Monan's Rill Community


Please support our Glass Fire Recovery
October 2, 2020, 11:43 pm
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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



Fire Drill
August 31, 2020, 11:25 pm
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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!