In January we give the garden a haircut. We cut back everything that has continued to be green until around Christmas time, we prune, we rake dead lives, and we pick out random rocks and twigs that have collected in the beds. It’s a very satisfying chore, in that the garden looks so organised and ordered when we are done, and it helps me get over the winter blues when there is very little alive apart from the Hellebore (which are much more noticeable when everything else has been tidied). This winter, I couldn’t believe how much was still alive or already blossoming in late December – we were mowing our lawn until just before Christmas! – so I spent a morning with my camera documenting the late-in-the-year-garden-beauty for posterity. ..
Wishing you all the very best for the holidays and the coming year. We are home in England this year, for the first time in three years. The kids are very happy to not be traveling for Christmas day and we have made the most of it by decorating cookies, going ice skating and singing lots of carols. Tonight we’ll be home for Christmas Eve dinner followed by lunch with the whole Brooks family tomorrow (32 for lunch – not at my house, thankfully!)...
“I had to have the taste of city in order to appreciate the country.” – Beatrix Ost
Naturally I am drawn to any woman who leaves a thriving life in New York City to raise her children on a farm in the countryside. Artist Beatrix Ost (along with her husband) did just that in 1982, decamping from her creative and eccentric city lifestyle and re-creating the rural version of it in a 19th century Edwardian home on 500 acres just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. What I personally respond to most is how little her style – both in fashion and interiors – has changed in her evolution from city to country life. The turban remains in place, the leopard is ever present, and she wears skirts and dresses like she is on her way to a perpetual cocktail party. Her home has many elements of country life – a relaxed coziness, depictions of farm animals, and a kitchen right at the heart of the house – but also it is infused in each room with her signature color palette and evidence of an artful life throughout. ..
There’s no arguing about the fact that English winters bring gloom – it’s pitch black by 4pm, the wind howls so loud it wakes me up at night, a glimpse of the sun is rare, and we wake in darkness each and every morning. When we moved here from NYC three and a half years ago, it was these wet, dark months that made me most nervous. How would I cope? One New York friend – a doctor who had lived in England during his school years – advised me to get a light box to ward off depression. Others implored us to book a holiday somewhere sunny over both Christmas vacation and February half term. ..
It’s been 10 days since we said goodbye to Jake, and my eyes still fill with tears each time I think of him. We haven’t even sold him yet! Two Sundays ago we sent him to live in an agent’s yard who will market him, show him to potential buyers and negotiate his eventual sale. He’s had a lot of interest and a handful of people are coming back this week for a second try on him. Despite my sadness, I feel so happy for the lucky person who is going to take him home. But I didn’t always feel that way.
We bought Jake for Coco when he was five and she was nearly twelve. Five is definitely on the young side for a horse intended to be ridden by a child. But Coco had always inherited excellent and more experienced ponies from her older cousins – they were “push button” as horse people like to say when referring to a horse that will do anything you ask on command. First Mr Teddy and then Sailor followed by Polo had all made Coco a confident and daring rider. So both her coach and her grandmother felt she was up to the task of taking on a bit more of challenge. ..
Then we moved them to an old abandoned chicken run just behind the farmyard. They were safe there – and boy did the hens produce a LOT of eggs – but we never saw them. We had no relationship with them whatsoever. Besides the pleasure of having fresh eggs, it was if we didn’t even have chickens anymore. And that felt sad to us. ..
This morning I went on a walk. I wasn’t planning to, but I was all caffeinated up and ready to get going in my day, but I had 40 more minutes before I actually needed to get in my car and drive off to my first appointment. I could have caught up on emails, but then I looked outside and the sky was blue and cloudless. In England, especially in the autumn, this is rare. Even if there are not clouds, there is usually fog in the mornings this time of year. And so I was compelled to go outside. I have a busy day – lots of errands locally and then I’m headed up to London later – and as soon as I got outside I felt grateful for the few extra moments to do something purely pleasurable before the obligations that lay ahead. ..
Every autumn when I was a child, my family would chose a Saturday to pile in the car and drive at least an hour north from our home in Westchester to pick apples and buy cider. We always returned with huge bags of tangy, crisp fruit far better than anything you could buy in the supermarket. We ate as many as we could and then my mom would make the rest into apple sauce.The years of memories are hard to differentiate in my head – they have all melted together into one collection of happy fruit-picking nostalgia.
When we moved to England, and I found myself surrounded by more apples than you could possibly pick come September, the abundance quickly weighed heavily upon me. Yes we picked them. And I made a pie or a crumble, and then as much apple sauce as I could possibly make. But that didn’t even touch the surface of making the most of our apple supply. ..
I took this photo of our old tack room in 2008 which by chance turned out to be the summer before it was disassembled and moved from the old farmyard into a make-shift new tack room in our stables. We kind of threw it together spur of the moment, so the design and decoration of it hasn’t really been thought through. I’m thinking of making some improvements so I’ve been asking myself what it is I want from a tack room...
My husband loves to tell people that he rode ponies as a kid, but that once he got on a motorbike around age 15, he never rode a horse again until only recently. When my son Zach grows up I suspect he’ll tell a similar tale, but in his case it will be pigs that lured him away from horses. When Zach was 7, his uncle Charlie got two rather large KuneKune pigs. Knowing that Zach had a bad fall off his pony the year before and had shied away from horse riding since, Charlie had it in his head that Zach would find it more fun to ride the pigs! I thought it was a silly idea and didn’t give it much thought until one afternoon when Charlie turned up in our garden. ..