By Keith Michelack
Diversity. One of the key components of a well balanced eco system. Throughout the year we have observed the diverse insect populations that inhabit the garden. The winter months lent themselves to a somewhat dormant appearance, but after looking a little closer, certain niches were revealed to be occupied by insects. This observation eventually led to a series of questions: What is our relationship with the insects in the garden? Are some of the insects better than others? What insects do we want to attract and why? After reviewing these questions and asking many more, a decision was made to start tracking the insects in the garden throughout the year and get a better understanding of each insect and its role throughout the seasons.
It has been an absolute joy interacting with the garden space with so much intention to observe any and all insects. In the past, one might be quick to relinquish a cluster of eggs found beneath the leaves of a maturing plant. But a new goal has been put forth in terms of understanding what will hatch from these eggs and what their role is. In the early Spring, clusters of yellow eggs were observed occupying many nooks and crannies throughout the garden. Careful observation and patience revealed that Ladybug larva were bestowing the garden with there presence and aphid eating capabilities.
Each season thus far has brought upon a flurry of visitors each equipped with its own fascinating colors, shapes, and characteristics. Throughout the day an intention is made to observe and record new insects as they attempt to occupy a niche among the pre-existing cast of characters. We have been referring to forums and books to help with identification and characteristics of the insects. We then determine whether the insect can be categorized as a “beneficial,” “pest,” or “neutral.” We are quickly learning that just because an insect could fall under the “pest” category does not necessarily mean we want to completely remove that insect from the garden. Removal of all the “pests” would eventually lead to the removal of all the “beneficials,” because their food supply would no longer be available. We approach each new visitor with much caution and awareness, keeping in mind each insect has a role and it is our job to simply observe and interact only as needed.
Surrounded by mono crops of grapes, our garden becomes home for all sorts of visitors. We like to take the long-term approach when it comes to the insects. We hold highly that we do not spray our food as part of pest management. We instead try to use strategies such as companion planting, interplanting, perennial establishment, and building healthy soil to mitigate any severe outbreaks or crop failures. We have observed that establishing woody perennials throughout the garden has created a space for “beneficial” insects to over winter and make our garden their permanent home. The seasons change and so do the insects. Populations rise and fall like the temperature fluctuations of inland Mendocino County. We are tracking the lifecycles and characteristics of each insect that graces us with its presence. We hope to be able to better understand each one and the role they play in the complex ecosystem of the garden. We hope to share this information with others, as we all strive to create well balanced food producing gardens.
Kernels of Truth
By Jacob Scheidler
There has been an unusual guest in the hills this year. Nestled alongside the majestic granary oaks, waving wild grasses, and bold late blooming forbs, there is a small stand of flint corn reaching out with its broad, lanceolate leaves. Lifting its weeping tassels ever higher to dangle over delicate silks, the flint corn is dressed in an exuberant shade of green against the golden tones of the meadow. As we already have a mighty patch of Oaxacan green corn dominating the skyline in the garden, these few kernels of blue New Mexican corn were planted high up on the land to avoid cross pollination and allow both varieties of seed to be saved and grown true to form in the coming years.
But beyond the practical aspect of this geographic isolation, the tending of this corn patch represents a shift in rhythm and intention as I move through each week. Most days begin early with a quiet uphill walk, through morning air that has yet to be stirred by the day's heat, but is becoming increasingly saturated with rays of light, scattered like children excitedly and erratically running ahead of their parents. It is a regular delight to meet the other travelers sharing my path, whether it be a brilliant green dragonfly, vibrating the muscles within its translucent body to dispel night's chill in preparation for day's flight, or a young and unconcerned ground squirrel, content with the opportunity to squat on our haunches together with just a few stalks of grass between us, or the trio of bull elk, who, along with the Kestrel's insistent cries, added the sounds of quaking branches, snapping twigs, and great antlers finding relief from tickling velvet, before meandering off to wade in the remaining shallows of Mom's Pond. Upon reaching my destination, jug of nitrogen-rich urine from the previous night in hand, I kneel, and I open my eyes and ears to the voices of these corn beings. As the water bucket slowly fills from a nearby tank, the conversation begins flowing with all the signs of growth and strain: the incredible magic of every seed sprouting from the earth on the same day, those that withered and those that leapt ahead, the wilted leaves of a pair of plants left thirsty and their resulting decision to be the first to form tassels, and the heartache of stalks chewed through at their base by tiny teeth, reminding me that there are a great many beings here aside from corn that yearn to be fed. Perhaps the most resounding message, though, is the one carried in the generosity of the ears and their profusion of kernel children, each one of whom contains the spark of life and the potential to root and grow and bear fruit as parents themselves. Nonetheless, they are offered up as food so that other lives, my life, may go on. It is a humbling, and marvelous, and grief stricken relationship. It is a reminder that we are eternally indebted to the wisdom and generosity of plants. It is an affirmation of the infinite importance of tending, saving, and sowing seeds.
