Saturday, December 29, 2018

442 Miles Saved - About

Image result for save gas

In case you’re in a hurry, I will cut to the chase.  Kurt and I ran 21 errands at 13 places in 3 hours last Thursday saving 442 car miles, and it was easy.

Kurt usually goes to Memphis, Missouri about 11 miles from Dancing Rabbit on Thursdays to run various errands.  I decided to tag along today so I could… I don’t know, just tag along.  All the other Rabbits know Kurt runs errands on Thursdays so they leave stuff in The Mercantile for him to take care of for them; bank deposits, an order for 50 lbs of dog food, an order for two boxes of wine, recycling in the car trunk, and all sorts of stuff.

Let’s see if I can remember all the places we went:

Meat processor
Computer repair shop
Animal feed store
Post office
Coffee shop
Another bank
Liquor store
Grocery store

Nailed it - 13 places.

The beautifully “eco” thing about this is that it saved 21 different people from making the 22 mile round trip to Memphis.  Instead, Kurt and I did it in about 30 miles of driving.  Kurt made it extra efficient by setting the cruise control on 45 mph so as not to have to hit the brakes on the curves and 45 mph happens to be a very, very efficient mph especially in a diesel Volkswagen Passat.  I bet were were getting at least 40 MPG.  Way to go Kurt.  And shame on you to the people that passed us against a double-center line.  Where are you in a hurry to get to anyway?  Rutledge?

By the way, did you think about all the time Kurt and I saved the other people who did not have to run the errands?  Of course you did.  If you’re reading my blog, it means you are smart and sophisticated and unselfish so of course you already thought of all the time other people were saving by not going to get their own boxed wine and pickled jalapenos.  They were being productive building goat barns, Facebooking, and putting off other important things.

But did you think about how nice it must have been for Kurt and I to get to spend some personal time together because we shared the ride?  Of course you did, especially those of you that already know Kurt and understand how special it would be to run 21 errands at 13 places over 3 hours with him.  One of my favorite moments was when I left Kurt waiting at the barber shop and went across the street to Country Chic and get a Shiplatte (a fancy coffee), and when I walked back into the barber shop Kurt was finally in the chair, and I bemoaned the fact that, “You don’t look any better than when I left Kurt,” and the barber mutters something about doing the best he could with what he has to work with.

Sometimes living in an ecovillage can start to feel like living anywhere else with all the daily chores of living until another little reminder like I got today reinvigorates me about what we are doing here at DR.  Dancing Rabbit is special and worthwhile and it does make a difference.

Next week I want to shoot for a new record with at least 22 errands and 14 places visited.  It should be easy because Kurt and I didn’t even go to the hardware store, or Keith’s Cafe, or the courthouse for anything.  Are you listening Rabbits?

Monday, December 24, 2018

That's Preposterous !

Image result for preposterous definition

I want to give preposterously.  I want to give outrageously.  I want to give immoderately.  I want to give lavishly.  I want to give fully.  I want to give generously and wisely.  I want to give exorbitantly.

Do I want to give sacrificially?  Yes.  I want to give sacrificially.  I want to give privately and anonymously.  For every time I get caught giving, I want to get away with it in secret another time.  What is it to give a $20 bill fresh from the ATM on a whim when all I have to do is go to the next ATM which is never more than 50 feet away and get more.  I want to give my sandwich, my last sandwich, to someone who has no sandwich.  I want to go all the way.

But I’m scared.  I’m always scared.  But I’m practical.  I’m always practical.  But I have a backup plan.  I always have a backup plan.  But I’ll do it later.  I’ll always do it later.  But others are counting on me.  I always blame it on the others.  Why don’t I show the others how to do it?  What if they don’t follow?  Does it matter?  My soul hangs in the balance.  My giving is in question.

The camel stands at the eye of the needle.

I’m the one who is compelled to give exorbitantly.  I don’t know your path.  Maybe you are learning to receive? Can I receive?  Can I ask?  How will I know if I am never in need?

I know why the rich, young man walked away sad.  I’ve assumed my whole life he didn’t sell all he had to give to the poor.  Upon a re-reading, it just says he walked away sad.  It doesn’t say he didn’t do it.  Actually, just because I haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean I won’t.  Here’s the process; sell, give, follow, enter.  Sell,  Give.  Follow.  Enter.  Enter the Kingdom.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Rabbit Holiday Traditions

The Milkweed Mercantile

As I approach my first holiday season here at Dancing Rabbit, I started to wonder how holidays here are different for me and fellow Rabbits from the holidays we grew up with or left behind in our lives before DR.

My family celebrates Christmas.  As a little kid, that meant a trip to Grandma and Grandpas or Bonnie and Bill’s for a couple days with all the relatives.  We almost always attended a Christmas Eve church service singing traditional songs and hymns like Hark The Herald Angels Sing and Little Drummer Boy while hearing the Christmas story read from the Bible.  I was eager to get up Christmas morning and get into the presents.  Grandma and Grandpa made sure to give each grandkid the same number of presents, usually two, to keep everything even.  We had a huge meal; turkey, homemade mashed potatoes and bread, corn, green beans, sweet cinnamon rice, jello salad, and pumpkin pie.  It always seemed like I had barely swallowed the last piece of pie when Grandma was already offering turkey sandwiches for a snack.

After we moved to Florida when I was 15 years old, Christmas changed.  I’ve actually been to the beach on Christmas.  We still went to church and still opened presents, but instead of being with family, we were with my dad’s business partner and his family.  Just before moving to Dancing Rabbit, I had been back in Kansas City for many years celebrating Christmas with family again in much the same way we did when I was growing up.  But what about this year?  How will things be different?  We’ll see.  I’m not going to see my family until the weekend after Christmas.  This will be my first Christmas at Dancing Rabbit.

I asked some of my fellow Rabbits how their holidays have changed over time; childhood, adulthood before Dancing  Rabbit, and adulthood after moving to Dancing Rabbit.  Their responses were wide-ranging and made for a nice conversation allowing us to get to know each other better.

One of our newer residents, Cat, had this to say.  “As a kid in Fort Lauderdale, I remember going caroling.  Some families even went to the beach, but we didn’t.  As an adult living in California, I started my baking the day after Thanksgiving.  I made cookies and fudge for all my neighbors.”  I wish I lived in California where Cat was baking, but I do have hope that maybe she’ll bring that tradition with her here to Dancing Rabbit this first holiday season.  She plans on attending our potluck and would be interested in some caroling.  White flocked Christmas trees were also a tradition in Cat’s family with generational variations in decorations.  Cat’s grandmother had blue lights and ornaments while her mother had pink.  Cat’s ornaments were strings of popcorn and paper chains on the traditional white flocked tree.

My friend Dorothy reminisced about Christmas traditions growing up in her German Mennonite community in central Kansas.  She remembered, “On Christmas eve, we would always go to church where the children put on the Christmas program; a re-enactment of the Christmas story and singing of traditional hymns.  The children got sacks filled with peanuts, candy, and an apple or orange.  Christmas day before going back to church, my family celebrated Christmas at home, and then after church, we all went to my grandparents’ house.”  As an adult with children of her own, Dorothy shared some of the things she cooked.  She made spinach quiche for breakfast and walnut streusel coffee cake.  She taught her granddaughter how to make the coffee cake to carry on the tradition.  Peppernuts were also a tradition.  For years, Dorothy made Famous Candy Bars to send to family.  The recipe included cornflakes, peanut butter, sugar of course, and melted chocolate on top.  This year will be notable as the first year Dorothy will not be sending out the Famous Candy Bars.  (I’m hoping maybe she’ll make some for us locals at least!)

Christmas cookies are the theme of the holidays for Andrea.  As a kid in Virginia, Andrea made hundreds of sugar cookies with all the cutouts at her grandparents’ house along with her many cousins.  With a smile, she said, “It was like arts and crafts meets baking.”  The cookie baking tradition has continued into her adult life with her own children, and she already has a day planned for cookie baking here at Dancing Rabbit.  I can’t wait personally!  Andrea also remembers Christmas mass where her grandmother would place Bibles on two rows of pews at church to save them for all her family joining her at the service.  Another tradition Andrea has continued with her kids from her own childhood is stuffing stockings with olives and an orange.  That was a new one to me.  Another thing Andrea commented on was how Christmas has often felt intimidating or overwhelming “keeping up and giving the kids enough.”  Maybe that pressure will let up a little bit here at Dancing Rabbit.

Alline said she feels less pressured around Christmas here at Dancing Rabbit.  The Mercantile will host the annual Christmas Morning Potluck Brunch.  (Noteworthy that a Secret Santa gift exchange plan was hatched by Alline during all this Christmas tradition talk.)

Rabbit Dan has spent many holidays in Cleveland with his family.  The family traditionally goes to the Westside Market and buys exotic things like squid and falafel.  Dan has never stayed here at Dancing Rabbit for Christmas.

Long term Rabbit Cob shared an intriguing family tradition.  His family members would disguise their gifts with wrapping and packaging suggestive of something other than what the gift actually contained.  Cob went so far as to empty a box of chocolate covered cherries, replace them with a necktie, and have the box shrink wrapped again.  His father didn’t realize the gift switcharoo until two years later when he opened the box hoping for a snack.

