The barn at the farm is both sanctuary and plant space. It houses our Alembic Stills, the drying racks, shelves of jars and bottles filled with any number of experiments, flowers and herbs. It is the heart of A.S APOTHECARY. The place where ideas and ingredients come together in alchemical harmony. It is the place I retreat to when I need to think through an idea or reflect on some troubling aspect of life or business.
Along the centre is a wooden topped table, sitting on the metal legs of an earlier formica incarnation, saturated with the oils and perfumes that have been spilled and mixed on it. The oak planks on top, untreated and uneven persuaded to stay together with biscuit joints and will power, have absorbed both colour and scent of their surroundings – dark browns of resins, light browns and ambers of essential oils and the perfect circles of coffee cups left to sit for too long.
The floor is concrete, freezing in winter necessitating cardboard to stand on to keep feet from becoming numb even in fluffy boots and thick socks. At that time of year it is a place for short, concentrated visits. Peter, the farmer at Ashurst Organics, painted the floor a dark rich red when we moved in and on cleaning days the red re-emerges albeit toned down to a warm earthenware now.
The ceiling is high with exposed joists and beams, the height needed for the drying racks and as a place to store our biggest Alembic when she’s not in use. She has a rope sling to accommodate her curves and a pulley system to winch her up into the rafters when not in use. I love to walk in and see this huge copper Still surveying her domain from up high.
In late Autumn we huddle around a small fan heater to keep warm, the height and draughts making it so cold. On icy, freezing days the window carries the artistry of Jack Frost both within and without. Even the spiders abandon it for the warmth of somewhere else and so eventually do we. When the plants become dormant, we give the barn an end of season sort out and put it to bed along with the distilling garden outside.
But come the Spring, it transforms. Heat and light gradually warm the space, spiders return, the coffee jar is re-stocked and the promise of a new year of growth and scent imbue the barn with the most amazing energy. I struggle to explain the intensely calming, joyful feeling that place fills me with every time I open the door, I feel suffused with well- being, it seeps into me, nurtures me and gives me hope even on the darkest days.
Now, seeds enthusiastically sown in trays on the table have been planted outside, tools cleaned after Winter have returned to their muddy state, plant pots are in grubby piles and it is humming with activity. The Roses and Elderflower are in bloom, many have been picked and are drying on the racks, distilling is about to begin, fresh Calendula is steeping in oil on the windowsill and when I open the door in the morning I am enveloped in the scent of flowers. Anything feels possible. The flowers bloom and so do we.
When Summer finally arrives the barn remains refreshingly cool. Cold floors of winter now offer hot feet a little respite. The drying racks filled with Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender, Roses and so much more from floor to ceiling lend the space a richness of colour and a combination of scent that simply stops me in my tracks. It is utterly beguiling. Flowers picked that release their scent as the daylight fades change the mood; the warmth and brightness of roses on the racks becomes more complex and heady when the honeysuckle intertwines her evening scent around it.
Every occupation requires a place to work, but fortunately for some of us, we are blessed with a room of one’s own, a place that not only allows the daily necessities of business but also something much more important, a place to thrive, to share, to feel enriched, to be.