Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

We spent three weeks at Dancing Rabbit as part of their visitor program. There were 10 visitors in our group, half of whom stayed for the full three weeks. While our experience at Dancing Rabbit was very different from that at Lost Valley, I believe that each community is well structured to achieve its individual goals.


The single common goal shared among Dancing Rabbit members is ecological sustainability. The only rules that everyone agrees to are the ecological covenants, which are few and easily interpreted, so that they rarely come into question. The last thing the Rabbits want to do is create a police force which has to run around making sure everyone is following the rules. There are no restrictions on diet, ideology, religion, economic philosophy, or any type of -ism. [UPDATE: Feminism is a stated value at DR.] This more loosely knit infrastructure allows for greater diversity and growth. Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage intends to grow to a size of 500-1000 people. At this size, the village would be able to support niche professions like a full-time baker or a doctor. The membership process at Dancing Rabbit is more akin to picking good neighbors, than it is to the “marrying in” process at Lost Valley.


Dancing Rabbit is “off the grid,” meaning that they generate all of their electricity locally. This is currently done by each building through individual solar panels and/or windmills.
The common house has its own solar panels and set of (30-ish) batteries. The battery level is checked every morning and a color-coded energy level is set for the day - green means all uses are approved; yellow means that luxurious uses such as music and web surfing are discouraged; orange is low, so only essential uses are allowed; finally red is the lowest level before full-shutdown. The level was green most of the time that we were there, only dipping down into yellow a couple of times after a couple grey/rainy days in a row.Most of the water used at DR is rainwater, collected into large underground cisterns (again, arranged for each building individually). The water is filtered before human consumption. In addition to the outdoor showers, the two indoor showers have an on/off switch on the showerhead to save water during one’s shower. DR still has a connection to the county-supplied water source, in case the cisterns run low. The reliance on local energy and water management helps to highlight usage of these resources and make each member more aware of their own conservation.One of the ecological covenants of DR is to reclaim organic and recyclable materials from waste systems. This includes human waste. The Humanure Handbook is a good resource for anyone new to this concept. In practice, it didn’t take much adaptation. You still sit on a regular toilet seat, but it’s on a box with a bucket inside it. The smell is mitigated with sawdust and is really not any worse than a regular bathroom. In my opinion, the humey buckets have the added advantage that they will never splash! I had an opportunity to do a “humey shift,” helping with the dumping/cleansing process of the buckets. I would rate the “disgustingness factor” around the same as cleaning out a catbox, if done for a comparable amount of time (20-30 minutes).

After the talk about natural building and renewable energy, my understanding is that it’s much more difficult than I had previously thought. When you consider all the sustainability factors - localization, natural resources, labor, and try and balance them against the desired goal: a dwelling of comfortable size, built within a reasonable time frame, which is solid enough to sustain harsh conditions and will withstand the elements and effects of time - it’s a lot harder than just “cob or strawbale.” Makes me think about the relativity of sustainability.


Shared services are administered through separate co-ops. While this seems overly bureaucratic and complex at first, the system is designed to allow an increasing number of people to participate in as many or as few services as they desire, and even at 30 people, the administrative overhead does not seem to be cumbersome. Co-ops bill their members on a quarterly basis (every 3 months).

Some of the separate co-ops available are:

  • Village Commons Coop (VCC) - all Dancing Rabbit residents are in this co-op. It collects dues from everyone and organizes community-wide projects.
  • Shower co-op - indoor showers in the common building and outdoor “solar” showers. The fee covers the cost of shampoo, soap, etc.
  • Humanure co-op - allows use of the bathroom stalls in the common house and the outhouse, or use your own buckets and dump them in the common humey compost area.
  • DR Vehicle Coop (DRVC) - Allows people to reserve and use the common vehicles for $0.50/mi - personal vehicle ownership is forbidden by one of the covenants.
  • Howling coyote - local phone service (calling card required for long distance)
  • Digital Coyote (internet coop) - high-speed internet in the common building
  • Food coops - Ironweed/Bluestem, Sunflower, Bobalink - 4-5 people in each coop, each with its own labor schedule and fees.

The fee amounts of most coops are reviewed yearly - based on actual costs & number of participating members. Any excess or deficiency is balanced at the end of the year by giving a refund to each member.


