Nathan demonstrating his frisb-lid fu, DR Land Day 2016. Photo by Meggie.

Sad News, Guests, and Land Day: A Dancing Rabbit Update

From my perspective, life in the village of late has been a bit of a mixed bag, with some sad happenings, family and friends visiting, and our annual Land Day celebration. Tereza here, feeling a bit under the weather, but doing my best to keep y’all in the loop.

The sad news is more passings. Ted’s father, Keir Sterling, passed away on September 24th. Keir and his wife Anne have been stalwart supporters of Dancing Rabbit over the years, and visited frequently, most recently attending Aurelia’s 10th birthday party in June. Among other roles he played in his life, Keir was a most excellent grandpa, and he will be greatly missed. I’ve lived with Ted for nigh on thirteen years now, and heard many stories about his father, and though I saw Keir for just a few days most years, I feel I know him well. I’m certain all the Rabbits join me in sending our sincere condolences to his friends and family.

Another recent loss was Mae’s dog, Judy. I’ll miss seeing her grey-streaked hopeful face, as she wandered the paths looking for Mae, Althea, or (more likely) something to eat. She was a sweet old dog… Judy, I hope you have lots of lovely smelly things to eat wherever you are.

Ironweed kitchen co-op has had a lot of comings and goings in the last while. Ted and Aurelia were away with family out east during Keir’s illness and passing, and wexer Meggie visited her college town for an annual race and visits with friends. Hassan has been eating with us part-time for a while, but during the Permaculture Design Course his other part-time kitchen took a break, so he was back with us full-time. Now he’s back to part-time. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to regularly check the calendar to see where he’s eating– for some reason I haven’t been able to keep it in my head.

Also joining us in Ironweed for a few meals were Stephen’s mother Lynn and her partner Kent. They were here for several days, staying in the Mercantile and seeing the sights here and nearby. They told me that they enjoyed their stay, and I enjoyed their presence as an enthusiastic audience for song circle on Wednesday.

Also visiting were Tamar’s sister, Sharón, and her partner Rachel. They timed their trip specifically to be here for Land Day, and sounds like they had a good time. I love Sharón’s visits (though they’re always too short!) and it was great to meet Rachel, who I hope will come again next year!

And finally, Land Day, the annual celebration of the day we bought the land, happened on Saturday. It all kicked off with a pancake breakfast out at Critterville (BYOT, aka bring your own toppings). After that was the ritual, where we tell the story of Dancing Rabbit’s beginnings. Someone tells a part of the story, and then we all say “We remember.” This was one of the first times that no one from the very early days was present, so it clearly has become our group’s collective story and memory of those events.

Next year will be our 20th anniversary, and perhaps more of the “old-timers” will be here, so we can find out what we might have embellished or forgotten. (We sure do love the story of Vermin, the cat who barely escaped being left at Donner Pass. And the one about Cecil losing the big check. And the one about Jeffrey… well, I’ll stop there.)

In the afternoon there were a number of active options: a land walk with Thomas, a 5 Rhythms dance, fris-lid (or is it frisb-lid?) golf (more on this in a moment), wiffle* ball, and, of course, an ultimate game.

Frisb-lid (or frislid or however you want to spell it) golf is a frisbee golf game played with an item that is ubiquitous here at DR: white plastic bucket lids. This year’s course was set up by former residents Kim K and Scout, with help from Stephen. I wasn’t there, but looking at the photos posted on Facebook and the ones I asked Meggie to take, it looks like it was a blast. Some moments, frozen in time by the camera, offer truly amazing— and often hilarious— faces, stances, and frislid positions (there’s one that looks like Rae is wearing the largest weirdest white hat ever). Some of those golfers had some great moves!

After the vigorous afternoon we had a lovely potluck dinner, and ended the night with a bonfire. All in all, a wonderful celebration, complete with friends and neighbors, food and companionship, and memories both old and newly-created.

With all the sorrows and joys, ups and downs, and comings and goings, it often helps me to remember that it’s all a cycle, and however it’s feeling at this moment, this too shall pass.

