Enjoying Ashford Castle in all its decadent splendor

Hello there, and Happy New Year! The garden is not showing a lot of color at the moment, so I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about our stay at Ashford Castle. Ashford Castel is more than 800 years old. While having been updated and restored through the years, the most recent refurbishment took place when the Red Carnation Hotels took over in 2013. We were very lucky with the timing of our trip in the fall, as there were no national travel restrictions and we were allowed to travel the two and a half hour drive across the country to Cong, County Mayo. My husband had organized everything as a special birthday treat to me, which had me feeling like a well loved princess!

I must say that from the moment we entered the grounds, there was a feeling of wonderment and awe. The grounds are beautiful. The castle is beautiful. The experience was beautiful. It was, simply stated, absolutely fabulous.

O.K., so what made it fabulous in my eyes? The grounds. We were able to roam the spacious grounds, admiring the gardens as well as walking the trails along the lake for hours. Luck was definitely on our side, as the weather was dry for most of our visit, so we were able to truly enjoy the outdoors.

What else did I love? I loved the grandeur of the castle. Every room felt special, and yet inviting. The staff played their part in making us feel welcome and at home, too. We decided to have a look around the area, too, and left the grounds to go hiking. It wasn’t too far from the castle: ‘Sean BΓ³thar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na MΓ³na, Co. Galway. It was lovely to get out and stretch our legs. And what better way to follow up a hike than with a spa treatment back at the castle! Due to Covid-19 restrictions, my husband and I were the only ones allowed to use the recovery room and the pool after our spa treatments, which was quite peaceful. The atmosphere was so relaxing. It was simply perfect to just enjoy being present in the moment. I also found the decorative wall at the pool to have stunning ceramic work. πŸ™‚

Every moment was enjoyable, honestly. We loved the food, the wine, the desserts. It was all delicious! Our two night stay went much too quickly. But before we left, my husband insisted that I watch The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It was filmed in the area in 1952 and essentially ‘put Ireland on the map’, as they say. The hotel has it on demand on tv, so sure enough, we watched it! Still not my favorite movie, but at least now I can say I’ve seen it!

Celebrating our birthdays has become such a treat. Having lost my sister years ago when she was just 35, I make sure to always celebrate our birthdays, because it is such a privilege to do so. Especially given the year we’ve had with the pandemic and not being able to travel as usual, it was wonderful to get away to such a beautiful part of the country and enjoy such a time at such a regal castle.

I very much look forward to when we will return again!

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

In Peace,
Dana

Ashford Castle full view
Ashford Castle – (view of Tollman garden) what I noted here was the beautiful repeat of plantings throughout the gardens
view of Ashford Castle grounds from bedroom
View of the Tollman Garden, from our bedroom. This, and the other gardens, were laid out by the Guinness family in the nineteenth century, are said to be among the finest of the many beautiful country house gardens to be found in Ireland.Β The circular pond, which measures eleven meters, was added in 1996.
my husband and me in front of Ashford Castle
It was a perfect sunny day when we arrived!
view of the lake
The forecast was for rain, so we were delighted to enjoy an afternoon of sun!
garden art (bird)
Eagle with fish. Good time to mention their falconry school which is the oldest in the country!
Ashford Castle gardens
Since 2013, when the castle was bought by Red Carnation Hotels, it has undergone major refurbishment
formal gardens
I enjoy the peacefulness of gardens
a fountain
The fountain was a surprise and a delight to see
Ashford Castle green pathway
A lovely enclosed living pathway
kitchen garden at Ashford castle
more gardens at Ashford castle
Garden art - a rabbit at Ashford Castle
More garden art – this time a rabbit in the kitchen garden!
garden view at Ashford castle
Even at the end of September, the garden was still lovely
path in the garden at Ashford Castle
I enjoyed seeing the plantings
rudbeckias
I never pass on the opportunity to capture Rudbeckias
garden bench
There were plenty of seats in the garden!
garden bench
Here’s another place to rest and enjoy the moment.
view of Lough Corrib
Beautiful view of Lough Corrib
mom in the garden's husband
My husband was a good sport about having his picture taken!
view of Lough Corrib behind mom in the garden and husband
Lovely view of the lake behind us!
row of rounded box plants
But did I get enough pictures of the garden?
collage of the gardens
The tremendous, old trees were stunning.
Vase of roses at Ashford castle
O.K., confession time: I walked up and touched these roses. Yes I did. They were too perfect to be real, right? Wrong. They were 100% real.
roses in main entrance
I might have taken several pictures of said roses…
view of suit of armor
I suppose when the castle is 800 years old, you’re bound to see a suit of armour?
artwork at Ashford castle
Unfortunately, there was very little ‘hanging about’ due to Covid-19.
We were happy enough meandering around the castle, though!
artwork at Ashford castle
I love old artwork. And archways. And walls. Did I mention that all of the walls were covered in fabric? Each wall was more lovely than the next.
chandelier at Ashford castle
This chandelier was my favorite. It is made of Murano glass.
bedroom at Ashford castle
A very comfortable room with a beautiful view of the garden and lake.
bathroom at Ashford Castle
Yes, this is how I spent a lot of the time!
This was on our hike: ‘Sean BΓ³thar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na MΓ³na, Co. Galway
hike near Ashford Castle long wall
There were a lot of winding hills and rock walls on our hike.
I could really say this about any part of Ireland, but this part of the country is beautiful! The difference it makes when the sun peeks through even for a few minutes!
two donkeys
I seem to have a connection with animals πŸ™‚ Nah, they were hopeful for apples!
two donkeys
gorse
It is very common to see gorse while hiking. But don’t get too close as it is quite thorny!
the pool
The ornate ceramic wall at the pool was beautiful.
Perfect timing for pampering after our hike!
Cullen's at the Cottage, a traditional thatched cottage
Cullen’s at the Cottage, is a restaurant in a traditional thatched cottage on the ground of Ashford castle. The food here is delicious, too!
This is the beautiful garden at the front of Cullen’s at the Cottage (the traditional thatched cottage) which is just a stone’s throw from the castle
front entrance of Ashford castle
Just a photo at the front entrance of the castle πŸ™‚
There was even a bit of a surprise when the staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’! (I think we had the restaurant to ourselves at this stage!)
I did indeed screen shot the movie! Proof that I watched The Quiet Man πŸ™‚
Statue in honor of The Quiet Man

