Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nazis, Arizona and the Power of the Printed Word

Growing up in 1960’s suburban California, where everything was bright, sunny and new, I could not comprehend Nazi Germany. Watching the TV news in elementary school I saw student riots at Berkeley and Kent state; Stokley Carmichel, Angela Davis and other Black Panthers clad in leather standing on the steps of the Oakland City Hall; rock concerts; and Moratoriums for Peace. I didn’t understand much of it, but there seemed to be a general sense of empowerment – demand what you want, stand up for your rights.

Fast forward to the summer when I was 17. Craving a great tan AND intellectual stimulation, I spent my afternoons laying on a lounge in the backyard reading all of the WWII books by Leon Uris. Beginning with Exodus, I then raced through Mila 18 (Warsaw Ghetto), Battle Cry (Marines in the Pacific Islands), Armageddon (Berlin after the war), and QB VII (fictional libel lawsuit similar to real-life suit against Uris). At dinner each night I would badger my parents (who themselves had been teenagers during WWII) with question after question. “How could the people of Germany (Poland, Austria) let this happen?! Why didn’t the United States DO something? How could no one know?” At 17 things are black & white; I was incensed - how could this have happened???

Years later I found Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi.
I finally began to comprehend the slow and insidious way the Nazis wormed their way into German society. What I remember most about the book is how they started with the re-education of the children, who then were rewarded and praised for turning in adults who were Jews, or spoke poorly of the Fuhrer. It was stunning, and terrifying. But I was still pissed off and wholly uncompassionate regarding German citizens.

Last night I finished Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.
It was magnificent. It deals with soul-shredding shame, with choices that no one should ever have to make, with the everyday gnawing hunger that all Germans (with the exception on Nazi officers) faced as the war went on, anti-Semitism, brutal cruelty, bravery, and lives totally ruined. I don’t want to write about the plot at all, because the way it unfolds is marvelous. Do not read the back cover, or any spoiler reviews. Just get the book, and read it.

What does this have to do with living in an eco-village? I’m not quite sure. But I think that the more understanding I have of people in difficult situations the more compassionate I will be. I tend towards judgment, and personal bias, and often forget that people are individuals and not just cogs in a big wheel. It also makes me think of what is happening in Arizona lately, where the police now have to freedom to stop anyone who looks Hispanic and demand papers. I find this exceedingly odd in a country made up largely of immigrants.

What is wrong with this picture? How about "My family and I are here, so now let's close the door"?

While I hesitate to make comparisons to Nazi Germany, the fear and the hatred sure seem similar. It is not a direction I want our country to go in. And yet, NPR says that while many folks are boycotting Arizona, “…the immigration legislation cuts both ways. A recent Gallup Poll shows most Americans are in favor of it. And ever since the governor signed the bill, supporters from other states have written to local news agencies to say they're considering a move to Arizona.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mother's Day at the Mercantile

Photo credit: JudyStalus on Flickr

Hi friends. Just wanted to give you advance notice that the Milkweed Mercantile is serving Brunch on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 9th from 9:00 am -2:00 pm.

We’ll have a full Brunch menu, including:
  • Classic Eggs Benedict made with Primmer's Pastured Ham, Homemade English Muffins, and farm-egg Hollandaise
  • Blueberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast served with real maple syrup
  • Quiche with sundried tomatoes, feta and nettles served with a small salad
(May I stop here just for a second and say just how much we love Anthony?)

We’ll also have specials for children.

Photo Credit: RickBucich on Flickr

Rise and Shine meets Bottoms Up
We’ll be serving a variety of morning cocktails and “mocktails:” from Bellinis and Mimosas to Virgin Sunrises, we've got you covered.

All meals feature our own bread, house-made organic cheese made from organic raw local milk, pastured local meats, farm-fresh eggs from happy chickens, and organic produce. We serve Coffee (roasted in Minneapolis ) and SerendipiTea, both organic and Fair Trade.

