Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Happy Cow is a Healthy Cow

Lowfields has been a farm since the revolutionary war. It became clear that we were caretakers of many acres of land and it made sense to us that the farm should actually BE a farm.

Cue the cattle!!
Black Aberdeen Angus
Most cattle are a mixture of all types of breeds - it is the difference between a mutt and a Show quality AKC registered Golden Retriever. 
At Lowfields Farm, we raise Registered Black Aberdeen Angus. This means that they are genetically superior in temperament, size and quality. They have been raised for centuries and my husband Charles became interested in them on our many trips to Scotland, where they originated. They are undisputedly the best beef on the market.

Charles gave up golf for his new love of cows. He has become an expert cattleman doing everything from artificial insemination to the castration of bulls. We constantly are among the cows checking on their welfare.

Our main goal at Lowfields is to produce healthy cattle on healthy soil.  We believe that good animal husbandry and the old natural ways of farming are sometimes the best and the most sustainable. Newborn calves are raised and fed along side their mothers in the open pasture with access to clean re-circulating water, swimming facilities and shade and shelter. Spoiled? You bet!  A happy cow is a healthy cow!
Momma & her calf
Because of this focus on quality, we have been selected as a producer for Whole Foods. We went through a rigorous evaluation process that they do on a yearly basis to make sure your commitment to quality doesn't wane. We are proud to report every audit has given us the top scoring marks. Whole Foods’ commitment to their customer’s health makes them the perfect partner for Lowfields Farm beef.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bedside Bouquets

Many years ago, when I really began a serious garden, I started the habit of putting a small bouquet by my husband's bedside. He always noticed and always commented..

Now, the first thing I do when we get to the farm on Friday evening is pick a small bouquet while I look over the garden and put it at it's proper spot beside the bed.  I also expanded the tradition to include all the bedsides of our guests at Lowfields.  

In the summer, there is ton of different options from all the perennials.  In the fall, the bouquets are lovely with the addition of seed heads and bright leaves. Spring is glorious with herbs blooming and lots of bulbs. And even in the winter there is always something in the garden -  rosemary, hellebores, or even holly berries make it quite festive! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 4th at Lowfields

The 4th of July is not just a summer holiday at Lowfields, but a holiday comparable to Christmas & Thanksgiving.  This is because not only celebrate our nation’s independence but the birthdays of Sister and her son, Michael. 

This particular 4th was especially special because for the first time we had my mother, CoCo and the new baby of the family, Nutmeg & Michael’s son, William aka Cutty, who is 7 months old.  Sister will now sometimes also be known as Whimsey - her grandmother name, and  Charlie & I are now christened as Uncle Angus and Picnic Aunt!  

We spent a lot of time outside in the pool or quilt-rolling under the trees by the James River.  We barely stayed awake to see the fireworks in surrounding towns…  

Cutty quilt rolling

Enjoying the 4th with Family
4 Generations at Lowfields - CoCo, Whimsey, Michael & Cutty

It's not a celebration unless we are eating...

Our family loves to celebrate and what's a celebration without FOOD!  Our July 4th menu consisted of traditional summer fare with a family twist…  

Hot Dogs and homemade French fries with Nanny’s Pink Sauce, Top Beverage with Fresh Garden Mint, Apple Crumble Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Lowfields Country Meatloaf (of course made with Lowfields Beef) with a salad of mixed greens & CoCo’s Best Ever Dressing and much more. 

We are excited to share with you some of the old family favorites (and some new ones)!
Nanny's Pink Sauce
My aunt always made this sauce for shrimp and oysters. When I was vacationing in the south of France, I dipped my frites in a wonderful aioli and fell in love.  We use Nanny's Pink Sauce for this same purpose when we make our homemade french fries!    

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 cup catsup
Squeeze of lemon
Hot Dogs & Homemade French Fries with Nanny's Pink Sauce

Top Beverage
Sister is the supreme mixologist in our family, the combinations are not always evident  to the untrained eye but for some reason her concoctions are always delicious!  Several years ago during one of her summer holidays at Lowfields, Sister was enthralled with reading and watching Bridget Jones Diary. In the book the main character mentions a drink being "Top Beverage".  Inspired by the huge patch of mint in the garden, her version of Top Beverage is below! 

