This sketch by Thomas gives a closer look at the barn that you can help build during the Timber Frame Workshop!

It Could Hold Two Rhinos!

Thomas here, with a wee-little update about a project you can come be part of. This June we’ll be timber-framing a very stout barn on a site overlooking the beauty of the Long Branch Creek and some of the best sunsets this world has to offer.

In hopes that you’ll realize how incredibly fun and educational this will all be, I’d like to share more details about the design of the structure itself and our plans for hosting an awesome workshop experience. Sorry if there is too much timber frame jargon… it’s all simple, sensible stuff really.

This sketch by Thomas gives a closer look at the barn that you can help build during the Timber Frame Workshop!

The “work” of the workshop will be focused on the layout, cutting, fitting and raising of the three major bent assemblies that make up the core of this barn’s frame. We’ll work mainly with hand tools and learn to keep all edge tools extremely sharp. Most of the timbers are Douglas Fir. The posts and sills are around 8”x8” in cross section and tie beams are 8”x12”. Basic load calculations for the strength of framing members indicate that, with the hay mow packed with bales, the central tie beam needs to bear the weight equivalent of two rhinoceroses!!! Fourth rule of successful barn design: make the mow floor strong so the rhinos don’t crush the goats. Safety first!

Speaking of rules, we’ll be learning and using the “square rule” system of laying out (drawing accurately on the timbers) all the interlocking intersections of posts, beams, braces, etc. The majority of these joints will be standard 2” mortises and tenons with 1” pegs to help hold it all together. The three tie beams across the frame will have long tenons clean through, through the post mortises and then some to the outside, then double-wedged to make for a very rugged, “New-Madrid-earthquake-won’t-get-my barn” kind of anchor joint.

This barn seems huge to me by Dancing Rabbit standards, but it’s just the right size for the all the variety of animals and stuff that needs to live under the 1000+ square feet of roof coverage. There’s much more to describe about the building and workshop plan, but I’d rather you just register for the workshop and join us for the fun. We’ll be practicing and learning timeless skills; making wood chips and friends all day long; offering evening excursions into other traditions of wood craft and unique ecovillage culture; and of course timber framing a barn to shelter many a splendored critter.

Other Useful Links about Timber Framing:

Historic American Timber Joinery (by Sobon)

Light and Heavy Timber Framing Made Easy (by Hodgson)

The Forestry Forum- Timber framing / Log Construction message board


We hope you will join us this June for this Timber Frame Workshop  Register now to save $150!


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.

We're saving you a seat, so come and grab a plate!

Your Deep Dive into Community

If you’d like to come experience life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, consider applying for our Sustainable Living Visitor Program! In one of six sessions happening between April and October this year, you can join us in a one- or two-week deep dive into community, and learn eco-friendly skills and systems to take home with you. The many aspects of living a more sustainable lifestyle that you’ll discover here could change your life.

Would you like us to save you a seat at community potluck this summer?

Take the plunge and apply for a visitor session now! Meet like-minded people while getting your hands dirty in the garden or working on a natural building. Stimulate your brain with high-quality authentic human connection, and unearth how you can co-create a sustainable future. Come away with a positive lasting impact on your relationship with yourself, other people, and the earth. Plus you just might discover that you too want to call this little patch of prairie home!

Come live, learn, and play with the Rabbits of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Besides all the workshops and work parties that happen during a visitor session, there are lots of ways to fill your free time. From song circles and Ultimate frisbee games to community potluck and drinks at the Milkweed Mercantile, to group meditation and qigong, or just hanging out and talking with like-minded Rabbits and visitors, there’s something for everyone.

Respectfully,
Your Friends at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

P.S. There are still a few special discount slots left – if you apply now you can get $200 off for the April 8 – 22 session!

 

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Help Us Spread the Word + Special Offer

We know our visitor program has a profound impact on people who attend, because so many of them have told us so over the years. This year we’re having a harder time getting the word out about it, though, due to Facebook’s algorithm changes and new Google Ads requirements.

