Monan's Rill Community


Community Works
December 3, 2020, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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



Please support our Glass Fire Recovery
October 2, 2020, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Please Support our Glass Fire Recovery

Dear world –

We are so sad to tell you that Monan’s Rill has experienced devastating losses in the Glass Fire, which is still burning in Napa and Sonoma Counties. We are all safe, figuring out next steps as a community, but 12 of our 13 homes have burned in the fire, and the land looks very different now.

The only home left standing was handbuilt by two of the founders, Russ and Mary Jorgensen. In addition to this one home, Monan’s Rill’s community building, shop with tools and equipment, and recently installed rainwater catchment system and solar array are still intact. These will be the seeds of a beautiful rebuilding of the community, but there is so much to rebuild, and we will need your help.


https://www.gofundme.com/f/SupportMonansRill

We know the wildflowers will be rampant in the spring. We know the oaks and madrones are resilient. And we will be moving forward with vision and dedication to place, ecology, and care for one another.

Support Monan’s Rill’s recovery by giving as generously as you can to this GoFundMe, organized by family and friends:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/SupportMonansRill



Coyote House is Opening!
September 5, 2020, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Coyote House is Opening!

My great uncle always used to say “There have to be endings to be beginnings,” and it is of course true at the Rill, as well. Two of our beloved long-term members have departed, to start a new chapter in their lives. This means that one of our homes is opening as a rental.

Coyote House

At Monan’s Rill, we prioritize renting to people who are interested in long-term living and membership here, and we encourage renters to formally explore this possibility early in their time living here. We usually offer a 12-month lease for renters. However, due to the current conditions of COVID-19 and the lightning complex fires, we are right now also open to considering a shorter-term lease for those who may be in need of temporary housing. (So please do share this information – and our rental interest form – with any friends who may have lost a home.)

About MRA:

Monan’s Rill Association (MRA) is a collectively-owned intentional community on 414 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains. Our beautiful rural land is conveniently located within 20-25 minutes’ drive to Santa Rosa, Calistoga, and St. Helena. We are about 1.5 hours drive from San Francisco and the East Bay. Founded in the 1970s, MRA is centered on the core values of Honoring Every Voice, Relationships and Caring for Each Other, Stewardship, and Stability. For more about MRA, be sure to browse this site, see the recent article about us in Made Local Magazine, and check out our Instagram account!


Living at Monan’s Rill brings many benefits, including clean air and water, quiet starry nights, beautiful nature trails, and relationships with other community members across an intergenerational spectrum, from children to elders. Living here also comes with responsibilities to care for your home and for the community as a whole, working side by side with members. MRA works best for people who are actively interested in living in the country, knowing their neighbors, learning and sharing skills, and making a difference together.

About Coyote House:


One of our 13 homes, Coyote House, is available for rent beginning in October. Coyote House is a 1,373 sq. ft. two-story home with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a deck, a screened-in sleeping porch, and a 2-vehicle carport with built-in storage. It is located at the base of several of our hiking and mountain biking trails.  

Coyote House rent is $2200 per month, and includes water, sewer, trash and internet. Electricity, propane and telephone are not included. $2000 security deposit plus $500 deposit for each pet (if approved by MRA), as well as a $500 cleaning fee. Each adult renter is asked to contribute 10 hours of work per month toward caring for their home and the community, with guidance from MRA members.


If you’re interested in exploring living at Monan’s Rill, please fill out our rental interest form. We will follow up to set up an initial Zoom call with a couple of our members, followed by a COVID-safe in-person visit if it seems like a mutual good fit. 

We look forward to meeting you!

Renée and Mike getting smudged and sent off with bittersweetness and love….



Bountiful Azolla
September 4, 2020, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Bountiful Azolla

We couldn’t resist posting some photos of our azolla harvest adventure. Azolla is an aquatic fern that has transformed our two ponds. At first, we were disturbed and flummoxed. But then we discovered that azolla is an incredible plant to use in our compost, and on our garden crops. So we are evolving ways to harvest it, and to have fun in the process. Enjoy!

Uta is the first one to brave the cold water!
Chris and Milo are our resident engineers.
We got the net across the water! What now?
Onward to the garden….



