07.21.2019 - John

Building a Village: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Hello friends and neighbors! As I write this column, we are waiting for a cool front to roll in and give us relief from this hot, humid July weather. We live simple lives here at Dancing Rabbit and most folks do not have air conditioning. There are, however, three gathering places with air conditioning, so folks can avoid distress by visiting our Common House if needed.

Kyle, doing a little digging.

Parmejean here, (Farmer John Demaree), to talk about our lifestyles in the summer months of northeast Missouri.

A lot of the work here is outdoors, especially gardening and construction. Our gardeners work mainly in the early morning hours, which is good for the people and the best time to harvest vegetables as well. Fortunately, the heavier garden work is done in the spring when the weather is more hospitable. Now there is harvesting of greens, cucumbers, squash, and even tomatoes are coming on. I moved into my home here, Robinia, in mid-May and this is my excuse for not having anything but cilantro to harvest now.  Fortunately, my neighbors Avi and Anya let me pick swisschard and kale from their bounty!

It is construction season here at Dancing Rabbit, like everyone in this climate knows. The freezing weather is long past, but will be back, come October, so it is time to get it done.  Our present hot weather is a deterrent, but a few simple strategies can keep it going; I like to wear a big straw hat, (my dermatologist agrees), as well as a wet scarf around my neck, which I often wring out, (the scarf not my neck). 

I helped Kyle with the beginning of a new home last week. We dug trenches, laid drainage tile, and put down gravel for a foundation. We like to keep things simple, and some folks will do most of their building without power tools, but we rented an excavator and a skid loader to make this job go much faster. Kyle and I are both farm boys, and we got the hang of the equipment fairly quickly, as you can tell by the picture. (It is so nice to work with light-hearted folks!) Kyle will next set forms and have aircrete poured for the foundation. Aircrete is a formula of concrete that uses aluminum powder to introduce small air bubbles into the mix, making the finished product lighter in weight, while improving its insulative properties. This will be followed by strawbale walls and stuccoing with a clay mix.

Liz and Graham recently helped host a natural building workshop, taught by Hassan and Julia. The workshop attendees, 13 of them, got to learn how to set straw bales in a timber frame structure and how to mix plaster from native materials such as clay, sand, and straw. This structure, dubbed SubHub, will be a learning hub for the community as well as housing. (We have another natural building workshop coming up on September 12 – 15, if you’re interested in joining in the fun, and learning some new skills.)

Work on Dorothy’s home, (Dorothy from Kansas), is ongoing and she hopes to be moved in before winter. The structure has been dried in, and Dorothy worked hard putting in a tremendous amount of insulation. Kyle got a bit of practice with the excavator by digging a trench for the power line that will supply electricity from a solar grid to her home.

Hassan continues to work on a beautiful round home, named the Tea Cozy because of its shape. Hassan is a very knowledgeable craftsman, and his work shows an artistic flair. He is in demand for his knowledge around the village, so his Tea Cozy project goes slowly with his time divided by several projects. It is a  labor of love, for Hassan. (It will be available for sale one day.)

My next project is to put a layer of finish plaster on my home, Robinia. I did some plastering of this type last year, but will rely on others for mixing the plaster, as there are several recipes to choose from. I have 12 buckets of clay soaking, two buckets of cattails to harvest fiber from, and I’m going to get some sand to add as well. Mixing is quite a sport, since you put all the materials on a tarp and mix it with your feet. Having music and dancing makes this a fun part of the job; it does take a lot of time, but when you are living the simple life you might as well dance!

Ya’ll have a great summer, stay cool, and enjoy the simple things in life!

If you’d like to get a firsthand look at the many unique buildings of Dancing Rabbit, and meet some of the folks who built them, consider coming to our visitor program. You’ll spend one or two weeks with some like-minded people, learning about our village, our way of life, and our mission. There will also be tons of good food, fun, and a chance to make some new friends.

