Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


March 2016

Sight and scent that will knock you sideways: Forest Green Man Lavender

Photo: Forest Green Man Lavender

The lure of lavender has spawned a tourism industry that sees France’s Provence region inundated with photographers and plein air painters jostling for space. Naramata’s Forest Green Man Lavender offers stunning vistas with an incredible lake view and the-breathe-deeply, clean, distinctive lavender perfume – sans crowds. The clincher…the friendly local Naramatian vibe of its proprietors, Doug Mathias and Karolina Born-Tschuemperlin.

I’m kind of loving my monochromatic photo taken yesterday as the farm begins preparations for its opening in about a month.

“This is a happy place,” Karolina says. “It’s a soft, sweet place with the rolling hills and scent and it just seems to make people feel good. I love to see their smiles as they come around the corner and see the view for the first time when the fields are in bloom. It’s like we live in the Shire from the Hobbit.”

The farm has been growing lavender since 2000. With more than 2,500 lavender plants on its six acres, Forest Green Man features a shop in its new barn filled with high-quality lavender bath and kitchen lavender products all made from natural ingredients. An art gallery featuring many of Karolina’s own paintings is located up the barn stairs.


IMG_7610Sanichlaus Party 8Dec.2013 059Naramatian Doug and and Swiss-born Karolina are masters of all things lavender and volley rapid-fire interesting lavender facts as we bask in the sun on a bench overlooking the lavender with the farm’s pear trees in the distance.

  • There are about 140 varieties in the world, about 50 in Canada and U.S. and 17 on the farm.
  • The word “lavender” comes from the Latin word lavandula which comes from the Latin verb lavare which means “to wash”. The Romans used lavender to scent their bathwater and wash their clothes.
  • Lavender is part of the mint family.
  • Calming, soothing, its long been used as a home remedy for sleeplessness and nervousness and as a disinfectant.
  • Monks spread lavender on their monastery floors and its scent was released when they walked on. It was believed to have helped ward off malaria.
  • It takes 100 kilos of lavender to make just one litre of lavender oil (which Doug distills after the harvest in July).
  • Different varieties of lavender are used for different products. For example, Royal Velvet and Folgate are great oil producers and other lavenders are grown specifically for use in cooking and for the lovely lavender lemonade offered at Green Man.
Photo: Forest Green Man Lavender. The copper still is a thing of gleaming beauty.

Karolina walked me through a typical day at the height of lavender season in July. “On harvest day we start to cut very early in the morning at 4:30 a.m. before the heat of the day. With a crew we cut and hang the bunches everywhere to dry and quit at 11 a.m. when it’s too hot to keep going. I then open the shop, water all the plants in pots, clean the fountain, make the lavender lemonade (we go through gallons when it’s hot) and generally tidy up. It sounds like a lot of work but I don’t think it’s a hard life. I would much rather be doing this than sitting in a cubicle. It’s a beautiful life and changes every month.”

Photo: Forest Green Man Lavender. Special occasion dinners and small weddings have been hosted at the farm.
Photo: Forest Green Man Lavender. You know you have made it as a plant when you have a colour named after you.

Many of the farm’s lavender plants are coming to the end of their approximately 14-year lifespan and the couple will begin replacing them with new vigorous ones row-by-row. They may also be planting the remaining meadow with an additional thousand plants. The farm is also a stop for Emily Carr University of Art and Design plein air painters again this summer and will be the sight for many wedding photos. Visitors can also get a total lavender immersion by sleeping like babies in its bright orange rental cottage.

Parting shot: This is the view from the orange cottage available for rent on the farm. Even though the lavender isn’t in bloom yet, it was a beautiful early spring day yesterday and great for photography.

Lavender shortbread

  • 1/2 cup berry sugar or superfine sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp rice flour (gives it a nice texture)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp dried Forest Green Man culinary lavender

Preheat oven to 275F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix sugar, flours and salt together in a bowl. Add the cold butter and toss until coated. Add the lavender and pulse in a food processor for 10 seconds. Shape into a ball and roll the ball on a lightly floured surface into a log shape about 2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the plastic and use a sharp knife to cut thin slices (about 1 cm thick) and place an inch apart on the baking sheet. Use a fork to poke the centre of each cookie to stop air bubbles from forming.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden. Transfer to a cooing rack.

