Farmer John enjoying a snowy day in front of our eco inn, the Milkweed Mercantile.

The Country Life: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Howdy y’all! I grew up in Rushville Illinois, but spent 30 years in Texas, where I picked up some of the local lingo. When I’m a’down in the rough part of Seguin, Texas I might could turn it awn kinna heavy. I like saying y’all because it feels so inclusive.

Farmer John enjoying a snowy day in front of our eco inn, the Milkweed Mercantile.

I traveled to Texas this September from Dancing Rabbit with plans to move back there again, and go back to a desk job in Austin to make money to pay down some debts and get some dental work done. (At 65 I am needing some repair work. The last estimate, with insurance, was for $7000 for crowns and implants. Texas friends tell me I should just go to Mexico and get the work done much cheaper; they swear the work is as good as here in the States.)

Parmejean here, (or Farmer John, but I’ll answer to just about anything), letting you know I chose Dancing Rabbit over the rat-race. Having spent two growing seasons here in northeast Missouri, and having had to drive a car only 20 miles in the whole month of July, I was in a shock driving around in central Texas traffic, especially Austin. I knew the traffic would be bad; it was just amazing how country life had spoiled me. The traffic congestion was as bad as ever, and though Texas drivers pride themselves on courtesy, (it is very bad manners to ever honk at anyone), the crazy, aggressive drivers are quite plentiful. There are so many vehicles the roads get clogged — you can spend an hour going across town — and all those barely moving cars are still spewing fumes, so the air is tainted.

Despite all this, I was STILL considering going back to the desk-job in Austin and making money until I listened to Greta Thunberg’s speech to the U.N. It was such an inspiring speech, asking that we do all that we can to reverse the calamity of human induced climate change, and saying that she would hold adults accountable for their inaction. 

I have worked with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an excellent, well-thought-out group, and studied climate with the experience of farming thrown in. I know that the massive amount of CO2 we are putting in the air is increasing the temperature. We must change our energy usage to slow this problem. I generally tell people the climate issue is simple physics: CO2 traps heat and if you put more CO2 in the air you get more heat; this is easily measurable. The hard part is: what will that do to weather? The answer is: make it more unstable. Old patterns are not holding up. I am changing my thinking from just feeling hopeless and making jokes about it, to making what difference I can.

Now I am settling in to life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for the long term and have given my car to my son Nicholas, since I can get along fine without it. Nick is training to be an airline pilot and has already done a solo cross-country flight, but doesn’t have a driver’s license yet. I gave him a week of driving lessons. It was great to have so much time with him, though I never got him to take the test and get his license! He is happy to have the car, and should have his license very soon, so he can get a job and pay the insurance (and also start paying his own phone bill).

I am quite happy with my decision to return to the country life here. My body was deteriorating as I spent a dozen years at a desk, and I loathed to return to that sedentary life. Now I get lots of exercise strolling in the woods when I like, carrying firewood and water, and dancing at the events here at Dancing Rabbit. I also help the Critter Farm move goats some mornings, and it is lots of fun to see the goats scramble out when the pens are opened. Mae is in charge of the goat herd and uses moveable electric fence to rotationally graze the goats. Mae is quite knowledgeable about animal nutrition and takes excellent care of the animals; she watches the forage levels so she knows when to move them. Once we move the fence, shelter, and water trough, we have to round up all the goats we have turned loose and get them into the new pen. Usually this is easy, but sometimes the goats have dashed away out of sight and we have to hike around hunting them — great exercise in the crisp morning air!

A major change for me is that I have just moved into Skyhouse, our onsite boarding house, from Robinia. Robinia is a lovely home, and I loved having a place all to myself, but I was offered a very nice place at Skyhouse, where I am helping to keep it warm and cozy. (My first week here, the temperature dropped to 3 °F and we had a good 5 inches of snow.) I love walking through the snowy woods, the crunch of the snow under my feet, and the lovely muffling of sounds due to snow cover.

It’s so nice to keep the fires burning at Skyhouse, and the great insulation of this straw-bale structure has held the warmth quite well. We have a main furnace here, which heats a 300-gallon reservoir and distributes heat to our running water that can also heat our floor, so this one gets lots of work. I work to get the reservoir tank up to 160 °F if possible, so on firing days we have really hot showers. I let the tank drop to about 100 before firing it again, and sometimes lower, so there may be a lukewarm shower day here and there. We have two more wood burners: a rocket stove that heats up a large metal drum and radiates heat quite well, and a more conventional free-standing stove that is nice to sit around in the evenings, or any time the wind is blowing freezing air.

But the best thing about Skyhouse is that I get to share it with several other Rabbits. This arrangement gets to being like family quite easily, living with such gentle folk. It is nice, as we share a kitchen and some meals, so the house has great aromas as well.

So I get to have a healthy, active, social, environmentally-friendly life, and I will just take real good care of the teeth I have left!

Enjoy the season.

Love y’all,

Did Greta’s speech make an impression on you as well? You can help Dancing Rabbit’s mission to spread the word about climate disruption, and create a new culture that lives in harmony with nature, by donating to our non-profit: The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture, on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd.  

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