by Kate Freeman
On a recent afternoon at Glen Oaks Ranch, the allure of feeling alone in the woods fueled my desire to linger until dusk. I slowly wound my way down the George Ellman Trail, savoring the rich blanket of green that is once again spreading out over the landscape. In a momentary respite from the cacophony of robins and starlings that are flocking in massive numbers around the farmstead, I savored the stillness and solitude of wintertime. Just as my mind began to quiet, I was caught off guard by a pungent gust of skunk musk coming from above. Looking up, I saw not a skunk but a Great Horned Owl passing silently overhead, unintentionally broadcasting its presence like the lovesick Pepé le Pew.
by Julian Meisler
The nearly 700 acres of grassland that burned at our Sears Point Ranch in October have now greened up despite the paltry rainfall so far this winter. The fire here was not nearly as hot or intense as elsewhere, but it was hot enough to burn hundreds of fence posts over many miles of fences. To determine the extent of the damage, I spent a fair bit of time walking fence lines in November.
The good news is that it allowed me to visit areas that I seldom get to, including a small drainage at the back of the property that supports some of the property’s few willow trees. I’ve seen them before, of course, but I had never poked my head underneath until then. It was a good thing I did.
The fence line travels underneath the canopy and the fire had too, burning posts and causing the fence to loosen and sag. Caught in the fence was a seemingly dead red-tailed hawk, its wings caught in the loosened fence wire. In the eight years I’ve spent on Sears Point Ranch, it was the first time I’d seen something like this. I ventured closer and the hawk moved, craning its neck to watch my approach. I could see that I was not going to be able to disentangle the bird by myself so I retreated to avoid injuring it further or risking my own injury from its sharp talons and beak. I needed to find someone who could help.
by Dave Koehler
The winter solstice is a time of reflection and introspection, when celebrating the season involves quiet moments and inward gaze. I am honored that people share their stories about why they support our work. Listening helps me better understand my own relationship with the land and gives me insights on how we can best work together to achieve our common goal of protecting the land…forever.
by Bob Neale
Things have changed over the years for me here at Sonoma Land Trust. I spend much more time inside, in front of the computer … emails, phone calls, meetings, meetings, meetings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the good fortune that brought me here. Great people, great community, great mission — a great job. And yet, I miss walking the land like I used to. So when I do get outside, I take advantage of it. I let my mind wander.
Last week, I found mind and body wandering across Tolay Creek Ranch, amazed, as always, by the land. Winter is almost here, though the dry December and blue skies make me wonder about rain and drought. Nevertheless, it is winter now. This is the time of year when many plants and trees go dormant, many animals hibernate and the sun takes longer naps. Winter is the time of year when we plant our native trees, shrubs and grasses at Tolay Creek Ranch.
by Shanti Edwards
When the Creighton Ridge Fire of 1978 swept through the wooded canyons of the Cazadero area, neighbors say that it sounded like a jet engine roaring as it burned landscape features like Little Black Mountain in mere minutes. Sparked by a lawnmower hitting a rock on a hot August afternoon, it quickly engulfed the land and swept through more than 11,000 acres, destroying 64 homes.
In a landscape and community shaped by fire, Sonoma Land Trust’s stewardship efforts at Little Black Mountain and Pole Mountain have been focused on fire preparedness and fuel reduction. The Little Black Mountain Preserve was donated to SLT in 1979 by the Thieriot Family after the fire leveled their quaint back-to-the land homestead, and the Lookout Tower was moved to Pole Mountain in 1981 to protect the community from more catastrophic fire events.
by Crystal Simons
Yesterday was the last morning I’ll pour a tall cup of strong black coffee in my travel mug. The last day the nanny will enter our front door to say “Buenos Dias!,” prompting my two-year-old daughter to jump down from the breakfast table and wobble-run through our living room to greet her. The last day I will commute north on Highway 101 to Sonoma Land Trust’s office in downtown Santa Rosa. I’m moving to Utah.
by Trevor George
At Live Oaks Ranch, there is one road that provides access into and out of the property. In order to gain access to the farmstead, and the two occupied residences within it, vehicles must cross a bridge over Bidwell Creek. During the summer and early fall, we successfully replaced the failing, eroding concrete and culvert crossing with a new free-span bridge. The environmental benefits to this project are many: reduced erosion for better water quality, improved aquatic wildlife passage, reestablishment of the natural flow and quality of the stream, and more. But what I’m writing about today is a different aspect of the project.
by Corby Hines
Five of my friends, most with families, lost their homes in the recent Sonoma County wildfires. With the staggering losses that seem to have touched everyone in the county in some way, it would be easy to view fire as something monstrous, and I couldn’t blame you. An event of this scale is sure to cause a shift in our perceptions. To make this shift more of a beneficial one, however, I encourage everyone to examine our historic relationship to fire as it spans from time immemorial. That relationship was once healthy and productive for people and the landscape alike, and no doubt can be healthy and productive once more.
by Heather Ah San
When someone asks you where you’re from, what do you usually say?
In my freshman year of college in Oregon, I struggled as an outsider to describe my home base.
The answer Sonoma County was met with crickets.
Wine Country? “That’s close to L.A., right?”
Fine, the Bay.
You’d think I said I lived in Santa’s North Pole based on their fervent response. How lucky I am, they’d say, to live so close to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, all connected by our beautiful bay waters that allow us to call our home “the Bay.”
by Ingrid Spetz
So much of our modern world is based upon conveying information. As a species, we know more collectively now than we’ve ever known before, and that knowledge is growing exponentially. In a world with so much important information out there competing for our attention, how do we decide what to pay attention to? And what do we actually remember?
These were some of the questions that we pondered during a five-day interpretive planning workshop I attended last week in the Carmel River Valley. As interpreters of the natural world, our job is to help instill in others a love of nature and a desire to protect it. How we form that bridge between what people hold as their own highest, most closely-held values and the conservation work that we do is key to developing the support that is needed to continue this work into future generations.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.