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!

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

 

 

Stables-22nd April'15 003

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

 

Mornington Stable block

Parking for Stable block

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stables-21th April'15 001

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.

 

Frosty morning-4th February'15 011

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.

 

Donkey Training Day-2013 014

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

 

Bluebells and Apple blossom

Bluebells and Apple blossom, Food Fairs and Farmer’s Markets

Bluebells and Apple blossom, Food Fairs and Farmer’s Markets May is upon us

Coming to Ireland? Plan to include s visit to a Food Fair or Farmer’s Markets.  The season of Food Fairs  May is ‘High Season’ for food fairs in Ireland. From The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine to be held 16th-18th May 2014; to

The Sheridan’s Food Festival http://tinyurl.com/lfx3ram From Ballymaloe to Cavan http://tinyurl.com/n9xwvy2

From Multyfarnham to Mayo  Irish food is celebrated. Our recommendation to any person visiting or living in Ireland is to include at least one Food Fair in your itinerary. Celebrate Irish Food and go to a Food Fair in May where Irish food is being celebrated. It is a great way of meeting some of Ireland’s best known or top chef’s.

Ross Lewis of Chapter One Restaurant is appearing both in Ballymaloe and at Sheridan’s Food Fair in Co. Cavan

Ballymaloe Literary and Food Festival

Ballymaloe Literary and Food Festival

For lists of Food fairs and farmers Markets For links to sites http://goodfoodireland.ie/markets irishvillagemarkets.ie http://www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/farmersmarkets/pages/guidetofoodmarkets.aspx The season began at Easter here in Multyfarnham with their Country Fair.By all accounts it was a great sale.

Multyfarnham Country Fair

The next Multyfarnham Country Fair is to be held on 28th & 29thJune 2014 at the time the National Cycling Championships which are to be held in Tyrellspass and Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath

Bumper Parish Flower Sale- Apr’14 

Parish Flower Sale- Apr'14

Parish Flower Sale- Apr’14

Bumper Cake  and Plant Sale is to be held Saturday,  17th May’14, at All Saint’s Church, Mullingar,

A Busy Garden 

Taking a moment to perch on the patio wall and watch the many birds finding food for their young. It is non stop activity. Nests are well hidden, though as you walk around the garden you may hear the calls of fledglings as you pass by. The  blackbird nesting in one of the yew arches is seemngly oblivious to our passing. Whilst we ignore any noises and resist the temptation of taking a peek! Occasionally a break is taken and you are stopped in your tracks by a bird in full song. This morning, I stopped and had difficulty identifying the bird.

Bluebells have survived-May'14 008

Lawns mowed, edges shaggy, need clipping!

 

Bluebells have survived-May'14 020

Is this a chaffinch?

 

Bluebells have survived-May'14 018

Asparagus , elephant garlic and artichokes share a bed!

Bluebells have survived-May'14 019

Garlic and shallots were planted last autumn

Bluebells have survived-May'14 016

Apple blossom and Bbubells

Bluebells have survived-May'14 007

Overgrown grass laughing now mower belt needs replacing!

Bluebells have survived-May'14 006

Off to pick flowers

Pear tree buds beginning  to opento open

Conference pear tree buds beginning to open

 

The April sunshine and occasional showers have brought on the ‘greening of Ireland’  as buds burst open on trees and hedgerows in the countryside. The palate of colours is changing as last years stubble has been ploughed, seeded and sown with this year’s crops. At Mornington the lawns have been cut and daffodils are in full bloom. Seeds sown in the last month are slow to emerge, but the onions, shallots and garlic are growing well.

The lettuce sown last autumn are growing well in the greenhouse. Fuchsia, penstemons and geraniums overwintered in the greenhouse have survived and were ”potted on’ last week, they will be planted out in the flower beds when the night-time temperatures improve.

 


1st April'14 006

 

Stable Block Studios

The stable block conversion into art studios is progressing apace. A little slower than we had hoped, but nevertheless is moving ahead. The studios will be available to rent by artists, sculpters, photographers, writers. They are available to be used by guests staying in bed and breakfast accommodation, either here at Mornington or with other providers in the area.

 

Arch leading into the stable-yard has been re-built.

Arch leading into the stable-yard has been re-built.

 X

Stonework being realigned. new windows will be installed.

 

Anne O’Hara’s Fruit Cake ( Gluten free)

The fruit cake recipe we have used for years was adapted  to be suitable for family members who are gluten intolerant. It has more ground almonds and may need more liquid than regular flour. The cake improves with ‘keeping’  for at least 3-4 weeks before cutting. We were very pleased with the result. Not a crumb was left!