If you’re not sure what those words mean, it boils down to it being more difficult for small, non-corporate organizations like ours to be seen online. We really want people to be able to learn about and connect with Dancing Rabbit, so while we’re working on ways to increase our visibility even with these new changes, we’re also asking you to help us reach out to new people, and invite them to this special place we call home! Here’s How:

  • Our Sustainable Living Visitor Program is an incredible opportunity to experience hands-on eco and community living. To help make this already-amazing program even more enticing, we’re offering a special discount to the next 5 people who register for the first visitor session of 2018, which begins on April 8th! Do you know someone who would benefit from an immersive experience in an intentional community? Perhaps you have a friend or family member who cares deeply about the environment? Share this page with them so they don’t miss out on this awesome limited-time offer!
  •  Facebook and Instagram are other great ways to connect with Dancing Rabbit. Speaking of social media: we know you love us… but do you LIKE us? Make sure your preference settings aren’t keeping you from seeing our posts and interacting with us! The more you comment, tag, and share our posts, the more likely we are to be seen by your friends, and their friends, which helps us connect to more eco-centric folks and expand our network. Our mission includes cultivating recognition so that we’re able to have a more global impact. You can help us do this with just a few clicks and shares!

As always, we are so grateful for your support, and all the ways you’re helping us make a difference!

 

Fiber Arts Workshop 2018 at the Milkweed Mercantile. Photo by Katherine.

Nourishment and Energy: A Dancing Rabbit Update

One of the jokes that Californians often chuckle over is how much we talk about the weather even though it doesn’t change much. But here in northeastern Missouri the weather changes pretty much hourly. Liz here, with more of the latest from Dancing Rabbit.

And so many kinds of weather! I feel as if I am becoming a connoisseur of weather. As an example, I hear raindrops on my metal roof and as soon as I get my coat on to go outside, the rain has changed to snow, or sleet, or freezing rain, or just an icy coat on the ground that I slide around on as I mince my way across the village.

According to the traditional Chinese calendar it is spring right now, a transitional form of spring to be sure (the yang within the yin), but I have felt my energy rising and I no longer want to sit in front of the fire. There are things to do in this world, cries Spring, and I rise to it. Sparrows are already jostling for nesting space under the eaves of my roof and when I open my front door they all fly out from under the eaves. I had three resident bunnies on my warren last year, each at different times, and this morning I noticed the first one of this new season. And this rabbit is just as nonchalant as all the others about my presence.

Another sign of spring for me is my sudden urge to plan a vegetable garden. Gardens abound here and Rabbits love to talk about growing food. I make a point of knowing what is growing in different gardens so I can barter or pay for veggies for my cooking job or use in Mercantile meals for inn guests or for dinner at Thistledown kitchen. Just a few more weeks and I’ll be starting seeds in my greenhouse and sharing it with others who need greenhouse space. Looks like there will be several work exchangers this season and that increases the chances that much will get done, so we’re planning accordingly. My current favorite gardening book (and best one of all time) is called Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. Lots of illustrations, permaculture-based garden plans, gorgeous photos, ‘nuf said.

 

 

And speaking of inn guests, the Milkweed Mercantile hosted its first workshop of the year this weekend, a fiber arts workshop. I got to eavesdrop on the drop spinning class while I cleaned up the breakfast I cooked for the workshop participants and made sourdough biscuits for morning snack. The workshop attendees were invited to attend the Saturday qigong class that I lead every week and I was impressed with their enthusiasm and openness to try something new.

On the final day of the fiber arts workshop I cooked a decadent breakfast of French toast made with zucchini bread and cream cheese, with apple slices sauteed in butter and cinnamon, plenty of bacon, and good coffee. There was house-made granola and yogurt from the goat co-op as well. It really felt good to be cooking in the Mercantile kitchen again, one of my happy places. And what a wonderful way to kick off the workshop season, with colorful yarns and the textures and patterns of homemade projects.  

