Surgery Afterall

As many of you may remember, in the Fall of 2017,  Fiona hurt her knee and surgery was recommended. The catch was that she was only 7 months old and the surgery would have to wait for her growth plates to close. So we spent four months in rehab, doing exercises to maintain her muscle mass and waiting.   And poor Fiona was not allowed to run or play. Miraculously, by the time the growth plates had closed Fiona’s knee had healed! Surgery was not necessary, though there was some concern that her knee might not have healed in the right position and she might be susceptible to future injury.

Fiona had ten glorious months of running and playing and being her enthusiastic self. But the day after Christmas, after running as fast as she could in an icy field, she started limping. Initially we hoped it was something minor so we rested her and only allowed short leash walks for a few weeks. But despite the fact that she stopped limping and didn’t seem to be in any pain, when my Vet examined her knee, she found it to still be very unstable. She suspected an ACL tear. We visited two surgeons and they both agreed. A partial tear, leaving the knee unstable. As long as we kept her on a leash the knee would seem ok, but the bones were sliding around and with regular activity she would reinjure it and eventually she would tear it completely. And in the meantime she could damage her good knee.. The best thing would be to have surgery to repair the knee.  Not the news we were hoping to hear.

The type of surgery recommended is a TPLO and involves cutting and repositioning the bones in the knee. They put in a plate to hold them in place and the ACL ligament is no longer stressed. Cutting bone to fix a ligament seems like a lot to me but having done a lot of research on this surgery and seeing many videos of dogs running and playing after, I am convinced that for a young and very active dog like Fiona, this would be the best option. Also there seems to be less arthritis after this surgery than the more traditional surgery. And again, given how young she is, that would be good. In addition, my Vet, who also does rehab and has worked with many dogs after this surgery says that they can weight bear and use the leg sooner and so lose less muscle and the rehab is actually quicker.  

So surgery is scheduled for March 11. She will need to be in a crate as much as possible for the first six weeks, until the bones heal. And she will not be allowed on any furniture. She will miss her couch! So we have been trying to create an environment that will be easy for her. First, we put back the gate we had last winter to keep her from going down the step to the porch/sunroom.

She loves to sit on the back of the couch out there and look out the windows.

Not a good idea post surgery.

And since she won’t be allowed on furniture, including beds, we decided to make that easy as well. We have a platform bed with two futons. We put the bed in the cellar and put one of the futons on the floor in the bedroom.

That way, she could be on the bed…at least some of the time. It would be a break from the crate and with the door closed, she would be contained in the room.

The other futon went on the floor in the room with her crate.

She will be able to go from her crate to the bed easily. Her knee will need icing, massage and range of motion exercises at first and the bed might be a better place for that than the crate.

She will need to wear a cone for two weeks after the surgery until the stitches come out. And the cone in the crate seems a bit much, so we got her an inflatable “donut” to see if that would prevent her from licking her leg.

It is not her favorite thing but if you look closely at the picture you will see a brown smear on her leg. That is peanut butter and she couldn’t lick it off. So perhaps this will work.

We also got her a sling to help her get up and down the two steps into our house.

It is hanging on the back of the door in the room with her crate..with the donut.

In addition, our neighbors had an extra crate that their dog has outgrown and it is the right size for Fiona. They are letting us borrow it so we can have another crate for her near the kitchen.

Fiona will be able to be nearby to help with any meal preparation. She loves to help me cook! This crate is also closer to the door to the outside and that might be helpful in the first few days..

So I think we are ready. It will be a challenging few months but hopefully at the end of it, Fiona will be able to run and play again and all will be well.

Merlin, at least, isn’t worried.

Posted in Fiona, Nature | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Winter Goes On

I have never been a fan of winter and I don’t seem to become fonder of it as time goes by… it is just something to get through. This winter started out mild and snowless. No complaints from me there. But it is January in New England so no one expected that to last. Snow, sleet, freezing rain and bitter cold arrived last weekend. Not, in my humble opinion, an improvement.  But there you are.  So how are we all passing the time at Brookwood Shire?

First, as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away, I got some primroses. These cheery little flowers get me through the winter. I put them everywhere.

