Sunday, 25 January 2015

Saturday - An OK day

Wow, I really didn't think I would get to write a title like that for a heck of a while. However today was indeed, OK :) The depression did not win and the anxiety was under control - maybe it was even BETTER than OK...

** To begin with we slept in late, oh I love my sleep ;) Then we had breakfast, made coffee and started our hour of birdwatching for the RSPB Birdwatch Weekend. This year we really did have a good time which sounds so geeky but I swear it was glorious so see the crazy amount of feathered friends that come to feed in our garden. We had seeds, peanuts and fat balls and all stations were busy.

RSPB birdwatch sheet ~ ''

** After that we visited Ballylagan organic farm, farm shop and tea room that (to our surprise) is just up behind Carrickfergus; embarrassingly it's been open since 1999 but we only heard about it earlier this week. Yep, it was the ever knowledgeable Mamma G that pointed us in the right direction. It's fabulous and for purely academic reasons we had to have cake and coffee = thumbs up.

** Then the best bit - we went to the Lottie. It was my first time there this year to actually work and not just to glance round it and go home. I had my lucky favourite socks on, many layers and my farmers' hat (or flat cap, that I bought in the farmers' shop). For only being there an hour, when the sun went down, we managed surprisingly a lot, well I did, Andrew did a lot of chatting to a friend ;) In his defence though he is the head gardener and has been there a few times already this year.

Me on the allotment ~ ''

** His other, earlier visits have seen the apples cut back and training started, the autumn raspberries cut down and the whole back of 24a mulched. 14b also has lots of new Blackthorn hedglings planted and a windbreaker all a long the left side. It's becoming annoying to my brain that that plot is spilt in a different way than our other one.

14b ''
First before and after photo of the year :)

** I focused on the flower bed and got it almost completely weeded and removed a plant of two that weren't happy. More to do tomorrow. In the plans for this season (our 8th year!) is for me to have 2 long thinner cut flower beds and I'm going to learn more about their care and maintenance :) The new plans will soon be drawn out to share with you, you know I love a good plan.

YES - cut flower bed seeds ~ ''

Home to a steaming bowl of tomato and chilli soup, a shower and a wee whisky..

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Just like a bulb...

...I hibernate; with no expectations being made of me, waiting for the winds to change and life to become a more settled environment. Then I shall hopefully find that the sun and some TLC will bring me forth into life and once again I shall bloom.

I have been finding this new year, thus far, one of deep depression and confusion. The big questions playing on loop in my head are: what is my purpose? where is my voice? what has happened to my creativity? I haven't got any satisfactory answers yet and so I continue to wrestle and find myself utterly exhausted. 

One thing I am doing and getting some satisfaction from is decluttering. I'm getting rid of lots of things in my life, really old shoes, my old photography work, music CDs, books I didn't like and yes, even blogs from my reading list. I'm trying to be tough and simply get rid of that which I don't need, don't want, don't like anymore. There is a little weight lifted each time I say goodbye.

Andrew, Maggie and I have also started to do after dinner walks in all sorts of weather and slowly they shall get longer and longer. Next week I'm back into yoga too - I'm hoping I can learn to respect myself more through the dedication and slow improvements.


Allotment wise ~

Well our field is a wind tunnel at the best of times so imagine it today, we had gusts up to 42 mph! Plus it's just been so damn damp and cold there that, though we have made quick visits, it's not suitable for doing any work. We happily still have leeks, chard, parsnips and the purple sprouting broccoli looks good :)

The local nursery has been closed until this week and the other one we visit is still trying desperately to de-christmasify itself  = buying seeds and supporting local shops has been proving difficult. Still, you know me, I have my flower seeds all picked out and think I'll go with a smallish online shop. Andrew needs asparagus crowns too, so he'll also be shopping online. Oh we have such plans!

