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.
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.
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.
I blame everything on Ben. See, back in 2013 or so, he wrote a blog post about Schlepp Day, the hellish migration he and his family embarked on to move all of their worldly possessions to a yurt at the top of a hill. He described how all of his skills — mental, physical, and interpersonal — were put to the test. He mentioned communing with some cuddly critters, sharing some wine with his neighbors, and he even described his hugelkultur beds, a permaculture technique I had just experimented with in a dusty little west Texas garden I was tending at the time, using mesquite logs and prickly pear. I have since learned that Ben is an excellent cook, but that day, he dished out some Critter-chicken soup for my soul, and he is the clearest inspiration to visit Dancing Rabbit that I can recall. (Don’t tell him I said that.)
My wheels had been turning for years on the prospect of joining an intentional community, and I had a list of favorites I wanted to check out. It included the usual suspects, lots of well-known communities, but Dancing Rabbit was right at the top. Long story short, this little village in northeast Missouri captured my heart during my visitor session. I even cancelled my plans to visit another community, so that I could begin my residency process here. At this point, I’ve lived at DR for five years, and I have no regrets. My name is Vick, by the way.
On my first day here, I met a plucky little guy called Toon. While he helped me set up my tent, I learned that he used to be stationed at Goodfellow, the Airforce base in my hometown, and we exchanged the first of many high-fives. In the years that followed, we also shared lots of jokes, ruminations about life, and many a meal consisting of twice-rotted venison, (maybe I’ll tell you about that particular Toon delicacy another time).
A few days later, I received a gift: a freshly laid egg, deposited in my dirty clothes hamper by one of Sara and Ted’s chickens. I’ll never know whether her intentions were romantic, or merely neighborly, because I didn’t give her much of a chance to explain herself. I came upon her unawares, as she was sitting on a folding chair inside my tent. I looked at her. She looked at me. I said “holy ****!”, and she set about a whirlwind of wing flapping that can only be described as a conniption fit. I laughed so hard that I didn’t even mind cleaning splattered bird droppings off of every conceivable surface, including my pillow.
Toward the end of my visit, I had an altercation with a man who I have since come to call one of my best friends. He invited me to have lunch with him. (Side note: I’ll never forget what Toon made that day; what came to be known as “interesting soup”, consisting of apples, cucumbers, mostly raw potatoes, and a rubberized rabbit that he caught in a trap near his strawbale cottage, all stewed in some beef bone broth that he had left sitting in his cubby at room temperature for several days. Toon was known for his adventurous cuisine, or as I like to call it, queezine.) Anyway, this fellow asked me what felt like a handful of intrusive questions, made some, what seemed to me, hubris-filled judgements about me, and gave me the distinct impression that he felt entitled to single-handedly decide whether or not I would get to move to Dancing Rabbit. Since then, I’ve learned what a big heart he has, and I realized shortly thereafter that he simply wanted to look after the best interests of everyone involved, including me. That conversation was my first experience with treating “my business” as “our business”; it’s a concept that takes some getting used to, but if you want to live in community, there’s no avoiding it.
I’ve been helped by my neighbors, more times and in more ways than I can count. When I bought a house here, for example, Hassan installed the electrics for me. He refused to let me pay him, instead insisting that I pay it forward. (I still don’t know if I really have, and maybe I never will, but I suppose there’s no such thing as an end to offering kindness to others.) My friends Matt and Carolyn, (or Mattie and lil’-c as I like to call them), pulled me out of my malaise more than once, while I had to endure a months-long challenge in my personal life, when a relative of mine was dying with cancer. I have learned countless things, great and small, from each and every one of my neighbors, big and small. (For example: one of the local kids, Althea, taught me about a certain kind of flower, the petals of which can be eaten, and taste something like a 9-volt battery. It’s called the Szechuan button, or the electric daisy, or the toothache plant. You might have a chance to get a taste of one, when you visit us.)
So, why did I stick around? It’s simple: I love the people. Don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS of cool things about living here. But the world is full of cool things to see and do. The world isn’t full, at least in my experience, of people that you can truly call your companions in life.
