Helen Redfern, one of the new Pickmotion photographers, shares “seasonal stories from the English countryside”. Her gallery is a record of the food, the flowers, the landscape and the animals of her rural environment and how they become the source of her writing and creativity. We are very proud to present an interview with @abookishbaker about Harry Potter themed animal names, blood oranges and the quickest photoshoot ever.
I imagine some Charlotte Brontë scenery of a beautiful English landscape when I browse your gallery. What do you actually see when you look out of the window?
When I look out I see our field with the chickens and ducks wandering about. Beyond that, the farmer’s field where he grows a variety of crops. At the moment it looks gloomy and brown – it is so muddy – and the trees are bare. But in the summer when the grass is beautifully green, when the leaves are on the trees (we have an orchard, lots of willows, and large mature trees: ash, elm, sycamore and silver birch), it is so incredibly vivid.
Do you have animals? What kind? And their names, if the list is not too long…
We do have animals. I have my dog, Ginny, and a cat, Narcissa (she used to have a sister called Bellatrix). Then we have twelve chickens – I think I’ve named them all but I do get confused sometimes. At one point in the six years we’ve lived here we had 25 chickens. Many of them had Harry Potter themed names like the dog and cat. We also used to have a male duck called Neville.
We currently have six ducks. Five were hatched last year and the sixth one we’ve had a few years now. Only the older one has a name – DuckFace!
I am wondering how the black cat and Nelly the chicken get along?
The chickens rule both the dog and the cat! My cat is a rescue cat and can be a bit scared. So she doesn’t get too close to the chickens. And the dog knows her place. She won’t even chase them. The ducks she likes to herd, though, like sheep, when I’m struggling to get them into their house.
Judging from your accounts name you’re a big reader and baker. How do these two activities go together? And what are you reading and baking at the moment?
When I first started A Bookish Baker I was writing about food in fiction and was pitching a recipe book proposal to publishers through my literary agent. As time has gone by, however, I’ve developed interests in so much more. The name has stuck though.
I have recently made some simple sponge cakes with a blood orange icing as, at the time of writing, those oranges are in season and I love the colour of them. I’m currently reading Maggie O’Farrell’s novel, This Must Be the Place.
What do you like about country life? Were you ever living in a big city? If yes, do you miss it?
I used to live in London and I can quite honestly say I do not miss it at all. I go back sometimes and find it so busy and noisy. I enjoy my time in the city when I’m there but I always love the contrast of coming home and going straight outside to check on the chickens and ducks and to walk the dog around the field.
I enjoy the quiet of country life. The peace. But it’s never boring, there’s always something happening. The shift in the seasons for example. As I write the snowdrops are out, and yesterday I spotted the purple of the crocus. The buds are swelling on the trees and the chickens are exploring further away from their house and run.
Apparently you have worked on a quite successful personal blog for a few years. What does that blog mean to you and what is special about it?
I love blogging. I’ve been blogging now for eleven years. It’s a place for me to write whatever I want. I started when I joined a writing group – this was before facebook, Instagram and twitter – and over the years my blog has evolved to what it is today. A place for me to write, explore my creativity, discover my writing voice and experiment with different ways of writing and telling stories.
You say Instagram helped you with your writing – how did it facilitate things?
Instagram is an extension of my blog. It is a way I tell my stories through the photography, through Instagram stories and through the captions on my photographs. I’ve learned to show what I can taste, feel, see, hear and touch through my instagram captions. And I’ve learned how to tell stories in a different way through my films on instagram stories. Taking out what’s not needed in the video edit in order to propel the story along has taught me skills to use in my writing.
At the beginning of the year we printed a photo by you on our cards – a duck in a mug. Tell us something about the photo shoot that led to the photo?
Last year one of my chickens, Wincey, became broody. She was sitting on some eggs and refused to come off. We don’t have a cockerel so the eggs weren’t fertilized so she would have been sitting on them a long time. So, instead, I bought her six fertilized eggs off ebay. The year before I bought her some chicken eggs when she became broody and she successfully hatched four chickens. This time I thought I’d buy her some duck eggs – Indian Runner ducks.
Ducks take a week longer to hatch than chickens but she sat patiently and successfully hatched five of them. The duckling in the mug was just one or two days old when I took the photograph. It was the quickest photoshoot ever – about 30 seconds – as I didn’t want to take the duckling away from Wincey for too long.
What’s your most ambitious plan for 2018?
To grow my blog, share my stories and help other people create blogs through my e-course. Oh, and a book deal would be nice, too!
Thank you so much!