Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Feelin' Alright!

Hi friends. Thought I'd take a quick moment and send an update from my angst-y last post. Don't know what gets into me sometimes - I lose perspective and from the bottom of my own little pond things momentarily seem much more bleak than they actually are. My last post was "inspired" by frustration with the process of community life, and the convolutions we must go through in order to get decisions made. This is not a bad thing - being a part of a consensus-based community is something I really value. I just get a bit fatigued by the day-to-dayness of it all.

Kurt and I had a lovely snow-covered Christmas. On the 26th I boarded the train and headed for Chicago where I was entertained in style by our faux-nephews Peter and Ed - oh, the stories they tell! On the 27th flew to SFO and then to Oregon. It takes a long time to get ANYWHERE from Rutledge, MO.

I am currently in Coos Bay, Oregon visiting my three fabulous nieces and their mom. On New Year's Eve I fly back to the SF Bay Area where I'll spend five days on a sort of a personal retreat - no cell phone reception, no wifi - just long walks, a chance to write, and time to think. Then another five days in Berkeley, hosted by the marvelous Miss Lindsey, where I'll have the chance to catch up with old friends.

Life is good. Thanks for all of your kind thoughts. I'll post more when I'm home and have access to my own computer.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Feeling Torn and Tattered

It's a Jackson Browne kind of day. The song "Before the Deluge" keeps playing in my head - it reflects a bit of the gray day and sadness I am feeling right now.

Let's just say the building a village is a lot harder than it looks.

Before the Deluge
Jackson Browne

Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's heart for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge

Some of them knew pleasure
And some of them knew pain
And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered
And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in the moment they were swept before the deluge

Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by
By and by...
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour
And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge

Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by
By and by...
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweeping Chimneys

Cole Miller, Firefighter and Chimney Sweep

Just a quick note. We had our chimney cleaned yesterday. Kurt had called Miller's Up the Chimney and we were delighted when Cole Miller showed up. Not only did he have a van full or high tech equipment and a great big smile, he also had traditional black top hat on his head.

He was done in less than half an hour, and did it all from inside the Mercantile. He even had a Hepa filter - not a bit of ash escaped, and now our chimneys are better than new. He didn't even mind that Alyson, busily making bread in the kitchen, hummed "Chim Chim Cheree."

We highly recommend him if you're anywhere near Quincy, IL.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Being Dangerous, an Heiress, and just a bit Nervous

One of the nicest things in my day is to open my email and read the daily Writer's Almanac. Sent Monday through Saturday, each missive contains a poem and info on authors, artists and other interesting people who were born on this day.

I especially love this poem. As I am often most adventurous in my imagination, I love the thought of being considered "dangerous" without, really, being much of a threat. Because after all, deep down, I'm basically just a girl scout.

To Be a Danger
by C.G. Hanzlicek

Just once I'd like to be a danger
To something in this world,
Be hunted by cops
And forced into hiding in the mountains,
Since if they left me on the streets
I'd turn the country around,
Changing everyone's mind with a word.

But I've lived so long a quiet life,
In a world I've made small,
That even my own mind changes slowly.
I'm a danger only to myself,
Like the daydreaming night watchman
Smoking his cigar
Near the dynamite shed.

It was also on Writer's Almanac that I found this quote from Fran Lebowitz:

"I have a hard time writing. Most writers have a hard time writing. I have a harder time than most because I'm lazier than most. ... I would have made a perfect heiress. I enjoy lounging. And reading. The other problem I have is fear of writing. The act of writing puts you in confrontation with yourself, which is why I think writers assiduously avoid writing."

I have decided to make Fran Lebowitz my new Patron Saint, right along side St. Dymphna, who is patroness of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders (as the St. Dymphna website points out, "there are few people in the world who are not at some time or another troubled with their nerves."). Sounds about right.

More ecovillage news soon. I have to go practice being an heiress.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reality Meets Fantasy at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

The following will appear in the Novermber 11, 2011 issue of the Memphis Democrat.

If you had asked me, when I first moved to Dancing Rabbit eleven years ago, what I thought life here would look like, I probably would have waxed rhapsodic about a simple life – relaxing in front of the fire in the winter, growing vegetables in the summer, taking long leisurely walks in the fall. I imagined spending a lot of time chatting with friends, lounging in the sunshine and reading, baking crusty loaves of bread to be topped with home-made jam, and generally living the good life.

In the years since my arrival I have found that reality is often in conflict with my vivid imagination. I have also learned that compromises are required in virtually part of my life, and that the simple life requires a lot of work.

