Tuesday, June 22

Lavender & Chamomile

I am enjoying, for the first time in a good dozen years, having a bit of garden of my own. My gardens are usually herb gardens because other people in my family like vegetable gardening more, and because I am more interested in herbs and their histories and possible uses. Besides, less pesty creatures and weeds tend to get around in herb gardens than in vegetable gardens. My corner is full of herbs of different sorts, some of which I haven't had time to use yet and
some of which have not yet taken off like I wish they would (you can't have everything). For the present, though, the blooming lavender and chamomile are giving me enough to do on my weekends.

These are my four lavender plants (two English and two French). We just planted them in late summer of last year and they have been remarkably happy in their partially sunny spot. The Wagnerian mutant on the left of the photo is lemon balm.

I use a cheap dish tub to harvest the plant and to place below them on their drying rack so that whatever bits do fall off won't make a mess on my workspace. This is the same one I use to wash my yarn and set the twist in it. Usually there are two blooming seasons (or at least I think so) and this is the first one. This is the third weekend I've come out to pick lavender; because I have such a nice setup with a dehumidifier already in the room (one of the ones used for air than for food) and a nice, dark, cool place (basement is always cold) my handfuls of lavender tend to dry in about a week so I can just take the flowers off the dry stuff and hang the new stuff and call it a day. I spend maybe two very lazy hours playing with my garden per week. It is a nice break from housework.

The chamomile is quicker to do because there is less of it and the plant as a whole is more compact. This variety is called German chamomile, which is the milder version as opposed to Roman chamomile. Most American home gardens will probably have German chamomile. It smells like apples and makes a sweet, calming tea. You make it when people feel ill or unhappy or sad or angry or frustrated or crampy or colicky. It soothes but does not solve. More often than not it is what is wanted, anyway. I use the trays from an old food dehumidifier without the heating element for the chamomile, and am more careful since the oils are more delicate and they'll be more likely used as tea rather than in a pillow or sachet.

These are the cats, who call what they are doing "helping".

Then the lavender and chamomile both end up at my workspace in old McCann's Steel-Cut Oatmeal cans with ziploc bags inside them, until I want to use them in one of the various things they are good for. I like my desk, down here. It is where I keep my knitting needles.

Monday, June 7

My first crop of lavender is almost ready to harvest.

Yesterday a roomie came home from work early because a client cancelled, but it was a good thing because said roomie was not feeling well. And then the man of the house came home after a long work day and he usually needs a few minutes and some caffeine before he finds work to do on his next academic degree or major DIY project. With frozen cookie dough popped in the oven and a fortuitous accident of turning on the video game console and signing in all the players for a quick game, it was only a few minutes before the house smelled of chocolate and peanut butter and they were happily slaughtering each other on the TV screen.

The best part was when they put up the controllers and refilled their coffee mugs and said things like “I needed that!” and “It was so nice to relax for a few minutes”, and even “Those cookies are magic” (this last mostly followed by the discreet theft of handfuls of cookies). And then they were able to comfortably transition from work to home, and I went back to whatever work I had been doing before. These are the moments--these in-between moments--when my job is very valuable to family morale (sounds funny to hear, but if you don’t recognize the truth in what I’m saying you may as well give up on life now).

Knitting & Spinning
Katheryn and I have spent most of our time indoors recently because of the humid-to-rainy weather. We even had a huge thunderstorm the other day, and my cat took several hours to forgive me for it. And besides, most of my time I have spent plying yarn I’ve already spun because my stash is starting to be less goal-oriented and I can’t have that.

I’ve started a sort of rhythm where I spin (fleece to single thread) and ply (spinning two single threads together) during the week and then wash and set the yarn on the weekend, laying it out on our lawn chairs so that the sun dries it (or at least drip-dries it if it is super-bulky, so that I finish drying it inside at my workbench on a drying rack).

My knitting projects are going spectacularly well; I have a pair of socks knitted up the toes and an Estonian lace scarf half-finished (with a few mistakes, but it is my first lace scarf of significant laciness!). The socks are part of my house-knitting and the lace scarf is for my own edification; I will probably give it to my aunt who is tall and willowy and appreciates handspun lace. Unfortunately I have one pair of arm-warmers for my mother (house-knitting) I am going to have to unravel, ply, and re-knit. Shouldn’t take too long, though. I have another project in the planning stages which will have an entire blog entry to itself once I get the pictures taken.

Tonight I am baking a meat loaf (with home-made chili relish we canned last year), a sweet potato pie (with home-made pie crust of deliciousness), peach cobbler (fruit from a local farm stand), and either steamed green beans or buttered peas. I will also be baking whole wheat bread for dinner. And a batch of cookies with chocolate in them to celebrate a homecoming.

Pies have been the food of choice lately; Sunday roast leftovers with extra gravy (a family favorite), apples that looked a little too inviting and coincided with a new jar of cinnamon, and summer icebox things with vanilla whipped cream. Our guests are duly impressed and my family is very proud and acts like they have this stuff all the time (who are we kidding? they do!), which is cute to watch and makes me happy.

Generally speaking, I love my job and it doesn’t really matter what people say about it. I don’t need to justify myself and am stubborn enough to not be persuaded by the ignorant. However, it is a thorn in my side, an un-scratchable itch on my back, an irritating speck in my eye when people (mostly women) think they know how to do my job and act surprised when my schedule is not free to spend socializing at their convenience. (NB: This rant completely ignores the fact that I don’t believe in socializing for the sake of socializing and would in all seriousness be happier mopping floors than faking a smile.) HOWEVER. People are important. Stupid “love everybody” rule. I am going to have to talk to God about this.