Monan's Rill Community


Two years after the fire – we are rebuilding!
October 2, 2022, 9:16 pm
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Two years after the fire – we are rebuilding!

Our blog has been pretty quiet these past months, but that does not mean we have not been busy. We have been deep in the process of finalizing our permit submittals and hiring a contractor for our first three residential structures at the Rill!

First, Amy used her archival skills to help our architect (Robin Stephani of 8th Wave) reconstruct our very complicated permit history dating back to the late 1970s. So many buildings and so many owners and so many permits! Once this was done, Robin could let the county know about our septic capacity and our long-term rebuild plans. Then she finalized our permit submittals and we all held our breath. Or rather, we tried to breathe steadily, and kept doing our best to take care of one another and the land.

In the hot months of summer we harvested more azolla, that miracle fern that nourishes our garden. And we continue to remove invasives (yellow star thistle, stinkwort, tree of heaven, and more) when we find them, if the ground is not too hard and dry.

And e built a new chicken coop. We transported it backwards to its new home in the garden, Vinca and Amy getting some forward-facing tractor lessons from Thea along the way.

Through the Monan’s Rill Institute, we prepped and hosted another oak restoration event, except this time we got to be in the rain! We raked and weed-whipped under oaks with what promised to be a plentiful acorn harvest, and then collected acorns and continued to protect native seedlings.

The Rill was featured in the fall issue of Made Local Magazine. Ursa Born, who has been working by our side and tenderly observing us since the Glass Fire, wrote a beautiful piece – “Fighting Fire with Fire” – about our commitment to prescribed fire. Thea, who is a Fire Forward fellow this year with Audubon Canyon Ranch, was on the cover.

We’ve also started holding once-monthly pancake breakfasts, so that sometimes we are just breaking bread (or waffles) together, having fun.

But the big news is rebuilding!

This past Friday evening our contractor, Dustin Deason of Brandywine Construction and Design, held a Golden Shovel fire rebuild ceremony with us. We took turns turning over a shovelful of soil at each of the three building sites. We are so thankful to Dustin for his patient and knowledgable guidance as we enter into this new phase of recovery. And we are thankful to so many teachers and friends who have offered us nourishment and helping hands along the way. At the ceremony, e read an excerpt from Terry Tempest Williams’s essay “The Pall of Our Unrest,” which has been reminding us all along why we are doing what we do. Here it is:

“Grief is love. How can we hold this grief without holding each other? To bear witness to this moment of undoing is to find the strength and spiritual will to meet the dark and smoldering landscapes where we live. We can cry. Our tears will fall like rain in the desert and wash off our skins of ash so our pores can breathe, so our bodies can breathe back the lives that we have taken for granted.

I will mark my heart with an “X” made of ash that says, the power to restore life resides here…. Hand on my heart, I pledge of allegiance to the only home I will ever know.”



Spring Oak Blitz
April 19, 2022, 7:30 pm
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 Help us Regenerate
Oak Woodlands at Monan’s Rill 

Connect, Collect, and Protect at our Spring Oak Blitz
May 7, 10am-2pm

What makes an oak ecosystem healthy?
How can we heal from centuries of fire suppression and regenerate healthy forests?

In this family-friendly event on Saturday, May 7, you will have the opportunity to support the regeneration of our oak woodlands following their severe burning in the 2020 Glass Fire, and to explore the above questions, in good company!

We will go out in small groups to particular areas on the land where we have identified oak trees that have potential for producing healthy seedlings, and each group will begin in a circle to connect with the place and each other. Then, using the smart phone app iNaturalist as well as paper maps and notebooks we will collect and record observations of the oak trees and associated flora and fauna. We will also look for young oak seedlings and install chicken wire cages to protect them so they can grow into healthy mature trees. 

We hope you will join us for this opportunity to connect with nature and fellow humans, while contributing to science and to the regeneration of native oak woodlands.

