An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Leg

Betty is home in the bosom of the family. I know a lot of you won't understand how a car can be a family member but that's how it is with Betty. She's been our car for more than a decade now and in the same way as we are an Irish terrier family we are also a DS family. It's the way it is.

New battery and new exhaust today - the leg. But she's done inside our timetable and she's back home. We finished the episode in some style with the avuncular exhaust expert, Stephanos, picking us up from Rethymno in our newly fixed Goddess and sharing a raki or three with us before giving us his mobile phone number, talking about his family and inviting us back for another, social, raki next week.

Result! Well done us!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Up early

Up early this morning. Up before the cicadas so we could hear the birds for once. Up before the day began to heat up. A few moments of cool to water plants in. To clean the cellar and to sort out the dogs. And then a swift wander down to the strip to catch an early bus to Xania.

We were off to collect the car - after 10 weeks of inactivity her hydraulics are, we are told, fixed. A taxi ride out to a road that runs parallel to the main highway but that shows no evidence of how you get to it. Here is the garage - and Christopheros translates. It's only an arm and not an arm and a leg. But ... And it's a big but - when she was loaded onto the low loader they wrecked her exhaust. We pay and are assured that we can have any other work on her done there but after August. We drive off sounding like a London bus with a broken exhuast - we cannot hear each other speak. Oh and the battery is flat as a witch's tit.

They cannot find an exhaust specialist who has DS parts in Xania - but we know one in Rethymnon and that is where we are bound. Deafening. There are relative sweet spots - 2500 revs in 5th and 3000 revs in 4th where the noise is almost bearable. We try not to make too much noise but fail dismally. Eventually our exhaust man pronounces the system unfixable - we need replacement parts - and they have to come from Athens. A coule of days at least but "it's only a bit noisy and you do live in the country". He reminds me of my uncle Derek this man. And his manner is genuinely avuncular.

As we leave - to return in a few days - the electrical warning light glows orange and refuses to extinguish itself - the battery is not charging. We charge off up to the auto electrical specialist - damaging eardrums as we go. A young man implicates the alternator but his more senior colleague refutes this and sets to work looking like a Greek version of Paul Newman with a permanent fag in the left hand corner of his mouth. The regulator comes out and is opened. Cabling is stripped back - the wiring loom long since dined on by rats when she used to spend 9 months a year in storage. An hour later he surfaces from beneath the bonnet - come back tomorrow - leave the car here - tomorrow at 11.

And so we wait on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Old gits - new layouts

If you like the new layout for this blog then tip your hat to the old git who provided a sound critical analysis of the last attempt. Now that's what I call a friend.

You roast and you learn

This summer has been a learning experience par excellence for us. The first heatwave struck in June (way early) and hit us up to 106ºF. We learned how to cope with those temperatures in the short term and Gill even began her harvest as that wave first started to wane. She finished first harvest as the current heatwave began to wax a few days back. Today the mercury hit 106ºF again and the humidity dropped down to 10% and so we learn some more.

We now make it a rule not to go outside when the air temperature is above the temperature of the blood in out veins. Simple but effective. When the temperature sticks at 104ºF we bring the dogs inside to cool their bellies on the tiled floors and soak their run and kennels with irrigation water. If a really hot day is in prospect we rise with the sun and do what has to be done as soon as possible. Tea is better than coffee in the heat. We drink plenty of water but don't overdo it.

Living through a heatwave is a little like putting yourself under house arrest. It's not comfortable but you learn to just dicker around at small bits and pieces - concentrating too hard makes you hot and above blood heat your judgement is impaired so we don't do anything too demanding.

Oh well - tomoorow is supposed to max out at about 98ºF. We'll get what we have to do done early ans see how it goes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


G says 1 more day will see off the first harvest of 2007. Regrowth only after that. Oh yes, and the french in September. So far, so good, so hot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


"Covered in scratches and tears" says the boss, covered in scratches and tears indeed. Lacerated to buggery more like. Eddie and me look like we've been thru one of them there chippers ourselves - death of a thousand cuts is more bloody like it. And all we're wanting is a chance to get our own back: we may get torn up a bit more feeding the chipper but we'll have the satisfaction of mulching the buggering brambles. Victory is sweet but annihilation is best. Let's go forward to the final bramble solution.

This is what the boss had in mind -

This is what we have in mind -

War crimes

We have a mutiny on our hands here at the farm. The boys in red have downed tools - well they've downed the secaturs and the hand saws for the time being. Having hacked the wild carrot, fennel and tree mallow down from their towering heights we, well I really, had directed them on to clearing round the bases of the olive trees some of which are encompassed round with vines and grasses: some grow cheek by jowl with mulberry and fig shoots: but all of them share a common pest - the bramble - and it is the bramble that has brought out the militant side of the farm boys.

