Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter is showing

It's November 22 and winter is showing her face early around here. I'm just grateful that we've hunkered down almost all the lavender plants by pruning them. We've rearranged things so that most of the equipment is under cover. And we've got warm space inside to make more products for the shop. Being warm and cozy on these cold days is wonderful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day Off with Whidbey's Wineries

Today started with two groups of classic cars coming to our farm! These people have an incredible collection of beautiful old cars and they get together to tour various places. This weekend they were on Whidbey Island, and the rally organizers decided to visit our farm. We had a lot of fun taking them around the farm. I guided the first group, and then Mare took over so I could have an afternoon off!
Classic cars at Lavender Wind Farm

Yahoo! My friend, Carol Bingman, organized a group winery tour for eight of us. We toured four locations and discovered more of Whidbey Island's treasures. As a destination farm it isn't often that I get off to have a look at some of the other farms and wineries operated by my friends and neighbors.
Watching Morris Dancers at Bayview Corner

First we went to Greenbank Cellars, founded by Frank and Betty Rayle. Sadly, Frank died last October, but the winery is in good hands with Betty as owner and David Moore, winemaker. I was greeted by a rowdy crowd in the tasting room, with bells on their ankles. Turns out the Mossyback Morris Men 30th Anniversary Tour was happening this weekend and we bumped into various teams throughout the afternoon. As an anglophile and past contra dancer, I was completely delighted!

 At Greenbank Cellars they not only have a beautiful winery with some great wines, they also have a collection of player pianos and wurlitzers. Amazing! They also built a cute out building that is an example of creating a unique place based on what is happening right there. The walls are of concrete and wine bottles!  The bottles go right through and create points of light inside the building. Outside it is beautifully tidy and the woodwork is carefully done. Really a piece of architectural art.

Holmes Harbor Cellars winery is brand new (in winery terms that means they've been here for about 4 years. Already they've stacked up some awards for their wines. The building is a Tuscan Style building which is a lot of fun to see when you drive up their driveway. We tasted the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition silver medal winner Cabernet Savignon. I loved it, and I bought some.

Holmes Harbor Cellars home
Theresa Martinez was there and we did some shop talk about signage on Whidbey. I hope they get some good signs on the highway, it will help the rest of you find their place. It's a delight.

Bayview Corner has a wine tasting shop in which three wineries (Bloom's Winery, Swede Hill Cellars, and Spoiled Dog Wines) have collaborated to show off their wines in a more high-traffic area. I was delighted to run into Karen Krug, owner of Spoiled Dog Wines, who was working that day. She is the force behind the Whidbey Farm Tour. She is on the board of Whidbey Conservation District and it was her organizational skills and sheer determination that got the farm tour going 5 years ago. Thank you, Karen! Meanwhile, the three wineries there have some nice wines - added to my day's collection.

Whidbey Island Winery
Then on to Lavender Wind Farm's old friends Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach's Whidbey Island Winery. Their wine tasting and gift shop is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike. We had their wine at our festival in 2008 and 2009 (or even longer, if I remember accurately). This year all the winemakers who grow grapes on Whidbey are worried. It's been a summer that hardly happened and the grape harvest has either failed or is so late it might fail. Not a good omen for wine drinking with local grapes in the next couple of years. Luckily, most of the wineries here augment their local grapes with those grown on the east side of the state. Let's hope their harvest is ok!

Lavender Wind Product at Whidbey Island Winery
I couldn't resist taking a picture of our products on their shelves.... Don't they look beautiful?  The Morris Dancing folks were here when we arrived, and they danced on the green grass outside of the shop.

Shoppers at Whidbey Island Winery
People shopped inside, too. The picture is a little blurry. Is that because there were so many people jostling around or was it because I'd spent the afternoon tasting wines... we'll never know.

Wines I came home with from Whidbey Island Wineries
This is my stash that I came home with. I put them away for special friends!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Roasted Lavender & Sage Fried Potatoes

Out of eggs this morning, so I wandered out to the garden to gather some spuds, onions, garlic & herbs for a mess of fried potatoes for breakfast. Pan-roasted lavender is the newest ingredient in my list and I wanted to experiment with it.

Empty pan
First you'll have to learn how to pan-roast lavender.

Start with an empty pan - no oil, no butter, nothing.

