Raising the Bar(n): A Bartender’s Perspective

by Sammy Jo

I really love the wonderfully unique perspective of our village that I get from behind the bar at the Milkweed Mercantile. As you can imagine, the conversations I engage in and overhear on a weekly basis are worthy of a blog post in their own right. Everything from relationship dynamics to butchering techniques to quantum physics has been discussed during my shifts. If those straw bale walls could talk… well then I suppose we would remember a lot more of our amazing ideas. (And we’d be famous for having talking walls!)

But of all the conversations I hear in this bar, my favorites are when Alline, Kurt, and Bob talk about building the mercantile, and many of the other fundamental structures here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. These walls are infused with their sweat, tears, laughter, and probably a few beers too. There is something really amazing that happens when people talk about something they co-created, and in this dynamic place there are always opportunities for creative energy to manifest.

When a building goes up, it is like a snapshot of the village’s population, projects, energy, and needs at that particular time. It is usually a group effort with many people contributing to the construction in different capacities. It is a way we can show up for one another and support the village’s growth while also developing and refining our own skill set. There is also an undeniable pride that comes with being able to say, “I helped build that!”– and some kind of unquantifiable social credit as well.  Work exchangers, visitors, and workshop participants have all left their mark here in this very literal way.

Bella Ciao, now (2018) and then (1999). Photo by Sammy-Jo.

Walking past Bella Ciao, I always smile seeing the hand prints of the dozen women who created this beautiful home during a building workshop for women in 1999. That workshop was actually Alline’s first week here at Dancing Rabbit! It is fun to imagine how empowering it must have been to build one of the most gorgeous homes here as a group of females, when construction was (and is) such a male-dominated field. I believe that workshop accomplished a lot more than their obvious goal of creating a naturally built structure. It also helped shape the identity of Dancing Rabbit as a feminist ecovillage. What an amazing impact those women had in such a short time on farm! I often wonder what other amazing things are created by all of the workshop participants who travel through here.

When the goat barn goes up during the Timber Frame Workshop this June, it will represent cooperative stewardship. The goats are managed cooperatively, and to have this barn be built in such a collaborative way feels really fitting. You may have already read Ben’s perspective on why this barn is so vital right now, or seen Mae’s invitation to join us in raising this barn’s timber-framed structure. It really is your opportunity to make a mark on this land: a giant 16’ x 24’ mark that will change the “curb appeal” of our village drastically for those traveling in from the west.

The other impacts that come out of these 7 days of timber framing will depend on the individuals that put their sweat and laughter (hopefully without blood or tears!) into the timbers with us. We’ll share nourishing meals and have the chance to participate in evening activities together too — a unique immersion into the cooperative culture of our intentional community.

I’ve gotten to hear a lot of the specific details and logistical plans for the barn, which Thomas assures us is strong enough to hold 2 rhinos. It makes me happy to see my friends so passionate and excited about the potential ways this will improve their daily lives. I am really looking forward to the bar shift when I get to overhear someone proudly exclaim, “I helped build that!” as folks hanging out at the Milkweed Mercantile laugh nostalgically about this epic barn that enabled the goat herds and farmers here to function more productively and sustainably.

If you feel the calling to be a part of this workshop, I sincerely hope you join us June 10-17 for a week you’ll be sure to remember and be remembered for; it will be a legacy that lasts!


If you want to participate but feel limited for financial reasons, please contact us at 660-883-5511 to discuss ways that we can make this experience more accessible to you. But hurry because registration will close in just a couple of weeks!

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