Monday, December 29, 2008

Coconut Whipped Cream and Chocolate Nut Tart

Whipped Coconut Cream and Chocolate Nut Tart

Sometimes I feel like a cooking genius. This has nothing to do with actual skill. It has to do with choosing the right recipes. Easy but impressive. This Chocolate Nut Tart is what I brought to our Dancing Rabbit Christmas Potluck Dinner. It made me very popular. Perhaps I should always carry one around, giving samples. I might get to be Prom Queen!

Besides being easy, and VEGAN (although one could never "tell") we served it with Whipped Coconut Cream. Once again, delicious and EASY!

Whipped Coconut Cream
Ingredients
1 13.5 ounce can Coconut Milk (not LIGHT Coconut Milk, not Coco Loco or Coconut "cream")
3 Tb. sifted confectioners sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge (or outside in the snow, as it were) for a couple of hours. This enables the cream to float to the top of the can, and the clear liquid to settle to the bottom.




2. Open the can. Carefully scoop out the cream and put it in the bowl of your mixer. About 3/4 down you'll run into the clear liquid. Leave that - compost it, or put it in a smoothie - we don't want it here.


Scoop the cream into the bowl of your mixer.

3. Start whipping the cream on high speed with the whisk attachment. Unlike cream from milk, this will not curdle. I usually whip mine for up to ten minutes, trying to get as much air into it as possible.
4. Just before you are finished whipping, add a few tablespoons of SIFTED confectioner's sugar (repeat after me - "no lumps!") and a teaspoon of vanilla extract (the real stuff, please).
5. Scoop into a serving bowl, and keep cold until it's time to eat. This has a slightly blue-ish tint to it, and a faint coconut taste. It is absolutely perfect (but then, I'm biased!)


Triple Nut Chocolate Tart
Serves 12 (we served 16, easily)
Notes: This is, amazingly, vegan. For the best effect, use a tart pan with a removeable bottom. The crust is easy because there is no rolling - just pad it out with your fingertips. Three cups of ANY nuts will do (I used walnut and macadamias, as that was what I had). I used Sunspire Organic Chocolate Chips, real maple syrup, regular all-purpose flour and Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread.

Crust
1 cup pastry flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup vegan margarine (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbs. cold water

Filling
3 cups mixed walnuts, pecans, and almonds (1 cup each), coarsely chopped
¼ cup vegan margarine (½ stick)
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 Tbs. pastry flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

To make Crust:

  1. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in bowl.
  2. Rub margarine into flour mixture with fingers until mixture is crumbly.
  3. Sprinkle in vanilla, and stir.
  4. Add 1 to 2 Tbs. cold water until dough clumps together loosely.
  5. Press dough into pie dish or tart pan until sides and bottom are covered.
  6. Chill in freezer 30 minutes.

To make Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spread nuts on baking sheet, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
  3. Melt margarine and chocolate in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.
  4. Sprinkle in flour and salt, and stir until smooth.
  5. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla.
  6. Stir in nuts.

Assemble and Bake:

Spread nut mixture in piecrust. Bake 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is firm. Cool on wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving.

From Vegetarian Times Magazine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas Eve

Mistletoe! (Flickr photo credit: ahmet.surucu)

Dear friends,
I'm not sure where exactly I fit into the holiday celebration - Santa, Jesus, Solstice - my mind rebells, by soul searches, I remain unconvinced.

But this, I love: A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. It's a wonderous short story, filled with delicious words, delightful phrases and so, so much heart.

The happiest of holidays to you all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Car Sharing - Do You REALLY Need a Car?

Hope is not what we find in evidence, it’s what we become in action.
~Frances Moore Lappe
Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay (Photo Credit davepolaschek on Flickr)


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was 26 before I went to Yosemite, 30 before I set foot on the island of Alcatraz; both trips happened because friends from out of town were visiting. Lesson learned: it often takes guests with fresh eyes to help us appreciate where and how we live.

We experienced this recently with a visit from our friends Sharon and Dennis; seeing Dancing Rabbit through their eyes was a chance for us to revisit what we have accomplished, how some of our ideals have manifested into reality, and how by working together we can make a difference. Here’s an example:What separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the truly eco-concerned from the cotton-headed ninny-muggins? Car use. While Dancing Rabbit receives a lot of attention for using biodiesel rather than petroleum, it seems to me that the way we utilize resources (i.e. cars) makes a much bigger impression, both socially and ecologically.

One of the stipulations when becoming a member of Dancing Rabbit is that we agree to, no, choose to give up individual ownership of vehicles. For some this is not that much of a stretch – many Rabbits are avid cyclists, and have been getting around solely by bike for years. But for others, it is often a leap of faith; our American car culture is deep and wide, and for those accustomed to having a car available every second of every day it can initially be daunting.It takes a bit of planning to divide car use for 45 people among three shared vehicles (two Jettas and a big ol’ Ford truck). Each Sunday we gather in the Common House to do the “WIP,” which stands for Week In Preview. Part of the WIP is scheduling the DRVC (Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Cooperative –yes, we are truly the land of acronyms!). Going through the week day by day, we figure out how best to utilize our vehicles. Who has a doctor appointment, who needs to go to Kirksville for a conference, does the recycling need to go into Truman State?

Here’s a perfect example: this last week, Cob and his son Duncan were taking the morning train from LaPlata to Chicago, and Maikwe was taking the evening train. They all needed to be dropped off at the LaPlata station, albeit at vastly different times. Rather than make two trips, Kurt and I volunteered to drive, knowing that we both needed an eye exam in Kirksville. Sparky needed an eye exam too, so she signed up to come along. And what the heck – since her train didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m., Maikwe called and got an appointment, too. Monday afternoon a group of Rabbits gathered to load the recycling into the back of the truck, and Tuesday morning the six of us piled into the front. We drove to the LaPlata train station, dropped off Cob and a sleepy Duncan. Our friend Rory, who is house-sitting in LaPlata, met us there and we delivered a few surprises that Nathan had picked up for him at the last Dog & Gun Flea Market (it was neither a dog nor agun, btw). We then drove up to Kirksville and dropped off the recycling at Truman’s Recycling Center. Next, Kurt and I had our eyes examined while Sparky and Maikwe did a little shopping on the square. We all met up for lunch, and then Kurt and I dropped M & S at the eye doc’s while we did errands for a number of Rabbits: electrical supplies for Ted, custom cut glass for Jeff’s windows, returning something to the Farm & Home for Rachel, picking up Sunflower Food Coop’s order at HyVee, paintbrushes at the hardware store…At 4:00 Sparky and I reconvened at Washington Street Java Co. while Kurt and Maikwe hightailed it to Bayview Supply to scope out supplies for the home she will be building next summer. With still a couple of hours before having to drop M off at the station, we all had a delicious and relaxing dinner at Il Spazio. After dinner, we stopped at HyVee so that M could get a few traveling treats. After dropping her at the trainstation, we had the truck back at DR by 8:00 p.m. when Dan needed it to pick up another group of travelers at the Quincy train station, and were able to join the group celebrating Matt’s birthday with games of charades and celebrity.

So what does all this running around prove? After living here for years, one tends to take it for granted; it’s just how we do things. We do errands for one another, share rides, and cooperate the best we can. Yes, it sometimes is a pain in the, um, neck. But there is a certain comfort knowing that we can count on one another. We are all able to reduce our footprints just a bit – if each of us were to drive in our own cars on separate trips, we would use several times the petroleum used by the single trip. Additionally, we not only save petroleum, we also save cold hard cash. By sharing the cost of car payment, maintenance, fuel and insurance our costs are startlingly less than when we each owned a car and each paid for our own.

