Week Thirty-One – Post Lavender

By July 25, 2015 February 29th, 2016 farm journal

We survived the Harvest.

Week Twenty-Six : Harvest Harvest Harvest <Inventory> Harvest Harvest

We have been out in the field non-stop it feels like. Every morning until it gets hot, and every evening until it gets dark. I started taping my fingers before heading out because I was bleeding from using the same part of my thumb to grab and break the stems over and over. We’ve encountered so many happy bees, and have a hard time knowing how much to try to conquer the weeds as we’re working our way though the field. Every day we promise that next year we’ll spend the first few weeks of June weeding the entire field so that we can focus just on harvesting when the time is right. (And so we can actually see the glorious fields of purple.)

We took a break one night from harvesting to do inventory before all the blooms were gone and it was impossible to tell which plants produced more. We went up and down each row, ranking the plants from 0 (dead) to 5 (amazing.) Our results were not as good as I’d hoped, but not has dismal as I’d feared. We counted just over 2,000 plants (we skipped the southern-most rows that we’re considering taking out.) Of those, we lost a little over 500. Of the 1500 living plants, 550+ are performing beautifully. We can definitely see the decline toward the southern end of the field, but don’t know if it’s the result of winter shade or lack of water pressure in the drip system. We’d also like to compare our map with the soil-type-map we found through the NCRS. There definitely seems to be a correlation between sandy soil and happy lavender.

We took three different sized bundles to market and had to defend my prices to a whole bunch of skeptical crabby customers. Had a minor crisis about whether to stick with our pricing because we still have a small inventory, or adjust the prices and sell it faster. We were doing tiny mini-bundles for $4?, mediums for $10 (which I think were actually smaller than last year’s $10 medium), and $16 for large bundles which were maybe about the same stem count as last year, but 16″ long so much heavier. So many dirty looks. So much questioning myself. It wasn’t fun. But when I ditched out and left Gillian in charge, nobody gave her flack, so at least there’s that.

*We counted the spots where lavender had died and Kemper snuck in pumpkins as zeroes. Meanwhile, in the garden, despite tilling and pulling all the pumpkins they’re back in full force. I started doing squash bug egg patrols, found them everywhere, and started removing them with duct tape. Gross.

Week Twenty-Seven : Sort, Clean, Weigh, Bundle, Hang, Repeat.

We cannot keep up with the trays upon trays of lavender coming in from the field. We switched from hand-picking to cutting whole plants with the scythe to get it all before it fully blooms and leaves crusty dried brown flowers in the bundles. As a result, it’s coming in full of bindweed and salsify seed and we’re spending hours and hours processing it to hang and dry. We keep running out of rubber bands and nails to hang bundles on — every area that’s out of direct sunlight is full of drying bundles. It should smell amazing in here but we’re worried some of the bread trays full of lavender are starting to mold. It mostly just smells musty. We’ve been getting tons of rain and while the moisture is incredible, the humidity might not be on our side in this particular pursuit. Next year we’re DEFINITELY distilling.

We’ve also been harvesting chamomile and calendula and bringing it in to dry. We made chamomile tea but I totally skimped on the flowers and the kids were not impressed. Probably shouldn’t be so stingy next time.

Our chard is doing fantastically and we’re eating it almost every day. The kale is producing lots, but still looks like swiss cheese thanks to those fat, hungry cabbage white caterpillars. We cut a few heads of lettuce, but most are already bolted. The spinach we planted just up and bolted before we cut any, and I’m pretty sure the cabbage will never form heads. Must start those earlier. Our nasturtiums have all pretty much tanked, also. There are may be two still healthy and we must’ve planted dozens!

I’ve lost track of when our garlic and carrot harvests happened. (Probably week twenty-five?) The garlic was surprisingly successful since we didn’t plant any of it, but MAN ALIVE it’s hard to get out of the solid clay. I was trying so hard to let it dry out, but we had to water to loosen the soil enough to get them out and even then had to use a full shovel to break it up enough to pull out each head. We saved some lovely ones for seed next year and made about 8 braids with the rest of the soft-necks. The varieties that did the best this year were the ones that didn’t do well last year and so were left in the ground after chicken-pocalypse. The carrots came out shortly after the garlic and their flavor was nice, but they’re all teeny-tiny golf-ball shapes. Blaming the clay again. Must add tons and tons of organic matter before we plant anything else back there.

Week Twenty-Eight : Lavender Fesitval!

We did fantastically wonderfully well at the Los Ranchos Lavender Fest! We’d been working all week to bundle and dry all the lavender and finally at nearly midnight when we still had three fully unprocessed bread trays of lavender, Kemper suggested we just bring them as-is and let people bundle it themselves for a discounted price. Done. Went to bed to get up a mere 4 hours later and trek up to Los Ranchos. And it was a spectacular success. Los Poblanos was sending folks over to our booth when they asked about fresh lavender, and we sold out! We kept running out of bags and begging uncle John to share his. It was so much fun to be busy and selling. We gave a few things away and had the most positive reactions from every customer. It was THE BEST.

The very next day we had Qiao Qiao over to take photos of my portfolio and had her take several of our lavender for the website. They came out so gorgeous, I can’t wait to get the final files. It’s so gratifying to see the things you work so hard on looking so dang gorgeous in a picture.

Week Twenty-Nine : Oh right, the garden!

Callan is back and we went back to the neglected garden to try to catch up on weeds and squash bugs. Leon and Callan helped Kemper transplant lavender into the big pots and move them from the shade-cloth over to the shade of the cottonwood. We fried several and are trying not to keep murdering them.

We also ordered a rubber stamp with the farm logo and put it on all the arms, all the paper bags, and all the boxes!

And we paid Callan for all her work and that felt really super good.

Week Thirty : I am chained to a computer.

We spent lots of our festival-spoils getting stuff for the farm (big wash tubs, a solar dehydrator book…) And Kemper ordered a hand-made broad-fork. It’s pretty rad and it came with a blessing for good soil. Hopefully we can make some good use of it before we break it off in the clay.

One of our hens (Pingu, the black orpington) has gone broody. Poor pathetic thing has been sitting on and desperately protecting those unfertilized eggs and when I finally took them all away and threw her out, she went back in and sat in the empty nesting box anyway.

We did well at the downtown market—sold a bit of dried lavender and a full tray of the fresh stuff, and three trays worth of plums from a single tree through our managing project at King Orchard. We also sold a couple bouquets of zinnias, amaranth, sunflowers, and willow.

Kemper covered the kale and hit it with Jon’s fogger and a dose of pyrethrin, which didn’t seem to have much effect.

But mostly I’ve been stuck inside trying to keep up with other work while the garden carries on without me.

Week Thirty-One : The rains keep coming.

Finally seeing some scarlet runner beans forming on the vine! And one or two of the new chicks started laying! Not in the nesting boxes, of course, because those are dominated by Pingu-the-crazed. They’re hiding their eggs behind the recycling bin next to the pile of garage doors, of course. Yay new eggs!

In other news, mosquitos are the worst. They’re so bad this year. We get chased inside if we dare to go out with exposed skin. I keep heading out there and deciding to pick just a few things and then as soon as my hands are full and I can’t swat them away, they start eating me alive. Not. Cool.