The new mural by Scout in the early morning light. Photo by Nik.

Pandora and Permies: A Dancing Rabbit Update

We all remember the story of Pandora’s Box. In the mythology of Ancient Greece, Pandora was created as the first woman on Earth, much like Eve. She was given much beauty and abundance in her world, much like Eve. And she also was presented with something that she was commanded not to partake in, an elaborate vessel from Zeus that she had to promise never to open.

Nik here, and that story of ‘Dora and the box has been heavy on my mind since the second annual Permaculture Design Course (PDC) just wrapped up at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Before getting to more of Pandora, a bit more on the PDC. I wasn’t able to take the Permaculture course this year, because I was cooking meals for the course, along with the rest of the tireless and amazing crew of the Milkweed Mercantile. We prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the students, who were in class from 8:30 am to sundown.

It seemed like a grueling schedule, but every time the students came in for a meal, they were smiling and bubbling with new thoughts and ideas about permaculture in their lives. Being on the outside looking in gave me an opportunity to see and hear the impact of the course on these people new to the village.

The fifteen students taking the nine-day course were from all over the country and were college-aged to retirement-aged. Two students were members of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and the course was organized and co-taught by our very own permaculture expert Sharon Bagatell. But it would be next to impossible to talk about this course without talking about Bill Wilson, of Midwest Permaculture, who has led the course here the last two years. He is a seemingly inexhaustible engine of joy and wisdom.

I heard many praises of the class throughout the nine days:

“I didn’t know what to expect, but this is a life-changing place and a life-changing experience.”

“The food was worth the price alone.”

“I laughed, I cried, I ate better than ever, I opened myself up to new experiences and I just really felt the love that exists here.”

Bill realizes himself how life-changing the course can be—on our last evening together around a soft fire, he admits to the group that no matter how life-changing it has been for his students, permaculture has changed his life irrevocably for the last 20 years. He gets the honor and privilege to pass on this way of living to students around the world.

This class was a truly rare opportunity, that could happen with no one else, and no where else. The combination of Midwest Permaculture and Dancing Rabbit is an extremely potent one.

The intensity of the class may have caught students off guard. While prepping for dinner on the first day of class, one student came into the Mercantile on a break looking a little worse for wear and maybe in need of a snack. I asked him how the class was going so far. He said he was pretty drained emotionally from the last presentation. The conversation delved into so much of what is wrong with the world, all of the opposition to making a positive change, and he was left with a sense of hopelessness.   

With a newly-acquired snack in hand, he went back to class to push through.

A few hours later, I saw that same student, smiling and sitting tall. The class had apparently shifted into a place of more answers and more hope. He told me how he’d been singing that gloom and doom story for so long, but what he saw here at Dancing Rabbit and in this class was different. There’s a prevailing attitude of hopefulness.

I nodded with a big smile and said, “Yes, of course! Because with no hope, there is no action!”

In the story of Pandora, the ending is what everyone forgets. That box was filled with all the gloom, doom, misery, disease, and crippling sadness… but at the very bottom of the container, small and glowing, there remained hope. Pandora had released pain and suffering into the world, but she also allowed hope to follow.

Changing the world is not a simple task, especially because it first starts inside oneself. First, we have to go through the doom and the doubt, feeling small and powerless against it all, but we chug through it. We know a Pandora’s box when we see it. Many people will look at that box, shake their heads, and say, “No, sir-ee, I’m not touching that thing, I’ve heard what’s in there!”

But at the bottom of Pandora’s box, there lies hope, if we dare to open it.

Next year, I’m going to get someone to cover my cook shifts and take the course. Care to join me and open that box?


Find out more about the Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit! (You can sign up on that page to be notified of 2017 Course dates.)


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.

Artists Scout and Nik working on the new mural! Photo by Javi.

Silly Hats, Murals, and Empowerment: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Artists Scout and Nik working on the new mural! Photo by Javi.

Artists Scout and Nik working on the new mural! Photo by Javi.

I can only imagine what the guests must have thought, walking into the Mercantile for pizza to be greeted by a man whose long golden hair was braided with garlic bulbs. Next to him stood a woman with a pile of flowers on her head and a man with a crown made out of flip-flops.