 

Makes 1x 7.5” diameter cake Makes      2x 10” diameter cakes
6 24 A Gluten free flour Available from most food stores.
½ 2 tsp A Mixed spice Sieve together with flour
5 20 oz B Butter Needs to room temperature
5 20 oz B Soft brown sugar We use soft dark moist brown sugar
8 32 oz C Currants
8 20 oz C Sultanas
5 20 oz C Raisons
4 16 oz C Glacé cherries Put into sieve, rinse with cool water to remove syrup. Dry on paper towel. Cut into quarters. When dry coat with a little flour
3 12 oz C Chopped mixed peel
1 4 oz C Lemon Rind Zest only
8 24 oz C Ground Almonds I used additional ground almonds
1 4 oz C Whole Almonds Skinned and cut into quarters lengthways.
4 16 D Eggs Large, at room temperature
Milk

*Read recipe and make sure that you have everything to ready and to hand before you begin.

 

Oven Temperature

Convector /Fan Oven

150°C (Celsius) for 20

125°C (Celsius) for 2 hours 40minutes ** The cake takes roughly 3 hours to cook, depending on oven, tins, etc. etc.

 Method

  1. Line tin with double layer of parchment. Allow paper to stand 2½”-3”above edge of tin.
  2. Mix fruit (C) together in a very large bowl.
  3. Using either a wooden spoon, hand held mixer or food processor cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

 

  1. Beat eggs together in a separate bowl. Add a little beaten egg into sugar/butter mix. Beat in very well after each addition of egg.
  2. If mixture begins to separate start adding flour a little at a time.                                                                         Otherwise when all egg has been added
  3. Foldi n flour a little at a time, alternate with mixing in milk.

NB. Do not beat or cake will have a shiny crust.

  1. Add egg/ sugar/flour mixture to bowl of prepared dried fruit and chopped and ground almonds.
  2. Fold in and mix well.
  3. NB. It may be necessary to add additional liquid. (For the 2 x 10” cakes I use ¼ to ½ cup milk.)1 cup = 8fl.oz.
  4. The mixture needs to be soft enough to allow the fruit moves around in the mixture. Not sloppy.
  5. We wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside of the tin.
  • Cut to the same height as the parchment lining the tin.
  • Secure with masking tape by overlapping the tape. Some tapes will become ’unstuck’ in the oven.
  • Add whiskey or brandy when cake is cold after baking.Make holes into bottom of cake with a fine skewer and using a teaspoon pour in brandy or whiskey.

 

The saga of  Holly and Noddy

Holly and Noddy waiting expectantly for carrots

Holly and Noddy waiting expectantly for carrots

”Are you busy on the 1st of March?” A simple question which elicited another simple question “why?” Our daughter and fiancé had decided to get married! In such a simple way, the advent of a wonderful day was announced. Ferry tickets booked, wedding cake made,  house sitters arranged, an alarm call booked and the morning of departure arrived.

Katy on the way to her wedding

Katy on the way to her wedding

So on the 1st March, St. David’s Day, we waited to take Katy to her wedding. On the way out of the hotel, she was serenaded by the Flint Male Voice choir who were also staying in the hotel. I do not think any bride could have received a more rousing send off. Particularly appropriate as her great grandfather, Evan Evans, was Welsh. As the young couple are living and working in England, they opted for a small family wedding near to their new home in Cumbria. It gave Warwick and I the opportunity to visit an area that we have visited a number of times in the past.

Katy and John in Cartmel

Katy and John in Cartmel

1238120_10152058124626220_679439364_n Walking to reception

Walking to the reception

1798616_10152058134926220_606723512_n Wedding Cake

Katy and John’s Wedding cake with shamrocks and roses

 

Portion of wedding cake

Portion of wedding cake served to guests

* I am including the recipe for the gluten free cake later in the blog.

Another Great Celebration

Last Saturday, nerves jangling and kept sitting on the edge of our seats as the Irish rugby team edged towards a win against France and at the same time winning this year’s  Six Nations Championship. For Brian O’Driscoll, it was his last match in an Irish Jersey so we were already in great spirits on St. Patrick’s Day. In the past, St. Patrick’s Day was an occasion to pack up the car and travel either to the local parade with uniforms and tin whistles or to Pony Club hunter Trials. This year, it was spent in the garden cutting shrubs back as we get ready for the opening of our season and the arrival of our first guests. All day long, we were serenaded by a robin, who hopped from branch to branch, occasionally, dropping down onto the freshly turned soil to hunt for worms or other tasty morsels. At one point, there was a quick scuffle in one bush as two cock robins ‘squared off ‘ against each other. Fighting for territory, no doubt. Dispute over and the hunt for food continued.

Cock Robin, the entertainer in the 'Sheep'snose' apple tree.

Cock Robin, the entertainer,  in the ‘Sheep’snose’ apple tree.

Potato Plantinag and St. Patrick’s Day

Country people traditionally begin planting potatoes about the time of St. Patrick’s Day, beginning with  ‘first earlies’,  Main crop potatoes are planted later. However, the  seed potatoes, we had ‘ chitted’ in February had developed good shoots, so they were planted last week. We laid the potatoes out in tray and covered them with newspapers to keep out the light. In Warwick’s father’s time the men on the farm would sit in the harness room or the coach-house and cut some of the previous year’s potatoes into pieces, ensuring that each piece had shoot buds.This would usually be done in February and was dirty, cold work.

