Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Loads of Lavender
It’s peak lavender season; a banner harvest. We wake up early to try and get out there while there is still shade on the plants, before a gazillion bees wake up. Still a few big bumblebees are up early, but seem friendly and patient with us (that’s from someone who hasn’t been stung in awhile). We try and leave plenty of flowers for them—the stragglers that run along the ground or don’t grow straight. The air is filled with invigorating scent and a buzzing hum, punctuated by the call of a neighbor’s rooster and a banging hammer from another neighbor’s remodel.
Previous generations in this area started planting lavender, and they knew what they were doing. It loves our sandy soil and barely needs water. Normally the deer and gophers leave it alone also, though you never want to take that for granted. We’ve learned that we probably planted them too close together because some species (I think the French and Spanish) that we intermingled with the English are getting mold problems. We’ll have to do some rearranging in the fall after the rain softens up the soil. It was a very wet year. (70 inches of rain!)
This little lavender plantation is currently the heart of our “mom’n pop”, though we have nothing like a clear business plan for making a profit anytime soon. Mostly we’re giving it away to anyone who happens by, and drying and saving the rest for making sachets or whatever other crafts we can think of.
We planted quite a few varieties, and the most highly recommended is by far my favorite, the Provence. It’s an English variety, and we also planted Grosso, another English variety. We mixed in some Munsteads, which are supposed to be better for cooking. If any readers have good lavender recipes, send ‘em over! I have a few, but haven’t tried them yet—for lemonade and cookies. I’ll report in on the results someday probably. Oh, and we also planted some French and Spanish varieties. Right now they look pathetic next to the Provence, but earlier in the season they looked great.
Received a call yesterday from the doyenne of lavender here on the mountain, trained under the expert tutelage of the original matriarch who co-owned most of this land, and who was supposedly the originator of the idea that this is a good place to plant lavender. She was calling to remind us to get out there harvesting right now...don't wait another day. She’d visited us in past years and seen our burgeoning crop, during a time when we hadn’t been so attentive to the harvest season (we’ve been a little busy, goo-oosh) and she couldn’t stand to see us missing the boat once again. All she could think was “What a waste!” She instructed me on the finer points of cutting, but mostly wanted to cattle-prod me into action...lavender flowers wait for no slacker, and the oils are only at their peak for a few more days, so we better GET ON IT. Yes, ma’am.