A laughing lady with a stuffed pony perched on her head casually ate pizza with a young man whose head was lodged in a travel pillow adorned with silverware dangling on strings. “Do you need a fork?” he asked her with a straight face.

If I walked in on this scene never having been to Dancing Rabbit before, I would only imagine, “Yep, this must be a cult.” But no, it’s not; there’s a good reason for the strangeness.

Nik here at Dancing Rabbit, to tell you that if you missed Pizza Night at the Mercantile last Thursday, you missed Alline’s birthday, which most years means a Silly Hat Party in her honor. The dining room was packed like sardines in silly sardine hats, and between the singing, laughing and Alline’s rightfully famous salted-caramel cupcakes, I do think the guests got swept up in the silliness as well.

Pressing business called me away before most of the Silly Hat Awards could be doled out by Alline herself, but I did get to see the award for “Best Not-a-Hat Hat”, the “Most Sparkly Hat”, and the “Alline Likes Me Best” Award, which suspiciously goes to Kurt, her husband, every year. It was nightfall, and that meant I was off to work on Dancing Rabbit’s newest mural.

For the last few weeks, resident artists Scout and I have been designing and painting a new three-panel mural on the undecorated, yet prominent, sides of Bike World, in the outdoor kitchen/shed near the front of the village.

We’ve been starting at night, using a projector to trace out the original drawings onto the corrugated metal siding of the shed. On the other side of the building is Dancing Rabbit’s more well-known mural, painted back in 1999 by Artist in Residence Barbara Duperron, using native plant and animal motifs. That mural is still vibrant as ever! To see more or to follow the progress of the new mural, you can follow our Instagram account.

Everyone who comes here for the first time must wonder what to expect. There are too many stories to count, but one that happened recently, the Women’s Empowerment Retreat, needs to be told. But I’m not the one to tell it.

We have our very own Happy Rabbit, aka Katherine, on the ground with a first-hand account:

The Women’s Retreat was awesome!

We brought together the city folk with the farm women, early 20s to mid 50s, moms & not-moms alike.

The tri-communities were well represented, as Cynthia from Sandhill Farm taught a building workshop, and Alyson from Red Earth Farms opened a door for personal growth work.

The meet-and-greet set the intention for the weekend with a call and response song to identify ourselves. Mine went like this: “I am a hard woman (I am a hard woman). I am a fire woman (I am a fire woman). I am a loving woman (I am a loving woman).” To which the group responded, “And we are glad you’re here!”

Each woman who came to the ecovillage that weekend was already strong in her own right. I hope that we were able to provide a sense of community, the knowledge that we have each others’ backs, and some take-home tools to spread the good work of Women’s Empowerment.

Women’s Empowerment: What does it mean? To me, knowing that I am just as capable as any man. To lift less weight does not mean that I am less, rather that I may feel strength in asking for help from my sisters.

Empowerment: To choose my own journey and inspire young girls that brains are attractive and that “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. To dance, to sing, to read a book and then write your own! Your body is beautiful because you are the divine feminine, not a stereotype of what others tell you to be. To decide for yourself if unshaved legs are attractive (they are!). Remember your power. No one may give it to you, and no one may take it.

You are a woman, and I (Katherine) am glad you’re here.

And I (Nik) am glad you are here!

•                  •                 •

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Here at Dancing Rabbit, we’re constantly moving to raise awareness on how to live in balance with our Earth. Today, we offer appreciations to the Climate Riders of 2016. Thank you!!!

We are especially happy and grateful that Brad Jacobson will once again don the Rabbit banner he picked up so long ago, by participating in Climate Ride in support of DR! Brad helped with building Skyhouse circa 2001, and 10 years later lent his expertise again on another building project in the village! As the years go by, we appreciate our friends who stay in touch. Your support means the world to us!

•                  •                 •

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

MSCCpic

Midwest Communities Conference speakers announced!

MSCCpic

Conference speakers Tawana Petty, Matt Stannard JD, and Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter MD.

Dear Community-minded friends,

It’s time to register for the Midwest Sustainable Communities Conference, and network with your fellow activists! Whether your passion is for social justice, climate change work, personal growth and conflict resolution practices, or intentional community, you’ll find inspiration and practical tools you can use immediately, wherever your path takes you.