 *** P.S. NOW is a great time for pruning your fruit bushes and for training trees into shape. ***

Hugs and love and I hope you too are plotting, planning and scheming for a good year ahead 
Your Carrie x

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell 2014

Is it just me or is the fact, yes FACT! that it will be another whole new year tomorrow really rather shocking?? I can't begin to think what it has in store but I am looking on it in a positive, open minded way. Andrew and I shall march forward and conquer our little list of goals we have written down and 2015 shall, I declare, be the year we LOVE OUR LOTTIE. It's a movement, a state of mind, I hope you shall join us.

Over the past few days we have been doing some lovely things....

On Monday we took Mamma G with us to Carnfunock for a lovely walk. We have been so lucky with our weather, no snow and only the slightest bit of frost so the days have been gloriously still, cold and rosey cheek making :) We were quite overjoyed watching some squirrels run about chasing each other and seeing so many little birds active and eating from the many fat balls in the trees. I didn't have may telephoto lens but this (I swear) is a squirrel...

The gardens were closed which was a downer as I really wanted to see what they had that was looking good this time of year but, hey the trees, the sunset and the moon were gift enough.

After our walk we had coffee and scones in the nearby Ballycastle Hotel which was so cosy and christmasy, if you discount the haunted turret and the terrible myth that goes with it...oooohh


Yesterday we went to the allotment! I know, I couldn't tell you the last time I was there! But shockingly it looks good :) All the work we did at the end of autumn really paid off..we even have food ready to eat (leeks) and purple sprouting broccoli doing well (we'll surely get some this season). There are big plans afoot for 14b so stay tuned, it's going to be a good allotment year!

Maggie - from Carrie's instagram account

And remember :

Hugs and love and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Carrie xx

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Holidays

I engage in far too much negative thinking during winter. I end up with the darkness and the miserable weather invading my heart and causing it to be such a sorrowful place. It's very difficult to fein joy at this time; my chronic depression doesn't take a break and my acute anxiety goes into overdrive. I rarely go out, preferring to hide within a book and my blanket. Plus I don't really like to see the bare bones of the landscape, the deathly looking trees and the bare soil - it all seems too much like a skeleton, without life or hope there of.

However, Edith Sitwell said "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home". I love this quote and could not wish you, dear reader, anything more than this sweet feeling of contentment. It is my dream to feel it deep in my soul myself, here at home with my hubby and little Maggie.

Our gifts are wrapped, we have a carol concert to attend this evening and Mamma G is coming to spend Christmas dinner with us - the sloe gin has been an absolute triumph this year and the champagne is chilling in the fridge for 'jingle fizz' cocktails in the morning - hehehe. No matter my mood, we shall have a cosy home full of love and good food, may you have the same xxx

The holiday harvest was taken from the Allotment today...parsnips, leeks, kale (we don't do sprouts!)
Andrew's photo collage :)
If the weather permits I hope to back there at 24a before the year is out! Until then my friends....

A heartfelt thank you to all who commented on my last post, we are healing, slowly x

With love

Friday, 12 December 2014

Getting back to normal

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break"
Shakespeare -  from Macbeth

We lost Andrew's sister on the evening of the 29th and have been numb ever since it. There shall always be a missing element and particularly at this time of year when it is so natural to think of ones family and being together. But we are thankful her fight is over and her life ended (though much too soon) peacefully.

This week has seen a return to the more common path that Andrew and I have walked together for many years. He has returned to work, housework is being done, Maggie getting tickles etc. We have no decorations up, it doesn't feel right but tomorrow shall be busy with Christmas present buying.

Thank you for your comments and best wishes from the last post.

Love Carrie

Thursday, 27 November 2014

I'm still here

It's been a long time since I wrote to you my lovely friends. I hope that in my absence you have all been well, merrily busy with Christmas plans and just plain content in your souls. Anyone out there who has also written a blog recently - I promise I will try to get caught up with your adventures as soon as I can.