The cost of living at Dancing Rabbit is very low (relative to living in the U.S.). In order to encourage growth and construction, land may be rented from the land trust at a rate of one cent per square foot. Garden land is one tenth of that price and “agriculturally” zoned land is one tenth of garden rate. However, to encourage an appropriate “village” layout, certain areas of the village are “zoned” for each rate.

Typical costs to live at Dancing Rabbit would be:

  • Membership dues - 2% of member’s income (minimum $5/mo), + 24 hours / year (minimum requirement), paid to DR Inc. Some DR members trade perform additional labor hours for credit or to trade to other DR members for money.
  • Rent - This can be variable depending on accommodations. If renting land for a building, $0.01/sq. ft./mo. If renting a room in Skyhouse, $150/mo. Bella Ciao a one-room building owned by Skyhouse, rents for $70/mo, and a tent platform can be rented for $5/mo.
  • Food - existing food co-ops at DR have fees at $5-6/day, about $150/mo
  • Utilities (phone, water, internet, etc.) - These will be participated in individually, so you only pay for the things you need to use. Everything would be about $30 / month

—- total cost to cover basic expenses (food, shelter, utilities) at Dancing Rabbit - less than $400 per month.

Local Currency
Dancing Rabbit has a complementary time-based currency called “lettuce patch.” This currency can be purchased from the “bank” at a rate of US$7 per DR hour. The local currency encourages DR members to trade with each other rather than look to outside sources for their needs, helping to maintain the wealth within the community.


While the bylaws of Dancing Rabbit describe a simple majority voting process, one of the early decisions was to use a consensus process for all community decisions. Tony, one of the DR founders, described the “culture of consensus” as important to maintaining group support for all major decisions. This is in contrast to a democratic system, in which the winners get their way and the losers must simply cope with the result.

The pond at DR is “clothing optional,” which means people swim naked. And not just at night or when they’re drunk. Nudism is a new thing for me, but it worked out okay. It was fun to hang out on the dock naked, but definitely took some of the sexiness out.

There are several talented musicians at DR, including guitarists, a banjo player, a trombone player, and any number of drummers. There were several sing-alongs over the three weeks (the “Rise Up Singing” songbook was a favorite), and we got to hear a few Dancing Rabbit-specific parodies like “the Humey song” and “Where I Come From.”

Sandhill had its annual Mayday celebration which included a Maypole (my first experience), tons of delicious food, home-brewed wine, beer and root beer, and a sweat lodge. The sweat lodge was another first experience and was incredible. The lodge itself was probably 3-4 feet high and maybe 10 feet wide with a small pit in the middle for the rocks. We crammed about 10 people in there. As the steam filled the lodge, sweat dribbled down our backs. Someone started chanting, then another joined in. People wove their own melodies into the chant as we shared our music in the warm, wet, darkness.

There was one point when I didn’t take a shower for 5 days (not counting the pond). I usually don’t go more than one day without showering. And I realize that the weather had a lot to do with that as well. Here in Texas, the humidity makes me feel dirty several hours after I take a shower. But in Missouri, the weather was a lot cooler, the humidity absent, and the cultural standards about B.O. were much different. That said, I never noticed anyone smelling particularly bad (certainly not any worse than some people in the computer lab at school!)

There were several game nights in the common house. “The greatest game ever played” AKA “Descriptionary” AKA “Eat poop you cat!” was a favorite. There were also plenty of board games and card games available. The Rabbits are also avid Ultimate Frisbee players. Teams are 4 people each but not fixed. People substitute in/out for both teams, so that a player may play on both teams throughout the duration of the game. Teams still scored points, but they were not tracked. The game ended when everyone wanted to quit.


I heard from several people that they felt like they didn’t have any close friends. Since there is less emphasis on interpersonal relationships at DR (as opposed to Lost Valley), I felt like people tended to be more isolated. Also, the separate food co-ops mean that people share meals with fewer people within the community. In some ways it seems that the emphasis on (and structures created for) greater diversity and growth may contribute to a devaluation of connection within the existing community. The rural location of DR could also present a problem for some people. There are less cultural opportunities (museums, live music, etc) in a rural environment, as well as fewer and less diverse people than in a city.


Because of the low cost of living and the existing ecological infrastructure, I started to have fantasies about convincing 3-4 friends to move with me to DR and start a sub-community. We would have all the advantages that DR has to offer and by starting our own subcommunity, we would have an existing support base to draw from, and several hands to help with building a house. I would like to see Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage continue to flourish and grow, but with a greater emphasis on interpersonal relationships and support.

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