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

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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

”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!

May Day arrived and warmth in the sun has brought the wild flowers into bloom. Primroses, violets and bluebells are carpeting the wood. I spotted a clump of wood anemones in the lady’s walk wood this morning as we explored to check whether the wild bluebells were in flower.

may weekend 006

I am delighted to say they were.

Trees 11th May'13 003

The leaves are finally opening creating the ‘forty shades of green’ so often referred to in Irish writings.

Warwick has been busy in the garden planting seeds and weeding the onions and garlic planted last autumn; whilst Adam, our gardener, has been rotovating the soil of the vegetable beds.  Weeding fills any spare time.

Holly watching Warwick approaching with a bucket of carrots.

Holly watching Warwick approaching with a bucket of carrots.

Last Tuesday I headed to Ravensburg’s Nurseries in Clara, Co. Offaly to purchase a few replacement shrubs. Their magnolias were in full flower and the air was full of their perfume.

Magnolias in Flower at Ravensburg's Nuseries. Clara, Co. Offaly.

Magnolias in flower at Ravensburg’s Nuseries. Clara, Co. Offaly.

On the way back to Mornington we stopped at Kilbeggan Distillery for a light lunch. The car and coach park was full with tourist coaches. The distillery was purchased recently by the U.S. Company Jim Beam.

www.kilbeggandistillery.com

Kilbeggan Distillery

Kilbeggan Distillery

On Wednesday we were back in the car again and this time we headed to Co. Wexford and to Kilmokea, another member of The Hidden Ireland. We travelled on the N7/ M7, a new motorway thus avoiding  Carlow and Kilkenny. Arriving at Kilmokea is always wonderful as their fruit trees and magnolias were all in full flower and the air was fragrant with their perfume.

IMG_2379[1]

www.kilmokea.com

Frustration on Friday

Attempting to pass Dexter the gardener’s dog in the space between a box hedge and the greenhouse I manage to crash into the greenhouse!!!! The left-hand front wheel promptly fell off!!!!! So I was marooned!  Gravel and wheelchairs are not compatible! So I was pushed back to the house rather than being able to make my own way. The wheel bolt has been replaced and I am mobile once more!

Spring has finally arrived.
April showers and blustery milder weather has announced Spring is finally here. Growth has been very slow, so the donkeys took matters into their own hooves. Breaking through the electric fencing tapes they have had a great time grazing on the newly emerged perennial geranium leaves, pulmonaria and other tasty morsels in the front bed.

Noddy and Holly look as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.

Noddy and Holly look as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

As we emerge from short days of winter to the longer daylight hours of April we have been spending more time in the garden. In the past we have almost been able to tell the date by looking at the plants which have emerged. Snowdrops, often visible in the new year, Daffodils, if not in bloom by Warwick’s mother’s birthday certainly by his own birthday in early March. Primroses, violets and then bluebells all followed in quick succession. Not this year! So at in the middle of April the daffodils have only just emerged into full flower and the wild flowers are still to open fully. With the Gulf Stream back in it’s usual place we have the promise of milder, sunny, showery April days. So it has been “all hands to the plough” so to speak to get the garden in order.

I have just been reminded that this year The Festival of Fires presents Gathering at Uisneach at The Uischneach Inn on  4th  & 5th  May.  Not on the The Hill of Uisneach but at the bottom of the hill at The  Uisneach Inn in Kilare, Co. Westmeath. There will be a 2-day celebration of music, culture and more For details of this exciting event see: http://festivaloffires.com/

On Sunday, 5th May at 11.30a.m. Multyfarnham Country Fair will be taking place in the village park opposite the Catholic Church. Stalls range from jams, chutneys and cakes to chicken, ducks and turf.

