Many hands are tending this land

Many hands are tending this land

In the past few months, the Rill has been blessed with so many caring hands, tending to the land as we recover from the 2020 Glass Fire and nurture a more climate-resilient and wildfire-resilient future.

Acorn planting and oak protecting

Through Monan’s Rill Institute, the community’s educational nonprofit, we hosted two oak restoration events this fall. On a rainy Sunday in September, volunteers joined us to collect acorns for planting and protect oak tree seedlings across the land.

Volunteer Sophia, a Grizzly Corps member at Pepperwood Preserve, protecting a black oak seedling at the Rill

Then in late November, many more joined us for an acorn planting day, finding homes in the ground for the acorns we collected in September as well as black oak acorns generously donated by our neighbors in the watershed Lynn and Claudia.

Rill member Amy and volunteer JulieRay planting and protecting an acorn at the Rill
Volunteer Hazel with one of the many acorns she planted at the Monan’s Rill Institute event in November

Together we planted a total of 189 acorns in the span of a few hours, seeding oak trees that will provide food and shade for many residents of the Rill for centuries to come!

We still have more acorns left to plant — please join us for our next acorn planting day on Sunday, January 8th, with waffles!

Good Fire at the Rill

This December, we have also been lucky to host two different groups of good fire practitioners to help us burn piles of woody debris as part of a regional prescribed fire training event, North Bay TREX 2022, organized by Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward program.

From November 11 through January 15 professional and volunteer prescribed fire practitioners, landowners, and staff from diverse conservation and land management organizations are taking part in the North Bay TREX, a 10-week window of collaborative burning and training throughout various ecosystems in the North Bay. Goals are specific to each location, and include the reduction and removal of dead vegetation, improving ecosystem health, and boosting resilience against wildfire.

TREX participants igniting and monitoring a burn pile at the Rill

On December 2, the first TREX group came to help us burn 24 large piles of logging slash. After the 2020 wildfire, we decided to conduct salvage logging on 50 of the 414 acres we steward to give fire-killed firs another life as timber, and that left a number of tree tops, limbs, and beetle-infested trees that couldn’t be sold and were piled together by our logger. Burning the slash piles reduces fuels for wildfire resilience and makes space for re-planting oaks and reintroducing regular good fire on the landscape.

A number of volunteers stayed overnight to help us monitor the piles and ensure safe burn down, capturing a gorgeous view from the land at sunset.

A pile burn ignited by TREX participants at the Rill completing burn down at sunset

Then on December 18, we were honored to host a second prescribed burn day through North Bay TREX — this time entirely in Spanish! Following on their basic wildland firefighter and firelighter training at Audubon Canyon Ranch the previous week, worker leaders with North Bay Jobs With Justice collectively burned 44 piles of woody debris, contributing to stewardship of the land at the Rill while getting hands-on experience with fire tools such as drip torches, backpack pumps, and radios, and practicing fire line leadership.

Worker leaders with North Bay Jobs With Justice hiking to pile burn site at the Rill

Monan’s Rill member and Fire Forward Fellow Thea Maria Carlson led the burn in partnership with Hannah Lopez from Fire Forward and Andrea Bustos and Jose Luis Duce from The Watershed Center. At the end of the day, gratitude flowed in every direction, as we all appreciated so much this opportunity to learn and burn together.

Worker leader tending burn piles at the Rill

Soil health research with CoRenewal

Building on our partnership with CoRenewal in 2020 with experiments on mycoremediation after wildfire, we are participating in a new multi-year research project studying the effects of post-fire microbial inoculation to catalyze ecological renewal. Project coordinator Taye Bright recently installed a number of inoculated wattles on the land and will be monitoring and sampling the research sites regularly over the next few years. We’re excited to see the results!

Taye Bright from CoRenewal and volunteers installing microbially-inoculated wattles

Home rebuilding continues

The process of rebuilding Rill community homes is continuing under the leadership of Dustin Deason with Brandywine Builders, with excellent site work being completed by Carl Burchfiel of Stillpoint Engineering. Recent rains have slowed down the timeline for construction, but we are grateful for much-needed water on the landscape!

After a week of drying since the most recent rains, the septic tank has been installed for Bluebird house and foundation forms are being created. We can’t wait for our community members to be able to move into the rebuilt homes in 2023.

Foundation form for Bluebird House
New septic tank installed

Join us on the land in the New Year!

For the first few months of 2023, we will be hosting workdays (and sometimes educational events) on second and fourth Sundays, starting with an Acorn Planting Day on January 8th. Waffles at 10am, workday from 11am-2pm, and community meeting (most of which guests are welcome to attend) from 3-5pm. Sign up here to join us. We hope to see you out on the land in the new year!