While lounging and relaxing are certainly a part of my Ecovillage life, they are just a teeny little smidgen part. Unlike life in well-established towns and villages, members of Dancing Rabbit spend an inordinate amount of time creating structure for ourselves. This is enormously time-consuming, but also enormously gratifying. Imagine being able to have a say in every decision made about your community – from roads (where they go, what they are made of, where the drainage is, what they are named), to cemeteries (what will they be like – rows of markers or a more natural conservation area? Do we allow embalming? Who can be buried here?), to energy policy (should we start planning for a huge wind turbine?), to pets (how many free-roaming dogs are too many? What about cats and songbirds?), to social events (who is hosting Thanksgiving this year? What will we do for New Year’s?). We do it all. And it takes hours and hours and hours.

Additionally, when something happens here at Dancing Rabbit, good or bad, we are the ones we call. Is that downpour flooding the road and the Community Building? Then we had better all get out there with shovels to divert the flow, since we can’t exactly call MoDot. An outbreak of chicken pox among the children, and we have a pregnant member and several members with compromised immune systems? We had better figure out a way to keep everyone safe and healthy while taking care of the little itchy ones. So-and-so’s dog snapped at someone? We had better evaluate what happened and take appropriate action, since we will not be calling Animal Control. Maikwe’s roof just blew off? Well, let’s get over there and cover up the hole so the rain doesn’t get in.

We all serve on at least one committee; most of us serve on several. There are committees for virtually everything: Long Term Planning, Kids, Pets, Vehicle Co-op, Land Use Planning, Tree Team, Outreach, Development, Oversight, Goals & Priorities, Membership, Land Clean, Donations, Infectious Disease, Roads, Parking Lots, Conflict Resolution, Mem Dem column, Retreat Planning, Decision Making…

In addition to all of this we are raising much of our own food, chopping and hauling firewood, building homes, educating children, running businesses, and trying to demonstrate that it all can be sustainable.

What do I like best about our chosen way of life? We get to live here, with people we respect and admire. We are living lives that feel true to our values, even if we might not have everything figured out yet. We get to observe the seasons changing on 280 gorgeous acres of rolling hills and prairie that we are restoring and stewarding. We get to watch our children and the children of our friends grow and flourish. We have a community with which to share the triumphs and celebrations, as well as sadness and disappointments.

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I would like to express gratitude to all of my fellow Dancing Rabbit members, both past and current. Thank you for all of the time you give to make this a better place to live. Thank you for the hours you spend on committee work. Thank you for all of the little things you do to improve our village, working behind the scenes, that no one ever knows about. Thank you for all of the things you do that feel unacknowledged. You are making a difference. And you are appreciated. Thank you also to all of the families and friends of Rabbits, whose support is invaluable. Thank you to those of you in the wider community who have become friends over the years – you help to make our lives here rewarding and full. Thank you all!

Monday, October 18, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog for Chocolate

Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour
Servings: 12

1 cup butter, cubed
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan, and line with parchment paper. If your springform pan is bent, like ours is, be sure to put it on a baking sheet so that the batter doesn't drip all over your oven. If you don't have a springform pan, use a regular 8" x 8" brownie pan, or a 9" round cake pan. Butter the pan and line it with parchment - you really DO want this cake to come out of the pan.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in chocolate, and continue to stir until almost melted. Remove from heat, and stir until melted and smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cups sugar and the cocoa powder. Whisk in the eggs until well blended, then whisk in the chocolate and butter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes in the preheated oven. The cake is ready when the edges have nicely puffed and the surface is firm except for a small spot in the center that will jiggle when the pan is gently shaken. Cool cake in the pan over a wire rack. Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then remove the sides of the pan, and invert onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper.
  5. Cut the cake into wedges while warm. Serve with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted, slivered almonds. You can also chill the cake, then warm again before serving.
Adapted from

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Natural Burial at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

The following originally appeared in the Memphis (Missouri) Democrat:

This is Alline writing for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

A team of five or so writers share authorship duties of this column, giving each of us the opportunity to “chat” with you every five weeks, and to share our perspective of life here on the prairie with its attendant joys, sorrows, challenges and triumphs. I usually find it so easy to write – I really enjoy this sort of communication, especially when I receive emails in return, or when I meet someone in town who says with a big smile “oh! I read your column in the paper!” So it is odd that I am having so much difficulty with today’s column.

Instead of the usual comings and goings I would like to write about what we’ve learned about natural burial and home funerals. It is not necessarily an easy topic, but the more I learn the more empowered I feel, and the more passionate I am about sharing it with others.

Before our friend and Dancing Rabbit member Tamar Friedner died while in hospice care in Massachusetts (where her immediate family lives) she requested to be buried here in Missouri. Her family agreed, and the Dancing Rabbit planning machine went to work. Nothing we did here was new. Instead, we found ourselves going back to the “old ways.” In doing so, we found catharsis, love, community bonding and a way of grieving that actually helped ease the pain.

This column is not a criticism of funeral homes or the work they do. We were helped tremendously by a funeral home in Massachusetts who prepared Tamar’s body for transport to Missouri, and our friends at Gerth and Baskett graciously answered many, many questions for us. Instead, it is an exploration of available choices of which the majority of Americans may be unaware.

