07.14.2019 Christina

The 40-Hour Week: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Christina here, writing about the joys and frustrations of living in a place where I receive so much, and also sometimes feel like I give a lot. Sunday is a very Dancing Rabbit-ish day for me, and this week is no different. It’s one of the fullest days of the week, and definitely the one when I spend the most time giving back to my community.

One of the goat co-op’s animals, ready to be milked.

As I am writing this, I just got finished with a clean team shift (we all take turns doing community service to maintain our common spaces), and between now and dinner, I still have the Week in Preview meeting (aka the WIP) where we get together to schedule village events, and one of my final five or six Village Council meetings before I am off of my two-year term. Add to that some informal duties as a liaison for the current visitor session, and at the end of the day I might feel a little spent.

Last night was the visitor Q and A, an event when our visitors can ask us questions on anything, from our favorite part of living here to what our families think about our choice to move to a rural intentional community in northeast Missouri. It truly is my favorite event of the visitor session because it gets me to reflect on my own life, and why I chose to leave behind a house, family, and a steady job to move here. 

One of the questions that has been rolling around in my mind since then was about how many hours we spend on work, versus how many hours we spend on “things that are fun for us”.

This is always an interesting question for me, since I tend to distinguish between work that pays, and work that doesn’t, which I guess most people would call hobbies. (My final answer was that I spend an average of about 15 hours per week on income work, though I have learned that I am much much happier when I don’t track those hours.) But really, it isn’t so easy to make that distinction. 

I get paid for being on the Village Council, though if I were to average out all the hours that I spend on council work in a given week, I might be making as little as five dollars per hour. I get paid for being in the dairy co-op in cheese and milk, but at a few pounds of cheese per week, that’s not a great pay rate either. Add to that the work that I do homeschooling my two kids, working in the garden, and working on other committees in the village, and it feels like a lot of time working — in fact, it adds up to way more than 40 hours a week.

One thing that I love about it all is that I get to choose. I decide where I want to plug in and where I hope that someone else will take up the slack. (If the village ever asks me to handle the accounting or car repairs, we’ll all be in trouble.) I contribute where I think I have some skills, or maybe where I’d like to develop some new ones. 

I also get to decide how I spend my days. Temperatures are going to be in the 90s for the next few days, so I will likely spend a lot more time indoors enjoying the AC and working on the computer. Or maybe I’ll decide to just get sweaty and finish weeding that garden bed that has been bothering me for days. Or maybe I’ll just get a beer at the Mercantile, or hit the pond with the kids.

The weekly Sunday clean team works similarly. I might decide to spend an hour organizing the books in the kids room, while someone else decides to thoroughly scrub the showers. Everyone contributes in the best way that they can, and no one questions what others are doing. I can tell you (as I sit in the newly clean common house, enjoying the smell of Citra Solv and the cool community computer room) that the common house looks great right now. Even though it is used by upwards of thirty people a day, it is probably cleaner than many parts of my own house, which is only used by four people.

As I look forward to the rest of this week, I am anticipating giving to my community in some other ways that will likely be much more challenging than dusting shelves in the library. I have agreed to facilitate what might be a tough meeting, and I don’t have much experience in that role. But I love that I feel encouraged here to give back in ways that might be a stretch for me; and of course the receiving of that contribution is a gift to me as well.

Sometimes there are so many different pieces to remember that I drop a ball or two. For instance, this column was due about an hour ago, but I completely forgot that it was my turn to write it. And I might be about seven months behind on one of my Village Council tasks. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like much fun. (I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I was reminded, while working through the grime in a corner, that I was late in turning in the column.) And I don’t always love wading through waist-high poison ivy while I chase after an escaped goat.

But the rewards that I get back for what I give — living in an incredible place that supports me in so many ways; connections to people, the land, (and those goats!), that I could never find working a 40-hour week; freedom to schedule my day how I want; learning experiences that have pushed and challenged me like nothing I have experienced before I moved here — are so worth everything that I give back.

