for the love of lavender

A look into the life of a lavender farming family.

Name:
Location: Yamhill, Oregon, United States

Thursday, November 09, 2006

to share the lavender

I'm so excited! When we first decided to plant lavender it was because we wanted to share it. The idea was basically an "if we plant it - they will come" approach. We imagined a sea of purple a buzz with bees where people would come and experience the beauty for themselves. Walk about, perhaps have a picnic, experience the lavender with all of their senses and have a great time.

That original vision never materialized. We planted the lavender and it grew into a beautiful sea of purple a buzz with bees. But the people could not come, even though many wanted to. Our vision didn't include parking or a reasonably negotiable slope. The field is surrounded by trees which allow no parking and the hillside is steep - too steep for many people to easily walk about on. It turns out that our visions of beauty with the intent to share turned out beautiful but not very practical.

We were always limited on how much of our property we could plant lavender on because we had horses. Fantastic horses that we loved dearly. The day came last spring when I found new homes for the last of our horses. My physical body just can no longer adequately do the physical things that horse keeping entails. I miss them terribly - perhaps I'll write more about horses at a later time. The up side of no longer having the beautiful spirit and energy of the horses is that we now have more room for lavender.

Our new easily accessible, relatively flat sea of purple will be located right near the road where there is lots of parking and there will be lots of lavender! I can hardly wait for the baby plants to grow. Our original dream will finally be realized. People can come and experience with all of their senses. People can come and stroll through the lavender, have a picnic or just be. We can share... and I'm so excited!
for the love of lavender....

Saturday, October 07, 2006

the farmers markets draw to a close

We have been doing farmers markets for 5 years now. Selling our fresh and dried Oregon lavender, lavender crafts and some assortment of garden art and other goodies we put together. We even take some of our friends handcrafts now and then. Our main market is in Astoria, Oregon but we often do the farmers market in McMinnville, Oregon too. During the height of the season we have done up to five farmers markets a week- but I admit that's a little crazy.

I was thinking as I was selling lavender at the market. This selling of lavender at markets is an ancient craft. There is mention of the use of lavender and the selling of it at markets in some very old texts. There are even songs made up about it that the seller would shout out to passers by about the attributes of lavender and all the things you can use it for. Things haven't changed much...

As we move out of farmers market season here in Oregon (the season ends when the rains begin) we move right into the holiday market season. The pace changes a little but we're still very busy. We won't slow down until after the holiday gift buying season. A gift of lavender is a great gift!

for the love of lavender...

harvesting art


It's time for harvesting art in Yamhill County! Each October artists in Yamhill County, Oregon open their studios for two weekends. The Art Harvest is organized by the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County and the participating artists. Many different mediums are represented and it can be so inspirational to visit the artists in their studios.

Since I'm a non practicing artist at the moment it can be both inspirational and frustrating. Most would never guess that I was an art major in college and that I have created and sold a lot of art over the years. I always think about and plan for the time when I'll be able to create again. When I retire or when the kids are grown or.... the fact is I just need to set aside time to do it now.

My solace is that I'm surrounded by art and all it's beauty both in nature and in our store. Providing a place for local artists to show their work is very gratifying to me. Wayward Winds Mercantile, Gallery & Gifts is just a very comfortable, fun and interesting place to be. We always have something new, fun and exciting. Maybe one of these days we'll have another artists work to show, mine perhaps?

My good friend Susan Day painted the lovely pastel you see at the top of the page. She also planned and executed the "Paint Out" we had before and during the Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival. Artists came from all over to paint in the lavender fields during the week prior to the festival. They then showed and sold their work during the festival. Ten lavender fields in the area were open for the artists and some of them visited every one of them. The show was successful with most of the artists selling work, some of them multiple pieces. My 14 year old son Riley sold several of his abstracts. The one shown in the middle is his most popular. For information about the Paint Out you can email me info@waywardwindslavender.com

Truth is that Yamhill County and in fact, all of Oregon is so filled with artistic opportunity. Each and every day I see something that makes me say to myself - I wish I could get out there and paint or at the very least, I wish I had my camera. Luckily I did have my camera when I took this picture of one of the artists in a nearby lavender field during the paint out. Next year I want that artist to be me! For the love of lavender.....

Monday, September 18, 2006

cookies and care taking at the lavender shop

At Wayward Winds Lavender we're lucky to have a great team. Our little lavender shop in Yamhill, Oregon is a great place to work because of that. It's more than just a store. It's where we make our products, create and care for each other.