Off to the greenhouse to propagate some lavender from cuttings with Karolina’s tips…tomorrow’s post.

Chocolate rain: Naramata helicopter Easter egg drop


A long standing tradition in Naramata, almost every Easter a helicopter is enlisted to drop eggs onto Manitou Park for kids by our regional district. The kids come dressed up in costume or in their Easter finest. To prevent any eggcidents, the eggs are hollow plastic ones that when gathered up are exchanged for chocolate. The weather is also part of this tradition. It’s been a blue sky day for every egg drop I’ve attended.


Helicopters play a key role in area agriculture. Shortly after moving here I encountered a confusing scene that reminded me of the movie line,”I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Helicopters were hovering at many locations in the Valley. After some rookie Naramata questions to long-time residents I learned that our valuable cherry crops, (much of which ends up in China) needs saving from time to time. Talk about the cost of farming… Following rainy spells, helicopters are used to dry cherries at Valley orchards. Rain can cause cherries to split, and if that happens the fruit won’t be marketable. For from between $600 and $1,200 an hour, the cherries are quickly dried by the chopper blades as soon as possible before the sun comes out.

The mad scramble


These mini ponies came to take in the action at Manitou. Jana Hill brought them to the park for some pets and some advertising for her pony party business.
A parting shot of Manitou

I can’t resist adding a link as a cautionary tale about what not to toss out of a helicopter. The infamous WKRP episode entitled, “As God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly,” is a classic.

Women with hats: capellophile or millionophilia

My daughter and her lovely pals

Although there is no “official” word for hat collector, there has been some attempt to create one. Millinophilia, derived from hat maker, or milliner is one possibility and a second is capellophile, using the word capel which is latin for hat or headdress.

Whatever your term it, my growing collection of vintage and new hats is turning me into a mad hatter. In celebration of Easter bonnets, here are some of my frillier women’s hats. The hats come out to play often and are great for photo shoots where the wearers adopt some version of “hat face”. It’s a pose and expression brought on by the hat. Hat face is either a very serious face with an upturned chin in a regal pose or a silly smile.

Do you remember Marlo Thomas in That Girl?

Hat collecting turns out to be an affordable hobby with many only costing $20 or $30 and collecting works equally at home and on holidays to just about anywhere. There is also a good deal of nostalgia involved as I picture my mom choosing from among her hats stored away in flowery hat boxes.

This cotton-candy pink number screams Easter

I don’t even remember which hat was the first in the collection. They can be found at yard sales, auctions, antique and vintage stores and you will find them even when you aren’t looking.

The back of this hat is lovely
Takes a brave sole to wear this one anywhere but in a Star War’s movie

Some of my hats were reasonable and others more expensive. The more flamboyant the more expensive. If you add in French hat maker labels like Agnes, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent and Christian Dior, the price goes up. The more feathers the more money sometimes reaching up to $300 or $400. If the hat comes in its original box, so much the better. The fun of collecting is amplified by the possibility of wearing the hat. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried a hat on, found it fetching, bought it and chickened out actually wearing it.

I call this one the meringue

Cloche, high crown, tilts, doll hats, cocktail, pillbox, fedora, wide brim, beret, boater, Breton, cartwheel, turban, halo, peach basket, picture hat, sailor and slouch…so many hats for only one head.

“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”



Naramata Spring Fling

Flora and some fauna photo essay of spring in my hood.

Columbines…I have them in many colours
Our magnolia
Sedum taking advantage of the longer days to bloom
Ruffled tulip
Cherry blossoms decorating Okanagan Lake vista



Neighbour’s donkey
Spring evening walk

Somewhere that’s Green Edible Landscapes or this farmer, your dell

Located on Corbishley Avenue in Penticton, British Columbia, this new business is teaching homeowners the forgotten art of food gardening

In just a generation or two we have almost lost the accumulated food gardening wisdom of hundreds of years. The convenience of the big box food machine has made vegetable gardening seem like a complicated, involved secret too hard to attempt. Thanks to passionate, energetic young farmers like Michelle Younie, the lost wisdom is being passed on again. Michelle couldn’t have started her new Somewhere that’s Green Edible Landscapes venture at a better time. Fad diets are out for many, sensibly being replaced by simply adding in lots of organically grown fruits and vegetables to what we eat daily. Healthy eating is also coupled with a strong desire to do something about environmental sustainability, right in our own backyards.

