Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage https://www.dancingrabbit.org Communal Living | Sustainable Living | Community Living Mon, 24 Sep 2018 22:51:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-markDRLogoMoon-32x32.png Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage https://www.dancingrabbit.org 32 32 It’s Almost Soup Season: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/its-almost-soup-season-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/its-almost-soup-season-a-dancing-rabbit-update/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 21:21:03 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=23054 Howdy y’all. My name’s Ben. I have a master’s degree in duck husbandry and domestic thermodynamics and a minor in bull manure, which is probably how I ended up on the prestigious list of presenters and learning leaders for Dancing Rabbit’s new, homegrown Permaculture Design Certification currently in progress. Now a person can read some of the several, thousand-page tomes on the subject of permaculture or attend a class such as the one being offered here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, but don’t be surprised to discover that there’s a bunch of permaculturists around who don’t even know that they’re already doing it. Like my great Uncle Shedd who had an outhouse suspended above his hog yard. (I’m in no way endorsing this practice, just so you know.)

So, what’s my elevator pitch for permaculture? How would I describe it to someone who’s never heard this made-up word? Well, I wouldn’t call it a pyramid scheme, at least not without laying out the bait first. When others have used the term on me in the past, I’ve felt like maybe it was a secret society, like the freemasons, with a lot of arcane mumbo-jumbo about ethics, principles, and secret handshakes. Like a very well-intentioned plan for world domination, centered on designing sustainable, life supporting systems for everyone. Especially microbes.

Permaculture Piglets. Photo by Ben

And so, whether capital “P” Permaculture is a new-age conspiracy created by hyper-intelligent soil biota meant to sell hundred-dollar textbooks, I think humans can do a lot with the basic design principles it teaches, not just in agriculture, but in the manipulation of all material resources as well as social ones.

Scientists, activists, teachers, builders, and gardeners are making huge strides in developing technologies and techniques (or borrowing them from ancient and indigenous cultures) that can put our species on track for mitigating a carbon crisis and feed everyone on earth. And not all seven billion people on earth need to be indoctrinated. Just a few people who wield political clout could be the leverage needed to begin building a saner, more sustainable planet.

While I openly malign most experts—and the world of permaculture has lots of them—I had the opportunity a couple of years back to take a Permaculture Design Course myself. I bristled at the notion of studying to get a piece of paper saying I was qualified to do what I’d been doing for years. I rolled my eyes and snickered at some of the material from time to time. Then we got to this sort of archaic primer on land-use called P.A. Yeomans’ Scale of Permanence and I realized that while I had good ideas and sound practices on how to build a sustainable farmstead, I’d really been implementing it all wrong. With some attention to the finer details that make all the difference, like observing how the water flows on the land, or considering how fertility is distributed; I’ve been rebuilding and redesigning our project ever since.

Living in an ecovillage, I’m already familiar with the accusation of being involved in a cult (despite knowing this place is home to some of the stubbornest, most contrary individuals I’ve ever met). And I’m sure someone will prove my point by disagreeing with that. Still, permaculture even has the word “cult” hidden in it. Despite my best attempts, there’s no way I can encapsulate it in an elevator speech, or even a sentence, which is true of any religion, organized or disorganized. All I can do is point to some of the ways it has helped me to better manage resources, feed humans, animals, plants, and soils, and do less work.

Every year we are producing more animal protein on less and less commercial feed. Collecting food scraps from other villagers and casting them out to the livestock was low-hanging fruit, but now we have literal, low-hanging fruit that our livestock can harvest and consume without help from me at all.

I haven’t had to carry a bucket of water to our livestock since winter (with a few exceptions) now that I have a system of rain-fed, gravity-powered waterers. Our laying flock is consuming between two-thirds to one half less organic, laying ration now that our hens are being rotationally grazed. We’ve made significant cuts in our losses to predators by employing dogs. I hardly mow grass anymore or spread fertility. Every year we yield more and more food with less physical labor.

The other day, we harvested 155 pounds of winter squash, approximately a third of what is on the vine. Back in May, we direct-seeded an envelope or so of seed and watered it into an old hill of mulch left behind from feeding hay to the goats. It was a half hour of work and now I can eat as much squash as I’d like. The pigs are not only being raised without commercial feed, they garden for themselves dispensing fertilized seed bombs throughout the barnyard that turn into stands and patches of sorghum, squash, and tomatoes.

Still, not everything flows as well, looks as pretty, or smells as nice as the illustrated examples in the permaculture books. Hoses get clogged or sliced in half by a scythe. Gates get left open and forty adolescent chickens ransack the ripening tomatoes. Goats get their heads stuck in old barbed wire. I can feed a whole kitchen co-op on homegrown produce, but some of the meals are mediocre bordering on weird. Nobody likes or respects walking onions as better than commercial onions. I can’t find my socks and it’s getting cold. They say that when a permaculture homestead is fully functioning, the designer becomes the recliner; but that person probably doesn’t have goats, or children, or live in community. Still, I count my blessings. We have loads of squash and seven tiny little piglets. We have three livestock guardian dogs who are diligent in their work and have more intellect than some humans. We have access to food, fuel, water, and shelter, and these resources are becoming more accessible and of a smaller footprint every day.

