Skyhouse Community

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2 Dancing Rabbit Lane
Rutledge, MO 63563
phone: (660) 883-5881
email: [email protected]

Skyhouse is a four member community located three miles from Sandhill Farm in northeastern Missouri. The focus of our group is to build an ecovillage (known as Dancing Rabbit) as an example of truly sustainable living. Skyhouse is the first subcommunity in the DR model, with other communities expressing interest in joining.

In 1997 Dancing Rabbit purchased 280 acres of beautiful rolling hills. We're in the process of building more housing on our land, so that We can house our growing population. Right now, some of us live in cabins we recently constructed on our land, and some of us live in rented housing across the road from our land.

We make decisions by consensus and have frequent interpersonal and business meetings. We are entirely income sharing and currently earn our income by computer consulting (telecommuting) and working for the Fellowship for Intentional Community.

We at Skyhouse work towards a sustainable lifestyle by gardening organically, favoring alternatively powered transportation over gas engines, conserving energy, and promoting awareness of environmental issues such as alternative energy and appropriate technology. We are working towards creating the town of Dancing Rabbit to be economically and socially self-sufficient.

Our members have varied and diverse interests such as sustainable technology, political activism, farming and gardening, ecological construction methods, and alternative education.

Skyhouse welcomes visitors interested in our subcommunity as well as people looking to learn about or participate in Dancing Rabbit. You can keep in touch with us by signing up to receive DR's quarterly newsletter (the March Hare) or our weekly newspaper column. Please write or email to arrange a visit.
Below are stories, blogs and articles on Skyhouse.


Taking Dancing Rabbit to the Cities

This article is also posted on Dancing Rabbit’s March Hare Blog and we encourage you to add any comments there.

Part 1 in a series of articles exploring cities adopting DR’s covenants.

People often say that Dancing Rabbit is in the middle of nowhere, and it’s hard to dispute. Rutledge, our nearest town, has a population of 100 (which we hope to surpass in the next few years) and our whole county has fewer residents than some big city high schools (4,843 by the last census).

But what we do at Dancing Rabbit is as relevant to cities as it is to small town USA, and I’ve begun to wonder: what if cities adopted Dancing Rabbit’s ecological covenants?

At Dancing Rabbit only pedestrians, cyclists, and delivery vehicles can use the roads

Building a Sustainable Economy at DR

The Milkweed Mercantile

The Milkweed Mercantile (on Halloween)

Over two years ago now, I wrote two articles exploring economic issues at Dancing Rabbit. They sort of got lost in the March Hare limbo that has existed since then, and now that I am the new MH editor I thought I’d finally let them see the light of day. Actually both of them were posted on my blog a while back so if you ever went there you might have read them. This one is the first. Some basic DR facts may be out of date, but I think the general concepts have not changed much. This one is fairly long, so without further ado…   

The economic system we develop here at DR is vital to the survival and growth of our community. If we are to serve as a model for sustainable societies, it is important that our community be not only ecologically sustainable, but economically sustainable. If we cannot find sustainable ways to meet our basic needs, generate income, and trade and buy goods we will not be a viable model for sustainable living. Though we have in many ways achieved our goal of living more sustainably than most Americans, we are still dependent on the unsustainable global economy for most of our income and livelihood. This dependency contributes greatly to our impact on the planet. Creating a healthy economy based on the same principles of sustainability we employ in our everyday lives at DR will make us an even better model for a new way of living.

Intimacy in the Ecovillage Setting

Ted and daughter Aurelia bring home the harvest

Written by Ted Sterling
[Recently printed in Communities Magazine, issue #151, Intimacy]

Since first I met Dancing Rabbit founder Tony Sirna at the Communities Conference in Willits, CA in 1998, I have understood that the “village” part of ecovillage here was meant as more than a euphemism. Dancing Rabbit was intended to be more or less like the village of popular conception– small, rural, surrounded and supported by agriculture and practical arts, and made up of villagers whose lives would doubtless be intertwined in many ways.

