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 Bóthar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na Móna, 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. 🙂
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
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.
I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Please do stop by again! As always, keep well and stay safe. 🙂
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. 🙂 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!
In Peace, Dana
Thank you again for visiting! Have a Healthy and Happy New Year! 🙂
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
And that’s a wrap! Merry Christmas! Blessings to you!
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. 🙂 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
What do you think? A bit too wild? It’s fun to play and learn! Take care, and stay safe! 🙂
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? 🙂 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? 🙂
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
Thanks so much for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my little chicken story. Take care! 🙂
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. 🙂
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
But look at that bearded iris! Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to see them in the summer!
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! 🙂
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…
In Peace, Dana
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! 🙂
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
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.
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! 🙂 It was so worth it though. We worked in more compost here, too.
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! 🙂
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’. 🙂 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
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!
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. 🙂
I do hope you are keeping well and safe. Take care!
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
As always, thank you for visiting! See you next time! 🙂