I could never in a million years be a good news reporter, or a halfway decent critic of social enterprises: I am just too shy.
Drove out to the Blanco Lavender Festival last Saturday, traveling solo into the Hill Country under increasingly ominous skies (http://www.blancochamber.com/page-1649695). We’d had a storm earlier in the week that involved hours of continuous lightning, impressive wind gusts, and the first tornado warnings I can remember in a long time that actually had me putting flashlights and electronics into the bedroom closet. We were very lucky as it turned out, but nearby towns had quite a bit of wind damage.
As I drove by Floyd’s welding shop on my way out of Austin I noticed the big sign next to the highway was gone, and wondered whether his landlord had taken the thing down. All it was was a big sheet of plywood with the street number spray-painted on it; my dear husband is the busiest welder in the world who has no advertising, no sign, and no phone listing. I have no idea how people find him, but they do. Everybody wants the welder.
Didn’t even occur to me that the storm may have played a role, but evidently it had. Turns out that not only the sign and a few big old trees suffered damage; a trailer bearing a welding machine was lifted off its stands and relocated. To Floyd’s dismay, the shop’s porta-potty was also lifted up, and thrown around to boot, so he had to deal with that. I will say no more about it.
The drive out to Blanco went surprisingly quickly, but this time I’d driven straight there rather than meandering by way of Johnson City. I pulled into the first grassy parking lot just as the woman was setting out her “$5.00 Parking” sign; it was the same place I’d parked when I went to the festival with my niece Chrissie. I could easily have parked on the street, but tradition’s tradition and people in Blanco need to earn a living too.
As I paid, the lady told me that she’d just driven across town ahead of “a wall of water,” so I left my camera in the car, grabbed my big umbrella, and walked the block or two into the center of town to spend a couple of hours wandering around the town square. The sky held that appearance of wanting to burst open at any moment, but rain never materialized.
A small-town small fair hits me right in the childhood, when church carnivals were a normal aspect of holiday and summer life: a few booths, crafts, small artworks for sale; vendors who seem to know each other from town or from the crafts show circuit; the smell of popcorn and grilled onions. You can watch people making jewelry, and women weaving baskets like this one. Naturally the Blanco Lavender Festival also carries with it the wonderful aroma of lavender. Lavender everywhere.
I’m not enough of a gardener to go on the tour of local lavender farms, but it was immediately evident that they were having a better year than when I was at the Festival with Chrissie. Then, the drought was carving deep dusty furrows through the middle of all central Texas farms, and the harvest was a sorrow.
This year we must have had just enough rain through the winter and spring: the lavender farms seem to be doing somewhat better, and there were many varieties of lavender plants for sale. One farm reports it has sustained its lavender crop through partial replanting. We have a long way to go before this drought is over.
I resisted buying any plants, since I already have one lavender plant and I’m not that great with them. They seem to want plenty of water and excellent drainage, when I offer neglect and clay.
As you are no doubt aware, being as you are a dedicated reader of The Unruly Gardener, I purchased a beautiful bottle of lavender bubble bath a few weeks ago in Blanco and so had little need for other luxuriously scented items. The soaps, lotions, powders, and bug repellants were highly tempting and all lovely; but my dear husband has a very hard time with things that smell, so I have to be very conservative with fragrances. Such are the small sacrifices we make.
I kind of like wanting less and less stuff anyway.
The Blanco Lavender Festival is an annual event that entails not only the things I’ve described here, but also speakers who address such topics as “History of Hill Country Lavender and Growing Lavender in Texas,” “Using Lavender and Fresh Herbs in Food,” and “Growing Lavender ‘Off the Grid’.” There’s also live music throughout the day and into the evening hours, all festivities helped along no doubt by the unbelievably cheerful people who hand out samples of local wines.
It’s worth the visit just to ramble around the Old Blanco County Courthouse, its wood floors creaking and a steady breeze blowing in from all four points of the compass. Since this is Texas, everyone is ridiculously friendly – which makes me feel even worse about the shyness that holds me back from starting up numerous conversations that would no doubt be interesting and informative. I resolve to do better next time.
An interesting aspect of lavender life is how much of the herb can be incorporated into food and beverages. You can buy lavender sugar to sprinkle on your scones, lavender and dried herb mixes, and cookbooks to teach you all about cooking with lavender. I feel positively embarrassed to have so little experience with florals in my food.
Here is where a good reporter/blogger/critic would tell you all about the various flavors she had encountered at the Festival, from lavender ice cream to lavender-infused dark chocolate. I can’t tell you why I didn’t taste more lavender offerings than I did, but I can tell you that lavender lemonade is very good and there is a certain lavender white wine punch they serve in the big food tent that is delicious.
This year all I ate was a bag of kettle corn, and that didn’t involve any lavender at all.
For me the day was all about a drive through the countryside, time to walk from booth to booth, checking out wooden lawn furniture, handmade purses, women weaving baskets, and that booth with the French kitchen linens I passed on last time.
In the end I came home with a few iPhone photos, two beautiful dish towels, and a wall tile that had caught my eye as I walked by the artist’s booth. This is “Dragonfly Days” by dragon girl at Hidden Dragon Art in Austin (https://sites.google.com/site/hiddendragonart/).
It was a good day.