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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 4/19/10 [Apr. 18th, 2010|09:41 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Dan here, writing the weekly column on the happenings at DR. Well, the season is really ramping up this week at Dancing Rabbit. I said yesterday that it seems like we've already had a month of summer and we haven't even celebrated May Day yet. Normally that's when the season seems to kick off. And it's not just because of the weather. Maybe it's because we already have work exchangers and have had so many events recently.

We are now standing on the verge of another visitor season, when things get really busy and the level of activity doubles at least. Yes, this is the time when groups of interested people come to spend time at DR, and we show them how things work and how we live so hopefully they will decide to come join us. To prepare ourselves mentally Coach Hot Dog (aka Nathan) led the Second Annual Visitor Season Pep Rally. He whipped us into shape and raised our DR spirit so that we would have the energy to give our visitors the warm welcome they deserve. He was backed up by our Dancing Rabbit Cheerleading Squad (probably didn't know we had one, did you?), which mostly consisted of Nani and Jennifer. Apparently there were several others at the cheerleading tryouts earlier in the week, but they chickened out at the last minute. Then the rally was wrapped up with an inspirational speech based on the Gettysburg Address by Thomas, who was channeling the ghost of the late great Babraham Lincoln. Don't ask. Needless to say, we were somewhat inspired and definitely entertained.

As far as construction, there is progress happening as Tim continues work on his foundation and Wabisabi builds their temporary kitchen that will be the cooking place of their eating co-op while they build a more permanent kitchen. I saw a bunch of concrete block dropped off near Maikwe's house and heard that it was for a new cistern that's supposed to be dug this week. I know work has been humming along at the Timberframe as Jennifer's work exchangers lend a hand. Mary Beth is also starting work on finishing Brian Toomey's new house, which is Jan's old house.

Then there's the gardening. Everybody's getting everything in extra early this year with the weather being so nice. We hope that translates into a lot more produce being grown this season. I personally can't believe how far along everything is. Mary Beth has been creating beautiful herb spiral down near the Ironweed garden and Tamar's cabin, where she lives. She's doing it the right way and it's guaranteed to impress anyone who makes their way down that direction. The village can always use more beautification. Several Rabbits have been working in Liat's garden this season. I think part of it is being tended by Ali and April, and part by Bob. The morels are not out yet as I went out once with Mary Beth and again with the Garden Club and did not find a one. It's interesting because the woodland ephemeral plants seem to be at the stage they are normally at for morel season. Let's hope they come out this week.

This week we continued to be impressed with the talents of our new work exchangers playing a wide variety of instruments and singing songs. I think I've seen them doing some garden and construction work for their hosts too. I haven't seen so much music making here for a while. “Beezy” has made good on his goal of playing music every day he's been here. Janel, who formerly sang in a band on cruise ships, has been doing her share of entertaining as well.

One of the venues for our new and some of our veteran DR musicians was the Grand Opening of the Milkweed Mercantile. The Mercantile opened its doors to the whole community Saturday afternoon and gave us all a taste of it's delicious cuisine and down home atmosphere. Featured were mostly local and always scrumptious ingredients like aged and fresh cheeses, wild edible harvested from around the village, local meats and eggs, and sweeteners like Sandhill honey and sorghum. Part of the goal of the Mercantile is to support local producers. I saw in attendance locals from Rutledge and the tri-communities, familiar faces from Memphis, and of course plenty of residents of DR. It all happened on the front porch of the Mercantile on a beautiful day, and it sure looked to me like everyone was having a good time. I couldn't resist going back for seconds and thirds and fourths.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. We offer tours 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month April through October. Our next tour is April 24th at 1:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 4/12/10 [Apr. 15th, 2010|08:51 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |indescribableindescribable]

Hi all. This is Alline reporting the latest doings at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. As I write this the sun is shining, and everything is green, green, green! We knew it was truly spring when Tom shaved his beard, when Ziggy began watering the strawberries on his living roof, and when the robins started shouting, um, I mean singing, each morning at 5:00 a.m. 

With the lovely weather everyone who has ever even considered having a garden has been busy digging in the dirt. I’ve seen Adrienne making numerous trips with the wheelbarrow down to the Osage Garden, and watched Alyssa take a tray of seedlings out to the Sunflower garden for planting. Sharon and Dennis have been mulching and composting like crazy in preparation for the garden at the site of their new house, and Cob and Meadow keep planting berry bushes as they arrive. Tom and Tereza went away for a few days but first arranged to have someone look in on their seedlings (as any good parent would do). BJ and Nani continue to encourage their nine varieties of okra seedlings. I’m sure that any day now Ted and Sara will produce the first tomato of the season and we’ll all be consumed with tomato envy (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but…). In other gardening news we were excited to hear that Dan has been approved for a grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for a hoop house, which will enable him to extend the growing season on whatever fabulous things he decides to grow this year.

