These 11 acres of forest are situated on land originally tended and inhabited by the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people of Northern California. The forest is populated by Douglas fir, oak, manzanita, blackberry, deer, owls, songbirds, coyotes, vultures, and countless microbes, bacteria and insects.
The first settler residence that we know of on this land was an old cabin, apparently the vacation home for the mayor of Santa Rosa, then an isolated spot on an undeveloped mountain dense with pines. After housing many different residents over more than half a century, the land changed ownership and passed into the hands of my grandparents who were expanding their local janitorial business into property development. As neighborhoods sprang up around this forest, the number of local trees, brush and animals on the mountain dwindled. The once-untouched land surrounding the forest was completely transformed into white collar suburbia within a span of 25 years.
In 2017, my dad invited my wife Ziri and I to come live in the old house and renovations began. We had a dream to create a permaculture food forest and try to figure out how to make a life in right relationship with the land. After just 3 weeks of contractors working on the house and us struggling with pickaxes in the dry, compacted soil, the October 2017 wildfires devastated Sonoma County, burned down the house and charred the forest. 100-foot trees cracked and fell and all of the brush (cover for raccoons, deer and birds) and dead trees (home to nesting owls) vanished overnight in the inferno.
But California forests are meant to burn naturally, in conjunction with the indigenous prescribed fire practices of the native people of this land. And the forest is coming back strong. We can’t wait to share with our local community and wider world the resiliency of this place, the urgent necessity of caring for our wild spaces and the resources we are collecting to help plant a better future not only in this place, but around the world.