This week I finally feel recovered from community retreat. Seven days of (and I say this with affection) people, people, people! My favorite meeting was about DR’s on-site energy utility called BEDR. I joined a working group that formed out of that meeting that will be working on installation of more solar panels that were just purchased and possibly a refurbished wind turbine for a more dramatic increase in the production of energy on farm. We also discussed tiered pricing and other ideas to help bring BEDR into compliance with our agreement to export twice as much energy back to the grid as we import.

Last year was my first Valentine’s day in 34 years without a partner and it was no fun. This year not a single Rabbit wished me happy Valentine’s Day or asked me what my plans were for that day, or whether I had a dinner date lined up. Instead, Alline spearheaded the yearly making of validation cards for each community member. Over the next two weeks, we can write in each other’s cards with words of appreciation and encouragement. Then we get together and read selected contents of the cards and try to guess who the card is for. Another way in which I appreciate living here!

I continue to teach qigong twice a week. We have been meeting since November and this week I decided the Thursday class might be ready to follow along by demonstration only, hoping students would start to internalize the moves more with less verbal direction. And because qigong is “movement meditation” one’s attention is directed inward more readily when there is no one telling you what to do. Seeing students moving silently in unison through the forms was a beautiful thing and filled my heart with joy and love. It occurred to me later that this was another form of community: moving in unison and forming connections through shared experience.

Another form of connection is the weekly group meditation sit. Because the fiber workshop was in the Casa building where we usually meet, I volunteered to host the sit at my cottage. We ended up with eight yogis meditating in my little one-room house. As I was setting up for it the night before, I had an amusing image of how people used to try to see how many people could squeeze into a phone booth. Anyway…

The 21-day Complaint Free challenge continues to generate much discussion and amusement here, especially at the Thistledown dinner table. The challenge is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining or gossiping. If you do either, you have to reset to day 1. I’ve given up on it and then joined again several times now, all the while acknowledging how much I’m learning about my way of thinking and also learning just how nuanced people can get about one subject! Another self-development event for community members was a Meyers-Briggs and Enneagram one-day workshop this last week, which provided fodder for many conversations as members tried to process the information about where they fit in these personality typing systems, and how to use this to better connect and interact with others.

The theme of how our thoughts influence our outlook and the people around us came up in an I Ching reading I did this morning. My question to this book of wisdom was one I often use, with different answers each time: How can I follow my spiritual path today? This morning was all about nourishment: of the food I eat and the nourishment I give my spiritual self. The reading also touched on nourishing others, and that the more we feed ourselves with healthy food and awareness of how we think and what we say, the more we foster positive connections with those around us. To quote the book, “It is up to you to decide what nourishment you will take into your body, what ideas you will take into your mind, and people you will take into your company. If you neglect exercise and sound diet, you will ruin your body. If you allow negative emotions in and focus your thoughts on what is unimportant or unworthy of you, those thoughts and emotions will frustrate and distract you. Thus if you find that you lack peace, it may be because you have brought the causes of disturbance within yourself.”

I am continually amazed at how the I Ching continues to hit the nail on the proverbial head with these timeless and universal themes. Which explains our fascination with how to live more fulfilled and balanced lives. This is more relevant than ever before, given our negative national health. May these words of wisdom encourage some balance in your own life and the lives of those around you. ‘Nuf said.


The fiber arts workshop was the first of many opportunities to experience Dancing Rabbit in 2018! Sign up for one of our visitor sessions or workshops today, so you too can get a taste of ecovillage living!


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.

 

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Timber Framing a Real Deal Barn: Join Us?

Click here to learn how you can be a part of raising the new goat barn! Photo by Mae.

Sustainable growth and building a life without debt are two things that are important to me. This is Mae, and my family and I are embarking on our sixth year here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Along the way we’ve embraced the permaculture principle of small and slow solutions, spending more time focusing on design than getting everything done at once. It’s more affordable that way, too. So we’ve gradually grown our flock of chickens, the goat herd, and our physical infrastructure.

