Surviving a Polar Vortex: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Like a great ship righting itself after capsizing, the subzero temperatures around here are returning to normal winter cold.

Liz here, breathing a sigh of relief and ready to share the latest from Dancing Rabbit.

My little cottage feels like a ship to me, with its close quarters and the precarious feeling I have when it’s very cold that there is nothing standing between me and the elements but 15 inches of straw and clay plaster. My little house performs so well in extreme temps that I have come to rely on it and appreciate it in a way that I never did with my house in Berkeley. We have an interactive relationship: I feed the woodstove and create the heat that the house absorbs and then radiates back into the house during the night. The straw bale walls and cellulose in the attic hold the heat in. And, especially after the power outages in Texas, I appreciate the redundancy my woodstove provides me in heating my house without electricity.

There is a particular kind of patience that I try to cultivate when I have to stay put for long periods of time in harsh weather, when food supplies get low enough that it forces me to dig around in my emergency food stash for variety, and the days melt into each other to the point where I have to think hard to remember what day it is. My wood stockpile, that had made me feel so secure in the fall, is two thirds gone, with another seven weeks of winter left. But, as I have repeated to myself often during the last two weeks, my dog and I are warm, fed and sheltered and that is priceless. I’ve gone from 10-12 logs in the woodstove each day for the last two weeks, down to six logs each day.

The last two weeks have had the usual considerations that come with extra cold weather. Keeping my dog’s feet from getting frost nip with very short forays outside; keeping my stored water topped off because the water spigot near me froze for several days; bringing in wood everyday so it can dry out before being used.

To those considerations I ended up adding an injury, when a sliding window on my storm door suddenly slammed down on several of my fingers. Luckily Cat, who was a nurse and is a generally all around sensible person, lives right across the road from me. I was able to wrap a towel around my bleeding hand, grab my first aid box, and run across the road to her house. We were able to assess the injury (picture Nearly Headless Nick, but with one of my finger tips). I resolutely passed on going to the hospital and decided instead to take my chances dealing with it myself. Twelve days later, the prognosis looks good. It ain’t pretty, but it’s healing.

The subzero temperatures caused disruption in other ways to life here in the village. Matt, from nearby Red Earth Farms, moved to Andi’s house while she was away and then to the Gils’ house while they were away after that, after deciding that staying in his fortified yurt wasn’t going to cut it. The spigot near Fox Holler Farm froze, which meant that Ben had to haul water for his livestock from the spigot near my house, which involved pulling 5-gallon containers of water on a sled to the farm.

The fireplace at the Mercantile couldn’t keep up with the low temperatures, so my friend Squirrel and I postponed our daily morning coffee get-togethers in the main room. Squirrel, who lives at the Mercantile, retreated to living primarily in her room, where it was easier to keep her and her dog, Zoinks, warm.

With the rising temperatures, life gets back on track here in the village. Back to encountering people outside and having a passing chat. Back to planning the upcoming building season for SubHub, the straw bale building I am shepherding through to completion. The village celebrated several birthdays, the first of which was Sparky’s, which she celebrated by treating the village to cinnamon buns, baked by Alline. Prairie’s birthday was marked with a zoom gathering for sharing appreciations, an outdoor mini dance party, a village-wide treasure hunt and an evening fire circle ceremony. Danielle and Prairie spent that night in a snow cave built by Jed. I met them on the road coming back the next morning and they claimed they were snug and warm!

And for our personal entertainment these last two weeks, the village has been discussing how, and if, we can offer visitor programs this year and what that could look like. There are always many opinions. There are people who are comfortable voicing their opinions, and there are people who struggle to express their opinions. In my opinion, making decisions by consensus takes longer and requires more willingness to engage with different viewpoints than majority decisions. I prefer consensus because it’s an opportunity for people to develop communication skills, and it cultivates tolerance and patience.

Dancing Rabbit celebrates Valentine’s day in a very inclusive way. Several people create cards for each villager and the rest of us write appreciations in them. The cards are then distributed. This year, Alline also baked all of us Valentine cookies. Are you seeing a pattern here?

In keeping with our mission as a village, the nonprofit sponsors interns as the need arises. This month we have a new intern who will be working from their home in Florida, improving the CSCC website. Welcome CJ!

During the last two weeks we had a handful of sunny days. The blinding beauty of bright white snow sparkling in the sun reminds me of living in Switzerland as a child, and I feel uplifted by it. I have a cedar tree outside my back door and every morning I can look out and see birds fluffing themselves on branches, even in subzero temperatures. The cedar has many spots of color from red cardinals, blue jays, and many different kinds of sparrows and buntings. There is even a young woodpecker who keeps hammering on my gable boards. A pair of rabbits live at the base of the tree. I am amazed every day how these small fragile creatures manage to survive our winter conditions.

I leave you today with a quote from Buddhist monk Nyanaponika Thera, that seems to fit with community living and, hopefully, life in general in these challenging times: 

“It is compassion that removes the heavy bar, opens the door to freedom, makes the narrow heart as wide as the world. Compassion takes away from the heart the inert weight, the paralyzing heaviness; it gives wings to those who cling to the lowlands of self.”

Liz Hackney has lived at Dancing Rabbit for four years. She can now say she survived the polar vortex of ‘21 and lived to tell the tale. Check out our website at for work exchange opportunities this season and information about our live online events.

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