Austin Car Share http://www.austincarshare.org%20(photo/(Photo Credit HeadOvMetal on Flickr)

What if you are interested in car sharing and do not live at Dancing Rabbit? Why, what a GREAT question! Carsharing.net has info on US and Canadian cities with car sharing (http://www.carsharing.net/where.html). Zipcar (http://www.zipcar.com/) provides cars on demand by the hour or day and are available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC. Dave Brook in Portland has a blog all about car sharing (http://carsharing.us/) with lots more information for those wanting to learn more, and for those who are not in big cities. Change is in the air, and to make it work we all need to participate. What are you willing to do to help with the solution?

Ithica Car share: http://www.ithicacarshare.org/ (Photo credit arimoore on Flickr)



Philly Car Share http://www.phillycarshare.org/ (Photo Credit glokbell on Flickr)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Vegan Baking - Yes You Can!

But first, a cute photo of my dog, taken a few days ago when we took a walk after the first snowfall of the season:



OK. Now that we have THAT out of the way...there are many vegans here at Dancing Rabbit, and what used to seem like a foreign language has become almost second nature.

Here are a few of my favorite tips covering the major hurdles of vegan cooking.

Cooking without eggs info from the Post Punk Kitchen website by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Vegan with a Vengence and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. She's not only funny, she's a great cook. Highly recommended!

"Replacing eggs is the most challenging aspects of vegan baking. Those suckers bind, they leaven and they give structure to our baked goods. However, like a bad boyfriend, they can be replaced, and with pleasing results. Here some info on replacements I have tried.

Flax Seeds How to use it: 1 Tablespoon flax seeds plus 3 Tablespoons water replaces one egg. Finely grind 1 tablespoon whole flaxseeds in a blender or coffee grinder, or use 2 1/2 tablespoons pre-ground flaxseeds. Transfer to a bowl and beat in 3 tablespoons of water using a whisk or fork. It will become very gooey and gelatinous, much like an egg white. In some recipes, you can leave the ground flax in the blender and add the other wet ingredients to it, thus saving you the extra step of the bowl.

When it works best: Flax seeds have a distinct earthy granola taste. It tastes best and works very well in things like pancakes, and whole grain items, such as bran muffins and corn muffins. It is perfect for oatmeal cookies, and the texture works for cookies in general, although the taste may be too pronounced for some. Chocolate cake-y recipes have mixed results, I would recommend only using one portion flax-egg in those, because the taste can be overpowering.

Tips:Always store ground flaxseeds in the freezer because they are highly perishable. This mixture is not only an excellent replacement for eggs, it also contributes vital omega-3 fatty acids.

Silken Tofu How to use it: 1/4 cup blended silken tofu = 1 egg. Whiz in a blender until completely smooth and creamy, leaving no graininess or chunks. You will want to add other wet ingredients to this mixture to get it to blend properly. I recommend vacuum packed extra firm silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu.

When it works best: Dense cakes and brownies, and in smaller quantites for lighter cakes and fluffy things (if the recipe calls for 3 eggs only use 2 "tofu" eggs"). Whizzed tofu leaves virtually no taste, so it is an excellent replacer in cake recipes. In cookie recipes, it may make the cookie more cake-y and fluffy than anticipated, add 1 teaspoon of starch to the recipe (such as arrowroot or corn starch) to combat that. It may make pancakes a little heavy, so it is not recommended as a quick replacement for eggs in pancakes, although it could work well with a little experimentation.

Ener-G Egg Replacer How to use it: 1 1/2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons water mixed well = 1 egg Many people swear by this egg replacer. I think it is good to use in a pinch, in all baking that requires a few eggs. However, I can definitely taste it in cakes and cookies (tastes chalk-y), and I'm not crazy about the dense texture it turns out.

When it works best: It seems to work best in cookies, or things that are supposed to be a little crispy.

Where to get it:Health food stores, some supermarkets in the baking or ethnic food section

Bananas How to use it: 1/2 banana blended until smooth or mashed well= 1 egg. Bananas work wonders as an egg replacer in baking, which is the reason many banana bread recipes don't require eggs. They hold the air bubbles well, make things nice and moist, and impart a nice flavor. However, you don't want everything tasting like banana, so use in things where the taste won't be intrusive. I've also noticed that baked goods using banana brown very nicely. When it works best: Quick breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes

Tip: Make sure bananas are nice and ripe and have started to brown.

Soy yogurt How to use it: 1/4 cup soy yogurt = 1 egg. Soy yogurt works a lot like whizzed tofu as an egg replacer. It makes things moist and yummy. When it works best: Quick breads, muffins, cakes Lose the milkThis is a no-brainer. Use soy, rice or almond milk.

Buttermilk? Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to your milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. (Alline's note: this really works!)

It's like buttah...

Instead of butter try unsalted margarine or go ahead and use salted but reduce the amount of salt in the recipe. Lose 1/4 teaspoon per 1/2 stick of butter. But try to use the non-hydrogented kind, I dunno', for your health? My favorite thing to use instead of butter is canola oil, but you can use any vegetable oil, just reduce the amount. If a recipe calls for one stick of butter, which is a half cup, I use 1/3 cup of oil. You can also try prune puree which will also obviously reduce the amount of fat. To use, puree 1/2 cup of pitted prunes with 1/4 cup of water. You will want to reduce the amount used, or the final product may be too moist. If the recipe calls for a half cup use 1/3 cup instead. You may also want to add a little oil, maybe a tablespoon per cup of fat needed, because a little fat goes a long way in taste and texture.

In Review: Get rid of the eggs

1 egg =
2 tsp ground flaxseeds + 2 Tb warm water
OR 2 Tb – ¼ cup applesauce or apple butter
ORCommercial egg replacer: 1-1 ½ tsp egg replacer + 2 Tb water
OR 2 Tb mashed banana + ½ tsp baking powder
OR 1 banana"

(End of Post Punk Kitchen info)

Other recommended cookbooks that just happen to be vegan, and contain GREAT recipes:
The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook - from The Farm in Tennessee, this is a flashback to good old hippie days. The photos are a bit scary, but man oh man, the recipes are fantastic! Not only do they taste great, they are fairly easy, and use ingredients that you probably already have. I'll post some in the next few weeks, just to give you a little sample.
and
The Zen Monastery Cookbook: Stories and Recipes from a Zen Kitchen. This cookbook is absolutely lovely. Written by anonymous Zen monks, it has humor, charm, humility and encouragement in addition to the delicious recipes.

And now, for one of my favorite recipes - quick, easy, vegan.

Italian Cornmeal Cake
Vegan, No Oil

Serves 8-9

1 cup soymilk
¼ cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder

Topping
1/3 cup slivered or chopped almonds
2 Tb. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a nine-inch cake pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a small bowl, combine soymilk, applesauce, and extracts.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder. Add wet ingredients and mix until moistened.
4. Place batter in the pan.
5. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and almonds and sprinkle evenly over cake.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

From the Monastery Cookbook (Cheri Huber)

NOTES:
Can also be made in a square “brownie” pan
For community dinners I double the recipe and bake it in a half-sheet pan. This makes about 36 good-sized pieces, although they aren’t as ‘high’ as when the cake is baked in a smaller pan.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dancing through the weekend.