Here’s a brief taste of our amazing roster of speakers who have been living and working on the leading edge:

Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter MD, a family physician boarded in holistic integrative medicine and a community health advocate with the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living in Chicago, IL.

Matt Stannard, JD, a longtime economic justice, cooperatives, and democracy advocate, and currently the Policy Director at Commonomics USA and board member of the Public Banking Institute. Matt’s passion is economic justice, and he has recently formed the Materialized Empathy project to focus on the intersection of economic and ecological justice. He is the author of the soon-to-be-released book, The American Commons.

Tawana Petty is a mother, anti-racist social justice organizer, youth advocate, poet and author. She was born and raised in Detroit and is intricately involved in water rights, digital justice and visionary organizing work on the ground in Detroit. Among her long resume of organizing efforts, Tawana recently coordinated the North American Social Solidarity conference, which brought thousands of people collectively to Detroit to engage in visionary organizing, social solidarity economics and healing justice work.

You can find out more about this exciting weekend on our Conference webpage or Facebook Event page, or click here to register now!

We know that some of the best learning and new friendships occur in-between scheduled events, so we’ve allowed for plenty of small group activities and personal time too. We hope you’ll join us in saving the world, one coffee break at a time!

In community,
Cob Carleton
Conference Co-organizer (and Rabbit)

P.S. Please help us spread the word by sharing this event in your networks!

Inspiring words from Kurt Vonnegut graced the chalk board this weekend. Picture by Nik.

Incredible Summer to Come: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Inspiring words from Kurt Vonnegut graced the chalk board this weekend. Picture by Nik.

Inspiring words from Kurt Vonnegut graced the chalk board this weekend. Picture by Nik.

People come and go. It’s always been a transient state of being here for most in the ecovillage. It’s not everyone’s cuppa tea to carve out a life of one’s own in the wilds of Missouri. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When people go, they can be profoundly changed, taking a piece of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage with them.

Nik here, telling you about some of the incredible summer events floating our way this year. The visitor program is our way to attract people out there from all walks of life who wish to try and live freely outside the world they have been taught is the only way. We always hope that those people will stay and try to make this village and world a better place. But for those who have no intention of jumping into the wilds of Missouri ruralness for years to come, we also have workshops, courses, and conferences, where folks can get their toes wet, meet others interested in fostering community, and learn skills to bring a passion for change out into the world.

The most accessible class starts in early July: the “Ecovillage Experience, Skills for Living Lightly” course. Spend five days with Dancing Rabbit Ecovillagers to gather ideas, concepts, and skills for living lighter wherever you live. This course includes hands-on natural building, low-carbon gardens and kitchens, learning about our alternative energy systems, organic resource recycling, permaculture design, alternative economic systems, skills for human connection and cooperation, and creative fun – all part of life at Dancing Rabbit! The course is really geared to supporting you in creating a plan to bring your knowledge home with you. Ecovillage Experience runs from July 9 to 14, and is open to all individuals and families.

One of the most exciting events this summer for communitarians is the Midwest Sustainable Communities Conference, where members and would-be members of intentional communities around the nation gather for talks and workshops to strengthen our connections and movement.

When first starting a community, or even living in community for a long time, it can be easy to feel alone in our efforts. This 4th of July, join us in thinking of Inter-dependence Day, and come together to learn, network, explore, and inspire each other to create a more cooperative and sustainable world.

Workshops and networking sessions throughout the weekend will bring us new ideas for how to live sustainably, collectively. Program tracks will target the interests of aspiring community founders, current intentional community members, and folks wanting to deepen their understanding of the sustainability-community connection. Talks and casual conversation will bring us insight into the radical contributions community building can make to ending the worst social and ecological ills of our time. We’ll even do some climate change activism together for those who are interested. And of course spending the weekend in the midwest’s premier ecovillage, Dancing Rabbit, will help inspire hope: sustainable is not only possible, it is also here, now, and fun.

Workshops will include Starting an Intentional Community; Collective Carbon Farming and the Commons; Transforming Conflict in Connection with Restorative Circles; Simple Off-Grid Solar; Learning Good Consent: Patriarchy and Anti-Sexism; Climate Egalitarianism: Class, Climate, and New Economics; Holistic Animal Management; and many more. Check the conference webpage or Facebook event page for more updates.

