Lavender HIll Farm of Niles, MI

  (Niles, Michigan)
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Sights and Sounds of Spring

This past week, as temperatures approached 60 degrees on several occasions, my emotions rode the rollercoaster ride that describes spring on the farm.  Elation over bulbs starting to pop, spring peepers peeping in the pond out back, doves cooing in the late afternoon warmth, songbirds competing for prime nesting materials, and kitties cavorting in the soft, greening grass, is tempered by an underlying angst over the growing list of time-dependent chores that need to be done to get ready for summer.  

A dry week in March is a blessing, allowing for completion of yardwork that may not get done once planting time and lavender pruning time arrives later in the spring.  Leaves that didn't get raked last fall due to the early snow were collected and moved to our growing compost pile. Additions of manure from the barnyard added nitrogen, and uneaten hay added carbon & bulk.  Bulbs were transplanted to make way for our planned ramp entry on which construction has resumed.  Our potted Christmas tree was planted in the yard; not a small job since Bill uncovered "the mother of all rocks" during the act. "Mother rock" is now parked in the front yard, awaiting a final home.  Grass needs to be planted at the location of several 2008 "projects". 

As we plod through the seemingly unending list of tasks, we make sure to take time to enjoy the sights and sounds of spring.


The End of an Era

This past Wednesday marked the end of an era at our farm.  Our Black Welsh Mountain Ram, Rambo died of natural causes.  He is pictured on the first page of our web site at We got Rambo and three purebred ewes from Wye Plantation in Maryland in 2000.  Tom Wyman, the owner, imported this breed of sheep from Great Britain in about 1972.  Black Welsh Mountain sheep are small animals, and notable because of their very black wool. Though the wool surface will bleach to brown in the sun, it is very black beneath.  But what we love the most is the docile, gentle nature of this breed. Even though Rambo had a mean looking set of horns, we knew he would never hurt anyone.  A nicer ram we have never had.  

We will always remember the trip back from Maryland in October of 2000 with Rambo and the ewes in the back of our capped Ford F150.  We parked for the night in the driveway of my sister's house in a Philadelphia suburb.  Many of the neighbors probably wondered what the loud drumming noise was that they heard throughout the night. It was in fact Rambo's horns hitting the cap of the pickup as he got friendly with the ewes.  We heard the same noise as we drove down the highway all the way home.  It took a few generations before these new, east coast sheep really integrated with the rest of our flock of mostly Suffolk sheep. Now we raise almost excusively Black Welsh and are phasing out the Suffolk because of their easier care and gentle nature.


Christmas is Coming

December 7, 2008

I'm resting today after being at the Chesterton, Indiana Mistletoe Market yesterday. It was good seeing lots of folks I know from previous years selling at the Chesterton European market.  This week will be a busy one, full of preparations for Christmas; packing gifts for out of town relatives, writing Christmas cards, and making special holiday decorations from paper, wool, evergreens and lavender.  I am also preparing for our last scheduled open day this year for the shop on the farm this Saturday, December 13.  I hope that folks will make the trek out here to see the natural beauty we enjoy every day.

The fresh 10 inches of snow that has fallen over the last two days paints a Christmaslike setting on our farm.  The evergreen boughs are frosted white, and the lavender is blanketed with snow, a good protection from our cold winters.  Even today it is snowing lightly but in big, discrete flakes, reminiscent of the Christmas-eve snow in "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Like Linus I hope that people will keep in mind the real reason for the season this year.


Family Thanksgiving at the Farm

This Thanksgiving my husband and I are celebrating the 10th anniversary of living on the farm.  Ten years ago we bought the 1850 farmhouse from my parents who had lived here since 1952.  They were ready to downsize and built a smaller house next door on the farm.  We are so thankful to be able to celebrate this anniversary with them still living next door. My dad is 89 now and my mother 87 and we treasure the time we are able to spend with them.  Dad's health has been failing this year, but he still enjoys good food and so we look forward to seeing him relish the special meals we prepare at this season.  Though my seven brothers and sisters are scattered around the country, many will make it "home" this week. Lots of special meals will be shared as we enjoy Thanksgiving week rather than Thanksgiving day as most people know this holiday. 

Roast Leg of Lamb Preparation

One favorite food of our family is leg of lamb. Though the accompaniments can vary, we usually prepare the leg the same way.  Cut slits in the leg and insert slices of fresh garlic. Drizzle olive oil on the leg and rub the outside of the leg with Herbes de Provence, a herb blend that contains lavender, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place the leg in a roasting pan and surround it with an assortment of vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, even diced sweet potatoes.  We often pour about 2 cups of some inexpensive red wine in the roaster as well.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees F and place the roaster on a rack about a third of the way from the bottom of the oven.  After about 15-20  minutes turn the oven temperature down to 375 F.  Roasting time will vary depending on the size of the leg, but doneness is best tested by internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer.  We like our lamb medium rare, slightly pink. For that stage of doneness remove the lamb at an internal temperature of 130 F.  Let it rest on the counter covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving it into thin slices. Be sure to heat your serving platter while the roast is resting so your lamb will stay warm longer. Take some of the vegetables out of the roaster and serve as a side dish. The other vegetables can be pureed with the juices and extra broth (chicken or beef) if necessary for a sauce. 


October 28, 2008 -First Snow

Waking up this morning to an inch of snow on the ground was reminder enough that Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas is not far behind!  This change of season always rekindles in me the desire to start baking again.  Today I tried a new recipe for jam thumbprint cookies but added dried lavender to the cookie recipe and used lavender jelly as the filling.  I must say they were very tasty. I'll be serving them at our shop on the farm this Saturday. Of course we have lavender for culinary use for sale there.  Dried lavender adds an interesting flavor to many types of foods. I recommend trying a teaspoon or so of ground lavender flowers in just about any sugar cookie or white or yellow cake recipe. Lavender is especially good in combination with lemon or other citrus in cookies or cakes.  Enjoy!
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