by David Goldstein

Lesson from a Ferrari “enthusiast”

I met a man of modest means who loved Ferraris and dreamed for decades of owning one. He worked hard, saved his money, learned how to repair and maintain exotic automobiles, and eventually bought a mid-1970s model of the car of his dreams.

He was so excited about finally owning a Ferrari that he had cards printed with the treasured Ferrari logo, in distinctive red and yellow hues, and below his name and contact information on the cards is the phrase “factory authorized enthusiast.”

Car guys and gals can envelope themselves in their passion, closing the door of their dream machine and sealing themselves into an environment with the sights, sounds and feelings of their passion.

Fortunately, people who love the environment can do the same at a far lower cost. Although local parks can’t be parked in your garage and enjoyed at all hours, with just a little effort, we in Ventura County can walk in publicly accessible open space, surrounded by top-quality marvels of nature.

The more you learn about local ecology, the easier it becomes to appreciate some details. For example, wildlife biologist David Brown found “vampire plants that suck the nutrients out of other plants, woodrats that build mansions out of sticks … and over 150 bird species that live or migrate through Ventura County.” Brown is particularly enthusiastic about Camarillo Grove Park, where he loves the sights, textures and aromas of chaparral and coastal sage scrub, home to over 100 threatened or endangered species, including the giant coreopsis, a sunflower that he says grows only in the Santa Monica Mountains and on the Channel Islands.

His other local favorites include the sage and chaparral of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks and Oak Park in Simi Valley; the monarch butterflies

Freedom Park in the Pleasant Valley park district.

Freedom Park in the Pleasant Valley park district.

“hang out” at Camino Real Park in Ventura (October to February); and the dense, green, riparian forest along the Ventura River in Foster Park.

The Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District connects people with nature by offering a series of nature hikes and classes in its parks. You can learn about the birds, plants and ecology of our region on hikes guided by expert naturalists through programs with sign-up opportunities at or by calling 482-1996.


Connect with nature through gardening

Through growing food, you can also connect with nature in your own backyard with the bonus of benefiting both the environment and your health. Food gardening gives you control of which, if any, pesticides and fertilizers are used, and home-grown food obviously also reduces the traffic, pollution and energy consumption involved in transporting crops from farms to wholesalers and retailers and eventually to homes.

To help you get started, or improve your food growing techniques, consider the Master Gardener program offered March 12 at the Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 14292 W. Telegraph Road, Santa Paula. Registration and continental breakfast start at 8:30 a.m. and speakers, starting at 9 a.m., will explain how to make and use raised beds, demonstrate the “salad cart” concept (a mobile garden of shallow-rooted plants), and explain various options and varieties of tomatoes. The cost to attend is $20, and tomato plants are available for $1 each. Also for sale at various prices will be 4-feet-by-4-feet raised beds and salad carts.

True Colors Garden and Learning Center, Thousand Oaks

True Colors Garden and Learning Center, Thousand Oaks

For more information, or to register, visit the Master Gardener website at (Registration information is listed under calendar section and on the left side of the page.) For questions, contact Leah Haynes, Master Gardener program coordinator at

On the net:

Reuse and the thrill of the hunt

Reuse is another environmental action generating a fan base of enthusiasts. Like a hunter finally getting at10-point buck in his scope, fans of reuse enjoy the thrill of hunting for, and then finding a reused bargain. Buying used, instead of new, saves money and resources, cutting the pollution otherwise required to manufacture products.

One of the best hunting grounds for home improvement items is a ReStore operated by Habitat for Humanity. These sites, in Oxnard and Simi Valley, are more likely than a thrift store to have high-quality items since they accept only new (generally surplus or discontinued) or “gently used” items, including furniture, appliances, building materials, cabinetry, windows, hardware, lumber, tools, flooring, lighting and more.

Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity, which organizes volunteers and mobilizes resources to build and repair simple, decent housing in partnership with people in need. Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County will host a grand opening and ribbon cutting for its new Oxnard ReStore and office location on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. The new location is at 1850 Eastman Ave., Oxnard.

Keep your “eye on the environment” as you enthusiastically enjoy environmental activities.

More information:

Wildlife Biologist David Brown and Master Gardener Jessica Craven provided text for this article.