Look folks, I’m not here to sell you permaculture; I’m here to sell you a duck. But, the reason I can even provide you with one without going into debt—financially or energy-wise—is because of some of these permaculture principles. Whether I picked them up from a book, a class, or Uncle Shedd, you can be one of us. You don’t even need to know the secret handshake.

It’s fall now. The tippy-tops of the cottonwoods have begun to turn yellow. Walking about, I crack hazelnuts with my teeth and in the early morning, I catch slow, cold grasshoppers to toss to our chickens. The dogs bark at deer emerging from the shelter of the creeks and draws. Cardinals and nuthatches have begun to leave the woods and seek seeds from the desiccated sunflower stalks in my yard. The ducks are full-feathered and plenty fat, flying about rooftop to rooftop every morning, ready to move on to their next stage of existence. The Indian Grass is in full flower. I’ve eaten about a dozen, ripe Asian pears. Autumn olive trees are festooned with scarlet berries that don’t taste very good. I’m beginning to collect, sort, and process firewood for the winter. I’m looking for some socks and some long pants that won’t fall off. If autumn is like death’s springtime, then the skein of geese I saw headed southwest yesterday is sort of like the first emerging crocus. Stock your larder and find your socks folks, it’s almost soup season. But, before we get wheelbarrow loads of turnips and a good frost, I’ll be plenty busy in many directions. I might design, but I don’t recline.


Want to see what living in an ecovillage where permaculture is applied? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left happening in October. Come join us!


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The Span of a Year: My Dancing Rabbit Experience https://www.dancingrabbit.org/the-span-of-a-year-my-dancing-rabbit-experience/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/the-span-of-a-year-my-dancing-rabbit-experience/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 02:30:14 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=23036 By Ryan Morris

Eleven months after attending the Dancing Rabbit Sustainable Living Visitor Program in May 2017, I finally started my residency at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. You may remember my first post about the eye-opening and transformative experience I had at the visitor program. Since then, it has been a winding and sometimes turbulent road with occasional discomfort and fear, yet abundant excitement and joy.

Ryan stacks straw bails during a timber framing workshop.

I decided to move on from my previous community residency at the neighboring community of Red Earth Farms and begin again here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Thankfully, I will not lose those friends, as the tri-communities of Sandhill Farm, Red Earth Farms, and Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage provide multiple options for living in intentional community. The homesteading option I left at Red Earth Farms is currently not my most-aligned path, but I am thankful for the kindness and compassion I received living among those special communitarians and for the experience of being graciously accepted into their community.

This year has been full of opportunities for me to stretch my comfort zone. Although, at times, I have gone through experiences of contraction, I have without a doubt expanded into spaces once personally unoccupied, both spiritually and psychologically. Living in the tri-communities has exposed me to opportunities such as a 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat, a Burnout Workshop (stress management), a Yoga workshop, and the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training. Beyond my participation in trainings and workshops like these, within community there is a true opportunity for personal growth, and the consistent challenge and blessing of intimate relationships. I have, without a doubt, seen more of my shadow these past 11 months than I have seen in my first 30 years of life. We are all on this journey of the soul and when we see each other as dynamic, support each other, and act with forgiveness and integrity, true transformation is possible. It is my belief that through growth on the personal level, we as individuals can transform the wider collective culture.

I am originally from south-central Florida where there is virtually only one season; hot and humid (summer). Earlier this year at Dancing Rabbit, just as the last snows had fallen for winter, Hassan spontaneously led our community Men’s Group out into the night and onto a steep hill for a night of sledding. I have not laughed that much in years and the snow between my butt cheeks did not stop me from howling at the moon as we rode down the hill together.

Experiencing the changing of the seasons has been an immense joy for me. After a long winter, I saw and felt for the first time in my life the beauty and awe of trees budding, morning birds singing, and rabbits dancing. Anima mundi waves at us with the wind and touches us through time as the soil warms in spring and life continues to flourish into summer.

    This year is quickly moving forward, with tree leaves now beginning to change colors, and the season for the Dancing Rabbit Sustainable Living Visitor Program is nearly over- just one visitor session remaining! From my perspective on this side of the aisle, the experience is much different and the pace is quick though enriched by frequent daily connection. Schedules fill quickly as we bound into harvest season and there are still needs to be met and openings to fill with folks who dream of living this way. Dancing Rabbit could use more willing hands. Humanity-at large needs more courageous souls ready to step out of their comfort zones and help co-create a new paradigm of interconnectedness and regeneration. Are you one of them?  

Ryan was born and raised in sunny Florida. Some of his interests include personal growth work, permaculture, sustainable living, and regenerative agriculture.

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Cat Karma: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/cat-karma-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/cat-karma-a-dancing-rabbit-update/#comments Mon, 17 Sep 2018 21:35:18 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=23018 The other night, Highway MM from Rutledge to Memphis and back was two very different experiences. On my way, in the partial light and drizzle, it was a beautiful country drive: hills and curves and cows. I love these kinds of drives. I used to have to leave the city to take a country detour like this. Now, as a new resident at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, I get to enjoy these back roads in the natural course of my comings and goings.  

