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!