Essential Oil steaming away
Heat the pan up to medium high, not too hot or you'll burn the lavender. Add the lavender and stir it constantly. You'll see the oils steaming away. This will remove some of the sweeter, floral scent of the lavender and leave you with a rich, nutty lavender to use in your savory dishes.
Roasted lavender on left, our regular culinary lavender on right

Whole and Ground roasted lavender
You can see how the color has changed after the lavender has been roasted. After roasting the lavender we grind it up to let the flavor diffuse better into the potatoes. I don't like biting into a whole bud of lavender, it tends to be too intense and overwhelms the flavor of the dish.

Three kinds of potatoes and our onions make it colorful

Now you are ready to start with the rest of the ingredients.

We used three different kinds of potatoes that we grow: Yellow Finn, Pink Fingerling, and Blue. We grow our own onions and garlic, too. That's why I said I went out and gathered all those ingredients for breakfast.
Bergaarten Sage
Curly Leaf Parsley
Chopped Parsley
I gathered other herbs for this dish: sage, parsley and then garlic. All are chopped or sliced to add to the potatoes.

Chopped Sage
Sliced Garlic
Throw them in the pan with some salt and cook until some of the surfaces of the potatoes are brown. Serve with eggs and you have a fabulous herbal breakfast.


1/4 C Olive Oil
6 potatoes
3 cloves of garlic
1 big or two medium onions
2 tsp ground roasted lavender
1 Tbsp fresh chopped sage
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
Salt to taste
Potatoes ready to eat!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Social media via Facebook and our farm

I admit, I love Facebook and blogging. I started using Facebook last summer and have reconnected with family members and friends that I'd lost touch with, as well as gotten to know some other people much better because of what they write. I see news and groups of people working for causes that they care about. I learn a little about new ideas and passions.
One amazing thing that I've found is that I'm using this as a vehicle to be more true to myself and what I want my life and my farm to be. I'm not sure how that is developing, but I think it's something to do with the quick feedback from the "Like" and "Comment" abilities. Through these people can give quick feedback, which before would just reside in their heads and the rest of us wouldn't know. Now people are posting on the Lavender Wind Farm page to share their thoughts and questions. I never know what will pop up.

People unfamiliar with Facebook worry about malicious or wrong information being posted. If something weird does come up, I don't worry about it - I can delete anything that I think is offensive or off-track.

There are several lavender farms following Lavender Wind's facebook page, along with over 300 people. Lavender Wind Farm can support local businesses by listing their pages as "Favorites", it's another way to build community. It's a way to learn more about Lavender. People post tidbits of information either on their page or on Lavender Wind's. These tidbits add up over time, just like your reading books and articles, or talking to people in day to day life does. Granted, you have to evaluate the source of a bit of info, but that's also normal.

Lavender Wind's Facebook page

If you are a business, why have you made the decision to use or not use Facebook, and what have you learned as a result?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weeding Raised Bed Perennials

Every year we say the same thing... This year we're going to get at the weeds before they get too big. Every year we curse ourselves for not being able to do that.

This year we worked on getting attachments to the tractor to help with between row weeding. I got a bar and frame to which I attached two vertical bars to which I attached scrapers.

One scraper is flat to scrape off the heads of the weeds between the rows of lavender.

The other is bent up on one side, to scrape the bottom and side of the raised beds.

They work pretty well, as long as the tractor can fit over the plants and it's not blooming season.

The tractor we have is a 30 horse power New Holland with a clearance of about 14". That is too low for all but some of the angustifolia lavenders. We have one variety, which we really don't know the name (shameful, but no one I've contacted can tell me what it is) that is about 24" tall when it's not blooming, so the low-clearance tractor does some damage to the tops. Luckily, this lavender regrows pretty well. The Provence we have is also too tall, while the Grosso is only slightly too high.

Don Meehan built the scrapers for me. Lucky for me one of his talents is welding. In this picture you can see the raised beds. After the scraper goes through they are more defined.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Essential Oil Chemistry: A Beginning Aromatherapy Primer

