Monan's Rill Community


Savoring Spring In So Many Ways

Spring at the Rill has been lively! We’ve been able to watch the lush recovery of our land in real time. Birdlife, fungi, lizards and snakes, jackrabbits, new fawns, oak shoots, stump-sprouting toyon and madrone, honeybees (finally), and the flowers. The flowers! If you have been following us on Instagram you have seen some of the flowers. We were told they would come and we were not let down.

In charcoal-rich places where we reseeded, we have also welcomed a lush carpet of native grass, with small dabs of lupine and poppy. We will seed more before the rains next fall, after our salvage logging is done. We are removing burned firs on the southern slope of our ridge, in order to restore an oak savannah ecosystem. (Many thanks to Pepperwood Preserve for treading this tender ground before us – it hurts to see any tress come down, even when we know there is a larger reason.)

We have also been growing ourselves as human beings through this time. We held a small Easter gathering, to celebrate community. We are working with Kate Sassoon, a community facilitator rich in experiences with different kinds of cooperative groups, to reground in consensus decision-making for the long rebuilding road ahead. And we also have started planning and visioning our rebuild with the help of the amazing Robin Stephani of 8th Wave, a local architecture firm devoted to climate- and fire-resilient, affordable Sonoma County housing.

This coming Saturday, May 1st, we are celebrating spring in the way we know best – by connecting with the land and each other. We are hosting a Bioblitz, a citizen science project that brings teams of people together to gather information about local biodiversity. You can read about it in this lovely Press-Democrat article:

https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/lifestyle/watch-for-wildlife-at-burned-down-monans-rill-this-saturday/

And if there is space left, you can sign up though our link tree here: https://linktr.ee/monansrill

While all this life is blossoming, we don’t want to sugarcoat the process. There’s a lot of hard physical and emotional work going on. Just today, the excavators arrived to start the debris cleanup on all of our burnt homes, well, garden shed, barn, community toy shed, and more. It still hurts. We are so grateful for all the ongoing support, through our GoFundMe, through our community workdays, and through sheer emotional connection. Thank you so much.



The Promise of Oak Restoration

The Promise of Oak Restoration 

One of the hardest things about this fire has been its impact on the trees. Yes, those of us who lost homes are grieving our homes, in our different ways. But we all share in the sadness of losing countless beautiful, beloved trees: many firs – including one that sheltered the ashes of a community founder; gorgeous oaks that graced our homes and barn; at least one maple – which always delivered a precious shock of vivid spring green or glowing autumn yellow as the year turned; and countless madrones and manzanitas, with their smooth tawny barks. 

Some of these were lost to the Glass Fire itself; they toppled or charred as it moved through, or soon after.  Some were declared hazard trees by PG&E or AT&T in the fire’s immediate wake, and were cut down. Some we have removed ourselves, as we know they will not recover. And PG&E is back on our land now, taking down trees they marked “P2” (Phase 2) that are in danger of falling on power lines. Later this year, we will engage a forester to manage salvage logging in some areas of our forest, taking out dead firs that can be used for lumber, reducing fuel load in the process.

We know that there is so much work to be done to heal and restore and rejuvenate this landscape we tend. We need to be on the lookout for erosion, invasives, and impacts on the habitat of our non-human neighbors.  Out of all of this, though, something beautiful is emerging: a commitment to oak restoration. 

Thankfully we have so many local resources and leaders to turn to, in order to understand how to do this work. Pepperwood Preserve, our watershed neighbor, burned in the Tubbs Fire of 2017, and its scientists and educators have a lot to teach us. Recently, a few of us attended a Pepperwood webinar on the indigenous meaning and tending of black oaks, taught by Clint McKay, Pepperwood’s Indigenous Education Coordinator, a member of Pepperwood’s Native Advisory Council and of the Wappo, Pomo and Wintun communities. (Monan’s Rill is situated on the homeland of the Wappo / Onasatis people.)  

