Land Day Reflections: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Dancing Rabbit celebrated its 18th anniversary Saturday with a family-oriented wiffle ball game.  Here, young Emory gets ready to swing while Brent pitches. The score? Who cares? Photo by Dennis.

Dancing Rabbit celebrated its 18th anniversary Saturday with a family-oriented wiffle ball game. Here, young Emory gets ready to swing while Brent pitches. The score? Who cares? Photo by Dennis.

Eighteen years ago seven dreamers, armed with a plan, two old computers and a lot of optimism, purchased 280 acres in rural Scotland County, Missouri. There wasn’t much here at the time — a machine shed, an old pole barn that had been used to house pigs, a pond with a leaky dam and a lot of eroded soil.

With a lot of hard work, creativity and laughter, things look a lot different at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage today. There have been at least 24 buildings constructed, mostly by hand with renewable and sustainable materials. We have planted thousands of trees, acres and acres of native grasses and forbs, amended many acres of depleted soil for our organic gardens, and met hundreds of new friends.

This is Alline reporting for Dancing Rabbit, in celebration of our 18th Land Day.

On the first Saturday of each October we gather to celebrate Land Day, to honor the day the land was purchased. We try to have something for everyone. This year featured our Land Day ritual, a ceremony where we share the history of Dancing Rabbit through stories, keeping memories alive through oral tradition.

There was also an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, with Hassan at the stove flippin’ flapjacks as fast as we could eat them; a land walk with a surprise tea party out at what we call “the old homestead”; a game of Ultimate Frisbee and a game of wiffle ball, which we love because anyone can play; a potluck dinner; and lastly songs and more stories. Whew!

Walking through the village yesterday I did an informal survey of what Rabbits liked best about Land Day, and why. When I asked eight-year-old Zane to choose his favorite part of Land Day, there was absolutely no hesitation — “PANCAKES!” he exclaimed. “All you can eat pancakes!” Then he thought about it for a moment and added “…and all of the dessert at the potluck dinner…oh, and the sliders!” I think it’s safe to say we have a future gourmand in our midst.

Jordan, a Mercantile work exchanger (also referred to as a “wexer”) agreed with Zane: it was the pancakes, hands down.

Aspects of the ritual ceremony were favorites of many. Kale, Ironweed wexer, was touched by the stories from the ritual: “They help me feel more connected to everyone here.”

Ted enjoyed “the stories of calamity, and reminders of how we were able to fix things by working together.” He’s right about multiple calamities – Ma’ikwe’s roof blowing off, the two-story Skyhouse building almost collapsing into the cistern in the middle of a thunderstorm, Ironweed’s turbine blowing down… In retrospect they make for entertaining stories, but at the time were frightening and challenging. It is helpful to reflect on how, even in the bleakest of times, we came together to solve problems, and were able to do so precisely because we were working together.

Nathan was impressed that we were able to tell the stories without any props, notes or founders, demonstrating that our community is old enough to have a true oral tradition.

Kurt appreciated the personal nature of the calling of the directions; he mentioned what a lovely job Bob did with his presentation of the South, evoking warm winds and warm people.

Erica, one of our newer members, remarked how after the ritual she felt lucky that so many people had worked so hard to build our little village: “They’re not even here but we still remember them, and what they did.”

Cob mentioned that he learned new parts of the Dancing Rabbit story this year when Stan from Sandhill recounted what it was like for their small community before DR arrived: “Like-minded folks were few and far between; many of their friends were at least 50 miles away.”

Here at DR we will always be grateful for the groundwork that Sandhill did, enabling DR to settle here in Scotland County and helping us so very much, especially in the early days. It is a blessing to have neighbors like our friends at Sandhill (whom we love and respect)!

Other Rabbits mentioned how much they enjoyed the land walk, which was led by Thomas. Way out on the land the walkers encountered a surprise tea party hosted by Katherine, Mae and Althea, who jumped out at new arrivals and shouted “Happy Land Day!” When asked what her favorite part of the day was, Althea giggled and said, “Hiding!”

Mae, recently returned from a trip to New York, said with a sigh, “I’m just glad to be home.”

Thomas took the opportunity to climb the old windmill, although he did say it is getting more difficult each year – the platform is no longer at the top, and the entire structure is covered with Virginia Creeper. I don’t really believe that he’s deterred much – I’m looking forward to watching him climb it for at least another 20 years…

Vick cheerfully said he liked the wiffle ball the best, because it’s easy and not strenuous. Nik loved the song circle, others said “the pancakes were awesome” and “this place is really rad and we’re creating it together!”

I couldn’t say it better myself!

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

Crimson Shadow Moon: A Dancing Rabbit Update

A full table on Main Street for the Harvest Moon Dinner. Photo by Nik.

A full table on Main Street for the Harvest Moon Dinner. Photo by Nik.

Smack dab in the middle of Main Street of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, 30 Rabbits and friends sat Sunday night. Aglow in candle and moonlight, they ate, clinked, laughed, and carried on.

