His latest creation for our woodcraft offering is a straight walking stick shaped from a solid length hazel. At its head the bark has been left on and a pattern carved into it. This not only offers a firm grip but provides an attractive decoration and contrast in colour and texture to the smoother shaft.
You don’t have to be old to use a walking stick. They make practical gifts for all ages, helping to keep your balance on muddy paths, going up or down slippery slopes, or crossing streams. They measure approximately 1.3mts in length, although they can be made to measure.
Back in October we talked about the history and making of besom brooms, and how they are still sought after by gardeners for lawn care. Reuben has now produced a selection of besoms with hazel staves and birch twigs for the brush. Don’t forget that if looked after a besom will last fifteen years, it looks better than a plastic or metal handled broom, and when its worn out just throw it on the bonfire rather than landfill it. You could also dress it up and use it as part of your Christmas decorations.
Besoms make great presents for gardeners as they are environmentally friendly and practical for sweeping worm casts and leaves from the lawn. As these are handmade from materials grown on the farm there is a limited supply so please don’t leave it too late.
Some things are perfect the way nature intended. Last month we highlighted mistletoe as a plant associated with Christmas for hundreds of years; another such plant is holly. Considered a sign of fertility by druids because it is an evergreen, it was considered good luck to hang in the home. The Romans hung their buildings and homes with it during the festival of Saturnalia on 17th December as they associated it with the god of harvesting and agriculture, Saturn. Christians believe that the prickly leaves are a symbol of the crown of thorns Jesus had placed on his head before he died and the red berries his blood on the cross.
Whatever your beliefs, holly makes an attractive, traditional decoration with its vibrant colours and distinctive shape. You won’t be surprised to learn we now have some holly sprigs in our shop, along with mistletoe, candle holders, umbrella stands, bottle holders, log reindeer, log baskets, chopping boards, and spoons, all made from Lavender Farm timber. Just drop into the Farm or have a look at our online shop.
We are delighted to be exhibiting botanical drawings by local artist Ruth Rawlings at the Lavender Farm tea-rooms. Ruth, an Island born artist, has exhibited both on the Island privately and with The Ventnor Botanical Artists, and in London with The Society of Botanical Artists.
Ruth trained on the Island under Deania Reid, a Royal Horticultural Society Silver Medallist and founder of Ventnor Botanical Artists. The Ventnor Botanical Artists was formed in 2002 and meets and exhibits regularly to encourage and highlight the art of botanical illustration.
Each illustration is original, hand drawn and painted using watercolours. Those displayed in our tea-rooms are framed but there are also some unframed examples available. Ruth has had to give up her painting due to ill health and these will be the last of her pieces available.
Originally, before the invention of photography, the purpose of botanical drawing was to record scientifically accurate depictions of plants. It is distinguishable from purely painting flowers because of the level of accuracy and realism needed. For instance, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings are recognisable as sunflowers but they are nowhere near the level of detail or accuracy required of botanical illustrations.
The reason they are considered art is that they are so well drawn and painted and the subjects are attractive in themselves. Even now photography is available, illustrations are still used because of the unique perspective they give to plants.
Botanical drawings of the following plants are on display and available for purchase, please enquire in the tea rooms.
- Dactylorhiza fuchsii £65
- Viola rivinia. £65
- Bellis perennis. £65
- Victoria plum. £125
- Rosa albertine. £135
- Viburnum plicatum £135
- Walnut. £45
Mistletoe is a plant which is commonly found in our woodland and a parasite that can kill its host if allowed to get out of hand. How then, has it become such a recognisable symbol of Christmas?
There are around fifteen hundred varieties of mistletoe worldwide. In northern Europe our native variety, viscum album, has green foliage and white berries, and is the variety that grows on the Lavender Farm. There is also a red berried variety found in Spain, and in other parts of the world red, orange, and yellow flowered mistletoes make a heavily infested tree a spectacular display of colour.