Please bring a packed lunch that you can carry with you, a filled water bottle, work gloves, and a smart phone with iNaturalist installed and/or a notebook or journal. We also recommend wearing good hiking shoes, long pants, sun protection, and layers for variable weather.Space is limited and advance registration is required—sign up now to secure your spot!

To learn more about oaks and their importance, read the promise of oak restoration on our website, and watch the recording of Clint McKay’s webinar through Pepperwood: Black Oaks Revealed: Their cultural significance for Indigenous Communities.



Build a Greenhouse With Us!
January 30, 2022, 11:22 pm
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Build a Greenhouse With Us!

Tuesday 2/1 and Saturday 2/5

At long last, 15 months after the Glass Fire, we are ready to rebuild our first building at Monan’s Rill — a greenhouse — and you’re invited to help.

We’ve got all the parts ready to build a new 12’x24′ greenhouse to replace (and upgrade) our decades-old community greenhouse that burned along with our barn and homes in September 2020.

The greenhouse will enable us to begin growing more food and pollinator habitat plants, both for the land and people of Monan’s Rill and to share with our wider Sonoma County and Bay Area communities. We’re especially excited that this year we will be able to grow produce for the Cultural Conservancy’s Native Foodways Program as well as seedlings for urban farms through Celebrating Womxn’s Leadership in Food’s Plants to the People Initiative

Two special workdays to build the greenhouse are coming up this week: sign up for one or both shifts either day.

Tuesday, February 1st 
from 9am-12pm and 12:30-3:30pm 

Saturday, February 5th
from 9am-12pm and 12:30-3:30pm 

Please sign up at least 24 hours in advance. Volunteer spots are limited and COVID precautions are in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

We also want to express our gratitude to January’s workday volunteers.

Deep gratitude to all of our January workday volunteers: Brooke, Bill, Avinelle, Leyla, Ursa, Ramona, Rigby, Hannah, Red, Jay, Kendal, Amanda, Arden, Matt, Lisa, Juniper, and Leo!

Together we prepared the pad for our new greenhouse, cut dead limbs from oak trees, burned brush, made biochar, pulled invasive plants, prepared garden beds for spring planting, fertilized the raspberry patch, made and shoveled compost, fixed a broken water pipe, snuggled with goats, and had great conversations and fun.

Thank you all for bringing your hearts and hands and questions and laughter to this place.

Our regular community workdays are generally the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, from 9am-12pm. Community workdays are followed by optional bring-your-own lunch and visiting, and then our community business meeting at 1pm, the first part of which is open to guests. The next opportunities to join us after the greenhouse build will be:

Saturday, February 12th
from 9am-12pm (followed by 1pm meeting)

Saturday, February 26th
from 9am-12pm (followed by 1pm meeting)

Feel free to pass along the invitation to friends — we welcome new folks to join us! Children are welcome as well. 

The community that we call Monan’s Rill is on the traditional territory and homelands of the Wappo people. We honor their story and this beautiful place through deep listening and gratitude, and a commitment to learning from the Wappo community as we steward the land.



Help the Rill Envision Our Rebuild!
January 12, 2022, 7:40 pm
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Help the Rill Envision Our Rebuild!

Dear friends and supporters of Monan’s Rill, 

It has been fourteen months since the Glass Fire, and we are deep in the planning process for rebuilding new homes that will be simple, beautiful, climate resilient, and fire resistant. We want to finalize our building permit submissions this month if possible, so we are considering some important questions about floor plans, the mix of houses we will build, and financing construction. 

This is where you come in. 

We are a small and mighty bunch, returning to the land — and we know that we are not alone. We have been trying to keep an open place for the “community member yet to be” at our table, in our meetings, in our hearts and minds, throughout this challenging year. Now, however, feels like a time when getting some concrete feedback from that imagined community member could be very helpful! 

If you can imagine yourself living here, in the beautiful intentional community that we call Monan’s Rill — if you feel that this is a life you could possibly pursue — would you please take a few moments to complete this short survey for us by next Thursday, January 13

We would love to hear your thoughts about what you see as important for our rebuild and what kinds of housing and living arrangements would work for you if you lived here. Thank you so much for this contribution to our process. 

