Category Archives: The Cottage

An insight into our life in this lovely little rural cottage, part of a country estate in Hampshire.

Thelwell Ponies!

The Baughurst Thelwell Ponies
The Baughurst Thelwell Ponies

These gorgeous Thelwell Ponies would often greet us as we walked down Little Aldershot Lane on our way to The Pineapple Pub in Brimpton Common.  It was only a short eight minute walk from our village of Baughurst to The Pineapple Pub and to see these Thelwell Ponies all the time was fantastic.  They were extremely well looked after.

Baby Thelwell Pony
Baby Thelwell Pony

The resident squirrel at The Pineapple Pub was often seen crawling all over his favourite tree…..

Mr Squirrel at The Pineapple Pub
Mr Squirrel at The Pineapple Pub

Robin Redbreast would often come out to say hello too!!

Robin Redbreast at The Pineapple Pub
Robin Redbreast at The Pineapple Pub

 

Climbing Roses……

Clibing Roses in the Summer in England was a sight for sore eyes
Climbing Roses in the Summer in England was a sight for sore eyes

I came across this photo today of the magnificent climbing roses that were growing at the rear of Haughurst House in Hampshire, England.  This was a summertime delight for me.  I think this would have to be one of the finest climbing roses I have ever seen.  I’m sure the lovely Sarah didn’t mind me picking a few and when combined with sweet peas, it made a dreamy fragrant flower display.

roses and sweetpeas for me, make a fabulous combination.
roses and sweet peas for me, make a fabulous combination.

Easter Lambs have arrived!!

 

How happy am I to see the new lambs arrive, just before Easter and my departure back to Australia.  I counted five little creatures, but there may be more.  Their mothers gave me a wary look as I took a few shots.  They will do well again this year, fattening up in the lovely green fields.  It will be sad not to be around to see them grow, but my sunny, warm homeland of Australia is calling me back…..

Russia is Coming! and our Wood Store is Growing again…..

We spent another Saturday, sawing and carting wood from the woodland at the side of the big house, back to the wood shed.  We have a cold snap coming from Russia which apparently is going to last for three weeks or so.  Great!  Can’t wait!  Steve located a few more dead trees and wood lying around the place and got busy early this morning working magic with his chainsaw.  I was ‘wheel barrow girl’ again, piling the wood into the lovely! wheel barrow and carting it back to the woodshed where I stacked it as neatly as I could.  Yep, our arms were pretty much over it all again, but the sight of all that wood ready to make us warm was a great feeling!  Bring on the icy winds and snow…..we’ll be ready!

Jester the monkeyboy loved being in the wood shed amoungst all the great wood we sawed and stacked today.
Jester the monkey boy loved being in the wood shed amongst all the great wood we sawed and stacked today.

Wood Supply is Running Low……Steve to the Rescue!!

Steve in our woods sawing through some of the dead trees, ready to stack in the wood shed.
Steve in our woods sawing through some of the dead trees, ready to stack in the wood shed.

The winter here in the UK has been mild in comparison to previous years, so we have been burning less wood in our wood burner, but supplies have been running low.  We spent most of Saturday in the woods beside the big house, sawing down dead trees and cutting them to size, ready to stack into the rather empty looking wood shed.  Steve did all the chainsawing and I loaded up the wheelbarrow and carted it back to the wood shed near our cottage.  I lost count of how many wheelbarrow trips I made….maybe eight or ten, or eleven…don’t know .  Whatever it was, I can tell you my arms were feeling the pain at the end of the day!  Steve’s arms were aching too!

Three barrow loads stacked already.....only 8 or 9 maybe to go!!
Three barrow loads stacked already.....only 8 or 9 maybe to go!!

 We worked like machines that Saturday, stopping only briefly for soup and a bread roll at lunchtime, then back out we went, finishing up around 3pm.  It was hard going, but we were extremely satisfied with all the efforts to finally have a wood shed well stocked once again.

My wood stacking job may not be perfect but it was a great feeling looking back at a few wonderful walls of wood again!
My wood stacking job may not be perfect but it was a great feeling looking back at a few wonderful walls of wood again!

 

Christmas Gifts Home Made with Love…..

Home Baked Wholemeal Bread and Double Chocolate Shortbreads make great gifts at Christmas!
Home Baked Wholemeal Bread and Double Chocolate Shortbreads make great gifts at Christmas!

