The Gardens of Brookwood Shire….part one

IMG_4224A friend of mine said the other day, “Brookwood Shire is all about gardens.”  And so it is.  It was the gardens that inspired me to get hens…I kept reading how wonderful their poop was…how good they were for gardens..I didn’t expect to be smitten by them.  And it is the gardens that attract the birds and the bees and all the other little creatures who live here…that make it such a magical place.  And it is the gardens that make Brookwood Shire such a sanctuary.

 But this was not always the case.  I have not always been a gardener..or at least I didn’t know I was.  It was a chance meeting with my friend Joanne..a master gardener..that started me on this path.  And so I would like to dedicate this to her…whose care and skill taught me so much and gave me the confidence to find the gardener inside myself.

And so slowly, over the years, one garden at a time, Brookwood Shire came to be.  

Gardens evolve..over the years but also throughout the year. They are always changing.  Different seasons have different flowers.  Some gardens are at their best early, and others are happiest in the heat of summer…and some take almost the whole summer to bloom.  These are pictures of the gardens at their best…they have been taken over the years…throughout the seasons.

I will start with Spring….


Pussy willows are always first.  The surest sign that winter is done.


They are followed by crocus…

image..and heather.

IMG_3901And then the daffodils emerge…

IMG_3917..and the forsythia.

And suddenly things are popping up every where.

IMG_3925 IMG_3924 IMG_3888 IMG_3890 IMG_3898The gardens come alive.

The woodland gardens have their moment.IMG_5205 IMG_5210 IMG_5203

IMG_5212Followed by other shade gardens.

IMG_5222 IMG_5249 IMG_5255 IMG_5326 IMG_5394 IMG_5395 IMG_5414

Until the delicate shades of green with tiny splashes of color fill the beds.

And in the sun, the phlox bloom.

IMG_1577IMG_1527imageA carpet of color fills the edges of the sunny beds.


The laurel blooms..

IMG_3957..and the greenhouse fills up with baby plants.

IMG_4075Lupines begin to pop up and open.

IMG_5299And chives burst into bloom all over the gardens.  It is quite spectacular.

IMG_5275The iris and dianthus open adding their delicate blooms and more color.

IMG_4238Peonies bloom and the veggies, now planted, begin to grow.

IMG_5259A pot of herbs, newly planted, adds more color and texture.

IMG_5460And Violas form mounds at the edges of the veggie beds.

IMG_4136The leaves have returned to the trees and there is life everywhere.

IMG_5297Spring has sprung!

But the gardens are not done.  In the heat of summer, Spring flowers fade…and Summer arrives.

import sept 26 2012 076More about that tomorrow.


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Brookwood Shire for Sale

So we are back.  Ireland was great.  I hope you enjoyed it, too.  We love our cottage in Leitrim and can’t wait to get back.  So the time has come to leave Brookwood Shire.

The final step.  I will not pretend that it is easy to walk away.  This is where I began to garden…from annuals to perennials to vegetables and berries.  This is where I began my love affair with chickens and where I first began to learn about permaculture.  I have learned so much over the years and I leave a piece of myself in every garden….and in Cluckingham Palace.  And of course, this was the home we shared with Fergus.

But it is time to go..the last good bye before we begin our adventures in Ireland.  So Brookwood Shire is for sale.

I have shared many pictures of the gardens, the girls and of course of Fergus and Merlin.  The house has been in the background for many of these pictures so I know you have a sense of what it looks like.  But I have never given a tour before.  So one last time.


The living room with fireplace. A cozy spot in the winter with sun pouring in from the south facing windows and from the skylight above.

imageThe dining area.  Still in the living room.  it is lovely to have a fire in the fireplace and share a meal.

imageThe kitchen…open to the living room with another skylight pouring sunlight into the  space.  The window over the sink looks onto the sunroom and the gardens beyond.

imageMy version of an Irish dresser.  Bill built the shelves and I have filled them with pottery, baskets, jars of grains and of course, tea.  Beside it is my china cabinet made from an old broom closet.  Shelves with a touch of lace and dishes.  Pans are below and a St. Brigid’s cross above.

imageThe sunroom with the gardens beyond.  It was this room and a view to the backyard that inspired the gardens….and it is a lovely spot for plants.

imageA cozy place to sit and watch the birds .

imageOr, on a winter day, to enjoy the fire.
imageOur bedroom.  Not huge..nothing at Brookwood Shire is huge, but room for a bed..

image…and a bureau and wardrobe.