Take the Rebuild Visioning Survey

And whether or not you can imagine residing at the Rill, you may still be able to help! As we grapple with the reality of skyrocketing construction costs and the daunting size of this project we are managing, we are calling in all sorts of help. So… 

Do you:

• have any experience with or connections to alternative lending institutions, or any creative ideas for us about construction financing?

• have any experience with peer-to-peer lending?  

• know anyone who has been involved with multi-family or intentional community housing construction?

• have any interest in participating in an open brainstorm/visioning session with us, either in person or via Zoom?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, please email amy@turningplanet.org and let us know. We would love to talk with you! 

As always, thank you for all you have done to support us through this challenging year. 

And please complete the survey by next Thursday 1/13 – because we have a Building & Design Committee meeting that night! 

In hope and gratitude, 

The Members of Monan’s Rill



Welcoming Winter at the Rill
December 23, 2021, 4:49 am
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Welcoming Winter at the Rill

Happy winter solstice from all of us at Monan’s Rill. With snow last week and plenty of cold and stormy weather, we are welcoming this December transition to winter after abundant October rain and November warmth and sunshine.

In this solstice season, we are deeply grateful for all the support that our wider community has offered in the past year as we have been recovering from wildfire, regenerating the land, and reimagining and rebuilding our future together. Thank you for walking with us on this journey of renewal!

A Monan’s Rill Solstice Tradition

Every December for at least 35 years (nobody quite remembers when it started), the Monan’s Rill community has gathered to celebrate the winter solstice, bringing together past, present, and future members, as well as a few of our neighbors and loved ones. This year and last year, due to the pandemic (and rain), we held the gathering on Zoom rather than inside our community building, but still carried many of our solstice traditions.

Winter solstice at the Rill includes: demonstrating the science behind the solstice and the Earth’s seasons with a globe and a flashlight (or this year, computer graphics), learning about traditions and celebrations across different cultures at this time of year, reading and acting out a solstice story play (this year The Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden), and lighting candles to welcome the return of the light after the darkest night of the year.

Another key element of our solstice celebration is singing traditional carols with new lyrics created by Monan’s Rill members to reflect this landscape.

One of the original Quaker founding members of Monan’s Rill, Madeline Stevenson, wrote new words to the tune of the British folk carol “The Holly and the Ivy”, which former member Joan Linney found, edited, and typed up after we thought they might have been lost in the wildfire:

The Joy of Solstice Here 

Oh the rising of the sun
  And the running of the deer
   Sweet singing in our common hall
  The joy of Solstice here 

The Fir tree and Madrona
When they are both full grown
  Of all the trees that are in the wood
  These tall ones wear the crown 

The toyon is our holly
  And wears its berries red
  They brighten all our hearths and homes
  And the wintering birds are fed 

The manzanita blossom
  In bells of pink and white
Like scattering snow they softly glow
  In the morning’s graying light  

The live oak leaves have prickles
Sharp as any thorn
  And softly shed the silvery mist
  On a winter’s day in the morn 

Oh the rising of the sun
  And the running of the deer
   Sweet singing in our common hall
  The joy of Solstice here 

Another solstice carol unique to the Rill has words adapted by member Amy Robinson to the music of “O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam. These posters were part of our most recent in-person solstice celebration in 2019, and although the paper versions burned, the photos lived on to accompany us in our Zoom celebrations in 2020 and 2021.

O, Solstice night,  
the stars are brightly shining. It is the night 
of the bright sun’s return. 
Long lay the Earth 
in cold and darkness pining ‘til it appeared, and 
each seed felt its warmth.
A thrill of hope, 
a weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks 
a new and glorious morn! 
Fall on your knees! 
Oh hear, the birds so joyful!  O night  
divine, 
O night 
of the sun’s return.  
O night, 
divine, 
O night, 
O Solstice night.

May this solstice season brings you joy, rest, and renewal, and we hope to see you on the land in 2022!



