Buds are bursting

Buds are bursting and trees are coming into leaf.

This old horse chestnut tree is already in leaf

Easter is here again and we have welcomed our first guests for 2017. The daffodils are past their best but other spring flowers are coming out. The weather has been changeable typical of weather in Ireland. After a sustained period of sunny days and cooler nights we now have cloudy weather with mist but no rain to speak of  The donkeys  had been allowed into the orchard and lawn meadow but now need less grazing ground as we do not want them to develop laminitis. So we need to move the electric fence to give them a reduced area to graze. Noddy is notorious for breaking out of such an area.

 

Frittilaria

Frittilaria

Early tulips

Tulips and drumhead polyanthus are in full flower.

Tubs full of tulips

Tubs full of tulips give colour at the front of the house.

Our tubs and pots are in full flower. Planted in November, they are called May flowering but are in full flower now.

 

Holly

Holly

 

Filling in the potholes!

Adam filling in the potholes left by neighbours cattle.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coach House

Harness Room and Coach House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Sauce

1clove        Garlic Crushed

1 large        Onion & 2 shallots Chopped

Centre of head of Celery chopped

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

Small bunch fresh Basil

Salt & Black Pepper

Olive Oil

2-3tbsp butter

2-3tbsp Sugar

Salt to taste

 

Method

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

 

Spring in full bloom

March 9, 2015

Minature daffodils and hellibores.

Minature daffodils and hellibores.

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

 

 

Renovation of the Stables

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

 

Holly and Noddy

Holly and Noddy

Jams and Chutneys

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

Raspberry Jam

1 kg. Raspberries

1 kg. Granulated sugar or preserving sugar

Method

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

 

Frosty morning-4th February'15 011

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.

 


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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.

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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