As a kid, Cob remembers he and his siblings chomping at the bit upstairs while his parents set up lights and a camera to film the happy event downstairs.  The problem was sometimes his parents did not get the video they wanted on the first take so the family would do multiple takes to get it just right.  “Christmas morning - take 3.  C’mon Mom!  We just want to open presents.”  As an adult with children in upstate New York, Cob stressed out trying to get to three different places to “do Christmas.”  He felt there was a lot of pressure to have a day long “Kodak moment” which was exhausting and impossible to achieve.  He appreciates a more relaxed approach now at Dancing Rabbit.  Everybody doesn’t have to get the same number of presents or have the same amount of money spent on those presents.  Pillowcases, socks, and sheets have sufficed in place of bows, boxes, and wrapping paper for the gifts.  Often gifts are hand made.  I don’t know about you, but my shoulders just dropped a little, and I’m taking a little deeper breaths just realizing it is possible not to get so frazzled by the holidays.

And that is my hope for you this holiday season.  May you relax into your holiday traditions old and new wherever you are.  I know a place with a great Christmas Morning Potluck Breakfast if you’re looking for a cozy fire and friendly people!  Happy holidays from Dancing Rabbit.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

I Went to Writer's Group

A writer’s group that has been going for over a year?  Who says writers are flaky and non-committal?  I attended my first Writer’s Group Wednesday after dodging it for a while.  I knew I would go eventually, but I was just waiting for the right day; the right day is the day I want to go and not just the day I agreed to go or felt pressured to go or felt I should go.  The right day is the day I want to go.  That day was Wednesday.

It’s intimidating - writing in front of others.  They get to hear my first draft?  Nobody ever reads my first draft.  I can’t hardly stand to read my first drafts.  First drafts are born to be euthanized.  First drafts are like the first time a rabbit shits and then eats it and then shits again.  Give me at least two shits before I let you read it.  That’s only civilized. 

There’s a word for rabbits eating their own shit you know.  Benji will have to remind me of it.  Oh yea, “coprophagy.”  Who knows this kind of stuff - rabbits eat their own droppings?  Rabbits and Dancing Rabbits know this kind of stuff apparently.  3 of the 6 scribes in Writer’s Group were like, “Yea, I knew rabbits did that.  My mom had a rabbit.” 

I need to get out more.  Wait a minute, I am out.  I got out.  I got out of my comfort zone and into the Twilight Zone.  Soul-fracking as it may be, I know this is good for me.  I didn’t know I was in for an education on rabbit coprophagy, (Cop-ro-Fay-jee) but I knew I was in for something.  And it’s something, let me tell you.

My new food co-op requires members to be engaged in “deep work”, whatever the hell that is, in order to remain in the co-op.  Getting up in the morning here at DR, lighting a fire, figuring out how to feed myself, not saying, “You guys,” and learning about poop-eating rabbits is about all the deep work I can handle at this point.  Starting a new life here at DR is “deep work.” 

Every single day I feel like my life is a continuous first draft that will never get to be edited.  It’s just flapping out there in the breeze for the whole village to see.  That’s okay.  Nobody has asked me to leave yet, and there’s hot cider, an orange fire, and clacking keyboards here at Writer’s Group in The Mercantile.  This is Writer’s Heaven.  No wonder it’s been going over a year.

Sorry for typing so loud, by the way.  It’s my first draft.  I’ll eat it later.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Is My Window Melting or Not?

Image result for melting glass

How is it still possible to have my mind blown at 51 years of age?  I thought I had a decent education.  I did.  I did have a decent education.  I had a Trapper Keeper in junior high, I read some books, and I worked well with others one time in a group on a project.  I should know the basics of life shouldn’t I?  I should.

There is so much I don’t know.  I’m reminded of this almost every morning at coffee.  I don’t know much about the Mayan calendar or mathematics for instance.  I did not know, as another example, Thomas Edison was pretty much deaf and many people considered him to be a jerkface a-hole.  I do love learning these brand new things so I’m glad I haven’t learned everything yet.  But I did have a good education.  I’m sure of it.

I admit, though, I’m a little reluctant to fact check the things I’ve learned recently in case they turn out to be disappointingly untrue.  That’s one of the drawbacks of checking facts I suppose - disappointment.  But I might find some of my new facts to be true, and I’ll be extra happy so it is worth the risk.  So what have I learned that is so AmaZInG?

(I’m going to write my new discoveries down right here and now then check if they are truthy or not, so we’ll ride this thrillcoaster together)

First - Glass is a liquid I just learned.  Wait, what?  I’ve broken glass as recently as last week.  Sorry to the 3 plates in the Common House last Sunday.  I thought you were stacked.  I mean, you were stacked, but something happened and you became rather quickly unstacked which is a euphemism for breaking into a million little pieces.  The plates rapidly unstacked themselves into a million little pieces.  I wish those glass plates were liquid.  They could have been wiped up instead of swept up.  Wiping beats sweeping any day of the week especially Sunday.

How can glass be a liquid?  Rumor has it that the stained glass in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has stained glass so old that the tops of the windows are thinning while the bottoms are thickening due to gravity’s effect on the glass.  So cool.  Could it be true?  No.  Way.  But I want to believe it.  I want glass to melt without the help of funny mushrooms.

I’m so tempted to not look this up right now and just start telling people everywhere, including you, that glass is not a solid, it is a liquid that just melts really slowly just look at Notre Dame Cathedral and you’ll see.  That’s how rumors get started.

But I’m scared.  I might look like a poorly educated idiot if it turns out glass does not melt.  But if this is true and glass does melt, I look like a poorly educated idiot anyway for not already knowing this amazing fact.  Maybe “idiot” is too strong a word.  Maybe I’m just uninformed or misinformed or not up on the current research in the field.  Idiot is definitely too strong a word.

After all, I went to a school with an open floor plan so at any given moment I could tune into my teacher Mrs. Penland reading A Wrinkle in Time, or Mr. Winkler lecturing on the presidents, or Mrs. Schmutz going over long division.  All these teachers wore clogs so you know they were the real deal.  I had a good education.

Or I might have just watched the hamster running on his wheel or tried to get the piece of Bubble Yum off the underside of my desk because there has just got to be a little flavor left in it.  What was I going to not do maybe?  Oh yea, look up the thing about glass not being a solid and slowly melting.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

Here I go.  I’m gonna do it.

(Imagine Jeopardy music playing for 18 seconds)

And there I went.
I’m not sure what to say.
I don’t even know where to begin.
So, glass is… glass is not a ….  Shit.
What to say?  It’s sort of like….  No.  It’s more like when….  So, say if like when you....  Shit!
I can’t even explain.  Forget I even brought it up in the first place.  Just forget it.

So how have you been?  Did you see the game?  For sanity’s sake, why can’t there just be a simple answer to a simple question?  Sorry.  I can’t write anymore.  Sorry.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Wood and Fires

Image result for wood pile

I would like to tell you about my wood and fires.  Over the last month, wood has been my life.  I wake up thinking about wood after sleeping and dreaming about wood; day after day up to my chimney flue in wood.  I just unloaded another trailer full of wood yesterday as a matter of fact.  Wood.

I’m living in The Milkweed Mercantile this winter which is the lap of ecovillage luxury with my king bed, private shower, and lending library.  The Mercantile is heated with, you guessed it, wood, and I’m in charge of keeping the fires burning.

I said fires, plural.  The outdoor Heatmor boiler heats water up to 160 degrees which circulates thru the floor in part of the downstairs.  This ultra-hot water heats up the huge thermal mass sink that is the thick, concrete floor, so the heat can slowly and steadily warm up the air in the building.

The Heatmor boiler is also used to heat the hot water for the kitchen and bathrooms.  I’ve gone a little shower crazy since I moved over here averaging two showers a week instead of just the one.  Such is the relativity of craziness in an ecovillage versus The World Out There.  At the risk of jeopardizing my welcome here at The Mercantile,  I’ll admit that I leave the shower running here while I lather up.  I know, crazy again.  This decadent shower routine is in contrast to my Common House shower routine where I showered this summer wherein I would 1) get wet  2) turn off the water and lather up with diluted soap 3) turn the water on and rinse off real fast.  Wood.

I didn’t smell like smoke this summer though, but I do now.  In addition to loading about 32 pieces of wood into the Heatmor every day, I also tend the fire in the dining room here at The Mercantile.  I get it going about 7:30 am.  I put the last log on about 5 or 6 or 8pm.  My mentor and fellow fire whisperer Kurt showed me how to roll a piece of newspaper and fold it in such a way that it has less a tendency to roll off the top of the fire I’m trying to start.  The name of this newspaper kindling in the jargon of firestarting origami is The Rabbit.  One full sheet of newspaper is rolled loosely and coaxed into the simplest of knots like the knot you began with as you tied your shoes this morning and voila - The Rabbit.