Donning the chef’s hat one day and the writer’s hat another, Nik here, waxing (and waning) poetic.

Everyone’s hat rack is pretty full here, but the chef’s hat (proverbial-wise, not the big, white coffee-filter looking thing) is what I love donning the most. A five-course harvest dinner came together last Sunday with a lot of love and help from farmers, friends, and the land.

Just as the moon started to peek through the eastern trees, everyone at the 30-foot table was having a snacktime of juice and fruit rollups. Asian pears and tart autumn olives from our land made these rollups, and the juice was beet and peach, spiked with apple cider vinegar and maple syrup topped with a tiny green umbrella of nasturtium leaf. Also on the menu: fresh goat cheese and sage ravioli, a red Thai curry of Sandhill Farm butternut squash, and an autumnal salad of apples, garden greens picked by Alyssa and her son Zane, and crunchy sunchokes that I dug from the sunny garden at Aubergine.

In the lull of service after the main course, I got to stroll out of the Mercantile kitchen and see a sea of happy faces bathed in candlelight from Mason jars. My favorite thing about being a cook is seeing people surprised and pleased by new flavors; my second favorite thing is being pleased and surprised myself! If the cook is bored with their food, why would anyone else be excited about it?

Tipping back the small juice of beetroot and white peach switchel (a traditional Appalachian drink that tastes akin to kombucha, made with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and citrus) and taking a bite of vividly green nasturtium leaf. It was just on the edge of sour, earthy, and the intensely verdant bite of leaf all gave me a smile that broke my conversation.  But then Alline, queen of cakes at the Milkweed Mercantile, came out with her now-famous apple caramel cake, topped with nut-brittle full moons!

We finished the last bites of our little sugar moons and then went to see the big moon get a bite taken out of it. Our village astronomy enthusiast Lucas set up his tracking telescope in the orchard so we could see every crater as the moon got swallowed by the eclipse.

As Lucas explained why the moon looked red, I took some time to appreciate that this moment was not just a shared village experience, but a shared planetary experience. Historically, eclipses marked the end of an era and the beginnings of new ones. These are times of major growth or change for individuals or the collective whole. As I helped hold one of the young kids up to see the moon through the telescope’s eyepiece, I was overcome knowing that this was eventually going to be a good era for her…Especially here with these people and families.

One of the ways I felt this era was changing for her, is the topics of gender dynamics and feminism being very much alive in the community this last month. The fact that we hold a gender balance in accepting new members has seemed to put many men on the defensive. Feelings of unjust discrimination are sometimes voiced, and we as men (and women) of intentional community have been checking our privilege and raising that awareness with others that have recently collided with community culture.

Being aware of privilege is all well and good to help us pat ourselves on the back, but it’s not enough to push back against it. Sitting and truly listening to others’ experiences is a huge start, without letting myself react negatively. Anything I can say is just going to cause more harm because it is a reminder that white men always get to have a voice and that voice usually drowns out the voices of others in our culture. We all have valid things to say, but sometimes we need to take a back seat…it’s not easy, but it’s how to push back. We strive to live up to being a community founded on feminist principles, and it still feels like an uphill battle to truly achieve that. But the ball has begun rolling…and we have to continue to push until we reach the top.

Admittedly a little bleary-eyed from a full weekend aside from cooking multi-courses for a multitude, I am still reeling from a two-day workshop on breathwork. Laura Wolf and amazing apprentice Rob of Shaman’s Heart Sanctuary led about a dozen folks through the ins and outs of breathwork meditation and journeying.

Needless to say, I slept well as the Earth’s shadow crossed the blood red moon. The last thought that ran through my head as I drifted off, was that in that crimson shadow was the shadow of everyone on Earth. All the good and bad things that we see and all that goes unseen…and we all got to witness that. Thanks for that opportunity, moon.

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Time is running out to enter to win a birthday gift from Dancing Rabbit for our 18th birthday! Make a donation before October 1st and you’ll be entered to win– thank you for your support!

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

Visitors, Open House, plus CHEESE! A Dancing Rabbit Update

Kyle speaks to a full courtyard of Open House visitors. Photo by Illly.

Our fourth visitor session of the year began this past week, bringing together a fresh group that includes both new and previously-met friends. We are again opening our homes, kitchens, and lives in hopes of sharing knowledge, influencing some kindred souls, and perhaps attracting a few to make this their home as well. Tereza went so far as to share her birthday, too, as the week culminated in an excellent dance party curated by DJ Ben Brownlow.

Ted here at Dancing Rabbit, bringing you a little taste of the village from this past week or so.

Our visitors attended talks on Dancing Rabbit historyalternative building styles, and our land use planning norms, among others, as well as joining in a work party or two. Neighbor Alyson from Red Earth Farms taught a workshop for Rabbits and visitors on consensus decision-making.

Zach hosted a viewing of the second Republican presidential candidates debate Wednesday eve at the Mercantile, inviting some political conversation.

Some of the visitors also helped us achieve what many of the regular ultimate frisbee players have commented on as being one of the most robust games of the year, not long before Tereza’s dance party. No wonder we were all sore on Sunday.