A fine cockerel or sale at  Multyfarnham Country Fair

A fine cockerel or sale at Multyfarnham Country Fair

March garden 013

Newly emerged early rhubarb

Sunny day in april-2013 020

Noddy after rolling in dry leaves

Sunny day in april-2013 009

Blustery day in walled garden at Mornington

Walled Garden Notes

The chitted potatoes have been planted in the walled garden. More potatoes were planted in a newly ploughed area outside the chicken house. Only after the job was done to have our very kind neighbour call in to tell us that as he hadn’t been satisfied the job he had done the first tim, so  he had come back and cross ploughed and harrowed again. Resulting with potatoes no longer in ridges!!!! No doubt they will still come up.

Beetroot and seeds for vegetables and herbs are all planted.

The greenhouse has been tidied and moss removed from the outside of the roof.

Rhubarb and ginger jam is in the process of being made.

Margaret and Julia

Margaret and Julia were friends. Each week, Margaret would mount her ‘sit up and beg’ bicycle and head off to meet her friend Julia. They had first met when working as members of the staff at Ballinagall House. Working from early morning they would have dusted, polished, laid tables, served trays of afternoon tea in the conservatory or small drawing room and polished the brass stair rails weekly.  Ballinagall displayed the finest of Irish craftsmanship and was owned by the Smyth family. In Irish houses, just as in Downtown Abbey, history brought about changes in the fortunes of landed families and the next generation was not always in a position to take on responsibility for the ‘family place’. So after Mrs Smyth’s death the estate was sold, furniture auctioned and staff retired.

When I first saw it it the front door was hanging open, the enormous gilt mirrors were standing propped against the wall in the front hall. Where the gentry had once danced at The Westmeath Hunt Ball, someone had tried to remove the ornamental stone slabs of the floor apparently with mixed success. The brass stair rails were still in place and the fine shamrock plasterwork of the library ceiling still beautiful, although showing evidence of damp; forecasting its’ ignominious end on the floor below. The ornamental lake in the land below the house was long drained, and was now being grazed by cattle, or used for growing barley.

The shelves of the butler’s pantry still housed the remnants of the Meissen and other fine china dinner and tea services which had once been used for the dinner parties and afternoon tea for the ladies. Overlooked by the auctioneers who had catalogued the contents of the house for “The Auction”, the odd cups were being taken over to the stud manager’s house to be used by manager and his wife. Better that they had the dignity of coming to the end of their days ‘in service’ than that they ended in a pile of broken china as the roof finally fell in.

However, back to Julia and Margaret’s story. After Mrs Smyth’s death it was arranged that Julia would go to work for Mrs Harvey Kelly at Clonhugh, whilst Margaret would go to Mrs O’Hara at Mornington. So Julia and her belongings were collected in a donkey and cart and driven over to Clonhugh by young neighbours. Margaret, her bicycle and all her belongings came to Mornington.
The two ladies would meet up each week on their ‘half day’, taking it in turns to mount their ‘sit up and beg’ cycles and ride fearlessly, through the country lanes to each others ‘houses’. There they would ‘take tea’, enjoy the latest ‘chat’* It was on such an occasion that I first met Julia. Margaret had  invited me into to meet ‘her friend’, to take tea and sample her home made cake specially made for the occasion. So on a sunny August afternoon, after a morning of great flurry  in the main kitchen; with a even more  ‘toing and frowing’ after lunch, all was ready. So on the stroke of four o’clock  as instructed by my mother in law I knocked on the door of the servant’s hall and entered to take tea.

*local gossip

‘sit up and beg’ was a type of bicycle often used by women. They were very heavy but allowed a woman to ride in skirts.

Celebrating Christmas 2012

January 1, 2013

  

Yet another Christmas has come and passed into memories preserved on i-pads, i-phones and yes even cameras. Events carefully planned are over and gone. only the half consumed boxes of truffles left, sitting on the desk in the library, waiting to be offered to any caller not on a New Year de-tox! Meanwhile, the bluetits and finches are keeping Warwick busy refilling the containers on the bird feeder. The house is quieter now as our young have returned to their workplaces. So we are kept busy walking, keeping the fire fed and reading the books given to us for Christmas.
We are always so pleased when our daughter and son can manage to get back ‘home’* to Mornington for Christmas. As Christmas Day itself was to be celebrated with the Peters Family at Ladestown House Stables, we decided to catch up on some family entertaining with a Curry Lunch Party on Sunday, 23rd December.