As the chorus frogs return from their brief startling to enjoy the damp and cool of the freshly watered soil, I speak my blessings and gratitude to these patient teachers, turn my feet downhill towards a valley now brimming with golden sunlight, and offer myself into the sacred rhythms and cycles of life.
Song of the vulture
By shane brown
If you ever look up and see teetering dark-feathered wings circling overhead, you will know that you are looking at a turkey vulture. Although, they don’t always teeter, nor are they always circling or waiting for someone to drop dead, nor do they actually dance to rock opera music as you may have seen earlier this summer at Song + Story Night. So who are these dark-winged ones? Where do they come from? What do they think and feel? What kind of music do they really dance to, and have you ever heard their song? Well, I can’t answer most of these questions, but I can tell you the story of my relationship with the vultures at the OG.
Back in the late fall of last year, when I was going through a bit of grief and searching, as the rains settled deep into the ground and the creeks began to flow, I set up my sleeping bag in the back corner of the barn and went to sleep. I dreamed that I had been sailing on a long journey with my family and was just pulling back in to my home harbor in southern California. As we started to dock, I saw a vulture circling overhead. I unfolded my wings and became a vulture, circling higher and higher to join the other. I could see far and wide over land and sea – the harbor, the mountains, valley, and all the people and urban sprawl of my homeland. As I circled, I hummed a slow melody. When I woke up, I knew I had to sing the melody out loud in order to remember it. Later on I put words to it, added a “B” section, a guitar part and several verses to make a whole story. I called it “Ode to the Vulture”.
Every day at the OG, you can see vultures soaring, circling, flying overhead, or perching in the trees. Since the dream, I have paid special attention and reverence to these scavenging birds. Contrary to the slang term, vultures are not sick creatures that are out to prey upon the weak and vulnerable (that’s actually something wolves are known for, and it’s nothing to be looked down upon, as this practice helps keep elk and caribou herds healthy and strong). Turkey vultures eat animals that they find dead. If you see vultures on or near the ground, there’s a fairly good chance an animal died there. And, if you see vultures and ravens hanging out together, it’s not just a conference or a cuddle party – it’s a nearly sure bet that they are eating an animal carcass there. I think of vultures as being very close to spirit, as they are constantly seeking out death and helping cycle physical bodies back through the earth and give them new form. They are kind of like a symbol of good grieving practice. The scientific name of the turkey vulture is Cathartes aura, which is related to katharsis (cleansing or purging), and aura, which means a breeze or breath. So, like a breeze that cleanses the stagnancy out of the air, vultures sweep the earth cleansing the dead and decaying bodies.
In late May, I was out collecting needlegrass and shooting star seeds with Keith. On the way down the hill I stopped to show him the grandmother valley oak that I believe to be the oldest one at the OG – an impressive 6 feet across and 380 to 400 years old, by my estimates. About 5 feet up, the trunk splits and there is a hollow cavern that you can look down in all the way to the ground. Keith looked down into the cavern and said he saw something – some kind of birds making a hissing sound. I excitedly looked in and saw two balls of white fluff and a mother vulture looking up at me, hissing. (Vultures have a low, hiss/growl that is about the only sound they can make.) The smell of rotten flesh and guano emanated from the cavern. I quickly snapped a couple of photos and backed away. Just a couple days later when I was at HREC (Hopland Research and Extension Center) I learned that there was a study going on about vulture nest site selection. It turns out that a hollow cavern in an old, decadent oak is exactly what most vultures in the area are nesting in. These ancient oaks, it seems, are pretty vital to the turkey vultures’ reproduction around here. Who knows how many generations of vultures, perhaps even condors, have raised their young in this same tree? And how on earth do they manage to get in and out of that hole?