Are you paying attention?  Yes I said, “...roll off the top of the fire.”  More ecovillage craziness.  Kurt the Fire Whispererer taught me how to build a fire TOP DOWN.  It’s called a Top Down Fire.  True story.  A neighbor with a Master’s Degree in Thermodynamics, true story, passed the technique along to Kurt the Fire Whisperererer who has made a believer out of me.  The Rabbit is placed on The Log Cabin and burns down from top to bottom.  The secret is to begin with fairly small kindling at the top and work up, I mean down, in 3, but 4 is better, levels on top of the first actual logs.  Top, bottom, I don’t even know what I’m talking about at this point.  Wood.  All I know is the technique works, and I’ve only had to do a second Rabbit atop the Top Down Fire on two occasions over the last 30 days.  That is a pretty good track record.

Kurt the Fire Whisperererer also taught me how to safely make kindling.  “The trick,” he said,”is to not hit yourself with the hatchet.”  Sage words indeed my friend.  Sage words indeed.  And another safety trick I learned sort of on my own.  Do not put ashes in a plastic, 5 gallon bucket even if the ashes have been sitting overnight.  But why dwell on that?

My third firekeeping duty is to fire the boiler in the Skyhouse.  The boiler in the Skyhouse is a Tarm 9000XL made in Scandinavia where they know well of such things as fires and scalding water in order not to freeze.  I’ve started about 10 fires in the Tarm 9000XL and read the manual twice.  On my second reading, I put little green dots next to the things I thought most instructive and important in the manual.  Yes, I just admitted in public to highlighting a boiler manual.  Susan is complicated though, trust me.  My co-firing friend calls the Skyhouse Tarm “Susan” so now I do too.  Susan is the most complicated of the fires I start.

For example, The Heatmor at The Mercantile has an ON/OFF switch for the fan.  It also has a zig zaggy latch.  The Mercantile fireplace has a damper to set the airflow and a little latch on the doors to prevent wood from running away when nobody is looking.  Somebody is usually looking though because my fires are gorgeous as I often mention.  Did I mention how gorgeous my fires are?  Wood.

Susan The Tarm is an entirely different beast.  Susan has a refractory that approaches 1,800 degrees not only burning the wood but burning the smoke from the burning wood.  I didn’t even know that was a thing.  I thought smoke was the end of the burning process but apparently it’s not.  I read it in the manual.  There’s a green dot by it.  This “burning of that which has already been burned” was also confirmed by Bob who fires another Tarm in another building, and Bob actually knows what he’s talking about which I really don’t.  Bob said, “I can confirm that.”  Bob neither confirmed nor denied whether or not the other Tarm he fires has a nickname.  I’m guessing not as Bob is a no-nonsense, non-nicknamey sort of guy.  Anyway…

Susan The Tarm has two doors, a fan, a fuse, a pressure gauge and a temperature gauge, a spring-loaded locky thingy and a flux capacitor.  It really doesn’t have a flux capacitor, but if you’re around my age or have way too much free time you know what I’m talking about.  The wood for Susan The Tarm can come from almost anywhere.  Some of it is piled inside the Skyhouse in the storage area which keeps it dry but getting in the storage area can be a bit hazardous.  Some of the wood is on the front porch in boxes which can be brought in but only after taking off my shoes because the Skyhouse has a No Outdoor Shoes Inside Policy which might be a result of not having an actual floor in about half of it.  The half that does have a floor, by the way, is heated up in order to slowly release it’s heat just like in The Mercantile.

But I digress.  Some of the Skyhouse wood also comes straight from the pile outside which is sort of under a tarp to keep it dry but sort of not but there is a ladder there laid across the top of the pile in case…, in case, in case someone wants to climb across the top of the wood pile… on a ladder.  I don’t know.  It’s a crazy ecovillage thing and nobody has frozen to death yet but it’s barely November so I’ll keep you posted if I don’t immolate myself firing up Susan.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Dogs of Dancing Rabbit

Image result for lab shepherd mix

It’s Thanksgiving morning.  Riley, my sister’s dog, just went nuts barking at the front door of my parents house at something.  “What is it Riley?”  Could be something.  Might not be anything.  Riley is not the only dog that barks at imagined things, but Riley is a “special dog.”  It could be her medication kicking in or running out.

I’m not sure who else will be bringing dogs today, but we are a dog family.  My parents and I are the only ones that don’t have a dog come to think of it.  Wonder what that says about us?  I generally like dog people, but I’m not a dog person.  Do I like myself?  Would I like myself better if I had a dog?

Dog’s are part of everyday life at Dancing Rabbit.

I missed two DR dogs on my initial post so here they are:

Penny of Thistledown routinely barks to say “Hello” when one visits Thistledown even if she already knows you.  Penny is blonde with wiry hair, and me thinks she has some Wheaten Terrier in her.  Her head is almost thigh high on me.  Another villager when asked about Penny assured me, “Penny likes butt pets, and she REALLY loves walks.”  Apparently, Penny has also been known to roughhouse with other dogs.

Regarding the other dog I missed, Isaac, my sources tell me, “He is a people person.”  He is seen around the village on the heels of his owner and favorite person likely keeping close tabs on her by his nose more than his eyes as he is blind in one eye.  His current caretaker says Isaac loves to snuggle and lick her face.  He also likes to have company when he eats instead of eating alone.  And Isaac eats well.  I almost had his food for breakfast this morning as it was on the counter at my kitchen co-op.  He eats a mix of oatmeal, rice, amaranth, and veggies.  I’ll probably just go ahead and have some next time as I love all those things.  Isaac will still have his bones to eat.  He loves bones no matter what.  Isaac is a black Lab.

Angus is a big ol’ boy that joins us at the Mercantile for breakfast most mornings.  His owner found him in a cattle lot when he was only weeks old.  She thinks Angus is a Labrador/Shepherd mix.  Angus is black on black on black.  I haven’t checked, but I bet his tongue is even black.  The other day I wondered, “What is hitting my leg?”  Angus’ head  was poking out on the other side of the table looking into the fire about 6 feet away so I dismissed the possibility that it was him whacking me under the table.  When I kept feeling something hitting the side of my leg, I finally looked and unbelievably it was Angus’ tail.  He is very long.  I think he might be a Lab/Shepherd/Dachsund mix; he’s so long and big.

At coffee in the morning, Angus will go from person to person until someone scratches his ears.  He doesn’t beg.  He just moves on until someone obliges him with an ear rub.  Angus then usually pulls a bait and switch though, which is so subtle I forgot about it until now.  As I’m rubbing his ears, he eases forward, a scitter step at a time until his ears are out of reach and I’m scratching along his back.  The end result is always me rubbing his back end.  How did that happen?  Someone else had to point this out to me, and now I’ve watched Angus run this con on other people too.  He lures us in with head scratches and next thing you know I’m massaging his ass.  Smart dog that Angus.  He’s not the only smart dog in the village though.

Banjo is also smart.  Banjo has been dubbed The Sausage Fox, because Banjo looks like a combination of a sausage and a fox.  Not a sausage pattie but a sausage link.  What dog breeds look like sausage patties?  That has me thinking.  Anyway, we have video footage of Banjo trying to chew through a piece of 2x6 wood to get to what was most likely a rabbit.  Banjo is smart, because Banjo gets help from a beagle, Sophie, to hunt rabbits and everybody including other dogs know beagles are good at hunting rabbits.

Sophie has the most adorable face and the softest ears ever.  Her head seems slightly too small for her body, but I’ve heard that’s a desirable quality in show beagles.  She’s tan and white with some darker brown and maybe black; classic beagle look.  Sophie is often heard before she is seen especially when she’s chasing rabbits.  One of Sophie’s favorite places in the village this summer was lolling in the grass in the garden at the entrance to the village - doggy heaven for sure.  She relaxed on the grass with that “I can’t hardly even open an eye to look at you right now” kind of relaxation.  Good for you Sophie.

Virgil has the best name in my opinion.  Virgil likes to walk with Kurt in the morning.  If Virgil was an athlete he would be a rugby player.  He’s medium-large and very solidly built.  Virgil reminds me of a mix between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Mastiff  He likes chasing rabbits too, and he is afraid of the fireplace.  Fires can be scary Virgil, but don’t worry, we won’t let it get you.  Virgil has a sweet face and especially noticeable puppy-dog eyes.  He’s white and tan.  Virgil has a signature move when he wants to be scratched that is a little different than the move Angus has.  Virgil will ease up next to my leg and just start leaning over;  it feels like he’s even pushing against my leg.  If I was standing up, I swear it might knock me over.  But who can resist those puppy-dog eyes?  Not me.

All the dogs dogs I’ve mentioned so far are pets.

There are other dogs at DR that are working dogs and not pets.  They also have names; Xena, Fang, and the other one I always forget.  Is it Lowell?  Probably not.  Lowell would not be a very apt name for a guard dog.  As working dogs, or guard dogs, they guard the livestock.  By guard I mean bark all night to keep predators aware that they are not welcome.  It seems to be working, because I have not heard of any raids on chickens or ducks or goats in many months.  I’ve heard of near total livestock obliteration by predators in the past.  By livestock, I mean chickens and geese and goats in case you missed that.  Xena is a Great Pyrenees with mounds of white hair.  Apparently her hips hurt.  Mine too Xena, mine too.  The other two livestock dogs are Pyrenees/Karakachan mixes that are just over a year old.  These are all large dogs that are people-friendly and predator-scary.  Oh, and there are pigs.  Pigs of some of the livestock being protected by the guard dogs.

And that’s it for the dogs of which I am not an owner.  I like having the dogs around, and I like that I don’t have to take care of them.  Thanks to all the dog owners who let me enjoy their pets and that keep away the predators.  Too many foxes in the chicken coop would deprive me of delicious eggs that I enjoy oh so much.  Quite neighborly of you all.  I appreciate you and your dogs!

Friday, November 16, 2018

I Hear Flamingo Is Delicious

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Saturday morning over coffee with several Rabbits some interesting questions were raised.  I’m amazed at how one thing leads to another and the discussion was both broad and deep.  Here are the topics brought to the table:

Where did the colors pink and blue for babies originate?
What are car honking practices internationally and how did they come to be?
When did people start shaving and why and how?
Why does shamanic breathwork sometimes cause tetany?
What is the connection between Santa Claus’ red and white outfit and Coca Cola?
How do the games of Chess and Go differ?
Why are there so many Somali refugees in Kirksville?
Why does Cambodia have so many mopeds?
What is the Institute of Mesoamerican Permaculture in Guatemala up to these days?
What is per capita plastic use by country?
Does Venezuela have any ports?  Why (not)?

I feel a sense of satisfaction looking over this list again.  As a friend noted this morning over coffee, “evolution selects for novelty,” and this is certainly a novel list of subjects.  I identified my personal need for novelty years ago.  In contrast to the aphorism, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.,”  I like the idea of diving headfirst into chaos and seeing what might come of it.  What new order might come of it?  Different and new is not necessarily better, but what is better anyway? All I know is I get a little brain tickle from something novel.

Are you getting your RDA of novelty?  Maybe it’s time to have someone new over for coffee or get out of the house to see what else is going on in the world.  It’s a big, beautiful, novel world out there!  Here’s a fun exercise.  Go find English language versions of newspapers from other countries online.  I always get a kick out of Pravda, a Russian newspaper.  Just today a Pravda headline asserted - America Always Thirsty for More Blood Than Even Children Can Shed  or - Christie Lee Brinkley:  Looking Like 34 at 64

Or how about something from one the aforementioned countries from the coffee discussion.  The Cambodia Daily had this headline today - Japanese Teen Funds Library for Cambodia School Out of Her Pocket.  Here’s one from Venezuela - Starving Venezuelans are Eating Flamingos and Anteaters as Socialism Destroys Economy.  And ending up with a Guatemalan magazine headline - The Kites of Guatemala a Connection to the Hereafter.

Like I said, it’s a big, novel world out there if I just mix it up little bit.  I like that.  What new and novel thing will you discover today that will tickle your brain?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Life in a 112 Foot Radius

6:30 - 8:30am        Reverie & Weird Dreams
8:30 - 9:30            Coffee at Mercantile
9:30 - 10:00          Breakfast
                             Brainstormed firewood business
                             Brainstormed twig furniture business
10:00 - 10:30         Recycling
10:30 - 11:15         Bike ride
11:15 - 12:30         Read twig furniture book
                             Watered Morel
12:30 - 1:15          WIP
1:15 -2:15            Lunch
2:15 - 4:00          Email
4:00 - 6:30         Eating Co-op Meeting
6:30 - 7:30         Dinner
7:30 - 10:00       Men’s Group

This is a typical Sunday schedule around here at DR.  WIP stands for Week In Preview where we cover a remarkable amount of village business in a short period of time; who’s coming, who’s going, vehicle co-op schedule, announcements, hearts for things folks are grateful for, and announcements forgotten on the first round.  Men’s Group is my usual Sunday night activity.

I tried sleeping in and skipping coffee one morning which was a mistake.  I like the world and everyone in it better after a cup or two of coffee.  Just last night at dinner, a co proclaimed, “Studies have shown coffee helps humans live longer.”  I have a general rule to not be friends with anyone that ever says, “Studies have shown....,” but I’ll make an exception in this case because I agree with what this study has shown.  Good thing I’ll be living in the Milkweed Mercantile this winter right above the coffee maker!  I am the luckiest boy in the world I’m telling you.

Since not being able to swim in the pond, more not willing to rather than not able to actually, since late September, I’ve been riding my bike almost every day.  Yesterday was cold, windy, and drizzly, but many of the days have been terrific.  My hip feels just fine riding my bike which is not the case when I walk a lot in a day.  I’m grateful to be able to ride my bike without pain.  I’m working up to the 11 mile ride into Memphis, Missouri just north of us this spring.

I started reading a new book on making twig furniture.  Already dog-earing the pages with projects I want to make.  I need a shelf, and I want to make little twiggy signs for the houses here at DR with the names of the houses.  Each house has a fun name like The Flouch and Moon Lodge.  Twigs are pretty easy to come by out here in the sticks.

Morel is another fun house name, and I’m watering the spinach in the greenhouse at Morel while the resident is away in Australia visiting her sister.  Over lunch today I enjoyed finding out more about another Rabbit’s summer home in Newfoundland.  Another Rabbit at the lunch table spent six years of her childhood in Nairobi, Kenya.  I’ve got some Googling to do.  I don't know much about Kenya or Newfoundland, but I'm inspired to learn.

The exact spelling is still up in the air, but a name we’re considering for our new kitchen co-op is Poedahtoe, like a Cajun potato sort of.  Starting a new eating co-op is no small feat.  We covered a dozen rows from our spreadsheet of questions at a meeting that took over an hour.  Hopefully nobody starves while we are ironing out all the details.  “So if we get vegan cheese, should it be sourced locally if possible or should local be the default and non-local be considered an exception as long as it is twice the price or less than the other option?”  This is making me hungry.

And about my recent move into the Milkweed Mercantile for the winter.

I moved into the Milkweed Mercantile for the next five months.  I have a well-placed second floor room on the southeast corner for plenty of natural light.  The room is named after the famous environmentalist Aldo Leopold.  I’m going to look up what Aldo is famous for.  I know why Rachel Carson is famous - her room is next door.  I’m reading a book by David Brower to find out why the other room is named after him.

I’ll be making coffee several mornings downstairs for any villager inclined to come in for a cup.  In addition to keeping the coffee warm, I’ll be keeping the whole building warm by feeding the boiler firewood twice a day as well as stoking a roaring fire in the fireplace right in the center of the dining room.  What a life.  My co-op friend noted, “You smell like smoke.”  I noted, “Get used to it.”

Over coffee with Bob one morning, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, I told him it feels really nice to have moved right into the center of the village.  Before in Moon Lodge, I was so far away from everything.  Seriously.  I counted one day, and it took me 174 steps which is about 2.5 minutes to get from the Common House or the Mercantile to Moon Lodge.  I’d walk it several times a day.  I couldn’t leave the house without forgetting something so I would have to go back frequently adding even more steps.  Or if I just wasn’t in the mood for all that walking, I’d do without.  You know what it’s like not to have your cell phone or sunflower seeds for an hour?  What a hassle.  Oh sure, I’ll miss some of the neighbors from out in the suburbs, but I hope to see them when they come into town for potlucks and such.

If I took a string and tacked it to the front door of the Mercantile where I’m now living and walked to all the places I go daily or even several times daily; Common House to check my mail, Grocery Store, SkyHouse for meals, OK for my bike, maybe the machine shed for recycling, my longest trip would be about 112 feet.  That’s the radius of the circle that encompasses my life these days.  No more of those long commutes out to the suburbs 350 feet away.  Who has time for that?  My world has certainly gotten smaller, but I’m okay with that.  Bees have a wider circle than I do I bet.  There’s just so much going on in Town Center.

The bustle of the city what with happy hour and poker night and a car every other day or so driving down Main Street.  It’s been said that all one has to do is sit on the porch of the Milkweed Mercantile and watch the whole world go by just like the Champs Elysees in Paris or McDonald’s in Kirksville.  Just this week I have to decide how to manage my social calendar with so many happenings; potluck and co-group on Tuesday night, song circle Wednesday night, open on Thursday night, Friday night movie in Casa and community dinner, Contra dancing in Fairfield, Iowa on Saturday and looking forward to resting up on Sunday to prepare for Men’s Group Sunday evening.  I’m not sure the folks out in the suburbs know what they are missing.  Living in the middle of it all is where it’s at for me.  Me in my circle with a 112 foot radius.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

It's Okay to Feel Sad

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I want to walk my grief to the dumpster and be rid of it.  I don’t want to smell it anymore.  I don’t want to see it anymore.  I want my grief to go away.

At best I’ll recycle it?  Green bin for lost loved ones.  Blue bin for what should have been.  Purple bin for lost health in its many forms.  Nowhere for this other stuff to go.  Just make it go away.

Grief is on my mind lately after a grief ritual here at DR over the weekend.  Part of my opening and closing contribution was stating it is okay to feel sad.  Obvious enough, but I needed to hear myself say it out loud again.  I needed to feel that vibration in my throat coming out of my face.  It is okay to feel sad.

I’ve been telling myself this for months.  The last day of my job was April 6th, 2018.  The last day of my marriage was May 4th, 2017.  The last day before my stroke was July 3rd, 2016.  My last day living in Kansas City was early July 2018.  Last days.  Final wishes.  Parting wisdom?

