Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Life on the farm: Cock-a-Doodle-Boo-Ho

As I've often told you, there is no shortage of heartbreak on the farm to balance out the intense joy and deep sense of happiness we often feel from sharing our lives with so many wonderful animals. Sometimes I look out my kitchen window while I'm making tea in the morning and see a cat or two, a dog or two, a pony or two, a handful of hens and/or the occasional lamb or pig escaped from their enclosure. I can also usually hear a combination of calls from the horses, the donkeys and the rooster. Often the whole scene makes me laugh out loud, but other times it makes my throat tighten up and my chest hurt. We came back from our Easter vacation to the news that our three hens - the only remaining three that is - had been eaten by the fox while we were away. It was particularly sad because we had raised those last three from birth and they had just started laying a week before we left. After giving ourselves a week to mourn them, we decided to start again and went to see Mabel at the local bird sanctuary to collect a new rooster and ten hens. 

Mabel was having her own day of mourning having lost a handful of chickens to a fox the night before, despite elaborate electrical fencing. She was also distraught because her favourite rooster had escaped from his pen this morning. At 84 years old she was certainly too old to grab him and was sure that if he wasn't captured - difficult as that might be - by nightfall the fox would get him too. So Christopher, the kids and I all stationed ourselves at separate posts throughout the farmyard and closed in on the rooster. He slipped by us once and Mabel was certain we'd lost our only chance. But then Christopher, being the farm boy that he is, was able to corner him into the bushes and eventually dive onto him. Mabel was so overjoyed that she gave him to us as a present. 

So we brought all the new chickens home. Ours are free-range but we lock them up in the chicken house at night to keep them safe from predators. We kept them in their new house for 48 hours to get settled in and then we let them out to roam around to discover their new surroundings. Not even a week later, the rooster, who hadn't even had the chance to name, wasn't there when we put the chickens to bed at night. I convinced myself that he was locked in a barn by accident and that we'd hear him cock-a-doodle-doo at 4am as usual. But the next morning there was silence. As the fox has cubs this time of year she is often much more relentless in finding food, often venturing out in the day which is unlike her pattern throughout the rest of the year. The truth is - the fox can get the chickens no matter where they are or how well you think you are protecting them. Last year she even chewed through the wood-sided wall of the chicken house in the night and grabbed a hen. For the time being, as we can't handle any more disappointment right this second, we've fenced them in during the day. Not that it will guarantee their safety, but at least it gives us the sense that we are doing what we can to keep them around as long as possible. 

The first egg that our young hens had laid just before Easter.

Collecting new hens at Mabel's farm.
Our hard-earned young rooster. The other two we've had have taken weeks to announce themselves in the morning, but this guy let out his sweet, young cock-a-doodle-doo on the very first morning. At 3:50am no less! 

Our new chicken family settling in to their home.

The chicken house used to be the kids playhouse, as evidenced by Coco's strict rules painted on the wall. 

Instagram sensation DonaldDrawbertson posted a little parody of our new chicken acquisition. It's my new favourite family portrait.

The gang on the brink of their tentative first day in the farmyard.

Gingy, keeping an eye on the new hens. 

The chickens always love to roost on the balcony railing. But hens can be terribly unfriendly - I hope they weren't shunning the lone girl at the bottom.

Our glorious young boy that left us too soon.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Travel: Angel Oak in Charleston, South Carolina

Over Easter we visited my parents in South Carolina. As you can imagine, the area is typically southern - with cheese grits served in every restaurant, spanish moss hanging off the oak trees and alligators in all the ponds. It is beautiful. But what really blew me away, and has yet to escape my imagination, was Angel Oak, a 1500 year old tree that is rumored to be the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. When standing in front of it, it was difficult to even comprehend its reach and scale. They say its shade covers 17,200 square feet! And it's limbs are far larger in both diameter and length than the trunks of most other trees. I find that this kind of mind-boggling beauty only appears every now and then, and so I had to go back for a second visit, and then share it with you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I ♥ Your Style: Laura Stoloff