Jennifer is our chief organizer of production. She makes sure all the products are made for orders and she packages and ships almost everything. Jennifer also takes care of retail customers when we're lucky enough to have them. Handling special orders and retail sales. Jennifer is rather adverse to having her picture taken but that's her with the silver hair and white top helping a customer during the Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival. I had to be sneaky to get any picture of her at all.

Jennifer's other talents include making scrumptious cookies and other baked goods which she brings in to share with the rest of us. By doing this she learned of my funny habit of only liking to eat things in even numbers. I can't eat 1 or 3 or 5 cookies. It has to be 2 or 4 or 6 etc. Strange habit I know but it's mine. She tests it regularly by trying to serve me "odd" numbers...

Pattie is our most esteemed seamstress who somehow manages to produce all of our products which require sewing. She's been officially dubbed " the amazing Pattie" for her high attention to

detail and quality. Pattie is also in the above photo with the long
dark hair and white top.

Pattie also takes care of the Wayward Winds book keeping -
which can often be a challenge because of all the different parts
of the business. There's the farm, the store, farmers markets,
wholesale and my expertise at losing receipts and other
important bits of paper for her to worry about.

Donna is a recent addition to our team. Donna helps with many other projects that don't otherwise get done. I'm not sure what her official title would be - I call her my right hand.

A great team makes it fun to work here. When work becomes more. It becomes something you care about and something that nourishes you. Knowing that you're taking care of business while taking care of each other. When you're pals. And you know what they say about pals? A pal is someone who will stand by you even when you're up to your hoo-hoo in hot water.

For the love of lavender.....

Saturday, September 02, 2006

lavender caramels, a teenagers opportunity

The other day a young lady named Sophia came into our store with her mother. They were looking for lavender essential oil and asking many questions about what it is and how we made it. Seems we had just what they had been looking for.

Sophia's grandmother had made lavender caramels back in the day. Well it turns out they had found grandmothers old recipe and wanted to try to make the lavender caramels. The recipe called for lavender essential oil. Luckily they found out about Wayward Winds Lavender and came over to see if we had any. They were really excited to find lavender essential oil made right here in Oregon. They purchased the lavender essential oil and bid us goodbye.

As they were leaving I mentioned how much I would like to try the lavender caramels when they had some made. The next weekend Sophia and her mother brought in some caramels - wow were they strong! You'd have to be real lavender lovers like us to really enjoy them. They were big and gooey and very lavendery. The following weekend they came out to the store again for us to sample what Sophia had concocted. This time too weak. Hardly a hint of lavender. You'd have to be real lavender lovers like us to even notice the lavender in them. They were still big and gooey and yummy though. The third weekend guess what - the lavender caramels were just right. It may have been a process akin to Goldilocks and the Three Bears but it worked.

We asked Sophia if she would like to sell her lavender caramels in our store. She was hesitant at first, not sure that anyone would actually buy them. We assured her they would. After all, they are incredibly good.

Sophia the teenage entrepreneur now sells her lavender caramels at Wayward Winds Mercantile and several other locations. Customers love the caramels and they love that they are made by a teenager using her grandmothers recipe. Sophia's little brother is now making vanilla caramels using grandmothers recipe as well. We may have to sell his too. During the Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival Sophia gave samples of her lavender caramels to the crowds. Boy did she sell a lot of caramels that day.

We wish the best of luck to Sophia and her continued lavender endeavors. She's building a nice college fund. We're so glad that Wayward Winds Lavender could help. You go girl!
For the love of lavender...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

the distillation of lavender

The distillation of lavender for essential oil is in full swing this time of year. The old copper still gets a lot of attention when we run it on the street next to our store in Yamhill, Oregon. The fragrance is amazing and the aroma weaves it's way all through the town.

The still is an old alcohol distiller that has been converted to use for essential oil distillation. It holds about 100 lbs of lavender at a time. The amount of essential oil it produces depends on the variety of lavender. Some are big producers and some are not. Often the lower quantity essential oil producers give us the higher quality essential oils. We use the lavender essential oil as well as other essential oils in many of the products we craft. We also sell lavender essential oil to other crafters. We have recently begun to use the lavender essential oil in foods. More on that another time.

The gentleman you see in the picture is our good buddy Butch. We call him our "master distiller" because of his skill with the still and his endless enthusiasm for distilling essential oils. He always shows up with a smile. Butch is a true treasure and a true friend.