Over the next couple of months I monitored the nest with a remote camera and an occasional check-in to see how the chicks were doing. I watched as their brown flight feathers slowly grew in and buried the white fluff. The parents were usually off somewhere else, leaving the chicks alone in darkness. I brought groups of Acorn Camp kids to the nest and had them practice walking up, taking a peek, and backing away as silently and respectfully as possible, then describing what they saw, heard, and smelled. As offerings, I left a gut pile from a road-killed deer, and sang “Ode to the Vulture” outside the nest tree. Finally, one day in late July, I walked over to check the nest and saw both chicks, with their flight feathers fully grown, perched in the nest tree. As soon as I saw them, they opened their magnificent, dark wings and started soaring over the meadow. (You can tell they are juveniles because of their gray, rather than red, heads.) How could they possibly muscle their way 6 feet up out of that hole and start flying, never having used their wings before? Well, who knows, but at least they made it.
In the next couple of weeks I saw them soaring and perching on various trees and rock outcrops, along with the parents. Sadly, in the beginning of August, I found a pile of feathers from a vulture that had just been killed and eaten by a bobcat. One lone juvenile was about 50 feet away, perched on Oracle Rock. I sat there near him/her for perhaps half an hour as he sunned and preened himself and cautiously watched my every move. What does he think; what does he feel as he looks out over the valley? How many of his ancestors sat on that same rock and looked out over Balokai (Potter Valley)? How did people relate to his ancestors in the old days? What does he think about me, and does he recognize me from the many times I saw him in the cavern of the tree? I may never know the answers, but at least I have gotten to see a little deeper into the life of the vultures. And I like to think I have heard their song.
Oak granary spotlight: meet Avraham Kyle Maistri
I have long held a dream to be a part of a small group of people holding an intention to form a land-based intentional community focused on creating regenerative culture in its many forms. When my friend Keith told me about his new role as the garden coordinator at the Oak Granary at the beginning of 2017, I knew the OG was a place I had to check out, feeling a personal connection through my relationship with Keith and a deep resonance with the mission and vision of the place.
After keeping an ongoing dialogue and working relationship with the OG since coming out for a visit in April, I decided moving to California to put more of my focus on helping the community with the formation of its invisible structures was something I couldn't pass up. Living at the OG affords me a deep sense of connection to nature and the people I'm living with, a lifestyle which feeds my heart and soul in the day-to-day.
The water conundrum
By Cliff Paulin & Lindsay Dailey
Potter Valley, the home of the Oak Granary, is blessed in many ways. A vibrant community of humans, a rich agricultural history, connection to vast open space and wildlife corridors via Mendocino National Forest, and abundant access to water create an idyllic rural picture in the little valley we call home. The abundance of water is due to the Potter Valley Project (PVP), a joint hydro power and water delivery project owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE).
The PVP that diverts water from the Eel River watershed to the Russian River was originally envisioned and built as a rural electrification project. The project consists of two dams, the smaller Cape Horn Dam which creates Van Arsdale Reservoir and Scott Dam which creates Lake Pillsbury. Water is diverted from the Eel River watershed through a tunnel at Van Arsdale to the Russian River watershed, into a powerhouse at the north end of Potter Valley which creates up to 9 megawatts of energy - approximately the electric power need for nearby Ukiah, the county seat of Mendocino County. A portion of the water from the PVP is utilized by residents throughout the Potter Valley Irrigation District and then feeds into Lake Mendocino, where the stored water serves over 600,000 domestic and agricultural users in the upper Russian River watershed.
The issues raised by the PVP are emblematic of California water politics. In a Mediterranean climate where we do not receive rainfall during half of the year, water storage in reservoirs has become an essential strategy for supporting modern populations and industrial food systems throughout California.
Yet the reservoirs and the diversion have an impact on the Eel River watershed. Lake Pillsbury, the storage reservoir for the project, prevents fish passage to 3 - 8 % of the spawning streams in the Eel River watershed (the precise number is debated). In addition, the water being released from the bottom of the reservoir reduces the temperature in the Eel River, which seems to be increasing the prevalence of Pikeminnow, an invasive species that prey on salmon fry. There may be some ecological benefits to the Eel from the project, such as the ability to release batch flows to reduce stranding of salmon along the Eel, but that is controversial. And of course, there are many other factors influencing the health of the Eel River, such as illegal draws from the river for irrigation, erosion caused by logging roads that create excess sediment loading in the river, and poorly designed culverts that block fish passage. And salmon are a crucial indicator of watershed health. We long to see the day where salmon spawn by the hundreds of thousands, their courageous return to the river a sign that we as humans are living in right relationship to the land.
