Wednesday, 15 April 2015

I built a storage bench

During the winter months some nasty little pilferers took our lovely kidney shaped wooden bench from right off our plot, gah! What with that and the fact that our storage box looked to be falling apart, I was utterly delighted when Keter asked me if I would like to review their Eden Storage Bench. That it was called Eden (like our Allotments and the village they are in) tickled me pink and you just know the answer I gave, with much gratitude.

Keter Eden Storage Bench on the plot ~

*** A few weeks later ***
I was really glad Andrew happened to be home when the most massive of delivery lorries pulled up outside our home, blocking the light like a solar eclipse! And voilĂ  - there it was, on a free pallet too :) (Andrew has since made some use of this free wood - there is no stopping him and his DIY ways)

Keter Eden Storage Bench ~

It was expertly packaged up and oh what joy I had unwrapping it, so much bubble wrap to stomp on!
Keter Eden Storage Bench ~

So we loaded all the parts up into the car and drove right down to the back of the lottie shed. Off loaded here, we were able to get the instruction booklet out and place everything neatly in order of assembly; the only tool needed was a star headed screwdriver = awesome.

Keter had designed this so well that once the basic framework was made (note: frame re-enforced by steel), there was a lot of simple assembly by clicking into place. In many cases it was great to have a helper, especially as I'm not that tall, only have 2 hands and the wind was making the whole experience that wee bit wobblier to begin with.
Building the Keter Eden Storage Bench ~

However sometimes my helper got a little carried away and the DIY King within him broke free. It was not a bad thing at all, with my double vision there were times when the assembly was painfully slow and I was driving myself bonkers with trying to put 10 small screws in to secure the base.
Building the Keter Eden Storage Bench ~

But I loved making it and as I did so it was easy to sense the strength of the piece and know that it was well designed and sturdy. These are feelings you may not get when you think it's plastic and not solid wood. This is going to be a fabulous asset on the plot, with lots of lockable storage space, long lasting plastic material, strength enough to comfortably hold 2 people, their dog, plus picnic and a nice finish without painting every season.

Maggie and I relaxing on the Keter Eden Storage Bench ~

10 out of 10.

Now we just have to hope that no one steals it *rolls eyes*


Monday, 13 April 2015

Finally planting the potatoes

Okay friends, let's talk about the Easter week work we Gaults achieved at the allotments; if I don't get it documented I have a terrible fear I'll forget - I have been super forgetful the past few months, thank goodness for cameras and camera phones!

Remember I showed you the two spud varieties we had chitting beside one another? The ones on the right were hollow to the touch and had been in a too hot environment for too long; they were Sharp's Express. As Flighty rightly pointed out, we could have planted them and probably had a good crop, but as we were only planting two rows this year, Andrew wanted healthier looking specimens and thus we planted the Pentland Javelin lot instead.

So, first task on our Easter break was planting those spuds (a little later than we usually do due to the poor weather, but it won't make much difference to the end product). I stood by with  my camera and Andrew did the hard grafting :) Here he is preparing the soil...
preparing the potato bed ~
* Using an adaza to make a nice deep V trench
* Flattening out the bottom with a spade 
* Adding a layer of good fertile wormy manure to the bottom

planting rows of potatoes ~
* Next the potatoes were placed about a foot apart (chitted eyes upwards) onto the yummy manure
* Lastly some organic blood, fish and bone was lightly scattered into what would be the back fill

two ridged rows of potatoes ~

And here are our spuds for the coming season. Two rows all planted and ridged up; looks a little like two burials but I promise no animals or indeed humans were buried in the making of this blog post! 

PSB, Maggie and blue anemones ~
Plus here is a sweet little vignette of some other lovelies spotted on the plots that day. We cut the biggest of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and ate it that night - gorgeous!!! Maggie was very vigilant in her supervision of our activities and these lovely blue anemones opened up in the sunshine.

Hugs and love - more soon
Plus a hearty thank you to those who commented on my last post xx

Sunday, 12 April 2015


My levels of anxiety are at fever pitch these days. It's pretty much continuous until I fall asleep, exhausted. I do take sedatives but they only make it slighter easier, in that I don't scream or punch things (myself included).

