I’ve been thinking about love. At this point in the year, we sit down as a team and talk about our thoughts for the year; what we want to do, what we think is important, what should be our focus each month. February is always a struggle because of Valentine’s Day. I loathe it. I always have. It’s not about love. A hastily purchased card, a gift, a bunch of flowers, an expensive dinner is not about enduring love. It’s about an expectation that on a particular pre-named day each year we will receive something that validates us as worthy of love and the absence of it marks us out as not belonging to the tribe of real lovers. It’s nonsense and yet we are made to feel it so keenly. I think Valentine’s Day represents the ‘fast food’ of love - it’s so easy but real love is not. It’s hard.Read More
I love builder’s tea - the familiar dark orange brew, strong enough to stand a spoon up - i have fond memories of my grandmother asking my grandfather to ‘mash the tea’ and mashed it was, not for the fainthearted tea drinker. Tea, along with coffee, serves as the backdrop to my daily life. For many years I’ve tried to like herbal tea, picking up box after box of beautifully packaged teas to add to a cupboard full of once drunk, not repeated brews. The scent is often reasonable but the flavour is dull, the attention to taste minimal. The contents of the teabags resembling the dust of harvests long passed, of grey plants tired and lacking in vitality.Read More
Some years ago I was approached by a very popular women’s magazine, it was a title I had read with interest from time to time, and I was pleased to be talking to a very pleasant young woman about my work. She was very enthusiastic about what we do, the fact that our team are all women, the provenance of the products etc. It was going well. She explained that this was exactly the kind of story they wanted. As the chat drew to a close she said to me ‘oh I forgot to ask, one last question, how old are you?’ Without a moment’s hesitation I said I was 49. The silence that followed was deafening. Within a minute she made her excuses and rang off and I didn’t hear from them again.Read More
As many self-employed/small business people know, taking time away is a challenge, both logistically and practically. For most businesses though, there is a moment in the year when things quieten down sufficiently to allow a couple of weeks of R&R to be inked indelibly onto the calendar.Read More
Once a year in June, when our Roses are in full bloom, I throw open the doors of the barn and welcome in the intrepid group of people who want to experience the absolute joy of wild perfumery. It's a day of immersion in scent, an invitation to try out the way I work myself and it’s utterly liberating.
Working with plants can be challenging. Seeds sown enthusiastically may not germinate. Sometimes the precious little seedlings put into the poly tunnel to grow on might be snacked on by mice. Small plants potted on and cared for so carefully if planted out too soon can fall prey to rabbits, slugs or snails. And then there’s the weather…a late frost, an early drought, too much rain at the wrong time, too much sun (very unlikely here), not enough sun (a familiar story) Farming/gardening is a roller coaster.Read More
The lovely Tara Gould writes the newsletters for A.S Apothecary – they help to tell our story, make offers, introduce therapists and new products, plants and whatever combination of subjects we are interested in. Together we make plans for general areas it might be good for me to write about in the Journal – however, given my wayward character, I seem to write whatever comes to mind; often something seasonal, or arising from a journey or a book I’ve been reading or a plant or landscape that has particularly captivated me (orange blossom distilling in Cyprus next week by the way…)
For the April Journal we discussed writing about the milestones of women’s lives, and I’ve had a week that made me really muse on Menopause so it seems a logical place to start.Read More
It has barely stopped raining for days, odd glimpses of blue amidst a skyscape of unrelenting grey. Welcome 2018. The January of my childhood in Scotland, the cold wind that pierced even the stoutest clothing, the snow and ice, chilled face with rosy cheeks is a distant memory. Replaced with the grey of climate change. I listened to the rain fall from within my snug little house, heard the pitter patter change in rhythm to a heavier drip and looked out to see a drainpipe overflowing from roof to soil....Read More
“I found three things: a silver mirror, a silk handkerchief, and a glass flask of ointment. These items will help you on your journey, use them when need be. If you ever lose faith in yourself, the mirror will show your inner beauty. In case your reputation is stained, the handkerchief will remind you of how pure your heart is. As for the balm, it will heal your wounds, both inside and outside.” Elif Shafak 40 Rules of Love.
