You can feel the slight chill in the air when the leaves are starting to change color and fall off the trees. Fall arrives, and it’s time to gather family and friends and head up to Apple Hill for a day filled with apples, cider, pie and all other things Apple Hill. But have you ever wondered what goes on at the ranches when we close? What do we do when you aren’t here?
We farm of course! Those apple trees must be pruned, watered, and taken care of. We plant new crops, we perfect our pie recipes and we get ready for when you will visit us in the Fall. Some of our ranches stay open all year or sell at farmers’ markets and our wineries are open all year. Check our previous blog post: Are you missing your favorite Apple Hill Ranches, to find out who is open all year long and who is selling at local farmers’ markets where and when.
The winter months are a time when our lavender gets a well deserved rest from their annual show of lavender bloom. We have harvested all the lavender flowers, trimmed each of the plants and just let the lavender rest.
While our lavender plants are resting, John and I are busy getting ready for our next season. No rest for the farmers.
Our first job is to strip the lavender off the bouquets that we harvested during the bloom season. We have dried the bouquets in our barn and the lavender bud is ready to be used in sachets, bath products and yummy lavender treats. When we first started our farm, we hand- stripped each of our lavender bouquets. This works just fine when you have a couple of plants but clearly it was not going to work as our farm grew. There had to be a better way. We tried an old fashioned grape crusher and hand sifters. This sped the process significantly but as our farm grew, this still wasn’t fast enough. We now have one of my favorite tools to help with this process. It starts with a metal brush that pulls the bud off the stems. The bud then flows through several sifters to remove leaves or stem pieces and comes out the end as clean lavender bud. Thank goodness for the farmer who developed this machine or we would never finish this task!
The other important product of our lavender is the essential oil. John distills this when the lavender is freshly harvested. When he has the distiller going, I think the whole county can probably smell the lavender. It is a steam distillation process that separates the essential oil and hydrosol. John tells me this is a process that can’t be rushed and must be accompanied by his banjo playing. I think it might be an excuse to get a little banjo time in.
Once we have lavender bud and essential oil, it is time to make our lavender products. We like to experiment with new products and have our friends and family test and review new recipes. Our grandkids recently helped us develop a bubble bath that really makes big, long lasting bubbles.
About the time when we finish this work, our lavender is starting to bloom again and provide the purple haze that we look forward to each year. And the cycle starts again.
Experience the lavender bloom during the Lavender Blue Harvest Days. June 19/20 and June 26/27