On Sunday we had a freakishly blustery storm which took part of the roof of Maikwe’s house and blew it into a tree. Fortunately about 25 Rabbits came to the rescue and put up a tarp, and everyone was OK. Whew!

On Wednesday Mary Beth hosted a fancy dress up sushi party for her birthday. The original venue had been Maikwe’s house, but in deference to the recent roof rearrangement the party was held at the Milkweed Mercantile. Anthony, recently returned from a trip to St. Louis crafted gorgeous fresh fish into sushi and sashimi, which many folks here at DR miss desperately. We love our lives here, but sometimes get “homesick” for the restaurants we’ve left behind. We’re grateful that Mary Beth shared her sushi craving with the rest of us! Photos may be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/mmsushi

Saturday was busy, busy, busy! Jennifer and Meadow volunteered their time to wrangle, er, organize the community’s annual Land Clean. They told us that it was going to be “The Best Land Clean, EVER” but I’m not sure any of us truly believed them. Brothers and sisters, we are now believers. Hallelujah and amen! The devious duo planned the Clean Up so that we started off with homemade cinnamon rolls, freshly brewed coffee and hot tea, and ended with more snacks at 11:00 a.m. In between the Outdoor Kitchen was completely cleaned out and received a fresh coat of paint (on the non-mural side), mini-bridges were built over water-drainage channels, dog bones were picked up, and old buckets and trash were loaded up into the trailer for a trip to the dump. It’s looking pretty spiffy around here!

After the Land Clean many Rabbits made the pilgrimage to the monthly Dog & Gun Flea Market, which is located seven miles from Dancing Rabbit. They came home, thankfully, without any dogs or guns. One of my favorite things to do is to watch folks trickle in, sunburned and tired, but happy to play a brief game of show and tell – there were many “new” treasures to be exclaimed over. Elle came home with a bicycle and now she and Ewan do little else but ride up and down Main Street, happy as clams. I’m not sure that they even take time out to sleep!

On Saturday we also hosted the first DR tour of the year – it was a great crowd. Bob led the public tour which included old friends Frank & Theresa Cicela and new friends Barb and Billy from Kirksville, Illinois. Jennifer & Brian spent the afternoon with a group of students from Washington University in St. Louis.  We had a full house for lunch at the Milkweed Mercantile’s “Sometime Café.” Anthony made his already-world-famous burgers, and it was great fun to sit on the porch in the sunshine and eat. The next Dancing Rabbit tour is Saturday, April 24th at 1:00 p.m., and the Mercantile Cafe will be open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. One last bit about the Milkweed Mercantile: we are having our Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, April 17th from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. We’ll be giving tours of our two-story solar-and-wind-powered strawbale building (our café, store and 4-bedroom Inn) and serving delicious complimentary appetizers. We’ll be having a ribbon cutting at 3:00 – we hope you can join us! For directions on how to get to the Milkweed Mercantile go here: http://tinyurl.com/mmdirections

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri, practicing ecological sustainability. The next tour of Dancing Rabbit will be held on Saturday, April 24th, at 1:00 p.m. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/22/10 [Mar. 24th, 2010|09:28 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

Hi everyone. This is Alline with all the news that’s fit to print (and then some!) from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

On Wednesday Bob celebrated his birthday in the traditional Rutledge way with coffee and donuts at Zimmerman’s. We’re not sure exactly sure which one of the Rutledge Renegades started this custom, but we sure like it!

Amy and Juan’s son Jolyon also had a birthday this week. It was his first, and he had the parties to prove it! Joly’s grandparents came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota and a great-grandmother, lovingly nicknamed “Chiquita,” came all the way from Argentina. Involved in the celebrations were three cakes, lunch at the Mercantile, several hundred balloons, and a time capsule for him to open in twenty years. The time capsule proved to be especially thought-provoking – what kind of technology will we have in twenty years, and what would be the most appropriate medium with which to communicate? Joly seemed just has content with a tea strainer as with his new wood train, puzzle and books, and charmed everyone with his sunny personality. He told me that he had a great time, and is looking forward to turning two.

With the reappearance of the sun there is a lot of gardening happening around the village. Alyssa and Zane have been nurturing seedlings in the greenhouse, and Friday planted trees at their new house site. Sara, Ted and Aurelia, Tom and Tereza, Dan, and Sheila in Skyhouse, all have seeds sprouting in flats – I can tell already that it won’t be me who produces the first tomato of the season! Friday was also Burger Lunch at the Milkweed Mercantile. Anthony has sourced some lovely better-than-organic pastured beef from Yoder’s Natural Farm in Bloomfield, Iowa, where they farm with methods popularized by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm (more info here: http://tinyurl.com/45xlzw). For the vegetarians Anthony crafted a burger from black beans and other secret ingredients. Both types were declared “the best burger I’ve ever had” by many diners. Accompanying the burgers were Anthony’s own Fries, made right here from fresh potatoes rather than pre-fab, pre-frozen industrial fries. It was a little slice of heaven, right here in Rutledge. One last word about Anthony and the Mercantile Café – we’re looking for a few Culinary Interns for this summer. If you’re interested in spending a few months at Dancing Rabbit and learning about cooking from one of the best, this might be the perfect opportunity for you. Read more about it here: http://www.dancingrabbit.org/social_change/culinary.php

In other news we are very excited about Tom becoming certified in solar installation – he will be going to Jeff City for more extensive training soon. We have come to depend upon him for his knowledge and ability to trouble-shoot and keep our power systems running (in spite of what we do to them). Stay tuned for the announcement of his new business.