When I subsequently arrived at Dancing Rabbit for an internship in July 2001, I found a small (at that time, members numbers perhaps 10, and the village hosted upwards of 20 interns over the warm season) group of people with a lot of commitment to a beautiful vision. It was not a village yet. It did feel intimate, in the ways that we all worked together and relied on each other to feed ourselves, survive in our tents, and share very little sheltered space while trying to build some of the first structures. We were pioneering. Intimacy was born out of necessity, though aided by common purpose.

Articles of Incorporation - Skyhouse

Post Election Progressive Plan

To say that the recent election was disheartening for those on the left is a broad understatement. I wish that we could just blame the Democratic Party’s incompetence or the evil corporations deep pockets but I think alas, too many Americans really believe the shit they see on Fox and end up wanting to be led by Tea Party wack-jobs.

So what can someone on the left do now? What should Obama do?

1. Keep the Tea Party wackos in the fight – Focus on the populist issue of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and get both Michael Moore and the Tea Party out there screaming at politicians, both Democrat and Republican, to do something about it, Now! “Main Street not Wall Street!” “No Jobs – No Votes!” If we don’t see progress on the economy then we’ll vote this batch of yahoos out too. That will keep the Republicans from just hunkering down as the party of gridlock and force them to engage on the issue. And if the economy improves, Obama can take credit. If it doesn’t, he’d probably get voted out anyway because people blame the President no matter whose fault it is.

Boats, Ferns and Biomimicry

I’ve been following the blog Gas 2.0 recentlyas I’ve been doing research on electric vehicles and alternative fuels and they do a great job of giving the latest news.

They had a recent post on how the hairs on ferns that help it shed water could be used to make boats more fuel efficient, potentially saving as much as 1% of the fuel used worldwide!

Since I know Jacob loves biomimicry, I thought he’d want to read the article so I figured I’d share it with everyone. Here’s a link to the blog post.

Lagomorph Author Awarded Green Honors in Detroit

Jacob and WARM Training Earn a FreePress Green AwardOur own Jacob Corvidae  is being honored with two different awards for Earth Day this year the Detroit FreePress Awards and the Michigan Earthday Expo awards.

The Freep says:

Its leadership is important because of its close affinity with small, fragile communities across Detroit. Where government has been tedious and bureaucratic, where private companies have been inconsistent and distant, WARM has been accessible and relevant.

And don’t miss the slideshow in the FreePress article.

Rock on Jacob!

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 4/19/10

Dan here, writing the weekly column on the happenings at DR. Well, the season is really ramping up this week at Dancing Rabbit. I said yesterday that it seems like we've already had a month of summer and we haven't even celebrated May Day yet. Normally that's when the season seems to kick off. And it's not just because of the weather. Maybe it's because we already have work exchangers and have had so many events recently.

We are now standing on the verge of another visitor season, when things get really busy and the level of activity doubles at least. Yes, this is the time when groups of interested people come to spend time at DR, and we show them how things work and how we live so hopefully they will decide to come join us. To prepare ourselves mentally Coach Hot Dog (aka Nathan) led the Second Annual Visitor Season Pep Rally. He whipped us into shape and raised our DR spirit so that we would have the energy to give our visitors the warm welcome they deserve. He was backed up by our Dancing Rabbit Cheerleading Squad (probably didn't know we had one, did you?), which mostly consisted of Nani and Jennifer. Apparently there were several others at the cheerleading tryouts earlier in the week, but they chickened out at the last minute. Then the rally was wrapped up with an inspirational speech based on the Gettysburg Address by Thomas, who was channeling the ghost of the late great Babraham Lincoln. Don't ask. Needless to say, we were somewhat inspired and definitely entertained.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 4/12/10

Hi all. This is Alline reporting the latest doings at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. As I write this the sun is shining, and everything is green, green, green! We knew it was truly spring when Tom shaved his beard, when Ziggy began watering the strawberries on his living roof, and when the robins started shouting, um, I mean singing, each morning at 5:00 a.m. 