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A Weaving of Worlds: My Experience Singing in Community

It always fills our hearts with joy to hear from prior visitors about how coming to Dancing Rabbit made a positive impact for them. Here is one such reminder from our dear new friend, Jen, who spent some time with us last year during our community singing event. 

“Attending Singing Rabbit was one of the most powerful, uplifting, memorable, and magical experiences I have ever had, and although it took place nearly a year ago, it was so jammed with memories and stories that I still share them frequently.

My first recollection is feeling the fear of fitting in, but all that was quickly dissolved when I met the warm, welcoming villagers. They instantly made me feel a deep sense of connectedness and belonging together on the Earth.

The intimate crowd of less that one hundred guests created an atmosphere that invited many opportunities for thought-provoking conversations, which inspired several lifelong inseparable bonds and never-ending friendships. 

From dawn to dusk, and beyond, there was a colorful kaleidoscope of circle groups, both musical and non-musical, as well as workshops to ingest and learn from. At the same time, there was no sense of hurrying, rushing, or cognitive overload, as the activities were planned with well-placed breaks, allowing time to process and remember everything.  

Truly, attending Singing Rabbit at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage was life-changing. We sang together, laughed together, cried together, and grew together.” – Jen

Whether you love to sing, only sing in the shower, or just want to bask in the voices of others, we invite you to join us this Labor Day Weekend to weave a community together through song. All ages and skill levels are welcome and wanted. With kid centered activities and song circles, it’s an event for the whole family. We hope to see you there. 

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Better than a Daydream: My Dancing Rabbit Visit

Hey there everyone. Jorge here; I’ve been thinking of how to start my story, and I have found no poetically inspirational words to impress you with, so I’ll just be straight with you. I hope that’s okay.

Kyle giving visitors a tour of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

On my drive up to Dancing Rabbit I found myself daydreaming about what my experience would be like. I expected a stereotypical image of what I heard an “ecovillage” was: a bunch of hippies with thick dreadlocks, a peace-and-love culture permeated by body odor, and a disorganized micro political system that was susceptible to interpersonal drama. Upon arriving, I was honestly quite shocked. Body odor did not permeate the air, but the fresh untouched countryside vibe definitely did. It was quiet. Much more quiet than I was used to as a city-dweller.

Although nervous, I immediately felt that I was in a special place. A sense of goodwill washed over me, and infectiously led me to introduce myself to the first people I saw: other visitors from my session. The connection felt authentic and pure, just like the rest of the connections that followed throughout the course of my weekend stay. Every villager seemed to treat me like a family member, and had a special effect on my personal growth over a period of just a few days.

My visitor session was led by Sharon, a very kind-hearted person who took our group under her wing like a wise sage, guiding us throughout the village while patiently helping us grow and absorb information. Sharon led us to various special people. Ted taught us his permaculture knowledge in terms of agriculture and the environment; he made a serious case for the need to improve on our nation’s energy use, agricultural practices, and even homebuilding. Hassan taught us about the permaculture concepts related to living in community and interpersonal communication, helping us tune in to our fellow humans and improving our listening skills. He was also our teacher in natural building, who taught us how to mix ingredients for cob (earthen plaster made mostly of clay and sand), and how to apply it to a wall. It was truly a fun experience. Alline left a deep imprint on my heart as well, with her phenomenal kitchen management and cooking skills; she and her team fed us some of the freshest, most amazing food I’ve ever had in my life. It felt so good to eat seasonal foods, some of which were produced by the hard labor of the village, in such a loving and environmentally conscious manner.

Leaving the village was incredibly tough for me. Although I only visited for their ecovillage weekend experience, it made such a strong impression on me that I could no longer view the world as I had before my visit. I took the soil of my negative and self-destructive views, and with the help of the people of Dancing Rabbit, planted a seed of hope: hope for a better quality of life, hope for a better relationship between myself and the people I interacted with, and hope for the future of my local ecosystems. That short stay has led me to crave more, and has also led me to think about Dancing Rabbit on an almost daily basis. I miss that special corner of the world. It’s truly magical.

