Saturday, December 29, 2018
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:
Computer repair shop
Animal feed 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?
Posted by Troy Matthews at 9:49 AM
Monday, December 24, 2018
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.
Posted by Troy Matthews at 9:44 AM
Friday, December 21, 2018
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.
Posted by Troy Matthews at 10:30 AM
Saturday, December 15, 2018
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.
Posted by Troy Matthews at 11:43 AM
Friday, December 7, 2018
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.
Posted by Troy Matthews at 10:27 PM
Saturday, December 1, 2018
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.
Posted by Troy Matthews at 11:06 AM