Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bringing Down the House (or Closing the Shows in 2014)

2014 has come and gone and we are almost one month into 2015.  Gene and I were vendors at many bazaars, festivals and shows held throughout Central Oregon during the 2014 Christmas season.  We also attended the North West Regional Lavender Conference in October.  Gene and I attended different classes offered during the three-day event and then would meet up and discuss what we found interesting, met people who taught us a lot and just as enthusiastic about lavender as we were and ate, and ate, and ate.  What did I take away from the Conference:  a satisfaction of meeting the wonderful lady face-to-face I buy the fabric from to make my handmade products (sachets, pillows, etc.), beginning the (long) learning process about how lavender affects our body ("sesquiterpenes" and "monoterpenes") and learning while watching a demonstration of extracting lavender oil from frozen lavender buds.  You'll have to ask Gene what his take was on the Conference:  it is positive but his classes and what he took away are different from mine.  This is the second lavender conference Gene and I attended.  It was well worth the money and time involved in attending and we were sad to see the Conference end.

Gene and I at the NW Regional Lavender Conference:  10/24-26/2014
One of the "big" shows we attended was the Central Oregon Holiday Arts and Crafts Show held at the Fairgrounds in Redmond.  Gene and I felt the show culture changed in 2014 from 2013 in that there was a lot of liquor this year:  wineries, breweries, even a vodka vendor.  We offered three new products:  Hardanger Pillows, Provence Lavender Wands and Printed Sayings on Lined Linen Pillows.  It was enjoyable talking to people who recognized hardanger.  One precious lady told me that she framed and hung over her mantle a piece of hardanger curtain her mother made many years ago.  The Provence Lavender Wands sold out before the first day was done.  It was fun listening to the guests laugh and talk with each other as they showed and read the individual sayings printed on the lined linen pillows.  The pillows sold quickly and I learned other sayings people would like to see printed!  One young lady asked for one that had "Best Friends Forever".  I thought this was an excellent idea!  I need to listen to the young more often.

Food Stuffs and Ornamental Dolls
Totes, Dried Lavender Buds, Silk Scarves, China

The Holiday Market at Centennial Park is one of our favorite and one of our last shows of the season.  The City of Redmond's Chamber of Commerce contracted with the Redmond High School students to make several small replicas of buildings--a church, a schoolhouse, a livery stable--and place them around the park for vendors to rent.  They have electricity to them and were decorated with festive garland and twinkly lights.  (Spaces can also be rented for vendors who have canopies or tables.)  Our thanks to the Chamber staff for their helpfulness in scraping off the ice on the walkway, putting deicer down by our booth and the courtyard, constantly asking how they could help, stopping by and making sure everything was o.k. and that we were happy. 

The weather the day before the market opening had been terrible--wind and rain--and Gene and I looked at one another, shook our heads and told each other there would be no way for the market to be held the next day.  Even though we would be inside, we were concerned no one would show up because the weather was just too nasty.  But, true to Central Oregon weather, the next day was bright and beautiful, the sky was as blue as could be and steady customers throughout the day.   

Holiday Market at Centennia Park:  12/6,13/2014

doorstops, printed sayings on pillows, moth repellents,
white-on-white hardanger pillows, drawer sachets,
colored hardanger pillows

honey, our daughter's  much sought-after lipbalm, hydrosol, lavender travel sachets

crochet ornamental Christmas dolls

quilted ornamental Christmas balls

All in all, 2014 was a very good vendor year.  To all of those who stopped by and visited, thank you.  To all of those who purchased our products, thank you.  To all of those who expressed an interest in visiting our farm, we look forward to seeing you again.  Because of all of you, you enhance and energize our lives--Gene and mine's--and we thank you.  We wish you all a Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 10, 2015