This week begins the last of this year’s visitor sessions, offering us another chance to share what we know, make new friends, and maybe even entice a few new community-minded folks to join us here on the journey.

*Thought you might like to know how hard I work for you, dear readers. While looking up “whiffle ball vs. wiffle ball” I fell down one of those odd internet holes: the wiffle ball wiki, which yes, does actually exist. Although there is no text on the page in question (I had to use google to find out that there is no “h”), there are pages galore on rules and regulations, history of the ball and the company that created it, and much much more.


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.

Max and Emma making cookies in their new co-op kitchen. Photo by Christina.

Benefits and Compromises
: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Max and Emma making cookies in their new co-op kitchen. Photo by Christina.

Max and Emma making cookies in their new co-op kitchen. Photo by Christina.

It is hot outside. The pond feels like a bathtub, the sun is hazy, the tomatoes are wilting, and I have spotted Thomas on more than one occasion lying on the Common House floor to cool off.

Did I mention that I am from New England? Did I mention that I am terrified of the heat? Did you know that it will be in the 90s for days straight this week?

Christina here, writing news of what’s been going on recently at Dancing Rabbit, while sitting in a dark room in front of a fan and drinking green tea over ice.

We are wrapping up our second visitor’s program of the season, and our first-ever women-only visitor program. I haven’t been as closely involved with this group, but I have to say that observing them bond has been pretty great.

There has been a lot of singing, swimming, and talking—not to mention games, lingering meals, berry picking, and some more singing after that.

During the first week of their session was one of the great song circles of the year. I thought that the tornado warning song circle earlier this year would be impossible to beat, but it turns out that when upwards of twenty people come together to sing and learn new songs, it is also pretty amazing.

I love taking my kids Max and Emma to song circle because they participate so fully, without any reservation. The kids are I are especially fond of rounds and have been practicing a Medieval one that we learned from one of the visitors whenever we get a chance.

There is something meditative about singing—my brain is too full of the melody or the words to dart through my to-do list. And there is something sort of magical about singing in a group. We are all there, doing the same thing—but then again we aren’t really doing anything except creating something that will be gone as soon as it is done.

Did I mention that it has been hot? Workshopping and work partying are hard work, so the visitors have also been spotted a great deal at the pond. One day when I was there cooling off with Emma, Max, and the dog, we saw the visitors round a corner on the path, coming back from the land walk with Dan. They were singing together.

I have never had the experience of witnessing a whole group of women singing together spontaneously; it was quite beautiful and something I won’t soon forget.

I have taken a few opportunities to chat with some of the visitors, after dinner on Friday night or walking back from potluck at Sandhill or picking raspberries outside the Common House. It’s always fun for me to be reminded of why I moved here. I see myself in them so much. Knowing that the way they are living their lives just somehow isn’t working, looking for something different, and wondering if this is the place that will answer their questions.

Not everyone finds their answers here, though, and it is also fun to meet people who take what they learn—about growing organic food or dealing with conflict or turning human waste into compost—out into the world on their next adventures. I doubt they could really ever leave behind what they have learned here.

You can’t visit Dancing Rabbit and leave the exact same person you were when you arrived.

In personal news, our family joined a co-op kitchen. This means that we share meals as well as cleaning responsibilities with four other adults. For me, it means cooking only once or twice a week, a great big kitchen to play in, and having new friends to get to know over dinner every night. Community has its benefits.

It also means a lot of masking tape labels on personal food and not always deciding what I eat for meals. Community also has its compromises.

For the kids, this meant making cookies this week, since we haven’t had unlimited access to a proper oven in over four months. They chose the recipe, and it was stuffed full of chocolate chips. I’m sure the other members of our co-op were not too upset about the kids’ afternoon project either.

It might not have been the best time to use the oven indoors. (Did I mention it is hot here?) But seeing them work so sweetly together was worth a little sweat.

