Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Making light of lavender

You may remember that a little while ago I picked sheaves of the lavender that I have growing in my garden, carefully bagged them and hung them up to dry here. They were all hanging in the covered area by the back door, but when the Head Chef started wielding a hose in a fit of enthusiasm for jetting out the gutters during the only rainstorm we have had for months, I decided that it was time to bring the lavender inside. Even with a slight dampening, and without any heat, they dried off nicely, and then I was faced with the task of removing the lavender heads from the stalks.

Although I had only picked half of the flowers so that I would leave plenty for the bees, I had bags and bags of lavender to process, and I was not making much progress on my own. The Head Chef and number one son, the Ploughboy, did very kindly watch me as I did one bag, and I then swapped a trip to the station for some volunteer labour, but still the mountain of lavender loomed.

And all of these store stump tasks are like that – the harvesting and the processing of mountains of produce in that short window of time between readiness and rot. Yet to be truly sustainable and self-sufficient, and to survive throughout the year on the fairly minimal monetary income that a smallholding will provide, means that these tasks are necessary. Although humans have lived in this way for most of history, and in many parts of the world still do, this is something that we lose sight of in a world of supermarkets and seven day a week shopping.

And the difference nowadays for those of us who make the choice to try and live like this is that we are the exception to the rule, so we face these mountains of produce on our own. In the past, much of this work was done on a communal and sociable basis, and thus much of the lonely laboriousness was mitigated.

And the solution for me, too, was a bit of communal work – the dear Seaside Landlady and her daughters provided the many hands that made light work. What had been a solitary and seemingly endless burden for me on my own was despatched in a trice by a few helping hands. D H Lawrence wrote that if work ‘doesn’t absorb you / if it’s never any fun / don’t do it’, which is very fine and dandy, but I would say if it’s not fun, then find someone to help, and it will be done in a twinkling.

Lawrence does go on to talk about the value of creativity: doing what you love, making things for yourself, and ‘smash the machines’, but he also writes ‘When a man goes out into his work …’ (my italics), and I somehow feel that he hasn’t really engaged with the concept of the monotony of housework. As we all know, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Anyone fancy helping me with that?


Michela said...

Lovely post Pomona! Lavender's pictures are so relaxing!

marigold jam said...

What a lovely blog - it's so true that many of us have lost sight of your way of life and also true that it would be so much easier if one were not "alone" in trying to live that life. But I am sure that it is a way of life we need to bring back for in the hard times (like now perhaps?) it is those who know how to survive on their own labour who will be the winners and those who have no idea where their food comes from who won't. I remember being roped in as a child to strip the dried lavender. My mum worked as a cook in the big house and lavender flowers were also used on the Aga if milk boiled over - personally I found the smell of burning lavender combined with burnt milk worse than that of boiled over milk but if madam said do it then do it we did!

Hang in there you are maybe not marching to the same drum as many others but I am sure yours is the true path and the right drum.


Lesley (Notesfrommydays) said...

how nice to find your lovely blog thank you for commenting on mine:-)
love all the lavender - i started drying just a very little bunch of mine to see how I got on and was quite successful but very envious of the amount you have!!
ive left it to late now this year but will be on the ball for next year!
Lesley x

whoatemycrayons said...

Your blog is lovely, so charming and just makes me thank you that I live in the countryside and should appreciate it more! I love this lavender post, real homemade.
Thanks for commenting on mine and I shall be 'following' you :)

andamento said...

Mmmm, bet it all smells gorgeous!

I have a little lavender plant collection - I was going to say feeble but I did plant around 70 plugs so the few that survived must actually be the strong ones! I think I'll try again next year with new plants in a couple of pots in the more sunny spots of the garden.

Lalabi-baby said...

Doesn't it smell wonderful .... I love Lavender and have cut some of mine already to dry and have warned everyone else I know who has some in their garden not to chop it down before I can harvest the flowers. Hope to take lots of cuttings for next year to spread it around the garden.

noelle said...

Ooooh i can almost smell that lavender
x x

Sarah said...

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.

Yes I agree, these jobs are much more enjoyable with friends to help us. Isn't it amazing how a boring job can suddenly become fun with a few laughs and a chat whilst working. I think your lavender looks georgous! I wouldn't be much help though, I'd be sneezing it all off the table.

janie said...

You have moire patience than I do! Gorgeous-I love lavender!

Marisa @ Getting Back To Basics said...

I love the blue color. So what are you going to do with it? I have a small clump that I started last year and it is slow to take off so I plan to leave it untouched for this year but I am still unsure of what to do with it when it does start to spread.

Tabiboo said...

Mmmmmm Lavender - I can almost smell that heavenly scent from here.

Trying to forge out a sustainable life must be one of the most difficult jobs, that and being a parent - I completely admire the work your doing

Have a lovely day,

Nina x

Duchess of Tea said...

Hello darling, I am here to thank you for presenting me with this lovely award. I am honored and speechless. I also would like to ask for your forgiveness, I have neglected my duties as a good blogger and a respectable award recipient. You see darling, lately, my life has been real hectic and my plate overloaded, please forgive me.

I have posted my award today and would like to ask you to please visit my blog and let me know if you approve. I appreciate your daily visits and your sweet and kind comments, they truly inspire me. Thank you darling!!

Duchess xx

Cottage Garden said...

I always make little lavendar heart shaped bags from my dried lavendar - they make such nice Christmas presents. I can smell their lovely fragrance from here!

A Thrifty Mrs said...

What a gorgeous post.

Floss said...

Hello there - you are an inspiration to me to help my husband - thanks! He is from a farming family, and tends to work to the same pattern still, either with garden produce or local seasonal fruit. He harvests or buys in great quantity, and then begins the midnight jam-making (or jarring, or ratatouille, or whatever). Sometimes I point out to him that this is self-inflicted labour, and that if he insists on starting it at 10pm, then he can't expect me to join him! However, I know that we can meet half way and that when I help him with fruit prep it is very enjoyable and often not quite so late-night!

MelMel said...

Lovely comment, thank you!

I love that tea cosy.....all the nicer that someone sat and knitted it by hand for Oxfam....for no cool is that?

If I ever find another I'll keep you in mind!x

Felicity said...

what a lovely post, we used to have lavender, our whole front garden was a little lavender patch, i used to bag it in muslin bags and hang underneath running bath water to scent my bath!
its so lovely that your neighbours helped you, our little row of 8 cottages all know and help eachother, we swap fruit and veg and take in cakes and although our cottage is sooooo small i feel like i never want to move because of the friendlness here, i think generally people have forgotton how to do things and how to be nice too! Fliss xx

Menopausal musing said...

I'm with Thrifty, a gorgeous post. When it comes to housework, I am not very good. I want everything to be spick and span, but just want to do sooooo many other things. Sometimes I break it down by giving myself several one hour slots in a day and "going for it".... seem to get more done that way.

abeachcottage said...

how funny, I just *bought a bunch of lavender buds, such a shame that I haven't got any bushes here to pick em off...

{ S }

Florence and Mary said...

I bet it smells fabulous!

Victoria x


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