Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Growing commercial Lavender

We are always starting new projects here at the ranch.  Mainly because I get bored with old projects, but also because some enterprises succeed and others don't or because we don't like certain projects after we start them or because we have empty space or....  I think you get the idea.  So we've always wanted to grow lavender.  It's beautiful, smells good, it's a good tourist attractor and it's even edible.  You can also reportedly make pretty good money per acre.  However, I don't know anything about it so I'm going to blog about it as we research and discover things.  We may or may not go ahead with this project as we research it, but at least you'll be able to see the thought process, learn a few things and decide for yourself.

The first thing I've noticed is that there are a gazillion different varieties.  About 300 to be more exact.  So which ones do we grow?!  I still haven't figured it out, but there's been a few varieties that consistently pop up in my research.

Lavandin particularly Lavender Grosso:  This is the most fragrant of all the lavenders.  Also known as Lavandula Intermedia. It is a Lavandin, although I'm not quite sure what that means yet.  It is used in making perfumes and sachets and potpourri.  It is used to produce essential oils. 

Augustifolia: Oil producer.  This is True Lavender and makes the best oils.

So far it looks like most commercial farms grow these two types: Lavandin and Augustifolia.  Grosso seems very common, although there are many Lavandins.  Hidcote and Munstead seem to be the most common Augustifolias.  I'm not sure why yet, but I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

August garden

I am SO excited.  I love summer gardening because squash and melons are so easy to plant and grow (excepting the rabbit attacks), but there is way more variety in the cooler months.  Here is what we'll be planting in the month of August:

Bean, bush
Bean, pole
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage seeds
Chinese Cabbage
Corn, sweet
leaf lettuce
Onion, green bunch
Pea, fall

Monday, July 16, 2012

Calling all cowpokes for dinner!

It can be so hard to get people wrangled up for dinner around here.  Everyone's feeding, doing chores, playing with kittens or catching lizards.  We finally realized that farm wives everywhere used triangles to call people in to dinner for a reason.  They were tired of searching everyone out!  We just won this dinner triangle on ebay (good ole ebay) and we can't wait until it gets here to try it out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Making homemade ice cream

Making homemade ice cream is so easy and so much fun.  Well, it does take a little bit of exercise if you make it how we do with an authentic 1920s antique hand crank machine.

However, you can cheat and use an electric machine.  We don't think it tastes nearly as good, but it's still way better than store bought.  Here's the recipe we use for basic vanilla (salt caramel to follow):

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
a dollop of vanilla (probably like a tbsp)
a pinch of kosher salt

Put it in and let it stir stir stir.  You can eat it right away when it's like soft serve or you can freeze it and it will be the best tasting ice cream you've ever had.  Add chocolate chips and a cherry and you're set.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Farming Z's

It's amazing how often I'm tempted to post nothing but Z's such as Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Everyone tells you that farming is tiring, but you don't really know tired until you've put in a 15 or 20 hour day and then done it again and again and again as you try to get an important project done or have animal emergencies.  But I'm having such a good time and I am sleeping better than I ever did as a city slicker. Speaking of sleeping...Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What do you do with bad fruit?

Previous to today, when fruit went bad (or at least was on the edge of going bad and too squishy to eat), I would either throw the fruit to our animals or the compost.  Who wants to eat an apricot that has the consistency of pudding?  Yuck.

Well, while it's great to feed fruit to your animals, there is another use that can save on the edge fruit.  Make Apricot Jam!  We have had two amazing woofers from France staying with us and today one of them taught me how to make jam.  So easy and I'd never learned before!

Really all you do is cut up the apricots, put sugar in with them, about 800g to every 1000g of apricots (and if you're not using weights to cook you really need to start).  Leave them overnight for the sugar to work its magic and then boil them the next day for 45 minutes (a low boil).  Eventually the apricots fall apart and it starts looking like jelly.  Pour it into clean jars, turn them over so the heat seals them and voila!  Apricot jam.  So easy!!!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Well, not exactly pumpkins, but pumpkin sprouts.  We finally got the seeds in the ground and they're starting to grow.  Now as long as we can keep them away from all the pests, we will have a gazillion pumpkins come this halloween.

We plant pumpkins in a unique way.  Most people plant pumpkins on a mound like this.

We actually plant ours in a deep hole (pic to come if I can remember).  Planting on a mound is great in wet areas because it gets the plant roots away from water.  If roots get too wet, they will die.  However, we live in the desert.

In the desert, you struggle with getting enough water to your plant.  Planting seeds in a hole means the water is directed straight to the roots, less water runs off and therefore less water is used.  Also, being in a hole blocks the plant from the harsh desert winds and the harsh desert sun (yes, we have too much sunlight as well-if you're from a cold/wet area you probably can't even believe that's possible).

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White peacocks

I'm so excited we finally got white peacocks.  They're gorgeous!  Or they will be.  Right now they're just little babies and look kinduv like chickens.

But they will soon look like angels.

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Happy Fourth (third) of July!

Here in the tiny town of Lucerne Valley, we actually celebrate the third of July.  Why?  I have no idea actually, but the fireworks are always on the third.  I guess we just have to do everything different.  My family hates crowds so the cool thing is that we can see the fireworks from the farm.  Granted they're very small and it takes about a half a minute for the boom to get to us after we see the firework, but every year we bring chairs and popcorn out to the vineyard and watch the fireworks from about ten miles away.  I guess we just have to do everything different...