Have you been thinking about attending our two-week visitor program, but you need to have a few questions answered before you take the plunge? Send us an email. (If you received this newsletter in your inbox, you can just reply to this.) Don’t be shy, our friendly non-profit Correspondent will be happy to help. 

05.21.2019 Christina

Living the Seasonal Life: A Dancing Rabbit Update

One thing that I especially wanted (and have certainly found) here at Dancing Rabbit was a life that is more in tune with the season. This year especially, I have really appreciated dealing with daily routines and rituals that seem more straightforward and simple. Christina here, writing about what it’s like for me to live in northeast Missouri in late spring. (Or is it early summer already?)

Althea taking Luna the goat to fresh pasture.

Mae and I are moving the goats almost every day now, along with the new cow, Sugar. I am finding lots of satisfaction in seeing the goats joyfully explore their new pasture after a fence move. The kids (of the goat variety) are still super cute and small, jumping, climbing and making a playground of every obstacle they can find.

In the winter months, I often found myself getting into bed early with a book, but with more time up and about on summer nights, the social connection time is heating up as well. Pizza night at the Milkweed Mercantile is filling up with locals and visitors, who sit out on the porch enjoying the longer days, late sunsets, and friendly companionship. Potluck and community dinner have been outside on more than one occasion; spending time at the picnic tables in the courtyard with friends is probably one of my favorite ways to pass an evening here. As the days get longer, we linger more and more at these weekly social events.  

Longer days also mean more playtime outside and later bedtimes for the kids (of the human variety). “Will you please take us to the pond?” is heard constantly, and packs often roam the village looking for an adult to supervise their swimming. We’re still chugging through homeschool, but with an earlier finish so the kids can spend more time roaming around with their friends (looking for someone to take them to the pond).  

We have eaten almost all of the garden produce that I froze or dehydrated last year, and I am finding fresh, locally grown food to eat in more and more places. I’m thrilled to be eating lots of nettles, green onions, eggs, and goat chèvre again. I have probably come up with at least three different ways of eating greens and eggs, and I love them all. I’m also enjoying the amazing milk from Sugar. (Really, if you’ve never had milk from a Jersey cow, you’ve never experienced milk!)

The weather is constantly shifting and changing, never really predictable or constant. We have plenty of rain, for now, though I can’t help but think of last year’s drought. This means that we haven’t had an ultimate frisbee game in recent memory, but the prairie is greening up nicely, and the gardens are starting to look more lush; this also means that the weeds are gaining in size and strength. I’ve been hot enough after an hour working in the garden that I need to come inside to rest in the house for a bit before heading out again, but I haven’t yet switched to my summer schedule of getting outside before 6 a.m. and heading in as soon as the sun comes over the trees. I aim to garden “for fun” this year, without pressuring myself, but I have still put in some good work. We have planted out onions, potatoes, most of our tomatoes, lots of kale, some cabbage, and almost enough radishes to satisfy my fermenting needs. I’m still waiting on the weather to be clear enough to plant the peppers, eggplants, some basil, and probably more tomatoes. Though there isn’t much yet to eat in the garden, I have had a few kale salads.

What we refer to as “the season” here is slowly picking up. We have one visitor session under our belts, the Milkweed Mercantile is hosting guests, and workshop season is gearing up. I’m looking forward to meeting interesting people, watching them experience the joy of dinner conversations with like-minded new friends, and maybe even learning some new skills myself.  (Is this the year I finally learn some fiber arts?  We’ll see…)

As I shift to more time outdoors and hanging out: in the garden, with the goats, and at community social events, I am having to sacrifice some in other areas of my life. For me, this usually means that I have significantly shortened my daily meditation, or I am skipping it altogether. It also means that I am not always getting enough sleep, which is something that I am working on fixing. Who wants to stay inside after dinner washing dishes when there is an amazing sunset over the prairie?

I’m grateful to enjoy the spring in as many ways as I can before the season shifts again and the hot, humid summer weather means new routines.

You can experience a taste of seasonal routines at Dancing Rabbit, meet some interesting people, have a pizza at the Mercantile, perhaps learn some new skills, and maybe even make some new friends by attending our visitor program.