While the drive to Memphis was enjoyable, the drive back to Dancing Rabbit later that night was a completely different story. I enjoyed spending a couple hours with some new acquaintances in Memphis before heading back to Dancing Rabbit about 8:30. That same appealing drive through the country a couple hours earlier turned into a test of my nerves and equilibrium on the way back home. It was my first time driving the road at night, and the darkness was complicated by more rain, big puddles trying to pull me off the road, and the glare of oncoming headlights. I knew the center line was there, but it was impossible to see. I slowed down. The curves came out of nowhere. I slowed down again. Just as I thought I was getting more comfortable and speeded up a little, I’d hit an unexpected puddle and need to slow down yet again. Funny how my move to Dancing Rabbit is proving to be remarkably like that trip to Memphis.

A group of visitors gather for a tour during open house.

Visiting DR in May for a Visitor Session was more like the leisurely drive in the country I first described above. It was bright, sunny, and easily navigable. May is my favorite month of the year, by the way. I could see the curves coming up ahead and the yellow lines were clearly marked. Not a puddle to be muddled. No glare off the smiles of the other Rabbits in the bright light of day. But the subsequent reality, of moving to Dancing Rabbit on August 30 and living here as a new resident, is akin to that nighttime traipse on wet, winding, unfamiliar roads.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the transition has been treacherous, but the terrain is unfamiliar with unexpected, sharp turns and a steep hill or two popping up out of nowhere. The solution, once again, seems to be slow down. I don’t know about you but slowing down has not been something I’ve been very good at in my lifetime. I tend to speed up until I hit the rumble strips on the shoulder, then I slow down. Speed up, slow down. Speed up, slow down. Over and over. “This time it will be different.” At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Let me tell you more about myself. My name is Troy Matthews, and I’m from Kansas City—Overland Park, Kansas, to be exact. I’m the newest resident of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, Missouri. I first found Dancing Rabbit online around the year 2000. I was looking for something different and better to my way of thinking than how I was living as a suburbanite. Getting out of the city into the country was part of living better in my mind and it still is. Grandma and Grandpa lived on a farm near Alma, Missouri, when I was a kid. My dad and mom did not have the farming bug, so I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and in southwest Florida. After many years of living mostly in the ’burbs but also in big cities like New York and Paris, I bought my first home about 30 minutes south of Kansas City in the country. My country house was situated on a little pond with several pecan trees in the yard. I imagine that most of you reading this understand the call of country living. Moving to Dancing Rabbit is another step toward the country and I’m very happy to be here.

And then there was a white, bedraggled cat . . .

Recently, as I walked the gravel path in the residential area of the village, a white cat approached me from behind, pulled up alongside, passed me, walked five or six feet ahead of me, and had a heart attack. I kept walking. Mr. Cat recovered instantly. He trotted ahead of me again and then had a stroke directly in my path; writhing on his back like a puppet with a couple strings missing. You might already realize what was going on, but I still did not. I continued walking.

Again, the cat recovered and caught up to me. Instead of just passing by this time, Mr. Cat rounded my right leg rubbing as we walked. He then rushed ahead and collapsed in the path before me, yet again. “Maybe this cat wants some attention,” I finally realized. “Of course! Mr. Cat just wants some attention.” I’m a little slow. I told you I lived in the suburbs for a long time. I did not oblige Mr. Cat with any attention. I was busy going nowhere. I did not have time or inclination to indulge this conniving cat. Vague warnings like “Do Not Feed the Bears,” “Natural Area: Do Not Disturb,” and even “Don’t Pet Strangers” flitted through my brain. Mr. Cat persisted; I persisted as well. Instead of flopping down on the gravel on pass number six, Mr. Cat just kept cat-ting on his way. I’ll give Mr. Cat credit for his persistence.

I think karma got back at me the next day. Bad, cat karma. Here’s what happened. I woke up knowing I should roll over and stay in bed. An annoying sound like a fax machine being suffocated by a feather pillow kept poking my peace in the ribs making continued sleep improbable. I got up. It was raining.

I checked my usual email and social media. Rabbits get a lot of emails about goings-on in the village and other business exchanges. While I was web-surfing, Bear asked me to move my truck to the lower field in preparation for Dancing Rabbit’s Open House. (We wanted space for visitors to park upfront, right at the entrance to our village.) I assumed the rain had made for a muddy, lower field, but I figured I had four-wheel drive and wouldn’t get stuck. I put the truck in 4-low and moved to the lower field just a few hundred feet down the road. I had an inkling of the obvious, yet I did not heed it. Two other vehicles were parked already, and I wanted to conform, so I pulled in just as they had done. Immediately, I wondered if I would be able to back my truck out, and immediately, I attempted to pull away, and immediately, I found myself stuck. “Hah! Won’t get stuck.” Stuck. Stuck. Stuckity-stuck-STUCK! I knew it, shaking my head. The truck was stuck in the muck. Stuck!

I walked back up the hill to the village self-talking my way out of a tantrum or a pity party at the least. “Told you I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.” I told a couple other folks about my truck being stuck in the muck. “Welcome to the club,” said one. “Getting stuck is a rite of passage here,” said another. “I can help you,” said yet another. I felt a little less disgusted with myself.

