A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to Tessa, her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex, as she preferred to be called, lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen. She is buried beneath her favourite oaks just north of The Nine Standing Stones.
This is the time that I really miss your company here, as we’re fully into the time of year where this Estate is isolated from the outside world. Even the neighbouring Estates seem far away and the post is but once a month at best as the nearest rail depot is twenty miles away, a long journey under most Winter conditions.
Because of all that, we’ve long celebrated the Winter season as something that starts with extensive preparations beginning in November and ending on Candlemas. As I write this letter to you, I’ve work parties gathering spruce boughs and cones, holly, and other material for decorating Kinrowan Hall. This is not a small task given the number of rooms to be decorated!
Likewise there’s work to done in getting the animals ready for Winter. We usually get our first heavy snowfall about the middle of November, but we’ve been lucky this year and had only a few light snows. Before then, I and my workers must make sure that the stock buildings are both tight and able to withstand heavy snows. Oh and our hedgewitch, Catriona, is worried about the owls, which means I must be sure that they can roost in the eaves out of the storms we’ll get. Since the owls keep the rodent populations down, this is a needed task.
The very last of the crops has been harvested — mostly cold crops such as cabbages and brussels sprouts, but also beets and carrots, not to mention celeriac, garlic, herbs of various sorts, horseradish, cauliflower, and garlic! All of which has to harvested, cleaned, and prepared for storage. The root cellars are certainly full this year!
We slaughtered a number of hogs earlier this month and the smoke houses are full of their meat being readied for Winter. I’m looking forward to a hearty ham, lentil, and onion soup with bread just out of the oven thick with butter! We trade some of the pork with other Estates for necessities such as dried beans and lentils.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the Steward thanks you for your wonderful gift of spices and herbs for the kitchen here! Blackie said that they would certainly be well-used here. The Hindustan trader who gave you the makings of masala chai and the recipe for making it is to be blessed — it sounds wonderful for Winter drinking while curled up in a chair near a roaring fire either stitching or reading.
I must run now as there’s a visitor from the Evenmere Estate with whom I want to speak on the matter of sending several of my lads apprenticing over there in their cheesery.
With deepest affection and love, Alex