The Beauty of Conflict: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Whenever it’s my turn to write this column, I always try to think of a theme for the previous week; some kind of uniting idea or concept always makes it easier for me to decide what to write about, and I imagine that it also makes it easier for readers to follow the random events of my life and life in the village. Well, I’ve looked back on the week, and there is one clear theme that unites the past seven days: conflict.

Christina’s son, Max, playing with homemade slime.

Christina here, writing about disagreements, hurt feelings, and why I think conflict is so great. I am currently on two different committees that deal with conflict, and I spent a total of almost eight hours last week in meetings either talking about conflict, planning to talk about conflict, or directly listening to and talking to people in conflict.  

I also spent many many hours dealing with conflict in my own life — from the appropriate number of spaghetti squash seeds to start for our garden, to whether or not math flashcards are necessary, to how much I want to think about worst case scenarios for the future of the village.

There is plenty of conflict at home, and of course I am perpetually and peripherally aware of conflicts that are happening all around me right now. But something that I am learning is that it has been a great week, not in spite of all that conflict, but perhaps even because of it.

I mean, sure, a life without conflict sounds awesome, and I have to admit that the times that I’m not in conflict with someone I care about are much nicer and easier than the times when I am. A life without conflict would mean that everyone always does whatever I want all the time. It sounds wonderful, right? But given how much I still have to learn about life, and how clueless I can be at times about what’s the right course of action, it’s actually a pretty terrible idea. A life without conflict would also mean that things always go the way that I want them to go, and given this random universe that we inhabit, that’s not exactly a realistic expectation either.

In my last column, I wrote about learning that sharing my needs with friends and neighbors has brought me closer to them. Since we all have the same needs — for trust, or respect, or to be heard, or to contribute — when we express those needs to one another, we realize that we have more in common than we thought.

I am also learning how conflict can bring us closer. I am very much a beginner when it comes to this kind of thing; forty years spent avoiding differences of opinion, angry voices, and hurt feelings means that I have a lot to unlearn, but here’s a bit about what I am working on understanding and living in my own life: I’m learning that conflict happens when people have clashing strategies for getting their needs met.

For example, I might have a need for order and calm, and the strategy that I use for getting that need met is asking everyone to get their dirty dishes off the table right this instant. However, this strategy might clash with my kids’ need for creativity and artistic expression, as well as their strategy for getting that need met, which is to create recycled styrofoam boats, green-dyed homemade slime, and popsicle stick catapults on the kitchen table. We both have needs, and we both have strategies for getting our needs met, but until we recognize those needs in one another and figure out a plan that works for everyone, we won’t get anyone’s needs met. I might have a need — security in my home, or acceptance from my neighbors, for example — and my strategy for getting those needs met might clash with your strategy for meeting those exact same needs. Until we get together in person to talk things out, we will likely continue to struggle without success.

Another lesson that I work to teach myself every day is that seeing the other person, or myself, as bad or wrong for having a conflicting strategy doesn’t do me any good, even though that might be what I have been taught to believe for my whole life. Conflict will be there no matter what; blaming, or accusing, or somehow trying to make things the other person’s fault, really just makes me feel worse.

At the beginning of this column, I said that I would talk about why I think conflict is great, and I guess if you’ve read this far, you’re eagerly awaiting my wisdom on the topic. I have to admit that conflict is still really hard, and stressful, and exhausting for me, so I also need a reminder of how it might actually make my life better, but here are all the ways that conflict has improved my life this week:

  • I spent a pleasant hour connecting with a friend, who I haven’t talked to much in the past few months.
  • I got to know fellow committee members on a deeper level.
  • I strengthened my listening and patience skills, and spent more time on the phone talking to family than I usually do.
  • I got a better understanding of what I value, what’s important to me, and why.
  • I learned to appreciate my kids’ creativity and inventiveness a little more.
  • I got a clean(er) house, eventually.

Living in community has given me so many opportunities to grow and learn, whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes I get tired of learning and wish that things could just be easy for a while, but in the end, I always appreciate my home here and all the ways that living at Dancing Rabbit has challenged me to become a better person.

