When it’s July in Oregon it’s time to harvest the lavender. Lavender is best harvested just as the blossoms are beginning to open, so they don’t fall and scatter every time a basket of dried loveliness is bumped or moved. But again this year, I found myself stalling, avoiding and dragging my feet about harvesting it. Because when the new harvest is in, the old harvest is finished.
My house is filled with lavender. There are bunches in baskets and buckets, vases and jars. There are bundles bent and tied into a wreath, hanging on the wall and perched on shelves. There are armfuls in antique buckets and a few little sprigs in a little vase on the windowsill.
It doesn’t just sit and look pretty, though. All that lavender lends a calming, cleansing air to the house, especially when it’s closed up against winter storms. I recently read a paper that documents lavender’s calming efficacy in reducing both pain and anxiety, even during dental procedures. Lavender reduces agitation and helps babies sleep. The fresh oil helps repel bugs in the summer, and I find myself pinching off a few blossoms and inhaling the calm as I walk by, especially after a long day at work. Plus, it makes me happy just to look at it.
This is why it’s hard to throw all those hard-working lavender stems on the compost pile to make way for the new harvest. Granted, by year’s end, the various bundles are not as fresh as they were last July, and yes, they are a little dusty. But when I walk by and pinch a few blossoms between my fingers, they still emit a quietly lucid, pleasingly sharp aroma that makes me inhale a little deeper and smile.
So this year when my lavender blues took hold and I couldn’t bear to part with my old bunches, I got creative. Instead of gritting my teeth and throwing out all of last year’s harvest, I repurposed all those stately sprigs. I stripped each stalk of the blossoms and collected them in a jar, dispersing a few cobwebs in the process. There were enough to fill a gallon jar, which sits on top of the dryer. I’ve never been a big fan of dryer sheets – I’m always a little suspect about exactly what chemicals are in them. And now the spent blossoms have greater longevity as dryer balls! I wrap up a healthy handful of blossoms in a piece of cheesecloth and secure it, ever so elegantly, with a simple piece of twine. They tumble amongst my dainties, infusing them with the last remaining wafts of aromatherapy and making me happy all over again.