Photo credit: JudyStalus on Flickr

Spring Flowers

In cooperation with Danette at Countryside Flowers we’re making it easy for you to pre-order a gorgeous spring bouquet which will be waiting at your table when you and your partner/wife/mom/mother-in-law/date/sister/friend/surrogate arrive. Bouquets can include your choice of lilies, daisies, gerbera daisies, larkspur, snapdragon, carnations, stock and spray roses (which come 4-5 blossoms on a stem). Let us know how much you’re interested in spending, and we’ll take care of the rest. $25-$60

A Relaxing Massage at the Mercantile
We have arranged for Nani to do four 75-minute massages on Mother’s Day. Massages will be given in a quiet, private room upstairs in the Mercantile. We’ll provide the music, essential oils, sheets and ambiance - you provide the recipient. Each massage will be followed by a light, refreshing snack. Sliding scale $60-$80

Please make your reservations by Wednesday, May 5th to ensure a seat, bouquet and/or massage.

After the event we'll post pictures - it's bound to be a great day!

If you build it, they will come.

Brian, Apple and Ali sing for the crowd

Oh, my. Be careful what you wish for because sometimes your wishes really do come true!

Anthony preparing Chickpea Fries with Spicy Pimenton Sauce for the Grand Opening

Local friends peruse the buffet.

We had the official Grand Opening of the Milkweed Mercantile two Saturdays ago. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Lots of folks showed up, we had musicians playing and singing, and the food, of course, was amazing. More Grand Opening photos here.

La Quercia charcuterie (from Norwalk, Iowa)

Then last Saturday we opened for lunch, and were delighted to have a full house once again. It was the day of the regularly scheduled DR tour and Bob brought the group to the Mercantile as the last stop. It began to rain, then pour, so the entire group came in for a beer, and then sat on the porch for a few hours discussing Dancing Rabbit and "waiting for the rain to stop." Then a really fun group of students from Knox College came for a tour. They come every other year - last time they were here they stayed for the No-Talent Show that was happening and were a bit hit. Serendipity abounds, and a No-Talent Show was scheduled - Liat invited them to stay. By the time the show was over, it had been raining hard for about six hours, and there was no way they were going to get to Sandhill Farm (where they were scheduled to spend the night) on our muddy, rutted roads. So they spent the night, scattered here and there, in the common house and on the Mercantile porch.

The Judys

And that's still not the end! We were thrilled to meet Jan and Greg Judy of Green Pastures Farm. They do a "mob grazing" style of raising pastured beef. It is not only good for the animals (and for us by producing healthier meat) but it is good for the land, too. We sat and talked through dinner, mesmerized, and all got very excited about this method of farming. I am SO not doing a good job of explaining this, but promise to do better later. In the meantime check out their website. We're hoping to host Greg here at the Mercantile to do a workshop on October 9th, 2010.

The Milkweed Mercantile Bar by candlelight

Last, but certainly not least, is the reception that our "bar" is receiving. We're currently holding Happy Hour Thursday - Sunday; we usually close at 9:00 but have been known to go as late as 10:00 p.m. Not exactly a wild time but a comfortable place to come and have a drink and chat with friends, new and old. After a week of rain we finally ran out of power and had to shut off the inverter (to save the batteries). So we lit a bunch of candles (many in beer bottles - Marth Stewart has nothing on us in the decor department!) and carried on. It was great fun. Anthony took the photo (above) from his phone while tending bar.

So things are good. Business continues to increase every day, and we are really enjoying ourselves. Life is fantastic!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blog-a-thon for Dancing Rabbit

Hi all! The Milkweed Mercantile is currently hosting a blog-a-thon to raise money for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Inspiration for the event comes from Jeff McIntire-Strasburg of Sustainablog.org.

Dancing Rabbit's newest members, Dennis and Sharon demonstrate the pedal-powered computer as Dan and Tony McGuyver with the controls. In the foreground, Nathan and Jeff.

Juan, Dan, Sheila and Sharon play cards.

Dan pedals to power the computer. Sharon supervises.