Isn't Laura the chicest? I feel like a proud mom. Laura came to work for me right out of college when she was just a wide-eyed, pink-cheeked blondie. When I first saw her, I prayed she'd be smart and on top of things because, frankly I liked her outfit so much. She stepped off the elevator that day wearing a black leather, double breasted Phillip Lim jacket with a feminine ruffle at the bottom and pearl earrings. I loved the mix of hard and soft, boyish and girly. She was kind, polite and enthusiastic. Turns out she was brainy too, and I hired her the next day. Laura stayed with me all through publishing I Love Your Style, running Amanda Brooks Inc, becoming Fashion Director at WME and then at Barneys, until I eventually crossed the sea to live in England. She is now the Assistant Fashion Director at Barneys and I couldn't be more proud of both her accomplishments and her evolving style.

photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 

Laura on the farm when she came to visit me last summer. photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: Garance Doré
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: Refinery 29
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram
Laura's outfit, dissected. photo:

photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 
I love Laura's long skirt. photo:

photo: @lauragolucky on Instagram 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Life on the Farm: Hunting Highlights

The hunting season ended recently. I went out three times this year, which is once more than I did last year. The truth is that I am just barely good enough to keep up with the field. Having only regularly ridden horses as an adult, I really don't have the confidence to gallop full speed across 6 fields in one go, jump massive hedges and gates, and navigate my horse amongst the dozens of others surrounding me. Plus, I like to stay close to Christopher and Coco, but I also don't like to feel that I'm holding them back, as they prefer to jump everything and keep a faster pace. Despite the excitement I feel at the meet, two hours in I inevitably ask myself, "What the hell am I doing here?" If I am not worn out physically by then, I am usually exhausted mentally and emotionally. I often ask myself how the 70-year-olds easily carry on for hours after I have made the turn back for my horse box, and I think it comes down to adrenaline. Two hours of vein-pumping adrenaline is exhausting. I think the oldies have the experience to just let their horses take them along, not fighting to slow down or avoid jumps that look too big. Maybe when I reach that age, I will finally be able to just enjoy the ride.

But for now I just love going to the hunting meets on foot. People may have complicated feelings about the hunt and the people that enjoy it, but to me it represents a community-wide ritual with a history and authenticity that I have rarely seen in my life. I love the eccentric characters, the adorable and enthusiastic hounds, the beautifully groomed horses, the impeccable manners with which you are greeted, and of course, the clothes. The clothes are beyond chic. You rarely see anyone wearing anything new. Most of the boots, breeches, jackets, stock pins, and hunting caps are old and worn, likely passed down through generations, but still entirely elegant. The riders themselves also have stunning posture when sitting on a horse, looking far more glamourous than they do standing on the ground. Although it is my ambition to hunt more with each season, for now I am equally happy to be an observer capturing this incredible scene with my camera.

The huntsman greeting the field at the meet.
Sometimes a young hound gets distracted and subsequently separated from the pack. 

An early morning start during the cubbing season.
My favourite moment of the season. The beautiful girl in her bowler hat riding side saddle is too good to be true. (Photo by Christopher)

A fieldmaster coming through our farm late one day. When I am in my office writing I can often hear the hounds yelping in the distance. I first shut Ginger inside, even though it kills her to be excluded. She starts howling like a coyote at the sound of the pack approaching. Then I walk down to the fields, opening the gates to make it easier for field to pass through. Watching them all ride through our "backyard" is breathtaking.
Setting off from the meet.

Navigating the farm land.
These men have obviously spend some time on the ground on this particularly muddy day. (Photo by Christopher)
Christopher riding to a cubbing meet.
Me on Polo at my third and final meet of the season.

The morning light and the slower pace makes cubbing way more my speed.

You can always tell Matt by his top hat. He gets my vote for best dressed every time.

Taking a breather in the sun.

Christopher on his new horse Sylvie. Isn't she pretty?

Matt again. I love how his waistcoat peaks out from under his jacket. And he wears these fleece-y wool jersey breeches that are very chic. 

The hounds having a well-deserved rest at the end of the day.