A lovely blue one on the island in the kitchen….

…a pink one on the dining table…

…and a few more on the table by the window.

The coffee area, with the new floral electric kettle, got a white one.

Another white one adds a bit of brightness to the plants in the sunroom.

A few more in the spare bedroom.  Basically, anywhere I think they will get enough light to be happy, I put primroses. Seeing their lovely bright colors add cheer  to the bleak and frozen world that we live in at the moment.

But what are we doing?

Merlin spends his days napping in the sun in “his” chair…

….or sleeping on his heater under the cabinet inthe kitchen…

…or sitting by the wood stove. Anywhere warm works for Merlin.  He is not a fan of winter or cold at all.

The girls are mostly up in Cluckingham Palace hoping the “scary white stuff” goes away soon. But if it gets too bitterly cold they move into the Coop under the Stairs.

It is an enclosed area under the cellar stairs….used for very bitter cold nights.

It is not a big area but it is warm. They usually get to do a bit of exploring in the cellar while they are there.

Here they are having a little “walk about” in the cellar.

Fiona is intrigued by them and wonders what they are doing down there.

She also enjoys watching the world go by from the sunroom.

Or just relaxing on the couch.

It has been a particularly boring month for Fiona. She had too much fun running as fast as she could in an icy field the day after Christmas and hurt her knee again. She has been restricted to very short leash walks since then and sadly is not improving as fast as we had hoped. She may need to have that surgery after all. We will meet with a few surgeons next month and we shall see what they think. So things are a bit uncertain for her.

And so we wait. The next few months may be challenging. But Spring will return…

Life will go on…

And all will be well.

Posted in Nature | 3 Comments

Christmas Comes to Brookwood Shire

Christmas season has arrived at Brookwood Shire. It is such a lovely time. As the colors of Autumn fade and the outside becomes a bit frozen and lifeless, the inside grows more and more festive as greens are brought in and fill every corner with the hope of returning life. It is a time when so many things, fondly packed away since last year, are brought out and again displayed. Christmas is filled with memories…trinkets from former students, friends and family as well as things purchased on holiday here and there. All suddenly re-emerge, surrounded by festive greens and warm candles. Such a cozy time.

The window boxes, filled with greens, create a bright and cheery welcome.

Cluckingham Palace also has stockings.

The little shed has a bow.

Each with an arrangement of greens gathered from the woods or grown at Brookwood Shire.

Inside there are more greens.

A vase on the passway between the kitchen and the sunroom. The holly was grown by a neighbor who generously shared with me.

More above the fridge.  The mug with the candy canes was a gift from a student. The candle has been with me for over forty years.  It has followed me on SO many moves and is still part of my Christmas.

This Santa was another gift…from a proud 5 year old who had made the candle himself.

Christmas dishes and cups are added to the coffee area. The spoons are ceramic and so cute!

More candles with holly and cranberries on the island.

The litttle glass jars for herbs, which was on the island, has been moved to the living room with greens and winterberry.

Another display on the table in front of the window. The little Santa came from my first visit to the Cotswolds. Hopefully not the last.

The table all ready for candlelit dinners by the fireplace.

A book about Christmas traditions around the world. Something I have cherished for many years.

More gifts from the past. The snowman from a former student, the candle from a friend who shared so many moments teaching with me…and another vase of cheery greens.

The chicken greenhouse, another gift from a dear friend, with candles and holly.

The mantle with greens, little reindeer, bears, gingham trees and candles.

The fireplace bathed in sunlight during the day….a cozy source of comfort when darkness falls.

The trunk/coffee table in the sunroom with Christmas coasters and candles.

The Christmas bunny my mother made for me so many years ago. The Russian nesting doll was a gift from a former student. Another memory displayed.

More reindeer like the ones on the mantle with a candle and a bit of green.

More greens behind the couch.

And so far none of it eaten by Miss Fiona…though she is curious and did bark at the Russian nesting doll for two days. 😉

Just a bit more in the  bathroom.

Cheery greens on the back of the toilet.

And one more vase and two candles on the little shelf.

