Spring Projects…and a Pleasant Surprise

We have been home now for about two months.  Ireland seems a distant memory in many ways.  So what have we been doing?  We have been busy settling in, and we have been making a list of things we want to do now that we know we are staying.  And then of course, there was the chickens.  Beatrix had her little adventure with an impacted crop and then Prudence had her little problem with fluid.  Both were worrisome things, but they seem to be holding their own at the moment.  So we have been moving ahead with our projects.

First, we have been busy designing and building the girls’ new run.  Prudence and Beatrix are anxious to use it!   It is coming along.  It took some time to figure out how to build it on a slope (almost all of the land around Brookwood Shire slopes) and there are trees on the site we wanted to include in the run.

We decided to cut the posts so the top would be level and let the bottom follow the slope.  Since there is no floor, it works.  We kept it short enough so it wouldn’t loom over everything else, but tall enough so, at least by the door, I could walk in easily.  Once the frame was up, we added the hardware cloth.

That part actually went quite smoothly once we got the process down.

We still need to put some sort of netting over the top, and make the connecting tunnel and door so the girls can go in and out as they please. But for now I can bring them back and forth..and at least they can get out and scratch and peck a bit.

While we were doing that the electric company came to talk about our hemlock that is under the power lines.

You can see it here.  You can’t see the wires in the picture but they are close.  After much discussion about  could we just cut it back a bit and leave it, it became clear that it just wouldn’t work.  They would need to cut the top and some of the branches on the wire side. It would look awful.  And they would be back in a few years to do it again.  So I decided the best thing would be to let them cut the tree and plant something smaller.  It was not an easy decision.  I hate cutting trees.  But I didn’t see any way around it.

It was quite shocking at first….but there are a few little apple trees that were trying to grow under the hemlock and they are looking much happier now.  I will continue the forsythia hedgerow and we will look for a magnolia or a redbud (if we can find one that doesn’t get too tall) and I have been planning to plant a few fruit trees as well.  I am trying to view it as an opportunity.  Of course there was a shade garden under the hemlock, so that had to be moved.

I was able to find room for most of the plants in the woodland garden.

And speaking of gardens, I, of course, have been loving having my gardens back.   I raked and tidied them all and added some compost and manure to freshen them.  They were somewhat neglected last year when we were thinking we were going to sell the house and go to Ireland…so it was a bit overdue.  Spring has been slow in coming this year, despite a few warm days but at least we have had rain.  It seemed to take forever for thing to come back this year.  Or perhaps I was just impatient. 

But May has arrived and with it… Spring!.  The gardens have really come to life and there is color at last!  The woodland gardens are first…

The gently arching bleeding heart dances above the wood poppy.  St Francis watches over it all.

The lamium is gorgeous.

These are the primroses that Joan, our housesitter, got for me as a welcome home gift.  They cheered up the house throughout March and April and now they are outside…still blooming.  A bit of color in a shady spot.

Some woodland phlox…

And more bleeding heart.  They love the cool Spring days.

The creeping phlox has also begun.  It creates carpet of color as it blooms.

I have planted some kale and chard, and some peas but I have been focusing more on the flower beds this year…there will be time for veggies as the weather warms.

The work on the run and the work in the gardens will be ongoing this summer I am sure.  But there is one more exciting piece of news I want to share.

We had contacted the breeder we got Fergus from shortly after we got home.   We will always miss Fergus, but it is time for another puppy.   She had three litters but they were all spoken for.  She was planning an August litter, did we want one of those?  Yes.  We had hoped for one sooner, but August would be fine.  So that was the plan.  Until she called yesterday.  One of the families who had reserved a puppy, changed their mind.  She had a female, yellow available.  Did we want her?

Did we?  Of course we did!  We will pick her up Monday.  I think she will be a perfect addition to Brookwood Shire.

Today we went out to get her a few things…a collar, leash, a few toys…

And I set it all up in her crate.

Merlin was very curious.

I think he approves…




Posted in Brookwood Shire, Gardens, Hens, Nature, Spring | 5 Comments

Adventures with Prudence and the New Run

Beatrix got her stitches out last Friday and joined Prudence in Cluckingham Palace.  They were both thrilled.

