self-guided tour 2022 👩🌾
Lovely Little Farmhouse
The visit starts on the south side of the farmhouse, by the Azulée sign. Simply step through the rose bushes and enjoy the fresh sea air!
On your way, take note of the front of our house – the main house and its summer kitchen are both symmetrical, with a door in the centre and identical window spacings; it is the same on the upper floors. This symmetry is one of the highlights of neoclassical farmhouses in Québec. This style is also known for its steeply pitched gabled roof and flared eaves. The absence of this flared section of the roof is a very rare anomaly in Charlevoix.
Its owners consider themselves very lucky to have acquired the house from Mr. Louis-Philippe Filion, of Baie-Saint-Paul. Built in 1844 by the Tremblay family, it was transferred by marriage to the Filion family around 1888; it remained their ancestral home until it was purchased by Louise and Parker, in 2002.
Built of logs hewn from dovetail logs (piece-on-piece), the house has seen several changes over time. It was extended more than once as the family grew, and the summer kitchen, a later addition, had at least three different roof designs. The exterior walls were originally clad in a type of stucco-like cement – still visible in photographs from 1947 – and its window and door casings have remained elaborate. Since wire mesh was not available at the time, children were put to work hammering thousands upon thousands of small wedges of hardwood into the logs to hold the cement together. The dove-style clapboard we see now was probably added in the late 1940s or 1950s, while its ornate moldings were replaced with the plain ones now present. The original cedar shingle roof was replaced by corrugated aluminum in the 1970s.
Point 1 - Our Environment
Looking towards the St. Lawrence, in front of the house you will see the junction of the Milieu and Moulin rivers which meet and flow towards the estuary, under the railway bridge. The highest tides in Baie-Saint-Paul are around 7 m and when the highest tides roll in on the other side of the street, it becomes a salt marsh. And so in summer, about ten times a month, we cross the street, jump into our little boat and go off riding the waves, out on the sea!
Beyond the bridge, you can see Isle-aux-Coudres along its entire length, baptized by Jacques Cartier who discovered an abundance of wild hazel trees (known as coudriers) there… Touring around the island by bike or by car is a fun adventure, and the ferry crossing is free from St-Joseph-de-la-Rive.
The railway was built a century ago. We can easily imagine the view from our house before its arrival! For many years, all goods were traveled from village to village along the north bank of the river, on flat-bottomed sloops called “schooners”. Baie-Saint-Paul's first wharf was on the other side of the bay, and one of the first industries in the region was dedicated to the construction of these magnificent flat-bottomed schooners.
In the neighbouring hamlet of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, you can visit the Charlevoix Maritime Museum. Its dry dock vessels can be explored, and the site attracts sea lovers and adventurers of all types!
In 2009, an archaeological dig was conducted on the other side of the marsh, to the left of the railway bridge. The person who wrote her master's thesis on what was discovered there provided remarkable insight into the early days of Baie-Saint-Paul. The lavender-colored star in the photo below identifies the position of the first two buildings where lived the early settlers arriving here from Europe for a life in the New World!
The hill behind our house was once covered with huge red pines. As it was the tree of choice to repair and waterproof the hold of ships crossing the Atlantic to and from France, Jean Talon encouraged two master tar makers to erect, not far from here, the first of 2 buildings: a Goudronnerie Royale was commissioned by Louis XIV, around 1673. About 5 years later, Monseigneur de Laval and Seigneur de Beaupré, chased them away in favour of establishing the region's first three farms, including “la Ferme du bas de la Baie” built almost on the very foundations of the old tar-making facility. The locals still call our little corner of Baie-Saint-Paul “the back of the bay” or the "bottom of the bay".
The complete transcript of the zooarchaeological thesis is available here.
About 150 m down the road is Rivière du Moulin (mill river) where the area's first sawmill was built around 1685. The site had at least three mills, including two sawmills and a flour mill that was later transformed into a textile factory.
This completes our little overview of the history of our corner of Baie-Saint-Paul. If this has piqued your curiosity, our small town is very rich in history (ref.: Centre culturel Paul-Médéric); moreover, Charlevoix has several museums, an archives center and fascinating interpretation sites.
Our organic lavender is in very good company here in Baie-Saint-Paul, a city dotted with agri-food businesses even within its urban perimeter. Its unique blend of residential and agricultural zones add to its charm. Azulée is also a member of the Table agrotouristique de Charlevoix, and is a stop on its Route des Saveurs circuit. Our organic lavender, fresh and dried herbs and other mini-crops are found on many plates among local restaurateurs… on St-Jean Baptiste, downtown and all the way to La Malbaie.
