Tuesday, July 12, 2016

We Stopped to Smell … the Lavender

So, essential oils. That's a thing nowadays, if you didn't know it. I have friends selling them, and till recently I have worked in a building where one full floor was taken by a billion dollar company that sold them. Their floor smelled like someone intentionally broke about a million bottles of perfume and the ceilings and the floors and the walls were coated with it.

Me?! They're too strong for my taste. I cannot see how you can be around even one little bottle of the smelly stuff and not be high. And, as you know, control freaks like me do not do “high”. Anyway … this billion dollar company around here harvests their lavender for their oils on this farm, just South of where we live.

I don't do essential oils, but lavender has always fascinated me. Since high school, reading French novels about sachets of lavender being stuck in ladies' purses and in between sheets, I have thought of lavender as the equivalent of pure gold in the aromatic and herbal industries – rare and coveted by anyone who knows style. Since then, it's always symbolized the very essence of femininity and grace.

I am picky about my lavender “products”, but I love the plant pretty much unconditionally – the smell, the look (it's purple, for crying out loud!), the said French history (in my head), the frail, gorgeous wreaths it yields, everything.

This past weekend, the said company celebrated Lavender Days on their farm, an event that I have been wanting to go to since we moved here, over 6 years ago. The whole experience, though, left much to be desired.

The grounds were beautiful – pristine landscaping, peaceful setting, a stream running through it, tall trees lining up the trails. The lavender fields were gorgeous, too, as I expected – with lavender bushes mathematically laid out equidistant from one another, gently swaying in the prairie wind, like a huge sheet. The air smelled like lavender and chamomile, and by the time you got into the middle of the grounds you could almost feel the smell enwrapping you, like a magic aura. 

The well manicured grounds at the foot of our mountains. 

Since it was announced as a festival, I thought local artists and merchants will be present, too, or maybe their own folks would show us the art and the craft of making things out of lavender, as a celebration of the plant. But almost no one was there. For food, they had just a couple of booths with food (one with watermelon, one with burgers and one with lavender ice-cream and lemonade), but I was expecting something savory cooked with lavender – which I know exists. The lavender lemonade that I had was a very weird mixture of very sweet and very bitter. My jaws hurt from too much flavor.

They had a jousting competition with actors dressed up in Queen Elizabeth I era costumes which played on a backdrop of 90's disco music. Connection?! I could not find one, other than maybe lavender being an age old herb?! They had a buggy ride around the farm, which I guess could have been entertaining, had it not been for the 10 kids to 1 adult ratio inside the buggy. 

The old time-y castle and the horse drawn buggy/ cart  

The Visitor's Center had some interesting artifacts, which showed the old distiller barrels, and they run documentaries about the industry of harvesting lavender and distilling the oils, but the building could only host 20 people at one time, so there was a long line to get in. The line also deterred one from watching the documentaries, as we had to rush in and out of there.

I wanted to buy some 'products', you know, just to support a local business, but it took two cashiers about 20 minutes to figure out what the prices were – they only knew the prices for the members of this multi level marketing business that was running the show, there were no retail prices easily available for us, mortals. 

Artifacts in the Visitors' Center 

Probably the most disappointing bit was that no one was giving anyone a tour of the grounds or the distillery. The latter was all but abandoned, with not a soul in sight, when we went to visit it. I do thank them for leaving it wide open and accessible so I can see the huge distillers up close. They smelled like soup. 

The lonely distillery. I loved the pile of harvested lavender spread out to dry in front of it. Reminded me of my childhood, when my sister and I made hay in the mountains. This smelled the best, out of everything else.  

The bottom of the huge distiller. This is what smelled like an herb-y soup.
The old way they did the distilling, back in France.

The only thing that explained how everything is done. 
It was a gorgeous day, hot, but windy – which helped make it very pleasant. I got as close as I ever wanted to be to lavender, and I am glad we went, for this reason. If you took the practical out of it (lack of explanations, lack of easy access to 'product', poor organization and disconnected activities), it could have been a beautifully quiet and natural experience. The  loud people and the disco music contributed to ruin that, too.

I am in no rush to go back. Maybe try another farm like this, but not this one. Not for a while. I will still buy their products at the Farmer's Market downtown, just to bring home a token of that femininity and age-old gold. For some reason, the people they send there seem to know the prices on everything. 
Gorgeous fields of purple. 

And because I am not good enough to say it better myself, I am quoting The Bard: "Forgiveness is the smell that lavender gives out when you step on it". (Mark Twain)

No comments: