When I purchased an uninhabitable house with no roof, rotted floors and the list goes on and on- a real money pit, I knew I had to make it liveable for me and my girl but my first instincts were:
Where will I plant my aromatics?
Where will the herb garden I have always wanted be?
My goal was abundant lavender bushes, refreshing citrus, herby valerian and lots of culinary herbs. The culinary herbs were self serving motivational tool for my "learning to cook" stage when I decided to become a mum. More on that another day.
I upgraded from big city tiny window boxes to acres of land.
Like many newbies, I played it safe, so I thought, with the most basics I knew grew like weeds at my Hells Kitchen fifth floor walk-up over 25 years ago. Parsley, basil and cilantro. All great for home made facials and skin scrubs and safe to add to a failed bland cooking experiment. In retrospect those few herbs growing in a small window box in New York City now seem like the lima bean experiment we had in grade school.
Fast forward to today and now I am growing aromatics and herbs in volume. My apothecary and drying shed bears a resemblance to a witch doctors hideaway.
I have endless possibilities of use.
My initiation to the world of aromatherapy, unknowingly, was with lavender. Since memory I always had a rustic gold cube for my evening bathtime to wind down and go to bed.
A new cube always had the name Marseille engraved on it and I would sit in a bath until the letters washed away and a smooth slippery soap remained.
The floor wash for the kitchen smelled of lavender, the bathroom and the entrance always had a tainted scent of lavender when it was not Pine-Sol. The bed linens on wash day engulfed the air near the clothes line outside the kitchen window in the Bronx. Then, I always thought it was the soap I used during my long baths that gave the air a fragrance and was always around me. Somehow the Marseille soap disappeared from my day to day. The soap dish replacement was something named Dove and long evening baths were exchanged for quick showers. Not much later in the mid to late 1980´s when the new found interest in aromatherapy made a boom in the main stream market in the U.S., lavender was back in my life. I learned it did not come from a rustic golden cube with branded letters. It piqued my interest towards the use of essential oils leading me to a whole new world of sensorial scents and aromatic plants.
What happened this season?
This year was about adapting and managing things out of my control: The loss of my greenhouse during an epic wind storm in April, and a historical drought the region has just about been relieved from with the rain that finally came although a bit late.
The greenhouse is replaceable. I grieved its loss. Most seedlings and plants were salvageable and found new homes for them in the fields where they belong and I moved on knowing all too well I needed to be sheltered from direct high UV sun during spring and summer days. However, we never anticipated nor thought of living through a historic drought. With the unusually high temperatures in the region, I watched how my evergreen land slowly turned into yellows and browns reminiscent of my time spent living in Andalusia. The occasional hot wind blowing from the south burned our skin. It was not, in any way, similar to the Sub Saharan winds during El Veranillo de San Miguel in late September, this hot wind was scorching.
It was almost impossible to keep the course of previous years this season.
Images of my beautiful blooms and hearty vegetables did not fill my social media pages. In fact, I was not very social on social media.
Altering my hours 6am until noon, 8pm until last light was my time on the grounds when home. I was losing motivation. Many of you may already know prolonged exposure to direct UV with an index over 5 can be lethal for me... yes lupus sucks.
The greenhouse was my Office, when not being able to be under direct sunlight. I would tend to my many precious plants and scheduled seedlings. Surrounded by summer day light whilst being protected from harsh UV. The balmy air, the smell of moist earth and noticing the growth of my plants with every passing day inside a glass house.
My temporary office this year was my dark drying shed where a considerable drop in temperature can be felt when walking in, the stone walls cold. Herbs hung from jute lines to dry. A contrast to what once was.
Less physical labor made my anxious creative self think of how to fill my time in between parental duties and adapting to my circumstances through to February 2024 when a new green house is to be built.