Natural burial is a family or community-centered response to death and after-death care. Through many millennia, we cared for our dead within the context of the family or the community. Over the years we have gradually turned this care over to professionals, and by doing so, have lost many of the rituals and rites that help friends and loved ones say good-bye in ways that are deep and meaningful. We also often spend a lot more money than we need to.

Most state laws support the right of the family to care for their own departed. Depending on the specifics of each state’s law, families and communities may play a key role in:

• Planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies (such as laying out the deceased and home visitation of the body)
• Preparing the body for burial or cremation
• Filing of death-related paperwork such as the death certificate
• Transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation
• Facilitating the final disposition such as digging the grave in natural burial

Home funerals may occur within the family home or not. Some nursing homes, for example, may allow the family to care for the deceased after death. The emphasis is on minimal, non-invasive, and environmentally-friendly care of the body. This all blends well with the ethos here at Dancing Rabbit.

When friends heard that Tamar was to be buried here at DR we got some lovely, albeit inadvertently funny, phone calls. “Are you allowed to do that?” one friend whispered. “Won’t you all be arrested?” Others were certain that they would never be allowed to do as we were doing because “in Texas you have to be embalmed.” This is incorrect - one does not have to be embalmed in Texas, and we were not arrested. Contrary to popular belief, there is no law that states that a body must be embalmed. In most places in North America, the only reason you must embalm a body is if you are transporting it by plane. Traditional Jewish funerals do not involve embalming. Most people assume that undertakers somehow need to be involved in a funeral. But in all but eight states, that is not the case.

Because of space constraints I am not able to go into many details here; instead there will be several smaller, more manageable pieces. Included will be a bit more about our care of Tamar; learning more about burial on your own land; conservation burial, a more natural alternative for those who do not own land; shrouds, caskets and concrete vaults; and much more. We are also planning an article in The March Hare, Dancing Rabbit’s quarterly newsletter. If you are interested in receiving these articles, please email me at rabbitak at yahoo dot com and I’ll make sure you receive them. Additionally, if you have specific questions let me know and I'll try to cover them.

In the mean time, I leave you with some of the excellent resources in which we found guidance, reassurance and compassion. All of these resources will be discussed in greater depth in future articles.

Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson. An amazing compendium of everything you need to know about funerals, whether or not you plan to do it yourself. Includes state-by-state sections on laws regarding embalming, transport, etc.

Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris. Harris discusses the ways in which Americans have shifted care of the dead out of the hands and homes of friends and family as he tours various burial options, from the most environmentally intrusive to the least.

Funeral Consumers Alliance A nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral.

Final Passages Information on green and family-directed home funerals.

Home Funeral Directory

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Milkweed Mercantile Eco Inn Honors Veterans on November 10th

The Milkweed Mercantile Eco Inn has been open since April, 2010. While we haven’t yet done the official math, the Inn seems to be full a lot more than we were advised to expect. We, of course, are delighted. Not only do we get the opportunity to host the families of members of Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms but a growing number of people we don’t even know (!) are coming to visit. We LOVE this!

Our guests hear about us in a number of ways, one of which is a website called Through our affiliation with this website we heard about a promotion in November for Veterans Day. It’s not very complicated – we simply agree to make one room available for free to someone who is currently serving or who has served in the US military. Kurt and I decided that if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right, and so are making all four of our rooms available on Wednesday, November 10th.

That we, self-professed left-leaning, liberal, anti-war eco-freaks are participating in a Veterans Appreciation event may surprise some. I imagine that many folks, both at Dancing Rabbit and in the wider Northeastern Missouri communities will be, well, shocked. So many assumptions are made about us – assumptions about how we must think, assumptions about what we must believe, and assumptions about how we act in the privacy of our own community.

So let’s just set the record straight.

I think war is the most supremely stupid way to settle a disagreement. I am furious that leaders of nations use the sons and daughters of others as fodder in games to increase the bottom lines of corporations.

From Rob Shetterly's Americans Who Tell the Truth series.
Click here to learn more.

I love that General Dwight Eisenhower said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” (Speech delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, D.C. April 16, 1953)


We support the troops – the men and women, the individuals who are doing a job that they may or may not believe in. We’d really like to support them by bringing them home, but until we can make that happen, we intend to build bridges. Kurt and I (and many others) are looking for ways to find things that bring us all together, places in which to begin conversations, areas of commonality where we can learn to see who each of us is, as an individual, rather than as a stereotype. If we, members of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, continue preaching only to the choir, how will we ever make any headway towards a more sustainable world?

This was really brought home to us a few months ago when a couple from St. Louis came for the weekend. She was a rabid "tea party" believer; however, in one of the first Tea Party meetings she went to she was poo-pooed for her concern for the environment, for her enthusiasm about her compost bin and home garden, for her willingness to walk rather than drive every where. So she started her own sustainability study group (it was up to 80 people in just a few months). And she came to us for help. How cool is THAT?