For for the last few years I'd occasionally get a Where the Hell is Matt video forwarded to me. I haven't seen one in awhile; so went to his site. Thought this would make your day a little happier! If you'd like a little more, I highly recommend the Outtakes video - the Norway shot scares the crap out of me!




Enjoy. I'll be back on Monday. Happy leftovers!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Dog-Shaped Hole in my Heart

Baloo truly believes that Osage Oranges were created just for him.


I have two amazing animals. Baloo is a golden retriever who loves sticks, balls, but most of all, he loves me. When we go for walks he stays right by my side without a leash; when I go in a building he sits in front of the door and waits for me to come back out. He pops his nose up to the bed for a morning snuffle, and curls up at the end of the bed each evening. In between, he lies at my feet, and stares at me. He is a delight, and a joy.

We didn’t know that we needed a cat, but Suzanne Schroedl did. When an orange cat appeared in Dancing Rabbit’s machine shed, Suzanne set about finding him a home. Each day she would stop by our house, cat in her arms, and inquire “hey Alline, don’t you want a cat?” I would inform her that no, I am allergic to cats, I already have a dog, thank you very much, now go away.


Suzanne, the cat whisperer.

This went on for weeks.

Then one day Kurt and I were in the machine shed, picking up after some moron, um, I mean, fellow community member who had poured a bunch of loose packing peanuts into a trash can without a lid. We were raking and sweeping up the peanuts when the orange striped cat appeared and began to play. He leapt over the rake, ran around us in circles, and was generally hilarious. After that it was pretty much a done deal. As for the allergies: heck, I’m already allergic to straw (I live in a strawbale house), dust (I don’t clean), and pollen (solved by better living through chemistry). What was one more allergen, especially one with so much personality?

Fionn MacCool, happy at last.
So Fionn MacCool came to live with us, and is better than TV. We have learned that we did, indeed, need a cat. We have also learned that cats see things that are invisible to mere mortals. This causes Fionn (pronounced “Finn”) to run full speed up and down the stairs, to pounce on and kill what appear to be dust motes, and to sit on all books, magazines and newspapers that are being read. He never met a box that he didn’t love – size is no object, small is good, especially when all that can fit into it is his head. Best of all, after watching Baloo “sit” before eating dinner, Fionn now responds to the command “sit” before being given his dinner. It is pretty amazing to watch. We will always be grateful to Suzanne for her insight and persistence. Now that she's living in Massachusetts I wonder if she still goes door to door with cute cats?

So what the heck is my problem? Ah, yes.

A year and a half ago a big, gawky puppy, looking like she was put together with spare dog parts, wandered into Dancing Rabbit. Our animal-loving friend adopted her, primarily to keep The Girl from going to the pound, where she would most likely have been euthanized (rural Northeastern Missouri is a tough place to be an animal). Unfortunately, our friend didn’t know that dogs are pack animals and being isolated feels like punishment. And for the next year and a half The Girl was often tied up behind our friend’s house. When she’d bark for attention she’d get a “shush”, if anything. Often our friend was gone all day, leaving The Girl tied up outside for hours and hours. When her barking became especially insistent, we’d go check on her and find her lead wrapped around a tree, or her water bowl empty and dry as a bone. And The Girl was never trained. She doesn’t come when she’s called. Walking her on a leash is an exercise in arm dislocation. I was distraught each time she was tied up, but there seemed to be nothing that I could do besides talk to her, untangle her and fill her water bowl. It was a sad, depressing situation.

But a few weeks ago our friend was hospitalized, and we took The Girl in. Without expecting to, we fell totally, completely, head-over-heels in love. Within a day she was sitting on command so that we put on her leash to go on walks. With a retractable leash she was a breeze to handle. She comes when we call her. She has learned to stay out of the kitchen, to “lie down,” to not jump up on people. She is remarkably calm – we had three meetings here and she took a nap at my feet during the three long discussions. She proved to be highly-intelligent, eager to please, thrilled to particpate, and amazingly easy to train. While she was with us, I took the two dogs on three long walks a day, and also took them both everywhere I went – to the mailbox, to visit Meadow, to hang out the laundry, to bring treats to the construction guys in the Mercantile. I knew I liked having one dog, but having two was even better! Our walks were a blast. One of my favorite things to do was to take them out to the Ultimate Frisbee field each night, when the sky was dark but the stars were bright. We could all walk around without worrying about tripping, and look at the stars. I’m pretty sure the dogs didn’t care about the stars (or about tripping, either), but I did, and it was magical. The Girl is filled with life and energy, and Baloo fell in love with her, too. We’ve never seen him play with a dog before – he’d been habituated to humans instead of dogs before we got him – but with The Girl he played. The two of them (both weighing in excess of 65 pounds) would tear around the house, wrestle, roll around…I swear, they were practically giggling.

When our friend returned home from the hospital and received additional bad news about her health, it seemed kind of crazy for her to keep this big, active dog in her small room, along with her two not-very-healthy cats. So Kurt and I offered to adopt her. Our goal was to train her so that she would behave well enough to have “off-leash” status, to make her a part of our family, to socialize her and let her experience as much joy-filled life as we could provide.

Our friend gave it lots of thought, but in the end said she would miss The Girl, and wanted to keep her.

Which should be fine with me. The Girl is, after all, her dog; I need to respect that. But I am miserable.

I feel incredibly selfish. Our friend is learning how to take care of dogs, and has not tied up The Girl outside since returning home from the hospital. She has hired another community member to walk her once a day. I am hopeful that The Girl will receive a lot more attention than she has in the past. And I need to let it go. But it gnaws at me. Baloo misses her too. Even the cat, whose head she would place in her mouth (much like a circus performer) keeps looking for her.


On a walk

So I am working hard on gratitude today. My life is really is filled with innumerable blessings. I have the best husband in the world, amazing pets, a home I love, a business poised to take off, a fabulous friend who comes each day to help us get stuff done, a supportive community of friends and neighbors, good health, cute shoes, and a stash of Dr. Pepper and organic chocolate. For all of this I am grateful. I am working on being grateful that our friend wants and loves The Girl. I am working on accepting that The Girl does not have to be a part of our family to lead a rich, full life. I am working on understanding that I cannot control what happens in my life, and being grateful for the twists, turns and lessons learned on my path. I am working on it, but haven’t gotten there yet…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama: Remember Amtrak

The railroad bridge in Fredericksburg, Virginia with an early morning Amtrak Train crossing, on Flickr by Andrew.dici

This post is my entry for the Green Mom's Carnival for December. Check it out at Diane MacEachearn's Big Green Purse.

Dear President-Elect Obama (oh, how I LOVE the sound of THAT!),

You are undoubtedly receiving many pleas for change. And I imagine that you are a tad busy. So I'll keep my request short:

Please remember Amtrak.
Please increase Amtrak's budget, for regular and high-speed rail service, for maintenance, for new trains. Remember that our country is vast, and that ecologically-sound, dependable, economical transportation is needed beyond the Northeast Corridor. Remember the little towns all across the Midwest which essentially shut down when the trains stopped stopping, and it became necessary to have a car to get from place to place. America needs our train service back.
The first test of Amtrak's spending plans will come in February, when you submit your transportation budget with how much you want to give the carrier. Please do not follow the pathetic example of your predecessor George W. Bush, who in his final budget sought to cut Amtrak's subsidy by more than a third, or $500 million. Please be the change that we all seek. We are counting on you.

