September 26, 2013

Life on the Farm: Another September

In June of 2012, I announced to the world, or at least the fashion world, that I was taking a year off to go live on a farm in rural England. So here we are at the end of September 2013, and here I am. Still. People ask me from time to time when I am coming back or what my future plans are, and so I thought I’d let you all know what I’m up to.

For starters, I love it here. For more reasons than I can explain. But the main ones are the following: I have never been more clear about who I am and what is important to me. There is enough peace and quiet here to listen to myself – my mind and my body. I know when it’s time to work hard and when it’s time to rest. The tension is gone from my shoulders and the adrenaline that lived inside my belly for twenty years in New York has settled down. I know it because whenever I go back to New York, the adrenaline returns and I notice it now because I’m less used to it. My husband is as happy as I am, for similar reasons. And my kids are thriving. Thriving.

But the one thing that is different this year is that I am reintroducing accountability into my life. I want to this year to have purpose. Last year I had a bit of structure –  I paid my bills and answered emails on Mondays, I wrote my blogs on Thursdays, I ordered groceries for the week on Sundays. But because it was my “year off” I often ditched my schedule in favor of a better option – a walk in the fields when the sun came out, a ride with a friend after school drop off, an ambition to cook three sit down meals a day (yes, I’ve gained a few pounds!).

The one work-related thing I did accomplish last year was that I started writing my next book, and this summer I sold it. Yep. To Blue Rider Press (at Penguin Random House). I am so excited. It’s a book of autobiographical stories spanning my twenty years in fashion. My goal is to share with you some of the most formative and transformative experiences I have had over the years and what I learned from them, who I learned them from, how I came to my most important decisions, and of course what I was wearing when all of this happened. It’s not my comprehensive “memoir,” just moments that shifted me from one perspective to another. There will be also lots of user-friendly sharing, like what I learned from packing for fashion month over and over again, how I figured out to match my red lipstick to my red nails, and the way I discovered how to wear more than one piece of denim at a time. And because no one loves a visual more than I do, there will be lots of great photos, but also more personal writing this time, because I’m just in that kind of mood. Can’t wait for you to read it.

So am I done with fashion? I don’t think so. I love the idea of living life in chapters, and this is just the chapter I am in right now. I like to think about my mentor-in-all-things-to-do-with-life-and-fashion Diane Von Furstenberg who took multiple time-outs throughout her career and now in her 60’s has more success than ever. She did it at her own pace. I’d like to do the same.

In the meantime, here I am in September on the farm! God it’s a great month. I have my strict writing schedule that I am (mostly) sticking to, while still managing to cook and ride a horse and pick fruit. Onward!

 

When we arrived back from New York, the whole farm yard was just overflowing with apples. It was a great summer for fruit growing. This is the smallest tree we have, but I love the intensity of it’s red apples.
Whenever Coco and I have been away from the farm for a while, we love to jump on a horse as soon as we get back. It helps us to ease the transition (you know that “What the hell am I doing here” feeling?) by reminding us what we love most about living here.
During August our entire giant thistle tree had collapsed. Christopher was sure he had cut it back enough so that it wouldn’t topple over, but it did. The good news was that I got to pick all the flowers for the house. They last a long time.
We also got home just in time for The Feastival, a food and music festival at the next door farm hosted by Jamie Oliver and Alex James (the bassist for Blur). I love stuffing my face at all the street food vendors, and of course the kids get excited by the rides.
I’ve been cooking my way through the blackberries and apples, one crumble at a time. I use Nigella’s recipe for the topping, but for the fruit I just cut it up, arrange it evenly and pour a few teaspoons of sugar on top (but not too much or it’s too sweet!).
Zach and I had to drive a long way to get him a pair of shoes he needed for school, so we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the local antiques shop. He got some old Beano comics, and I got this vintage hunting hat, which sadly fits Zach better than it does me.
Eartha Kitten, making a fast get away from the horse I am riding.
Jack Bauer and Inspector Clouseau. I love these two. They belong to my husband’s brother but they live in our field at the moment.
Racing up the hill, Coco edges out Christopher for the lead.
Sweet homemade sign in Bledington.
In honor of New York Fashion Week, the sheep decided to have a runway finale of their own.
We have a gazillion pears as well. I have just gotten my hands on a recipe for the best pear compote that my friend Laura Bailey gave me made from her pears. Once I test it (tonight), I’ll share it with you.
The horses are so fat after eating grass all summer, especially Shalom. Now we’re working hard to get them in shape. And yes, Christopher’s hat cover is cotton candy pink. The children recoil in shame when he puts it on, and so he wears it every chance he can.
I’ve been eating fresh figs every morning for a month. It’s the first time we’ve been here to enjoy them. Last year we were here at the right time, but the summer was too cold and wet to make any fruit. And I surprised myself because I didn’t think I liked figs that much but fresh off the vine with sheep’s milk and honey? Unbelievably good.
Christopher is a total sucker for a string of outside lights. Not just at Christmas, but year round. I like how they illuminate the last few roses of the year.
I was wistful when I took this picture last Sunday because I knew it would likely be our last outdoor meal for a while.
Jake and the killer sunset.
The best afterschool playdate on Earth.
Gingy girl, waiting for us to come back from a ride. Oh how she would have loved to come along!
Taking a breather on the most beautiful day in September.

 

At one point the fig bounty was so plentiful that I had to make something with them. I love this very simple recipe.

 

I took this last photo of the house with the long grass. Christopher gave the garden it its winter haircut today.
One of my September highlights was having my friend Taylor play hooky between London and Milan fashion weeks for a night of peace and rest. We rode horses, we chatted by the fire and we walked home from dinner at the pub in the light of the full moon. Maybe I should start a fashion month rehab here…….
I never get over this face.
Zach, worshipping at the alter of the last dandelion in the field.
I’ve learned that in England, autumn announces itself with fog. I woke up this morning, and the new season was here.
Today was one of those days when I had to postpone my writing schedule and jump on a horse. The mist and the fog was too compelling to ignore. It was scary at first – I really couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead of me, but I felt like I was on the set of a film, especially when these two emerged heading towards me from from the cloud. It was too beautiful to be believed.

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Luisa
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3 years 9 months ago
I, for one, am so glad you're staying. I love your photos and stories from your new life. It's so beautiful and soothing and lovely to come and visit every week. I'm a longtime fan and silent reader who has never commented, but I felt compelled to on this post because I actually would love to know more about how you handle your work and writing schedule. I have been thinking about divying my week up precisely as you do, but have yet to pull the trigger. I'm a writer as well and constantly feel pulled in so many different… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
3 years 10 months ago

thanks so much for sharing.. I also have been thinking of moving to England for 1-2 yrs with the Fam's & was wondering how you went about finding your home???

Amanda Brooks
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3 years 10 months ago

We live on the farm where my husband grew up. We had been coming to our cottage every year in the summer which helped make the transition smoother for all of us. xx

Tara Dillard
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3 years 10 months ago

Oh my, how you paced your pics. Brava! In addition to myriad other talents displayed in the post. Total brain candy.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Caitlin Hill from San Francisco
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3 years 11 months ago

One of my favorite posts! Truly inspiring to hear about your experiences in the country, Amanda. I hope to have my own some day! I blogged about you and the my inspiration on my own blog this morning.
http://citrusandcedars.com/2013/10/15/bucket-list/

Anonymous
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Anonymous
3 years 11 months ago

What a charmed and wonderful life. Thanks for sharing

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