Michelle can teach you where and what to plant in your yard with a focus on edibles. Her services range from designing and planning your edible landscape to building, planting and maintaining it for you.

Michelle Younie greeted me with a warm wide smile and a fittingly dirty-hand handshake at her homebase farm in Penticton

She is a self-taught farmer with enough energy and passion to fuel three enterprises. Michelle grows all the produce used at Penticton’s highly-rated Hooded Merganser Bar and Grill in Penticton from her work as the farmer of Valleyview Farm. She was hired on as the farm manager four years ago after the Penticton Lakeside Hotel’s owner admired her first vegetable patch on her parent’s land.

Younie now also employs her dad, Don at the Valleyview Farm and her brother Ryan at Somewhere that’s Green, which also feeds the Younies from their family plot and a growing list of others on an email list who come twice a week to pick up their bounty.

Somewhere that’s Green Edible Landscapes germinated because, “I’m obsessed with this. It is really something to help people start their own gardens. When you first start out you make a lot of mistakes. It’s really a lost skill now and many in my generation grew up with houses with yards that never had a vegetable garden. I can help people avoid mistakes at the beginning and get through some of the initial overwhelming learning curve. Our Okanagan climate is so extreme and getting more extreme so learning what works well here is very valuable.”

Michelle also spotted a niche. “There are tons of landscape companies in the Valley but none that I know of that are focused on edible landscapes.”

This Toulouse goose, a French breed of large domestic goose, was showing off for my camera during my visit to Michelle’s home farm

Michelle’s top three mistakes to avoid:

  1. Don’t buy topsoil. It’s expensive and unnecessary. Build up the soil through the use of compost, manure and green manures instead.
  2. Don’t go nuts buying seeds your first year. Try five different varieties and add more once you’ve mastered those.
  3. Don’t worry so much about weeding. It’s not as big deal as you think and not a daily chore by any means.
The greenhouse is in full swing already with salad crops that will soon be sold to local customers and eaten by the family.

Michelle’s top three suggestions:

  1. Always plant in the ground versus a container if you have the choice. It’s so dry and hot here that container gardens need constant watering.
  2. Plan out your irrigation and use timers and other methods to water properly and wisely.
  3. Compost is very important in our silty soils.

One more tip we mutually agree upon:

  1. If you want zucchinis…only plant one or you will be giving them away or trying to give them away to other people who planted more than one.
These happy chickens are fed kitchen scraps from the Hooded Merganser’s vegetables Michelle grows. They also are let loose on the farm to clean up bugs at various times of the year. Oh, and they make lovely eggs for the family and for sale.

Can you get rich farming?

“Ah, no. I want to be successful and am excited about adding Somewhere that’s Green into the mix but it’s not going to make me rich. I’m committed to this lifestyle and am passionate about sharing it with others. We now host three different groups of people a year to come and work on the farm for free and learn. I have an engineer friend who has come to work with me part time just to learn about farming. People are really interested in learning to be more resourceful and it’s such a valuable trait I think.”

Bees are a valuable addition to the farm as is Missy, the cat, who does her part keeping the mice at bay.

Some of the benefits of turning your yard into an edible landscape include saving energy (no fuel used to ship and refrigerate), food safety (you know what you’ve planted and put on that plant), water savings (home gardeners use about half the amount of water industrialized farmers use), money savings and better nutrition.

Michelle at work. She wants me to come back when things are greener in a few months. I’m in.

A properly designed edible landscape can look beautiful as well. Lawns are minimized and blueberries can take the place of the fleetingly beautiful azaleas. Hedges can be made up of blackberry and raspberry canes and boarders created with rainbow chard, peppers and herbs. You will attract more birds and wildlife to your garden too.

Michelle and Ryan weeding in preparation for planting.

Victoria…best place to say see you later winter

Victoria on Vancouver Island is fun to visit at any time of the year but for us, March is the perfect time. It may be pretty rainy but getting a jump on spring and beating the tourist season makes it ideal.

Cherry blossoms are everywhere

While much of the rest of Canada is dealing with the last of the snowstorms or at the very least grey melting snow and brown lawns, in Victoria in March it’s already fully spring.IMG_7343

There is no better place to enjoy spring blossoms than on the grounds of the Empress Hotel where staff have been hard at work planting thousands and thousands of spring annuals. Going from a world of black, brown and white to colour in a four-hour drive and short ferry ride is astounding and cheering.

Going to steal this combo for my garden.


This perfectly pruned Japanese maple will be leafed out within days
A favourite spot for lunch or tea…loving the daffodil roof
I hope that this venerable book store never closes…this trip’s purchase…The Zero-Mile Diet: A Year-Round Guid to Growing Organic Food by Victoria’s Carolyn Herriot
Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Here is a perfect Victoria day itinerary:

Wake up to the view of the harbour from a room at the Empress.

IMG_7358Breakfast at Willie’s followed by some shoe shopping.

Star Wars freak daughter would love these…found at She She Shoes

IMG_7357A general wander about.

IMG_7361Some antique’s shopping and the purchase of a new hat for the collection.

IMG_7336Dinner at Pagliacci’s followed by a movie at the Vic Theatre.

IMG_7348And then home the next day via another favourite experience — the ferry ride back to Vancouver where I happily brave almost any weather to spend the hour and half trip out on the sun deck as we pass through the Gulf Islands. Regular commuters spend the time inside on laptops or reading the paper but I come prepared for the wind with extra layers.

IMG_7385I look at houses as we pass through the narrow passages between islands and wonder what our life would have been like had we bought the property on Mayne Island 10 years ago instead of choosing Naramata.

IMG_7382Probably would have been pretty great living there too. Home and all springed-up. There is more colour here too even in the few days we’ve been gone.

Summerland find and the dead town of Amy Kansas

IMG_9033Yup, taking that home. Who wouldn’t want a plate with a boy riding on turkey on it? Little did I know that a week later I would mail it away to a relative of the owners of the Patten Mercantile Co., postal box: Ghost Town, Amy, Kansas.

Antique shopping in Summerland, British Columbia, just across the lake from Naramata, this strange gem was sitting high on a shelf. The purchase of this peculiar plate started me on a journey into the past of a tiny American ghost town and a 97-year-old store that burned to the ground in 2003.

With my new treasure by the computer, an internet search of “Amy, Kansas” brought me to Amy Bickel, an agricultural journalist for the Hutchinson News in Kansas. She has been chronicling Kansas’ dead towns since 2010. The town once had a lumberyard and a general store. It started out life as Ellen, Kansas in the late 1800s as a stop established by the railway and became Amy after the U.S. Postal Service wanted the name changed as there was already an Ellen in eastern Kansas. Names of local teenagers were submitted and a postal official settled on Amy, after 16-year-old Amy Bruner.

Amy was always small but it had a heyday. It prospered in and around 1906 with life centering around the general store. The store’s owner set up a swing set, baseball field, a merry-go-round and a band with snazzy uniforms often played at its adjacent band stand. During warm weather, the town drew a large crowd each Saturday. Wagons and buckboards, each hitched to a team of horses, covered about an acre of ground.

The Amy store’s counter and its coffee grinder were donated to the Lane County Historical Museum for its general store display.

After I reached out, Amy Bickel got in touch with Vance Ehmke whose farm is in the area of abandoned Amy. Amy Bickel recalled that Vance Ehmke had held onto an old sign from the Amy store. Ehmke filled in some more pieces of the mystery by saying that Guy and Rodney Patten owned the store in the 1920s (hence Patten Mercantile Co.). Ehmke’s grandfather was formerly connected to Patten Mercantile. The store closed in 1955 and the local grain elevator, the only business left in town, burned the store down in 2003 to make way for a new office and scales.