So the very fact that I was at the allotment at all this past week is somewhat a testament to my bloodymindedness, my grit, my moxie. I have worked every day and though my contributions may pale in the sight of Andrew's, in a way they are that much greater.

I am free and easy to write about having chronic depression and acute chronic anxiety. But did you know that if you were sitting here beside me I wouldn't be able to speak at all? If I even tried it would be so quiet, so mumbled you wouldn't hear me. On those rare days like today when I can write, I can express myself and feel like I am actually talking to someone, it feels a little less of a lonely life. But you don't see the fear in my eyes, you don't see me shaking as I type.... 

But enough, I am a fighter and you shall metaphorically 'hear' me roar this coming catch up week.....

Oh, I have stories from this Easter week, my friends! Stories of great progress made on both the two half plots (24a and 14b), that there are loads of seedlings in the greenhouse, that we have been eating produce we've grown, of Maggie's continued cuteness and the revelation that I built a bench! 

I shall write about them all with joy in my heart and I do hope you can spare a moment to share in the journey with us.

Love and hugs

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Just so you know...

I'm working so hard at the allotment plots I haven't the energy to write up what we have achieved over the last days. Watch this space :)

Maggie and me at the lottie - ''
Photo taken by Andrew with our super cool old polaroid camera (Supercolour 670AF)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Greenhouse and Ecotherapy

Well here she is - our beautiful little lean to greenhouse :) Oh how long my poor hubby has waited for a more permanent greenhouse than those little plastic covered ones you buy and have to throw away after one year. This is a true treat! I have a feeling that he may even have named it, but that's between him and the greenhouse ;)

As you can see it's not that big but it is marvellous (size isn't everything); just the way it fits so perfectly under the shed guttering and still there's room between it and our back garden fence so a cold frame and lots of pots could sit there and we'd have a full little nursery :) The plastic is sturdy and thick and though it was all flat pack, Andrew didn't have any problems at all; it was up in a jiffy.

The hubby also made the tiered shelving yesterday whilst I sat and watched - there was a lot of geometry going on which would have made my brain melt if I'd paid attention, but luckily I know maths and I are fierce enemies, I just don't go into it's territory. Anyway, I'm so proud of him, it fits so neatly and there's a feeling of lots of growing space now.

Above: Super happy little broad bean seedlings

Below : Our potato collection.
* On the right are our Sharp's Express which chitted perfectly but then the weather went a bit nuts on us and there was much rain, gales and even frost so they are dried out and useless :(
* On the left lies our hope of spuds this year now, they're Pentland Javelin and though they aren't fabulously chitted, they will have to do, hoe hum..

So, yep I did nothing to help yesterday at all, whilst Andrew worked and created and planted seeds and what not. No, a big part of Ecotherapy (at home or the allotments) for me is to allow myself to simply sit and breathe. The very act of being outside can be such a push that it is therapy enough to merely experience nature. Look past those weeds, ignore the work that needs done and instead listen. Listen to the trees rustle, the birds singing, the voices of others, your own heartbeat. And just be in the moment.

That's not what I did today, my friends! But it's what I needed yesterday and I feel all the better because of it :)

Love and Hugs

Monday, 30 March 2015

'The One-Pot Gourmet Gardener' Book review

It's a fact; I instantly fell in love with 'The One-Pot Gourmet Gardener' as soon as I unwrapped it. The texture of the front cover, the feel of the pages - pure quality. It's a beautifully written, straight forward guide which will get everyone hopping from foot to foot ready to grow their own yummy meals in their own backyard.

(N.B. with these recipes, illustrations and photographs your mouth will water and you'll simply drool like a fool, read with caution and preferably whilst alone, haha)

'the one-pot gourmet gardener' book~

With this genius book in your hands there are no excuses to not grow your own and fall deeply in love with the experience. All you need is a balcony or patio with room for a pot or two and you're set. No worries about digging up your garden or having to have an allotment.

No prior knowledge about vegetable gardening is needed; Cinead McTernan has it all laid out in easy step by step stages; the variety of vegetable best suited for pot gardening, best type and size of pot, tools needed, best compost, where to place your pot, how to sow or plant up seedlings and caring for your babies and harvesting/storing them.

