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In the garden with Xanthe Gladstone

“I remember so vividly going out to our vegetable plot where I grew up in Scotland and eating carrots that we had just pulled out of the ground. I remember the taste so well, that sweet taste of a carrot that tastes like a completely different vegetable to the ones you buy in a supermarket ... Our vegetable garden didn’t last long because it was ravaged by deer and rabbits ... but it influenced the direction I decided to take my career.”

A few years later, Xanthe Gladstone, now 24, is back growing carrots in that same rabbit infested garden, dividing her time between Glen Dye in Kincardineshire, her family’s other home Hawarden in North Wales and London, combining growing vegetables with cooking and writing recipes. She is one of a new generation of young people recognising the ways in which the current system of industrial food production is not working, with the energy and borderline obsession to do something to change it. Just two years ago, newly graduated from Edinburgh University, Xanthe was following a much more conventional career path for a recent graduate - she was in an office job working on marketing for food and drinks companies.

Very quickly though she realised that being inside, sitting still and working at a desk were making her unhappy. She retreated home to rural Wales to rethink her career and then to Ireland to take the legendary Sustainable Food Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The course is taught by Darina Allen and a host of internationally acclaimed teachers - over six weeks it covers organic growing, climate change, food waste, nutrition, foraging - a modern, evidence based, food culture that harks back to traditional methods and skills. It is a course that fosters understanding of the link between the farm and the plate with an emphasis on sustainable growing and eating, a course that aims to reset the broken system of food production.

“By far the most important thing I have taken from the course is learning from the ferocious passion that the whole team of teachers bring to the school. Learning to question the system, to stick to your beliefs and to value proper quality food. We close our eyes too often to understanding the journey that food has made to get to our plates.”

Back in the gardens, Xanthe is deep in mud, creating lasagne raised beds and planning her crops, seeing what will grow in enough quantities to sustain a business. In Wales she has a beautiful, if previously underused, Victorian walled garden to play with, but in Kincardineshire her plot is on top of an unsheltered hill.

“I have chosen to grow similar vegetables in both places, so seeing how the different climates affect how they grow and how they taste is going to be a fascinating experiment.”

The food itself is destined for the various Gladstone family businesses - the holiday cottages at Glen Dye, Hawarden Farm Shop and The Good Life Experience festival in Flintshire - as well as for Xanthe’s own restaurant project, a pop-up supper club in London called Knuckle which she runs with her boyfriend Hugo Ross.

At present they get their produce from the organic vegetable sellers Abel and Cole and the aim is to gradually supplement that with home grown - knowing the exact provenance from seed to plate, closing the gap between grower and eater.

Xanthe is a great fan of the American chef Dan Barber, writer of the book The Third Plate, who has campaigned for ‘Farm to Table’ style restaurants to evolve much further.

Rather than cherry picking the most conventionally highly prized ingredients, he encourages chefs to look at the food that is being underused or wasted along the way. The more unfashionable cuts of meat, the less glamorous vegetables, the parts that would be thrown out. For me this holistic view of ingredients is something that is much more likely to happen when there is a true connection between the growing and the cooking. It is obviously something we get on an individual level when we grow things to cook, but it has been missing from a lot of restaurant food, even the restaurants which put great emphasis on provenance. The browsing of a farmers market selection or the visiting of a farm is good sourcing, but it is not the same as actually growing things and knowing them.

Personally I think all chefs should have a stint tending growing things as part of their training. I believe it transforms a relationship to food – it fosters a generosity with ingredients, a lavishness with herbs and greens, but also a care and respect. The knowledge of how frost and rain and soil affect flavour, when to harvest for specific subtle changes of tastes – these things can’t be learned from bought ingredients, only from grown.

Xanthe is spreading these passions through community projects too - from being a gardening ambassador in primary schools to organising a farmers market for local producers within the walled garden at Hawarden.

There are bees and chickens and a great love of making things from scratch, digging around for the ways things have been done for generations and re-interpreting them for contemporary tastes. Xanthe has a wonderfully evocative Instagram feed, full of vegetarian recipes with vegan versions - and she has given us her recipe for Radish and Carrot Kimchi.