Butch has built his own mini distillers at home. The first one he made using an old pressure cooker. It worked but he didn't think it worked well enough so he built another largely from scrap metal he had around his place. The second one has a truly unique design and works well. Next he's going to build himself a "real" still. I'm sure it will be wonderful and work well. After years of research and experimentation it's bound to.

Butch likes to distill so much that he has distilled just about every tree, shrub and weed around his place to see what, if any, essential oil they will produce. His neighbors vegetation is fair game too. He has three different cedar trees so of course he had to distill a batch of each. Interesting thing is the essential oils produced are distinctly different from each other even though they are all three cedar trees. Each variety of lavender can produce distinctly different essential oils also. Some are nice and some are not. Some don't even produce enough essential oil to be worth the effort.

We have been using the still more and more for demonstration and educational purposes at festivals and events. Our Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival being one of them. Everyone is fascinated by how it works and the still always draws a crowd. People also develop an understanding of why essential oils can be so expensive when they see what a small amount of essential oil comes out of that big still.

Many lavender farms around Oregon are distilling lavender essential oil these days. Many have small table top distillers and some have bigger ones like us. As with most things lavender - it's impossible to compete with imported essential oil when it comes to price but there is something very satisfying in making and using your own essential oils. For the love of lavender...

lavender at the farmers market



We were in Astoria, Oregon at the Sunday Market last weekend, same as every weekend from Mothers Day until October. Trying to sell our lavender goods to promote our lavender farm, products and store. We have been doing this market for 4 years now and it has become an important part of our lives. We do many other markets and events throughout the summer but Astoria is the only one we do the entire season from start to finish.

Our kids teenage years have included our treks to the coast every Sunday. We used to feel a little guilty that our kids work so much and that we need them to accompany us to markets and events. We sometimes look back on our childhoods full of summer camping trips, swimming, riding horses etc. with fondness and wonder - what memories are we making for our kids?
The truth is we are making wonderful memories for our kids. The memories may be different from our own but nevertheless, just as special.

We require the kids help to load the truck and trailer for market, unload and set up when we arrive and then at the end of the day when it's time to pack up and head for home where we unload everything again. That leaves the entire day at the beach for them to play. They often bring friends along and there are many activities for them to do throughout the day. Swimming, movies, shops, a trolly, the
Astor Column and more are all within walking distance. They know Astoria as well as they know their home town of Yamhill, Oregon. No matter how much they grumble about having to get up at 5am to go they always have fun once they get there and they almost always look forward to going. Yes, they will have fond memories of Astoria in their future. For the love of lavender...

sometimes the canyon looms

Occasionally we find ourselves in a rut. Then the rut becomes a trench and the before we know it, it's the grandaddy of all canyons. At least it's a canyon full of lavender which smells good.

This time of year is especially hazardous as everything seems to come at once. The lavender harvest, the farmers markets, all the Oregon festivals and fairs which we like to attend with our lavender products. Then on top of that we add family obligations, farm and home maintenance (hard to do during the rainy Oregon winter) and at some point there is supposed to be a vacation! But we haven't really had one of those in years.

We've been in such a canyon lately and when we're in such a place we just keep trudging along the bottom of the canyon because it's the easiest and most comfortable route. Working endlessly, 7 days a week and honest 16 hour days and thinking that it's normal to do so. We don't begrudge it - after all, we have choosen it. It's easier to keep doing things the same way, but that same old way - well, it gets old after awhile. There is life outside of lavender. At least we think there is. I look forward to exploring it sometime in the future. For the love of lavender...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

the scents and sensations of town

Yesterday we did what we call "going to town". Town being the city of Portland, Oregon. We don't go into "town" all that often so it's always a special event for us, like a day off, a mini vacation of sorts.

Yesterday's trip involved the usual errands of picking up provisions and supplies which we can't access locally. We bought fabrics, ribbons and ingredients for making lavender goods, new shoes for one of the kids, had a nice lunch at an exotic - to us - restaurant and visited a few big box stores and wondered - what the ?

As we drove around "town" we found ourselves enveloped in sites, sounds, fragrances and sensations that we don't experience on a regular basis. The strong odors of hot asphalt, exhaust fumes and storm drains. The bright colors of the cityscape against the sky, the beautiful flowers in the parks, the river running through the city with it's contrast of nature dividing concrete. Loud engines, horns and voices all around us. Bright light reflecting off of towers of glass. It was beautiful. The city was speaking to all of our senses. We wondered - what would it be like to live here?