'the one-pot gourmet gardener' book (2) ~

Goodness if you'd recently been hit over the head by a galvanised watering can and woke up with no gardening experience at all, this book would have you sorted in no time.

'the one-pot gourmet gardener' book (3) ~

Then we come to the best part...Unlike many cook books, this contains recipes you will actually want to grow the ingredients for and you can!! There are picnic foods, soups and salads, quick suppers, tasty accompaniments, plus drinks and puds. All achievable, easy and super impressive looking. More than that however, each recipe details the best variety of seed, size of pot and soil conditions, when and exactly how to plant up your pot, when to harvest and then a gorgeous recipe.

'the one-pot gourmet gardener' book (4) ~

I recommend this book to everyone! No matter what, these pots look stunning and are edible - put one buy your front door or under the kitchen window, let's see a revolution in gardening where it isn't all bedding plants in pots.

Published by Frances Lincoln Limited
Written by Cinead McTernan
Photography by Jason Ingram
Out on the 2nd April

To order One-Pot Gourmet Gardener at the discounted price of £12.99 including p&p;
p* (RRP: £16.99), 
telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG311. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Love Carrie

Brother Handheld Garden Label Printer

Since my last post it's all gone down hill in the Gault household; we have been hit by a plague of phlegm and my poor hubby has a chest infection. As he is the driving force on all things allotment, his sickness (and boy it's bad) has meant that nothing has gotten done, not a seed sown, not a bed weeded, not our new greenhouse loved and photographed. *sad face*

As you all know I do allotmenteering as a form of therapy and coupling that with a horrendous mental health bout since the start of the year, well, I haven't been much use. I need my hubby to get me out of the house, to encourage and support and he has simply been too ill.

So it's been a good time to review the Brother GL-H105 Handheld Garden Label Printer 
I was sent. Nothing much like being crafty and trying to organise oneself and be of use. Okay, so none of the seeds are planted yet but there's no harm in being prepared :)

This fun and rather easy to use handheld label printer has many applications in the allotment world, from labelling seeds, to marking your tools and of course writing those jam jar labels. Plus it is resistant to drizzle, easy to grip and has a sharp cutting tool built in.

It is a little hard to get used to the keypad as it is alphabetical rather than laid out like a keyboard and working out the length of label you need took me a little practise, but what you get is a very sticky, robust label with perfectly clear lettering in un-smudge-able ink.

There are 3 type sizes and with the help of the really easy to use instruction leaflet and large screen display you can create simple borders and very fancy ones too (especially for those handmade jams and pickles you gift to friends). I'm afraid I fell for the sweet flower border as you can see but I did resist the many emoticons, plus I decided to stick to bold print when there were a lot of fancy print types tempting me.

The lightweight printer takes 6 AAA batteries and there are 4 widths of tape, 3.5, 6, 9 and 12mm available in a variety of colours. The tape lasts a surprisingly long time too and in my photographs I have the 12mm black on white. I really would recommend this largest size.

Fun though it is for the garden/allotment (or ideally in commercial nurseries where many trays/pots are being labelled in a batch). I do see this as unrestricted to horticultural purposes; as a crafters product, a practical tool in the office or any situation where you wish to label something neatly!

Dear friends, I warn you, if you are lucky enough to get one of these as a gift you will find it fun and dare I say it, slightly addictive. And it will nestle well with all your other necessities in seed sowing :)

Much love

Many thanks to Brother and to Robyn from Citypress for sending me this model to review x

Thursday, 19 March 2015

March at the Plots

Saturday saw a great change in my allotment activity; instead of merely writing about it as it seems I have been doing for a while now, I went and worked.  Maggie supervised as usual, she's a slave driver though you wouldn't know it from her cuteness :) (She has had her hair cut since this photo!)
maggie ~

The plot (24a) didn't know what had hit it, I can tell you.

24a ~
Whilst Andrew was working is redesign magic over in 14b I ripped, tugged and destroyed every blasted weed on the other plot.  It may not sound like much but in almost 2 hours the place was a spotless dream and my big pink trug was almost full (that's about a zillion weeds right there). I didn't even wear gloves, that's how hardcore it was!

