Autumn Notes

August 20, 2016

Red currants 2016

Bowl of redcurrants ready for the freezer

 

Pruning the blackcurrants

Apples ripen as we have finally managed to prune some of the blackcurrant bushes.

The first signs of Autumn have appeared earlier than usual. The house-martins gathered earlier than in previous years. Many are already on their way to South Africa; although there is still a late brood being fed in the turf shed. The apple trees have a sizeable crop of smaller than usual apples. On the other hand the black and red currant crops were fantastic with loads of large, sweet, juicy berries. We collected as many as time and energy allowed. We haven’t made jam or jelly yet as looking after guests takes precedence over jam making.

Guests have commented on the absence of bird song in the woods. We had already noticed their absence in the garden. In discussion with neighbours we were told that the increase in the population of pine-martins, which raid the nests of small birds; together with the presence of buzzards can account for the decline in their numbers. We have noticed a reduction in the quantity of flies and mosquitoes which usually plague us as we work in the garden. No doubt that the decline in that food source may have affected bird numbers. On that somewhat depressing note one cannot help but wonder whether the forecast made by Rachel Carson in her book The Silent Spring has come to pass.

The Silent Spring first published in 1962 by Houghton Mifflin. Dealing primarily with the long lasting and detrimental effects of pesticides.  It was compulsory reading for many school and college students. The debate continues over 50 years later. Though the use of genetically modified seeds is a very hot topic at the moment here in Ireland. Many feel it will compromise Ireland’s reputation as a producer of ‘green’ products such as dairy products as beef and lamb.

 

Fallen tree

Fallen Worcester Pearman apple tree

 

The other night part of an old Worcester Pearman tree keeled over. We are waiting to see if the fruit will ripen as part of the branch is still attached to the tree.

White lilac pruned.

Adam pruned the white lilac tree yesterday.

Wild Edric rose reaches for the light

Wild Edric rose reaches for the light

Onions and shallots drying in the sun

Onions and shallots drying in the sun

 

We have been visited by many new guests as well as some of whom have visited before. So we were delighted to be able to purchase fresh blueberries from their producer. We have made a great many blueberry pancakes for breakfast this summer.

 

 

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It is often said that in Ireland we can have four seasons in the one day. So come prepared! Yesterday was a glorious sunny day, though with a cold breeze. A good day for gardening. Today is a rainy April day. It is also the day Adam the gardener comes. So a weatherproof jacket and hat are called for. Inside tasks are scheduled where possible. Completing the clearing of the greenhouse. Putting the fuschias and penstemons into pots. Checking the dahlias have survived the winter and are starting to sprout. It is still too early to plant them out. The potatoes were planted last week.

 

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Each autumn we plant tulip bulbs in a variety of tubs and pots So that we can have colour in front of the house when guests arrive. Choosing the bulbs is always an interesting task. we use late flowering varieties.  It is always interesting to see the flowers in full bloom. So when attending the Chelsea flower show one year I ordered sufficient for the two main tubs. We were delighted with the recommendations made by one of the staff on the stall. This  past year we ordered from Bloms bulb catalogue again. I will have to check the invoice for the varieties used.

 


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The minature daffodils and the hellibores are in full bloom. Many of the daffodils planted years ago had become congested and ‘blind’. ie. They had very few flowers as they were growing in the woods and getting very little light.. Over the past 10 years we have tried to dig up the big clumps and divide them up before replanting.  Most of them are a very old variety which is, I am told, known as  an Easter lily!

 

Donkeys -April '16 007

 

Spring 2016

March 8, 2016

Hellebores

Hellebores

The Hellebores under the Belvedere Rose arch are flowering in spite of the wind and the rain. A true sign that spring is on the way. It is often said that in Ireland we can have three seasons in one day. So we, the inhabitants, become used to seeing the sun come out and bring out the young, dressed in sun-tops and shorts; whilst those of us, somewhat older bodies, are still dressed for colder weather in thermals and thick jackets.

