Category Archives: People

Posts about people of the Conejo Valley

The Tao of Tea

Tea is deeply personal.  It can also be very sociable.  It’s to be brewed with the upmost care to detail.  The water.  The heat.  The correct ratios.  The kettle.  The gaiwan.  Or you do like me who is in a hurry because Threes Company is about to start.  Boil tap water and pour over carefully crafted Pu erh.  Camellia Sinensis.  We’re not talking Lipton lemon, or any of those other “teas” that we can all buy at Saveon.  We’re talking about teas that are to be respected.  White, Green, Black, Oolong, Pu erh, and the incredible Kombucha that The Healing Tree brews themselves.  Teas that were hand picked in small batches, nurtured with nothing but sun and water, and rich soil.

Tea can be both light and invigorating or dark and heavy.  Its all in the processing.  Its also about what you prefer, your state of mind, your present mood, and what you wish to gain from a cup of tea.  In the morning a heavy or dark tea is appropriate whereas in the afternoon a white or green tea is refreshing.   In the evening an herbal, like camomile or Tulsi, will prepare you for a good nights sleep.  Teas possess both culinary delight and medicinal properties.  There is enough historical data and modern medical and scientific studies to support the healthy effects that tea has on our mental and physical state.  Yet, despite all the claims about tea, the number one reason we drink tea is because it is delicious.  Same goes for anything in life, we do it because we like it.

In this brief video, we go beyond flavor to discuss how concepts of Taoism are infused in the tea culture.



Chillin’ at The Healing Tree

Brian and the Berg just sat down with Moe Lam over at The Healing Tree Tea Bar and Apothecary in Thousand Oaks to sip and talk about tea. We ended up not only learning all about different teas and their histories, but a wealth of information about Traditional Chinese Medicine and German New Medicine and how they can be used together to promote health of your body AND soul. Sit in with us on this video and see how generous Moe is with his time, knowledge and talent. Then head on over to The Healing Tree and begin improving your life. Find out more at The Healing Tree


The City Turns Half a Century (that’s fifty)


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This year marks half a century ago when The Beatles came to America, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law,  President Johnson escalated the war in Vietman, Tokyo hosted the 18th Summer Olympics, the world was introduced to Diet Pepsi, and “Bewitched” premiered on ABC in September (who can forget the insufferable sarcasm of Endora).  Whewwwww.  This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the City of Thousand Oaks and its Eichler community.  Befittingly, the City and community partners are giving us a parade.  And what do we think of when it comes to a parade?  A long procession with horsies, fire trucks, grand marshals and grand poobahs, little cars perhaps, marching bands, cheerleaders, community leaders, politicians, special interest groups, banners, but no clowns….they can be intimidating.  On September 27,  festivities will kick off at 9:00am, followed by a daylong celebration, including live music brought to you by Brian’s band, The Three Rivers Band ( that goes on stage at The Lakes sometime around 11:00am.

To get the lowdown on the parade, Berg and Brian met up with John Short at Conejo Creek Park to chill.  John met us on his Harley on a very warm and dry Saturday morning toward noon.  If you’ve never been to Conejo Creek Park, it’s time you do (and while your there get yourself a library card.  Physical books, like vinyl records, provide you with genuine experiences).  Brian scoped out a nice shady spot under a tree “down by the river” where we sat down to speak with John.  John Short is all things Conejo.  His relentless support and volunteer work over the years includes president of the Thousand Oaks Little league, board member of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District, chairman of the Investment Review Committee for the city of Thousand Oaks, player in bringing back the Conejo Valley Days, and chair of  The Thousand Oaks 50th Anniversary parade.  As is with all the individuals that Berg and Brian have recently met through their Chillin’ efforts, John is genuine and personable.  He personifies Conejo pride.  As Brian succinctly puts it: “The most involved man in Thousand Oaks.”

John originally presented the idea to the City approximately five months ago.  A municipal parade usually takes up to a year to plan.  John’s been able to accomplish the daunting task in less than half a year.  Maybe he’ll be available to organize my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?  To quote the TO Parade website, “”Remembering the past, honoring the memories” is our theme. The parade entries will replicate life 50 years ago when Thousand Oaks was founded.  Join us as we take a step back in time, when life was simple, and not as fast paced. When sheep roamed the hillsides and occasionally the streets, and you could see lions and tigers, and even elephants.”  I’d like to see an elephant at The TO Meat Locker waiting in line for a tri-tip sandwich.  And those sheep better watch out.  In order to make all this happen, John has worked tirelessly, bringing together over 90 volunteers with 20 committee members.  We should expect 125 entries with equestrian units.  15 of the 18 former city mayors will be dusted off for some baby kissing, and there will be 3 original law enforcement officers………so don’t be caught double parking.  At the end of the parade expect there to be built the largest Lego chain to set a Guinness Book of World Records that will raise money for the Dream Catcher Foundation (  All in all, the festivities are expected to draw 3 to 5 thousand Conejovites, or are we Oaksians (perhaps you all can make suggestions and sent them to Chillin’)?  Chillin’ encourages everyone to bring their Conejo pride and to have a good time while still being conscientious and safe.