Chitted potatoes ready for planting.

Chitted potatoes ready for planting.

The Renovation takes shape.

Faced with a semi derelict stable block apparently in terminal decline we took a big step in deciding to convert it into Studios and Exhibition spaces. In partnership with Leader, we started to halt that decline which we began by emptying the stable block last autumn. (see November’s Blog). Now re-roofed with some of the original and other salvaged slates; new floors have been poured  and the plumbing and electrical systems are going in. The project is heading towards completion.  The plan is to  provide facilities for guests staying in the house and other similar accommodation operators in the area.  For small business meetings, family events, possibly even small weddings.

Clumps of daffodils moved from side lawn during landscaping.

Clumps of daffodils and snowdrops  moved from side lawn during landscaping.

Daffodils in Lady's walk wood

Daffodils in Lady’s walk wood

Saffodils 005

Next landscaping project is to conceal lids of tanks!

February Filldyke, once the old name for the month of  February, has been particularly apt this year as dykes or ditches are not only full but overflowing. Poets have written many poems linking weather to months of the year. The Loughan or Pond at Mornington Cottage empty at Christmas is now is filling up.

Baked Lemon Souffle

Baked Lemon Soufflé Recipe is at Bottom of page.

Living in the Midlands of Ireland, we have been spared the storms and resulting high tides that have occurred in the much of the coastal areas of the country.

Builders replacing the roof on the stable block have been blessed to escape the worst of the weather. It is wonderful to see the old building being restored. Old slates have been recycled  for the roof. Old blocked up window spaces have been opened and we are waiting for windows to go in. The plan is to create four studios or exhibition spaces which can be rented out to artists, craft workers or small business meetings. We hope to have the project completed by St. Patrick’s Day. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

South side of Stable Block-Feb'14

South side of Stable Block-Feb’14

Vegetable Gardening 2014

In the last few years growing our own vegetables has become rewarding; it has provided the kitchen with a variety of fresh vegetables for family and guests. Frustratingly, success cannot be guaranteed and can vary from year to year. In 2011 the parsnips were gigantic, whilst in 2013, the crop was disappointingly stunted. This was probably due to the lack of rain in the winter of 2012-2013.

Can you have too much garlic or too many onions?

Onions in Raised bed.

Onions in Raised bed.

I have just been told that we have planted too many garlic and onion sets! So as our crop rotation plan needs to be changed. Now we must work out where the rest of the vegetables can be grown. It may be necessary to plough a patch of ground outside the garden for potatoes and root crops.In the ‘old days’ a patch of ground would be ploughed for oats and barley and for ridges* of potatoes and root crops for the ‘house’**

Pepper and tomato seeds need to be planted this month so we have already purchased and planted same.
Seed potatoes need to be ‘chitted’ this month. Tired of loosing potatoes to blight we have used a variety of ‘blight-resistant’ potatoes for the past three years with great success. Most garden centres and some traditional hardware stores will be carrying them at the moment. Interestingly the main seed companies appear to have an increased selection of such varieties this year.
Shallots and onion sets should be available from the end of the month.
Seeds can be expensive so share your seedlings with friends. Do you really need 40 chilli pepper plants? If not pass on or ‘swop’ the extras on with friends.
It is not too late to split herbaceous plants.
Do check the roots of exchanged plants for weevils and other pests before planting out.
Only a few of the broad bean plants planted out in November have survived this winter, so I plan to start some more in pots in the greenhouse.
We enjoy the sweet early broad beans cooked in very little water with a little butter, salt and pepper and a handful golden oregano leaves.Herb bed needs weeding.

Herb bed needs weeding.

The herb bed with parsley, thyme, rosemary and fennel showing between the weeds.The soil in the new herb bed has sunk down so more top soil will be needed to be added.

Perpetual spinach and Ruby Chard

Perpetual Spinach and Ruby Chard

Perpetual spinach and ruby chard are still being cut for use in the kitchen as are the red cabbage and leeks. We still have parsnips to dig which will probably be served to the donkeys as they are too small for kitchen use.

Globe artichokes have survived thus far!

Globe artichokes have survived thus far!

Globe artichokes appear to have wintered well, so hope there are no late frosts to kill the leaves.

Remains of a pigeon

Remains of a pigeon

“Nature is red in tooth and claw” The remains of a pigeon killed by a hawk lie on the grass between two of the raised beds.

A cock robin sings his heart out from the top of an apple tree.

A cock robin sings his heart out from the top of an apple tree.

A cock Robin singing his heart out in the Worcester Pearman apple tree. The apple trees will need to be pruned in the next week or two; before the sap starts to rise. They also need to be sprayed with dormant spray to prevent codling moths.

Be ready for Shrove Tuesday this year (pancake day)

Shrove Tuesday will be upon us in a couple of weeks.  Here is a contribution to your recipe file.

Lemon soufflé filled crêpes

Lemon soufflé filled crêpes

Lemon Souffle filled pancakes
Lemon Souffle filled pancakes