Preparing for Change: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Living seasonally means you’re always preparing for something. Who doesn’t like that feeling of being ready for a major transition or big event? It comes with a sense that positive change is coming, filling one with a sense of possibility and hope.

Zach here, online teacher and consummate preparer. That’s what it takes to teach a course digitally — having as much as possible planned out before the semester begins because it is hard to ask a class to pivot too hard when we don’t meet in person. It’s also a big part of everyday life at Dancing Rabbit.

For example, the co-op I eat in has been busy preserving an overflowing bounty in anticipation of the winter months. We’ve had several parties for the shucking of corn, the chopping of tomatoes, and canning of a great many veggies.

Our newly-rebuilt dehydrator is full all day every day preserving as well. New resident Jake has experimented with drying mustard greens, and Cob has even put sweet corn in there this year! We’ll see how each of those turn out when it comes time to re-hydrate, but even if they’re a bust the freezer and the pantry are busting too — at the seams — so it’s worth experimenting.

Speaking of the bounty, Sharon will be hosting and co-teaching a permaculture design course this week. The students coming here will learn the principles and practice of creating “permanent agriculture” and how to set up their physical surroundings to echo the patterns of nature while returning useful goods to the hands (and pantries) of their keepers.

Another preparation has been the cutting of firewood. Even before temperatures dipped in to the high fifties this past week, people had been stocking up their loads of biomass for (what they tell us will be) a likely colder-than-average winter. I spent some time sawing and splitting wood with Jake for Ma’ikwe’s home, Moonlodge. After we stacked it high, she came out and remarked “that looks like security right there!” Indeed, that biomass source of heating is invaluable for many here.

Yet, chopping all that wood led me to ruminate on being prepared for a more sustainable future. All these wood-burning homes are definitely a step in the right direction, by approaching carbon neutrality and being non-reliant on fossil fuels. On the other hand, is there really a future in asking every home in the country to burn wood? That’s a recipe for wide-scale deforestation. Instead, there are members here like Nathan, who this summer installed an air-source heat pump (which also cools) to explore the merits of using electricity to heat, as many people do, but with a focus on efficiency and timing to minimize its impact. Both wood and electricity as heat sources were deliberately chosen with the same image of the future in mind: one where fossil fuels are no longer employed to live in comfort. Dancing Rabbit is preparing for that future in a plurality of ways.

Finally, there is preparation for the future of the community. The past few weeks have seen a major transformation of The Grocery Store. Frequent readers will recall several weeks ago, when Nik’s post was accompanied by an image of new artwork painted on the side of the shipping container that comprises the core of the store. Now, the image accompanying this piece shows an even greater transformation: a larger concrete pad has been poured with an accessible ramp, a roof constructed overhead, electric hookups prepared for installation, and a rainwater catchment system put in place, all thanks to Jack Walter, from neighboring Red Earth Farms, and his helpers.

Cob (the person, not the material) has even transformed the inside, with gravity feed and scoop bins replacing buckets with screw-on lids, and a fancy-schmancy new digital scale. A high-efficiency refrigerator/freezer will soon be on its way too. With all of this, he hopes to offer more Dancing Rabbit produce and animal products to fellow Rabbits.

In the more immediate future, work is also underway cleaning the land in preparation for the village’s annual Open House on September 12th. Paths are being repaired and new mulch laid, grasses scythed, and wood piles stacked neatly, all in the anticipation of showing off the hard work that’s done here to the rest of the world.

The future here is looking bright. Metaphorically, of course, since we know that winter is around the corner. But I’m feeling more and more prepared everyday. As I’m writing this, my clock tells me that school will start in a few short hours, at which point I will have to go about preparing for other things like student performance reports and academic conferences.

Likewise, Dancing Rabbit will soon move from the building phase to planning phase (with some vacation phase in there as well), or from the stacking of wood to unstacking and burning.  Perhaps it is living here that makes me feel a greater and more urgent need to be prepared, but if that’s so it also gives me a greater sense of satisfaction in reaching that state, because it is indelibly linked to preparation for a more sustainable future.

Originally published at:

Zach Rubin, 2018