We certainly had a lovely time. The sun didn’t hang around as much as we would have preferred, but at least it was dry for most of our visit.

The main entrance
Leaving the castle behind us…

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Please do stop by again! As always, keep well and stay safe. πŸ™‚

The good, the bad and the ugly: 2020

Hi there! I think there is just enough time to squeeze in one last blog post in 2020. I want to keep this short and sweet – it is New Year’s Eve, already. πŸ™‚ No one needs reminding that 2020 was pretty tough for most folks. My heart breaks for the loneliness and despair caused by isolation from stay at home requirements. That doesn’t even touch on the tragedy of how many people have passed away due to Covid-19, or the financial hardships felt by so many. But I do think that due to the situation around Covid-19, many people began to focus on the art of gratitude. We all learned how to appreciate the little things that we’d probably taken for granted prior to this year. It also became abundantly clear that what we all crave is to be with our friends and family. People are the most important aspect of our lives, and they always have been.

I hope that we will all be able to safely be with friends and family in 2021. I hope that everyone across the world has access to the vaccine. I hope that when we do ‘return to normal’ that we do so as people who are more kind to one another and more understanding than before.

The extra time I had with my family this year is what I appreciate the most. Schedules were flipped on their heads, but everyone managed and it truly was a bonus that we were all together this year due to the pandemic, when we would not have been otherwise. We also started a weekly menu which made all of our lives so much easier! It was a huge help, too, that everyone took their turn with cooking. With no outside activities, we were able to have relaxed family dinners just about every single night. We had never been able to do that before, due to activities and our work schedules. So while we did miss our activities, we certainly appreciated the time we had together.

Gardening also helped to keep me in a positive frame of mind. I was not one of those people who organized loads of things, or got lots of things done, or mastered a new craft this year. But that is O.K. I enjoyed lots of time in the garden and with my chickens. I crocheted two projects – a blanket and a sweater, and I got back on track with my fitness. Especially this year, that is more than good enough.

I wish you all the best in 2021! Thank you for visiting my blog, leaving a comment, or hitting the ‘like’ button. I appreciate you!

Stay safe.

In Peace,
Dana

This morning’s view, December 31st, of our playhouse with a light dusting of snow and the sun shining.
Chicken coop sun and snow Dec 31st
While on the other side of the garden this morning, the chickens weren’t sure if they were going to venture out into the white stuff or not!
Dana in newly finished sweater
Just in the nick of time! My goal was to finish this sweater by the end of 2020. It was a long time coming, since I had to completely redo both the front and back as I used American stitches instead of English stitches, and I hadn’t realized it until completing the front (after I’d already finished the back)! No matter, it is done correctly now, and I’m quite happy with it – and glad to have learned my lesson!
Chickens under coop in sunlight
Just a view of my girls under their house.
Kitty cat under bags
This is Kitty, our very spoiled cat. She has been enjoying sleeping on and under paper this Christmas break.
Playhouse with fresh lavender wreath
A look back at the fresh lavender wreath I made. It looks nice on our freshly painted playhouse!
Sunflower arrangement September
I had fun making arrangements this summer.
Rose arrangement
Here’s another floral arrangement I made from our flower garden.
Full view arrangement in sun (1)
I was practicing a carefree, loose approach!
Sunflower full view
I hope to always have sunflowers in the garden.
Hydrangea Vanille Fraise Paniculata Renhy full plant pink in sun
Hydrangea Vanille Fraise Paniculata Renhy in all of its glory!
Roses and Poppies in sunlight
It was definitely the year of the poppy!
Cooked apple pie (1)
It was also the year of the apple. We had so many apples! (and we ate so many apple pies!)
Organic Sweet Pea Tamar Mix full view (1)
My Organic Sweet Pea Tamar Mix bloomed all summer long.
Helenium and daisies
Helenium and daisies – what is not to love?
White lilies closeup in morning sun
White lilies first thing in the morning.
Cormac on playhouse in early summer
You can just barely see him, but my son is on the roof. He and my husband put some shingles on the playhouse roof for me.
LIght pink david austin roses group
Roses were a huge highlight of my garden this year. They are mostly David Austin roses.
Dutch Iris and Teasing Georgia roses in dark
Dutch Iris and Teasing Georgia (David Austin) roses
sunny foggy morning birch trees
My favorite addition to the garden this year: Birch trees!
birch trees
A view of the new birch trees right after they were planted.

