Thursday, 12 May 2016

When you're going through hell

...keep going!

April the 4th was the last time I had anything to do with the allotment. I haven't even been in the vicinity of the place and I didn't plant one single seed this year, not one. I barely even think about the plots and don't feel guilty about it either.

I was given a new extra medication to try in March of this year and by the middle of April I was ready for the hills; it simply didn't agree with me and conversely, all that it was meant to help with, it made a lot worse.
Self harm has become a 'normal' everyday desire and suicide often seems the logical solution to my pain. In short, times have been epically bad, we're talking on a biblical scale and Andrew and I have just barely pulled through.

Now there's a little green light at the end of that monstrously long tunnel of despair. I'm starting to catch glimpses of it, at long last, though they are few and far between.

The last couple of days here in glorious Carrickfergus have been sunshine-y and though it doesn't fill me with glee I am pleased to see the healthy plants in the garden (bar the absolutely dead Acer) and interested in the first wisteria buds on the vine.
wisteria buds -

I know Andrew will get my bum to that allotment soon and with hope I will be able to return to blogging and connecting with you, my gardening friends.

Wishing you all the very best

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Seedlings ahoy plus rhubarb and ginger compote

'Oh the weather outside is frightful...' with a chill in the air and regular rain/hail downpours; it's just plain miserable. But luckily the seedlings in the greenhouse are doing grand and all those little green dreams are coping well. The cold nights have necessitated a little bit of literal thinking and Andrew has deployed extra large tea lights (from Tesco) which burn for 8 hours; it's saved the babies on a few occasions by upping the temperature by a couple of degrees, compared to the shed.
leeks, broccoli, mangetout, purple sprouting broccoli, chard and cosmos
What a delightful sight it is out there with trays upon trays of tasty crops-to-be (more than pictured here). Plus I just adore how leeks germinate bent in half firstly and then growing tall :)


Due to such terrible weather I have been cleaning the kitchen and cooking! 

We are really trying hard not to waste any food this year and gluts will be tended to more creatively this year. Today I made a rhubarb and ginger compote. It follows the same recipe as my plain rhubarb compote but with a little twist. Making it tangy with a touch of heat :)

* instead of the half cup of orange juice - I added 2 teaspoons of diced ginger (in it's own syrup) and
* instead of the half cup of brown sugar - I reduced it to a quarter.

Rhubarb and Ginger Compote
rhubarb and ginger compote - '' ~ an allotment blog
making delicious rhubarb and ginger compote
Later I shall also be tackling the leek glut by simply cleaning, chopping and bagging them up individually to be frozen. I just learnt today that they do not need to be blanched first :)

Love and hugs

Monday, 4 April 2016

April, tea breaks and garlic planting

April was crept up on me from no where! I'm in shock. It's probably not helpful that I forgot to get us a nice new house calendar at the start of the year - I'm constantly lost. Okay, I do know April comes after March but woah, hold on a minute, I was only getting used to it being March; it just doesn't feel April-y to me, not so much the 'drip, drip, drop, little April showers' and more buckets of rain and hail!

Except for these utterly glorious moments of blue sky, chill air and uplifting sights of yellow daffodils :)

daffs at the lottie - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog

As a born overachiever I worked my self into the ground on Tuesday and Wednesday at the allotment. I only stop when I get really dizzy or simply can't breathe any more. It's not right and its not clever and so Andrew bought a new stove and kettle and we now can have tea/coffee breaks. I love my hubby *blush*

Also, I am trying a new additional medication and it seems to be slowly killing me, so I do have very legitimate reasons for truly not knowing my limits at the moment. Funny, I despise being ill, I am so very frustrated by the illness itself and the bloody medications and their side effects. For all my bluster and positive messages about Ecotherapy and such, I just want to sleep, I'm tired fighting.

tea and coffee at the lottie - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
so shiny :)
Tuesday saw the planting of our garlic! What joy is beheld in such, the beginning of a new season, hands in the soil with a nurturing intent rather than a ripping out. Andrew had to plant out the garlic into modules this year as the ground was so terribly wet, but that was back in January and now it is a good bit better. So it was wonderful to see these healthy babies being placed in their new places of growth.