Strength And Clarity In Bloom
My lavender bloomed beautifully despite the strenuous season. A truly forgiving plant when it needs to be. Dozens of bushes in full bloom, the bottom stems fanning out, skirting the ground and the smell of lavender every time I would be near it had me remember my bath time when I was young. Closing my eyes when inhaling the aroma I returned to calm and the grounding when trying to make sense of it all this season with all the challenges I had to face.
What to do with all the lavender this year?
Introducing the 5th Sense Candle and Home in the Woods Lavender Collection.
Limited quantity from this year´s harvest.
A lot was going on this season and the lavender fall collection is a reflection of all the sudden changes, and unexpected events and filling in most days that seemed to have dragged on. Managing and finding solutions with very few typical day-to-day lived when in need to remain calm and assure myself that everything will be alright.
With over 40 species of lavender around the world, I have the the ever so popular Lavendula, popularly known as French Lavender due to its floral yield per plant. This year my lavender lived up to its name.
The buds are a blue-violet colour on the tips of long stems that sprout from a plush base of grey foliage. Fragrant from its first bloom and is almost eternal long after harvested. The scent lingers when rubbed between ones fingers or palms.
I chose French lavender for my garden because of its scent. It appears to have a sweetness atop the familiar fragrance unlike the English lavender, well-liked for culinary uses, with a citrus note or the Spanish Lavender with an herby undertone and has the absence of the long elegant stems.
Mostly, French lavender is a familiar scent, popularly used for essential oils, beauty products, high end perfumery and eco friendly cleaning products.
Lavender and well being.
I am not a self proclaimed expert in lavender, far from it. I am not going to share lengthy group study results on the benefits of lavender nor am I going to insist you incorporate lavender in your everyday as if your life depended on it. I will share my daily uses and how it has helped me throughout the years.
Insect bites: We live in the country, insect bites are inevitable let them be mosquitoes, wasps, flies or many other bugs I yet to identify. I use lavender as an antiseptic and anti inflammatory because of the high natural camphor content that alleviates itching and will bring down a swelling.
Relaxing: Having a chronic autoimmune disease aggravated by stress, prolonged exposure to high UV, accumulated fatigue during the spring and summer seasons resulting in seasonal insomnia, I find soaking in a warm bath with my homemade bath salts infused with lavender buds and essential oil helpful to alleviate anxiety and muscle discomfort. A lavender salt bath often helps me sleep but does not always guarantee it.
Give my bath salts a try:
Mix all the ingredients with their respective weight in a bowl.
Add to a warm bath:
1/4 cup Epsom salt
1/4 cup coarse himalayan salt
10 grams dried lavender buds (ground in a mortar)
5 drops of lavender essential oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coconut milk
Burning Lavender: The fragrance lingers throughout my home when burning dried lavender, ground in a mortar with a little bit of sugar on a disc of charcoal or adding dried hemp string bundles to the fireplace when burning logs. It slowly calms me when my days do not turn out quite as planned.
Air freshener: Lavender Sachets are a must in our home living in a relatively damp climate from late fall to early spring. I pop them in drawers and armoires. Lavender sachets repel moths and maintain a fresh scent to linens and clothing without being overwhelming. I also hang them on doorknobs in the winter to gently squeeze or rub in the palms of my hands to release a stronger fragrance to the already scented pouch.
Cleaning: Lavender is a natural disinfective on its own. When mixed with white wine vinegar it kicks it up a notch. I wipe down my kitchen counters after light use with a vinegar infused spray. I also use the lavender vinegar for bathroom cleaning maintenance , floor wash on my ground floor slate floor and for cleaning windows. And surprisingly, my home does not smell of vinegar after use.
There are dozens of uses for lavender; hair and skin tonics, textile dye, floral water, dusting powder...
The most popular mentions everywhere of use is for relaxation but lavender is so much more than wanting for a good nights sleep.
Lavender Fun Facts...
Lavender is associated with peace, harmony, tranquility, love, purification and healing: Hang a bundle over your front door or hang a lavender sachet on your door knob to attract peace into your home.
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