Saturday, June 24, 2023

Life Under the Oaks Lavender Farm

Corona de Tucson

June 24, 2023

Life Under the Oaks Lavender Farm is a small family owned farm about 60 miles north of us in Oracle.  Yes, the fields in Sequim, WA we visited back in July 2018 were much larger, but the sweet smell of these fragrant blooms filled the air just the same in Arizona as they did in Sequim.  I love the smell...a combination of floral, herbal, and woodsy all at the same time.  

Lavender is in the mint family and originated in the Mediterranean, but can thrive in any sunny place with stony well-drained soil.  Imagine my surprise when I read that a lavender farm was close by and thriving in sunny Arizona.  The farm is a life-long dream come true for Carolyn.  She and her husband, John, bought the land after John retired from the army and this year marks their fifth Lavender Bloom Season.  

Pictures do not do the fields person visits are a must to experience the blooms swaying in the gentle breeze, the fragrance, and thousands of bees and butterflies happily enjoying these small lavender flowers.   

During bloom season, Carolyn offers wreath making classes, farm to table lavender dinners, traditional teas, and harvesting fresh bundles.  One area of the farm is known as Five Sisters.  This wonderfully shady area with a nice breeze is named for the cluster of five oak trees over 100 years old.

The Five Sisters and Carolyn preparing for a wreath making class.

I was also very excited to read, the farm offers picnic baskets...breakfast or lunch.  Orders are placed on line 48 hours in advance.  As you know, brunch is a favorite for me and since we were up and out the door early, we chose the breakfast basket with a croissant breakfast sandwich and lavender breakfast potatoes, a blueberry cookie, lavender lemonade in a mason jar, and a sachet keepsake. 

A beautiful setting, a cool breeze and our breakfast hit the spot !

Not only does the walk at the farm meander around and thru the lavender fields,  you might just see the farm's pets, find hidden treasures or sit awhile and enjoy a lavender lemonade (It really is quite good and refreshing!).

It was a wonderful morning and I am so glad Carolyn's dream came true for the rest of us to enjoy !  Bloom season is the busiest time of year at the lavender farm, but the farm has something to offer in all the old-fashioned Christmas, pumpkins and cornhusk dolls, and a fairy festival just to name a few.  

And don't forget to stop by the charming Boutique on your way out...

The rest of our week was spent enjoying morning walks around our neighborhood... 


Sometimes, for a split second, I feel like I have been transported to San Diego.

And back at the oasis...
We have had a yard full of Lesser Goldfinch..

The hummingbirds have finally found their feeder.  It was moved from its' regular spot in all day sun to a shady spot.

The Ladder-backed Woodpecker is visiting more frequently... 

And there are at least two couples of Cardinals visiting non stop. They have been busy at the feeders and photo bombing !  

One morning, we enjoyed watching a coyote family of three running, playing and having breakfast.  I worked hard to try and get a photo that had all three, but it didn't happen.

Red was a fun color this week...

The pups are doing good.  Early morning patio time...

And Jack watching and waiting for Joe to throw his ball.  

We brought some of the farm home...

And sunsets from the backyard are romantic...

Life is good at our little oasis...until next time,


Sunday, June 18, 2023

B&B Cactus Farm, Monsoon Chocolate, And a Cuteness Overload

June 18, 2023

Corona de Tucson 

Sunrise and a morning walk...

Some weeks fly by and it seems there is nothing to write about.  Other weeks fly by and there seems like there is too much to write about...this has been one of those weeks.  Our week started off with taking care of appointments and errands on Monday.  I had two of the dreaded annual check-ups this week and enjoyed checking them off the list and getting on with life.  After Mondays appointment, we made a couple of stops in Tucson before lunch.  It has been way too long since we indulged in burgers and fries...complete with sweet tea, Malt Vinegar, and extra (and extra) napkins.  The messier the better with each bite of burger piled high with everything from tomatoes and lettuce to grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms.  And then there are the fries...crunchy and dipped in Malt Vinegar...lip-smacking good is what I say !   

Pearl also had an appointment this week.  Shortly after we bought Pearl, we replaced the front and rear axels for "beefier" Teraflex axels and a better trail rating.  As it turned out, seals needed to be ordered and Pearl had to spend the night in the shop.  We only have the one vehicle.  It's strange not having a vehicle...even for a day and a half.  

Another morning this week, we went to B&B Cactus Farm.  This well established nursery has specialized in cactus and succulents for over 30 years.  

It is a 2 acre farm with many greenhouses and outside areas filled with all types, sizes, and varieties of cacti and succulents. They also have a huge selection of pottery, a great gift store, and very friendly folks there to help.  

You might remember in March 2022, Randy gifted me a desert rose.  Desert rose plants are succulents and the dedicated Succulent House at B&B has a huge area with several tables full of desert roses...all sizes, shapes and colors and some that are very old and not for sale.  

