Working our way from Madison to Dallas took some time. We stopped at six places along the way (two of them overnights in the middle of somewhere), meeting new friends, scoping out new towns and trying not to feel rushed (which we still felt).
Our first stop after Madison was Wisconsin Dells, home of America’s Largest Water Park. We spent our honeymoon amusement park hopping; it seemed only fitting that we celebrated 10 years together with water park hopping.
It wasn’t a perfect two days: Zeb crashed on his bike, my dreads gave me whiplash, we got all turned around on an incredibly long bike ride to and from the park and it was pretty darn cold. But it was still an amazing two days!
After the Dells, we left Wisconsin behind and headed into Iowa where we stopped to meet two new fiends, Niki and Toast in Decorah. They showed us around the many natural springs and beautiful countryside and we enjoyed the Vesterheim Museum, as well (Vesterheim is Norwegian for “western home,” what many of Norway’s emigrants called America…or Amerika.) We really enjoyed the small town feel mixed with the sustainable and artistic communities and plan to do some more research on the area.
Leaving Decorah, we headed toward Missouri with a short overnight stop with a Jen in southern Iowa, where we enjoyed yummy food and awesome conversation way too late into the night.
Then to the serious highlight along our path: Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village in Northern Missouri!
Oh my goodness, how amazing! Our minds are still reverberating with the information we tried to take in and process in our short two-night stay.
We were invited by Tereza, a 10 year resident, and I couldn’t be more thankful she emailed us. She was so gracious as to show us around, describing how everything worked and answering all our questions.
Dancing Rabbit is actually one of three eco-villages in the area, each doing things slightly different. It is also the largest. While Dancing Rabbit is cooperatively and closely built, Red Earth just a short walk away has a slightly more “homestead” feel to it, although still very community-oriented. (The third, which we didn’t have time to tour, is a more communal, income-sharing arrangement.)
We were especially intrigued with how Dancing Rabbit works:
- DR is built on a land trust and through government grants. This makes living their very affordable for Rabbits and residents, who each pay a small price depending on the size of their “property”.
- The diversity of their sustainable building is fantastic and inspiring! Anything from school buses to strawbale to Earth bag.
- Each person/family commits to certain covenants and guidelines, similar to how a Home Owners Association works.
- You can come and go as you please, and even sell your property to someone else. But it’s up to the community as a whole to “approve” new residents and members.
- You’re not required to live communally in any way, except for agreeing to not have a car and thus participating in the car sharing. That being said there are lots of other cool co-ops which were intriguing, like a phone co-op or a kitchen co-op.
- Both Dancing Rabbit and what we saw of Red Earth Farms seemed very comfortable, community-oriented and family-friendly.
Justin really liked Red Earth Farms the best. Each home was more spread out but still within close proximity to form strong community ties. And he really likes the independence it affords its members. I was really torn between the two. I liked the feeling of a close-knit town, but also really appreciate the ability to be more reclusive. Zeb had fun playing with the kids but wasn’t really sure what to think of the rest.
Our thoughts overall: If our experience at Ironwood Farm taught us anything it’s that we don’t want to go at something like that alone. Living within a community of like-minded families, all who agree to some same basic principles, really appeals to us right now. Knowing we have a support system, friends to share with, and social connections is really the only way to have a truly sustainable community. The scale of such community is something we still aren’t sure of, but this is certainly an idea we’ll be putting a lot more thought and discussion into in the future. Perhaps an intentional community of nomadic families? Or maybe just a caravan on the road?
If you’re interested in finding a nearby intentional community to learn more from, visit Intentional Communities online.