There was a flash flood of hurt, shame, relief, anguish, pain, and God knows what else moments after I told my wife I did not want to be married anymore.  The sadness has drizzled ever since more or less.
I cried every day for a few months after leaving my job.  It was time.  The sadness felt real and deep and alive.  It was time for it to move through.  It’s not the sadness that really hurts me I think.  The denial and avoiding and transmuting of the sadness is what hurts me.

Part of the grief ritual for me was to keep the sadness flowing.  I keep referring to my sadness.  The grief ritual reminded me that we have sadness and grief.  I have spoken of my grief with many, many friends and family members over many months.  There has been some relief and moving through and mutual sharing in these encounters.  None were a collective grieving like I experienced in the grief ritual.

The general setting for the grief ritual included a few basic elements.  They worked well together in my experience.  A short introduction to the process was given along with a description of Five Gates of Grief from Francis Weller.  We shared briefly around the circle about anything related to the grief ritual we wanted to share.  A song was taught with only four lines that were repeated for the duration of the ritual.  Drummers accompanied the singing.  The room was divided about in half.  One side had cushions on the floor and an altar where individuals could go and express their grief however they were moved to.  A supporter followed behind each individual who approached this altar to “hold space.”  Another altar was available for participants to place supportive symbols for the ritual.  There were some pictures and other objects.  After a couple hours, there seemed to be a natural stopping place.  The singing and drumming ceased.  There was quiet.  Another brief sharing round was completed.  For me, the grief ritual was authentic and meaningful.

The night of the ritual I had a dream that I was having a conversation with my ex-wife.  We were simply catching up on how our families were doing.  It was a casual chat with little emotional charge for me.  This is a new and welcome development for me.

I have been shown another way to approach grief through this ritual.  We can grieve as a community; we all have grief.  The group taught me a couple things.  I don’t have to throw my grief away.  I don’t have to recycle it over and over.  Maybe this way of dealing with grief is more like the composting we do around here at DR.  We simply move the grief to its next proper and useful place in the stream of life where it is transfigured into whatever it’s next simple and proper place is for us.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Stealth Spider Invasion

“Come look at this.”  It was almost a whisper with which my friend invited me over to the porch swing.  A Visitor Session presentation was going on in the courtyard here at DR just a few steps away necessitating the whisper.  I walked over and had a seat next to my friend on the swing, and she said,”Look up there so the sun is just shaded by the overhang.”

“Oh my!”

So many tiny, spider threads floating by all across the sky.  With the sun backlighting them but just blocked out by the overhanging porch, the long threads dazzled white, silver, blue and rainbow.  They were visible twenty feet above the ground and seemingly one hundred feet above the ground.  I’m told it is the time of year for the little spiders to set sail on wind currents or just the heat convection currents of the sun.  They’ve been there all my life, but I just saw them today.  I wonder if this is what it would be like to be able to see x-rays for a few moments.  Just because I can’t or don’t see something does not mean it isn’t there.  The everpresent invisible.

Now I can’t quit seeing these floating webs.  I took a walk into town yesterday and was soon covered by webs once I turned off the gravel road onto the path thru the pasture.  The barbed wire fence ran cold, north and south along the pasture path.  The webs drifted from west to east and hundreds of them, thousands of them, had attached to the top wire of the fence and drifted across the walking path.  I never found the end of a single thread.  I never saw a spider (too small to see but there and real all the same?)  I could feel the webs on the back of my hands and across my face.  I saw them on my jeans.  Wiping them off became useless as hundreds more replaced them.  I just walked through them, feeling them, letting them be.  I wonder if I’ll be covered in spider webs by the time I reach the road?  Maybe I’ll see a child in town who will be so frightened they’ll run and tell their parents that a man covered in spider webs just came out of the bean field.  Not to worry.  I did exit the pasture with a few of the clingy webs still on me, but most seem to have let go as I moved on.

Later that same afternoon, I sat on the porch of Dancing Rabbit’s Milkweed Mercantile and there were more webs.  They’re everywhere.  The sun was lowering, the angle was right, my seat was again situated so the sun was just blocked out.  Before I could remark on the webs, the Rabbit next to me said,”Look at all those spider webs.”  I shared my earlier experiences with him.  It was a nice moment.

Sometimes the very bright things obscure what else is there.  Many things exist that I can’t or don’t notice.  Some things are only visible at certain times, under the right conditions, if I look at them just right.  Hang out with people that show you cool things.  Creation is vast, intelligent, elegant, tiny, and immense whether I pay attention or not.

I hope I can give a spider something to marvel at sometime.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Freekeh with Mung Beans !

I’m whipping up some freekeh with mung beans for dinner tonight.  How did I decide on this combo?  I’m making dinner entrees with the most interesting names in descending order.  Why wouldn’t I?

My grain options today included amaranth, spelt, farro, barley, quinoa, brown rice, bulgur and freekeh (pronounced free-kah).  It was a tough choice between amaranth and freekeh.  Amaranth sounds like a spider, and I don’t want to eat spiders.  Amaranth might be second in line depending on my mood.  An amaranth mood sounds brighter than say a bulgur or a spelt mood.  If I’m in a bulgur or spelt mood, I probably won’t even feel like cooking, but I will have to anyway because others are counting on me.  “Sorry about dinner tonight folks.  I was feeling bulgury.”  I wonder what bean will go with that?

Quinoa is likely to fall down my list only due to being familiar to me.  Quinoa was sexy and attractive when we first met, but now quinoa has become less exotic and alluring.  Quinoa used to go to the front of the line at all the cool nightclubs in the city, but now quinoa just stays home in its jammies, eats too much ice cream and watches Netflix.  Nothing wrong with that.  Things just change over time.

Brown rice will be eaten last if at all.

As for the beans….

I’m soaking my mung beans right now.  They are relatively small.  They are round.  Mungs are shades of green.  Mung beans were an easy first choice.

As for the other beans, while familiar to me, garbonzo beans may not suffer the same fate, falling down the list, as quinoa did because “garbonzo” is just that much more interesting a word than “quinoa.”  Say it to yourself right now - “Gar-Bon-Zo.”  Say it with an Italian accent.  Isn’t that fun?  Say it like a country singer.  It is just fun to say and garbonzos taste alright.

I wasn’t even going to mention taste.  Taste is secondary for my purposes here.  This is about the best, weirdest, most appealing sounding food to eat.  Forget about taste.  I’m only considering food names.

I am, however, running into an adjective problem.  I Googled “exotic beans,” and clicked over to a place called Elegant Beans.  They make things a little tricky by adding modifiers to their bean names making a simple black bean into a Black Calypso Bean.  Black Calypso Beans, by the way, look like a kidney stone from a Dalmatian.  Elegant Beans also sells Eye of the Goat Beans.  No fair.  Add “goat” to anything and I”m in.  I’m a sucker for goats.

Executive decision.  No modifiers allowed.  I will only use the basic name of the bean for my selection process.  Today it’s mung beans.  Next week might be garbonzo beans which we happen to have in our grocery store here at DR.  Other candidates will be the standard lima beans, black beans, pinto beans and navy beans.  Bean names don’t have as much pizzazz as grain names do they?

Thinking ahead, I haven’t chosen other foods yet, but I will need to add some fruits, vegetables, breads, and beverages.  And probably some cheese.  Chevre, a cheese which I’ve already had and is made here at DR, is the winner of the cheese namestakes.  How could it not be?

Fruits have good names.  Those will be tough to put in order.  Lots of ties for first I’m afraid.  Vegetables might be a little easier.  Bok choy is the vegetable winner unless something better surfaces.  Sourdough will be at the bottom of the bread list.  Kombucha has to be the winner of the beverage list.  I’ve never had it and don’t intend to try it but the name reigns supreme.

Kombucha is like the freekeh of beverages.  Bon appetit everyone !

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I Laughed Until I Cried

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I sat down in my new kitchen co-op for lunch today and laughed until I cried. 

What’s it called when something is used as something else it wasn’t originally intended to be? Not recycling...UPCycling! That’s it upcycling. One home here at DR is called Upcycle actually. I’m sure it has pallets in it. Pallets seem to be the primary ingredient in many upcycles. 

Back to my new kitchen. It’s in SkyHouse now instead of The Common House. The floor is a bit uneven, but now that the dead mice are cleared out and the living mice seem to sense they are not welcome, I can imagine it becoming a cozy little place to cook and eat. It was initially noted by my friends and I that the kitchen table could use a good cleaning. Understatement. The kitchen table needed a good sanding. The option of a tablecloth was suggested and was consensed to. Lunch today was my second time sitting down at the table with the new tablecloth, and today was the first day I noticed that the new tablecloth was not originally intended to be a tablecloth. Are you smelling the upcycle? Here it comes. 

The new tablecloth was originally intended to be a… wait for it… a shower curtain. I laughed until I cried. 

Of course the tablecloth used to be a shower curtain. Why wouldn’t the tablecloth be a shower curtain? What else would the tablecloth be but a shower curtain? It was the little holes up the edge that tipped me off. I didn’t put two and two together right away, but when it hit me, I started laughing and laughing and laughing. Just when I thought the laughing was over, I’d look at the thing again and start laughing again. Then I snorted. The next level of laughing is snort laughing. I can sometimes reign in a snort laugh, but in this case, the snort laugh escalated to tears. The shower curtain brought me to teary laughing. (No it was not the plastic kind of shower curtain. It was the classy fabric outer shower curtain kind.) 