If you’re thinking about visiting Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, make the commitment and go spend some time with them. You certainly won’t regret it. Visiting them was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I hope someday you can say the same.



Jorge works as an aircraft technician at the 142nd Fighter Wing out of Portland, Oregon. His mission is to defend the western coastline. His passions are self sustainability, organic farming, painting, practicing permaculture principles when possible, eco sustainability, helping those in need, and just about any activity involving nature.

Michelle working on knitting at the Milkweed Mercantile

Walking the Talk: My Dancing Rabbit Visit

When I made the decision to come to Dancing Rabbit for a two-week visitor session in the summer of 2018, I tried to have zero expectations. I tried to leave my assumptions at the door about what made an ecovillage like Dancing Rabbit work and run efficiently.

Michelle working on knitting at the Milkweed Mercantile

Having an open mind allowed me to truly absorb my first impressions of the people and systems in place. I had never experienced community life, and I found myself internally rewarded time and time again as I began my journey. The people I encountered took time to truly communicate with each other. The consensus governance that was in place meant each person truly had a voice; it was paramount that each voice was heard and, more importantly, understood. This style of communication is truly ground-breaking compared to mainstream society (at least the one I had been raised with). The Rabbits made sure the visitors in my session not only had their basic needs met such as food and shelter, but also that their emotional and intellectual needs were being met. I had never before experienced such a caring environment for fellow humans, and I found myself vested not only in my own emotional state but also the state of my fellow visitors and hosting Rabbits.

Since my visitor session, I have found my communication style has completely changed. I take time to truly listen and understand what another person has said. I saw in action how open, direct communication can affect people’s perception of each other and a situation. In mainstream society, people can jump to conclusions, brush off their emotions, and bury their feelings. For the first time in my life, I was told that my emotions mattered, that it was OK to FEEL what I was feeling, and that my emotions had validity. I was surrounded by people who helped me to process my emotions, put them into words, and translate that into action. I found a passion for tapping into the emotions of the people I love (and some I thought I didn’t love). Communication is so important at Dancing Rabbit, and I can see why. If we are to truly move forward as a sustainable society, we must learn how to communicate effectively. Dancing Rabbit is a shining example of how open, direct, and honest communication can build a village and create positive change.

Come join us for a two-week visitor program so you too can learn some of the inner sustainability practices, like open and honest non-violent communication, used at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Michelle Lea Winebarger is a teacher by trade and a learner by passion. A Tennessee native, she enjoys cooking, swimming, music, and traveling.

06.10.2019 John

The Cycles of Life: A Dancing Rabbit Update

I grew up on a farm 110 miles east of Memphis, Missouri outside the town of Rushville, Illinois, but I spent most of my adult life in central Texas hoping to get back to the Midwest. Parmejean here, a.k.a. Farmer John Demaree, to tell you how happy I am to be back in the Midwest and living as a resident at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. (Now, Texas was a good run, but I got tired of the heat, drought and the unpredictability of the weather. I planted a nice patch of sweetcorn one year there in mid-February and by the end of March it was knee high; then on April 1st we had a freeze that destroyed my crop.)

Farmer John standing in the timber frame structure where he lives.

I made it back to Illinois in the late 1990’s to farm my dad’s 90 acres in Rushville, with my wife and three sons. My organic tofu soybeans did very well my first year farming the family place, and I got $19 a bushel for nearly a thousand bushels. The only problem with having such a good first year is that I thought I knew what I was doing.

The next two years were lean and in the year 2000 we decided to visit Rutledge, Missouri and two intentional communities in the area: Sandhill Farm and Dancing Rabbit. Though we did not spend much time at either place that November, I got on Dancing Rabbit’s email list, and so got to see the community progress over the years. In 2002, we moved back to Texas and I went back to work at a desk job in a cubicle — not ideal for a farmer.

Fast forward to 2018: my sons are grown, and my wife and I had split the sheets ten years earlier. So that February I quit my desk job, packed my car and headed north to Illinois to see family and friends. I have two sisters, a brother and many cousins in the Midwest, and I made the rounds for about a month. Deciding after the travel that I needed something more permanent for a home, I thought of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which I had teased friends about, and so I gave it a try. What a great choice!