Essential Oil Chemistry: A Beginning Aromatherapy Primer

By: Ginger Robbins
Uh oh. Chemistry - the word itself can make one's eyes glaze over. But wait, this is "essential oil chemistry'. MUCH more fun! While even beginning aromatherapy students are put off by the mere mention of the subject, they eventually realize the importance of understanding at least the fundamentals. The basics of essential oil chemistry will help you appreciate what gives a fine oil its unique aroma, help you more carefully discern a good oil from a second-rate one, and can improve your practice of using essential oils therapeutically. The greatest benefits of essential oils lies in their potential for true medicinal applications, where their antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are effectively utilized. And it is the understanding of their chemistry that enables the practitioner to select the right oils and use them most appropriately. Convinced? Well here's a primer to get you started...
So, why are essential oils called "oils" anyway? They don't feel greasy, and they tend to evaporate completely, unlike common "fixed" oils (such as olive, grapeseed, hazelnut and the like). Essential oils and fixed oils share a similar chemical foundation: their structures are based on the linking of carbon and hydrogen atoms in various configurations. But this is really where the similarity ends. Fixed oils are made up of molecules comprised of three long chains of carbon atoms bound together at one end, called a triglyceride. Every fixed oil is made up of just a few different triglyceride arrangements - olive oil, for example, is primarily made up of oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids (the names of particular carbon-hydrogen chains forming the triglycerides). Their long-chain shape holds them in a liquid state which does not easily evaporate.
Volatile oils are another matter - volatile oils do easily evaporate, due in-part to their smaller, more complex structures. Essential oils are a sub-category of volatile oils, essential oils being specifically those volatile oils that have been distilled directly from plants (rather than laboratory made, or from another otherwise "inorganic" source). Essential oils still have a core structure of linked carbon and hydrogen atoms, but they come in a great variety of shapes including short chains, rings and multiple-rings hooked together. Each of these core structures will have what is known as a "functional group" attached - a sort of "molecular sub-unit". Despite their seeming complexity, though, essential oils are still very compatible with mammalian biology - their atomic structure allows them to penetrate into the deepest regions of our bodies, and even to the centers of our cells.
The therapeutic action of an essential oil is primarily determined by the "functional groups" found in the molecules that make up that oil. An essential oil is actually made up of many individual molecular constituents. Each of these natural chemicals is formed of a carbon-hydrogen structure with a functional group attached. It is the combination of the base structure AND the attached functional group that makes a single, unique molecule. And MANY of these unique molecules combine to form ONE essential oil.
As you can see, essential oils are really very complex in their chemical nature. There are nearly infinite possibilities of functional group and base ring or chain combinations. And ONE essential oil alone can be made up of HUNDREDS of these different molecular arrangements. Don't worry, though! While it sounds complex, one needn't know all the precise chemical details to use essential oils therapeutically. Just know that any single essential oil is comprised of a few natural chemicals that make up the bulk of the oil, and many minor "trace" constituents that also affect both aroma and therapeutic activity.
The best natural, undiluted, properly distilled essential oils with all the major and minor chemical constituents will have the finest aromas AND the most potent therapeutic action. Many factors in an essential oil's production affect the total number and relative amounts of individual chemicals found in the final product. These include where the plant was grown, soil and climate conditions, time of harvest, distillation equipment, plus the time, temperature and pressure of distillation. This can give you an idea as to why two varieties of the same oil can smell so different: The full, beautiful bouquet of a fine essential oil will contain a myriad of notes, telling you that all natural components are present and in balanced amounts.
To best understand this, we'll examine Lavender essential oil; more than fifty individual molecules have been identified in pure lavender essential oil. The aromatherapist must remember that ALL of these chemicals found in pure and natural Lavender oil work together to produce a therapeutic effect. For example, the linalool molecule is antiviral and antibacterial; the linalyl acetate is emotionally calming; other major components including cineol, limonene, pinene and others are all noted for specific biologic and aromatic activity. It is the combined, balanced, synergistic action of these chemicals that make pure, high-quality Lavender such a great healer.
What does this mean to the lay-practitioner? That it's important to find a nice smelling lavender oil! Each individual chemical, both major and minor, has a distinct smell, and is talked about in terms of "notes" within the overall lavender aroma. Some of these are sweet, some citrusy, some are herbaceous, and some camphorous (and the list goes on). A precise amount of each will create a certain Lavender aroma. Some lavenders are more sweet (and may therefore more relaxing), others are more herbaceous. Your nose is an incredible detector of essential oil chemistry, and you'll be surprised how effective it is at choosing the finest, most therapeutically valuable oil. Your nose can tell you if all the constituents are in balance, if the oil is fresh, and interestingly, also if the oil is right for you - trust yourself in this regard!
A balanced approach in aromatherapy, as in all of natural medicine, is best. The most effective practitioner will have a well-developed "internal pendulum" combined with a solid education. Significant variations exist in the quality of essential oils; it is really cost effective to buy the higher grades of oil, as their synergy of expertly distilled chemicals will have the greater therapeutic action. Use your nose, knowledge and intuition to find a source you trust, that delivers consistently high-grade oils for a reasonable cost. Use these same faculties to skillfully select and apply the appropriate oil for each circumstance. Essential oils are complex by nature; at the same time, they have an exceptionally broad scope of therapeutic applications. Hopefully, this little bit of aromatherapy chemistry will enrich your ability to support your own health, and the health of those around you.
About the Author
The author has made available reports on specific anti-microbials such as tea tree and other therapeutic essential oils.
(ArticlesBase SC #2444139)
Article Source: - Essential Oil Chemistry: A Beginning Aromatherapy Primer