Well, every Christmas I make a large batch of my mum’s yoyo shortbreads to give to family and friends, often adding different things to her recipe to give a special twist!  Because I’m not at home in Australia this year, I’m baking them for some English friends.

Yoyo shortbreads for the Maltbys and a bone each for the doggies Indi and Jester at Christmas.....
Yoyo shortbreads for the Maltbys and a bone each for the doggies Indi and Jester at Christmas.....

It’s my last day of housekeeping work next door in the big house before Christmas (wheww!!!) and tonight I have made a special Wholemeal Loaf of Bread and some Double Chocolate Yoyo Shortbreads to give the family for Christmas when I finish.  I love giving hand made/baked gifts…I hope they enjoy them!

First Heavy Frost and it’s Freezing Cold!!

It had to happen, the freezing cold is now taking over England!  I woke this morning to find a blanket of heavy frost covering every surface possible.  Quite a beautiful landscape to look at though, but my Australian bones weren’t as thrilled!  After breakfast, I kitted myself up with coat, hat, gloves etc. to brave the -2 temperature to take some quick photos before the sun started to melt away  Mr. Frost.  This climate makes my skin tingle, not a pleasant tingling I have to say……..unlike the one I feel when the sun is warming my bare skin while laying on a Gold Coast beach!….and the scent of coconut oil…..OK, enough of that! 

So winter is here for a while and I am really happy to have such a lovely warm cottage.  What a wonderful feeling it is after walking the dogs miles in the cold……….or walking back on a chilly early evening after a pint in our local pub, to open the door to our cottage and be greeted by the warmth and glow of the log burner.  I will embrace the cold with good spirits and hope we will perhaps see some snow over Christamas.

The Lambs have left…..to be slaughtered for Christmas!

It’s a sad fact of life.  Animals are reared and slaughtered for meat eaters to enjoy.  We have to be sensible though and not get attached to the animals on a farm, certainly not have them as pets (as we did as children!!!…my dad had some rather lovely calves on our property in Bendigo, Australia that grew into lovely friendly cows.  We had names for them too…One day a truck came to pick them up to take to “greener pastures,”  Dad said.  I remember being very upset when they left as they became our friends……. We had no idea they were going to end up on our B.B.Q!!  Thank God for that!!!)

So, eventhough the lambs that left our property were cared for and looked after well, they were here for a purpose……I am much older now!! and realise this process!

The Fat Lambs are ready to leave now in time for the Christmas and the freezer!!
The Fat Lambs are ready to leave now in time for the Christmas and the freezer!!

Even Jester and Indi the Labradors were wondering what was going on….”where are our friends?” I’m sure I heard them say the next day!  “Gone to greener pastures,” I said.

"Where have the lambs gone Jenny?" ask Indi and Jester.
"Where have the lambs gone Jenny?" ask Indi and Jester.

Autumn is still with us, but Winter is knocking on the door!

Indi the Labrador in full flight after just waking up from his cosy, warm bed!
Indi the Labrador in full flight after just waking up from his cosy, warm bed!

I took the two Labradors out first thing this morning and it was a rather chilly, foggy awakening!.  Not that the dogs protested!  I”m not looking forward to the cold……. my Aussie bones and me have to say.  When I see the early morning jet stream from planes on clear sunny mornings, I think to myself how I wish I was up there travelling to a warmer climate!  It will be a matter of time I feel.  It will be two years this Christmas, living in this rural part of Hampshire……soon it will be time to travel back to “The land of the living!”

 

Steve’s impressive wood store!

Steve has used any spare time he can manage to saw and chop wood for our winter wood supply and it is now looking very impressive!  What a brilliant job he’s doing to keep our wood burner running.   The wood is a mixture of Silver Burch, Laurel, Pine, Cedar, Holly and Oak, all collected from one of the woodlands at the side of the estate we live on.

Steve keeping fit....... chopping and sawing wood for the winter store.
Steve keeping fit....... chopping and sawing wood for the winter store.

There is also and endless amount of kindling, including wonderful large pine cones which ignite beautifully when dried out.  We are trying to be more organised than we were last year and to put the hard work in now before it becomes extremely cold and wet is the way to go.  The chainsaw is doing wonders.  Thank you Steve for keeping your Australian wife warm!

This impressive wall of wood is well over head height
This impressive wall of wood is well over head height

Steve, the Chainsaw Woodman!

Steve's impressive wall of wood will keep us warm this winter!
Steve's impressive wall of wood will keep us warm this winter!

We will have no worries about our wood supply for this winter as Steve has bought an electric chainsaw.  This amazing piece of equipment has taken the hard labour away from the method of handsawing which Steve was doing last winter, where he injured his arm and shoulder.  This wall of wood took four hours to saw and more is on the way! with another two walls taking shape!

No more complaints from my Australian bones this winter as the wood shed is growing each day with Steve's chainsaw handywork!
No more complaints from my Australian bones this winter as the wood shed is growing each day with Steve's chainsaw handywork.
Steve and Jester the Labrador take a well earned break together.
Steve and Jester the Labrador take a well earned break together.

Monster Runner Bean!

I have just been out into the orchard picking plums and blackberries for the big house and on my way back stopped in our little garden to pick some runner beans for our supper tonight. 

The monster runner bean is in the foreground.
The monster runner bean is in the foreground.

Well, hiding at the back of the now dense leafy foliage, was a huge bean.  This is what happens when you miss picking them.  I have so many plants growing it’s very easy to miss a bean or two that’s ready to harvest.  This little beauty is really inedible now, so I shelled out the beans and will cook them without their green casing.  I must check for other ‘runaway’ beans in future.

the shelled beans from the monster runner bean will cook up nicely.
the shelled beans from the monster runner bean will cook up nicely.

Pool Cleaning….bring it on!!

Part of my job as housekeeper on this estate is to clean and maintain the pool, usually Fridays.  This is a fantastic job for outdoor lover me and when the dogs are here, Jester has a wonderful time following my every move and looking into the water to see what I’m collecting/fishing out. 

Jenny Kirwan (me) on pool duty!
Jenny Kirwan (me) on pool duty!

 When I empty the filters and put chlorine tablets in them, he is fascinated and I have to be careful he doesn’t snatch a tablet thinking it’s something to eat!  Indi just sits in the distance on the lawn watching Jester tire himself out.

"What are you doing now Jenny?" says Jester the inquisitive little monkey!
"What are you doing now Jenny?" says Jester the inquisitive little monkey!

Country Produce at last!

The lettuce continues to feed us with salads every day.
The lettuce continues to feed us with salads every day.

I am starting to reap the rewards for all the hard work watering and feeding the garden.  The lettuce I pick daily and provides me with some gorgeous salads.  Steve dislikes this type of lettuce and prefers the plain, pale Round lettuce in Tesco.  Good, it will go further!

The baby tomatoes will be ready soon to pick and put into all these lovely salads.

baby tomatoes almost pickable!
baby tomatoes almost pickable!

The raspberries we are picking now and continue to be wonderful….served with natural yogurt, heavenly.  The wasps love these plants and I am very careful as I was stung last summer picking plums and my finger was throbbing and swollen for four days!

Raspberries plants are wonderful.
Raspberries plants are wonderful.

The apples in the orchard and gardens aren’t ripe enough to eat yet but they’re not far off.  There are quite a number of varieties but not sure of the names.  Can’t wait as I am a huge apple fan and they stew very well.

Gage Willingham, what a wonderful delicious plum!

Gage Willingham in the orchard is just starting to ripen.
Gage Willingham in the orchard is just starting to ripen.

 Just when I thought I had tasted the best plum of all time in the Golden Gage Plum, I was extremely excited to find another variety in the orchard even more superb! (in my opinion)  Okay, I must admit I perhaps, maybe going over the top with my love of plums and being so excited in such a small fruit may seem disturbing to some (I think my husband thinks I’ve lost the plot finally!)  But this time of year should be enjoyed in what ever way I can manage……summer in England is extremely short in comparison to my homeland of Australia.

The Willingham Gage is stunning in my opinion.
The Willingham Gage is stunning in my opinion.

It doesn’t get any better than this in the plum tasting stakes!  This superb plum is full of flavour and refreshingly sweet and I think juicier than the Golden Gage.  Fantastic eaten fresh with yogurt or stewed (which I have been doing to put into the freezer for the winter months on top of piping hot porridge)

Fresh Flowers for the Cottage.

A pale pink display of flowers I picked for the dining room in our cottage.
A pale pink display of flowers I picked for the dining room in our cottage.

I spent the morning watering the garden and the poor dehydrated tomato plants, picking plumbs, runner beans and lettuce, collecting mail from the big house, then after a lovely coffee with Steve on the terrace, I started picking flowers from the garden for our little cottage.

