June 7, 2017

Every year at about this time, we at Tasha Tudor and Family tend to be busy sprucing up Tasha’s garden, giving the Rookery a good spring-cleaning, and preparing nametags for the fortunate folks who will be joining us for tours of Corgi Cottage starting June 9th. There is an air of quiet anticipation and excitement, knowing that soon we will be opening up our doors to friends, old and new, from all over the world, to share the delightful world of Tasha Tudor. It is always such a pleasure to witness the joy that comes over our tour-guests as they experience Corgi Cottage, whether it’s for the first time or the fifth!

Today we are going to share tour stories from two previous tour-guests and long-time Tasha fans, Heather Sleightholm and Patricia Heaton, who visited Corgi Cottage together in 2015. Heather Sleightholm is a mother, painter, writer, knitter, spinner and dabbler in homespun pursuits living in northeastern Oklahoma. You can find her original paintings, prints and stationery sets at sleightholmfolk.etsy.com and read her blog, featuring the popular series "Tasha Tuesdays," at sleightholmfolk.com.

Summer Cottage Garden, an original painting by Heather Sleightholm, depicts a scene reminiscent of life at Corgi Cottage.

Patricia Heaton is a mother, homeschooler, and home-cook! It’s such a treat to read through memories of their tour and hear what the experience meant to them. If you’re joining us for tours this year we hope Heather and Patricia’s stories will add to your excitement! And if you were not able to secure tickets for this year’s sold-out tours, we hope this glimpse into Tasha's world helps you feel included in all the magic!

Of her early love of Tasha, Patricia writes, “I can’t remember a time when Tasha Tudor was not a part of my life. She seems to just have always been there, sitting on my bookshelves waiting for me to pick her up on a regular basis and read her stories, look at her illustrations, and learn about her lifestyle.

Tasha's garden in June circa 1992, photograph from Tasha Tudor's Garden by Richard Brown.*

She goes on, "In the late ‘80’s, when I went away to college in Vermont, I knew Tasha lived somewhere not too far away, but I never really knew exactly where. This was many years ago, before Google! I would drive the back roads of Vermont, just certain that I would stumble across her home; I’d knock on the door, she’d let me in and, recognizing a kindred spirit, we’d become fast friends... I always hoped to have the opportunity to see her home, but never really thought I’d be able to.”

Through a series of serendipitous events, Heather and Patricia learned of our Corgi Cottage Tours and visited us on a rainy day in July.

The Rookery, which means "gathering place". Photograph by Heather Sleightholm.

Heather writes:

“That day we headed out from Albany to gray, overcast skies. The weather report was foreboding--thunder and rain. But nothing was going to dampen our spirits! We drove up through the drizzle, climbing up Hogback Mountain, known for it’s 100-mile view. We were met with dense fog, blocking out the view where three majestic states meet in the mountains. I just had to take its word for it!

When we got to Marlboro and turned off onto the country lane the lush green woods of Tasha's world enveloped us. Here it was, this lovely place where so much beautiful art and so many timeless stories were born.

Of course (was there any doubt?) we ended up being the first ones to arrive. It was drizzling and Tasha's son, Seth, came out to meet us and ushered us into the Rookery. I tried to play cool but I was, as they say, grinning like a 'possum…

Heather hugging friends, new and old, outside of the Rookery.

Soon other friends started to arrive and it was filled with activity! I was able to meet many lovely long-time friends and so many others who were just so sweet. I got hugged before I even knew who I was hugging! There were so many big excited smiles and lots of laughter. The Tudors were on hand as well--Marjorie, Amy, Winslow and their girls--and they graciously let us all mill about as if we were at a family reunion until it was time to get down to business!”

Patricia says:

“I was very nervous before going. I kept viewing it as ‘before Tasha’ and ‘after Tasha’, certain that I would never be the same again after having seen for myself where Tasha had created her world...But I could not have had a better experience. The group that I met was made up of kind, interesting, and welcoming people. Tasha’s family were very welcoming to us all.

The gate going into Corgi Cottage, photograph by Winslow Tudor.

