Soap, plants, and Farmers Markets
This has been a fairly productive week:
Lauren and I made our first batch of soap on Tuesday, just a plain recipe with no add-ins so that we could experience the basic process. It turned out great -- cut nicely and is curing on top of the hutch. Lauren took over on Sunday with our second batch -- a smaller batch with ground lavender buds as add-ins. It looked and smelled beautiful and I can’t wait till we get to cut it. We are also thinking about trying hot processed soap so that we can use it more quickly -- there isn’t the same curing time with HP soap.
I bought 16 Sweet Lavender plants-- as well as some rose geraniums from Pearson and then ordered 126 Grosso plugs from Mountain Valley Growers for our next field. I’m not sure when the plugs will get here but hopefully soon! I'm ready to plant!
Lauren and I checked out the Bishop Farmers Market on Saturday. It’s a very small market which I think is perfect for us right now and feels less intimidating than some of the larger San Diego markets. I was able to meet our contact, Sue, who showed me where we would be setting up. Our first Saturday will be next week on July 4th! Independence Day! That seems very appropriate somehow.
Learning to make soap
Although I had originally bought a soap-making class from Sarah at the Keys Creek Lavender Farm for Lauren and I to attend, Lauren was off on a hike so thankfully my sister Stephanie was able to attend and we had a wonderful day on Saturday learning how to make soap. I got there early because I love that place and because they are now closed to the public except for private events (like soap making classes) -- more on that later. Though I’m not usually a front row kind of student, this time I decided I would sit right up front so that I could take good notes and get some good pictures since this was more of a demonstration than a hands-on class. However, once the class started, Sarah asked if anyone would like to come up to be her helper and my hand shot straight up -- so I was able to watch the process up close and even help with some of the measuring and stirring. She eventually brought everyone up to help with the stirring, but I felt very fortunate that I was able to participate in the process. Her soaps are all natural and smell heavenly -- and she was a very funny, kind, and informative teacher. I would highly recommend the class for anyone just starting out in soap making.
During the lunch break, Steph and I decided to wander through the farm. We ran into into the owner of the farm, Alicia Wolff, who I’d had the good fortune to meet the last time we were here. She is a lovely woman and I was so happy to be able to talk with her again. We told her that we were there for the soap class, but had neglected to bring anything for the potluck lunch -- and she immediately went into her kitchen and grabbed a plate of sandwiches for the high tea scheduled later that afternoon so that we would have something to contribute (I told you she was a lovely woman). She then explained why she had closed the farm to the general public. Unfortunately, it had become a bit too popular, with busloads (sometimes up to 150 people at a time) descending upon her farm and then not respecting her request to not walk among the fields -- instead running through them, sometimes laying on them, and creating a great deal of cumulative damage. This year, she had to replant several fields because of the damage done by tourists and decided at that point that she needed to limit access. I completely understand her point of view -- this is a place that she loves and is her home, so of course she wants to protect it. But how sad to think that the disrespectful and inconsiderate actions of a few have taken this beautiful place away from so many.
Our vision expands...
Two big developments.
The first is that my daughter Lauren has joined me in this project. Lauren is a talented artist and cook -- she has already designed several beautiful logos for our little farm -- so beautiful in fact that I can't decide which to use! And her culinary interests and talents have emerged in her desire to learn how to make soaps (what is soap-making after all but a different kind of cooking?). I will start harvesting and making sachets, bouquets, wreaths, and therapeutic neck pillows. And Mark is researching the distilling process so that we can extract lavender oil as well! We have already secured a spot at the Mammoth Lakes Farmers Market this summer and hope to get into a small market in the San Diego area as well. It has been so much fun researching, planning and dreaming with Lauren.
The second bit of news is that we are doubling our lavender fields. We’ve started laying out our second field but haven’t yet decided what kind to grow. I’m leaning toward Grosso just because I love its smell -- but the Sweet stays blooming year round so that’s really nice. I wonder if, in this climate, we could keep the Grosso blooming all year. Or maybe we should switch it up and plant Royal Velvet or Provence? We hope to have the field in within the next few weeks to get the little plants established before the summer heat hits. I will post before and after photos once the field is in.
Finally, it's June 1 and the Grosso plants are starting to get their first little shoots
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife, writer, and lavender farmer who lives in Dundee Oregon .