Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wand Weaving & Lavender Harvest Continues

wands drying on my chandelier
Yes - I am still in the throes of harvesting Lavender.  I am a little more than half finished with the cutting from the field.  It's beginning to become difficult to find a place to put all of this bounty to dry.  I usually cut the flowers in the late afternoon to insure that they are not damp so they will dry well.  Then I spend the evening weaving the wands.  So far I've woven about 20 wands.  With the cooler and wetter weather we had this spring and early summer there sadly won't be as many wands this year as many of the stems are short this year.

Once all the flowers are harvested and dried, then I will remove the dried buds from the stems and then sift out any impurities and I will have plenty of dried lavender to fill my sachets with.  It's always non-stop around here in the summertime.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Roddy before Shearing
Today was the first in a long line of fleece picking days.  I finally got a day without too much wind and I was able to start skirting and picking fleeces in preparation to getting them washed and dyed before the summer is over.  Let's face it, some years are easier than others and for those of you that don't know sheep up close and personal, let's just suffice it to say that if there is a thistle, burr, pine needle, or pile of pitch that can be rubbed up against, laid down in or rolled in - sheep will find it.  I am convinced they do it just to mess with us - they look so well - sheepish when confronted with scolding over this very subject!  I personally think they are very smug about the whole thing - but then again, my particular small flock are a bunch of bonafied characters!

Roddy's Fleece on the picking rack

Wonderful long staple length of the fiber

Of course because I am getting a late start on this job, these fleeces are pretty bad as far as vegetation goes.  It took me about 4 hours to pick through this one.  I always start with Roddy's fleece because he is my favorite of the lot.  I have a special affinity for him as he is the one who wants nose kisses every day and lots of ear and neck scratching.  Let's face it though, picking fleeces is stinky and greasy and although I don't find the smell bad, many folks do.  It's always best if the only one I associate with after such a chore is the sheep and then, even the aloof ones that tolerate me at best, will come up for scratches seeing how I smell so darn good....just one of the gang!  Now that my sheep duties are complete for the day, it's on to the Lavender patch for some more Lavender harvesting.  I have to admit, that smells a little bit better than Roddy!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lavender Harvest Begins

I harvested my first basket of Lavender flowers last evening after the sun finally moved off and I could stand to be out there.  I have a big patch of Lavender - around 40 or so mature plants and  several smaller ones that I set last August.  I try to expand by at least a few plants every year.  The smell is so heady that it is almost over powering in this extreme heat.  Another few days, and I will be able to cut the long stemmed varieties and begin weaving my Lavender wands.

This batch will be stripped of it's leaves, and made into bundles and hung on wires in my craft room to dry.  Once they are dry, they will be stripped from their stems, sifted many times to remove any leaf or stem particles and then the dried buds will be stored in gallon glass jars, ready for sachet making or adding to soaps.  Like everything on the homestead, it takes time, effort and patience.  When it's almost 100 degrees out it takes self-discipline too - I don't know how many times I have to kick myself in the butt to get out there and get started.  But the funny thing about that - once I get started, it flows along and I enjoy the work.  Doing the task at hand is less difficult than talking myself into it!  Now I'm off to get those bundles made and hung up.....time's a wasting and produce waits for no one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Strawberry Love

It's been awhile since I posted here.  I am in the throes of my busy season.  We had such a late start to summer with all the chilly damp weather.  Normally I would be finished with the strawberry harvest but I am still plugging away at it.  This is week 2 and to be honest, my legs aren't one bit happy about all that "bent" work for hours at a time.  It also doesn't help that all of a sudden we are having a heat wave following all of that rather cool weather so I haven't really had time to acclimate to the warmer temps.  I have been averaging about 15 lbs. every day but the berries are smaller this year too since we didn't have the sunshine they needed at the proper time.

I love the sweet smell of strawberries when I am picking.  There is no substitute for the real thing.  I have never smelled anything that was supposed to be strawberry scented that even remotely comes close to the way they actually smell.  The taste is so wonderful when they are warm from the garden and so juicy that your hands turn red from handling them.

Yesterday was my first round of Jam making.  A good ten hours on my feet - the house damp from the steam from the hot water canner as I processed the jars.  I love seeing the lovely dark red goodness shimmer in the line of jars cooling on the folded towel on the counter.

  Strawberries are always the first canning of the season for me and I still find it so exciting even after 30+ years of doing it every summer.  I have my own traditions as I prepare to begin this task - I ask a silent blessing on this endeavor and then load the stereo up with Joni Mitchell CD's - the early ones like Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, For the Roses, and my favorite, Miles of Aisles.  The tunes help to make for light work and remind me of my younger days as a Hippie when I would dream of having the homesteading life that I was lucky enough to eventually create for myself.

  There is a part of me that comes alive as each piece of fruit passes through my hands.  I am the quality control.  I decide which berries are perfect enough to put in my sugary brew and which ones will go to the chickens.  I wonder as I work, how many lifetimes I have done this dance?  How many times have I marveled at the beauty of how the berry grows, the artful designs that present differently in each berry as it's cut.  I think of how lucky I am to know such goodness that can't be bought in a store.

I feel so much Gratitude that I am so blessed to experience the grace of knowing my food - investing it with loving care and knowing that nothing that is imbued with that kind of energy could ever do me or my family harm.  Strawberry Love....