Permaculture talks about stacking functions. Getting more than one output from a thing. Goats give milk, fertilizer, cheese, and meat. Goats are also cute and eat poison ivy. Functions stacked! We have goats at DR. How about a roof as a garden? Got it. A roof as a garden is also insulation and soundproofing. A roof with a garden and lawn chairs is also a deck for watching sunsets. Bam! Again. There’s some other upcycles I should let you know about here at DR. I’ve seen an old, black tennis shoe nailed to a tree as a bird house. Another Rabbit uses a piece of bailing twine as his belt unless one of his goats gets loose,then the twine becomes a leash. Don’t ask what happens to his pants if he has to leash a goat. Speaking of belts, I’m using a strip of cloth that was used to tie up flowers at our Singing Rabbit event several weeks ago. The cloth is pink so I’m not sure what it started out to be, maybe a blouse or a sheet or something. Oh! It could have been a pillowcase. So it’s now been upcycled twice. That’s some serious upcycle street cred. Sorry I said “street cred.” I’m too old to be using words like that. I’ll never do it again. 

I imagine I’ll see more of these upcycles in use in our little village. I like them. I’m thinking of hosting an upcycling challenge using pallets and maybe bailing twine. The shower curtain tablecloth will also have to be included. That will be a triple stacked upcycle snot snorting teary laugh of an event I bet. I hope it raises my eco-street cred. Sorry.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Dark Underbelly of Ecovillage Life

“Hello Muddah.  Hello Faddah.  Here I am at Camp Granada.”

I remember hearing this song on the radio growing up.  It was written by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch.  Radios had a dial with a red marker that slid right and left behind numbers indicating the station back then.  The red slider moved in reaction to the turning of a knob.  Turn the knob right and the red marker moves right on the dial.  Left for left.  Some stations came in strong while other stations required the perfect tickle of the knob to get rid of the fuzzy sound.  “You’re not holding your mouth right,” I remember someone saying when I couldn’t quite get the desired station to tune in.  I’m still not sure what that means.

In case you’ve never heard the song, it goes on to talk about the woes of life at a camp, Camp Granada, and the singer wants his parents to let him come home.  I don’t want to come home, but it is a rainy day today.  I didn’t sleep great due to a lot of thunder about 3am.  The loudest and closest thunder boom sounded like it was coming thru my bedroom ceiling.  Lest you get the impression that life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is all delicious potlucks and harmonious song circles, I believe it is time to give you a more comprehensive look at my life here at DR.

The dark underbelly of ecovillage life for me -

I’m still getting mail I don’t really feel like opening.
The propane ran out, and I had to move to another kitchen on short notice.
Little, clingy, sticker things are all over my book bag.
A strap on my book bag broke.

There are 18 people with names that begin with the letters A-L-.
Coffee hours are from 8-9am, and I need coffee from about 6-11am!
I can’t kill this fly.  I can’t find the flyswatter.  I tried to use the mail I don’t want to open as a flyswatter.  It did not work.

Bacon is too salty for me now.  True story. 
The hills are very steep for biking.
The roads have no shoulders to ride a bicycle on.
I have gotten my ass kicked in one board game, a poker game, and a domino game.

There is a fly on my hand.  Again.
The floor of my new kitchen has as many bumps and hills as a skateboard park.
Most people have a different answer to most questions.
I’ve left the light on in the kitchen twice.  NOT eco-friendly.  I’m trying.  I really am.

I keep forgetting my headlamp so I can see to walk home at night.
A kid came up behind me in the dark and scared the bejeebies out of me the other night.
A giant black dog walked up next to me while I was peeing and scared out my remaining bejeebies last night.
I will surely forget my headlamp again soon.  Thank goodness I have no bejeebies left.

Curly dock does not taste as good as it looks.
I specifically bought gluten-free bread and pancake mix for my food co-op friend.  She is not gluten-free.
I’m having difficulty with names let alone whether or not other folks are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lacto-ovo vegetarian, paleo, neo-paleo, omnivorous, carnivorous, alto, soprano, or currently on a juice fast.
I poop in a bucket.

All the cool places to walk have poison ivy.
It’s too cold for me to swim in the pond now.
There is a fly on my hand, and I don’t even care anymore.
A town of only 17,000 people felt kind of overwhelming to me on Wednesday.

I only have to pee about once per night, but I still have to pee about once per night.
Paypal or ELMS or cash or check or tab or barter or “Why does this have to be so hard?”
Only 50 adults, but I don’t get to see some folks as much as I would like.
I haven’t planted anything yet.

Now which water source tested positive for E. Coli?
Which mousetrap is the most humane?
How long can a new Resident keep a personal vehicle?
Wait what?  Is that a real word or an acronym?

Flying flies.
Flies that fly.

Don’t worry.  It’s not all bad, and I’m not complaining.  I just want to give it to you straight, no sugar-coating.  No beating around the bush or waffling.  So there you have it.  Some of it.

Here’s the end of the song:

Wait a minute, it stopped hailing/Guys are swimming, guys are sailing/playing baseball/Gee that’s bettah/Muddah Faddah kindly disregard this letter

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Let's Plant Some $h!#

Conscious living to regenerate Creation.  How’s that for a mission statement? Or is that a vision statement?  I never got all that figured out, but living consciously to regenerate, to make even better than before, not just do less harm and not just for me personally or for humans but for All Creation, is my vision statement.  There my friends is a big, fat hairy goal.  Or mission or whatever.

Day 10 of my 10 day Permaculture Design Course is winding down.  I’m in the Common House letting a double helping of delicious leftovers settle.  Lisa from Ohio is playing the piano - beautifully.  Greg from Colorado is on his phone on the other corner of the couch.  What is permaculture you ask?  I’m still asking that too, and I just finished a 10 day course on it.

The founder was Australian, Bill Mollison.  His student and co-founder was David Holmgren.  It’s been around for over 30 years but still not widely known and less widely practiced at least here in the USA.  Malawi in Africa has been on the permaculture bandwagon for awhile according to one of our teachers, Sharon, who lived in Malawi for awhile.  Sharon also employed permaculture principles on her farm in Ecuador.  Sharon’s warren here at Dancing Rabbit is yet another example of permaculture design and expression.  I know I still haven’t answered the question though.

Bill Mollison made up the term “permaculture” as a combination of the words permanent and agriculture.  Permanent agriculture is permaculture.  Permaculture advocates for perennials over annuals, but some annuals are desirable at certain times.  You see the answer to any permaculture question is, “It depends.”  Sort of sounds like WishyWashy Culture or Philosophy if you ask me.  The other answer to any permaculture question is “organic matter.”  Organic matter is what primes the soil so perennials can make food.  If pressed on exactly what type of organic matter, my friend Greg on the other end of the couch would definitively say, “Wood chips.  You need to put down wood chips.”

Permaculture as practiced at Dancing Rabbit includes humanure as organic matter.  Humanure is a combination of the words human and manure - Humanure.  Enough about that for now.  Over the next several months, I’ll expand on the 12 Principles of Permaculture and probably give you some examples of how they are employed here at Dancing Rabbit.  I’m still learning about it though and don’t want to overwhelm myself too much.  The class was from 8am to 9pm for 10 days straight.  Have you ever seen a fire hydrant opened up on a street for kids to play in?  I’ve just seen pictures myself but I’m imagining trying to drink out of that gushing fire hydrant is like trying to take in all the material presented in this class plus all the supplementary material that was referred to.  Instead of sticking my head right in there close, I’m standing back a little where the water is refreshing and fun instead of punishing.

And I want to share this too.  We watched a short TED Talk given by a man named Ron Finley who does urban gardening in South Central  Los Angeles.  Ron so inspired me with a certain phrase that I took one of my white undershirts and wrote his quote on it in permanent marker.   Ron’s quote is a good summary of permaculture for me. 

 Ron said, “Let’s plant some shit.”  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Butter Pecan Cornbread Upends Culinary World ! OMG.

The most supportive thing I heard today was, “You got this T.  You can’t mess up cornbread.  Last time I cooked it I didn’t even have a recipe in front of me.”

Thank you for your support and confidence.

I did run into a little buttermilk problem.  The buttermilk problem was a result of a Not-scrolling-all-the-way-down -the-page-while-looking-at-the-ingredients-list problem.  Using the Transitive Property of Close Enough Food Substitutes I surmised that buttermilk is dairy and yogurt is dairy so in went the yogurt.  Cheese and ice cream were also up for consideration, but I couldn’t find any cheese and I don’t think the world is ready yet for Butter Pecan Cornbread so the yogurt won by default.  Oh, I almost forgot about the Chocolate Soy Milk option but vegan/vegetarian was already nixed as you’ll soon see.

Another problem is fractions.  What is ⅔ times 2?  It’s more than 2 right?  No.  Because ⅔ is less than 1 and 2 times 1 is 2.  Result.  I just put some salt in.

