A few months back, at an Oregon Lavender Association meeting, Andy and Melissa Van Hevelingen were sharing their wisdom about all things lavender, as well as showing some varieties of lavender they had found on a recent trip to England -- one of which was an angustifolia called “Felice.”
Well, I had to have it. I mean really...what are the chances? My wonderful mom, Felice, was such a supporter my lavender growing endeavor (of all of my endeavors really), that it seemed fitting (and miraculous!) to have a field full of Felice lavender as a tribute to her, not only because of how supportive she was but also because, like lavender, she made the world a more beautiful place and she made those around her happy. But after looking online for a seller and realizing that this variety was only sold in Europe and couldn’t be shipped, I contacted Melissa Van Hevelingen about maybe, possibly buying any Felice that she could propagate from the plant she had brought back with her. She graciously said yes -- but cautioned that the Felice were turning out to be a little persnickety and she wasn’t sure how many, if any, would take. So I tried not to get my hopes up (but did anyway). And then a few weeks ago, after several months of crossed fingers and silent prayers, Melissa delivered five beautiful Felice lavender to me and I couldn’t be happier. (Thank you Melissa!) I am hoping that eventually those five will turn into fifty so that I can have my field of Felice, but for now I am thrilled with those five.
But what do I do with five? They have been in the greenhouse for a few weeks because I have been struggling to figure out the perfect place for them. Should I go ahead put them out in the field with the hope of adding to their number? Should I create a little memorial garden for Mom on the side yard? Should I plant them on the hill with the fruit trees? Nothing seemed quite right.
And then a few days ago, I was harvesting some very happy, healthy lavenders that are planted by the front patio overlooking our lavender fields. This is where we entertain our friends while looking at the beautiful view of the mountains, and where we drink our morning coffee as we watch the hot air balloons go up with the sun. This is where we sit in our Adirondack chairs and sip a glass of wine after a long day and watch the sky light up from the sunset. This is where we watch the fall colors, and catch snowflakes, and pick blackberries and listen to the birds. This is where some of the best parts of our life happen And I knew that was exactly where the Felice lavender should go -- not off in a field or in some quiet memorial garden, but right in the middle of everything, right there in the middle of our lives, as Mom always was.
So this weekend, I will move the lavender that is already there and plant the Felice lavender in its place. I know it’s not the same as having Mom here again, but just maybe, when I’m sitting on the patio enjoying the day and accompanied by that beautiful purple Felice lavender, she will feel a little closer.
Well, Summer is over and as I sit inside on a rainy Fall day here in Dundee, Oregon, fire blazing, my heart is full of gratitude for this place and for a productive summer full of dreaming, planning, learning, tilling, planting, harvesting, and pruning.
May was all about the planning -- and waiting for the rain to stop for a few days so that the earth could dry out. We spent many a soggy afternoon walking our property, measuring possible rows, using stakes and twine to help us visualize and then draw up a little map of the space we imagined, complete with areas for picnic tables, hammocks, Adirondack chairs and a farmstand. In the meantime, I also researched which varieties of lavender would work best for what we wanted to do and contacted several growers in the area, hoping they might have some plants to sell me.
On a sunny summer day in Dayton Oregon at Red Ridge Farms, I and a group of 40 or so women set about making our very own lavender wreaths. Maybe you’ve seen them in gift shops or home furnishing stores -- those often expensive, wispy bursts of purple sunshine that transport you to a softer, simpler existence. But they aren’t difficult to make and can be easily and cheaply done in a few hours using lavender or any number of plants/herbs/tree branches from your own yard. If you’re interested, here’s a step by step of how to make your own lavender wreath (although most of the same principles apply to any other kind of wreath making).
One of the very fun things about moving into a well-loved house is discovering all of those previous acts of love. Especially when it comes to the garden: the rose bushes hidden among the blackberry bushes, the bird houses scattered throughout the garden, the brilliant purple iris that emerges on a grey day, the absolute joy of peonies, the fruit trees and the guessing game that comes with that (I know it’s a cherry tree...but what kind of cherry? What kind of pear? What kind of apple? What kind of grapes?) -- and, of course, a giant tractor tire filled with rhubarb.
Lavender is wonderful for sachets and soap and lotions and salves and wreaths...but cooking? As much as I love lavender, it certainly wasn’t the first thing I reached for to flavor my recipes. Sure, I had made lavender lemonade and lavender shortbread, but that was the extent of my lavender culinary experimentations. So when I heard that the wonderful Nicole Callen from Norwood Lavender Farm and Chris Mulder from Barn Owl Nursery were offering a "Cooking with Lavender" class, I had to sign up.
The class took place at the Barn Owl Nursery, where, because of a pretty intense rain/wind storm the day before, the power was still out. So we all huddled together in Chris’ drying room with her pellet stove blazing and the sound of the generator in the background, and on a cloudy cool day in April, our culinary horizons were expanded.
Sometimes the place you thought was your place isn’t your place after all. That "awesome barn" farm we fell in love with? Well...it came with an equally cool log house -- but one which would have taken a LOT of time and a LOT of money to make it what we wanted. Which would have meant a lot less time and money for growing lavender. And that’s what I want to do.
