the lavender way

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"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

farming the lavender way


One of the major precepts of *Fukuoka*
Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer who developed what many consider to be a revolutionary method of sustainable agriculture.
's method is to minimise, or avoid altogether, tilling the land. We are slowly adapting his methods to a mixed lavender and olive farm: we experiment. Our aim in all of this is to minimize inputs and maximize the benefits to the ecosystem to the advantage of our crops and to discover a properly sustainable model for the farm.


Apart from the odd infestation of immature locusts blown in on the south winds (2003 - and they seemed incapable or unprepared to attack either the lavender or the olives) the major pest threats to our crops are the rosemary beetle (lavender) and the olive fruit fly.

We have small numbers of rosemary beetle (and they are *very pretty*
Gaudy but beautiful
) but their depradations are minimal and we allow them their share for now rather than spray chemicals of any description.

Olive fruit fly is a constant worry but since all "organically approved" treatments are highly toxic to both fish and bees we refuse to use them. Infestations of olive fruit fly below 30% spread are generally considered immaterial to olive oil crops but seriously damaging to eating olives at levels above 10%. Vigilance is our keyword vis a vis the olive fruit fly. That and crossed fingers. Although practice has shown that if anything the levels of fruit fly damge to our crops are somewhat lower than comparable, non-contiguous groves. This we attribute, unscientifically, to the wild nature of our grove which, we believe is now host to some beneficial organism that is keeping their numbers down to manageable proportions.


Since we refuse to till we have learned, and are constantly teaching ourselves, about companion planting. Unwanted or interfering plants are removed by hand. Most often the roots are allowed to remain since they help to hold the soil together and mitigate against erosion.


By pruning only during dry periods we minimise our exposure to the fungus that cause knotty scabs to form - *the olive knot disease*
Canonical olive knot damage


Since our primary crop is lavender and since the aroma and essential oil of lavender is adversely affected by ANY fertiliser we use none and as the olives trees sit somewhat higher on the land than the lavender we use no fertilisers on the olives to avoid run-off and seepage.


Despite the almost universal love of chainsaws we prefer to prune our olives with beautiful Japanese pull action *saws*
24 inch Pruning saw by ARS
. We tried a chainsaw in the early years but soon became convinced that chainsaws produce a trauma response in the trees. Handsaws are slower and are harder physical work but such work is a strangely meditative task. Pruning entirely by hand gives us longer to consider the pruning task in both tree and grove holistic perspectives. And having eschewed the chainsaw for pruning we now even log by hand.


Having eschewed tillage and the chainsaw we use no power tools of any description in our farming save for a chipper (see CHIPPING & MULCHING below). Planting, harvesting and pruning are all done by hand power alone.


Although the olive grove was irrigated before we took it over we quickly acclimatised the trees to drought and they now they receive no irrigation.

Lavender hates to have its feet wet and fortunately our plot is free draining and on a slope it is by and large happy most of the year. However, prolonged drought is not unknown here and, under exceptional conditions we irrigate lightly. Irrigation pipe is run to each of the lavender plots and drip irrigation on a plant by plant basis is our method of choice.

Irrigation water is supplied by a local body charged with preserving the ecosystem and is delivered separately from the drinking water. We are engaged in a longer term rainwater harvesting project which, we hope, will allow us to be self contained for farming purposes in due course.



All small olive prunings are *chipped*
The Viking GE150 chipper.
and used either as mulch or as pathways. Larger olive prunings are logged, seasoned, and burnt in the winter stove. Mulberry prunings, which are unsuitable for chipping due to their papery internal structures, are either used as fencing, being woven into the bamboo or burned as kindling in the winter stove. Brambles and the big dead wood from the older lavender as well as bamboo cut back is used as fencing.

All lavender prunings and plant waste as well as all kitchen waste are composted in one of the many composters positioned around the farm.

        the chipping path runs past the mimosa

living the lavender way


We have a small PV capacity - the rest we get from the grid. When PV prices come down we will increase PV capacity. We use as little electricity as possible - no A/C units here - minimal water heating on occasional cloudy winter days (the sun does the rest).


A woodburning stove in winter - fuelled by seasoned olive logs.


We have separate supplies for irrigation and drinking quality water but we gather all our actual drinking water from a nearby spring. We are engaged in a long term rain water harvesting project of our own.


We have a small and economical diesel pick up for general farm use but use the bus service for trips to the main towns.


Our motto: "Nothing is rubbish until nobody can find any use for it".

      frost in the lavender

a year at the lavender way



Pruning all varieties.


We harvest olives only after a decent amount of rainfall and preferably after a cold snap. Thus we usually end up harvesting in January, during the *halcyon days* The Halcyon is the name of a bird in Greek legend which is commonly associated with the kingfisher.

The ancients believed that fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected in the depths of winter when the halcyon would calm the surface of the sea in order to brood her eggs on a floating nest.
. However, since the trees should not be touched, and certainly not pruned, when they are wet harvest here has been known to slip into February or even March.





Potting up lavender cuttings.


Pruning by hand. March is usually the first dry month and thus marks the beginning of olive pruning. Pruning olives when wet encourages fungal infections leading to olive knot disease.






Harvesting - variety "Lady"



Harvesting - variety "Angustifolia"



Harvesting - variety "Angustifolia"



Harvesting - variety "Angustifolia"

Distillation - variety "Angustifolia"



Harvesting - variety "Spica"

Distillation - variety "Spica"



Harvesting regrowth and preparing dried products. Making lavender *wands*
Handcrafted lavender wands.



By the beginning of November the cuttings from last year that have been potted on and nursed through their first harsh summer are ready for planting out. Some are used to fill gaps in the existing circles where plants have died back and others are used to start new circles.

Taking cuttings is dependent on both the weather and the relative maturity of the plants within their annual cycle. The start of a year's cuttings season is indicated when the autumn rains have started and soon after the appearance of new growth. Cuttiings are taken from new growth and planted into troughs and cuttings trays.

Pruning all varieties.



           snow on the mountains to the south