I can’t believe it’s November already!! This is the prettiest fall I can remember, with leaves on the trees past Halloween and 70 degree days in November. It feels like we just moved into our “temporary” place (which is feeling less and less temporary) but it will be a year in December. Time has been flying with client work (which seems to be mostly out of state these days) photoshoots, product launches (Rugs USA, and new fall collections with Woodbridge and Taylor King), prepping properties for sale, and kid stuff. I’m attempting to keep it slow at our place but with all 5 of the kids in activities right now, it’s feeling a tad futile.
But we have made some time to get outside and I’ve been loving the colors out there right now… the dusky blushes, oranges, golds and browns have really been standing out to me.
photos above: a vine-covered old fence at the Meadow, me- hanging in the kitchen during the Rugs USA photoshoot by Mark Weinberg, the old fence from a distance
We’ve been spending a lot of time on the property of our “forever” house… We call it the “Meadow” and it’s around the corner from where we live now. Our chickens still live there so we’re over there at least once a day. This summer while we were gone, we lost a couple of chickens to some sort of stomach bug. Our poor pet sitter found them. It’s been a few months and the remaining girls seem okay, but it’s definitely been a tough run for us with our birds on this new property. I love having our animals but honestly have a little too much fear right now to think about adding any more at this point. Losing our beloved geese the year before to something out there was nightmarish. I kind of felt like it numbed me some and I still really miss them. We still aren’t quite sure what killed them (it happened during the day while they were free-ranging and their heads were missing when they were found) but we’re leaning towards a pair of eagles… We’re really close to the Potomac River and apparently some eagles this summer were also doing a number on the local fish population. There’s also a pair of hawks I see hunting together over our property all the time. I had always though they hunted alone but these two call to each other and I always see them together. Sometimes we’ll be out supervising the chickens while they free-range and the hawks will come swoop low and we try to grab as many of the chickens as we can to throw them back in the run. I honestly can’t believe how gusty these hawks are… they truly don’t seem to care that we’re right there. Needless to say, we’re taking a bit of a pause on any more animals over here for the time being. When we move in, I’ll work on some sort of protective garden around the coop like we had at our old place that prevented the hawks from swooping.
On the hillside, we’ve been working on clearing out some of the invasive grasses that are growing all over the meadow to make room for plants that will support bird, bees, butterflies and other good bugs. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on growing a “true” meadow and have learned it’s probably not for me… I’ll be doing my best, but I can’t handle going as far as we’d really need to go for an authentic meadow. We’d have to strip what we have down and really start over because pretty much all of what we have is invasive. And the soil is actually most likely too fertile for an ideal meadow which often has less fertile soil that makes it harder for many of those invasive grasses to grow and allowing the meadow flowers the chance to survive and not be smothered by the grasses.
While we’re doing this to promote biodiversity, it’s not my only goal. Along with lots of native species, I also want to incorporate some perennials and grasses that aren’t necessarily native but that I’m pretty much obsessed with. I’m in love with the sort of “wild” (yet literally perfectly planned as I’ve realized in my research) perennial flower & grass gardens by talents like Piet Oudolf and Jinny Blom. I want to have tons of pretty things to cut and arrange and bring in and hang, make things with etc.
Above, Piet Oudolf’s style of perennial gardening with a mix of flowers and ornamental grasses is a major inspiration for our property. Images by Sabine Bungert.
The process we’re just beginning will take years and lots of trial and error. Each year will be different and I’ll experiment with many of my favorite weed and wildflowers along with some of the newer-to-me-grasses I’ve been learning about. (If you’re a strict proponent of native plants only and no exotic invasives… you should probably stop reading soon right about now lol…. I recall some verrrrry heated comments about the wisteria at our last house and I promise you, this house won’t be any different! 😉 I’ve never been a purist and I’m definitely not starting now with these seven acres.
Jinny Blom’s work (above ) is pure perfection to me. She strikes just the right of cultivated to wild for my tastes. Her book The Thoughtful Gardener is a must-read.
I love the idea of patches of flowers and grasses that we can take walks through. The design of the house is all about the views and from our kitchen and living room we can see the entire hillside so I’ve had to be thinking about the land as a whole. The scale is a bit intimidating to me and the number of seeds required to make a dent is a bit mind boggling. In a way though, it’s freeing, as I’ve never done something like this before and I have this chance to play and experiment. I’m picturing lots of white mixed in with some pinks and some yellows… Queen Anne’s lace, baby’s breath, chamomile, white asters from the property, shasta daisies, golden rod, diamond grass if I can get it to grow, muhly grasses (+ the existing pink fountain grass and buttercups) and so many things I can’t remember right now because they’re new to me. I found Piet Oudulf’s books really helpful in determining what I loved and what will grow in our zone 7 climate. The image above right is by Melanie Kintz and John Greenlee designed the garden on the left.