For those struggling with the climate crisis, and even more so what can one person do about it, we have a resounding answer: Moved to Act, a 6 Day Intensive Workshop, August 12 to 18.

This intensive workshop is designed to help you be more effective impacting change at a wider systems level and a personal level. When most people turn away from crises, Moved to Act participants face them with courage. Moved to Act is an immersive program for assisting activists and culture creators in the transformation of our unjust social, economic & political structures to a more democratic, sustainable & cooperative world for all.

Direct activism training, public education, personal growth work, discussion of both the barriers and possibilities around addressing climate change, and learning about more low carbon lifestyle choices, all falls squarely in this program. If you want to imagine living your life knowing that your daily actions aren’t contributing to further climate disruption, then this is worth checking out. You can create real change and inspire others to join you.

Oh, did I mention Mathew Human of the Human Revolution will be performing during the training, a solo show on Aug 13th? It’s going to be huge.

And one of the biggest and best courses we’ve offered is returning this year, along with the energetic titan, Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture. The Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage will run September 17 to 25. It’s nine days of hands-on learning about creating a sustainable home and human habitat—and what better place to learn about sustainable human habitats than an ecovillage?

“I’m sure a PDC offered any ole place is as transforming and educational as this one was,” a student from last year said, “but here, at Dancing Rabbit, it was magical. I laughed, I cried, I ate better than ever, I opened myself up to new experiences and I just really felt the love that exists here.”

Bill and other inspirational teachers bring their vulnerability, integrity, and honesty to this course, and have helped so many students contact on a deeper level to permaculture and to life.

I hope one or a few of these courses or workshops, or others being offered here this year, interest you or someone you know. Come and learn, and take that knowledge with you…and make some life-long connections while you’re at it.

So, yes, people can take a bit of our hearts as they leave…but I try to see it as a bright lantern that shines in their life. I let that thought brighten my own lantern, and then it doesn’t feel so dark after they’ve gone. I’m happy knowing the world is a brighter place because of them and because of their time at Dancing Rabbit.

•                  •                 •

If you like Dancing Rabbit and want to support our work, consider joining @ClimateRide this year— you’ll enjoy a life-changing 4-5 day journey, while raising funds for your favorite non-profit and making a difference for the future Register at climateride.org and select Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage as a beneficiary!

•                  •                 •

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.

A bat house outside Mirth Lodge. Bats typically only have one offspring per year, so populations can be slow to grow. Bat houses give females a safe, warm place to raise their young. Photo by Nik.

Piles and Piles: A Weekly Update

A bat house outside Mirth Lodge. Bats typically only have one offspring per year, so populations can be slow to grow. Bat houses give females a safe, warm place to raise their young. Photo by Nik.

A bat house outside Mirth Lodge. Bats typically only have one offspring per year, so populations can be slow to grow. Bat houses give females a safe, warm place to raise their young. Photo by Nik.

April isn’t the most picturesque time of year in Northeast Missouri… True, a few daffodils are smattered near houses and tasty carpets of chickweed and henbit sit like green islands in the otherwise muddy landscape. The trees are still anxiously holding on to their blossoms, not sure if they are ready for another late frost. Snow boots have been switched out for mud boots, and losing a shoe in muddle suction is not unheard of. It’s also the time of year we all chip in for the spring cleaning frenzy called “Land Clean.”

Nik here, telling all y’all that when you are building a village, there are often piles, hither and dither—piles of lumber, firewood, building materials, fencing, small children, what-have-you. A dear friend and former Dancing Rabbit member once told me that on good days she saw Dancing Rabbit as beautiful, idyllic, and full of possibility; on bad days she just saw a bunch of piles!

Before the green takes over in the last cling of winter, I can see what she means.

On the morning of Land Clean, the entire village populace encircles and cheers, ready to take on the entire property and make it as beautiful as it can be on its best days.

Paths were mulched, seedlings and bulbs planted, fire pits readied, trees pruned, bridges built! Some tucked away places became more like archaeological digs than tidying up. There is so much history here: old straw bale notching apparatuses for making straw bale buildings simpler to construct, stove pipes yet to go up, old shelving from the hardware store, failed experiments in sustainability, and experiments that are not quite ready for their debut. What is history and what is just…junk? It’s not always an easy call.