Some of the members of the Wabi Sabi kitchen coop (Thomas, Ziggy and April) accompanied Jennifer to town on Friday to pick up a trailer load of “urbanite.” This is just the fancy-schmancy (geological?) name for broken up concrete. We find that it is fantastic in foundations, and Wabi Sabi continues to work on their kitchen. By the way, “wabi sabi,” while somewhat difficult to define, is a Japanese term for an aesthetic that describes beauty as "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete," and also represents a comprehensive Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. This seems well suited for the folks in the cooperative, and for the cob building that they are constructing to house their food adventures.

Last but not least, there is a new event coming up this weekend for Dancing Rabbit – a Pedal Powered Fundraising Blog-a-thon! While perhaps not as energetic as a bowl-a-thon or a dance-a-thon, we are looking forward to it nonetheless. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg of Sustainablog.org will be blogging for 24 hours to raise funds for Dancing Rabbit’s Visitor and Outreach Programs. Jeff will be blogging on a computer powered by a Pedal-a-Watt bicycle generator from 4:00 p.m. on Friday to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Mercantile Café will be open for breakfast from 7:00 – 10:00 a.m. on Saturday if you’d like to come in and cheer him on. Additionally we anticipate special hourly snacks from the Mercantile kitchen and having our friends stop by for encouragement and perhaps even to add a blog post or two. Lots more info here: http://tinyurl.com/yldr2tu

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. Tours will begin again in April. For more information, please see our website at www.dancingrabbit.org
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/15/10 [Mar. 15th, 2010|09:42 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So it was another smashing good week at Dancing Rabbit. The cloudy weather continued throughout the week keeping us in low power and restricted in our lifestyles. It seems like we went from bitter cold winter to now having a string of nights without freezing temperatures and with lots of rain. The weather has made this a poor maple sugaring year as the sap hasn't been running much. The mud pit that is DR in the spring deepened with the warm weather and made for difficult maneuvering within the village and out on the gravel roads. We had to have a load of rock dropped in front of the machine shed so we could park our vehicles without getting them stuck in mud. Some friends of Brian Toomey got stuck on the western section of Woehrle and when our 4WD truck was sent to the rescue it got stuck as well.

Fortunately, I was able to make it out this week with the trailer to pick up a chicken tractor I'd bought in Memphis. While there, a couple of us went to a meeting for organic farmers at the NRCS office. We were looking into getting funding from the USDA for implementing conservation and organic practices in land-based businesses we are starting. This year there is funding for installing “high tunnels” or “hoop houses”, which are kind of like greenhouses only they aren't heated. The insulating qualities of the hoop house trap the sun's energy and allow a farmer to extend their season and grow and harvest specialty crops during times of the year when they wouldn't normally be able to. It's a great idea for Dancing Rabbit because we are trying to eat foods that are produced as locally as possible. If we could get a couple of these high tunnels growing food for the village, we wouldn't have to rely as much on canning vegetables and we could continue to enjoy fresh produce through the winter. I am also hoping to get grant funding for my vineyard because many of the eco-friendly practices I would like to implement might be eligible for funding. I see my vineyard as an experiment in organic viticulture (grape growing) in the eastern winegrowing regions of the US. Because some of the investment in the experiment is risky, it's fortunate to have a little help in sharing the cost. Hopefully, in the future others will benefit from what I learn.

Clearly the big event of the week was happening at the Milkweed Mercantile. Alline and Kurt hosted their first seminar of the year and officially opened the bed and breakfast and cafe at the Mercantile. Sandor Katz, author of numerous books about fermentation of foods, among them *Wild Fermentation*, gave a weekend-long workshop on how to make all kinds of fermented foods, from sourdough bread to refreshing tonics. Many members of the tri-communities attended and a number of participants came from far and wide as part of a package that included attendance of the seminar, meals, and stay at the bed and breakfast. Part of the workshop was eating the foods we were making or learning about. Anthony, the chef at the Mercantile, prepared delicious meals featuring all kinds of fermented foods, some of which were made during the workshop. There was kefir, a fermented milk drink somewhat like a runny yogurt with a sour flavor and carbonation. We enjoyed a variety of fermented pickle vegetables, such as kimchi (a korean pickle with radishes and Chinese cabbage) and saurkraut. We made tempeh, a fermented soybean cake, and ate it in vegetarian Reuben sandwiches the following day. Some of the other interesting fermented foods we made were kvass, a Russian fermented tonic beverage not unlike a lemon soda with a yeast aftertaste, and natto, another fermented soy product, that has a slimy texture and an ammonia overtone. Some of the foods definitely have an acquired taste, but others are immediately pleasant and nearly all are centuries-old traditions in the parts of the world they come from. Most of these foods came about during the long span of human history before there were refrigerators, when people had to preserve their food by other means. Thanks to beneficial bacteria and yeasts, people were able to preserve their abundant harvest longer while at the same time creating a unique and delicious food. We all look forward to future seminars at the Mercantile and offer congratulations to the Milkweeds and all those involved in getting this new local business started.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. We offer tours 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month April through October. Our first tour of the season is April 10th at 1:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/8/10 [Mar. 8th, 2010|09:11 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |busybusy]