Respectfully,
Alline Anderson
Train rider

Amtrak Interior by Wigwam Jones on Flickr
**Additional info from Bloomberg.com and Trainorders.com

**Providing passengers with safe high-speed rail will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Our domestic rail freight capacity must also be strengthened because our demand for rail transportation has never been greater, leaving many key transportation hubs stretched to capacity.

**The government-owned carrier set its sixth straight year of record ridership, with 28.7 million passengers for the 12 months ended Sept. 30. The 11 percent increase came as train travel was spurred by highway congestion, $4-a-gallon gasoline and air- traffic delays in the Northeast, Amtrak's busiest corridor.


Amtrak Observation Car at San Luis Obispo by porsys on Flickr

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Realities of Renewable Energy

The power system in our house is very modestly sized. Before leaving Berkeley we went around the house with a clipboard and took notes on how many watts for how much time each appliance we were taking with us used. We bought a small system, knowing that we would have to economize power-wise when cloudy weather prevailed.

This is one of those times. We are still building the Mercantile, and the power that we have is being prioritized for power tools used in construction.

The sun is scheduled to come back out on Sunday (hmmmm, how appropriate!) and I'll have more to post then.

Internet use aside, this is a lovely opportunity to catch up on reading, hanging out with friends, and sitting by the fire with a nice cup of Peace Coffee. Yum.

And just in case you're worried, the Mercantile's power system will be much larger, to accommodate the number of guests we expect to have at any one time.

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shop Locally, Save Your Community

This post is an entry in the November APLS (Affluent People Living Sustainably) Carnival hosted by Green Phone Booth. This month's theme is "Buying Local." There are some fantastic posts there - check it out! But first, here's mine:
Until June of 1999, I lived in Berkeley, California. It was a pretty blissful existence – my husband (who I met in 1993 while leading a Sierra Club backpacking trip) and I sold our car in 1995. From then on, we did everything by bike. Equipped with a BOB Trailer . We did all of our shopping, and even took our voluminous laundry to the laundromat. In Berkeley it was all so easy – it was (geographically) pretty flat, and there was an abundant variety of stores from which to choose. Monterey Market, a mere four blocks from our house, always had the first organic strawberries of the season. Next door was a bakery and a fish market. Further a field were other stores and farmer’s markets, and BART was usually bike accessible (although not particularly bike friendly).

But buying locally came easy. There was a long established local hardware store and a lumber yard, both within cycling distance. I was thrilled when my employer, Clif Bar, moved two blocks away from where we were living. Kurt worked up at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, which was up in the hills. He had amazing thighs from his commute.

But Utopia it was not, at least for us. Yearning for a life that was a bit less crazy (we still had those serious jobs, after all - paying rent in the Bay Area is no joke!) we began to look for other options. We loved the idea of cohousing - we really wanted to know our neighbors, to be involved, and be part of a community. But it came down to real estate – we had found a lovely place to live, but would have to leave it all day in order to pay for it. Not the solution for us.

When Kurt found Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage on the web, I was rather skeptical. For one thing, I was a California-born snob, and really didn’t know where Missouri even was. But we came to visit in the freezing cold February of 1999 and fell in love. Not with the physical landscape – there wasn’t much here then, just an old beater farm, with two barely-begun strawbale buildings. But we loved the idea, and the thoughtfulness and integrity with which the community had been designed. We went home, had a few yard sales, informed my (horrified) parents, and moved to the rural Midwest.

Having only been here the one time, I fully expected to find the mythical farmland I had seen on TV and in movies. You know: chickens in the yard, mom inside baking bread, a family cow to be milked twice a day, healthy food straight from the garden. Cute small towns around a town square, July 4th parades, hokey events and tractor pulls. Was I in for a surprise!

Mom was working full-time in town, so there were no chickens, or cows, or gardens. Dad was often driving a truck when he wasn’t farming corn or soy beans, in order to make ends meet. And every single small town was dying. Every. Single. One. All around the Midwest once-thriving town squares were filled with boarded up shops and restaurants. Many people did not shop locally – they preferred to drive an hour to go to WalMart and Home Depot, where they “could save some money.” And without this local support, small local stores continued to struggle.




I'll bet you don't have tractors in YOUR local parades!



I became intensely aware of how important my few dollars were. We began patronizing Hopkins Lumber, the local lumberyard. It has proven to be an absolute delight. Aaron and Bekka go out of their way to provide stellar customer service – drive supplies out here when we’re in a rush, and even share their favorite recipes. Jack and Darlene, their parents, are equally supportive. We’ve found that if they don’t carry something, they can usually order it. And while it is not always the cheapest option, we would be devastated if they were to close. So we do our part to support them, and they support us in turn. The local butcher (not many of those left!) is a great resource. And we can get HUGE bags of bones for the dogs for a mere 50 cents.

Three miles away, Zimmerman’s, a Mennonite-run general store, lets members of Dancing Rabbit order through the Natural Foods Wholesaler that they use. They charge us only an additional 5% (above wholesale), which is a fantastic deal. It has been wonderful to get to know this previously impenetrable community – there is a lot of mutual affection and respect between us, and we have found that we have more in common than we ever suspected.

The ladies who work in the local “men’s store” have been there for at least 30 years. They can tell you your jeans size better then you can, and lead you around by the hand as you shop. They write the sales tickets out by hand – no fancy schmancy computers here – and remember what project you’re working on, what boots you bought last year, and what kind of tomatoes you planted. There’s really something special going on.

Deny Clatt, who was just elected to local office, his daughter Abby (who takes fiddle lessons at DR from Tamar) and Danette, who runs the local florist shop, and is Aunt to Aaron and Bekka at Hopkins Lumber. Tiny world, eh?

Long story short: shop locally. Let me say that again: shop locally. Big box stores don’t care about you. They may talk a good game, but they’re not going to come to your son’s baseball game, or extend you credit when you get laid off. They don’t know your dog’s name, and don’t care if your community survives or not. The local banker, clothing store, grocery store and butcher are all invested in the success of YOU, and of your community. This is what we were searching for in Berkeley – a sense of belonging, of being able to make a difference. It is one of the things we cherish most about being here.

I am not suggesting that you move to the rural Midwest (in fact, those of you in cities: please go have a really good Indian or Chinese meal and know that I'll be drooling in absentia), or an ecovillage. I just wanted to share my experience, and to let you know that where ever you live you CAN make a difference. I encourage you to find your own locally owned businesses and patronize them. I promise you will receive extraordinary service, and that your lives will be richer for the experience!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama: The Two Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

What a great night! For the first time EVER I stayed up to watch the election returns. I've always voted, and been fairly active in the process. But never before have I been so excited by the prospect of who might be our next President.

After dinner we all gathered in the Dancing Rabbit Common House; Tony hooked up his computer to the projector and we flipped between BBC News, MSNBC, and even Fox - he was very accommodating and good humored about all the demands being shouted from around the room (i.e.: "Hey Toe! we need something funny now!" and then a few minutes later "Tony! What's happening in Virginia? What about Boone County, Missouri?"). I found it especially gratifying to watch Fox have to concede state after state to Obama (hee hee).

In between state by state returns and checking in on local election results, we watched a little Jon Stewart:




Then we watched John McCain at the Alfred Smith Memorial Dinner. He's a great speaker. It gets pretty funny after the first three minutes.





But when 10:30 rolled around, we were there for McCains concession speech. I found it very touching, and feel he is what my mom would have called " a class act." It is too bad (for him, not for us) that his advisors chose to saddle him with Scary Sarah Palin.

