkspur household. Photo by Nik.

Detail of the new mural adorning the Larkspur household. Photo by Nik.

I don’t know about you, but I really look forward to the “fat” time of year. This is the time when abundance verges on overwhelm, and we do all of the work (fun) that is needed to preserve our bounty for the coming year. The corn is hip-height; the tomato plants stretch their limbs upward and outward at an almost real-time perceptible pace and the summer squash is threatening us with suffocation if we don’t run for our lives. Oh, and the hearty volunteer plants. Summer is here!

It’s Julie here, writing to you this week with a good night’s rest behind me, and a love for writing within me. This past Sunday, farmer Dan Durica harvested the first three tomatoes of the season from his hoop house, and sweetly gave me two of them! In another few weeks, our gardens will be bursting with so much produce that one would need to be impeached from a rational state of being to not be flooded with a sense of warm gratitude.

I can’t convey how wonderful it feels to not have to wear 5 pairs of pants to walk outside! This past winter seems as though it was a very well-written and -directed Sundance Film Festival documentary that happened to some Antarctic ecovillage. That wasn’t us. We were merely observers of those poor souls with frozen pipes, -35 degree windchills, unplowed roads, and dwindling firewood supplies.

There has been a noticeable increase in live music here at DR as of late. I feel so darn lucky to live in a place where culture migrates to us, and we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in top-notch entertainment without having to walk more than a few paces from our doorsteps.

Dancing Rabbit is a unique place to live in that we seem to be one of the largest destination points for musicians traveling within a 50 mile radius of us. I guess to entertainers we are the most interesting thing on their trek through so many miles of farmland. We were lucky to have been entertained on Friday by singer and songwriter Mark Mazziotti from Red Earth Farms, Brockell Briddle, a local singer and violin player, and The Human Revolution.

The Human Revolution sang many original songs that were performed in front of thousands of people before us, with personal and eco-political themes that we felt honored to bear witness to. I can’t think of anyone who would disagree with the idea of wanting healthier babies, healthier bodies, and cleaner air to breathe as the result of cleaner and more stringent environmental practices.

One of the songs The Human Revolution performed was about the recent federal deregulation to grow hemp. It is now up to individual states to decide for themselves if they wish to grow this crop. Grown for industrial purposes for over 12,000 years, hemp is supremely versatile in that it produces many food items, such as oil, milk, nut butter, salad dressing, flour, and cereal. Hemp is also a superior plant for clothing, rope, animal bedding and feed, paper, biofuels, biodegradable plastic, and oil-based paint. It’s even used as a replacement for wood in construction, and as a substitute for fiberglass in insulation when mixed with lime. The list of uses hemp provides is exhaustive. Now that this plant is slowly becoming legalized, I encourage you to consider contacting your state representatives in support of producing a crop that will reduce the use of pesticides, the clear-cutting of our forests, and the production of plastics that will remain in landfills for hundreds of thousands of years to come.

It was refreshing to listen to music that not only moved me on a personal level, but on an educational, environmental, and political level as well. It’s not too often that the music I listen to directly inspires me to research the latest laws surrounding a politically charged topic. I believe our world could be a different place if mainstream music would inspire us all the way the way The Human Revolution did for me.

 •                   •                  •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. We offer a free tour to the public at 1 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, April through October. Find out more about us by visiting our our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Ecological Cooking—Solar Ovens: How to Cook with Sunshine!

Kassandra cooks dinner in the big solar oven.

Kassandra cooks dinner in the big solar oven.

In this second installment in her series on Ecological Cooking, Dancing Rabbit member Sam offers solar oven information and cooking tips.

On a sunny day at Dancing Rabbit, it’s hard to miss, or forget, the unfurled reflective panels of solar ovens being used in front of homes and buildings throughout the village.

We have one very large solar oven in our courtyard, central to several kitchens. It’s big enough for several large pans of food at once, and available to anyone who wishes to use it. Many individual families and co-ops have smaller solar ovens, some home-made, and several Sun Oven brand, which are available online and a pretty solid little go-to oven for single family size eating co-ops.