Papa Bear, Zane and Alyssa.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Impact Man - Let's all have no impact!

The following post was written for the Memphis (Missouri) Democrat, as part of a regular series on Dancing Rabbit.

Hi all. This is Alline with the latest news from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Things here at Dancing Rabbit are pretty much the same – folks coming home from holiday travel, others leaving for trips. Gatherings, dinners, and our first snowfall of the year – yay!

But what has been on my mind most lately is movies. Last night we watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” It features two of my personal heroes; Michael Pollan, the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (http://www.michaelpollan.com/), and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (http://www.polyfacefarms.com/). Among other things it focuses on the importance of small local farms, of being aware of where our food comes from, and just exactly what it in it.

I also previewed the documentary film “No-Impact Man” in preparation for this weekend’s free public screenings at the Milkweed Mercantile. I wasn’t sure what to expect – the film is billed as “Colin Beavan and his family turn their small Manhattan apartment into the site of an experiment in radical non-consumption.” They go off the grid for a full year—while still living in New York City—to see if it’s possible to make no net impact on the environment.

There are many parallels between the No Impact Project and Dancing Rabbit that, for me, elicited a kind of kindred admiration for the Beavans. While the project was, admittedly, a ploy for his next book, he genuinely wanted to learn how one person could make a difference. By doing so, he opened himself up to criticism and ridicule. No where in the movie or book does he suggest that others do what he is doing. But when the New York Times gets wind of the No Impact Project they write a sneering article, calling the project “an ethically murky exercise in self-promotion.”

Here at Dancing Rabbit we’ve spent countless hours with reporters and journalists, documentary makers and students – sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they completely miss the point. The New York Times focused on the Beavans’ lack of toilet paper (the article was entitled “The Year Without Toilet Paper”) while the Colbert Report honed in on DR’s composting toilets. The Beavans learned what members of Dancing Rabbit continue to learn – living one’s life in a demonstration community, willing to showcase both the successes as well as the challenges, is not for the faint of heart.

The evolution of Colin and Michelle’s marriage was much more entertaining that many soap operas; this also struck a bell of recognition. Michelle’s disdain for “nature” was hilarious, and reminiscent of the attitudes of many of our friends who don’t quite get why we’re living in rural Missouri.

About halfway through, the film takes a surprising turn. Colin starts to seem more humble and less domineering, and Michelle turns from whiny skeptic to good sport. The family bikes around the city and cooks organic food by candlelight, and the no-impact regimen mutates from family issue to family adventure. We get to watch Colin and Michelle deal with questions that we at Dancing Rabbit ask ourselves every day – how much of what we consume really adds value to our life vs. how much of it is filler, or worse, inhibits us from living our lives to the fullest? The Beavan family discovers that when they remove many things from their lives, they spend more time enjoying each other instead of wandering around the mall or staring at the television. They discover that eating locally and using human-powered transportation result in reversing pre-diabetes indicators and losing 20 pounds. They discover that their 2 year old daughter really enjoys gardening and the beach and riding on a bicycle. (One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Isabella sees fireflies for the first time.) Without No Impact Project they'd have missed out on all of those discoveries.

I think that in the end the movie presents us with a choice: instead of casting environmental activists as either hypocritical or self-righteous, are we able to watch the movie and then find a change in our own lives that will not only reduce our negative impact on society but also more positively impact our life? It could be more human-powered transportation, more local food, buying fewer new and more used goods, having things repaired instead of replaced, adjusting that thermostat, improving one’s home to be more energy efficient, buying 100% green energy through the utility company, drinking less bottled water... or any other number of things. We all have the opportunity to make a choice: how will the world be better today because of our/your changes?

So come see for yourself. The movie will be shown at the Milkweed Mercantile at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage Friday, December 11th at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 12th at 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 13th at 2:00 p.m. Admission is free. For directions please call 883-5634.

The Milkweed Mercantile has donated a copy of both the “No Impact Man” book and film to the Scotland County Library in Memphis.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Milkweed Mercantile Hosts Its First Event!

