A few months ago I had a meeting, it was very interesting. As is my way I arrived with a rucksack of bottles and various twigs, leaves, resins and petals. I always find meetings go well when I surround myself with the tools of my trade, they somehow offer an explanation of what I do far better than a document or even a verbal description. I lay them out on the table and as I start to talk, picking each up in turn, I feel the connection, as if I am a bridge between the client and the landscape. Without them, I feel hopelessly lost.Read More
I’m having a moment. I’m looking at the weather forecast in Lewes, East Sussex today and its 26C meanwhile here on Harris it’s a cool 13C. Thus far this Summer on this beautiful island, I’ve taken my vest off twice, immersed myself, in frankly icy water, twice and broken out my sandals three times. Last night I lit the fire and today I’m itching to light it again. This is a tale of two parts, south coast and far north, warm and chilly, over populated and scarcely inhabited.Read More
I want to write about moving to Harris (oh yes I have) but I’ve decided instead to write about ingredients and sneakily talk about the Isle of Harris by way of an example. This month we’re highlighting the Wild Beauty Balm – in part because it is such a brilliant product and I would never travel, even down the road without it in my bag, but also because it illustrates a wonderful truth about our ingredients.Read More
I’m sitting under a tree, on a bench, looking across the valley – drinking in the colours, the ochres, umbers, greens and browns of mountain, tree and plant. It’s a view I love, a deep valley rising on the far side to gentle peaks. The shape of the distant mountains resembles a sleeping giant and when the kids were small I’d tell them stories about the giant and when he might one day get up from his slumbers. I painted and drew that view repeatedly, never managing to capture it – the largeness of the landscape somehow escaping my feeble attempts. I think now that I should not have tried to paint the landscape but rather to have made the marks that capture its essence.Read More
The dust has settled, weeks have gone by and we have mostly forgotten about Yann Moix’s comments – except me. I’ve thought about them a lot and in this run up to International Women’s Day on the 8th March, I thought I’d write about them.Read More
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