All are welcome here at the Milkweed Mercantile. We do not have to agree on politics, religion, or lifestyle choices. All we ask is that we all remain respectful of the choices of others, and we will participate, as much as we are able, with kindness, compassion and an open heart. It’s the only way that change is going to come.

If you are a vet, or know someone who is give them our number: 660-883-5522. We still have three (free) rooms open for Wednesday, November 1oth. A valid Military or VA ID will be required for each reservation.
NOTE ADDED 10/13/10 - ALL OF OUR ROOMS FOR VETS ARE FILLED. Please sign up for our mailing list to be notified about next year's event by clicking here and entering your email address in the box in the top right. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honey Curry Bread or, Relax Already!

My poor Kurt. He gets really nervous when, an hour or so before we serve dinner to guests, I look up from a cookbook and squeal “oooh! Doesn’t this recipe sound GREAT!?”

He figures that if people are paying us for dinner that we should serve them something we have made at least, oh, I don't know, maybe once before. Me? Well, I figure a life without adventure is not worth living. And I’ve discovered a lot of fantastic recipes this way. Take the Honey Curry Bread for example. It’s an idea that could go either way – either delicious or dreadful. My gut instincts said “yummy” and fortunately, so did the dinner guests.

What you may not be able to tell from the photo above is that the bread is bright gold from the turmeric in the curry. It smells sweet and spicy and is fragrant and flavorful without being overpowering. It is, as they say, a little slice of heaven.

Honey Curry Bread

from Hollyhock Cooks

Makes 1 loaf

¼ cup warm water
1 ½ Tb. Yeast
1/3 cup honey (divided)

2 Tb butter
1 tsp salt
1Tb curry powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 ½ cups white flour

1 egg, lightly beaten
Handful of slivered almonds

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve just 1 tablespoon of the honey in warm water and sprinkle the yeast over this. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter with the remaining honey, salt and curry powder. Add the melted butter mixture and the buttermilk to the yeast sponge and use a wooden spoon to stir in the whole wheat flour.
  3. Add the white flour. When the dough is stiff enough to handle, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead in the remaining flour until the dough is firm but remains sticky.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a slightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a damp towel and allow it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Punch down the dough, shape it into a loaf or divide it into 3 equal pieces and braid it and put it in a lightly oiled loaf pan. Cover it with a damp towel again and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375. Beat the egg and brush the loaf lightly with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top. Allow the bread to cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Mary Oliver's Birthday

(I accidentally posted this on the wrong blog - it doesn't belong with the seminars! So while not a new post, it's new for here...)

In honor of the birthday of poet Mary Oliver, the Milkweed Mercantile is giving a free beer to anyone who brings a copy of one of her poems, and reads it for those who happen to be here, especially the Proprietor.

Fortunately for our budget, most of you reading this are far, far away and can only dream of that free brew, dripping down your throat and quenching your insatiable thirst.

Fortunately for me, the humble proprietor, three folks so far have taken me up on my offer. Oddly enough, none wanted beer. Two asked for (and received) Santa Cruz Orange Mango Organic soda, and one requested Earl Grey tea. Perhaps the poetically-inclined are delicate sorts, but I don't really think so.

Meadow, our beloved tea drinker, brought a really lovely poem, which is her favorite poem of all poems, not just Mary Oliver. However, it is now raining cats and dogs ("don't step in a poodle!") and so I cannot run back to the Mercantile to retrieve it.

Among the poems recited was Wild Geese

And then there are these:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

© Mary Oliver. From The Paris Review # 124, Fall, 1992

Sending love to Tamar, Sharon, Amos and Eva today and always

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good-bye Tamar

Working her magic in natural plaster and tile mosaic on a wall at the Milkweed Mercantile.

I'm not sure how exactly to write about the death of a vibrant, talented, intense, blue-eyed 32-year old woman without sounding trite and cliche; besides I'm still so damn angry and hope that someday I'll understand the things in life that just don't make any sense that I can't really write very coherently (that last sentence proves my point).

Today the photos will have to do the talking for me. Our beloved friend (and Dancing Rabbit member) Tamar Friedner died today from pancreatic cancer. Our love and prayers go out to her family. We will miss you Tamar.

(Thanks, Liat, for the use of your pictures).

Fiddling around...

Sandwiched between Ziggy & Liat on Vista de la Moo

Swing that hammer, girl!

With baby Aurelia at Halloween

You gotta love a girl who knows her way around power tools!

"Fashion is my life."

Friday, September 10, 2010

My YoYo Life

Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.
Got a call from the husband of a high school friend saying he'd like to attend our cheese-making seminar, loved his friendly attitude and dashing accent - up, with a smile.

Asked to help research options for transporting a friend from Massachusetts back home to Dancing Rabbit after her death, which seems to be near - down, with tears.

Trying to type with a cat on my keyboard - up, with abiding patience.

