Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Eating and Planting and farm realities


We started a new tradition at Lavender Wind Farm. Once a month we all collaborate on a lunch menu. We invite one or two special guests to share this fabulous repast. In November we had an Indian menu – I never would have imagined that we’d have feasted as well as we did. You can have a look at the table. Then, if you are lucky, and local, you might get an invitation.

Even thought we stuffed ourselves, we still went out and worked after lunch. Nancy has transformed the greenhouse to a friendly and over-stuffed place. Full of repotted plants that are getting reestablished before they are put out to grow over the winter. Nancy is one of the staff who comes to work every day with a huge smile and keeps telling us she just loved the work. That is so nice.

The only problem is, that we have to accept the reality that we are a farm that, like the plants that grow in our fields, we need to sleep for a while in the winter. That’s hard on the employees because they get laid off until the income returns. The work is always there! I love the people who work here, they are the BEST!


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The Festival was Great

I usually don’t brag all that much, but our festival was really pretty darn good. People had fun, ate good food, drank good wine or lavender lemonade, looked at lots and lots of good arts and crafts, bought lavender, and listened to outstanding music.

The people who work here on the farm were fabulous, and then we were graced by a number of amazing volunteers who parked cars and helped us set up and tear down. Finally, I want to thank my neighbors who put up with this party once a year.

You can see pictures of the 2009 Festival


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Festival This Weekend

Our annual Art Festival is coming this weekend on Aug 8 & 9. I just wanted to give you a preview of some of what will be here. For those of you who are too far away to come, just check our site for the exact weekend for the next one in 2010.

Last year we had many artist’s booths. This year we have many more. We have at least 22 artist booths that will have 30 artists work in them.

The full list of artists (click here and you’ll see the list plus the website connection for those artists who have websites).

Carol Bement – Miniature painting
Joan Brosnahan – Painting & collage
Mary Burks – Textiles
Peggy Darst Townsdin – Books, jewelry, photographs
Brandon Davis – Photography
Marilyn & Mike Dessert – Quilling, woodwork
Anne & Bob Elkins – Photography, lathe turned bowls
Nikki Farias – Felt hats & purses
Renee Hockett – Photo Purses
Loretta Graff – Textiles
Kelly Kellogg – Photography
Maggie Lancaster – Fiber – silk banners, pillows, scarves, braided rugs, chair pads
Mary Leonard – Painting
Lyla Lillis – Ceramic
Beverly McQuary – Beads/jewelry
Kay Parsons – Painting, polymer switch plates
Norma & Gerry Roberts – Painting, leather journals, cards, stick people, flutes, stationery
Helen Ryder – Watercolor, collage
Tiarani Samsi – Silk Scarves, Pottery
Mariana Shawver – Painted and collaged mirrors and constructions
Brian Shelly – Photography
Mary Alice & Tom Sterling – Art baskets, handmade baskets
Sylvia Strohm – Ceramics, crochet
Carrie Marie Tasman – acrylic, pastel, polymer clay
Robert Troost – Pottery
Sharon Tryon – Painting
Yummy ways to enjoy the day
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Whidbey Island Winery will be serving their wines at our wine tent, and Lavender Wind Farm will serve lavender lemonade.

Bay City Bistro will have lavender mussels and baked goodies on Saturday and on Sunday Hot Rock Pizza will serve their new on-site baked pizza that is creating quite a buzz around here. Click here to see Hot Rock Pizza in Action on Youtube!

Little Brown Farm & bayleaf have partnered to serve goat Cheese & french bread with some drizzles to go over them. You’ve gotta taste this!

Whidbey Island Ice Cream will have a great selection of their gourmet ice cream bars, including some with our lavender.

Denali Dogs is starting out their hot dog cart at this festival and will have hotdogs (of course), brautworst, and get ready for Reindeer & Vegetarian sausage.

Crescent Harbor Blueberries will have loads and loads of fat blueberries for you to munch on while you wander around.

Our own Lavender cookies will be there, too.

And the MUSIC!
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This year we rebuilt our deck. That means we have a great stage for the musicians, right across from the Whidbey Island Winery tent.

The line up for the Festival includes:

Saturday
11:00 am – Quinn Fitzpatrick
12:30 pm – Bayview Sounds
2:00 pm – One Eyed Reilly
3:30 pm – Woodrush

Sunday
11:00 am – Siri Bardarson
12:30 pm – Fairly Soon
2:00 pm – Shifty Sailors
3:30 pm – Ken Merrell et al


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Go Navy

Here, on Whidbey Island, people who buy real estate are given a piece of paper that warns them of the noise zones from Navy Air Station practice flying patterns. Our farm is between two major flight circles, so they don’t fly over our place too much. Oak Harbor is home to the Navy community which adds quite a different feel to that community compared to the rest of the island. For half of Whidbey Island the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is a big part of daily life, for the other half they hardly know there is a base on the island.

I went to high school in Falmouth on Cape Cod (in Massachusetts). Some of the kids from nearby Otis Air Force Base came to our school. I had a couple of good friends for a year or two, until they left with their parents to other postings. A close family friend had been in the Navy during WWII and had then pursued a career in the marine industry making ocean research equipment. I never had been on a base, nor gone to any base exchange in my life until getting to Whidbey Island.

Imagine my delight when the Navy Exchange here on Whidbey contacted the farm to see if we’d sell our products there. “Sure” I wrote back, and “no, we don’t have minimums, but we also might not be able to completly fill orders, either, if they are too big.” After sending in reams of paperwork, the local buyer forwarded it on to the national office, and they asked if we’d be willing to sell to other bases. “Sure” I wrote back….