The weekend of October 23rd the Milkweed Mercantile hosted its first event. We're not quite ready for prime time (we cooked the food in our house and hauled it over to the Mercantile) but it was a fantastic "dress rehearsal" and a lot of fun.

The stage was set - Danielle and Mary Beth (along with Ramin Rahamian, who took the photos here) arranged leaves, pods and stalks of locally-gathered vegetation and candles on the mantle. The table, set up in the middle of the room, was set with with sterling flatware, more leaves and candles, while the store's merchandise took a back seat. A fire blazed in the fireplace, adding ambiance and warmth.

The party, hosted by Ma'ikwe Schaub Ludwig, was a surprise 60th birthday bash for her husband Laird. Two of his sisters, a nephew, his daughter and a pair of friends all traveled from out of state to be here. Also attending the party were members of Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms.

First we served dinner and dessert, then it was time for Laird to open his gifts.


Telling stories...

The next day, Saturday, the Mercantile catered a picnic lunch out at Ma'ikwe's house (which is currently under construction). Saturday evening we were back in the Mercantile space with two cakes (a maple cake and a vegan carrot cake) for 30.

I promise, I was never going to stab Laird with the knife, in spite of what it looks like below:

It was a fabulous weekend. Laird & Ma'ikwe's guests were incredibly gracious and an absolute delight. Mary Beth proved herself to be a divine bartender, and Danielle impressed us all with her skills in the kitchen. I am excited to know that not only did we pull it off, but there were no disasters, mishaps or even fumbles. Our Field of Dreams staffing method ("if you build it, they will come") seems to be paying off. And in March our chef comes, and the whole thing will really take off.

We look forward to hosting YOU at a future event - heck - we can hardly wait!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aligning My Nose With My Values

Photo Credit: Alienmeatsack on Flickr

It’s no secret that I love hankies.

Granted, I used to think they were tremendously un-cool. My only positive hanky experience was my friend Denise. She carried them in her purse all during high school and didn’t suffer any diminution of coolness. Somehow she made them coordinate with her platform shoes and micro minis (it was the 70’s).

Photo Credit: KellyandApril on Flickr

But to me, hankies were for grandmothers, or really old people. To many of the people currently at Dancing Rabbit, I qualify for the latter, but I digress.

Seven reasons I love hankies:
  1. I have allergies and so always seem to need one
  2. Paper tissues have a tendency to shred after one little blow. Euuwww.
  3. If I accidentally leave a paper tissue in a pocket of something that goes through the wash, ALL of the clothes in that load are covered with a plethora of little white fibers.
  4. Puppies, movies, and a perfect crème brulee make me cry. It is good to be prepared (I was a girl scout, after all).
  5. Hankies are way more eco than blowing one’s nose on trees.
  6. When you hang a hanky outside to dry after laundering, you get to inhale the smell of sunshine the next time you use it.
  7. Men shouldn't get to have all the fun!

Photo Credit: Vanigliavvelenata_two on Flickr

What brought on this current hanky rant? The Milkweed Mercantile is debuting our own line of Organic Cotton Flannel Hankies. Unable to find any reasonably-priced organic cotton hankies, I decided that it was time for the sisters to do it for ourselves. So our Artisan Co-op purchased fabric, a serger and now we’re in business. Meadow has become Mighty Queen of the Serger, and we’re all quite pleased with ourselves. Our hankies are not machine-perfect; they are hand-guided through a serger by a real live person (in this case, Meadow), and may reflect an occasional less-than-precise corner. However, we consider this part of their charm; we think you will, too.

Soft, organic hanky, available only from the Milkweed Mercantile

Meadow makin' hanky magic

So check ‘em out. And if you don't want to buy hankies, you can easily make your own - all you need is some soft fabric and a sewing machine to zig-zag around the edges. Heck, if you're not fussy, you don't even need a sewing machine!

Please consider using fabric hankies instead of paper tissues. The trees and your grandmother would approve.