So while we won’t be having a tree this year (popcorn, cranberries and lots of dangling things might prove too big a temptation for the lovely Fiona) Brookwood Shire is quite festive…all decked out for the season.

Wishing you and yours the happiest Christmas.  May it be warm, cozy and filled with laughter and joy.



Posted in Brookwood Shire, holiday greens, Holidays, Nature, Winter | 2 Comments

Nesting Boxes

As anyone who keeps hens knows, they are very particular about which nesting boxes are suitable for laying eggs.  Cluckingham Palace has multiple nesting boxes but not all are used.  Some are apparently just “no good!”  

This is the preferred nesting box.

IMG_1045It  has been the favorite from day one and there have been many times when more than one girl has wanted to use it.  

In a pinch this one is also acceptable.

IMG_1072Marigold demonstrates here. 

But these nesting boxes, which were built into Cluckingham Palace from the beginning and are pretty standard nesting boxes…

IMG_1068.. have NEVER been used.  They are just NO GOOD!  Why?  My first flock refused to have anything to do with them.  I hoped perhaps the new girls would use them, but no.   They agreed that this was NO place to lay an egg.  


Originally they were separated into three boxes.  They were smaller than the perfect nesting box so I took the dividing walls out.  I thought that might make them more comfortable.   But even when the other nesting boxes were occupied, no one ever laid an egg here.  Blossom once laid an egg on the floor underneath…but even she wouldn’t consider using these nesting boxes.

Do not ask me why.  Hens decide things and that is that.  Two flocks have rejected these boxes.  There is obviously something wrong with them.  But what?

For years I have been reading that some people hang curtains in the nesting boxes.  It gives the hen privacy and to be honest, looks adorable.  I thought about it more than once, but I couldn’t see how it would make that much difference.  There are no curtains on the “perfect” nesting box so they didn’t seem like a solution.

But, winter is coming and I had already decided to hang a curtain on the door to the outside run.  It lets a lot of cold air into the coop and a curtain would help. 


So I cut a towel and hung it.  It is tied back for now until they get used to it.  The idea is you close it slowly so they realize they can walk through it.  By winter it should help keep drafts out.

IMG_1077Lucinda models coming in through the curtains.

How adorable is that?  So I decided to go ahead and make curtains for the nesting boxes.  Even if they never used them, it would still look cute.

I had towels I could cut…

IMG_1069 ..and this curtain rod is very simple to install.  So why not?


Tie them back with a bit of lace and voila!  I loved it.  But would they?


IMG_1095Marigold has finished molting and is laying again.  She checked them out.

IMG_1097“Are those curtains?  For us?”

IMG_1090“This is nice.”

IMG_1094Blossom, who is the only other girl laying at the moment, liked them as well.

I have found eggs in these boxes every day since I hung the curtains.  Apparently, curtains is exactly what they needed.  Now, at long last, these nesting boxes are suitable for laying.

Who knew?

IMG_1087Chickens are the most amazing creatures!

Posted in Cluckingham Palace, Hens | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Changes in the Coop

I have been busy in Cluckingham Palace.  As the season changes and the weather grows colder, there are things to do…winterizing, drying herbs and a few other  improvements…but there are sad changes in the coop as well.  There are only six hens living there now.  We have lost two.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Jasmin’s crop was still full in the morning.  Was it impacted?  She also looked a bit thin..but she was molting so she was not looking her best in any case.  I brought her in the house so I could more closely monitor her food intake.  Often increased fluids, reduced food and gentle massaging of the crop will resolve the situation.IMG_0848She had her “friend” in the mirror so she wouldn’t be alone.  She was not thrilled, but her crop slowly improved.

Two days after I brought her inside, I went up to the coop to get the rest of the girls up.  They were very noisy which was unusual, but I was a bit later than usual because I had checked on Jasmin before I got to them.  I assumed they were just anxious to get their day started.  But when I opened the door so they could go out, no one moved.  They just stayed where they were, still sounding upset.  I opened the curtains to let in more light and noticed something under the food container.  It was Rowena’s lifeless body.   No predator had gotten in….there was no mark on her.  What could have happened?  I think she fell from the upper nesting box and hit the food dish on the way down. Or something.  It doesn’t really matter…my sweet, noisy, busy body, Rowena was gone.