On September 12 we held our annual Open House here in the village, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Morning dawned sunny and warm, and a crew of villagers went to work setting up the village to receive lots of visitors. Others prepared tables to offer information about Dancing Rabbit and the Fellowship for Intentional Community, and some their various goods to display, including everything from cookies and bread at the Spiral Scouts table, to jewelry, produce, herbal soaps and tinctures, and re-tread clothing at the Village Faire. We’d worked hard to tidy the village in the weeks previous, both collectively and individually.

What ultimately made the event, though, were the many dozens of you who showed up to have a look around and see and hear what we’re up to. Over the years of participating in this event I have come to recognize many returning faces, so that the groups coming into Ironweed kitchen (my station during the tours) to hear about food sustainability feel like friends coming for a chat.

I only wish I had longer to talk with folks, as many bring interesting stories and inspiration of their own to share with us. Thankfully some lingered long enough at the end (with the Mercantile’s offerings to sustain them) that I managed to catch up with a few after the final tour.

In all we hosted nearly 200 friends from near and far over the course of the afternoon, and I only hope those of you who were able to attend enjoyed it as much as we did. Hope to see you again next time!

The autumnal equinox is near at hand now, bringing cooler nights and shorter days. Some trees have already begun dropping their leaves (notably honey locust and cottonwood) as the winds return more steadily to our daily weather mix. The ever-changing prairie colors have resolved to their final burst of color, strewn lavishly with plumes of goldenrod and clusters of purple asters against the still-green backdrop. Our honey bees are furiously making the best of what remains, stocking their own larders against the winter to come.

That wind means the Ironweed turbine is contributing a greater portion of our power again after the comparatively still summer season (occasional storms notwithstanding). We welcome that development as the number of daylight hours during which to gather solar power dwindles.

This week Kale and Amy (Ironweed work exchangers) and I finally managed to get a solar-tracking panel rack erected behind our kitchen, meaning that the panels attached to it face the sun more directly through each day by means of some ingenious sun-activated hydraulics. Sitting atop a 12-foot pole also means they’ll still see the sun over the kitchen roof when it is at its lowest angle in the sky around the winter solstice. That in turn means fewer candles to burn on short winter days.

As I wrote about some weeks back, we’ve been making cheese steadily down at Ironweed, generally combining the product of several mornings’ and evenings’ milkings from the goat co-op’s two does, twice weekly, to make three-gallon batches of goat cheeses of various sorts. Each gallon produces about a pound of finished cheese, so we’re producing something like six pounds of cheese per week.

That may sound like a lot for one kitchen, but keep in mind that we are sharing this cheese among ten or more people in two eating coops, and that we are producing both fresh, mostly brined cheeses for near-term consumption, as well as pressed, hard cheeses that require aging for at least a month or two. This past week I continually admired the latest three-pound farmhouse cheddar Amy produced, as it spent the days letting its surface dry prior to waxing. She won’t still be here to try this one by the time it is ready to eat, but we do plan to break into the first goat cheddar we made back in July before our hard-working helpers depart.

So far we’ve aged the hard cheeses in a fridge, but we are nearing the time of year when our root cellar starts to hold the cooler temperatures and high humidity appropriate for aging cheese. This past week Kale spent several days building a cheese cage that can hold four racks of four large cheeses each. Small-gauge steel mesh covers all sides to protect the cheeses aging within against any possible small rodents that might find their way inside the cellar. Now the root cellar can serve as cheese cave, too!

Ultimately cheese making is a way to preserve quantities of milk for leaner times of year, and is part of the amazing range of food preservation techniques developed by humans all over the world in a time before electric refrigeration, packaged foods, and so on. Having grown up in that latter era, I’ve always wished to reclaim those previous ways of knowing.

Each cheese we know by name is a result of the particular combination of climate, vegetation, and local microflora (bacteria, yeasts, fungi) found in one place and worked with by people and the product of their milking animals over many generations. I’m enjoying learning the ropes with commercially prepared starter cultures and rennets, but eventually I want to learn what cheese our little corner of the earth might naturally make.

I’ve got my winter reading and cheese experiments lined up with Rae’s loan of the newly-published The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher, and another I just ordered. Meanwhile, our fridge is full of goat milk again, so I’m off to make the next cheese. I’d love to hear from any cheesemakers out there!

Happy equinox to all you earth-dwellers, and may your harvest season be long and fruitful!

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 Don’t miss your chance to win a prize from Dancing Rabbit in celebration of our upcoming 18th birthday! Make a donation before October 1st, and you’ll be entered to win unique items donated by Rabbits and friends. Get more details or donate now! And if you’ve already donated, thank you so much for your support!

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

Autumn’s Approach: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Katherine proudly holds the fruit of Critters' labor. Photo by Ben.

Katherine proudly holds the fruit of Critters’ labor. Photo by Ben.