Fresca Regular flavor
Fresh mint

In a chilled glass, crush mint in bottom. Add Tequila, Fresca and the juice of 1/2 a fresh lime. Stir and garnish with more fresh mint and a wedge of lime.  

Top Beverage

CoCo's Best Ever Dressing
Mamma has made this salad dressing for years and people were always begging for the recipe, even those who did not like blue cheese dressing. You make it in a pickle jar at the beginning of the week and it lasts for many days. It is good on plain greens or a mixed salad.

Blue cheese , or any cheese of your preference (gorgonzola, chevre, feta, etc) can be used.

1 wedge maytag bleu cheese
1 cup canola oil
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tpsp Pickapeppa sauce
2 tbsp grainy mustard or Grey Poupon

Crumble bleu cheese in jar.  Add chopped garlic, Pickapeppa sauce and mustard and fill with canola oil. Stir with spoon and then shake in jar before use.

Ingredients for CoCo's Best Ever Dressing

Ready for salad!  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Railroad Houses

Building the infrastructure of a farm from scratch is always interesting and not without unexpected additions.

The C&O canal ran along the banks of the James river. In the 1800s, the canal was converted into a railroad. You can see the old locks and stone bridges along the tow path. Through a neighbor we found out that the railroad was replacing the old switching stations---so we aquired two houses - one that houses feed and seed and the other houses gas cans.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coup de Grace

Obviously, you can’t have a farm without chickens.  Chickens and cattle go together!  I had  chickens at our suburban farmette of 2 acres in Raleigh, NC and loved them. The chickens at Lowfields needed a special building, so I had these church windows and a church door installed and hence - The Coup de Grace.
Coup de Grace
Charlamagne, the rooster, is the head of his harem and does a good job of monitoring his ladies.  They are mostly all Rhode Island Reds. We let them free range and they get all the vegetable scraps and weeds. 


The Reds
Sister aka the Chicken Whisperer
The abundance of fresh eggs is a luxury and we find many ways to use them in recipes.  Look for them in this blog along the way and keep an eye out for one of our special recipes in our Christmas post – “Eggs Lowfields” is a recipe that Nutmeg & Sister came up with and it’s not Christmas morning without it.

Bunk House Chic

Sister and I spent Christmas of ’09 with her son, Michael and wife, Meg (although we call her Nutmeg) at their home in Connecticut.  The three girls spent a wonderful day in Manhattan shopping and lunching and more importantly looking at all the fabulous Holiday windows. As we always do when we are in the city, we went to the Ralph Lauren House on Madison Ave (mostly for me to steal ideas on design).  They change their top floor interior design area every season and each time I can't wait to see what they will do.  We walked into that fabulously renovated store and walked directly into a room that was basically the recreation of what I had done in the Bunk House but of course ever so chic in that RL way.  Hence the term that Nutmeg coined – “Bunk House Chic”. 

Bunk House Entry
Some details on the Bunk House:
My husband Charles and his crew had made bunk beds out of tree trunks that almost touch the 20 ft ceilings (made for giants as all male members of my family are at least 6’3” and above).  The rest just followed from all the stuff collected or had not sold to clients including a great oriental rug and a chesterfield sofa I bought for $25 dollars.  Not just for sleeping, the Long Barn and Bunk House has been used for lots of events – cattle luncheons and even a wedding! 
Main Living Area

Bunk Beds

Sitting Area


Long Barn

During the coldest winter on record, our intrepid contracter John Payne graded and framed our Long Barn.  This also called for a retaining wall and a new road. Things are never simple!   My vision for this useful structure was to try to make it look like an English stable block while still getting the most function out of it.  I always think that function and design go hand in hand. 

This structure would be the biggest because it would be used to house all the tractors – I told you they were coming!   It would also house the shop, a room for storage and freezers and what would become the Bunk House, another place for friends and family to stay. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Gate House

For security purposes and an entry point into the farm, we needed to put up some type of gate at the entrance to the property. But what could give us a little extra than just 2 posts and a gate? What could serve as a structure, as a means of telling visitors they were at the right place and maybe even provide shelter for animals in the two surrounding pastures?   Introducing the Lowfields Gate House... 

