On Our Way South and Dancing Rabbit

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!

Decorah Springs

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.

Tereza and Justin at Red Earth

School Bus Home

Earth Bag Home

DR Guys

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.

You can view a few more Dancing Rabbit photos here.

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.

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9 Comments. Leave new

Freely Living Life
September 5, 2010 9:42 am

Wow! A truly inspiring and interesting post! I had no idea that Dancing Rabbit even existed!

Glad you enjoyed Wisconsin Dells!!

Thank you for sharing you journey with us!

Intentional community is something that has been on our family’s hearts for quite sometime now. So glad you were able to find some to check out and learn about. We are hoping to find some like minded folks and go for it as well. We actually got started last year around this time, and then people dropped out when they realized we were actually serious about doing it.

the picture with the rock and the doorway built into it that i can only assume is one of the eco-friendly homes you spoke of makes me think of the shire in lord of the rings.
which is automatically awesome in my book.

not only is that particular dwelling eco-friendly, but it looks like it could survive some good storms, (aside from earthquakes, of course–but, even then, it could probably bypass some of the worse surface waves in an earthquake, so that’s good).

Thanks for the write-up on Dancing Rabbit – I see them mentioned in lots of places on the internet. It seems like there is huge variation from group to group on what / which aspects of their lives are shared and which are separate; the intentional community we live in is much more towards the ‘shared’ end of the spectrum.

I really want to visit there now – we are thinking maybe in the Spring! You got ideas and conversation going in these parts again yesterday.

Lisa from Visionary Mom
September 6, 2010 9:08 pm

please, please, please be sure to share your evolving thoughts about the whole intentional community thing. this is something I have been very interested in, especially now, being a single mom. I think being in a tight community like that would be very powerful. so, please keep sharing your thoughts and discoveries, okay??

Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been interested in communities like this for awhile. I also love living alone (with my family) and being independent. It looks like there is a way to have both.

Love love love this post. I’ve had a little obsession with intentional communities for years and years. We visited several on our trip and were able to see them for what they were…that they were not perfect by any means, and that they do have struggles. But the community aspect was so encouraging and fun to experience.
I’d be down with a nomadic version :) Such fun. Hillshade repeat?

“…an intentional community of nomadic families”… I’ve had this same thought as I wonder how to integrate my love of so many things (intentional community, travel, small homes, simplicity, sewing, music).

I perpetually ask myself, “Urban or rural? Join an existing community or help start one? Larger space so I can delve deeply into sewing, or smaller so I can live more simply and make tiny things with my hands? Stay put and send down roots or carry my roots with me?” Now, with a baby, the tenor of the questions has changed. I’m no longer just a me. I’m an us!

Looking forward to our first Rethinking Everything conference next summer. Very, very, very glad to have found your blog. Thank you.

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