Weekend of Tea – Eugene, OR

 

The tea zone at the Free Herbalism Project event.
The tea zone at the Free Herbalism Project event. Photo: Thomas Dick

 

I knew I was going to be heading to Eugene on Sunday for the second Free Herbalism Project event (see blog entry from the first one here). As time drew nearer, I began to think I should head down the night before from Portland, just to make sure I was there and well rested. Ah, but the Saturday Market is happening the day before, and that’s always a fun one, I thought to myself. I should show up the night before. Oh, and wait, the Birds of Chicago are playing on Friday. And shoot, the Fermentation on Wheels bus was having a going away party on Thursday. In this manner, my day trip to Eugene took on a much longer form.

Fermentation on Wheels bus.
Fermentation on Wheels bus.

I packed up on Thursday and made my way south, arriving Eugene just in time to make it to the Fermentation on Wheels going-away potluck. Run by a gal named Tara, Fermentation on Wheels is a similar project to the tea bus, only their focus is on ferments – from kraut to cider. Tara is just starting a US tour where she will be traveling, working on farms, fermenting foods, and teaching workshops. I had been in touch with her, because I appreciated her project and wanted to be a helpful person for her journeys in bus land.

Fermentation on Wheels party.
Fermentation on Wheels party.

The potluck was aboard her mid-sized school bus. It is set up with a kitchen and bedroom, deluxe captain’s chair, carpet, cabinets, and best of all a sweet fermentation station built by a nice local craftsman. I brought the tea grab-basket, hot water, and cups. We all ate ferments, cheeses, salamis, fruit salad, and more. Many folks showed up and we had a grand time, with a fellow named Banjo playing a banjo and singing with his sweetheart. We talked bus conversions and travel. I shared Edna a bit with folks, and it was a grand night.

Mechanical (i.e. skip if boring):

As I drove off into the night towards my buddy Mason’s house, Edna’s transmission started shifting funny. I pulled over, only to find the tranny fluid was super low. No fluid to be found at 7-11. I took the chance and drove halfway across town to the only open gas station. After filling the tranny, I found a small leak on the fitting that runs tranny fluid into my radiator, I wonder if this is why I’ve been having transmission issues. I could’ve sworn I checked the fluid recently and it looked fine. The next morning I tightened the fitting, but it was so loose that I think I need to take it out and put new Teflon tape on it. Luckily, I was already planning on dropping the transmission pan, changing the filter, and replacing the fluid.

Tahi gets flown by Sara.
Tahi gets flown by Sara.

The next evening started a 48-hour journey of non-stop tea serving. I found myself parked in front of Cozmic Pizza around 5pm, where my friends, Birds of Chicago, were playing. They seemed beat from the journey (one of them is pregnant – congrats!), but put me on the guest list. All sort of people stopped by the bus that evening – musicians, street folks, a dancer, etc. We chatted and sipped. It was fun to reconnect with the Birds, as well as make some new friends. My friends Sara, Whaka, and their little girl Tahi all came for tea and to do some Acro Yoga (Sara was my second mom in LA when I first bought the bus, and helped me get some of my first tea sponsors, including Mountain Rose Herbs). It was a late night, but luckily a local woman let me park at her house for the night so I could arise early to get good parking for the Saturday Market. She gave me some tea she had made as part of an herbalism course. Strictly floral, this tea has become a favorite…

Whaka flys a tea guest at the  Saturday Market.
Whaka flys a tea guest at the Saturday Market.

At the Eugene Saturday Market, Edna and I set up just across the street. We had a nice corner with plenty of space. Sara and Tahi came to help serve tea, and Whaka set up to do some Acro Yoga for people. This couple is amazing. They travel in a diesel Sprinter RV, spending their summers running a stand-up paddle boarding business in Wisconsin, and then travel for much of the rest of the year while teaching yoga, Acro Yoga, and Thai massage, as well as doing bodywork (Thai massage, therapeutic acro yoga). One of the things Whaka does is just “fly” people everywhere they go – meaning that he puts you up in the air on his legs, and puts you in all sorts of positions while stretching and massaging you. I will tell you that this is one of the most wonderful things your body can experience. And people see/feel this, which gets them excited about learning, getting bodywork, or attending a workshop. It’s really a win-win situation. Sara, Whaka and Tahi showed up to almost all the events I was serving at this weekend, and it was such a blessing. See their website here.

