Service for the Soul: A Dancing Rabbit Update

On Thursday mornings I run errands with Uncle Kurt. He’s been doing the Thursday morning errands for quite a while now. (“I’ve been doing it quite a while,” he said, when asked how long he’s been doing it.) “It’s one of my contributions to the community,” he added. “I also like to get to know the locals.” After 18 years living at Dancing Rabbit, Kurt is a local himself, and a trip into town with him proves to me he is a fixture in Rutledge and Memphis.

T here, with an update about life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Why all the errands? Well, we Rabbits try to reduce our use of cars in order to lessen the amount of fossil fuel pollution we send up in the air. Instead of 31 people running into town on 31 different trips, which would be about 700 miles of driving, Kurt does all these errands in one trip of about 35 miles. (31 errands is the current record.)

Uncle Kurt, with his friends Jennifer and Cynder.

We Rabbits share cars too, instead of everyone having their own. Right now the vehicle co-op has three cars and a truck. One of the vehicles is electric, and we charge it up using solar energy from our panels when we can. I’m happy to report Mel’s Auto in Rutledge just put new winter tires on one car and our truck, so we should have better traction in the upcoming mud season. (With all the snow, ice and rain this winter, I can imagine the roads will be something else.) West of DR is a very steep hill that will challenge the new tires and Uncle Kurt’s driving abilities. East isn’t much better, but a little bit flatter. Whenever I’ve asked Uncle Kurt about the road conditions before our trips into town on Thursdays, his answer is the same: “Good winter driving conditions.”  (He spent many years in Minnesota so take this assessment with a grain of ice-encrusted salt.)

Now more about all those errands: the dogs at DR are spoiled with bones and meat, so our first stop is the meat market in Rutledge. (Can’t beat the price at $1.00 for a bag of bones.) I’m sure Virgil thinks they are worth a million dollars, judging from the way he chews them. Then we double back to Zimmerman’s grocery store, or Zim’s as we like to call it around here. Uncle Kurt has several lists of items from different folks, which he rounds up while strolling the aisles. He knows many of the employees by name. I find that appealing. I did not know anyone at my grocery store in Kansas City, even though it was only a block away and I went there several times a week. Zim’s amazes me with the variety of items they have stocked. Lately, I’ve been getting a nice 5lb bag of apples for less than $4.00. What a bargain! Kurt is the personal shopper for his own household, his kitchen co-op, and Thursday pizza night at The Milkweed Mercantile. I’m not sure I could get the job done as efficiently as he does.

Another little ecological thing we do to reduce trash is we bring our own bags to pack the groceries up in after we’re done shopping. Kurt hasn’t forgotten his bags yet. (I do believe some of them have been making grocery runs for the entire 18 years Kurt has lived here.) I have reusable bags, and I want to use them, but I must admit, I forget them about half the time. I won’t give up, though. I’ll keep trying. It may seem like a small thing, but I think it’s a good thing to do.

Sometimes we have mail or packages to drop off at the post office. Everyone in the village knows Kurt goes to town on Thursdays so they leave things on the counter for him in The Milkweed Mercantile, or drop by about 8AM before we leave to ask him to do something for them. (If you’re interested in meeting Uncle Kurt, his friendly dog Virgil, and perhaps some other folks in the village, swing by for pizza night any Thursday between 4PM and 8PM. Last week, Alline’s desserts were a homemade blackberry jelly roll with whipped cream, and decadent chocolate brownies with cappuccino cream cheese frosting. Get directions from Google Maps and swing on down!)

Back to errands. Next, we hit the road and head to Memphis. (Have you seen the bald eagles along Highway M lately? Some in the village have seen as many as eight, scattered around the treeline.) We’ve seen at least one every time we’ve driven to Memphis for a couple months now. What a sight! The eagles are huge. This week, one was perched in a tree near the road, but usually they are flying. I’m told the one without the white head and tail feathers is a youngster. At first I thought it was just a hawk, but it was obviously bigger; and we do see hawks as well. On our last trip, Kurt pointed out a sparrow hawk, which was pretty small. I enjoy seeing the wildlife on our trips into town.

I also enjoy seeing the livestock. Our neighbors have Angus cattle. A little farther down the road are Herefords. The Herefords remind me of my Grandpa Matthews’ farm near Alma, Missouri. Grandpa always had about 30 Hereford cows, plus calves. (He really loved the little, white-faced calves.) I have good memories of Grandpa when I see the cattle as we drive into town. I also enjoy seeing the sheep and goats along the way. We have goats here at Dancing Rabbit, and guess what: we have nine new kids on the farm, with a couple more on the way. Guess what else: I have entered a raffle to win naming rights to the kids as they are born. I have already alerted my family members that I hope to be naming a baby goat in their honor in the upcoming weeks. (They were not nearly as happy about receiving such an honor as I am happy about bestowing it.)