It was great to just be out scratching and pecking and being hens.

It also made Merlin happy.

 He was NOT pleased to have chickens in his house!

It looked like things were getting back to normal and our adventures were over.  But then I noticed that Prudence was squatting as if she were trying to lay an egg….unsuccessfully.  Oh no.  My first thought was that she might be egg bound.  She has not started laying again since winter and perhaps she was having trouble starting up.  I gave her a warm bath hoping that would get thing s moving , but nothing.  Given that the week end was coming and  that if she was egg bound it could be fatal, I decided to call the Vet and have her checked out.

We were able to get an appointment on Friday afternoon.  Prudence was not at all sure she liked it there but she was cooperative.

The good news was that that she was not egg bound.  There was no egg.  We took Xrays to make sure and to see if there was anything that would cause her to feel she needed to lay.  There was some fluid…well a lot of fluid.  Odd.  The Vet drained the fluid and Prudence felt MUCH better.  The question of course, is WHY was there fluid?  We don’t know but we suspect there could be a tumor someplace.  That is usually why fluid is produced.  So that is troubling.  The longterm prognosis is not good…but for the moment, Prudence feels fine.

She is back up in Cluckinham Palace with Beatrix enjoying herself.

We have been designing a new big run for them to replace the temporary one they had last year.  Given Prudence’s uncertain condition, we want to  build it soon so she will get a chance to use it.

It will go where the old one was but be safer.  It is a tricky area because there is a hill.  Level ground would be better but there you are.  

We will build it around the birch trees so there will be some shade.  We started digging the post holes yesterday and one of them filled with water.  It has been a wet Spring.  We will wait a few days and hope it dries up a bit.  You can see I have started digging a trench  around it.  This will be to bury the hardware cloth  to prevent predators from digging under.  

In the meantime, we used some fencing that we had to enclose a little grassy area for them.

They enjoyed sampling the grass and looking for bugs and worms.  They can use it while we are outside working on new run.

They are very lucky girls.  

I will let you know how the run turns out.




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Adventures with Beatrix

Just thought I would catch you up on Beatrix and her impacted crop.  It has been a bit of an adventure.  She seemed to be getting better so I went ahead and brought Prudence home.  I thought she would be better off up in Cluckingham Palace, being a chicken and it would be good to have a friend to be with.  They were very happy to be back up in Cluckingham Palace.  They checked out all the nesting boxes and tried the food….they did seem to know they were home.

But Beatrix’s crop was not reducing so I decided to bring her to the vet.  There was definitely something that wasn’t breaking down and that is bad.  We decided to give her a few more days but if it was still impacted she would need surgery to empty the crop.

She had the surgery a week ago.  She did great and was eating , drinking ad pooping right away.  But she would need to stay inside until the stitches came out…which would be in 10 days.  And Prudence couldn’t be with her…because of the stitches.  

At least her friend in the mirror could be with her.  She had to wear a support to help the crop muscle work.  You can see the pink tie on her back.  Not her favorite thing.

She had a blue one as well.  She hated them both.  Luckily, her crop is emptying fine now so she doesn’t need them any more.

Prudence has been up in Cluckingham Palace during the day and coming in at night.  It is not the best situation, but she clearly enjoys being up there..especially if I give her mealy worms.  Though it will be very good when they can both be up there.  Beatrix’s stitches come out on Friday, so hopefully things will be somewhat back to normal by the weekend.  We have had enough adventure thank you very much.

I have also been reorganizing the kitchen.  Now that we know we are staying there are a few things I want to do.  The first was to sand down and reoil the top of the island…and to paint it white.  So I did that.

It seems much brighter…and of course I had to empty it which  gave me the opportunity to clean and reorganize it all.  Long overdue.  

I have lots of ideas for the kitchen but gardening season is approaching so much of it may have to wait until the Fall…but I did got a few new tea towels…for Spring.

I love this one with the bunny…

…and these floral ones are very bright against the blue cabinets.

..and one more bunny one.  

Spring IS coming!!!  And we are very ready!



Posted in Brookwood Shire, Hens, house projects | 3 Comments

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!

img_5721 img_5726 img_5741

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.

img_5738img_5737 img_5739  

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