Fluid Dynamics

Pro surfer Mary Osborne goes above and beyond the board.

By Amelia Fleetwood

‘‘I fell in love with surfing the second I caught my first wave,” said 35-year-old professional surfer and long board champion Mary Osborne. “I always thought that I would end up on a tropical island, but I’m still here!” she laughed. The indomitable powerhouse finds amusement in being born and bred and still living in her beloved Ventura.

Osborne literally grew up in the water, living at Solimar Beach with her parents and three older brothers, all of them phenomenal surfers.

Osborne, quite naturally, followed them into the ocean. She remembered the moment her path became clear, when she saw the powerful image of a woman on a surfboard in a magazine. Osborne was so inspired by that image, she made it her goal to be just like the woman in the magazine. Osborne began winning local competitions up and down the coast of California, and by the time she was 17 she was competing internationally, making a name for herself.

Osborne credits her sponsor, Patagonia, with setting her apart from the mainstream surfers. “Patagonia was a huge influence on me. It helped shape me from my early teens,” she said. Patagonia’s environmental ethos schooled her in the importance of ecological awareness, the necessity of caring about our oceans and our food supply.

Now Osborne aligns herself only with companies that share her philosophy. 

“During the time I was coming up in the sport there weren’t many females,” Osborne said. “I was competing primarily against boys and doing well, and winning.” Still, she does not consider herself a trailblazer. From her perspective, it was the women surfers in the generation before hers that broke into the male-dominated sport, paving the way. 

Not content to be the typical pro surfer who got paid to surf, and then go home, Osborne took her career outside of the box, throwing herself into everything from hosting TV shows and travel documentaries, to writing, being an environmentalist and becoming an advocate for women in sports. She has been ambassador to the United Nations Environmental Safe Campaign, worked with the 5 Gyres Institute and Project Save Our Surf, and acted as “surf ambassador” for Patagonia. In 2010, Osborne became the first woman to ride China’s Qiantang River tidal bore, the world’s largest and fastest bore, a roaring river-wave with recorded heights nearing 30 feet. She followed that up by riding the bore again in each of the subsequent four years.

Osborne may be a very accomplished surfer, but it is her buoyant energy and her motto, “Live, love, inspire,” that drives her work. She heads her own company, “Mary Osborne Surf,” where she teaches surfing to kids, teen girls and women of all ages. She also hosts local surf camps and international escapes, and specializes in custom event planning.

“The first kids camp began by happy accident,” Osborne said. “People asked me to teach their kids when I was in town, and it quickly snowballed. I now teach about 30 children a week, for 10 weeks every summer.”

Osborne never stops. “I have a crazy amount of energy because I really enjoy what I do. Being outdoors and active just keeps me going.” Having gone through certain difficulties in her own life, it has become Osborne’s passion to help women of all ages to actualize their potential. She takes special pride in her camp’s Teen Overnight Surfari — for girls ages 12 through 15 — a personal favorite. “I love teenage girls. It’s such a crazy age, and these days, with the added pressures brought on by the presence of the media, it’s even more important to instill a sense of empowerment in these young women.” Osborne created a seven-day trip that combines a surf camp with key speakers, such as professional athletes and life coaches, who teach self-confidence and the basics of healthy living.

“I have seen the teens completely transform and learn so much by the end of the week! We visit local businesses for education (Patagonia, Betty Belts, Channel Islands Surf Shops), we go on Island Packers educational day trips, go horseback riding in Ojai, and visit local farms to learn about produce. It’s a lot packed into one week.” A multitasker with a seemingly endless supply of energy, Osborn also designs custom Weekend Women Surf Clinics for all levels of expertise, targeting women between the ages of 40 and 60 who want to try something new, complete with wine tasting, yoga and great food.

“I notice that women often hold on to a lot more fears than men do,” Osborne said. “I spend a lot of time with each person before we get out in the ocean. Many have some past fear of the water. But once they catch a wave and stand, it’s incredible! A person can carry that wherever they go.