The flowers Picked this morning would cost a fortune in the Albert Park Fruit Shop (where I loved to buy flowers in Melbourne) or perhaps a little less at my much loved South Melbourne Market flower stall!   Their freesias were always good quality at this popular market stall and pretty cheap in comparison to their neighbours in Albert Park!  These were my favourite buy…..usually in creamy white.  ( Gee, would we kill for a South Melbourne Market Dim Sim!!!!)  Oh well….dream on Jenny!

Sweet peas on my dressing table make a dreamy fragrant and fresh addition to our bedroom.
Sweet peas on my dressing table make a dreamy fragrant and fresh addition to our bedroom.

My mum and two sisters, Jane and Fiona would know how I love this special garden, part of this big estate.  I have always been a mad flower lover…..I think I got this from my mum as she was always doing flowers at the church and our home was always beautifully adorned with her special arrangements.  She did a flower arrangement course at one time and I remember she also did a course in hand painting ceramics, mainly pretty flower painting on plates.  That’s where my artistic talents come from, my beautiful dearly missed mum!

flowers on my bedside table marry beautifully with our patchwork duvet cover and pillows.
flowers on my bedside table marry beautifully with our patchwork duvet cover and pillows.

We have to make the most of the summer here in England as it lasts for such a short period, unlike my home in Australia.  Summers there are long and hot.  It is something you get used to.  The climate provides a wonderful outdoor lifestyle unlike here in England. 

yes, even outside in our decking/bbq area I like to have a vase of flowers on our table.
yes, even outside in our decking/BBQ area I like to have a vase of flowers on our table.

Golden Gage…..what a treat for plum lover me!

One of many plum trees in the orchard.  This one is a beauty, called Golden Gage.....wonderful!
One of many plum trees in the orchard. This one is a beauty, called Golden Gage.....wonderful!

I will never forget living here in Hampshire on this property.  I’m always discovering interesting things about plants and nature and I’m so blessed Steve has set up this website for me…..I will always be able to refer to it in future years when I’m old and grey, walking and  writing books!!

I found this variety of plum today when I was in the orchard picking a selection of plums to put into a dish for the big house.  It’s called Golden Gage, a variety I have never heard of and certainly have never tasted.  Not surprising I guess, living most of my life in Australia!

Golden Gage plums picked fresh from the orchard.....how lucky am I?
Golden Gage plums picked fresh from the orchard.....how lucky am I?

So unlike any other plum I have tasted.  Not as juicy, I would say and not so sweet, but refreshingly sweet, if that makes sense.  The colour is gorgeous; starts from a beautiful lime green then when fully ripe, a lovely golden yellow.  I like to eat them just before they reach their fully ripe state of golden yellow.   How lucky am I as a plum lover to discover this today?  Poor Steve is working hard inside on his computer and when I came back into the cottage with a broad smile on my face, he was wondering what all the fuss was about.  “Over a plum!  I’m trying to work here!” he said.  Oh well, I just get caught up in my own little world I guess!!  My next job is to water the tomatoes with the dogs!!

Sweat Peas and Roses

It’s late afternoon and I’ve just taken the dogs out for a swim and run in the gardens and on the way back stopped, while they played together, to pick a posie of sweet peas and roses to give to a friend who is calling by in the morning.  The roses are still booming and the sweet peas are having a growth spurt now.  The perfume together is beautiful.  Must get them in some water then feed the hungry, naughty dogs!

For me, the combination of sweatpeas and roses is heaven on earth!
For me, the combination of sweet peas and roses is heaven on earth!
Two naughty dogs, Jester and Indi in the distance.
Two naughty dogs, Jester and Indi in the distance.
"We're back now Jenny and hungry!" says Indi, being licked by Jester.
"We're back now Jenny and hungry!" says Indi, being licked by Jester.

Runner Beans are starting to grow!

Runner Beans starting to grow
Runner Beans starting to grow

My beans are starting to grow!!  The crop is doing very well with all this rain we’ve had over the past couple of weeks.  Have picked up a few snails and slugs feasting away but no damage has been done.  Unfortunately the broad beans have been disappointing due to where I planted them out….not enough sun!  It’s been an enjoyable experience though watching everything grow.  Can’t wait until harvest time….hopefully in a few weeks?  Steve isn’t very impressed with my gardening efforts.  He comes out into the garden and picks on nearly every plant except his beloved herbs…his prize plants are his two large pots of lemon thyme.  His usual comments are “These aren’t doing very well!”  I ignore it all and hope the plants do too!