I arrived on April 8, 2018 during a 5-inch snow. Folks were waiting to help me settle in for a week-long visitor session. Visitor sessions run up to two weeks and are important for those people interested in joining this community. The snow melted and it warmed up that week, making tent living easier. I got to hear many community members present information on the operation of their Ecovillage, from decision making to the covenants that Dancing Rabbit keeps to lower our impact on nature and the world. I love the values that are held by this community; burning little to no fossil fuels is very important to stabilize our climate.

After my week visit I decided to spend more time at DR and was sponsored by the Critter Farm as a wexer. A wexer is someone who fills a work exchange position where you work for someone in the community, while they feed you and cover your common house costs. So I got to work on a farm and had a very wonderful group of people to share meals with at the Critter Kitchen. I lived in a tent my first two weeks and then was offered a room in Skyhouse, an onsite boarding house. (It was an easy decision to leave the tent.) Within a month the manager at the time moved to Iowa City and I took over as manager and my rent went to $0; I also made a little money keeping up the property and firing our furnace to heat water for bathing. Hot running water is a very nice thing!

At the Critter Farm I was kept very busy building a tall chicken fence, moving a large greenhouse, and best of all, I got hands-on instruction timber-framing a barn. The barn was a group effort with two instructors and about 10 students who converged on the Critter Farm to learn timber framing. It was a great experience, and they were great people to bond with. (Editor’s note: this year we have two natural building workshops for those interested in learning about straw bale construction and earthen plaster, one of which is coming up on July 4th. What a great way to spend Independence Day!)

In October last year I decided to return to Texas to make more money and pay off some bills. My car had broken down twice, and I had used up my cushion; plus I missed my sons who were still living there. I had a good time in Texas, (didn’t make much money), but I did get really tired of the traffic around Austin and the time spent in a car to get anywhere, and so I was glad to head back to DR where I would not need to drive very often.

I returned to DR in late April this year to very cool weather and so avoided the tent and rented a refurbished grain bin that was very cozy, but just a sleeping room. (Though living in a grain bin seemed appropriate for a retired farmer.) Mid May I moved into Robinia, a lovely timber frame home. It is simple, yet elegant: five round beams of black locust, (genus Robinia), are supported by three posts each, braced with more black locust wood. This home also has many windows on the south side, and an earthen berm nearly to the roof on the north. The roof has a pond liner for it’s base and then lots of soil for gardening. I plan to plant tomato starts on the roof later today. There is also a fenced garden I have already planted into, but those seeds need rain!? We had such a wet spring slowed my gardening and now I want rain…

I traveled through Illinois and Missouri the last week of May, and there was water in the fields from here to Springfield, Illinois and south to St. Louis. I was detoured several times on this trip because of it. Sadly very little had been planted along the entire route —  every now and then I would see corn sprouting, but more often there were stunning fields blanketed in goldenrod’s brilliance. Mainly though, there was corn or bean stubble awaiting dry conditions for tillage. So this is an unusual year for rain (and tornadoes) and I cannot help but think the increased global temperature is adding to this. The weather is variable as always, but the simple physics are that the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped. This should be motivation for everyone to cut back on fossil fuel use as much as possible.

I have not left DR in the last week and have an active social life: 8 a.m. coffee group in the morning at the Milkweed Mercantile, then Happy Hour there from 4 – 6, and a great Karaoke evening last Friday. I have bread, cheese, eggs, and milk produced on site, and there is a simple grocery here providing fresh organic vegetables, which also has bins offering beans, rice, granola, nuts, and some chocolate coated cranberries.

So I am settled now in the Midwest, and loving my time here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. The climate is what I am used to, and though I may duck out to Texas to see friends and my sons during some of the winter, I do enjoy the snow and walking through the woods when it is icy cold. My home, Robinia, is well insulated so I should be comfortable there year round. It seems my cycle of life has brought me back to the Midwest and the places imprinted on me from my youth. Please come visit sometime!