Watching the crowd in Grant Park in Chicago was exciting, too. It was sure a more diverse crowd than the lily-white group gathered in Phoenix. As much as I am not a fan of Jesse Jackson, I was very touched by the shots of him in the crowds, tears running down his cheeks. Many of us went through a lot of tissues yesterday. Another thought I had was that it was interesting that Jesse was in the crowd and not up on a dias with other "dignitaries." It's a brand new day.



Michelle Obama looked fabulous - I was first taken aback by her choice of dress (2009 Narciso Rodriguez), then came to believe that it was a powerful choice. Very goddess-like, as if to say women DO have curves (as well as brains!); we are reclaiming our booties and ALL of our bodies, in all of their glory.

For the first time in eight years I am not ashamed to be a US citizen. I have hope that for once we'll have a leader who will unite us and not divide us. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping for the best. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that today is election day. In a show of solidarity, the folks at Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms went to Rutledge and voted en masse this morning. Voting lines in Rutledge, Missouri! The lines didn't last long, and then everyone wandered over to Zimmerman's for a celebratory donut.

The sticker: the REAL reason I vote!


Rutledge has a population of 103. We vote in the Community Center, and this year is the first time we have had "real" ballots. In previous elections we were given HUGE (newspaper size) pieces of paper on which to make our "X" with a pencil. The ballot was then folded into quarters and inserted into a black box secured with a padlock. This year there is a snazzy motorized contraption that sucks one's ballot into the box. We've hit the big time. (Although we still prefer to sit at the long dining tables to vote, rather than standing in the two booths provided for privacy).

Tamar and Aurelia discuss the minor differences between Obama and McCain...




Alyson assists Cole in pronouncing "President Obama."


Jeff and Alyssa check in.
So now the waiting begins. Oh, how I hope this is the beginning of reinstatement of diplomacy, common sense, and all the good things the United States used to stand for.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

76 Nobel Laureates Endorse Obama...


...so does The Economist, and so do at least 30 Dancing Rabbits, although we're not making any headlines!
In this encouraging article (below) Tom Schueneman of Red, Green and Blue, (a site that "brings together voices from across the political and ideological spectrums to discuss and debate critical environmental issues and current events") writes:

"As of last Friday, the number of Nobel Laureates endorsing Barack Obama for president has risen to 76, saying Obama will end Bush-era trashing of scientific research, integrity, and competitiveness.

In an open letter, the Laureates cite the politicization of science under the Bush administration, particularly in the fields of heath and climate, saying that “vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support,” adding that through an advisory process “distorted by political considerations” America’s “once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk.”

Despite John McCain’s claim that he is the true agent of change for all that has gone wrong under George Bush, both he and his remarkably incurious and misinformed (at best) running mate show how they plan to continue Bush’s appalling lack of regard for science; combining an inexcusable ignorance of the importance of basic scientific research, with the morally bereft penchant for using science as yet another divisive wedge to promulgate their politics of intolerance, fear, and derision - aiming straight at the lowest common denominator the body politic.

The vital role of science to address the most pressing issues of our time, from economic competitiveness to climate change, energy, and sustainability, will return under an Obama administration, say the Nobel scientists:

“We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation’s competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation’s and the world’s most urgent needs.”

The letter stresses that the country is in urgent need of a “visionary leader” saying, “We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him”.

McCain and Palin would surely continue us on the resolute path back to the Dark Ages upon which George Bush set out eight years ago.

And there is no more time to waste on such foolishness."

I couldn't agree more. Please take the time to vote!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

And Tippi Hedren thought SHE had problems...

Imagine Dancing Rabbit as Bodega Bay, and the birds as ladybugs. You'll have an idea of what's going on today (our lives in 1:40, below)...



Ladybugs. Cute little ladybugs. Unless they're not.

Ugh! We're in the middle of an infestation, a Ladybugapalooza, the ladybug version of a flash mob. And they're not even real ladybugs. They are foreign imposters.

In the 1980's the Department of Agriculture released the Asian strain to help keep aphids off of pecan trees.

Asian lady beetles, a non-native introduced to the United States as beneficial insects, ones that eat pests -- have become a major headache. Hundreds or even thousands of the orange-colored, black-spotted, pea-sized bugs invade homes in fall. Living, crawling clusters form in attics, corners and basements.

Apparently the ladybugs are more active between mid-October and mid-November because they are trying to find protective places for wintering. Which makes sense. Two nights ago we had our first frost, followed by daytime temperatures in the high 60's. I like nature. But euuuuwwwww. They're all over the side of the house, and all over the clothes on hanging on the line. And when you brush them off? They smell. Really, really bad.

The problem seems to be worse in the south (here's a really interesting New York Times article focusing on Kentucky) although I've read blog entries about infestations as far north as Wisconsin. I'm trying to find a way to pin this on George W. Bush. Everything else is his fault...

Tom Cowan just forwarded this info from Ohio State. EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about these biting, stinky creatures.

Fortunately we don't have very many in the house. While Fionn (the cat), who enjoys stalking and eating spiders and any other bug he had nab, steers clear of them, Kurt handles them with the vacuum; odd, but apparently that is one of the most benign ways to get rid of them.

Hoover on, dude!



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Frost, winter 2008

Late yesterday afternoon our friend Dan S. came around to remind us that a frost was expected; was there anything I needed help with (since Kurt was out of town?). I did a quick check of the Mercantile - all of the paint, wood glue and other liquid (i.e. freezable items) had been thoughtfully moved by Sparky into Kurt's workshop, which has yet to freeze.

Side note: the shop has no wood stove, but has thick recycled denim insulation in the walls (see photo), 12 fablulous inches of blown cellulose insulation - which is simply recyled newspaper torn into teeny tiny pieces and blown, dry, with a low-tech fan into what ever space you want it in - in the ceiling. Additionally, there are two huge glass doors on the south side (see photo). Passive solar was only a theory for me before moving to Dancing Rabbit. But watching how well this building perform in extreme weather is a fantastic demonstration. It is so cool that it really, truly works!.
Recycled Denim insulation. Used in place of fiberglass, it comes in standard industry sizes and rolls out just like conventional insulation. The bonus: it is soft, non-toxic, and won't leave you with asbestos embedded in your lungs!
The day that the crew blew in the cellulose was a scorcher. They started at 5:00 a.m, but things heated up quickly for Kurt, who was manning the hose in the attic. This is a shot of him when he finally came down, covered in sweat and old newspapers. Ewwwww.
You can see the big glass south-facing doors in this shot of the windmill raising. That was a windy, stormy, thunder-and-lightening day. Perfect for putting up a 40' metal pole!
I was grateful for the reminder - I have a turkey fig "tree" (currently 3' tall) that, while it is supposed to be hardy to zone 5 (where we are) it is in a place exposed to wind. So I took a wheelbarrow over to the Mercantile where there is lots of loose straw (very convenient to be building a strawbale building when one needs insulation for one's fig trees!), loaded up, and surrounded the tree with it. I then put a big black plastic bag (left over from my already-gone-four-years Costco-shopping parents) over the whole thing. It seems like a good idea. I'll let you know in the spring how the tree fares.

This morning when I woke up it was 25 chilly degrees outside. Inside our strawbale home it was 60. Yay for good insulation. We still have lots of single pane windows (donated to DR when other folks upgraded to double-pane) which need thermal curtains. The weather outside is certainly motivation to get going on yet another sewing project!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life in an Ecovillage: the REAL scoop

For the last eight years members of Dancing Rabbit have been writing a column for the local weekly newspaper, The Memphis (MO) Democrat. Started by Rachel in June, 2000 to help increase our visibility and to diffuse rumors about, well, who knows what, the writing rotates among a team of talented writers. Below is a column that originally ran on March 13, 2008, in reaction to questions asked by neighbors It is my attempt to capture DR in a nutshell, never an easy task! (I have updated a few numbers to make it more accurate). Should you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer!

Taken during a break in our week-long 2008 annual retreat


Hi. This is Alline with some interesting news: Everything you think you know about Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage may be wrong.

Dancing Rabbit has just celebrated its 11th anniversary – eleven fabulous years among the gently rolling hills and gracious friendliness of the people of North Eastern Missouri (fondly nicknamed NEMO). We have countless Rutledge Fall Festivals, Dog & Gun auctions, volunteer Fire Department meetings, donuts at Zimmerman’s and Memphis Democrat columns under our collective belts.

And yet inaccuracies about us abound. Here’s some of the real scoop.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is a nonprofit and a residential community that demonstrates ecological sustainability in Rutledge, Missouri. We are a group of individuals who own an old beater farm together in a non-profit entity called a Community Land Trust. No one person is in charge. We make decisions by consensus, which is a step more inclusive than one person, one vote. If everyone does not agree, we go back to the drawing board to find a solution that will work for all.

On this old farm we are crafting a village – we have plans for a town center, roads, and all of the other constructs that go into it. We have dozens of committees, ranging from Land Use Planning to Kid Committee, which help the decision-making process along. Imagine having to start your town from scratch, and you’ll begin to understand what we are doing. From rules around pets (when is barking too much? How many dogs can we have roaming free?), to deciding how much to charge ourselves for use of the Community Building, we’re doing it all ourselves. It is dizzying and time-consuming but ultimately incredibly satisfying.

Our bottom line is ecological. If someone comes to DR and agrees to live by our six ecological covenants (which include using recycled/sustainable materials in building and using renewable energy), can get along with others, and can support his/herself, we welcome you. This provides a wide spectrum of opinions, experience and skills that individuals bring to our village. We are hoping to continue to grow, and have a visitor program throughout the summer and fall where folks come stay for 1-3 weeks to see if they might like to join us. While here they attend workshops on alternative building, consensus decision-making, cooking for a crowd, organic gardening and participate in sing-alongs, Ultimate Frisbee, sewing circle, game night, swimming in the pond and lots of other activities.

We don’t own cars individually. Instead we have a vehicle cooperative, which owns two cars, a Ford truck and a John Deere tractor in. We pay for usage by the mile, which covers fuel, car payment, insurance and maintenance. We feel strongly that if everyone drove a little less the world might be a little better off. Each Sunday we meet, calendars in hand, and figure out ride-sharing for trips to the doctor, the Mexican restaurant, the vet, the Farm & Home…

We are independent financially from one another. Each of us owns our own home. We do not turn our income over to Dancing Rabbit. We tax ourselves 2% of our annual income to help with the infrastructure of the village, much like condo association fees. We grow much of our own food, but are not attempting to be self-sufficient – we’ll never grow rice here, for instance. We believe in supporting our local economy, buying locally grown food and locally produced items. This is for ecological reasons (why use petroleum to transport stuff from California or Vermont when it is available here?) and because we want to see NEMO thrive.

The 45 adults here are very different from one another. Some, like my husband Kurt and me, come from a decidedly middle-class background, and have worked for 30 years before coming here. Some folks arrive right out of college, or come as interns, and have stayed. Most of us vote. We pay taxes. We work really hard – we build our own houses, and grow a lot of our own food. We don’t have televisions, but a few of us subscribe to Netflix. Most of us are not wealthy, although a few are fortunate enough to have a trust fund. We earn our livings a number of ways – carpentry, computer/online businesses, gardening, teaching music, consulting, and many other things. It is often challenging, but we feel that the hard work is worth being able to live our lives as we do. Many of us are vegans or vegetarians, and yes, we eat tofu. Some of these same people love a good pork barbeque (while clearly, others do not). On a sunny day you may find a tie-dye shirt or two around, and not many neckties. Some Rabbits go to church, others do not but consider themselves to be deeply spiritual. We try not to judge one another, and strive to get along respectfully.

It is important to us that we are transparent. There are no secrets here. We are so grateful for the kindness with which residents of NEMO have treated us, and for the many friends we have made. We welcome you to visit us after the mud has dried when we start giving tours again. Once the Milkweed Mercantile is up and running (December 2008, keep your fingers crossed!) you are cordially invited to come have an up-close and personal tour of a strawbale, solar-and-wind powered building, eat delicious homegrown food, and sit on the porch and drink juleps as the sun sets. We look forward to seeing you soon!


http://www.dancingrabbit.org/

Musings, Changes and Things to Come!

Ziggy's Reciprical Roof

Welcome to the new and improved Ecovillage Musings! The focus has now officially changed - from my life and adventures launching a green business here at Dancing Rabbit, to a more general Dancing Rabbit informational site. Click here to view my new blog, A Passion for Green Business.
This morning I had the pleasure of meeting Brian's (aka Ziggy's) dad who is visiting from New Jersey. I now understand Brian's sunny disposition - his dad is a delight! Check out Ziggy's Year of Mud, where he shares his adventures of building a cob house.
That's it for today - I'm way behind in EVERYTHING! More tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Midnight Ramblings, in spite of the cat...


Oh sure, he looks innocent enough...


Dear Friends,
It's midnight, and I tried to sleep. Oh, how I tried. But my brain was whirring, churning, spinning so fast that I had no other option but to climb out of bed, put on Kurt's old blue bathrobe, come down to the kitchen where my computer is sitting on the table and pour myself a bowl of Cheerios (just because I live at an Ecovillage doesn't mean that I always do what is best for me!). So here I sit, brainstorming the next steps in my business, plotting tomorrow's photo shoot, and attempting to think of fabulous, verging-on-genius ideas for The Green Mom's Carnival in which the wise and generous Karen Hanrahan has invited me to participate. But the cat (Fionn McCool) is taking turns running up and down the stairs at top speed and clawing at the tablecloth so that the glass water pitcher inches ever closer to the edge of the table ("Mom! Pay attention to ME!!!) while the very patient but not-a-cat-fan dog, Baloo, keeps coming over to let me know just how annoying the cat is. So I am doing my best, but if this is less than coherent, it's all the cat's fault.

Baloo, who in spite of his obsessive compulsive behavior regarding throw toys, is a fine dog...



OMG. Now the cat has rolled himself up, enchilada style, in the throw rug in the living room. Things were much calmer before I turned on the light...

But anyway, it has been an amazing week. Actually, it was last week that was amazing - I'm just now recovering from recovering from it!

The absolute tip top highlight was the opportunity to be on a panel at the West Suburban Women Entrepreneur's (WSWE) Sixth Anniversary Event. Joining me on the panel were the irrepressible and hilarious Jodi Murphy of Murco Recycling Enterprises, and the absolutely delightful Tracey Robertson of Share Wear in Chicago. Wrangling, er, moderating the conversation was the warm and gracious Jenniffer Weigel, who managed to be both down-to-earth and totally "woo woo" at the same time - what stories she had! We spent an hour and a half talking about our businesses - what inspires us, how we came to do what we do, appreciating our bodies, how we deal with the current economic downturn, and much, much more. What pleased me the most was that the four of us were able to have breakfast together in a private dining room before the event, so that we could get to know one another better before being "on stage." As we talked and shared our ideas, we realized that we all shared a belief in gratitude and abundance. Thinking good things (and doing the work) really can make good things happen. It sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I know from my own experience that when I follow my heart, amazing things happen, doors open, and the right people appear right out of the blue. When I try to force things, to do what I think I should instead of what I feel I should - well, the results just aren't the same.