Friended on Facebook by my first love (in 1975 we were both 19). Perhaps in the spirit of Rosh Hashanah this will be a good time for introspection, looking back at the mistakes that I made and apologize for being such an utter, complete, self-absorbed, angst-filled blond (although in all fairness, it was 35 years ago!) - up, with laughter.

IM'd with Danae, Kurt's niece - up.

Spoke with the remarkable people at Funeral Consumers Alliance - up, with gratitude, down, with sadness.

Developed a deeper understanding of the power of love and touch in the face of death and despair, and renewed my respect and admiration for the folks who are bringing dying back into the hands of families and friends, knowing that it is possible to prepare those we love for burial ourselves - up, down, up...

Had breakfast with delightful guests (relatives of Rabbits) who ABSOLUTELY LOVED everything about the Milkweed Mercantile - a big up, with a grin

Attended an introduction to "co-counseling" (aka re evaluation counseling) and was warmed by the love, understanding and compassion that filled the room - up

Came home and embraced the true love of my life and soaked up all the good things he has brought into my life; I feel incredibly fortunate to have found him - up.

Looked at Facebook and saw that our friend Julie has posted a photo of herself as a child, with stunning cat's-eye glasses - up with a giggle

Looked at my poor allergic dog who is beginning to look like a hairless chihuahua - down.

Took him for a walk, which made us both feel better - up.

Heard back from the rep for Eternity Enviro Casket, a company which makes caskets out of cardboard. No local vendors, must be drop shipped from St. Louis - down

Time for a nap. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 30, 2010

LIvin the Good Life, and sweating a lot

Hi all. It's time to play catch up. So here is my life since April, condensed:

We opened the Milkweed Mercantile, and have been having a great time.

Anthony, our friend who happens to be a chef (or a chef who happens to be our friend) thought that this might be the time to finally make the move to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. He arrived with a truck load of kitchen gear, set up an uber professional kitchen for us, and taught us lots of tricks. But alas, the joys of life in Rutledge, Missouri

could not compare with the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, and he left June 18th.

Go figure. Regardless, we're so happy for the time that he spent here, and for all that he taught us. And also for the most important lesson of all - "never underestimate the power of crispy fried potatoes." Here here.

That was the middle of June. Then the Mercantile and friends went up to Stevens Point, Wisconsin to participate in the Midwest Renewal Energy Fair. I especially enjoyed getting to finally meet Pam Wheelock of Purrfect Play (the world's best pet toys, which have, for some odd reason, disappeared from our webstore. Hmmmmm). It was good.

Came home in time to welcome Kurt's niece Dana'e for an all-too-short three-week visit.

With barely time to catch our collective breaths, we prepared to host Cecil's 40th birthday fest. A bunch of folks descended upon Dancing Rabbit over the July 4th weekend and we all had a great time. Yehaw!

Cecil and Katya sitting at the Mercantile bar, consuming the 'buckets o' frosting' that Cecil requested with every meal. Seriously.

The Mercantile was full and hosted a vegan dinner for 21. We had a blast!

We continue to meet the challenge of exquisitely white sheets line-dried in the sun. Doesn't sound so difficult, but try to explain that to birds feasting on PURPLE mulberries. I may have to change the text on the Mercantile website to include something about "please don't be alarmed by strange dark stains on your sheets..." because I'm not sure just how sustainable it is to be washing towels and sheets TWICE because of bird poop. Thankfully, mulberry season has finally passed, and a storm blew over a tree that was overhanging our clothesline (yay, nature!), partially alleviating the problem.

In true Dancing Rabbit form, our clothesline is also where we store construction materials. Isn't that a permaculture principle?

Dana'e and I went blueberry picking, and it was a revelation. Not the picking itself, although that was fun. It was the berries. It is amazing how, well, blueberryish they really taste. Not at all like the pale, dull specimens one finds in the grocery store. These were huge and plump, and just fell off the bush into our hands and buckets.

We came home and made pots of jam, Dana'e for the first time. We're all very proud.

THEN I went to Chicago for the Memorial service of my friend Marvin Geier. It was at Old St. Pat's and was just lovely. The soloist gave me goosebumps, the art all around the church was stunning, and the curvy wood benches were beyond beautiful. It was a marvelous tribute to Marvin.

The trip involved staying in a couple of hotels, where there seems to be an obsession with playing with copious numbers of pillows, and windows that don't open. I'm all for air conditioning, but jeez - it WAS NICE OUTSIDE! LET ME OPEN THE DAMN WINDOW!

How many pillows does it take to make customers happy? Apparently, nine.

Then hopped in the rental van and scooted up to Elkhorn, Wisconsin for EcoFair 360. Not as many attendees as we had hoped but we met a lot of fabulous folks.