If you’re eager to challenge yourself to become a better person, visiting our village could be a great way to learn some new strategies that can enhance your life in a wide variety of ways. Over the course of your two-week stay, you will have a chance to see how we at Dancing Rabbit adjust our lives in order to live more sustainably, as well as how you can take some of those practices home with you. You will also get a glimpse at what some of us call inner sustainability: striving to live in social harmony with our neighbors by resolving conflict, adopting language for communicating nonviolently, and learning how to see each of the threads in a complex tapestry of needs and the strategies people use for meeting those needs. There will be plenty of delicious homemade food along the way, as well as time for fun, relaxing in nature, and so much more. Register today, and take another step on your journey to becoming a better person.

Christina 02.18.2019

Mending a Village: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Everything is different; and likely some things will never be the same around here again. This column is generally about what’s hard and what’s wonderful about living here, and I guess this week is no exception, but there are also many many moments of normalcy throughout the day — along with moments of extreme emotions and beautifully tender care.  

Some of the people of Dancing Rabbit, gathered together to support one another.

Christina here. We have finished the first week of our annual retreat and are about to embark on the second. Normally, this is a time when we come together to make some decisions, to talk about big questions, and to have fun together. As a member of the retreat planning committee, I have spent many hours over the past few months planning these weeks by arranging meals, childcare, meeting topics, and fun events.

Two weeks ago, we realized that we weren’t going to have retreat as planned. We made the decision to drop all of the potentially divisive topics and added multiple sessions for sharing feelings and needs around what is going on, and for talking about some potential strategies for getting those needs met.

I know that it is a hippie stereotype that we sit around and talk about feelings for hours, but I see the work that we have done thus far as a way of laying a foundation for the likely much harder work that is to come in the future.  

What I have experienced is that when I sit in a room with other people and talk about what I am feeling and what I need, and when I listen to others share as well, I realize that people are the same. I might be feeling sad and angry and scared for very different reasons than you, but the fact that we share those same feelings brings us together. You might have completely different life experiences than I do, and you might think that we see the world in completely different ways, but we all share the same needs. We both need security and compassion. We both need to feel seen, heard, and understood. We both need connection and love. When we hear that from each other we come together, instead of splitting apart.

As hard as it can be to witness another’s suffering, I really consider it a gift when a friend or neighbor shares their pain with me. It means that they trust me enough to be vulnerable. I also like to think that maybe it reduces the burden for them — at least a tiny bit. I am grateful that I have time and space in my life for this kind of sharing, and I am very grateful to live with people who value that kind of “meeting.”

During one go-around recently, T commented on how amazed he is to see people actually fixing their ripped clothes. As I have sat next to Sara and Ted throughout many hours over the last week, I have had the privilege of observing them sew through a year’s worth of ripped pants, shirts, and sweaters. What has been the most entertaining, though, is watching Sara repair a damaged sweater by adding swirls of brightly colored wool.  Over the course of many sittings, she is slowly transforming a simple gray sweater into a work of art.

There is something beautiful and symbolic about repairing those damaged clothes. Rather than throw them away, assume they aren’t useful, or give up on them altogether, they work on them. It’s not that the sweaters will ever be the same again. In fact, they might have weak spots that will continue to rip and tear. But the new version, the one with the colorful patches, can be more beautiful than the original.

Right now I can see the tears and rips in the community fabric, and I know that we have barely begun to think about how we might repair those holes. I maintain hope that we are able to mend ourselves and each other in a way that will result in a damaged, but more beautiful, village.

I know that if there is a group of people anywhere who can come together, support one another in these extremely hard times, and figure out a way to get through this stronger and more connected than before, I am sharing a community with those people right now. Of course, we will continue to rip and tear that fabric in many more ways in the years to come. Working together, we will add patches, sew up the holes and figure out ways to keep things together.

One of our newest community members, enjoying the weather.