If you’ve been longing to meet some like-minded folks, who share your passion for environmental sustainability, natural building, homeschooling kids, or anything else along those lines, then visiting Dancing Rabbit is the thing to do. I remember the siren call of my old comfort zone, beckoning me to give up on my dreams and carry on with the way things are, but the magic of this community is much stronger. Don’t take my word for it. Sign up to spend some time with us soon. I’ve loved every minute of living here, and I believe you might too.
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.
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.
My name is Liz, and I’m building the structure of my dreams at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, using lots of natural building methods and materials. This is my story.
When my adult son, Graham, came here to live, I was willing to let our relationship develop in a freeform way. We gardened together for the first year, while working in Cob’s 8000-square-foot garden. We talked while we worked, and our conversations were the hidden treasure of that season. We hatched a plan to contribute to the village’s housing supply, in ways that would encourage affordability and cooperation, while earning sweat equity. Teaching permaculture classes, and supporting a more robust work exchange program for the village, were also high on our list.
Our plan took many forms, most of which didn’t come to fruition over the following fall and winter, but along the way we learned a lot about co-op models for everything from raising seed money to growing food. We also learned a lot about natural building and design, as it pertains to Missouri’s hot summers and cold winters. Going to morning coffee over at the Mercantile during the winter was invaluable, because of all the casual conversations I was able to have with members of my community who have built structures in the village over the years. I learned from them what worked, and what didn’t.
Finally, in the spring, we caught a break and I was able to buy a partially completed strawbale building located in the neighborhood where we hope to form a sub-community within the village. The purpose of the building expanded from a family residence to a community hub building (hence its name, SubHub), where sub-community members can cook and eat together, and have access to a shower, clothes washer, woodfired boiler and a large pantry. There will also be a large room for classes, meetings and creative project gatherings. The kitchen will be large, and open for cooking and food production classes (fermentation and canning, for example).
Soon after I bought the building (and before too much panic and overwhelm could settle in), several experienced builders in the village offered their assistance with our project, and it became the focal point for Dancing Rabbit’s 2019 natural building workshops. Hassan, a community member and one of the workshop instructors, helped us to finish the foundation and frame the walls in preparation for the students’ arrival. Another village member, Kyle, worked with us on planning for all the different systems in the house, including: plumbing, electrical, radiant heating tubes in the floor, solar-heated water, the woodfired boiler, and a mini-split for additional cooling. He also helped us understand how these systems are implemented in a strawbale house. Hassan and Kyle even teased out a solution for how we could add two sleeping alcoves under the roof, (which was very challenging, given that the designs of the three prior owners of the unfinished house I bought did not include a second story, and the roof had already been constructed). After three weeks of assessing the building, we decided that our goal for the spring/summer/fall season would be to complete the foundation and walls, finish the exterior and interior plastering, and install the windows and doors, to enclose the building and protect it from winter weather.
Thirteen people attended the natural building workshop in July, with Hassan and Julia as the teachers. SubHub came alive with so many people laughing, joking and working together to stack bales and plaster them with clay and lime. The weather was hot and humid, but luckily we had a roof to work under, and plenty of cold drinks from the Milkweed Mercantile, Dancing Rabbit’s very own eco-tavern.
About half of the group was women of different ages. I watched as some of the women jumped in right away, while others stayed back until they were comfortable volunteering for things. By the second day, everyone was working, up to their individual energy level, and no one was left out of the process. I learned many details about how to make plaster look finished and professional, and about how different ratios of clay, sand and straw are mixed for each layer of the plaster: more straw for the first coat of plaster so it sticks better, and more sand for a finishing layer.The biggest change I’ve noticed is how much patience I have these days; how little my feathers are ruffled by a setback or a change in plans. I think this is because I am doing what I’m meant to be doing, (as well as my meditation practice, and because I feel supported by my community).
What has it been like working with my son on SubHub, over six weeks? There have been times when I have marveled at what he knows, that I didn’t know he knew, like his carpentry skills, for example. (I had forgotten the kid’s carpentry classes that he took as a homeschooler, and his time in Wales helping to build an environmental center). He also had many carryover skills that he gained in the village last year from a timber framing workshop. There are times when he gets frustrated with a process, or a result, and we are able to move through it fairly quickly, which I attribute greatly to the skills we’ve both learned while living in community.