Here they are approx 6 inches apart in rows a foot apart - good luck little guys!
garlic on the plots! - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
Planting out the garlic seedlings
Over on 14b I am still, yes still, trying to tidy up; my goodness every weed on earth seems to be deeply embedded in the ground over there! Plus I finally got rid of the torn and tattered tarpaulins and lots of empty gravel bags - goodbye blue blight! But I tell you the forest area is killing me! Though I am happy to say that I have done a lot more than the following 'after' photo shows. We shall have finished paths someday!

14b overview - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
before and after pics of the slow but steady work on 14b

After this it rained, it poured, it was almost biblical and we could have been washed away in our shed - though we would have had tea and coffee....

And that, my darlings is you all caught up :)

We haven't been able to go over since Wednesday as Andrew has been diy-ing here at home, laying a new and beautiful wooden floor. I have been reading a lot, yoga-ing and fiendishly hoarding any and all toilet rolls for some of my fussier seeds.  Maggie has been sleeping :)

I'll have a look at the seedlings etc for next time and record how everything is going.
Hope you are all seeing the changes of the season and gaining happiness from the lighter evenings.

Hugs and love
Carrie x

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Regarding that warning letter

I really ought to learn to let things go. I know this, I'm too sensitive and once hurt by something it takes me goodly time to heal. So regarding that recent warning letter we got - I am still smarting and though it has all been sorted out and we got our apology, I still feel slightly aggrieved.

I mean look at this, our 24a plot (a before picture!) compared to the one next door. I only use this plot as it is so very close, believe me there are a lot that are in a sad state. I do so hope they received a warning letter but now, after the 12 days given to show some improvement and active cultivation, here it lies as it has been for the past 5 odd years. Goodness, Maggie even made a nest in it once the weather turned colder yesterday afternoon.
our plot and theirs - ~ an allotment blog

Anywho, rant over.

We're bang on schedule with our two plots and though the weather has been fiendish and the soil often unworkable we have found ourselves lifting the last harvest and planting the first this week! ( I'll write in more detail about that soon)
leeks, last harvest - ~ an allotment blog
leeks galore 
Forgive us if we haven't gotten around to finishing the paths on 14b but quite frankly we have just paid out a load of money for new flooring at home and the allotment does come second.

And so I'm off back to the plots now whilst there isn't any hail or sleet (yes we have been having both over the long Easter weekend) to try to finish weeding the forest area and possibly prune my roses.


Friday, 25 March 2016

A monster!!!!

This is all I have to say/show...

Take a look at @andrew_gault's Tweet:


Thursday, 24 March 2016

First seedlings pop through

It's a dreary, dank day and I'm feeling a little depressed. Though Maggie is a healing balm and I have a great book to read and pen-pal to write to; plenty to keep me busy.

But I want to be outside, I want to be planting seeds and clearing the orchard patch at the Lottie.

So the closest I get is stepping out into the mizzily, maudlin morning and taking a peek at the seed trays. And lo, joy is to be found in those little green shoots! Life is pushing through the dirt and darkness and filling me with hope.

Let these bursts of gorgeous greenery delight your eyes too. We need to share the love, the hope and help one another see light ahead xx

seedlings ~ ~ an allotment blog
Broad beans, Broccoli celebrese, Kale, Purple sprouting broccoli
And I noticed this baby too :)

seedlings ~ ~ an allotment blog
a tiny kohl rabi!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Progress is joyful

Is there a happier sound than that of a wee, elderly dog barking in her sleep? I think not. And that is the sound I awoke to on Sunday morning, which led to a dozy smile upon my face. Maggie is the best thing we ever did - it's soon to be her adoption day celebration!

