In Love With Barbara

Santa Barbara that is. If you were thinking Streissand, you get half-credit. Walters… mmm… not so much.

Full slideshow of photos from the day

Another day, another incredible set of experiences! And that’s even on a day that started off with a 7am visit to the Toyota dealership to get Gloria serviced after her long haul across the states. She’s up above 56,000 miles now, and isn’t she just looking great?


After busting out the guitar and laying down some sultry jams for the folks in the Toyota service waiting room, my friend from yoga Michelle came by to pick me up, and bring her to a bird sit with the team from her non-profit, the Wilderness Youth Program (WYP – as in “wyp it good” – for short). A bird sit, for those uninitiated into the world of primitive skills and wilderness exploration, is basically exactly what it sounds like – you find a beautiful spot out in nature, and sit,completely still, listening to the birds. The idea is that, if you sit there long enough (say 30 mins to an hour) the birds get accustomed to your presence, and begin to revert to more natural behaviors, allowing you to learn more about their interactions. After a couple of weeks of driving, just having the opportunity to hang out outside, by the water, in a half-drowsy meditative state was wonderful. Seeing the gulls glide across the surface of the pond tugged at my heart strings, as gravity tugged down on my eyelids – I wish I had gotten more than five hours of sleep!

Jeff and Than

Shortly thereafter, Than and I reconvened and headed off to visit a friend of Michelle’s, Jeff, who lives in a section of town called the Mesa. He runs a native plant nursery up the coast (which we’ll be visiting tomorrow), and has done some amazing things with his own personal property. And I say this having traveled across the country and seen some amazing things – Jeff has really just nailed it. Walking around his property, through the shade of his towering banana trees, nibbling on the rare and exotic fruits he had to share (pineapple guava anyone?), I couldn’t help but feel that he had struck the perfect balance: sleek and graceful sustainability – and not just sustainability for sustainability’s sake.

Than with Fig

Visiting his house also reminded me of the benefits gardening and nature have on the development of children. His adorable son Kelsey was one of the most attentive, well-coordinated, and curious 15-month old children I had ever come across. At one point, Kelsey was standing beneath a fig tree, reaching up desperately to try and pluck a fig just beyond his grasp. Besides being incredibly endearing and cute, it was moving to see someone at that age so connected with the earth, already understanding that food could be found only a short reach away in this bountiful backyard garden.


Jeff’s property brought together many of the best things we had seen in our travels: his shower operated entirely via passive solar heat (with a gas back up);

Solar heater

he had hired a friend to help build a cob bungalow, where he and his family sleep (and yes, that is a green roof atop the cob structure – double green points!);

The Cob House

and he worked with local graywater and sustainable energy expert Art Ludwig (whom we’ll be meeting on Friday) to create a filtration system for the garden that keeps every drop of water used in the shower, toilets and sinks on site.


As Jeff said (quoting Art): “never pump, never store” – all the wastewater produced on his property (including blackwater) goes straight into the ground, where micro-organisms break it down, and turn it into fertile soil. And no, it does not smell at all – you just need to know what you’re doing, and nature takes care of the rest!

There were many highlights from our time, but as was often the case, Than and I had some of the most fun getting our hands dirty, and helping Jeff do a little mulching as the sun went down. And this, we got it all on camera! Imagine if you will, what would happen if mulching became an Olympic sport. Watch these videos, and tell me we wouldn’t at least make it past the qualifying rounds.

At the end of it all, Jeff invited us in for a celebratory beer, and we had a wonderful time chatting and playing with Kelsey. I couldn’t help but walk away from our experience feeling like the life I want to lead is just that much clearer. A house atop a hill, overlooking the ocean, filled with exotic fruits and gorgeous green plants, living in a custom designed cob house with adjoining yurt and solar powered shower – all right around the corner from downtown Santa Barbara? Hiking, surfing, growing, feasting, music, yoga, community. I want this life, and Jeff really helped remind me that it doesn’t require moving out to the middle of nowhere, or starting your own community to have it. It’s about finding a great spot, and making the most of it. And having fun, as Jeff demonstrates here:

Jeff on the swing

More on Jeff and his native plant endeavors tomorrow. Until soon!

Much love,

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