Just after I got the truck stuck in the muck, my new Dancing Rabbit community “circled up” to kick-off the Open House. We circle-up and hold hands before Tuesday Potluck and Community Dinner on Friday, as well. There were about 30 adults and a bunch of kids in the circle. “Who knows the DR song?” The song was sung. As I leaned in to hear the words and catch the melody, I got that warm, connected, I’m-glad-I’m-here feeling once again. By the end of the song, most of the mucky, stuck-truck taste in my mouth had washed away.

That’s all for now. I’m settling into my new life at Dancing Rabbit. It took the help of a tractor to get my truck out of the muck. Mr. Cat is nowhere to be found. If you see me in town at Keith’s Cafe, Tri-State Used Furniture, or getting a coffee on the square, all of which I’ve already visited, be sure and say “Hello.” If I look like I’m in a hurry, I’d appreciate a friendly reminder to slow down, again.

Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left happening in October. Come join us!

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My DR Visit: Blood, Sweat, Tears, Laughter, and Beers https://www.dancingrabbit.org/blood-sweat-tears-laughter-and-beers/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/blood-sweat-tears-laughter-and-beers/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 22:18:01 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=22999 Blood, sweat, tears, laughter, and beers. That’s the conclusion a Rabbit and I came to over coffee one morning. We were having a chat in the Common House, talking about what has gone into creating Dancing Rabbit over the last 21 years. For me, the Visitor Program was a real look into the building of Dancing Rabbit and the people that have done the work, as well as a short immersion into what life at DR would be like for new residents. I arrived for my two-week stay with a strong feeling I would pursue becoming a resident at DR, unless any unpleasant surprises warned otherwise. I found surprises, but they were most pleasant! There was no bait-and-switch or hard-sell or too-good-to-be-trues. It felt like a genuine look into the busy, everyday life of the community.

I mentioned pleasant surprises. I knew meals were included in the program, but I did not expect the delicious variety of clean, organic, home-cookin’ that was the norm, meal after meal. Eating with the residents of DR, in addition to other visitors, was another pleasant surprise. As Rabbits opened-up about themselves—which seemed to come naturally for most—I was fascinated by the life experiences they brought to the table. Great food AND great company.

“T” hanging out in the common house between visitor workshops.

The educational workshops—two or three each day—occasionally felt like too much of a good thing, especially in the late afternoons as my hammock was calling my name. I was up at 5 am most mornings (thank you birds, roosters, dogs, sun, trains, and a resetting internal clock) and had just finished a big lunch, don’t you know. The reality was that none of the workshops were superfluous. For those of us considering applying for residency, each workshop fit into the overall picture. Workshops on communication or conflict resolution were unexpected, but, “Duh!”  Living in community necessarily involves both.

I appreciated the mix of discussion, whiteboard notes, real-life exercises, and getting out on the property for sessions. I recommend that you bring your hiking shoes because a jaunt around the land or to Red Earth Farms or into Rutledge will be a few miles round trip!

I appreciated the openness of the community. As a guest, I was invited and welcomed to all the community events. I took part in morning yoga/meditation, Song Circle, swimming in the pond, Men’s Group, karaoke, Movie Night, Pizza Night, and Game Night. Sadly, I was only a spectator at Ultimate Frisbee, but it looked like a blast and A LOT of exercise. There was more going on than I expected all around the village all of the time.  

I’ll wrap up with a few words about “shoulds.” I imagine all humans have them. I should recycle more; I should eat healthier; I should spend more time doing the things that feed my face and my soul; I should relax; I should use less water; I should live more simply; I should reconnect to Mother Nature. I should exercise more; I should read more; I should take more naps; I should leave this job; I should laugh more; I should move to the country; I should be a better friend. I should hug more; I should sing more; I should get some sun; I should build my own house; I should put up a solar panel; I should ride my bike more and not drive as much. I should, I should, I should, I should . . .. It occurred to me that Dancing Rabbit is a place where “shoulds” go to die; Rabbits are living with fewer “shoulds.” That’s my plan anyway: the Shouldless Dancing of the Rabbits. Sounds good to me. It felt good to me; maybe it will feel good to you too. I double-dare you to give it a try.


I’m Troy, or “T” if you like, and I’ve waited 20 years to come to Dancing Rabbit. Over the last 20 years, I got sober, started a couple businesses, and answered the call to be a substance abuse counselor. I believe silly is a state of grace and my personal motto is “Just love people.” Going forward, I plan to write life-stories for folks, build custom chairs from reclaimed materials, stop “shoulding” on myself, and continue doing what I believe to be the next right thing.

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Seven Plump Piglets and Bioluminescent Fungi: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/seven-plump-piglets-and-bioluminescent-fungi-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/seven-plump-piglets-and-bioluminescent-fungi-a-dancing-rabbit-update/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 21:06:45 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=22970 September rolled in quietly last week while my attention was elsewhere. Now I find myself halfway through the remaining few weeks of summer, finally enjoying as many tomatoes and dropping peaches as I care to eat. I’m appreciating these cooler days and nights, as well, even though they portend the waning of the season when such delights will eventually come to an end for the year. Ted here, to bring you the latest from here.

This week at Dancing Rabbit bridged one big event and another; from the Singing Rabbit event we hosted here on Labor Day weekend to our annual Open House this past weekend. It was an entire week of weather that either threatened or produced significant amounts of rain, certainly in comparison to our extremely parched summer.

