May 17, 2012

Mornington House Blog

“Cast not a clout ’til May is out’. This adage is so apt this year. The mixture of weather from hot sunny days, frosty nights, hail showers etc. has been ‘challenging’ to say the least. The garden has been equally challenged. Unseasonally warm days in March, led to some early growth. One farmer in Cork actually made 1st cut silage in February. Here at Mornington, germination was slow due to lack of rain. Now we have germination but growth is slow! Ever the optimists, we planted out broad beans which had been started in the greenhouse , into the garden in March. They are growing but slowly. The courgettes and marrows are planted out, but under fleece blankets. The greenhouse is bursting with tomato and pepper plants, geraniums and dahlias and plants ready to go into the tubs we fill each year. Once we have a little warmer weather they…

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“Cast not a clout ’til May is out’. This adage is so apt this year. The mixture of weather from hot sunny days, frosty nights, hail showers etc. has been ‘challenging’ to say the least. The garden has been equally challenged. Unseasonally warm days in March, led to some early growth. One farmer in Cork actually made 1st cut silage in February. Here at Mornington, germination was slow due to lack of rain. Now we have germination but growth is slow! Ever the optimists, we planted out broad beans which had been started in the greenhouse , into the garden in March. They are growing but slowly. The courgettes and marrows are planted out, but under fleece blankets. The greenhouse is bursting with tomato and pepper plants, geraniums and dahlias and plants ready to go into the tubs we fill each year. Once we have a little warmer weather they will be ‘booted out’ so to speak and will have to take their chances!

The garden has been particularly noisy as birds are feeding their young. Blackbirds are nesting in the yew arch in the centre of the garden. At times, the male bird in full voice enthrals us from the old apple tree growing next door. Bluetits are nesting in the hole in the window frame of the old kitchen yet again; whilst we need to queue to visit the turf shed as house martins fly in and out with no regard to other users. It is of note that robins and wrens once so numerous in the garden are noticeable for their absence . Blue jays and pigeons are nesting in the ivy growing up the ash trees behind the garden wall. A pair of buzzards must have a nest nearby as from time to time we see a parent bird carrying small bird or other carrion, heading purposefully high, across the garden. Two mornings ago, an Australian guest couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted an enormous bird perched on one of the concrete inspection shafts of the Mornington tunnel* He had no binoculars, so was unable to identify the bird; he was surprised to be told it was indeed our local eagle. The bird is one of the sea eagles which were released last year in Donegal. Perhaps she has come looking for a mate! The bird spends her time in the hills and lakes 0f north Westmeath, so far to no avail. Male sea eagles are somewhat thin on the ground here.

Rocket Pesto

In recent weeks we have been using the rocket growing in the raised bed for salads. We had run out of basil so, I decided to make some with rocket or arugala as it is sometimes better known.

Pesto

Rocket Pesto

Ingredients

3-5 cloves of Garlic peeled and crushed.

Tip

To remove outer skin

Flatten individual cloves with the flat blade of a large cook’s knife, by banging with a clenched fist. This cracks the papery covering of the garlic and makes it easier to remove.

or use roll on a garlic skin remover. See pic

Pine nuts

Olive oil

Bunch of rocket. Remove heavy stems and tear into pieces

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Using the small bowl of a food processor

Put garlic, pine nuts, and rocket into bowl.

Chop briefly then add olive oil down feeding tube until and allow continue chopping for a minute or so at a time.

Check consistency and add salt and black pepper.

Process again.

Check consistency and flavour

Use

Slice ripe tomatoes and spoon pesto over them

or a spoonful as garnish and an extra flavour  enhancement to soups.

We had linguini tossed with arugala pesto  and served with parmesan shavings in a restaurant overlooking Lake Garda, Sirmioni, Northern  Italy

* Mornington  Tunnel

In the early 20th century, the road between Mornington and Crookedwood was prone to flooding, to the detriment of houses, wells and land in the area. To take cattle to the mart in Mullingar, arrangements had to be made with a neighbour to be able to herd the animals through the neighbour’s land so as to avoid the flood. So in 1904, Patrick Henry O’Hara, (Warwick’s grandfather), made representation to Westmeath County Council asking for ‘work to be carried out /something to be done about the floods at Mornington Cottage’. Later that year a tunnel was dug under the land at Mornington House from the little bog to the stream which flowed to Lough Derravaragh. Tree roots eventually blocked the 1904 drain and so in 1966 a replacement drain was dug. The following photographs were taken at the time of the latest tunnel’s construction drainage works

Mornington tunnel

Mornington tunnel

Mornington tunnel-3

Mornington Tunnel inspection shaft ready for positioning.

Mornington Tunnel 4

Mornington Tunnel 4

The tunnel drains 5,000 acres. It is noMornington Tunnel-draglinew

Mornington Tunnel-dragline

maintained by The Board of Works.