Howdy y’all, from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. This is your neighbor (in some sense) Ben, bringing news that might be more important than this year’s football season, celebrity presidential candidacies, or the gradual yet total clamor of pundits and talking heads hopelessly yammering themselves blue in the face to convince fine folk like you and I that we’re wrong to hope and work for a peaceful planet. What’s the big news?

I seen a goose! And a woolly bear caterpillar! The summer has come and gone, seemingly quickly, and the impending autumn is dropping hints to that effect. The honey locust trees hold their sugary protein-rich podded quarry out on near leafless limbs. Hedgeapples thud sharply at random moments on the multiple tin roofs out here on the old fence line. The temperature is perfect for human habitation. We got the windows open all day.

And though the nearing fall is lighting a hot fire under my metaphorical saucepot, I recognize that there are many days and weeks remaining before the snow flies. Still I can read a change in the seasons among the ripening, oily clusters of hazelnuts and in the steady increase of shagginess of our kid goats.

I’m not dormant, not dead yet, but perhaps a bit feeble at the tail end of a long season of growing and building, much like the rain-spoiled roots of suddenly drought-stricken kale in the garden. Or perhaps not fully actualized, like the languishing, underripe cowpeas a bed over.

Yeah, I’m maudlin at times. This simple life takes a toll. And though every year I spend here at Dancing Rabbit brings around a larger family of friends we have and sometimes haven’t met before, I am more preoccupied with the friends I’ve lost or will lose. It might come natural to folks like me who raise animals partly for meat.

[Editor's note: The following few paragraphs talk about butchering. If you prefer not to read about that subject, please skip ahead to the * * *]

We Critters have just separated out our first batch of roosters for an early morning butchering session tomorrow. Yes, I know, it’s the springtime of death.  And I’m sure I can hear some of the big boys, raising thousands more “head of stock” than myself, sneering about sensitive ecovillagers such as myself who might have a misgiving or two before going forth into our seasonal periods of slaughter, but just like my human community here, I remain prideful about how close knit I am with my animal friends, even though our difference in needs can make things emotionally complex.

Well for one thing, we do not ship our animals to a facility for butchering. We Critters do it ourselves, in a place the animals are familiar with. For me at least, helping to raise livestock is a hands on, heart to heart experience. I can get excited about collard greens. I can beam pride when I harvest a two foot daikon radish, or a fat sweet potato.  I can get angry when a bed of potatoes rots, or cry when one of my favorite trees dies, but these things don’t touch my soul like a duck, or a chicken, or a billy goat. Some of these critters have become my most trusted confidantes.

Many gardeners certainly interact with their vegetables the way I do these animals. They tend to them daily, water them, feed them, even encourage them with song and dance. Unfortunately for my garden, I do not. Not this year, at least. But I don’t know anyone who makes a salad, or a pot of borscht, and sighs, because they’re eating their friends. Not even here at the ecovillage. If butchery is like losing a dear friend, then milking is sort of like trying to maintain and improve a relationship.

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The fact is that regardless of whatever baggage I or the goat is bringing to our morning breakfast milking date, we’ve got to find ways of working together and receiving feedback. Over time, we become more at ease with each other, or at least better able to read the subtleties of each other’s body language, or perhaps just bodily functions. On the cold mornings, milking the goats can be a sort of mutual cuddle session, and that’s nice.  Luckily, my actual romantic partnership doesn’t involve kicking, pulling by the horns, fly bites, or licking my sweat for mineral sustenance.

A summer’s bounty of seed litters the paths, fields, courtyards and gardens here.  Our goat tribe eagerly anticipates their next paddock, chockfull of ripe, rattling partridge pea pods, their legs and faces covered in cocklebur. Big wild sunflowers bow their heads and offer genetic material to goldfinches.

Humans, child and adult alike, instinctually tug at seed heads of grass and sprinkle them as they walk. We are a grass spreading species. Many of our finest autumn olives have gone from fruit-laden to bird dispersed. I vaguely curse the little flock of sparrows that sits in a nearby pin oak and steals our organic chicken grains.  As I walk I sometimes put acorns in my hat and pockets, then forget about them until they spill all over the floor and roll behind the bed.

Flowers, trees, fungi, and to some extent animals, really have no choice whether or not to replicate themselves, it is just the right set of circumstances which allows them to do so, like hours of sunlight, pollination, proximity, etc. Well, you probably took biology. You probably paid more attention than I did too.

Humans, on the other hand, simply have a lot more choice in terms of reproduction. At least that’s the way I think it ought to be. Some folks here at DR choose not to procreate for ecological reasons. Because we are a community that is open to families (we have midwives, after all) these folks can still interact with kids of all ages, probably as much or more than the average parent whose children are away at public school and its associated activities all week.

We all get to fulfill a variety of roles in the lives of community kids. My daughter Althea currently has something like ten grandparents, fifteen sets of aunts and uncles and about a dozen siblings here, not related by blood.  Still, Mae and I figure that children are sort of like cows, in that you can’t just keep one, and one cow is pretty much the same amount of work as twenty, so we’ve decided to go ahead and make another one. Another human, that is.