It was also our first public tour of the year! A dozen or so curious folks took the bi-monthly tour of the ecovillage. A couple Canadians were passing through on a 6 month-long road trip and decided to stay the evening and regale stories of other communities in their travels.

Volunteerism is what community runs on. Everyone pulls their weight, yes, but volunteerism is above and beyond. It takes a lot to make an ecovillage run, just like any town. Many jobs and committees here are volunteer based—one sees a need, and they fill it. That’s why Land Clean works so well: it needs to happen and we make it fun.

Maybe the next morning I wouldn’t have called it “fun.” My muscles and hands ached from hauling piles from here and there. Mostly rocks and riprap…why did I choose rocks?

But, perhaps the piles aren’t all that bad, even on bad day. Far too early that morning, I woke achy and groggy. Stepping outside to greet the first light, I saw a flutter by my feet. Without my glasses all I could think was, “Great, a piece of trash, even after Land Clean…” I leaned down to pick it up and saw it wasn’t trash flapping in the wind, it was a little brown bat, grounded and trying to get back in the air.

Her wings were puckered, maybe from the chill, I thought, but I put on my work gloves and gently picked her up. I’ve always had an affinity for bats. Growing up in an old house, we had our share of errant bats that got stuck flying circles in rooms. Everyone else in my family was terrified, but as far back as I can remember I would catch them with a sheet or basket and take them outside. Somewhere I read that they needed to be up high to fly, since they couldn’t take off from the ground like birds—so I put them in a tree. That morning, the only tree near my house was a thorn-covered honey locust, so I looked around more. A perfect pile…just my height.

I placed the bat on top, and let her be.

One more advocate for piles? Maybe… but checking back later, she did get airborne again, so I can’t knock them as much anymore.

•                  •                 •

Want to come check out our piles in person? Join one of our 1-3 week visitor program sessions, or attend our 5 day Ecovillage Experience: Skills for Living Lightly course.

If you live in or near St. Louis, come meet some Rabbits at St. Louis Earth Day! On Sunday April 24th 10am – 6pm Tereza, Dan and Javi will be tabling and talking about DR— hope to see some of you there!

•                  •                 •

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.

Due to a severe lack of rocks where it's from, a blobby, inter-dimensional creature named Ostrich-tron comes but once a year to exchange sweet treats (apricots, chocolate, raisins, chow mein noodles...) for particularly beautiful rocks of our world! Photo by Nik

A Bounty of Growth (and a Blast from the Past): A Dancing Rabbit Update

Due to a severe lack of rocks where it's from, a blobby, inter-dimensional creature named Ostrich-tron comes but once a year to exchange sweet treats (apricots, chocolate, raisins, chow mein noodles...) for particularly beautiful rocks of our world! Photo by Nik

Due to a severe lack of rocks where it’s from, a blobby, inter-dimensional creature named Ostrich-tron comes but once a year to exchange sweet treats (apricots, chocolate, raisins, chow mein noodles…) for particularly beautiful rocks of our world! Photo by Nik

Happy Spring, Everybunny!

Welcome to the abundance of rain, chickweed, and shiitake mushrooms! The peepers are chorusing and the dandelions are flowering. Around town, outdoor work is picking up momentum as the gardens and warrens are tended to in between showers. It was lovely to walk through the village this week and see all of the gardens that were getting some love from my smiling neighbors.

Katherine here this week with a few DR snapshots for you.

Construction has really picked up over around Mirth Lodge where Thomas has seemingly put up a two story building in only a matter of days. The new shop that will be home to wood working tools (and toys) has actually been growing around the warren for many years while preparing its rise to glory. As timbers were split, chiseled, notched, and pegged, the gizmo dwelling grew until one day it was just “there”, a great tower of elm, locust, walnut, hickory, and about any other wood that hands could be laid on.

Growth is all around which means that we are once again preparing for our annual population bloom of Visitor Season. Cubbies are being cleaned out in the common house and tent platforms repaired around the land for the many folks that will travel to NEMO to try a little slice of our life. Our slice includes a 1-3 week stay at the village, with various workshops provided to give a more comprehensive perspective of our going-ons. Alternative energy and construction pair with inner sustainability and communication for just a tiny taste of how our community thrives.