With the lovely weather everyone who has ever even considered having a garden has been busy digging in the dirt. I’ve seen Adrienne making numerous trips with the wheelbarrow down to the Osage Garden, and watched Alyssa take a tray of seedlings out to the Sunflower garden for planting. Sharon and Dennis have been mulching and composting like crazy in preparation for the garden at the site of their new house, and Cob and Meadow keep planting berry bushes as they arrive. Tom and Tereza went away for a few days but first arranged to have someone look in on their seedlings (as any good parent would do). BJ and Nani continue to encourage their nine varieties of okra seedlings. I’m sure that any day now Ted and Sara will produce the first tomato of the season and we’ll all be consumed with tomato envy (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but…). In other gardening news we were excited to hear that Dan has been approved for a grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for a hoop house, which will enable him to extend the growing season on whatever fabulous things he decides to grow this year.

On Sunday we had a freakishly blustery storm which took part of the roof of Maikwe’s house and blew it into a tree. Fortunately about 25 Rabbits came to the rescue and put up a tarp, and everyone was OK. Whew!

Electric Cars – Coming Soon to a Driveway Near You?

Nissan LEAFI’ve been doing a bunch of research lately on electric vehicles to see what might make sense for us at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for our vehicle co-op. For 12 years we have been focusing on biodiesel and vegetable oil based fuels but things have not always been smooth. The main issues have been related to winter fuel gelling and fuel filters clogging in general. We’ve also never gotten a steady system for  collection of used oil and production going, so we have been using biodiesel made from new veggie oil which is only marginally better for the environment than petroleum.

We are now embarking on a major re-evaluation of vehicle technologies for our co-op, with a team researching things like electric vehicles, hybrids, ethanol (including home made, potentially from cellulose), bio-gas, wood-gas, human and animal powered, and any new technologies in the veggie oil world.

My interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has come out of my research into a village-wide electric power co-op with a largish wind turbine to power our whole village. With an abundant source of renewable electricity, EVs could be our most ecological option. There are ecological issues related to batteries of course, but my research shows that EVs are a net benefit over petro based vehicles and on par with other bio-fueled options currently or soon to be available (more on that in a post soon).

What is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet

This post is part of sustainablog’s fundraising blogathon for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage – please consider making a donation.

Never underestimate the ability of completely erroneous information to propagate itself on the internet, especially if it makes for good headline material.

As I was doing some research on the ecological impact of the internet I kept coming across references to how two Google searches creates more carbon than making a pot of tea and how the internet uses almost 10% of the electricity in the US and may some day account for 50%. From what I can tell all of these are gross exaggerations and I won’t even bother linking to them.

The first issue is that some reports attribute all the energy used by home computers to the impact of the internet. While its true that the internet has probably increased the number of home computers and the amount of time spent on them, its hard to tell how much to attribute to the internet. Plus, more computer use has often meant less time in front of a TV, which maybe balances things out. I personally think its best to separate home computer impact and the impact of servers and internet infrastructure. See my post on reducing your computer’s eco impact for more on the former.

How Much Electricity Does the Internet Use

The internet is very electricity intensive. There are millions of servers that run 24/7 to provide us with all those billions of web pages and emails. These servers are generally collected together in ’server farms’ which then require air conditioning to keep them from overheating.

How You Can Reduce Your Computer’s Electricity Use to a Sustainable Level

Biking for the Blogathon

Biking for the Blogathon

For today’s blogathon-fundraiser we are trying to power our computer via pedal power but pedaling is certainly not the answer to all of our energy needs. America’s electricity use per capita is over 35 kilowatt-hours per day. If you wanted to supply all that energy via pedal power, each person would need to bike at full speed for 118 hours per day. In other words it would take the entire population of the US and China pedaling 24/7 to generate enough electricity for the current US demands. Or…

Conservation is almost always a key element to meeting our needs in a sustainable way. Before we look at alternative power or fuels it is best to look at reducing our demands. Once we are consuming less, sustainable sources of power are a lot more realistic.