One year after the fire
September 28, 2021, 8:50 pm
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One year after the fire

This morning dawned at Monan’s Rill with a few pink clouds in a clear blue sky. As the sun rose, drops of yesterday’s rain still dripped from oak leaves, and clung to the tips of the new green grass that has germinated in the past few days.

It has been one year since the Glass Fire burned through Monan’s Rill with all its fiery force on the morning of September 28, 2020, transforming the land, the community, and all of our lives.

The days surrounding that hot, windy firestorm felt nothing like the pleasant post-rain sunshine and cool autumn breeze that surrounds us today, but the fire is still ever-present around us. The smell of burned wood meets our noses as the sun warms the rain-moistened char of downed limbs and stumps that ignited a year ago, smoldered for days, and continue to litter the ground.

Capacious empty holes yawn where homes once held generations of community members in all the beautiful messiness of their lives. Acres of formerly dense forest have been reduced to swaths of jagged stumps as our logger cuts down Douglas fir trees killed by the fire and hauls them to the mill to be transformed into lumber.

Yet just beyond the salvage logging area, native plants like Yerba Santa, roughleaf aster, and velvety goldenrod are thriving, their seeds, foliage, and blooms brought to life by the rejuvenating force of the fire.

And close to the land’s highest point near Diamond Mountain stands a vibrant living testament to what is possible with caring and appropriate land stewardship: the 6 acres that we burned in a prescribed fire in 2019 stayed healthy and untouched in the wildfire of 2020. The trees, ferns, and native grasses in that area continue to thrive while the heavily-torched, browned and blackened surrounding areas have barely begun to recover. 

As all of us who are part of Monan’s Rill reflect on the fire and all that has transpired in the past year, our feelings and experiences are complex and paradoxical. We feel grief and gratitude, anger and sadness, turmoil and peace. We mourn all that can never be replaced, appreciate the ways that we continue to be held by the land and community, and embrace the openings for emergence and transformation that the fire has created.

Though there is so much more experienced and felt than can ever be documented, a few of us offer these words and images to mark this important anniversary:

One year ago today we woke up for the last time in our home. Our homes. 

If I had ever replaced my candles I would light one! 

Life continues to be grief-stricken, awkward, blessed, tiring, fragmented, and sweet. All of that. 

I’m thinking tenderly of the community of people we held dear, who made up our lives and our sense of possibility – those who are by our sides trying to rebuild and those who have moved on. Trying to read the message underneath this sense of painful but also understandable scattering.

Giving thanks to all the helpers and givers and mentors and guides and companions I’ve found over this past year. I don’t see many in person! But I know you are there. 

And the deer and the squirrels and the steller’s jays and the acorn woodpeckers and the oaks and the manzanita and the wild grasses are there. Giving thanks to the mountain.

– Amy

A year ago tonight, we had two of three cars
“Go-bags Loaded” and we
Believed our most “precious items”
safely packed, just in case

A year ago, tonight we
Watched the winds and fire cameras on our devices
And began considering the real possibility
That the fire in the Napa Valley might come
Our way….

A year ago, we were “whole”
22 adults living or about to be living in all our homes,
We were on the cusp of agreeing to a new financial structure
And it appeared that we had prepared our homes
So that they could be defended against a fire…

A year ago we had no idea what was coming our way
How each of our lives would be forever changed
Of what was lost that mattered
And what was lost that didn’t mean a thing

A year year later
We are oh so much smarter and wiser,
Oh so much more appreciative of what we had
And so very much reduced in numbers
And yet, something magical has remained
That out of the ashes of what was
Are very real “life nuggets” that remain
And a bond….even between those that left
That no fire could destroy

A year later, the land remains
Scarred but healing
The wildlife is returning
The forests will regenerate
Not as quickly as the grasses did.
But this time…we will assist and take
The wisdom that was seared into us…
And share what we’re learning
For future generations in this watershed

How it can be done
With love, sweat, and yes…tears.