But the allotment is what your here for so I shall spill all the juiciest bits.

Sunday at the plots was a mixture of more soil prep and a mystery; our wheelbarrow had been pilfered! I was fine and dandy weeding the paths and pots with my trusty trug by my side, but Andrew was suddenly heard to call out "Where's the wheelbarrow? I need it." Well, my friends, this lead to a minor panic and a walk around our field, looking in ditches and checking to see if someone else (in a fit of wheelbarrow necessity) had borrowed it. Oh how we looked and tweeted to relieve the pain a little.

The day when on without our dear friend and we were sad. But wheelbarrow-gate was still haunting us. Deflated we left for some late lunch and lo! on the drive out Andrew's 20:20 vision spied our barrow and he jumped out of the car and rescued her. She had indeed been kidnapped/wheelbarrownapped but we had her back - joy! Just look at that loving glance...
wheelbarrowgate - '' ~an allotment blog
Where the wheelbarrow wasn't (left) and when we finally retrieved her (right)
So back from our lunch now and Andrew spread thick mulch all over our raised beds *with the use of the wheelbarrow. And now 24a look fabulous and tidy to rock!! I'm doing my best with 14b and later it was mulched a bit too.
glorious - no?!

Monday came quickly and seeds were been sown in the house shed when a letter from the Council - a warning letter, telling us that our plot would be taken from us if we didn't start cultivating it. What?? There were attempts at phoning the department, tweets were twitted and an email sent all asking how on earth could this be happening! Oh, a dark cloud hovered over our home that day and so soon after the stresses of wheelbarrowgate  :(

In all honesty I was devastsated after the amount of effort I had recently been putting in, just getting to the plots in the first place. Stupid, stupid people.

Well thank goodness it was Pi day in America (you know how they write the date wrong - well it was 3/14/2016, like 3.14 = Pi) and we took the opportunity to drown our sorrows in pie, apple and cinnamon pie at a local, lovely cafe. It helped. We came home and worked in the back garden.
apple pie - '' ~ an allotment blog
Uuumm - pie :)
Tuesday and back on the plots, there was pruning of the blackthorns and blackberry, plus tying in branches etc. I cleared the damnable old squash bed which had yielded not one squash for us last season but had plenty of grass, nettles and dandelions in it now (thanks neighbouring unused plots!) I tell you, it took hours to do that one bed! And I was exhausted.
squash bed - '' ~ an allotment blog
A cleared bed, an exhausted me

Wednesday saw the Gault's out and about at Castle Ward and Downpatrick, away from everything and just enjoying ourselves. But to top the day off, we came home to an email of apology from the Council for sending the warning letter to the wrong people. Thank goodness for 'sorry' and recognition that we do in fact have a lovely set of plots.

On Thursday I wasn't feeling good but it was St Patrick's day and that means only one thing in our house - planting the spuds! We got two new big pots and re-used an old fertiliser pot, drilled holes in the bottoms and planted our Sharp's Express in them. We'll take them down to the lottie soon.

Andrew made a quick wee video of the planting - 

So there you are, all caught up; a good lot of plot work, seed planting, home gardening and time away - it's been lovely having my hubby off for the week :)

Hugs and best wishes to you and your gardens

Monday, 14 March 2016

Hopping into action

I say ' hopping' so as to conjure up images of bunnies and the associated Easter/spring paraphernalia, but it's leading me astray already and now I'd like an Easter egg - concentration is lost....ummm, where's the chocolate.

We awoke on Saturday to a nice-ish day which whispered 'allotment' on the mild air. Not wanting to be rude, we heeded it, went out for much needed coffee and then seed shopping, yippee! But oh my, we bought quite a lot for this first phrase of sowing. To be fair though, we didn't get that Japanese pine or the acer and managed to stick to the essentials, just about; nurseries look so good this time of year.