How you can reduce your computer’s power consumption

Your average desktop computer uses between 150 and 300 watts while it is running. Your first step in conserving energy is to turn off your computer when you are not using it or at least make sure that its power management settings are configured to have it sleep or hibernate when it is not in use. It used to be that people worried about wearing out disk drives from turning computers on and off, but that is not really an issue any longer, given modern drive technology and the typical lifespan of a computer these days. This is the most important thing you can do to save power – make sure your computer is sleeping or off when you are not using it.

DIY Bicycle Generator From Cordless Drill

Today there is  a blogathon happening at Dancing Rabbit. Its a fundraiser so please consider donating to Dancing Rabbit.

We’ve been promoting the blog as being Pedal Powered but the company that was supposed to ship us the pedal powered generator never shipped the product! Annoying…

So last night I went into McGyver mode to see if I could come up with some way to power the blog with a bicycle. I had less than 24 hours, so I had to use what was on site or could maybe go to an auto parts store (in the end I didn’t have to). Here’s what I came up with:

First I found an old training stand and mounted my bike on it.

Bike on Training Stand

Bike Mounted on Training Stand

Then I found an old cordless drill that I hadn’t used in years because it wouldn’t go in reverse. I hooked up some wires to where the battery would connect and then connected it to the training stand.

Cordless Drill For Bike Generator

Cordless Drill For Bike Generator

Then I found a pocket inverter that would convert 12 Volt Dc to 120 Volt AC and hooked that up to the wires coming from the drill.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/22/10

Hi everyone. This is Alline with all the news that’s fit to print (and then some!) from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

On Wednesday Bob celebrated his birthday in the traditional Rutledge way with coffee and donuts at Zimmerman’s. We’re not sure exactly sure which one of the Rutledge Renegades started this custom, but we sure like it!

Amy and Juan’s son Jolyon also had a birthday this week. It was his first, and he had the parties to prove it! Joly’s grandparents came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota and a great-grandmother, lovingly nicknamed “Chiquita,” came all the way from Argentina. Involved in the celebrations were three cakes, lunch at the Mercantile, several hundred balloons, and a time capsule for him to open in twenty years. The time capsule proved to be especially thought-provoking – what kind of technology will we have in twenty years, and what would be the most appropriate medium with which to communicate? Joly seemed just has content with a tea strainer as with his new wood train, puzzle and books, and charmed everyone with his sunny personality. He told me that he had a great time, and is looking forward to turning two.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/15/10

So it was another smashing good week at Dancing Rabbit. The cloudy weather continued throughout the week keeping us in low power and restricted in our lifestyles. It seems like we went from bitter cold winter to now having a string of nights without freezing temperatures and with lots of rain. The weather has made this a poor maple sugaring year as the sap hasn't been running much. The mud pit that is DR in the spring deepened with the warm weather and made for difficult maneuvering within the village and out on the gravel roads. We had to have a load of rock dropped in front of the machine shed so we could park our vehicles without getting them stuck in mud. Some friends of Brian Toomey got stuck on the western section of Woehrle and when our 4WD truck was sent to the rescue it got stuck as well.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/8/10

Hi friends! This is Alline writing this week for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

As the snow melts the mud appears, we try to maintain good attitudes as we glop about in the International Mud Headquarters. UPS and FedEx will no longer come down our road because it is so very muddy, rutted and not for the faint of heart. Fortunately Charlie, our USPS mail carrier, is made of sterner stuff – a little mud doesn’t faze him, and we find mail in our mailboxes each day. Thanks Charlie!

Not to worry about us though – we have our trusty 4WD truck, and we know how to use it. There is something very empowering about plowing through seemingly impassable mire. Perhaps we are once again proving that since we don’t have television we are very easy to entertain.