– Ken

Most of all I miss the beautiful Tracy Yurt, built with love. A wonderful space to have lived in. Such a calming home on the land I call home, Monan’s Rill.  

– Sue

The biggest impact to me was the loss of six people all within a few months of each other.  We already knew they were all going to be moving on sometime in the next few years, but having that loss all at the same time on top of the loss of trees, house, and all possessions was a lot. The spirit of the community remained and I felt blessed for the buildings that did not burn because once I knew what had survived I felt pretty certain that the community would survive.  I have always believed that the land would call the people together who were meant to be here and I continue to believe that.  Although the structure of it changed, I did not lose my home. 

— Linda

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the glass fire. I don’t know how to write about this past year. It is clear that I am still very much in the middle of a story that I don’t really know how to tell. That has always been the purpose of all the photo documentation— it’s the closest to a story that I can share. I took this photo tonight of a volunteer sunflower growing in the footprint of the barn, specifically where the milking room was. And I guess this year has been full of finding beauty, life and hope in the most unexpected, impacted places.This flower still made its way to life after the big equipment came and scooped everything away. Wendell Berry wrote, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” This is a sacred place. This is a place of heartache, of healing, of home. What is clear to me about the story I am in is that the setting is here, on this land. The characters and plot will develop and unravel and change and I will lose my place, reread the same line over and over again, get paper cuts, leave water marks and break in the spine….but the Where is the part of the story that I understand. I feel so lucky to have even one true part revealed.

— e

Throughout my adult life I’ve always tried to remember, appreciate and understand how lucky I have been in this life.  Since the fire that appreciation and understanding has only rooted itself more firmly into my existence.  I’m thankful and honored to be such a fortunate human being.

— Bill

At the beginning of this anniversary day, several of us gathered on Zoom in the darkness before dawn to sit in silence, together and alone, guided by Amy with a koan and a poem:

____

After the great fire in 1374 at the Engaku-ji Temple, scholars came to see what had happened to the great library. The teacher, standing amidst the ashes and rubble, said that nothing had been destroyed. “What are you talking about?” the scholars and students asked.  He held up his hand and said, 

“The covers were burned but you can still hold the teachings in your hands.” 

____

“The Singing Bowl”

 by Malcolm Guite

Begin the song exactly where you are. 
Remain within the world of which you’re made. 
Call nothing common in the earth or air. 

Accept it all and let it be for good. 
Start with the very breath you breathe in now. 
This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood.

And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time. 
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow. 

Become an open singing bowl, whose chime
is richness rising out of emptiness.
And timelessness resounding into time. 

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are. 

____

We are all so grateful for everyone who has supported and accompanied us on the journey of this past year, and we look forward to continuing to walk with you as we rebuild and reimagine our relationships to each other and the land and the future of this community.



One Step Closer to Rebuilding…
August 28, 2021, 4:39 pm
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One Step Closer to Rebuilding…

Debris removal is complete!

At the end of July, more than ten months after the Glass Fire and three rounds of excavator scraping later, our wildfire debris and ash removal was finally completed!

Crews came to take away stakes and caution tape and then completed the last step in the process: an erosion control mix (mostly wood pulp with a binding agent and some green dye) sprayed on the soil post-scraping, and wattles in some places as well, to mitigate any potential erosion of the bare soil in this winter’s rains.

We are grateful to finally be at this place so we can move forward with septic assessment, site preparation, and civil drawings to support the design and permitting for rebuilding our community homes. 

Welcoming pollinators

One of the strangest experiences in the first 6 months after the fire was the near-complete absence of insects from the land. Not a bee nor a mosquito was to be found throughout the fall, winter, and early spring.

Nonetheless, thanks to many generous friends we gathered seedlings and seeds of pollinator favorite flowers like salvias and cosmos and wedding candles, and made space for the many poppies and sunflowers and borage that started themselves from seeds fallen last year.

Lo and behold, as spring turned into summer, pollinators showed up.