Before leaving DR, Kurt and I fill up the trunk of the car with boxes and plastic to drop off at the recycling center in Memphis. We have lots of recycling. Folks can load it up and bring it to town and get credited on their monthly bill for car mileage (because we work within a vehicle co-op, everyone records their mileage and pays for it at the end of the month, and it’s all based on the honor system) as an incentive to bring the recycling to town. The system works pretty well. As far as trash goes, our 60 plus people at DR fill one dumpster a week full of trash.

I did an experiment for the month of February to see how much trash I generated myself. I filled up a newspaper bag about 2/3rds full over the month. My February trash weighed 4 ounces. A bag from Amazon, which my new boots were delivered in, takes up much of the room, plus a lot of foil paper tea bag wrappers. (The used tea bags themselves get composted.) I’ll be looking for a tea brand that does not individually wrap the teabags to cut down on my future trash. It may not seem like much, but it seems like the right thing to do for me.

After dropping off the recycling, our first stop is usually the bank in Memphis. Just like the grocery store, Kurt has a pocketful of deposits from various people at DR, so this adds to the total errand count. The tellers at the bank all chime in with, “Hi Kurt,” as soon as we walk in the door. I opened a new account there as well, and I think my money is going to be happier in a small town bank than it was in the city, just like I am. Casey’s is right next to the bank, and we often stop in for coffee or a sandwich. I bought a plastic mug that I can bring back to refill, so I save a little trash from going to the dump, and I also save a buck. I was happy to learn that Casey’s has free air, for when I need to fill up my truck tires. I can’t believe some places get away with charging for it. Thank you Casey’s, for free air!

Kurt got a haircut this week, and I decided to get my beard trimmed up by a professional. My beard was longer than it has ever been in my life, and I’m sure it was past due. We had barely started a conversation, the barber and I, about college basketball and the trimming was all done. Maybe next time I’ll get a haircut too? (That still won’t be a very long conversation as I don’t have much going on in the way of hair.)

I usually call Mom and Dad while I’m in town because I get better phone reception there. I’m enjoying using my electronics, phone, and laptop computer much less since I moved to DR. I still use them and enjoy them, but I’ve become less attached to them. Dad just had cataract surgery which went fine. He said, “Mom says ‘Hi’,” so I didn’t talk to her this week.

As garden season approaches, I’m getting ready, along with my three other food co-op companions, to grow some of our own food. We’ve been laying down cardboard to keep the grass and weeds from coming up, but we have more garden than we have cardboard, so I stopped into The Memphis Mercantile, the appliance side, and inquired about some boxes. They were very nice, and I was able to get several large boxes that will go a long way toward getting our garden covered and ready for spring. (I have been promised by reliable sources that spring will indeed come, even though it seems we have had an endless winter.)

After picking up a prescription at the hospital, we went to Shopko and Jay’s, which is where Kurt and I usually round out our trip into town. We got some dry-erase markers at Shopko to use at The Milkweed Mercantile. At Jay’s, there were three more separate orders of things, which we could not get at Zim’s. I made chili for my co-op earlier in the week, about 4 gallons worth, and I got some tomato paste to add a little more depth of flavor when I upgrade the chili for my cookshift on Saturday. (I heard a rumour that cocoa in small amounts also adds a nice extra layer of flavor to chili, so I may try that. That’s about as fancy as I’ll ever get with my cooking.) By the way, we are very lucky to have a member who owns a farm in Ecuador, where they grow cacao. She often brings home cacao balls for our culinary enjoyment.

I do like to give my dishes fancy names, though, even if it isn’t fancy food. The other day I sauteed some beets, onions, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes. There was a brilliant sunset that night, and with the help of the beets my sauteed veggies took on many of the sunset colors. The fancy name I gave that dish was: Root Veggie Sunset Saute Medley. (I told you it was fancy.)

With the car full and all the errands complete, Kurt and I returned to Dancing Rabbit. (We saw the eagles again on the return trip along with the sparrow hawks.) We unloaded at The Milkweed Mercantile when we got back to the village after another successful errand run. We didn’t set any records this time, but we did have a nice productive trip. It may not seem like much, but a nice, normal, productive trip into town is sometimes a quiet act of heroic service that is good for the soul.

Visitor season is coming up soon! We still have a few spots available for the first session, which started on April 14th. Spring is a great time to come and learn all about how our community does things differently to live more sustainably, as well in harmony with one another. Spots can sell out quickly, so don’t delay – confirm your spot today!


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