“When learning to surf, people are not just dealing with Mother Nature, but also with the rigorous physical and mental challenges that come up,” Osborne shared. “It’s not just about learning to surf; it’s much more therapeutic. It’s really about figuring out what your fears are and approaching them, and getting that confidence out in the water. It can be scary for people. I tell everyone, ‘This is your hour, this is your day! Make it what you want.” 

Learn more about Mary Osborne, including her classes and trips, at maryosbornesurf.com, or call 805.973.7263.

The Sweet Life

Hand in Hand

A woodworker and an artist handcraft works of quiet beauty for Killscrow.

By Amelia Fleetwood

“Killscrow is a tribe-related word. Darrick and I loved the name and felt connected to it,” says Lana Fee Rasmussen, explaining the title of the company she runs with her husband, Darrick.

Killscrow is an Ojai-based design company, started in 2013, and the name pays homage to Lana’s Native American ancestry: Her mother is full-blooded Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole. Lana didn’t grow up in a “traditional” way, and much of her work stems from her curiosity about her ancestry.

Darrick is a furniture maker. Lana is a block-print fine artist who works with paper and textiles. Although they work in different mediums, the couple rely on their similar aesthetics and mutual support and influence to keep their brand cohesive. Their work can be described as pared-down, highly edited and brought back to the most simplistic forms. There are no frills or extra elements; focus is on the essential. The result is classic and timeless furniture and strikingly powerful artwork.

“Darrick uses the word ‘quiet’ a lot when describing what it is when a piece of ours feels successful,” Lana shares. “As the more practical of the two of us, I think the idea of over-designing is my worst fear. We may dance around something a little more decorative at first, but we always come back to keeping it simple.”

“The way that I was taught,” shares Darrick, who studied at the College of the Redwoods in Northern California, enrolled in an accelerated learning program for woodworking, “was to let the wood tell you what it needs.”

Since college, that eat/sleep/drink woodworking work ethic has enabled Darrick to quickly master his craft. He’s been building furniture for the last five years, and Killscrow offers his pared-down tables, chairs, beds, custom pieces and large shelving units. Darrick explains his aesthetic: “I like my home to be a nice, quiet environment, a space that feels peaceful. Because there is so much going on when you leave the house (and both Lana and I design with that in mind), our designs are simple with no extra flourishes, leaving exactly what you need with nothing added.

“For me it is so much about using a ‘quiet’ wood and not a statement piece. I want the wood and the design to coexists harmoniously instead of the design taking center stage or the wood standing out.” Because of this, Darrick tends to pick wood that has straight grain and a simple look. He avoids the flashier exotic woods not only because of their showiness, but also because of their questionable origins and sustainability. He sticks with species that grow in North America, counting among his favored woods walnut, ash, white oak and, on occasion, cherry. Darrick also brings leather and sometimes even brass into his designs.

To start a project, Darrick draws the design on the computer and then commences design talks with the client. “I am comfortable with most aspects of the design, but there are always those times when I need to build a mock-up to see how it will work,” he says. “I use cheap wood to create a rough draft of the project before I commit to using the real wood. A mock-up is a great tool to help me see what the completed project will look like.”

Darrick relies on hybrid woodworking, using a combination of machines and power tools for the things they do best, like the rough work (to save time), while keeping the more detailed work for his hand tools, employing traditional methods.

Using each other as a sounding board, Lana and Darrick play off each other’s opinion as their work develops. These days Lana is working on a series of small drawings that pay homage to Ojai’s citrus fruits.

“I think of myself as a craftsperson rather than an artist,” Lana says. She carves the blocks she uses for printing by hand and is very focused on the tactile feel of the paper she uses.

“I really like working on new things because I love learning,” Darrick smiles. “There are days I feel like a furniture maker and other days I just feel like a woodworker.”