We have had more rain than usual this winter, so much indeed that the Loughan (turlough)* between Mornington cottage and the Crookedwood road has become a veritable lake. Certainly, we skated on the lake in the winter of 1978/79 and again in the early 1980’s. The surface of the ice in the centre was smooth, though there were ridges along the edges. An old family friend, Patsy Farrell brought an old fire basket and a couple of bags of turf and built a fire on the edge of the lake. So after an energetic morning trying to regain our ‘skating’ legs,  hot chocolate, hot whiskey or port warmed us. Whilst baked potatoes with lashings of fresh home-made butter were on offer along with hot dogs and nutty brown fried onions. This year the Loughan froze around the edges but the ice was not strong enough to hold a person’s body weight.

Mother’s Day and Family weekend

Warwick and I were confronted by the vagaries of the weather on Friday. Our daughter and grandson were coming to see us. We headed to the airport to collect them as we have done many times before only to discover that the plane was delayed. It was no. 38 in the queue of planes waiting to be de-iced at Manchester Airport! To cut a very long story short and after watching innumerable alterations to the arrivals screen, we eventually headed home minus two of our favourite people! Our son arrived home in the early hours of the following morning after his own challenges leaving the UK on the Friday night. He, very kindly, did the return journey back to the airport a few hours later to pick up his sister and nephew.

Feeding the donkeys

Feeding the donkeys

Our grandson is beginning to talk a great deal which is lovely to see and he spent a great deal of time playing with the family’s Fisher-Price Castle. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon so we went on a family walk to greet the donkeys, Holly and Noddy and collect the eggs from the chickens. We even managed an early Easter Egg Hunt which we all enjoyed! During our walk, we went to check on the progress of our neighbour, David, a qualified tree surgeon, who was cutting the stump of a beech tree, part of which had come down in an earlier storm. It was important to remove any possibility of the last branch falling on the road.

Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg Hunt

After an early lunch on Sunday the return journey began. Thankfully, all went well and we received a text to say that daughter and grandson had arrived home safely. A shaky start but a lovely family weekend!

 

Yoga with The Stables at Mornington

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With yet another successful weekend yoga retreat behind us, we’re hoping to get others excited about spending an entire weekend at The Stables at Mornington! For an entire weekend of indulgence, rest and fabulous relaxation.

Why We Want You To Join Us

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Freedom begins here. We want you to refresh and rebuild your mind, body and spirit. That’s why The Stables at Mornington is the perfect, relaxing atmosphere to do just that!

Your retreat can also include an Indian Head Massage, Reflexology or Reiki session; as well as a stay at The Mornington House. We also offer special booking prices for those who stay with in one of our rooms in Mornington House!

What To Expect In Your Stable Yoga Class

Our amazing instructor Catherine likes to creatively deepen the knowledge of alignment, clarity and balance (both emotionally & mentally), and spiritual way of being within each of our yoga students. She really works the room, making each student feel special, when helping you make the exact adjustments for a better move. Catherine’s presence, physical skills, versatility and personalization really make her one amazing yogi for a weekend retreat.

Yoga classes at The Stables are designed to strengthen and balance the body, mind and spirit within the recently renovated stable space set amongst the gorgeous countryside of Westmeath County. All while lifting you up and providing a sense of purpose within the spiritual energy that is brought into each yoga class here at The Stable.

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All we ask is that you bring your mat or blanket and yoga cushion. We keep some spare mats, blankets and cushions available if you forget yours or want to pack light. Tea and biccies are also provided for a cheeky little treat.

Contact Mornington House at stay@mornington.ie or +44 93 72191 for more details!

 

 

Clocks Spring forward

April 24, 2015

As clocks sprang  forward and after a somewhat stormy end to the month of March spring was finally  in the air.  The clouds lifted the sun has shone brightly.  Birds are busy nesting and evidence is clear from the pile of twigs and other nesting materials which have come down the chimney. Though, in recent weeks , we had left the sweep’s  brushes inside the chimney to discourage such activity. The past three weeks there has been a lift in the temperature. So it the plants which we had overwintered in the greenhouse have been brought outside. This has allowed us space to plant the tomato and pepper plants we grow in the greenhouse beds each summer. We finally planted the tomato plants today and the dahlias  are finally sprouting.