4 out of the 7 Plump Piglets. Photo by Javi.

4 out of the 7 Plump Piglets. Photo by Javi.

With the return of moisture to the land, the fungi have awoken here in NEMO. My friend Alyson reported (and delivered a specimen of) two different bioluminescent fungi observed growing along the path in the woods she traverses regularly between Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and the adjoining Red Earth Farms. Some internet research turned up no mention whatsoever of any such beings living in our area. New sighting? They are certainly fun to look at in the dark!

DR work exchanger Charlotte came in from a walk Saturday morning before Open House with a beautiful array of a dozen or so species of fungi she’d seen while walking on the land here. Some edible, some not; all beautiful. I haven’t had time to go out searching at length myself, but there have been plenty to see all around the homestead on my daily rounds.

Homeschool began again last week (after Labor Day, which was the norm when I was a kid). I’ve taken on teaching geography with a sideline in current events this year to Aurelia and Emma. I’m just getting into the swing of it and having fun, so far, with climate patterns, biomes, nutrient cycles, and all sorts of other interesting things.

Christina, last week, mentioned the songs running in her head as a result of the singing event we hosted and I can definitely attest to a similar impact. For days, I’ve had songs steadily burbling up in my mind while at work on other things. Whole songs in languages I don’t speak (including two out of three of those Georgian and Balkan tunes Christina mentioned last week) took over my brain space for hours at a time, assembling into some reasonably coherent, mental recordings. One afternoon, I heard Darien on his accordion picking out the tune and chord changes of a song that was also stuck on intermittent repeat in my head. It was fun to realize I was not alone with the background music.

If each of us who attended can bring at least one new melody into our regular song circle, our expanded repertoire will grow even richer. I don’t love repetition, so that suits me well.

The mid-week rain ran in torrents through our neck of the woods, the underlying soil so long dried out that it couldn’t absorb much at first. Tuesday afternoon, there was a steady stream flowing down to and through the door of our shed. I tried hastily to reestablish and encourage some of the drainage features we’ve installed previously. The hydraulic engineering work of tunneling moles also made itself known, where a rivulet would disappear into one hole and re-emerge as a fountain from another 15 feet downhill.

With the approach of Open House and no break in the weather expected, I began to fret that our paths would be impassable for tours come the weekend, but our path maintenance manager Kyle managed to conjure a couple good piles of chip-mulch mid-week to cover and repair some of the essential village paths, despite the wet weather, and a handful of us helped disperse it just in time.

Saturday’s weather turned up grey but merely damp, fair enough that a stream of 50-plus folks came to tour the village in the afternoon. Receiving tours at Ironweed kitchen to talk about alternative energy for a few minutes, I marveled as I do each year at the variety of wonderful people and interests we meet and learn about at this event. Thanks to all who came out to visit! And, well met.

Speaking of well met; Friday morning, as we were finishing breakfast, Althea came charging up to the screen door to share that “Lexie had seven plump piglets!” Aurelia disappeared with her to go meet the new critters and didn’t turn up again for a couple hours. I went down to meet them the other day, and they are indeed, extremely cute, little bundles of soft fur with scrunched snouts. Sadie is due soon, too, so the barn will soon be o’er run with wee four-leggeds.

Sunday, at our Village Council meeting, we discussed the findings of the ad-hoc, alternative-fuels, research group for our vehicle co-op. One of our six covenants specifies that we will not use fossil fuels for transportation, and for many years, we have bought diesel vehicles and run them on biodiesel for as much of the year as we could. Winter-cold makes biodiesel gel, however, and so we have regularly had to blend in petrodiesel for the cold months. Changes in diesel engines also mean that to run 100% biodiesel requires vehicles produced before 2007, and vehicles do wear out.

Newer vehicle tech, especially hybrid electrics, have lower lifetime and operational emissions than conventional cars, especially when they can be charged on green power such as we produce for ourselves at Dancing Rabbit. We do not change our ecological covenants lightly but are now considering what the most potent fuel covenant could be, while still matching the reality of our experience. Our research has shown that our vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing efforts have the biggest impact in reducing our individual and collective carbon footprints. Humans’ reliance on fossil fuels is one of most central issues of our times, so we want to get this right, and continue to ratchet down our impact.

Even if you decided not to come out for our Open House in the wet weather, it isn’t too late to stop by for a public tour this year. We are still offering public tours at 1pm on second and fourth Saturdays through October, so please do come out and enjoy the onset of autumn here in the village.

Here’s hoping your upcoming harvests are bountiful, with sun and rain each in good measure. Thanks for keeping up with the news from our village and we hope to see you here again soon!


Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left happening in October. Come join us!


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Bringing the Festival to My Own Backyard: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/bringing-the-festival-to-my-own-backyard-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/bringing-the-festival-to-my-own-backyard-a-dancing-rabbit-update/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 01:40:08 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=22938 I’m sure that plenty of exciting things happened here at Dancing Rabbit during the past week—not the least of which is that we finally got some much-needed rain! But I’m having a hard time remembering it all over the songs in my head.

I’m not the first to say it, but one of the really great things about living here is how many awesome workshops and events happen in the village. I can learn and have fun and meet people and eat amazing food—and then go home to sleep in my own bed.