You see, I don’t think humans are the problem in the world. Well, okay, sometimes they are. But the only thing that can keep them in check are other humans, at least on this Earthly plane. If the amphibians could rise up and stop us from destroying their habitat, they would have done so by now. I have a lot of faith in people, especially the young’uns, to pilot a lighter, more peaceful course for civilization. I have a lot of knowledge to the contrary, that sometimes people will do the cheapest, meanest, most harmful things to attain resources, power, and dominance, but that way of life is on its way out, I think.

Creating a brand new human life is a big wager in a future that can seem uncertain, but I cannot believe that the world is going to be a worse place tomorrow than it was today. It seems like a downright wonderful place when I’m away from mass media, out in a field somewhere, staring at nothing but the wind in an old cottonwood tree. I’ll bet that humanity makes it through the next century. Go ahead and call my bluff.

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Don’t forget! You can win a prize from Dancing Rabbit for our birthday! In a few short weeks Dancing Rabbit will be 18 years old, and we’re celebrating with a prize giveaway. Make a donation before October 1st, and you’ll be entered to win unique items donated by Rabbits and friends! Get more details or donate now! And if you’ve already donated, thank you so much for your support!

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

High Grown Weeds & Deeds of Queens: A Dancing Rabbit Update

After the Queen of Clean (left photo) addressed her court, minions Bear, Hassan and Joe hurried to do her bidding (right photo), in preparation for next week’s Open House. Photo by Katherine.

“Hey, MemDem*! Look what we’re doing! We’re prancing on our tippy toes!”

Those now-famous words were exclaimed by the glorious Miss Rae as she bounced around the Great Room with a whole lotta Rabbit folk from ages short to tall.

Hi all! Katherine here, writing from an impromptu dance party in the common house at Dancing Rabbit. A techno version of the 80′s classic “Tainted Love” blasts from our one speaker as feet pound and people SWEAT! It is hot in Missouri this week, which would be a bit confusing for the start of September except for the fact that this whole season has been rainy, cool, and now hot. Go figure and leave it to the Rabbits to pick a super hot night to dance our tails off.

You know it, you love it, now playing: “Dancing Queen” by Abba, circa 1976. We’ve got kids and visitors and fans and ice cubes at this dance party and it don’t get no better than this! Yes, we live on 10% of the resources of most folks, yet our frivolity certainly shows no sign of lack.

In fact, did y’all know that we also have a queen? The Queen of Clean graced us with her royal presence this weekend to address her loyal minions and inspire the second of two yearly Land Cleans. The spring and fall bring about visitors and tour groups of people who want to see what is actually going on at our little village in Northeast Missouri, because they have heard the rumors from the internet and their neighbors. We more than welcome folks to come check us out and see our awesome houses, cooperative kitchens, and natural landscaping (weeds?!).

We get a lot of comments regarding the high grown weeds interspersed throughout our village and questioned as to why we don’t cut them down. Why would we? These beautiful flowers: ironweed, bergamot, and brown-eyed Susan, just to name a few, are a natural part of our prairie and encourage pollinators that we all need to make the world go ’round. This is one aspect of our village living with the land, not just on it. During this Land Clean we managed to deconstruct a rotted-wood structure, organize the bike shed, and tidy up the garden beds around town, all without mowing down our beloved native flora.

Would you like to come see our weeds for yourself? You are cordially invited to Dancing Rabbit’s Open House next Saturday, September 12th from 1-4 pm. We will have a petting zoo, farmer’s market, and tours all around town to let you get a glimpse of our lives.

Fresh treats are being made by our local co-ed scout troop, the Prairie Phoenix #373 (ages 6-10), and cold drinks will be available at the Milkweed Mercantile. Want to wash your hands after petting the goats? Try some homemade soap created by friend and neighbor Kim K. of Artemisia Soaps & Herbals.

Next up in our musical journey, James Brown, “Get Up Offa That Thing” (also 1976). As the lyrics go, “get up offa that thing and dance ’til you feel better”! I know more than a few Rabbits that this saying goes for…

Laird and Illly got up offa their things this week to attend the Communities Conference at Twin Oaks in Louisa, Virginia. This totally rad gathering of communal minds meets annually to discuss cooperation, sustainability, and equality, amid the beautiful trees and calming foliage of the 48 year old community.

This sharing of culture and knowledge keeps communities connected all over the world and maintains our support of one another through a network of awesome folks. The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cooperative culture and has a directory to find these communities around the globe. Check it out! You may be surprised to find that your very own neighbors are… communitarians!

Speaking of sharing with neighbors, Skyhouse Kitchen has been the epitome of community this week with… apples! They helped out some neighbors in nearby Memphis by picking their trees for them and sharing the fruits of their labor. The canning has commenced with such goodies as applesauce, pie filling, juice, and chutney. What pulp didn’t make it into a can, did make it into fresh baked bread and in turn, into tummies. Yum!

If you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity of Skyhouse, be prepared to take home an armful of apples for your own devices (mine are going into the solar dehydrator) or perhaps be willing to drop some of the brown ones off with the goats and chickens. Apples for all!