Once home we then, like amateurs, checked through our seed boxes and yes, threw a good deal of old stuff out but also came across a few 'in use' doubles to the ones we'd just purchased. Oh, well the new ones will keep until next year.
seeds - '' ~ an allotment blog
Andrew's seed box for veg (left), mine for flowers (right) and the rubbish trug
Naturally the seed planting came next and compost was sieved, the plug trays lifted down from a high shelf and brushed and...action. I am putting up a plant list in a different page to keep track of the names of varieties etc so you can see what we've planted as it happens. I didn't do any sowing myself, my confidence has nose dived and though it's so super easy and the seeds actually want to grow, I just came over all nervous and was sure I'd kill them by my mere touch.

seed planting  - '' ~ an allotment blog
preparation of a lovely bed for seeds (plus radio which has been outside for 2 years and still runs on the original battery)
seeds and a tip - '' ~ an allotment blog
super tiny seeds that will become tasty large beetroot
wire wool to re-use old labels - great tip from Monty! on and Maggie standing by the gate and getting chased my me every now and then, we had a nice time and got lots done.
Maggie - '' ~ an allotment blog
fish, blood and Maggie :) 
Phew! *I wiped Andrew's brow for him* he did a lot of sowing; I watched and used my lovely camera for the first time in ages. This year (we say this every year) we are concentrating only on that which we will eat; we're more serious this time. One early potato ('Sharp's express') will be grown in a pot and no garden peas - they are just so cheap to buy frozen and taste as good without the effort!

spuds chitted and ready to go - '' ~ an allotment blog
Sharp's Express are ready to go, just need the soil to dry a little more
So much more to come :)
Love and hugs

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Held Captive

Yesterday I had the crazy idea that maybe I could walk to the plots alone and have a look and come home. It would be about a 20 min adventure. I've done it before (a lifetime ago) so why, especially when I actually wanted to see the allotments did I not go? ~ an allotment blog
looking through the peep hole at the world
I got washed and dressed, walked downstairs and came to the door. Ah, the door. For me this beautiful piece of thick painted wood, covering an opening in the wall of my home is impenetrable even with keys to the lock in my shaking hand. Before it, I shrink and like some sort of weird Alice in Wonderland plot line, I can't get to any potion that can make me bigger and stronger again.

This door is hot lava, it's a yawning crevasse, the highest and sharpest mountain. It simply towers over me and I am held captive on this side with fear. So back to the living room I go and into a book to escape real life. ~ an allotment blog

I am desperate to get moving and pruning and planting and weeding and tidying and building and seeding. But I must be patient, I need someone to help me go through, get past, that door.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

Grow Your Own Cake - book review

First off, how could you not want to own a book called this; I mean, seriously, who doesn't dream of cake all day long. (If you don't, I worry about our friendship and suggest that you seek help - cake is everything!) Now take that fact and add in the allotment gardener and you get the perfect scenario. Growing the ingredients of the most delicious cakes and pies plus getting to bask in the glory of that fact that you, yes you make a cake of dreams. Your friends will be in awe, your enemies will be forever begging for forgiveness.

Basically this book, written by Holly Farrell, is one of tending to nature, creating beauty and stuffing your face with goodness :)

The feel of this book is beautiful; it's prose is friendly, the photos by Jason Ingram are inspiring and it is so well laid out.

* Gardening Basics - covers how to pick good plants, do your soil preparation, learn about compost, fertiliser, mulch and weeds. It goes over pruning, seed sowing, tree planting and maintenance. All in a concise, no nonsense, point by point way - making things really approachable.

* In the Kitchen - is a great chapter on all the basics written in a down-to-earth way and with personal preferences that are just so much more realistic than many chef written books. Holly talks about how to do all those little technical bits such as folding, kneading, crystallising flowers, piping and pastry making. She also explains oven temperatures and what sort of equipment you would need to bake things form this book.

* Recipes - Now it's recipe time and oh my! Cakes are spilt into seasons; spring & summer and autumn & winter, which makes so much sense when you are trying to grow the ingredients at the same time. Each main home grown ingredient is written about on the 'grow' page, talking about best varieties, planting, maintenance and harvest, then comes the recipe on the 'bake' page.