And a note about their outfits in the picture before I sign off: Max, my son, is wearing a black velvet sparkly dress that he found at the kids’ clothing swap last month. Emma is wearing her dad’s T-shirt, which she cut up, and her face is painted to look like a skull. No matter what kind of inconveniences we might have to deal with living in this rural intentional community— watering tomatoes by hand with a five-gallon bucket of water in 95 degree heat, dancing around other people in the kitchen when I just want to get a spoon out of the drawer, dealing with conflict and feedback head-on when it arises— I am so grateful to raise my kids in a place where they are accepted no matter what their appearance.

•                  •                 •

Don’t forget! 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, or register now!

•                  •                 •

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.

Half of the gathering Sunday evening at Lobelia poured out to see the sky, and for a while, that was the party. Photo by Adriana.

Feels Like Summer: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Half of the gathering Sunday evening at Lobelia poured out to see the sky, and for a while, that was the party. Photo by Adriana.

Half of the gathering Sunday evening at Lobelia poured out to see the sky, and for a while, that was the party. Photo by Adriana.

Ted here to bring you the latest from Dancing Rabbit, after what felt like the first week of summer, complete with steady warmth, mild nights, and some good thunderstorms.

I had a second week off from my current day job last week, and managed to slowly tick off some long-awaited to-dos from my list. Moving more earth and manure to top up the soil level in the top-most planting terrace on our house’s berm, I finally got my artichoke seedlings planted alongside some leeks. I made long-awaited fixes to my bike (my current commuter conveyance), got my aging cheeses moved from the cave (root cellar) to their summer cottage (a small fridge in our shed), and got to spend much of a day in the garden with Sara for the first time this season, planting beans and thinning carrots and beets.

Zane, Aurelia, and Emma turned over a new leaf last week, boarding a school bus at 6:23 am each morning on a journey to the first week of summer school in our county seat of Memphis. Cole and Nina from neighboring Red Earth Farms joined in as well, and of the five, only Emma had previous experience in public school, so the giddy excitement of both parents and kids Monday morning kept erupting into outbursts that were a little premature for that hour of the day. Eight out of ten parents were there, if a little bleary-eyed, with smiles all around as we waved goodbye and sauntered off to our strangely quiet days. *Sigh*…

With midwives off-call for a few weeks, Sara signed up for a midwifery training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that we then extended into a short family camping vacation at a state park north of there. We brought kayaks with us for exploring a lake and river, and were rewarded with close encounters with a pair of bald eagles, trout, deer crossing the river, lots of geese with goslings, and some startling thumps and jumps from some catfish in the shallows. Peaceful walks in the wonderfully mature forest and plenty of s’mores and other camp food rounded out the slower-feeling week. As always, we were glad to return home and thankful to our friends who cared for dog, cat, and plants in our absence.

We returned just in time for Saturday’s ultimate frisbee game. Our two scheduled games a week the past couple months finally turned reality with the weather cooperating and enough players for five-on-five showing up, not only for that game but for the following Tuesday and Saturday afternoons as well. Secondary action came in the form of the “healthy heart and lungs club” forming to do interval training one morning a week, in hopes of increasing stamina for our games. I don’t have as much fun running when I’m not chasing a disc, but I enjoyed the morning exercise with Mica and Alyssa all the same.

The grow-op had a work party Tuesday to get tomato starts in the ground after first hacking out some space in the overgrown Skyhouse gardens. Potatoes and onions are greening up out in Dan’s vineyard and the group will get cukes and squash in the ground as soon as we take delivery of another load of manure. Brent and Katherine got the rest of the tomatoes planted out Saturday, and Sunday morning Christina and I finished the mulching work.

Buildings are growing and changing steadily, with Oliver finishing the walls on his cabin, Hassan cutting and installing corrugated steel for the 16 facets of the round house’s roof, and Kyle and Caleb roofing the fancifully timber-framed extended structure of the Critter summer kitchen.

Once-and-future residents Adriana and Justin arrived for a short visit Friday through the weekend, and seemed to bring a brightness and conviviality to our lives that I hadn’t quite realized I was missing. Seeing Zane and Aurelia descending the school bus steps Friday, recognizing Adriana (a good friend to both when she was in residence here), and running toward her for big hugs, I found myself near tears.

