THE SHEPHERD’S BAROMETER

Cardabelle edited

Once the grape harvest is over, the landscape in the Tarn département in south western France becomes an autumnal patchwork of vineyards – veined leaves glowing fiery red and burnt orange, bathed in soft, tired sunlight.

When the autumn mists surround the foot of the Puech de Mortagne peak here, the pretty Medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel that perches precariously high on the rocks above appears to be floating on the clouds – hence its name: ‘Cordes in the sky’.

It is here that I saw my first Cardabelle, ‘twixt land and sky – a faded wreath that stopped me in my tracks. It was a huge wheel of a flower, nailed to a grey, barn door. The thistle’s leaves – splayed like sunrays  – were dried and summer-bleached, but the centre was still a rich yolk yellow, as golden as the day it was picked. I brushed the seeds gently with my fingertips, conscious that this flower had some purpose or power I could not fathom.

Later, once the foie gras and figs had been finished and the moths were dancing in the lantern light, I learnt that the elusive Cardabelle grows high up and, despite being a protected plant, it is picked and kept as a weather forecasting tool and known as le Barometre du Berger (the Shepherd’s Barometer) – the leaves open up in sunshine and close just before rain. Some say Cardabelles ward off evil. For me, perhaps because I saw one in autumn, the season when thoughts turn to decay, rebirth and renewal, they seem somehow to represent the cyclical nature of life energy itself.

The next day, I became a bit obsessed. I searched for ‘Cardabelle’ on my laptop and let a plethora of beautiful thistles wash over me, admiring the flaked-paint patinas of the rustic doors these mysterious ‘jagged wheels’ were nailed to almost as much as the flowers themselves.

I tried to find more Cardabelles, too. On every stroll or excursion, much to the chagrin of my companions, I darted down side streets and peeped up cobbled alleys, hoping to catch a glimpse of another. But I never did. Strangely, a few days later, when I returned to the barn where I had seen my original Cardabelle, it had vanished without trace – perhaps blown away overnight in a storm – and the door looked bare.

But the leaves and seeds, wheeling away on the winds, had returned to the ground.

Cardabelle, green rose,
and jagged wheel,
grass sun come from the ground
of the loves of the earth and the sun
…’

- from Los Suames de la Nuoch (‘The Psalms of the Night’) by Occitan writer Max Rouquette.

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A NEW ARRIVAL


peg rail ellie tennant nurseryI am currently on maternity leave so will be taking a break from magazine features for a while. If you want to make a peg rail like I did for our baby’s room, you can find the instructions in this DIY peg rail tutorial I did for Junior magazine.

leaves mobileI made this leaves mobile* using wooden leaves and acorns from Craft Shapes, painted in acrylic paint and hung using black cotton thread from a DIY wooden mobile hanger from Etsy.

pom pom garland

The pom-pom garland was made using 36 small balls of coloured wool (you can find these sets of wool on eBay); The ‘Flying Robin‘ card is by talented York-based artist Mark Hearld (whose house is one of the coolest I have visited) – you can find his cards at Down To Earth.

* Clearly I made all this stuff before the baby arrived!

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VINTAGE COAT HANGERS

vintage coat hangerEvery now and again, I treat myself to a vintage hanger, seeking out those that are printed with interesting advertising slogans or the names of hotels, laundry services or holiday resorts. They’re cheap to buy at flea markets and look lovely enough to hang in your hallway, out on display.

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OUR ‘BOBBIE JAMES’ RAMBLING ROSE

willow cottage ellie tennant front door farrow ballAt this time of year, the front of our cottage is a-buzz with honey bees, while the rooms upstairs are filled with sweet scent. It’s all thanks to a beautiful rambling rose called ‘Bobbie James’, which is in full bloom at the moment. It’s a quick climber, easy to maintain, highly fragrant and looks lovely all year round – with fairy lights in it at Christmas or when it’s laden with flowers as it is now.

Willow Cottage roses ellie tennantYou can find Bobbie James climbing rose plants at David Austin Roses. Our vintage French enamel house number plate is from Frantique 2000 on eBay. Our front door is painted in French Grey (exterior eggshell finish) from Little Greene. There are similar engraved slate house signs at Country House Signs.

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VINTAGE WALL ART

vintage treesI found this pretty, vintage 1940s (?) classroom poster at a flea market recently and couldn’t resist. It shows Beech (in Autumn), Sycamore, Horse Chestnut and Larch trees and it’s the perfect, simple, nature-themed print for a bedroom wall.