We found ourselves comparing our experiences in town to what people might be experiencing when they live in town and come out to the countryside. Walking a mountain trail, or meandering through a lavender field. Wondering, what would it be like to live here? Town and countryside, so different from each other yet the sensations can be the same depending on your frame of reference. Both can be something different, something beautiful, something exciting!

We truly enjoyed our trip to "town" yesterday and experienced it in all of it's glory. Seeing it as something different, exciting and beautiful for us at the same time it might be mundane to someone else. Sometimes we could describe the farm as mundane but most of the time we call it overwhelming and hard work. A work we are dedicated to and a lifestyle we love but sometimes we still wonder - what would it be like..... For the love of lavender...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

synergy

There is power in numbers. A group can achieve so much more than one person trying to go it alone. The Yamhill Valley Lavender Growers as a group has already accomplished so much. We have greater purchasing power as a group. We pulled off a fantastic lavender festival. We learn about lavender and life from each other. We have been able to give back to our community. Most of all, we have formed a bond that I hope endures for a very long time. Whether you call it synergy, karma or luck, I feel fortunate to be a part of the great things that are happening here. For the love of lavender...

Monday, August 07, 2006

the lavender festival


We love that we have several lavender farms concentrated right here around our town of Yamhill, Oregon. Our Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival held the second weekend in July was a huge success because of the hard work and dedication of the lavender community here. Over 1500 people attended our artisans street faire, sampled lavender culinary delights, attended lavender crafting classes and so much more. It was truely a celebration of lavender and community.

The highlight of the Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival for many was the tour of the area lavender farms. Seeing the vast blankets of purple and experiencing the amazing aroma and buzzing bees is a true delight. We were so pleased to be able to share the experience with so many. As some of the younger fields in the area mature, the experience will be even more awe inspiring as more and more fields become a part of the tour.

We're so appreciative of the wonderful cooperation it entailed to produce the event and how it all came together so well. It's amazing what a group of dedicated people can do. The results are both measurable and immesurable. The income is measurable, the attendance is measurable, the number of volunteer hours, how many porta potties, the number of meals served are all measurable but - what about the smiles? The pleasure people experience? The work experience for the teenage workers and volunteers? The feeling of well being when you experience a field of lavender with all of your senses... how do you measure that by any standard measure? Of course, you can not even though the results are obvious.

The Yamhill Valley Lavender Growers are a group of real people who work together cooperatively to produce an event that will benefit themselves and their community. This years festival was supported by the growers, a grant from the
Yamhill County Cultural Coalition and many area sponsors. A percentage of proceeds will benefit youth and senior programs in the area. We're proud to be a part of such a group. For the love of lavender...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

the hazy purple dream

When we planted our first lavender field, we knew we were not the only ones with the hazy purple dream of endless fields of the stuff. At the time we only knew of a handful of others who actually had plants in the ground though. The difference between dreaming about it and doing it involves many obstacles, a steep learning curve and -believe it or not- farming.

We used to picture every hillside covered in lavender. Every field of weeds, every fallow field, every unused piece of land - a purple sea of color. The reality is that lavender is a fairly high maintenance crop costing more for us to produce than what we can purchase it for- if we were willing to purchase imported lavender for our products. Lavender buds, bunches, oil etc. can all be purchased very inexpensively from several overseas countries.

We think many people including us planted their lavender fields on faith. Faith that they could find a market for the lavender later when the plants were full grown and producing. You have a few years while the plants are growing to figure that out right? We joke now about believeing that "if we plant it they will come" but we did in fact believe that. In reality it's important to have a plan before you put your first plant in the ground. Your plan will determine what varieties you plant, how many plants you need and what you intend to do with your harvest.

As more and more lavender farms crop up all across the country it will only become more difficult to have a viable plan. Here in Oregon there are about 40 lavender farms now. We hear of new ones on a regular basis. It seems the hazy purple dream is still spreading. At the same time the hazy purple dream is fading for some. There are already lavender farms going out of business or that don't know what to do with all that lavender.

We still believe in our purple dream even if it's not as hazy. We no longer picture every hillside covered in lavender. Our dream has aligned itself closer to reality while we keep the faith that it will all be worth it in the long run. Working this hard at something you love is supposed to pay off right? You just have to be content with the payoff being about lifestyle and not only about money. For the love of lavender.....

Monday, July 31, 2006

teenagers, each a work in progress



Having a lavender harvest crew of teenagers is not always easy. Especially in the early mornings when they are silent and brooding. Barely awake, barely speaking, barely functioning at all. Everything annoys them at this early hour and it seems best to give them a little time.

