Cottage update: August 2013

Well, it has been a busy summer at the cottage with lots to do.


I have three beautiful chickens – one cockrel Barney who is a beautiful big speciman of the Hubbert breed – he is only approx  6 months old and is still learning how to crow – its really funny, just like a trumpet gone wrong.  Do chickens make good leaders?


The two chickens are brown and white, very cute – Mabel and Amy.  They lay a lovely brown egg each every day – though Amy is still only new to laying an egg, starting only in the last few weeks.


I wonder what goes through their minds when they first lay an egg?



I am hoping that one of the girls will get ‘broody’ and we will have some chicks. This is all new to me so I have lots to learn.



GOATS:  So next on my list is getting some goats – followed by some lambs and little piglets.  At the moment, I am reading up all I can about raising goats  – I believe they are good escape artists?  I also have to prepare the fields – I have over four acres of overgrown land that badly needs to be cleared / eaten off and it would be lovely if the goats can keep it under control for me.  I would also like to make my own cheese, yogurt and ice cream.  At the moment, I am clearing some old trees and putting up some strong fences to secure the darlings.

Next spring, I hope to get the lambs and pigs.


THE POND:   As we have so much rain in Co. Mayo, I hope to conserve as much as possible to avoid using the mains supply.  I have set up two water barrels that fill to overflowing every time it rains?  So I am thinking I will make a pond – so once again, I have lots of reading and planning to do first.


FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:  I have prepared three raised beds but I have made little progress otherwise.  I hope to start next spring and start early enough in the season to plant a good selection.  It will take a while to get enough fruit trees and bushes planted to make an orchard.  I have to divide off a section of the garden and make sure ‘the goats’ are not able to get near to my fruit and veg!!  A nice herb bed would be good too.

I did succeed in getting some tomatoes planted and, at the moment, I am waiting for all of these tiny tomatoes to ripen so that I can taste and enjoy.

I have to cordon off the Ringfort to keep it safe.  I have a problem with ferns that are taking over the whole area – they are growing to a height of over five feet – so I have to look into that and see how I can keep them under control.


So as you can see, I have lots to do in the garden this summer.  I will keep you posted.


Regina at Fairy Hill Crafts.


Glann – Glenmullynaha ringfort and souterrain.

The time has flown and already its June 2013. Its been a challenge but I’m still here, Fairy Hill Crafts is doing well, and so much has happened.


If you read my first intro blog, you will see that I wrote about the first family who lived in this cottage in Glann (the formal name is Glenmullynaha), in Charlestown, Co. Mayo. They were the family of John and Mary Connors and it was so sad as the young mother Mary died not long after the birth of the youngest child, Bridget who was born in 1946.


As I am new to this blog – and to websites in general – you will appreciate how astonished I was when some members of Bridgets family, the Sherwins, arrived to visit me in Bridgets old home? Apparently, they had read my blog and had planned to visit. However, I was so sorry to hear that Bridget had been very ill and had passed away, R.I.P., in January 2013.  Her family fortunately decided to continue with the planned journey and came to visit her old home in Glann – just a wonderful surprise for me.

It was such a pity that Bridget did not get to come too, that would have been so special but Bridget and her family will always be remembered here at Valleycrest Cottage.  I was so surprised that I completely forgot to take photos but hopefully they might get in touch again someday and I can correct that omission?

The Sherwins might be interested to hear the latest developments at the cottage?


Two weeks ago, I had a surprise visit (yet another surprise visit this year) from a representative from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – the National Monuments Service. My precious Fairy Hill, that I am so proud of, has been identified as a ringfort, or rath (the Irish term).  The ringfort was identified on an ordinance survey map dated 1838 and it has now been duly photographed and listed on the Archaeological Survey Database with the department. Check out the map / query box and you can look up the summary descriptions of individual monuments by number or by townland name (e.g. Glenmullynaha) and you will see the various maps and aerial views. Unfortunately the Co Mayo database has yet to be fully completed but I’m told the summary description is there! The number for the ringfort is MA73-063002.  There is also a tunnel – which is officially known as a souterrain (from the French for underground) and the number for this is MA073-063002.

So what is a ringfort or souterrain, you might ask?  Luckily, Jane thought to send me some information written up by the Office of Public Works.