If you’d like a chance to meet Farmer John and lots of other like-minded folks who are passionate about environmentalism and community, but you can’t take a whole two weeks out of your routine to come, join us for our condensed Ecovillage Weekend Experience from 09/26 – 09/29. You’ll get a chance to partake in workshops similar to what John mentioned, get a firsthand look at one of the highest concentrations of tiny houses and natural buildings in any village in the country, and enjoy lots of good food and good fun along the way.

Viz 3 photo by Deena Larsen

Reaching In and Reaching Out: My Dancing Rabbit Reflections

Over the last 20+ years, countless people have crossed paths with Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. From time to time, they tell us about how their experiences here — the things they learned, the people they met, and the fun they had — changed their lives for the better. Often, they leave inspired to live more in harmony with the Earth, and they inspire us to keep striving in our mission to promote global environmental sustainability. Here is one such story from a wonderful visitor, Deena:

Deena and her fellow visitors.

“Deena here, I originally visited Dancing Rabbit for a two-week visitor session.  I was there with 16 other people and I quickly forged new friendships. Quite simply, my experience transformed the way that I view the world.  I have long been environmentally aware and mindful of our impact on the world around us, but I learned so much more. I came back with a list of 67 things to do, not do, or investigate.  Moving forward from that experience, I tended to examine the various systems in my life to determine if they are sustainable. I often found myself asking, “What would the rabbits do?” when I was trying to figure out a better way to do something.  

I consider myself something of an ambassador.  I often refer to my experience as I am going about my life as a teacher and involved citizen.  I am told that I light up, talk faster and that I am more animated when I tell of my time at Dancing Rabbit!  Quite often I hear, “Tell me more about this place!”

One of the classes I teach is Media Production.  For one project, I had the students look at sustainability.  I shared an overview of DR and I talked about some of the systems that Rabbits have in place to be more sustainable.   I created a short example of a video with ten things that I do, such as composting, biking, and collecting rainwater. Afterward, I asked for questions and one student raised her hand and said, “Do you really live like that?”  This year, I am organizing a green locker clean-out to minimize the waste that comes at the end of the school year.

Midyear this year a new position was added in our school office so I left the classroom and became the Student Support Leader.  I decided to have a conversation with every student. I went in to each of the English classes over a two week period and I spoke of kindness and community.  I gave the presentation 24 times to all 600 students. I discussed DR as an example of a community by sharing the six covenants. That led to a discussion on what we needed to agree upon to be defined as a community of kind learners.

I am part of the leadership team at school.  I have discussed with that group the consensus and power level model.  Having a system in place that allows for input while protecting the need for quick decisions for the good of the community in times of crisis, is imperative.

I took part in several Writing Workshops at Dancing Rabbit and I am signed up for another this August.  Dancing Rabbit provides an ideal setting for the reflection that leads to good writing. Being able to spend five days with others who enjoy words and the craft of writing is wonderful.  I began writing a blog as an outcome of one of the workshops.

The people are what makes Dancing Rabbit special.  Whether they be residents, members, or visitors, the conversations are memorable.  To have an entire community of people who listen, value and hold space for others is unbelievable.  Rabbits, as a whole, are the most genuine and inclusive people with whom I have come in contact.

My favorite memory comes from July 4th during my visitor session.  My daughter always hated fireworks. Personally, I have long been bothered by the noise, the waste and the disruption.  For years, my daughter and I have wondered if you could find anywhere in the U.S. that you didn’t hear or see them on July 4th.  Well, on that day, a couple of us walked to Sandhill for the potluck and about dusk I walked back to DR. As soon as I got back, I walked down to the pond and sat alone in an inner tube.  The only fireworks I saw were stars and fireflies. I texted my daughter later that I finally found a place.”