For example, to build our first shelter for the animals, we started with a $200 load of materials that had previously been a barn, and we got what we paid for! The goats have done well, and in the time since then I’ve realized that it would be better to have the goats closer to my home and the road, even if that means spending more on lease fees for a garden rate space, rather than the less expensive agricultural rate space.

This will also provide easier access to educational opportunities for Dancing Rabbit’s many visitors, student groups, and tours. Over the past five years the goat co-op has learned what to expect in terms of costs of keeping the goats, demand for the delicious goat cheeses, and gotten a pretty good idea of how to scale this project in our unique setting.

I have a lot of excitement that this year, my biggest priority and that of the goat co-op is building a new, “real deal” barn for our increasingly real deal goat herd and co-op. (And then we’ll get a cow!) In true pioneer fashion, the goats will have a finished home before I do. It might even be nicer than mine, too, because we are teaming up with CSCC to build a 16’x24′ barn with a timber framing workshop this summer.

We’re going to use some nice materials that were purchased by the land trust a few years ago but weren’t used, so we’re buying those and putting them to good use. It will also be more beautiful and durable than we may have been able to create on our own, because the workshop will be taught by local superstar woodworkers, Thomas and Cynthia. It’s going to be so awesome! I’m happy that it will be visible from the road, and may even obscure my crooked little dirt house with something more artisanal.

If you want to be a part of this exciting project, you can! Click here to find out more or register now. We’re pretty sure to have a good time and learn a lot, and we’d love to have you join us!

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Seeds, Spirits, and Open Space Technology: A Dancing Rabbit Update

 

It is often said that the first step toward a solution or significant change is admitting that you have a problem. When hints of spring start interrupting February’s winter cold, I realize that I have a problem. A gardening problem. Collating the results of hours spent with seed catalogs, I realize there is absolutely no way to fit everything into my garden. Clearly this is a problem.

Cob here, setting aside my internal dilemma over which varieties of what delicious fresh fruit or vegetable to let go of, to instead bring you up to date on the happenings from this past week on our small patch of prairie.

From overheard conversations and increasing garden-related email discussions, I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing seed orders with available space or who wishes they had more hours to dedicate to growing food. This subject even came up during the second portion of our annual retreat.

These last several days of meetings are created on-the-spot, following the methods outlined by Open Space Technology (if you’re interested, read the book of the same name by Owen Harrison for deeper details). Essentially we self-organize on the fly, holding multiple meetings concurrently in several locations around the village, then come back together as a group to report on what we learned. The idea is that each person is involved in the topic(s) they feel most passionate about, and are motivated to bring through to a decision.

Many of this week’s breakout sessions referenced back to last week’s mini-workshop on burnout: what it is, how to minimize it, and ways to replenish and restore our mental & emotional reserves. It is easy to be so caught up in personal habits of thought or action, because it’s familiar or routine. Sometimes the simplest and retrospectively obvious changes don’t get made because those habits are so deeply ingrained or we don’t have the energy to try something different (see burnout).

Collaboration with seed ordering, both for cost savings and for diversity of species grown, and working with each other either physically or to share our individual wisdom and lessons learned seems fairly obvious; yet my years of “this is how I’ve always done it” gets in the way. I didn’t attend the “What we Grow” session at retreat, but I appreciated hearing that some Rabbits are interested in re-launching a weekly Garden Club to discuss things regularly over lunch, and was reminded that Alyssa had created a shared Google spreadsheet for noting which varieties grow most easily (or need the most coddling) in our particular location.

We also held conversations on a wide range of other topics, including determining what research is needed as our fossil-fuels covenant (wherein we agree that we won’t use fossil fuel to power our vehicles) collides with the reality that 2006 is the last model year for vehicles which can reliably run on biodiesel. Those changes stem from increased fuel-efficiency, so it’s not all bad, but it does leave us with an interesting conundrum.

A group photo from Retreat 2018. Photo by Apple.