After e-mail correspondence with Ehmke I learned of his sentimental attachment to the store and his family connection. I mailed the plate to him and back to the ghost town of Amy where his farm is located. There are many reasons that more than 6,000 towns have been wiped off the map in Kansas. In the case of Amy and the store, it was the development of highways and interstates, making it easier for people to travel farther for their goods and services.

Ehmke, thrilled to have the repatriated plate, sent me a newspaper clipping with a photo of the store. It looks like one of those movie set false fronts. Pretty fair trade I would say. One plate with boy riding a tom turkey for one very good story.



If we build it I hope they don’t come or I had a raspberry farm above the Naramata Bench

IMG_0634Undaunted by our farmer’s market plant sale fail, the Handyman and I pulled out the 75 pinot gris grape vine fail and planted 100 raspberry canes in their place last spring. A second 100 will be joining them in a few weeks to add to an existing 25 raspberry bush patch, 50 blueberry bushes and a smattering of blackberry bushes and voila, Carpe Diem Berry Farm is in business with about 300 bushes. Success guaranteed as I’ve got them pretty much pre-sold to a local coffee and lunch spot, a distillery and a baker. Any left over will be sold at the farmer’s market, a u-pick day or two or frozen for winter sales.

IMG_1397What could go wrong?

My confidence was momentarily shaken when a flyer arrived in the mail from the Raspberry Industry Development Council. Actually I was pretty horrified.

IMG_7287The included  2016 raspberry calendar seemed at first glance to be a handy planting, care and maintenance guide. It in fact detailed what pesticide or herbicide to apply when for what. Malathion, Capture 240EC, Black Label Zn, Ignite OR, Dipel WP… were to help me with hard to control weeds, crown borer, bacterial blight, weevils, caterpillars, leaf rollers, two-spotted mites, botrytis, rust, root rot, fruit worm, spur blight and the new scourge of spotted wing Drosophilia. The chart includes this warning (among others): “Some chemicals are toxic to bees.” Nope. My plan is grow my berries organically and herein lies the challenge.

Another, “If we build it I hope they don’t come,” aspect are the bears that frequent our property. This may require some electrification.

Here is part of the plot prepared for the new canes. You can see some of the blueberry patch at the top of the photo.

After careful research, we decided on a symphony of berry varieties. The first to go in last spring, ironically, were the 100 Encore raspberry canes. Developed by Cornell University, Encore is the one of the latest summer fruiting varieties available. It produces large, firm, slightly conical berries with very good, sweet flavour. This spring we are adding 100 Prelude, also patented by Cornell. These are the earliest summer fruiting variety available. The fruit is medium-sized, round and firm with good flavour. The plan is to offer local raspberries when no others are available.

Seems crazy to order canes from Strawberry Thyme in Ontario when we live in prime berry growing country but they had the varieties we were looking for.

IMG_4200After carefully preparing the rows by digging in lots of compost, we planted these “dead sticks”, watered them in well, turned on the irrigation, mulched the rows and waited. In about two weeks we were rewarded with new growth and happily counted the live ones every day until all 100 showed leaves.

We’ve been careful with site maintenance keeping the grass mowed and raked between rows and surrounding the patch and keeping our tools clean in an effort to reduce pest problems. Our well draining sight in the dry Okanagan should help with any root rot issues.

Taken this morning, this photo shows nice proof of life after the winter
The blueberries are looking very healthy also

Hope springs eternal. If you don’t succeed…try, try again. Never give up. Never surrender….Here’s proof…

FullSizeRenderIn a ballsy move, I’ve bought a case of berry trays.

I welcome any comments from organic farmers about how to keep all those nasty pests away from my raspberries. There doesn’t seem to be much online about how to avoid the scariest new threat to local raspberries of the spotted wing Drosphila with organic measures other than monitoring for their presence with traps and sticky tape. Stay tuned. I hope not to be writing another “One Broke Girl” post about our latest venture.

One broke girl – the tale of a farmer’s market fail

Just after set-up at the Penticton Farmer’s Market


Carpe Diem Greenhouses, unusual perennials, annuals and herbs grown from seed purchased from French, British and U.S. seed houses, grown to be sold at the Penticton Farmer’s Market was a fail and and yet it wasn’t. Despite a colossal financial flop, it’s one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever embarked on.