My dears I am afraid I have had problems with my medication and ended up in minor anaphylactic shock some weeks back, it's taken a while to recover and on top of that I have started another new medication and in the meantime have had a bit of a nervous breakdown. Lordy, it doesn't rain but it pours. Today is the first day in a goodly while where I have been able to look after myself and think sort of straight.

I feel I would also like to share that fact that a close relative has/is going through hell. It was late in day when this dear person found out they had Cancer, it fact they were to discover that it was already in many places in the body and was a particularly aggressive kind. The future looks bleak and thus I haven't felt like writing, nor will I feel like it for a time, sometimes the allotment simply isn't important.

Oh a side note Andrew and I have been nesting in our lovely home and trying to cope with the stresses and worries by making the kitchen, dining room and living room more beautiful and less cluttered. It is wonderful to have these distractions. Here is where I can introduce some colour and light into this post and share a treasury I did on the theme of our paint choice for the kitchen - 'Overtly Olive'. It's a simple and silly thing I love to do on Etsy, making these treasuries as they are called.

Much love and best wishes. I hope to be in a position to write again in the next weeks but until then, tell those that matter you love them, fill your lives with joyous and even silly pursuits and simply enjoy each day as it comes xxxxx

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Winter Warmers

A hot chocolate made with lots of froth and a cheeky little gingerbread man are the things I need right now. Oh and a blanket and for everyone to stop driving around and making noise and for me to have a wee dose....

It ain't happening and holy moly a huge stream of light just reflected off the window of the house across and way and I'm temporarily blinded. Still typing though, I'm awesome like that :) lol

Although work was achieved on the plots at the weekend I want to share with you those things that made me feel all warm inside, literally and figuratively. Sometimes I feel there are just too many photos of soil and muck and rain on the internet at this time of year that I feel it my duty to liven things up.

First we simply must talk about the new gas heater in the shed and if you haven't got one - get one, they are fabulous. We also recently purchased a new 'welcome' mat and another blanket - you can't have too many blankets. The whole shed has been cleared out and now there is space again to sit and indeed be warmed by the fire.

Maggie had her jumper on but she couldn't truly feel the benefits of the new heater as all the good smells and interesting noises were outside the shed. In the end she was a wee shivering wreck and went to guard the car by sleeping really hard on the back seat.

Here are a few photos from around the sites near by. Top row ~  One stubborn and glorious dwarf sunflower, still lots of cosmos about and a rudbeckia from 14b. Bottom row ~ one of our sunflowers with the seeds well and truly being devoured by the birds, a sweet sort of weed in the main path (I love everything with colour at this time of year) and a snail, yep he was inside there sleeping, I felt suddenly that snails have it right - carry a cosy house around wherever you go - dastardly clever.

I'll show those photos of messy and then cleared areas some other time but for now, it's cold in this here house and I need a nap with a blanket. Maggie has it right - she's been snoozing like a champion all day so far ( I love her little snores).

Hugs, love and stay warm friends!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Cape Aloe

Are you like me, do you need to know about your plants in detail once they are in your loving embrace? Well, yesterday's delivery of (excuse me but my plant is a girl *blush*) Rosie led me to do some research; I'm sharing most of it here so you too can feel like a professional ;)

*  First I went to the RHS, naturally. They had virtually no information at all, in fact I was so shocked (it was like getting a googleplex) that here is the information they had. 

"What?!" I hear you scream.
"I know" say's I.

I mean even I have known since forever that it exudes a clear gel that eases minor burns, insect bite and rashes. I've heard it alluded about in face care products as great for re-hydration and toning! Come on RHS, look up Google images, Wikipedia even and write something!

*  So next on to the Kew gardens website and lo and behold we have some information..