When their retail space opens in Ojai in April, it will be the first time that Lana and Darrick’s work will be displayed together. In partnership, this talented couple are creating innovative and exciting work, breaking new ground in design, function and beauty. 

For more on Darrick and Lana Rasmussen’s work, visit killscrow.com.

Spirit of the Southwest


An earthy palette and drought-tolerant landscaping create a heavenly hacienda in Thousand Oaks.

By Amelia Fleetwood

“I didn’t want to be just another old ballerina!” laughs Geri Elfman, landscape designer for the Casa de Maya Ranch House in Thousand Oaks. Elfman, who owns Hawkeye Landscape and Design, danced as a young woman with the Chicago City Ballet. But 20 years ago, motherhood and a move to Topanga, Calif., inspired her to change course.

When her two daughters bypassed their mother’s love for dance, and instead developed a passion for horses, Elfman hung up her ballet slippers for good. She and her family embraced a decidedly more “outdoorsy” lifestyle. Elfman earned an associate degree in horticulture and design, named her company after Hawkeye, her favorite horse, and never looked back.

Early on she was inspired by Garry Hammer, known for seeking out and experimenting with exotic plants worldwide. Elfman explains: “Garry is ultimately responsible for bringing in the more sustainable plants commonly enjoyed in so many gardens — the succulents, agaves and aloes from Australia, Africa and Mexico. Garry started World Wide Exotics Nursery in Lakeview Terrace, where most of the plants that I’ve used at Casa de Maya are from.”

Elfman plants to suit the environment. “Long gone are the days of old-style gardens with lawns and hedges; we just can’t do that anymore.” Instead, she encourages her clients to make more sustainable and environmentally thoughtful landscape choices. “The alternative does not have to end up looking like an Arizona desert-scape,” she assures us. “There are plenty of other choices. Perennials and succulents, for example, can do the job nicely.

“With the drought, I think some people got a little carried away, ripping up their lawns and throwing down gravel, which is not advisable. Gravel heats up the ground and makes everything even hotter.” Elfman prides herself on seeking the middle ground and not adhering to one extreme or another.

Casa de Maya is owned by Maya Haller and her husband, Christopher Parise. They met Elfman through mutual friends.

The Mexicana-style ranch house features authentic Mexican tile, and uses mesquite wood throughout the home, adding character and charm.

The ranch, home to horses, chickens, turkeys and even a tortoise, was already a very sustainable property by way of solar and gray water systems when Elfman took on the project.

All that was missing to complete the property was a large, hacienda-style, stone courtyard. “Designing the courtyard was such fun,” says Elfman. “I love to work with stone.” She created an outdoor world to complement the house, building multiple fireplaces and sculpting seats right out of the walls. There’s even an “Elk Mountain” boulder water feature surrounded by an Australian peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa) and many Leucadendron ‘Summer Red’ plants, endemic to South Africa and prized for their drought tolerance and colorful flowers.

Elfman hunted down many unusual plants, ones that can withstand the intense heat of Southern California summers. The cactus garden near the front door includes a Euphorbia lambiitree, Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset,’ and Mangave ‘Macho Mocha.’ She used Crassula ‘Campfire’ and Senecio serpens (sometimes called blue chalkstick) as ground cover.

A barbecue area built against the courtyard wall is accented with brightly-colored Mexican tile. Elfman used Grevillea ‘Red Hooks,’ Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta,’ Leucophyllum frutescens, Abutilon palmeri, Cereus peruvianus and Aeoniums to offset the area.

Along the driveway she planted rows of large blue agave, Palo Verde, and Chilean mesquite trees to shade the upper garden of Fouquieria splendens, Aloe merlothii and manzanita ‘Howard McMinn.’

She plants sparingly, knowing that over time the area will fill up as the plants grow. “When I am looking at a landscape I am seeing what it is going to look like in five years. I have to put on my goggles that take me into the future.”

