We were completely out of stock for Myrtus communis essential oil during the last months, and were just waiting for that perfect day to collect the young shoots. Myrtle collection means to prune the shrubs well, so that they will give new and fresh shoots the following years. Because the new shoots need time to grow until they are ready for collection, we rotate between several habitats. Each year we revistit a habitat we have pruned two, three years previously.

Myrtus communis has to be distilled fresh, so collection and distillation has to take place the same day. In order to collect enough plantmaterial for a distillation in a single day, we need 'hands', friends to join us. So Myrtus collections always take place on a saturday or sunday, when friends can join in. Now in May came the sunday, the sunny weather, and we were seven for collection, Giannis, Antonis, two Marias, Katerina and us. We went to a remote place above Topolia, a beautiful wild and peaceful area...The shrubs had responded well to the pruning three years ago, the plants were vigorous and the shoots plenty and healthy..

Babis and Giannis were mainly pruning the bushes and the rest of us were sitting on our boxes and clipping the leaves off the branches. Myrtle collection is a social affair, not like so many other collections were everyone goes off on his own from plant to plant..

 Here you see Babis (left) and Giannis (right) doing the pruning, while we get ready to cut the leves off the branches

 

Here we are sitting together, Maria, Katerina, Janina and Maria, clipping the leaves off the branches, talking, laughing and joking....

 

 

 Babis found an abandoned birds nest among the myrtle shoots..All the myrtle collection pictures exept the one of himself, to the right, were taken by Antonis Dargas.

By 5 o'clock, we had filled all our boxes, charged the car and off we went to have some food by our friends Kostas and Michalis, in the tavern 'Ta Platania' near Mylos. This tavern is situated just near to two huge, ages old platane trees, true giants..and there is a spring with the most wonderful water..and the food and company always superb..

Then we went on to the distillery, filling the stills and started distillation..

 

Babis is filling the stills

Closing the lid...

...attaching the cooling coil, and then its time to wait for the oil distilling...

Our friends left when the distillate started running and midnight approached, and we continued distillation until 4 o'clock in the morning. We obtained 300ml of Myrtle essential oil from this collection and distillation..so for now its back in stock...

 

Last week in May then, we went to Sfakia to visit our savory population, Satureja thymbra, by the coast near Frangokastello.

 

 

Satureja thymbra may 2009 near Frangokastello .

The plants were beautiful, full of flowers.. early flowering this year..

However, the weather was a bit overcast, as you can see, so we just said 'hello and see you later, on a more sunny day we will come and collect you...'

Satureja thymbra wants to be collected under the full sun, when the place is full of bees humming..So we went up to the mountain village of Kallikratis, where we have been building a place during the last years, just 25 minutes from the southern coast and Frangokastello, but at 750m altitude.. You will read more about that village later...

The next day, to our surprise, Oskar and Veronika just arrived up in Kallikratis.. this Austrian couple has come to Crete in September/October for many years, we usually meet them when we collect Vitex agnus castus, chastetree fruits by the beach.. We mentioned them under collection, since they always are happy to help collecting the fruits. However, now suddenly they appeared in Kallikratis. First time that they come to Crete in May, they wanted to see the island in the spring...and wanted to experience a spring collection..

So, off we went everybody the next days to collect Savory, Satureja thymbra,  near Frangokastello on the southern coast...

Here you see Oskar, Babis and Veronika from left to right... unlike the 'social' myrtle collection, Savory collection is individual... we set off together, but very soon everyone follows his own path, as the plants call you from one to the other.. These individual collections, as we call them, are a meditative experience.. The bees, the birds around the only sounds, the cutting peaceful and strongly aromatic..the communication with the plants and our own inner beings at the same time, makes us aware of the interconnectedness of all life..

 

 

 

Here you can see Oskar, Babis and Veronika cutting savory.. captured with a telescope lens... 

The day went by, and finally we charged the car, saw a beautiful individual of the Dracunculus vulgaris species in the evening light..

 

and went for a glas of wine and a bit of cheese to Flisvos in Frangokastello, the place for the most spectacular evening and sunset views...

Most spectacular view? Well, here is what we see just in front of us...the picture taken a bit late for the sunset, I had to go and get the camera from the car, but nevertheless...what a view, what  peaceful moments..

 Then we went up again to the mountains, to Kallikratis...

To be continued...