Time Home: A Dancing Rabbit Update

I recently returned to Dancing Rabbit for a week and a half, after spending some time with family, before heading out to a meditation retreat. It was just in time to fulfill my monthly clean team duties, to attend approximately eight meetings, and to write this column. It has also been just enough time to appreciate what I love about living at DR; but not quite enough time to do as many of those things as I would have liked.

Christina here, writing from cold, snowy northeast Missouri (taking some inspiration from a late-night show of my youth) with the top 10 things I am loving about Dancing Rabbit right now:

One of our newest community members, enjoying the weather.

1. Not having to get in a car for days on end. When my family and I were traveling to visit family in North Carolina, we spent a lot of time driving. Sure, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to go wherever I wanted, but being home now, I really appreciate time spent not waiting to get somewhere — or burning fossil fuels to go buy groceries.

2. Going outside multiple times a day. Since I don’t have everything I need in our house here, I am forced to go outside throughout the day. Sometimes, like during the recent snowstorm, that feels hard. But usually, I love it. I know that every minute I spend in nature I am slightly more sane (and probably slightly nicer to my family) so I really appreciate having the outdoors be such a big part of my life here.

3. Homeschool, cooking new food, watching videos, and learning about feelings.  One of the reasons I moved to DR was so I could homeschool. Usually, I am so grateful that I get to influence what my kids learn, and how we spend our time. But on the days when one math problem takes us 10 minutes, or when getting a child to write an entire sentence feels like I’m asking them to carry a fifty pound backpack up a mountain, I often need a little reminder that this is what I want and what I chose; which means that this week I have really enjoyed the untraditional ways that we learn. On Tuesday, we made falafel and pita bread, as a part of our unit on the Middle East. On Thursday, we watched an amazing video about the ways that camels have adapted to life in the desert. Throughout the week we have been playing games about feelings, in my attempts to teach the kids about Nonviolent Communication. (In a nutshell, nonviolent communication, or NVC for short, is a collaborative communication model based on mutual and reciprocal empathy, developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.)

4. Kids in and out all day, lots of pretend, and legos. One thing that I really missed while being away from home for a few weeks was the kids stopping by throughout the day to play. Yes, our homeschool day takes longer when we have a break every 35 minutes for lego time, and yes, I think there might be more mud in our mudroom than there is floor because of all the traffic, but it is so great not having to arrange playdates or drive across town in order for the kids to see friends; and I especially appreciate the time that they have throughout the day to process whatever it is we have been studying in school while playing.

5. Getting back to my morning routine of yoga and meditation. As much as I might try to keep up with my routine when we travel, I inevitably find reasons why I just can’t fit it in, so I have been glad to get back to it, if only for a week or so. Liz and I have been meditation buddies for over a year now, and she is the reason why I have been able to be so consistent with the meditation for so long. There have been many mornings that I have pulled myself out of bed simply because I know that she’ll be meditating alone if I don’t get there.

6. Art time on Friday. Katherine, Burl, and I have been taking turns hosting art time on Friday afternoons in the common house. It’s a time for folks of all ages hang out and be creative. Yes, there was more running in circles than was ideal for me, but it was so nice to doodle and chat for a while.

7. Going to bed early. There is something about life here that makes it really easy to go to bed early in the winter. It feels natural to sleep a lot when the nights are long, and I have found myself getting ready for bed by 7:30 at times. Of course, it will be balanced out by summer nights when we are still at the pond, chatting in the courtyard, or watering the garden at 9:00 pm, but right now, it feels great to get into my warm bed with a good book early on in the night.

8. Eating the food that we grew and then froze, stored, or dried for the winter. When were were traveling, I tried to fully appreciate having mangos, and as much fresh salad as I wanted, in December, but the truth is that food doesn’t taste as good as the Brussel sprouts I froze last October, or the nettles I dried last spring. I have been happy to rifle through the freezer or open new jars of tomato sauce, since we have been home.

9. Playing games about end-of-life decisions. On Tuesday after potluck, Sara hosted the Hello Game, which involves talking about what is important to you when it comes to death and end-of-life decisions. All day Tuesday I told myself that I was too tired to stay out after dinner, but when everyone gathered to play (and since the kids were happily playing with their friends in the kids’ room) I decided to stay. I learned that I have a few things I need to figure out. I also learned to appreciate my friends a little more, and I just love that I live somewhere that people are excited to play this kind of game.