Cape Aloe is pretty common then and grows in South Africa and Lesotho, though also very common in cultivation like Rosie. It is used for its colourless leaf gel in 'cosmetics, herbal remedies and food supplements' but also, and I didn't know this, for 'a bitter brown leaf exudate'

This bitter brown exudate is prepared from the cut area of mature leaves which are stacked and allowed to drip into a central well. This goop is then concentrated and dried to achieve a dark shiny crystalline form, referred to as 'Cape Aloes' It is taken as a laxative and purgative and may ease arthritis. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME

*  The Eden Project tells us that in it's natural state the single stemmed plant can grow up to 3.5 meters tall! I really don't think my little one will ever get there. The leaves are generally smooth in the centre (though there may be some spikes especially on the undersides) and go out to spikes along the edges, which is where is gets the name Latin name ferox (fierce).

*  So here is Rosie all settled in her new home and loving the camera for me....

And here are the flowers that would be produced been half a chance - pretty spectacular!

Google image 
I lastly leave you a photo of Rosie with her new friend Claude (yes he is a handblown glass snail) and a reminder that my Cape Aloe came as a gift from Jersey Plants Direct.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Mustn't grumble

Okay so I'm not going to lie to you, it's bloomin' nasty out there even though they said today would be nice (nice for November that is). It's sunshiney but good grief the grey patches are like, well, seriously grey.

It seems going by this paint chart that it is literally 'smouldering' out there, smouldering with a little touch of 'celestite' in some areas. I don't like this, I think I shall have to schedule in some time for a cry later, after I finish this post.

So how are you?? What's it like where you are? Have you been able to do any gardening at all or is it all simply a muddy slushy mess like ours?

At times like this I find it's best to just turn away from the windows and look at lovely things online. I put together a lovely collection of gardeny-ness from the Etsy website - do enjoy.

I would very happily have every single thing in this collection, especially the dungarees, I think it's the best form of clothing for the allotment there could possibly be. You could be fighting with the weeds and bending over all afternoon long and never once worry about your bottom being shown off to all who care to glance your way. I must get me some dungarees (though cheaper than £75) - a revolution has begun!


Today I also received a gorgeous Cape Aloe plant from those kind and friendly people from Jersey Plants Direct. They even gave me a really cool information sheet about Cape Aloe history, the benefits of the gel it produces and even the best way to harvest the gel! I am going to read more into this; I'll share my findings: D

I tell you, he is in the kitchen, on the window sill for emergency burns! He's really cheered me up.

So off I go to read the information sheet and then drive into the depths of the internet to find out even more :) We'll all be experts by the end of the week, hahaha. And if you want to name him, I am open to suggestions ;)

Love and hugs

Monday, 3 November 2014

Your Allotment in November

Can you believe it? November is upon us and the clocks have gone back and the shops are filling up with Christmas decorations! I was even looking at coats yesterday and bought a hat, this isn't right, I DON'T do winter.

However, just because all is darkness and cold and rain doesn't mean there aren't things to do in the Allotment and wonderful food there to be harvested. So take those dry moments and run to your patch - here's what you ought to be doing and could be eating.

Plant out your:
* Garlic
* Any fruit bushes or trees you may have purchased
* Get those spring bulbs in the ground, deep down and snuggly warm. You'll thank me later, these first heralds of brighter days are a must for the soul.

Like us you could be eating:
* Celeriac (ours failed this year)
* Carrots
* Chard
* Kale
* Kohl Rabi
* Leeks
* Parsnips
* Pumpkins from out of the storage area

In the past we have also had:
* Brussel Sprouts
* Jerusalem Artichokes
* Scorzonera

Above all else this is the time of year when you get those beds cleared and dug over, adding the organic mulch or manure of your choice. We love the old Horse of Cow poo but have also used seaweed in the last years too. Covering those finished dug and nutrient rich beds is also a great idea. This protects them from frost, an overabundance of rain and allows the soil to stay a little warmer; the good insects and worms etc will love it too and you'll get less weeds.

