On Saturday mornings I've been spending a couple of hours at the campus "farm," an experiment in suburban agriculture: organic, sustainable, relatively small-scaled. There are a dozen chickens who produce a fair number of multicoloured eggs, of which the pale blue are my favourites, but for the moment--though there is a horse barn in the background--the main crop is vegetables that are sold to the student dining halls and a few local restaurants.

Yesterday my task was to help harvesting the lavender, a deep purple variety I was told was English lavender, good for essential oils, but not for cooking (that's French lavender and we have some of that too, it's paler in colour, and was quite ready to be picked). One of the farm managers gave us knives and told us where to cut it; we stored it in rows in waxed cardboard boxes, where it will dry. The next step will be to extract the oil. I brought some home for my closets.

The previous Saturday we had done some mulching and weeding in the sunchoke plot and then shucked dry corn, destined to be crushed and turned to tortillas. I gained a whole new appreciation for the labour-intensive side of tortillas, and imagined women in tortilla-eating countries spending their days clacking dry ears of corn together and ground the kernels in a mortar, as they watched their children and gossiped. I was ready for Mexican food by the end of the morning.