Elfman describes her style as “instinctive and fluid.” She likes to spend time before she begins a project, getting to know her clients as people. “My crew doesn’t just come in and do the job and leave. They also get quite emotionally involved with what we are doing; we have been working together so long that we have a rhythm to the way we work.”

Elfman is drawn to many types of gardens. “I enjoy them all, but I have my own style; I work with what is there and what is going to look good, while still trying to give the clients what they want. Overall, I am trying to achieve a calming effect. Even a small area should give off some relaxation, some pleasure.”

It is all about a “feeling” for Elfman. She will ask her clients: “Tell me, what is the feeling you want to have when you walk outside?” Then she will fill in the blanks with the shades and the colors and scents.

Simply Beautiful


Chivas Skin Care takes an all-natural approach to health and beauty.​

“This measuring scale is my favorite belonging in the world!” declares Donna Johanson, half of the dynamic mother/daughter team that owns and runs Chivas, a natural goat milk skin care line. She points lovingly to an innocuous, stainless steel scale in her spotless production room at the farm where many of the company’s natural products are created.

“This scale meticulously measures with the highest accuracy all the products we create here,” Johanson says. Chivas creates Argan Cleansing Oils, Argan Eye Creme, a selection of facial and body soaps, laundry soap, shave soap and essential oil blends, all at the farm. Still more of their goat milk skin care products are made in a lab according to Johanson’s recipes. 

Run by Johanson and her daughter Lauren Johanson Jones from their small, peaceful farm in Fillmore, Chivas Farm is surrounded by orange groves and mountains and comes equipped with the quintessential red barn, two rescued free-roaming pigs, Piggles and Oreo, and Diva, their rescued red Angus cow, who still loves to be bottle-fed at the grand old age of a year and a half. The farm is home to chickens and dogs as well as 14 adult Alpine goats and their 20 babies, born this spring. Alpine goats, commonly used for cheesemaking because of their milk’s high fat content, supply all the goat milk needed for the Chivas Skin Care line.


“Alpine goats are my favorite breed; they are quiet, sophisticated and intelligent. I think they are a really classy kind of goat,” laughs Johanson. The goats are hand-milked in the morning and late afternoon. They are typically fed organic grain and lots of alfalfa, free-choice minerals and kelp to keep them healthy and high producers of top-quality milk.


Jones explains the benefits of using pure goat milk in her products: “Goat milk is a complete food, packed with rich vitamins and nutrients. The fat and protein globules are very small, so all the goodness is easily absorbed into the skin. It also has a very low pH balance so it is gentle, especially important for problem skin.” Additionally, goat milk is high in alpha hydroxy acids (lactic acid) that break down and remove dead skin cells that can otherwise clog the pores.


Chivas does not use any synthetic fragrances, artificial colorants or chemical preservatives in its skin care products. No parabens, phthalates or mineral oils are used. It’s Jones’ dream for people to be as careful with what they put on their skin as what they put into their bodies. “We are all so focused on eating organically, but the skin often misses out.”


“Chivas offers an uncomplicated way to take care of the skin naturally. We like to keep things simple,” Jones says with a smile. This simplicity is reflected in their line, beginning with minimal packaging and a fresh logo, designed by Jones. “We are the type of women who like having fewer things in our bathroom cabinets.”


Chivas began in 2004 when Johanson bought two goats so she could have raw organic milk for her family. “I had a surplus of milk with these two goats, one in particular was dubbed Dolly Parton — she was so overloaded! I made cheese, ice cream, yogurt and eventually figured out how to make soap.”


Johanson was one of the first people to benefit from the all-natural, gentle soap she made. She had lived with chronically dry skin, trying every mainstream and high-end product to alleviate the problem. Those products just made her skin worse, so she started creating her own. And it worked.