RINGFORTS:  Ringforts were erected as protected enclosures around farmsteads mainly during the Early Christian period (c 500 – 1100 AD).  The dwelling houses and other buildings were generally dry-stone or timber built and the remains of stone structures are sometimes visible. It is only during archaeological excavation that the traces of wooden structures can be found. Sometimes, especially in permanent pasture land or rocky terrain, ancient field systems associated with ringforts, survive.  Archaeological monuments are now protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004.

Basically the ringfort is a space surrounded by an earthen bank formed of material thrown up from a fosse or ditch immediately outside the bank. Generally they vary from 25 – 50 metres in diameter, are usually circular but can also be oval or D-shaped.  Some have more than one bank and ditch but such examples are rarer than the simple type.  in some areas, especially in the west of Ireland, a massive stone wall enclosed the site in place of a bank and ditch.  This type of ringfort is called a caher, cashel or stone fort and well preserved examples may have terraces and steps in the inner face of the wall.  ost of these stone forts have been heavily robbed of stone to build roads or field fences and often only traces of the wall survive.

SOUTERRAIN:  The feature often found in ringforts is an underground passage or souterrain (popularly known as a cave or tunnel). They are usually built of stone but can also be tunnelled into rock or compact clay or gravel.  Souterrains are sometimes found apparently independent of any enclosure and are also found in Early Christian ecclesiastical enclosures.  They were used as places of refuge and possibly also for storage and can be encountered unexpectedly during ploughing, bulldozing or quarrying.  These structures can be unsafe, especially if recently uncovered and should be treated with extreme caution.

Location of Ringfort Rath and Souterrain

Bluebells Foxgloves Primroses all around the Ringfort

Bridget Sherwin spoke about the tunnel in the historical information provided on her ancestors as they, the children, used to play in these tunnels when she was a child. It is such a pity that Bridget Sherwin has passed away and that we cannot ask her about the location of the souterrain s it has yet to be found?   Its amazing that this tunnel has now been identified as a souterrain dating back to  500 – 1100 AD?  A neighbour has recently told me that there is a maze of tunnels at this site – so hopefully at some stage in the future, the National Monuments Service will investigate and find out more about this treasure.  There are, of course, many ringforts throughout Ireland.  They are known by various names – fort, rath, dún, lios, etc. – and if you check out many Irish placenames, you will see many examples.

Glann, Charlestown





Victoria Sandwich or Fairy Cakes

Victoria Sandwich:  This recipe is great – you can use this mixture to make a regular two tier cake / a flat swiss-roll tray or divide it up into cupcakes which are always popular with children. You can also spoon this mixture over fruit – for example, peeled cooking apple or rhubarb, chopped and sugared in the base of a tin – spoon over the mix and bake.

Made with fresh eggs from Mabel and Gladys




Pancakes using Buttermilk

I love a recipe from The Canadian Living Cookbook for pancakes using buttermilk.  I think in Ireland, we are used to the regular batter pancakes made using milk but I think these pancakes are thicker / puffy and have a lovely texture – try them!

Buttermilk is the liquid whey left after milk has been used to manufacture butter.  It is useful for invalids as it is more easily digested than ordinary milk, but contains much of the mineral and some of the protein content of milk.

 I normally love lemon and sugar over my pancakes – or in Canada, we would normally use maple syrup – delicious.  But you can also use a number of sweet or savoury fillings to your pancakes to make a tasty meal or dessert – try some of the following:

Any fruit, but typically blueberries, raspberries or other.

You can use almost any mixture of cooked vegetables, fish or chicken, flavoured with herbs and moistened with a little bechamel sauce, soured cream or cream cheese: for example,

  • Cooked chicken and sauteed mushrooms in bechamel:
  • Smoked haddock and chopped hard-boiled egg with soured cream:
  • Ratatouille:
  • Sauteed spinach, pine nuts and feta cheese:

TOP TIP: You can FREEZE pancakes interleaved with non-stick baking parchment – this is handy if you are having a dinner party and would like to prepare as much of your food in advance! Defrost, then reheat wrapped in foil in a moderate oven.

If the batter is too thick when mixed, add some water and stir.

A beginners sewing project

Family and friends love getting craft gifts.