* Then there are chapters on Afternoon Tea ideas and Puddings rounded of with a chapter on Savoury bakes, cause sometimes we do need a little non-sweet food stuffs, I guess :)

Author - Holly Farrell (@Holly_E_Farrell )
Photographer - Jason Ingram (@jasonphotos)

There are so many things I want to bake, though I may eat everything's a risk. I would like to see myself use this book and give a little added excitement to harvest time.

In summary I found this book really approachable, inspiring and full of nothing but useful information and recipes you will want to eat and now won't be too daunted to create. A triumph really and a push to get me back on the pots again this weekend and to start doing photography again :)


This book is out today, 3rd March 2016!
Publisher - Frances Lincoln (@Frances_Lincoln)
Twitter hashtag   #GrowYourOwnCake

Love and hugs

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Day 2- Ecotherapy and anxiety

Lo and behold my friend! I went back to the plots for round two on Sunday, which was another fabulously blue sky, super dry day. Two days in a row at the allotments after 6+ months of absence and boy did I put my nose to the grindstone, toil in the mud and ultimately... bedazzled!

Asparagus beds - ~ an allotment
Before and After of the two large asparagus beds - check out the wee box hedging plants; on day they will be a wee hedge

Both half plots are looking transformed and if only there had been a few more hours in the day, they would be looking perfect right now. We worked so hard I marred my back, knee, neck and hand, hahaha. But hey, we were out working with and surrounded by nature, plus Maggie was there :)

Maggie! - ~ an allotment
Zen Maggie at the Plots for the first time in 6 months :)

Andrew's incredible transformation of 24a has been captured in a flip book style of photos (he's very clever!) Bask in his glory by clicking the link to his Instagram :)

OK. A lot of what I say about my time at the plots is bravado. I do not find it in any way easy and take sedatives before I go and sometimes even when I am there as well. I am constantly checking my back, checking on where Andrew is and am always aware of who else my be on site and hence alert to every noise they may make. If a person walks in the direction of our plots I am the one suddenly needing to get something from the shed, whilst muttering under my breath for the ground to please swallow me up.

At home the panic sets in for a while, the exhaustion and anxiety spilling out and accordingly I end up be-swaddled in my blanket on the sofa.... It doesn't get easier the more I do it, I'm just a determined fighter and know there will be good times for the memory banks.

Really, I abhor talking about myself in so personal a manner but I want to make sure no one confuses the messages I'm sending out. Yes I am an advocate for ecotherapy BUT it is not a panacea, the illnesses don't go away.

The true joy comes when I look back on my disaster-free time there and that's why I revel in my before and after photos, those little notes I take and the hugs and kisses from my amazing hubby and my cute-as-a-button wonder-dog.

Anyway, I'm off to read a book...
Happy St. David's Day!

Daffs for St David - ~ an allotment
baby daffodils for St David's Day :)


Saturday, 27 February 2016

First Contact

I feel I have been so long away from my once cherished blog. I was held back, denied the access to think straight or care about the lottie by the deepest, darkest, depths of depression and consistent anxiety; I'm still fighting it, who am I trying to kid. It will be with me all my days and learning to cope and continue to fight is my only way forward. So forward we go.....

** Yesterday The head gardener took a day off work and we had a great wee time together; I love those sort of days, they feel stolen and thus more fun. We decided that our National Trust membership, which had lapsed, need renewing and we did it so easily online and then, went off to Rowallane Gardens.

Sadly the weather turned on us and flipped into heavy rain, so no garden explorations :(  However, when you have a really talented potter on site (Mark) and a cafe, you can cope, believe us! Retail therapy...
Matt's (the resident potter) studio AND the items we have that he artfully created

And now, the allotment! - my first visit since sometime last September.