Christina here, writing on the last day of Singing Rabbit, a 95-person community singing festival that is happening right now in my own backyard.

Annie and Laurence leading a stand up and dance song circle!

Annie and Laurence leading a stand up and dance song circle!

It’s not exactly easy to define community singing.  It almost always involves sitting in a circle, though sometimes we stand in a tight bunch or walk around to hear each other. Sometimes we sit around a fire, though it can also take place while waiting in line or walking on the path or anywhere that two or more people sing together.  

Usually the lyrics are simple and easy to learn, though this weekend I learned three different songs in Georgian (as in the country, not the state) that were quite challenging. Often there are intricate harmonies created by the different voices, though sometimes we all sing the same melody together. Sometimes, as is the case this weekend, community singing events involve shared meals, fun activities, and other ways of connecting.  

Community singing is always welcoming of anyone who wants to try to learn the words—or even just hum along or sit quietly in the center of the circle without making any noise at all. And of course, it always involves lots and lots of songs.

This weekend started on Friday night with a shared meal and a fireside song circle. We gathered in a circle and sang a song together, went over a few logistics of the weekend, and then grabbed our bowls and plates and lined up to eat dinner together. As many of the people traveling to the event had not yet arrived, the fireside song circle that night was smaller, but we learned many new songs and sang some favorites all while looking at the amazing Missouri night sky full of stars.

The next day, we got more into the events of the weekend. Some people started out their days with yoga, Qigong, or silent meditation. (Not me, I decided to sleep late that day to prep for a late night of singing.)

Something else that I’ve really come to appreciate about living here is all the interesting people who pass through for one thing or another and are happy to share their gifts or knowledge. The morning workshops were what are called “community offerings.” In other words, people who know how to do something offer their skill to anyone who wants to learn.

Breakfast started at 8 am in the main tent, aka “The Hub,” with oats and eggs and lots of fixings. After holding a morning circle to go over more announcements or logistics and to point out the poison ivy patches around the tents, we broke off into the first of many smaller, daytime song circles.

These smaller circles, scheduled at 10:00 and 4:00 each day were led by amazing song leaders in the US who traveled in for the event. I’m constantly amazed by what they can do with people, many of whom have never met before, to create beautiful music simply with their skills of leading. I learned many new songs and sang some of my favorites from past circles.

More shared meals, more community offerings, and many trips to the pond rounded off the weekend. Again and again, I was so grateful that I was able to retreat to my house to rest or change my clothes or work on the tomato harvest.

One of the highlights of the weekend for many was the five-hour grief ritual on Sunday afternoon led by Laurence Cole, who travelled here from an ecovillage in Washington state. Another thing that I have come to appreciate about life here is the way we embrace and celebrate things that are often ignored or rushed over in mainstream society—conflict, darkness, death—we celebrate it all.

Another highlight of the weekend was the “No-Talent Show” on Sunday night. This has been a Dancing Rabbit tradition for a while now, and it is so much fun to encourage anyone to share their “talent” with the group. If there was a theme to the event, it was people making interesting sounds with their bodies—oh, and handstands.

Today is the last day of the weekend event. I admit I’m tired after a few extra late nights and so much activity, and I’m almost ready to return to the day-to-day routine. Sometimes I need a break from growing and learning and stretching my comfort zone.

But in just a few weeks, I’ll be gearing up for another great event here. I’ve registered for the annual Permaculture Design Class this year and it starts in three short weeks! I’m looking forward to another great party/learning experience/world-class workshop happening right here, in my own backyard.


Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left and the Permaculture Design Course happening between now and October. How will you choose to get involved?

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Living As My Authentic Self: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/living-as-my-authentic-self-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 21:05:18 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=22822 What does it mean to live an authentic life? Liz here, observing the effects of passing the one year mark of living in alignment with my values, intentions, and purpose.

What I remember of my former, urban life (as it fades into the mists of time), is that I experienced considerable tension when thinking about the state of the world and my opportunities to do anything active or meaningful to improve it. What I have noticed since moving to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is that I have relaxed internally, with greater joy and happiness, now that these two things line up. Letting go of the tremendous responsibilities and energy-draining aspects of maintaining a nuclear, family structure has created a much more dynamic relationship with my adult children and allowed me to express my individual purpose in life to a greater degree.

Alannah's birthday cake, made by Liz and her daughter, Talia. Happy birthday, Alannah!

Alannah’s birthday cake, made by Liz and her daughter, Talia. Happy birthday, Alannah!

There have been many ways this has manifested and some of those ways have been very unexpected. I describe this aspect of my life, not to be compared with anyone else’s, but to encourage anyone who might need encouragement to live their own authentic life. So, here are some stories from this week that are meant to do just that.

This week, I began learning how to plaster a straw bale house. Dancing Rabbit just finished hosting a natural building workshop. The participants worked on Angela’s straw bale house, the latest natural building project at DR. I have joined the project as a volunteer so that I can develop my skills for setting straw bales in place to form walls, plastering exterior and interior walls, and whatever else I can learn in the coming weeks. At my former home in Berkeley, I found my home improvement niche as a painter. I found that I loved working with color and texture and had enough patience for repairing plaster on old walls and then repainting them. Stuffing plaster between the fibers of a straw bale has some similarities in that it can be learned pretty quickly, and the results can be seen almost immediately.