That started a stream of weekly orders that have taken over our staff. We make a lot of different products right here on the farm. This new, huge, customer wanted as much in a month as we sell in a year of some of the items. Happily, we all pitched in and filled the orders and shipped them off, learning how to work with the system on the way. Our friends here on the island are glad to hear that they will be able to get our products when they relocate to Sigonella or other bases that we sell to.

As you can see, we collapsed after getting the boxes ready for one week’s orders (you can’t see all of them in this picture, but you get the idea).

I am also one of the Waste Wise Volunteers. That means we help folks on the island with recycling and composting information. WI-NAS (Whidbey Island Naval Air Station) has the premier recycling center in the nation. The program has grown over the years I’ve been on Whidbey to include food waste recycling. That task is significant because of the health and pest concerns in managing it, as well as the large volume of material that is now kept out of the landfill. We, in the recycling community, are very proud of the Navy’s efforts.


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Farming Tools and the Workshop & Dad

One part of farming I never thought about when I used to think about what farmers do is the workshop where machines are fixed, invented & built, or other structures and or equipment are made. It is amazing how important handyman skills are in the farming life. We have to fix our tillers, tractors, and mowers. We have to build boxes, screens, sorters, strippers, storage boxes, and market containers. It’s a large part of farm work.

My father died in January and I’ve spend about two months sitting with him and then planning his Memorial Service for all the people who loved him. This has been a very sad time, and yet joyous due to celebrating his life, learning more about it, and getting closer to my brother and sister. Dad was an excellent scientist and administrator, and he was an excellent craftsman and had a huge workshop that he used constantly. He was very creative and developed all these really cool things to use at his place and his lab. He was known in his field for building a box that helped model a molecule in which he used wood and glass to do what fancy modeling computers do now. He built a catamaran barge to use in the little harbor he lived on. He made me a cheese press when I had goats and was making cheese.

So, now we are trying to figure out what to do with his shop. Surprisingly, each one of us three has a degree of handyman abilities. My brother is building his son a treehouse, my sister rebuilds pianos as well as does things for her farm, and I build what I can for our lavender farm. I think Dad would be proud of us, and pleased that we value what contains so much of his sweat worked into every tool handle and piece of equipment. Each of us would like to have bits and pieces of the shop, so we’ll divide it up and give family friends the rest. It’s like little bits of Dad will be dispersed throughout the country to continue his good work.

Thanks, Dad.


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Creativity and Competition

Today I spent the day in our State Capital, Olympia, with a group of farmers from my area. The one thing we all agreed upon is that it is refreshing and unfortunately rare to have farmers share the details of their farming with others. There is a fear that by sharing information we will be copied or beat to the market. While a little of that fear might be true, I would like to propose that it can’t be really true. And that is because it’s not the idea, it’s what you DO with the idea that makes a project or product truly your own or unique.

Ben Lillie explains it much better than I, in his Physics blog on Coincidence and Creativity


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Harvesting Lavender


From the end of June until sometime in October we are harvesting lavender. Different varieties bloom at different times, and we have over six varieties grown for commercial harvest. Here Leslie is harvesting our Provence lavender. We harvest by hand, using a Japanese sickle. We now use kevlar gloves to protect our workers hands and wrists – those sickles are incredibly sharp and can do severe damage.

The lavender is cut at the base of the flower stem, and then bundled with a rubber band. Each bunch is lain on the previously cut bushes until they are gathered up for hanging inside where it’s dark and there is warm, moving air to dry them out. If we have a period of rain, which is relatively rare in our area but this year we had a rainy end of August, the lavender simply dries much more slowly.

The smell of the lavender is so wonderful, and carrying in arm loads of bunched fresh lavender is a delight.

After the lavender is dried, we either use it on the stem or take it off to use as dried bud for sachets or cooking.


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Lavender Wind Spa Dog


Bailey, the Lavender Wind Spa Dog is communing with one of our decoys. We are harvesting in the background. Bailey was a delight this summer, she greeted our customers – sometimes with barks, other times with a wagging tail.


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2008 Art Festival and Taste of Provence


A month ago we had our Third Annual Lavender & Wind Art Festival with a Taste of Provence. It was sort of the first, because we combined the two events into one big festival – and big it was! There were over 3,000 people who came.

There was a great wine garden that had a “fence” of lavender bunches and fabulous cheeses and french bread.

We had lots of music, and one of the staples of Whidbey life – the Shifty Sailors – were very popular.

The artists showed their creations and some sold quite a bit! Families of the artists came to help out, too. Our staff helped some of the artists set up. They also hung many artists’ works in our own display areas.

The weather was fabulous, the Olympic Mountains guarded the event. The staff worked their tails off! It is humbling to see the dedication and hard work that so many people put into this event – the artists with their works and their booths, the musicians with their instruments and talent, the folks from WSU Extension who staffed the wine & food tent (did I mention that section was a fundraiser for the WSU Island County Extension Sustainable Agriculture position?), the staff in their constant attention to the needs of the visitors, artists, and volunteers. The farm, in its beauty and purple splendor on that weekend, put on a fabulous show!


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Farming is NOT an exact science. Someone (Mother Nature) keeps us from having the same situation year in and year out. This year in the Pacific Northwest we had an unusually cold and rainy spring. It looks like we are now getting to a more normal summer pattern. But, the cold wet spring means we still have green grass and our lavender is just barely starting to be purple.

Will that mean that all the varieties will be slow to bloom? If so, our purple alert which reaches 10 around mid July, might not get there until the end of that month…. Tune in, to find out.


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