Friday, July 30, 2010

Story of MuRefuge

I am growing roots here at MuRefuge since December, 1993. Before I was unrooted as you can see from the chronicle below of my crisscrossing the Western U.S. My adult life prior to the late 1980’s was spent in the serious pursuit of “the perfect job” demonstrating incessant uprooting in the process:
Whittier, CA (born in Los Angeles, 1944)
Caliente, NV
Corwith, IA (lived in 4 different houses)
Shenandoah, IA (lived in 3 different houses)
Iowa City, IA
Omaha, NE
El Paso, TX
San Francisco, CA
Sacramento, CA
Omaha, NE
Scottsdale, AZ
San Francisco, CA
Palo ALto, CA
Cupertino, CA
Palo Alto, CA
Redlands, CA
Houston, TX
Tucson, AZ
San Antonio, TX
Casper, WY
Santa Rosa, CA
Sebastopol, CA

And then I met my life partner (& soon to be legal husband after 23 years together), Dwight Sims. Life became ever more a whirlwind: San Francisco on weekdays, Sebastopol on the weekends. WHEW! Finally some sanity: MuRefuge in rural, residential Sebastopol. The property was a raped three quarters of an acre with an almost two year old spec. house AND an eight foot high white picket fence around the entire property blocking the views surrounding this land with wonderful Feng Sui. In a matter of weeks, just before the Holiday Season, we were ready to move in with our 5 month old Siberian Husky puppy & a year & a half old Black & Tan Hound mix dog we found at a local shelter. Both are now buried here at MuRefuge. Rose, a Saluki mix, now resides with us providing us with much laughter.

I knew rehabilitating this land would be/is a metaphor for my own healing journey. Now I realize reflecting on the past almost 17 years the BE-ing rooted here in MuRefuge is a daily practice of essential living.

The white picket fence came down & was recycled. A critter friendly wire fence was strung between the existing fence posts. A veggie garden was fenced & raised beds built. A butterfly garden consultant (this was the early 90’s so it was not so popular as now) suggested plantings. Permaculture workshops to hold the water on the land happened. Soil amendments arrived by the truckloads, cases of gopher baskets were purchased as well as hundreds of dollars of perennial plants & bare root trees. Because I am chemically sensitive, no chemicals were used. In a Permaculture herb spiral in August, 1996 we finally had planted the last of our masses of plants purchased & sitting in one gallon plastic pots.

MuRefuge is located on the North side of the Petaluma Wind Gap, so windy it is, especially in the hot inland afternoons. To complicate the wind pattern across the land, a perpendicular stand of eucalyptus trees to the South causes a huge venturi effect. Clearly a wind break was needed! One was planted, alas NOT natives, following Permaculture suggestions. Some of these original trees have since died and been replaced with native Live Coastal Oaks which are thriving.

After reading One Straw Revolution, I wanted to add foraging, egg laying ducks to MuRefuge. Incorporating ducks was not without trial & error. Clearly reinforcing the fencing to separate the predator (husky) & prey (ducks) became a priority. We now have a stable flock of 6 female Fawn & White Indian Runner ducks that give us delicious eggs, fertilize our orchard, rid our veggie garden of slugs & snails, provide us with soothing, burbling sounds as well as an opportunity to establish a daily and seasonal rhythm since they need nighttime protection from predators (fox, coyote, weasel, skunk, raccoon, mountain lion & bobcat).

Compost bins were built & rebuilt. A small greenhouse evolving into a bit larger one provided space for starting seeds & transplanting seedlings to ready them to be set out into the garden as well as for propagation of plants. In the massive concrete back patio openings were cut out for planting. The concrete blocks were used elsewhere for stepping stones, to shore up a swale & as flooring for the duck house.

Having chosen alien plants for attractiveness rather than natural habitat, many did not thrive or died. Some nonnatives were removed, like the 24 Buddleia bushes, which come from England requiring Summer water and needing drastic pruning each Fall since the flowering occurs only on new growth. And then there was the fungus like organism that thrived on the leaves, making me sneeze and itch during the annual pruning process. Cutting them to the ground and mulching thickly obliterated that mistake. AND it has been fun discovering natives that offer natural nectar for the butterflies.

As native planting became the focus & flourished, a diversity of creatures: four legged, winged, mammals, insects, birds, beneficial, predatory, now also call this place “home”. Along the way MuRefuge became a certified wildlife backyard habitat

as well as a certified butterfly garden.

The land was restored mostly by human trial and error as well as a commitment on my part to be rooted here, knowing full well that this small piece of the planet is NOT perfect, rather imperfect.

Dwight is a sculptor & potter so a diversity of sculptures abound. “Give Peace a Hand” welcomes all who begin the drive off the paved onto the dead end gravel road that passes our house.

As the vegetable garden became more productive a vast array of veggie cookbooks appeared. Canning supplies multiply as the fruit trees & various berries become more productive. First one & now 2 deep shelves of the pantry are filled with the abundance for Winter enjoyment. From the medicinal herbs, healing preparations are made instead of buying synthetic mimics.

Climate change, gophers, wild turkeys, feral pea fowl & other 4 legged predators including feral cats (up to 25) present challenges. BE-ing rooted in place, practicing essential living offers opportunity to reflect, heal, evolve, be present to what is . . . now.

Anyone interested in a brief glimpse of MuRefuge is invited to participate in the tours various Sundays through the nonrainy season from 9:30 to noon. There will be plenty of time for questions during the brief introductory talk & during the actual walking tour. Plant lists (natives and edibles) will be provided as well as free “passalong plants". Photos of the evolution of the garden are available to see. Space for the tour and parking (ride sharing would be greatly appreciated) is limited so please contact me ( for dates & directions.

The fee for participating is 1 bag of Fox Farm Organic Potting Soil.

Comments from April 25, 2010 participants:

Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing your land, plants and knowledge in the tour today. It was such a treat to visit. It is a beautiful spot you are caring for. All your hard work and care are really reflected in the land.


Wow, thanks so much Cathie!

BTW, you and your garden blew my mind! Thank you deeply.

I can't wait to for my friends and family to see MuRefuge; please

do keep us in the loop for future events and/or volunteer needs.


1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story of growing roots, both actually and metaphorically. Love the photos. Thanks for sharing your ongoing journey.