Friday, June 22, 2007


Briefly, the seasons overlapped. spring butterhead and summer blueberries were available in adjacent booths at the farmer’s market.

I’m an experimental cook. Not all my efforts are successful, as Chris and Hillarey can attest, but getting creative in the kitchen is fun for me. At the farm, food preparation is limited to what you grow and what we bring with us once a week as we leave the city.

As I was preparing a fast dinner after working in the field during the auspicious week when the growing season was slipping from spring to summer, I gave in to the temptation to be creative. Maybe it was the muses at play, maybe it was necessity, or maybe it was boredom with bottle dressings. And launching our new culinary line using primarily our own recipes is important to me.

Summer Solstice is upon us. Enjoying the bounty of the season’s harvest is great way to celebrate.

Lavender Blueberry Vinaigrette

¼ cup cooking sherry splash of white wine vinegar
½ cup fresh blueberries ¼ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons Clear Creek Lavender Sugar
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until berries are liquid. Pour into curette.
Great over butterhead lettuce with sliced apples or peaches.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Almost Edible

As organic lavender farmers of the do-it-yourself variety we get to see many aspects of a business that often is missed in the larger commercial world. Both Chris and I have been working hard at hand-harvesting lavender and both fields for the last few weeks and we’re close to being finished.
Today though, it’s raining. We’re generally not fair-weather farmers but it’s a good day to catch up on inside tasks. Each January I try to estimate how many products we need on hand to get us through the first part of the season – essentially past harvest. With trusty spreadsheets color-coded and printed we start the winter chores such as making soap. All of our soaps are vegetable based and contain no synthetic ingredients. They’re also made completely by us – never farmed out to a contracted soap maker.
Soap making is like chemistry class in high school. It involves great care in mixing and measuring numerous ingredients and checking temperatures. Solid and liquid oils, essential oils for scent, our organic lavender buds, other herbs and spices and of course, sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide, or lye, is the ingredient that makes the soap hard, and as I overhead a chemistry student customer telling her mother – it’s what pulls the dirt away from whatever you’re washing.
Making soap also involves a bit of fun. I’ve searched around to find natural ingredients to use for colorants in our lavender soap. In the basic Lavender Bud soap I add an East Indian spice called Rattanjot to achieve a purple color. Other vegetable matter could be used too – like blueberries or indigo, but I’m not sure our customers want the lasting effect of lavender skin after showering. If it’s been a good year for Chamomile, and it generally is, we’ll have Lavender Chamomile soap. A bit of turmeric gives that soft yellow color. Another soap we enjoy is the Wicked Witch bar. It’s an avocado based soap, as opposed to olive oil, so it has a soft green color when cured. Avocado is emollient and very soothing on dry skin.
Often when I’ve got multiple batches of soap curing I’m struck by the colors of the bars that are lined up on the drying rack. They are lovely and have an almost edible appearance.
My calculations back in January were pretty accurate. We made more soap than my spreadsheet called for and I began soaping again recently to prepare for late summer and fall events. Today’s soap will be cured and ready for sale in six weeks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Field of Truths, not Dreams

Writing this may be bad for business.

It's the second week in June, what should be the peak of lavender season. Our first two years saw this week with a field full of stems bursting with color, and for novice farmers, scarce understanding of how to go about bringing it all in. Those early seasons we saw long hours, days, and weeks with sickles in our hands, rubber bands around the arms of the wheelbarrow for containing our bundles, and a garage full of drying lavender.

We'd been lucky. Those first couple of years took mercy and gave us no problems to solve. Our first summer in the field never saw 100 degrees. In August. In Oklahoma. That's unheard of. But eighteen months ago in fall a severe drought began, and because we'd never had to water in the off season, we didn't irrigate. Many plants died, and the rest suffered.

This year eastern Oklahoma was hit with a brutal, sustained, mid-April freeze. Plants that had been rebounding from the drought were dealt another blow. Granted, there wasn't much we could have done about the cold.

So now we're again in mid-June, but only a small section of plants looks like a postcard. The rest just looks like life -- some good, some bad.

It's hard working as much as we do and not having a beautiful field for our efforts. We're full of doubt over what we might have done wrong, and full of insecurities over the other, larger lavender farm that has the festival. We know we wouldn't want a festival at our place with it looking as it does.

But this evening , after we surveyed our two half-acre plots we ended up by the few rows that do look spectacular and took a picture of ourselves with them, we were both saddened by some sense of failure, and still overwhelmed by the success of the whole venture. This is the best thing either of us has done, and although it's not what we'd imagined, what is? It's as real as it can be. There is no Disneyland perfection here, just hard work from a couple that loves what they do, and who have had their share of success and failure.

If the field were perfect we'd be thrilled. It's not, and we're reminded by our work that there's more truth when things don't go the way one hopes.