I’m still elated, after the natural building workshop. I feel so much joy in creating a space for others to join me in learning new skills, and my heart is full of gratitude for so much help from total strangers; of course, by the end of the workshop they weren’t strangers at all!
If your dream is to create a natural building of your own design with your own two hands, join us for our next workshop from September 12-15. Hassan, Liz and the students will be building a living roof over the west entrance of SubHub, along with lots of other cool elements. Space in the workshop is limited, so confirm your spot today!
Howdy y’all. Ben here, writing to you on a cool morning from the mosquito-veiled hedgerows and hillsides of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, when I should be weeding and mulching. With the consistent occurrence of oppressive heat, I would normally use this time to accomplish something tangible, like raking mulch, moving animal paddocks, or beaming nice thoughts at my kale, but instead I’m regurgitating my thoughts for the week through this newsletter to be consumed by you, dear reader.
This past week has been fairly hot, though not the hottest we’ve seen or will see. After some fairly frequent rains, things have begun to dry off a bit. Out and about in the wider community, the hayfields have all been clipped, tedded, raked, and baled. For the first time in six years of raising dairy animals, we actually have hay up in a loft well before we need it. This more closely resembles my definition of insurance, rather than the form of legalized gambling that an actual insurance plan offers. That said, I’ve been having a hard time proving that I’m self-employed, for purposes of paying off an emergency room visit from April. If I could only get one state employee out here to see what it is I do all day, it might be clearer that I do, in fact, work for a living. But they’d have to catch me between the hours of 5:30 AM and 9:30 AM, because after that is my six-hour, unpaid coffee break.
If I weren’t doing this, I’d be just about caught up on my pasture management goals for last week. Oh well. What’s the point of a goal I can actually achieve anyways? After years of observation, consideration, mistakes, and reading expensive books, I’m working on some exciting (to me, at least) strategies for maximizing small spaces for animal nutrition and fertility dispersal, which require minimal fossil fuel use. This year, we’re shifting pigs, chickens, goats, and a cow on paddocks like a giant chess game. We follow up one critter with another to complete the graze, while letting the fowl act like little manure spreaders, and scything down and overseeding any unpalatable grasses and forbs. It’s not like many of these ideas haven’t been kicked around by others for decades, but like so many things that involve being married to a piece of land, implementing tools and strategies such as chicken tractors, and intensive rotational grazing, are awfully site specific. The unobservant farmer can take a wagonload of a hundred chickens and make nothing but a mess if all they have done is read some books.
Unlike factory farming, pasture-based animal agriculture requires that the steward/farmer be fully engaged with all variables in their project, everyday. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for other types of fun, but having fun seems overrated in light of the possibility of being held in a detention center, or running out of water (along with 4 million of your close neighbors), or having essential medical services stripped away — all things which are happening now.
Yes, it is very hot, and I have a baseline distrust of folks who say they don’t mind the heat. Where are all these people at 3 o’clock in the afternoon? A little warmth is nice, and some excruciating heat at the right time can do a lot to ripen some of my favorite vegetables. (I’ve been having a recurring dream about eating okra.) But when someone says they’ve spent a season in Costa Rica, and they feel cold when the temperature dips below 60 ( I meet these people every year), that someone ought to spend a day loading and unloading wagon of hay in the Midwest. Especially if they consume beef or dairy. For vegans, I also recommend picking green beans some August afternoon.
Some well-designed irrigation infrastructure has helped me in my food growing endeavors, but so often it seems like my ability to work easefully outdoors all boils down to my choice in clothing. Firstly, and this is merely my fashion opinion, you got to wear shoes and a hat. Got to. With sturdy enough shoes and a big sombrero, most other clothes would be considered superfluous, were it not for our totally sensible and reasonable social norms. I observe that sometimes people show up at the ecovillage, see all the barefoot kids, and feel like they’ve been lied to their whole lives; like it’s just Big Shoe trying to earn a buck off the soles of us rubes who own and wear shoes regularly. Children are lighter than us. They exert less pressure on their feet. This place, like many rural areas, is speckled with dropped thorns, old fence wire, the occasional rusty nail, and excreta. Just don’t do it, folks. Both my children have lost a toenail, and both have stepped on honey locust thorns. I’ve performed minor home surgery on the older one, when her toe had a difficult meeting with a piece of hardware cloth.
