country dance

Not so long ago, when we first thought of leaving London for a tiny village in Sussex, a village fair (with Buster Keaton playing in the hall!) and a barn dance persuaded us that we’d found our community. Glorious fiddling, young and old dancing round a barn at the local farm, beautiful food on the tables from the land around. We met such fine friends there, and we miss them very much. So, here in the tiny community surrounding our new island home in the forested Highlands, with great joy, we went to our first country dance at the old schoolhouse.

country-dance-twirl

Some of us were so excited, we began before the accordion started, even as the potluck was being packed away.

country-dance-caller

Here is the caller, stepping in to dance with my small one to round out the pairs. Later she danced with our beloved village elder, now in his nineties, youngest and eldest.

country-dance-pairs

These are simple dances, and deceptively so. We were astonished at how flushed and tired we could get! Country-dance workout. We’ve been reading Austen all winter, and watching films of her books, so a dance like this echoes stories across history. “A ball? I long for a ball!”

the old schoolhouse

Out of the old schoolhouse, back into the world of snow and ice.

knaves acre

Knaves Acre is the 400-year-old cottage in Sussex that we had the utter delight to live in for a couple of years. Such a community, such wonderful countryside, and a beloved circle of friends. The old cottage is featured in the summer issue of the British interior design magazine, Heart Home. There are beautiful, inspiring spaces in every issue, do go have a look. Would you like to see Knaves from their perspective? Here are some of the images.

knaves-10.jpg

In my studio, the hand-crank machine on the long antique table, usually covered in fabrics, papers, clay pieces, but sometimes transformed for a party.

knaves-1.jpg

The old treadle. Those steps lead up to a reading room in the eaves, and the door opens to the deck and a spectacular view across the weald.

knaves-2.jpg

I do love shelving in a studio for yarns and fabrics and excellent tools. I like to see my things, and know where to find everything at a glance.

knaves-9.jpg

Our daybed, much transformed since we acquired it, with the pillows I sewed as studies in linen all across it. Friends would sleep here, and it is the best place to curl up with tea and a book. I’m very fond of the craft cupboard in the corner.

knaves-8.jpg

We studied at the little round table in the mornings and shared our meals there in the evenings. I like to keep an old crate full of study books and pencils nearby, and basket for napkins and mats. I always thought of the ledge beside it as a mantel, though the little wood stove is opposite.

knaves-7.jpg

The writing desk that I fixed up, and its companion, the painted chair. I love to have a place dedicated to writing and image editing, and all the small things that surround that sort of work. Well positioned between the wood stove and the windows! The doors lead to the rambling old garden, once an acreage, with a pond and a swing and a greenhouse in it. And a cliff!

knaves-6.jpg

The settee is an upholstery project, my first. Next to it a table I revived, and my tall girl’s bluebird typewriter, with a story in it as always. The flowers all round the cottage were picked at Blooming Green.

knaves-4.jpg

Up the steps are the bedrooms, with the painted bed and pot cupboard. The vaulted ceilings are something else! From that window we could see the Bluebell steam by in the distance.

knaves-3.jpg

And through to the girls’ room, tiny but perfectly formed. The truckle bed helped the space function well, such a cosy little room in the eves. One wall was entirely lined with shelves full of books and beloved games.

knaves-5.jpg

I loved this kitchen for its marble counter in one corner, bright windows beyond the hob, and open space to stack my own pottery along with pieces I’ve collected. (And for its old edition of Mrs Beeton’s.) It was fascinating, and so much fun, to watch the lovely editors and photographer Paul Craig working to tell the cottage’s story, looking at the space so differently and shooting from angles I’d never have expected. We ate the tarts I’d baked, and had a lovely time.

copperware

Over the weekend we drove through beautiful countryside to visit a dear friend, Catherine, who is a brewer in a local pub. She’s taught me about hops and coppers, carmelised barleys and the whole alchemy – we will tell you the story sometime! We took a walk along miller’s streams in the Worthies, pottered about the vintage market in Winchester, and shared a gorgeous meal at a pub with an enviable potager in West Meon. The last afternoon we looked round the astonishing Petworth House. Its galleries, architecture and park are all quite incredible, but it’s the kitchens that I adore.

copper pots at petworth © elisa rathje 2012

The kitchens boast a copper batterie de cuisine of a thousand pieces. I believe them. Copperware all over. There are fascinating relics preserved by the National Trust in every room, the scullery, the pastry room, the larder, the servants quarters. You’ll know by now that I was in heaven. I can only imagine the dinner parties that were thrown in such a place, a shame Turner didn’t paint those too. Petworth has a gorgeous park, one cannot blame him for painting outside.

Now I must go look at the kitchen being spring cleaned.

larders and pantries

Spring sunshine makes me think of exploring the country, the country makes me think of stepping into old country houses, and old country houses make think of wonderful historical kitchens, sculleries, pantries and larders. I love them as much for their design as for the fascinating objects contained within them. I want one! If I were ever to design my own pantry, I would base it on solutions from an old heritage. From all across the United Kingdom I bring you a peek into the larders and pantries of the National Trust.

The Dry Larder at Lanhydrock, Cornwall © National Trust

The Dry Larder at Lanhydrock, Cornwall, NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. image courtesy of the National Trust

Storage tins on shelves in the Dry Store at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. © National Trust

Storage tins on shelves in the Dry Store at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.
, NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. Image courtesy of the National Trust

The Game Larder with hanging bunches of dried herbs and flowers, wooden storage chests and earthenware urns at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire © National Trust

The Game Larder with hanging bunches of dried herbs and flowers, wooden storage chests and earthenware urns at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire, NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie. Image courtesy of the National Trust

The dry larder at Lanhydrock, Cornwall © National Trust

, NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. Image courtesy of the National Trust

An old larder at Tyntesfield, Somerset, showing some of the items left by the Gibbs family.
 © National Trust

An old larder at Tyntesfield, Somerset, showing some of the items left by the Gibbs family. , NTPL/James Dobson. Image courtesy of the National Trust

View of the Pantry at Llanerchaeron, near Aberaeron, Ceredigion, Wales
 © National Trust

View of the Pantry at Llanerchaeron, near Aberaeron, Ceredigion, Wales, NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. Image courtesy of the National Trust

Larder at Petworth House, West Sussex © National Trust

A corner of the Larder at Petworth House, West Sussex, NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel. Image courtesy of the National Trust

hen-sitting

What a delight, to take care of chickens! A friend of ours in a nearby village has four beautiful hens, and we went over to take care of them while she was away.

hen-sitting

My tall girl has been ill and couldn’t join us at first, she’s cared for hens a few times and knows she loves it, knows she wants to keep her own! It was joyful to watch my small girl discover the hens, how sweet their sounds are, their characters, and the way they follow her around the run as she feeds them.

hen-sitting

She was full of wonder when we opened the side of the henhouse to discover four perfect eggs. Quite frankly, so was I! All the pleasures of a pet, and then some. We put the eggs in a trug, where they rolled around dangerously. That’s why the old fashioned wire baskets work so well! Wish, wish.

hen-sitting

Fresh water, and more food. My girl declared that she could visit these hens all day long. On such a glorious day, so could I. Hen-sitting is good fun. Oh, perhaps one day we’ll have our own little flock.