IMG_7856Rowena was a very funny girl.  She had earned the nick name “Chicken Little” as she always seemed to be running around giving alarm calls about nothing.  She was always butting into everyone’s  business and had to know everything I was doing when I was in the coop.  At breakfast she loved the yogurt best and would run from dish to dish to get as much as she could.  Things were chaotic when she was around.  At bedtime, she had to be the last one in and then she would cause all sorts of trouble deciding where to sleep and pushing her way in.   There is no doubt that she could be annoying…but she made me laugh and I miss her.

IMG_0849   I buried her here..right next to the run.  In the Spring I will move some of the bricks and plant flowers.  Rowena’s garden.

Meanwhile, Jasmin was doing well.  Her crop wasn’t perfect but it was improved.

IMG_0866Though she was still very thin.  I decided to bring her back with the others hoping she would continue to improve and gain some weight.

IMG_0968She was not sure of her place in the flock..they of course rejected her when she returned….she had been Rowena was gone and everyone was still adjusting.  Still, she seemed to be ok and was eating.    But after a few days, her crop was not emptying again.  Not wanting to lose another hen, I decided to bring her to  the Vet.    The Vet agreed her crop was too full and she was still pretty thin.  We decided that surgery would be a quick fix and then when she could digest her food better, we could work on increasing her weight.  Beatrix had had the surgery a couple of years ago and done well.  

But sadly, Jasmin did not survive the surgery.  Perhaps she was too weak…or perhaps there was something else wrong as well.  But in any case, Jasmin too, was gone.

IMG_0387Jasmin was the sweetest hen I have ever had.  She had trouble laying eggs….the shells were not right.  Hens that don’t lay have less status in the flock.  Jasmine was the bottom.    But she was still friends with everyone.  She especially liked to snuggle with Blossom at night.  And she also liked Beatrix and sometimes hung with her.   She would often go to bed early so she could have her favorite spot.  I never saw her peck anyone.  She was a lovely girl and  I miss her.

I buried her with Rowena.  The Jasmin-Rowena garden……

And life goes on.  They are a quieter and calmer flock now.  They have adjusted to the loss and are busy doing what chickens do.

IMG_0854A snack of mealy worms is always welcome.

I gathered herbs before the frost and hung them in Cluckingham Palace to dry.




IMG_1048It looks and smells wonderful!  And I will have lots of herbs for them for the winter.

IMG_1009I have flowers drying in the greenhouse as well.

IMG_1052I give them dried herbs and flowers in the winter.  

Then I added new grit and shell dispensers.

IMG_1037I don’t worry about grit much in the summer as they have dirt in the run.  But they need it in the winter.  They have oyster shells all year but they were in a hanging dish that kept spilling.  I got the idea for these dispensers from Lisa Steele at Fresh Eggs Daily.  They seem more secure.  And cute as well.

I have more to do.  Cluckingham Palace needs to be as warm and cozy as possible for the winter.  Lisa Steele’s site has a few more ideas that look interesting.  So we shall see what happens.

Meanwhile inside Brookwood Shire has a few new Autumn touches as well.


Posted in Autumn, Cluckingham Palace, Hens, Winter | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Fall!



Last time I wrote I was waiting for Spring!  Well, Spring arrived at long last and quickly turned into the hottest, wettest, most humid summer I can ever remember.  By the end of July I was tired of the heat and started wishing for Fall.  But like Spring, Fall (or Autumn as it is called in most of the English speaking world) was noticeably late this year.  Summer stretched into September…and beyond!

But time passes and as we turned our calendars to October there was a change.  Cooler air at last!  It was still a bit wet,  but so refreshing!  The trees have at last begun to put on their Fall colors….though they are still a bit yellow.  I am hoping the reds and oranges will appear as the the nights grow colder.  We have still not had a frost.

But the pumpkins and mums are out!  My favorite thing!  It was the beauty of pumpkins and mums in the Fall that first inspired me to start this blog….so many years ago.  Of course I have been busy with Fall decorations.

