Monan's Rill Community

Many hands are tending this land
December 20, 2022, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

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!

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!

Community Renewal

Community Renewal

It is hard to capture the tumult and sadness and hope and laughter of the past few months at Monan’s Rill. Though we have had to stop holding community workdays, we are still gathering every Saturday to do the work of repair and rejuvenation that we can do on our own. We have salvaged garden tools and fencing, built a new goat shed, trenched for water and septic and internet lines, removed dead trees where we can and hauled brush to careful burn piles, dug out invasive grasses and reseeded with native grasses and lupine and poppy. This weekend we pruned and mulched the raspberries, which are already sprouting!

We also have been meeting regularly, often over Zoom, to use consensus as we face this moment. We also gathered on Zoom for our Winter Solstice celebration, and for Christmas Day storytelling, and New Year’s Eve bingo!

And we have walked the land. As individuals and in small groups, we have meditated, sang, cried, rested on the healing earth. We also set up a Building and Design Committee and walked possible house sites, imagining the future. We are on our way.

You can still give to the Rill. Everything we have received through the GoFundMe has helped the efforts above, and every donation will help keep us going.

You can also sign up to receive our new e-newsletter. We will keep you up to date on our renewal work, and let you know when we can open for community workdays again. They were such big, beautiful, joyous and helpful events! And you can also follow us on Instagram @monansrill.

Thank you for everything you have done to help keep this dream alive.

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:

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 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!

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.

#lifeatmonansrill #wildfirerecovery #intentionalcommunity #intentionalliving #firerecovery #climateresilience