Whichever country in the world mistletoe grows it has become part of its folklore. In Norse mythology the god Baldr the Beautiful was killed with a weapon made from mistletoe. An ancient Greek myth has Aeneas, Venus’ son, visiting his dead father by using a magical golden bough, commonly believed to be mistletoe. Closer to home, legend says that ancient druid’s harvested mistletoe in such a way from oak trees that they could tap into mistletoes magical properties. The French also used mistletoes mystic power in a potion which when drunk induced great physical strength, at least according to Rene Gascinny, the writer of the Astrix stories. Modern day druids also use it in their ceremonies.
Today’s tradition of kissing under the mistletoe became popular from the seventeenth century, becoming fully entrenched when the Victorians reinvented the festive period. The tradition has several explanations, most going back to ancient fertility rights. It was connected with fertility, as were other similar plants, because it remained green all year round and its leaves and berries are, apparently, arranged in a suggestive way. It has also been used as a sign of peace and goodwill for thousands of years and today in France is more associated with New Year and given as a token of friendship.
There are other traditions associated with mistletoe. This Christmas, rather than throw your sprigs away along with the fir tree, leave them hanging in the home to stop evil spirits coming in. After twelve months, when you bring in fresh sprigs, burn the old.
If you’d like some mistletoe for decoration, to ward off evil spirits or to bring out your inner druid, we now have some in the farm shop.
As can be seen elsewhere on our website, we take real pride in looking after our farm, particularly the fifty acres of ancient woodland.
Unfortunately, in both this country and elsewhere more trees are being cut down than are being planted.
This is one of the reasons we are delighted to have 1 More Tree, whose goal is to plant as many trees as possible throughout the world, based here. Their first planting project is at the lakes area of the farm. Running parallel to the main road, there will be over 2000 native trees planted here starting at the end of November 2017.
Acorns 2 Oaks
To encourage children into the great outdoors generally and an interest in trees particularly, 1 More Tree have put together ‘1 More Oak Tree’. This is an oak tree growing kit in a bag. It contains all you need and makes it as easy as possible to plant an oak tree.
In the hessian bag you’ll find an eco-pot made from biodegradable natural material, a bag of compost, instructions and, of course, acorns!
These make a really different stocking-filler which is practical, will outlive twofold even the youngest of children, and help to supply them with a lifetime’s oxygen. Plus it’ll educate your child about where plants come from and how they grow without them knowing it.
Drop into the farm shop to learn more about tree planting and buy your 1 More Oak Tree kits, or you can buy them online here
Don’t forget if you’ve nowhere to plant your oak once it outgrows the ecopot, just bring it back and we’ll find space for it.
In case you lose your instructions…
How to Plant your Acorn
Empty the soil from the plastic bag into the bio pot, making the surface level. Then press two holes of about 3cms into the soil, place an acorn on its side in each hole and cover with soil.
Now put the pot on a saucer, and ideally place it somewhere with morning sun and afternoon shade. If not where is next ideal place?
Water your acorns enough so that the soil doesn’t pull away from the side of the pot. Check how damp the soil is with your finger, as long as it feels moist but not running in water it will be fien.
All you need do now is keep watering as needed and watch your acorn sprout into an oak. Let it carry on growing until roots sprout from the side of the pot.
Roots sprouting from the pot? You can now do one of these things:
3 – Bring the tree back to the Lavender Farm and we will plant it for you
And remember; don’t be tempted to chop your tree down after two hundred years as it still has some growing to do!
Decorative and practical, lavender wands have been made for centuries. Also known as batons or bottles, they were originally placed in drawers and clothes chests to protect the contents with lavenders natural moth repelling properties. Today they still work against moths and also make an interesting home decoration whilst providing the clean, fresh floral scent of lavender.
Close up of wand weave
Wood Craft Items
Here at the Lavender Farm we are lucky enough to have fifty acres of ancient woodland, which we take care and pride to manage sympathetically. Like any woodland, trees get blown over and coppices need attention, supplying Reuben with the raw materials for him to use his woodcraft skills producing a variety of original, attractive and practical pieces.