Hi friends! This is Alline writing this week for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

As the snow melts the mud appears, we try to maintain good attitudes as we glop about in the International Mud Headquarters. UPS and FedEx will no longer come down our road because it is so very muddy, rutted and not for the faint of heart. Fortunately Charlie, our USPS mail carrier, is made of sterner stuff – a little mud doesn’t faze him, and we find mail in our mailboxes each day. Thanks Charlie!

Not to worry about us though – we have our trusty 4WD truck, and we know how to use it. There is something very empowering about plowing through seemingly impassable mire. Perhaps we are once again proving that since we don’t have television we are very easy to entertain.

Nani, Elle and Jen have gone traipsing off to North Carolina ostensibly to bring Jeff home; however, I suspect that the lure of a warmer clime was also a motivator. We expect them back any day. Friends of the Carletons, Bonnie Marciante and her son Ben, arrived for a 10-day stay, and we are delighted to see them again. The result of Ben’s arrival has been a roving herd of boys running around the village (Duncan, Ben, Morgan, Enzio, and sometimes Morgan and Ewan) playing with obnoxious (to me) but beloved (to them) toys called Bionicals. Bionacals are apparently plastic Lego robotish things with names like Takanuva and Lesovikk. They have claws, wings, and (re)moveable parts. Wild stories and plots, alliances, attacks and triumphs seem to be part of the imaginative play. Clearly 52 year-old women are not the target audience; the boys, though, are captivated, and spend hours creating (and destroying) civilizations.

In less dramatic events, Diana Leafe Christian, author of “Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community” and “Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities” brought a group of students from the Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. We were all impressed with their enthusiasm, thoughtful questions and interest in sustainability – we hope that they will come back soon!

As the Milkweed Mercantile gets closer to opening, everyone and their brother is pitching in to help. Bonnie is sewing roman shades for the windows, Mary Beth is refinishing furniture, Amy is cleaning rooms, Meadow is scrubbing windows, Kurt is constructing the kitchen’s hand-washing sink, Tom Cowen is installing deadbolts and doorknobs, Sparky is staining door and door trim, and Juan makes emergency ice runs into Rutledge. We’ve even had help from St. Louis - Tom and Linda Carron, Anthony’s parents, arrived on Friday night. This is the second weekend in a row they’ve come up to help. I’m not sure what we would have done without them – not only do they work like fiends; they’re also a lot of fun. Last weekend Tom and Anthony tiled and then grouted the downstairs shower while Linda helped rearrange the store/café so that we have more sunlight and more useable floor space. This weekend Linda washed dishes all day long on Saturday, and even did a last-minute trip to Kirksville for more construction supplies. In addition to grouting the shower, Tom helped out in the kitchen and did whatever was necessary to keep things running smoothly.

Which leads me to Saturday. The Milkweed Mercantile opened for our first (unofficial) lunch for friends. Our goals were to experiment with a menu, practice not dropping things on patrons, and to generally see where the cracks in our systems were. We are grateful that Mary Beth agreed to work as a waitress instead of dining as a customer – her calm and efficient demeanor helped balance my jumping up and down every few minutes. There is something about a long-awaited dream coming true that still makes the day seem a bit unreal. However, the genuine smiles on the faces of friends and neighbors, the wondrous aromas wafting from the kitchen, and the sighs of contentment at the end of the meal made me need to pinch myself a bit less.

We had so much fun, and now that we have passed our official health inspection (yay!) we expect to open to the general public in a few weeks. We will, of course, let you know! Photos of Saturday’s event may be viewed here:  http://tinyurl.com/puvm2l    Laird of Sandhill Farm was a guest for lunch, and he writes about his experience here: http://tinyurl.com/y8shd8o

Closing out the week on Sunday was our weekly business meeting. Our topic this week was to approve the rotating slate of the our Oversight Team, which is a group of four Dancing Rabbit members who are responsible for (essentially) nagging the rest of us to do the tasks we’ve signed up to do. It is a time-consuming, sometimes stressful, two-year position – as Thomas and Sara cycle off, their slots will be filled by Lily and Sharon, who between them have enough insight, intelligence and thoughtful experience to run a small country. We are grateful that they have agreed to serve with Ted and Bear, and to spend so much time in service to Dancing Rabbit and its members. We are also appreciative to Sara and Thomas for their two years of service!

