HOT TUNA back in Austin, 2012 at the One World Theater

Lucas and Jorma Kaukonen

Just when you think the music couldn’t get any better, it does.

I should know, my first Hot Tuna show was in 1972. Back then I had a seat on stage
(a trunk), behind the band, my uncle being the concert promoter. Mesmerized, I watched the band play with Papa John Creach (former member) on the Fiddle. Today I’m still in awe of these legendary musicians.

I’ve been crossing paths with Hot Tuna ever since. There were my high school years, shows in Commack, Belmont Racetrack (Jorma with rainbow-colored hair), the infamous Lone Star Cafe a few blocks from home in the West Village. There was my neighbor down the hall in the dorm at college, one of Hot Tuna’s future booking agents, now tour manager. The iconic slogans used along the way and the audience screaming, “Hot _’n Tuna”, “Jorma Saves”, “If you don’t know Jorma, you don’t know Jack”, “Got Jorma?”

 It was a stellar acoustic show!

And an unusually cool July evening in Austin, set against a beautiful sunset in the Texas
Hill Country. In this incarnation, Hot Tuna was composed of the Acoustic Trio, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Barry Mitterhoff. It was my first, I hope of many shows in this intimate setting at the The One World Theater. The co-Founder and Executive Director, Hartt Stearns graciously offered us seats in the front of the house.

Hot Tuna and Cindy Cashdollar

Hot Tuna played classics as well as new tunes off the latest studio recording entitled, “Steady As She Goes”, produced by Larry Campbell at Levon Helm’s in Woodstock N.Y.

“We got the wondrous Cindy Cashdollar to sit in with us”– Jorma Kaukonen

Full of good surprises, Hot Tuna brought Cindy Cashdollar out on Dobro and Steel Guitar. Cindy is a stunning talent and adds a wonderful dimension to the Hot Tuna sound. Jorma was thrilled to have her back for the evening (she toured with Hot Tuna in 2006). An Austin resident, be sure to check Cindy out on Wednesdays at The Saxon Pub.

Barry Mitterhoff of Hot Tuna and Cindy Cashdollar

Whether it’s Roots, Blues, Acoustic or Electric, Hot Tuna keeps it fresh. Over the years they’ve had a rotating cast of musicians that have performed with the band. Well known talent such as GE Smith, Charlie Musslewhite, Steve Kimock to Jim Lauderdale and John Hammomd, just to name a few. Back at home in Ohio, Jorma with his wife Vanessa, run a guitar camp at the Fur Peace Ranch. Some of the musicians that tour and record with Hot Tuna are guest teachers at the ranch. If this isn’t enough, Hot Tuna still continues to tour the world, with recent stops in Israel and China.

It was a great evening of old and new friends. I had the pleasure of meeting Cash Edwards, Hot Tuna’s Austin based Publicist for a second time. We first meet at the monthly networking luncheon for Woman in Music Professional Society, (WIMPS). Austin, The Music Capital of the World, is happy Hot Tuna has us back on their touring schedule this year and hope to see them again next tour. Their dedication continues to shine through their music putting big smiles on many faces.

         Blog by Lucas

The 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival, June 8th-10th, 2012

by Margie Eades

When in the Hill Country, do as the Provençal French do.

That is just what National Geographic photographer Robb Kendrick did after realizing that the terroir of Southern France was similar to that of Texas’s Hill Country while shooting the lavender fields of Provence on assignment. In 1999 Kendrick and his wife planted what would be the first of five or so lavender farms that exist to this day in the area surrounding Blanco, Texas.

Just FYI, ours do NOT look like this…

In spite of the devastating drought that has been affecting Texan farmers for the past several years, three lavender farms in Blanco still welcomed visitors to their farms during the 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival. Thanks to the drought, the crop was small and the blooms were um, sparse, to say the least. However the festival drew a large crowd with activities like lavender picking and lavender wand making, as well as attractions like baby Nubian goats (triplets!) and lavender margaritas, sausages, and ice cream.

Garth Brooks – Long Neck Bottle

I got out of bed and on the road Saturday morning at about 8:30 AM. Blanco is a pleasant one hour drive from Austin and I had plans back in Austin at 1PM so I wanted to be as intentional with my time as possible. The festival started at 9AM and there were three farms to hit; I planned my trip so that I would make a loop of all the farms and be headed back to Austin by 12:05. My route allowed that I could pass through the artisan market in Blanco’s town square, but I decided early on not to stop there because of my time constraint.

The 3 farms participating in the festival – and an artisan market in Blanco’s town square.