Gotta mention the Spoon Differentiation Problem.  I don’t drink tea, so I’m not really sure how much a teaspoon is.  I do use a spoon at meals while sitting at the table so I’m fairly confident I know what a tablespoon is, but what if I’m having soup.  Is a soup spoon a tablespoon?  What if I’m eating soup at the table?  Or, what if I’m having soup standing up at the kitchen counter because I’m in a hurry.  How much is a counterspoon? I put about 4 of those of butter in the cornbread mix.

I think I nailed the eggs.  2 eggs.  BAM!

Tomato, tomahto, potato, potahto, soda, powder.  Baking is baking and i put some white baking stuff in. 

Grease the pan.  Grease the pan?  What has a lot of grease? Lots and lots of grease?  Bacon has lots of grease.  Bacon grease the pan.  Not vegetarian or vegan cornbread now.  Sorry folks.  The bacon was delicious!

20-25 minutes at an oven preheated to 425 degrees or until golden brown on top.  What do you mean “or”?  Minutes don’t vary in length by longitude or hair color do they?  20-25 minutes - full stop.  Similarly, 425 degrees is 425 degrees.  I’m assuming Fahrenheit here.  Is there such a thing as a Celsius oven.  How much is 425 degrees Celsius?  Isn’t that like the molten core of the sun.  I don’t think this cornbread would last 25 minutes at the molten core of the sun.  What if I’m gold/brown color blind?  What if my oven doesn’t have a window to peak in (mine doesn’t)?  Won’t all the heat come out if I keep opening the oven to check the golden brownness of the top?  No wonder I never cooked anything before.  This is nearly impossible.

Nearly impossible but delicious it turns out.  I got this!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

I Got My Name in the Paper

This article I wrote will be in the local

Memphis Democrat in the next couple weeks - Enjoy!

Highway MM from Rutledge back and forth to Memphis the other night was two very different experiences.  In the partial light and drizzle on my way to Memphis, it was a beautiful country drive; hills and curves and cows.  I love these kinds of drives.  I used to have to leave the city to take a country detour like this.  Now, as a new resident at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, I get to enjoy the backroads in the natural course of my comings and goings.

While the drive to Memphis was enjoyable, the drive back to Dancing Rabbit from Memphis later that night was a completely different story.  I enjoyed spending a couple hours with some new acquaintances in Memphis before heading back to Dancing Rabbit about 8:30.  That same appealing drive through the country a couple hours earlier turned into a test of my nerves and equilibrium on the way home.  It was my first time driving this road at night, and the darkness was complicated by more rain, big puddles trying to pull me off the road, and the glare of oncoming headlights.  I knew the center line was there, but it was impossible to see.  I slowed down.  The curves came out of nowhere.  I slowed down again.  Just as I thought I was getting more comfortable and speeding up a little again, I’d hit an unexpected puddle and slowed down yet again.  My move to Dancing Rabbit is proving remarkably similar to my trip to Memphis.

Visiting DR in May for my official Visitor Session was more like the leisurely drive in the country I just described.  It was bright, sunny and easily navigable.  May is my favorite month of the year, by the way.  I could see the curves coming up ahead and the yellow lines were clearly marked.  Not a puddle to be muddled.  No glare off the smiles of the other rabbits in the bright light of day.  The subsequent reality of moving to Dancing Rabbit as a new Resident on August 30th, is akin to the nighttime traipse on wet, winding, unfamiliar roads.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the transition has been treacherous, but things are absolutely unfamiliar with unexpected, sharp turns and a steep hill or two popping up out of nowhere.  The solution, once again, seems to be “slow down.”  I don’t know about you, but “slow down” has not been something I’ve been very good at over my lifetime.  I tend to speed up until I uncomfortably hit the rumble strips on the shoulder then I slow down again.  Speed up, slow down.  Speed up, slow down.  Over and over.  This time it will be different.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Let me tell you more about myself.  My name is Troy Matthews, and I’m from Kansas City - Overland Park, Kansas to be exact.  I’m the newest resident of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, Missouri.  Nice to meet you!  I first found Dancing Rabbit online back about the year 2000.  I was looking for something different, better to my way of thinking, than how I was living as a suburbanite.  Getting out of the city into the country was part of “living better” in my mind and still is.  Grandma and Grandpa lived on a farm near Alma, Missouri when I was a kid.  My dad and mom did not have the farming bug, so I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and also in Southwest Florida.  After many years of living mostly in the ‘burbs but also in big cities like New York and Paris, I bought my first home about 30 minutes south of Kansas City in the country.  For a long time, I heard that call of moving out to the country.  My country house is situated on a little pond with several pecan trees in the yard.  I imagine most of you reading this understand the call of country living.  Moving to Dancing Rabbit is another step for me toward the country, and I’m very happy to be here.

And then there was a bedraggled, white cat the other day...

Cats can be conniving.  As I walked the gravel path around the residential area of the village recenty, a white cat, Mr. Cat, approached me from behind, pulled up alongside, passed me, walked ahead 5 or 6 feet directly in front of me, and had a heart attack.  I kept walking.  The cat recovered instantly and and this time had a stroke directly in my path; writhing on it’s back like a puppet with a couple strings missing.  You might already realize what was going on, but I still did not.  I kept walking.

For a third time, the cat recovered and caught up to me.  Instead of just passing by this time, Mr. Cat rounded my right leg rubbing as we walked.  Mr. Cat then rushed ahead again collapsing in the path before me yet again.  “Maybe this cat wants some attention?,” I finally realized.  “Of course!  Mr. Cat just wants some attention.”  I’m a little slow.  I told you I’ve lived in the suburbs for a long time.  I did not oblige Mr. Cat with any attention.  I was busy going nowhere.  I did not have time or inclination to indulge a conniving cat.  Vague warnings like “Do Not Feed the Bears”, “Natural Area - Do Not Disturb” and “Don’t Pet Strangers” also flitted through my brain.  Mr. Cat persisted.  I persisted as well.  Instead of flopping down on the gravel on pass number six, Mr. Cat just kept catting on his way.  I’ll give Mr. Cat credit for persistence.

I think karma got back at me the next day - bad cat karma.  Here’s what happened.
Woke up knowing I should roll over and stay in bed.  An annoying sound like a fax machine being suffocated by a feather pillow kept poking my peace in the ribs making sleep improbable.  I got up.  It was raining.

I checked my usual email and social media.  Rabbits get lots of email about things going on in the village and business between individuals.  While I was web surfing, Bear asked me to move my truck to the lower field in preparation for the Dancing Rabbit Open House.  We wanted space for visitors to park up front right at the entrance to our village.  I assumed the rain had made for a muddy lower field, but  I have four-wheel drive and won’t get stuck.  Hah! - won’t get stuck.  I put the truck in 4 Low and moved to the lower field just a few hundred feet down the road.  I had an inkling I should park facing downhill where I could pull out forward later without having to back up, but I did not heed my own inkling of the obvious.  Two other vehicles were parked already, and I wanted to conform so I pulled in just as they had done earlier.  I immediately wondered if I would be able to back my truck out and immediately made an attempt to pull out and immediately found myself stuck.  Stuck.  Stuck.  Stuck.  Stuckity stuck stuck. I knew it.  Stuck.  The truck is stuck in the muck.  Stuck!

I walked back up the hill to the village self-talking my way out of a tantrum or pity party.  Told you I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.  I soon told a couple other folks about my truck being stuck in the muck.  “Welcome to the club,” says one.  “Getting stuck is a rite of passage here,” says another one.  “I can help you,” says yet another.  I felt a little less disgusted with myself.

Not too long after I got the truck stuck in the muck my new Dancing Rabbit community circled up to kick off the Open House.  We circle up and hold hands before Tuesday Potluck and Community Dinner on Friday as well.  There were about 30 grown ups and a bunch of kids at the Open House kickoff.  “Who knows the DR song?”  “I do.  I mean I think I do.  It took me 21 times to learn it, but I think I know it.”  The song is sung.  As I learn in to hear the words and catch the melody, I get that warm, connected, “glad I’m here” feeling once again.   By the end of the song, most of the the mucky stuck truck taste was washed out of my mouth.

That’s all for now.  I’m settling into my new life at Dancing Rabbit.  It took the help of a tractor to get my truck out of the muck, and Mr. Cat is nowhere to be found.  If you see me in town at Keith’s Cafe, Tri-State Used Furniture, or getting a coffee on the square all of which I’ve already visited be sure and  say, “Hello.” If I look like I’m in a hurry, I’d appreciate a friendly reminder to slow down.  Again.

Friday, September 7, 2018

1 Week In and All is Weird

Really just the hair is weird but that is nothing new.  You may have to check my Facebook post for a picture.

Last post I questioned who I am.  This post, I'll just some of what I've experienced and done in this first week at Dancing Rabbit.

