A Busy Lavender Week

With all the lavender harvesting, drying and wreath making going on around here, things are in full swing for what’s coming up next: my first juried craft show! Up to this point I have only participated in craft shows at schools and community centers, but this year I have decided to do something different.

The Windfall Fine Art and Handcraft Market takes place in Antigonish NS in September at the Keating Center on St FX campus. It is a juried show, which means that you apply to have a spot and then your work is judged on its merit, originality and suitability for the show. I applied and was accepted! Yay me!

So now I have to make sure I have enough merchandise to sell at this well advertised two day show. I have been making my products in larger quantities than before for the past few weeks and I’ll give you a sneak peek at a couple of my most popular items.

I make this whipped Lavender Body Butter that is becoming more and more popular each year. Most of my customers are looking for natural products and this really fits the bill without additives or chemicals. It contains shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil and lavender essential oil. That’s it. I as well as several of my customers use this body butter as a facial foundation cream. It takes a few minutes for the skin to absorb; its well worth the wait because you’re using pure food grade cream. After several months of use, people agree that their complexion has never been smoother and more nourished.

img_0555

Filling jars with body butter in my kitchen.

img_0614

An afternoon’s work ready to be capped and boxed.

img_0615

All set to go!

One other item I have been making the past week is wreaths. They have to be made while the lavender is fresh and then it dries right on the wreath. Dried lavender is too fragile for all the manipulation required for wreath making. People ask me all the time if the dried lavender smells good and I have to tell them that no, it has no smell. In order to have that wonderful lavender scent, the flower has to be squeezed or crushed, releasing the essential oil that is contained therein. You can’t really do that with a dried lavender wreath or bouquet because you would destroy it. So these things are purely ornamental.

The wreaths you see here are still in the process of drying. Once they are completely dry I will embellish them with dried miniature roses and some grasses.

img_0613

First the fresh lavender is put into little bundles.

 

img_0616

Then it is wired onto a grapevine wreath form.

img_0612

Et voila! One finished wreath.

img_0617

Here are some of the wreaths, almost dry now, and soon will be ready to embellish with dried mini roses and some grasses.

There are several other items in the works: lavender and wheat eye pillows, sachets, tub tea and a few more. I’ll keep you posted.

What a busy week it’s been!

Promises

The snow softly falls from a grey sky this morning. It is grey and white outside, the only color being that of the evergreens lining my street. The house is quiet as I sit in my rocking chair in front of the window, facing East.

Birds soar above the trees, doing their morning thing, as I do mine. And then they are gone.

It is a quiet and reflective sort of morning. My husband has gone to substitute teach at the school he retired from last June, and I am enjoying a meditative moment of solitude.

Someone down the street comes out, bundled up in winter attire, just to get the newspaper from the box at the end of his driveway.

A woman passes by walking her beautiful golden retriever;  I hear another dog barking in the distance.

All is quiet.

Pots of orchids and African violets line my windowsill. The violets are in full bloom but the orchids are just starting to bud. I look past them to the great white expanse that is my front  yard and I see my lavender plants peeking through the snow. They are quite resilient. I often think of how their life and their journey here in Nova Scotia mirrors my own life and journey. I will share that with you another time.

I have a Spanish lavender plant that is not able to survive our frigid winters, so last fall I potted it  up and brought it inside. Now, at the end of February, after much coaxing and coddling, it is hanging on for dear life, but still alive. I hope to be able to plant it outside again in the Spring.

It’s been a long, cold and tiring winter this year on many levels, but God’s promise of Spring always gives me hope and joy. I love this verse from Scripture that speaks of that hopefulness:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

             Isaiah 55:10-11

window

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lavender Kind of Show

If you know me, you know that I love lavender! My Pinterest board is full of Lavenderish ideas and des belles photos of la lavande. Not only that, when I arrived here in Nova Scotia, I immediately bought 60 lavender plants.

Yes, 60. And this year I plan to put 30 more!

They are in four rows of 15 in my front yard. This year will be their (as well as my) third year here in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia. Lavender takes about three years to mature, so this year should be great!

Funny, even though I love it here in the Annapolis Valley, it has also taken me three years to get my roots firmly planted. I now have a few circles of friends and more activities than I have time to do.

My love of lavender started in 2009 when I worked at La Maison Lavande , a beautiful lavender farm in St. Eustache, Quebec. There I learned all about the cultivation of lavender as well as its many benefits. During the short seven months I worked there, before moving to Nova Scotia, I became hooked.

And that’s why, in my craft shows this year, I will showcase ‘la lavande’. I have always made my crafts according to what is popular in the area and what I think will sell well.  I often found myself working on projects that were not a lot of fun- but they sold well.

They say that you should ‘follow your passion’, and the success will follow. Well, this year I intend to do just that.

So my table will be predominantly lavender purple, and off-white; here are a few things I have been working on up to now.

These have been made from vintage scrabble games…in both French and English.

Scrabble anyone?

Scrabble anyone?

Beautiful cotton dishcloths crocheted in purple and off white.

Beautiful cotton dishcloths knitted in purple and off white.

The lavender came from my front yard; don’t ask me where the wheat came from. I’ll never tell!

Lavender and wheat wreath

Lavender and wheat wreath

The gorgeous jug in this pic came from, where else? Provence, France. A little something I picked up in a second hand shop where the owner was this older man, so anxious to please and so happy to have made a sale.

I couldn't resist this one...does anyone recognize the picture in the background?

I couldn’t resist this one…does anyone recognize the picture in the background?

I have many more things to follow; some of them will require fresh lavender which I will have at the end of July, and others I will show you as I get to them.