NAPKINS FOR YOUR HOME: A PERFECT GIFT FOR A FRIEND. I think there is nothing as easy to make as a napkin – yet nothing adds to the ‘occasion’ or decorates a room like a set of napkins.

CHOOSING YOUR FABRIC: Use a good quality cotton fabric for easy laundering. However, you can also use a nice quality silk fabric and many curtain fabrics too. All are easy to sew, iron and wash and perfect for a beginners project!

You can choose your fabric to suit an occasion – a wedding, for Christmas or to match your tablecloth for example. Also choose a fabric colour to suit your kitchen or a pattern to match your curtains in that room.

Add napkin rings to complete the picture!

Keep a selection of different napkins in your press and use them at different times of the year or for different occasions: Easter, Birthdays,Valentines Day or just to add a splash of colour to your table!

START TO MAKE YOUR NAPKINS: First, decide how many napkins you want to make and what size you would like each one to be.  Buy any width fabric you fancy – sometimes its less expensive if you buy the widest, 150cm (60″).  I would choose an easy-to-launder fabric as you will need to freshen them up regularly with a wash.

Cut out squares of 30-35cm (12″-14″) in size – whatever size suits you.

Allow approx. 2cm (5/8″) for a hem along each side. Start by turning in a fold approx 1cm (1/4″) deep and iron flat.  I would recommend that you always iron your fabric as you sew – it makes things so much easier. Then turn this fold over again, making a double hem as you will see in the photo – iron again- and now you are ready to sew your first seam.  You can use machine or hand stitching, as neat and tidy along the edge of the seam, as you can manage. Check the first photo above for neat stitching and embroidery – the back of the napkin seam is finished as neatly as possible.

Now work on the opposite side to where you have made your first hem and repeat the folding process – and sew.  In a week or two, I will give you information on how to mitre a corner – a method of turning in corners for a neater finish. For the moment, we will keep our corners square and as neat as possible!

Continue on and turn in a double hem on each side of your napkin using hand or machine sewing.




The misunderstood EGG:

Few foods are as versatile – and misunderstood – as the egg.

Talk about a scrambled history. For generations, eggs were highly prized for their nutritional value. Then came the crusade against cholesterol and eggs were banished. It’s true that eggs are high in cholesterol. But dietary cholesterol plays only a bit part in obstructing arteries. Saturated fat (the kind in red meat and dairy) and trans fats are of far greater concern if consumed in substantial amounts.

‘I’m still amazed at how many people think they have to give up eggs to be healthy’, says Kathy McManus, nutrition director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, who often encourages people to put eggs back in their diet. The fat in eggs is largely unsaturated, or ‘good’ and each egg has only 72 calories. Both whites and yolks are rich in protein, which makes meals more filling and staves off hunger pangs. The yolk is where all the cholesterol lives (210 milligrams per large egg) but it’s also where essentially all the nutrition is – iron, folate, vitamin A, lutein and choline, a nutrient critical for brain development that’s particularly important for expectant mothers. So don’t shun yolks in favour of whites; just keep track of your cholesterol intake so that you don’t exceed the American / UK Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of 300 milligrams. Eggs, after all, offer endless options for vegetable-packed dishes such as omelets and ftittatas, for breakfast, dinner and anytime in between.
Extract from Healthy Living: Martha

Lets look at Breakfast: its an easy meal to plan, since breads, cereals and fruit ae easily come by. To help stay within you fat allowance, use skim milk / yogurt, and reduce the amount of butter you use. Buy the freshest, most interesting breads you can find, especially the whole-grain variety. One good ploy is to try to plan a nutritious breakfast that has no or little fat, one that fills you but permits you to ‘spend’ your fat grams on the rest of the day’s food. A crunchy English muffin is the perfect foil for soft-cooked eggs. Choose a whole-wheat one for a serving of fiber.

But today, we are going to try Scrambled Egg with Chives on Toast: this amounts to a total 224 cal. See the recipe below.

Raising Agents for Muffins

Avoca Tea Time

Baking Classes & Workshops

I love Baking and I hope some of these recipes will interest you!  Along the way, I hope to provide little bits of information that I hope will be of interest and help you to make a success of your Baking projects!