The germination rate was poor this year. Maybe I am losing my touch with planting seeds! “What do you do with all the tomatoes when you get a big crop at the end of the season?”  was one question discussed after breakfast this morning. For the past few years and faced with a ‘glut’ of tomatoes we make them into sauces and relishes or oven dry them for use on pizas As tomatoes do not keep indefinitely we skin the surplus and put into bags in the freezer. That way we can have tomato passata or soup later in the year.  Here is a recipe we have used successfully ourselves.

The final touches have been made to the stable block though the windows, floors and doors need to be cleaned. The cleaning team is due in to dust, buff and polish the inside. Last week the new parking area was created. it is amazing what a digger and loads of gravel can accomplish in a few hours. We still will need to spread a layer gravel in the stable yard itself.

 

Archway into stable yard

Archway into stable yard

 

 

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Centre of block was the harness room and coachman’s quarters.

 

Mornington Stable block

Parking for Stable block

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coach House

Harness Room and Coach House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Sauce

1clove        Garlic Crushed

1 large        Onion & 2 shallots Chopped

Centre of head of Celery chopped

2 tins     Chopped Tomatoes or 3-4 lbs fresh Tomatoes roughly chopped

Small bunch fresh Basil

Salt & Black Pepper

Olive Oil

2-3tbsp butter

2-3tbsp Sugar

Salt to taste

 

Method

  1. Prepare vegetables.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil together in sauce pan.
  3. Add chopped onions and shallot and garlic.
  4. Add celery.
  5. Sauté all vegetables until soft, but do not allow to brown.
  6. Add tomatoes and ½ can water or vegetable stock.
  7. Simmer until reduced to thickish sauce
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary!!!

 

Spring in full bloom

March 9, 2015

Minature daffodils and hellibores.

Minature daffodils and hellibores.

After a slow start the snowdrops have bloomed and we are waiting for the daffodils to come into flower. We were a little fearful that we might lose some after the ‘big move’ they made last year. We needed to move snowdrops and daffodil bulbs last winter to make room for the three large tanks which needed to be installed as part of our new waste water facility. So we lifted the bulbs to fresh ground and whilst there may need to be a little adjustment after they have flowered this year they have weathered the move well. As a great deal of clearing of undergrowth has also taken place we can now see those snowdrops hidden for recent years now they are in full bloom . We do need to try to remove more of the brambles which have thrived as we have concentrated on the walled garden.

 

 

Renovation of the Stables

The renovation of the stables is moving on as the ground floor has been tiled and the floorboards will be going down  upstairs over the next two weeks. We think this project has been a veritable modern minor miracle.  The  building once the hub of farm life here to virtual dereliction had taken years. When we returned from Canada it was full of old farm equipment, my late mother-in-laws car, old working saddles, travel trunks  and many other ‘items’ which were designated as being ‘might be useful at some time. Needless to say all has been move  or disposed off. The studios will be available for use by guests or for rent by others. Indeed they will be suitable as a destination and use for small boutique weddings or other family gatherings. More news will be posted on our website once the project is complete.

 

Holly and Noddy

Holly and Noddy

Jams and Chutneys

On a cold and chilly February morning there is nothing more rewarding than making a batch of jam or chutney or jam. Once we had cleaned the freezer and counted the bags of fruit still waiting to be used. we set to work to make some strawberry and raspberry jams to restock the store cupboard. The smell of the jams as they cook welcomes neighbours as they drop in for a chat.

Raspberry Jam

1 kg. Raspberries

1 kg. Granulated sugar or preserving sugar

Method

  1. Prepare jam jars by washing if necessary and put into oven at 100°C
  2. Place raspberries into a heavy based saucepan.
  3. Using a potato masher crush the raspberries to release the juice.
  4. Add a small hazel nut sized lump of butter.
  5. Heat the fruit and stir in the sugar. Making sure that all the grains are dissolved before bringing the mix to a rolling boil.
  6. Boil for 4-5 minutes until setting pint is reached.
  7. To check for setting draw pot from heat, put a little jam on a plate and allow to cool. Jam should wrinkle when pushed or form a flake when poured off a wooden spoon rather than steady drops.

