Tasha Tudor: A Simple Life, A Sprawling Garden

| December/January 1994

Tasha Tudor Recipes:

• Gingerbread
Christmas-Tree Gingerbread 

Tasha Tudor borrows her life from another century and wraps it around her tightly. Her days unfold with a gentle rhythm, from earliest light, when she sets out barefoot to milk her goats, until she settles in the parlor by the fireplace with a cup of chamomile tea at nightfall. She welcomes the crisp autumn mornings in Vermont because they herald winter, when temperatures plunge to 30 below and she burrows even further into her nest. The modern world seldom intrudes.

This celebrated artist and children’s illustrator is about 80 years old (“That’s not a polite question to ask a lady,” she tells an interviewer), and she is still a tough, fiercely independent woman of strong opinions and plainspoken ways. Her weathered house, built for her in 1972 by one of her sons, sits on 250 acres in the rural mountains of southern Vermont. She shares it with her beloved Welsh corgis, Nubian goats, a cat, chickens, birds in antique cages, geese, and other animals. She wears her long frocks, petticoats, aprons, lacy kerchiefs, and handknit shawls with an unconscious grace, as if she truly lived 150 years earlier. She weaves, spins, knits, reads The Dairy Goat Journal, and works on her drawings in the soft lamplight. But nothing gives Tasha as much comfort these days as her sprawling garden; thoughts of the garden sustain her even in winter.

Tasha Tudor’s life is interwoven with the land. You won’t find a television in her house—she has never had one and never will—and her clock is likely to have wound down, so she’s often not sure what time it is. But the garden tells her when it’s time to get ready for winter, to fill her root cellar, replenish her woodpile, cover the flower beds with goat manure, gather herbs to hang in bundles from the rafters, and harvest a bushel of pears.

This fall, Houghton Mifflin published a book by Tovah Martin and Richard W. Brown called Tasha Tudor’s Garden. Tasha has herself written and/or illustrated more books than she can keep track of—75 or 80, she thinks, starting in 1938 with Pumpkin Moonshine. Her garden is familiar to her readers because it has worked its way into many pieces, but the Martin/Brown book is the first devoted entirely to this subject so dear to her heart. Drawings by Tasha are sprinkled through its pages.

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