Packed to the rafters

The premise was pretty solid: The Penticton Farmer’s Market is thriving and teaming with locals and visitors and gets bigger every year. Gardening is growing by leaps and bounds. People at the market buy lots of plants. There was no competition for my rare and unusual niche.

The due diligence: Not so diligent.

Here is a partial list of the costs to get up and running as well as ongoing costs:

  • Seeds – $680.71
  • Soil, perlite and grit – $152.84
  • Greenhouse winterizing – $435 (Note, I’m not even including the cost of the greenhouse in this equation. I’m happy to have it for my own garden use luckily as it would skew my figures to the point of  bankruptcy vs. simple fail)
  • Pots, plug trays, domes – $354.28
  • Fancier large pots – $329.58
  • Heat mats – $139.00
  • Extension cord – $159.00
  • Plant markers – $42.00
  • Heating the greenhouse (electric heater) – $400
  • Lumber to retrofit our trailer to bring the plants to market – $200
  • Market tent – $230
  • Farmer’s market table rental – $30/week
  • Banner – $150
  • Misc. ?
  • Labour – love
Getting ready for seeding


Starting to load the trailer on market day

The fun?

Seed ordering is near the top of the list. Centaurea black boy, Kitaibelia Vitifolia, Digitalis Camelot Cream F1, Penstemon pinacolada violet blue, aquilegia chocolate soldiers, kniphofia traffic lights, nepeta blue moon, eurodium sweetheart, salpiglossis kew blue, aristolochia littoralis, blue myth, giant flower Edelweiss, Cerinthe kiwi blue…

My ambitious goal was to grow something different and not readily available at local garden centres that the keen gardner would like to try. I ordered from Plants of Distinction, the British branch of Thompson & Morgan, Seedman (U.S.) and a French seed house I’ve lost the receipt from.

Even more fun are the hours spent in the greenhouse. Radio, coffee and seeding. Radio, coffee, misting and watering. Radio, coffee thinning and transplanting. I would wake up earlier and earlier like a hopped up kid on a three-month long string of Christmas mornings. Opening the greenhouse door and then unzipping the plastic inner liner the Handyman added for heat retention, I could feel the humidity and smell the warm soil and eventually the blooms. Methodically working from one end of the greenhouse to the other, removing domes, misting, watering, these hours are some of the most satisfying times of my life. I smile now as I think of them.

I used every square inch of space and had to do some gymnastics to reach all the plants
This guy liked it in the greenhouse too and hung around for a month or two
The wooden inner structure and added layer of poly helped keep the heating bill down in February and early March

Fun part three. The market experience rates highly as well. Waking up early to load and unload the trailer and set up was satisfying. After all the nurturing, moving trays and plants for hardening off, tagging and pricing to see them all displayed was an, “I made fire!” moment. My first customer was cool too. Having a line-up at one point was pretty great too. Talking about plants and growing and saying, “You need full sun for that one,” multiple times never got old.

The Handyman helped with set up and take down

I sold plants and made money. On my best Saturday I cleared $400 which was the heating bill sorted. I learned that my local clients were very price conscious and many happy to plant run-of-the mill geraniums and petunias at the incredibly cheap prices afforded by big-box operations. On the other hand, tourists were happy to try something new and found my prices very reasonable. Keen to go into a second year, we took a careful look at the cost/revenue picture and despite my enthusiasm and the fun of it all, the numbers just didn’t add up.

The priceless experience:

  • A garden full of “left-overs” which were luckily largely perennials
  • Seed starting and growing healthy plants knowledge
  • Met some nice fellow vendors and locals
  • Life-long memories of my early-morning greenhouse days which I call up in times of stress
  •  A bigger greenhouse than I really need which is an appreciated luxury
  • Keen interest in affordable, renewable energy to heat my greenhouse in the future
  • A better understanding of Farmer’s Market economics


The next venture…organic berries. We have 125 raspberry canes, about 25 blueberry bushes and a good-sized strawberry patch. Another 100 canes will be planted this spring. No heating bill, no ongoing costs for soil, pots, seeds, berries always sell out first at the market… Stay tuned.

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