And yet, we find ourselves in the midst of a system that is over 100 years old, and that hundreds of thousands of people have built their lives around. The debate around the water diversion has long been framed in terms of farms versus fish, with heated rhetoric on both sides of the issue. In a time of increasing polarization and “othering”, The Oak Granary hopes to be a part of a dialogue that asks people to genuinely listen to each other, to think critically about solutions, that acknowledges that both people and salmon rely on this water, and boldly offers a creative vision for the future. The small seeds that we are planting at The Oak Granary around dry-farming, wildtending, and eating food from plants that are adapted to summer-dry climates we think is a huge part of a culture-shift that needs to happen throughout California if there is to be water for our grandchildren.
The PVP is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), who licenses all hydroelectric facilities in the land called the United States. These licenses are up for renewal every 20 years, and the PVP’s license expires in 2022. Staring this year the process for relicensing is underway.
The Oak Granary is involved in this dialogue, and it is one that is larger than ourselves as well as potentially useful to other watersheds throughout the west that seek to balance diverse needs and interests in our water resources. We look forward to talking with and working with our neighbors in both watersheds to discuss how we can work to meet current demand, plan for a future with reduced demand, and work to improve the health of both the Russian and Eel River Watersheds.
Water is our life blood, and we are here in service.
Oak Granary spotlight: meet sara champie
Sitting in the upstairs bedroom of the Oak Granary Farmhouse, with my sweet kitty Oona in the crook of my arm, and the branches of this beautiful grandmother oak tree wrapping around the windows, I am filled with so much joy and gratitude for this new journey. It has been a winding road to arrive here at the Oak Granary, and I continue to be amazed at the unexpected blooming of new opportunities, just as the timing is ripe.
I have been in the extended family of the Oak Granary since its inception, traveling here to the property at least once a year for workshops and celebration, for the feeding of friendships and my own soul's nourishment. Throughout this time I have been learning and growing, often the hard way, working different jobs and studying under a variety of mentors. Coming to the Oak Granary has always meant a break from my busy-body life, a time to reflect and connect, a time to look inward and track the changes.
After years of guiding hiking and biking trips with Backroads, for the past few years I have been working as a mental health clinician for Seneca Family of Agencies in their Sonoma Wraparound program. I provided counseling and case management for families whose children were at risk for removal from the community due to their unsafe behaviors, most often through the foster care and probation systems. While working at Seneca, I also went through a 9-month certification program in Transformational Leadership through the Sacred Future School. Through this program I studied ritual design, energy medicine, nature connection and did deep research into my own ancestral lineages. Walking as a young professional in the western world of Medi-Cal funded community mental health, I pursued my own healing through Vision Quest and Grief Ritual. I read deeply of authors such as Bill Plotkin, Francis Weller, Tom Brown, Joanna Macy, Martin Prechtel and Peter Levine. These experiences offered me a pathway that was grounded in Soul as I grappled with the challenges and shortcomings of the treatment models that are standard practice for our most wounded children.
This is where I am on my journey of healing. 400 hours away from my licensure as a Clinical Social Worker, I left Seneca to come to the Oak Granary. The reasons for this change are both personally complex, and a simple on a larger scale. I believe we need to slow down and connect deeply with ourselves and others in order to heal. I believe we need to return to a reciprocal relationship with the land and with our communities. I am so inspired by the mission of this organization, by their integrity and commitment to community, to discovering ways to heal the land, and to the slow and life-giving work of finding our place within it. Here is a group of people dedicated to the journey of trying to remember, the journey to mend the places where we have broken our relationships to the earth and to each other. I am awed by their humility, and willingness to look deeply. Here is a container that I can lean into, to grow programming that I truly believe in, and to be in service to our need to gather and share, to be witnessed and to celebrate, and to grow together. We are a young agency, and just beginning this process. I am a young clinician, just beginning my practice. I hold visions of Nature Therapy programming to bring together families and children, to provide Rites of Passage work and initiation journeys, to create workshops and community events that bring us back to our authentic selves and into right relationship with the land. I hope that here, together, we can continue to create meaning and healing for our communities.
Come and see what we are up to! In addition to the myriad educational offerings in wildtending, ecology, natural building and crafts, the Oak Granary offers a platform for connecting in the ways that are most meaningful--through celebrations that connect us, through weddings and family gatherings, through campouts and workshops, through building our relationships with our food and tending to the earth in the garden classroom, and through experiencing ourselves in the wilderness of wandering the back country of these 305 acres. This place has been created to serve healing in our most fundamental and rooted sense, and I am honored to be a part of that mission.
