Participant Info: What To Expect During Your Stay

Doug in the garden 

Course, School Garden training and retreat participants:

If you have any further questions after reading this page, please talk to your course instructor or a staff member, or call the OAEC office - (707) 874 - 1557 x101

Thank you and have a great time!

  • Click here for a virtual tour of our 80-acre site.

Housing & Accommodations During Your Stay

Your sleeping accommodations will be in our two yurts, or you are welcome to camp:

  • Please let us know in advance if you plan to camp. Campers need to bring their own tent and sleeping bag. (Courses sometimes have more participants than we can accommodate in indoor housing. As indoor lodging is given on a first-come, first-served basis, those signing up later for the course may only have tent-camping open to them as an option.)
  • We provide the yurt bedding (clean sheets, pillows, and blankets).

You may shower in the yurt bathhouse or use the common bathhouse (with private showers). Please bring your own towel. We have two composting toilets next to the main kitchen. There are flush toilets in the yurt bathhouse, one in the main bathhouse, and one on the side of the arts studio/meeting room building.

Please help us conserve electricity and water. If you notice lights or the tap left on unattended, please turn them off.

There are lots of raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, wood rats - even bears! - around the buildings at night. Please do not leave any food in the yurts or outside. Keep the doors closed to all buildings.

Meals at the Center

Dining Room @ OAECWe provide delicious, plentiful vegetarian meals for our guests, using fresh, organic produce from our gardens.

Please let us know if you have any special dietary needs at least 2 weeks in advance of your arrival.

Meals are generally served at the following times: breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 12:30, dinner at 6:30.

  • Please see your course or retreat schedule for exact times. 
  • For lunch and dinner, a bell rings 2 times 15 minutes before the meal is served, and 3 times when the meal is ready. 
  • We do not serve alcohol with our meals, but you are welcome to bring it. Beer and wine can be purchased at the local markets in Occidental. 
  • We provide tea and coffee in the meeting room kitchenette. Feel free to bring extra drinks and snacks.

The Garden & Backcountry

The Center has many beautiful areas for strolling, hiking, and quiet meditation, including our gardens and 70 acres of wildlands in the backcountry. However, please stay on the paths, and refrain from picking anything, since many of the plants in the garden are being propagated for seed. Also, do not drink from water faucets in the garden, as the water is not potable.

The core area of the Center (about 10 of the 80 acres) is surrounded by a deer fence. There are several gates that you may pass through on foot. Please be sure that the deer fence gates are closed and latched at all times.

When exploring our wildlands, pack out all trash and do not disturb the wildlife, including turtles and fish. When hiking outside of the core area, watch for poison oak - there is a lot of it around! If you're not sure what it looks like, ask a staff person. Be aware of ticks in spring, summer, and fall (May through July is peak tick season). There are several kinds of ticks in our area. Lyme disease can be transmitted by the Western Black Legged Tick (Ixodes pacificus). Check your skin and clothes after walking in tall grass or wooded areas. More information is available in the Center office.

Clothes & Personal Items

Please bring the following: work clothes, a flashlight, a water bottle, a towel, phone cards, sturdy shoes or boots for walks on the land, a bathing suit, and slippers (we remove shoes while inside buildings here). The weather is variable during all seasons, so consider dressing in layers and bringing weather-appropriate gear (rain jacket, rain boots, umbrella, a sun hat, sunscreen).

Other General Information

Shoes off: Please take your shoes off before going into the kitchen, dining room, meeting room, yurt dorms, or office.

Fragrances: Please do not wear colognes or perfumes during your stay.

Pets: No pets please! Because of the sensitive environment, diverse wildlife and native poison oak, we have a no-pet policy. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, we accommodate leashed dogs who meet the ADA definition of a service dog. Please let our office know in advance of your visit so that we can make accommodations.

Special Needs: Located on 80 unpaved, undulating acres in west Sonoma County, OAEC is committed to accommodating guests who have disabilities.  If you have any special needs that might require assistance, please let our office know in advance of your visit.  

Restricted areas at OAEC: There are many private residences at the Center. Please do not venture into these buildings or surrounding areas unescorted:

  • Posted private residential areas
  • The wood shop, wood shed, and tool storage areas
  • Backcountry cabins

Parking: Guests may off-load gear and passengers in the lower parking lot, but we ask that you park in the upper parking lot for the rest of the stay (unless your stay is 3 hours or less). 

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the property except at the dirt and gravel turn around. We are very serious about this due to fire danger. Please put your extinguished butts in the trash.

Gathering at the pond Pond Use: You can swim in the pond at your own risk.

Telephone Use: The phone in the meeting room can be used to call anywhere in the U.S. Cell Phone use is discouraged to preserve the rural retreat ambience.  You may use cell phones on the meeting room deck, in the meeting room (not during class), and in the upper meadow.  Please turn off phones when not in use. 

Contact Number: you can leave your course coordinator's or point person's OAEC phone extension for your family for emergencies.  The coordinator will check for messages once or twice a day.

In Case of Emergency: Use the phone in the meeting room.  If there is a fire or if you are alone and need help, ring the dinner bell hanging from the oak in front of the kitchen repeatedly until someone comes to help (the bell can be heard all over the property).

Quiet Hours: After 10:00 pm, please do not drum anywhere, or make music or loud noise in the yurts or the dorm rooms. Acoustic music is OK in the meeting room and dining room after 10:00 pm.

Hot Tub Use: Please shower before getting in the tub! You can use the hot tub anytime (it can only hold 4 or so - please be brief if others are waiting).

Sauna Use: If you have a group of folks who want to take an evening sauna, please tell the instructor or a staff person before dinner so we can stoke it up (it takes about an hour to prepare).

Meeting Room Kitchenette: You can make tea or coffee here. Please clean up after yourself.

Dish Migration: You wouldn't believe where glasses and dishes end up during a large workshop here! If you take something out of a building, bring it back to that building.

Library: The meeting room has lots of books - these are the private books of the residents. Feel free to read them, as long as you return them to where you found them.