The kids had managed to ask her to take them to the pond for a swim in under a minute, picking up right where they left off in 2014. Every conversation through the weekend seemed to turn toward how and how soon we can get the two back to Dancing Rabbit from their current lives in New Orleans. There is a certain magic about that feeling of community, when the connections between people feel so mutually fulfilling.

I don’t believe we have previously written in our weekly update about our friend and community member Dennis, who has been dealt a series of blows to his health in recent months. Dennis and partner Sharon have been in St. Louis these several weeks, since effects of what has turned out to be a brain tumor sent them to a hospital there. Several Rabbits have joined family and friends of Sharon and Dennis in traveling to support them there intermittently, with more trips planned as he undergoes post-surgery rehab and radiation treatments.

This past week we had both a mutual emotional support gathering and a logistical meeting here at the village around this difficult reality. For some, the emotional outlet allows heads and hearts to clear enough to allow engagement in the practical.

For many, the logistics side of things gives us a chance to do something tangible to help in a situation that we can’t control. The whole community is impacted in these times, and volunteering for the various things we collectively need and want to hold in caring for our friends and their homestead gives even those who haven’t known Dennis and Sharon for very long a way to help.

In a way that I often struggle to accept, life continues despite major upheavals in individual lives. Gardens are growing, demanding our ongoing time and energy so we can provide for our food needs (and send some to our friends in need). New work exchangers and visitors arrive in the village to see what we’re doing, and we each play a role in orienting them to our home, feeding them while they’re here, and teaching them what we know and what we do here. In this instance, we’ll be sharing more than usual, offering little glimpses of how we show up for each other in major life events, how the community sometimes feels like it breathes together.

Our second visitor session begins this week, though it is actually a first for us, a session to which only women have been invited. In Dancing Rabbit’s early days, in fact right about when I first tried to visit in 1999, there was a successful women’s straw bale building workshop held, but to my knowledge we haven’t had anything similar until now. (Editor’s note: a women’s plastering workshop was offered in 2000.) As a village that claims a feminist leaning, and given our recent gender imbalance, this is a good time for this good idea, and I’ve been hearing and feeling lots of excitement for it.

The Critters welcomed a new work exchanger this week named Melody, whose smiles through the week suggested she was settling in well. As one of the work exchanger liaisons this year, I get a chance to connect with each of these folk, and to reconnect with my own first landing here as an intern 15 years ago this summer.

A lot has changed in that time, and many faces have come and gone, but a good number are still here, and the spirit of the place, the purpose, has only grown bigger and more established. I’m still seeking one or more work exchangers for the second half of the season, if you’re wondering… please get in touch if you’re interested!

One thing that hasn’t changed much here over those 15 years is the appreciation of the beauty we live amidst. When a particularly resplendent thunderhead rolls by near sunset in late May, boiling in slow motion and rippling with lightning and shifting colors, we don’t just glance out the window or snap a photo… of 20 or so people gathered at Lobelia Sunday night to share one last meal with Adriana and Justin, half or more poured out to see the sky, and for a while, that was the party. Oohs and aahs and talking and laughing as this magic cloud mass erupted continually above us… my smile lasted well beyond our farewells to our friends.

Nearly all of the remaining spots for 2016 visitor sessions are now full, according to our correspondent Danielle, but if you’re still hoping to visit, remember that we offer public tours twice monthly through October, at 1pm on 2nd and 4th Saturdays. You can also find information about many other exciting programs hosted at Dancing Rabbit this year on our website. The Milkweed Mercantile is open most late afternoons (pizza night Thursdays) and also hosts overnight guests. And we’ll of course have our annual Open House in September as well. One way or another, we hope to see you 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.


Midwest Communities Conference speakers announced!


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!

Ma'ikwe Ludwig, outgoing Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture

Moving On: A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends and supporters,

Ma'ikwe Ludwig, outgoing Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture

Ma’ikwe Ludwig, outgoing Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture

It is with a profound mix of sadness and excitement that I share with you the news that I will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture in late 2016. Everyone always says this kind of thing when they write this kind of letter, but for real: it’s been an amazing, growthful journey for me, and I am incredibly grateful to all of you for supporting us as we’ve grown this vibrant, impactful nonprofit the past three years.

