Promise Of Paradise

3:30pm Thursdays
  • Hosted by Sarah Reith, Alice Woelfle, Kate Magruder, Laura Hamburg


Welcome to Promise of Paradise, Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County.  We are working to document an experiment that began roughly fifty years ago all across the country. In the 60’s and 70’s, young people began to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” Anything was possible. College-educated hippies began to stream away from the cities and into the country, to put a modern twist on ancient homesteading skills. We’ll hear about the sense of exhilaration, the resilience, and how these now aging hippies recall their rush towards freedom and responsibility.

We’ll also hear about how the lack of boundaries led to tragedy and disillusionment; the racial insensitivity; and how the back to the land experiment altered Mendocino County.

Who were these people, why did they come, and what mark did they make on this county’s history?

Promise of Paradise is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities, the Arts Council of Mendocino County, the Judy Pruden Historical Preservation Fund of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Mendocino Institute, StoryCenter, and Grace Hudson Museum.


Promise of Paradise Episode 19: Donna Montag

Jan 23, 2021

Donna Montag grew up in a wealthy Catholic family in upstate New York.  After college she worked as a portfolios analyst on Wall Street, but was disappointed with the dishonesty she experienced in that job. Searching for honesty and community, she hitchhiked west to a commune in Oregon and never looked back. She arrived in Elk when she was twenty-six, met her husband and began living off the land. When she gave birth to her daughter the idea of natural childbirth was gaining popularity, and some doctors were advocating for a natural approach to birth in hospitals.

Chris Pugh

October 2, 2019 — The truly final event for Promise of Paradise was at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah on October 2. Over 100 people came out, in the middle of a week that was full of public events commemmorating the second-year anniversary of the Redwood Complex fires. Against this backdrop, the memories of dreams, values, and ideals segued with special resonance into an honest reflection of what facilitator Kirsten Johnsen reminded us is an essential aspect of any journey: an exploration of what went wrong.

Carole Brodsky

October 1, 2019 — The final event for Promise of Paradise: Dream it Forward at the Caspar Community Center was a warm homecoming for this project. About fifty people showed up on a Tuesday night for a discussion about what these oral histories have unearthed for them. Panelists, who knew ahead of time what the questions would be, shared their thoughts, and then we opened it up to the audience.

Promise of Paradise Episde 44: Michael Riddell

Oct 4, 2019
Michael Riddell

October 3, 2019 — Michael Riddell moved onto Greenfield Ranch with his two young daughters on Solstice of 1976.He was in the military in the early sixties, then became active in the radical student anti-war movement. He’s comfortable with the types of seemlingly contradictory things  that characterize the back to the land epoch, like hiring a water dowser to locate a good place to build a pond, then building that pond according to specs from an Army Corps of Engineers manual.

Promise of Paradise Episode 43: Captain Rainbow

Oct 2, 2019



 Captain Rainbow has lived in Anderson Valley for more than forty years. He was part of the earliest wave of hippies to move here in the Late 60s. These days he is best known as the master of ceremonies of the Anderson Valley variety show, an annual celebration of local community. He lives near Boonville in a house he built out of lumber from his land.

Promise of Paradise Episode 42: Lori Rosenberg

Sep 20, 2019
Contributed by Lori Rosenberg

This is Kate Magruder with Promise of Paradise, 

back to the land oral histories of Mendocino County.

Today we’ll be hearing from Lori Rosenberg of Ukiah.

Born in Baltimore in 1955, Lori spent most of her

childhood in Manhattan feeling like she never belonged.

She came to California when she was 19 

and quickly made her way quickly to Greenfield Ranch 

where she discovered her deep affinity for growing things

Promise of Paradise: Dream it Forward

Sep 18, 2019

Promise of Paradise, back to the land oral histories of Mendocino County, is wrapping up its weekly radio series on KZYX with two free public forums on the coast and inland, October 1 & 2.  Described as good old-fashioned “Happenings” with a modern twist, Promise of Paradise:  Dream it Forward, will offer the opportunity to reflect on the themes and values that resonated through the 55 interviews that will have been aired by the end of the project, and to imagine where we’re headed now.