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jam Recipes

We make jams with lavender.  They are really really good, and people buy them a lot. But, I want to let you know how we do it....

Here's my secret... you can take your favorite recipe (that makes about 8 seven ounce jars) and add about a tablespoon of ground culinary lavender and make a great jam.

That's it, simple and yet makes a delicious jam that you will love. Now that we're going into berry and fruit season you can experiment to your heart's content with the bounty in your area.

Need culinary lavender? (We have some, of course.) If you have lavender in your garden, just follow these basic rules. Don't eat Lavendula Stoechas (what a lot of people call Spanish lavender), or most of the Lavendula x-intermedias (the hybrids that have nice long stems, there really isn't a country's name that refers reliably to these). You can eat most of the Lavendula Angustifolia varieties - with Hidcote, Munstead, and Melissa being among the best. You can eat one hybrid variety called "Provence". If you stick to that you'll be perfectly safe and your jams will be that much more delicious.

Come back to this post and comment to let me know how you did.  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Necessity and invention - No more stink!

I was to supply the lemonade, paper plates, plasticware, and wine glasses at the community dinner last night. I stopped at the local grocery store to get a couple more cans of frozen lemonade and while I was there I picked up some sorely needed underarm deodorant. Did I mention this is going to be a personal blog post? Well, it won't end up that way, but it starts out....

Tom's of Maine Lavendar (which they spell wrong) or Calendula deodorants have been my favorite for a while, so I bought one and into the plastic bag it went, along with the lemonade. I got to the dinner, forgot about what was in the bag and handed it off to a woman who seemed eager to have the lemonade. On the way home I remembered. Uh oh, it was going to be a stinky day tomorrow.

Wait a minute! I have a lavender farm and we make lots of cool products, and have even been thinking in the background about making a deodorant. So, onto the web I go and I find a couple of really cute videos of younger-than-me women telling how to make a deodorant. One was Mochamoments and she cracked me up - so calm talking about such a personal thing! I actually didn't use her recipe for the deodorant, but I did use her attitude-recipe for being cool with it and having fun.

Want to know my recipe?

1 1/2 TBL beeswax pastilles
1/2 TBL Shea Butter
1 TBL Coconut Oil
10 drops Bergamot Essential Oil
15 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
25 drops Lavender essential Oil
3 drops Castor Oil

I melted the first three ingredients in a small sauce pan, then added the rest of the ingredients. Poured them into a mini jam jar (because that is what I had on hand) and capped it to cool. Meanwhile, I scraped the stuff left in the pan with my finger and covered my armpits with the stuff. It smelled wonderful! Nancy, who works here with me, was making fun of me because I'd tuck my nose into the neck of my shirt and sniff every 10 minutes or so. 10 hours later after hard labor on the farm - guess what! I don't stink!

Make your own deodorant, it's fun and much more healthy for you. This concoction that I made won't last forever, because there are no real preservatives in it, but it will last long enough, I'm sure.

Some factoids:
The essential oils included are good because: They all smell wonderful and all three help with antimicrobial effects. Bergamot can have issues with photosensitivity, but hey, here it's under the arm, where the sun don't shine.

Castor Oil is an amazing oil, used for things like airplanes, skin conditioner, anti-depressant (Wikipedia: Castor oil and its derivatives have applications in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes.) Who knew?

Coconut Oil is used a lot in soaps and lotions because it's solid at room temperature, and has other cool qualities such as skin moisturizer and softener. Shea butter is also a moisturizer, but it also helps with scars, burns, rashes, etc. And beeswax is just wonderful - it smells good, is hard enough to make the deodorant "paste" viable as a paste. It protects things and adds moisturizing effects, too.