Entering Lowfields

View from main house

School House

Situated out in a field, from here forward to be known as school house field, was an old building.  It was probably a kitchen to an old 1800s house that burned down long ago. We called it the schoolhouse because there were essays and sums written on the old plaster walls.

School house in field

School House - Before

Part of my vision was to have small out buildings surrounding Cold Comfort.  One of these outbuildings would be used as a wood shed and this was the perfect use for the school house.     Here it now sits between the main house and Whimsey.  

School house - After

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The original lay out always called for a little guesthouse since Cold Comfort only had one bedroom.  So we decided to build Whimsey to allow us to have guests most especially Sister who spends the summers and holidays with us. 

Whereas Cold Comfort and the farm buildings were all Black and white, Whimsey interiors were lime green and turquoise matching the Nicholson tartan. I was also determined to cut all that color with a painted wood floor, white of course.  Looking back, I realize that white as a wood floor color is not great at a farm due to the dirt you gain as you work all day.

Country Living Magazine shot 2 stories on Whimsey and we made the cover for their February 2005 issue!  This issue also showed my editor Rebecca Thienes and I shopping and restoring lots of junk.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

For the love of cows...

Little did I know at the time, but a love affair was starting.  My husband was falling in love with cows.  It crept up slowly with me noticing a few cow magazines laying around the house and I realized that I was just going to have to accept it.  And in the end, I fell in love too.

Sweet cow eye

A neighbor kept some cows in our pastures from time to time and the interest grew from there. At the time, we would manage the pastures with our small suburban John Deere riding lawnmower.

I knew there were going to be bigger John Deere's in our future as we entered into the farming of  our own angus cattle.

Besides the grass/hay, farming cattle also mean miles & miles of fences.  We once again jumped in head first and all the cow infrastructure was accomplished with a great contractor and builder named John Payne.  We also installed automatic waterers so animals would have a fresh source of water.

Fencing from Cold Comfort Cottage down to barns
More on cattle life at Lowfields will be posted down the road...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Old Barn

An incredible eye sore on the farm was the old cow barn. We would stare at it endlessly and could never come up with an idea on how to restore it for use. 

Old Barn - Before

Old Barn - Before
Finally I took a picture, blew it up and starting drawing right on it. The design finally clicked.

We tore down the shed roofs and started to reshape the barn into something approaching symmetrical.  We were going to use board and batten as we did in the milking parlour. We closed in 3 sides, wired it, added plumbing, vented the roof and added 4 huge plexiglass windows with architectural details. Then it was painted my signature white!

Old Barn - After

Old Barn - After

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cold Comfort Cottage

Since there was no habitable place on the farm we ended up renting a cottage with some friends 30 minutes away. We knew we needed a house - the old house was a huge huge money and time pit and what we needed first was a small quick cottage.

We chose a bluff above the James River and proceeded to clear and clear and clear…

Future site of Cold Comfort Cottage

When the bluff was cleared the eventual lay out of house and outbuldings came to me in a dream (or hallucination). Below is the actual sketch I did with what I envisioned... 

The Vision

This is exactly what we ended up building over the next few years...(details on other buildings - Whimsey & School House - in upcoming posts!)

Final front view of Cold Comfort Cottage
As a designer, I have had several photo shoots with national magazines. I partnered with Country Living Magazine for a story on what would be Cold Comfort Cottage.  I have posted some pictures below from the shoot they for their November 2003 Thanksgiving issue. This started a wonderful association with incredibly talented people - Rebecca Thienes, Stanley Hura and Keith Scott Morton.   


Laundry Room

Wood burning stove


Desk in Main Living Area
Cold Comfort Cottage was all about recycling.  It had old doors, sinks, columns and other architectural items that I have found along the way at flea markets, etc.   It also continued the theme I started by having a very basic and graphic color story - the two most basic colors - black and white.