In the time since I stepped into the Executive Director role, we’ve seen extraordinary growth: from 4 staff positions to 17, and from an annual budget of $45K to right around $200K. We’ve done more publishing and public talks than ever, created more on-site educational offerings, and pioneered partnerships with researchers and other nonprofits, all of which adds up to more people reached and greater impact. We have a more diverse Board of Directors, a more professional staff, and a more engaged base of supporters (including the donors and foundations that support us financially).

We’ve done strategic planning and, just late last year, changed our name to reflect more accurately the force we are in the world, catalyzing a deep transition to a sustainable and cooperative culture. This is not only about promoting natural building and organic agriculture; it is about fundamentally changing who we are as people, in relation to other people and the planet. During the strategic planning process we identified the two social ills we most directly address: climate change and social isolation. I’m very pleased to report that our offerings consistently address both issues, and trust they will only get stronger.

That’s powerful stuff, and it has its roots, always, in Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. I’ve said this before, but let me say it again: this nonprofit would be nothing without this amazing demonstration project. Our values, message, and tangible lessons all come from the village in some way or another. Whatever we know about culture change comes from the work of hundreds of community residents over nearly two decades, dedicating their lives to answering the question: How do we actually live sustainably, while living well, in this modern world?

What’s next for me? I will be leaving Dancing Rabbit to join my partner, Matt Stannard, in the high altitude, progressive western mecca of Laramie, WY. And since there is no intentional community in town, I’ll be brushing the dust off my community founder’s hat and starting one. Wyoming has the highest per capita carbon emissions of any state in the US: imagine how impactful a successful ecovillage there could be! I’m getting the chance to take what I’ve learned from my years in this remarkable community and translate it to a different climate— both ecologically and politically.

I’m relishing the challenge.

Matt and I have also partnered to start the Materialized Empathy project, through Commonomics USA. This project focuses on law and policy reform for economic and ecological justice, including putting the needs of poor communities at the center of climate change solutions, and making the formation of communities like Dancing Rabbit easier. After years of living here and working with the Fellowship for Intentional Community, I feel well-prepared to take my activism to another level with this new project.

And of course, I will still do public speaking and teaching work, because I seem to be a wee bit addicted to both. (Side note, speaking of speaking: there are still some slots available on the 2016 Speaking Tour, so get in touch soon if you want to bring me to your town!) Dancing Rabbit will always be a model for me when I talk about how to do sustainable and cooperative culture well. Very few public figures have the kind of unique, practical, compassion-based experience with sustainability that I have had in this ecovillage, and I plan to continue as a strong ambassador for DR for a long time.

As I reflect on my own trajectory and all the ways I’ve grown while living and working here, one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not alone: Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage has been a powerful training ground for a number of incredible activists. Our founders have gone on to play major roles with Citizen’s Climate Lobby, the New York Green Building Council, and Rocky Mountain Institute. We’ve been a formative experience for professors at universities from North Carolina to Iowa to Oregon. There are sustainability consultants and teachers all over the US who include internships, courses, and residencies at Dancing Rabbit in their resumes, and whose work includes the key principle of cooperation because of it.

So I will be joining a long line of impressive former Rabbits who are still changing the world. Like me, they remain committed to the core principles that make Dancing Rabbit a phenomenal example of what’s next culturally. And many of them cut their activist teeth here. There is clearly some magical nourishment here for people finding their voices and strength. While a lot of people stay here and use that strength to keep growing Dancing Rabbit, others carry it to new places and build amazingness wherever they land.

While there is sadness every time a Rabbit leaves, I like the image of this community planting strong seeds out there in the world. It’s been fun watching many of them sprout and flourish. Wish me luck in being the latest example of this phenomenon.

Thanks so much for walking with me. I’m looking forward to meeting you wherever we next cross paths.

as the outgoing Executive Director
Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture

P.S. This announcement obviously means that we will be seeking a new Executive Director. Stay tuned for official search and hiring announcements, but in the meantime feel free to put your thinking cap on about who might be amazing in this role!