Dancing at Dancing Rabbit

Yoga Posture for the Day: Savasana

Does this count as permaculture? What if we took the energy that goes into strength training for high school sports and converted it into hands on service projects?

These were my thoughts while hauling buckets of dirt and water and mixing them to help my friend Liat build her mud house at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Not only was this satisfying work that I got to enjoy with friends, but I also strengthened my forearms, back, and shoulders. To all the coaches out there – let me know what kind of workout you are looking for and I’ll find someone in your area in need of physical labor. I can only imagine the possibilities of my brother’s high school football team pitching in on a project like this once a week.

Two nights ago David and I arrived at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage just in time for their Halloween bash. The community is about as far away from a city as it gets in Northern Missouri.

As we rolled in, my friend Stephen (from WashU) was driving a pick-up truck around the corner with a hay bail lined trailer holding about 30 of the 50 residents in costume. As Griz and I ran out of the car to jump on board, the back tire of the trailer popped. Everyone ended up migrating into a cozy mud home where someone opened a jug of fresh brewed cider and we all started playing games like “I love my Camp Tawonga Camper Who…” but Dancing Rabbit Style. This was such a warm and open community to stay with. Last night I slept in a school bus insulated with cob – a mixture of clay dirt, sand, water, and straw.

Cob Bus
When I woke up in the morning, Griz, Liat and I got together at “The Commons” for a little morning yoga (this was after being serenaded by them in the bus – waking up to “Danny’s Song” is never a bad way to start the day). No one seemed to mind that we set up shop right in the middle of the community’s central social hub – in fact, they even had yoga mats there for us to borrow. As if this wasn’t enough – as I was laying in savasana, I overheard a three-year old, one of Dancing Rabbit’s youngest residents, asking for nettle tea in the kitchen. What a different way of living! How many kids in our cities and towns even know what nettles are, much less ask for them in their tea?

We wanted to pitch in to say thanks for our stay, so we found some time in the afternoon to help Liat put up another layer of cob around her bus. It was great to get our hands dirty, and to finally work with someone who knew what they were doing with cob! I had tried to build a chicken coop out of cob this past summer, and learned from Liat that my clay to sand ratio was way off. Though cob is a forgiving building material, apparently something closer to a 2:1 sand to clay ratio is the way to go (drier cob = less cracks, more difficult to apply; wetter cob = more cracks, but easier to mold).

Cob Bus Wall
Everyone at Dancing Rabbit had built their own houses (you can see a range of them below), and everyone seemed to take a unique approach to their space and what sustainability meant to them. It was great to learn about the community’s desire not just to live in isolation, off the grid, but to pass on building skills to those passing through, that they might bring them out into the cities and towns they returned to. In many ways, the community itself was a bubble looking to grow and absorb others with like-minded goals – but at the same time, was an intentional education center, planting seeds for other sustainable communities in the interns, guests, and community members.

Granary House
A house made out of an old grain tower.

Wood House
A house made from salvaged wood.

Timber Frame
This house was called “Timber Frame” because of the wood that holds the structure up, which was then filled in with cob. Griz slept upstairs here – had the best view of the whole farm.

Truck Top Roof Top
Each house was like a piece of art – this one I thought was particularly inventive.

Natural Roof
This house, with its green roof, has been on the cover of magazines, and is one of Dancing Rabbit’s token eco-houses. Close to 30 people packed into this house to listen to its owners tell the epic tale of the “dragon-pug” on Halloween night.

Mound House
This earth mound was still under construction, but shows how close to earth you can get when you really want to.

Now I’m laying in the comfort of Griz’s Aunt’s house in a quiet suburb in Iowa. I’m still in a food coma from all the salmon and roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes and apple salad and apple pie we ate for dinner. Having experienced two very distinct homes/worlds today makes me think of the balance I want to strike one day with my own home/community. What kind of comforts do I need or want, and how can they meet my (and the world’s need) for sustainability? No answer for now – only more road to travel!

Next stops…. KC, Boulder, Basalt CO, Taos NM, Santa Fe, Prescot, Tuscon?, LA.

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