The Harvest

The Harvest

When spring finally rolls around, the snow cover melts and the temperatures begin to rise, it is time to remove the frost cloth and inspect each plant for winter damage. A good pruning and removal of any damaged parts stimulates each plant to grow and focus their energy on producing flower stems.

After a month and a half or so of growth and flower production, the lavender harvest begins sometime in June. The exact week depends on several factors including the length of time for the winter snow to melt, last predicted frost, when the rains come and go, and the most important – when the flowers are ready. The earliest to harvest are always Angustifolia. My Angustifolia harvest is a rolling one with several varieties ready for bundling in the first few weeks of June, followed each week by another variety or two on into July. The remainder of the summer is spent harvesting my lavandin and distilling oils all the way through August, with a second flush of some Angustifolia again in the fall.

Each plant is inspected daily to determine the time to harvest. The end-use for each variety plays an important role when deciding the time to cut and bundle. Flowers designated for culinary, dried bouquets and crafting purposes are harvested much earlier than those designated for essential oil and hydrosol distillation.

Spending every single day wandering through the lavender field to check on their progress is a remarkable experience. It is so calming and restorative, even though it is a huge amount of work. The flowers are remarkably beautiful and diverse in color and structure. A true feast for the eyes. The smell is divine. And the number of pollinators that love lavender is not only entertaining, but it warms the heart when I think this little ecosystem that I created by hand is a benefit to a multitude of creatures.

I always experience mixed emotions when it’s time to harvest. I am excited at the prospect of using the flowers to create products that will benefit others, but at the same time I feel sad to watch them disappear from the glory that is a lavender field in full bloom. Yet as I cut and bundle and then carry them to the drying shed or to the distiller, I feel bathed in their essence and hopeful that others will experience the same joy I do when they receive their oils, their bouquets, their candles.

At the end of harvest season, I spend a lot of time in reflection. I organize my photos, pack away the dried bundles by purpose, begin to create lots of products, perform a soft prune and shaping of all my rows, and begin to plan out my fall planting and spring expansion. I also allow my body to recuperate from what was a very physically taxing spring and summer.

As fall approaches, I am reminded of the cycle of the seasons. My plants are the perfect representation of those cycles. They awaken from their slumber in the spring and begin to stretch their branches towards the sun. Summer brings with it lots of growth and color and celebration. While fall is filled with slowed growth and gathering strength to survive the winter months. Winter is a time for them to rest under deep cover, away from the light while they expand their roots into the soil to become even stronger for an even better harvest in the future.

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