She also began giving away bars of goat milk soap as gifts. Everyone asked for more. So she started selling them around town. At one school fair, Johanson remembers a woman who bought up every bar of soap they had. “She told me it was the only soap she and her daughter could use because of their terrible eczema! That’s when the seed was planted.” Johanson’s “hobby” was actually helping people.


Jones did some globetrotting before joining what is now the family business. After college she traveled around the world working on farms, where she was exposed to many exciting ideas that she brought home to Fillmore. A lavender farm in New Zealand left a lasting impression. “That is a smell I will never forget. I was so inspired!” Jones became obsessed with the idea of using natural, essential oils instead of synthetic perfumes. During her travels she also became aware of the benefits and importance of using only fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. When she joined her mother at the farm, the two got serious about their business. With Jones’ encouragement, Johanson switched over to pure plant-based essential oils and started sourcing fair-trade ingredients.


“It starts with the soap. That’s the foundation, the first building block to any beauty regime. A good moisturizing soap is really the key,” Johanson says of the company’s beauty philosophy. Chivas specializes in a boutique line of soaps with such scents as energizing peppermint, soothing chamomile rose, refreshing lemon eucalyptus and balancing sage and geranium. It also has a line of market soaps with scents of lavender, citrus mint and lemon. And it offers a popular, fragrance-free version for those with especially sensitive or problem skin.


The line includes two simple moisturizers and two newly launched toners, one “calming” for those with sensitive skin, and another “nourishing” for especially dry skin. There’s also an array of goat milk body lotions, essential oils and a brand-new eye cream. Additionally, it has a great line for men.


Chivas goat milk skin care products are now sold in over 100 stores nationwide, and Johanson and Jones are involved in fun projects like their collaboration with Lionsgate Entertainment, bringing the fictional soap from the Netflix show, Orange Is The New Black, to life. They also partnered with Elizabeth’s Canvas to create a line of Gifts That Give soaps. For every soap purchase, a portion of the proceeds goes to help Elizabeth’s Canvas fund free art classes for cancer patients and survivors.


Johanson and Jones agree. “Beauty is not just what you see on the outside. It’s staying hydrated, using sunscreen, eating good food and, above all, keeping it simple.”


For artist Anna Julien and her daughter, Mia, a rustic ‘20s-era cabin offers a cozy retreat from the big city — and a link to Ojai’s storied past.


“We call our house the ‘Sugar Shack,’” says Anna Julien in her native Aussie twang. An artist and natural beauty, Anna shares the home with her ten-year-old daughter, Mia, and an assortment of small farm animals: goats, bunnies, chickens, and ducks—the “Cute Farm,” Mia calls it. The serenity of the nearby Topa Topa mountains and the nature-filled promise of Ojai lured the pair away from the fray of Los Angeles nearly two years ago.


“The moment I stepped onto this property, my whole body language changed. I had such an intense feeling about being here,” Anna says of her first visit to the storied cabin, built in 1921, and adjoining dance studio (added later). Set on nearly two secluded acres in the east end of Ojai, the property is surrounded by birds, butterflies, and peaceful neighbors.


The Sugar Shack, or main house, is a romantic wooden cabin. It is at once rustic and charming, open and inviting, with 1921 panes of wavy glass filling large window frames. Everything is original. It’s like stepping back in time.


In the ’20s, the property was part of a much larger community, a section of eminent theosophist Mary Gray’s estate. It was there that Krishnamurti and his followers made their home. Years later, the property was purchased by ballerina Billie Berrie, who retired to the one-room cabin in the ’50s. Berrie added the maple sprung floor dance hall, where she taught the latest steps to neighborhood children.


“This place has been reincarnated so many times,” says Anna. “But it has always been a place for people to gather. So many people I’ve met around town have a story to tell about the property.” Indeed, Ojai folklore boasts of luminaries such as John Lennon and Aldous Huxley visiting the bridge at the edge of her garden.


