Amazing Aloes

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. 


Artists in Abundance

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.


Knee Deep in the Garden



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.


Feel free to like and leave comments. Tune in next week for my next story!

Weekend Rain Excursions



Right at the start of the long President’s Day weekend, I had an adventure. My friend Curran and I wandered just beyond the borders of Oakleigh to a sizable creek that was rushing and full of rainwater. This was at 1:30 in the morning. We decided after a while that the water was flowing too fast, and there was nowhere for the frogs to swim (There weren’t any frogs). Curran brought up the idea of building up a large dam to slow the water down and make a big pool. So we got out our phones, turned on the flashlights, and got to work. Right as we stepped in, the water sent a shock through me, as it was damn well near freezing. Nevertheless, we began rolling out large stones and stacking them in more or less a straight line. Some of the stones were slowly moved down stream, while others were violently rushed out of place as soon as we put them down.  We did this all with one hand holding our phones, and decided that this was not going to work. We abandoned our construction site and ran down to my house, where we picked up some essential tools: half a bag of Parmesan Goldfish, as well as some some headlamps. Curran and I arrived back at our dam and began patching the holes between larger stones with smaller rocks and at times sand or dirt. When we felt we had done a stellar job, we took a step back and admired our handiwork. It seemed like we had succeeded in making something resembling a shallow pool,  but the current was barely slowed and water poured from the numerous gaps in our wall. After numerous engineering attempts to patch up our holes and even redirect the flow of the creek to better suit our needs, we wandered off with smiles thoughts of all the frogs that would swim in our stream.



The rest of the weekend I spent lazily stretching across my big purple couch or outside in the rain floating bottle cps down the many rivers created by the rain. I began thinking about the dam, and how well it had survived the downpour that day. I decided i needed to see it for myself, and walked up to the creek. Lo and behold, I could not see anything familiar. Nothing even resembling a wall. The water rushed, and my heart was crushed. While I was up there I did explore up and down the creek, and managed to find several mini waterfalls and the ruins of an old bridge from the early 1900’s, so it wasn’t all bad. I plan to go up after the next rain and see what I can do to rebuild and redesign.



Above is the foundation of the old bridge I found. Feel free to comment and ask about my rainy adventures! Have a great day.


Untamed Wildlife



Ever since I was little, the wildlife of Oakleigh has fascinated me. Whether it’s the towering redwoods or the little salamanders found beneath logs and stones, it all amazes me. There are countless species of birds, plants and animals, and each has a story.  When I was a young boy, my feet would rarely touch the ground. I would always be up in the Oaks, for which Oakleigh gained its name. Dozens and dozens of them twist their way up to the sky, some only a few years old, others over one hundred. Recently one of the largest blew over in a storm, thankfully not hitting anything important. It is always sad to see them go, but once they’ve fallen, you can see their hollowed out centers where owls, possums and even raccoons had lived. The raccoons are often considered a nuisance, but I think they’re incredible creatures. They steal food and dig through the trash, but they make it a comical sight due to their clumsy nature and not so subtle secrecy.


Another notorious animal on the property, that quite recently scared me, is the Possum. Just the other night, a possum had crawled inside the house and was eating the cat’s food. It had sharp pointy teeth and beady eyes and seemed unafraid of me. I managed to get a picture before shooing it out with a broom. Boy was it BIG though. It freaked me out quite a bit. Nothing quite contrasts the ugliness of the possum like the Aloe Garden. Beautiful flowers in the early winter and spring rise out of thorny masses of leaves and show off their amazing colors. Started long ago by my father with just a few seeds, it has since blossomed into something of an art piece. The entire garden covers about a half acre, with aloes and succulents from all over East Africa. The aloes add a vibrant touch that compliments the grey and green of the oaks forest surrounding them.

Feel free to contact me through the comments or email ( if you want to learn more. Have a great day.






Oakleigh is a twelve acre property in, Santa Barbara, with a rich history. In the late 1800’s, it was owned by a retired ship’s captain, and given its current name. At the turn of the century, the estate changed hands and came to be owned by the Hewitt Reynolds(above). He started and was Headmaster of the Deane School for Boys, and built classrooms that still stand today. The school went bankrupt some years later in the 30’s, and Mr. Reynolds was forced to rent out different buildings to families. One of these was my family, the Sheltons. In the late 1940’s and 50’s a summer camp called Camp Lorr was started on the property. It took kids from around town and brought them on adventures in Santa Barbara including hiking, sailing and assorted art skills. The Sheltons were actively involved in the camp and some of them worked there.


In the 70’s, my Great-Grandfather Rathburn Shelton (above) bought the property. The only condition was that he had to keep Camp Lorr running. His son, Steve Shelton took over as director and his other three sons had odd jobs here and there.  The camp continued to run for nearly twenty years, but was closed down in the late 80’s because of financial trouble. The next few years saw my father Thomas, move onto the property with his wife, my mom, Linda. Other families came and went, staying in some of the old classrooms or oftentimes in various huts and tents and tepees. In 2001 I was born, and we moved into one of the classroom buildings. Then in 2008 the Tea Fire came close to burning down some of the houses on Oakleigh, but it burned around the side of the property. Rathburn Shelton passed away in 2012, leaving ownership to his sons, who manage the property today.


This is a picture of Rathburn, his wife Peggy, and their four sons, Ron, Steve, David and Jeff.



This is one of the original classroom buildings, with old redwood trees from the beginning of the Deane School in the background. David Shelton, one of Rathburn’s sons lives in this house.