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Handprints in the Soil: A Dancing Rabbit Update

It seems like every time I write this column, I end up writing about why the previous week wasn’t a “normal” week. And this last week was no exception. Many of my regular weekly events took place— “the WIP” (the week-in-preview), Ultimate Frisbee games, homeschool classes, there was a Tuesday night potluck—but I wasn’t available to participate at any of them.

Instead, I spent the week observing worms eating food waste, activating bio-char, making “lasagna” with cardboard, straw, and compost, and listening to more fascinating presentations than I can count. Christina here, writing about the Permaculture Design Course which I attended right here at Dancing Rabbit.

PDC instructor Sharon and Christina (right) chatting during the livestock tour

To say that it was an amazing, life-changing, super fun, and exhausting ten days would be an understatement. I’m still reeling a bit from the intense experience, so for those of you who have experienced a PDC, please forgive me if I don’t do it justice in this column. I’m still buzzing with excitement about everything I learned about permaculture, myself, and this great place where I live—so please excuse the effusive words that follow here.

What is permaculture? Well, you can read Ben’s witty column from last week to get one insightful, first-hand take on it. For me, the biggest takeaway is about the difference between a “footprint” and a “handprint.” Your footprint is the impact you have on the earth, usually negative. It might consist of how much fossil fuel you use, how much waste you create, and how many resources are needed to support your lifestyle. To live sustainably, you need to reduce your footprint as much as possible. Moving to an ecovillage has made all of this a lot easier for me. But while living lightly has made my life better in so many ways, sometimes I want to do more.

The concept of a handprint is about producing a positive impact on the earth. By adding some soil amendments, combining certain plants, or sequestering carbon by planting trees, I can have a positive impact on the Earth—even creating small ecosystems where there was barren ground or an empty lot.

During the ten-day course, we learned about soil and tree guilds, how to grow more food with less work, and how dire the climate change situation is right now. We learned about regular people around the world who are doing amazing things with their handprints and we learned how to use regular old cardboard and waste to create a new garden. I know there is so much more that I am forgetting now—I almost filled an entire notebook with my notes and the list of books I’ve decided I must read fills a whole page.

As I’ve found with just about any workshop or event I’ve attended at Dancing Rabbit, we learned so much more than concrete knowledge: things like how to work in groups, how to be vulnerable with new friends, and how to appreciate someone else; often referred to as “soft skills.”

The best part of the whole thing was the people involved. The three primary teachers, Erik, Olive, and Sharon, were inspiring, caring, playful, knowledgeable, and super great to be around. The other students were also inspiring and unique and interesting and great new friends to hang with. And the people who put in so much work to make the course happen—from teaching classes to making snacks to ensuring that everyone had enough warm blankets one cold night—helped me to feel like I was taken care of throughout the week.

I’m excited about all the things I learned that I can do to increase my handprint. I want fruit trees and sheep and swales in my landscape and I want them now! But I am trying to follow the permaculture principle of using small, slow solutions. I will spend time observing the land and its ecosystems before I interact, and I will remember that change takes time. But before I do all of that, I need to catch up on my everyday life here in the village.

Even though I generally believe that I live in the most beautiful place on Earth, there are times—such as, when I get overwhelmed with the dirty dishes or the long consensus meetings or the personal dynamics in the village—I need some reminders of just how awesome Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage really is. I received a great reminder of this last week and now I’m equipped with the knowledge and confidence to go forward and make my own amazing handprints.

Want to see what it’s like living in an ecovillage where permaculture is applied? Come visit us 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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