Wild honeybee swarms have taken up residence in hollow oak trees once again, bumblebees cover flowers from morning to night, tiny native sweat bees collect pollen on chamomile flowers, hummingbirds zip from the garden to the forest to the feeders we fill for them daily, and we’ve even seen swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths among the buddleia bushes that came back from the ground after the fire. 

Raspberries return

More good news: although the decades-old raspberry plants in the Monan’s Rill garden burned to the ground during the Glass Fire, they quickly sprouted back from the roots, showing new green leaves as early as October, despite no rain.

Over many community workdays since then they were weeded, mulched, and protected from deer browsing by a new fence, so we are now enjoying bursts of raspberry flavor, while the bees appreciate the pollen and nectar from their flowers.

And a lion (or two)?

We’ve installed a new wildlife camera on the North side of Monan’s Rill and recently caught at least one lion passing by. Can you see that second pair of eyes in the background?

The resilience and regeneration of plant, insect, and animal life — wild and cultivated — at Monan’s Rill has given us all hope in these challenging times.


The smoke in the air from the devastating Dixie and Caldor Fires is challenging our community workdays, but we would still love for you to sign up and stay in touch as we navigate this season.

At workdays over the next few months, we will be tending to the garden, building compost, harvesting azolla, mapping oak trees for oak woodland rejuvenation, and more.

Volunteers are also always welcome to stay into the afternoon for a distanced bring-your-own-lunch picnic with community members and volunteers, take a dip in one or our two ponds, and/or participate in the first portion of our community business meeting to learn more about what we’re up to at Monan’s Rill. 

We hope to see you soon!



Post-fire ecology and future prescribed burns
June 24, 2021, 1:12 am
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Post-fire ecology and future prescribed burns: A visit with Fire Forward

We had the good fortune to spend a morning with the team from Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward program —Dr. Sasha Berleman, Brian Peterson, and Garrett Gradillas — walking the land to observe post-fire recovery of our diverse ecology, imagine future prescribed burns, and identify fun fire following plants.

Viewing the map of the land before our hike

Starting at our community building, Rick shared a map of the eastern portion of Monan’s Rill to describe where we would walk, near the east edge of the property to consider where a containment line could be put in for future prescribed fire on the land once the vegetation has grown back enough to warrant prescribed burns. We shuttled up to the top of the land (referred to as Narnia) in the back of the truck, and made our way downhill on foot from there.

Getting off the truck at the top of the land and observing the 2019 prescribed burn area

As we drove to Narnia, we passed through the 6-acre area that was successfully burned in a prescribed fire led by Sasha in June 2019, fifteen months before the Glass Fire. (Incidentally, our prescribed burn is mentioned in today’s in-depth Living with Fire article in Bay Nature magazine). This area is one of the healthiest among the 414 acres that Monan’s Rill stewards, as the intense flames of the Glass Fire burned all around it but did not enter because of the fuel reduction that was achieved through the prescribed fire. Brian was quick to point out that this is not always the case with land that has had a prescribed burn in advance of a wildfire, but it is a beautiful visual example of one of the beneficial effects that prescribed fire can have.

A stark contrast between the area treated with a prescribed fire in 2019 (right), and land outside the prescribed fire area which burned much more severely in the 2020 Glass Fire (left)

Outside of those six healthy and green acres, the severity of the Glass Fire is abundantly evident. Fir trees are torched from bottom to top. However, hardwood trees are beginning to sprout back from the bases, and shrubs and herbaceous plants are beginning to germinate an grow on the forest floor, now that they are no longer shaded by firs and the ground is not covered in the thick layer of duff created by fir needles.

Dead fir trees that used to dominate much of Monan’s Rill are now beginning to be replaced by a wider diversity of native species

As we traversed the contours of the arbitrary linear property-line boundary, we encountered a matrix of different soils and ecologies, evident even through the massive damage of the wildfire.

Discussing strategies for future prescribed burns with a view of the community center below and the Santa Rosa plain in the distance

On our walk, we also stopped to observe and identify many species, including fire-following native flowers like the ground rose and wiry snapdragon.