Fantabulous Quote for the Month ahead :)

There is a part two of this to come as well - more the fun, warm, imdoors type :D

Love and hugs my friends

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

home truths

Do you ever feel like the world has chewed you up and spat you out on the ground, covered in slimy saliva? Well that's exactly how I've been since we came home from our trip to Brittany. Though to be fair, I wasn't all fairy dust and unicorns whilst I was there either.

I'm not good with coping with winter and now the clocks have gone back I'm miserable. I hate these shorter, darker, cold and damp days. I catch everything out there and daren't go to the Lottie as I get so cold and end up with a sore throat etc. Which I have right now.

In a nutshell...winter is wick!

Andrew went to the plots for a little while at the weekend. He dug a bit and he planted our garlic. I love this collage he made to show me his work.

Isn't it fabulous to be growing your own garlic for free each year. These cloves came from some of our best, biggest bulbs lifted earlier in the year.

As for myself at present, I'm working on my Christmas decorations for my other life as 'Oh Cherry Blossom'. It really is keeping me sane and making me feel happier. Though naturally I can hardly believe it's so close to November already and I do sense a little itty bit of pressure to get my creation numbers built up. I am so lucky and so thankful that I have had 3 customers already.

Love to you my dearest reader. I hope to be back soon fired up by plants and all things growourown :)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Baby it's cold outside

The weather! Oh my what a past couple of days; the tail end of an ex-hurricane is more than enough for this girl. It's really starting to feel like the dreaded winter now with the darker nights starting to draw in, the wind having a bite to it and the grey and rainy skies. I believe the clocks may even turn back this Sunday but I try not to listen to such terrible news.

So I wanted to talk about bringing the outdoors inside instead with the use of houseplants and I have a book here that illustrates that idea beautifully.

Those lovely people at Quarto Publishing sent this book for me to review 'Decorating with Plants' by Satoshi Kawamoto. I must say first off that it is a beautiful book to look through and I do believe in the author's ethos of enriching our lives by transforming the way we relate to flora and fauna in everyday life.

The blurb is thus - ' Using his own house as a studio, garden stylist Satoshi Kawamoto guides you around each room in the home, demonstrating how to incorporate a variety of plant life seamlessly indoors.' However, his house we are nosing around is, to me, is unrealistically arty, cluttered and claustrophobic (the step ladder on the front cover is in his dining room for instance). Just my opinion but with my double vision I would not be able to cope to his decorating ideas as presented...but one or two things out of each section - yes I love and would do.

To be extremely honest I just couldn't get into the book and thought the ideas worked the best in his high end shops in Tokyo and New York; here the spaces were urban oases and there seemed a feel of a beautiful jumble of gorgeousness - it would be a delight to find that special something to take home.


Personally (if I wasn't such a liability), I would love more plants indoors but I also encourage the use of fragranced candles, bouquets of flowers and daylight simulation bulbs - they are my go to tricks and they really work.

Hugs and love

Saturday, 18 October 2014

A favourite Garden ~ La Roche Jagu

For no other reason but to annoy me, the weather here at home is dull and grey and there's been plenty of heavy rain. What a contrast from beautiful Brittany, where the weather was at least changeable but generally warmer, brighter for longer and with bluest sky. There were so many singing birds, butterflies, rabbits and birds of prey. The countryside is so rich and even in the rain it looks wild and mysterious.

Ugh, I got them post holiday blues alright! Plus my brain seems to be made of moosh since we came home, I'm really forgetful and slow...

I didn't really take many photos this visit but one place we both adore is La Roche Jagu - Château and gardens.

