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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuscan Heights Lavender Festival

Several months ago my mom and I saw an ad for the Lavender Festival in Whitmore and we made a date. Well, last Saturday we put on tons of sunscreen and hats and headed out into the Northern California heat to spend a day in the lavender fields.

Upon arrival I was nearly in tears. I was overcome with emotion seeing all the lavender and I had this overwhelming feeling that the faeries loved this little piece of lavender heaven and I was being welcomed to this special place. They had so many different types of lavender and the scenery surrounding the fields was beautiful.

So after taking in the beautiful views we did the next logical thing, head down to the wine tasting. We sampled a white lavender wine, which of course I loved. Next we sampled a petite shiraz that we both liked, it was very light and fruity, super easy to drink. We took our wine and wondered into the garden and nursery area. They had an amazing herb garden set up like a wheel spiraling out from a sundial. They had all different kinds of thyme, sage, and oregano. I have heard about herb gardens like this, but never actually seen it. I really liked the layout and would love to find a way to do this one day. There was a cute little bench under an oak tree so we enjoyed the rest of our wine in the shade.

Next we wondered over to the craft area and watched them make lavender wands and sachets. I saw a new way to tie off the bottom of the wands and I'm going to try it soon. We braved the swarms of bees and took some pictures in the fields. Mom liked the really dark lavender even though it didn't smell as strong as the provencial (my favorite) which is used for the wands and sachets. Just near the craft booth they were doing massages, mom was up in there in a flash finding out how to get one. I turned around for one minute and next thing I know she's on the table telling them how tight her shoulders are. The moment was very typical of her, so I found a chair in the shade and camped out. Right behind the massage area one of the owners of the farm was giving a talk about how they make lavender oil. Perfect timing, I have always been curious about this. He had the machine all set up and he even passed around some lavender oil that had just been distilled. It smelled amazing. Some lady near me said it smelled too strong and another lady said it burned her hand when she rubbed it into her skin. I did my best not to roll my eyes under my sunglasses. If you aren't into lavender in all it's strong earthy glory, go home crazy ladies and leave more for me. The speaker also said that we shouldn't be afraid of all the bees, because they were all intoxicated by the lavender. This is just helps prove my theory that lavender can solve any problem. At some point mom's massage finished and she looked so loopy and relaxed I thought I better jump on the table next.

What followed was an amazing lavender massage by two lovely new age ladies who worked on all my countless knots. I think heaven is something like this. An outdoor massage in a lavender field while live Celtic music fills the air and two sets of hands convince all your muscles to relax. I was in such a daze when I was done that I ran right into the top edge of the tent and thwacked my head really hard and I didn't even care. See how relaxed I was?
After we finally pulled ourselves together we wondered back down to the wine tasting and sampled a sangria wine cooler. It was really cool, sweet and delicious. We found a little grassy garden next to a pond and kicked back in the shade. The heat was unbearable, just the way mom and I like it. We hung out here for a long while listening to the music and talking. So many times during the day I kept being reminded of Europe, something about the whole experience felt like a vacation to somewhere beautiful and provencial. When we finally got the energy we went and got lavender ice cream to help us cool down. I bought myself some lavender oil and a grosso lavender plant for Mercury's garden. The last thing we did that day was pick ourselves some big bunches of lavender. I picked it for lavender wands and mom picked hers to dry and display in the house.
As we left the farm I felt so grateful to have spent such an amazing day with my mom in such a beautiful place. It really is a hidden northern California gem and I would recommend it to anyone who has any love or appreciation for lavender.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Evening in the Garden

Tonight after a delicious dinner by Chef Judy and amazing lemondrops courtesy of bartender Willow, my mama and I decided to take a trek down to the garden to survey everything after last night's storm.

I realize that marigolds are not that exciting to most people. They were the first thing I ever grew from seed so they have a special place in my heart. Not to mention the way they protect everything around them by attracting good bugs. What's not to like? All the marigolds I grew from seed this year were collected from last years crop. I have done this now for two years. See how well my marigols in the pot are doing. They look happy to me.

We headed down to the first plot. This is my third year of growing squash, but it never fails to amaze me the way they grow so quickly. I think they secretly want to take over the world. This year I am growing cinderella pumpkins, butternut squash, cucumbers, and spaghetti squash. I took a picture of the beginning of a little pumpkin, atleast that's what I think it is. There are a few on there. I have only grown pumpkins once and only one tiny little pumpkin showed up, so it was only a partial success. I'm hoping for more this year. Plus cinderella pumpkins are supposed to be awesome, they are flatter and have big lobes. We shall see if they are the fairytale pumpkin they are cracked up to be.

Lastly, we went down to the second and final plot to check on the rest of the tomatoes and snap peas and carrots. The tomatoes are getting huge and they are even beginning to flower. I also showed mom how to remove the sucker limbs between the branches which of course left us both smelling like tomato plants. That smell is so particular. I was telling her how I dream about in the winter, not that I like it, but it reminds me of summer. Everything looks good, in fact there might even be enoughroom to plant my last cucumber plant down there. He wants a home desperately and he could climb the fence down there.
As we headed back up to the house my mom's dog Zoe wanted to know why the snap pea plants don't have any snap peas and to be honest I would like to know too!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

After the Rain

It has been raining quite a bit here over the last week. The gardens are loving it as is everyone else it seems. I went out today to stake some of the tomato plants and I couldn't believe how happy everything looked. It seems the rain was exactly what the garden ordered. Which makes me wonder why the squash and tomatoes are loving the rain so much, but they don't like it when you spray their leaves with the hose. They are really sending mixed signals. They must be male.

Oh and the most exciting news of all...the cinderella pumpkin plant has a little baby pumpkin growing. Also I've harvested two banana peppers. I have no idea what to do with them so I just put them in the kitchen so everyone can see what an amazing gardener I am and compliment my handy work. So far no one is taking the bait. It's only been a few days, I'm still holding out.
So all is well in the garden world of Willow, except of course that nagging question about the fickleness of squash. Do they like water on their leaves or not? It's enough to drive me to madness or an early afternoon cocktail. One or the other.