The Market brought out many amazing folks from students to vendors. I presented the Gift and Take box to a homeless couple who were in dire need. Eugene is a pretty receptive town for something like the tea bus. My dear friends Matthew and Steph stopped by with their four-month-old Jobin. Marshé, who used to be Mountain Rose’s event coordinator, came by with her niece for some good catch-up. I love all these people.

I packed up in the afternoon, filled up some biodiesel, and headed out to Lost Valley, which is an ecovillage and Permaculture learning center a little ways outside Eugene. I had been to Lost Valley a couple times before to have a look around and serve tea. On this day they were having their annual open-house/harvest party/potluck. I set up for tea, ate some good food, and met all sort of fun interesting folks. Of course at a place like this people were super interested in all my alternative systems like solar, waste vegetable oil, biodiesel, woodstove, water, greywater, etc. I seem to come back to this place every couple years, and hope to continue to do so. Thanks, Lost Valley! And thanks to Simon for inviting us out there this time!

The whole Free Herbalism Crew (Mountain Rose folk, Steven and Howie, Free Tea Party folk)
The whole Free Herbalism Crew (Mountain Rose folk, Steven and Howie, Free Tea Party folk). Photo: Thomas Dick

 

Guisepi and Ally sipping and serving tea. Photo: Thomas Dick
Guisepi and Ally sipping and serving tea. Photo: Thomas Dick

Early the next morning I awoke to drive to Mt. Pisgah to set up for the Free Herbalism Project. The site itself is gorgeous, with massive Maple trees, large fields, birds, and this time, lots of fall color. The morning was misty and cold, but it looked majestic with the little bit of sunshine shining through. Ally arrived at 9:30 and we got to setting up with the help of a few Mountain Rose Herbs folks. A little later Daruka arrived with some friendly faces that we had met at Blues Recess Massive. Move bus, roll out rugs, place cushions, start heating water, set up tables, hang parachute, decide that parachute doesn’t work, take parachute down, sweep rugs, put out mugs, make signage, put out sweeteners and milks, hang Free Tea sign, put out bus tub, arrange picnic tables, start serving tea. People arrived before I felt ready, but I just started handing out tea. I had met a nice fellow named Cypress at the Fermentation on Wheels party who had served tea at the Symbiosis Festival this summer, so I invited him to come and help for the day. With him, Ally, Daruka, Sara, Whaka, and the two folks from Blues Recess (Ani and Mikayla), we were set.

Tea passing!
Tea passing!

The event is part of the Free Herbalism Project, which Mountain Rose Herbs (one of our sponsors) created to bring herbal lectures, plant walks, etc. to people for free! Their first one was in August (see bog entry here), where we served our 20,000th cuppa free tea. This time we had the honor of having Howie and Steven from the Columbines School of Botanical Studies hosting a Basic Botany and a Medicinal Plants of the Northwest lecture. There was merchandise for sale here, but all the proceeds are donated to different groups. This time it was donated to Columbines School.

Making tea upon request!
Making tea upon request!

The crowd was smaller this time ‘round, but we actually served more tea (around 700 cups). We were non-stop busy, but our slight lack of preparation last time put us in better standing this time, and our line didn’t get nearly as long. This kind of interaction of serving tea in a kind of hurriedly manner is not my favorite on the genuine human connection end of things, but nevertheless, it still has a level of deep beauty. Cypress was a great tea server, but got a little antsy when the line got long. Ally, whose philosophy is patience is a virtue of the tea experience, took a look at the line and saw people talking and interacting. She reminded him that this wasn’t a coffee bar, and a woman in line said Amen to that! I think  the efficiency that Cypress wanted alongside the authenticity of human interaction that Ally wanted was a perfect balance to have from these two tea servers.

Last time at the Free Herbalism Project I was too busy doing legwork to serve tea. This time, I made sure to serve up a bunch of tea myself. This was so great! I love getting to say hello and interact with all the folks who come up to the bus, even at this fast pace. Even though it was quick work, I took the time to speak individually with people who wanted to interact. There were some great conversations! We were also blessed to have Whaka flying people!

At the end of the day, I sat to reflect upon the past three days of making tea. It had been a long and draining weekend, but I felt more satisfied that I had in a while. When the mind and body just want to rest, and we feel good about our work – that is pure satisfaction. We packed up, ate a good meal, and hit the hay.

Next stop: Portland! We’ll be spending some time there doing some bus projects and then heading south for the winter. Come to the Elephant Revival show on the 25th at the Aladdin Theater!


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