I look forward to meeting you, and to learning and sharing. Perhaps through our meeting, we will find a way that your event could benefit from this place and community, and the regenerative mission being grown here. With our hearts in our hands and our feet on the earth, we can create something beautiful together. I know it.
With love and respect for the journey,
JOIN THE TEAM: WE'RE HIRING!
April 9, 2017
The Oak Granary is growing, and we're looking for a go-getter to join our team as an Outreach & Administrative Coordinator. If you've got awesome organizational and communication skills and you're interested in joining a young and thriving non-profit and land-based community, check it out!
Submit your cover letter & resume by May 2. Full job description here.
February 3, 2017
The latter half of 2016 saw a flurry and bustle of activity directed toward preparing the land and structures for upcoming events, including the October wedding of our dear friends, Josh and Rowan. As the fiery heat of summer gave way to the more tempered, yet still sun-drenched, days of autumn, we busied ourselves with the completion of a lovely new dock on the swimming pond, wood-fired cob oven at the farmhouse, additional water storage, solar-heated shower stalls and shade structure in the campground, and the hanging of lights in our iconic barn.
With all these improvements, we are ever more excited to invite people to share in the magic of these spaces. If you or someone you know is looking for a wedding or other event site, please send them our way or to our website, where you can find updated photos and information on booking events here at The Oak Granary.
We have felt called, through this land and our community, to offer the gift of warm welcome, to bring people together in celebration of life, and to nurture ways of being that recall into remembrance our collective and shared human spirit. The work we do daily with our hands and tools and hearts feeds this vision, and, in turn, each shining face that arrives to take part feeds our work. It is with this symbiosis of hope and gratitude that we look forward to the coming year’s projects and gatherings and feasts!
A Look Back on 2016
December 31, 2016
Reflecting on 2016 has us feeling grateful at the Oak Granary as we enter the new year! We expanded Acorn Camp (our youth nature connection summer camp), increased our adult education offerings, mentored a growing pool of young apprentices and residential learners, and continued to steward this amazing land we call home.
The second year of Acorn Camp, our youth nature connection camp, was incredibly fun! The kids adventured in the hills connecting to the natural world in the magical setting of our rolling oak woodlands, and learned about ecology, farming, nature-based crafts, and survival skills. We expanded from one to three weeks, and increased enrollment from 8 youngsters to over 40. Thanks to the generous support of individual donors and community partners, we were able to offer financial support and scholarships to over half of our campers this year.
Adult education offerings expanded as well. Students came from all over Northern California to learn from experts in fields ranging from wilderness first aid to natural building, and from the land-based teachings of Oak Granary residents. We also hosted multi-month residents who learned through doing, alongside our long term residents in our Learning Garden, in the backcountry, and in living in community.
We were super excited to host our first year of a Wildtending Arts Apprenticeship. Apprentices spent 9 weeks exploring the reciprocal relationship amongst humans and the wilds - stewarding wildlands to enhance biodiversity, tending the flora, fauna, and fungi of our home, crafting and cooking with the many wild edible, medicinal, and craft plants, and doing so in a way that creates more abundance for all.
Much love went towards our 300 acres of wildlands. We received a grant to improve our backcountry road system and reduce erosion, and we reworked almost a mile of road to reduce sedimentation in the creeks and improve aquatic habitat. We also continued our efforts the protection of oak seedlings, tending of native grass and forb species, planting out and cultivating delicious and beautiful geophyte wild flowers, and habitat improvement projects.
In 2017 we aim to go even deeper into our long-term educational offerings and connect people even more deeply with this amazing land. We hope to see even more of our friends and supporters this year, so please come visit us!
December 15, 2016
With days marked by foggy mornings, transient puddles, and an eagerly setting sun, we're taking the opportunity to contemplate the year past. LeeAndrea was among those that joined us for much of the season, and she offered this narrative of her time here to share. Thanks, LeeAndrea, and enjoy!
"When I first came to the Oak Granary, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wanted to be outside more, work with dirt, and live in community. After just a few weeks at the OG, I realized I found a place that really suited me. I could camp every night if I wanted to, carry vegetables straight from the garden to the kitchen sink, and spend time with people who really cared about helping me grow. I had not yet found anyone making such a genuine effort to live symbiotically with the land on which they live.
