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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