Friday, October 24, 2008

Harvesting Lavender

From the end of June until sometime in October we are harvesting lavender. Different varieties bloom at different times, and we have over six varieties grown for commercial harvest. Here Leslie is harvesting our Provence lavender. We harvest by hand, using a Japanese sickle. We now use kevlar gloves to protect our workers hands and wrists - those sickles are incredibly sharp and can do severe damage.

The lavender is cut at the base of the flower stem, and then bundled with a rubber band. Each bunch is lain on the previously cut bushes until they are gathered up for hanging inside where it's dark and there is warm, moving air to dry them out. If we have a period of rain, which is relatively rare in our area but this year we had a rainy end of August, the lavender simply dries much more slowly.

The smell of the lavender is so wonderful, and carrying in arm loads of bunched fresh lavender is a delight.

After the lavender is dried, we either use it on the stem or take it off to use as dried bud for sachets or cooking.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lavender Wind Spa Dog

Bailey, the Lavender Wind Spa Dog is communing with one of our decoys. We are harvesting in the background. Bailey was a delight this summer, she greeted our customers - sometimes with barks, other times with a wagging tail.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

2008 Art Festival and Taste of Provence

A month ago we had our Third Annual Lavender & Wind Art Festival with a Taste of Provence. It was sort of the first, because we combined the two events into one big festival - and big it was! There were over 3,000 people who came.

There was a great wine garden that had a "fence" of lavender bunches and fabulous cheeses and french bread.

We had lots of music, and one of the staples of Whidbey life - the Shifty Sailors - were very popular.

The artists showed their creations and some sold quite a bit! Families of the artists came to help out, too. Our staff helped some of the artists set up. They also hung many artists' works in our own display areas.

The weather was fabulous, the Olympic Mountains guarded the event. The staff worked their tails off! It is humbling to see the dedication and hard work that so many people put into this event - the artists with their works and their booths, the musicians with their instruments and talent, the folks from WSU Extension who staffed the wine & food tent (did I mention that section was a fundraiser for the WSU Island County Extension Sustainable Agriculture position?), the staff in their constant attention to the needs of the visitors, artists, and volunteers. The farm, in its beauty and purple splendor on that weekend, put on a fabulous show!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farming is NOT an exact science. Someone (Mother Nature) keeps us from having the same situation year in and year out. This year in the Pacific Northwest we had an unusually cold and rainy spring. It looks like we are now getting to a more normal summer pattern. But, the cold wet spring means we still have green grass and our lavender is just barely starting to be purple.

Will that mean that all the varieties will be slow to bloom? If so, our purple alert which reaches 10 around mid July, might not get there until the end of that month.... Tune in, to find out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Have I raved recently or even at all about the people that work here at the farm? The folks that work here are amazing - funny, kind, hard working, dedicated, smart, creative, and did I mention hard working? They are: Kathy, Stacy, Abby, Mare, Leslie, Maxwell, and then there's Rick and me. Over the years there have been more - and sometimes they come by for a visit, I love those days.

Over the last couple of months Stacy and I have been developing recipes for our new line of mixes. In order to work on the recipe we have to make up batches of the goodies (by now Stacy is the one who does most of that while I flitter around waiting for them to come out of the oven).

Stacy is mixing up stuff - Great except we've all gained weight as a result!

Then Leslie inherited Bailey now known as the Lavender Wind Farm Spa Dog. She's a delight - mellow, watching the people and only barking when the UPS guy comes and she knows he'll give her lots of dog biscuits if she barks at him.

Leslie has been so fun for all of us, and boy oh boy can that girl work!! She even dug out moss from our neighbor's place and brought it here for the step into the gazebo. She's an inspiration, too, because she took time off from her career to hike the Appalachian Trail - all the way! She blogs about the farm, too.

Kathy comes every other week or so and files papers for us. She comes in time for lunch - a fine farming tradition that we uphold with devotion. Some of the folks bring energy bars for their lunches and we make fun of them. Then they eat cookies or lavender shortbread. It was Kathy who really got the gift shop started - she kicked me out of the room, telling me to get my potting and gardening stuff out of there - no arguments. We're so glad she did!

Bottom line: I love this group of people! More about the rest later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Who'd think about Lavender being useful against Bedbugs? On the other hand, since it's so useful against so many insects - why not? Read about it

If you just want to cut to the bottom line: use twenty drops of lavender essential oil into a spray bottle filled with about 2 cups of denatured alcohol and spray onto the affected area.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Last Saturday we woke to over 3 inches of snow on the ground. While that might be normal for Minnesota or Vermont, it's very unusual here. This week Saturday was sunny and in the high 50's - a lovely day.

April has been a miserably cold month this year. The lavenders are slow to wake, the daffodils that can bloom as early as February in some years, weren't blooming until a week into April. Tulips are now coming on. The poor folks in Skagit County where they have the April Tulip Festival are suffering because now the tulips are starting to bloom, a few weeks after the "start" of the festival. Ah, Mother Nature, we must never forget that you are the boss.

Much of the vegetable garden is planted and I put in a lot of yarrow down in another space near the lavender field. We'll be growing more herbs there this summer, rather than ornamental flowers. A sunflower maze is going in on the new field - Whoopee!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Ria and her husband came into my shop today. I've known them for years since Lavender Wind Farm was so small we just went to a few farmers markets and didn't have anyone coming onto the farm. Her husband has gone downhill significantly due to progressive Parkinson's Disease. However, today they were excited to tell me that they had read that lavender tea made a big difference to the problem of sweating that he had been experiencing. They said each night she padded the bed with several towels over and under him and in the morning all the towels and bedding were soaking wet. Sometimes, she'd have to get him up in the middle of the night to replace his wet clothing and towels.

So, about week ago, after reading about lavender helping with sweating associated with Parkinson's Disease, they came to the farm to get some lavender to test this theory. They report that on the first night after sipping a couple of cups of lavender tea during the day he had dramatically reduced sweating, and the second night the bed was dry. Ria said it made a difference in his energy level, too, because his body doesn't have to cope with the loss of the fluids from the extreme sweating he had been suffering.

Some aromatherapy and herbalists say that lavender, taken internally as tea, can stimulate the flow of bile, be mildly sedating, and can help with headaches.

I'm not able to find scientific studies that prove or even test that lavender helps with sweating symptoms of Parkinson's disease. So, this is definitely an anecdotal testimonial. However, you wouldn't have dared suggest there'd been a mistake to this relieved couple that have enough on their plate in dealing with the ravages of Parkinson's Disease.