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge,  Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. Tours will begin again in April. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/1/10 [Mar. 3rd, 2010|08:24 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |busybusy]

Ted here with this week's news from Dancing Rabbit.

My week began with an unexpected twist. Aurelia and I, headed back from a weekend wedding in Florida on our first trip together without Sara, made it as far as Quincy on the train from Chicago, only to find that the latest bout of falling snow meant our ride couldn't make it to ferry us home. Our truck, which might have made it, happened to be in the shop for a brake job. We stayed the night in a hotel, and I must confess I felt a sadness to be so close to home yet still stranded, particularly after having spent the previous day building sandcastles on a Gulf coast beach, but Aurelia stayed buoyant throughout, raising my spirits. We passed the hours reading book after book in the local library until Sara had raised some of our neighbors to plow the road so that a car could be sent for us. It was a short trip all in all, but I couldn't recall having been more glad to be home at last. Thanks to our friends with plows, and Sara for her rescue work!

The delay meant that I'd missed the final day of our retreat, which was sad, but most business was wrapped up satisfactorily, and each villager was soon back at his or her winter routine, sunlight slowly melting the accumulated snow cover and keeping spirits high.

Sara and I celebrate our birthdays back to back each February, and Sara celebrated hers in part by joining in on a workshop Tuesday afternoon on a Chinese medicine-based therapy called Tui-Na. This is one of the primary therapies Tamar has pursued in her healing process, and to which she attributes her excellent progress in healing from cancer. Tamar had invited a practitioner of Tui-Na from Fairfield, Iowa to come down and lead the workshop. All attendees I spoke found the workshop valuable, and I was glad to see our abilities to maintain health and wellness in the community growing deeper.

My birthday followed the next day, including among other things some tobogganing with Aurelia and opening some gifts from my parents that made a timely arrival with the mail. The highlight, however, came at dinner. Alyssa was Sunflower's dinner cook, and had cooked up the idea several days before of inviting everybody who wanted to join us to make and bring their own pizza, and turn it into a potluck. I counted about forty people and more than 20 homemade pizzas and other contributions. Highlights included Alyssa's sourdough crust, Ziggy and April's homemade mozzarella, and chef Anthony's usual gourmet contributions, but every pizza I tasted was exceptional. We played some voluntary musical chairs throughout the meal so that those who wanted to could mix up their dining company as the meal progressed. My birthday felt well celebrated, and I now think we should be having a pizza potluck at least monthly! I love living in a place where such feasts are possible without much planning ahead.

Saturday afternoon many of the women journeyed over to Sandhill for the second installment of a women's storytelling gathering kindled last month. Jennifer's life story took the stage this week, and though I was not in attendance, I've heard only pleased reviews of the gatherings. I've heard some noise about the men here getting together for a similar purpose.

Aurelia and I popped into the Mercantile while Sara was away at the storytelling to acquire a German chocolate cupcake, and found Kurt, Alline, Anthony, and Anthony's visiting parents all hard at work rearranging the shop and inventory. I understand all the Mercantile staff have lengthy lists of to-dos, but we're all looking forward excitedly to the grand opening coming up soon. Their first weekend seminar, with fermented foods guru Sandor Katz, is only a week away-- be sure to give the Mercantile a call if you're interested in participating.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Tamar Sunday morning, as her two week visit came to an end. She seemed to have done a great job of scheduling lots of time with all her friends while here. Tamar has always been a great one for encouraging play, and sledding with her shortly after her arrival was a good reminder of how much I miss her presence here. She has not yet decided whether she's ready to move back, but we are all deeply grateful for her continued healing, and clearly her place in the village can't be filled by anybody else.

With the steady stream of sunny weather this week, we've been slowly, slowly clawing our way back to a fully-charged battery bank in the common building. When the batteries get quite low in a lengthy low-power period such as we had a month ago, it is essential that the batteries be allowed to get back to full as soon as possible, or the life of the batteries can be compromised. With as many people as we have relying on the building, though, and for so many functions, it is challenging to get back to full. I've thought for some years that we ought to add a wind turbine to the building's power system to complement the solar panels. As our population grows, so does our ability to afford such things, as the cost is spread among more people; yet the long list of potential improvements we might seek means we still have to pick and choose among them.

As the high season approaches, I'm feeling a similar imperative to pick and choose among possible projects for the year. Sara and I are interviewing potential work exchangers for our house addition project, planting seeds for the garden, and trying to wrap up our winter work to clear the decks for everything to come, and we're not the only ones in that transition. Here's to Spring!