So we said goodbye to that place and grabbed onto a different, more realistic, equally exciting one. This new place also has land (though not as much), and a barn (though not a cool old wooden one)-- but it also has a house that has big windows to a big view, a perfectly sloped, open field for growing lavender, a greenhouse (!), a guest apartment, two goats, one chicken, and lots of fruit trees. A move-in ready farm! On top of that, it is surrounded by wineries and the beautiful red hills of Dundee. And, most importantly, it was “Mom-approved.” So we close escrow in a few days and I can hardly wait to move in.
Farm shopping is just as fun as you would imagine. Every new place holds its history and its promise, both for what it is and what we could make it. Each one has it charms and its challenges. One farm might have the perfect sloping, open, south-facing land with a view, but is out of our price-range, or is in the wrong location, or just doesn’t feel right. Another might have a beautiful house, but the land is too steep or not sloped at all or too wooded. And I knew going into this that we might be shopping for a while.
But I knew we had found our place when we saw the giant wooden barn and my husband walked toward it as if in a trance, and then continued back behind it. I knew we had found our place when I saw him walking around the land and looking up at the sky as if to say, “OK I’m here” -- completely ignoring all of us gathered to discuss this latest possibility. After a while, Mark walked over and said “I love it” -- and I knew he did and that this would be our place. The barn was beautiful, the land was sloped (though a few trees would need to be cut down to open it up a little), there was a (bonus) 1 acre vineyard that grows pinot noir, it had its own forest -- it was on 30 acres of Oregon heaven. It has a detached garage for space to create an artist’s studio or little apartment. It has a small shed next to the garage that could be converted into the Little Lavender Shop. I could see where I would put the chickens and the greenhouse and the herb garden and perhaps a few goats. I could see where visitors would park when they came to pick lavender. The house was a log home. I never would have chosen a log home, but it’s beautiful and we could make it our own. There was so much promise here.
The present owner is an engineer (as is Mark) and as we talked with his daughter about the history of the farm and the stories that go along with it, we both felt an incredible sense of responsibility. We wanted to be the new caretakers of this land and love it as much as her dad has. Later that day, my sweet husband wrote the owner and his daughter a letter promising to do as much.
We have put in our offer and it has been accepted. And now we wait. And we dream. Little Lavender Farm part 2 has begun.
I am growing Calendula in my herb garden for the first time this year -- and what a shame that I’ve lived so many summers without growing this beauty! Not only is it a pretty flower (which sits in little vases and brightens up my kitchen), but it also self-sows and blooms as fast as I can pick it.
But that’s not all.
One of its many names is the “poets marigold” because of two features:
1) It opens its petals at about 9:00 each morning, slowly follows the sun throughout the day, and then closes up shop at about 3:00 each afternoon.
2) During the night, droplets of water will often gather in the flower and then drop off of its petals when it opens in the morning.
Who wouldn’t want to write about a weeping flower/loyal sun-worshipper?!
And there’s more.
The Calendula is incredibly healing -- its petals are edible and contain all kinds of healthy properties, with The Herb Society of America noting that it is a probable cancer preventative food since it contains carotenoids, lycopine, and lutein. And it’s versatile: the leaves can be boiled and eaten like spinach, the buds can be pickled and used like capers, fresh petals can be tossed into a salad, and the dried petals can act as a saffron substitute, as well as flavor broth and color cheese.
I for one, am looking forward to creating a Calendula infused oil and then using that infusion in salves and soaps -- since it’s also an anti-inflammatory and an astringent used to heal bruises, burns, and cuts. I imagine a Caledula/Lavender soap would be amazing!
I think this little flower is going to keep me very busy in the next few weeks!
*Thanks to my sister Stephanie for the title!
It’s always an eventful day when Hilary Kearney, the Girl Next Door beekeeper comes to visit. Yesterday was no exception.
A few weeks ago, her boyfriend Tim had stopped by to check on the bees and noticed that one of the hives had lost its queen. Now this can happen for a few different reasons -- maybe she died, maybe they swarmed. There was no way to know in this case. But Tim spent some time transferring some of the brood from the "queenright" hive to the queenless hive in hopes that this hive would make a new queen.
How might they do that, you ask? I wondered that as well, so I researched a bit by reading both Hilary’s blog and several other resources. This is what I learned:
1) Once the bees recognize that a new queen is needed, several of the fertilized eggs are chosen to become a potential queen and their cells are extended downward by worker bees in order to make them bigger.
2) These potential queens are fed a special concoction of royal jelly (all bee larvae are fed royal jelly for the first three days but potential queens continue on this diet).
3) After they’ve been fed a bunch of the royal jelly and about nine days after laying, the potential queens are sealed in their cell with layer of wax
4) About a week after that, the first queen will emerge (let’s call her Cercei), and using her special, non-barbed stinger, she will slay her queen sisters before they can emerge from their cells by piercing through their wax cells.
5) If, by chance, another queen emerges at the same time, they will duel to the death.
6) Queen Cercei will then begin the mating process, take several mating flights with several male drones (if you think about it, these could be her brothers), who die after they mate.
7) Soon after mating, the queen will start laying eggs -- up to 1500 per day
With all of this drama going on down in the hives, you can imagine how anxious I was to find out how things were progressing. WAS there a new queen? Was there a royal murder? Was there all kinds of bee sex going on in my backyard? Were babies being produced? Would the queendom survive?
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife, English teacher, writer, and lavender farmer who lives in Dundee Oregon .