“I originally visited Dancing Rabbit for a two-week visitor session in 2017. I was there with 16 other people, and I quickly forged new friendships. Quite simply, my experience transformed the way I view the world. I have long been environmentally aware, and mindful of our impact on the world around us, but I learned so much more during my visit to DR. I came back with a list of 67 things to do, not do, or investigate. Moving forward from that experience, I tended to examine the various systems in my life to determine if they are sustainable. I often found myself asking, “What would the rabbits do?” when I was trying to figure out a better way to do something.

I consider myself something of an ambassador. I often refer to my experience as I am going about my life as a teacher and involved citizen. I am told that I light up, talk faster and that I am more animated when I tell of my time at Dancing Rabbit! Quite often I hear, “Tell me more about this place!”

One of the classes I teach is Media Production. For one project, I had the students look at sustainability. I shared an overview of DR, and I talked about some of the systems that Rabbits have put in place to be more sustainable. I created a short example of a video with ten things that I do, such as composting, biking, and collecting rainwater. Afterward, I asked for questions and one student raised her hand and said, “Do you really live like that?” This year, I am organizing a green locker clean-out to minimize the waste that comes at the end of the school year.

Midyear in 2019 a new position was added in our school office, so I left the classroom and became the Student Support Leader. I decided to have a conversation with every student. I went in to each of the English classes over a two-week period and I spoke of kindness and community. I gave the presentation 24 times to all 600 students. I discussed DR as an example of a community by sharing the six covenants, which led to a discussion on what we needed to agree upon to be defined as a community of kind learners.

I am part of the leadership team at school, and I have discussed with that group the consensus and power level model. It is imperative to have a system in place that allows for input, while protecting the need for quick decisions for the good of the community in times of crisis.

I took part in several Writing Workshops at Dancing Rabbit, and I am signed up for another this August. (If you would like to attend as well, call our local B&B, the Milkweed Mercantile, to register for the workshop: (660) 883-5522.) Dancing Rabbit provides an ideal setting for the reflection that leads to good writing. Being able to spend five days with others who enjoy words and the craft of writing is wonderful. I began writing a blog as an outcome of one of the workshops.

The people are what makes Dancing Rabbit special. Whether they be residents, members, or visitors, the conversations are memorable. To have an entire community of people who listen, value and hold space for others is unbelievable. Rabbits, as a whole, are the most genuine and inclusive people with whom I have come in contact.

My favorite memory comes from July 4th, during my visitor session. My daughter always hated fireworks. Personally, I have long been bothered by the noise, the waste and the disruption. For years, my daughter and I have wondered if we could find anywhere in the U.S. that you didn’t hear or see them on July 4th. Well, on that day, a couple of us walked to the nearby community of Sandhill for a potluck meal, and about dusk I walked back to DR. As soon as I returned, I walked down to the pond and sat alone in an inner tube. The only fireworks I saw were stars and fireflies. I later texted my daughter to tell her I had finally found a place.”

If you are craving ways to change your life for the better, and to make a positive impact on the world around you, join us for a two-week visitor session, where you will delve deep into sustainable living.

Deena teaches English and Media Production to grades 7, 8, and 9 at a junior high school in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She lives on 3.5 acres of land five miles north of the city and five miles from the western shore of Lake Michigan. She is an avid bike commuter, gardener, reader, and sunrise photographer.

Natural Building Workshop 2018 94

Life of a Builder: A Dancing Rabbit Feature

For the past 13 years I have been on a journey to learn about natural building, and today I’d like to share a little bit of that with you. My name is Hassan, and my journey began when I was only 2 years out of high school. I had already fallen in love with the process of revealing the magnificence that lays dormant in a piece of wood, and my feet were on the path of making beautiful things for humans to use every day, but I had yet to come across the joys of working with clay, sand, and straw. I was living on a CSA farm (community supported agriculture) in northern California, that had a small eco-village component to it. I was residing in a quaint “cob pod” structure. One day, someone came to do some plaster repair. I watched as they chipped some of the material off of the wall, re-hydrated it and mixed it back into a wet and workable consistency. They then put that same material back onto the once cracked and dinged-up wall to create a smooth and fresh surface. I was thrilled that with a little know-how, any homeowner could patch and repair their dwelling without an expensive trip to the store for toxic chemicals.