If you want to build your own solar oven, the internet is abundant with instructions to suit almost any purpose or budget.

Most of us are familiar with the concept: on a sunny day the interior of a car acts like a solar oven. The sun radiates energy through the glass, where it is trapped and heat builds up. In a solar oven that heat can be captured and put to use for cooking.

Cooking in solar ovens required a little more patience, planning, and luck than cooking in a propane or wood-fired oven. Solar ovens only work on sunny days, and as the sun’s position in the sky changes with the time of day, it helps to periodically turn the oven to intercept the sun’s rays most perpendicularly.

On the other hand, solar ovens use no fuel, create no air pollution, and dump no heat into the kitchen, making it a no-brainer for slow-cooked meals on sunny summer days. Given good insulation and seals, the captured heat accumulates, and effectively cooks anything you could cook in a propane or natural gas oven, up to about 300-350°F.

The easiest things to cook in the sun oven are those that won’t suffer from occasional drops in temperature due to a cloudy spell or imperfect aiming. Granola, bar cookies, batter breads, stews, and grains are the foods I see most often in our solar ovens.

Yeast breads do fine, though they take a little longer to bake than in a hotter oven, and might be less forgiving. Drop cookies work pretty well, too. When the forecast is sunny, there’re abundant options for solar oven meals, and that’s not to mention that a solar oven can be used to purify water by boiling or evaporation, or simply heat it enough for bathing or dish washing.

Be careful cooking beans in the solar oven, especially kidney beans,
because if you don’t get them up to 212°F, you might experience food
poisoning caused by hemagglutinin, a naturally-occurring chemical. To
make matters worse, if your bean temperature reaches 175°F, that will
actually increase the toxicity. A way around that problem is to boil
your beans on the stove for 10 minutes to destroy the toxin before
adding them to the dish in your solar oven.

There’s some disagreement among Rabbits over the absolute best type of cookware for use in a solar oven, but there are some universal understandings. Most importantly, your solar oven dish should fit in your solar oven. Finding just the right shape dish can be the quest of many a flea market excursion.

Next, anything very reflective, like shiny silver or white, is out, because if the light is being reflected off the dish, it’s not being absorbed and re-emitted as heat into the food. (Reflection can be useful outside the oven: having reflective panels that aim even more light into the oven can be a big help.)

Also important, especially for stews and casseroles, is a well-fitting lid, both to keep the heat and moisture in the food, but also to keep the glass from steaming up and blocking the sunlight from getting in. The right shape, the right albedo, plus a fitting lid? You’ve got a good enough solar oven dish.

Beyond those basics are a couple of choices. As to whether the lid should be clear or dark colored and opaque, my assessment is that it probably only makes a little difference, and one might be better in some situations and the other in others. Try both yourself and see what works for you.

Then there’s the question of thermal mass. Some folks like heavy dishes and others thinner. The former will hold more heat in the dish, ameliorating changes in temperature caused by clouds or the sun’s movement, while the latter will heat up faster. Which is best for you will depend on your cooking style, the weather, and what you intend to cook. Either will probably work, so don’t worry too much about it.

Building a very simple solar oven is the work of an afternoon, and could be a good hands-on science lesson for kids. A more involved version, with tight seals, good insulation, and abundant interior volume, could be an excellent investment against future energy bills, and a positive step toward a more sustainable lifestyle and a less polluted environment.

•                       •                       •

Sam’s had experience as a scientist, a sailor, a dive guide, a bartender, a housewife, a teacher, a farmer, a vagabond, and a business owner before coming to live at Dancing Rabbit in 2009 with her son. Now Sam spends her time working online, homeschooling, watching Netflix, doing committee work for DR, reading, writing, running a couple of tiny businesses, doing humey for hire, and occasionally gardening.

Give Those Chickens Space: A Dancing Rabbit Update

In preschool this week, the kids melted down their crayon nubs to make brand new rainbow crayons! Photo by Katherine.

In preschool this week, the kids melted down their crayon nubs to make brand new rainbow crayons! Photo by Katherine.