Now I'm back home. It's raining, again, unsurprisingly. Tomorrow I'm excited to be teaching a canning workshop. Unfortunately it's been such a wet, awful year that the gardens (and gardeners and farmers) are all struggling. It's been a challenge to find enough produce to put up. It's wicked hot and humid, and as the furniture melts I begin to understand why we don't have a lot of reservations in August - even I don't want to be here in August. We had thought that this would be our busy season, but perhaps next year Kurt and I will take August off and go somewhere cold and foggy. Oh, that sounds GREAT!

Time to go bake cookies for Saturday. Kurt's tending bar at Happy Hour, so I will go on over and lend some moral support. Now that we're all caught up, perhaps I can keep up!

Thanks for reading!

PS to all you lovely folks leaving comments in Asian languages that I cannot read: I'm not going to post them, so save your time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On a Lack of Blog Entries, and Other Earth-Shattering Matters...

Writing a blog is much like keeping a journal, at least it seems that way in my fevered mind. When you miss a day, do you catch yourself up? What happens when another day goes by, and then another, and pretty soon you’re a month behind. Do you fill in the blanks? Or just take off were you are, leaving big gaps and questions in the minds of your readers (or yourself, if we’re still talking about journals…).

Amazing journals by "trumpetvine" who not only journals daily but paints beautifully and blogs. I was about to get a real complex until I realized that her last blog entry was in 2008. OK, I might just cut myself a little slack...

I’m facing that problem. During each day I’ll think of one scathingly brilliant thing to blog about. Before I have time to sit at my computer, though, life intervenes. Someone books a room at the Mercantile and I have to get the room ready because it’s Amy’s day off, I have to do another six loads of laundry, I have to zip into Memphis to pick up our beer order (they won’t come down our road). Or it’s time to make breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. Or whatever. The blog simply doesn’t happen.

Compound time constraints with the problem of writing envy. One of my friends on listed David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as her all-time favorite book, which made me curious. Sleuthing through Amazon’s listings and reviews I came upon this paragraph:

Amid the screams of adulation for bandanna-clad wunderkind David Foster Wallace, you might hear a small peep. It is the cry for some restraint. On occasion the reader is left in the dust wondering where the story went, as the author, literary turbochargers on full-blast, suddenly accelerates into the wild-blue-footnoted yonder in pursuit of some obscure metafictional fancy. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Wallace's latest collection, is at least in part a response to the distress signal put out by the many readers who want to ride along with him, if he'd only slow down for a second.

And my only thought is “Holy Shit!”

How on earth can I keep up with THAT? I can’t even scrape the muddy boots of writing like that. And it’s only the description of DFW’s writing.

So I writhe in my vat of inferiority, and get no writing done. Instead I read still more books, and surround myself with glorious writing, and compose unposted blog entries in my head. Sigh…

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Ready for the Grand Opening

We're getting ready for our official Grand Opening tomorrow. Anthony's working in the Mercantile kitchen, I've spent the day in our home kitchen. He's doing savory, I'm doing sweet.

The menu.

On the menu: La Quercia charcuterie, an amazing assortment of cheese, mini "sliders" made from happy pastured beef with home made buns, miso pork tamales and much much more.

Tamales in progress.

Mini chocolate fudge cupcakes.

Baloo waits patiently while we run around like nutty people.

We had a full page ad in the Memphis Democrat yesterday (it's a weekly paper) but have no idea how many (or even if any) guests will come. If they don't we'll be eating well for a week.

I'll post more pix soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rabbits dropping by to say "hi"

Maikwe says "Donate to Dancing Rabbit, save the world!"

Bear says "I love the smell of blogging in the evening."

Anthony just came back from Asian stores in St. Louis, where all food has "chewing taste." Thank goodness!

A Day in My Life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

I woke up this morning with a pea-sized pebble of a migraine (pronounced "mee-grain" by my British friends). I pretended like it really wasn't there, and got up at 6:30 a.m. Made banana-walnut muffin dough, walked over to the Mercantile.

Warmed up the oven, discovered that it runs 50 degrees cold, adjusted, and put them in to bake.

Went back home and picked up the tray of granola that I made last night; came back and set the table for 8.

Talked to Kurt while he baked, then fried, potatoes. Set up coffee, water, tea.

Chatted with fabulous guests Joe and Beth, and then the Rabbits started to arrive. Tony, Lily, Juan, Amy and Joly all came for breakfast.

Talked for over an hour, washed a gazillion dishes, and finished just in time to run our trash into Rutledge in Joe's truck. Huh? Is this another weird Dancing Rabbit quirk - some people take their dog for a walk, the Rabbits take their trash for a drive? Hardly. It seems that the trash company is afraid of our "gravel" - i.e. mud - road, and refuses to drive on it to collect our trash. The unfortunate thing is that they never TELL us when they're not coming, so our stinky, smelly trash piles up a la Sarah Silvia Cynthia Stout:

Had lunch at Zimmerman's cafe (broccoli cheese soup), came home and put a load of sheets/towels in the washer. Finally admitted that it was indeed a migraine, took some fabulous drugs ("better living through chemistry") and took a two-hour nap.