The drive down U.S.290 was a treat in itself. It was early enough in the morning that I could zip down the highway with all the windows down, sunroof open, my hair tied back with a bandana, blasting country music with cool wind and gentle sunlight on my skin. Surprisingly, the wildflowers were still out in full force like I never would have imagined. Hot pink bubbles emerging from dusty rock walls, purple thistles scattered here and there, and fields of lanky sunflowers accompanied by the usual dark red and soft pink flowers that somehow survive along the highway. I guess the springtime rain and the relatively mild heat we have had this spring/early summer have allowed them to thrive well on into June**.

I missed Miller Creek Farm right at the intersection of 290 + 281 so the first farm I arrived at was Hill Country Lavender. To be honest, it was a disappointing first impression. The plot was small, the “lavender chair massages under the beautiful live oak tree” had not begun yet (I was there at 9:30), and because the plants were so distraught from the drought, no picking was allowed. The farm’s one redeeming quality was the delicious looking produce offered in the open air store at the entrance to the farm and the pleasant-looking shaded seating area accompanying the produce stand. I am sure there were more attractions later, but I needed to move on to the next stop.

Lone lavender bloom at Hill Country Lavender

I lost some time backtracking up 281 to Miller Creek Lavender Farm, but the friendly folks at Miller Creek made it worthwhile. Upon arrival a man greeted me with “there are no rules except to have fun, alright?” and cheerfully directed me where to park. An antique car club had stopped by (later it would be the ROT Rally bikers), giving the men something to look at while the women and children explored the rows of lavender.

Antique cars at Miller Creek Farm

I sauntered around checking out the shop, the oil and watercolor paintings by a talented female artist, and tasting lavender jellies and lavender margarita mix (mixed with champagne and way too sweet in my opinion), before deciding I wanted to learn how to make a lavender wand. First, I had to cut my own stems of lavender from the field – yay! It cost $5 to pick a small bunch (15-20 stems), which I felt was reasonable considering the impact of the drought. Being out in the quiet field was extremely relaxing and reminded me of the 4 months I spent studying in the sunny and tranquil South of France last year. Walking back to the activity tents I made friends with a woman named Betty who travels with her husband to the festival every year from Lockhart. They bring their camper and make a weekend of it – one of her favorite parts is the live music that takes place every day in the town square.

Cutting lavender stems with my new friend Betty.

Weaving the ribbon between the stems of my lavender wand was equally simple and calming, and plenty of other visitors sitting around the table – from toddlers to grandparents – felt the same. I was impressed that the couple leading the activity had come all the way from Houston to share the craft with us, and they seemed surprised at the large turn out at the festival this year.

Lavender wand making at Miller Creek Farm

Before heading on to the third and final farm, I whizzed through the butterfly garden where a gardener introduced me to the Horsemint flower – it smells like oregano! It was lunch time so I decided to dish out $4 to try a lavender sausage. Not bad, but it did not taste anything like lavender.

It only took about 10 minutes to get to downtown, which was bustling with traffic, and hop onto TX Ranch Road 165 in the direction of Wimberley Lavender Farm. That was a fun, winding drive, but I was in a bit of a time crunch so it was a little more like a roller coaster. Wimberley’s advertised attractions were baby Nubian and Nigerian fainting goats available to pet, as well as a “lavender bejeweled pony” (beats me…) and goat cheese products. This last farm was definitely the most picturesque, but unfortunately I did not have much time to enjoy it. I had passed a colorful flower farm on the way and wanted to squeeze in one last stop there before heading back to Austin.

I forgot to look around for the bejeweled pony – though I am pretty sure I would have noticed if it was there – but the adorable little goats made my day. Also fun to see on the farm were some stolid longhorns, though their nearly anorexic bodies struggling to support their mighty crowns were a sad manifestation of the strain borne by the parched Texan earth.

Goats at Wimberley Lavender Farm.

A longhorn at Wimberley Lavender Farm


On my way out, I had just enough time to stop at the charming cerulean barn I had spotted when I turned from Hwy 165 onto FM 2325 on my way to the Wimberley farm. It turned out to be the Arnosky family farm which specializes in fresh-cut flowers – gorgeous ones I might add – and vegetables grown right there on the corner. I did not get to talk to the owner, who was busy helping a family identify a plant they had found growing in their garden, but I am sure the farm has a fascinating story. I would love to go back there someday – and would recommend that you check it out too if you are ever in the area.

Arnosky Farm.

Just as planned, it was 12:05 when I got back on the road to Austin. Perfect timing and a perfect little day trip to cheer my soul. Even with the drought, I had a wonderful time at the 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival. See you again soon, Blanco! ☆


** check out Shirley’s blog for wildflower photos and more formal wildflower information

It’s not too late to check out Blanco’s offerings! Several of the farms have “U-pick” Lavender Days throughout the month of June as well as other farm attractions throughout the year. See their individual websites for more information.

More pictures, click for a slideshow. All photos by Margie Eades: