Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Which That Dancing Rabbit Woman Blathers On About Books, Again...

Photo credit: covs97 on Flickr

I don't have a local bookstore, and therefore do my book shopping online. And those of you who know me know that I've never met a book I didn't like (well, except for Danielle Steel, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter...).

While still a big fan of ABEbooks, I have been fatally smitten by Better World Books. Gob-stoppingly, head-over-heelsingly, hopelessly devoted to Better World Books.

They are more than a place to sate my jonesing for books, more than a convenient online store that provides free shipping and frequent percentage-off or buy-1-get-1 sales. They are cool. And inside that big warehouse beats a heart that cares and a wild sense of humor. Best of all? They donate books and money to a number of literacy programs and libraries.

One of their core values is: "Flabbergast our customers." When I received this order confirmation, below, well, I was flabbergasted. And I laughed out loud. It seems that the books I just purchased want to let me know that they're on their way...

Photo Credit: brewbooks on Flickr

Hello Alline,
(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)
Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

Photo Credit: BenOh on Flickr

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.
But hey, enough about me, I've been asked to brief you on a few things:
We sent your order to the following address:
Alline Anderson
Milkweed Mercantile
RUTLEDGE, MO 63563-9757

We provide quick shipping service to all our customers. You chose Standard shipping. It should arrive in 6 to 9 business days. At this time, we are not able to offer tracking on our Standard shipments.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my friends at Customer Care by submitting a ticket.. If you could please include your order number (XXXXXX) that would be very helpful.
Eagerly awaiting our meeting,
  • Exploring the Flea Markets of France: A Companion Guide for Visitors and Collectors
  • Eating & Drinking in Paris (5th Edition): French Menu Translator & Restaurant Guide (Eating and Drinking)

Photo credit: Steve on Flickr

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ziggy Speaks on Timber Frame Homes: Advantages in Energy Efficiency


Today, a guest post by Ziggy; builder of Gobcobatron (the house pictured with Ziggy and his partner, April, left), author of The Year of Mud, and producer of two natural building workshops this coming summer at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Timber frame houses have a very long history, dating back to Neolithic times and continuing all the way through the present day. The craft has been refined over time, but the principles have changed very little -- timber frame building uses felled trees to their fullest potential to create homes that are durable, economical, and beautiful. Unlike the conventional "stick frame" home of modern times, the timber frame is very economical and lends itself to excellent energy efficiency.

Timber Frame Houses are Economical
Using felled trees to their fullest potential, a timber frame home is naturally more economical and thrifty as there is much less waste in the production of the necessary elements of a frame -- large posts, beams, etc. Similarly, timbers take greater advantage of the natural strength of a tree, as opposed to smaller dimensional limber. Not only that, but it is uncommon that large timbers are shipped over long distances due to the sheer size and weight, so timber frame construction actually encourages (and nearly demands) the use of local resources.

Timber Framing Supports Excellent Home Insulation
Timber frame homes are much more conducive to implementing high levels of insulation, as they allow for much more uninterrupted space between vertical members to wrap or fill with various types of insulation, including straw bales, one of the favored natural insulation materials. On the other hand, stick frames have many vertical members spaced closely together that break up wall space and make it challenging to fill with insulative material, or worse, do not actually provide a full wrap of insulation. And of course, adequate insulation is one of the essentials keys to an energy efficient home.

There are more advantages than just the ones I have described above -- check out this site for more information about the benefits of timber frame construction.

Learn Timber Frame Home Construction
Two natural building workshops are being offered in 2012 at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage to teach folks about how to build their own energy-efficient, natural homes. Check out these straw bale workshops and a timber frame workshop that promises people the chance to learn skills that are indispensable for creating energy-efficient homes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Summer of Your Life - at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage?

2012 Eco Inn and Organic Cafe Internship Opportunity
Milkweed Mercantile Eco Inn & Organic Cafe

April-May 2012 and August-October 2012

Intern Mo learns the mysteries of sourdough bread.

The Milkweed Mercantile is looking for up to four interns for the summer of 2012. Become an integral part of the Milkweed Mercantile, a strawbale, solar and wind-powered Eco Inn and Organic Café. You will have a huge impact upon the lives of our guests, plus have the opportunity to learn more about sustainable living and, of course, yourself.

The Milkweed Mercantile is a privately owned business created by Dancing Rabbit members Alline and Kurt. Designed as a bridge between the ecovillage and the wider community, the Mercantile provides delicious local and seasonal meals, comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, and seminars on all aspects of sustainability. The Mercantile serves as a living demonstration of the comfort and beauty of sustainability, and is quickly becoming the social hub of the community.

Lunch service

A summer canning seminar at the Mercantile.

No experience necessary – what we’re really looking for is:
  • Self-starting initiative, attention to detail, a dash of humility and enthusiasm
  • Comfort interacting with the public, including children
  • Willingness to communicate and work through interpersonal conflict
  • At least 21 birthdays in your past (for serving alcohol)
  • Two month (minimum) availability
  • A great attitude, a minimum of whining and a sense of humor balanced by an eagerness to assume responsibility.
Making kimchee with Sandor Katz.

