Thursday, November 6, 2014

Choosing the Cottage Life

Last April our family moved to a small cottage in Benicia, California. Cottage. Sounds quaint, romantic even. The term "cottage" conjures visions of rustic wood floors, white canvas furnishings, sun-graced reading nooks, and fresh cut lavender. Something like this serene space from farmhouse5540

Found at

It's... not exactly like that here.

This morning (and most mornings) our little fairytale looks more like this...

In case you didn't notice, I used an Instagram filter on this photo in order to add a magical glow to the bag of trash at the entrance, air-freshener/paper towels/cards/what-not on the island, and miscellaneous madness on the dining table (and most-likely a second cat on the counter to my right). Granted, we have only lived here for 7 months; clearly not enough time to established a solid sense of  order. And, we are renting, which inhibits many of my masterful ideas for proper flow and function. However, I'd be less than honest if I suggested that the above scene would be clutter-free, regardless.

The reason simply being that we LIVE here. We brew our morning (noon and evening) coffee, feed our pets, wrangle our 4-year old prodigy, create/package/internet for our home-based shop (Entropy the shop), chop, boil, bake, taste, clean, chat, discuss, storm off, play, and kiss in this space.

This small cottage space.

Don't be misled, we are not living in a small house because we have to (although, finances kinda did encourage the decision). We chose the cottage life. Or, more accurately, I should say, I chose the cottage life and my family kindly obliged me, with only the most gentle of derogatory comments regarding any and all cottage-related discomforts (e.g., lack of storage, lack of dishwasher, lack of central heat/air).

We chose this little 1940's home because she has been graced by years of stories evidenced by mismatched paint, tilting floors, and sticking doors. She is unique - earned through genuine endurance.

Upon first sight she was surrounded by dirt and weeds and tattered fencing, guarded by two large trees, and perched on the corner of quiet T-shaped court - I fell in love. Well, at least as much as one can fall in love with a rental. "Imagine what we can do with all that dirt!" I exclaimed to Klee (who shares my dream in theory, only slightly resenting its reality). We've nurtured gardens before, but this little cottage offered us the opportunity to grow a REAL garden... a Potager!

Potager: A French term for a garden set just outside a cottage, designed to grow both ornamental and edible plants; also called a kitchen garden.

Hence, our cottage name, Potager Cottage.

Since moving in, Klee and I swiftly (over a period of two of the hottest recorded months ever in history) and skillfully (we remained married) replaced the front fence.

After which we repurposed the old white picket fence scraps into a raised planter bed in which to grow our very own potager. And while some of our farming attempts flourished...

Other endeavors have been more of a learning experience...

Damn cabbage moths!

FREE green striped midcentury modern sofa
(and felines)
At Potager Cottage we own NO white furnishings; in part because that would just be INSANE with four kids and four furlings, but also because we tend to collect our furniture by chance, while treasure hunting for our shop at estate sales (and occasionally via the side of the road).
TV room lounge chair (with feline)

Our motto is, "The closer to Free, the prettier it be!"

Not really, I just made that up, but we have actually scored quite a few free pieces - and that works out just fine.

Mail sorter-turned dish cubby
With space at a minimum and a noticeable absence of a garage, storage closets, cupboards, and drawers, the keeping of stuff has required cleverness. Hooks adorn many of our walls, along with bookshelves, cubbies, and trunks. Stuff hangs, stacks, slides under, and frequently lingers in the purgatory that is any flat surface.

I hope to fine-tune this process, but I suspect this is a common pattern among any space that houses a collection of humans.

At any given time,

  • there are cars/blocks/legos/leaves strewn from our 4-year-old's room to any other room he chooses to consume
  • there's a stack of my work papers bundled with rubber bands and paper clips, sitting on the coffee table in the 'green room', so called because of the two green sofas dominating the space
  • there are paper shreds/catnip mice/small rollie things, once the center of a feline's universe, but now discarded, on any and all floors; 
  • there's a large jar of vinegar and another of kombucha, and possibly a crock of kvass brewing in a cubby, awaiting my chef-husband, Klee's approval 
  • there's a bucket of pulled weeds, along with several sets of worn gloves, a trowel, and some gardening sheers below the front door stoop 
  • and there are two or more bikes parked in the driveway, just far enough from the bushes to prevent unwanted spider dwellers, patiently resting on kickstands until the next time my daughter (and if I'm lucky, myself) can take them out for a tour of our new hometown, Benicia.

I like it here.

** Shameless Plug**
Did I mention that we have shop? It's really just a byproduct of our life. Please peruse Entropy the shop here:
**End Shameless Plug**

1 comment:

  1. Great job! Very well written.

    I really appreciate your mention of me being only slightly resentful at our yard.

    Can't wait to read your next post and see where this blog will go.