My name is Kale and I was once just like you: a person interested in living more sustainably and following Dancing Rabbit (DR) as a means to get that inspiration for my own life.
That was 2-5 years ago. Now I’m writing this blog post as a person who returned to Dancing Rabbit, after an immersive internship and more than a year back home in Canada.
After years of reading about Dancing Rabbit, the lives of the folks who live here, and the amazing ways they contribute to the betterment of our world, I decided it was time to experience their way of life firsthand. In the summer of 2015 my partner and I partook in a 3-month internship (aka work exchange) here at DR with Ironweed, a homestead and food co-op.
During the internship I ate every meal with my Ironweed family, I worked every day with Ted on a huge variety of projects (including building a shed addition, earthen plastering, gardening, weeding, harvesting, watering, food preservation, berm building, cheese making… the list goes on and on!), played Ultimate frisbee with the community, worked with other community members during work parties, milked goats every day, and swam in the pond almost every day!
I regrouped with my intentions to live a life closer to the natural world, or what I like to consider the “real world”, not the fabricated places we humans have created from concrete. When there was no sun or wind, we ate by candlelight. I could feel the pride in knowing I was taking responsibility for my own waste, instead of flushing it with gallons of clean water down a mysterious pipe to who-knows-where!
I was doing so much more to minimize my impact on the planet. I experienced community on a deeper level than I ever had, and felt my resolve grow, that a place like DR was where I ultimately would make my home.
When it came time to leave that fall Ted dropped us off at the train station and waved to us from the platform as the train pulled away. My partner and I sat on that train wracked with sobs because we couldn’t believe we were leaving this human we loved so much, this human who had come to share our lives with us in a myriad of meaningful ways. Yup, community is a powerful thing!
So we went home to Newfoundland. I worked my horrible gas station job for 8 months. After feeling satisfied with the amount of money I had earned, I quit my job to volunteer on a local farm and in a yoga studio during the summer months. After that we spent time in Ontario, on land my parents own that I will one day inherit. I built them composting bins and cold frames and an apple press for making cider from the trees on our land.
And then I decided to make the long and daunting trip back to middle-of-nowhere northeast Missouri to come back to Dancing Rabbit.
I love being at DR. I love the way I live here, and learning so much that one day I will apply to my own land and how I live on it.
I try my best when I’m out there in the world to live as sustainably as I can. I think about the things I buy. I buy secondhand whenever possible, and I try to avoid plastic (and other) packaging, especially in the grocery store. We eat mostly produce (local when possible) and bulk beans and rice. I compost.
Unfortunately some things are out of my grasp. I can’t have solar and wind power when I’m renting an apartment. I can’t compost my own waste in the city. These are things that are game changers about DR.
When I’m at DR I’m aware of how much easier it is to live in line with my beliefs. The systems are in place and everyone has that mind frame. We’re all working together to make solutions. Everyone here has ideas to share about how we can make a better world and share that with others.
If sustainability is a passion for you, then DR might just be your home. And even though sustainability is a huge motivating factor to why I love being at DR, the number one reason I came back was undeniably the people. My Ironweed family. The meals with the entire community. The dancing and singing events that happen often. Community games like Ultimate and hockey. The weekly meetings when we all plan our lives around one another.
There is a sense of being with others here that I haven’t found in any conventional culture. For me, coming back to DR was coming home, and that feeling is more valuable, more precious than anything else I’ve ever known. Whether or not I ever choose to live at DR in a permanent way, I know I will keep coming back to be with my friends and family, and to feel that warm fuzzy feeling of being home.
Kale Withey is a work exchanger extraordinaire and a Jack and/or Jill of many trades. They have a burning desire to live outside the oppressive patriarchal mainstream culture and have found themselves at times calling Dancing Rabbit home. They live primarily in Newfoundland, Canada with their awesome partner, Amy, where they volunteer on local farms and build furniture out of scavenged dumpster wood for fun. They dream of living off the land and making meaningful contributions to a better world.