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BLUEBELL SEASON

Bluebells at Basildon Park(Woodland bluebells at Basildon Park, May 2016)

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.

- Emily Brontë

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SIMPLE PLEASURES: FRESH EGGS

Another post about chickens?! A tad egg-cessive perhaps (groan), but finding fresh, still-warm eggs in their nests is now my favourite morning ritual, rivalled only by eating them for breakfast. And they look SO lovely lined up.

image2(1)

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A LIFE OF THEIR OWN

chic boutiquers at home ellie tennantIt’s a funny old thing really. The two interiors books I’ve written and styled to date (Design Bloggers at Home and Chic Boutiquers at Home) – keep popping up online – used as props in their own right all around the globe. It makes me smile. In some strange life-imitating-art-imitating-life type way, these books – about bloggers and online shopkeepers – have themselves been blogged, tweeted, styled, videoed, vlogged and Instagrammed. Creative readers the world over have shared snaps of the books – they’ve appeared on reindeer skins, behind balls of wool, beside wooden cats, inside weaving looms, on stylish breakfast tables, on tiled worktops, on rustic floorboards, in stacks on coffee tables in immaculately-styled professional photo shoots and in vlogger Zoella’s bedroom. It’s weird, but rather wonderful.

design bloggers at home ellie tennant

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RECENT FEATURES

I never get round to sharing my magazine features on here – mostly because I am too busy writing them to be honest (!) – but I am going to make more of an effort to upload a few recent bits of work now and again as well as the usual random musings and photos of flowers (!) …so, here’s the new June 2016 issue (just out today) of Homes & Antiques magazine, in which I explore the fascinating world of antique maps…

antique maps ellie tennant homes & antiques…did you know that California was accidentally mapped as an island for over a hundred years? Neither did I! It was a really interesting feature to work on – the history of cartography is a realm filled with sea monsters, politics and personalities.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 17.35.51Another feature out this month is Decades of Design, in the new June issue of House Beautiful magazine. In this piece, I explore the evolving decorating styles of the past 90 years, from Art Deco interiors in the 1920s to the Memphis movement of the 1980s…

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 17.42.23I’m lucky enough to be working on some lovely features for some of my favourite titles at the moment, including Ideal Home magazine, Style at Home magazine and Junior magazine. As you can tell, I love my job because most of the time it doesn’t feel like ‘work’!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 17.43.00In other news, I was chuffed to be featured on the lovely Cotswold Company and Graham and Green blogs recently, and am looking forward to judging the upcoming Hilden Style Awards 2016 (as I will get to check out some seriously chic hotels!) as well as the Junior Design Awards 2016, where I’ll be hunting for timelessly-stylish designs.

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SMALLHOLDING PROGRESS

OK, so we’re not quite there – we still have a fortnightly supermarket delivery – but with daily fresh eggs from our (rather naughty) hens Isla White and Princess Layer, plus a glut of rhubarb and leeks from the allotment this week, I’m feeling semi-self-sufficient! Ellie Tennant allotment home grown rhubarb leeks allotment tipsSome advice for first time chicken owners: White Leghorns are great layers of pretty, white eggs but they are also nervous and essentially bonkers. Speckeldy hens (Coucou Marans) are good layers, too (of brown, speckled eggs) and are friendly, curious and clever. When you first bring your hens home, they will be so freaked out and traumatised by the journey that they will sulk in their nesting box for days. Don’t worry. Just make sure they have access to food and water and they will soon forget the drama and grow braver. Mine were petrified of humans for the first few days but were pecking food from my hand and letting me stroke them within a week. Bribe them with food every time you visit them – a handful of rice, an earthworm (!) or a cabbage leaf and a soothing ‘tut tut’ noise will soon put them at ease. I kept them in their coop for a week so they got the idea that it was their ‘home’, then let them roam free. If you’re going to let them free-range, be prepared to lose some plants. My alliums are basically gone. And get ready to pick up / hose away poo every now and again from your patio. (By every now and again I mean, like, every day.) Apart from that, they’re amazingly low-maintenance. They peck about, eating slugs and bugs – and when it gets dark, they sensibly put themselves to bed, so all I need to do is lock the door behind them in the evening. how to keep chickens

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