While working together in Cob’s garden each morning, my son Graham and I began talking about what type of housing we thought would be inspiring to build at Dancing Rabbit. Between my wanting to help provide much-needed housing at DR and Graham’s interests in natural building design and cooperative living, we hatched a plan to start by building a simple 20-foot diameter straw bale roundhouse with a reciprocal roof to gain skills for eventually building a cluster of buildings forming a cooperative sub-community within the ecovillage. It is a grand adventure; it is a way to serve DR’s mission of growing the village and it is a way to share experiences with my adult children.

Cob’s garden will be almost on auto-pilot if it continues to rain like it did this week. We pull weeds and harvest what ripens: basil, green and red tomatoes, potatoes, pole beans and bush beans, parsley, summer squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, and yet another crop of radishes. We also watch over the little seedlings of fall crops starting to peek out from the soil: Brussels sprouts, several types of beets, arugula, daikon radish, kale, and garlic. Within the next few weeks, we will sow a winter cover crop of legumes, clover, and buckwheat to enrich the soil for next year and to crowd out unwanted weeds. The rainbow of beautiful perennial flowers (borage, nasturtium, daisies, marigolds, cosmos, and more) are going to seed, hopefully re-appearing next year without our assistance and without the need for much watering.

The garden at Sparrows Nest has had an abundant crop of Concord grapes this year. I continue to harvest the grapes as they ripen and take the dark purple, sweet-tasting nuggets to Alline, who makes them into jelly and juice. It’s a beautiful partnership!

We had three people from the last Visitor Session stay on or return after the program ended. One of them, Charlotte, flew in from Florida and I picked her up from the airport several days ago. She will be hosted by Angela and me and will work for us in exchange for room and board. Her first night, she got rained out of her tent and spent the night in the Common House drying out. We hung her things in the greenhouse at Morel (my house), so they could dry even as it continued to rain the next day, and Hassan helped her string a tarp over her tent to keep the rain out. She has remained cheerful and resilient through it all, a good sign she will do well in the next few months she plans to live here.

The Milkweed Mercantile has had ongoing inn guests this week, all of them family members of Rabbits. I have been training Graham to take on some breakfast shifts and over the weekend we served two family-style breakfasts for nine people. We gathered everyone around one big table loaded with mile-high biscuits and homemade jams, zucchini fritters, and blueberry muffins along with the standard Critter eggs, Sandhill farm produce, and of course, plentiful cups of coffee. I’m not sure exactly why feeding people tasty food is so satisfying, but it keeps me coming back to work every week. It’s also interesting to get acquainted with the parents of some of my community members.

Birthdays are very important at Dancing Rabbit and much hoopla is made over them. This weekend, Alannah asked for a chocolate birthday cake with peanut butter frosting and my daughter Talia and I decided to collaborate and make her one. It was an interesting balance for me of helping Talia find the ingredients and supplies in the Mercantile kitchen and stepping out of the kitchen for moments to let her put the cake together. Talia is a veteran dessert-maker from way back (even though she’s only 20!) and I knew I could leave this dessert project in her capable hands. The finished product looked professional and delicious.

In preparation for Singing Rabbit this weekend and Dancing Rabbit’s annual Open House on September 8, residents and members gathered together for Land Clean Day on Saturday. Each of us chose some aspect of the village to beautify or repair in a three-hour work party. The advantage of numbers worked in our favor in getting these tasks done and the place looks great.

And what of my purpose in life? For me it boils down to this, as expressed by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk: “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. We are all the leaves of one tree, we are all the waves of one sea.” Whatever I can do that moves me in this direction feels enriching and authentic.


Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left and a couple of events and workshops, like Singing Rabbit and the Permaculture Design Course happening between now and October. How will you choose to get involved?

Abundance and Adaptation: A Dancing Rabbit Update https://www.dancingrabbit.org/abundance-and-adaptation-a-dancing-rabbit-update/ https://www.dancingrabbit.org/abundance-and-adaptation-a-dancing-rabbit-update/#comments Tue, 21 Aug 2018 00:29:59 +0000 https://www.dancingrabbit.org/?p=22785 Howdy y’all. Ben here, checking in from the slightly moist dust bowl of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, northeast Missouri. We got about a half inch of rain overnight, just enough to make the step outside my outhouse slippery and keep my sweet potatoes from quitting for one more day, not to mention get some mildew brewing and keep me from dehydrating the metric boatload of produce I’m tripping over.

After months of arid conditions, the cottonwoods are already dropping leaves due to stress. I drop things when I’m suffering from stress, too, mostly tomatoes. We are at the height of abundance and with abundance comes steady work. During my morning chores, I’m collecting between five and ten pounds of tomatoes a day. Some of the plantings are located between different poultry runs, in sort of a patchwork-style of alley cropping. I never think enough about bringing a clean harvest basket, as most mornings my wheelbarrow is maxed out with grain, whey, fruit drops, and duckweed, and so inevitably I end up carrying vegetables in my shirt and hat, the round ones often doing what round ones tend to do—roll out of my grasp, landing on the ground near the waiting beaks of rapidly-growing, young chickens and ducks. If I stoop over to get one, three more fall out. Whatever, everyone needs a little lycopene. In fact, tomato pomace, the byproduct obtained from making tomato paste and other tomato products is a well-known fattener for maturing pigs; so, I’d like to think that one way or another, we’re getting all our nutrients back. Eventually.