.

Curry Lunch 2012 008

Trifle

Traditional puddings – Trifle, mincepies,  florentines,   chocolate roulade, apple tart and meringues

Late afternoon sun in the orchard and a treat of carrot sticks for Holly and Noddy.

Donkeys and carrots-2012 002

Full of good intentions I had planned to finish this blog before 2012 ended, however, the ‘glitch gremlin’ got in the way and I managed to delete an almost completed blog to the dustbin of history; so I decided to look again at some of the photographs taken from the front steps at Mornington in 2012.

Coffee morning 2012 002

September dawn over Knock Eyon

Marrows and courgettes 2012

A great crop of marrows and courgettes 2012

Gingerbread Again-2012 002

As the young came into the hall, Santa’s note was seen by all but read by an older child. The children headed to the drawing room, then the dining room and the library. Fireplaces, but no presents! Are there any other fireplaces? Outside they went and the number of chimneys were counted! There must be. Finally, could there be fireplaces upstairs? Go and see! The proverbial charge of the light brigade upstairs ensued, halted only as the light came to an end. A frantic search for light switches ensued. Switch finally found, helped by a friendly mum. The hunt continued from room to room. Whoops of joy as small piles of wrapped presents were found. “Mum, they’ve got fireplaces in the bedrooms!”  was the surprised comment from one small boy. Santa’s instructions were carried out. The presents are under the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, when Santa will make sure they go down the right chimney. Hence the reason we always make sure the chimneys have been cleaned out before Christmas Eve. Santa doesn’t like to get soot in his beard.

The children were invited to a Gingerbread Making Party.

Rules of Engagement

  • Turn on the oven
  • Wash your hands
  • Put on an apron
  • Read the recipe and then begin

photo

Ready for the Off

Gingerbread Cookies

½ Cup fat, (butter or margarine).

½ Cup molasses

½ Cup sugar

1 egg

3 ½ Cups plain flour

2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp salt

1½ ginger

1tsp. cinnamon

Method

  1. Melt fat and cool it. Add molasses, sugar and egg and blend well.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add a little at a time to molasses/fat mixture. Mix well.
  3. Wrap in cling-film and chill overnight.
  4. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness.
  5. Cut into shapes.
  6. Bake at 160°C for 10-12 minutes.

The young all went home with lots of gingerbread folk.

Multyfarnham Country Fair 9th December 2012

Multy Country Fair 2012 002

This year, we only took jams and chutneys, together with gingerbread men, we had made for the sale. Great result, lots of returning customers and all sold out!

Multy Country Fair 2012 004

Multy Country Fair 2012 008

Multy Country Fair 2012 009

Earlier last week, we made Stollen. Something we have been making each Christmas.

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Dough portioned, ready for shaping

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Stollen ready for proving

Cut showing marzipan centre

Baked Stollen showing marzipan centre.

 

If you were offered a ticket to go to an Olympic event, which event would you choose?

No 1 hubbie aka Warwick chose ….. Beach volleyball!

So whilst great jollifications were had on Horse Guards Parade, back in the garden the marrows and courgettes were getting bigger, the mangetout and beans needed picking, tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse were being overrun by  weeds. whilst those in the garden were in ‘take-over’ mood. Then to cap  it all, we both took a brief break to catch up with family  in England. So weeds took over the garden!!!

Whilst in England we took the opportunity to visit some properties once owned by W’s great, great grandfather. One is now a business centre and the other a housing estate.

A summer’s day or The Irish get everywhere.