 Should you have experience in any of the following, we would be delighted:
  • Completed service as an Americorps or Peace Corps volunteer
  • Professional kitchen work, in any capacity
  • Carpentry/building/renewable energy
  • Gardening
  • Baking, cooking, menu planning
  • Positions where you have (pleasantly) interacted with the public

The Basics:
You will be asked to work 35 hours a week. A majority of our work is on weekends, and most days off will be during the typical work week. Some days may require “split shifts” (i.e. working breakfast, then having a break, and then working a bar or dinner shift). You will also participate in the Mercantile staff eating cooperative, which means taking turns cooking for your fellow staffers. You will participate in life at Dancing Rabbit, including rotational chores, attending social events, potlucks, swimming in the ponds and observing meeting process. Plus, you’ll eat really, really well.

Internships will vary depending upon the needs of the Milkweed Mercantile and its guests, your skills, and the team on staff at any one time. Our goal: the smooth running of the Mercantile while conveying the eco-ethic of Dancing Rabbit and its members AND making sure our guests are comfortable, well-fed, and treated respectfully.

Your Mercantile duties/ learning opportunities will include:

  • Washing dishes, pots and pans
  • Keeping the kitchen spotless
  • Helping Alline with ANY food-related project, including: seasonal (ingredient driven) menu planning and food prep; menu planning and food prep for special diets (i.e. celiac/gluten free, lactose intolerant, etc.) and events; vegan cooking and baking techniques; preserving foods by canning and fermenting; working with yeast doughs and baked goods; making butter, sour cream, ice cream; meat grilling and barbecue; much more…
  • Working with local farmers, gardeners, beekeepers and other food producers
  • Foraging for wild seasonal ingredients
  • Waiting/busing tables
  • Menu planning
  • Helping in the Mercantile’s (small) demonstration garden

  • Helping Mandy with anything she needs help with.
  • Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning
  • Helping guests/customers
  • Assisting in the store
  • Taking phone reservations/answering questions
  • Giving tours of Dancing Rabbit and the Milkweed Mercantile
  • Event and Seminar planning and follow-though
  • Public Relations and publicity through writing, speaking, blogging, link-building,  working with college programs, etc.
 One of the rooms at the inn.

What we pay for/cover:
  • Food - All of your meals are covered. You will participate in the Mercantile staff food cooperative, which means you will be part of a rotating team of cooks. Food will be largely local and whole-foods based. Soda and alcohol are not included but may be purchased.
  • Accommodations - Tenting platform provided, you provide the tent (and sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc.).
  • Fees - Your fees for use of the Community Building (primarily for the social space and library). Mercantile interns use the Mercantile showers, wifi, telephone (after putting down a refundable deposit) and composting toilets.
  • Transportation - If you come to Dancing Rabbit by train or bus, we’ll pick you up at the nearest station (Quincy, IL; La Plata, MO; Ottumwa, IA) at no cost to you.
  • Gratuities – An equal share of pooled tips.
  • Stipend – After completion of the first month, interns receive a stipend of $50 per month.

 Cool off in the Swimming Pond. We're saving an inner tube for you!

 You are responsible for:
  • Work – approximately 35 hours a week, plus cook shifts (usually one breakfast, lunch and dinner each week)
  • Additional responsibilities – Community rotational duties which are shared by all members of the community. Included are Common House clean, humanure, Common House firewood.
  • Gear - Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc, appropriate clothing (details to be sent after you are accepted for the position).Transportation - Other than your initial arrival (where we’ll pick you up if needed!), travel to and from Dancing Rabbit and travel during your stay is at your expense.
Please explore the Milkweed Mercantile website  before applying.

Additional photos of life at the Milkweed Mercantile and Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage may be viewed here.

For specific questions and to apply, please email

We look forward to hearing from you!

 Kurt & Alline during construction of the Mercantile.

About the Milkweed Mercantile staff:
Kurt Kessner and Alline Anderson arrived at Dancing Rabbit in June 1999. After building a house they launched the next part of their Dancing Rabbit dream – the Milkweed Mercantile. Inspired to build the Mercantile as a way to support themselves and to help Dancing Rabbit grow, construction began in 2007. The Inn opened in April 2010.

Alline, with a background in customer service and retail (but whose all-time favorite job remains camp counselor) manages the day to day operations of the Mercantile. Inspired by fabulous ingredients, she takes great joy in feeding, hosting and nurturing others. She never met a baked good that she didn’t like, and is enjoying learning more about foraged foods. In her spare time she reads fanatically, quilts, hangs out with Kurt, and is thinking about entering a 12-step program for Dr. Pepper.



Kurt is the easy-going designer/ carpenter/ contractor responsible for the physical manifestation of the Milkweed Mercantile. Trained, as a carpenter as well as a marriage and family counselor, he is happiest when he is building something or teaching someone else how to build something. He also enjoys a great beer, great food and great conversation. He is delighted to spend time at the Mercantile, where all three are in plentiful supply.

Mandy is our newest member of the team, and arrived in December 2011. After bicycling 6,500 miles around the US and visiting 100 sustainable communities, she eventually chose to live at Dancing Rabbit and help the Milkweed Mercantile and other DR small businesses become viable cottage industries. She is helping with marketing, website, public relations, guest reservations and more. You’ll see these big grins on her face most days, but especially when riding her bike, sharing her passion for sustainable community living, participating in meetings (yes, some people actually do love meetings!), or doing her morning meditation and yoga.