Sunday, March 21, 2010

We Were in Lavender Country!

On a recent trip to Provence (October 2009) we went to a lavender museum in the small town of Coustellet, which is about 40 km east of Avignon. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I had to wonder what could be of interest there...
The first thing you learn is that there are two types of lavender used in the perfume industry. Since I am very interested in plants, it immediately became interesting.

Neither of these are the ornamental lavenders we grow in our gardens. One is referred to as fine lavender and it is distilled and sold as a perfume. It is very expensive. It is very hardy and and grows from 800 mt (~2500') to 1400 mt (~4500') in altitude.

The other is a hybrid that was developed to produce more flowers and therefore more perfume. It has many branches whereas the ornamental one has more compact flowers and the flowers are on an unbranched stem.

(taken from the website of the Lavender Museum)
The hybrid lavender is referred to as lavandine. It grows in limestone soils, below 600 mt (~2000'). The perfume has a camphor smell, though you can still tell that it is lavender. It is used to scent things like wash detergent and is called an industrial perfume. It is no longer cultivated in France.

Next was a movie. We were horrified to learn that after the perfume is distilled the waste material (flowers and stems) is dumped over a bank and burned. We mentioned our dismay to the young lady at the front desk, and it seems that others had made a similar comment. She said that the material could not be composted. I was willing to allow her that (after all, she was just an employee) but I asked her to inform her bosses that the material could be shredded and used as mulch, tilled into the soil, etc. I was pleased to see that my son felt as strongly about this as I did!

Once in the actual museum we were handed an object about the same size as a walkie-talkie, which explained all the exhibits to us. They have them available in many languages. We simply pressed the button of the display and we got an excellent explanation. This made a huge difference to our enjoyment of the museum. The tour went at whatever pace you wanted it to and you didn't have to read anything.

On the left in the poster is described the fine lavender, and on the right is the lavandine. It takes 130 kg of lavender flowers to make one kg of essential oil and 20 to 25 kg of essential oil is produced per hectare (2.5 acres). No wonder its so expensive!
Lavender blooms in June, July and early August and is harvested when in full bloom. The countryside is a patchwork of purple fields during bloom-time and many artists are inspired to paint the scene.

The boutique has beautiful (but expensive) products...lotions, massage oil, soaps, bubble bath, eau de toilette, shower gel, etc. We truly enjoyed this museum!!

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Friday, October 23, 2009


If I remember correctly, long ago I promised to devote a post to Kiva. I just finished re-investing the loan re-payments and I noticed a nice blurb that I could just drop into this blog post.

I also highly recommend a gift certificate as a Christmas present for all those people who just don't need anymore "stuff" for Christmas. Choosing the loan recipients is a wonderful experience!


I just made a loan to someone in Liberia using a revolutionary new website called Kiva (

You can go to Kiva's website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent - and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back - and Kiva's loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I just made a loan to an entrepreneur named Tenneh Saah in Liberia.
She is a widow supporting her 4 children with her very small business. She still need another $750.00 to complete her loan request of $1,000.00 (you can loan as little as $25.00!). Help me get this entrepreneur off the ground by clicking on the link below to make a loan to Tenneh Saah too:

(I expect that by the time you read this she will have received all the money she needs, but many other have requested loans, so just go to or click the banner on the right side of this blog.)

It's finally easy to actually do something about poverty - using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they're using it for. And most of all, I know that I'm helping them build a
sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.

Join me in changing the world - one loan at a time.


What others are saying about

'Revolutionising how donors and lenders in the US are connecting with small entrepreneurs in developing countries.'
-- BBC

'If you've got 25 bucks, a PC and a PayPal account, you've now got the wherewithal to be an international financier.'
-- CNN Money

'Smaller investors can make loans of as little as $25 to specific individual entrepreneurs through a service launched last fall by'
-- The Wall Street Journal

'An inexpensive feel-good investment opportunity...All loaned funds go directly to the applicants, and most loans are repaid in full.'
-- Entrepreneur Magazine

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Clematis and Siberian Iris

The clematis was the one I thought I moved a few years ago, and was supposed to be purple and white....a real beauty. No complaints about his one, especially when I saw it next to the purple Siberian Iris!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Magnificent Magnolia Tree

There are quite a few magnolia trees in Kelowna BC. Most years I seem to be there at the right time to witness their magnificence.