Thank you again for visiting! Have a Healthy and Happy New Year! πŸ™‚

Christmas Eve and all is calm

Hi there! Welcome to my blog – and I might even welcome myself back at this stage, since it’s been a while since I’ve written! I’ve just not been in the frame of mind to write. Sometimes I just have to roll with that. It’s nothing new to any of us this year, but I’m feeling the strangeness of 2020 even more now. I’m just accepting that and trying to move on. Let’s talk about Christmas, shall we?

I’ve probably spent more time on social media this year than ever before (anyone else?). I’ve seen some new Christmas trends of really loading up the Christmas tree! Some designers really do a fantastically creative job. But my one take away, especially this year, is that the perfect Christmas looks exactly as you want it to. Anything goes. There is no right way and no wrong way to decorate for Christmas. Wouldn’t it be terribly boring if we all decorated the same way? I prefer that we all do it a bit differently.

Of course, Christmas is not about the decorations. It means different things to different people. Whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, or you celebrate Santa (or both, or neither), it should be a time of joy and thanksgiving, celebrated with your family. The tremendous loss of life, the inability to be with loved ones, and the loss of livelihood for so many during this pandemic is never far from my mind. This makes our Christmas celebration somewhat somber this year. But still, our family will come together and give thanks as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I wish all those who celebrate, a Merry Christmas! May you find peace and joy with those you love. Stay safe.

In Peace,
Dana

Blue sky playhouse and garden
This was one of those perfectly sunny, blue sky mornings after a heavy frost.
Pink sunset December 23
December’s beautiful sunrises have been matched by the most magical sunsets.
4 chickens with the morning sunlight
Here are my girls (Rose, Daisy, Iris and Sweet Pea) on a frosty morning as the sun slowly rises.
Hand made Christmas wreath with purple flowers
I made this wreath earlier this month. The greenery and the dried purple statice flowers are all from my garden. It was an easy and fun project!
garlic growing up through frosty soil
My garlic is pushing through! Frost is good for it (they say it gives it better flavor). It is always fun to have something growing in the garden!
Christmas ornaments
A few of my favorite ornaments: I’ve had the handpainted egg for years and it is so special to me. The candles, as you can see, have never been lit. We bought them when we lived in Zurich, Switzerland. I like how they look on the tree, especially with our red bows. We also have several Holy Family ornaments.
Christmas ornaments
Some more of my favorite ornaments: The other side of the hand painted egg! The real cotton angel was given to me by a very special friend. We’ve been friends since we were 11! Can you see the ribbon in the background? I like how the design incorporates a winding tree that is covered with shiny red berries.
Christmas tree lit
It isn’t big, but it is perfect for us!
Lindt chocolates advent calendar
Some of the goodies from our Lindt Advent Calendar.
Crochet Christmas tree
I crocheted this Christmas tree a few years ago. I then sewed the little beads on (they look like snow, right?). I finished it off by stringing and knotting the bells onto thread. I apparently had lots of extra time that year… It sure is one of a kind!
the family
We’ve had some lovely family time! Here we are in Carlingford after a walk.
Carlingford near greenway
Gorgeous views along our walk in Carlingford.
Abies Koreana with Christmas balls
This is our real live outdoor Christmas tree – an Abies Koreana which we’ve decorated with lights and large silver Christmas balls.
Chicken coop frosty sunny morning
This is one of my favorite morning views!
Frosty playhouse scene
Who doesn’t love a blue sky?
Mom in the Garden selfie
This was the day of my work Christmas Zoom party. We actually had a lot of fun! I’m wearing the required Christmas jumper πŸ™‚ This is a very subtle update on my ‘no hair color since March’ look. On the left is indoor lighting, on the right is natural lighting (albeit in my car).

And that’s a wrap! Merry Christmas! Blessings to you!

A garden to be thankful for

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, where today I’m all about gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I practice being grateful on a regular basis. But today, I went out to the garden not too hopeful that I’d find much to make an arrangement with. Boy was I mistaken! It just made me appreciate all of the weird and quirky stuff that I have – that might not look all that neat and tidy in the garden – but is lovely to have all the same.

My family and I moved to Ireland 12 years ago, and we usually celebrate Thanksgiving on either the weekend before or after the actual American Thanksgiving. This year, with my daughter having exams the week of Thanksgiving, we celebrated this weekend. I’m lucky as my husband is a very good cook, and enjoys cooking special dinners like this. So that leaves cleaning to me (with help from the kids). It’s not a bad deal. πŸ™‚ It’s even better still, when I start my ‘cleaning’ by making a flower arrangement!

I can critically say that this is not my best arrangement. There was too much going on. But I really wanted to use everything I’d gathered, so I decided to leave it. Here’s my critique: The ornamental grass has neat curls at the ends, which I love, but I’m not sure if it comes across well. The striking, black stemmed bamboo is somewhat lost in the middle, and perhaps too tall. The Rosemary is a bit too ‘out-there’, while the lovely red dogwood branches can’t fully be seen (but they do tie in nicely with the hesperanthus, when you can see them). Lot’s of ‘imperfection’!

Now for the positives: The amount of red hesperanthus (also known as schizostylis, or kaffir lily) is fantastic! I never would have imagined that I had that much in the garden, when I’d taken cuttings a few times already. The purple Mr. Fokker anemone were completely closed up when I cut them in the garden – the perfect time to use them. It was lucky to have so many that are at just the right stage. I have lots and lots of invasive ivy, but it sure is pretty! I find it to be an excellent filler plant. There were 3 daisies in the garden, so I figured why not bring them in, too? The back of the arrangement has two small stems of golden yarrow. Lastly, there are pink David Austin roses, which thankfully had long stems.

