The lavender plant at my house spills over almost the entire width of the front walkway — a challenge for those put off by the many bees foraging for nectar. But how do I prune it? And what clever things can I do with the stems?
That’s made me curious about a lavender farm between Princeton and Hopewell with 15 varieties. Easy enough to bike there, I thought. Much of it is already the route we take when we want to punish ourselves with hill climbs in the Sourlands. And much closer than the lavender fields in Provence.
The bike ride from Princeton to Hidden Spring is pretty straightforward: take your favorite way through town to get to the far end of Witherspoon Street (we usually reach it via Valley Road), then cross U.S. 206 and start climbing Cherry Hill Road. We went past our usual turnoff to Cherry Valley Road, where we did a quick left, then right to continue on Cherry Hill. At Route 518, turn left and you’ll be in a bike lane. Then turn right at the traffic light — that’s Belle Mead-Blawenburg Road — and take it until the road does a 90-degree curve to the right. The farm is on the curve.
Bonus: no admission fee (though donations requested), unlike Princeton Lavender on Lawrenceville Road (aka US 206). That one is around the corner from the Province Line Road section of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail and might be more kid-friendly with goats and chickens and such.
But Hidden Spring’s alpacas were surprisingly captivating. Oh, they know visitors mean food (you can buy food there for $1 a bag) and quickly come out, poking through the fence slats looking for a handout. And yes, they’ll eat from your hand. You’ve got the parents, the chubby-cheeked kids (their faces reminded me of ewoks in Star Wars) and the first farm-born baby, just 2 1/2 weeks old (and can’t be fed) covered in what looks more like a looped carpet than soft fur.
There’s always that one in every family who grabs as much food as possible, pushing others out of the way if necessary, and that happens here too.
Ooh, check out the teeth on this one! And hair!
By late July, a lot of the lavender has been harvested, with just a couple of long rows left for the bees to enjoy. The gift shop is full of all things lavender, a bit of honey and then alpaca knits. I’m told alpaca socks absorb odors without being hot so are great for multiday rides … which I would consider if I ever move past basic cotton no-show socks.
And how do they keep the lavender looking so good? They prune three times a year. That’s a lot of work!
We left the lavender and alpacas behind to continue on our 40-mile ride. I’d share the route, but we ended up on a mile-long unpaved stretch of Montgomery Road. I remembered this route wrong — clearly we should not have gone left off Hollow Road. Follow that route properly and you have a nice loop from Hopewell. We deviated from it to get back to our usual route back to Princeton via Crusher, Carter, Cleveland and Pretty Brook (where one hill gets me every time!) and then home.