A Visit to Whispering Pines Farm

Today I went up to visit my friend Carole at Whispering Pines Farm.  It is always delightful to see her.  But there is an added bonus because my beloved hens, Beatrix and Prudence, now live there as well.  They have been there since July.  I have of course missed them but they are doing fine.

They started out in the side area..with just a few other hens.  But now they have all been moved to the front, bigger coop.  

img_5750There are a lot of hens there…lots of potential new friends.

img_5765There is lovely door..very colorful..with a delightful chicken on it.

img_5751Beatrix was hanging out with her new friend, Olive when I first got there.

img_5758Prudence was nearby.  She has lost her tail feathers..beginning to molt…but otherwise fine.

img_5754They have a swing in their new coop…but no one was using it.

img_5760Beatrix’s new best friend is Gladys.  They are both Americaunas and are together a lot.  They sleep together in one of the nesting boxes.  Beatrix was only barely tolerated  by her sisters here at Brookwood Shire…she has always wanted a friend.  It really is delightful to see her so happy.

img_5761Prudence was “queen” of Cluckingham Palace and misses it, I think.  Her best friend was Amber who we sadly lost in March.  She is part of this new flock but has not yet made any special friends.

img_5755Though there are lots to choose from..  One of them even looks like her.  I hope as time goes by she will find someone to be with.

Carole and I had a lovely visit.  We share a love of hens, sheep, cats and Ireland so there was lots to talk about.

It was getting dark by the time I left and everyone was getting ready for bed.

img_5770 img_5769Goodnight my sweet girls.  I will come and visit you again before we leave for Ireland.

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Fall Arrives!

At long last, summer appears to be over.  The cool crisp air of Autumn is arriving….we even had  a few rainy days!  Everything seems to be breathing a sigh of relief.  The few things left in the gardens are very happy!

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It was joy to walk around the gardens and see that so many things have survived this hot dry summer.  And now with the cooler weather, they are in their glory.  

img_5732Sedum…a last feast for the bees.

img_5724Though this little guy seems happy with the marigolds as well.

img_5733This butterfly weed’s seed pods are opening.  Hopefully lots of seeds will find a safe place to rest for the winter and new plants will come up in the Spring!


The greenhouse is empty now..but for the marigolds in front.

img_5727The morning glories continue to grow..the arch is weighted down by the heavy vines!  What an amazing plant!

I even found some volunteer gourds growing with the chard and the kale.

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Time for some Fall decorations!  I headed up to the farm stands to get a few more things.

img_5743Gourds!  I just love them.  Such interesting shapes and colors.

img_5712Indian corn and pumpkins and gourds make a lovely window box.  

img_5713Mums, of course, by the door..with a pumpkin.

img_5720A couple more Mums out by my bench.

img_5715A smaller window box.  I am sure the hungry chipmunks and squirrels will feast on it all eventually, but for now it is just nice to have some color!

The trees are only just beginning to turn…their show will continue in the coming weeks as New England has one more burst of beauty…before winter descends.

img_5729The winterberry will be ready.  The red berries are just waiting for the leaves to drop….Then the berries stand out and are absolutely stunning against a winter sky!  

Nature never ceases to amaze!


Posted in Autumn, Gardens, Nature | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Change of Plans

Things have been pretty crazy here at Brookwood Shire for the past few weeks.  As many of you know, we are planning to move to Ireland..a longtime dream. 

IMG_0797We have rented a cottage in Leitrim. We spent some time there in July and love it.  We are eager to return.

So we decided it was time to sell Brookwood Shire.  Time to move on.  But we will not sell Brookwood Shire to just anyone.  We are looking for the right person..someone who will appreciate the sanctuary we have created and continue the work.  We thought we had found someone.  A friend of a friend who loved Brookwood Shire the day I showed it to her.  She agreed to buy it in August.  But over the last few weeks it has become clear to us that she is not who we thought she was at all.  She could not quite commit to anything and had no real understanding of what living with Nature entailed.  She was not right for Brookwood Shire.   So we told her that the sale was off.  We will wait for the right person.