I felt very naive in the beginning. The chores instructions were simple enough but I couldn’t help but forget some small details… like feeding the baby chicks. Paying attention to young plants was new to me and required a degree of mental training to become nurturing toward the sprouts and seedlings. We started making plans for a composting toilet – I didn’t realize we’d be handling that too.
I first learned about the Oak Granary when I met Jacob, a co-kayak guide in San Francisco Bay. He told me about the community and invited me for a visit. Six months later, I finally checked it out and decided to stay for a month. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to stay a little longer. “A little longer” ultimately became nine months.
Spring was luscious at the Oak Granary. The hills were coated in wildflowers and verdant, rain-speckled grass. In the morning, the sun was masked beyond the dim haze of the fog-filled valley. The wild turkeys often found my campsite, wherever I was. They doddled (and goggled) nearby. When I unzipped my tent, they’d goggle and waddle away. We were still harvesting the last of the brussel sprouts in March and there were plenty of arugula and mustards greens in the field. I was just learning which leaves had bitter or buttery flavors and what names I could apply to which plants. I discovered rhubarb and found that it can be used outside of pie as “stewbarb,” which is essentially a free-flowing pie-filling. Winter squashes were still abundant in storage and I believe I roasted one or two every time I signed up for dinner.
In late spring and early summer, our garden work ramped up to get new crops in the ground. We planted potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, squashes, cucumbers, salad greens and a whole lot more. Strawberries started catching my eye in early summer. I picked them when I was ready, not usually when they were. My face clenched at the tartness and I couldn’t help but pick another.
We “bio-blitzed” in the summer, taking (most of) the food and supplies we’d need for several days in the backcountry. We cooked food over the woodstove at the backcountry campsite, sang songs in the evening, and spent the days combing through the land – recording all the plant and animal species we could. We travelled in packs, listening to and watching for bird activity. We took time to sit on our own, making observations from our still, quiet spot. We gathered together often – asking questions to each other and to the land.
In the fall, Lindsay offered an apprenticeship to teach in more detail about wild tending. It wasn’t until I started spending this more intentional time on the land with Lindsay and everyone in the apprenticeship that I realized I was developing a genuine relationship with the land and more, specifically, with the oak trees. I, now, have an eye for oaks where I didn’t before. I am more curious about the health of the oaks I see and I am more connected to the nuts as food, picking up acorns and looking them over critically for rot or weevil signs.
I came to the Oak Granary as a near-vegetarian and slowly became a full-fledged meat-eater. At the OG, I could be confident about the source of our meats – that the animals had lived in grassy, well-tended pastures and were killed with skill and respect. I was honored to have the experience of slaughtering a chicken. I developed an intimacy with the realities of food, consumption, and the taking of life. We slaughtered the birds with reverence and I experienced a deep gratitude for all of what has made my life possible.
There’s no shortage of projects at the OG. Together, we each made a pack basket out of willow branches and raw hide. I was able to scrape, tan, and smoke a hide (that I still have to finish). While I was there, folks worked on: spinning and felting the neighbor’s wool, weaving a granary to store acorns, making baskets, building tables out of milled ponderosa, installing a solar shower, and putting on events like youth summer camp and a wedding.Doing this work in community substantiated my experience. I learned much from each person living at the Oak Granary – everyone had something to share. Every evening before we had dinner together, we each took a moment (sometimes several minutes…) to tell each other what we were grateful for. This simple ritual greatly contributed to my overall sense of well-being – no matter how high or low I felt during a day, there was always something for which to be grateful. I appreciated the many guests that came to stay on the land. I made so many new friends while I lived at the OG. I loved music nights, time under the stars in the hippie hot tub, and movies with popcorn. I was grateful to be experiencing life with people who made every effort to live fully and openly.
The community at the Oak Granary makes the programs and the efforts what they are. The people who live at this place and those that pass through are not of average quality – they live with intention and purpose, dedicate themselves to the cyclical, never-finished work of tending to the Earth and its creatures, and maintain a vision for a closed-loop, gift-based relationship with our planet. I’ve been inspired to new depths of possibility and I’m grateful to no end for the time I spent at the Oak Granary."
WILDTENDING ARTS & APPLIED PERMACULTURE APPRENTICESHIP
ONE SPACE LEFT!