The buzzing of the village is so alive and the anticipation of the future has me reflecting on the past. So many wonderful people have graced our land with their presence in the last 18 years and it is fun to look back at their pictures, words, and memories. Here is a blast from the past that reminds me that no matter the changing cast, something intrinsically good in our home has remained the same.

“This is Nicole, writing about 2005’s first full week of spring! Lots of new beginnings and premier events…

Ironweed reports that they have moved the first of their seedlings into cold frames. Folks have started to garden in earnest, inciting run-ins with some pesky plants and critters that I associate with the warmer seasons. Yesterday I was working in my newly-named Taco Glocken Garten, and I saw my first tick of the year. While Tamar was transplanting raspberries a few days ago, she dug an innocuous-looking twig out of the ground, and later, after her face turned into a scary, puffy red mask, realized that it was poison ivy. Frank Russell, the grandfather of one of her fiddle students, came to the rescue with some jewelweed tea he had in his freezer. Tamar is eternally grateful.

Speaking of violins, and music in general, Laura, Tamar, Jacque and I have begun working on a quartet that I picked up earlier this winter. Laura and Tamar are playing violin, Jacque is playing flute, and I’m on cello. Our first few runs through sounded like an infernal dirge, but once we picked up the tempo a bit, the parts started coming together. I am optimistic about our future prospects.

Easter was an exciting day for us. Due to a series of events that had transpired over the past few weeks, many of us suspected that we would not be receiving a visit from the Easter Bunny. Earlier this year, Mr. Bunny called us to express his delight at our decision to name our community after him. He was so glad that someone had finally recognized him as a real artist: “Everyone always says ‘Ooo, look, it’s the Easter Bunny. Hippity Hoppity!’ But I’m not hopping! I’m dancing!”

It just so happened that he was planning to relocate his egg-painting operations, and rural Missouri seemed like the perfect low-profile sort of place, of course there were other locales in the running, and everything had to be very hush-hush, but he had to admit that we were at the top of his list…on and on he went until whoever it was who answered the phone interrupted and said that, to the best of her knowledge, Dancing Rabbit was not named after the Easter Bunny. Our relationship with Mr. Bunny deteriorated rapidly.

So, when Easter morning rolled around, none dared to hope that there would be treats for the denizens of DR. Laura and I were sitting forlornly on the porch swing when Laura gasped and said, “Could it be?!?” In the distant mists, we spied a strange blob making a mournful keening sound, like a lost whale. It wandered closer, and Laura said, “It is! It’s Ostrich-tron! My Polish grandmother told me about Ostrich-tron, but I never believed her!”

As it bobbed and weaved slowly to and fro, Ostrich-tron kept dropping rocks on the ground. I thought that maybe it was making those sad noises because it kept losing its rocks, so I picked one up and gave it back, and in return, Ostrich-tron gave me a chocolate egg and some chow mein noodles! We helped Ostrich-tron collect its rocks, and after giving us lots of treats, it drifted away. We waved goodbye, a little sad that our new friend was leaving us so soon, but hopeful that Ostrich-tron would visit us again next Easter.”

I am happy to report that the portal from the Tron-world has indeed opened (to my knowledge) every year since. This year’s exchange proved lucrative for all parties as Ostrich-tron bestowed raisins, carrots, and what can only be described as “giddy chirps”, on expectant rock patrons. It is good to see that even in the Tron-universe, plastic bags and twist ties may be reused for giving away goodies.

Reading back through our collective community memory, I feel secure in seeing so many similarities to today’s existence. Gardens and weeds will remain a constant as our traditions live on through folks who may never really know of their origins. Like the fruit trees that prosper only to die back with blight, so does our population ebb and flow through the seasons and years; people come and share with us a new song that may remain in our circles long after they have moved on to the next village of their journey.

Every choice that an individual makes affects the whole of the organism we know as Earth. If you would like to know why we are making the choices that we are, please come for a visit, stop by for a Saturday tour, or inquire upon your curiosities with the myriad of media forms known in the interwebs. Smoke signals or tweets, someone around here can answer your question, or if not, at least punt it to another Rabbit who can. I may not know too much about the twitter and the facies* but I sure can chat you up on the path or reply to a nice snail mail inquiry.