Here are some sexy photos of our purple sprouting broccoli which seems really healthy this year :) Plus there are wonderful fat buds on our apple trees, blueberries and the garlic is well on it's way - happy times.

purple sprouting broccoli - 24a ~

happy buds and garlic bulbs- 24a ~

Pity the place was practically empty and still, STILL, the plots beside us are over grown wildernesses. (Though kindly a volunteer group strimmed them back). I could squeak with anger and occasionally do, at the thought of these people who just purchase a plot and do nothing with them. Gggrrr. There is a waiting list for genuine people who really want a plot!

Anyway, on Andrew's part he laid out then drew an amazing picture on top of a photo to illustrate the progress and planning for 14b. You can just tell he's a senior archaeologist and well trained in the art of capturing the scientific detail of places ;) 

Andrew's fab instagram/ drawing ~

OK so this may need a little interpretation, haha. The pink square denotes my 2 flower beds and the brown is the edible forest garden. All the yellow lines are box plants making up a four part parterre; the two on the left will be asparagus beds, then there's the rhubarb bed you can see and finally the back right bed is for squashes. Hurrah!! 

Now it's down to the planting of seeds...

Hugs and love

Friday, 13 March 2015

Spring is umm... springing

It's only a wee change but these brighter blue skied days are making me feel a tiny bit happier :) The gorgeous little tete-a-tetes in the back garden cheer my soul like they do every year but somehow I simply feel overwhelmed. It sounds rather stupid but the thought of spring (this year) has me worried about all the work that needs done and the fact that I haven't been able to help.

happiest in yellow ~

I haven't been at the allotment for goodness knows how many weeks now and Andrew has been working hard and getting loads done. I am so proud of him. He took a photo of all my other tete-a-tetes down there for me and brought home another glorious harvest of our leeks.

last of the leeks  ~

Andrew planted our first seeds of the season - 'Aguadulce' Broad Beans and I tried to be enthused, take photos and everything but not once, until now, have I thought about them.
planting the broad beans ~

Back home he was out in the shed, clearing room for new seed trays and found some more perfectly well stored beetroots too, yum! And talking about seed tray room, we have great news - we have a greenhouse coming our way soon .... Hoorah :)

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Plot plan 24a

Patience is a virtue that has just about been completely depleted in this house. We're getting ants-y; even Maggie can't stand still and she attacked the rug this morning in a cry for help. It's the weather see, it's just not cooperating and we can't get to the Lottie or get planting seeds yet when it's so damp, cold, windy and frosty/snowy.

There is of course the fact that I am sleeping all night and practically all day these days. I have utter exhaustion and finding out it's March already was a shock. I reckon I have slept the equivalent of a month this year already. It's not good but I see the Dr in a couple of days again - fingers crossed for help and answers.

So what can one do when one is so very impatiently waiting for the bloody weather to get it's act together? One plans, schemes and makes colourful drawings of what is going to happen once someone changes the sky and injects me with dangerously nuclear grade caffeine.

I desire to be a tornado of productivity.

24a plot plan ~ ''

Okay, so this isn't the best plan I have ever drawn but under the circumstances of super sleepiness and thus worse double vision than usual, I'm rather pleased it makes sense at all. Naturally it is very much subject to change ;)

Much love

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Nothing else matters

Every now and then, when you aren't looking for it, you hear a piece of wisdom that not only makes sense but eases the soul and gives one hope. After sharing a little of how I am feeling these days I have felt rather fragile, somehow exposed but at the same time a wee bit proud of myself. Yep, I have a menagerie of all the emotions swirling around in my head; 'all the feels', as the cool kids say.

Last night I finally got to see the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and though exhausted and depressed I did like it and found it slightly uplifting.

In the film Dame Judy Dench's character writes a blog, which naturally caught my attention. How appropriate then that when she was writing at one point and I was interested in her personal thoughts she said this..

Evelyn: The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. [...] We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.

To be honest, to hear it in reference to others I utterly believe the sentiment and I guess that means I'm not a complete failure either, like I view myself. I'm a fighter, I get up everyday and I do my best and well it just felt good to hear that.

