Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

Monan’s Rill, Santa Rosa

I’ve been putting off writing this post, because I knew it would be difficult.  Our stay at Monan’s Rill, which is located 12 miles northeast of the city of Santa Rosa, was one of the most memorable in our year+ of traveling.  It’s not easy to explain why.  It was partly the land: the sheer ruggedness, breath-taking beauty, and marked isolation of the Rill’s 400 acres created the feeling of being in true wilderness, while also surrounded by a close-knit human community of about 20 adults and several children.  Monan’s Rill (named after a line in Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake) was founded by several Quaker couples in the 1970s.   At the time the land was purchased, it was completely wild; the founders built the roads, the buildings, and the water system (fed by a natural spring).  None of the original founders still live at the Rill, but the longest standing members have lived there for close to 40 years.  There is very little turn-over: most people who join Monan’s Rill intend to stay for the long haul, raise their children there, retire there, pass on there.  This is part of what made Monan’s Rill feel so special to me: the long history of weddings, childbirths, deaths, the traditions and place-names everyone knows but whose origins no one can remember.  The cycle of life is tangible there, among people who have become family to each other despite their diverse backgrounds.

Despite the community’s isolation (the steep dirt roads aren’t very bike-friendly!), many residents are activists in the Santa Rosa area and beyond.  Santa Rosa isn’t huge (pop. 168,000) but from what we heard, the Occupy Movement has taken a strong hold there.  We went with a couple community members to one Occupy event during our visit, a presentation by Abraham Entin, founder of the North Bay Affiliate of Move to Amend-the Coalition to end Corporate Personhood (watch the whole presentation here — we’re probably in it!)

Monan’s Rill is home to teachers, artists, Burners (one of their awesome BM projects), musicians, parents, retirees… one member is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization Rites of Passage which guides youth and adults on wilderness vision quests, another has traveled to several countries in the Middle East as a peacekeeper and citizen diplomat and is a member of the European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness, an anti-racist research group.

The community has a large organic garden, an orchard, and facilities for large farm animals though no one’s taken up that project yet.  There is a relatively new community building where twice monthly all-community potlucks and meetings are held; as often happens, a community meeting took place during our visit and we were invited to attend part of it.  It would be an understatement to say that Monan’s Rill treats group process like an art.  I’ll let the posters on the walls prove the point:

As with most communities which use consensus-based decision-making, the roles of facilitator and note-taker rotate.  Stack was taken publicly on a white board so that everyone could see their place in line.

Monan’s Rill has a number of committees which address issues such as membership and finances; one of the committees had a meeting using the fishbowl format, where non-committee members sat in an outer circle around them and listened.  The committee’s inner circle included an extra chair so that non-committee members could take turns jumping in if they had input for the committee.

We went on a long hike around the land with community members who picked edible mushrooms and told us the stories and traditions of the Rill.  I pulled out my flute and played violin duets and energetic folk music with some of the resident musicians.  We helped in the garden pulling up tomato plants and talking with long-time residents about how the community started out as a place to follow the Quaker value of simple living, but that it has since veered from that path.  I woke at 5:50 AM one morning to join several community members on a chilly hike to watch the full lunar eclipse.  We attended an intimate membership meeting, and discussed the other communities we’ve visited and what we look for in a community.

At the moment none of Monan’s Rill’s members are in their 20s, and multiple people told us emphatically that they don’t want the Rill to turn into a “retirement community”; they want to attract younger generations, and are interested in coming up with creative ways to do this.  They asked us for an honest opinion of the community, and we did our best to provide this.  It was the first time a community visit really felt like a reciprocal experience: the community was generous enough to host us and teach us about their lives, but we were able to give something meaningful back, telling them about what we look for in community and providing some recruitment ideas and suggestions for their new website.

The Rill is interested in having work-traders/WWOOFers and renters, to provide younger, more transient people with the opportunity to be a part of the community.  The membership meeting we attended addressed questions such as, Would a renter have equal say in consensus decision making (if not, which topics would they have equal say in)?  How could we maintain a non-hierarchical community when certain members are contributing so much less monetarily and can’t commit to living at the Rill long-term?  Would renters go through the same application process as long-term buy-in residents?  Is it better to have a casual, flexible work-trade program where the work-trader makes most of the decisions about their work, or a more structured program where long-term community members decide what work needs to be done?

Our visit to Monan’s Rill went by too quickly, though it felt like we’d spent much more than three days there.  I felt like we’d been given an in-depth, personal look into this community, which is rare for such a short visit.  As much as I enjoy the energy and passion in houses packed with 20-somethings, it’s those houses that have too many visitors for residents to take much notice of the next hippie bus that’s stopping by.  Monan’s Rill is peaceful, homey, isolated in the way that is most comfortable for me (ie. not too far from civilization, but far enough that there are cougars and bobcats), and I was appreciative of the political activism it attracts.  It is my honest hope that Max and I will visit again someday, hopefully for a much longer amount of time.