I also realized as I arrived that I would never have found Tasha’s home all those years ago! It is truly off the beaten path and you feel like you are arriving in another world; indeed a quieter, kinder, gentler world.”

Heather and Patricia each had their own favorite highlights from the tour. Heather said, “One of the most special moments included touring Tasha's marionette theater off the barn, which was set up with marionettes she and others in the family had created. Seth had recently created a new set for the theater, and as we waited for the last group to finish Winslow showed us all how one of the soldier marionettes worked within the theater. Later, the family took our group photo there.”

For Patricia, walking around Tasha’s home was particularly memorable, “Walking into Tasha’s home was surreal. It is not a museum; it is most definitely a home that was well lived in and loved. They do ask you not to touch anything, as everything was left exactly how Tasha left it.

Tasha's kitchen wall, photograph by Richard Brown.

There are pencil, chalk, and ink drawings on the walls that Tasha did herself. Seth told us how she always had the habit of writing down the dates of her dogs’, goats’, and chickens’ births and deaths on the kitchen walls. She also wrote quotes, phone numbers, and notes to herself on the walls and doorways. There were dates of the first and last snowfalls, quotes that were meaningful to her, and even a small notation about the death of her brother, which Seth had only himself noticed that week. I found it very charming that written on a door in black marker was the notice ‘Very Important Don’t Open this Door- chicken.’ ”

Patricia also took great pleasure in noting the books that Tasha had on her shelves, “Her bedroom books included titles by Jane Austen, George Eliot, William Thackeray, Washington Irving, and Louisa May Alcott. I was absolutely thrilled that she had what appeared to be an original copy of Irving’s Old Christmas, one of my all-time favorites to read during the holiday season. It made my heart happy that a woman I so admired had similar taste in literature as I have.”

Small selection of Tasha's antique book collection, including Patricia's holiday favorite, Old Christmas. Photograph by Richard Brown.

Both women noted their excitement in seeing Tasha’s famous doll house, which Patricia describes as “a three story high, ‘L’ shaped glass fronted cabinet style house. The kitchen was at the top floor, the living room was in the middle, and the bedroom was at the bottom. It was a wonderful sight to see, with its tiny versions of real-life items. I’m a big fan of Tasha’s Sparrow Post, so I was delighted to see several small letters on a desk in the dollhouse.”

They were also moved to see Tasha’s Winter Kitchen, the room where Tasha kept her art table and spent many hours on snowy days painting her beloved scenes. Hanging on one of it’s walls is a portrait of Tasha’s brother Frederic, painted by their mother, Rosamond Tudor. Upon seeing it, Patricia admits, “ I was more excited to see the painting of Frederic in Tasha Tudor’s home than I was when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre!”

Delicious treats at the Rookery, photograph by Heather Sleightholm.

After touring the home and garden (which, Heather noted, featured the biggest azalea’s she’d ever seen!) the tour guests made their way back to the Rookery where they enjoyed Stillwater Punch, sandwiches, cookies, and fruit, were able to purchase items from the Rookery Gift Shop and converse with the Tudor family and fellow guests. They were even fortunate enough to meet some of Ellie Tudor’s famous chickens!

Heather's son, Robbie, greeting Ellie's chickens. Photograph by Heather Sleightholm.

All in all, the day was full of inspiration, friendship, and joy. Heather says, “I'm so glad to have had this experience and so humbled that it was able to happen...It was perfection. And so very inspiring. If you ever get a chance to do this tour, please just GO. You will not regret it!”

Thank you, Heather and Patricia for sharing your stories with us! Your experiences are testaments to just how much love there is for Tasha Tudor and we thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support!

We are looking forward to this year’s tours!

*Note: Because we do not allow cameras or cell phones on tours, the photographs we feature in this article were either taken at the Rookery (where photographs are permitted), by the Tudor family, or by Richard Brown from his wonderful books Tasha Tudor's Garden and The Private World of Tasha Tudor. 

Regarding our no-photo policy, Patricia writes, "After being on the tour and seeing her home, I am absolutely grateful that this is the rule. I think having people snapping away would disturb the magic of the place and I heartily agree with leaving the cameras behind. I was truly overwhelmed by the wonderfulness that is Tasha Tudor’s home."