Howdy folks. Ben here, relaying to you another communique from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, though weary from a typical morning of tromping through mud, visiting my sheep, and seeking a dry roll of toilet paper.

As a gardener who doesn’t believe in watering his garden except in extreme emergencies (I am selecting for seeds that handle neglect), I am much pleased with the minor squall that rolled across us yesterday afternoon. As a person building his own home out of mud pies, I am somewhat saddened by the suddenly sodden nature of our construction zone. After yet another improvised single-person trenching in the downpour work party, I can happily report that I have staved off foundational flooding on a particularly tricky below grade corner of my home. At this moment, after the fourteen hours with a trenching shovel, my sandals still feel like a pair of squishy, muddy fish tied to my feet.

The Summer Solstice has come and gone, and once again I have watched my circadian rhythms go aflutter with the current preponderance of daylight. Readers of my previous correspondences might recall that I am often unaware of what all is going on at Dancing Rabbit, being trapped as I am in the often nearsighted business of managing a micro-sustainable homestead. This is particularly true at this time of year, when some sort of ancient survival instinct is triggered in me and I am unable to stop working, thinking, and doing. Don’t worry about me; I’ll start eating three meals a day again this winter. Hopefully I needn’t poke any more holes in my belt. Actually, the conditions I operate under may lead to the development of some type of easily consumable superfood. I’m thinking some combination of miso, coffee, Gatorade, and gravy that can be loaded into a drinking tube.

Glancing at the calendar I am suddenly aware that I am nearing the one-year anniversary of the groundbreaking of my house, the Foxhole. Although I haven’t conditioned myself to mixing two batches of cob before breakfast yet, the time is nigh. I do take breaks, most of them in the outhouse, which serves a double function for me. The primary function I’m sure you understand, and the secondary is as a sensory deprivation chamber.

I am making hay while the sun shines, quite literally, and with no help from any moving parts other than my elbows, my knees, and a couple of wheels. If conditions are right, I calculate that I can make approximately one week of stored winter forage for our animals with six hours of labor, utilizing a scythe, a rake, a pitchfork, and a cart. Is this economically feasible? I don’t really care. It’s more fun to me than working some other job to make the money to buy some hay that I know little about. I am also considering some other forms of winter fodder that can be gathered and stored, such and nettle hay (40% protein, I read it on the internet), buckwheat hay, honey locust pods, and perhaps my own small scale silage fermented in steel drums with corn, sunflower, sorghum, and sunchoke stalks. They probably don’t make much mention of these things in ag school, but I didn’t go there. Of course, I didn’t need to study too many books to figure out that cows need grass and chickens need space, and that eggs needn’t travel 2,000 miles to be eaten.

Though gathering food and firewood, collecting solar energy, catching water, and building a comfortable, practical home may all seem to be efforts in self-sufficiency, I would like to impress upon the reader that these activities aren’t merely provisions for my own survival. As a communitarian, and a human being alive at this time in history, I consider my survival mutualized. That is to say that from the personal, to the family, to the wider community, on through to the regional and global levels, we humans are not self-sufficient; we simply cannot be. I would perish without the animals I depend on for food and livelihood, the people who care for me and barter their own surplus for mine, and all the other entities, seen and unseen, who participate in our collective survival. I could raise all my own grain, make robes of buckskin, and flint-knap arrowheads and still need to relinquish my control to the larger ecosystem, and the smaller ring of comrades who support our mutual survival. I may be an individualist, but I am not blind to cooperation.

When will the toil end up here on my little hill of dirt? Probably never, and I like it that way. My work, frantic as it may sometimes be, keeps me connected to the very things I want to preserve for the future. Until recent times, I have been unaware of the properties of the different grasses, unable to read the sky for a weather forecast, unlearned in the variations of birdsong and frogsong. It keeps me connected to my human family too, as we all muddle about our business, processing greens for winter nourishment, catching sheep in a challenging game of red rover with my fellow part time shepherds, and the inexorable human powered migration of buckets to and fro across the village, transporting clay, compost, water, and the occasional chicken viscera (all of these things truly the stuff of life, or at least the stuff of my life) from where it was to where it needs to be.

