Garden Diary - July 2009

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Monday, 20 July 2009
A Visit to Carousel Farm Lavender

It's mid-July and once again time for a visit to Carousel Farm Lavender. My visits in the last few years have several purposes: sheer delight in the visual beauty of the place, a yearly update on changes, and the acquisition of a huge bunch of Grosso lavender for flavor and fragrance. I use it to make lavender wands (narrow ribbon woven under and over an odd number of lavender stems, that dries into a deliciously aromatic sachet), lavender shortbread, and more. An e-mail to Niko, agreement on day and time, and something to look forward to all weekend.

I'm not the only visitor to the Provencal-like lavender fields of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The harvest has been tricky this year. As with haying, the wet weather has had its influence.
Considering that there are 15,000 lavender plants to be trimmed, and it's all done by hand
and you'll understand that procrastination is not an option. It's truly carpe diem when the sun shines.


Gather a handful of lavender stems. Cut, with a well honed sickle. Stack on grass path.

Repeat, until the shrubby plants are trimmed back to a tidy mound. Move on to the next one.


In the outbuilding lavender is prepared for distilling
the precious, fragrant lavender oil. With a sharp machete
and a chopping block made from a sturdy section of log
the freshly harvested lavender is trimmed to proper length.

Windrows of lavender piled on the floor.

There's a distilling run under way, and drop by drop the oil falls into the alembic


There is a diversity of products created from the organically raised lavender,
from soaps to lotions, hydrosols, candles, of course bunches of dried lavender,
Niko sells wholesale. There's also a store on the farm for Saturday visitors.
And you can mail-order products here


A new product, first sold last year, they now sell true lavender honey.
I've made lavender-infused honey by gently warming a mild honey,
then steeping the flowers. This is better. My timing is good - first honey
of this year has just been collected from the hives, centrifuged, and bottled.

I go home, driving in a car perfumed with lavender. I happily comment to Niko.
"Oh,", he says, "it will smell of lavender for days." How nice.

And in the evening I begin on my own creations: a lavender vinegar, so useful for
cooking, cosmetic, and cleaning purposes. Lavender sugar that I'll use for baking.
An incremental improvement for the lavender shortbread. Perhaps I'll make some
herbes de Provence, a blend of dried herbs with a basis of lavender, its keynote,
and also thyme, fennel, perhaps savory, maybe others. Some commercial blends
have such a medley that I think they stray from their origins, herbs gathered on the
Provencal hillsides by la bonne femme. My gathering, in Bucks County
at Carousel Farm Lavender provides me with scents and savors . . . . and memories.

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