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. Tours will begin again in April. Meanwhile, for more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org, email us at dancingrabbit@ic.org or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 2/22/10 [Feb. 23rd, 2010|09:50 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |lonelylonely]

Aloha All, Nani from Dancing Rabbit. We have had a great week.

Fun and hard work were our themes at Dancing Rabbit this week. Many of us worked hard at having a ton o fun, while others had fun working hard at our annual retreat. Our second week of retreat meetings went very well. We accomplished a great deal of work in a relatively short period of time. We laughed, we cried (I believe there was some onion chopping at some point), and we reached consensus. Having more of our friends back home was a treat as it always is.  The saddest update is that the 15-foot snow creation from two weeks ago could not take the heat any longer - during one of our very productive meetings, our snow man (or woman) lost his/her head. The good news is that since the meltdown a double-sided snow being has arisen. Our new sculpture was double sided and very artistically done. And then…it snowed even more and where once there were faces on our snow person, there is fuzziness! The Yeti has come to town.

Nathan being home again has brought back more sledding in our lives. Our kids and big kids have been carving some serious sled snow at Vista De La Moo. Please pardon me if my snow lingo isn’t quite right, but they looked like they were having some serious fun up there. Speaking of fun, it’s been funny listening to stories about cars getting stuck on our crazy roads. It is only funny because everyone involved made out all right. I really enjoy hearing stories about how people get out of their fixes. Those that are able to drive despite the weather are like shiny heroes to me, it’s absolutely amazing to this warm weathered woman that they can get anywhere in the heavy snow. However, even my best and brightest heroes have had to push cars to the side and walk home. We have great friends and neighbors here though, as our roads have been plowed. Yay! Perhaps we'll go to Zimmerman’s cafe tomorrow?

Some highlights of our retreat were a budget in the black, wonderful volunteer childcare and cooks (that are still being raved about), goals (we’ve decided which ones we’ll work on this year), and our very successful Year In Preview. We are a very busy and ambitious group of eco-villagers and getting all the work done or even just planning to can seem overwhelming. When our YIP (Year In Preview) wall was up we were able to see all the spaces (tasks) that needed to be filled.  Papa Bear's humor and finesse encouraged us to fill almost all of the crucial spaces and then some. The ability to maneuver a daunting task with grace and success was a recurring theme in those stewarding our retreat this year.

The facilitators at our retreat were remarkable with helping us move along. Those shepherding topics to sort out were also courageous folk and the feeling of gratitude for their direction and work was evident this weekend. Also evident, especially to a newer person like myself, was the dedication to take a good thing (as Dancing Rabbit is) and make it better. Not every topic was easy to digest or agree upon, but we did and did so earnestly, respectfully, and compassionately.

Finally, our last night of retreat was met with great food and conversation. I looked around and it felt lighter in the room. It also felt good. It felt good because we worked hard and were now in repose with one another. We were so relaxed as a matter of fact, that at the end on the night Dave went home wearing two different boots. It’s a great mystery where this other boot is right now, however they are two sizes different (one size 11, one size 13). Suspicions are that Jacob of Sandhill has the big boot. That’s a three-mile walk in the snow, but off he went. Alline and I laughed at this boot fiasco (I suspected Kurt of boot-napping as well, but he appears to be innocent). Really though, it was the final piece of our week that drove home that we are relaxed and are happy to walk in each other's shoes. OK, maybe not literally; please bring back the shoe.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri, practicing ecological sustainability. Tours of our village begin again in April. For more information, please see our website at www.dancingrabbit.org.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 2/15/10 [Feb. 16th, 2010|09:51 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

Hi friends. This is Alline writing for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

This week can be summed up in two words: snow and retreat.

While the storm that hit the Northeast Missouri area was not nearly as dramatic as the one that Washington DC received, it felt pretty big to us. It snowed, and snowed, and then snowed some more. And then it STILL kept coming. While many Rabbits are tired of it (particularly the parents who, twice a day, have to drive the kids to the blacktop to catch the school bus) I remain completely, utterly besotted with snow. Perhaps it comes from growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where, if we wanted snow, we had to drive for four hours. Additionally, I am still slack-jawed at the beauty of each individual snowflake – as a child, carefully folding up paper and cutting “snowflakes,” I could not imagine that this was a fairly close approximation of what they really looked like. If you see me standing outside in a snowstorm staring at my arms and my hands, please remember that I have not gone ‘round the bend, I am merely appreciating snowflakes!

For the sake of our power systems and the batteries that store our electricity, I am glad to see sunshine and blue sky out my window today. The reflection of the sun off of the snow is especially powerful, and it is fun to watch the charge go up, up, up!

