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 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
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
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
It is that glorious time, the point in the year when the hedgerows are bursting with flowers and plants full of healing and taste. About a week ago the wonderful A.S Apothecary team headed out on our annual hunt for Elderflower. This has become something of a ritual for us, a moment in the year to come together and celebrate the sheer abundance of the Elder and to marvel at how it grows in the least hospitable places, often on the far side of deep ditches surrounded by thickets of the largest healthiest nettles to be found anywhere.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
We like to think of our aromatic waters as ‘the perfect plant elixir’, and for good reason. The therapeutic and beauty benefits of these wonderful aromatics are manifold, they are powerfully healing, yet gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin. Using them is a sensual delight.
A.S.APOTHECARY flower waters are special. They are a world apart from commercial equivalents because we distil using time honoured methods, and we are fastidious about ingredients and quality. As an artisanal distillery our processes differ hugely from large commercial distilleries, whose focus is on profit and quantity, over quality and purity.
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
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
We have completed our first week at the shop. It has been great. And what a journey.
From pencil sketches on the back of envelopes to work out storage with Catherine Cridland, deciding on what kind of oak for shelving and how to hang it without any visible fixings (huge metal pins and resin for your information) the hunt for the perfect chair with my sister, bashing up flowers to get pigments so that any colour applied in the shop would directly link back to our plants followed by the utterly joyful commissioning of pieces to use in the space.Read more
At this time of year we are normally sitting back to draw breath before the Christmas orders start arriving, but this year is slightly different. With our first A.S APOTHECARY shop about to open in Lewes we are clearing, sorting, painting, packing and making. It is rather more full on than we are used to, but the end and the beginning are within sight.Read more
At Asapoth, we love photography - we feel that unlike any other medium, through photographs we can invite you into the heart of our world. I asked Katie Vandyck, an excellent photographer and friend to write a little about her inspiration...Read more
When days are less short but still chilly, a comforting bowl of soupy rice or noodles has to be one of our family favorites. If the warmth of hot soup is heightened with some extra heat from chillies, garlic & ginger, the comfort enhanced with a tin of creamy coconut milk and the mingling flavours lifted with fresh lime juice, chopped coriander & mint, the over all effect is hard to beat.
"Last week I was sent a plain, black box wrapped in tissue- just for me, all for myself. Inside were simple, perfectly placed vials and objects, a kit to cleanse and replenish my tired skin. I'd won the prize from A.S APOTHECARY, for my honest but sad response that I deserved to win because I did not own one skincare item.Read more
Wanting to get away a little from the ‘jobs to do in the garden’ type monthly blog, I found my thoughts turning instead to what provides moments of pleasure and indulgence, realizing that for me these things are equally important to achieve, helping provide balance in approach and inspiration for the growing year.Read more
From this month, the journal is changing, I'll still be writing once a month but friends and specialists are also coming on board to offer their thoughts and opinions - A.S APOTHECARY is evolving and we are delighted to bring together cooks, photographers, writers, perfumers, naturalists, beauty specialists and garden designers all of whom have a special connection with the land and something interesting to say - it's time to express ourselves!Read more
It is difficult to describe how different Hong Kong is – so utterly foreign, so few points of reference for the European traveller, it is truly a world apart. Leaving the airport’s chilling air con and emerging into the humidity which instantly saps energy, sticks hair to neck and clothes to skin gives an appreciation of the difference that is to come.Read more
When I was 18 I spent a few months in Paris, I was based in the 6th arrondissement staying in a friend’s flat a stone’s throw from Notre Dame. It was so sophisticated and fresh from an Edinburgh education I found it completely captivating. I rapidly took to sitting in smart cafes drinking coffee and smoking long black menthol Moores.Read more
I have a particular love of olive oil after years of living in the Levant and experiencing the joy of bread dipped into freshly cold pressed oil. It comes in many guises – from the rich viscous green variety through straw yellow and into the heavily refined odourless pale variety. It can be hot pressed, cold pressed, centrifuge extracted or indeed cold dripped.Read more