This party just reached “tornado storm” proportions with the epic song from Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” (’81). I don’t believe that I have ever seen so many air guitars in one room. And who says we don’t have talent?! No one, that’s who.

Ma’ikwe (DR Inc.’s Executive Director) also left this week to share her oratory talent with colleges and groups across the US, during her 2015 National Speaking Tour. In between train rides from California and Washington to Florida and Maine, Ma’ikwe is giving workshops at colleges and beyond to really walk the talk: “Sustainable is Possible: Creating Low Carbon, High Quality Lives… Together.” This spring she touched hundreds of lives with a similar tour and it is very exciting to know that it is happening once again!

Outreach and education is a large part of our mission at Dancing Rabbit and for me, an incredibly valuable aspect of this life. One way that we fulfill this goal is by inviting students and classes to our village for various learning opportunities. One such opportunity ended this week after 8 days in our midst. The Permaculture Design Course was led by Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture and consisted of a “deep understanding of the brilliance of permaculture design & thinking”.

They were an absolutely swell group of 15 or so folks that traveled to NEMO for the course, with a few of our very own Rabbits thrown in for good measure. I am happy to say as an average Rabbit looking in on the situation, things seemed to go extremely well. Thank you Bill, Sharon, and all of the DR staff that helped make this connection happen. And thank you Rabbits for opening your lives to these occasions! (Insert Smiley Face here.)

Last song! Queen, “Don’t Stop Me Now” (1978)! I don’t know what y’all think about all this but from my perspective, there definitely seems to be no stopping these Dancing Rabbits. Until next time, party on, folks!

* “MemDem” is the nickname for the Memphis Democrat, the local paper that our weekly updates have been appearing in for years.

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Missed the Twin Oaks Communities Conference? Here’s another chance! The West Coast Communities Conference is happening Oct 9-11 in Mendocino County, CA. Whether you’re brand spanking new to intentional communities or have been living in them for years, join other community explorers in the splendor of nature for a weekend of skill-building, networking, and celebration that promises to inspire and educate!

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

Embarrassingly Simple Solutions: A Dancing Rabbit Update

The intrepid Pawpaw Protectors during the hands-on cob workshop led by Hassan for the Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit. Photo: Midwest Permaculture.

The intrepid Pawpaw Protectors during the hands-on cob workshop led by Hassan for the Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit. Photo: Midwest Permaculture.

Hi friends,

This is Alline reporting in for Dancing Rabbit. This column features many writers, each of whom writes from his or her own particular perspective. For better or worse, my perspective this time of year is smack dab in the middle of the Milkweed Mercantile kitchen, which will become apparent as you read on. For a wider perspective of the village, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for a different writer next week!

As many of you know, I am a (now humbled) native Californian, transplanted to the rolling hills of Northeastern Missouri sixteen years ago. In San Francisco we can talk about the weather, but with a temperature variance of about 15°F from summer to winter, the conversation is neither long nor interesting. Oh, there might be some rain, and a bit of fog until noon, but otherwise, well, to quote my friend Amy: “Meh.”

But here in the Midwest, it’s a whole ‘nother story. The sky! The clouds! The wind! Whatever else it is, it is never, ever boring. And, of course, what’s a Dancing Rabbit column without a little slice of weather and great big sky?

There was something about the prairie for me—it wasn’t where I had come from, but when I moved there it just took me in and I knew I couldn’t ever stop living under that big sky. — Pam Houston

All of a sudden it feels like fall. It is not yet September, and somehow we’ve avoided the brutal (dare I say inhumane?) scorching days of soaring temperatures and suffocating humidity, and moved right into cool and lovely. The gardens are slowing down, and the Asian pears are already ripe. We’re harvesting apples at Blue Heron Orchard in Canton, MO, and cooking them down to russet-colored apple butter.

In between batches of apple butter, the Mercantile hosted the ladies of Moving On, an organization in Memphis, MO. It was one of the nicest things to happen last week! The group of ten came for lunch, and stayed for a discussion on Dancing Rabbit. It was a delight to see old friends and to meet new ones for the first time. DR member Sharon, who led the discussion, was celebrating her birthday, so we put a candle in her apple crisp (more of those Blue Heron apples!) and all joined in and sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday.”

On Saturday the 14 non-Rabbit participants in our first Permaculture Design Course began arriving. They join Rabbits Alyssa, Tereza, Dan, Ben and Jennifer, and teachers Bill Wilson from Midwest Permaculture and Rabbit Sharon.

The Milkweed Mercantile is providing all meals for the group during the 8-day course; Nik, Jordan and I are having a great time working with produce grown by friends and neighbors. Alyssa came by with a bowl of absolutely gorgeous red and green okra yesterday; Jordan got to work dipping slices in savory batter and deep-frying them for dinner. While it feels somewhat decadent to fry such fresh and gorgeous veggies, they were soooo delicious. Also on the menu – lots of local zucchini (made into quiche by Nik), tomatoes, zillions of gorgeous red potatoes, and cantaloupes the size of Rhode Island.