As a community member we're committed to this hiring of teenagers even though it makes little sense in terms of business. We consider it a long term investment in our community and in each of the kids we're able to employ. These work opportunities help kids build confidence and self esteem. They learn responsibility and work ethic. They learn how to work together with others outside of their usual circle of friends. They learn that a little hard work won't kill them - even though there are a few teenagers who might like to argue that point.

We are able to employ 10-12 teenagers during lavender harvest time. On an average day they will harvest and hang about 800 pounds of lavender. Over the course of the harvest season, 8,000 - 10,000 plants and literally tons of lavender. That's a lot of lavender...

Overall, we truly enjoy the company of teenagers. We enjoy overhearing their conversations when they think we're not listening. We enjoy their ability to learn new things and to be open to learning. We enjoy seeing their eyes light up when they receive their first paycheck. We enjoy seeing them turn from a group of ordinary kids into a real cohesive team, working together to get the job done.

Yes, we do feel it's important to hire teenagers even though it may not be the easy way, the most cost effective way or the most efficient way. It's just the right way for us. The long term benefits and results are immeasurable. For the love of lavender...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

a bit of a bee problem


We had a bit of a bee problem yesterday. Of course there are always a lot of busy bees buzzing happily around the lavender. Bumblebees and honeybees alike go from flower to flower to flower in a seemingly endless quest. There are often too many bees to count on every plant. The quest of the bees and our own quest to harvest usually are carried off without a hitch. They are much more interested in the heavily fragrant flowers than they are in us.

The delicate dance usually happens like this: We approach a plant and gently rock the plant from below which causes the bees to wonder off to the surrounding flowers, dignity in tact. We can then harvest the lavender plant without interference from the bees. As we move from plant to plant this routine continues, we sway the stems and the bees move on.

Sometimes there are some challenges when we approach the end of a lavender field. As the bees available harvest diminishes along with our own, they become more protective of the few plants that are left. They'll buzz around us and sometimes even make a feeble attempt at a dive. There are just fewer plants for the same number of bees. Still, we rarely get stung. Usually only when we accidentally grab a bee as we are putting our hands around the stems to cut them. When this happens we always honor the bee that gave its life unnecessarily for our gain.

The problems yesterday occurred when a swarm of honeybees invaded the drying shed where we were hanging the morning’s harvest. There are sometimes a few bees in the drying shed but this was something else entirely. Imagine a group of 10 teenagers merrily going about their business of bundling and hanging lavender when all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere - bees, bees and more bees everywhere. Bees buzzing, bees flying, bees hovering, bees diving, bees landing, yes - landing on them.

The intense buzzing was immediately joined by the girls screaming and the boys yelling and all of them jumping, flapping and running. Needless to say, there were casualties. Casualties among the bees and among the kids as almost all of them were stung - some of them multiple times. The bees won. We decided to stop working and let them have their day with the lavender. This morning they were gone - but gone to where? Would they be back? We decided to move to a different drying shed (several miles away) to prevent any further injuries to bees or kids.

We thank the bees for the work they do. For their serenade of busy buzzing which accompanies us on a daily basis. For lavender honey - so sweet. For their beauty and sense of purpose. We can learn a lot from bees. We can learn about how hard work can produce something nourishing and beautiful. About teamwork and about self-sacrifice. Thank you bees. For the love of lavender...
For pictures of bees and lavender see www.flickr.com/photos/accentuous

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

early morning harvest

I so enjoy the summer mornings during the lavender harvest season. Going out early to the lavender fields. The bees just waking up as the sun covers the lavender with its warmth and diffuse light. Before the full activity of the day begins. While time itself is still waking, shaking off the haze of darkness.

Harvest is both a time for joy and sorrow. As each lavender plant gives up it's bounty the fields change from seas of intense color and heady fragrance to the orderly landscape they become the majority of the year. Little green mounds all lined up in a row like obedient little soldiers. Rows of green just waiting for the chance to bloom again next year so they can be robbed of their offering once more. And yet, year after year they offer up thier bounty again and again.

In truth, the beauty of the lavender fields do not completely go away. Their beauty just transforms from the spectacular colors and fragrances of fresh ripe lavender to all the beautiful things we can make with the harvested flowers. Still beautiful, still fragrant. In their processed forms - everlasting. For the love of lavender...
To see some of the possibilites www.waywardwindslavender.com
To see more photos of lavender and harvesting www.flickr.com/photos/accentuous