Photo Kinvara Gladstone

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Snapdragon social

It is my birthday today and I intend to spend most of the day in the garden. 
There are a couple of orders to send out and some seedlings to drop off, but then it will just be me and this little menace pottering around the vegetable patch and putting seedlings in the ground (and hopefully not digging them up).
Then I will be away from the main Instagram feed for a couple of weeks. 
I will still pop up from time to time in the Studio Club stories feed, but otherwise I'll be on a social media break.

📷 @katgoldin 

#slowliving #mindfulgardening
My elder daughter Zoë asked for a stripy jumper knitted with wool dyed from the garden.
These are the finished skeins - currently curing in the studio - dyed with sweet cicely, dock, bay, birch and nettle.
In a month they will be ready to knit with.
The slowest of slow fashion.

#slowstitching #slowfashion #naturaldyeing #foragedcolour #foragedcolor #naturaldyersofinstagram #sustainablemaking #sustainablecraft #plantdyedyarn #plantdyes
I find that, unless I have a particular time set aside for doing something I often simply don’t get around to it.

Even when that thing takes half an hour, even when I really want to do it. 

So this weekend, in the Studio Club, we set aside some time to start making a balm from daisies. 
I videoed myself as I went along and was there to answer questions. 

It made me realise that it’s actually quite difficult to see from the outside all the things that go on in the Club week to week. 

So I’ve decided to send an extra email every month , just to the people on the waiting list, giving a access to something that is usually members only. 

If you’ve been wondering whether the Studio Club is for you, you can join the waiting list via my profile. 

The next opening is in August. 

#sustainablemaking #slowliving #seasonalhome #daisybalm #herbalife #startwhereyouare #
Kat Goldin came round for a cup of tea and a natter last week - and took this photo of me for the next edition of A Seasonal Way.
I'm posting it today because it shows off the dress that I am inordinately proud of having knitted! 

The bodice is the Deren cardigan by @jacquelinecieslak and the skirt just flares out from that into a mid calf twirl. 
My pride is in the keeping going with the knitting . . . and in eventually using up some of the cones of wool silk yarn that I bought from a mill closure in 1984.

📷 @katgoldin 

#derensweater #derenpullover #jacquelineceislak #embodycapsulecollection #memademay2022 #memademay #memademayplus #memade2022 #sustainablefashion #seasonalhome
A week in dyes - recycled cotton threads from the dye pots, sorted, labelled and curing in the Studio.
From left to right
Sweet Cicely and iron
Bloody dock
Bay and bloody dock
Bay and iron
Sweet Cicely and bloody dock,
Sweet Cicely

This year I’m exploring layering up colours and creating depth and also trying to work out how the base effects colour. 

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty
#slowstitching #sustainablemaking #foragedcolour
I picked this Black hero tulip when it fell down in the wind and put it so the evening light could shine through the petals - for unlit it looks a little undefined, a little absent, as many dark flowers do.
Then as I took this photo it reminded me of the art nouveau drawings of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh - the willowy bend, the swoop of the curved base, the full head.
Now I find myself speaking to it as I pass.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #tulipblackhero #windowsillwednesday #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
It is warm enough to have the doors to the dye deck open again - this week there are dock, sweet cicely, bay and nettle in the dye pots, a shuffling around as they steep and simmer.
Today I shall be writing up my initial results for dyeing with bloody dock (rumex sanguineus) for a Studio Club blog. 

I love having that space to put up progress reports - and the report is  very much in progress as the colours on wool and cotton were radically different - so members can follow along with my experiments.
Doors close to the Studio Club tomorrow - and the next intake of new members will be in August. If you fancy a summer of seasonal inspiration and slow living then you can find out more and join at

📷 @katgoldin 

#mystudio #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #allthingsbotanical #mindfulsewing #foragedcolour #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #plantdyersofinstagram #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
I wrote a letter to the new Studio Club members yesterday. 

It was all about Euan’s Granny, and what she said to me when I was a stressed thirty year old. 

It was about what I thought she meant at the time and what I realise she meant now. (The letter actually goes out tomorrow morning so don’t worry if you haven’t got it 😂)

Then I took this photo of tulips at the ends of the vegetable beds and I remembered that at the time I was receiving the grandmotherly advice was also the year that I grew striped tulips for the first time. It was in my back garden in Old Kilpatrick and I took a bunch through for her. 

When we look back there is often such rhythm to our lives. 

#growyourownflowers #slowliving #cornersofmygarden #slowflowers #aseasonalway

About Snapdragon Life

In the Studio Club I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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