The Elder Creek Oak Woodland Preserve is the name we’ve given our land. We like the term Preserve because it implies a place that is suffering less degradation than most of the surrounding lands. We are private landowners who are committed to the long-term well-being of the Preserve and all the beings who are the land, so we have sought “permanent” protection for several years now through conservation easement. However, since funding for smaller easements has dried up in recent years, we are looking at creating a legal structure that will meet our goal of protection in perpetuity without the need for external funding sources.
We approach our work on the Preserve holistically. We cage young oaks and other native trees from excessive browsing. We move stones in the creek to set the stage for beaver to take it from there and build dams, returning this critical and mostly absent element to the riparian community. We graze much of the Preserve with sheep, primarily to reduce the risk of high-severity fire near the infrastructure and rare mature valley oak grove, but also as a way to reintroduce a kind of disturbance to the land that theoretically is both needed and missing. Our observations indicate mixed results after nearly four years of carefully managed grazing.
Other land care practices include rainwater catchment, removing dead wood from trees and shrubs, gathering native grass and forb seed, sowing that seed in appropriate spots where feral pigs have tilled the soil, and scything and/or mulch mowing non-native grasses before their seed is mature but after the sheep will no longer graze it.
Since the Preserve is our home, we are not open to the public, but we welcome questions from people interested in land protection and the way we are going about it.
We feel that our home is the most beautiful place on Earth, and our relationships with the beings who are the land have compelled us to dig deep into questions about who we are, what will our legacy be, and to whom are we responsible? The land is our life’s passion. The few land care practices that we do are simple yet full of this love and reverence for life.
Two fundamental questions are at the core of our approach to life: How do we live right here, with the state of the land as it is right now, in a way that does not further deplete the ecological integrity (aka “resources”) of our locale or any other? Can we live in a way that actually benefits the real, living world for future inhabitants, both human and other-than-human?
Brien Brennan grew up on a small cattle farm in rural Virginia, moved out west in 1988 and to the Elder Creek watershed in 2003. His passionate quest for how to live sustainably brought him here with a vision of a typical semi-self sufficient homestead (solar power, natural building, organic gardening, etc.). By 2008, observation of the land helped him realize that his vision was completely incompatible with living sustainably in this region. As of 2010, he has devoted most of his time to researching, planning and implementing the regenerative land care practices outlined on this site, as well as others.
Marie Brennan grew up in the Central Valley’s Delta with summers spent in Mount Shasta. Elder Creek, a place with aspects of both these worlds, is the land she is now devoted to. Being a parent and witnessing the deterioration of land in the North Valley fueled her desire to take action for the future of the living world, now manifesting through her work with Brien at the Preserve. She has also been a professional artist for many years with a focus on imagery that connects people with the native plant and animal species of their region.