little miller

Now, if you’ve been following closely for a while, you might recall an antique grinder I acquired at a village shop near the cottage we once lived in. I have great affection for the mill, and for cooking with my family in that old kitchen, so I made a little something with some images I came across the other day.

Simple pleasures.

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p>(If you’re fond of short appleturnover movies like the little miller, you might like to nose around the old schoolhouse. Along the lefthand side of the page, you’ll find it.)

hand-tied bouquet

Would you like to learn to hand-tie a bouquet? I spent a beautiful day studying floristry at the Blooming Green flower farm, and made a little movie for you to see how it’s done. Jen showed us some very simple directions to follow, to stunning effect, using gorgeous flowers and extraordinary greenery, freshly picked on the farm.

You’d like some more detail? Let’s take it slowly:

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After cutting your plants and standing them in a bucket of water for a good soak, begin by conditioning the flowers. Simply strip the lower leaves off the flowers to keep them from decomposing in the water. Wear gloves if you like.

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Lay out your flowers and greens and have a sense of how many you have of each. Odd numbers are often the most pleasing to the eye.

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Begin with a fluffy, well-structured bit of greenery, to support the flowers that will surround it. Fennel is quite wonderful.

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Lay your first blossom at an angle to the green.

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If you have three blossoms to add, turn the bouquet a third, add another at the same angle, turn another third, and add the last blossom. Have a look at the movie to get a sense of how Jen turns the bouquet and adds more flowers.

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Continue to work in this way, choosing greens and flowers and paying attention to multiples, so if you have five lengths of weeping willow, turn the bouquet in fifths, always adding at that same angle to creating a tight, spiralling structure to the stems.

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Now and then turn the bouquet to have a look from the top to see if you’ve got a rounding, arching shape to the bouquet – though if there are longer sprigs that naturally want to spray up and out, Jen likes to let those have their way, too.

The tie Jen uses is quite wonderful. Simply fold a length of twine in half, loop it round your thumb as you hold the stems in place. Wrap the two ends around the stems and back to the loop, and slip them through it. Then you can pull the ends in opposite directions, wrapping as many times as you like around and tying a firm bow when they meet. I’ve forgotten the name of this tie, it’s charming!

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Snip the stems cleanly at the end, leaving enough length to support the flowers.

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A well-made hand-tied bouquet will have enough structure to stand alone! Let me know if you have a go. I’m so pleased to have had a lesson in hand-tying, such a satisfying thing to be able to do yourself. Thanks Jen! If you’re in England and looking for ecologically, locally grown flowers to buy online, or better yet, you’d like to pick your own for an event, visit Blooming Green in Kent. They are such a delight.

If you like studying traditional skills this way, have a look at the old school movies. They come with beautiful patterns, guides and materials, available in the appleturnovershop.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

mrs beeton’s

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861, a guide to all facets of running the Victorian household.

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I love it particularly for its colour plates of an endless variety of beautiful dishes;

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For such beautiful little prints, and such fascinating style and language;

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And for its illustrations and discussion of household tools, solutions, recipes, remedies. It’s an extraordinary bit of history to page through. I had a peek at Mrs Beeton’s apple turnover recipe, of course.

I love that she calls pastry, simply, paste. So it is! Patisserie.

mrs-beeton's-fruit

This is a 1906 edition of the book, first published in full in 1861. I’ve borrowed it from a friend and found it full of yellowed clippings and ads dating back from the 1920’s. Entrancing stuff.

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The book is available to read online, and for a bit of social history along with a look at Isabella Beeton’s life, there’s Sophie Dahl’s The Marvellous Mrs Beeton.

flower farm

Not so far from our little cottage is a flower farm. We drove across Kentish countryside full of bluebells and blossoming orchards, to visit the land where Blooming Green grow row upon row of gorgeous flowers. We’ve something very special happening this week, and we wanted to pick flowers ourselves, ones that are in season, local, and grown with as much care as the organic food we eat.

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flowers-picked

One day I shall grow my own cutting garden, inspired by this gorgeous bit of England. If you have something special you’d like to pick your own flowers for, do visit Blooming Green Flowers, they are so wonderful. Thank you ever so much, Jen & Bek!

flower-buckets

thumb-sprinkler

Not so long ago I came across a beautiful Victorian garden tool, simply constructed out of terra cotta. A thumb sprinkler, fascinating object. Like a closed bell, with perforations on the base and a hole at the top, the thumb sprinkler is plunged into a bucket of water to fill, then the thumb-hole is covered. Held over a batch of delicate seedlings, the sprinkler releases droplets just perfect for wetting the earth whilst leaving growing plants undisturbed. An antiquated spray bottle. Not unlike my droplet decanter in design. Clever! I told my dear pottery teacher Katrina about it, and being amazingly wonderful, she made one for me, and one for you. Would you like to see her throw a Victorian thumb-sprinkler on the wheel?

Settling the clay on the wheel; bringing the clay up and down twice over; centering; widening; opening up; compressing; bringing the wall up; compressing the rim; pulling up; compressing; pulling; collaring; soaking up water; wetting with slurry; closing in; refining the shape; coning in; clearing the slurry; cutting in; wiring off.

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The finished, perforated, glazed and fired sprinkler. I’m using it to care for lettuces & seeds in my greenhouse.

Katrina Pechal makes absolutely gorgeous, textured work with volcanic glazes, completely unlike the beautiful Victorian sprinklers she made for us. She also teaches, with astonishing clarity and delight, wheel-throwing in her Forest Row, Sussex studio to adults and children. I love studying with Katrina.