Promise of Paradise Episode 41: Nori Dolan

Sep 12, 2019
Nori Dolan

September 12, 2019 — Nori Dolan came to Willits in 1974, already knowing how to drive a five-ton truck and ready to move back to the land. 

She lived in a crowded two-room cabin on a rugged dirt road, then made her home in Redwood Valley, Covelo, and Redwood Valley again. When we talked last December, she was settling into a new home on Ridgewood Ranch, after surviving the fires of 2017.

Steve Baird

September 5, 2019 — In this episode, we’ll hear from two very different back-to-the-landers: Steve Baird, who came to Redwood Valley from Berkeley in 1972, and Tara Sufiana, who moved onto a property on Orr Springs Road near Greenfield in 1971. 

Promise of Paradise Episode 39: Will Siegel

Aug 30, 2019
Photo credit: Jana Rose Chase

  This is Kate Magruder with Promise of Paradise

back to the land oral histories of Mendocino County.

Today we’ll be hearing from Will Siegel.

Will moved to a piece of property overlooking Lake Pillsbury in the mid-70s.

He was a musician when he came and he’s been a musician ever since.

Unabashedly unprepared to be a back to the lander when he came,

his hapless tools included a dull handsaw and crooked carpenter’s square.

But he and his partner,

Promise of Paradise Episode 38: Charlie Acker

Aug 22, 2019

August 22, 2019 -- Charlie Acker came to Mendocino County with his brother in 1975, and established himself as an environmentalist, EMT, and fire chief in Elk. He credits the simple lifestyle that was possible in those years with allowing him to pursue his interest in developing water systems without being saddled with debt. The back-to-the-landers had the right idea, he says, but he's not sure the influence will hold, now, when we need it the most.

Promise of Paradise Episode 37: Anica Williams

Aug 16, 2019
Anica Williams

August 15, 2019 — Today we’ll hear from Anica Williams, who was born in Elk in 1975, and raised on a ten-acre parcel her parents bought for $10,000.

Her upbringing by back-to-the-landers is simultaneously classic and unique. She recalls life in the wooden castle, her one-of-a-kind outlaw father, and sometimes feeling like the Beverly Hillbillies, with laughter and clear-eyed affection.

Her father and some of his contemporaries have passed away now, and their children are heading into middle age. Things just seem so much tamer these days.

Promise of Paradise Episode 36: Mac Magruder

Aug 11, 2019
Magruder Ranch

August 8, 2029 — Today we’ll hear from Mac Magruder, who still lives on the ranch his great-grandfather bought in 1919. Mac went off to college and returned to the family ranch to find the old neighborhood full of back to the landers. He married one of them, my co-host Kate, but he’s still ambivalent about the environmental impacts of the movement.

Promise of Paradise Episode 35: Karen Rizzolo

Aug 2, 2019
Contributed by Karen Rizzolo

This is Kate Magruder with Promise of Paradise, 

back to the land oral histories of Mendocino County.  

Today we’ll be hearing from Karen Rizzolo of Potter Valley.

Karen came to Potter Valley in 1975 with her future first husband, Don Buickerood.  

She was 21.  

Like thousands of young folks around the United States, 

they’d been poring over issues of Mother Earth News,  

looking for a place in the country they could call home.

Promise of Paradise Episode 34: Jonathan Frey

Jul 25, 2019
David Field



Frey Vineyards put Mendocino County on the map as America’s first organic and biodynamic winery. 


That wouldn’t have happened if Paul Frey and  and his wife Margarette, known as Beba, hadn’t landed jobs at the Talmage State Hospital in 1959.


Both doctors, they had been hired to do early research on mental health issues and psychedelics -  LSD and psilocybin.