Hassan working with one of his Natural Building Workshop students making clay plaster.

Since that day I have practiced, studied, experimented and honed my skills and awarenesses of what it takes to create just about any structure. For me, there is so much joy to be had in creating a home with raw, natural materials, and still so much more to learn and experience.

I mixed up my first batch of earthen plaster, with some new friends on the south island of New Zealand, using clay we dug from the ground, sand collected from a cut in the hillside for a driveway, and straw from the neighbor’s field. With our materials, a tarp, and our bare feet, we mashed it all together with water until it felt sticky and strong. We then shaped it out onto the wall to sculpt spirals and flowing designs. It was such a fun day.

I led my first workshop by accident while at an ecovillage on Vancouver island. I was there for the summer for an internship program, and a bunch of new folks arrived to get a weekend-long intensive training. The other interns and myself were so excited to get to participate in some high level learning segments of their weekend. I was most looking forward to the section on self-supporting reciprocal roofs, and as the time for that was approaching we sensed that something wasn’t right. It turned out that the “expert” who was supposed to have lots of experience hadn’t ever actually made one. He started presenting the material, the theoretical stuff, and I quickly realized that this so-called expert hadn’t the foggiest idea of what he was talking about. After I asked a few questions, the energy of the group seemed to have shifted, and the “teaching” role was now sitting in my lap. We followed the real flow and, as a group, we built a beautiful 13-pole reciprocal roof. That night I felt proud and a bit overwhelmed by the role that I felt coming into my life.

The journey continued, and a few years back I learned about a new technique for stacking straw bales. After reading books, working with different builders, and thinking “well, yeah, I get the techniques and practices”, a completely different approach to stacking bales had now arrived in front of me on the learning path. I feel much more connected to the reality that there will always be more to learn, and I will always welcome those teachings as they come.

In the spring of 2012, I moved to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for community, and for the continuance of my natural building learning process. I knew that the village here wanted to grow in population, and that there are no county building code restrictions. To me, this meant that I could follow my excitement and build in many different ways, and do so in an environment that would likely have new home buyers arriving each year. So far, this has worked out wonderfully. Dancing Rabbit has been an incredible place for me to further my experience, follow my design curiosity, and make many friends along the way.


Hassan is the lead instructor of the Natural Building Workshops. Since 2012, he has built three natural buildings at Dancing Rabbit, added artful and eccentric frills to many others, and taught at every opportunity. With an ideal to inspire and empower, he shares his knowledge, experience and passion for natural building with students of all kinds.

Jami, pictured right, hanging out with her Rabbit friend, Katherine.

Returning: A Dancing Rabbit Update

As we we left Minnesota, headed once again for Dancing Rabbit, the I-94 corridor sported a few inches of fresh snow — another reminder of our changing climate. Jami here, writing about my most recent return to the village. My husband Dan and I were excited to visit the friends we first got to know through the community’s weekly column, and who we now feel are a part of our extended family of choice.

Jami, pictured right, hanging out with her Rabbit friend, Katherine.

Upon our arrival, we were surprised to hear that we’d picked an eventful time to visit. Not only did we arrive on Pizza Night — it’s always a treat to see the hubbub of the larger community at the Milkweed Mercantile — but the Dog and Gun was in progress too. The Dog and Gun, more widely known as the Rutledge Flea Market, is an expansive event that comes together once a month in the nearby town of Rutledge, from April through October. I was also glad to hear that there was a facilitated conversation for community members to discuss the issue of child abuse in the village. I love the people of Dancing Rabbit, and I have been distraught and prayerful about the situation. I am amazed by how the people of Dancing Rabbit continue to make such an effort to ensure that the events are processed, and to give everyone a chance to voice their concerns and needs, while working to move forward in a positive and hopeful way.