I just thought I'd share it, for all those who think life isn't going their way, that each venture so far hasn't turned out how they hoped - you aren't failing at this adventure called life, as long as you keep going and simply do your best.

With much love

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A glimpse into chronic Depression

The beautiful blue sky contrasts so well with the dense darkness inside me. The wind blowing and refreshing everyone out there is just a little mocking as I lie here still in my PJs on the sofa with a blanket over my head. I can't face the world, there is too much shame and frustration in this broken soul of mine. I hide.

Once I was intelligent and fun, interested in the world. Today I am finding it difficult to think past the humming I hear in my head and the utter confusion. I don't even want to talk out loud; it takes such effort and sounds strange.

Depression is tearing my life apart these days and not even the sweet snowdrops fill my heart with hope. Two stunning bunches of tulips are in the hall, usually my heralds of spring and hope but I can't look to the future, no not even an hour ahead, it fills me with such utter emptiness. I can't cope with these feelings of purpose-less, of always fighting, hoping one day I'll feel my life has actually started.

Imagine a day where the sun shines and you just can't get your act together to go outside. The thought of washing and/or dressing is just insurmountable, plus you couldn't bare anyone to see you.. you're only best inside hiding, not embarrassing yourself or others. Just you and these terrible thoughts and feelings that no one can fix or make sense of...

snowdrops at Springhill ~ '

If you've even gotten through to this point, I've turned off comments on this post. I'm actually a little embarrassed to share such utter weakness but I really needed to be cathartic today 

Carrie xx

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ecotherapy for Valentine's Day

We don't fall for the highly commercialised Valentine's Day trappings anymore. We used too, we used to love it but this was our 17th one together and so no cards, extortionately over priced roses/gifts or super fancy dinners for us.

No, we decided to engage with each other and share the day in the beauty of nature. Holding hands and walking around Tollymore Forest with Maggie was, for us, the greatest way to say I love you.

We took our favourite trail, the red one which allows us to be around trees and the river both, oh the feeling of walking and listening to the rush of the water and the songbirds is heavenly. At the start of the trail to can see some of the remains of the old domain, beautiful walls and bridges, plaster work etc.
Tollymore 1 ~ ''

There isn't a great deal of colour about in Feburary but it made it extra beautiful when we did come across some berries or the last of the still on tree leaf out of a long period of brown and green.....
Tollymore 2 ~ ''

These are one of two sets of stepping stones across the calmer parts of the river. Goodness I remember being so nervous as a child going across these, they are quite wide apart (it was good to hear other children laughing and screaming trying it themselves).

Right by the river there is also an magical building called the Hermitage, it can be walked through on one side but the real joy is seeing it from the other side of the river...
Tollymore 3 ~ ''
This is a true treasure for Andrew and myself...We wouldn't dream of doing it now; carving into a poor tree, but 15yrs ago! Andrew posted a sign of our love for all to see on this huge beech tree. We searched for a good while around a large clump of trees, all of which were heavily vandalised by love but it was after only a good walk further that we saw ours, standing alone, slightly raised and not another mark on it. Gosh I wonder at all those declarations and how many ended so happily as ours. ***

love heart Tollymore ~ ''

It's tradition whenever we are at any place like this with forest, river and wooden bridge, that we play Poohsticks (you know, from the A.A.Milne 'Winne the Pooh' books). Andrew has this knack for winning and as usual he did so again - look at that winner's smile :)
Pooh Sticks Tollymore ~ ''

The trail then heads upwards into the hills, the trees so dense in places it's black in amongst them. I love the mixture here of huge pines and deciduous trees with all the bracken and some primroses yet to flourish again. The air up here is cold and catches in your throat but it is oh so clear and all one can hear is the crunch beneath one's feet and the quiet rumbling of the river, now left below. Look hard up in the hills - snow! I know it's not much but that is pretty much an Irish mountain range you're looking at in the distance. lol.
Tollymore 4 ~ ''

We couldn't have timed our return to the car park any better - just in time for the sunset through the forest and the clouds clearing away for some beautiful blue sky.

