December 29, 2014

Come sit with Vietnam

Come sit with me...

I recently received a message from a friend asking me to consider eight women who have touched my life, eight women that I would like to sit at my table. She asked me to forward the following message along, which I did. I then started thinking, why stop at just eight when there are so many people, men and women, who have touched my life. So here it is, I count YOU as one who as touched my life. You are reading these words, that in itself is the greatest compliment one could receive and for that I am truly grateful. 

December 21, 2014

There's glory in the garden....

Our English winter garden.

" Seeds for next year all ordered. 
Now what am I going to do for the rest of the winter?"

Chateau Mango, Vietnam
I had to laugh when I read Hilda's message on Facebook as I know she will most likely be in for a long winter...and then, when that first sniff of spring comes along..she will be out the door in a flash with spade in hand. Her comment brought back memories of our winters living in England. The photo above was a scene from our garden  These days, my winters are spent tending orchids and lotus blossoms in our garden in Vietnam. Visions of English snowy gardens are a distant memory. Although, even from Vietnam, I can sympathise with Hilda, with a long winter ahead, what comes next?

My Northern Hemisphere friends will wonder what I am doing talking about gardens just days before Southern Hemisphere friends will be right with me. There will be a point to this post for my New England friends...promise!

There is a Chinese proverb.. "life begins the day you start a garden". Having recently finished my second season with a veggie garden, I have to agree. Well, kind of. Agony and Ecstasy also comes to mind. Ecstasy when seedlings burst forth with pride...and agony when you realise you made a mess of things. The good news is that agony lasts about five minutes with me. There is always hope, there is always a garden to be appreciated and scrutinised. Tomorrow is another day.

Tahilla Farm Garden

When planning a veggie and herb garden I like to look further afield.
There were quite a few gardens I admired this past summer....

My gardening inspiration...the beauty of others.

When friends come calling...vegetables.

My only regret this past summer was that we could not eat all the veggies that grew in our garden fast enough. Timing is everything when your gardening season is short. I realised this year that I do not need to plant eight seedlings of hot chili pepper which arrived in abundance about three days before I left Tahilla Farm. If I want an August tomato crop I have to get onto the plants early on. I overdid it on the zucchini...and totally misjudged the "wildness" of lemongrass. A resident groundhog had a feeding frenzy on our lettuce and I was told by an avid gardener that I was "over zealous" in my mulch application...hence slow growing lettuce. Friends share and share alike in vegetables and gardening tips, I love that. I took notes and am ready to get back in and try six months.

Summer bounty...Tahilla Farm

If I lived at Tahilla Farm, I would have this covered. There is a wonderful lecture in the gardening circuit in Vermont next month. If you live in New England  ( New England friends take note) and want to know all there is to know about growing vegetables...check this out. 

Latchis Arts presents Garden Inspirations: 
Growing Vegetables
a day of interesting insights 
on growing vegetables from three local farmers, 
as well as acclaimed TV personality Roger Swain, 
knows to millions as the host of the popular 
PBS show, "The Victory Garden.".  
The event will be held 
on Saturday, January 24, 2015, 
from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., 
at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Only 100 tickets available, I wish I could go!
If you are interested or think perhaps 
that this would make a brilliant
last minute Christmas gift, click here 

Information on  "Garden Inspirations: Growing Vegetables" here

No matter which hemisphere you live in,
four seasons or one,
I am sure you will agree...

There is peace within a garden
A peace so deep and calm
That when the heart is troubled
It's like a soothing balm

There's life within a garden
A life that still goes on
filling the empty places
When older plants have gone

There's glory in the garden
at every time of year. 
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
to fill the heart with cheer

So ever tend your garden 
It's beauty to increase
For in it you'll find solace
And in it you'll find peace

English Poet
Lady Rosamund Langham



Jeanne xx

Christmas past, England

December 8, 2014

Adventures in New England....

I am not sure which I was more excited about,
visiting family and friends, 
seeing the latest developments at Tahilla Farm,
 or the anticipation of donning my winter gear 
after a three year hiatus.

Either way..
I was busting with joy,
all the way from Saigon to Hong Kong to 
Chicago to Manchester, New Hampshire. 

Never mind that Mr. H booked me on the LONGEST flight EVER..
(significant cost savings, says he) or that I was ill mid-flight with eight hours to go, 
or that I arrived in Chicago to realise I was a day early and as a result..
had to take the only rental car left in the lot...
a red four times the cost of what I had booked.