During my visitor session at Dancing Rabbit in the fall of 2014, much of the workshop time was spent learning about communication, conflict management, and healthy, respectful sharing. Each day began with a circle to check-in with each other to communicate how everyone was doing physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. This PIES model gave each of us an opportunity to process ideas and feelings from the previous day, and to talk them through with our fellow visitors, guided by our session liaisons: Hassan and Tereza. I found these PIES discussions to be enlightening and connecting, and that they generated empathy and understanding as I grew to love each of the members of my group. (As with any group of humans, some folks were easier to love than others.) Many of the friendships I formed at that time continue five years out.

I still practice PIES with groups of friends occasionally, and it is always a stimulating process that brings increased trust, intimacy, and love. Sometimes it also brings scary things. When I did this with a group earlier this spring, one of the members opened up about a near-death experience: while gathering wood, he experienced insulin shock. Luckily his partner found him in time to save his life. Our group grew more cohesive and supportive as we each shared our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual reactions to his experience, as well as that of his partner, before sharing about what was happening in our own lives. Two friends joined together in song that evening, and I found it to be a delightfully creative way of sharing PIES.

During my visitor session, we experienced some trust building and trust breaking, as well as communication breakdowns and resolutions, in the process of figuring out how to live together for three short weeks. We each brought our mix of skills and baggage to our new relationships with each other. We each brought our own perspectives on reality, our cultures, and our ways of living as well. Truth really does depend on where you stand. Perspectives are surprisingly diverse when you bring people from all walks of life together at an ecovillage in rural Missouri!

The Dancing Rabbit experience taught me about climate change, natural building elements like cob and living roofs, as well as gardens, and different kinds of co-ops. But the most enduring impact came from all I learned about human relationships. I can still reach out to people I met here to ask questions as they pop up in life: I’ve gotten a cob (earthen plaster) recipe from Rae, cistern ideas from Kyle, and many messages of love and humor over the years from a variety of Dancing Rabbit friends. It’s always fun to share what we learn from the folks here.

I spend most of my time working to stop the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline in Minnesota. It is hard, and sometimes depressing, work as thousands of people strive to show lawmakers and politicians, corporations and fellow citizens the risk posed by the pipeline — not only to the pristine waters of Northern Minnesota, the Mississippi River, and Lake Superior, but also to the world at large as we eat away the last of our remaining carbon budget.

Climate scientists are expressing more and more alarm at the too-quick pace of melting ice; sea level rise; the increasing intensity and frequency of storms, fires, droughts, and floods, as well as their devastating effects. Many places have become unlivable, yet we keep doing nothing on a global scale, even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was issued last fall. The world seems to be changing faster than any of us can imagine.

Many are awakening to the urgent need to address our climate catastrophe. With a concerted effort, similar to that which created the Apollo mission that took us to the moon, we could create a new way of life that focuses on clean energy, the restoration of our environment, and a safe, loving future for our children. Dancing Rabbit gives me hope that there is a way for people to live full and delicious lives by living more simply, more lovingly, and more respectfully. It isn’t easy — mostly because we are still humans with emotions, ideas, fears and perspectives that still must be reconciled — but it is possible. The future can be very bright if we all decide to focus less on consumption and more on community; less on money and more on human relationships; less on the hurried rush and more on communing with nature.

The birds are singing, the owls are flying, the green things are growing and Dancing Rabbit is alive and well as our visit comes to an end. It has been delightful to see the food production, creativity, and technological innovation happening here. The gifts of a visit to Dancing Rabbit are endless, but most important are the gifts of friendship and comradery. It is always good to spend some time reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Love abounds.

Jami Gaither was a visitor to Dancing Rabbit in 2014. She lives with her husband Dan in Alida, Minnesota, where they are building a Permaculture homestead and a resilient, sustainable community with neighbors. She blogs as “Retired at 45” on WordPress.

Would you like to visit Dancing Rabbit and learn some wonderful things that you can take home with you, like Jami did with the PIES communication model? Visit our website now and register for the 2019 visitor session of your choice.