Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's 4 am and there is a slight line of light in the eastern sky. Spring has passed, but the weather is not yet dependably nice. But, the light in the sky this early in the morning means that the warmer season of light is just around the corner. It's a relief to have more and more light, but it also means more and more weeds and work.

Our new gift shop is having it's opening today. After lots of work and worry it's done.

In these days tiny (micro) farms, like mine, who are in tourist locations without a huge population base nearby to feed may need to have places to visit and things to do in order to survive. It's taking the idea of multiple streams of income seriously. Here, on Lavender Wind Farm, we also take the concept of Triple Bottom Line very seriously. When we do things we want to be sure of three things
1) It helps the financial health of the farm
2) It is sustainable and good for the earth (at least not causing it harm)
3) It is good for our people who live here, work here, or visit and for our community.
The gift shop is subtle, you don't notice it from the outside, it's just a room in the garage. It's also part of the operation because lavender drying wires are strung across the ceiling there, as well as throughout the garage. In harvest season we are scrambling to get the lavender dried and then put away for use during the year. There is an attic in the garage where the ceiling rafters are, at their highest point, 5 feet high. Even I, at 5'3" bonk my head - frequently. But it's a great place to dry lavender - warm, dry, and, because of the fan, moving air. You can see the empty wires across the ceiling in the new gift shop, waiting for June when the first part of the harvest starts.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

My computer died while Kathy was using it. It was easy for me to see it wasn't her fault, but she felt awful. I think the power supply went out, but I still don't know because we are in a rural area and Macintosh techs are few and far between. It brings to mind the ridiculousness of the PC/Mac competition. Technology is getting to the point in which the platform the programs are run on and the actual hardware that is used should be irrelevant to the actual functioning of the software. The increasing use of online programs and java-based applications would seem to reduce the incompatibillity problems.

Here on Whidbey Island we have a fabulous library system - a necessity for farming folks who want access to information and just plain old good reading. It is a dual-county system (SnoIsle Library System) and we can order books and get them in from anywhere in the system. I listen to a lot of books-on-tape, they make weeding much more fun. As I'm out there in the fields pulling weeds I can be entertained at the same time. I confess there are times that I turn it off and just listen to the sounds of the birds and the waves on the shore - sometimes I can even hear the sea lions barking from their perches on the buoys off-shore. But, the other day I found out that the library has e-books that can be downloaded and put on an mp3 player. Then I found out that Microsoft has orchestrated the system so that it is stopped from being able to be used by macintosh computers even if I have an ordinary mp3 player that can take the downloads to be played (out in the fields, of course). The two providers of this servie to the library are: OverDrive Audio Books and Recorded Books. I have a macintosh along with quite a bit of expensive software and years of mac experience. I'm not about to change my whole system and spend thousands of dollars coverting software just for a few e-books.

Irritated by this? You bet I am. E-books are far superior to books-on-tape because they don't break, I can have a whole book on the player without having to carry around 15 to 20 tapes with me, and the sound is much better. How do I know this? My son gave me a year's subscription to That was a great year! And I learned how wonderful e-books can be. So, why does a public institution, such as a library, sign up to a service that doesn't let a significant number of it's patrons use?

It's back to this attempt to smash the "other guy". In the lavender business there are hundreds of lavender farms trying to survive by growing lavender and then just plain selling it or trying a combination of selling the raw crop and making finished goods out of it. The crop is too small for significant local coops to have been formed, with the exception of Sequim, WA. But growers in Sequim produce only a small percentage of the lavender grown on the west coast - between some of the huge farms in California and the newer ones in Oregon, and all those of us in the rest of the state of Washington a lot of lavender is grown and sold that isn't included in the Sequim Lavender Coop. I think banding together as the Sequim growers have done is a wonderful thing, don't get me wrong, but it isn't necessary to try to squash the rest of the lavender growers. In fact, I've found that when there are many people working in the same area a wonderful creative energy develops. In the area of lavender, ideas for great products, new uses for lavender, and subtle shifts towards better production and products takes place.

In the same way, software companies rely on each other for ideas, breakthrough methods, and generating a big enough market to make any of it work in the first place. But, in our culture of "smash the other guy" it's never recognized. Apple gave Microsoft the idea for Windows. Microsoft gave Apple a workhorse application in Office. There is a back and forth, even between giants, that helps us all. However, the cut-throat mentality, the one that made the company that serves up e-books for our library system, is not serving us all. It's hurting the very idea that libraries are based - free access to information for all.

Join me in lobbying our libraries and these companies to stop this nonsense and to allow all platforms to be able to use their service. proves this is not that hard!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The wind is blowing into the 30 mph range this morning. It's coming from the southeast which is where the storms come from in the Puget Sound trough. This farm is on the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca which means when there's a west wind it barrels down the strait and hits us full force. We don't have hurricanes, but from November through March we'll have hefty wind storms when it blows more than 70 mph.

It's depressing. The wind batters the sides of the house as well as my mind. It is unrelentingly pushy. The Beaufort Wind Scale has the various kinds of winds classified - right now it's blowing a "Near Gale". I watch the shipping go by in this wind as the ships and tugs and barges go out the strait or up and down to the Strait of Georgia on the inside edge of Vancouver Island. The waves break over the bows as they plow their way through the violent water.

Kari, my new weeder, is coming to work today. I hate to have the weeders working in the fields when it's like this. It sucks all the warmth out of the body, it blows into our ears and makes them hurt. The ground is wet enough that at least the dirt doesn't blow up into our eyes.

Life is not genteel and tranquil all the time on a lavender farm.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's 5:11 am and I've been up for an hour and a half or so and have finally taken the plunge into the blogging world. I'm a lavender farmer now. It wasn't always so, but now that's what I do. People come to the farm and ask if I do it full-time and I answer "Yes". Of course, it's more than full-time work even with only 2 1/2 acres planted at this point. There are even people who get paid to work here, besides me.

But the sad reality of farming life is that it's not possible to work full time on farming without an extra something - either another job or working partner or silver spoon. Why on earth do farmers do what they do? Work from dawn to dusk outside and then more hours in the dark either inside the office or inside the barn. Do folks in the city have any idea what it takes to get them food? It is my hope that they take trips and visit the farms around them to see just what happens to get them food and other things that are made from stuff that grows on farms - like lavender!

Here on Whidbey Island we are putting together a farm tour, maybe even two of them, to get people and farms together. I'm excited about it!