It was wonderful to be in a room full of 190 business women (and five men), and feel the support and encouragement from each and every one of them. I was so happy to see Maria Moran of Green Home Experts again (if anyone needs information or help with green building or rennovation, Maria is your girl - she's not only creative and knowledgable, but impeccably honest), Falise of 24/8 Book Club (who confessed to eating Cocoa Krispies, giving me the courage to confess my own sugar ceral jones...), Denise of So Tell Me, creator of So Tell Me Medical Organizers (which I can't wait to carry - oh, to have had these when my parents were ill), the aforementioned Karen Hanrahan, and the Revolutionary Muses, Joanne Stone-Geier and Sue Reardon.

I love being in business, at least the way I am choosing to run my business. And the women I am meeting continue to inspire me to do exactly what I have set out to do - create a community-centered, successful, sustainable, ethical, truly green business.

And speaking of how I choose to run my business, this blog has turned in a direction that was unintended. And so I am going to go with the flow (see 4th paragraph, above) and make a change. This blog, Ecovillage Musings, will morph into an unofficial blog for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. As I travel and talk about my home and where the Milkweed Mercantile is located, I am told again and again that the DR website is huge and almost incomprehensible. So I will present our little Ecovillage in managable bites, here, with a name that suits it's purpose.

My business and personal blog, will be new. It is almost ready to go, and as soon as I figure out all of the settings, I will launch it, hopefully by tomorrow.


So that's it for tonight. If I can't sleep now, I'll pull out the latest Henning Mankell book - I'm loving his Kurt Wallender series. It is set in Sweden, and so I make up ways to pronounce the names. They are most likely VERY wrong, but it sure is amusing!

more tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good news, holiday plans and getting too big for my britches!


















OK. After ten minutes of trying, I'm CLEARLY not bright enough to embed a video for you to watch here. But I DO know how to LINK something, so click here to view a life-changing video, or at least a brief snippet of humor and truth.
I'm also trying to figure out Twitter both the hows and the whys. Do people REALLY have spare time to do this all day? It's a puzzlement. Maybe it's because they're at desk jobs with the computer, cell phone and blackberry in hand?
However, there IS some good news in amongst the stock market crashes and scary VP announcements. We heard from our friends Rick and Jaime in San Diego that they got married in July. Hooray!

I've been "shopping" for the Mercantile's Holiday selection and having a blast. Take a look at some of these fabulous things (included are organic Blueberry Lavender preserves, pendants made from scrabble tiles, organic baby rattles, playground scavenger hunt, and organic fair trade chocolate "puddles":






We should have them all up online by the beginning of next week.
Tomorrow Kurt and I are off to LaGrange, IL for the West Suburban Women Entrepreneur's Anniversary Event: “The Face of the Woman Entrepreneur", featuring a distinguished panel of women entrepreneurs moderated by Emmy-winning broadcaster Jenniffer Weigel.
Guess who is one of the distinguished panelists? Yup. Better brush my teeth!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ramping up for Sarah's big evening:

For the teetotallers (including moi): Bingo
For the drinkers from MIT's The Tech:

Red Team Rules
  • Every time Palin cites Alaska’s proximity to Russia as “foreign policy experience”: Take a shot of vodka
  • When Palin claims she said “Thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere: Demand a new drink from your hosts, say “thanks but no thanks,” and then when no one’s looking, take it anyway, then claim you never wanted it.
  • When Palin recounts putting the governor’s jet on eBay: Auction off a beer to your friends
  • When Palin insists that governing a small town in Alaska is in fact experience: Give your friend a shot glass of beer when he/she asks for a pint and insist it’s the same thing.
  • When Palin points out that Biden thought Obama was too inexperienced for the job: Finish your drink and say, “Oh Snap!” If you’re a democrat, follow this by crying.
  • When Palin claims that Washington’s problems can be solved by small town know how and common sense: Drink a Labatt Blue as you read up on how to become a Canadian citizen.
  • When Palin talks about being the most popular governor in the country: Go to a room by yourself, realize you’re the most popular person in the room, then finish your drink.
The Sarah Palin checklist:
If she mentions all of the following, finish your drinks: Bush Doctrine, Snow Machine, Moose, Lipstick, Hockey Mom, Family Values

Blue Team Rules
  • For every mention of Scranton, Pennsylvania: Take a sip.
  • When Biden begins the “I take the train home everyday story” being drinking. Don’t stop ’till he finishes.
  • When Biden questions Palin’s inexperience: Drink something you’ve never had before
  • When Biden makes an obvious gaffe: Spill your neighbor’s drink
  • When Biden uses X words when Y will do: Drink X-Y seconds
  • When Biden patronizes or self identifies with the working class: Down some brew (Bonus points if you use Miller Highlife)
  • When Biden lambastes Washington Insiders: Make a toast to his 35 years of experience in the United States Senate


The Joe Biden checklist:

If he mentions all of the following, finish your drinks: Blue Collar, Golden Parachute, Little Guy, Washington Insider, Working Class, Clean

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

...In which our hero finally gets a nap

Hello friends.

Ideablob is OVER! Yay! I cannot believe just how relieved and happy I am to be done with it! We still don't know who the winner is - it will be announced, as the Ideablob folks so succinctly put it in their email to me at 12:01 a.m. this morning, "sometime soon." I suspect that we'll be a very close second, which of course gets nothing except a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement from a community of old and new friends, lots of fantastic attention focused on the good things that are happening here at Dancing Rabbit, and, um, fewer taxes.

I was appalled by how competitive I really am, and buoyed by how much I enjoyed reaching out, meeting new people, learning new technologies (let's be clear: I'm learning, NOT mastering!), brainstorming possibilities, and practiced articulating just what it is we're trying to do. I am finding launching a business to be one of the most creative things I have ever done - and I've had a pretty creative life!

Today I found this gem in Dani Norden's "One person can't feel that much at once! They'd explode!" blog:
"...And talking to my chiropractor about it (who's a holistic kinda gal), she mentioned that in times like this, you have a choice on how you exist in the universe. You're either a citizen of your country, a citizen of the world, a citizen of your family, or a citizen of yourself. And sometimes, when being a citizen of the world/country becomes so exhausting that it prevents you from functioning in other capacities, it's time to scale back a bit. Get back into yourself for a while."
She is a designer and visionary - check her out!

That's it for now. Time to make some hot pepper relish, go to the vet's to get Baloo some more thyroid pills, take a nap, clear a path through what used to be our bedroom but is now the Mercantile storage area, write over-due condolence cards...hmmmm, I'm a bit behind!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Last 24 hours of Ideablob (and aren't we all glad!)


Hi everyone. We're nearing the end of the Ideablob contest. We've had an amazing day - over 260 votes! Wow. I am neck-deep in gratitude, and bubbling over with awe.

If only it were enough! Sheesh, Project H Design is simply impossible to beat, or at least they seem to be. They have a HUGE network, hundreds of university affiliations, and more. I spent yesterday emailing cohousing groups, ecovillages, strawbale building groups, renewable energy groups, EVERYONE I could think of. And the votes have poured in. But Project H keeps coming, like Rommel driving deep into Egypt (to misquote Richard Brautigan), plowing over every lovely idea in its path.