IMG_4224And it was such a relief!  Brookwood Shire feels like home again.  We have been so busy trying to sort through all the things we cannot bring with us that life has been a blur.  We have been here almost 30 years and we have managed to accumulate a LOT of stuff!   It has been stressful.  We have felt too rushed.  As much as we want to go back to Ireland, we need time to transition…to say good bye.  And we need to know that Brookwood Shire is in good hands.

So it will take a bit longer than we thought.  We are loving the idea of slowing down the process.  Of having one more Fall here.

IMG_4742One last time to enjoy pumpkins and mums!

And one more Christmas.

IMG_4862Though sadly, Cluckinham Palace will be empty.  

img_5646Though I can visit my girls any time!

20130105-100845.jpgAnd Merlin can bask in the warmth of “his” wood stove for one more season.

We are hoping my wonderful friend, Joan, will housesit for us during January and February so we can return to Leitrim.  That would enable us to get internet and phones sorted there..get a car and make the cottage feel a bit more like home.  We could also avoid the worst of winter (which we will NOT miss).   

20130209-164957.jpgAs lovely as winter can be, I think I have had my fill.

In March, we will return and get Brookwood Shire ready to sell…tidy a few things….and see the gardens return…

20130428-203705.jpg…in their full glory.

Spring seems to be the best time to sell a house in New England.  So we are hoping the right person will come along.  

Ireland is not going anywhere. We remain thrilled that we have a home there waiting for us.  When we are ready.

It is a huge transition….but there is no rush….

We have two wonderful places to live.  How lucky are we?!



Posted in Brookwood Shire, Ireland, Nature | 6 Comments

The Gardens of Brookwood Shire …part 2

Summer.  This has been the hottest, driest summer I can ever remember.  The gardens are really struggling.  Add to that that I have not had time to tend them as I usually do and it is understandable that they are not as lush and vibrant as usual this year.  Is has been very disappointing…especially because it is my last summer here.  Of course it does make cool, wet Ireland more attractive.  

So most of these pictures are from past summers.  When the gardens were at their best.  Summer is when the flowers have to share the glory with the veggie beds…a busy time of harvesting…and bouquets…and glorious color!

IMG_1951These lovely clematis have grown up this trellis for over ten years.  Their moment is brief but magnificent and I always look forward to their cheery blooms.  Sadly, they did not return this year..which makes this picture even more special.

IMG_2105Impatiens add color to the shade gardens.  The Spring flowers have had their time and impatiens take their place.

IMG_2281Foxglove blooms early and then it generally gets too hot.  

IMG_4328Garlic scapes appear and are harvested.  They are just gorgeous.

Lilies bloom.

IMG_2282They are stunning against the bark of the birch.

IMG_5285Bearded iris also appear.

IMG_2245The meadow flowers and the persicaria bloom, adding more color to the borders.

import sept 26 2012 076Bee balm and daisies are everywhere.

IMG_2294Soon joined byBlack-eyed Susans.


And suddenly everything is ablaze with color.

Meanwhile, the vegetables have ripened.

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And harvesting is ongoing.

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Tomatoes are roasted to be frozen and basil is made into pesto.  It is a busy time.

And finally, the morning glories begin to bloom!


And they are glorious!

IMG_4549By now the sunflowers have grown very tall and bloomed.  Summer has peaked.  

Fall approaches….

IMG_4629…already the mums have begun.






Posted in Gardens, summer | 10 Comments

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.

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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.


Posted in Brookwood Shire, Gardens, Nature, Spring | Tagged | 11 Comments

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 pole..so 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 back..it has been a few years since we were there.

And then we head for lovely Leitrim..

IMG_0838..to 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!

Posted in Gardens, Hens, Ireland, Nature, New England Weather | Tagged , , | 2 Comments