Never mind that within 20 hours of arrival I would be checking myself
into the Emergency Room at our local hospital feeling like I was at death's door.

I was in New England...
and that my friends was worth all that came before me 
(except the emergency room part).

It took a bit longer that anticipated to get back on my feet...but when I did,
I went running to the hills of Tahilla Farm where my winter gear awaited me.

and a whole lot of trucks. 

and more trucks.

and Mr. H's "Master and Commander" curved window
in progress and a whole lot more. 
Was I still excited? You betcha.

Ice covered winterberries...

and mossy covered icicles 

were as welcome a sight as the view peeping 
between our stone walls.

Even when the diggers arrived to lay the underground electrical wires, 
pulling apart our stone walls...I looked on in fascination.

There were many consultations 
with Sheldon the Architect and Tim the Builder
and then the serious dig began 
as I dragged a garden bucket around with me, 
unearthing remnants of the construction process. 
Forget that I looked like a half mad foolish woman...
I needed to connect.
And I did. 

 After all...I am a New Englander.
When the call comes to connect with the land, you have to go with it.
To this I say, to each her own. 

 I just simply took it all in...
in black and white

 and colour.

A stariing contest with the goats of Juniper Hill Farm, they won. 

 Before I knew it, my imaginings at Tahilla Farm were over 
and I was on the move again, heading north..
but not before the first snowflakes 
of a mighty storm started blowing in.

After the snow storm, Tahilla Farm by Tim the Builder

My anticipated two hour drive took six.
All the while, Miss Claire, my lovely daughter,
exclaimed what a beautiful sight it was to be driving in snow.

White knuckled from gripping the steering wheel
and cursing the snow gods..I felt otherwise.

With each passing Ford pickup truck, I wished that we owned one.
They glided effortlessly along the highway as my lighter weight
comrades in snow skidded and slid off the road.

It was steady as she goes for this driver
and my luck was with me for this is what greeted us.

White on white...with a flash of red, white and blue,
a beautiful sight in New England. 

I had died and gone to heaven (figuratively speaking).
We were in a New England winter wonderland with family for Thanksgiving.
From our last Thanksgiving in the USA in 1998 to our first since, in 2014.
I only wished that the rest of our clan could have been with us.

It is beautiful countryside...
what we (family) call the "Highlands" of New Hampshire.

On a clear day, you can see the mountains of Vermont.

Every experience is special...from the barn door...

to the welcoming fires that always burn bright in this hearthside.

On Thanksgiving day, we tucked into a 25 lb. turkey, 
cooked by my very talented sister-in-law 
and her sous chef in training, her son.
It was a day to remember...forver and ever.

My only regret was that it passed too quickly.

From the "Highlands" of New Hampshire 
we travelled to a little town by the sea in Massachusetts.
Two and a half hours of clear driving..a welcome relief.

If you have follow Collage of Life, 
you may recall that I hail from Cape Ann, north of Boston.
The days of my youth were spent by the sea, a place
where my family still lives.

Travel through the towns of Rockport, Gloucester, 
Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea
and you will think you have driven into a painting.

always comes to mind for me.

As much as I love a winter's day in the woods, 
there is something wonderful 
about winter winds whipping off the sea. 
It is one of the things I love about New England,
you can have it all.

Before I knew trip had ended. 
I spent my last night at an airport hotel struggling 
with the weight of my luggage
while taking in a winter sunset over Boston.

My flight to Vietnam was as eventful 
as my arrival into the USA two weeks earlier.
Mr. H heard all about it..
from Boston to Chicago to 
Tokyo to Saigon..on deaf ears.
When there is a savings to be had..he is all ears.

And there I sat these past days, in Saigon, 
in a jetlag stupor 
wishing I was wearing my winter gear and
feeling every inch 
of this Richard Diebenkorn painting when....

Richard Diebenkorn via

I received this photo from Tim the Builder with
three simple words..(always a man of few words).
"view family room"

Jetlag be gone!

"View Family Room" by Tim the Builder

Our imaginings are taking shape.
We have a room with a view..well almost.
This is where we hope to one day be sitting, 
in the "Lowlands" of New Hampshire,
with family from the "Highlands" of New Hampshire,
with the hearthside ablaze..and a turkey in the oven.
(assuming I survive the flight from Saigon).

And with that I say goodnight!
Wishing you happy days and good health!

Jeanne xx

Photos were taken by me, in my travels
with the exception of two by Tim the Builder,
Tahilla Farm snow and the "view family room".
More photos on my Instagram page here.
The painting by Richard Diebenkorn
can be found here.