Nani, Elle and Jen have gone traipsing off to North Carolina ostensibly to bring Jeff home; however, I suspect that the lure of a warmer clime was also a motivator. We expect them back any day. Friends of the Carletons, Bonnie Marciante and her son Ben, arrived for a 10-day stay, and we are delighted to see them again. The result of Ben’s arrival has been a roving herd of boys running around the village (Duncan, Ben, Morgan, Enzio, and sometimes Morgan and Ewan) playing with obnoxious (to me) but beloved (to them) toys called Bionicals. Bionacals are apparently plastic Lego robotish things with names like Takanuva and Lesovikk. They have claws, wings, and (re)moveable parts. Wild stories and plots, alliances, attacks and triumphs seem to be part of the imaginative play. Clearly 52 year-old women are not the target audience; the boys, though, are captivated, and spend hours creating (and destroying) civilizations.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 3/1/10

Ted here with this week's news from Dancing Rabbit.

My week began with an unexpected twist. Aurelia and I, headed back from a weekend wedding in Florida on our first trip together without Sara, made it as far as Quincy on the train from Chicago, only to find that the latest bout of falling snow meant our ride couldn't make it to ferry us home. Our truck, which might have made it, happened to be in the shop for a brake job. We stayed the night in a hotel, and I must confess I felt a sadness to be so close to home yet still stranded, particularly after having spent the previous day building sandcastles on a Gulf coast beach, but Aurelia stayed buoyant throughout, raising my spirits. We passed the hours reading book after book in the local library until Sara had raised some of our neighbors to plow the road so that a car could be sent for us. It was a short trip all in all, but I couldn't recall having been more glad to be home at last. Thanks to our friends with plows, and Sara for her rescue work!

The delay meant that I'd missed the final day of our retreat, which was sad, but most business was wrapped up satisfactorily, and each villager was soon back at his or her winter routine, sunlight slowly melting the accumulated snow cover and keeping spirits high.

Sara and I celebrate our birthdays back to back each February, and Sara celebrated hers in part by joining in on a workshop Tuesday afternoon on a Chinese medicine-based therapy called Tui-Na. This is one of the primary therapies Tamar has pursued in her healing process, and to which she attributes her excellent progress in healing from cancer. Tamar had invited a practitioner of Tui-Na from Fairfield, Iowa to come down and lead the workshop. All attendees I spoke found the workshop valuable, and I was glad to see our abilities to maintain health and wellness in the community growing deeper.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 2/22/10

Aloha All, Nani from Dancing Rabbit. We have had a great week.

Fun and hard work were our themes at Dancing Rabbit this week. Many of us worked hard at having a ton o fun, while others had fun working hard at our annual retreat. Our second week of retreat meetings went very well. We accomplished a great deal of work in a relatively short period of time. We laughed, we cried (I believe there was some onion chopping at some point), and we reached consensus. Having more of our friends back home was a treat as it always is.  The saddest update is that the 15-foot snow creation from two weeks ago could not take the heat any longer - during one of our very productive meetings, our snow man (or woman) lost his/her head. The good news is that since the meltdown a double-sided snow being has arisen. Our new sculpture was double sided and very artistically done. And then…it snowed even more and where once there were faces on our snow person, there is fuzziness! The Yeti has come to town.

Nathan being home again has brought back more sledding in our lives. Our kids and big kids have been carving some serious sled snow at Vista De La Moo. Please pardon me if my snow lingo isn’t quite right, but they looked like they were having some serious fun up there. Speaking of fun, it’s been funny listening to stories about cars getting stuck on our crazy roads. It is only funny because everyone involved made out all right. I really enjoy hearing stories about how people get out of their fixes. Those that are able to drive despite the weather are like shiny heroes to me, it’s absolutely amazing to this warm weathered woman that they can get anywhere in the heavy snow. However, even my best and brightest heroes have had to push cars to the side and walk home. We have great friends and neighbors here though, as our roads have been plowed. Yay! Perhaps we'll go to Zimmerman’s cafe tomorrow?

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