The acorns of the beautiful black oak provide sustenance for the Onasatis people and many of their non-human siblings. In his teaching, McKay told us about Pepperwood’s Black Oak Project. They identified 60 healthy specimen black oaks and studied their microenvironment. In order to replicate this health in other trees, they conducted microburns, removed invasives, and thinned the forest. At Monan’s Rill we have done some of this kind of work, in partnership with the NRCS EQIP program and Fire Forward, and now the Glass Fire has given us an opportunity to rethink large swathes of our land. We know that “oak woodlands” in northern California do not usually look the way they did when they were stewarded by indigenous communities, and that our mountains in particular have experienced a long stretch of fir overgrowth and oak crowding. How can we use this moment of devastation to plant beauty, share resources more wisely, and cultivate a healthier relationship with the earth we walk upon?

Some of us will walk with Clint McKay at Pepperwood this spring, to learn about black oaks and other plants and trees important to our local indigenous communities. We are also in conversation with longtime oak arborist Dave Muffly, learning about oak propagation methods that we could use here at the Rill. All of this is happening in concert with our work with Friends of the Mark West Watershed and the Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group, striving for watershed health and large-scale vegetation management for fire safety. 

This is undeniably a challenging time for us at the Rill, and we are buoyed by the vision of a healthier forest and planet. We are humbled by what we continue to learn about indigenous land stewardship practices. We are nourished by the promise of oak woodland restoration.  

(Photo credit: Pepperwood)

p.s. You can support our work on oak restoration, and community restoration more broadly, through our GoFundMe donation page. Thank you so much!



Madeline’s Tree
January 23, 2021, 5:14 am
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Madeline’s Tree

At the top of the lower meadow and pasture is Madeline’s Tree, named after one of the founders of Monan’s Rill, who died peacefully at home on this land and whose ashes are buried under a rock cairn at the base.

This sacred great grandmother tree has watched over our house at the Rill since long before it was built, embraced me in morning meditation during shelter in place last spring, and helped me find strength and clarity as I returned to the land after the fire in the fall.

Although the top branches are still green, an arborist has told us that the fire did so much damage that this tree has a very small chance of survival. So it is coming down, we are letting go, and feeling the loss.

I woke up this morning with the song “Clearcut,” by my former JED Collective housemates Ethan Miller and Kate Boverman, in my heart. As I expected, I can’t find a recording anywhere on the internet. I think I still have the CD, but if I do it is in the house below Madeline’s tree that we still haven’t moved back into. The house that is surrounded by a burned landscape and so many trees, both dead and alive, that are being cut down by PG&E contractors every day.

The chorus, which is what has been singing inside me since I woke up, goes:

I feel like I’m clearcut
I feel like my rivers have run dry
And I’m raw beneath the open sky
and the rain, when it comes,
will carry me away in a landslide

There are many verses to the song but these lines resonate most with me today:

If this broken world was all I knew
If all I hear was sorrow’s cry
What would I know of anger and hope
Or for what would be worthy to die?

But I have seen forests as old as riverbeds
I’ve seen trees that rise up to the dawn
And I have known love that rises above
The despair that this cruel world brings on

I’ve seen beauty in the eyes of another
I’ve heard music you would not believe
And the source of my pain is the source of my hope
In a vision of what this world could be

-Thea @farmerthea – 6-year resident of Monan’s Rill



Community Renewal

Community Renewal

It is hard to capture the tumult and sadness and hope and laughter of the past few months at Monan’s Rill. Though we have had to stop holding community workdays, we are still gathering every Saturday to do the work of repair and rejuvenation that we can do on our own. We have salvaged garden tools and fencing, built a new goat shed, trenched for water and septic and internet lines, removed dead trees where we can and hauled brush to careful burn piles, dug out invasive grasses and reseeded with native grasses and lupine and poppy. This weekend we pruned and mulched the raspberries, which are already sprouting!

We also have been meeting regularly, often over Zoom, to use consensus as we face this moment. We also gathered on Zoom for our Winter Solstice celebration, and for Christmas Day storytelling, and New Year’s Eve bingo!

And we have walked the land. As individuals and in small groups, we have meditated, sang, cried, rested on the healing earth. We also set up a Building and Design Committee and walked possible house sites, imagining the future. We are on our way.

You can still give to the Rill. Everything we have received through the GoFundMe has helped the efforts above, and every donation will help keep us going.