Picture a typical hot summer’s day in an English village, even the duck’s are taking a rest. A sign in front of the ancient church saying, “Cream teas from 3-6pm” Who can resist the next cup of tea? Ignoring the pub lunch eaten just two hours before, in marched the men! Needless to say we followed. Or at least I was pulled up the path and pushed into the  cool of the ancient interior. We are welcomed by other participants. Pews had been turned to allow tables to be set up. Inevitably we are asked where we are from. My husband’s reply” Ireland”, elicited an exclamation  and response of “So are we”! from two ladies at the same table.

Animated conversation followed. One lady had been a music teacher at Mercer’s school. (one of the schools which had been subsumed into King’s Hospital School.)  I mentioned that I had worked at Wilson’s Hospital School; the same lady asked whether Jimmy McKeon was still alive. The lady in question had taught ‘little Jimmy’ to play the piano. The ladies were Mrs Rachel Young and Mrs Agnes Curtis

Cream Tea

Cream Tea on a sunny Sunday afternoon

 The ducks from the village pond were snoozing

Ducks snoozing on a sunny afternoon

Ducks snoozing on a sunny afternoon

As Mornington and it’s garden have been been whipped back into shape so we are beginning the annual round of jam and chutney making. A friend advised us to dig the whole potato crop to avoid damage by worms.

Cutting tomatoes for chutney

2012 crop of potatoes

2012 crop of potatoes in Nocholas Moss bowl.

2012 potatoes in Stephen Pearse bowl

2012 potatoes in Stephen Pearse bowl

Potato Soup

5-6 large Potatoes

Centre of head of celery – roughly chopped

2-3 Onions – diced

2-3 Leeks (if available) – cut up

Chopped Parsley

2 litres Chicken stock

Cream

Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Bake potatoes in moderate oven or cook in micowave oven
  2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise
  3. Scoop cooked flesh out of potato with a spoon or melon baller.* *Keep potato skins and flesh separately.
  4. Sauté onions and celery heart until soft but not brown.
  5. Add cooked potato flesh and chicken stock.
  6. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add chopped parsley and chives.
  8. Process with soup gun or food processor until smooth
  9. Season to taste and adjust consistency.

Meanwhile, back in the garden the marrows have been picked and will be made into chutney and pickles.

Courgettes and marrows

Courgettes and marrows heading to the kitchen

Tomatoes grown in the greenhouse some chopped for chutney. The cherry tomatoes cut, brushed with olive oil and dried for salad and pizza toppings.

Preparing tomatoes for chutney and relish

Guests sitting at breakfast were thrilled to see our local fox strolling across the Clump field this morning, taking the air, so to speak. On my return from town this afternoon I took the opportunity to drive around the field where silage was mown, gathered, chopped and removed in a matter of hours rather than days. It was also an opportunity to identify where dead trees and branches need to be cut, removed and chopped into firewood for winter heating fuel. I sat for a few minutes watching a buzzard take off and soar overhead. I’m sure it was on the lookout for a possible meal. Small mammals such as rabbits, weasels and value the cover given to them by the long grass.

The young oaks and beech trees we have planted in recent years have benefited from the heavy rains of the past two years. The house itself is comfortable in the landscape. In one direction, the hill rises from behind the garden wall up to the townland of Ballinareddra; whilst in the other, the land slopes down the shore of to Lough Derravaragh.

The work goes on!

The work goes on! Hedge trimming

Hay-making in my father-in-law’s time was a much slower process. Hay was cut by a horse drawn mower. The cut grass was then turned once or twice, to allow the hay to dry, the hay being put up into small haycocks on the field. This was usually done using manual labour provided by the farm workers themselves. It was thirsty work! Flasks of tea and jam sandwiches would be taken out the field. Mugs were not always returned to the basket, but would be put down when they were empty. Warwick has made a collection of bits of pottery shards he has found as the land has been ploughed and tilled.

Eventually, the haycocks were pulled up onto the hay bogey, taken to the haggard and built into a hayrick. The hayrick was an interesting construction, being supported on upright stones and wooden struts.

Unfortunately the stones,in the haggard here, were moved by a bulldozer in 1979, during the building of the calf shed, before I could save them. Man and machines could wait for no woman least of all me.

Making savoury pin-wheels

Ingredients

Basic White Bread

1kg Bread Flour

1 mg dried Yeast

Salt

Water

Savoury pin-wheels, bread rolls, tomato and olive breads

Savoury pinwheels

Savoury pin wheels

As a child, there was always room at the kitchen table for me. Space cleared, presented with the scraps of pastry, I was told to get on with making my pie! The results were probably inedible, but were always presented to parents, grand-parents or indeed anyone who was visiting. They always went along with the game, pretending to eat the offerings. In reality the scraps of grey pastry probably ended up feeding the birds or hens!

Aunt Cis, (Cecily) was a larger than life character, dart player and keeper of the village W.I. canning machine during WW2. After being disgorged by the rural ‘midland red’ bus at the end of the very long cottage garden, told to ”come in quickly”, welcomed with huge hugs whilst being told I was getting very tall, just like my mother. My grandmother’s basket would be ceremonially emptied of eggs, home made jams, always a quarter of tea*, soft fruit from my grandfather’s garden and always a bunch of roses or sweet-peas.

We were told of the importance of keeping the kitchen free from draughts, so that the bread would not ‘fall’. Clearing a space at the end of the table she would cut a piece from the enormous mound of dough on the table. So hands washed, clean tea-towel tied round my waist and go to it! Knead until the dough was elastic and as smooth as a baby’s bum; until I could see the small bubbles of air trapped under the surface of the dough. Divide the dough one third and two thirds.  Shaped into balls, flatten slightly and damp the bottom of the small ball, press onto the top of the larger round. Push the handle of a wooden spoon into the middle of the dough. Make slits round the edge of the top round. Allow to rise. The slits opened up during cooking to make a decoration on the top of the cottage loaf. When ‘proved’, brush the bread with milk and put straight into hot oven. 400°F. Now wait. This wait was interminable. Meanwhile, bowls and equipment used were washed, tables scrubbed and floor swept.

High anticipation as the range door was opened and the delicious smell of baking bread emanated from the dark interior. Knock the bottom of the loaf and listen if it sounds ‘Hollow’ it is ‘done’. Put onto a cooling wire and allow loaf to cool.  Nothing tastes better than the ‘heel’ of a freshly baked loaf, with butter and fresh strawberry jam.

Strawberries are ready for jam

Strawberries ready for jam

Strawberries ready for jam

As it is sometimes difficult to get a good set of strawberry jam, we cheat a little and use ‘Jam’ sugar which contains additional pectin, a natural setting agent.  We also make it in small quantities in order to achieve a good colour and good flavour.

Recipe

1 kg. Ripe strawberries

1 kg. Preserving sugar

Method 

  1. Wash, hull and slice strawberries
  2. Warm sugar in oven at a low heat 100°C for 10-15 minutes
  3. Warm clean jam jars in oven at the same time. On a baking sheet covered with several layers of newspaper.
  4. Have jam jar lids, pyrex jug and funnel ready in large bowl covered with boiling water to sterilise them.
  5. Heat strawberries in stainless steel heavy based saucepan
  6. Add warmed sugar and stir in away from heat until sugar granules are dissolved.
  7. When dissolved bring to a rolling boil for 4 mins.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Skim any scum from top of jam. *
  10. Pour off boiling water from lids, jug and funnel.
  11. Fill jars to ‘shoulder’ of jar.
  12. Top with sterilised lids.
  13. Allow to cool.
  14. Label .

*This can be a ‘cook’s’ bonus nibble when cooled.

Strawberries for jam