Equally interesting and challenging was our wide-ranging conversation on what it means to be a feminist ecovillage, the myriad ways we are not living up to our full potential, and how to support each other in making the necessary cultural shifts to reach that goal. It quickly became even clearer to me that (unsurprisingly) my own unexamined habits of thought or behavior (as modeled for me while growing up white and male in our culture) are my primary obstacle to realizing my personal goal of truly treating every person as fully human/fully equal.

Not that every breakout session was so heavy! I was able to convene a session outside the regular schedule, just prior to potluck dinner, specifically to share a bottle of whisky. I am no connoisseur, but the provenance of this particular bottle practically demanded that I share it with Rabbits who are far more familiar with such spirits. I had no idea if it would be really good or really, really bad (spoiler: it was fantastic) which added to the fun.

If you have no interest in “The Whisky Bottle Story” feel free to skip to the next paragraph! This particular bottle of Old JTS Brown Kentucky straight bourbon whisky (old style sour mash) was given as a gift from my great-grandfather to either my folks or my grandparents, while attending “the races in KY” in 1962. According to the US Gov’t seal, it was bottled in the spring of 1958, and remained unopened for 60 years. The molded glass of the bottle also warns that “Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle.” Y’all good with me re-using it as a water bottle? That’s what I thought.

One significant change in this year’s retreat was the level of involvement and support from the younger crowd (teens and pre-teens), participating in some of the breakout sessions and helping out with the really young crowd so parents could participate more fully. I’m excited by their interest in self-agency and bringing their perspectives to the conversation.

One session has left a lasting glow of good humor and friendship, and no it wasn’t the whisky! A number of Rabbits discussed and decided to participate in a 21-day complaint-free challenge. Sounds easy? It’s NOT! The goal isn’t to get through the next three weeks without complaining; the goal is 21 consecutive days. According to the pastor in Kansas City who launched this particular challenge, it often takes as long as 8 months to reach that milestone. I encourage you to google this challenge and consider joining along with us. The science behind the 21 days is that it takes that level of consistency to form a new habit. I’ve been working on this for 6 days now, and I’m still on Day 1, woo hoo!

Life doesn’t stop for retreat, so folks have been busy gearing up for the first public workshop of the season at the Milkweed Mercantile focusing on fiber arts; several Rabbits lovingly crafted Validation Day cards for every member of the community (I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in a future column); cooks from Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms have been bringing meals over to Sandhill for a family and their new baby; and Ted and I have even made it into Memphis for a couple men’s chorus rehearsals. The chorus is rehearsing for Saturday’s fundraising dinner at the VFW in support of the local high school marching band trip to Washington DC this spring.

Speaking of spring, I have a problem. My problem is seeds. What am I planting? What am I growing?  What am I cultivating in my own garden? What resources am I failing to notice? Or perhaps most importantly, what unintentional harm or pain am I causing for the individuals around me, within my community, or in the world? I have been privileged all my life to pretty much do whatever I’ve wanted to do, in whatever manner I wished. There is a level of comfort and ease with that familiarity, but as I prayerfully consider these questions I am seeing more and more how I need to make deep and lasting changes in my choices, regardless of which environment I’m in.

I wish you joy in the planning of your own gardens, both physical and metaphorical. Now where did I put that catalog?


Come grow with us! We invite you to our 2018 visitor sessions and workshops at Dancing Rabbit to learn and practice invaluable skills!


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.

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Starting a New Chapter: My Dancing Rabbit Visit

by Ryan Morris

It has been eight months since my Dancing Rabbit (DR) visitor session, and every step since then has been a step back toward DR. I still remember walking up the main path into the village and seeing Javi on the swing in front of the common house, with a big smile on his face.

That day was spent meeting other visitors and the few Rabbits who had time in their hectic summer schedules to mingle with the new crop of visitors. Life in intentional community is busy. No, you don’t need a TV, as there is always another committee task, social event, or food processing chore to do.

