Friday, August 31, 2012

Hollyhocks by Winslow Tudor

Beyond the grape arbor and to the south of the greenhouse resides Tasha’s hollyhock bank. Its proximity to the herb circle subtly unites it with the rest of the garden, but by late July when much of the color in the garden has faded it is the focal point, for the hollyhocks are in full bloom. Ranging from pure white to varying shades of pink and yellow, the hollyhocks are a wonderful presence, particularly very late in the afternoon when the sun sets beyond the field and for a moment casts its light across the entire garden.

Tasha’s old fashioned hollyhocks originated from an ancestor of hers who lived in Nahant. Where they came from prior to that is not known. Tasha was fond of her hollyhocks due not only to the connection with her past, but for their unusual longevity and resistance to rust. Typically hollyhocks are biennial, and tend not to cope gracefully with rust, puccinia malvacearum. Tasha did not rely solely on the merits of her hollyhocks, but diligently removed infected leaves, mulched around them to prevent rain from unduly spreading any fungus, cut back and removed from her garden all stems and leaves in autumn, and generally took good care of each plant. She also collected the most promising seeds and stored them for future use. It was not unusual to see little terra cotta pots in the spring sitting on the bench of her greenhouse, labeled and sprouting hollyhocks.


Despite all Tasha shared about her garden, and despite all other people learned about it in an effort to preserve its historical and cultural significance, it seems to long for her presence now and then, and to fade slightly at moments when she does not come out with her shovel and cheer to spend the day among the plants. The hollyhocks, once so numerous, diminished from hundreds to dozens several years ago. The hollyhock bank turned to lupine. This spring several hundred hollyhocks were started from original seeds, and they have grown well. In addition to replenishing the hollyhock bank, eighty plants took up residence in grow beds south of the vegetable gardens. While hollyhocks do not bloom their first year, their green leaves are hopeful, and next year should be spectacular.

                            -Photos and story by Tasha's grandson, Winslow Tudor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cupcakes & Dreams

{Cupcakes baked by Natalie for tea, August 2012}

It is that time of year when things are shifting and changing. The light tilts its head, projects and garden work are done with vigor as we anticipate autumn, and a hot cup of tea is a welcome change of pace from iced. I think things within us shift and change this time of year, too. We seem to be ready for change, eagerly awaiting new things.

 {Ellie enjoys licking the frosting off her cupcake while her daddy, Winslow, animatedly tells a story.}

I, too, am anticipating new things, and digging in to new projects.  I will be moving "back home" to Minnesota, a place that holds a very large piece of my heart and childhood memories, to begin working towards my lifelong dream of owning a bakery. Yes, my heart feels a bit unsettled about all of it, more than a little bittersweet, but utterly excited and glowing with the promise of what is to come. Vermont is a very difficult place to ever want to leave! But dreams beckon loudly within us, don't you agree? What a place of inspiration to jump from, this place of beauty and wonder here in the Green Mountains, with the inspiration of a true dreamer, Tasha Tudor.

From the time she was a little girl, Tasha Tudor has known exactly what she wanted: to live on a secluded farm where she could surround herself with a garden and a menagerie of household pets and barnyard animals, and to illustrate children’s books.
~Introduction to The Private World of Tasha Tudor, by Richard Brown

 Tasha Tudor fulfilled her lifelong dream of moving to Vermont, and creating a place that suited her every sensibility...animals, fields of flowers, stone walls, gardens, a pond, a secret garden, and, of course, the house that Seth built. Tasha encouraged everyone to continue working towards their own dreams wholeheartedly. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the feet of Tasha's rocking chair, soaking up the atmosphere and filling myself with the imaginative creativity, love, and generosity exuded here. I, too, have known what I wanted to do from the time I was a little girl: own a bakery and write children’s books. I have notebook upon notebook filled with bakery ideas, stories, and carefully copied recipes; stacks and stacks of cookbooks I collected; and several report cards that mention how I was constantly reading those cookbooks under my desk in school! There have been many new creations brought in to the Rookery for the expert tasting opinions of the Tudor family! Indeed, I have been a baker as long as I can remember and have held these dreams in my heart. Now seems to be the time to give those dreams wings.

