THE PAT NEAL COLUMN: Looking back at his lavender daze

IT’S TIME ONCE again for the annual Sequim Lavender Festival.

It is only now — after that the statute of limitations thing wore off — that I am free to write about my own humiliating experiences as a lavender farmer in the latter years of the last century in my unpublished memoir, Lavender Tour of the Doomed.

This steamy tell-all exposes the unwashed linen on the seamy underbelly of the lavender growing cabal.

It is a lavender-scented nightmare of treachery, greed and deceit amidst a post-agricultural landscape of retirement homes, box stores and strip malls we like to call Sequim.

It details how a small but determined group of lavender farmers tried to keep one small section of our farming heritage unpaved for future generations to enjoy and unleashed the biggest traffic jam to ever hit the North Olympic Peninsula.

It’s also about thousands of lost tourists who circle endlessly in a lavender-induced fog, competing for parking spaces with the locals who like to drive around with little dogs in their laps and cause the rest of us to ask, please, let the dogs drive.

I made a lot of mistakes when I started out as a lavender farmer.

For one thing, I never should have said I was one.

I learned that having just one lavender plant does not make you a lavender farmer.

Even if it was a very old lavender plant, it did not give me an excuse to say I had the oldest lavender farm in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.

Even though my lavender farm only had one plant, it did not take this journalist long to uncover a dirty little secret about lavender farming:

Lavender is a short little thing. You have to bend over to plant, weed and pick lavender.

All those pictures of smiling lavender farmers have one thing in common: They are not smiling.

That is the unmistakable grimace of lower back pain from bending over to pick the stuff.

I’ll never forget the year I threw my back out picking the very first lavender blossom of the season.

It was just my luck that it happened right before the Lavender Festival. I had a lot of chores to finish before the tour began.

I was going to turn my fleet of wrecked boats into attractively elegant yet inexpensive lavender planters.

But then things started to go terribly wrong.

My Lavender Recipe Cookbook that included hundreds of trendy lavender dishes from Lavender Clam Dip to Lavender-Cured Salmon Caviar came back from the press printed in Esperanto.

Then right at the last minute — when I thought things couldn’t get any worse — tragedy struck.

The groundskeeper reported a weed-eating accident.

My lavender farm, the oldest lavender farm in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, had been mistakenly hacked down as a weed just before the lavender-worshipping hordes were about to descend.

What could I do? What would you do?

I went to the hardware store and bought every blue tarp I could find before someone else did and beat it back to the farm.

I ran around like a hyperactive Martha Stewart covering the piles of offal, wrecked boats and weed-choked ground with perky blue plastic tarps, hoping it might all look like lavender to the farm visitors after the refreshments hit.

I thought a couple of shots of lavender distillate would grease the skids on any lavender farm tour.

Little did I suspect that a nosey pack of revenuers would find my lavender-scented distillery out in the woods and cut it up for scrap, sabotaging my celebration of all things lavender.


Pat Neal is a fishing guide and writer. His column appears in the PDN every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or [email protected] Check out his blog: .

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