The majority of our summer was spent weeding and attending craft shows, fairs, and farmers' markets. We have met a ton of great people and made some really good business connections. We learned so much this summer. We are finding our niche and settling in nicely.
What I found out at that first sale, and at every sale since then, is that people are awesome. They are kind and supportive even if they aren't buying anything. People love hearing our story and Jerry sure loves telling it! They are genuinely curious and interested in hearing more. They want to be able to visit the farm. I think later this summer when the plants are blooming and we have an open house, we will have more visitors than we even imagined.
The holiday shopping is over, the lavender plants are put to bed for the winter, and the new plants for 2019 are ordered. What are we going to do with ourselves for the next few months? Well, hopefully this is the calm before the storm, and we will spend our quiet months getting organized and prepared.
On September 28th, we officially launched our sleepybeeslavender.com website. This was so exciting for us. Most of the summer has been spent developing recipes for bath and body products, and sending those products out to testers. After sending a batch out, we sent out questionnaires, and when we got those back, made adjustments. It was a lot of trial and error...and actually still is as we are tweaking things all the time.
We got our bees all settled in their new hive, and even though it drove us crazy not to peek in every day, we left them alone for about a week once the queen was introduced. The queen has to be kept in her small cage for a few days until the other bees get used to her pheromones and accept her, otherwise you take the chance of the bees not liking the queen and killing her.
At this point in preparations we were struggling. The weather had NOT been cooperating. It rained almost every day for a week at the time we were supposed to be getting the manure and lime spread, so we were already about a week behind. After going down the first row with the shaper, we ended up with a small pile, but nothing like the 12" mound we were envisioning at all. The pile was much wider and squared off at the top, and also not packed down at all. It turned out that the rototiller we used did not dig down far enough to bring up enough loose dirt to completely fill the bed shaper. The plates are not height adjustable, so we had to work with the 12" that we had.
Our plan was to have the bees pollinate the lavender, which in turn would give the honey our bees made a lavender taste. Win-Win! According to numerous articles we read, bees LOVE lavender, so we were on the right track.
According to the US Lavender Grower's Association, there are over 45 different species of lavender with over 450 varieties. To decide which would be the best variety for us, we needed to do a lot of research on which types would grow best in our climate, produce the most essential oil (for use in products we'd be making), be good for culinary use, and of course look and smell amazing both fresh and dried. That's not too much to ask of one flower, is it?
It wasn't just going to be learning how to grow lavender. The farming alone was brand new to us. We'd have to teach ourselves about soil, planting methods, watering methods and harvesting. We were going to have to teach ourselves to make products from our lavender, and to develop our own unique recipes. Once the products were made, we'd have to learn to package and market the products. We'd need to learn web design so we could start a website to sell the things we made. We were going to have to learn beekeeping. There were also many other things that would come up along the way that never even crossed our minds.
After a fantastic honeymoon it was time to get back to reality. Somehow, we had to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives when our jobs came to an end in 8 months. One thing we both knew was that we didn't want to start over with another company and have the possibility of this happening again in a few years....
We are Jerry and Holly McCabe, and we want to share our experiences (both the successes and the failures) as we learn the ins and outs of creating a lavender and honey farm. We are learning as we go. We have literally no experience with farming or raising bees, so it should prove interesting.