They are an environmentally friendly and sustainable by-product of the woods management. All the items are of high quality, hand-crafted, and unique.
Some items are by order only and others directly available from both our online and farm shop.
A distinctive, eye-catching reindeer crafted from wind fallen trees in our ancient woodland. It cleverly uses the different shape of each log to create each reindeer differently. Rudolf comes as a flat pack style, so can be taken apart and repacked easily for next year. The size of Rudolf is around 2½ft tall for internal use and larger ones can be created for external usage as requried. As you can see from the picture, the antlers are ideal for hanging decorations from and can be used as a substitute for the traditional Xmas tree.
The natural materials used mean these will be looking great for many Christmases unlike a traditional cut Christmas tree which will soon start malting needles and turn brown.
Unique display bottle holders
Why not compliment your open fire or wood burner with one of these handmade log baskets. Made from a sold ash timber frame with woven hazel rod panels these are not just attractive but also robust and functional. You could also use the as toy boxes, laundry baskets, or for general storage.
They come in three sizes, big "Bertha", medium "Ethel" and small "Edie".
The panels are filled with woven hazel rods, providing a contrast in both colour and texture from the light ash frame. As these are crafted from solid timber they are heavy enough to be stable when holding your umbrellas or walking sticks.
Cut from a solid ash log, the bark is removed for safety and holes drilled to place your candles in securely. The holder in the picture is for three candles and the hole diameters vary from model to model, as these are handmade call in or phone us with your particular requirements and Reuben will make one to meet your needs, if possible.
Whilst thinking about candles have a look at our range of scented ones to use in your new holder.
As one of the most used items in the kitchen and often left on the work surface near the bread bin, why not treat yourself and your home to a solid ash board? Much more attractive than a shop bought plastic or wooden block version, ours are handmade from a thick piece of ash and then oiled with natural sunflower oil, to bring out the natural beauty of the timber and add durability.
The humble wooden spoon, a staple of kitchen utensils for centuries, is sometimes overlooked, with plastic, metal or a kitchen gadget used for mixing instead.
But wooden spoons have a lot to offer cooks. They are strong so great for stirring thick batters and cake mixes and scraping the bottom of pans, and they won’t melt in hot substances or heat up quickly like metal or plastic. They won’t scratch your favourite mixing bowl either or react with acidic ingredients like lemons or tomatoes as metal spoons can.
These are all handmade so please call in or phone and tell us what you need and Reuben will do his best to help.
How did it come to be in Belgium? Well, the Lavender Farm was started over twenty years ago and this was one of the original items we had made for our shop. Although we’ll never know the details it had two decades to get there.
November’s issue of the Beacon, an Island magazine, features The Lavender Farm and Reuben. It gives you a broad idea of Reuben and the Farm’s activities, painting Reuben as the island character he is.
The tractor he uses for ploughing competitions is the same one he first drove at aged 10, being a Fordson Standard. Aside from winning awards at ploughing Reuben and the team have won many medals for their lavender stand at Hampton Court Flower Show and others.
Champion Ploughman on many occasions
Thank you to the Beacon and John Hannah for letting us reproduce the article.
Most farms have tucked away areas full of discarded objects overgrown with weeds and grass. The Lavender Farm is no different. One such object we unearthed looks like a bench crossed with an early bone shaker bicycle without the wheels, but it is in fact an efficient besom broom making machine.
Looking like nothing more than a stick with twigs stuck on, or upside-down supermodel having a bad hair day, the besom broom is instantly recognisable to most of us as the witches broom. However, it was for centuries the typical broom. It was traditionally made with a hawthorn stave for the handle and birch twigs for the brush part, but heather, straw and herbs were also used. The twigs were attached to the stave with a split withy, a thin flexible branch from the willow tree, or twine made from brambles or other suitable plant, but string and a nail are used today. Its distinctive appearance is partly due to the twigs being tied around the end of the stave, giving it a rounded shape rather than being flat ended as more modern brooms are.