10. Quiet nights with the stars. Every time I come home to the prairie, I am newly surprised at how vivid the stars are out here. The village is often pretty dark at night, with little nighttime lighting. When I am walking back from dinner or going outside to get water on a clear night, I am always a little taken aback by how beautiful the night sky can be.  

I’m heading out again on Wednesday, this time for 10 days, and I am already a little sad about what I’ll miss here. When I get back, it will be a whole new season. At Dancing Rabbit, late winter means time for our annual retreat, when we gather to spend a few days to discuss matters of import to the community, and it also means garden planning and gearing up for spring – but then I’ll have a whole new list of reasons why I love living here.

Can you think of lots of reasons why you might like to live at Dancing Rabbit? If so, our visitor program could be a wonderful experience for you. You’ll sit in on a variety of workshops about ecological sustainability and living in community, enjoy some delicious homemade food, and get a chance to see the Milky Way while floating in our swimming pond. The program is filling up fast, so you might miss out on your opportunity to come this year if you don’t sign up now.


Slow and Busy: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Since spring, I have looked forward to wintertime, when I hoped to have hours every day to lounge around reading books, knitting, and chatting by the fire. Well, we have had a fire going most days at our house and I have read some great books recently, but I still haven’t learned to knit. And I haven’t felt my days are especially leisurely yet . . . there has just been so much fun stuff going on I can’t resist! Christina here, writing about a week at Dancing Rabbit that has felt as busy as it ever does around here.

Christina (center) participating in an activity at the facilitation training

The first time this week when I was torn between two activities that I really wanted to attend was on Tuesday. There was a meeting of the new “Open Co Group”—a group that has been getting together for deep emotional work, and at the same time, there was a “Process Party” in the Milkweed Mercantile with the theme of encouraging more participation in the village. I decided to attend the Process Party, which was a fascinating discussion about how things work around here and how we might make them work better for everyone. It seemed like we were just scratching the surface on some big questions—and I look forward to more winter conversations on the topic.

That night after potluck at Sandhill, a neighboring intentional community, there was a dance party for all ages. This is my favorite kind of dance party: good music, a fun hangout with friends, time with my family, and I am still in bed by 9:30 so that I can get up in time for yoga and meditation in the morning.

Perhaps inspired by the Sandhill party, my husband, Javier, decided to host a kids’ dance party in Casa later in the week. I ducked out of this one just as the kids were setting up the obstacle course and blasting their chosen music. It was a little overwhelming for me, but they ended up tired, sweaty, and ready for dinner (Javier included).

This weekend also happened to be the third in a series of monthly facilitation trainings led by Alyson of Red Earth Farms. For four hours on Friday and Saturday afternoons, a group of us meet to learn how to facilitate consensus-style meetings. I have found since I moved to Dancing Rabbit, there is never a lack of ways to push myself, learn new things, and get out of my comfort zone, and this weekend training was no exception. How could I pass up the chance to learn from someone who is, in my opinion, one of the best facilitation trainers in the country?!

Friday night is our usual community dinner, when we bring our own food but eat together in the Common House. This week, dinner was followed by a fun twist. Our friends from Sandhill came over to host a spelling bee fundraiser at DR. They are raising funds for their upcoming, annual trip to support Navajo elders in resisting forced relocation at Black Mesa. With teams competing for prizes (which were mostly auctioned off to raise more money) and brownies for everyone, it was a crazy, late, night of community connection all for a good cause.

It hasn’t been all dance parties and spelling bees this week. I’ve returned to regular morning meditation recently. Meeting in the living room of Skyhouse at 7:30 a.m. to sit in silence with others might not sound like a lot of fun, but I look forward to it every day. As someone who does not take naturally to meditation, sitting with others feels easier somehow.  

