Friday, July 17, 2015

The Lavender Farm

Kathryn Loveridge

Her father’s message played over and over again in her mind, like an awkward song stuck on repeat.  

‘Hi love, it’s Dad.  Mum and I need to talk to you about the farm, lavender sales aren’t what they used to be – we think it’s time we consider branching out.  Give us a call when you can, bye.’
By the time she’d heard the message it was too late to ring her parents back so instead she sat and worried about what her dad said and what it meant for her. 

Many scenarios ran through her head.  Would they sell up and move into town? Her mum had mentioned that the converted church in the nearby town of Kenton was for sale again, Mum had always loved that place with its white washed walls, cottage garden and artist’s studio out the back – it would be the perfect place for semi retirement.  Would they dig up the beautiful lavender plants and lease the land back to her uncle? Her dad’s brother had been against the lavender farm from day one and whenever the opportunity arose he commented that it was a waste of prime cropping land.  

After 2 cups of camomile tea to calm herself down she’d finally fallen asleep, but her dreams were full of childhood memories. Helping her parents tend to their thousands of lavender plants and sitting at her easel letting her paintbrush glide over the canvas at every opportunity. She had been lucky to grow up in such a beautiful part of Australia and the thought of losing it haunted her.

The sun had barely risen when Amelia woke - her first thought was of home and she needed to know what was going on. Her Dad would already be up feeding the cows in the feedlot next to their house before heading out to spend the day tending to the lavender crops.
She couldn’t sit around wondering any longer and decided to pack a bag and head home for the weekend. 

Avondale was normally a two-hour trip from Adelaide, but being daybreak on Thursday meant she could be there in an hour and a half and at the farm in time for a late breakfast. 

The familiar sights as she got closer to home always made her happy.  The crops turning from green to gold in places on one side of the highway signalled that the seasons were changing; the shimmering blue ocean stretching as far as the eye could see on the other side of the road was spellbinding and a reminder of many good times out on the boat.

She often bragged to her Uni friends of the raw beauty of Avondale. ‘The best of both worlds,’ she would say, ‘We have the beach at the front of our farm and the bush at the back.’ The girls who had come home to visit had agreed with envy that it was indeed one of the most beautiful places they had seen.

Her heart skipped a beat as she turned into the driveway of her childhood home – the crunch of the gravel a familiar sound which gave her comfort and the quaint bluestone cottage overlooking the pristine beach welcomed her like a hug from a long lost relative. 

She felt a pang of guilt when she realised that she hadn’t been home for months.  She came home every weekend after she finished school and moved to Adelaide to go to University. After a while it had cut back to monthly, now it had been three months since she’d been back. 

Her parents were crossing the yard to the workshop as she pulled up to the house – with the morning sun shining in their eyes it had taken a moment to register that it was their daughter home for a visit.
‘Amelia, what a surprise!’ her mother had dropped the basket she was carrying and ran over to hug her only child. ‘Oh how I’ve missed you Mil! It’s so good to see you.’

After hugs, a few tears and a big sloppy hello from Banjo the Labrador she followed her parents into the workshop, which also served as a tearoom, gallery and gift shop. This room had been her favourite place as a child. The glass French doors on the Western side had views of the ocean and the Eastern side had views of the pink and purple Lavender fields, both views equally beautiful in different ways. 

It had been her safe haven when she’d had a bad day at school and she had loved the excitement of creating lavender oil and soap and the thrill of people coming into their lovely little space to buy these things. It was also where her mother had nurtured her love of painting and taught her so many skills that had made her so passionate about art. 

She felt awful that she hadn’t been here for her parents when they needed her help. 

‘I got your message Dad,’ Amelia started, ‘that’s why I came home – before you made any rash decisions about selling up – or worse, letting Uncle Mark rip up our plants to crop it.’
That was all she managed before she burst in to tears.  Her father crossed the floor within seconds and scooped her up into a hug. 

‘Amelia, you let your imagination run wild! There is nothing to worry about. We’re not selling, or leasing – we are simply looking at other projects that will tie in with what we already have – especially if you are coming home next year love, we will need to expand!’

Amelia felt her face start to burn with embarrassment, this wasn’t the first time that she had jumped to conclusions and gotten upset. Her parents had always told her to never to assume anything until she had all of the facts and she felt silly that she’d assumed her dad’s message meant bad news.
Relief washed over her as she waited for her dad to explain. 

‘People want more from a farmgate experience these days Mil. The soaps and oil just don’t sell like they used to so we need to expand our range.  Mum has already started making bread and cakes to sell on the weekends but we need something that is more consistent.’

He paused to look up at his wife, wanting clarification that he was explaining things properly and she gave him a supportive nod and smile so he continued.

‘People love the excess fruit and veg that we sell, and the  bunches of fresh lavender, but we need something even more consistent – which we think we have found.’

 The sound of her mother’s mobile interrupted their conversation.

‘I’ll just take this outside,’ she said, whichannoyed Amelia slightly.  It wasn’t like her mum to ignore someone to answer her mobile and she had so many questions that would now have to wait. 

Her dad waited until his wife left the room and continued ‘We have a meeting this morning with a prospective new partner Mil. That is probably him on the phone now, such a polite young man, he’s always ringing even if he’s only going to be a few minutes late. Your mum and I have learned a lot from him and we are excited at what it means for the future of this place.’ 

Her dad sounded as excited as he had when they had taken a leap of faith and given up wheat and barley crops to start a lavender farm and the memory made Amelia smile. 

‘He can help us step it up a level and he’s a lovely young guy, about your age - single too and your mother says he has the greenest eyes she’s ever seen.’  Amelia raised her eyebrows. Was this plan for the future, some sort of farmer wants a son in law project? 

‘Sorry to get distracted love, back to the business plan. His name is Sam and he is an apiarist. He has taught us a lot about bees and how beneficial they are to lavender pollination so we have placed some hives in the lavender fields around the house and the bees love it!’

‘By taking him on as partner we will be able to sell the honey in the gift shop.  You should taste the lavender honey, it is spectacular! Sam will also collect the beeswax which we can then use to make lavender candles. It is a huge step forward Mil – and we hope you will be as excited as your Mum and I are.’

Voices interrupted her train of thought and she realised that her mother had re – entered the room and that she wasn’t alone. Amelia turned to see a tall handsome stranger and found herself staring into the greenest eyes she had ever seen. 

‘You must be Sam’ she stammered, hoping that her face didn’t giveaway how flustered she felt.  Perhaps branching out wasn’t going to be so bad after all...

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