In 2015, Louise won the Prix du patrimoine régional (regional heritage award), in the “Preservation and Showcasing the territory” category.
Why organic lavender? For the sake of our environment and to promote crops that require little water – this little bush does very well in poor soil, with almost no water! Since 2014, the project has developed little by little, with the magical contribution provided by a constellation of ever-devoted little elves!
Point 2 - The Corner Garden
Our organic edible gardens are home to many little wonders!
At Point 2, on the right side, you'll find summer savory, sage, baby Munstead lavender, curly parsley and lastly, yarrow. The huge plant on the far right is lovage (cousin of celery), and next to it is yarrow. The perimeter is lined with mini edible carnations and don't forget to admire the red rosebush, up behind the allium purpureum (ornamental onion). Climbing up the rope trellis are sweet peas, and next to that are a few baby flowering sage plants.
In front of you on the left are 4 small rectangular beds planted with (1) organic red rhubarb, organic lemon balm for our Tisane Estelle, (3) organic chamomile of which we only harvest the flower heads for a wonderfully relaxing herbal tea and finally (4) sorrel, with its lemony spinach flavour that's so delicious when served with salmon. Sorrel has been around for centuries – like all these ancient plants by the way – and it is excellent in soups or as a filling for homemade feta spanakopitas.
Now go to Point 3 where you will see a small organic plum tree, Russian sage, more organic red rhubarb and our baby Munstead lavender nursery. Here our plants are grown for sale to the public the following spring, or to replace those in the field that were unable to withstand the impacts of Pépère Hiver or… Mother Nature. The last small flower bed contains specimens of bee balm: its dried leaves are wonderful in tea (bergamot).
Strung up on the 3 “retired” Bell telephone poles are our organic Willamette hops. These vines adapt well to horticultural zone 3b, they love water and their roots burrow up to 15 feet deep to find it. Hops cones are harvested at the end of August when a fine yellow powder appears at the base of the cone. In addition to being used to brew beer, hops are enjoyed as an herbal tea that promotes the production of breast milk in mothers with newborns!
Point 3 - Our Lavender Field
Our lavandula angustifolia lavender, or English lavender, is commonly called true lavender. It is a smaller plant with a higher essential oil content than its lavandin cousin that is a hybrid known as French lavender. The vast majority of our plants are of the Munstead variety, with a few Hidcote on 2 rows. Hidcote is more compact than Munstead, and its flowers have a darker, almost purple hue. Both varieties are preferred for culinary purposes due to their sweeter flavour and lower camphor content. If you run your fingers through their leaves, you can smell and feel the essential oil – even when there are no flowers!
Louise's dream of having a field of lavender in her backyard started in late 2013. Parker had quit his job in the Yukon in the fall, and Louise returned from Ontario where their son Max was attending university. The field was disced and plowed, and agricultural drainage installed under the top soil. The square garden (which we will get to shortly) had overwintered more than a hundred seedlings. In the spring of 2014, they were transplanted onto the raised furrows. A total of 19 rows were formed and planted with nearly 1,400 seedlings in the first year. Over the next few years, the other furrows were added along with hundreds of other plants; the 2 nurseries were created afterwards.
On a gentle slope, the field drains well with the help of a French drain which crosses the bottom of the plantation. Pay attention to this important aspect of growing lavender: this plant hates having wet feet. The field must therefore be designed so the soil drains well, in order to avoid sudden death and ... disease.
Also, we keep our plants in a juvenile state for their first two summers; in short, they are prevented from flowering, which promotes root development. Our first real harvest therefore took place in 2016, the year that marked the debut of azulée lavender, proudly certified organic by Ecocert Canada. If all goes well, a lavender plant lives about ten years. By planting over several years, we ensure the sustainability of our micro-business.
Point 4 - Our New Young Red Rosebushes
Our four new Champlain rosebushes at the top of the field will provide additional red petals for our Tisane Estelle herbal tea (lemon balm, lavender, rose petals). This type of rose can withstand the Charlevoix climate and the assault of insects and winds from the river, and the blustery backcountry...
The top of the property offers a magnificent view of our surroundings. On the other side of the valley, mid-mountain, we can make out large sand deposits. These are the remnants of the Champlain Sea. The great explorer noted that far above the river there were many signs of an ancient waterfront; he also surmised that a long time ago an inland sea must once have risen 150 m above our present sea level. He was almost right! We now know that the weight of the huge ice caps from the last Ice Age depressed the land mass. As the ice melted, it actually filled and formed this sea. Finally, yes, the land rose up. Of course, this process took a few thousand years and started about 12,000 years ago!