It’s not always easy to decide what I want to do with my time—turning down a dance party or a fundraiser or a great opportunity to learn something new is just too hard! And despite all this busyness, there really is a different pace to life around here compared to my previous life. I don’t have to get in a car and drive everywhere. Walking from one event to another, washing dishes by hand, moving the goats to a new pasture, taking the time to wait for my daughter to figure out a math problem on her own; there are so many opportunities for me to slow down and rest or just take my time. I appreciate the many events that happen around here, and I love that I can do so much in a week, but I am also grateful for the precious time I find to just sit and enjoy the fire.

Check out our Patreon account for an insider’s view of the village. Support sustainability education and outreach and gain a more intimate look at life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Come along and join the online community today!

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Handprints in the Soil: A Dancing Rabbit Update

It seems like every time I write this column, I end up writing about why the previous week wasn’t a “normal” week. And this last week was no exception. Many of my regular weekly events took place— “the WIP” (the week-in-preview), Ultimate Frisbee games, homeschool classes, there was a Tuesday night potluck—but I wasn’t available to participate at any of them.

Instead, I spent the week observing worms eating food waste, activating bio-char, making “lasagna” with cardboard, straw, and compost, and listening to more fascinating presentations than I can count. Christina here, writing about the Permaculture Design Course which I attended right here at Dancing Rabbit.

PDC instructor Sharon and Christina (right) chatting during the livestock tour

To say that it was an amazing, life-changing, super fun, and exhausting ten days would be an understatement. I’m still reeling a bit from the intense experience, so for those of you who have experienced a PDC, please forgive me if I don’t do it justice in this column. I’m still buzzing with excitement about everything I learned about permaculture, myself, and this great place where I live—so please excuse the effusive words that follow here.

What is permaculture? Well, you can read Ben’s witty column from last week to get one insightful, first-hand take on it. For me, the biggest takeaway is about the difference between a “footprint” and a “handprint.” Your footprint is the impact you have on the earth, usually negative. It might consist of how much fossil fuel you use, how much waste you create, and how many resources are needed to support your lifestyle. To live sustainably, you need to reduce your footprint as much as possible. Moving to an ecovillage has made all of this a lot easier for me. But while living lightly has made my life better in so many ways, sometimes I want to do more.

The concept of a handprint is about producing a positive impact on the earth. By adding some soil amendments, combining certain plants, or sequestering carbon by planting trees, I can have a positive impact on the Earth—even creating small ecosystems where there was barren ground or an empty lot.

During the ten-day course, we learned about soil and tree guilds, how to grow more food with less work, and how dire the climate change situation is right now. We learned about regular people around the world who are doing amazing things with their handprints and we learned how to use regular old cardboard and waste to create a new garden. I know there is so much more that I am forgetting now—I almost filled an entire notebook with my notes and the list of books I’ve decided I must read fills a whole page.

As I’ve found with just about any workshop or event I’ve attended at Dancing Rabbit, we learned so much more than concrete knowledge: things like how to work in groups, how to be vulnerable with new friends, and how to appreciate someone else; often referred to as “soft skills.”

The best part of the whole thing was the people involved. The three primary teachers, Erik, Olive, and Sharon, were inspiring, caring, playful, knowledgeable, and super great to be around. The other students were also inspiring and unique and interesting and great new friends to hang with. And the people who put in so much work to make the course happen—from teaching classes to making snacks to ensuring that everyone had enough warm blankets one cold night—helped me to feel like I was taken care of throughout the week.

I’m excited about all the things I learned that I can do to increase my handprint. I want fruit trees and sheep and swales in my landscape and I want them now! But I am trying to follow the permaculture principle of using small, slow solutions. I will spend time observing the land and its ecosystems before I interact, and I will remember that change takes time. But before I do all of that, I need to catch up on my everyday life here in the village.

Even though I generally believe that I live in the most beautiful place on Earth, there are times—such as, when I get overwhelmed with the dirty dishes or the long consensus meetings or the personal dynamics in the village—I need some reminders of just how awesome Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage really is. I received a great reminder of this last week and now I’m equipped with the knowledge and confidence to go forward and make my own amazing handprints.

Want to see what it’s like living in an ecovillage where permaculture is applied? Come visit us to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left happening in October. Come join us!