Are you interested in wildlands restoration, primitive skills, homesteading, and living in community? Then consider joining us for our upcoming Wildtending Arts & Applied Permaculture Apprenticeship starting on September 6th. One more space available! Read more here...
Summer is just around the corner. We are thrilled to offer our second year of Acorn Camp, a nature connection day camp for kids ages 8 – 13. This year, we are offering three week-long sessions and we are already half full, so sign up now to reserve your spot!
Spending time outside for most young people is a privilege; environmental education programs often serve a very small sector of the population. We have created a scholarship program to get kids outside who otherwise would not have the opportunity to spend time in nature. We've set a bold goal of providing scholarships to 33% of campers. We are grateful to have received a $1,000 grant from Ukiah Natural Foods to jumpstart our scholarship fund, as well as support from our local Kiwanis Club, our fiscal sponsor North Coast Opportunities, and a few private donors. Please help us spread the word about our scholarship program - if you or someone you know would like to apply, please contact us at info at oakgranary.org for more information and an application!
March 19, 2016
Support legislation whose goal is "to restore and perpetuate the state’s most biologically diverse natural resource for future generations of Californians!"
Here is more information from our friends at the California Wildlife Foundation - please write a letter now on behalf of our oaks and the incredible diversity of life they support!
Dear Oak Supporter,
Oak Woodlands Protection is now in the form of Assembly Bill (AB 2162 Chu).
OAKS NEED YOUR HELP NOW!
Assemblyman Kansen Chu of San Benito County needs your support letter to keep oak conservation moving forward into a sustainable future for our state.
Executive Summary of Proposed Oak Woodlands Protection Act 2015-2016.
The proposed Oak Woodlands Protection Act (the “Act”) establishes a state-wide permit process for oak woodland removal operations, to be administered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Act’s purpose is to require uniform, state-wide regulation of oak woodlands. The Act is needed because current state and local laws, including the Oak Woodland Conservation Act of 2004 (SB 1332) (codified at Public Resources Code 21083.4) are ineffective in reducing or mitigating the ongoing and massive conversion of oak woodlands to urban, suburban and agricultural uses.
The full measure can be read at the following link: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2162
Forests Forever, a 501(c)4, will be the primary contact as the measure leaves the world of “education and public information” and goes into the “political realm.” Please see the enclosed letter, which we hope you will adapt or sign as is and mail today to Assembly Chu at the address shown. The email address is: Assemblymember.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please write today, click here for a sample letter. Hand written notes are fine also. If you are able to send an electronic copy to email@example.com, that would be great. Feel free to blind copy me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be an uphill battle on behalf of our generous oak trees. Your help has always been appreciated, but now, more than ever, we need you to speak up. Please feel free to share the enclosed letter with your organizations. Their support is also essential to passage. The more support up front, the better chance we have to conserve the California oak ecosystem. Please send a copy of your letter to Governor Brown.
As always, thank you. We need to press forward together on this important oak conservation measure.
Janet Santos Cobb
California Wildlife Foundation
p.s. Honorable Edmund G. Brown’s contact information is: email@example.com State Capitol 1st Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.
November 10, 2015
The quest for restoring a regenerative reciprocal relationship with the natural world is the spark of passion that drives much of our work at the Oak Granary. We are in an ongoing dialogue with the land, asking how we as humans can shift our our role in nature from a destructive to a regenerative one.
Our second annual Oak Tending weekend was an opportunity to do just that – to get out on the land with friends, family, and community and feed the many forms of life that thrive in these enchanting oak woodlands. We spent the weekend working together to give back to the land, working on behalf of the health of the oaks, and mimicking the awesome and regenerative role of fire on the landscape.
Fire is one of the most powerful forces that shapes California’s landscape. While much of the state is still reeling from catastrophic wildfires that raged all fall, destroying land and lives, we have been considering how to restore fire to its rightful place as a beneficial force. Native Californians have used anthropogenic (human-created) fire to support the health of diverse landscapes throughout this region for millennia – enhancing biodiversity by cycling carbon and nutrients, destroying pathogens, and reversing succession. Because these low-intensity fires have been suppressed for over a hundred years, our landscape is out of balance – and when fire does arrive, it is destructive rather than supportive for life.
Thus, much of our work at Oak Tending revolved around preparing the land for the return of healthy fire, as well as mimicking the role of fire in the landscape. Activities varied; some folks worked with loppers and saws to reduce the fuel load via thinning and limbing of ladder fuels, and reducing the threat of catastrophic fire among the oaks. Others experimented with mimicking fire by removing moss from and lime-washing the oak trees (see Sudden Oak Life for more information on these techniques, which we are curious to experiment with and observe over time).