Hats off to John and everyone who has contributed to the parade. Volunteers are still being sought! Check the Parade website for volunteer info.


Heaven is Under Our Feet as Well As Over Our Heads



For this episode Thoreau comes to mind when he says, “The finest qualities of our Nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.”  I also like Muir when he says, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  These men, and others alike, have a simple yet profound lesson for us to learn:  Our human spirit has realms of expression and potential far greater than those usually realized by civilized life.  By living within Nature, Thoreau and Muir explored and discovered the infinitued of the human spirit, finding that it can achieve much more important, beautiful truths when not restrained by the limitations of urban living.  Which brings us to introducing you to a few of our friends whom are making a positive difference on an infinite level starting with our origins…..the soil.

Laura Maher and John Szczepanek of Eco Restoration Partners are bent on helping us adopt a friendlier approach to  how we relate to our landscape.  Eco Restoration encourages us to divorce ourselves from the “Home Depot” garden by promoting and collaborating “in the creation of strong, healthy, bountiful suburban gardens.”  They “provide suburban garden support and organic soil building services…. (by creating) beautiful, pesticide-free, pollinator habitats filled with perennials and edibles.”  Their “succession planning will transform (our) understanding of soil, water, food, and our community,” much the same way as did Thoreau and Muir.

On a hot and dry summer afternoon Berg and Brian met Laura and John at our friend Chuck’s Eichler home ( to learn about how Eco Restoration helped Chuck transform his property from a depleted tract of land into a sustainable urban garden rich in nutrients, life, and food. Years of pollution, chemical indoctrination and petroleum based agriculture has all but destroyed our earth.  It all starts with the soil, says John.  Soil is the fundamental ingredient to our sustained existence.  Treat your soil like your favorite car.  Take good care of it because in return it will care for you.  Get it under your fingernails and on your skin to appreciate it.  Smell it.

Mulching is a key component to healthy, sustainable soil.  Mulch improves the quality of soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement.  Mulch provides nutrients to soil and improves its ability to hold water.  Mulch is an insulating layer keeping soil cooler in the summer (

When you plant, do so with thought and consideration to the indigineous habitat.  Plant for beauty as well as for usefulness.  Plant to reduce water consumption.  Plant fruits and vegetables so you have control over your diet.  As Laura says, “Chose the right plants to tailor to who you are feeding”.  Plant to promote a safe haven for wildlife like the monarch butterfly, bees and birds.  Plant to maximize the benefits while reducing the carbon footprint. Plant to be rewarded on many levels.  Plant to educate yourself.

The transformation of Chuck’s property is remarkable.  His devotion to learning and leading by example is inspiring.  I’d like to think that Chuck’s transformation has been personal, spiritual and practical.  At the helm is Chuck’s eagerness to change.   And As we are all well aware, change is scary.  The first step to changing is to start.   Eco Restoration is a start.  Eco Restoration is also a step by step process.  They are a partnership.  John and Laura are genuine.  They are good folk with a positive vision to making our home a better place to live.  Spending an afternoon in Chuck’s backyard with John and Laura was educational, sociable, enjoyable and inspirational.

Here are some key words that are highlighted from Chillin’s meeting with Eco Restoration Partners and our neighbor Chuck: draught, going native, beyond saving water, Eco Restoration Partners, aspire, habitat restoration, climate appropriate, pollinate, food source, holistic, soil, mulch, compost, mimic natural systems, complementing, symbiotic, good model, monarchs, bees, birds, choosing, tailer, crucial, environment, resourcing, forage crops, Moringa, kitchen garden, immune system, chemicals, establish, transition, character, and extraordinary.

Brian has recently completed a front yard restoration project by abandoning his lawn, mulching, and planting similar to Chuck.  The monarchs abound.  Berg has begun the first step by removing his lawn and is moving onto step two, mulching.  He also dreams of spending time in a yoga ashram at the foot of the Himalayas.  We encourage you to abandon your lawn, plant for quality, and breath life into our world through a partnership with the soil.


A Special Bonus Video – How to Compost Dog Waste


Immediately following this years Annual Camping trip the idea came to mind that it was time to do something new. It was not enough any longer to roll with middle age responsibilities. I quote Tropic of Cancer, “The cancer of time is eating us away.” Time is an inescapable part of life. Life by definition is finite. How many times have you been advised that its better to do it now because you may not have the time later? Or the cliche never put off till tomorrow what you can do today? The simple truth of the matter is for most of us we use time as an excuse to not do. If we add up how many times we excuse ourselves because we don’t have time we would have time. We have time to watch the latest resurrection of Die Hard. Wow!

In-between being busy managing our time there are intervals. This is one of these intervals. This is intervals of life in the shadow of Los Angeles…….in the Conejo Valley.