So I did it, I bloomin' did it! Here, a photo to prove it to myself and the world; if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen this posted in real time, as soon as I got there. I was so nervous/excited.

There was much to be done and still much more, haha. We are doing the Charles Dowding 'No dig' approach this year so there was very little hand forking even (it's my favourite hand tool, weep).  If you have an exceptional memory you'll remember I reviewed his book on the topic in 2014 and now we're converts.

I write this as I lay blanket swaddled on the sofa exhausted from hard work and anxiety. Andrew dropped me off and then back for a little more! and to tidy up but wow, we got a lot of clearing done in those 2+ hrs. Pictures speak louder than words as they say :)

We had the whole place to ourselves which was great for me but also criminal! It's been THE day we've all been waiting for - the perfect Lottie day with no rain or wind though it quickly got frickin' freezing once it turn 4.30!
Andrew has been working away on this plot every now and then (proud wife) and the well rotted horse manure that he is mulching with is glorious, sexy stuff :)
Two wheelbarrows and two trugs of clearing done (that's just me) and a traditional subway sandwich - it looks like we're back! Next time I'll take my 'proper camera' and not just rely on my phone *blush*

Happy plotting, love

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Coming Back

The fresh beauty of today did something to efface from my mind the grim and desolate impression winter has left upon my soul. The sky was blue (what!?) and though chilly, it was an invigorating energy in the air that made me want to linger in the garden for the first time since autumn.

I think I'm on the verge of coming back; writing, taking photos, drawing incredible plans (haha) etc. My heartfelt thanks for your patience over autumn and winter; I hope I can entertain you a little as Spring grabs a hold on me :)

It feels very bizarre to be back on Blogger, subtle things have changed in the publishing and typing sentences is a peculiar feeling as I am much more comfortable these days with writing journals and snail mail letters. It will all come back to me I am sure. Plus I truly must make an effort to read some blogs I follow; I am much more into books and tend to use this laptop only for yoga classes on YouTube *blush*

Bye for now

Thursday, 5 November 2015

What became of me

It wasn't intentional that I close the lid on my laptop and walk away from my blog, but life has a habit (at least for me) of getting on top of me, crushing all my joy and anything that gives me a sense of purpose.

All the times I've truly felt good have gone by too soon. For now life is endured in between the acute anxiety that can't be rationalised away and the bouts of depression that turn me into this creature, so useless, so difficult to be around, so pointless. I have even begun to fear happiness as I worry how long it will last this time and how long the fallout will be.

Take last weekend for example...[extract from notes taken]

'It's been a beautiful day, one of those fab crisp sunny autumnal ones - perfect for being outside and immersed in nature. In short, an allotment day and I hate the way it makes me feel. Here I write in the dark, having just awoken from another 'I'm too depressed to cope' two hour nap. I'm cold, I'm wearing the same pjs I've worn night and day for a week and I so desperately wish I could touch a switch and my life would quietly stop. I know that isn't the way it happens but, I've dreamt of it most my life....and suddenly I feel so ashamed and slightly angry with myself. I can't think straight any more and this bumbling must stop, I am too pathetic as it is without writing about it, indulging in it.'

I'm sure I'm not like this deep inside; corners of my mind are quick, artistic, interested, wishing to learn, wishing to do, longing to trust people. In short somewhere within this rotting lump is a quivering flame of hope. That's obvious by that very act of getting up each morning, even if it is to sit on the sofa all day.


Okay so I wrote the above in fits and starts over the past few weeks and I am glad to tell you that the depression, if not the anxiety, is lifting. Goes to prove how terrifying the thoughts of suicide are... a permanent solution to a temporary state of mind.

back garden november ~ - an allotment blog
grim weather
I have great news - its shitty weather so no allotment guilt. I have a review of some fab pruners started and a new RHS book arrived to review too, goodness know when I'll get round to reading it!

It will all take me a good deal of time to get down on paper but slowly, with a hell of a lot of patience and kindness towards myself, I hope to be back writing soon.

With Love
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