I thought I would start this blog by talking about the good times we had in 2014:  the excitement of having two new greenhouses constructed; the thrill of propagating several varieties of lavender and watching them grow in our very own greenhouses;  meeting lots of wonderful, extraordinary people at shows and those who took time out of their busy schedules and visited us on our farm; finding and buying a weeder which lessened our time out in the fields weeding.  We have so many good times  in 2014 to remember.   The bad and inbetween times?  I was really looking forward to placing my  arm on my forehead getting my "Oh, how I suffer" stance as I wrote about those times.  My mind seems to remember ever minute detail and I was so relishing writing about them.  Then the line from the 15th Century Nun prayer crept into my mind..  "Seal my lips from my aches and pains.  They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by."  2014 is not the year to rehearse my aches and pains.  Rather, 2014 was the year of realizing my aches and pains were pretty trivial.  So many tragically sad events; but the one event that stood out for me and made me stop and take a deep breath  happened close to home.  It may not have been a major, newsworthy event in your part of the world but, to my family and I, it was profound and affected over 200 families in a lovely, tightly-knit rural community.
Greenhouse 2014 (Prior to 11-14-2014)

On November 14, 2014, snow started to fall on Central Oregon.   The snow fell all day, covering the ground and adding up to a good foot of the fluffy white stuff.  Around 10 p.m., a freezing rain started and lasted until almost 3 a.m.  Then, it started snowing again and by morning, there was about two and one-half feet of snow.  We sunk deep and our boots were full of the snow as we walked outside to shovel off the walkways and take the broom and try to knock the snow off the roof.  We packed water to our poor chickens who wouldn't come out of their coops even when we threw an abundance of scratch at them.  They hunkered down under the heat lamps, knowing their pellets were within walking distance in the coop and looking at us as if we were without brains for even thinking they would venture outside.  They were perfectly content to stay put where it was warm and cozy.  In Prineville,  mill workers were headed to work.  Out of five original mills back in Prineville's heyday, only two remained, Contact Lumber and Woodgrain Millwork.  The employees of these two mills had two weeks before Thanksgiving dinner when they would be gathering around the table for fellowship with their loved ones and six weeks before Christmas Day when they would hear the squeals and giggles of their children as presents were ripped opened and hugs and "I love you" were exchanged.  Black Friday was held the day after Thanksgiving and people were hoping to make that paycheck stretch a little further by shopping for bargains.

Gene and I were preparing for a couple shows.  We had new products and were finishing up on some of the handmade items to take to the shows.  We were nice and cozy tucked into our home, plenty of wood for heat and food in the pantry.  If the electricity went off, we were prepared with lamps and warm clothing.   The lyric to the song "Country folk can survive" came to mind as Gene and I talked about being prepared.  

That night we listened to the 10 o'clock news before going to  bed.  We heard the report and saw the film of  Woodgrain Millworks' roof collapsing and workers being sent home.  We were relieved to hear that no one had been hurt.  The workers expected to go back to work as soon as the damaged area was repaired.  Life would continue, Thanksgiving and Christmas would come and their paycheck might be a little less but there would still be a paycheck.  Millworkers are use to the ups and downs of their vocation and know you just tighten your belt a little during the bad times.  Gene and I got up the next morning, fed ourselves, our puppies, our chickens, loaded up the pickup with our products and went to our scheduled shows.  Even though we met wonderful people, came home and prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we still anxiously waited to hear any news about the people in Prineville.  Gene knew and worked with many of those affected and worried about their welfare.  Much to our dismay, the mill announced they were finished:  almost all the workers--over 200 of them--were without work two weeks before Thanksgiving and six weeks before Christmas.  Everyone--friends, family, agencies, businesses--was scrambling around trying to put together a plan to help but time marched on and these people were unexpectedly without a means of earning a livelihood.

Time does not stop for mankind. It marches on regardless of our existence on this beautiful planet we call home. Time is not personal or intimate. It is like the proverbial rabbit in the children's classic fairy tale "Alice in Wonderland" as it scurries towards a darkened hole into the unknown crying "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date' and then disappears. Time, that proverbial twitching rabbit, did not stand still on November 14, 2014. In the blink of an eye, time twitched and ran into the unknown, leaving behind the rest of us wondering what the hell had just happened.

Marching Forward in Time: January 24, 2016

I had a hard time writing about those workers and decided to put this entry on hold until I was in a better frame of mind. I couldn't finish it or proof it without getting upset. I was concerned about those workers and was hoping that Woodgrain Millworks would be able to rebuild and start back up in a few months. Working with these people brings on a whole new meaning to community. They work together, fight together, play together and if you ever get into trouble, they unite together as only a rural small community can.

