It seems like no time since our first lavender plants were delivered. The little nuggets arrived in their thousands, tiny and full of potential. Now suddenly, thanks to this season’s abundance of both sun and rain, they’re big, blooming plants, ready for harvesting. I feel almost sentimental!
However, there’s no time to muse, as we have 5 acres of plants to harvest. It feels daunting; however after months of keeping on top of the weeds, it’s wonderful to be gathering our actual crop!
I use a sickle. It’s the perfect tool for cutting bunches of flowers, provided you keep it nice and sharp. Plus, there’s something really satisfying about working the land with the same tools our ancestors used. However, there’s none of this Ross Poldark careless, scythe-swinging action. Sickle-cutting involves getting up close to the plant and grasping a bunch of stems firmly in the left hand (I’m right-handed). The curved blade is designed to both contain the bunch and slice neatly through it. It’s an easy tool to control, so you can make sure you’re not cutting into the old wood, which effectively prevents further growth.
It sounds easy when you write it down, but it’s tough physical work. Luckily, the lavender scent lives up to its relaxing reputation, and I kept telling myself that at least I wasn’t cutting the caulis that used to grow on our farm…
We tie the lavender bunches together as I go along, so we don’t end up with a massive, anarchic pile of stems going off in all directions. Yes, hand-woven twine would add a picturesque touch, but speed is important: we use elastic bands. The bunches are stacked into crates, and taken to our barn for drying.
The idea of bunches of lavender hanging upside down in the barn or farmhouse kitchen is an appealingly evocative image – and it’s still the best way to dry the flowers! Mark has strung twine from the beams - We now have this gorgeous, purply-blue ceiling that rivals the Sistine Chapel for beauty, and smells incredible. It’s moments like this when I really understand why we’re doing this. Below the bunches, Mark is working on the still, preparing for the next stage.
Then, last month, our mechanical harvester arrived from Bulgaria. We’ll use this lovely machine for harvesting lavender for the still, when it’s not important to keep it in bunches. It gently and efficiently gobbles up row after row of lavender, all set to be made into essential oils. Mark’s been busy with the harvester, filling up the bags, and bringing the cut flowers and stems back to the barn for distilling into gorgeous lavender oil. It’s incredibly exciting.
If you want to know more about Roskorwell Farm and our crops, please contact Mark, or me, Sam on email@example.com, or like and follow our Facebook page