You can also sign up to receive our new e-newsletter. We will keep you up to date on our renewal work, and let you know when we can open for community workdays again. They were such big, beautiful, joyous and helpful events! And you can also follow us on Instagram @monansrill.

Thank you for everything you have done to help keep this dream alive.



Community Works
December 3, 2020, 7:41 pm
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Community Works (and workdays postponed)

UPDATE 12/3: Community still works! AND in the interest of public health and all of our safety, we have decided to honor the spirit of Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order and cancel volunteer workdays for at least the remainder of this month. Thanks and love to all of you who have come and who have wanted to come. We’ll do our best without you! And we look forward to working – and maybe even breaking bread someday – again by your side.


It has been over two months since the fire. We are filled with gratitude to all the helpers who have showed up – some multiple times and from far away – to do the meaningful work of healing and recovery.

We are holding weekly Covid-safe volunteer workdays on Saturdays, and together we have finished mulching the garden beds to protect the soil before the rains (and to keep the moisture in), cleared half of the ditched of leaves and debris, found important propane and water lines to prepare for repair, and got wattles in place around almost all of our burned structures to protect the watershed from toxins in the ash.

This is amazing! Community works. In both small and large ways.

Because the laughter and the conversation and the breaking bread (safely) together have been just as healing as the hands on tools and in the earth. Thank you.

If you would like to keep up to date on what we are doing, what needs to be done, and our vision for a beautiful climate-resilient rebuild, please subscribe to our newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/f27c758d4d3d/monansrill

And you can also follow us on Instagram @monansrill

Our lower meadow right after the Glass Fire.
Our lower meadow last week. Healing happens. We know this to be true.


Fire Recovery at the Rill
November 10, 2020, 10:55 pm
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Fire Recovery at the Rill

It’s been over a month now since the Glass Fire took our homes and scorched our land, and we are busy doing the healing and recovery work, sustained by relationships with our broader community and by our connection to this land.

Thea writes: life is already coming back to the land. and new ideas are germinating for how we can renew and restore and revitalize our intentional community after wildfire. we are dreaming about mycoremediation and forest stewardship, replanting our garden and a new south-facing orchard, building a greenhouse and a barn that are more functional and spacious than what burned, bringing animals back to the land, and making heaps and heaps of biodynamic compost. we are dreaming about new homes with flexible floor plans that allow for different household configurations over time, built with cutting edge materials that are ecologically friendly, fire resistant, and support energy efficient heating and cooling, with rainwater catchment on every roof.

We are also working with fire ecologists, our local Resource Conservation District, and CoRenewal to learn about the way fire moved across the land, and to heal the land through bioremediation.

NRCS helped us tested the water infiltration for the soil on our burned chaparral hillsides, and were relieved to find that the water soaked in pretty quickly. Here’s hoping for gentle rains that soak into this bare slope and allow the soil to stay put while the plants regenerate.

Tomorrow Taylor Bright from CoRenewal will be guiding us in the placement of a novel technology called mycowattles. These will help researchers (and us!) understand how fungi can protect sensitive aquatic ecosystems from the toxic ash and debris of buildings burned in catastrophic wildfires

We held our first post-wildfire community workday this past weekend, to dig a trench and lay a new spring line. It felt so good to all of us to be together on the land, and return to the rhythm of community work and gathering that has been established for more than four decades. The nature of the work and the topics for discussion have changed dramatically, but the heart of Monan’s Rill is still alive and well. We will be working and meeting on the land every Saturday for at least the next month, and welcome helping hands to join us. Workday is 9am-12pm, and you can stick around for BYO lunch and afternoon meeting if you like. We hope to get an organized volunteer sign up process in place soon, but in the meantime please contact info@monansrill.org if you would like to join us. We’d love to have you!

And sign up here to receive our Monan’s Rill newsletter, when we get it going! https://mailchi.mp/f27c758d4d3d/monansrill

Lastly, if you have already made a gift to help us recover and rebuild @monansrill, thank you! And if you haven’t yet, please consider a generous contribution today. You can help us build a model for fire adapted, climate resilient, and joyful community living in healthy relationship with each other and the land. https://www.gofundme.com/f/SupportMonansRill

#lifeatmonansrill #wildfirerecovery #intentionalcommunity #intentionalliving #firerecovery #climateresilience