Tollymore Sunset ~ ''

After this walk we were hungry and found a lovely bar/restaurant in Dundrum called The Buck's Head were we did have an impromptu but perfectly delicious Valentine's dinner, only is wasn't a set menu and the prices were fair ;)

Home to bubbles (yay) and a film.

Hugs and love to all

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

the 14b Plan :)

The wait is over! I can feel the tension, the excitement bursting forth as, yes, the plan for 14b has been drawn up and you dear reader are about to see it in all its colourful glory!

Ta dah!
awesome 14b plot plan ~

Of course the blasted weather here in Northern Ireland is keeping us out of action and we are a pair of annoyed and frustrated allotmenteers. Luckily we haven't turned to the demon drink but darn it its miserable and so cold a wee dram would be divine.

However, movement has happened in the form of shopping for plants:
1 We have just gotten better quality (but equally cheap) Sharp's Express seed potatoes.

2 We bought and planted two of the three main fruit trees for the awesome sounding edible forest garden; a Conference pear and a Regina cherry. I am holding out for a Damson as the third, fingers crossed

3 New green gooseberry bushes and redcurrants are looking lovely and healthy there just outside on the patio for now

Andrew was brave\foolish? enough to make a visit to the plots on Sunday. He got those two trees in to ground he had prepared the weekend before last, but apart from that all he could do was mulch, cover beds and come home almost completely frozen.

As for me personally, well I'm still very poorly after my breakdown but I a stubborn girl and will keep fighting (even if that means, paradoxically, forcing myself to do nothing). At least, and in a way thank goodness, the weather is bad as I couldn't go to the Lottie anyway! Instead I am reading a lot, watching movies and listening to Maggie snore.

Until next time my lovelies

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Shrub rose pruning / All or nothing

So as it is with the world, after Saturday came Sunday and we returned to the plots. See once I get started on a topic I get rather excited and there is so much to be done on 14b; work were I can feel useful and productive, even it is mainly clearing away at the moment.

But to start the afternoon off I did some proper gardening, I learnt how to prune a shrub rose bush. Oh boy you can't possibly understand how great it felt to learn and then be left to do the pruning and mulching. Generally I'm too nervous to do things like that, terrified I'll mess it up, but I didn't and the bush looks happy and healthy again!! Eek!

Main points I remember:

* Make sure secateurs are sharp and cut at a slight diagonal
* Get rid of dead branches and tips
* Prune away all blackspot infected branches
* Prune to an outwards facing bud keeping the centre open (so air can circulate through bush)
* Remove branches that are crossing, as rubbing will lead to infections
* Cut back long spindly growth to encourage new growth from base.
* Lift up all dead leaves (they may harbour disease)
rose pruning - ''
rose pruning
I don't believe I have ever deceived anyone into thinking I'm a 'real gardener', Andrew is the head gardener, I'm the helper\ photographer\ the one who is there for therapy. Dare I say it though...I felt so proud of myself; I'm growing.

We worked for 3 hrs straight and left exhausted! Andrew planted lots of blackthorn and whitethorn hedging plants and prepared for edible forest area. More about that later... Plus he lifted all the dahlia tubers and put them trays to dry out in the shed.

dahlia tubers - ''
half of the dahlia tubers lifted
I wrestled with the clearing of the long raspberry bed (which shall become one of my flower beds. Aarggh the roots of those blasted devils are a nightmare to get out, if I hadn't been for the laboured panting I would have been cursing them so loudly!!

clearing out the raspberry plants - ''
clearing the raspberry bed
However, I received a reprieve as the sun went down and the temperature dramatically dropped; we packed up, lifted a sleepy Maggie and left for home.

fave sights - ''
fave sights - especially Maggie eating a biscuit

Sadly it has turned out I pushed myself too hard. I didn't know how bad until Monday when I couldn't think straight,walk or talk. I slept most of the day and yesterday was better but still poor. Today I think frustration is pushing me on but I certainly have limits. Luckily it's dark, snowing and cold and we got our new sofa delivered's embracing ought to be easy to drift off and sleep\ heal.

Hugs and love to you all
Carrie x
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