Despite my strong critique, I do really like it! It’s very visible in our hallway, where everyone can enjoy it. Mostly, I’m thankful to be able to go out into the yard and gather up something that can be arranged for decoration! I find it really relaxing and enjoyable. After this, I had no problem with getting all of my cleaning done!

We had a lovely, and delicious, Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for! And on that list is most definitely my garden, and those who like to read my blog about it! Thank you!!!

In Peace,
Dana

finished arrangement November 29 inside pic
The finished arrangement.
Flower arrangement
The finished arrangement, outside (in sunlight).
Mr Fokker anemone, Hesperanthus and David Austin Roses
A close up of the Hesperanthus (Schizostylis), Mr. Fokker Anemone, David Austin roses and ivy.
The back of the arrangement
This is the back of the arrangement. I believe this is Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’, with Daisies and Hesperanthus.

Tapping the top of container for flower arranging
It isn’t very pretty, how I tape up the container, but it does work to help to hold stems in place. I also had some marbles in the bottom of the container.
bunches of flowers before beginning arrangement
This is what I started with!
Irish Robin
This little Robin followed me around the garden as I cut flowers!
Anemone Nov 29th arrangement
I love the little details of the ivy and the anemone.
November flower arrangement
This is the best picture for seeing the red branches of the dogwood.
Flower arrangement
The ivy on the left, in front, had a natural curve in it that I think is wonderful!
flower arrangement
This is my favorite part of the arrangement – this burst of color.
flower arrangement outside
Outside view
inside flower arrangement
Home.

What do you think? A bit too wild? It’s fun to play and learn! Take care, and stay safe! πŸ™‚

Raising Chickens: What I’ve learned so far

Hi there! Welcome to my blog, where this week I’m just going to gush all about my chickens! I figured that after getting chickens a year and a half ago, I could share with you what I’ve learned so far. It truly has been a joy raising chickens.

I’m not exactly sure why, but when we moved to Ireland I decided that I wanted to have chickens. It took a little bit longer than anticipated, but about 10 years later I did get my chickens. Good things come to those who wait, right? πŸ™‚ I wasn’t interested in hatching eggs and the work involved in that aspect, so I purchased chickens that were almost ready to start laying, which for these girls was around 23 weeks old. Another way to know if they are ready to start laying eggs is if their comb and wattle are developed. The farmer suggested that if I took them right before they are due to start laying, the transition would go smoother. If I waited to take them until after they started laying, they would most likely stop laying until they were fully settled in.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about a chicken run – a place for them to walk about and stay safe – for our four chickens. Their hen house, which I think is really cute, had an enclosure that, even with the extension, was rather small. We started letting them out of their house to roam our yard. I can tell you that once you start doing that, they will not want to stop! They stayed in our yard for the first 3 months or so. But then they started roaming to our neighboring fields. Every day they would go wandering through the fields and every night they would make their way home and go into their house to sleep. But when the fields were being harvested, and grain was left on the roads after falling from trailers, our chickens would stay in the road to eat the grain. Sadly, we lost two chickens this way. It was a tough lesson, but it was the impetus we needed to get our run made.

Ideally, a safe run has covering, which ours does not. Someday I do hope to get covering, but for now the girls can take cover under the hedge, or under their house. We have fencing on the back side of our hedge, so they can’t get out and hopefully no predator can get in. For us, our main concern is that they are enclosed in their house every single night. It is above the ground, with a sliding door closure, so hopefully they are safe from predators. Their house has a window for ventilation, and two nesting boxes. I can tell you that the chickens are not supposed to sleep in the nest boxes – mainly because they poo all night long and then the nest is a mess for their eggs in the morning. Our first batch of chickens did not originally sleep in the nesting boxes. They started this bad habit in the winter when it was just the two of them, and since I felt badly about there only being two, I didn’t try to stop them from doing this. Then, when we added the two new girls the following spring, they all slept in the nest boxes! It is more work for me to clean it out every morning, but that is ok. The house is easier to clean as the tray below the perches slides out and just takes a quick wipe to clean. I use straw in the nest boxes, so it is a bit precarious getting the poo out among the straw (TMI?).

The girls have two watering containers – one under the house and one in their run. They have a food container under their house, and I also throw their layer pellets in the grass, as they like to eat it that way. I rarely give them ‘treats’ as it is better for them to eat their pellet food than ‘treats’. But having said that, they do love fish skins! There is also a container of crushed oyster shells, which they eat on a daily basis. This helps to ensure that their egg shells are strong. They don’t eat to bulk up and stay warm. The process of them eating actually helps them to keep warm. I also have to wonder if they enjoy each other’s warmth when they sleep together in the nest boxes. Smarty chickens.

We have 4 Rhode Island Red hybrids, which are the best egg layers. They do not disappoint, and we get one egg a day from each of them. One of our girls, Rose, will sometimes not lay an egg. Twice when she didn’t lay an egg, she became ‘egg bound’ (when the egg gets stuck). It was easy to spot that she wasn’t doing well. They almost always stay together throughout the day, and on those two occasions, she stayed away from the others, and hid under the hedge. Both times I took her into our house overnight and gave her some special attention. Thankfully, she was fine both times and was able to pass her egg. It can be fatal if they don’t. The next morning I put her back with the others and you’d never know she wasn’t well the day before!