But there is more to the Permaculture Design Course than food (hard to believe, eh?). For example, what the heck is permaculture? Simply put, it is a common sense way of looking at the world and its systems, and putting them to use in ways which are beneficial to both the planet and its inhabitants.. Here’s what Bill Wilson has to say about it: “Permaculture looks at life squarely in the face and simply asks the questions: What is? How do things really work? It then lays out multiple paths toward building abundance, security and health into our living systems to benefit humans AND the natural world that sustains all life. It is honest.  It is realistic.  It is powerful.”

Bill Mollison, one of permaculture’s founders, put it this way: “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” Here at Dancing Rabbit we don’t claim to have any of the answers but happily continue to look for and share solutions.

If you live nearby and want to see more of what we’re up to, live and in person, please put Saturday, September 12th on your calendar. It’s Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s Annual Open House, when we present the most in-depth tours of the year, and also host a Village Fair, featuring an abundance of locally made & grown products. Tours will be available from 1:00–4:00 pm, and no reservations are necessary. We hope to see you then!

And in other news, Ma’ikwe Ludwig, Executive Director of Dancing Rabbit’s non-profit outreach and education branch, just headed out for the second part of her 2015 National Speaking Tour, presenting various workshops, as well as her talk “Sustainable is Possible: Creating Low Carbon, High Quality Lives… Together.” If you can’t make it to one of the tour stops (in Denver, Boise, Orlando, and many other cities) you can check out the slick new video of the talk here!

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

It’s almost Dancing Rabbit’s birthday—want a present?


In just a few weeks it will be Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s 18th birthday, and we want to celebrate with you. So we decided to give you a birthday gift: the chance to win a prize!

On October 1, 1997, Dancing Rabbit’s founders bought this beautiful land for our community, launching 18 years of creative experimentation and life-changing education. If you donate this month, there’s a double benefit– not only will you support our nonprofit’s work teaching people about deep sustainability, but you’ll also get a chance to win a gift.


Just a few of the prizes you could win!

Ecovillagers and friends have donated an amazing collection of items (see below for details!), and soon we’ll randomly choose the lucky winners. Want to be one of them? Here’s how:

Make a donation by Dancing Rabbit’s birthday, October 1st, and you’ll automatically be entered to win unique gifts straight out of Rutledge, Missouri! You’ll be entered in all the drawings at and below your donation level.

We’ll even send a surprise gift to the first 18 donors, regardless of how much you donate!

This summer our nonprofit won our first-ever grants from foundations who agree that our work is a critical piece of creating a truly sustainable world. While the ecovillage is financially self-supporting, our nonprofit can only continue to do cutting-edge research, offer talks and workshops around the country, and train tomorrow’s eco-leaders if people like you continue to support us.

Please make a donation today, be entered to win, and set us on course for the next 18 years of creating sustainable communities everywhere.


Ma’ikwe Ludwig
Executive Director
Dancing Rabbit, Inc.

P.S. Remember, your donations to Dancing Rabbit, Inc. are tax-deductible (minus the value of anything you win). Please make your donation now so we can keep learning and teaching how to build a sustainable culture. We need your help!

Dancing Rabbit’s 18th Birthday Celebration Prize List!
and how to be entered to win


If you give before October 1, 2015 you will be entered for all the drawings at the level of your donation AND below it.

The first 18 donors of any amount will be shipped a surprise gift of our choosing in addition to being entered for the other drawings at their donation level and below, if applicable.

These gifts were all donated by people who love what our nonprofit is doing. They were almost all* made or produced right here in Rutledge, Missouri, at our ecovillage or by our local friends.

Grand Prize – Make a donation of $200 or more and be entered to win:

  • A custom collapsible Fire Ring with a Celtic image, made by neighbor artisans at Deep Green Machine ($450 value)

First Prizes – Make a donation of $75 or more and be entered to win one of the following:

  • An original 11”x14” outer-space themed painting by ecovillager Lucas Berard 

  • One month of weekly coaching sessions with ecovillager Kassandra Brown ($397 value)

Second Prizes – Make a donation of $50 or more and be entered to win one of the following:

  • A $100 gift certificate for The Grocery Store at Dancing Rabbit

  • One Artemisia Soaps & Herbals Gift Bundle, all handmade by neighbor, friend, and supporter Kim Kanney: 1 bar Oatmeal Honey Soap, 1 bar Lavender Soap, 1 jar Herbal Healing Salve, 1 bag Moonlight Mint Tea ($28 value) 

  • A bottle of Mead brewed at Dancing Rabbit by ecovillager Cob Carleton (750 ml, $20 value)

Third Prizes – Make a donation of $30 or more and be entered to win one of the following:

  • An heirloom garlic sampler from Thistledown (4 varieties, about 1 lb., $8 value)
  • A pint of tomatillo salsa or corn relish (our choice) handmade from local ingredients at Sandhill Farm or Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage ($8 value)
  • A ball of handmade, direct trade Chocolate Alegria* from ecovillager Sharon’s farm in Ecuador ($7 value)
  • A bag of all-natural jewelry-quality feathers from free-range poultry raised by the Critter Collective at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage ($5 value)

*Chocolate Alegria is 100% cacao, shade grown, organic, and direct trade, but is not made or grown in Rutledge; it’s grown on Sharon’s farm in Ecuador and processed into chocolate entirely by hand by Sharon’s friends, an Ecuadorian farming family. Please let us know if you have figured out how to grow cacao in Missouri.

