beautiuful LIVINg, bountiful FOOD

If you’re like me, you find the scent of fresh lavender intoxicating. In fact, as I sit here and write this, the sweet aroma from the bunch sitting in the kitchen is ever-so-faintly wafting its way here into my office. I love incorporating lavender into everything . . . sachets in my closet, lavender sugar in baked goods, lavender infused ginger preserves, and a little essential oil just about everywhere else. You’ve probably used essential oils (of some variety) for years, but ever stop to consider how it’s made?

I’ve been wanting to visit Indigo Lavender farm for a couple of years. I’ve photographed in other fields, including the Secret Garden at Brys Estate Vineyard and Wine in Traverse City a few years ago, about four hours away. I’ve been looking for a farm close (or closer) by and kept hearing about Indigo.

Last year, the lavender season snuck up and passed me right on by. For whatever reason, it didn’t even occur to me until I saw a friend’s photos from her day here (jealous!). I asked if she would promise to get me there this year. She delivered on her promise and today was our day.

Indigo Lavender Farms is in Imlay City, a sleepy little town in the big knuckle of the Michigan thumb, about an hour and a half’s drive from me. We set off shortly after breakfast together nearby on an incredibly gorgeous summer day.

When you drive up, the first thing you notice is that the farm is completely gated. The only entry point is through the little house converted into a curiosity shop. Smart, considering there’s a fee just to be on the property at all. We arrived and strolled through the shop. Upon entering, you can’t help but notice lavender in its many forms — essential oil, dried and preserved bunches, fresh cut, and food-infused. The store is packed with local charm and lots of “bits” to buy (always the most fun . . . and most dangerous places to shop).

In addition to essential oil, I was on a mission to find culinary lavender and lavender ice cream. Unfortunately, they were out of the culinary lavender but I paid $18 to self-pick a handsome bunch of lavender from the farm. (You can enter the farm and “buzz around” as they say for $7.50; $18 gets you entry plus as much lavender as you can fit in the diameter of a paper wrist band.)

The farm is rolling and sprawling and, of course, full of vibrant purple hues every which way you look.

The farm is rolling and sprawling and, of course, full of vibrant purple hues every which way you look. It sits on 50 acres with six separate fields and a small lake at the very back. There are antique bikes and benches and charming Michigan-shaped Adirondak chairs places all about. We made our way from one field to the next, strolling along, photographing, using the provided craft scissors to cut our bunch. Whenever we stopped quiet for a moment, the faint hum of buzzing bees could be heard just over the wind and distant rooster cockle-doodle-doo. I followed a few with my Canon 100mm macro lens and captured a few pollinators busy at work.

After an hour in the 85° sun, we made our way back up to the front. There, we met the owner, Trish, who sat under a canopy with multiple cold drinks, steam distilling the lavender into essential oil. As she explained, the process begins by placing the lavender into the large still, heating up the water to create steam under the plant, allowing the oil vapor to travel up to a condensing tube, where it condenses back down into a cool hydrosol liquid, and drips into the collection flask.

We finished our visit with the best part of all : lavender ice cream under the canopy out back and a little more shopping. Indy, the indoor cat (the note on the door reminds you not to let her out), looked on from her upholstered arm chair as I picked out a four-ounce bottle of raw honey. I tested it as soon as I got home. It’s thick and milky and has a mellow smooth taste, much less pronounced than other varieties I’ve had. I’ll be using some to drizzle over the lavender blueberry pie I plan to make.

Like any good summer outing, I arrived home tired and a little sundrenched and a little sticky and dusty from the day. I’m reminded once again of Michigan’s bounty and diverse agricultural offerings and feel lucky to call this place home.

The season is still in full bloom and I’m offering a couple of lavender farm portrait sessions. VISIT MY PORTRAIT SITE for more details.

Making Lavender Essential Oil

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celebrate the season