I do look forward to rocking on my porch when I’m old and making the young’uns listen to me, no matter how off-topic I get; but in order to achieve this life goal, I need to put in the work now.

Yammering to folks about what you did and what you learned is a privilege, in my book, and one I do not consider open to all comers. I try not to offer advice in my young age, merely speculation. July marks year one for my clan and me in the terms of the rest of our lives. We built a little home and a little farm, and now the real work begins. Even if I continue to work as hard as I do and receive the support I have been getting, I will have a full lifetime of work ahead of me before I can take a rest that is actually restorative (that is to say, not until I reach the age where I ought to be dead). Like I said, I’m fine with that. And even if I run out of work to perform for myself, there will always be ways in which I can, and have to, contribute to the survival of our whole planet…even if that simply means telling folks what to do and how to do it.

Now give those chickens some more space, and pull your pants up!

Transience and Mandolins: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Acoustics Anonymous lit up the crossroads Saturday evening. Photo by Sungee.

Acoustics Anonymous lit up the crossroads Saturday evening. Photo by SunGee.

Hey all. I’d like to start out by thanking everyone who’s reading this. We write it just for you! This is Brinkley, back from last summer, for another exciting update from Dancing Rabbit. I’m going to try to talk about a few different events and themes in my life lately: music festivals, housewarming parties, and more music.

As some of our loyal readers may remember, last week Stephen wrote that he was going to a music festival. Well, I went with him; and even though it’s not really Dancing Rabbit related, I’d like to tell you all a little about it since it was such a long and memorable part of my week. Let me preface by stating that before Wakarusa (the name of said festival), I could count the number of big bill concerts I’d attended on one hand. I’m fairly certain that I doubled that number instantaneously. There were often four to five live bands performing at once, some within earshot of each other.

Now for anyone who’s never been to a music festival, it’s quite the event. Imagine something like 40,000 people all coming together to dance, socialize, and listen to music. I was a little at odds thinking about all the embodied energy and fossil fuels it took to create and transport everything like stages, speakers, lights, and glow sticks. The logistics of transporting the people there are a little staggering as well, but I think I can safely say 99% of people carpooled, often with a full car. That makes me feel a little better about it, but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the environmental impact of such events.

After four nights of living in a tent on a mountain and cooking all my meals on fire, it was nice to come back to Dancing Rabbit to resume my usual lifestyle of living in a tent on a prairie and cooking all my meals on fire. The remainder of the week was business as usual: caring for the animals, tending the garden, preparing the house for finish work, and all the other tasks and chores that go along with living the “simple” life.

There were some additions and some losses in my neck of the woods this week. Sadly, “Friday Sleepyhead”, a chick born from under a duck by switching duck eggs for chicken eggs, is no longer with us. It’s one of the hardest part of working with animals, or I suppose just life in general. But we’re all very excited for a new critter! Someone had heard we were looking for a white barn cat, and, lo and behold, he walk up and delivered one to us.

Another work exchanger has also joined the Critters this week (Critters is the name of our little sub-community here in DR, for those not in the know). It’s nice getting fresh faces and stories, and each person that comes through adds a little bit of themselves to everything they’re involved with. The transient nature of visitors has left me a bit soul-searchy lately. It’s an odd feeling living with and getting to know someone well for anywhere from a few weeks to several months, and then quite possibly never seeing them again. Of course, it’s almost just as likely that they’ll end up returning, or they don’t leave at all, or perhaps you’ll want to leave with them.

On a lighter note, we had a couple of fun social events in the village this week. Rabbit Kassandra had a housewarming party at her new home, Larkspur. There was grilling, chilling, and an absolutely beautiful mural painted on the northern exterior wall of the house. I can personally attest to the tastiness of the food, and would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it possible.

The very next day a band from St. Louis, Acoustics Anonymous, came and played a set for all us rabbits. Let me tell you, after a weekend of seeing such acts as The Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe, and String Cheese Incident, I think I enjoyed the concert here even more. There’s just something about dancing in the street that makes you feel alive!