I took my plant with us for advise as I thought perhaps it had outgrown it's pot.  I was right.  The real name for desert rose is Adenium.  These plants are characterized by their unique feature know as a caudex.  The caudex acts as a reservoir, allowing the plant to store water and is never under the soil.  With the help  of a very nice gardener whose name I didn't get, my desert rose has a new 10 inch globe pot.  Globe pots are recommended so the roots have space to grow out and not deep...deep roots promote root rot.  I bought a water meter because in the summer, it needs water when it is completely dry...the soil should not be soggy.  


Our sweet desert rose was even complimented on its twisted caudex...

Saturday was our 40th wedding anniversary.  My how time flies ! To celebrate, we decided on chocolate.  Who doesn't love chocolate?  We booked a tour at Monsoon Chocolate Factory for 11:00 am.  

Monsoon Chocolate opened its doors in 2018 and since that time, has won dozens of International Chocolate awards.  Most recently, this chocolate factory was nominated for three different Good Foods Awards...snacks, chocolate, and confections.  There were 31 US finalists in the chocolate category and Monsoon Chocolate was given the top award.  The 2023 award was given for the Whiskey del Bay Barrel-Aged 74% Dark Chocolate Bar.  Besides the three categories mentioned The Good Food Foundation, has many other categories coffee, beer, pickles, oils, and cheese just to name a few.  Monsoon Chocolate was the only Arizona-based business that won in any of the 2023 categories.  The tour was very informative...Joe and I really didn't know that much about chocolate as our chocolate experience has mostly been Hersheys.  Monsoon Chocolate is a small factory making small batches of chocolate bars, bon-bons, and confections.  Monsoon uses cocoa beans from seven different farms.  All cocoa farms are located within 20 degrees of the Equator, known as the "cocoa belt" where the seeds are harvested, fermented, and dried and become cocoa beans before shipping.  

At the factory, the beans are hand sorted to remove debris and beans that do not meet Monsoon standards.  Beans from one farm are not mixed with beans from another farm.  Each container recorded the farm and the country where the beans were grown.  

Beans are roasted...only for about 18 minutes...then passed thru a shaker to break the beans into pieces. From there, the pieces of beans go to a blender.  They turn in the blender for 4 days...continuously day and night.  Depending on what the chocolate will be used for, the pieces may blend with or without any other ingredients added.    
The shaker on the right and blenders on the left.  

It is worth mentioning that Monsoon Chocolate offers a Desert Series chocolate bars and bon-bons .  They source the best of what the desert has to offer and celebrates the unique flavors of our region.  Local ingredients from the Sonoran corn, mesquite and Sonoran sea salt were the bars I saw.  I tasted the mesquite bar made with white chocolate and we bought the Sonoran Sea Salt milk chocolate bar (along with several other delicious morsels of chocolate).  Both are delicious and both are available with either dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The goal of Monsoon Chocolate is to honor the hard work of the farmers by processing the cocoa as minimally as possible to reveal the beautiful and complex flavors in the beans.  One farm that sources beans to Monsoon is in Jamaica and has cocoa that was transplanted from Trinidad in the early 1800s providing some of the most exquisite and sought after beans in the world.     

A few take aways...there is only one tiny insect, called the chocolate midge, that is responsible for pollinating all the cocoa flowers all over the world, cocoa pods are football shaped and attached to the tree trunk (not branches),  the pods come in every color represented in the rainbow,  and cocoa trees are fruit trees...great news as I love fruit !  We enjoyed the tour and learning about chocolate.  And more great news, Monsoon Chocolate has just opened a new cafe at a different location  serving up ice cream, coffees, desserts, and pastries.  It is on the list ! 

We enjoyed lunch at BOCA...warm chips served in a bag, a salsa flight, roasted corn on the cob and a Mole De Pollo taco served on a cutting board.  Yummy and fun ! 

Back at the oasis...Sally, our resident wind gauge, says it's windy with gusts to 40 mph.  

Jack prefers to play ball inside when it is hot.

And Dover knows the importance of staying hydrated.

I captured a photo of the Ladder-back woodpecker on the feeder with a Cactus Wren.  She really is a tiny little bird.

 Most of the birds are nice and share.

Fresh water every morning...

And a game of hide and seek.

Welcomed visitors...the cutest little visitors ever...

Gamble's Quail tiny and a cuteness overload !

They can't climb over the wall yet so mom calls them from the other side of the fence and they scoot thru the drain hole.

And beautiful colors...

We still like starting the day with a walk...

...and coffee on the patio afterwards.

That's a wrap on another week.  Until next time, 

A young Cactus Wren and one of his parents.  They stay close to their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest.