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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Donkeys -April '16 008

 

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.

 

Donkeys -April '16 002

 

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.

 


Donkeys -April '16 005

 

 

Donkeys -April '16 004

 

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!

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

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

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

Do you have a cupboard under your stairs? Is it a cloakroom, a storeroom, a darkroom  or do you, like “Mrs Brown” of ”Mrs Brown’s Boys,” have a loo in it? Ours is used a store for the ‘children’s ‘ toys and Christmas decorations, as well as those things that we need to get ‘out of sight’ of visitors. Each year, as we put away the collection of Christmas tree decorations, we try to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ to be stored. Our children are kids no longer, however, the toys are sorted, washed or cleaned and put away so that young visitors can play with them. The Fisher-Price castle is a great favourite, so is the old toy garage. Spring cleaning has begun and more ‘stuff’ is heading out for recycling and charity shops!

Early Morning at Mornington

Early Morning from front steps at Mornington 

The winter solstice has passed, days are stretching. Shadows are shortening and it’s time to think about gardening.

Yesterday, we made a trip to Dublin; to Mr Middleton’s store on Mary Street. Chatting to John, a fellow peruser of the racks of seeds; I was looking for chilli pepper seeds, he was about to purchase parsnip seeds. Telling us that he was planning to grow them in a tube. Living in North Dublin and is lucky to have deep soil  but prefers to grow them in a tube. A brief chat and we went about our separate ways. Gardeners always compare notes. Certainly our guests delight in telling us about their gardens and inevitably we compare notes on the difficulties we each face. Whether it is ‘disappearing soil’ the area just south of the great lakes in the U.S., the invading deer, or the neighbours cattle, wandering donkeys, gardeners are eternal optimists. So in spite of difficulties, we still plan, purchase, sow, nurture, harvest and give away much of our crop.

Rhubarb and onions

Rhubarb and onions

The onions and garlic had a good start. Planted November, they benefited from the relatively mild weather in November and December. At least this year, they got sufficient rain!

A new year and a new start. I was full of good intentions for 2014. My new year resolution is to keep up with my fellow bloggers. However, we have been somewhat overtaken by family events with both offspring announcing their engagements! Whilst much of the country has been battling gales, fallen trees and flooding we are playing catch-up to get on with the regular (perhaps boring?) but important chores in garden and house.

So it looks as if 2014 is going to be a monumental year for the O’Haras. as both our young have announced their engagements and will be married before the year is out. We celebrated Christmas with family and close friends. The house is quiet again. So spring cleaning has begun.

January sunset

January sun on Knock Eyon