Obligatory fine print: One entry per person; must be 18 or over to enter; we can only ship to addresses within the US.

Donate now and be entered to win!

Preparing for Change: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Spiffy new upgrades for The Grocery Store, courtesy of Cob, Jack Walter, Nik, and Katherine! Photo by Zach.

Spiffy new upgrades for The Grocery Store, courtesy of Cob, Jack Walter, Nik, and Katherine! Photo by Zach.

Living seasonally means you’re always preparing for something. Who doesn’t like that feeling of being ready for a major transition or big event? It comes with a sense that positive change is coming, filling one with a sense of possibility and hope.

Zach here, online teacher and consummate preparer. That’s what it takes to teach a course digitally — having as much as possible planned out before the semester begins because it is hard to ask a class to pivot too hard when we don’t meet in person. It’s also a big part of everyday life at Dancing Rabbit.

For example, the co-op I eat in has been busy preserving an overflowing bounty in anticipation of the winter months. We’ve had several parties for the shucking of corn, the chopping of tomatoes, and canning of a great many veggies.

Our newly-rebuilt dehydrator is full all day every day preserving as well. New resident Jake has experimented with drying mustard greens, and Cob has even put sweet corn in there this year! We’ll see how each of those turn out when it comes time to re-hydrate, but even if they’re a bust the freezer and the pantry are busting too — at the seams — so it’s worth experimenting.

Speaking of the bounty, Sharon will be hosting and co-teaching a permaculture design course this week. The students coming here will learn the principles and practice of creating “permanent agriculture” and how to set up their physical surroundings to echo the patterns of nature while returning useful goods to the hands (and pantries) of their keepers.

Another preparation has been the cutting of firewood. Even before temperatures dipped in to the high fifties this past week, people had been stocking up their loads of biomass for (what they tell us will be) a likely colder-than-average winter. I spent some time sawing and splitting wood with Jake for Ma’ikwe’s home, Moonlodge. After we stacked it high, she came out and remarked “that looks like security right there!” Indeed, that biomass source of heating is invaluable for many here.

Yet, chopping all that wood led me to ruminate on being prepared for a more sustainable future. All these wood-burning homes are definitely a step in the right direction, by approaching carbon neutrality and being non-reliant on fossil fuels. On the other hand, is there really a future in asking every home in the country to burn wood? That’s a recipe for wide-scale deforestation. Instead, there are members here like Nathan, who this summer installed an air-source heat pump (which also cools) to explore the merits of using electricity to heat, as many people do, but with a focus on efficiency and timing to minimize its impact. Both wood and electricity as heat sources were deliberately chosen with the same image of the future in mind: one where fossil fuels are no longer employed to live in comfort. Dancing Rabbit is preparing for that future in a plurality of ways.

Finally, there is preparation for the future of the community. The past few weeks have seen a major transformation of The Grocery Store. Frequent readers will recall several weeks ago, when Nik’s post was accompanied by an image of new artwork painted on the side of the shipping container that comprises the core of the store. Now, the image accompanying this piece shows an even greater transformation: a larger concrete pad has been poured with an accessible ramp, a roof constructed overhead, electric hookups prepared for installation, and a rainwater catchment system put in place, all thanks to Jack Walter, from neighboring Red Earth Farms, and his helpers.

Cob (the person, not the material) has even transformed the inside, with gravity feed and scoop bins replacing buckets with screw-on lids, and a fancy-schmancy new digital scale. A high-efficiency refrigerator/freezer will soon be on its way too. With all of this, he hopes to offer more Dancing Rabbit produce and animal products to fellow Rabbits.

In the more immediate future, work is also underway cleaning the land in preparation for the village’s annual Open House on September 12th. Paths are being repaired and new mulch laid, grasses scythed, and wood piles stacked neatly, all in the anticipation of showing off the hard work that’s done here to the rest of the world.

The future here is looking bright. Metaphorically, of course, since we know that winter is around the corner. But I’m feeling more and more prepared everyday. As I’m writing this, my clock tells me that school will start in a few short hours, at which point I will have to go about preparing for other things like student performance reports and academic conferences.

Likewise, Dancing Rabbit will soon move from the building phase to planning phase (with some vacation phase in there as well), or from the stacking of wood to unstacking and burning.  Perhaps it is living here that makes me feel a greater and more urgent need to be prepared, but if that’s so it also gives me a greater sense of satisfaction in reaching that state, because it is indelibly linked to preparation for a more sustainable future.

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