We also prepared a half-acre unit of oak savannah for a controlled burn by cutting a hand line to contain a low intensity, intentional fire. We hope that burning this small plot in the future will benefit the native plants as well as interrupt the life cycle of the acorn weevil, a critter whose populations destroys much of the acorn crop if not checked by fire.
And acorns there were! We spent one afternoon gathering acorns, and feasted upon them that night, enjoying music, a warm fire, and a delicious dinner including our favorite acorn cornbread recipe.
We’re feeling full from the success of our second annual Oak Tending Weekend. Thank you to all who came out, for bringing their hands and hearts to steward the land and all the life that it supports. We look forward to continuing our work in the wildlands in the months to come and we hope to see you next fall among the oaks!
August 11, 2015
Our first year of Acorn Camp, a nature connection day camp for youth ages 7 – 13, was a smashing success! Campers, counselors, and all Oak Granary staff had a great week that offered a wonderful balance and blend of opportunities for education and play. We saw sparks of curiosity ignite in each camper that continued to self-generate each day. Throughout the week, they recognized plants and animals they had learned about on the first day and continually brought forth questions and musings on the web of life in which they found themselves immersed.
Campers showed up each day ready to fully participate and stay engaged. From hiking in the hills, to building shelters from forest debris, to learning to make rope from plant fibers, our hands and hearts dove deeply into soaking up the wonder of the natural world. We were so lucky to have such a great multi-aged and cohesive group of campers this year. Older campers stepped up and acted as mentors for younger campers, helping them learn and grow throughout the week. The group fostered a supportive environment for one another and encouraged each other’s creativity. When one camper would dream up a wacky game during the afternoon water play time, other campers enthusiastically exhibited great sportsmanship and were willing to play along.
Not only campers, but also parents were happy to report positive experiences with Acorn Camp. One parent said “I thought it was educational, inspirational, and my child says FUN!” Another parent noted that “we really need these non-electronic opportunities for youth” and yet another reflected that “connecting plants, earth, [and] nature [is] such an important task these days.” Lastly, one parent told us, “You got my kid to eat pesto! Nice work. He is not always willing to try new things, but now he is asking for it.”
At the Oak Granary, we’re still aglow thinking back on Acorn Camp 2015. We’ll be expanding this unique offering to our community once again during Acorn Camp 2016, so stay tuned!
May 12th, 2015
This is a front page story from the Ukiah Daily Journal:
"A couple generations ago, many kids spent their summers working alongside their parents, harvesting summer fruits and vegetables. Others spent lazy days outdoors, simply listening to the sounds of cicadas or exploring the natural world.
But time and society has changed, and today, fewer children have a connection to the outside world- to the land that grows their food or the rich ecosystems that support the diversity of life.
A new non-profit organization, The Oak Granary, a project born with support from North Coast Opportunities is providing kids and adults an opportunity to look at and interact with the land and their lives in a new way..."
April 25th, 2015
Our team has been working hard in our 1/2 acre garden to transition from a tractor-based tillage system to a hand-worked, diversified garden.
Thus far we have worked in over 150 yards (that’s about 75 pickup truck loads) of organic matter by hand, as follows:
- 60 bales of local organic straw, a byproduct from wheat and rice farming, to improve the structure and water-holding capacity of our heavy clay soils
- 40 yards of horse manure from a Potter Valley stable down the street to boost the soil’s nitrogen
- 60 yards of finished steer manure-based compost from a local organic dairy to add balanced nutrients
We layered all of the materials in a “lasagna-style sheet-mulch method” and our garden is beginning to thrive! Thank you to our school group from Marin Academy and friends that joined us at our Spring Equinox celebration, all of whom helped give our garden extra love.
Now that the soil is beginning to rock, we’re getting ready to plant our summer veggies, with a heavy emphasis on dry-farming – that is, we’ll be growing many of our tomatoes, winter squash, and melons (yes melons!) without irrigation, which is quite a feat in our Mediterranean climate that receives no rain during the summer growing season. Potter Valley is blessed to have a high water table, which means that our deep-rooted plants can send a taproot down to find the water table and drink the water they need on their own time, without a need for inputting water from energy-intensive irrigation systems that import water from afar.