I’ve learned since this visit that my life in community is a journey of the soul, and it is in community, and through vulnerability and acceptance, that one may grow beyond the shame and grief the mainstream culture so graciously bestows upon on all of us. I had a glimpse of this during my visitor session when I attended, for the first time in my life, a Men’s Group. That night I saw other men come together and one man in particular opened up in a way I had never seen before. My heart was touched on a fundamental level. I knew immediately I needed this in my life, a container held with reverence and a space for me to fulfill my desire for growth and self-transformation. I have not missed many meetings since.

During the visitor session our group did daily check ins, in which we sat in a circle and were asked to share, if we wished, our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual experiences with each other. In no time at all this process transformed our group from strangers to close friends.

Sharing my inner reality was not something I was truly ever given space to do before. Initially I found this process terrifying, however it quickly helped connect me to the other visitors on a deeper level than many of my friends, family, and coworkers back home. Hugs and laughter were shared amongst nearly all of us throughout the session and there are still individuals from this group that I feel deeply connected to.

I was brought to the DR visitor program by life crisis and disillusionment. Although this crisis was only one to three years ago, it is a completely different world to me and I am a different person now. I remember coming to grips with a seven-year career that provided me no meaning or fulfillment: an hour and a half of commuting every day, and eight hours of sitting in an office in front of a computer screen five days a week, with the potential of 30 more years of service. My work was ecologically destructive and through self-education I was becoming more and more aware of the economic and ecological crisis our world faces today.

I knew I could no longer live with this misalignment. I was disillusioned with the political system, as it is clear no real change every really occurs, and action must be taken by each and every one of us. I remember selling my home and most of my material possessions, as nor did they provide the meaning or fulfillment I was looking for. I was also dealing with a failing marriage, and after much therapy and two years of trying to make it work we decided to go our separate ways. These crises were a gift and a learning experience on this journey of life.

I am finding that community is a need and Dancing Rabbit is the place I want it fulfilled. I am so thankful for the experiences of my visitor session, as they provided me a place to begin a new chapter in my life.



Ryan was born and raised in sunny Florida. Some of his interests include personal growth work, permaculture, sustainable living, and regenerative agriculture. He currently lives at Red Earth Farms and plans to apply for residency at Dancing Rabbit in the near future.

 


This year’s first visitor session is happening April 8-22, 2018! Come experience the beauty of cooperative and sustainable living by clicking here to find out more and apply now!

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Food, Firewood, and Friendship: A Dancing Rabbit Update

One of the pleasures of life for me here at Dancing Rabbit is that we have long focused on preserving the fruits (and leaves, etc.) of our seasonal harvests for the leaner times of year. Despite the ever-miraculous ability of birds and mammals to eke out a living through the cold months here in the mid-latitudes and above, I look out the window these days and know I would not be eating much if I had to rely on what was readily available.

Ted here to bring you this week’s news from northeast Missouri at the tail end of January. I recently returned from a month out in the world visiting family and friends, and immersed in a world where nearly anything, food or otherwise, can be had at most any time without respect to what time of year it is. On a surface level it is wonderful to behold; and on a deeper level it feels exposed and unsustainable to me. Honestly, have you ever had “asparagus” as part of a meal in winter (or really any time other than spring) and found it tender and flavorful? Unless it is pickled in season, I’d rather wait for the real thing.

In one of my first cook shifts for Ironweed this past week I made some miso soup for dinner to nourish and fortify those recovering from flu and those of us still hoping to avoid it. Without really trying too hard, I managed to include more than 20 vegetables in the meal. Some of those were durable storage veggies like garlic and potatoes; some were fermented, in the miso and kim chee; and aside from a few fresh seasonal veggies imported by Cob at the public market, the rest were dehydrated by us and stored for just such an occasion. This sort of thing always buoys me up this time of year.