In the 1990s, the house was owned by permaculturalist Tom Brown, who planted orchards and created a garden filled with unusual fruit trees: cherimoya, guava, jujube, persimmon, Mexican lime, grapefruit, cuties, macadamia nut, apricot, plum, and more. True to the principles of permaculture, a number of legume trees were also planted, their sole purpose to feed and create mulch for the nearby fruit trees. “There’s always something in bloom or about to fruit,” says Anna, an avid garden-lover, with a broad smile.


Even their growing menagerie has a purpose, in addition to being cute. The manure gets tipped around the fruit trees, and goats are living compost machines. They eat all the clippings from the yard, and also provide good company on long walks in the neighborhood.


Anna is remaining true to the artistic roots of her home. She uses the light and airy dance hall as a community room. A handcrafted, reclaimed oak table that was left behind a few owners ago is perfectly placed for entertaining, while still leaving room for musical instruments and the art studio where she paints and sculpts.


Since moving to Ojai, Anna finds her days increasingly productive. “I’ve just finished a huge acrylic painting of Chief’s Peak (an iconic local mountain). I usually paint very controlled and precise still lifes, so this was really fun. I think the space and the view inspire me on a daily basis.


Life at the Sugar Shack is good for Anna and her daughter. “Creating, whether it be gardening or art, adds to the enjoyment of my life,” she says. “For me, there’s nothing more valuable than a beautiful landscape to make me happy and change my mood.”

The Herbalist


Ojai’s Stacey Moss blends science and intuition to create organic, plant-based aromas that honor the source

By Amelia Fleetwood


“Plants are my passion,” says Stacey Moss, the creator of Moss Botanicals, an Ojai-based essential oil business. She is both perfectionist and purist, melding sustainability with her Native American heritage of honoring the earth. While synthetics and chemicals flood the perfume market, Stacey opts instead for all-natural ingredients, blending them into fine aroma mists and body oils.


Launched in 2007, Moss Botanicals offers unique oil blends with soothing, evocative names like “Transform,” “Relax,” and “Calm Heart.” She even created a special “Ojai Blend” in honor of her hometown. The blends are designed to foster emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing, and each scent evokes a distinct mood.


Stacey, who attended the College of Botanical Healing Arts for Aromatherapy in Santa Cruz, has a history as a healer and maker of home remedies, particularly plant-based medicines. But smell, she says, is the “most powerful and primitive sense we have. When people breathe things in, it … helps in the creation of an earth-consciousness, which is so important for me to share.”


A believer in the power of simplicity, Stacey uses only the bare essences of plants while drawing on and integrating her Native American sensibilities. She hand-blends and pours every batch of oil, and grows and distills many of her own plants: hummingbird sage, mugwort, rosemary. “Distillation is an art very much like making wine,” she says. “Batches can differ slightly from year to year, but the medicinal and therapeutic qualities will remain constant.”


For plants not readily available in the local area, she relies on other small companies that share her passion for sustainability and quality. She is careful not to employ any essential oils that appear on the endangered or rare list, avoiding scarce, overused Indian sandalwood, for example, and instead opting for a more abundant strain from Australia.


Indeed, Stacey makes earth-conscious decisions whenever possible and holds the plants themselves in the highest regard. “There is so much to learn from plants, and so many ways to use the oils,” she explains. “I’m always excited to give the plants a platform to communicate their knowledge to us.”

Integrity. Balance. Healing.

Stacey’s favorite? Transform: “I love the elegance and tranquility of the scent.”
















Organic, wild-crafted, non-sprayed essential oils of Elemi (Canarium luzonicum), Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), and Vetiver (Vetivera zizanioides) in organic jojoba oil.
10ml body roll on, $18; 4oz aroma mist, $26.
Purchase Moss Botanicals online at mossbotanicals.com or in natural foods and vitamins stores including Lassens, Lucky Vitamin, and Thrive Market (thrivemarket.com).

© 2017 Amelia Fleetwood.  Ojai, California 

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