Going Native

Yoga posture for the day: Damn (someday)
Full slideshow of photos from day

Visiting Jeff’s house up on the Mesa was incredible. Seeing how he made a living was even better.

Jeff, Than and Kenny

On Thursday, we swung by Santa Barbara Natives, a company Jeff runs with John – a friend from elementary school if you can believe it! – out in a gorgeous canyon along the Gaviota Coast. The company grew out their mutual desire to do something to help save Santa Barbara’s river and ocean ecosystems, many of which had been deeply degraded by the tourist industry and the expansion of roads and other infrastructure into crucial watershed environments. What began as an exploration of the Santa Barbara canyons and coastline, scouring the land for indigenous plants and seeds that could be used to help repopulate these compromised habitats, grew into something that provided both of them with a living. Right around the time they began to gather these native plants, the city’s interest in “genetically local” plants for restoration efforts began to peak, and a niche business was born.

Jeff and John

As Jeff explained, even just a little further up the coast in Malibu, plants of the same species can look and act entirely differently based on how they’ve evolved over time in that specific location. Planting only those plants truly native to Santa Barbara means a greater likelihood that natural ecosystems can retake their place where barren fields or non-native plants have taken root. Not to mention that there is something nice about fostering the growth of plants that are truly unique to an area. Every city and town in the world should value the little bits of life that set them apart (and that doesn’t mean In-N-Out burger, as much as I love them).

Gray day in SB

We had a great time potting some native plant shoots, working side by side with John, Jeff and Jeff’s neighbor Kenny, shoveling kelp infused soil, carefully placing the sprouting plants, and giving them a nice bath to kick start their growth. To be outside, working with our hands, listening to music and having great conversation with good people – is there much more that one could ask for? Our time at Santa Barbara Natives only convinced me further that the lifestyle folks like Jeff and John have created is increasingly possible in this day and age (with a little leg work, commitment and creativity), and it is exactly the sort of lifestyle I’d like to be heading towards: live a green life, work a green job, and make enough green to cover the things between.

Getting our potting on

Afterwards (as if this visit wasn’t enough!), we swung by my new friend Michelle’s house to meet Art Ludwig, resident graywater guru, edible landscaper, and creator of “Oasis Designs”. This guy, much like Brad Lancaster, is pushing the envelope on sustainable building techniques, and has helped people all across the world develop graywater systems, as well as more up to date laws and codes surrounding the issue of graywater.

In a place where fire is a primary concern of residents and water is often rationed in the dryer summer months, graywater and rainwater harvesting are just no-brainers – and yet, if it wasn’t for people like Art, many of these things would still be illegal. It’s taken a lot of lobbying and a willingness to push these innovations forward to make them more broadly accessible to folks across California and many other states.

His property was another wonderful example of how systems, like graywater recycling, rainwater harvesting, passive solar heat, and intelligent gardening, could all be integrated to produce a lush property, full of fruit, beauty and (importantly) privacy. In particular, I thought that viewing “privacy” as a function to be taken into consideration was a wonderful and oft overlooked point in home construction that both Art and Brad had emphasized. This idea connects back to a broader conversation that we had been having with Jeff about the long-term tenability of intentional communities. Jeff’s opinion (and I agreed) was that the intentional communities that had the best chance at longevity struck the best balance between outreach and privacy – connecting with a broader community that could help support them, while providing residents with a healthy union of community connections and personal space.

Permaculture provides us with an opportunity to strike this balance – using plant life to create beautiful, enclosed spaces that shelter our privacy, while also providing a wonderful environment for guests, and food that can be shared with family and friends and used to bring a community together. Privacy when it’s wanted, community when it’s welcomed – delicious, no?

Coming up soon – some clips from a benefit for Quail Springs, local permaculture school and intentional community. There’s a version of “Hallelujah” you won’t want to miss.

My love until then,

P.S. We’re on day three of our “master cleanse” – i.e. three days of eating/drinking nothing but water, squeezed lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, we’re planning on ending today. Was kind of a spur of the moment thing, and I’d say it was more mentally beneficial than physically, but we’ll see how I feel after my first bite into a dumpling or a big ol’ burger. Here’s a pic of the lemon squeezing process (this is in Michelle’s driveway – we were pretty hardcore).

Me squeezing lemons

And Than pounding the glorious brew:


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