Fire Drill
August 31, 2020, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Fire Drill

Note: Melinda drafted this blog post in advance of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, which at the time of writing is still burning towards Middletown and in western, heavily-timbered parts of Sonoma County. None of our fire preparation had adequately considered the kind of intense lightning events that hit the Bay Area on August 16-17, 2020. We are so lucky that any small fires in our watershed region were put out swiftly and that we never had to evacuate. And we now have a new fire watch plan for forecasts of dry summer lightning. We are, once again, newly thankful for safety, clean air, clean water, food grown from our own hands, and one another. We hope all who are reading this are safe at this time.  – Amy


“HONK! HONK! HOOONNNK!” The sound of car horns begins its ascent up the mountain through the community as an emergency alarm is started. This method of quickly communicating a message has been established here at the Rill for over 30 years—in times before cellular service and when this method was the only quick way to get a message sent over a 20-acre span of household nooks. My husband looks over at me and says, “It’s time.”

Today is our first Monan’s Rill Fire Drill. Living in community is much different than living alone in a single family household. With each California fire over the last few years, my family and I have taken it on, on our own. The Northern California firestorm of 2017 was a major wake up call for us; it nearly took our lives as we plowed our vehicles through the enflamed forest of Mendocino County. Each year since has been fraught with anxiety and fear, but this year feels different. Being held on a piece of land with stellar humans who put plans of preparedness into place is soothing for my spirit.

Jon inspects their truck that was burnt in the 2017 fires.

I am a new resident here on the land. I have been connected with this community for the better part of a decade now, but am just starting to truly dip my toes into what it is like to actually live amongst these particular neighbors, on this particular piece of land.

Jon and I look over the Fire Drill list that was dropped into everyone’s mail slots over a week ago to prepare. “Remove furniture away from windows, remove burnable items 30ft away from the outside of the home, turn off propane tank.” Many of these things (like turning off the propane) are mimed so that we can learn in our bodies what would need to be done in the event of an evacuation. I like lists, I love plans, so this whole thing puts me at ease with a since of joy and purpose.

As part of the Drill, after checking in with our immediate neighbors, we head to the community HUB. This building holds the heartbeat of the land. It is where we hold social gatherings, potlucks, celebrations, and meetings, and share information. (Well, the community did all those things pre-Covid…now we hold gatherings in open air spaces with safe distancing). In front of the building Chris and Rick are holding down a “command center,” to inform us of the events we are responding to. “There is a fire in the Northeast with winds heading in this direction; we believe everyone should evacuate,” says Chris. He is holding his role well as director of communications on the land. On the large white board pulled in front of the doors, he and Rick are checking off each family, indicating when they evacuate the land and where they will be heading—making sure every community member gets out safely.

To evacuate, we drive out on a road I have not yet driven. The car goes around new twists and turns, and I can’t help but be in awe of the new scenery. My body has a tint of a quiver of anxiety, remembering the 2 a.m. drive we made out of the Mendocino fire… how my foot could barely keep the pedal engaged due to shaking, from the amount of adrenaline pumping through my system, flames all around the car that was barely keeping my babies safe from harm. I breathe deeply, reminding my body that I am safe now, allowing my mind to enjoy that this time it is just a Drill…and how lovely it is to be somewhere where there are plans and escape routes in place.

After hitting the main road, we circle back around to the main driveway to the Rill, to debrief back at the HUB. I see Ken and Uta, a family I love deeply, behind us, and my heart sighs with relief—happy to know they are safe…even if it is “only” a drill.  

We all sit in a circle at the front of the hub, our chairs and bodies a Covid-safe distance apart. Chris is facilitating the circle and conversation. People begin to raise hands to share their experiences and consider what worked and what didn’t. One thing we quickly realized is the need to change communication tactics—to utilize cellular devices we have access to now, instead of just car horns. It is awkward to be confronted with the slowness of collective adaptation, but it is something that is good to talk about out loud. 

Tensions rise and fall; we ride waves of highs and lows in the circle space. Tears are shed, anger is raised and then diffused. I can feel the layered stress and PTSD from the multiple years of California fires—many of which have come scarily close to the Rill, threatening an almost 50-year old community that is more than a collection of individual homes. (The 2017 Tubbs Fire burned across the ridge about 2 miles away; the 2019 Kincade Fire reached land about 6-7 miles away.) We re-anchor and remember to breathe (I am sending a special thank you to Penny, who always has a pulse-read on the emotional tone of the group). We all learn and grow and start to develop better systems for the future.