The other issue I’ve had to deal with is bullying. In the first group, the main bully was killed, and poor Daisy was finally free of her. But when the second two girls arrived, Rose stepped up to be the bully and Iris has received the brunt of most of her antics. What does she do? She will peck Iris on the head for no reason, she’ll jump on her back and peck her, or she’ll chase her from the food or water dish. The ‘pecking order’ is well established, and the younger ones won’t stand up for themselves or fight back. If it was constant, I would separate the bully from the group. For now, I try and keep an eye on them and make sure that Iris is safe.

I really enjoyed when the girls were free range. They would follow us around in the garden. They seem to be curious creatures and always wanted to know what we were doing – even in the house! Funny enough, Daisy had managed to figure out how to fly out of the run. She’d done it about 5 or so times before the new girls arrived. She only ever flew out when we were home, which is quite lucky for us. Rose never managed to fly out. But since the new girls arrived this past spring, Daisy has not flown out a single time. Maybe she was just looking for some more company? πŸ™‚

I’m so glad to have the chickens as pets. They are quite manageable. They are lovely to watch, and honestly, fresh eggs are the best! They are quite sweet to listen to, as well.

I hope you are keeping well. We’re coming up to Thanksgiving in the States. It is tough being far away from friends and family, especially around the holidays. If you celebrate it, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe and healthy.

In Peace,
Dana

hen house sunny morning November
A beautiful morning in the country.
chicken in the house
A view of the inside of the hen house.
Henhouse enclosure
A view under the hen house. The girls will either go here or under the hedge when it is raining hard. They don’t really mind a light rain.
sleeping chickens
Nap time! (at least for three of them)
Chickens hiding from sun
This is where they go to get some shade (or under the hedge).
chickens and their run
They have a lot of space to walk around.
four hens in the turtle
They usually stay together.
chickens at the compost
Free ranging at the compost.
two chicken bums
Is there anything more fluffy than this?
two young hens
The two new hens (the comb and wattle aren’t fully developed).
Young hens house
We separated the young hens for about a week, to keep them safe from the older hens. We possibly should have done this for 2 weeks.
two and two chickens
In the early days, the two young hens kept apart from the two older hens.
two old together two young
The two on the left are the older chickens (lighter coloring).
Three hens in nest box
Now, they’ll all mix in together!
Rose and Daisy at the door
Rose and Daisy would ‘knock’ at the door to come in!
hens and pheasant
The girls were not impressed with their male visitor.
Daisy on the fence
Daisy hasn’t flown out of the run since the new hens arrived this past spring.
rose and her two eggs
This time that Rose was egg bound, she ended up passing a normal sized egg and a very large soft shelled egg, in one night! No wonder she was uncomfortable.
three in one eggs
They usually lay their eggs all in one nest. This was unusual to see one on the right.
egghouse
This is my egg house. I pencil the date on the eggs to keep track, but they are usually eaten within a few days.
all sized eggs
This was before my egg house – you can see all different sized eggs! The younger hens lay smaller eggs.
poached eggs and quinoa
It’s not all about poached eggs on toast! Quinoa with poached eggs and dressing is delicious, too!
chicken under house
It is relaxing to just watch them.
two girls under hedge
Here is a younger hen on the left and an older one on the right, resting.
two older chickens resting
The two older hens resting together. You’ll notice that most pictures are of them resting! It’s much harder to capture good pictures of them on the go!
handfull of eggs
It’s not just about the eggs, but the eggs sure are a wonderful part of raising chickens!

Thanks so much for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my little chicken story. Take care! πŸ™‚

‘Little moments’ from the Garden

Hello there! You are very welcome to my blog. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve managed to take some ‘blue sky’ pictures. When you live in Ireland, you learn to really appreciate those blue sky days! I think that it is true, that a blue sky really does lift your spirits. You can see below that I have also thrown in some ‘gray sky’ pictures, so you can see for yourself the difference a blue sky makes.

Most mornings I start my day with a walk – after the chickens are fed and their house is cleaned! I love walking, especially first thing in the morning. It really wakes me up, and gets me going. Walking in the country provides beautiful scenery (and also a lot of mud on my shoes). I then take a walk around the garden (this helps to clean my shoes!) – making mental notes of what needs to be done. But I also get to enjoy seeing and listening to the birds in the garden. I don’t spend a lot of time doing this, because I have to ‘get to work’, but just enough time to appreciate all that nature has to offer us in our little ‘neck of the woods’. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see I usually post a view of my garden and my chickens on my morning stories. πŸ™‚

As for the garden, I did a very late transplanting of some bearded Iris. Iris Benton Storrington have done amazingly well in my yard, and this is the second time that I have divided and transplanted them. The first time was two years ago in September (as it should be done then) and they did great. We’ll see how they do this time as I’ve not only transplanted them late, I have added them under the birch trees in a newly formed bed. It’ll just be a case of wait and see.

The garden is definitely shifting to its winter mode. The leaves are slowly falling off of the trees, and most of the plants are nearly finished blooming. I surprised myself with being able to make an arrangement of flowers from the garden this weekend, though! That is probably my favorite activity to do – creating arrangements with flowers from the garden. This is why I am always adding new and interesting plants.

The last of our apples were picked this week. I’m not sure how we will get through all of those apples, but we’re going to try! My daughter made (a few times this fall, actually) some delicious apple turnovers, which were such a treat. I’m always on the lookout for apple recipes that call for LOTS of apples! Do you have any?