Until next time, thanks for keeping up with us and may your Spring Bring a Bounty of Growth!

*Editor’s note: We think she means selfies.

•                  •                 •

Want to learn great stuff at Dancing Rabbit? Our second Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at DR is happening Sept 17-25! We’re teaming up with Midwest Permaculture again, and will cover the full PDC curriculum, with creative and practical techniques for designing abundant food, water, energy and housing systems, plus more in-depth info on what it takes to create authentic and long-lasting community. Find out more on our Workshops and Events page!

•                  •                 •

If you like Dancing Rabbit and want to support our work, consider joining @ClimateRide this year and enjoy a life-changing 4-5 day journey, while raising funds for your favorite non-profit and making a difference for the future. Learn more and register here!

•                  •                 •

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.

Can that little thing really make all that noise? This maybe-not-a-peeper isn't telling. Photo by Nik.

Frog Songs and Co-ops: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Can that little thing really make all that noise? This maybe-not-a-peeper isn't telling. Photo by Nik.

Can that little thing really make all that noise? This maybe-not-a-peeper isn’t telling. Photo by Nik.

All the windows of all the houses open on a certain evening every Spring. I know it’s not technically Spring, but the tree frogs’ song that flooded my tiny house told me Spring is definitively here.

Nik here. I stepped out into the last of the sunset and the frog chorus enveloped me. It’s a sound so synonymous with the warm season here in the Midwest, I become almost deaf to it by June; but that first frog song night, that moment is something to treasure.

After a long time, one can become deaf to a lot of sounds. I find myself lost in work only to look up to see someone who has asked me a question…twice! Kids can run howling circles around parents who don’t blink an eye. Some people sing flat for decades. Can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

What comes along with spring peepers, is Spring cleaning. I remember hauling an entire curb of junk out of my old apartment during the open window season, but now I take out a shopping bag of trash every month…and even that could seem like a toppling amount to some of my Rabbit neighbors. It’s amazing how deaf I’d become to how much trash I could make before I moved here.

But the big difference is in the drop in my recycling… the number of beer bottles I overlooked last year was huge. There are huge ecological changes we make in our lives, but we can still be deaf to the personal detriments we allow to perpetuate. A recently formed Addiction Group has been added to the available tools for personal change here in community, and it has shifted a number of people’s relationships to use and abuse of whatever their vice may be.

The first bonfire of the season was last weekend. Even though it seemed much more low-key than the ones at season’s end, and the Addiction Group’s influence may have played a part in that, we still had an amazing evening of laughter and re-connection. I loved seeing the smiling faces of my friends, neighbors, and community members illuminated in the orange glow. The color of summer bonfire glow is so different from winter wood stove glow—why is that?

Other small changes are a plethora of new co-ops forming here and there. The kitchen co-op in the Common House has been resurrected, feeding full-time and part-time members. One of the fundamental legs of community is the meal, and without an active kitchen co-op in the Common House, it wasn’t so easy for new residents and visitors to know where they might get their deliciousness needs met! There were five established kitchen co-ops at Dancing Rabbit (Ironweed, Sky Kitchen, Thistledown, the Critters, and the Mercantile) but there are limits, population-wise and dietary-wise, to these co-ops. An open, common co-op has been long overdue, and I hope we can feed many new folks for years to come!

The Milkweed Mercantile is shifting from an LLC to a cooperative, and the work put into that shift has been monumental! All who are involved are learning a lot, and excited about shifting the way we think about business models. The co-op system is really what Dancing Rabbit has been championing…using less energy and resources in exchange for more cooperation and innovation. From the vehicle co-op, to our internal power co-op, to a gym co-op, to even the “toilet” co-op.

Working with others to make our lives better has been the most eye-opening part of my life here. Nothing is taken for granted if you are a part of making everything happen… And the best part is, you don’t have to make everything better on your own. Even yourself.

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 Want to check out our co-ops in person? Come for a visit! To apply for one of our 2016 visitor sessions, click here!

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If you like Dancing Rabbit and want to support our work, consider joining @ClimateRide this year and enjoy a life-changing 4-5 day journey, while raising funds for your favorite non-profit and making a difference for the future. Learn more and register 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.

Dan captivates the crowd at karoake night in Memphis, Missouri. Picture by Illly.