Ground rose (Rosa spithmea), a native rose which grows in forest and chaparral habitats, especially areas recently burned
Wiry snapdragon (Sairocarpus vexillocalycaulatus), a fire following wildflower found only in California and occasionally Oregon

As we moved from the forest into the chaparral area, we talked about what kind of plan for prescribed burns would best support the ecology and the safety of the community in the face of future wildfires which we know are inevitable. The chaparral likely will not be ready to burn for 5-10 years, depending on how quickly it regenerates. The chamise is vigorously sprouting back, but the manzanita species that is prevalent at Monan’s Rill does not resprout. Its seeds are stimulated to germinate by fire, though the seedlings are only an inch or so tall at this point, so they will take a while to become mature plants. Moving forward, Sasha suggested prescribed burns in this area every 10-15 years. More frequent burns in chaparral can kill the vegetation permanently and convert the area to grassland, often dominated by invasive species.

New green sprouts from the roots of chamise surrounds blackened stems that were killed in the Glass Fire

For a lot of the area we walked, the approach Sasha and Brian recommend is “wait and see” — nobody can say for certain exactly how the landscape will regenerate, what species will show up, and how. In the meantime, we have our work cut out for us reducing the fuel load in the area where our homes once stood (and will eventually be rebuilt) by clearing dead manzanita and other brush that was killed but not consumed by the wildfire. We can also prepare to eventually build control lines for prescribed fire by cutting dead trees near the perimeter of future burn areas so they don’t become hazard trees that are more complicated to remove later. And several of us will continue to participate in prescribed burns on other private and public lands so we have more skills and experience to apply to bringing good fire to this land when the time is right.



It’s Hot Out! Time to Jump in the Pond!
June 2, 2021, 11:39 pm
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It’s Hot Out! Time to Jump in the Pond!

A few years ago, a little water fern called Azolla filiculoides showed up on the surface of the upper pond at Monan’s Rill. At first just a small patch of green, it quickly grew to cover the whole surface of the pond. The lower pond stayed clear that year, but the following year the azolla made its way over the spillway and down the creek to colonize the lower pond.

To some, this little plant is an annoyance to be rid of. But there are many benefits to azolla as well. It converts nitrogen from the air into a form usable by plants, and in fact is as rich in nitrogen as cow manure. Like all green plants, it also takes carbon out of the atmosphere through its process of photosynthesis. And, as it sits on the surface of the pond it helps prevent evaporation.

If it is allowed to build up for too long, azolla can cause problems as it piles up on itself, then sinks to the bottom, and sucks all the oxygen out of the water of the pond as it decomposes, leading to anaerobic conditions. But if it is regularly harvested and tended, it makes an excellent mulch and compost ingredient, providing nutrients and moisture balance to the soil and plants.

Last year we harvested the full surface of the upper pond (pictured above), but we didn’t make much headway on the lower pond, so the mat of azolla became quite thick. For the past couple months, e has been diligently harvesting loads of azolla from the lower pond nearly every afternoon, throwing a net into the pond, pulling it back to the edge, and scooping piles of azolla on to the shore. e has also brought in some impressive harding grass plants that have taken root on that thick mat of azolla.

Help harvest azolla this Saturday afternoon 

This weekend, we have shifted the timing of our community workday to the afternoon. Join us on Saturday, June 5 from 1-4pm to help with azolla harvest and other community fire recovery and resilience projects.

Bring your swim suit (or clothes you don’t mind getting wet) if you want to get the full in-pond harvesting experience. There are also plenty of ways to help with azolla harvest and other projects without jumping in!

You can sign up for our workday here.

Feel free to pass along the invitation to friends — we welcome new folks to join us! Children are welcome as well. We have at least one kid-friendly project every workday.

Advance sign up at least 24 hours in advance is required for all volunteers. Volunteer spots are limited and COVID precautions are in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

Thanks and we hope to see you here!