 •                   •                  •

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. We offer a free tour to the public at 1 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, April through October. Find out more about us by visiting our our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Life, Death, and Life! A Dancing Rabbit Update

A severe storm comes and changes everyone's night. We are intimately tied to the weather. Photo by Stephen.

A severe storm comes and changes everyone’s night. We are intimately tied to the weather. Photo by Stephen.

The stars, these stars, our stars, have seen many lives. Many births and many deaths have filled this land long before our time, and long after were gone, many more will come and go. People have fallen in love and heartbreak has broken; the land has been dry and weak and rich and bountiful. Generations have prospered and peoples have been plundered; they and others have been trying to make do in this world that is always growing, always dying, and always changing.

My life is also always changing—Stephen here—and I struggle to strive and bend and break and go with the flow, roll with it as the stars rise and fall and disappear into the moon, the sun, the rain, and the thunder.

Our second visitor session just ended here, and another crop of people came and went. They brought with them lives from as far away places as that one to where they say all roads go—Rome—a mysterious land where language sounds like bird songs and romantic might not mean what it seems to. There, too, was once an empire. How it arose and why it fell, I do not know, but in it’s stead, alongside our internet and Coca Cola, lay some of their stones and bones.

We are a long cry from our ancient times, but they are still inside of us. In far corners of the world, people, just like me, striving through our daily lives, may open computers and see a website of a place and be inspired. Hope that a better way is possible. Here I write, hoping the same.

This past week has been kind of a vacation for me. I have put off almost all the work I have committed to, and I have taken time to just be…here. And it has been great. And, as I lay in the hammock or walk in circles, I have noticed others pulling heavy carts and continuing to work at all hours of the day, striving to make their life a better one. And I wonder how it is that we all came to this place in this moment, born blind and naked, and then, still with eyes closed, were clothed in many kinds of different cloth. Is it fair, these different clothes? How is it that I can lie the day away in a hammock and not have a second worry, while others may plan and plan to open up for an afternoon nap? Some may say we have made different choices: I to go to school and write (summer break!), and others have chosen to do X, Y, and Z (and G and R and W…and Z again). We have different dispositions, different inclinations, but I can’t help but think that it all to some extent comes back to that cloth. And why? And I wonder what to do about it. The Roman Empire rose and rose, then and was taken down from its insides and by invading tribes. Our society is rising: how do we face it?

This week, also, my brother came into town and saw, for the first time, this place that I have chosen as my home. And it seems quite natural to have him here. He is not of this place, for he likes the city and to shower every day, but he seems to fit right in while he is here. And I’m grateful to have him here.

In a book that I can’t recommend enough, Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes: “The Life/Death/Life nature is a cycle of animation, development, decline, and death that is always followed by re-animation. This cycle affects all physical life and all facets of psychological life. Everything—the sun, novas, and the moon, as well as the affairs of humans and those of the tiniest creatures, cells and atoms alike—have this fluttering, then faltering, then fluttering again.” (Women Who Run With the Wolves, chapter 5, page 1).

My life, too, has been a cycle of deaths and rebirths. It has been hard sometimes, and when each death comes I must remind myself that it is just a part of the cycle: rebirth is on its way. When spring and summer are thriving, as they are now, I must also remember that winter is coming, always. And when ‘all roads lead to Rome’, I would do well to realize that the Empire fell and many years later a ‘poisonous’ plant came, a shade of night from the New World, that we avoided out of fear, and only later came to realize the bounty of such a treasure.

I write this article early because I can’t sleep, and this weekend I go off to a music festival. For me this feels like a rebirth, a going back in time to when I was younger and my life was even more unknown. But here I am, standing at a precipice of another unknown, wondering what it would look like if I jumped. I try not to fear, but I’m also scared. I have fallen before and that hurt. On this cliff, I see the birds, flying and floating and having no way to understand the idea of falling. To birds, falling might just be another way to fly—and perhaps I have already jumped.

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Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. We offer a free tour to the public at 1 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, April through October. Find out more about us by visiting our our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.