{The first cake Natalie baked in Vermont, for Fourth of July on Tasha's porch, 2006}

 I am happy to say I will still be working for Tasha Tudor and Family, Inc. in a more behind-the-scenes role. Tasha's messages of self-reliance, beauty, simplicity, and the ability to make one's dreams come true are so pertinent for today's world. We must not let that flame dim. They are even more alive to me as I strive to make my own dreams come true! Exciting things are happening here, and I just couldn't bear to leave them behind. Vermont, the Tudor family, and of course you, our dear fans & friends, also hold a very large piece of my heart. It has been the utmost pleasure of mine to spend the past six and a half years getting to know you on the phone, via email, in person at garden tours and events, and through this blog and Twitter. Technology does have a wonderful way of broadening our friendship circles! Not much will change around here, except a few tweaks for the better, and I will continue to edit the blog and Twitter. I do hope you'll continue to connect with me and the Tudor family!

Take joy,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seeds in the Hay Loft

On a partly-sunny day, when the skies are heavy with impending rain, but the sun refuses to be entirely hidden, the greens around Tasha's house are stunning. The leaves offer a hundred shades of green when the sunlight teases us and catches the dew.

Continuing on the path around the herb circle, and down a few stone steps to the vegetable garden, you can see the saturated colors of the late-summer garden.

There, you'll also find Annie, Ellie, and Amy carefully collecting Sweet Rocket seeds for next year. The dried, browned tops are where the seeds are, and Ellie knows to clip just below them. The sunflower in the foreground "volunteered" (as Tasha said) in the Sweet Rocket bed.

Ellie was quiet and carefully focused on Mom's instructions of proper handling of the garden shears.

The seeds are collected from Tasha's garden and the Tudor property and dried in the hay loft of Tasha's barn. The air movement and temperature in the hay loft are ideal for drying seeds--and I like to think that maybe the air in Tasha's barn lends an extra something particularly uncommon and special.
 Seth made the screens to hold the drying seed pods. As they dry, the seeds fall and drop through, ready to be gathered.

Ellie loves to hear the noise the seeds make, and is seen here shaking out some foxglove seeds while Amy checks their progress.  

From the hay loft, you can spy a box of cupcakes waiting on the grain barrel for tea time (along with the water jug and a few leftover paper cups from the garden tours). At the thought of cupcakes, Ellie becomes overjoyed, and seed collecting is paused for a tea break. We all climb down the hay loft built-in ladder steps, which Ellie loves to practice climbing with Mom's help. Safely on the ground floor of the barn, I slip off my shoes, mentioning they are a bit wet from the dewy grass. Ellie carefully takes them and sets them on the goat stand. She says, 'They're here drying for you, Natalie." What a sweet spirit, that dear girl.

More about tea time and cupcakes in the next post... 

Until then, 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Local Honey & Teatime for One

A vintage gold-edged tray in the garden by the stone path...
Turkey red napkins...
Blue cantonware...
Emma Bridgewater tea mug...
Multi-grain toast...
Organic, fair-trade chocolate...
Honey fresh from our wonderful graphic designer's bees in Northern Vermont.

That sound like tea for one (me!).

A day or two ago, I posted on our Twitter feed that I was enjoying some nice dark chocolate with my tea break. Our graphic designer, Kirsten, shared a photo of her tea break...toast with homemade butter and her own honey. When I mentioned that I had just run out of local honey, she handed her husband a jar fresh from their first harvest and rushed it down to Southern Vermont for us (how lucky that he was headed our way already!). 
There was much excitement in the office at the arrival of this light gold liquid tonic. So beautiful!

Kirsten told me that the honey goes very well with chocolate. Knowing that Kirsten designed our seed packets and goat milk soap boxes, I know she is a smart and creative woman, so I had to try her suggestion.

She's absolutely right. Look at that light, lovely  honey on dark chocolate.

Now I must find an extra jar or two to share this golden goodness with the rest of the family. Some things are just too good to keep to oneself :-)

Take time for tea! It is a wonderful refreshment for the spirit and mind.
What will YOU have with your tea today? I'd love to know on Twitter or in the comments!