Bringing the Festival to My Own Backyard: A Dancing Rabbit Update

I’m sure that plenty of exciting things happened here at Dancing Rabbit during the past week—not the least of which is that we finally got some much-needed rain! But I’m having a hard time remembering it all over the songs in my head.

I’m not the first to say it, but one of the really great things about living here is how many awesome workshops and events happen in the village. I can learn and have fun and meet people and eat amazing food—and then go home to sleep in my own bed.

Christina here, writing on the last day of Singing Rabbit, a 95-person community singing festival that is happening right now in my own backyard.

Annie and Laurence leading a stand up and dance song circle!

Annie and Laurence leading a stand up and dance song circle!

It’s not exactly easy to define community singing.  It almost always involves sitting in a circle, though sometimes we stand in a tight bunch or walk around to hear each other. Sometimes we sit around a fire, though it can also take place while waiting in line or walking on the path or anywhere that two or more people sing together.  

Usually the lyrics are simple and easy to learn, though this weekend I learned three different songs in Georgian (as in the country, not the state) that were quite challenging. Often there are intricate harmonies created by the different voices, though sometimes we all sing the same melody together. Sometimes, as is the case this weekend, community singing events involve shared meals, fun activities, and other ways of connecting.  

Community singing is always welcoming of anyone who wants to try to learn the words—or even just hum along or sit quietly in the center of the circle without making any noise at all. And of course, it always involves lots and lots of songs.

This weekend started on Friday night with a shared meal and a fireside song circle. We gathered in a circle and sang a song together, went over a few logistics of the weekend, and then grabbed our bowls and plates and lined up to eat dinner together. As many of the people traveling to the event had not yet arrived, the fireside song circle that night was smaller, but we learned many new songs and sang some favorites all while looking at the amazing Missouri night sky full of stars.

The next day, we got more into the events of the weekend. Some people started out their days with yoga, Qigong, or silent meditation. (Not me, I decided to sleep late that day to prep for a late night of singing.)

Something else that I’ve really come to appreciate about living here is all the interesting people who pass through for one thing or another and are happy to share their gifts or knowledge. The morning workshops were what are called “community offerings.” In other words, people who know how to do something offer their skill to anyone who wants to learn.

Breakfast started at 8 am in the main tent, aka “The Hub,” with oats and eggs and lots of fixings. After holding a morning circle to go over more announcements or logistics and to point out the poison ivy patches around the tents, we broke off into the first of many smaller, daytime song circles.

These smaller circles, scheduled at 10:00 and 4:00 each day were led by amazing song leaders in the US who traveled in for the event. I’m constantly amazed by what they can do with people, many of whom have never met before, to create beautiful music simply with their skills of leading. I learned many new songs and sang some of my favorites from past circles.

More shared meals, more community offerings, and many trips to the pond rounded off the weekend. Again and again, I was so grateful that I was able to retreat to my house to rest or change my clothes or work on the tomato harvest.

One of the highlights of the weekend for many was the five-hour grief ritual on Sunday afternoon led by Laurence Cole, who travelled here from an ecovillage in Washington state. Another thing that I have come to appreciate about life here is the way we embrace and celebrate things that are often ignored or rushed over in mainstream society—conflict, darkness, death—we celebrate it all.

Another highlight of the weekend was the “No-Talent Show” on Sunday night. This has been a Dancing Rabbit tradition for a while now, and it is so much fun to encourage anyone to share their “talent” with the group. If there was a theme to the event, it was people making interesting sounds with their bodies—oh, and handstands.

Today is the last day of the weekend event. I admit I’m tired after a few extra late nights and so much activity, and I’m almost ready to return to the day-to-day routine. Sometimes I need a break from growing and learning and stretching my comfort zone.

But in just a few weeks, I’ll be gearing up for another great event here. I’ve registered for the annual Permaculture Design Class this year and it starts in three short weeks! I’m looking forward to another great party/learning experience/world-class workshop happening right here, in my own backyard.


Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left and the Permaculture Design Course happening between now and October. How will you choose to get involved?