Please allow me to share some photos with you of my most favourite areas...the vegetable and flower plots. I hope you too gather some inspiration as we have; this is the walk as it happened.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Pruned branches make this sturdy fence and chestnuts are left all over the ground for the squirrels.
* Tiny terracotta pots dangle from fences to act as hidey holes for snails and slugs
* Stones are drilled through and used as weights to hold down and let air through apple tree branches
* Insects have homes on the tops of arches by the climbers

Clockwise from Top left:
* Beautiful roses still in bloom
* The last of the apples in the orchard
* Stunning raised beds
* The air is so clear here high above the river Trieux.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Why not make your insect hotels into sculptures to enliven your space?
* Love the colours of these marigolds with the copper marker posts
* Box hedging used to create big beds full of flowers for the bees
* Leeks looking fabulous - love the slate for plant names

Clockwise from Top left:
* Still with the strawberries!!
* Small terracotta pots as plant markers and stored so sweetly for the winter; love the willow fence
* Love this idea for raised beds, using willow and right up to sitting height
* Beautiful quotes scattered throughout the garden "Each of my perfumes is a portrait of a woman!" Jean-Paul Guerlain 

Clockwise from Top left:
* Green manure of mustard fills one of the unused raised beds
* Visitors' bikes leaning against a beautiful tree
* Pumpkins written into as babies and now scarred with the cafe's name
* Would you look at that sky!!!

And after that, there's nothing better than some homemade cidre, just a little one ;)

The offical website - it does translate

Love, hugs and a friendly 'hello again'

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Must do autumn work

My dear friends, I'm still thinking of you and my Lottie in the wee hours. Our holiday is going super well and the autumn colours are glorious, the fresh food is heavenly and I think everyone ought to spend a little time in Brittany. Hi

Must do jobs for the Autumn

1. Remember to cut your lawn
It's a great idea to get on top of the lawn before the really cold and damp weather sets in. If your grass does get too long as it will be nearly impossible to cut it over the winter. Early to Mid October is the last real window of opportunity to cut it so don't mis out!

2. Plant spring bulbs
If you like the sight of daffodils and tulips in the spring then don’t forget to plant them now. Once you have cleared your borders of perennials and given them a good dig over, this is the right time to get the bulbs in. Also remember to check which way round to put the bulbs as it can alter depending on the type of plant. 

3. Dispose of waste properly
Make space for a fabulous compost heap friends! 
Remember that all those dead plants and grass cuttings will equal free food for your new plants next year and stop you having to go to a nursery with everyone else - nightmare. If your council provides a garden waste collection service stagger what you clear as you could be left with more rubbish than your garden bin can take.

Plus: If you have a lot of trees : leaf mould isn't the greatest of nutrient rich compost but is does contain fungi and micronutrients which conditions the soil keeps moisture in and increases worm activity. It's a fabulous mulch come spring.
4. Protect your pots
Winter frost is the ultimate enemy for your pots, making them crack or cause layers to fall off ( a very common occurrence with terracotta pots). To protect those not in use, put them in the shed up off the ground and prepare cardboard or bubble wrap to wrap them up with . Those being used and left out all year round should be raised up or have wee feet to help fight against plants getting waterlogged.
 5. Protect tender plants
The first frost of the year can arrive without any warning and can kill your favourite foliage. If you have any plants you know are susceptible to cold weather, get them in the greenhouse soon or have fleece at hand.
6. Don't forget to lift certain veg
Early autumn marks the start of the winter-season and the end of the summer-season veg, so don’t forget to do your final summer harvest, and clear the plants away. 

This, oddly enough, is our favourite thing to do and our favorite time of year. There is something truly wonderful about getting the plot back in order and seeing clear soil again. Plus you really don't need any of those nasty grubs and bugs that would eat your now past their best plants to linger in the soil for spring!!
7. Remember to feed the birds and other wildlife
Just because you will be spending less time in the garden over the winter period, it doesn’t mean you're the only one not still craving a tasty nibble by the shed. Continue to feed your birds (any any other visitors you know of) as they will find it hard over the winter to find food, they will thank you for it.
The basis of this post was given to me by in a press realease. They conducted a survey of the top jobs gardeners forget to remember at this time of year.  I've added and subtracted information to make it more me and allotment based :)
Love and  hugs
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