It was very difficult to find a single flower to photograph, and even more difficult to be able to set it off on its own, like this one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recipe for Hand Cream, or Lotion

Years ago a thoughtful quilter gave me a small container of homemade hand lotion, along with the recipe to make more of my own. I can't remember her name, but I know she lived at the time, in Penticton, BC. If she happens to read this, I want to thank her many times over!

Since the only time of the year that I need a hand lotion is in the spring and is to do with gardening, it occurred to me that there may be others who would like this recipe. It is also free of scented ingredients, which has been a real hit with people with allergies, and since my husband discovered it, he uses it more than I do!

The ingredients are available at a pharmacy, and in Canada I have to get most of them directly from the pharmacist. Only the glycerine is likely to be out on the shelves. In our very small town the pharmacist had to order in some of the ingredients for me, but this recipe is now so popular here that he keeps them in stock. The cost is about $15-20 for the 1.5 litres (or quarts) that this recipe makes.

Gardener's Hand Cream

15 gm Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
120 gm Cetyl Alcohol
2 - 100ml bottle Glycerine
15 gm Lanolin Anhydrous
4 cups boiling water

Melt first four ingredients in a double boiler. The sulphate does not melt, but will later, when added to the water.

Add to boiling water in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed until thick and creamy (this takes about 10 minutes). You can add a few tablespoons of aloe vera gel if you wish. Also, some of your favourite essential oil if you prefer it to be scented.

Makes about 1.5 litres or quarts.

I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Have Planted My Roses

Sort of. In early March I received a phone call from Rachel at Palatine Roses. I had placed an order last fall and had asked for shipping in mid April. Last year they arrived with lots of long new growth that needed to be removed because the bare roots can't supply that growth with water. So when Rachel asked if she could ship earlier I was torn but her reasoning was good. She wanted to ship all the rose orders to BC in a cold storage truck and then have them distributed by Canada Post from a single point in BC. I explained that I was in the part of BC that gets really cold and snowy, not the balmy part. But she was able to convince me that I could simply heel them in, paying attention to placing them horizontally and covering them with dirt.

The roses arrived and I looked out at our yard and shook my head. No dirt was showing. Not wanting to pot up so many roses I came up with an idea. Logic told me that the huge piles of snow might do. So I dug a hole in a pile that I knew would melt late because of it being in the shade, and I laid the incredibly big and healthy (with no new growth) group of bare root roses in the snow and carefully settled loose snow in between all the roots and around the rest of the plants. I figured they couldn't possibly dry out there, right? And when you think about it, this isn't much different from what Mother Nature does to them. While it is cold in their den, its not freezing. Okay, I think I have convinced myself. They will be just fine.

Update: It worked out superbly and I will definitely do this again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Pictures Tell the Sad Tale

The release of pent-up snow on our metal roof is a pretty significant event. It can fall off the upper roof, onto the main one with a house-shaking thud. Just such a thud was heard but my husband said "I hope that wasn't the chimney. It is leaning." Such a comment definitely piqued my interest!! So out we dashed to view the roof. The chimney was still where it was supposed to be, but it was definitely leaning.

No matter what angle you viewed it from, it was definitely leaning.

So back in we went and in less than 5 minutes. We heard another crash. DH says "That has to be the chimney."

He went up to survey the damage. Its hard to tell from this picture that he is on a roof, but he is many feet above the ground.

So he determined that since it is too cold for mortar to set, we will have to do without the use of our woodstove for the rest of the winter. I sure hope we are done with the coldest part of the winter and will just coast out the rest of it. Dare I hope?