I am excited!

 

Harvesting the Lavender

The past week has seen me out in my (almost) lavender field, competing with the bees, and harvesting my very first crop of beautiful, sweet smelling lavender. I am so thrilled to be doing this now; two years ago when I bought sixty tiny lavender plants, I could only dream of actually harvesting my own.

Normally the lavender harvest would take place toward the end of July, but given the warm temperatures we’ve been having, it took me by surprise by being ready almost three weeks early! So out I went, scissors and twine in hand, and started cutting. I piled the lavender flowers into little bundles and laid them on the grass. When I had worked my way through the day’s quota, I tied each bundle very tightly  for drying. You have to do this because as the stems dry, they shrink. So if they are bound quite tightly they won’t start to fall out.  And then I hung them up, putting an oscillating fan in front to speed up the drying and to prevent mold. I actually used our clothes drying rack; nothing like having multi-purpose items in the house, n’est-ce pas?

Don’t they look absolutely lovely?

 

Now I have some projects in  mind for this precious lavender. The first one will involve wheat…which I “gleaned” from an unknowing farmer’s field. Here it is drying:

We’re heading to PEI for a few days, and when we come back both the lavender and the wheat should be ready for what I have in store…

A Little Blueberry Treat

Since my blueberries are still a few weeks away from being ready, I decided to buy some. I eat them with cottage cheese, put them in my protein shakes, sprinkle them on cereal, and generally just eat them with abandon.

Did you know that blueberries are not only delicious, but they have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA. Well, imagine a food that tastes so good that is also a superfood!

So with all that in mind, after having a bowl of blueberries and cottage cheese for meal #2 (I still eat six small meals per day), I decided to make one of my family’s favorite foods…BLUEBERRY MUFFINS!

Actually they are blueberry-lemon muffins. Can you imagine a more summery taste than blueberries and lemon? These muffins are moist, tasty and full of oxidants. I never told my kids that their favorite snack was also good for them.

Just look at them!

 

Oh and did you notice the lavender centerpiece in the background? One of my creations…

 

So here’s the recipe for the muffins. It can also be found on page 130 of my book, Eat Where You Are, A Memoir in Recipes!

Blueberry – Lemon Muffins

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup oil

1 cup honey

2 eggs

2 Tbsp grated lemon zest (this is what gives the intense lemon flavor)

2 tsp vanilla

4 cups flour (I put 3 white and 1 whole wheat)

2 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add both mixtures together and then fold in the blueberries. Pour into greased or paper lined muffin cups.

Bake at 375 deg for about 20 minutes or until golden on top.  Makes 18 large muffins.

ENJOY!!

Lavender is in Full Flower!

The month of June has flown by so fast I just have not had time to get back to you with my lavender and blueberries project! My youngest son graduated from high school, and at the same time my husband of almost three years retired from teaching at the same school!

And so begins a new chapter of life for the three of us: this fall, my son will attend university here in Nova Scotia, the same one that my husband and I attended. My husband and I will have time to do a little traveling, home improvement and spending more time together. Life’s good.

In the past couple of weeks my little lavender patch has grown and flowered. In fact, the flowers are ready for cutting. This is early by any standard, as lavender is usually cut around the end of July, but given the rain and warm temps we’ve had, everything is early this year.

Did you know that if you cut off the flowers in July, there will be another smaller flowering in September? Most people don’t know that about lavender…but you have to cut off the flowers from the first flowering in order to get the September ones.

The lavender is so beautiful!

 

Don’t ask me why some of the flowers are white and some are the typical deep purple. I must have inadvertently bought different varieties. I like the white ones a lot!

Six out of ten of my high bush blueberry bushes are bringing forth fruit this year. It looks like there will be more than enough for a couple of bowls of my favorite fruit this summer. I don’t know what happened to the other four bushes, but I am a very patient woman (just don’t ask my husband about this), and I’ll wait to see what happens.

 

I’ll be back with a little project I’m doing with the lavender…

Lavender Repels Mosquitoes

I like scents. Its just a fact of life; I wear perfume every day, use scented hairspray, body cream, hand cream and shampoo. That is, unless I’m going to a school or the hospital or a government office, because in Nova Scotia those are ‘scent free’ zones.

And I’m pretty sure that somebody up there is getting me back for wearing all those scents.

See,  I am the mosquito queen. Everywhere I go, people are thrilled because the mosquitoes are eating me. I might smell nice but I am being eaten alive, ensuring that  everyone else can enjoy the day. Its gotten to the point where I don’t want to go outside except in a screened in area, and even then those little buggers manage to find me. It must be the scented products I wear, flaunting protocol in this scent free province.

Well, not any more!

When I worked at Pure Lavande in Quebec, I informed everyone of the properties and benefits of ‘la lavande’. I distinctly remember telling them that the scent of lavender keeps bacteria, mice, and mosquitoes away. And that it is anti spasmodic, anti bacterial, anti fungus, well you get the picture. But it is a repellent to mosquitoes! I just remembered my own advice.

So this morning, before going out to weed my garden, I sprayed some lavender ‘Bruine d’Ambience’, or room spray over my hair and body. I know its not meant for bodies, but hey, I’m desperate and the weeds are taking over.

It is now a half hour later, the garden is weeded and I am BITE FREE!!! The little buggers stayed away – Well, they might not like the smell of lavender but I do.

So my next plan of action is to change all my smelly things, like shampoo, body lotion and hair spray over to lavender scented ones.

And to all the hungry mosquitoes out there, “Hahahaha! Go find yourselves someone else to feast on.”