Marching into Springtime

the birth flower of MarchHappy first day of March! Maybe you noticed it's been awhile since I wrote - just needed a break from blogging, that's all. Winter has been busy, but we've also had some fun family time thrown in. We spent part of December in France where I searched high and low for lavender finds and explored farms and farmers markets whenever possible. January and February were cold, wet, and snowy. I'm happy there's just twenty days til Spring. Seems it's been a long time coming. You ready? I'm ready for a repeat happy yellow bouquet like this one from last year.  

The farm's wildlife must know that spring is near. Our bottomland has been flooded for most of winter, and it's given way recently to all manner of aquatic life including ducks and especially frogs! Oh wow, what a chorus which can be heard clear as a whistle all the way to the barnyard! It's been said that the presence of frogs and amphibians is a measure of the health of a wetland in which case we evidently have a very happy wetlands, marsh, and stream.  

Each growing season I continue to experiment with different varieties of lavender. The test plant for 2014 is Lavandula dentata with plants going in the ground early to mid-April. Heads up - annual Herb Festival at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market is April 26-27, always a good time to get your herbs or just visit. And something new this year, I'll be vendoring at the NC Extension Master Gardener Conference May 5-7 in Winston-Salem. Spring has (almost) sprung! 

  

 

For the Love of Lavender: Lemonade Gets a Stylish Makeover

It's remarkable to me the ever-changing landscape of a farm. Late April, early May is my favorite time. The lavender is greening up and it's almost as if the whole field has suddenly emerged out of a deep sleep. With the days getting warmer, I've had lavender lemonade on my mind, so when we made our annual trek to the Herb Festival at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market this past weekend, we carried along a large cooler. Many people requested the recipe, so here it is.

First, let's start with the lavender plant. There are tons of varieties grown and only a handful of them are eaters. While this point might be arguable, my preferred best choice is 'hidcote,' an English lavender. The recipe uses lavender leaves, although I snipped up a few stems, too. Lavender buds can also be used, in which case you'll end up with a lovely pink lavender lemonade. See the following link: /blog/category/recipes?currentPage=3 

Over the weekend, a few people asked about using a sugar substitute. I'm not a fan of any artificial sweetener, but I do know this. As soon as my stevia plant produces enough green foliage, I intend to experiment with some snipped stevia leaves as a stand-in for part of the sugar. Stevia, aka sugar plant, is naturally sweet and can lend a surprisingly sweet quality. Many thanks to those of you who stopped by to see us last Saturday. Enjoy the recipe! Enjoy the lavender!    

Lavender Lemonade 

10 cups water, divided

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup fresh-picked lavender leaves, coarsely snipped

2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice, strained

Fresh lavender stems and lemon slices for garnish

Combine 5 cups water, sugar, and lavender leaves in a saucepan; bring mixture to a slow boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and immediately turn off heat. Cover and let stand for 3 to 4 hours (the longer it stands the more pronounced the lavender flavor will be). Strain mixture into a large pitcher, discarding lavender leaves. Stir in remaining 5 cups water and lemon juice. Cover and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled. Give it a stir before serving. Pour over ice and garnish with fresh lavender stems and lemon slices. 

High Summer at Hauser Creek Farm: Reflections on Lavender Season

At this point in the year, I can say that we've had a great lavender season. While fresh stems are basically done with, I've been busy lately with bud work. Rainfall has been scarce the last two months, and I'm thankful that lavender is drought-tolerant. So far, I have resisted the urge to irrigate. Lessons learned about harvest include the realization that next year I will need to employ additional help. I'm wondering if a "crop mob" scenario might work. Like most crops, lavender is time-sensitive. I am indebted to my mother, who spent countless hours on the barn porch bundling lavender. Always on the lookout for an opportunity to learn, she was excited to participate in the task, and she seemed pleased that in eight decades it was her first time helping with a lavender harvest. My mom noted that lavender smells better than tobacco, which she helped harvest during her youth.  

I'm pretty excited about our new, homegrown, naturally-sweetened loose tea blend. This past spring I acquired a stevia plant. I wasn't too familiar with stevia, the plant, but was curious because it's commonly known as "sugar plant." I've discovered that it truly is sweet! I've seen the little packages of stevia in the supermarket and take issue with the words "all natural" on the label. Clearly, the white powdery stevia is processed and the ingredients list includes stevia extract, among other things. While I'm usually a stickler for unsweetened tea, many people prefer some sweetness so I decided to add stevia leaves to my herbal tea blend. All the herbs were carefully snipped right off the farm and dried in my kitchen. This Saturday, we'll have the loose tea, along with dried bundles and more, at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. Come visit!