Another bedroom.  I use it as my loom room.  I wove my first scarves here….mostly gifts for friends and family….and towels as well.  There is a lovely view of the gardens from here…well from every window..but it is nice to look up from weaving and see flowers.

imageAnother bedroom that is used as a den.  Bill also uses it as an office and printing room for his photography.  

And and for his big tv.


And the bathroom.  Some of you may remember when I painted it a few years ago.  

imageThe sink with the new light fixture above and the cute little shelf that Bill put in for me.

So there you have it.  The interior of Brookwood Shire.

There is more of course…I will give you a tour of the gardens and outbuildings soon.


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So We’re Off…

The girls are settling in to Whispering Pines Farm.  Carole reports that Beatrix has joined her new friends at least once.  How she got through the gate is anyone’s guess, but she did.  She is bolder than she has ever been and is making it known to everyone that she is done being the low man on the totem to speak.  She seems pretty happy.  Prudence is having a harder time adjusting.  She liked being number 1 here and wasn’t always nice to Beatrix.  Now she has to find her place in this new flock and it is unlikely that she will be number 1.  A lot of adjustments.


But Prudence is a survivor.  I predict she will size up the situation and just become “one of the girls” and carry on.  She misses being Queen of Cluckingham Palace, but she will do just fine.

The weather here has been hot and dry with no real rain in weeks and weeks.  The gardens are struggling.  I am watering but it feels like a losing battle.  They are not the lush gardens they were in the Spring.


Or as gorgeous as they were last year at this time.

IMG_4394They are a bit scraggly at the moment,and I haven’t even taken any pictures of them…. but they will survive I think..and live to bloom another day.  

I have given up on the vegetables.  Between the deer eating all the green beans and lettuce and the mole eating the roots of half the nasturtiums, and the bunnies finishing off the chard….not to mention not having rain….they are a bit of a lost cause.   I have not had time to tend them as I should..or harvest them for that matter.  The local wildlife may as well enjoy them.

At least the window boxes still look nice.


We leave for Ireland tomorrow.  We will be there until August 4.  First we go to Doolin.

IMG_4531Doolin is one of our favorite places in Ireland.  There is a lovely cliff walk and music is the pubs every night.  It will be great to be has been a few years since we were there.

And then we head for lovely Leitrim.. finally see the cottage we have rented.

And we will explore the countryside a bit.

IMG_0799I will be blogging about the trip on Ireland Calling as much a possible.  We won’t have internet everywhere, so I will have to see how it goes.  

I hope you will come along!  Slainte!

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More Good-byes

I have always known that my girls would not be able to come to Ireland with us.  My friend Carole, from Whispering Pines,  offered to take them.  She has been my chicken mentor and treats her hens very well.  I have learned a lot from her and I know she will take very good care of them.  

So today was the day.  Last night was their last night in Cluckingham Palace.

IMG_5509 IMG_5510Though of course, they didn’t know it.

This morning I made scones because I know they love them and I wanted them to have a special breakfast,

IMG_5530So after their yogurt and blueberries, I brought out a scone for them.  YUM!

And then it was time to go.

IMG_5532The car is packed with food, dishes, and all their things.  They are in the carriers, waiting to go to their new home.  Such an adventure!

IMG_5533So we drove to Whispering Pines Farm. They were happy to get out of the carriers and were VERY interested in the chickens on the other side of the gate.  They have their own little section for now.  They can see the other hens and watch them and eventually they will join the flock.

IMG_5536They have their own little house.  It is smaller than Cluckinham Palace but it is very cozy…and safe.


Gladys and Olive came over to meet the newcomers.

IMG_5542Gladys looks a bit like Beatrix so maybe they will be friends.

IMG_5535Beatrix is interested.

IMG_5537Not yet.  But perhaps soon.  For now the gate will remain closed so everyone can get used to each other.

IMG_5538There is lots to explore.  Lovely soft dirt for dust baths, and delicious bugs to find.

IMG_5539Pretty exciting.  I think they like it.  And it will be wonderful to be part of a flock.  

I will miss them.  But they will be fine.

Carole just emailed me to tell me that after a snack, they have gone to bed and are settling in for the night.  

And I can visit whenever I want.  :)


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Turning the Page

It has been a tough few weeks here at Brookwood Shire without our beloved Fergus.  We were a bit lost.  Dogs take up a lot of space in your home and in your heart.  And Brookwood Shire feels very empty.  But life goes on and  we are trying to move forward.


