Home Sweet Home

So we are home.  Ireland was the most interesting adventure….but the fact is we have made Brookwood Shire too perfect.  We have decided to stay.

We arrived home on Sunday and were greeted by some bitter cold weather.  But it has warmed up and the last few days have been just lovely…though this is New England and it is still March so more bitter weather is predicted for the week end.  We will miss the gentle Irish weather..but we have survived in New England this long…..it is not impossible.

It took awhile to get the house back together after being gone for four months….but we are settling in.  

Merlin seems to have finally remembered who we are….he was very suspicious at first.

But he has not missed any naps in”his” chair…

The primroses our thoughtful house sitter, Joan, left us have been potted up and placed in a sunny window….adding their own special cheeriness to the house.  It feels nice.

My first project of course, was to get Cluckingham Palace ready so my girls could come home.

I moved the “funky chickens” out of the nesting box to the potting shelf.  I put up curtains and added towels to the windows to keep out the drafts.

I hung a fleece near the roost.

And I hung the “bed canopy” above the nesting box.

I got food and put back the canisters for worms, oyster shells and grit.

It was starting to look cozy.

A basket of towels and my little egg box from Ireland.  Yes, it was definitely looking more like Cluckingham Palace.   The girls will be fine here.

I had spoken to Carole, from Whispering Pines, who has been caring for my girls and we agreed that they  would come home on Saturday.  So I was very surprised when she called yesterday.  Beatrix has an impacted crop.  This has happened before.  It means she needs to be inside with lots of massage to help the crop empty.  If the crop gets infected there will be a sour smell and she will need medicine.  We decided that I would take her now.  Prudence will stay for a few more days because with Beatrix in the house she would be alone in Cluckingham Palace.

So Beatrix arrived last night.  She is in a crate in the loom room with a mirror.  She is fascinated by her new “friend.”

But for her large crop, she is fine.  She is eating , drinking and pooping and she is very talkative.  I am hoping that frequent crop massage will sort out the problem.

I brought her up to Cluckingham Palace for awhile today.  She explored for awhile but I was afraid she would eat straw so I brought her down to the greenhouse.


There she had the most delicious dust bath!  The soil was warm and the sun was shining.  It has been a long winter.  

She loved it!

And life goes on…there is still mail to sort through…and boxes in the cellar to be unpacked…and baby chicks to order….and neighbors and friends to catch up with….

But we are home…and it does feel right.




Posted in Brookwood Shire, Hens, New England Weather | 2 Comments


There is a chill in the air.  Fall continues, but winter is coming.  The signs are everywhere.   It is dark earlier and earlier in the evenings.  Frost covers the ground in the early morning.  The trees have shed their leaves.  Fallen leaves swirl in the wind…covering newly raked lawns.  The chipmunks, so busy a few weeks ago, have now disappeared.  The bees are also gone..There is a silence about the gardens.  The oranges and reds of October have faded to the browns of  November.  The cycle of nature continues.

But this year it feels different.  We will be leaving for Ireland on Monday.  We have decided to spend the winter there.  I have never been a fan of winter.  I am not sorry to miss the snow and the cold…but it feels strange to be leaving  Brookwood Shire. 

img_5814A friend will stay here and take care of Merlin.  He doesn’t seem too worried.

So today I spent some time in the gardens….getting them ready for winter.  There are still a few signs of life.


Alyssum is the most amazing little plant.  Even after our strange early snow  (which thankfully disappeared quickly) it continues to bloom.  It seems especially colorful against the brown oak leaves that have settled on it.

img_5822The lamium is also blooming.  It is glorious in the Spring and then fades in the heat of the Summer…but it is once again enjoying the cooler weather.

img_5825The borage just doesn’t want to quit this year.  I have cut most of it back but new plants are coming.  It will die back when it gets really cold, but for now it is happy.

img_5819The winterberry is stunning as always.  The brilliant red of its berries is a welcome sight amid the browns of November.

The squirrels have been busy in the window boxes.  They have eaten most of the Indian Corn and sampled some of the gourds and pumpkins.  

img_5821I piled what was left in the Pumpkin Patch garden.  I am sure the squirrels will find it and have a feast.  But a few seeds will be left and hopefully they will settle in under the straw and grow new plants in the Spring.

I took my “funky chickens” in from the primrose garden where they have spent the summer.


They will winter in Cluckingham Palace.  It is so lonely in there now that my girls are settled in at Whispering Pines Farm that I thought they might liven up the place.

Ireland awaits…IMG_0797

We are excited about spending time there..settling in a bit at our cottage, getting to know the town and its lovely people better…spending Christmas there…


We will return here in March….for one final Spring at Brookwood Shire. The  plan is to then sell it and return to Ireland….with Merlin…  pursuing a long time dream.  We shall see how it all goes.

Meanwhile, I will be blogging about our adventures in Ireland at Ireland Calling.  I hope you will follow along.  




Posted in Autumn, Brookwood Shire, Ireland, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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