Chillin’ with Volunteers and the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee

Having recently become an officially appointed alternate public representative for the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee, I was excited to attend the Committee’s annual volunteer work day on Saturday morning October 17th. I arrived early to meet committee members and help get volunteers checked in. I was very impressed with the organization and the speed and efficiency getting vast numbers of volunteers checked in. There must have been about 200 hundred people in total. Once checked in, volunteers boarded city buses to take us out to a new trail route between Lizard Rock (Wildwood Park) and the Hill Canyon Treatment Plant. Another large group was deployed on a weed management project nearby.

The crowd was separated into teams of ten or so and deployed to marked areas on the trail. The trail route had already been “brushed” (shrubs cleared) and the volunteers were creating the new tread. A contingent of trail construction experts affiliated with the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA) were on hand, along with rangers and COSTAC members to make sure the trails were being properly constructed. Volunteers were of all ages and a number of families came as a group to help out, and there was a great sense of camaraderie among all participants. This is what we at Chillin in the Conejo call “Conejo Spirit!”.

Since a spinal injury has left me fairly useless with a swinging tool, so I decided to man my little Go-pro and capture some video of the event; mainly time lapse videos of the trail construction. Here’s a clip of the highlights.

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Chillin as a Grass Eater in the Conejo Valley

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Shortly after the new year my daughter asked, “what’s a vegetarian?”

Someone who chooses not to eat meat,” I responded.

Here’s a handful of questions from my kids that my answer prompted:

  1. Does that include chicken nuggets? Because, you know, chicken is not meat.
  2. What about Yak?  Does that mean I can’t eat Yak?
  3.  Do I have to eat brocolocoli?
  4. Can we still go to Tommy’s?
  5. Animals eat meat.  We are animals.  Why wouldn’t we eat meat?
  6. What is a turnip?
  7. Is fish meat?  Or is fish something fishy?

Back to the Yak.  We’ve never seen a Yak in the Conejo Valley, let alone having never ate one.  So regardless of eating meat or not, Yak has never been and will probably never be a dietary option.  And as for Tommy’s, the holy grail of chili cheese burgers, as a vegetarian its no longer an option….damnit.

The personal reasons why someone becomes a vegetarian is personal.  The moral, practical and environmental implications to change your diet to plant based is significant and profound.  The simple yet compelling fact that excluding meat from your diet lowers your carbon footprint should be reason enough to become vegetarian….even if its only one day a week.  I know that the whole lower your carbon footprint is meaningless to someone who still insists on driving a Hummer.  A funny image: A monster truck owner enjoying a bowl of Quinoa, string beans and home brewed Kombucha.  Our entire socio-economic and political system can easily be summed up by our dietary choices.  Isn’t it Dan Bern who cleverly sang: “Red states got the Waffle House, Blue states don’t.”  Regardless of the pros and cons, I challenged the family to be vegetarian for a week as a more practical answer to my daughter’s initial question of what is a vegetarian.

Here’s what happened: the family failed miserably.  My son didn’t last a day, followed by my wife who on the second day made herself a turkey sandwich, and lastly my daughter, who made a genuine effort for almost a week.  Me, on the other hand, continues to abide by the challenge and am a vegetarian.

There is much to be said about the lessons I have learned.  Here’s a few.  First and foremost, my gut is no longer my worst enemy.  The jihad inside of me has subsided to a dull uprising.  No more Maalox and bicarbonates.  I have noticed measurable physical changes inside and out.  I have become compassionate…even towards a-hole drivers who still insist on tailgating you even though you’re parked.  I spent more time with my food, preparing, cutting, dicing, and cooing.  I court my food like every meal is a first date.  I have also become more aware of the sources of my food and how it goes from seed to plant.  My gardening has become less Home Depot and more food based.  Most of us rather not face the sickening truth about how we treat our livestock and how it gets to our plate.  Think of how a chicken becomes a nugget.  Parts is parts….right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

And now a question for the Right for Life folks: how is it so easy for you to denounce abortion on the premise that it kills life when eating meat also kills life?

And now a question for the vegetarians like me: how can you claim to be a vegetarian when the birkenstocks glued to your feet are made of leather?

Oh.  The beautiful contradictions of life.

And so?

And so the gist of why I write this is not to persuade or pose a convincing argument that we should all be vegetarians…..although I believe that there are more reasons to be one than not too.  The upshot of this, this trifle, this bagatelle, this mouth full of sawdust and rutabaga is this: A question, any question, and its relative answer can become action, that in turn becomes an experience, that in turn brings on change, and change is what life is all about.  If we go the extra mile to answer our questions, the extra mile becomes another extra mile, and another, and eventually we go to new places…..places that make our lives and or world a better place to be in.

Cheers to both the Yak eaters and the grass eaters.  Cheers to harmonious opposition.

How does one chill as a vegetarian in the Conejo Valley?  Simply.  Here are some resources to help:

http://www.happycow.net

http://thenaturalcafe.com

https://www.sprouts.com

thousand oaks farmers market

Whole Foods

http://www.sunlifeorganics.com

http://earthbar.com

Rabbit Hole Foods

Apna Spiceland