It's also worth noting that we're sitting near the rim of a giant crater formed around 350,000 years ago when a meteorite impact reshaped the area. The Gouffre and La Malbaie Rivers form a semi-circle, and its centre is near the village of Les Éboulements. The outer rim of the crater includes a mountain range whose ridges soar to over 1,000 m above sea level. The other half of the crater is hidden under the St. Lawrence.
Another interesting geological particularity: Baie-Saint-Paul is located at the junction of 2 of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet. The Laurentian Mountains stretch from Ontario through southern Quebec, north of the St. Lawrence and all the way to the eastern tip of the province. The Appalachians extend from the southeastern United States to the Gaspé Peninsula, including under the St. Lawrence River to Isle-aux-Coudres. This ancient chain of mountains has worn away over time, especially under the river where their peaks have created numerous islands, sandbanks and obstacles to navigation, particularly at low tide. All maritime traffic must pass between Baie-Saint-Paul and Isle-aux-Coudres. What a pleasure to see the cruise ships, especially during the fall colours. Imagine how the Queen Mary II – 3 football fields long and over 20 stories high – seems to completely eclipse the islet behind!
Let's now head back down to the farmhouse. The cedar hedge on the left was planted a few years ago to protect the lavender from winter's harsh northern winds. At the end of the hedge is our little organic MacIntosh apple tree.
Point 5 - Our Square Garden on the Left
Louise started her first herb garden here in 2003. It was square with a white picket fence that served to discourage small wild and less wild creatures from entering. Since then, the drying shed was built and it is in a perpetual state of change.
Next to the organic cherry tomatoes is okra, a red variety that goes so well with shrimp. Our garlic is thriving, to be cropped late July. Québec oregano, edible mini pansies, so-called garlic- or flat-leaf chives (its small white satellite flowers are delicious as a garnish on stir-fries, salads, etc.), regular chives and horseradish. Grated horseradish roots are a lovely side with red meats, and add spice to coleslaw while its tender young leaves are a great addition to summer salads, julienned.
Behind it is a large, unruly bush that is actually organic tarragon.
And in spring, large white and blue bulbs float in the wind: these are Gladiator and Everest alliums.
Now it's up to you to find the thyme! All these products are certified organic by Ecocert Canada.
Point 6 - Our Rectangular Garden on the Right
Over time, Louise has tried to propagate the wild lupins you see here, harvesting the pods and sharing the seeds and plants with others who love them too! Lupine were on the list of endangered species here in Québec. As well, lemon verbena can be sipped in herbal teas, and used to make a syrup for summer cocktails or icing for cupcakes. We also supply it to Hydromel Charlevoix, on rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water, with or without aromatic herbs.
Our organic lemon verbena is also in a Famille Dufour signature spirit.
Near the asparagus and their canopy of fine fronds, there are small false curry plants, organic rosemary, more organic lemon verbena and Greek oregano. Behind, pink yarrow...
Next, in front of the big rock is a happy red currant bush. Very productive in July, its bright red fruit is transformed into a compote with a delicate lavender note, one of many ephemeral seasonal products prepared by Louise during the summer months.
Point 7 - The Drying Shed
After mid-July, most of the lavender is harvested by hand, in bunches, and hung on vertical chains in the drying shed. The light breeze off the St. Lawrence promotes the air circulation required to dry the flower heads and, depending on the weather, our harvest takes 4 or 5 days to dry. Afterwards, it is handled, processed and stored according to MAPAQ and Ecocert Canada standards.
When Parker built the drying shed in 2016, his aim was to replicate the lines of the old chicken coop – we think he nailed it! The interior is quite small, especially when it's full of lavender!
Organic culinary lavender accounts for about 75% of our annual harvest, and the rest is for sachets, lip balm and mini pillows. Before the pandemic, the drying shed also served as our boutique. The barn board comes from a local farm that had collapsed under the weight of the snow, while its windows were repurposed: we found them in the attic. The rustic cabinet was a gift from the Little Franciscans of Mary who love lavender as much as we do, and the light fixture is an old yoke mounted on a broomstick with a touch of Ikea: the lamp shades!
Point 8 - Distiller
At the end of the Summer 2019, Parker bought a still which has truly become a new vocation: the merry scientist,! At the time of your visit, you might see him working behind the house. This is where he produces our organic Azulée Hydrosols, either lavender or cedar.
Thank you !
Parker would like you to know that our field experience and everything that appeals to your sense of aesthetics at Azulée is the result of Louise's hard work, coloUr schemes and green thumb… not to mention her culinary skills!
Thank you for visiting our small organic lavender farm! Now come back to the front of our summer kitchen, for your free product tasting and to explore our foodie and relaxation products, crafted with lavender, chamomile, verbena and more.