This doesn’t mean one has to buy fancy shoes. Chaco, (and yes, I own two pairs of Chacos), charges twice as much money for essentially half of a shoe. I got a pair because you can send them in for repair, but after a couple of weeks without them, I ordered a spare secondhand pair, because it was going to be another month ’til the first pair got back. They were super nice on the phone. (I am not expecting an endorsement from the fine people at Chaco.) If I were to promote any line of footwear for homesteaders, it’d have to be Crocs, because they can be easily duct taped back together, they float, they clean up easy, they’re well-ventilated, and nobody ever looks good in them. The best feature is that weird little strap you can use to shift between Action Mode and Lounge Mode. The only drawback is that they can literally fill up with manure — not great for working in the chicken wagon. (I am expecting an endorsement from the fine people at Crocs.)
As far as plastic clothing goes, shoes are about all I can handle. Nowadays, people are selling “technical garments”, but truth in marketing would describe these as “plastic pants”. If you technically sweat, I technically wouldn’t ensconce myself in a well-tailored ziploc bag.It’s like being marinated in one’s own bodily fluids. Go for cotton and linen. As a fair-skinned person, who is constantly up in some fine debris like hay or dried chicken manure, a long-sleeve, light-colored cotton shirt, a size or two too big, is my go-to for any type of field work. I like to complete the ensemble with a pair of underwear, which when not underneath a pair of pants is just some shorts without a pocket. Pockets are overrated. Just like zippers. When I have pockets, I put stuff in them, and I lose some of it. Then my pants get heavy, start falling down, and when I’m in town trying to find exact change for my ice cream, hunting for a dime, nickel, and two pennies, I shed little flecks of lint, hay, and dry manure. (Not to mention pieces of old corn and other weird stuff.) Better to just eliminate pockets altogether, I say. That way, nobody is constantly checking their phone to find out the weather, when it’s clearly hot and gonna stay that way for the next two and a half months.
I top the whole thing off with a wide brimmed straw hat, complete with chin cord, that I scored at the flea market for a buck. The chin cord is essential to keep the hat on my head when its breezy, because I gotta work in the wind, too. I’m also a fan of sunglasses. Really dark ones help me not only look cool, but actually feel cooler when its 99 degrees out. I met somebody once who swore they could strengthen their eyes just by squinting into the sun. Don’t ever do that.
My kids are something of fashion icons themselves. My daughter will wear almost anything, provided its impractical, gauzy, dirty, and falling apart. She’ll stick to an outfit for about two weeks or more, until she comes across something equally inappropriate for all conditions, like a hairnet fashioned out of an onion bag, knee-high fur boots, and my nasty old basketball jersey, all tied together with a poorly stitched satchel and some nylon baling twine. If you’re looking for an outfit that says: “homeschooled at the ecovillage; my best friends are grubs and caterpillars”, then this one’s for you. Arthur on the other hand, donned a sporty ensemble to the pond yesterday evening consisting of some scratched-up swimming goggles and a comically long stick. When he got into the pond, after walking a few hundred yards, he removed the goggles so he could “swim better”, but kept the stick. This playful little number just screams, “I’m going to gulp some pond water and chew cattail fluff, while my dad updates his project list from the dock”. Ooh la la.
Now of course, there’re always a few people who secretly (or openly) have no desire for clothing whatsoever. Arthur is like this, with the exception of tight pajama pants. (The tighter the better.) Sometimes Dancing Rabbit will get confused with the local nudist RV camp just outside of Memphis, but I assure you, we are not the same folks. If you’d like to leave yourself completely exposed to biting insects, solar radiation, and the fixed gaze of your clothesless comrades, I suggest looking them up. At Dancing Rabbit, I’d at least recommend a thick protective layer of dirt, if nothing else. I learned this technique from the pigs. I’m beginning to suspect it’s perfectly natural to cover up with whatever you got, and ignore the fashion judgements of others. I still smell like a herd of pigs just the same, but that doesn’t matter to anybody anyhow, and that’s something I really appreciate about my wider community.
