Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


Lavender harvest

Lavender harvesting with every bee in Naramata

IMG_9306.JPGHarvesting lavender…those words together sound pretty idyllic. Even in the heat and smoke from Okanagan fires it is a pretty amazing way to spend a morning. It is the only farm work I’ve done where you come home hot, dirty and sore but smelling better than when you started.

In movie speak It’s The Colour of Purple, Scent of a Woman and Attack of the Killer Bees all rolled into one. The glorious purpleness of the fields, the clean, stringent and all encompassing lavender aroma and the buzzing of a zillion bees make the time spent at Forest Greenman Lavender Farm in Naramata an intense sensory experience. This photo essay captures the sights of the morning…your imagination will have to fill in the rest.

The bunches are left to dry in the sun before being collected to hang to dry.
Farm owner Doug hams it up while Brian does all the work.
It was about 30 degrees by quitting time.
A neighbour, aptly named Harvest, dropped by to help.
Doug felt the bee population had never been as high. Two harvesters got stung, an occupational hazard.


It takes several passes with a scythe to collect enough lavender to make a big fat bunch.
The bees were everywhere. They seem to move along as you work and only sting if they get caught up while you are gathering the stocks or while transporting the bundles.


It’s the last year of Forest Greenman Lavender Farm for Doug and Karolina as they have sold the farm. Be sure to drop by this season to get your aromatherapy.  It’s not the last year for lavender though as the couple have a new venture in the wings involving this amazing plant.
Some of the lavender we harvested will be distilled for its essential oils.
Some will be sold in dried bunches.
The lavender fields are rimmed with lovely fruit trees.
This old Massey-Fergus is a beauty.
These are special cherries, Balatons. I traded my labour for some to make the best jam in the world.


A few bunches came home with me!
Thanks Doug and Karolina for letting me pitch in.

Five things I learned while harvesting lavender

“Forgiveness is the smell that lavender gives out when you tread on it.” Mark Twain. It’s also the smell that my badly abused running shoes now surprisingly give off when I tread with them on after three days of harvesting lavender at Forest Greenman Lavender Farm in Naramata.
  1. Despite a setting of almost unreal bucolic beauty taken even father into a dream state by its heady scent and the background buzz of a million bees, lavender harvesting, like other farm-work, is hard-work. Bend, employ your hand and wrist to gather stocks, saw them off with your mini scythe with its serrated edge, repeat several more times, gather together into one big bunch, wrestle an elastic band twice around the bunch and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…on the hottest days of the summer so far this year.
Note bent-over position

2. You learn a ton about your fellow harvesters and harvesting with interesting, smart people with great stories is an antidote to 34 degree heat. Topics of conversation, in no particular order, included: Naramata gossip, farming, football, antique shopping in France, tai chi, swimming, children, pesticide practices, recipes, American politics, British politics, writing, travel, sciatica, tendonitis, knee replacements, house renovation, recipes, cherries, bee hives, ski instructing, mountain guiding, tragic accidents, cycling, triathlon, the English Channel, ancestry, dogs, raspberry farming, wine, helicopters, fire fighting, the olympics, compost, lavender and a story about the lavender farm’s co-owner’s middle-of-the-night chase after an escaped chicken disturbed by a fox that ended with an descriptive image of Doug with a chicken under one arm and a 22 over his other shoulder returning home buck naked.

Author of The Butcher, The Baker, the Wine and Cheese Maker — An Okanagan Cookbook, Jennifer Schell, dropped by long enough to get a taste of the harvesting experience and to add some fresh topics of conversation to boost our flagging spirits.

3. Bees are big fans of lavender, especially when most other Okanagan Valley crops are no longer in bloom and numerous apiarists have cleverly placed hives near the lavender farm. As we worked, bees would move from the plant being harvested to the next, in their quest to make lavender honey. The Handyman, who also came to harvest, was worried. “What’s going to happen when we reach the very last plant? There are going to be a great many very pissed off bees on it.” Fortunately, we left before that eventuality.

The background buzz in the field was incredible.

4. I am a miser. The harder I work for a buck the less I am willing to spend it. This goes for the income from our raspberry farming as well. Money earned from writing is much easier to spend on a lunch out or a drink at the lovely distillery at the end of our road.

Six a.m. was the loveliest time of the day at the farm before the big heat made us swoon.

5. This sounds completely romance novel mawkishly sentimental, but experiences like harvesting lavender at Doug and Karolina’s farm with The Handyman, our friend Bill and new friends made in the field, makes me love Naramata all the more. A last snippet of conversation to dispel the barfiness…”Doug, I think the best place to fart is in a lavender field. No one would notice.” Doug’s measured response, “I completely disagree. I think the contrast is too great. A much better place to pass wind would be in a sewage treatment plant where it would go unremarked, in my opinion.”

Lavender Fields Forever

It’s harvest time for some of the lavender at Naramata’s Forest Green Man Lavender Farm.

Me and my camera paid a visit to Karolina and Doug’s lavender farm to drop off 140 white lavender plants I started from cuttings for them in my greenhouse.

Results of an experiment using two root stimulating mediums.

In an earlier post…Money for nothing and the plants for free…I did an experiment using honey on half the stems to be rooted and a root hormone stimulate (powder) on the other half. I had equal success with both methods so will use the more natural, readily available and economical honey from now on. After I took the cuttings from the farm, prepared them for planting, transplanted them from plug trays into bigger pots and  fussed and hovered over the little guys for several months I have now turned them over to the lavender farm to complete the fussing for a while longer before they have enough of a root system to withstand transplanting in the field. Lavender grows best from cuttings as they often don’t come true from seeds. The white lavender looks stunning in wedding photographs. I did a trade for some of the farms famous Balton sour cherries.

IMG_9776.JPGThe farm was in the midst of their first harvesting when I stopped by.


Doug with some bunches to hang to dry.


I’m looking forward to helping with the harvest in about two weeks. The scent is unbelievable. I wonder if I will be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz with the poppies and just fall asleep in the field. 



I took a bunch home (the spindly one is from my own lavender) and its drying on my kitchen light.

Blog at

Up ↑