Community Workdays are Vibrant and Important, Still

Community Workdays are Vibrant and Important, Still

Through the wildfire last fall, many of the nutrients in vegetation, trees, and dead leaves and branches were released into the soil, leading to unprecedented growth of plants like wild radish, thistles, malva, and many kinds of grasses this spring. 

Where do all those lush weeds go? We layer them with food scraps, manure and bedding from the goat stalls and chicken coop, and azolla harvested from the surface of our pond, to make a compost pile, then add the biodynamic compost preparations (also lovingly donated by friends to replace those burned in the fire) and wait for the magical alchemy of composting to transform it all into powerful fertility for the garden soil and the crops it will grow. 

During recent community workdays many helping hands have cleared these weeds from garden beds to make space for spring vegetable starts, lovingly donated by several of our farmer and gardener friends since we have not yet been able to rebuild our greenhouse.

Sadly, we have to report that an unexpected day of cold winds brought frost to our garden last night. This morning Thea wrote on Instagram: “After weeks of heat, last night brought strong winds and frost which damaged a large portion of the crops in the garden, beautiful peppers and cucumbers and basil and tomatoes and squash and flowers all of which were grown by friends and given to us to revitalize this garden that is the heart of our community after the fire. Most of the seedlings sat in their pots longer than I would have liked waiting for bed preparation and irrigation to catch up with them, but after a super productive workday a couple weeks ago we finally got everything into the ground, watered, and mulched. We were all astounded by how much food and flowers would be forthcoming. Bringing this garden back to life has been a big project for me since I left my full time job and moved back to the land, something tangible I could contribute to renewal after destruction, and so even though I’m used to the ups and downs of farming it is particularly painful to see so much of this new life killed today. Seems like more row covers and low tunnels will be in our future if we want to keep growing food in this increasingly unpredictable climate.”

Our GoFundMe is still open – if you can contribute to our ongoing garden recovery – including new starts and a start on our greenhouse, too – we will deeply appreciate the help. Thank you!

Join Us for Community Workdays:
Star Thistle and the Weed Whip Challenge

Although fire can disrupt the life cycle of some invasive species, it can create more space for others to come in, such as the Harding grass and spurge we have shared about in earlier newsletters. Now that we are into May, another invasive has arrived on the scene: Star Thistle. We are lucky to only have it on the western edge of Monan’s Rill land, but it is already flowering so the time to clear it is now. Join us for upcoming workdays to see this rarely-visited corner of the land with some beautiful westward views and keep the Star Thistle in check by pulling it before it goes to seed.

Many people have the misconception that once land burns in a wildfire, it is immune from burning again. As a sobering article in the Press Democrat this week emphasized, that is far from the truth — in fact, without careful post-fire stewardship, fire-scarred landscapes can be ripe to burn again quite soon after the initial blaze.

Here at Monan’s Rill, we see the greatest risk this year from the potential of a grass fire, as the wild oats and other grasses are taller than we have ever seen them, and are already becoming golden and brittle from the hot and dry spring we are experiencing.

Do you have a weed whip/weed whacker/string trimmer? If so, please join our weed whip challenge and help us clear around our remaining buildings, travel trailers and roads to make sure Monan’s Rill is safe this fire season. You can sign up for one of our upcoming workdays, or contact us to arrange another time to come and help out.

Our next volunteer workdays will be Saturdays, May 22 and June 12 and we invite you to sign up to help with one of several projects including pulling star thistle, weed whipping grass and tall weeds for fire safety, tending to the garden, and more projects to be determined.

Feel free to pass along the invitation to friends — we welcome new folks to join us! Children are welcome as well. We have at least one kid-friendly project every workday.

Advance sign up at least 24 hours in advance is required for all volunteers. Volunteer spots are limited and COVID precautions are in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

And if you can’t make it this month or next, please do sign up for our newsletter so you can keep up to date with how we are moving forward!

Our deep gratitude goes out to everyone who has been supporting us through this challenging time of devastation and renewal through your financial gifts, your participation in workdays, and your companionship, whether near or far. This greater web of support helps us continue to build toward a healthy and resilient future together!