Just last week, I had the chance to attend Expo West, the largest natural products convention in the world. I went as an ambassador to Kaibae, a company who’s goal is to bring the improved nutrition and health benefits of under-utilized ‘lost crops’ into the global economy. Hosted in Anaheim, CA, over four days the convention itself saw nearly 100,000 attendees and constantly seemed full to the brim. Thousands of exhibitors had set up booths to inform first journalists, executives and other exhibitors, and then in later days the public, about their products. By the end of the day, my sister and I had collected dozens of stickers, pins and other odd souvenirs that had been handed to us throughout the experience. The expo allowed for an elevated mindset that made me realize how big the natural product industry really is and how prevalent it is in our daily lives.
The last rains of the season fell today. The grass bent over, weighed down with water that had gathered there in the night. Though this may be a sad time, seeing the final storm, and waiting for the accompanying dry heat of summer, the flowers are blooming.
The plum tree is preparing to give fruit, and in doing so, producing beautiful pink trimmed, white flowers. Orange blossoms are dashed across the North-Eastern side of Oakleigh, making for a fairytale setting. The purple periwinkles have popped up everywhere. Most alluring of all though, is the Wisteria. Cascading over an iron pergola, the vines creep and crawl through a lattice work of twisted metal and crossed wood. Faint violet bushels of petal hang down to brush the shoulder of passerby. Yesterday I walked through the purple clouds, only to find myself reminded of the barren stalks that are left behind in the fall, when the leaves dry and the seedpods crackle and snap in the hot summer wind. But for now, I enjoy the soft flowers and smile in their presence.
For twenty years, Thomas Cole has collected and grown an assortment of odd looking plants. This store of succulents and aloes has accumulated into an enormously beautiful, alien garden bursting with a symphony of oranges, reds and deep greens. Cole has traveled across East Africa, searching for seeds from which blossom these incredible plants.
In the center of the nursery is an old ramshackle barn with a tin roof and cold cement floor. In its past, it was a horse barn surrounded by a corral that has since become a home for plants. The building itself has been converted into the Midway Bar. It is filled with neon signage and odd paintings that add a certain quaint character. The center piece, while not quite in the center, is an old red arrow with white letters, reading Midway Bar along its length, that hangs outside and lights up with neon. Folks gather in the Bar for parties, notably to commemorate the great poet Robert Burns. For the most part though, people gather to watch Football or Basketball. Occasionally, on Sundays, the Midway Bakehouse will open, and Elena Shelton will prepare breads, pastries and omelettes for family and friends.
Oakleigh is home to several astounding artists, representing many mediums. Painters, like Karin Shelton or Allie Cole, dazzle onlookers with stunning mountain-scapes, realistic recreations of scrubjays and delicious fig figures. These artisans take inspiration from the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding them and infusing them with creative ability. Cole is an aspiring artist, only just recently releasing her art unto the world. Shelton, on the other hand, is a full fledged career artist, who has successfully been selling her art around Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles area. Both have left their mark on the world.
Zyrka Landwijt Metcalfe represents another side of the creative spectrum. While she does not paint, she hand sews beautiful blanket wraps. Originally wanting to make something for herself, she has turned that desire into an art form. Made of Pendleton wool, Zyrka customizes each one with an array of colors and designs, while also decorating them with ribbons, pendants, buckskin lace, assorted trade beads and holy medals, as well as antler and bone. Individual wraps take up to 12 hours to create, and Zyrka has made over 30. She sells the wraps through her Instagram, which can be found Here.
Our last artist’s instrument is not a paintbrush nor sewing needle, but a welding torch. Mattie Shelton, a young entrepreneur, designs and builds tiny, livable houses. She runs her own business, where she has made it possible to do what she loves, and make a profit. Shelton grew up among a family of artists, like her mother Karin Shelton, and her father Jeff, who is an architect. Having a supportive, creative atmosphere has pushed her to pursue a career in Hut building. Shelton welds the frames of said huts, and puts them together herself. Her metal shop, which she shares with her uncle David, also a welder, is located in downtown Santa Barbara, and is teeming with odd bits of scrap metal and tools, used for all kinds of jobs and installations.
Thank you for reading. Please comment and like! Ill be back next week with another interesting post.
This week I managed to catch the last few rays of sunlight in the garden. Oakleigh’s garden, though generally filled to bursting with a plethora of delicious fruits and vegetables, was considerably lackluster yesterday. I did manage to find a few bright spots in the weeds. Some blooming rosemary and chard stalks brought color to the nearly empty garden beds.
I wandered through the tall clovers and sour grass to find the beginnings of what could be a plentiful harvest. Cultivators of the summertime cornucopia had just planted a few beds, root plants mainly. Carrots and beets and several other seemingly dyed plants that, though relatively plain and simple above ground, radiate deep reds, purples and oranges below. As I came to walk out of the garden, I saw a lemon tree standing alone and looking unkempt and sort of grubby. It shamefully sat in the sunset with sparse leaves, repulsing the otherwise beautiful scenery. I took several steps closer, and upon further inspection, I saw the comely shape of an unripe lemon. Here I looked at the potential deliciously sour treat that would be ready in a few weeks time and thought to myself, “Maybe this tree isn’t quite so ugly as I thought”, and I went on my way.
Now sitting at home writing, I remember not this recent garden excursion, but one from several weeks ago. I was tasked with taking care of Phoebe, a young Greek Tortoise owned by my Biology teacher, over the weekend. I thought it would be a great idea to take her out to the garden and the lawn situated beside it so she could get some sun, and both she and I could have a grand old time. I placed her down in a bed of clovers and watched as she made her way through the plants, nearly hidden by the three leaves of each stalk. Phoebe managed to carve out a tortoise highway with her shell as she flattened each clover and crawled to a dandelion so she could munch on its leaves.
As I stood by with tortoise at hand, I looked to the other side of the Garden, and lo and behold, what did I see? Henry, another resident of Oakleigh, playing with his brother. I called over, and told him there was someone who wanted to meet him. He’s five, by the way. He ran over and instantly cast his gaze upon Phoebe’s beautiful shell. Henry became so excited and elated when he picked her up and felt her little claws moving across his hands. When he was called back to his house, he was sad to say goodbye, but I told him he could come over and play with Phoebe the next day, and he smiled and walked home.
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