Todays Tip Tip: Raising Agents or Leavens

Raising agents (or leavens) contribute to the lightness and porousity of food mixtures – we introduce air, steam and carbon dioxide. For example, in a creamed cake mixture we introduce air by sifting the flour; creaming the fat and sugar together and beating in the egg; carbon dioxide is released from the baking powder when it is mixed with the liquid in the recipe and during cooking; and steam is formed from liquids in the recipe during cooking.

When we bake, we can use either Cream / Plain Flour or Self-Raising Flour: Cream / Plain Flour does not have a raising agent added. The use Self Rising Flour avoids measuring raising agents and the problems of uneven blending are overcome.  The available carbon dioxide yield of this flour during baking is laid down by regulations.  In practical terms, to every 400g of flour 4 x 5ml teaspoons of baking powder are added. So if you don’t have any Self-Raising Flour in your kitchen, you can use Cream Flour with baking powder added in. Sometimes you will need to add extra baking powder – just like we do in this recipe – as there is not enough in the basic flour mix.

Check out this Marvellous Muffin recipe, it is the easiest recipe ever.  Its from the Avoca Tea Time book which is great.  Try this! You can use this recipe for individual Muffins – in large or mini muffin cases or bake as a Loaf or Cake: perfect for school bake sales and in your home: delicious every time.

Fairy Hill Crafts provides Baking classes for all age groups – you can start at any time. Phone Regina at 0868330264 to schedule a class to suit you and bring your friends.



Glann, Charlestown – the beginning.

Fairy Hill Crafts

I hope these beautiful rainbows and our Fairy Hill brings me ‘good luck’ and happiness in this lovely cottage.

Well, this is it – the ‘first post’. So cheers, ding the glasses and here we go.

Fairy Hill Crafts

These beautiful old stone walls just make it perfect!

I bought this little old cottage exactly four years ago moving in December 2008.  This is the start of a 10 or 20 year plan. This new business is inspired by the Fairy Hill in my garden.

I’d never really thought about fairy hills before but now I want to know all about them, the superstitions, the heritage etc. I have copied some information onto the Fairy Hill page that I think is really interesting.  If anyone has any information that would be helpful, please let me know.

Fairy Hill Crafts

Mayo is more heavily populated with fairie than any other county in Ireland!

Something amazing happened last week that was really eerie.  When I moved into this cottage, I always had a good feeling about it, a positive feeling which was good. I was searching on the internet for craft sites and in the middle of the lists – I spotted a heading for Glenmullynaha / Connor Thomas – a very strange placename that is on my deeds. When I opened up the page, the heading stated ‘Descendants of Thomas and Margaret Connor giving the records of the Connor family dating back to the 1840’s and I realised that this was the family that originally lived in this cottage,  my cottage – an amazing coincidence!

I have always asked neighbours from Glann for information about the origins of the cottage and the family who lived here. I had been given some basic names and dates but now I have everything I need to know:  the cottage was built in 1933. The father who lived here was, I believe, John Connor born 16 Oct 1912. He married Mary Katherine Towey, born on 12 Sep 1922, in the Cathedral in Ballaghaderreen on 10 Dec 1940. They had three children, Patrick Francis (born 9 Feb 1942); Thomas Joseph (born 14 Feb 1944) and Bridget Mary Attracta was born on 3 Dec 1946.  Unfortunately, the young mother Mary became ill and died in 1947 leaving these three young children – can you just imagine how awful that was for the entire family. The information says John’s parents helped raise his three young children in Glann after his wife died and John left to go to England to work.  They all eventually settled in Leicester. I feel really strongly that I must remember that unfortunate young mother who died, how sad – and of course those beautiful young children.  I wonder where they are now?

Fairy Hill Crafts

The cottage got a new roof, plumbing and heading in 2012.

So the cottage was first refurbished by Bill and Angie Spicer from 2000 onwards but after Angie became ill, they decided to return to live in the UK. They sold the cottage to me, Regina Stacey.  So this year, I also did some work to upgrade the cottage, the plumbing, heating etc. and the plan is now to try to work here, setting up a small business doing crafts of all kinds.  Fairy Hill Crafts. Fingers crossed! Our luck has to improve.


The plan now to is get this business on its feet and to develop a lovely garden here beside the cottage – there is nearly five acres to work on so hopefully I can grow trees, fruit and vegetables, chickens maybe lambs, goats, geese, we’ll see!

Wish me well and follow my story? 🙂