Those of you who are not familiar with Eddie and Ceddie might not be aware that they are brothers of an heroic bent - no pansies these. They lap up hard work in the way a tired dog will gratefully lap from fresh fallen puddles. They are physicall not exactly prepossessing but they are hard. Whipcord tough they are and so when they began complaining about the brambles I knew it was serious. Now it isn't that they don't want to cut them back and expose the wonderful old olive trees that this hideous rambling bramble has everywhere colonized it is rather that they want revenge. After manfully uncovering 4 magnificent tree architectural or sculptural in their majesty the boys have had more than enough. Covered in scratches and tears they are now demanding their own "ultimate solution". They want one of those garden chippers - one of those machines with internal knives that reduce prunings to chips. Their reasoning is that the brambles inflict so much damage as they are torn free that they, the boys, want the final satisfaction of reducing them to mere chips that can be refed to the garden as a mulch.

I'll not cavil, and when we have the funds they will have their chipper. Meantimes Shaun has instructed them on the making of fasces from discarded and dried lavender stalks (another by product of the harvest). Are they turning into fascists?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

small acts of kindness

There are small acts of kindness committed here every day.  By ordinary people. For no better reason than that they make people feel good.

You go into a cafe, you sit down and order a frappe each, you sit and talk, you acknowledge a few people you know, you finish your drinks and call the waiter over to pay your bill: he leans in and tells you that there is nothing to pay, "Vaso bought your drinks". Vaso left half an hour ago, she waved as she went. Today it was Vaso, last week it was uncle Nikos, two weeks ago it was the man with the big moustache. It happens. It happens a lot.

You go into a cafe (we use cafes a lot) it is hot, it is very hot, the waitress is sweating, you are sweating, everyone is sweating. You sink into the shade and watch the cool water rippling in he lake. The waitress brings your frappes without you having to order. Thirty minutes later she brings a small carafe of ice cold raki, to tiny glasses, and a plate of chilled fresh fruit, "From the house," she whispers, "it is very hot yes?".

You spend half an hour selecting birthday cards from the racks outside the shop in the sweltering heat of the old town. You pick up a funny and apposite postcard or two and wander inside to pay. The priestlike figure behind the till tots up the cost of the birthday cards only and you point out that he has forgotten to charge for the postcards, "from us" he says and waves them away.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Truly the Lavender Way

The magic is working. The way is growing into its repute. Voula dropped in this afternoon and the very first thing she said as she walked through the gate was that the entire place smells of lavender. And do it does although because we have been living in it for weeks now we had not properly noticed. The cellar, home to most of the bunching and processing positively reeks (the table now is buried beneath piles of the stuff); the sheds, where drying happens are suffused with it; the middle floor where dried type2 is stored and a sack full of type1 now lives too takes ones breath away and replaces it with lavender scent.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


This blog is suffering from neglect of late but that's simply because there is rather too much going on to invest time here. The lavender harvest came early this year and it came on hard. Despite help from Annie (a doff of the hat) it continues. Type2 is all in and has been dried successfully en masse - it's dry and stored now - and will become tea later. Drying is taking 3 days in the post heatwave weather but because there is so much of it the drying racks are almost permanently occupied. Today's estimate suggests that there are still another 47 plants to harvest in Lav2 and believ me that is not as small a task as it might seem: remember this is all hand harvested, no technology involved.

While G (most everyday) and A (on Fridays) bring in the harvest the boys continue to push back the overgrowth of everything not lavender which, like the harvest itself, is no small beer - plenty of beer is consumed at the close of the day. One thing is for sure though, everybody sleeps soundly and some of us retrie totally knackered. Tonight will be no exception and so we sign off.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


The temperatures are down and I woke this morning dry for the first time in a fortnight. G was gone - already up and watering the house garden and trimming back the trees by the front door.

We shared a pot of coffee, some cigarettes and she confided in me. Lav 2 has come of a sudden into almost full bloom and Lav 1 has recovered and is also blooming. We have a profusion of lavender, all of it is waiting to be harvested and there are only so many hours in a day. And the front garden needs trimming back if G is not to be lost in there.

Next up we treated the girls against ticks which we have to do every month during spring, summer, and autumn. We cleaned out the run and fussed with the girls for a while and then went back indoors for another coffe. A wind had got up by then and the cellar was cooling nicely. The silver sides of the olive leaves were showing. Butterflies abound now and this morning they were taking shortcuts through the cellar.

We decided that G will cut all type 2s this week and rather than bunching them to dry we will load them onto the huge drying rack in my garage that we usually reserve for drying the french in September. That will save some valuable time.

I decided that I would tackle the front garden at least to open up paths to the hoses and the areas that need watering: the bougainevillea, the climbing rose, and the beds and after breakfast as G settled down to the accounts I ventured out with Farmboy. With secaturs and hand shears, handsaw and mattock we worked toward each other from oppostie ends: invisible each to the other for the first hour. Fennel and red rye grasses 8 or 9 feet tall (2,5m.), tree mallow in magnificent pink flower filled the space between us until we broke through and met at last at the brdige by the palm. It was a Livingstone and Stanley moment with both of us wreathed in sweat, shirts sodden, hats dripping, covered in burrs and grass seed.