 

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Pruning and Planning

February 4, 2015

Holly and Noddy

Holly and Noddy silhouetted against an evening sky.

 

Vegetable plot planning starts again. To grow or not to grow, The inevitable decision of which variety of vegetable seeds to purchase and plant is coloured by previous years’ experiences;, Last year we grew more squash and marrows than we have been able to use. The germination rate for ‘cold’ crops was poor last year and we had to resow some crops or even resort to purchasing plants from our local garden centre. Gardeners are eternal optimists, so we have spent evenings perusing the seed catalogues.

February and the hours of daylight are lengthening so we have torn ourselves away from the fireside and the books received at Christmas. Vegetable plot planning has taken over. The first seeds have been sown, tomatoes and peppers are sown in the propagator. Some may say that this is too early; however, we have hedged our bets by only planting half of the Moneymaker seeds. The balance may be called into play later in Spring if today’s planting is unsuccessful.We have chosen varieties which have provided a good crops past years. Tomatoes are used for guests’  breakfasts,  sauces and of chutneys.

Vegetable plot planning is important as we try to grow a range of vegetables for the table and chutneys. The garden may seem large to some but its is amazing how quickly  it becomes filled with potatoes, beans, and various cold crops. Shallots, garlic and a few onions were planted last autumn. However much vegetable plot planning is carried out we still find ourselves looking for space for an extra row of beans or peas. We try to grow batches of peas and beans three or four weeks apart, so that crops don’t all come in for use at the same time.

A sudden spell of exceptionally warm can allow seedlings  to catch up with plants seeded earlier, resulting a plethora of vegetables. thus allowing us to send guests home with offerings of fruit and veggies.

Pruning and Firewood

The willow trees which self seeded in the area we call the Culleenagh  have begun to fall as they become mature. So by judicious pruning we have a source of firewood and the trees then regenerate. Giving us a source of sustainable timber for use in the house.

The old fruit trees in the garden have also benefited from regular pruning, with larger fruits and heavier crops resulting in the past few years.

On a visit to The Apple Festival at Harlow Carr R.H.S. gardens in Yorkshire some years ago we were advised to prune old overgrown trees a little at a time. This has paid off handsomely. This year we do need to spray for scab. We hope to use an organic solution. We must consult our gardening guru- Warwick.

 

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The Stable Development at Mornington

For a development which was meant to take 2 months when it was started 16 months ago the end is finally in sight; as flooring is being put in . We are tiling the ground floor having due regard to the rules and regulations which govern such a facility. When completed this will be available to guests for small functions or courses. We will take more photographs as we progress with the finishing tasks.

Andy tiling the floor of old stables

From cobbles to tiles.                                Andy tiling the floor of old stables

Winter at Mornington

December 23, 2014

Sweetpeas for a wedding

Winter has come to Mornington and it is a time to take stock of the last twelve months. I cannot believe that my last post was written in August and, even then, not completed and posted. What could possibly have got in the way? A simple answer, a baby and a wedding.

Our daughter gave birth to our first grandson on 4th July and our son married his sweetheart on 2nd August. All this activity was followed by a pick up in the tourist tourist season; and we were kept busy ironing piles of sheets, pillowcases, and napkins; together will preparing the many meals for our guests. Country fairs, chutney and jam managed to squeeze into the Mornington calendar.

Thinking that I was handling everything very well  I then fell off a cliff, so to speak, and ended up in hospital for a couple of weeks. I am gradually trying to recover my mobility. I can still drive, though getting in and out of the car can be a challenge. Preparations for Christmas have been somewhat muted. However, a ‘small’ bronze turkey was delivered this afternoon and I am told that our son and daughter in law will be preparing  the meal for us all. Not on Christmas day but the following week.

Donkeys at Mornington 

Hooves newly trimmed by blacksmith Anthony Holly and Noddy were in great form.