I'll be making more deodorants, with other ingredients. This is so much fun! Add your comments if you've made your own deodorant, or not. Seems to me we can reclaim our own ability to smell wonderful! And, oh, by the way, Go Lavender!!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Blackbirds, Daffodils and Greenhouse

One of the joys of being on the farm is watching what nature does. The other day I was sitting inside talking and drinking coffee with friends when a huge flock of red-winged blackbirds and a few starlings descended onto our birdfeeder. They looked so neat, especially with the daffodils blooming right there.... I had to share.

We have been working hard in the greenhouse tranplanting starts and starting more. It is looking really beautiful. Do you know our plants are certified organic? That means doing things in the greenhouse can be tricky, because we can't use standard things to eliminate pests. So far we're doing alright, and there aren't many pests aside from pesky fruit flies. The greenhouse is a "cold" greenhouse which means there is no additional heat in it. It has gone below freezing at times in the night during the winter. But now that spring is here (see the daffodils?) the nights are warmer so the plants are doing quite well. Note the purple pots? They're new and boy do they look great!

We've also developed a way of printing out our own tags in color that have plant information AND a little bit of history or story about the variety. We're working like crazy to get those tags written, but they, too, are very cool. I'm excited about this growing season.

Friday, February 19, 2010

When Lavender isn't enough

There is one thing that lavender can't do. It can't mend an aching heart when someone you love dies.

It can make things smell better. It can help with little things like headaches, and cuts and burns. It can be a peace offering. It can help with sleeping. All that is good. But sometimes it's just not enough.

I realized that over the last few weeks and especially, today; let me explain.

Using social media in business can help us keep in touch with loved ones. The people we love spend at least 40 hours a week working, and why would we want to be left out of that part of their lives? Some of my family members have signed on as friends, or get blog posts, or tweets. I love that they comment from time to time on my posts and pictures. I love following their own businesses and daily lives. At the farm we send out a monthly email newsletter to folks who sign up for it. Some of my family members have signed up. In the course of responsible use of this medium we have to mange the list of people and sometimes we have to adjust the address or take it off if someone asks. We send out email newsletters about once a month or less, usually. I just sent one out this morning.

Later this afternoon, I was spreading fertilizer and lime in the lavender fields with a spreader attached to the PTO of my tractor (so cool!), and I realized that the email I'd sent out went to my sister-in-law's email address. But she won't be reading that ever again, because she died a couple of weeks ago. I'd forgotten that her email address was still active on my list. I felt horribly guilty for having forgotten to take her email off the list.

I've been walking around somewhat in a fog because of the grief her death represents, if someone asks me about it and I start to tell them, I choke up. This is normal, I know, but it's more intense than when my Dad died a year ago at the age of 83. Sally was 42. My brother is 43. I love them both and their three young children. Taking her name off my email list was yet another reminder that she is gone. Her bright smile and sparkling eyes will never gaze at me again. She'll never write "Hey, Sistah Sal" to me again. Being in her kitchen helping out after the funeral, was just plain strange without her turning from the stove, waving a spoon, and laughing at something we just said.

As much as I love lavender and enjoy it's scent and effects and the pure joy of growing it, the knot in my stomach and the tears that come unbidden have muted the pleasure I normally would have every day as I walk a few steps away to work. Until that passes, I have to run on memory. I remember lavender is a delight, that growing it is a pleasure, and that making things with it is fun and a creative outlet. Luckily, I have folks who remind me, and people how are coming to the farm who have that appreciation tell me how much they enjoy it. They remind me every day of the sheer joy in things that smell good, that are impressive to see, that bring peace.

It is peace that the priest commended her to last Wednesday, Feb. 10. May that be true and I pray that she is smiling & laughing at the antics of her kids, my brother, her Mom & Dad, her sister and her family, me, my sister, and the rest of the 1,000 people who came to say goodbye to her. And, maybe there is a whiff of lavender there for her, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Donation to Haitian Relief

In the January edition of our newsletter I announced that Lavender Wind Farm would donate 10% of sales for one week. I had some misgivings because it seemed selfish to say that if people bought from us we'd donate. I had fears that people wouldn't believe that we actually would make the donation and that we wouldn't sell enough to donate much at all. That week just ended and we donated $86.07 to the UUSC Haiti Relief Fund. I am very gratified to have been able to send that much - this is our down season and that represents a very good week.

Our customers deserve credit for making this possible. Rather than getting 10% off for themselves, they made it possible to send more money for long term help in Haiti. I'm proud of them, they're great! Thank you, all.