My yearly trips to Oregon for the Lavender Festival are about more than lavender. They are a chance for me to go to a pretty part of the world, relax and recharge with a friend I’ve known and loved since I was six. That is more years than I care to own. I love my big household and doing homey things, but it is divine to come to a place where you can set a thing down with a reasonable expectation of it being in that spot minutes or hours later. A household of six and a small dog cannot be as peaceful as a household of one and a cat. It is nice to occasionally visit a different world.
This year arriving in Mt. Angel, OR was an even larger blessing because of the traffic on freeways between there and my home in Gig Harbor, WA. I have long had anxiety regarding freeways which HBP medication has helped to a certain extent, but does not entirely ameliorate. Although I left Gig Harbor at 11:30 AM, a reasonable time, a trip which I have made in 3.5 hours in the past took five in 90 plus degree heat and with an air conditioner that, like a couple of things on my car, decided to take a little break! So I was grateful when the air conditioning kicked back on and I was able to get off of I-5 and onto the back roads of Oregon. I am seriously considering taking the train next year!
A salmon dinner and a shower soon made me feel better although Oregon’s heat wave prevented me from sleeping as well as I might. Undaunted, Gail and I set out Saturday morning on our quest of all things lavender. Our journey began with a short ride on the Wheatland Ferry across the Willamette River. The ferry is quaint and adds to the ambiance of a beautiful rural area.
It would be impossible to say which our favorite lavender farm is although we have hit some duds in three years of perusing. Our first stop this year was Red Ridge which quite possibly has the most beautiful prospect. As its name implies it sits on a hill top with fields of lavender sloping away from the house and gift shop. From there you can see the surrounding bucolic countryside and our visit there is always pleasant.
Willakenzie is another favorite. It, too, has a beautiful setting, an extensive gift shop that includes hand-knit items from the wool of the alpacas the farm raises along with lavender. We always find treasurers there and this year was no exception. After we’d done some retail therapy we enjoyed lavender sorbet on the porch of the shop and took away lavender lemonade and lavender ice tea for the road to Yam Hill.
After a brief stop at the Carlton General Store where I purchased sunscreen (having left my own bottle in my car in Mt. Angel) we got to Yamhill and the festival in the park there. Booths with crafts and art line the edges of the park under ancient trees while a band played on the bandstand in the center. We particularly enjoyed an extensive display of local paintings of the many lavender fields that surround the countryside of Yamhill. At a picnic table we unpacked our picnic lunch which we might have enjoyed were it not for a couple of people who seemed to think that the area we were in was the smoking area. Although our chicken salad sandwiches were good (if I do say so myself) they might have been better appreciated somewhere else. Before we left the festival grounds we purchased two lavender snickerdoodles to enjoy on the road.
Helvetia Lavender Farm was eagerly anticipated by me. It is always the busiest stop on our lavender journey with lots of booths, music and food, but this year it held the special attraction of another childhood friend, Marlys Violet Spencer, seamstress extraordinaire who lives and creates “wearable art” in Hillsboro, OR. Marlys a year ahead of me at Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA and unquestionably the most entertaining of my acquaintances. She has done work for large and small theater groups as a costumer around the Pacific Northwest and in Hawaii. She returned to her childhood home of Hillsboro to care for a dying father and create yet a new chapter in a very interesting life. She sews wedding dresses, kitschy shirts that truly are art, and beautiful scarves all made from repurposed fabric she finds at garage sales and Goodwill. When we first stopped at the booth where I quickly spotted her wares, Marlys was nowhere to be seen, but the farm and festival is extensive so we wandered the many booths and before we left found her returned. Big hugs and introductions ensued along with a lengthy chat to catch up. When a customer needed Marlys’ attention we moved toward the car and I was dismayed to realize that I’d not gotten her picture. Before we left she told me to choose a scarf since she reckoned she owed me 40 years worth of birthday presents. I was already determined to buy a scarf for myself and one for my daughter-in-law who loves pretty things so I eagerly chose a purple and gold one for myself and one featuring shades of orange for Ana.
We ended our lavendering at Mountainside Farm where we had a barbecue chicken dinner that featured lavender potato salad. It was quite possibly the best potato salad I ever ate and since I have culinary lavender at home I am determined to add it to the next potato salad I serve. Please note that I did not say “make.” Costco sells a very good potato salad which I doctor up to suit myself saving time and effort. Potato salad is not important enough to me to labor over.
Our day was not done. We stopped at a large berry stand that included an ice cream parlor where we ordered lavender milkshakes which we enjoyed in their outdoor eating area. A cool breeze had come up and it was the perfect end to a lovely day. Gail said that the milkshakes were even better than the lavender sorbet we had at Willakenzie. That’s a tough call and I’m glad we had a day that included both.