Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sunshine feels like a blessing in April when it seems as if the cold rains and winds of winter won't release their hold. This is the first Saturday that we've had a pleasant calm day. Gini came to take the market van to our local farmers market in Coupeville. We loaded her up with tables, a canopy, products, lots of plants, and enthusiasm. On Whidbey Island we have five (5) farmers markets! That's a lot for a long skinny island of about 75,000 people. Lavender Wind Farm used to go to three a week, Thursday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. As things got busier on the farm we reduced the numbers and now just go to the one Saturday market.

I was on the board of the Coupeville Farmers Market for several years and learned a lot about running markets. In Washington we have the Washington State Farmers Market Association. It has rules and standards for markets as well as resources such as insurance and networking. Vendors at markets are an interesting, free-spirited lot. They pride themselves on their individual ways of doing things and their own products as well they should. But, sometimes it's hard to get that level of individually focused people to band together or agree on a course of action. The underlying agreement, though, is to provide the best possible for their customers and to get customers to come to the markets. In cities, it's less difficult to find people, but out here in the rural areas where the population of the town is not yet 2,000 folks critical mass can be a problem. Nevertheless, the people on this island value homegrown food and local crafts, so the market is growing every year.

Gotta go, the sun is shining and the weeds are growing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April in the Pacific Northwest rain shadow region means that the rains are starting to diminish. At last. At Lavender Wind Farm we are waiting to hear about our application for a Water Right to collect rain from the roofs to put into a holding pond which we can then use to water things like plants in pots. We don't irrigate here at all because we don't have irrigation rights with our land.

Western water rights are a complex set of laws(WSU's Water site). We live on an island which is a "sole source" aquifer. Our source of drinking water comes from one source, the aquifer under our feet that is recharged by rain. We don't have rivers running through our island that we can take water from, so we are completely dependent on the health of the aquifer below us for drinking water. The problem is that there are many places on this island that are threatened with salt water intrusion. Our health department monitors the water situation and the level of rainfall is important in recharging the aquifer.

Lavender, coming from the dry summers and wet winters of the Mediterranean region is well suited to grow without irrigation in our Mediterranean climate. Our summers aren't as warm as those in southern France, but our lavenders grow very well anyway. The plants that are more exposed to the harshest of our winds - the west wind - are having a harder time. They are smaller and less prolific than the others in the deeper soils and more protected areas of our other fields. Even so, we don't irrigate. The native lavenders of France are stubby little plants in hard-scrabble dirt. These are the early colonizers of the lavendula family and it's impressive to see them struggle for existenced in their natural way. They only have the water that comes from the rains and they bake in the hot summer sun - a real testament to survival with style. They smell so good!