Tomato eating a tomato. Photo by Ben.

Tomato eating a tomato. Photo by Ben.

Speaking of swine and nightshades, our really tiny, really sustainable pig project has gotten an upgrade in the form of our first boar. We named him Tomato, but you can call him Mr. Mater. See, that’s a pun, I think. He’s been gradually transitioning to our scene, and it’s been a little stressful at times. We don’t feed grain of any type to our pigs, but this little guy didn’t know that anything other than corn could be eaten. Now I’m happy to report that after a few days of sulking about and ignoring overripe pears and cucumbers, he finally ate a tomato this morning. The sows we hope he gets to know better in a few months are easily twice his size, and so he’s got a lot of apples and squashes to digest before he’s ready to perform the duty he’s here to perform. Otherwise, he may well end up with an apple in his mouth for good.

Organic or not, pigs typically consume a lot of grain, at least in modern times, and that equals a lot of land and fuel resources that could instead be utilized to feed humans directly. Additionally, as the current president seeks to make America great again, or whatever, he’s seemingly doing a bunch of monkeying with the sale of conventional ag commodities, like soybeans, and burning farmers on the prices they can get on their products. This couples pretty disastrously with climate instability. So yeah, I’m of the opinion that if it takes two years instead of six months to make a hot dog, and all you need is grass and byproducts from human food production; that’s a way more sustainable hot dog. And thanks to Tomato, I’ve got all the chromosomes I need to get started. I’m looking forward to that BLT I’ll get in 2019.

And while I’m of the opinion of sharing my opinion, let me say this . . . I’ve never seen lettuce and tomatoes available in the garden at the same time. What a ridiculous sandwich. Put some lambs quarters on there, kale, something. We’ve got it made in the affluent, western world. With enough money, I could get a live lobster airmailed here tonight; it’s too dry to find a crawdad right now. Think about the poor lobster, wandering the ocean floor, covered in armor, thinking to itself, “What could go wrong? I’m covered in armor?” Until, that is, it is pulled into a completely unfamiliar world, its claws bound in rubber bands, stuffed in like, what, a Styrofoam crate, put in an airplane, and dropped into a pot of boiling water, just so landlubbers can eat something which basically tastes like a cicada.

I do believe that one day our decadent western diet will have to change for simpler, “localer,” less processed food. Like cicadas. And by the way, I’m not sure that hermetically sealed tofu is all that much better for the planet than airmailed ocean life. I believe the food of the future might taste weird. Like aronia berries. I just juiced some. It’s going to have to become hooch or something, because the theoretical health benefits just aren’t doing it for me. It’s like if you took the skin off a blueberry, wrapped it around a cotton ball that’s been soaked in alum, and then made into the most abundant, pest- and drought-resistant fruit you could grow organically in the Midwest. Lots of anthocyanins, I hear. Good for ya, I guess. Know who likes aronia berries? Pigs. Maybe not Tomato, not yet. But I’m working on him.

The food of the future doesn’t have to taste bad, but I think it’s a good idea for all of us to become better cooks. Take the simple, lowly winter squash, for instance. It’s alright. Some are better than others. But, if you put a bunch of garlic in it and apply the proper amount of time and heat, it tastes like boxed macaroni and cheese powder. I mean that in a good way. Put some nutritional yeast on it, cook it longer, and it turns into a Cheez-it. Not that I believe nutritional yeast is a food of the future. That is, not until someone can tell me what it is and how it’s made.

Some more practical commentary on this is to compare different methods of home food-preservation. Many folks are familiar with the canning process. We do it too, from time to time, especially with our meat, because we don’t have the solar power to run a freezer at our homestead. But canning requires a lot of manufactured stuff, like jars and lids, a lot of water, a lot of fuel, and a lot of time, the last one being something I’m often short on.

Fermentation, on the other hand, is going to happen to all food at some point eventually, so just controlling it more by excluding air and including salt is an easier, fuel-free way to make something that is most likely going to taste interesting. Which reminds me, I’ve got some jars and crocks I really need to go look inside.

Dehydrating is often done using electricity, but there are all types of passive-solar type projects you can do yourself. With an earthen oven, we can dry some foods out overnight, utilizing otherwise wasted thermal energy after baking. This year, many of the varieties of tomatoes we planted were selected for being tasty and drier, good for this type of practice.

I’ve made my own ketchup twice now, and both times have been disastrous messes, but with pretty tasty results. Anyhow, I think I’ll probably just buy ketchup, as much as I hate to admit. In a future where there is no manufactured ketchup for sale, I’m sure I can figure out another condiment to dip my cicadas into. Now I’m getting hungry, so I’d better go and eat some okra. Anything that slimy has got to be good for you. If people can eat chia seeds, I may as well start selling bottled okra slime. Okay, someone else can take that idea and run with it. Just send me enough royalties to get a large supply of ketchup. I’ll be needing it.

Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program sessions left and a couple of events and workshops, like Singing Rabbit and the Permaculture Design Course happening between now and October, how will you choose to get involved?

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