Our shop has been open for almost a year and it seems a good moment to reflect on what we have learned and where we are heading, what drives us forward and what obstacles have threatened to trip us up. Those moments when I’ve needed the mirror, the handkerchief and definitely the balm.Read More
Last night I listened to a talk by Elif Shafak on the revolutionary power of diverse thought. She is a Turkish writer, a Sufi, a feminist and a most beautiful weaver of stories. She is reviled by the conservative right in Turkey and to some extent dismissed by the left, but for me she speaks a truth that resonates with many of my own thoughts. She talked about a world increasingly polarised, fractured, tribal, nationalist and fearful. She discussed the prevalence of simplistic duality of discussion, the ‘with us or against us’ mentality, the loss of ambiguity, complexity and nuance...Read More
Autumn is here. My nightly need for fresh air with windows flung open, suddenly tempered by the realisation last night that I was not cool but cold. It’s curious the small cues that mark the seasonal change long before the leaves are turning and the plants begin their full on retreat back into the earth for a season or two of hibernation and regeneration. It starts with the air. A change in the scent and an almost perceptible thickening of its texture so apparent at dawn.Read More
In a world where rampant competition and the relentless pursuit of profit seem to predominate, we like to think that we do things a little more gently. A.S Apothecary is a venture with collaboration and sharing at its heart. We don’t have investors or commercially borrowed capital because we are fiercely independent and we want to do business on our own terms, in our own way.Read More
It’s dawn at the cottage, in the Highlands of Scotland it gently glides into morning, light slowly emerging – much as everything here it works on its own timetable – Scottish time, Highland time and finally Island time, the slowest of all.
Last night the sun finally went down at 10pm after a three hour dusk where the sky gradually darkened casting tones of inky blue across loch, hill and tree. I love both ends of the day here – it is so unlike our home in Sussex where the day seems to begin quickly, urgently and closes after a brief but beautiful flurry of colour.Read More
Unexpectedly I find myself sitting – this is unheard of through the Summer when the flowers are reaching their peak and the distilling, drying and plant work flows like an unstoppable tide of greenery to rejoice over and manage. However, having fallen over rather badly whist dashing to the farm last week, I’m now directing operations rather than doing them. It is a very strange sensation.
It is a bright sunny day here, the scent from the jasmine by our door wafts in and roses from the farm brought by Emily our guardian of the garden, offer a reminder of the sheer abundance of this time of year.Read More
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.Read More
I’m sitting on a bench on the edge of a woodland. The sky is heavy with clouds in shades of grey, rain is threatening. The dandelions and daisies have curled themselves up tight – ‘refurled’ to keep cold and water at bay. In the wood there are saplings by the dozen hopefully pushing up through the soil, their first true leaves soft and green against the dark woodland floor. In stereo the birds sing an evensong from every tree, it is a harmonious dusk soundscape. Only one yellow wood anemone remains, all the others now returned to the earth for another year. The daffodils too are finished, the bright yellow flowers replaced by swollen green heads of seed.Read More
It’s 5.45am. I’m sitting in a little wooden hut looking out at a dawn breaking over miles of pristine golden sand with only the sound of the sea gently lapping at the shore. The cabin is basic but ideal for a couple of nights break at the end of a week of constant picking and distilling with my sister. It is my guilty pleasure. It is as far as one can travel on this island and one of the last places to remain truly unspoilt. Donkeys with extra big ears mosey along, birds chirrup joyfully, there is no traffic, no noise beyond the natural and, at this magical time of year, an abundance of endemic cyclamen strongly scented of honey and lily of the valley and wild flowers as far as the eye can see. Tourists have yet to arrive, the sea being cold and the temperature only around 22C. I love it. It makes me feel free.Read More
On the farm in March and April, apart from the seasonal spring-cleaning of the barn, we begin to plant the calendula seeds, pushing them into trays of rich organic compost. Later, when the seedlings are robust enough we pot them on.We grow calendula between other plants. It's a fast growing annual so it grows, flowers and self-seeds in one year. We love it between the roses, the orange and reds look so beautiful together and we feel that it supports the other plants around it.Read More
Today I was at the farm, it was a bright and beautiful day. The ground was muddy from days of rain, the sheep over in the field opposite the barn were munching on grass, heavy with lambs. In the beds by the door the daffodils were up, the fennel fronds emerging and the sage looking in need of a Mediterranean break after a long, damp winter.
At the farm we do all our plant work and distilling, it is a very special place. Even without racks of flowers enveloping the place in a rich scent, it is still lovely. We went today to make an order for the Isle of Harris Distillery. We produce an Aromatic Water from Sugar Kelp for them. During the distillations the barn smells of the sea – it was described today as the scent of a fresh sea breeze – and so it is.Read More
I am 53, my eldest son is 31, my youngest daughter 16, my mother is 83 and my father 86. 5 months ago I became a grandmother. I occupy a space so familiar to women of my age and generation. I am a daughter, mother, sister, wife and grandmother – I am all of these women every day.
Each of these roles carries responsibility, each requires time and thought, most demand attention and action, sometimes with the benefit of time to prepare but more often in haste. For women like me (and there are so many of us) the years fly by in a flurry of activity, with work and family taking up every minute of every day. Time, which seemed to go on for ever as a child suddenly compresses. Christmas – the marker of the year as the zenith of activity both work and family appears to come round ever faster.Read More