Community of Influence: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Dan captivates the crowd at karoake night in Memphis, Missouri. Picture by Illly.

Dan captivates the crowd at karaoke night in Memphis, Missouri. Picture by Illly.

Sometimes, the entire character of an area becomes profoundly changed by a single entity. Something as small as a new family pulling up in their moving van, or something as large as a casino moving in to your hometown. “There goes the neighborhood,” someone will utter, no matter what.

For me, it was growing up in a town defined by architecture. It was watching long-time businesses go under when a nearby town became the “Walmart town”. It was the growing number of unfamiliar faces downtown who were in town to see a play at the theater. It was hearing that there weren’t enough restaurants to support the amount of people. It was hearing people grumble when a Mexican family came in and opened a traditional restaurant. It was hearing the same grumblings when a Hmong family started a flower farm, and driving by I couldn’t see anything but beautiful rows and rows of color.

Nik here, writing this week from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, orbiting around the quiet Missouri town of Rutledge, pop. 109. Once defined by the passenger trains that rolled through, Rutledge is now well defined by the incredible Zimmerman’s General Store, which carries almost everything under the sun; the summer flea market; and by the intentional communities (Dancing Rabbit, Sandhill Farm, and Red Earth Farms). 

In an otherwise very pastoral slice of American pie, it is almost impossible to argue that the intentional communities have a profound effect on the surrounding area. (For those who believe in the word of the internet, Rutledge’s Wikipedia entry mentions the three communities in the second paragraph.) The smaller influences are what I would like to focus on.

One quiet part of DR culture that I am most proud of is our midwives. Scientifically trained, caring, and knowledgeable in the simpler and less stressful ways of childbirth, local families, Mennonite and otherwise, seek out their help and leave happy and assured, even those who were very wary of treading into the “hippie commune”.

Other ways traditional medicine shows up here: perhaps the only licensed acupuncturist outside of Kirksville, for one, and the wide variety of homeopathic and herbal remedies lining the shelves at Zimmerman’s.

An entire village can’t spring up without a number of extremely talented carpenters and woodworkers. Just walk into the Milkweed Mercantile and marvel at the craftsmanship, especially the Bed & Breakfast upstairs. Or the intricate joinery and woodwork of Strawtron, or the bordering-on-art details of Casa Caterpillar. When I went to the Handworks Tool Expo last Spring with a number of other woodworkers and builders from the area, we all spoke the same language with folks from all over the country. Politics, worldview, and dietary preferences never came into the conversation. I love that about artisan skills…people take to them for so many different reasons, but they all meet over the love of creating useful and beautiful things.

Connecting on these more immediate issues always makes talking about bigger issues easier. Even when there’s no hope of changing someone’s mind, it can create a ground of respect where both sides can begin to have a dialogue instead of just yelling into a wall. Many people around my hometown love their Walmart, and maybe it made their lives easier to buy things. The truth is bigger than bad and good; for some it was a good thing, just as for my reality, it was a bad thing, seeing my friend’s family struggle to keep their business alive in that town.

Residents of the Rutledge Communities and the Possibility Alliance near La Plata do a good amount of advocacy work as well, like the Climate March and Climate Ride, Veterans for Peace, and the Superhero Ride to name a few, and while there are plenty of people who may disagree with those causes, they do change the world we all live in, and I admit, it feels good to be part of that change.

The communities influence the area in smaller ways as well. The best example that comes to mind is when a group of us go out to socialize or just have fun on the town—bowling in Memphis or Kirksville, dancing, the ArtWalk in Fairfield, or just last weekend we braved the karaoke microphone at Amigos Grill in beloved Memphis.

I’m used to our group getting strange looks; we’re usually dressed a bit strangely and are overly boisterous, lacking some bit of social decorum that society puts in place…but everyone knows the Rabbits. The MC at karaoke kept the place swinging even though we were the only ones left at the end of the night. I highly recommend coming out there on a Saturday night for excellent margaritas and general silliness.

No place lives frozen in time, as much as we’d like it to. My hometown is vastly different than it was during my childhood, some things better, some things not so much. We can be the change we want to see in the world, even if the world will never become exactly what we want. But you will still make a change when you put ourselves out there, even when people give you funny looks.

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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.