If you’d like a chance to learn a thing or two about rotational grazing, gardening, and being an observant steward of the land, along with all the other cool things happening at Dancing Rabbit (including cutting edge fashion innovation), come visit us for a couple of weeks. You’ll meet lots of interesting people, enjoy some delicious homemade food, and get to swim in our natural pond.
As the van pulled onto the driveway and past the “sing” signs, I could feel a knowing and growing excitement in the pit of my stomach. This was it: Village Fire, the largest singing event I had ever attended, last year. Now I was here again.
Prairie here, to tell you about my experience singing last June, and my pure excitement for Singing Rabbit, our very own singing event here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which gathers this Labor Day weekend!
When my family drove past the greeters, my heart began to beat faster. I had already recognized two of the people. As soon as the engine was off, I flew out the door to hug the people I knew and introduce myself to those I didn’t. I felt right at home by the time the opening circle began. (Someone even let me use their air pump for my mattress because I had forgotten mine.)
After an introduction, full of gratitude and excitement, the first song was taught. My heart felt more ready to sing than my vocal cords, as I hadn’t practiced or prepared for this beforehand, but that didn’t seem to matter. Everyone’s voices flowed beautifully together, even if I fell out of key or tried a harmony that didn’t resonate. The richness of the circle simultaneously allowed for individual experimentation and deep connection with one another.
There are so many stories I could share from my latest singing adventure. The one that jumps out most prominently for me was when I taught a song to more than fifty people. There was a growing pressure in me to teach a song that I wrote last winter. A few friends of mine from Dancing Rabbit and elsewhere had heard it and sung it with me before, but now I wanted to feel it expand with the voices of dozens of people. I already taught two other originals that day to smaller groups, and received grateful and encouraging reception, but nothing could prepare me to teach such a large crowd.
It was the last night-circle of the event; I knew it was now or never. I stood, crossed to the center of the tent, and walked around the fire. My hands were shaking. I tried to remain steady as I met the eyes around me. I jumped right in and introduced the song, (forgetting to do the same for myself). I was surprised how clear and strong my voice sounded to my own ears. I led the first and second parts even as I heard little whispers of doubt in my mind: People aren’t interested, you’re not teaching it well, they don’t like the song.I kept singing. And so did everyone else. The heat from the fire, coupled with everyone’s gazes, felt overwhelming. I belatedly remembered the third part, and with the last of my cracking voice, taught it. I could barely speak by the time we ended the song. But I finally did it.
I was relieved to sit back in the circle and feel people’s eyes slide away from mine. The silence after a song feels profound and respectful, like we are honoring the space it opened in our hearts to let it in. I wanted to pitch my song out of my brain and into an ocean far away, so I didn’t have to recall my failure at teaching it, but I soon forgot my troubles as the next person stood to teach a song of their own, ready to show us all where they had been in a moment of their lives, through words, melody, and rhythm.
On the next (and last) day of Village Fire, people thanked me for what I had shared the previous night. At the time, I received the gratitude alongside my own scathing inner dialogue about my failure as a song leader. Now, though, I see things in a new light. I will never teach that song the way I did that night, because I am a different person now than I was then. All that was within me was held in those moments, never to be experienced exactly the same way again. Even if I felt nervous, doubtful and overwhelmed, I still tried my best. I moved with the fear and remembered the value that singing embodies for me: it captures the essence of humanness, raw and unimpeded by culture, race, age, and beliefs. I think everyone can sing, whether they like the way they sound or not.
All of these joyous moments and memories are held cherished in my heart, craving for more to be added — it makes the next two months of waiting for Singing Rabbit excruciating, as well as delightful, as I practice letting my inner songs weave their way out. I can’t wait to sit around the fire in my very own home and ecovillage to share songs, as well as community, in our intimate gathering of voices. I don’t plan to sound perfect for Singing Rabbit, and I hope to see you there too, with all your imperfections.
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.
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.