I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to get out into the garden to get our fall jobs done. Even just ‘being’ in the garden is lovely, especially with all of the birds that have come to visit us now. I love seeing our birch trees standing so majestically as the sun shines on them first thing in the morning. And I love seeing my chickens seemingly so happy. Haha! This makes me think of the song ‘My favorite things’ by Julie Andrews!

I hope you are keeping well, and having lots of blue sky days! Please stay safe and healthy.

In Peace,
Dana

Heaven Scent Magnolia last leaf
The very last leaf on our Heaven Scent Magnolia tree
Last cooking apple
The very last apple on our ‘cooking apple’ tree
Cherry Tree last of the leaves
Our Cherry tree with a blue sky!
Cherry tree gray sky
Same Cherry tree, but with a gray sky!
birch trees with bearded iris
This was a big job of digging up two sites of bearded iris, dividing them and then transplanting them. My husband was a HUGE help and did most of the work!
Iris Benton Storrington single flower
Iris Benton Storrington

But look at that bearded iris! Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to see them in the summer!

Viburnum opulus Roseum November
Some very pretty coloring on our Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’!
Mushrooms in the yard November
There’s always some interesting mushrooms in the yard. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing!
Flowers from the Garden in hand November 14
A handful of flowers from the garden! Shasta Daisy, bergenia leaves, pink and red hesperanthus (or schizostylis / kaffir lily), Erysimum ‘Super Bowl’ Mauve, Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’, Fountain Grass Pennisetum Advena Rubrum, Pittosporum Tom Thumb, and one snapdragon.
Flowers from the garden November 14 in hand
Flowers from the Garden November 14
And here’s what I created!
Mr Fokker aubrieta frosty morn November
This was taken on a frost morning. The Mr Fokker anemone are still blooming, and the Aubrieta have started blooming again. Glad to know that they weren’t killed off with the very dry spring which we had.
apple turnover
Emer’s apple turnovers were super delicious, especially hot out of the oven. We are so thankful that our kids enjoy cooking and baking!
David Austin Roses dark pink NOVEMBER
There are still some blooms on our roses, although the wind has been working extra hard to knock them off…
sunny foggy morning birch trees
I took this picture on what had been a foggy morning.
mystic sky November garden
I like this photo for the fall feel and the mystic looking sky
4 chickens November
‘The Girls’ also known as Iris, Sweet Pea, Daisy and Rose.

Thanks for stopping by! Take care!

Blue sky play house with back hills
The latest fall view of our playhouse and the surrounding fields (and one of my favorite pictures).

Birch trees – Part of the plan all along

Hello! You are very welcome to my blog. A wonderful thing took place this week. Something that I’ve wanted and planed for a very long time, finally happened. The truth is, in the past I have struggled with decisions. It could be paralyzing, actually, not being able to decide on one thing over the other. Turns out, it was a sign of a lack of self belief. Once I discovered this, I began to focus – a lot more – on trusting myself. While I have improved, I sometimes still grapple a bit. This had even spilled over to the garden. Picking items to plant, and where to plant them sometimes was a real struggle. I have been wanting to get some trees for a very long time, but could not get everything right in my head to make it happen. But a couple of weeks ago I finally nailed down exactly what I wanted and where I wanted them. And this week, it all came to pass when five Birch trees and one Magnolia tree were planted.

I would be telling an untruth if I said I wasn’t a little stressed about where exactly to put the trees. But we had them placed in exactly the spot I had envisioned for them, and I could not be happier. Although I have not created a formal layout of our garden, I have always had ideas in my head of what I wanted each section to look like. I would probably recommend creating a formal layout, though! As we change up and expand different sections of the garden going forward, I’ll be drawing up my plans. This is especially helpful as my husband needs a clearer picture than my vague descriptions if he is going to help! πŸ™‚

The trees really are something to see. We are so happy with how they look. The staggering of the five trees also creates a small bed underneath, which I already have plans for. The variety of the Magnolia tree is called Heaven Scent. There were rave reviews online, so I’m really looking forward to seeing if the scent is as lovely as they say!

We were so lucky with the weather, too. After a week of ‘unsettled weather’ (that means bucket loads of rain along with gusty winds) we had a beautiful, blue-sky day for the trees to be planted. The next day the ‘unsettled weather’ returned.

And that is the story of how my Birch and Magnolia trees came to be!

Now, if I could just figure out how to work with that great big rock in our front yard…

Take care!

In Peace,
Dana

birch trees view of fields
A view of the five birch trees in our front garden. We worked with a local nursery, Nature Works. We were delighted to have the heavy duty work done so easily!
birch trees close up
A close up view of the Birch trees.
front yard view before trees
A view of the yard before the trees arrived. That is the large rock I referred to. Any suggestions???
birch trees end of day
A little blue sky and sun brighten the landscape up tremendously!
birch trees full front view
A full view of the front garden.
Magnolia tree
The Heaven Scent Magnolia is between the Nootka Cypress and the cherry tree.
Cornus Florida end of Oct
I couldn’t resist this picture of our flowering dogwood tree (Cornus Florida ‘Cherokee Chief’). Isn’t it beautiful?
Erysimum 'Super Bowl' Mauve
Erysimum ‘Super Bowl’ Mauve is a must have in the garden. This plant is just so easy, and brightens up the garden, where ever it is planted.
schizostylis RED end of Oct
I showed you pink last week, but I also have red Schizostylis (Hesperanthus or Kaffir Lily). That is a dogwood shrub with burnt orange/yellow leaves in the background, which will show off its red stems in the winter.
Rainbow in garden end of Oct