As I walk back up to our home, I feel a surge of relief to have done the drill together. To witness that I am not alone in my anxieties that appear during fire season, and that I am no longer alone in planning and preparing and making sure my family is safe. Additionally, my concept of family is rapidly expanding. Each one of these households now holds people that I am growing to deeply love and see as an important role-provider for what makes this community what it is.

I have only officially lived here for two months now. Every other week brings a new insight that I get to receive, that is uncovering for me the joys, and challenges, that come with living in community together on such a massive piece of land. The experience here is vast and deep, and continues to become richer with every twist and turn in the road.

–Melinda Phoenix


e and Thea listen while we learn about our volunteer fire watch vehicles at the Rill.
Our new lightning storm fire watch signup sheet. We are so organized!
Melinda practices home defense!



The Rill in Print
July 7, 2020, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

A Rill Runs Through It: As featured in Made Local Magazine!

Above photos by Paige Green for Made Local Magazine.

We are very thankful to Sonoma County’s Made Local Magazine for featuring us in their July/August issue. The magazine’s editor, Jess Taylor, did a phenomenal job listening to us, walking the land with us, and capturing something of the complexity of living collectively in this challenging time. “I’m sitting in the garden area with some 10 community members,” she writes, “and I’m struck by the jovial, thoughtful way they bounce off each other’s ideas, gently clarifying or adding details.”

And Paige Green‘s gorgeous photographs make the piece glow!

We are likely to have two 2-bedroom homes for rent by the end of this year. So please explore our website and get in touch with us if you are curious about long-term community living here:

info@monansrill.org
And we are on Instagram @monansrill



Our Solar Journey
June 30, 2020, 2:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Our Solar Journey –

We’ve Arrived!

In what feels like the mists of time, the early 2000s, Monan’s Rill began talking community solar. Not solar hot water (some of our houses have that), or single-family home roof solar (we have single family homes but they are all owned collectively), but honest-to-goodness community solar, that could power most or all of our electrical energy needs. 

Where to put it? How to pay for it? Who will maintain it? On-grid or off-grid? Some power or full power? Is maybe Sonoma Clean Power enough? 

We delegated a committee – the Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Committee – to explore these questions. They gathered energy use data, considered placement, looked for a designer/installer who had experience with community solar (navigating the legal and technical requirements at both county government and utility levels), and talked to the rest of us about what they were learning. 

Along the way, we got sidelined or waylaid by multiple community issues, but we never lost our vision. The Tubbs Fire of 2017, which forced us to evacuate for over two weeks, was distraction on a new and perilous scale. But it also motivated us to address climate resiliency in most of what we do. In early 2019, the entire community approved the WET Committee plan to install a 38,000-watt, 110-module array in a clearing to the south of our community workshop. The array will provide approximately 80-85% of ALL of our electrical energy needs! 

It took until now to get it installed, mostly because we had to work our way through PG&E’s multiple divisions and departments and red tape and transformers to get to our very own PTO (“permission to operate”) moment. Now we are here! 

We are not off grid (maybe someday!), but aggregated net metering allows us to collect the sun’s energy at one site and use it in multiple places, including our HUB (community building) and our homes. It feels so good to turn the lights on now! (Though of course we try to only do so when necessary.)  

We are feeling so much gratitude for Jeff Clearwater and his team at Village Power Design, and for Joanie’s, Gabriel’s, and Chris’s patience and persistence over the past two decades, getting us to this point. And now it’s time to celebrate the sun! 

Joanie, Chris, and Gabriel giving us a socially-distanced solar album cover.
Solar power / girl power!



We’re on Instagram!
June 25, 2020, 4:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Monan’s Rill has taken one small step into the social media universe. We are now on Instagram! Find us @monansrill for fun and beautiful photos, that will give you a glimpse of who we are and how we live. But come back here for more thorough information, and for news!

We also will have two homes opening up for rent later in 2020. Pandemic has made timelines imprecise, but it will happen. So now is a good time to get in touch with us, if you are interested in long-term community living. Send us a note: info@monansrill.org.