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Take a Walk on the Rewild Side: A Dancing Rabbit Update

I know from personal experience to heed the advice of people who have lived in Missouri for a while; March weather always comes with surprises, no matter how nice the weather is right in front of you.

Liz here, reporting that the weather in the last two weeks has been warm and sunny at Dancing Rabbit ecovillage, but we’re not being lured into a false sense that spring has sprung!

The next building season has started at SubHub, the straw bale building I am building with my hardworking crew. One of the many hopes I had in moving to DR was to align my life more closely with nature, and the building project has many aspects to it that follow the seasons. In the winter, I sand boards outside on sunny, colder days and when my greenhouse is warmer than 40 degrees, I know it’s a day to bring the sanded boards inside my greenhouse and stain and oil the boards where it’s warm enough to dry. In the winter it is usually just me and my son, Graham, working when we can tolerate the cold. Kudos to Graham, who is quite a bit more tolerant of the cold than I am, and who works away, day in and day out.

In April we wait past the last frost date before we start soaking lime and water in big barrels and clay in buckets for several weeks for making plaster. We make and apply the plaster when it’s warm enough in the late spring for it to dry. Later in the summer it will be too hot to work for very long outside, so the crew will retreat inside SubHub where it is shady and cool and work on finish plaster, kitchen floor and shower tiles, woodwork and the brick masonry heater.

The goats at the dairy co-op follow the seasons as well, with many goats being born in February and March. The dairy co-op has a raffle to name the kids each year. A few of the names were Myra, Ella (after Ella Fitzgerald) and Celery Seed. It seems whatever you name a baby goat, it’s cute!

The village as a whole seems to be doing what my mother, a teacher, used to call “lateral development,” where, instead of forging ahead with new experiences, a person slows down and processes the experiences they’ve already had. The Village Council, our main governing body, put aside our weekly meeting this week and decided to host some activities to encourage connection with each other. There was a tree identification walk, a pruning demonstration and a gathering around the fire pit for some connecting activities. Sometimes instead of hammering away at issues and decisions, it’s energizing to look your neighbor in the eye and smile, and do something fun as a group. As soon as I am fully vaccinated, I hope to join in on more of this group fun.

One of the many hopes I had for the SubHub build was to focus on teaching natural building and construction skills to women and people with little to no experience. We have managed to do that over the past 18 months, but this building season, I am proud to say that the core crew includes myself, five women, and my son, Graham, with two additional interns arriving in May. Former wexers Grace and Idan are our newest crew members. We will miss crew member Rusty, who is moving to be closer to his sister for the time being. And, of course, our mentor builder, Kyle, will continue as a consultant.

As the weather warms, villagers who have left during cold weather start to return to us. Paula returned from the Southwest, Sara from Seattle, Taylor and Merle from Saint Louis and John from Illinois. Rae and Aaron, owners of Woodhenge, have returned for a while to renovate their house.

I came across a term lately that is used in some permaculture circles to describe returning land to its natural state. The term is “ rewilding.” As soon as I read this term, I adopted it for my own use, in a social permaculture sense, because it matched a feeling I had. For years before I moved to DR, I yearned to know what life would be like if I could rewild myself. I didn’t know it when I moved to Dancing Rabbit, but DR turned out to be a perfect place to shed the tense, hyper-vigilant, hyper-independent, and non-collaborative parts of myself and ratchet down a few notches. Before I moved to DR, the only “we” I had ever considered was my ex and my kids back when we were living as a family group.

Other ways I rewild at DR include spending lots of time outside, no matter what the season or the weather, walking safely at night in a place that has no street lights, observing the phases of the moon, basking in the glorious sunsets and sunrises while walking my dog, knowing all who pass me on the village paths, and sinking my bare hands into clay plaster and smoothing it into a shelter.

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 www.dancingrabbit.org for work exchange opportunities this season and information about our live online events.

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