3CA01638-55DD-4FA2-9DE5-513006890CB6The window boxes got their usual pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.

AA673448-E2D6-4767-B5D2-EEA042E4F2CECluckingham Palace was also decorated.

8DF3CE97-C743-4C89-BA41-1AD40BB13646The vinca from the summer is still happy so I left it.  The green is nice with the colors of Fall.

1326664E-DB28-46FB-8286-FC7C265ED3F7Mums by the bench are stunning.

But there is much of summer still in the gardens.  The Nasturtiums continue to bloom brightly in the gardens..


…and in the greenhouse.

BE341233-35B0-4850-818B-85EC64A8305BJust gorgeous!

The zinnias and marigolds are still happy as well.




The sedum is having its moment.


930F160F-BB68-41AF-9238-E960AEA0AF55 Striking beside the white birdbath.

And of course the ever faithful alyssum..

BEC4FA82-87B3-4CAF-BE86-7280B3DD1CC9…continues to brighten its corner of the garden.

There are even a few snapdragons and salvia left.


And much to my delight..

18F9A302-335E-48B5-BB9E-CAFBB11D6BED…..the roses, a new addition this year, have almost reached the top of the arch.

As you can see, while Fall has arrived,  the gardens are far from done!

A frost is expected later in the week, so things will change soon.  But for now there is much to enjoy!

I have more to show you….I have been busy in Cluckingham Palace as well as in the house, and I have some sad news to share,  but it will have to wait as this blog grows too long!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Fall!












Posted in Autumn, Gardens, Nature | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Spring? Anyone seen Spring?


So it snowed today.  No accumulation…just snowflakes floating down all morning.  Sigh.  It is gray and raw and very unSpringlike and it is April!  A few brave little green sprouts are emerging but I haven’t even raked out the beds.  It feels too cold to remove their winter bedding.  We really could use a bit of color!

I took a quick walk around the gardens this afternoon when the snow stopped.  There is NOT much going on!

IMG_0046This lone primrose is struggling to open.

IMG_0048These two, in a sunnier location, are a bit farther along.

IMG_0049This Mrs Mooney pulmonaria is braving the cold….though cautiously.

It seems April is continuing the Lion days of March….

IMG_0052The garlic is just starting to emerge.

IMG_0057 Even the crocuses are slow to appear.   Where is Spring?

IMG_0051The daffodils have begun but no blooms yet.  

Thankfully the heather doesn’t mind the cold.

IMG_0055It’s vibrant pink is a very welcome sight!

IMG_0054As is this lighter pink one.

IMG_0058Heather is a beautiful plant. Its early blossoms are usually a feast for the awakening bees…but I haven’t seen amy bees yet….

IMG_0041The girls are trying to make the best of it.  I gave them some parsley and they were thrilled to have it.  It has been a long winter.

Merlin is upstairs most of the time now as long as he can get up and away from Fiona….who just wants him to PLAY!!  He too is waiting for a sunny window to sit in….

Fiona is the only one who is not impatient for Spring.  

She is loving her walks in the woods.

IMG_0013She even ran into her Aunt Sunny the other day.  We had never met her before but we commented on how much they look alike..found out Sunny was a Willow Wind pup like Fiona (and Fergus) and then discovered that Sunny is Topsy’s sister.  Topsy was Fiona’s mom.  and so Fiona’s Aunt.  Small world!

IMG_0015They has a wonderful time chasing each other and finding sticks to chew on.  (Notice there is still some snow on the ground in the woods!)

So it is not all bad and we are keeping busy while we wait and wait and WAIT for Spring to arrive…and for life to return…

Thankfully my inside primroses are still quite happy.


They continue to flower and to bring  much cheer.

IMG_0060I will plant them outside at some point….but not yet.

And look what else has started to bloom!

IMG_0062I brought last summer’s geraniums in for the winter….and just a few weeks ago, they started to bloom….a welcome sight indeed!

And perhaps..just perhaps, a sign that Spring is on the way!

Posted in Brookwood Shire, Fiona, Gardens, Nature, Spring | Tagged , | 3 Comments