For those of you just tuning in, please help our business, the Milkweed Mercantile, win a $20,000 cash award. Go to Ideablob.com, register, go to your email to confirm your registration, and then vote for "Strawbale off-grid business." We would really appreciate it! THEN, please go to your social networking networks, and network! I am so new at all of this! Twitter, Stumble, trip and fall! (it is really fun, though, "meeting" so many people that I never even knew existed!)

For more on our business, click here.
To watch a short video about the Mercantile, click here.
For photos of the Mercantile in progress, click here.
For more on Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, click here.

Thanks so much for taking the time to come here and read this. And thank you again for voting for us (if you do). We look forward to meeting you in person someday here at the Mercantile!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

An amazing year continues...

I can't believe how much I have learned in the past year. I feel like my brain is on hyper-drive. At the risk of being horribly, miserably trite and filled with cliches, life lately feels like peeling a huge, not-so-stinky onion - the more I peel the more that I find is there. And while I might cry a little, all in all it is rich and delicious.

This Ideablob contest is just the latest in a long line of learning experiences. We still have 48 hours until the contest is over. We have an email going out to the March Hare mailing list, an interview on Ecosalon.com, a Milkweed Mercantile Autumnal Equinox newsletter, a posting on the PAII forum, and an email to our personal mailing lists. And while I haven't completely given up, I suspect that the fat lady is about to sing and that we will lose spectacularly. But what I keep coming back to is this: is it really losing if over 400 wonderful people took time out of their lives and registered on a website that was sure to send them annoying emails in the future, and voted for us so that we could get a big pile of cash? Nope. It feels like winning, big time.

Helping me to wrangle all of this rampaging emotion into perspective is something I found on the blog of our friends over at the Permaculture Activist . It is the Incomplete Manifesto written by designer Bruce Mau . It is a wonderful, meaty, brain-expoloding conglomeration of ideas that I can hardly wait to get back to. Ooooh! Here goes. I expect I'll be commenting on this for days to come. And thanks for your support - whatever happens, we feel held in the loving, supportive embrace of friends like you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

And so ends another drama-filled week in Rutledge

Earlier this week I sent out an Ideablob email to people I had met at the Coop America Green Business Conference in Chicago. On of my favorite responses came from Sheryl at Twisted Limb Paperworks. It turns out the she is one of the winners of this years Eileen Fisher $10,000 grants. It is so exciting! And it couldn't go to a cooler company! It was so fun to answer her questions about what happened in New York when, as a 2007 winner, I got to hang out with Eileen Fisher (oh, yeah. We're like this!). All I could say was that it was just like being a fairy princess; all of the work had been done, and it was time to sit back and bask in the loving attention. Be sure to check out Twisted Limb's website, and sign up for their newsletter - there are always really interesting tidbits in it!

I have continued to receive wonderful, supportive emails from people I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet, for which I am incredibly grateful. We have until Tuesday at midnight, and I'm going to keep working on the Ideablob thing until then. And if we do not win, I'll be disappointed (because we could really use the $) but honestly, I am healthy, happy, doing work I love, with amazing support and enthusiasm from a community both known and unknown. What, really, could be better? World peace. A new president. And a really good Chinese take-out place in downtown Rutledge. But I'll settle for what I have.

Our friend Julie, whose daughter wants to be a horse, is coming for the day (the pony and the husband are staying home in St. Louis for this trip). We'll spend the afternoon over at the Sorghum Fest at Sandhill (where I get to talk into a microphone!) and then come back here to yap away. Life is good.
Maggie P., future pony
Thanks again for reading, and I'll write more soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My so-called life (or, Alline Blathers on...)

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been obsessed of late with the Ideablob contest. (What? You haven't voted yet? Go here, now, and do so!). We're still number two, which is quite honorable, but Project H Design is wiping the floor with us and slam-dunking us into the nearest dumpster.

Back when I played basketball in college I learned a valuable lesson from a coach that, up until then, I had considered to be ruthless and a bit heartless. But the day we played a team that wasn't as good as we were, and got to be 40 points ahead, she said "enough." We still did our best, but with the coach's blessing felt no need to win by a hundred points, which we easily could have done. I wish the Project H people would go have a celebratory party somewhere, and all get divinely drunk and stop all the voting hoo ha.

Aside from LOSING, the Ideablob contest has been really wonderful. I just did an online interview with Mike Sowden of Ecosalon. He asked great questions, which were a blast to answer. The interview was also a reminder of why I am starting this business, of what is most important to me, and I hope will help me keep MY BITTER CRUSHING DEFEAT in perspective. The Mercantile is getting amazing press (that is, SOME press, rather than none), and people are reading through our website, even if they are not buying anything yet. Yet! I remain hopeful. Is this how people who launched businesses in June of 1929 felt? Jeez, I hope that the stock market woes of late will not be anything like what happened in the 30's. Because what am I going to do with 30 recycled coffee tumblers, dozens of organic cotton/hemp menstrual pads, a dozen trash cans woven out of trash (so clever!), a couple dozen jars of organic cuticle cream, hand lotion, cleansing gel and four dozen bars of soap with names like Filthy Viking and Swashbuckler? We'll all be very clean, delightfully scented with dazzling cuticles during the depression.

Wonderful, talented, fablous Ziggy filmed a short promotional video for the Merantile and put it up on DRTV today. I look fat, exhausted, and in need of a good hair cut, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. He did such a great job. Now vote, darn it, vote!

The days are getting shorter, and fall is really in the air. What sounds like a cliche is based in truth. The sun is lower, the light a bit more diffused, and the poison ivy is turning a spectacular bright red. It always reminds me of the year some of our wonderful interns decorated for our annual Land Day party which is held each October. They made stunningly beautiful floral arrangements; unfortunately what they used were big bunches of golden rod and rag weed, with poison ivy trailing out of the vases and along the tables. They made one itch just to look at them.

Gotta go. I'm not going to wait up for the results tonight. It's funny how much more I liked this contest when we were winning!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

LIfe is good!

Today I've been perusing all of my favorite eco-blogs and websites, considering who to write (i.e. grovel) and ask for support re: Ideablob. And then I stopped by Google Analytics, which is my new geek toy, and found that we've been getting hits from EcoSalon. Hmmm....

So I went there. It is a lovely site, with really good writing and thoughtful articles. It is affilitated with Viva Terra, the store I absolutely lust after, which was created by retail visionary XXX. Anyway, look what I found when I got there:

"There's an eco-artisan company in Northeastern Missouri that isn't just satisfied with promoting ecological sustainability - it's running its whole business on it.

The Milkweed Mercantile (part of the Dancing Rabbit eco-village, recently featuring on Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days") are a cooperative with a fascinating business model. The business is owned equally by all employees, who all receive the same hourly wage and equal share of the end-of-year profits. But it's not just about blowing a raspberry in the face of traditional American business practices. Like Dancing Rabbit, The Milkweek Mercantile is energy-independent: power is locally-generated and renewable, building materials are sustainable, gardens are organic, and the fuel for the company's share-owned vehicles (no single owners) is bio-diesel. The message? You can live entirely by your eco-principles and turn a profit. Our applause is deafening."

Amazing! The author, Mike Sowden, REALLY gets it! Sigh.

And by tonight we'll be finalists in the Ideablob ordeal, um, contest. It would be fair to say that this has not been my most sustainably-lived week - I'm kind of a wreck.

Voting in the finals begins at 12:01 a.m. tonight. Please, please please tell your friends, your parents, your Aunt Ethel and crazy Charlie your neighbor.

Sending love and thanks,
Alline