This past weekend was the first half of our annual retreat; Sharon and Mary Beth returned from Ecuador just in time to join us. We gathered Thursday evening for a potluck dinner and retreat kick-off. Friday morning we began our meetings. Topics ranged from Visitor Housing to discussions on how we should govern ourselves – we currently use consensus; how it is working for everyone? We also spent several sessions on what our Goals and Priorities for 2010 are going to be – where are we going to focus our energy this coming year? On the short list for consideration are: an overhaul to our website; taking our newsletter, The March Hare, digital; revitalizing our Land Management Team (tasked with stewardship of the land outside of the village proper); decision making and governance; implementing the plan to change/develop the circle driveway at the entrance to Dancing Rabbit; buying a tractor; a Constitutional Convention, where we reexamine our documents and policies to make sure they are in alignment with our values and current tax laws; building a parking lot (everyone sing along with Joni Mitchell here); landscaping the courtyard; building visitor housing; indexing all of our previous decisions; a Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Cooperative vehicle upgrade; revitalizing the Human Resources committee (which oversees any employees of DR Inc.); and last but certainly not least, discussing the possibility of a grid intertie system for power. Whew! It sometimes seems overwhelming, but at the same time is a rather exhilarating – imagine having the power to change your world! Each person here has the ability to make a big difference in the lives of others and in the development and growth of our home/community.

A retreat doesn’t happen all by itself – Tony, Brian and Ma'ikwe worked long and hard to structure not only the topics but the entire weekend. Dinner was provided for the entire group on Friday and Saturday (Anthony crafted a Korean feast, and Chad & Alyson prepared a burrito extravaganza) and Rabbits took turns bringing snacks for both morning and afternoon sessions. The topics were thoroughly researched and prepared, and thoughtfully presented by Cob, Jennifer, Tony, Bear, Lily, and Ma'ikwe. Our friends Sarah B., Renay from Sandhill and Barb from Wisconsin helped with childcare so that Rabbits who are parents could relax and concentrate on the meetings. We are so appreciative for their work! And Joe and Evan, who are students of Laird and Maikwe’s facilitation training, provided a safe, comfortable framework for us to work within. We were also very happy to welcome Tamar back – she’ll be with us for two weeks.

One of the most interesting topics, at least for me, is considering going from having our own independent solar/wind power systems to hooking up to “the grid.” Please see the Mem Dem Letters to the Editor or my blog (http://ecovillagemusings.blogspot.com/)for more on this (too much to go into here!).

Are you interested in spending time at Dancing Rabbit this summer and fall? Members of Dancing Rabbit are currently looking for folks interested in Work Exchange opportunities – there are spots available for construction, gardening and child care. The Milkweed Mercantile will also be looking for several chef-assistants and food preservation helpers later in the summer. For more info, please see http://www.dancingrabbit.org/social_change/interns.php

The Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage will be opening in March and is now accepting reservations for rooms and seminars. For more info, please see: http://milkweedmercantile.com/inn/

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge,  Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. Tours are over for the season, but will be offered again starting in April. For more information, please see our website at http://www.dancingrabbit.org
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 2/8/10 [Feb. 8th, 2010|09:34 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |moodymoody]

Hey Everyone! Dan D writing to give you your weekly update on the happenings at Dancing Rabbit. After many weeks without sunlight and the common house being on black power-meaning we were basically in a blackout- for about a week, we were happy to get a stretch of sunlight to recharge our batteries and recharge our enthusiasm for getting out of bed in the morning. We need winter activities to keep us going and though some of them are dependent on power, many are not. There is a lot of reading and planning for the season going on.

I've really been enjoying the garden club meetings we are having. It's been nice have a group of people to bounce ideas off and share gardening wisdom. It gets you thinking about spring, when the world is once again green and full of life. Many of our seed orders have already been placed and in the next few weeks some of us will be starting seeds indoors. The garden club is planning a couple of field trips for future meetings. We are planning a field trip to Sandhill's greenhouse to see what kinds of crops they are growing during the winter and what their plans are for it this spring. Also, one of these weeks Alyson from Red Earth Farms is going to show us a hands on demonstration of her use of round hay bales to sheet mulch a new garden area. And sometime soon I will be talking about seed saving basics so that gardeners can plan their seed saving efforts for this season. The idea for the club came from garden clubs that have been started in recent years in Britain to bring together “allotment” (called community gardens here) gardeners to share knowledge and build enthusiasm for gardening. Apparently with the economy in the state it's in, vegetable gardening is becoming much more popular as people try to grow more of their food themselves.

One of the signs that we are getting close to spring was the start of the maple tapping season this week. A small crew of us led by Alyson made the rounds of the local silver maples drilling holes in trees and installing taps and containers to collect the sap. It was a really good excuse to be out on a cold winter's day. I think I could easily come to enjoy the winter if I had enough outdoor activities like this to keep me busy during the low light and lifeless times of the year. It gets you outside in nature and experiencing the beauty of winter. We'll have to see how this year will be as far as sap production. I'm looking forward to putting some time into the effort and getting my fair share of delicious syrup.