We’re adding a terrace to the back of our house and I don’t want a railing around it interrupting the views so I’m thinking about a series of hills with stairs similar to this hillside featured on GARDENISTA:
We’ll have grass paths to various areas throughout the property…
Photo above left by Lisa Roper/ Photo above right by Acres Wild Landscape & Garden Design
We had a bit of a false start this past spring and I basically failed miserably at planting anything after we’d cleared out some grass. (Work got away from me and by the time I went back, the grasses had come back womp womp.) But this Fall, we tried again. We started by pulling up large patches or “drifts” of the existing grass up all over the hillside. We collected seeds on the property along with seeds from our old house and I bought pounds of seeds. I took Louie, Gisele and Aurora over to mix the seeds together and make our own custom mix of the plants I mentioned above and we spread them out over the drifts. (video to come soon!)
We didn’t do the best job clearing out the old grass and I know it’ll become the bane of my meadow dreams’ existence but I’ve realized that even a little bit helps. I’m planning on going after it all little by little each year. I’m not sure we’ll be able to stop the invasive grasses from killing everything, but we’ll do our best to pull them and cut them before they go to seed, trying to give more room to the plants we want. As we one day get more time and/or manpower we can really go for it. It’s a longhaul thing.
As excited as we are to get over to the new place… the entire thing has basically been on pause due to permitting issues and so it doesn’t quite feel like it will ever happen right now. (Supposedly we’re going to be done with the permit the next week but I’m not holding my breath.) We’ve owned the property for a year and a half now, and a year and a half ago I thought I’d be living there by now and that the house we’re currently living in would be sold by now, so I’m working on letting go of my expectations. I am really enjoying living where we live on a daily basis… I just have to try to let go of the worry of still owning two properties in a down swinging housing market. We’ve been there before and we always seem to make it through but this is a true exercise in letting go because I feel all of those old scared feelings coming back. I know we can’t get this time back with our kids and I want to get the most out of every single day. I’m really trying to grow through this and I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for where we are. (And also incredibly thankful we decided not to sell this house last year because we would have nowhere to go come spring!!)
I recently filmed a tour of the entire house and will be sharing it as a HORSE COUNTRY MODERN episode as soon as we finish editing it so it’s not 3 hours long!! To view all of the other episodes of the project go here.
Gisele & Aurora’s bedroom is one of my favorite rooms in the house. They trash it on the daily but are fairly good about cleaning up. This is due mainly to the organization level in their closets- we used closet organization systems from Ikea with a combination of shelves, cabinets & rods- but I can also partially attribute the room’s neatness to the little antique pine dresser that sits between their beds. We moved it in with its existing contents from our old house where it was filled with notecards/ thank you cards/ gift wrapping supplies, random gifts and craft supplies. I’d always intended to clear it out of all the old stuff and organize it with the girls’ things but they commandeered it and started drawing away on years’ worth of thank you notes/ note cards/ wrapping paper etc. They have gone through at least half of the supplies- ridding me of that type of clutter I always felt bad about ditching- and have made such a hot mess of the drawers inside that it’s now just a massively disorganized catch-all that’s unexpectedly made life really easy. They open the drawers and toss whatever supplies or toys they need to stash away inside and that’s that. I used to cringe, but now I do the same thing and take a breath. I tell myself one day we’ll clear it out and I’ll find a new home for all the holiday wrapping stuff but I’m secretly hope they use up every last notecard, bag and piece of wrapping paper in that thing before I have to deal with it. It’s been a total win-win.
photo by Helen Norman
We’ve been loving our kitchen at the new house and have been cooking more than usual which has been a goal of ours. We’ve been focusing more on weeknight meals and meal planning(ish) more than usual. When weeknights get super busy, we tend to punt and go out, but we’ve been trying to plan ahead to avoid too much eating out. I’ve felt better and my clothes fit better lol.
My garden at the new place was pretty much a fail (we left for the summer and our deer deterrents did absolutely nothing) so I’ve been foraging a lot instead. Below is a bit of what we’ve been cooking lately …(we did NOT eat the first photo which I believe is of a poisonous mushroom that I thought was beautiful)
From top: no-go mushrooms, potatoes with onion grass/ row 2: foraged lion’s mane, store bought lion’s mane which we made the same way as the foraged… we much preferred the foraged version/ row 3: the yummiest fall salad with leftover acorn squash seeds ~ recipes coming soon for those without links! As you can see, we’ve got a whole new website with a FOOD section complete with my favorite recipes we are working on uploading 100+ recipes to this bad boy!! Be sure to check back often as we add more each week!! I’m big fan of fresh, simple nutritious meals and you’ll find a ton of them on the new site!
I’m off for the day and am woohooing that it’s FRIDAY!!! We’ve had a bunch of sick kids around here and I’m hoping this weekend puts an end to it all!! Can’t wait for their little immune systems to get used to sickness again lol!!!