Arrived at the Mercantile in time to greet Jeff McIntyre-Strausberg already blogging in the Mercantile. I'm here now drinking pots of Peace Coffee and blogging. Anthony returns tonight, so we'll no longer have to think about what to eat - it will just magically appear. Sigh. more soon!

And the Blog-a-thon begins!

OK everyone! Sitting across from me is Jeff McIntyre-Strasberg of, beginning his 24-hour blog-a-thon to benefit Dancing Rabbit.

Click there, donate, and possibly win a $10 gift certificate to the Milkweed Mercantile. Maybe. I mean, it would be unethical to promise anything. Except for perhaps, a good time!

More very soon!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fat and Happy at the Ecovillage

We just received the You tube url for a short piece done by Nicole Grabowski of Mizzou. I think she did a pretty good job, especially considering she was here on a Saturday in the middle of winter when everything is pretty darned ugly.

Note to self: Either refuse the profile shots or go on a diet. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wind power for everyone - even the cynics

As I write this the sun is shining brightly – the solar chimes in a downstairs window are pinging merrily, and I can hear our wind turbine spinning out electric power. Other than knowing that our batteries are filling up with electricity, I’m not much of an electrician. BUT!

One of the most interesting topics to come up a the annual Dancing Rabbit retreat this last weekend, at least for me, is considering going from having our own independent solar/wind power systems to hooking up to “the grid.” NOTE: For a quick explanation of the grid, look at this link Modernize the Grid . It is not entirely unbiased, but you’ll get the general idea.

My first reaction to DR hooking up to the grid was “no way!” I didn’t want to have anything to do with a system that uses coal and nuclear power – hooking up to the grid felt akin to sleeping with the enemy. But through listening and reading, I’ve begun to realize that like most things, it is much more complicated and multi-faceted than I had ever realized.

The power grid itself, the huge nationwide system that generates electricity and then moves it to where it is needed, is a marvel of engineering. But with the ease of seemingly abundant power comes a sense of entitlement and lack of awareness.

If we can simply flick on a switch and have a room flooded with light, plug in an electric heater when we get cold, add a huge freezer and fridge to hold our food so that we can eat anything regardless of the season, if we all have large screen televisions, 5,000 square foot homes, air conditioning left on 24 hours a day in the summer…it is easy to forget where our power comes from.

I certainly never thought (much) about it before moving to Dancing Rabbit. But the days of blasé naïveté are over. Mountain tops are being removed so that Americans can heat the towel bars in their bathrooms. Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) has been systematically scalped for the last 28 years. If you think I’m exaggerating, you have never seen photos of “modern surface mining” (as it is euphemistically called). Simply google “coal mining” or go to this site or to Mountain Justice or to Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. More than 80% of Missouri is currently powered by coal-fired plants.

Nuclear power is not clean, either. Lest we forget, take a quick look at Paul Fusco’s Chernobyl Legacy . The Chernobyl reactor exploded in 1986. The photos were taken in 1997. Most of the children pictured must have been in utero or not yet conceived – those who didn’t die outright suffer from severe genetic disorders and a number of lethal cancers. Four hundred times more radioactive fallout was released than in the bombing of Hiroshima. Is our use of electrical appliances so important that we let this happen to children?

Back to Dancing Rabbit.

When we arrived, the first thing Kurt did was to install our solar panels (and later, a wind turbine), hooked them both to a bank of eight deep-cycle batteries to hold the electricity, and also hooked everything up to an inverter and charge controller. I am not really interested in the mechanics of it all – I’ve simply learned how to interpret the readout so that I know when I can use the waffle iron and when I need to be more conservative with my electricity use.

We (Kurt and I, and many other Rabbits) have known from the start that there were very few easy answers to the environmental challenges facing us. I was fully aware that many of our choices were less than optimal, but had to content myself that we were working towards better solutions. For example, the small scale renewable energy system that powers our house is largely dependent upon deep-cycle lead-acid batteries. We need them to store electricity so that at night and during cloudy weather we can have power. (NOTE: not everyone at DR has a power system. But I’ve noticed that the folks who live in houses without electricity spend a lot of time in buildings that DO have power – Skyhouse and the Community Building – using the lights and the wi-fi).

Four (of eight) deep cycle batteries

These deep-cycle lead-acid batteries are not sustainable. They wear out in about ten years, and there are issues with both manufacture and disposal. Plus they are (almost prohibitively) expensive. We chose to use them because at the time they were our best option.

Where we monitor the power currently (no pun intended) in our batteries.

But the times, they are a-changing.

More and more municipalities are allowing grid intertie systems.