The snow storm on Thursday night inspired many snowball fights and other outdoor snow fun on Friday morning. The near freezing temperatures made for really good packing snow. It didn't take long for small skirmishes to start, then others joined in. After about an hour of snow whizzing around the courtyard, we all got together to roll an enormous snowball from the Ultimate field over to the common house. By the time it reach the courtyard it was about 6 feet in diameter. After setting it in place we rolled another slightly smaller ball up a ramp and perched it on top. Finally some people put an even smaller ball on top for the head. The result was a 15 foot tall snowman towering over the courtyard. Unfortunately, with the warmer weather Saturday it began to lean over and had to be propped up with a big stick.

We are gearing up for the big retreat this coming weekend. Every year we meet to plan out the next year and figure out what projects we will put energy into. It's something that I look forward to in some ways and dread in others. It is basically 6 days of meetings, which if you are a “meeting person” is probably a dream come true, but if you aren't, seems like a lot of work. We hope all the time spent will be worthwhile and will help bring our ecovillage closer to the fulfillment of its goals.
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Memphis Democrat Column Week of 1/25/10 [Jan. 26th, 2010|10:19 pm]
little miss earth goddess
[Current Mood |excitedexcited]

There are certain times of year when I find myself more aware of the differences between how and where I choose to live and the other choices I might have made. This week was one of them.

A week at a time of cloudy weather is not terribly uncommon here, particularly in winter, and our power systems are generally sized to make it through such stretches. But two weeks straight... well, when one relies on the lack of clouds for one's power, it begins to feel a little gratuitous.

Ted here at Dancing Rabbit with this week's update. Had the sun not shone unexpectedly for much of this afternoon, this might be a slightly darker (and more brief!) report, but despite the sun we still found ourselves eating dinner with our friends by candlelight this evening. (We generally update our daily power status first thing each morning, when one gets the truest reading of the state of charge in one's battery bank). Normally I enjoy dining by candlelight. But in this case, we've already been at it for most of a week, and have in fact burned through most of the supply of candles accumulated in the Community Building supply, so that we only had one candle per table of six to eight. Makes it a little harder to see your food!

This is the first time the Community Building has ever experienced black power on the power chart that tracks where the building's power supply is at. Starting at green power, where we're free to use flour grinders, dehydrators, battery chargers, computers and anything else we like, the chart descends to yellow, orange and red with increasingly stringent rules for each level on what one may do with the building's power at that level. At black, we shut off the inverter entirely to save the batteries, which can by damaged if allowed to discharge too far. Among other things, no power means no electric light or refrigeration and no water (which requires power to pump it from the cistern and pressurize it). Needless to say, a strong reminder of the conveniences we often take for granted even here.

Thankfully, Ziggy and April have ordered another load of beeswax taper candles to remedy the light situation. Sara and I bought and enjoyed the honeyed aroma of some of their first round back in the fall, and this time, as Community Building supplies orderer, I have requisitioned 50 to replenish the supply for that building.

In some ways, life continued this week as it normally does here, with committee meetings, seed orders, firewood gathering, and all our other typical winter activities. But walking to and fro after dark was a startling experience: I knew there were dozens of people within a minute's walk around the village, yet for all the light I could see, I might have been walking quite alone through a ghost town.

I've been filling in for Mary Beth (who sent word through Dan to our meeting today that it was 95 degrees in Ecuador where she is) on Dancing Rabbit email, and handling an increasing volume of people interested in our visitor program and our members' various work exchange position offerings, both of which start up in April. Mid-week, a number of us seeking work exchangers for the coming season met again to try to hammer out a good and equitable process for receiving and sharing applications. We ended up charting a circuitous method that will hopefully get everything where it needs to go. Boy is it complicated to share complex decision-making in a group! And yet satisfying to see all of us working together to meet as many people's needs as possible.

Partly to counteract the sedative effects of too much cloudy weather, Danielle and Boone instigated a party Saturday night to chase the clouds away. Cob made a couple large bowls of kettle chips, several brewers shared their latest beer (fittingly, a nice black ale), and among other things we told ghost tales and other stories with mysterious themes for quite some time as though it was Hollerween. Later on, after a dancing interlude by a number of the kids, music took over with a variety of instrumentation. Judging by the sun today, we would seem to have succeeded in banishing the clouds at least briefly with our merry-making.

As though to cement the celebration, Thomas cut a two-foot hole in the ice in the old swimming pond, and after our Sunday business meeting, four (fool-)hardy souls, myself included, went out accompanied by twice as many spectators for a polar bear dip. Perversely, that was when the sun chose to disappear behind clouds again, but we could hardly stop the mission we'd set out on. It is always a bracing experience to drop through ice into frigid water. I sometimes think I do it just to say I did, but in the end I'm always glad I did. It is good to be alive and wake yourself up that way occasionally.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community in Rutledge, Missouri practicing ecological sustainability. Tours are over for the season, but will be offered again starting in April. For more information, please see our website at www.dancingrabbit.org or give us a call at (660) 883-5511.
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