We had a pretty rainbow in between the rain, although it was still very windy. It is hard to believe we could have such lovely weather and then such horrible weather, back to back! I hope the weather by you has been good! As always, stay safe and healthy and thanks for visiting! πŸ™‚

October in the Garden

Hi there! Just when you thought it was time to put away those old gardening clothes, I’m here to tell you ‘Not just yet’! October is a great time to do some garden clean up. We don’t clear away everything – because we like to leave some things for the birds, but there’s lots we can do. The main jobs for us are: cut down the Peony stems and remove the Hosta leaves, continue to deadhead the roses, weed the beds, plant garlic and spring flowering bulbs, and mix in compost throughout the beds.

I love this time of year. I love every time of year! But I especially love cleaning up the beds and spreading rich, worm filled compost on them. It brings a sense of order. I have 4 sections of compost with one section ready for use. I absolutely have to empty out that section in order to be able to rotate the others. But I don’t want to fill a bed with compost until I’ve weeded the bed. So it takes a big effort to get everything done! We have been so lucky with the weather. It’s funny to say that, because we have seen quite a bit of rain, but as long as there are enough opportunities for me to get out in the garden when it is dry, all is fine by me!

We were supposed to have some work done in the garden this past year, but that fell through. We’ll possibly get our veggie beds dug up this winter (maybe?) so in the meantime, we’ve planted our garlic in a different section. No matter, I think the garlic will be fine there until it needs to be harvested in July. I didn’t plant garlic last year (because of aforementioned scheduled work!) and I really missed having it. It is so easy to plant, is very low maintenance, and yields super high rewards! You can check out my posts here and here on how to grow it.

I’ve tackled a few of our larger beds, and some smaller ones. My husband helped me plant some new bulbs, too. I love adding something new to the garden! It is the first time I’ve had white allium, so I’m looking forward to seeing those.

All in all it has been a productive month in the garden. The leaves have not all fallen yet, so there are still some very pretty colors to enjoy. How is your garden coming along? I hope it is everything you want it to be!

In Peace,
Dana

full view of the Rainbow garden
Our Rainbow garden has every color of the rainbow throughout the spring and summer

This bed is called our Rainbow garden. Right now it is showing off some light purple with the Erysimum ‘Super Bowl’ Mauve, and some fiery red with the changing leaves of the Cornus Florida (flowering dogwood). All the way on the left there are spring flowering white Bergenia – some of those leaves are also turning red. The big mess in the center is a Philadelphus Mock Orange, which blooms in the summer with white flowers. The yellow blooming potentilla is mostly brown at the moment, sitting between the Begenia and the Mock Orange. This month we planted some white Honeymoon Tulips and some purple giganteum Allium in this bed. The giganteum is new for me, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that! I also cut down the dead artichoke stems. The plant is quite large and was blocking the view of the pretty dogwood tree. The stems from the peony plant were also cut and removed. My husband and son did a great job of edging this bed. It was a lot of work! We worked in a bunch of compost, too, so this bed is all set for winter.

Rainbow garden close up
A closer view of the Rainbow garden. On the right is a young mophead hydrangea and a Deutzia scabra. Aren’t those red leaves of the Cornus Florida pretty?
Lilac Garden
This flower bed is referred to as Cormac’s garden as my son did a lot of digging for me! There are Lilacs, hosta, lilies, and asters.
Asters and a Hazelnut tree
This is a view of Cormac’s garden further down the bed. These are Asters, with a pretty Hazel nut tree to the right, whose leaves have turned yellow.
Compost full view October
This is what our compost heap looks like now. There are four sections, although only one section (section number 3 from the left!) will be used over the next few weeks.
compost area
Ha! I had to post this, despite it being the most unkempt compost heap ever! No food in here, only garden plant materials, grass, leaves, and woody stems. This view is from June.
Rose bed full tidy October

This is my main rose bed after the cleanup! It was filled with poppies and weeds, in equal proportion. If you follow me on Instagram you might have caught some of my stories about the clean up. I might have been procrastinating a little bit – with all of those stories about the clean up! πŸ™‚ It was so worth it though. We worked in more compost here, too.

Englands Rose October
A beautiful David Austin Rose (England’s Rose).
Pink roses at gate with asters
It is always nice to see roses in bloom. I like how pretty the purple asters look behind these pink roses.
Teasing Georgia October
This David Austin Rose (Teasing Georgia) has become one of my unlikely favorites! My go to color is PINK, but this beauty gets me every time. I just love it (especially how the tips of the buds are an orange-redish color!)
Front hedge view October
I just loved this shot for the fall-feel to it. These Bergenias in front have beautiful leaves that go from green to burgundy to red. The Pittosporum Tom Thumb on the right is a beautiful dark burgundy color, with lots of texture! The beech hedge along the fence, which will keep its leaves all winter, is changing color from green to brown. The process is very pretty, although the finished brown leaves are not so pretty.
Garlic bed post planting
You’ll have to take my word for it because you certainly can’t tell from the picture, but this bed is filled with garlic! We planted Organic Vallelado garlic, which is perfect for Irish weather.
Garlic and bed
The only proof! A few cloves of the Organic Vallelado garlic which were leftover from our planting!
Nootka Cypress
Another one of my favorite fall views. This tree, Nootka Cypress, we call my droopy tree. So glad we planted this all those years ago!
purple poppy October
This pretty purple poppy will be one of the last to bloom this year.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of the garden, as I chatted about what we did this month!