I finished planting and mulching all the gardens.  But I must confess some of the joy is gone.  Things have been so uncertain here.

IMG_5316 As many of you know, we have been exploring the possibility of moving to Ireland…”when we don’t have Fergus anymore.”  Well, that is now.  It was always in the future..always a dream.  But the time has come.


So now what?  That has been the question.  We had always planned to take a few months for a “fact finding mission” to test the waters…see how it all feels.  But it is impossible to leave gardens for 2 months….they need to be tended.  So our compromise is that we would go for a couple of weeks in July and reacquaint ourselves with Ireland and then go back for a longer trip in the Autumn…and possibly find a place to rent or to buy at that point.  The gardens would survive for a few weeks…

IMG_5392But what about the girls?

IMG_5464More hard decisions.  Two hens are not a flock.  Especially two hens who don’t really like each other.  They need other hens…Beatrix needs a friend.  And it is easier for my friend Carole, who has offered to take them when we go, to integrate them into her flock in the summer.  It will be good for them to be settled before we go.  I will be able to visit and see them happy in their new home.  I will miss them and Cluckingham Palace will not be the same without them..but it will be better for them to be part of a larger flock. 

So many changes!  

IMG_5424Merlin, of course, will come with us when we eventually move….and a friend will stay with him while we are in Ireland in July.  

So that was the plan..well, it still is, but…things are falling into place more quickly that we had thought possible.  And sometimes you just have to go with the flow.  Amazingly, I stumbled upon this lovely cottage for rent.  Beautifully restored by the owner…and quite stunning.


This would go quickly. Cottages like this are rare. It would not still be available by the time we got there in July. If we wanted it, we would have to move fast.  Luckily, it is in Leitrim, where  we have a friend ..a woman who moved to Ireland just last July and writes about it on  Bonfire at the Crossroads.  You can find her blog here.  She agreed to view the cottage for us and she loved it!  So we called the owner to say we wanted it.  And yesterday, we found out that it was ours!!!!!  

We have it for a year.  So we are good to go.  During that year we hope to find “our cottage.”  We will have time to explore different parts of Ireland and see lots of cottages….I am sure one of them will be the one….

What an adventure it will be!

IMG_0697 Dreams do come true!


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Today was a very sad day. Today we said good bye to Fergus.

 I think he hung on for his birthday.  A few days before his birthday, he started having trouble breathing.  The weather had turned suddenly hot and we thought it might be that.  He found it impossible to walk or to swim, but was pretty happy  hanging out in the cool house.  It was troubling but he has rallied so many times, we hoped he would improve.  But then, Wednesday morning, the day after his birthday, was very cool and he still refused to go for a walk and his breathing worsened.  About 5 years ago he was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis.  It is common in Labs and means that the flaps that close to prevent food from getting into his lungs get lazy and don’t open and close properly.  It made him sensitive to heat but otherwise he was fine.  But it is progressive and we guessed it had gotten worse.  I called my Vet and she agreed that was probably what it was..and that perhaps one of the flaps had just closed.   This meant he was getting very little air.   He was panting a lot and his breathing sounded very congested.    And he was starting to cough.  We were told that it could get worse quickly….and that his walking and swimming days were over.  It was very bad news, especially after we had just celebrated his 14th birthday.  

Laying in a cool house, struggling to breath is no kind of matter how loved you are or how many treats you are given.   So we made the very hard decision, to say goodbye.  His Vet came today.

Fergus was always a very sweet dog.  There wasn’t an aggressive bone in his body.  He never even barked.  He loved everyone and he was loved in return.  It was always wonderful when walking him to see another person approach.  Fergus would see them and he would start smiling.  He would approach them as if they were his best friend and try to get them to pet him.  No matter how bad a day they might be having, Fergus could make them smile.  It was quite amazing.  We met so many people because of Fergus.  He was very special.  

In his younger days he was quite mischievous.  He loved stealing things from people..hats, mittens, water bottles.  He would snatch whatever it was and run…absolutely joyous. He loved to be chased or to play tug with the item…or just to play.  Despite how annoying that might seem, no one ever seemed to mind.  They would just laugh and Fergus would have another friend.  

We feel very blessed to have had 14 years with this special boy.  He was an absolute joy.  He will be sorely missed..but he will be in our hearts forever.





 DSCN0624IMG_0336IMG_5136IMG_0235IMG_2793IMG_4934IMG_1995ipad pics 042
IMG_5345IMG_5335Farewell, sweet boy….we will always love you.

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