Hooves newly trimmed by blacksmith, Anthony. Holly and Noddy were in great form.

Out to visit the donkeys, Holly and Noddy trotted over to me, apparently pleased to see me. Although it may have been in anticipation of carrot and apple peelings in the bucket I was carrying. Anthony our blacksmith had come and trimmed their hooves. I have been astonished how quickly the horn of the hooves grows.

Garden in winter -not quite asleep, just snoozing

We  took a few pics on a typical overcast Westmeath winter’s day. Each view reminds us of what was harvested or creates anticipation of what next year will bring.

Artichokes weeded and mulched.

Artichokes weeded and mulched  are still producing new growth.

 Winter Chores

Winter at Mornington is always the time to make endless lists. of winter chores in the garden, which variety of seeds to order. snag lists of repairs needed in the house; sheets, towels and delft to be ordered, on top of which updating our website is crucial.

One friend would keep her lists on each separate shorthand notebooks. There is one problem in that of making sure that you pick up the appropriate notebook. mine are an absolute tangle. The solution is to burn the lot and start afresh!

In anticipation of next summer I have accquired some loose sweet-pea seeds.

We will start them in the new year. In anticipation of good weather.

Penstemon sheltering behind the box hedges of the celtic cross.

Penstemon sheltering behind the box hedges of the celtic cross.

Asparagus bed Full of promise of next year's succulent harvest.

Asparagus bed Full of promise of next year’s succulent harvest.

Rhubarb patch snuggled under cover of straw. I can taste the fresh poached taste even as I type.

Rhubarb patch snuggled under cover of straw. I can taste the fresh poached taste even as I type.

A raised bed on it's last legs needing a little tlc

A raised bed on its last legs needing a little tlc

Pol na gorth Overlooks all we do.

Pol na gorth overlooks all wePots of May flowering Tulip bulbs. Purchased from Blomsbulbs

Weddings and Marquees on the lawn at Mornington House. It had always been a ‘lovely idea’ to hold a family wedding on the front lawn at Mornington. Once, we had thought it would be our daughter’s wedding… However, it was our son, Patrick, and his fiancée who chose to hold their nuptials in the Parish church in Multyfarnham and the reception was held at Mornington. Patrick and Sarah are back to their to their new life as Mr & Mrs O’Hara. Sarah is the ‘young’ Mrs O’Hara whilst I have acquired the venerable title as the ‘old’ Mrs O’Hara.

Plans made earlier in the year came to fruition. Fitting a family occasion in between guests’ bookings took a little organisation! Once family members began to arrive the pace stepped up until almost as soon as it had started everything was over and all that was left were memories.

Sweet peas at Mornington

Sweet peas at Mornington

We had grown sweet peas, so many, that it took a friend two hours tp pick those used on the day. Bags of gladioli corns had been purchased from Lidle in March. There was a limited choice of colours.  In the end, few were used were purchase

An armful of gladiolis

An armful of gladiolis

In the days after the wedding we were able enjoy the flowers before they were put on the compost heap! Our daughter came over with her husband and, infant son, Owen. It was a joy to welcome the little fellow to Mornington. Once family members arrived, the whole event took on a life of its own. Thankfully, we had planned ahead, by preparing and cooking dishes to be put in the freezer. It certainly made feeding the nineteen people staying here much easier. Particularly as we have family members who are either coeliac or gluten intolerant.

Tip: Where bread crumbs and white sauce were called for we used crumbs made from gluten free bread or cornflour or rice flour to thicken the sauce.Tht way we were able to serve the dish to everyone     The following recipe is one I have used for many years, with many variations depending which meats I have to hand.     Terrine Maison   8oz Lamb or Calves’ Liver 12oz Chicken Livers 1lb Lean pork, ground* 1lb Pork fat, ground* ½ lean ground veal, ground 5 Tbsp 4 Chicken fillets, skinned ¼ cup Brandy 3 Tbsp heavy cream 2tsp lemon juice 2Tbsp flour ½ tsp spice Parisienne** or Allspice 1 ½ Tbsp salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 large Bay leaf or ¼ lb cooked smoked beef tongue or baked ham cut into ¼ʺ cubes Freshly chopped mixed herbs including parsley, thyme, marjoram, rosemary and sage. Streaky bacon rashers (to line terrine) *For Ground read Minced **Spice Parisienne is a spice and herb blend which includes white pepper, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, bayleaves, sage, marjoram and rosemary. This is often made by French cooks and varies according to the individual making the blend.   Method