We had more than food and fire to keep us warm this past week, though. Trish and friends at Sandhill started organizing a “hat bands” event in December, wherein all interested participants put their names on slips of paper in a hat, and trios were then chosen at random from the hat to form bands that would perform at an event in January. The bands generally performed covers of known tunes in styles ranging from a cappella to acoustic to electric. Some were more practiced than others, but all cheered and warmed the packed crowd in La Casa to the point where most spectators were peeling off layers to stay comfortable. I’ve heard a rumor that some clips may be available on the interwebs…

In other forms of staying warm, ultimate players gathered for two great games during the lull in the cold, extending our years-long efforts to play at least once or twice in every month of the year. I had come home with a pair of new cleats, and found that I was not alone, with at least half the players sporting new ones themselves. Felt wonderful to throw off most of the layers of clothing and run full-out.

I also spent several days this week processing firewood, which as the saying goes warms you twice (at least). Most of the cord or so I got cut, split, and stacked for next winter was pole wood gleaned from various tree trimming efforts around the village over the past year. While not as dense with potential BTUs as regular cordwood, they lend themselves wonderfully to cutting long and burning in our downdraft “rocket” stove, which is an efficient heater. The wood burns down in the firebox at the base of the fuel stack, and self-feeds down into the fire as it is consumed, heating the air and the tush-warming earthen bench the flue travels through.

For those of you remembering my last column about how much firewood I had stored up for home and kitchen, I’m pleased to report that stocks are holding up nicely and we’ll likely have quite a bit to roll over to next winter. Better too much than not enough!

We’re a little behind in ordering seeds for spring, at least in part because Alyssa, who usually organizes a group order in early January, was off for a two-month trip through southern Mexico with Bear and Zane during the normal ordering time. We, too were traveling at the typical order time. Sara pulled out and inventoried our seeds while I cooked Sunday, and now we just have to choose among the dozens of varieties (and purveyors) of each thing we need, dreaming into the approach of spring. I’m itching to plant trailing flowers and vines into some of the newly-built pocket terraces on our home’s earth berm. Sprouting time is just around the corner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if early bird Javi has already started some.

Siblings (human and canine) playing together in the straw. Photo by Mae.

Goat co-opers are eagerly awaiting birthing time, when all our pregnant does are due to kid in the space of a single week, with the potential for as many as 14 fluffy, mewling, adorable goatlings, according to co-op matriarch Mae. Then comes the arduous task of socializing the new little ones, with lots of snuggling and playing so they’ll grow up familiar and friendly with their human friends, rather than skittish and hard to wrangle. One of our human kids, Althea, excels at this task, and with young trainee Arthur (who began the amazing shift to speaking in copious words while I traveled this past month) will undoubtedly show us the way.

Or is it whey? We are just breaking into some of the stored hard cheeses in the root cellar from this past season, which is another lovely reminder of a warm season past and another to come. I am both excited and trepidatious to imagine how much more milk we’ll have for cheese-making come a couple months from now!

On a similar note of cooperative labor, Mae and I joined the initial meeting of a budding orcharding collective over at Sandhill this week. Currently at low population, and with a baby on the way soon, the Sandhillers have invited interested folks to join in the labor of pruning, thinning, tending, and harvesting their various established fruit trees in exchange for a share of the produce this year. I have lots of immature trees growing in our orchard at home, so I’m excited to enjoy the potential fruits of some collective effort and established trees this season, with dreams of ever more abundance in the future. Of course I still have to trim and care for all the trees over here, including the Asian pears and others in the Dancing Rabbit orchard.

That’s it for this week, as the activity here picks up toward the start of our annual retreat next week. We’ll be talking about robust-ifying our village power grid and long-term village planning, among other things, while sharing meals and down-time gatherings alongside. No doubt you’ll hear more of it in future columns.

Meanwhile, warmth and light to you out there as you gather your energies for the budding year to come, and I hope you’ll enjoy the super blue blood moon event coming up Wednesday as we plan to here!


Be sure to reserve your spot for one of the immersive visitor sessions or workshops offered here this year! This is a great time to make your plans to visit Dancing Rabbit!



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.