December 11, 2011

Dumpster Score: Santa Rosa to Oakland

Hospice Thrift Store: tiny wood box perfect for modpodging, stained glass kitties, galoshes, vinyl records (Elton John, Rickie Lee, Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell), sushi mat, AC drill, play dough

Marmot Outdoor Gear: 12 zippers, fabric scraps

Alvarado Street Bakery: 2 sprouted multi-grain loaves, 1 flax seed loaf

Trader Joe’s (4 stores total): 4 chocolate chip cookies, pine cat litter (for the wood stove), plain yogurt, chicken fried rice, 2 tins of coffee, walnuts, Mirepoix mix (celery, carrots, onion), sunflower seeds, jasmine rice, pastrami, grapes, baby carrots, brie log, bag of apples, snow peas, grape tomatoes, smoked sockeye salmon, Pound Plus dark chocolate, sun dried tomato pesto, beef tamales, Lavender Salt Scrub, pinenuts, powdered sugar, avocado, mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups, strawberries, chocolate orange, 5 dark chocolate bars, salty creamy PB, Cotswold Double Gloucester with onions and chives (that’s fancy cheese), 5 flower bouquets, 2 potted plants, Prosciutto, 2 jars sweet pickle relish, 3 sticks butter, 4 big apples, 5 bags lemons, mac and cheese, chicken-less stuffed cutlet, turkey bacon, bag sweet potatoes, almond snowmen cookies, 12 pints coconut oil, 7 jars curry simmer sauce

December 6, 2011

The Criminal Justice Business

As we mentioned in a previous post, we recently got tickets (one each) for sleeping in our vehicle in Arcata.  $155 each.  We called the phone number on the ticket immediately, and were told that our information wouldn’t be uploaded into their computer system for at least two weeks — we’d have to stay in Arcata and try again.  Two weeks passed, and we called back.  We scheduled a date to appear in court, hoping to have the fine reduced.

We appeared at the Superior Court in Eureka yesterday, and the clerk (who was friendly, at least) informed us that we’d be able to meet with a court-appointed attorney before seeing a judge.  Upon entering the courtroom, however, the judge told everyone (about 10 people with different infractions) that we did not have the right to a court-appointed attorney, and that we each had two, and only two, choices: 1) plead guilty and pay the fine in full, or 2) plead not guilty and schedule another court appearance in a month or so.  We were, needless to say, really ready to leave Humboldt County, so we pled guilty and were charged $155 each.

Oddly, when we spoke with the judge, he told us that the fine for “camping in a vehicle- first offense” was no more than $50.  Why are we being charged $155, then?  Court fees.  What court fees?  Well the friendly clerk broke it down for us, and because I’m pissed, I’m going to type it all out for you:

$4.00  Surcharge

$1.76  County general fund

$3.92  DNA Add’l (?)

$3.92  St Crt Facility

$3.92  EMS Add’l

$1.96  DNA Add’l

$1.96  DNA Funding

$5.88  SB1732 Penalties

$13.72  State Penalty Fund

$5.88  County Penalty Assessment

$3.92  Courthouse Construction Fund

$5.88  Criminal Justice Facilities Fund

$3.92  Emergency Med Services

$17.84  Arcata General Fund

$1.52  State Automation Fund

$40.00  Court Security

$35.00 Criminal Infraction (the actual fine for sleeping in a vehicle)

I was last on the judge’s list, so by the time I was done speaking with him (which took about 30 seconds), the room had totally cleared out.  As I joined Max and we walked toward the doors, the judge leaned over his desk and said cheerily to his staff, “Well, that went well!”  Yeah, in about 10 minutes those jerks made several thousand dollars.

In case you are curious, we have never had this problem before.  Ollie was parked on a busy public street on Capitol Hill in Seattle for two weeks, and cops never bothered us; our only night-time callers in that spot were two drunk neighbors who thought Max and I were the coooolest people they’d ever met — they cooked up a whole dinner in their apartment across the street and delivered it to the bus, where we ate with them and drank wine and exchanged gifts and stories.


December 3, 2011

Update: Humboldt County

Sorry it’s been so long since we wrote last!  We’ve spent the past couple months traveling around Humboldt, camping in the Redwoods, checking out some tiny hippie towns (Garberville, Manila, Trinidad, Redway’s definitely not hippie but we were there for a bit), and tanning a fox hide (more on that later).  We rode with another Critical Mass in Arcata, biked around the Community Forest a million times, and took a guided tour through the Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.  We gave an injured songbird to the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center (a volunteer actually came to us and picked it up!), and have visited both the Humboldt County Animal Shelter and the Sequoia Humane Society… “just to look.”  😉

I’ve spent countless hours wandering through the many used book stores in both Arcata and Eureka, and one day we biked from Arcata to Eureka (round trip ~20 mi.) to scout for grease.  Speaking of grease, just about every restaurant and food cart in this entire area has a contract with one biofuels company, Footprint Recycling.  Footprint wanted to sell us unfiltered oil for $3.30/gal, which we thought was ridiculous, so we haven’t had much luck in that arena.  But Max cleverly made a Craigslist post offering the service of “free turkey frier oil pick up” — and we got some callers that way!

We like the general culture of this place, but we’ve actually had a hard time “living” here.  It’s illegal to sleep in a vehicle in all of Humboldt County, and the cops are very strict.  We ended up getting a ticket (our second since leaving LA; the first was a $12 parking ticket) for $155 each for sleeping in our vehicle, so we had to figure something else out (the closest camp ground is far from town and has a 3-night limit, and the RV parks are surprisingly expensive).  We put an ad out on Craigslist asking for a driveway, and lo and behold we were blessed with a response: a wonderful family of 3 was going out of town for Thanksgiving and needed house- and cat-sitters.  We ended up parking Ollie in their driveway and getting to know their 3 adorable cats (see the pics) — they even let us stay there after they returned from vacation.  They were wonderful — thank you so much!







Neither of us wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, since it’s basically commemorating the beginning of a genocide, so we just stayed home and watched Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore.  We both really do like to eat, however, so we cooked up a big meal with seasonal food, no “holiday” necessary.






















We are currently spending a few days with my Grandma’s friend who lives in Bayside (just south of Arcata), and will head down to the Bay Area soon!