The besom has seen an increase in popularity in recent years in line with more interest in woodland management and using renewable materials. If looked after, a besom will last fifteen years, it looks better than a plastic or metal handled broom, and when its worn out just throw it on the bonfire rather than landfill it.
So why the connection between witches and brooms? There is all sorts of hokum connected with brooms and folklore. According to J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, witches chose brooms to make magic because they were easy to hide. A variation on this is that it was a way of camouflaging a staff, the handle, which was used to harness magical powers.
Lavender Farm Besom Brooms £15
They were also used to symbolically sweep away harmful energy and protect houses and their occupants. You can also turn them up the wrong way for good luck or jump over them for the same effect.
There is, perhaps, a more believable origin for the mystical reputation of such a humble tool. Before trained medical professionals became the norm for healthcare, a local woman, often a widow or spinster, would dispense herbs and potions and help with childbirth. Because such things could be effective but no one really knew why they were sometimes accused of witchcraft and, as they were women who at the time were strongly associated with housework, the broom became part of the magical image.
In Welsh folklore they were used as an important part of marriage ceremonies. All the couple had to do was place a broom across the doorway of their home-to-be and both jump over it. If neither of them knocked it over then the marriage would be a success, if they did then it would end in disaster and the whole thing was called off. If they decided that they’d had enough in the first year they could jump the broom leaving the house and they’d be divorced.
Whether you want one as part of your Halloween fancy dress, to fly over the rooftops, or to sweep worm casts from the lawn, they are also decorative and environmentally friendly, and very much in use today.
Easily overlooked tucked underneath old farm buildings and warehouses, the humble staddle stone was an important part of the structure. Originally made of timber, stone became the norm for its strength and durability.
There are two main reasons for using them.
The first is to raise the barn, grain store or other structure off the ground. This kept them above the damp earth and helped air circulate underneath to keep them dry. If this were the only reason they could have used stone blocks and laid the timber beams for the buildings framework directly on top.
Known for their ability to gnaw through just about anything and squeeze into small gaps, rats, and mice too, can’t walk upside down. This is where the stone cappings come into their own because the overhang they created when on top of the stone plinths made it impossible for vermin to climb over them. The shape of the caps varies regionally from square, round and fluted to the flat-topped cones we have on the Isle of Wight. A good example of this is the central feature of our lavender bed in the middle of the farm courtyard.
The staddle stones raised the buildings off the ground, which meant a big step up to access them. Building permanent steps gave hungry rodents an easy way of getting to the contents so temporary timber steps were used during the day and removed at night or when not in use. Sometimes stone or brick steps were built with the top step missing, making it too high for them to jump. For added protection these steps sometimes had dog kennels built under them.
Staddle stones are still used today as garden ornaments and original buildings exist with them in place. The word staddle stone is also used in house, farm, and road names.
Some Housekeeping Pointers
Please bear in mind that The Lavender Farm not only grows crops but is a working sheep farm. Our sheep’s well-being is very important to us.
Because of this we only allow assistance dogs to the farm. Dogs have the potential to spread worms which, if taken up by the sheep, can kill them. There is also the risk of causing distress to the sheep. Even we do have sheep dogs as we do as we ask rather than cause any arguments.
Farm Plant and Gates
Also, be aware of passing farm machinery and take into account private areas and gates, which are often closed for your safety.
Please don't ignore them!
The days are shorter, weather colder, skies often darker. But then the walks are more refreshing, the air feels cleaner, we get bright, crisp days, and the countryside shows a stark beauty.
Our warm winter log fire
French onion soup
Farmhouse soup of the day, every day we have a wonderful winter warmer, from our range of chunky vegetable, tomato, French onion, all served with a chunky slice of farmhouse loaf.
Jam sponge cake
Or maybe it’s liquid refreshment you need? A warming and relaxing cup of lavender tea could hit the spot, or maybe one of our fruit infusions with a bit of bite to heat you through such as lemon and ginger?
A large selection of Pukka teas