I -

heard coyotes
watched a No Talent Show
bucked hay bales
walked on gravel barefoot, gingerly
harmonized in a song circle of 50 people
was entranced by 3 bonfires
did pond water aerobics
pushed back my cuticles
discussed Spanish sign language
got a crop circle shaved in my head

lost my antibiotic ointment
lost my checkbook
found $5
listened to a dog lick itself
signed up for a permaculture class
worried about money

realized I hadn't thought about my divorce for over 24 hours
re-re-re-re-re-re read Dhammapada
felt embarrassed by my plastic bowl and giant, blue, plastic spork
bought a handmade wooden bowl and spoon
peeled garlic
ate apple cobbler
swallowed my toothpaste after brushing
examined a 40 year old Boy Scout utensil set

blurted out something regrettable
stood in awe of an hours long lightning show
surprised that guy actually did that
dropped my guard a little more
got a little defensive
gave a sincere compliment
read some David Sedaris
got a song stuck in my head
was irritated by that grinding noise
stifled 8 sarcastic comments
delivered 3 sarcastic comments

guished my toes in the mud
fretted a turtle might bite my balls
was charmed by babies nursing
sanded a timber post of a new home
cursed technology
dodged a puddle
wrote a blog

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Is That Ringworm?

I can't get this song out of my head

I am remembering whoOoo, I am.  I am remembering whooOoo, I am.  Iiii, am RememmberrrRing.  Iiii, am RemmemberrrRing.  I am remembering, who I am....

Today is the second day of the first ever Singing Rabbit.  I just moved in yesterday!  I am amazed to see the village so full of people.  Many of the folks I've seen before as they are DR, Red Earth Farms, and Sandhill inhabitants, but some of the folks are from exotic places like northeast Iowa and Wisconsin and Oregon and Washington.  Everyone is here to sing.

I've sung so many songs already with more to come.  Rounds and stacks and harmonies with hand gestures, and humming.  Singing Rabbit has it all.  I even learned sign language for "singing rabbit."

Now back to that song stuck in my head.  I am remembering, who I am.

Who am I?  Was I someone else?  Am I supposed to be someone else?  Am I the real me?  Deep-ish stuff.  It's only my second day here.  How could I forget who I am anyway?  That doesn't happen.  Who could that happen to?

Then a simple awareness.

I've taken a swim in the pond the last couple days.  It has been chilly getting in but just perfect after adjusting for a few minutes.  I sit and air dry on the dock after my swim.  Today I was preoccupied with shooing away a horsefly, but yesterday I started to take a really good look at the top of my right thigh.  It was just sitting there so I started looking it over real closely.

I was caught off guard that I didn't even recognize my own leg.  "Is this really mine?," I wondered.  I traced back it's origin; right thigh middle, upper right thigh, crease of the upper right thigh, groin crease over hear, outer right hip.  Seems to be my thigh alright.  How about a closer look?

Lots of big brown spots that are a little crustier than the rest of the skin.  Age spots?  Liver spots?  Too many days on Florida beaches?  I have no idea.  Didn't even see them until today.  And the hairs.  Some are coupled.  Some are a little more isolated.  They do seem to grow in the same direction (downward if I was standing), and they are longer than I expected.

How about the rest of my leg?  What an adventure so  close to home!

There's a scab!  When did that happen?  I don't even remember hitting it.  It's like I don't even know my own leg.  Was I not paying attention?  That must've hurt, but I can't remember.

And that?  What is that?  Is that ringworm?  Mom thought it might be ringworm.  Of course, I didn't notice it, but Mom did sitting next to me on her porch last week having coffee.  On the outside of my right ankle resides this little suspicious patch.  I think it's where my sandals rub.  It's been awhile since I've worn sandals.  I didn't even notice the little patch of red skin until Mom said something.  Of course not.

I'm not noticing anything.  I don't even know myself.  Who am I?  I can't believe this.  Well, now I know what I don't know.  Like the song says, "I am remembering, who I am."

Friday, August 17, 2018

Building a (not corn) Cob House

When I first heard someone talk about building a cob house my first thought was, "Wow.  That's gonna take a lot of corn cobs."  I'm not alone.  My friend thought the same thing the other day.

Cob in the way I'm using it is a mixture of about even parts clay and sand with some straw mixed in.  No corn cobs needed.  I won't get into the details of tensile strength and sand sieving right now.  I just want to give a little introduction of what is to come, hopefully, for me at Dancing Rabbit.

Rabbits can and do build their own houses at DR.  About 35 houses are inhabited with at least one if not two more possibly being worked on as you read this.  Seriously.  Right now, someone could be sticking their thumb into some cob being applied to a  wall to merge it into some cob that is already on the wall.  Think Play-doh on a liveable scale without getting yelled at for "getting it on everything."  The idea is to get it on everything.  It is everything.  The whole house is made of clay and sand and straw cob.

Cob is strong.
It must hold its own weight plus any roof that is added.  The walls are wider at the base, maybe around a foot wide, with a slight taper as they rise.  Want extra strength?  Curve the walls a little.  Curves are stronger than straight lines.

Cob is easy.
In a technical sense, cob is easy.  No special tools or seven year apprenticeship needed.  It can be physically demanding, but take a lot of breaks and get some friends to help to spread the labor around.

Cob is cheap.
A few straw bales are about $10.  If you have to buy sand, it's like $4 for 100 pounds.  Clay?  At DR, clay is free, because the soil is mostly clay.  I'm going to track what it costs to build my house so I'll keep you posted. I'm shooting for it to cost less than the last Stickley recliner I bought.

Cob is pretty.
Cob can be sculpted like clay because it is largely clay.  Want a salamander climbing the side of your house?  Sculpt it.  How about a built in tiki pole with a mouth that holds your bird watching binoculars.  Sculpt it.  How about outdoor seating to lounge on built right into your wall?  You can sculpt it.  A cob home is a work of art.

I'll begin helping on a strawbale house that will have cob-like plaster and perhaps other elements with cob beginning the first week of September so I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Thou Shall Not Dither

So I've been working on my memoir.  Section by section I'm answering questions posed in a great interface at Memoir Workbook.  As I feel the urge, I answer a few more questions.  In the last several days, I've been answering questions in the Religion section, and it is revealing something that has been poking out of my subconscious for awhile.

I'm going to start my own religion.

As Perfect Timing would have it, (Perfect Timing will likely be a tenet in my new religion) a quote came across on one of my feeds today from Findhorn pioneer Eileen Caddy:

You must learn to see things clearly, know exactly where you are going and what you are doing and go right ahead and do it without any hesitation.  Never be indecisive and stand out on the brink and dither.  Plunge right in when you have sought and found the answer and do what you know has to be done.

I"m plunging into Dancing Rabbit because I sought and found the answer, and I'm doing what has to be done.  It is clear to me.  That's where I'm going.  I wonder how much of the depression over the years was caused by dithering in particular situations or beliefs.  

If you are reading this in Perfect Timing, I simply urge you to stop dithering.

Stop dithering.

Make the change today.  Even making the first step of a larger change provides the relief and energy to confirm the rightness of it.  I didn't move to Dancing Rabbit the day after it became clear that's what I was to do.  What I did do the first day was read all about it on the website and planned to attend a Visitor's Session.  I filled out the application the first weekend after I had the idea so as not to suffer with Dithering Depression (perhaps another tenet of my new religion).

By the way, I also signed up for Singing Rabbit over Labor Day Weekend which is my official move-in date to DR.  It kept coming up as something I wanted to do.  But what about the money?  I can't really sing?  What if not many people do it?  Dither, dither, dither - Do IT!

I signed up.  I get a discount as a Rabbit.  Someone recently told me I can sing.  I will enjoy it.  It is a great way to kick off my residency, and just exactly the right people will be there.

I would love to hear about any actions you take!  I'll keep you posted on how the religion thing is going. 

Thou Shall Not Dither

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Invite Me to Your Next Potluck

I was prepping dinner for our ARC guests tonight.  Water glasses and water?  Yes.  Bread, bread in the baskets, butter on the table.  Everyone has a fork.  Nine people?  Yes.  Nine people.  Then Medora said, "I have to fry the peaches."

Just let that loll around on your cerebral tastebuds for a minute.

"Fried peaches!  Oh my god.  You just said 'fried peaches.'"  I waved my arms.  My face lit up.

Fried peaches.

Toss some peach slices in olive oil and make sure they are well coated then place them in a frying pan for one minute per side.  Add them to an arugula salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and gorgonzola cheese crumbles.  The salad turned out to be delicious.  The idea of the salad with fried peaches was even better.

It just dawned on me that I have never given food sufficient credit for its ability to evoke joy, nostalgia, and anticipation, but it has for me done all three.  The fried peaches stirred my joy and anticipation today.  I just want to say thank you to all the makers of all the dishes that have thrilled me, comforted me, and fed me.  Your creations reminded me someone was thinking of me and looking after me, of us.  You took the time to make something purposefully and specially.  Thank you.

Thank you Mom for the chili, and polish sausage with cabbage and burgers on the grill.  Thank you Grandma for sweet rice.  Thank you Missy for corn casserole.  Thank you to Terre for cream cheese cherry tomato dip.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

For much of my life, I've been the guy that leaves it to someone else to bring a dish to family gatherings or potlucks.  Nobody expected much from me and I delivered.  I rationalized about always having too much food anyway.  I can't cook.  It's no big deal.  I'm lazy.

I've been missing out.  I know I've been missing out.  I don't want to just show up.  I want to bring something to the table.   I want to contribute in a meaningful way.  I wonder if I do this in other areas of my life?  Probably.  Sometimes.

Here is what I know.

At the next family gathering,  I want to see Mom's reaction when I say, "I came early to make my salad.  I need to fry some peaches."