Stewart is not particularly warm and fuzzy. Nor, she says, is she lonely or unhappy. She is passionate about what she is interested in: both engaged and engaging. She can be funny. Even about herself. She says she is a teacher and there is nothing she seems to enjoy quite so much as explaining how to do something. But one does get the feeling there is only one way to accomplish most tasks: her way. She is rarely still.
An early-morning visit to Stewart's immaculate, 150-acre working farm in Bedford, N.Y., (Ralph Lauren lives next-door), with its three donkeys, five horses, three geese and 200 chickens, including egg-layers, establishes her dedication to all things domestic. She's planning to add cows to her stable as she has an idea about a cheese she wants to produce. She proudly showed off her mulching piles. Her gardens. There seems to be no end to her projects or her enthusiasms.
But there are rules. No outdoor shoes are permitted inside, lest the hardwood floors be damaged. That includes the home gym (although sneakers are permitted for the workout). Martha keeps five pairs of sneakers neatly lined up at the gym door. It takes 12 staffers to work the farm, and her morning meeting with them the day we were there included her instruction that every single tree on the property -- remember it's 150 acres -- needed to be tied, just so, before the winter. "You get the stake, cross it and go around the stake twice and tie it so that if the tree starts to grow it will not get choked."
She didn't say, "or else" but she didn't need to.
Her kitchen is just what you'd expect -- bright, well-organized (she let us poke through all the drawers!) and welcoming. There are two bowls of farm eggs on the counter, a large bowl of fruit, little onions from the garden.
We were invited to a breakfast of scrambled farm eggs and fruit prepared by Laura Acuna, who told us she has worked for Stewart for 22 years. She is clearly devoted. In fact, despite Stewart's reputation for being tough on those who work for her, there are many among her staff who have been with her for decades, including her publicist, Susan Magrino, who has worked with Stewart since her first book was published 27 years ago.
Last year Stewart committed herself to a new venture. Not a business venture, but a philanthropic one: the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital. It is a facility devoted to helping those who are getting old and those who care for them. It was inspired by Stewart's mother, Martha Kostyra, a favorite guest on her television show, who was 93 when she died two years ago.
"It is a place where -- about 2,700 patients come on an outpatient basis, from the neighborhood -- to get both medical advice, examinations, advice about diet, nutrition and exercise. It is kind of a home away from home for many, many of the patients," Stewart said.
We asked whether Stewart knew her mother was proud of her. She paused.
"About a year after she died," Stewart said, "I was cleaning my shelf where I keep my pocketbooks. And I remember being handed this brown pocketbook. I looked inside, and written in gold inside was a beautiful message from my mother telling me how proud she was of my accomplishments. I'd never seen it before. I 'd never thanked her."
Stewart said she sat on the floor and cried.