I LOVE THINKING ABOUT THIS. It is always sunny and/or windy somewhere in the United States. What if those of us utilizing renewable energy (wind and solar) hooked up to the grid to share our excess electricity? Can we, by contributing our “green” power, help with the huge culture shift that must happen to wean ourselves away from coal and nuclear power? What if dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of individual homeowners and communities installed solar panels and wind turbines and sent power back into the grid? Coupled with conservation (which does NOT have to mean deprivation) we could decrease the demand for polluting power by providing a bountiful, green alternative.

Our goal at Dancing Rabbit is not to be self-sufficient. What we DO want is to be a part of a sustainable society, and to demonstrate that great lives can be had while living sustainably, and to contribute to the solution. I look forward to next week’s retreat meetings and further discussions about this issue. I’ll keep you posted about how the conversation is proceeding and what is happening. In the meantime, consider doing the following:

  • Plug your appliances into power strips that can be turned off when not in use. We have these on our printer, our television, our microwave.* These appliances, and many more with an “automatic on” capability are ALWAYS pulling power. Ghost load details here

*Oh, just stop it! We have a TV to watch Netflix movies on occasionally. We have a microwave because it is a very efficient way to warm up leftovers WITHOUT using propane.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back from the Black Abyss - Life off the Grid

After two dark, wind-free weeks, the batteries storing the last of our solar and wind power were finally tapped out, and we were left in the dark. It is not unusual for us to have a day or so where we have to be aware of our power usage, but two weeks felt oppressive. Kurt and I have been carefully alternating between our cottage and the Mercantile; we would do vital things (like grind coffee beans!) in whichever had a smidge more power.

But by last Saturday, the entire village was on “black power.” Green power is when the batteries are full, and electricity is plentiful. From there it goes to yellow, to orange, to red, and finally to black, when the inverter (essentially the on/off switch) is shut off. I opened the Mercantile in the dark, wrote out our monthly food order from the natural foods distributor huddled by the glass-paned front doors, and did everything I could think of while there was still weak daylight. By 5:00 p.m. we had the candles lit.

We’ve learned many tricks to living without power and by candle light – taller tapers are much better to read by than pillars, for example. Three tapers surrounding one’s book on the table (one on each side, one at the top) provides plentiful illumination. But we both find ourselves getting sleepy earlier, and are often in bed by 8:30. (Oh, how they party at the Ecovillage, she says sarcastically!). Additionally, we've got spots of wax everywhere - all over the table cloth, on books, on end tables, even on our shoes (carrying a taper in an elegant glass candleholder to the bathroom and back is often hazardous to one's footwear). Ack!

More problematic are things like the water pump – we have plenty of water in the cistern, but it takes electricity to get it from there up through the filter and into the faucet. Things we take for granted suddenly became things we were forced to consider.

I went to Rutledge and bought three blocks of ice. One went into the fridge in our house (which we had turned off), turning it into an old fashioned “ice box.” The other two went into the Mercantile freezer, which was the only thing plugged in over there.

For dinner, and for potlucks, I made items that did not require a mixer, a blender or a food processor. I had memories of my grandmother who always baked from scratch and never used a mixer – she beat the butter and sugar together BY HAND, and then added eggs and beat them in BY HAND. Whooeeee. I never knew what a powerhouse of an arm she must have had! I tried it for a batch of no-knead bread and it was just about all I could do – I was worn out.

When we moved here, I did not sign up for a Little House on the Prairie life. I am not looking to create a "simpler" time with no power. I'm more into being comfortable in a way that feels more sustainable than how I lived in a city. I enjoy lights, computers, and my KitchenAid mixer.

And then the winds came. Like the ancient Israelites wandering in the wilderness receiving manna, or the pioneer Mormons welcoming the seagulls to eat the crickets devouring their crops, the bit of sun and fierce, blustery wind have come to save us. For two days now the wind has been raging, sending our wind turbine into paroxysms of activity. We gleefully watch the numbers on the trimetric box (which shows the percentage of fullness of batteries, and the amps coming in to the system) climb higher and higher – we are currently at 87%.

So we are grateful. And humble.

That’s it for now – I’m going to go jump up and down outside in the sunshine and wind!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Little Help for My Friends

Hi all. I haven't written much lately - Amy, Juan and I are all working frantically (and not really very sustainably) to get our Seminar and Inn reservation software and information up and running. I'm running around like a crazy person, snapping at the dog, yelling at the snow (go figure), whining about credit card rates and html and other things that I do not understand, and generally being a big fat pain in the patootie.

Ah, but the universe has other plans, and it often forces me to wake up and smell the roses. I received an email that once again put it all in perspective.

Look at this beautiful little girl. This is Ja'Naya. She is four.

She was just diagnosed with leukemia.

I blog with Ja'Naya's mom as part of the Green Mom's Carnival. Like many of us, she and her family do not currently have health insurance. I can imagine few things as terrifying.

If you can, I encourage you to donate something, no matter how small. Click here to see more pictures and for a donation link.

Thanks so much. I'll write more tomorrow, and catch you all up on Mercantile & Dancing Rabbit happenings!