Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 30 - taking a bit of a punt.

Wednesday 30th January

Wet and windy would describe our start to the day on Arran but now the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. I have spent a blissful couple of hours in the tunnel continuing my quest to be ready for spring. All my work spaces have to operate smoothly as once the season gets underway I am a very busy little bee. We have an issue with wood on Hazelbank. It just keeps appearing and this morning my entrance into the tunnel was greeted with another piece of wood blocking access to my pots. I understand it is the new floor for the studio and it was rescued from a skip. All good, but why does it need to be blocking off my pots? What kind of grower am I without pots? Wood moved and rest of the family occupied elsewhere I set to the task to get that space working. Pleased that at least one end of the tunnel works well now I gave it a little test drive and potted on some of last years lavenders. I am taking a bit of a punt by potting them on this early but I am thinking 'Mother's Day gift'. Lavenders do not like being disturbed but I did compensate with some food and grit in their new compost. They may now sulk or they may, if I am lucky, push on with new growth and look fabulous in time for mothers on Arran so receive a lovely lavender plant wrapped with pretty paper and ribbons.

Lavender is the most used crop on our smallholding and I need to bring some new ones on for my own purposes this year. I am quite sure you all know that they grow best in an area facing south and that they do not like wet feet. Keep them as dry as you dare and if planting them on or even out into beds mix some grit or gravel in with the compost or soil to help with drainage. There are many different varieties of lavender but aim for hardy ones if you can because they will make it through the winter. They will flower in June and continue throughout the summer. Harvest the flowers on their stems on a regular basis, tie in bunches and hang upside down out of direct sunlight to dry. The scent off dried lavender is much stronger than the fresh flowers so it is worth giving it a try.

Before winter sets in give your plants a quick trim to tidy them up and get rid of any poor growth. I find I have to do that again in the early spring because my plants winter in the tunnel and are prone to a bit of growth when the winter sun shines. In the spring you can also start taking cuttings to make new plants. Lavender plants tend to get very woody once they start to get too large so it is always a good idea to have some new plants to replace them. The woody stems will burn wonderfully well on your fire and help to cleanse your house.

I am quite sure I shouldn't give away all my secrets when it comes to lavender as the herb is a bit of a signature plant for our business. But now we are firm friends I will share a few little gems. For those of you who struggle to sleep well you could make a small pillow and fill it with a mix of dried lavender and hops. Men falling asleep easily after too much beer is mainly due to the hops used in the brewing process! Cut out the beer and go for a sleep pillow instead. If you place it under your pillow the fragrance will be released everytime you move your head.

Hang bunches of dried lavender by your doors to keep insects out in the summer months. You should put some under your door mat as well. Placing dried lavender under the seats of your car and in the boot deters insects but also keeps your car smelling lovely.

Lavender tea is very refreshing and excellent for cleansing your digestion system.

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (English lavender)
1 tablespoon English Breakfast tea
a teaspoon of fresh lemon
sugar or honey

Put boiling water over the dried lavender and tea and allow to sit for a few minutes then add the lemon and strain. Add sugar or honey as required.

Take your tea into the bath with you. Tie a muslin circle up containing dried lavender and oats to make a lovely bath infusion. Place it over the hot tap when running the bath and lie back and relax. Lavender is excellent for combating stress as it aids relaxation.

So let us hope that we all have a go at growing some lavender this year. You don't need much space as it grows well in a pot. It is very tricky to grow lavender from seed so I suggest you buy a small plant around March from a local garden centre. It will grow on very quickly once the weather warms up.

The boys have just arrived back from badminton and one of our collies is squeaking for his tea so my quiet and calm time is over. I did manage a little trip to the DIY shop to get some seeds to sow and that is what the boys and I are doing tomorrow in my smooth running tunnel. I get my tomatoes in early and I am hopeful for a better crop this year. What can be raised off the ground is being so in the hope that the slugs haven't perfected the skill of jumping yet. My studio may be far from ready but it does have a lovely selection of bulbs growing in pots outside it along with some pretty primroses that I couldn't resist. It is so lovely to have a bit of colour.

I have rescued an old garden table and will re-varnish it and put it outside the studio. I hope to run more courses this year and this will make a great space when the sun shines with a view to the sea. My first flower school in March is almost full so I am off to a good start. I also rescued an old wooden step ladder that I am going to paint and put in the studio as it will be a great place to hang my silk when it is drying. I could get into reclaiming and revamping and just think of the money I have saved. The tax bill was paid this morning so that was a bit painful but I am continuing with my mission to spend as little money as possible. It does, of course, mean a bit of time and effort but my dad always told me that 'hard work didn't kill anyone.' I am currently contemplating how to use the two metal ends of a lovely garden bench that fell apart because of rotten wood. Any ideas gratefully received.

I have just noticed two things - the first being that it is 4.20pm and it is still light (excellent) and the second being that it is suddenly very windy. Here we go again...
Speak tomorrow. xx
Picture is of me (left) with my soul sister Donna. The stars were added by her son!