  1. Combine the ground meats in a large mixing bowl. In a heavy frying pan melt 3Tbsp over moderate heat. When the foam subsides sauté the shallots and garlic until softened but not brown. Add to bowl of meat.
  2. In the same frying pan, melt 2Tbsp butter and fry the chicken livers until that have stiffened but are still pink inside. Remove the livers with a slotted spoon and seat them aside on a plate.
  3. De-glaze frying pan using brandy and simmer until reduced to about 2Tbs. Making sure that any brown bits clinging to sides and bottom of pan are included in this liquid. Add to meat mix.
  4. Add cream, lemon juice, flour, egg, spices and herbs to meat mixture. Add generous grinding of black pepper to mix.
  5. Knead vigorously with both hands, then beat with a wooden spoon, (or in an electric mixer with a pastry arm), until all the ingredients are well blended and the mixture is smooth an fluffy.
  6. Fold in the cubes of tongue or ham if they are being used. Remove a spoonful of the mix and cook it to check the seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 350◦ C.

I had intended to include some more of the recipes we used. However, Events overtook my ambition. So I am afraid that we will have to wait for another post Or the cookbook!

Horses

The Summer Show Season in Ireland has arrived. From show jumping and dog jumping to  heavy weight hunters, prize bulls, and cake competitions country shows in Ireland have it all! -The Summer Showing Season in Ireland has arrived. Mullingar International Horse Show is being held 30th May – 2nd June, June Bank Holiday at Mullingar Equestrian Centre.

We still have  accommodation available for next weekend’s events.

Phone us at:044 9372191

Fill Mornington for the night!

 

Bring your family or group of friends to Mornington and fill the house for a night or two! For Special Group Rate * (8-9 people)

Call us at 044-9372191 or email us at stay@mornington.ie

Cost € 99 per person per night. This offer includes bed and full Irish breakfast and three course dinner.

Later in the month,    

                   The National Road Race and Time Trial Championships                                                    are being held in the village of  MULTYFARNHAM.

http://www.lakesidewheelers.ie/national-championships-2014

Country shows in Ireland are an important part of the country person’s year. Dates are marked in calendars months ahead. Mullingar, Tullamore,  The Dublin Horse Show, The Ploughing Championships each has its own place in the cycle of rural life. Just as are Pony Club, Irish College and the Exchange student’s arrival dates are all part of the Irish student’s summer vacation.

The Next Generation

Our neighbour’s twin daughters, are following in their father’s footsteps as show-jumpers, so we will make a point of texting them to wish them well. Robert who was here for The Irish Donkey Society Training Day last year, competed successfully at Mullingar Show in 2013.

 

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Look out for Robert  and his team at a show you visit and tell us you saw him.

 

 

 

Hens cleaning up in greenhouse.

Hens cleaning up in greenhouse.

 

Bumble bee drying out after being caught sleeping igreenhouse

Bumble bee drying out after being caught sleeping in greenhouse when plants were being watered.

 

Tree peony in full flower

Tree peony in full flower

Old Country Cure

Comfrey will be dried and use in foot-bath to sooth aching feet.

Comfrey will be dried and use in foot-bath to sooth aching feet.

Old country cure

My grandmother’s cure for ‘tired’ feet was to take a generous bunch of dried comfrey and pour boiling water over it to make an infusion or ‘comfrey tea’.

Cut comfrey as it finishes flowering. Tie in bunches.

Hang over the kitchen stove or in a warm dry space until dry as a bone.

Use as needed

Then to allow liquid to cool until cool enough to insert feet