As always, I hope you are well and staying safe. Thank you for visiting! πŸ™‚

Being on the receiving end of kindness

Hi there! Welcome to my blog, where I try really hard to write *something* at least once a week. That ‘something’ could be about gardening, flower/wreath arranging, crocheting, or just about anything, really. Today is a good example of ‘anything’. πŸ™‚ The thing is, I was so profoundly touched by the simple act of someone reaching out to me, that I had to share.

What exactly am I talking about? I’d say that over the past year it has happened more than a few times, where someone – out of the blue – contacts me and either reconnects, or a new connection is made. I realize that this might not sound very exciting. I find that especially during these times though, that making connections with people is even more appreciated, special, and needed. Some of those connections involved me receiving some truly kind words, which is so uplifting every single time.

So I’m here to say to you, never feel too shy to send that sweet note you’ve been wanting to send. Don’t wait to tell that friend what they mean to you. Give the compliment, even though you are sure they don’t need to hear it (they actually do). And if you haven’t touched base with a friend in a long time, now is a great time to do so. You’ll be glad you did, and so will they.

In Peace,
Dana

stormy sky fall playhouse

This is our ‘playhouse’ (although no longer used as such) which received a fresh coat of paint this summer, along with new roof shingles. It’s looking really well, if I do say so myself! We also have a rain catcher connected with pipes to the gutter (you can see the black pipe on the left, but the rain catcher is green and camouflaged behind the yellow rose plant). The tree with orange leaves on the left is a Mountain Ash, or Rowan tree. Its bright orange berries have already been eaten this season by the birds! The two mauve colored plants in front of the ornamental grass are Asters. I especially like them because they keep their blooms for a number of weeks. And the bright red plant between the Asters is a ‘burning bush’, or Euonymus alatus. This picture was taken mid morning (I can tell from the shadow on the playhouse) with full sun on one side and typical Irish storm clouds on the other!

single daisy in Oct
It is typical in the fall for a few stray daisies to bloom. The Rudbeckia is still providing some lovely color.
helenium in October
Another one of my late season favorites – this helenium is part of the second wave of flowers (which would not have nearly as many flowers as the first wave). Still very pretty!
anemone Mr Fokker October
You can find a Mr. Fokker anemone in my garden at just about any time of year!
Dana Oct 20

And last but not least, a picture of me! It was time for an update on the status of growing out my colored hair. It is a pretty slow process, but we’re getting there. The two tone coloring doesn’t bother me anymore (it did for the first month, though!). It’s been seven months since I stopped coloring my hair. The time was right for me. I think having the brown hair still, while it grows out, is a great way to adjust to the new coloring. πŸ™‚

I do hope you are keeping well and safe. Take care!

A blue hydrangea arrangement

Hello! Welcome to my blog, where recently I have been on a roll of crafting and creating with florals from the garden. Today was one of those gray, dreary, and very wet days. It was relentless. My chickens spent most of the day hanging out underneath their house, which protected them from the rain. This was a bit unusual as they don’t mind getting wet. But I’m glad they decided that staying dry was a better idea today! For me, it was the perfect opportunity to make something with the last batch of hydrangea flowers I dried. Given that I don’t have any floral U pins to make a wreath, I figured I’d try making an arrangement for a change.

For this project, I had an idea in my head of what I was working towards. I picked a pottery bowl instead of a vase because I wanted a large opening and a short base, and also I wanted to hide the green oasis that I’d be using. I filled the bowl with the oasis, and then simply started adding stems. The great thing about dried flowers is that they don’t need water – just stick them in and they are good to go. Some of the flowers have a pretty burgundy coloring which I thought was perfect for fall. I mixed up the blues, greens and burgundy colors. Most of the stems were the perfect length for the height I wanted, which was very handy.

I was surprised by how quickly it all came together! I have it displayed on top of our refrigerator, hiding all of the wires from our WiFi router (well, mostly hiding them). Of course I had fun making it! No better way to spend some time than working with flowers!

It was nice to have a low-key day today. Everyone needs a day to recharge. I hope you were able to do something that was fun, too!

Take care and stay safe.

In Peace,
Dana

Blue hydrangeas on drying racks
This is how I dry most of my flowers.
Oasis in the pottery
Not a pretty picture, but just a look at the reused floral foam / oasis which I used today.
Hydrangea arrangement in progress 2
I started with the tallest stem in the middle and worked around it by turning the container after each flower I added.
hydrangea arrangement in progress
There’s a little more progress with this picture.
Hydrangea arrangement full view
And before I knew it, it was complete!
hydrangea arrangement back view
This is the back (only based on the pattern of the pottery). The back just might be nicer than the front!
hydrangea arrangement side view on fridge
And here is where it now lives – on top of the refrigerator and mostly hiding all of those wires! You can see the flowers of the Fountain grass Pennisetum Advena Rubrum in the corner.
hydrangea arrangement side view on fridge 2
A side view of the arrangement (and some of the wires…).
hydrangea arrangement full view of cabinets
I think it is a nice addition to the kitchen!
hydrangea arrangement with pumpkins
There were even a few flowers left over for a tiny bouquet!
Iris the chicken up close
This is one of my girls on a lovely and sunny day!

As always, thank you for visiting! See you next time! πŸ™‚