The first lay off after the collapse of the Woodgrain Millwork roof was about 185 people; by the end of December 31, 85 more human souls were without work. It's hard to find work in Crook County: there is a 10.1% unemployment rate. Good people, good hardworking people without work and very little hope of finding a way to support themselves and their families unless they move away from their homes and loved ones. It's hard. It's hard on marriages, on children, on the close-knit community: it's just hard on everyone. We hunt, we fish, we grow gardens, we sell what we don't need and we barter for what we do need: we know how to survive in rural America. We don't ask for handouts or anyone's pity; we just ask that you get out of our way while we pick ourselves up and move forward with our lives. The people of Prineville and who work at Woodgrain Millworks are the backbone of this country; it is that spirit of being knocked down and getting back up that made and makes this country great.

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk 'til dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke, too
Ain't too many things these ole boys can't do
We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Because you can't starve us out
And you can't make us run
'Cause one-of-'em old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma'am
And if you ain't into that we don't give a damn

("A Country Boy Can Survive" - Hank Williams Jr.)

I was hoping against hope that the few workers left at Woodgrain Millwork would be able to hold onto their jobs. I was hoping against hope that, somehow, Woodgrain Millworks would be able to start back up. However, later in the year a very brief announcement in October, 2015 on the local tv station let us know that Woodgrain Millwork was closing its doors forever at the end of the year. Fifty-five more citizens of the small town of Prineville, population 9200 (plus or minus a few), lost their jobs and an era of good paying jobs for blue collar workers was gone forever. But these country folks have taken their licks before and know how to survive.

Greenhouse Collapse 11-14-2014

On that snowy, icy night, both our greenhouses collapsed. Gene had been out all day sweeping off the snow as it fell and would come in during the day, warm himself up for a few minutes and head back out to get the snow off the roof. It snowed all day and into the night but Gene kept knocking the snow off the roofs of the greenhouses. About 10 p.m., he came indoors. He thought the snow was abating and that the greenhouses would be o.k. We watched the evening news, listened to the weather and then went to bed. About 3 a.m. I awoke and sat straight up with Gene quietly saying, "I think the greenhouses just went down." I looked out the window but couldn't see a thing so, being curious, I went downstairs, got my coat, ear muffs, gloves, scarf and boots out of the closet and headed out to see what I could see. Out the door I went, down the walkway and stepped off into the snow. Well, that was just about as stupid as going outside because the minute I stepped off the walkway, I came to an abrupt halt in the snow which filled my boots. It was about two feet deep and I didn't have my ski poles to help keep me up. However, I was focussed on those greenhouses: it was 3 a.m., the greenhouses were just a few feet away from me and I wasn't going to let a little snow stop me. I couldn't see very well but I could see that the inside of the greenhouses and the roofs of both of them, as I walked around them, were collapsed. All our tables, all our propagation, all our dreams were on the floor. I got back into the house, climbed back into bed, told Gene he was right, put my feet on his calves because they were freezing and he was so warm and went to sleep. There was not much more we could do at this point.

The next evening, our contractor came out and he and Gene went out to the greenhouses to survey the damage. Yep! They're gone for, done, finished, adios amigos. Nothing could be done in the snow but, come spring, we would be able to start building. And that's what we did. We could go backwards and not do anything, we could stand there and twiddle our thumbs or we could go forward and build. Like most people who live in the country, we know there are good times, there are hard times but standing there twiddling our thumbs and crying "oh dear, oh dear" was not in the cards. So, one greenhouse went up and then the weather again decided our fate by being so pretty that our lavender budded early, about three weeks early. A halt was put to finishing the second greenhouse while we harvested, processed, bagged and sold and made products from our extraordinary producing lavender. About the time we finished the harvest, the weather changed so we weren't able to get back and finish the second greenhouse... It won't take long because most of the work is done, but, I have to tell you, the one completed greenhouse is beautiful.

Through it all, Gene and I have grown to be thankful: thankful for friends and family who came to help, wipe away our tears, prop us up when we listed a little to the "poor little me" syndrome. We have watched and learned from our families who raised us to be who we are today, the friends from childhood to adulthood who put up with us, almost all people who lived in small rural tight-knit communities like Prineville. Good people, good hardworking people, resilient, strong in body, strong in mind and strong in character. Country folks do know how to survive but, more than that, we know how to live.