The Book of the Homeless, edited by Edith Wharton in 1916, was a fundraising effort to help refugees and children in Europe during the First World War. It was Wharton’s idea to ask artists, writers and poets to contribute an original piece. At this time Wharton had already written nine novels and would go on to become the first female Pulitzer Prize winner, in 1921. Her literary success and influence allowed her to approach her good friend Henry James as well as Walter Gay, John Singer Sargent, Rupert Brooke, Thomas Hardy, Igor Stravinsky, WB Yeats, and 50 other writers and artists. In the same spirit, and inspired by a new book published by Rizzoli: Home: A Celebration, Notable Voices Reflect on the Meaning of Home, we asked contributors to share their interpretation of home, its meaning and importance. This week, food writer Clodagh McKenna …
My husband, Harry, and I moved into Broadspear just over three years ago. It is a charming property with its own 60 acres in a forgotten part of Highclere Park, the landscape of which was designed by Capability Brown. Close to the house lies a walled garden dating from the 1700s, originally built as a menagerie.
When we moved in the garden had been sadly neglected for over 200 years. Our plans for Broadspear – to implement the full circle of sustainability – began in summer 2019 with the walled garden. We created ten raised beds to grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, salads, soft fruit and fruit trees. It is now in full swing and feeding us all year around. We also planted a fruit tree orchard, a half-acre cutting garden and a wild flower meadow. That same summer we got two beehives and added another three hives at the start of this year, so we now have five working beehives. We harvested the first honey of the year last month and are thrilled we got a whopping 210 jars. Honeybees, of course, are some of the most beneficial creatures in our environment. They’re natural pollinators, helping our local flora reproduce and flourish.
As for our hens … our beautiful girls! We now have 14: a mix of Burford Browns, Old Cotswold Legbars, Olives and Dekalb Whites. They bring so much joy and life to Broadspear, as well as the most delicious fresh eggs. They have such an important role to play in our sustainable cycle; even their poo is brilliant for our compost. There is absolutely no waste. We have three types of compost – general, leaf and wormeries. The composting is the most important part as it feeds the soil that grows the plants and flowers, that feeds the bees. Fingers crossed this time next year we will have free-ranging woodland pigs! Full circle, that’s what makes it all so exciting and interesting, how to better that circle all the time.
In Minutes by Clodagh McKenna, published by Kyle Books, £20, is out now.
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