Saturday, 3 December 2016

A damp dander

Times have been tough with my mental health (not helped by these darker mornings and evenings) and the training of Toby. Oh Lord, I had forgotten how frustrating and exhausting teaching a puppy was. A few weeks ago we wondered what we were doing with this little stress maker!
...... But today (I write on Saturday evening) Toby did us proud and broke a few hearts on his second walk ever; he is adorable.

We visited Mount Stewart and walked around the lake there, it's so beautifully planted and works to please at all times of the year. Santa was also visiting but we hadn't booked to see him sadly, though a friendly elf cuddled Toby for a wee minute. I just love how the National Trust staff seem to love dogs and make all their gardens dog friendly with water bowls, free poop bags and places to tie yours up when coffee calls.

There is a micro climate in and around Mount Stewart and though it drizzled and I was cold (2 tops and 2 coats plus a fleecy lined hat) it wasn't a bad day at all. Many varieties of trees there still have their leaves or have very recently dropped them and even the tree ferns are still unsheathed.

I love the Trust's practise of using old and rotten logs as habitats for insects and fungi but this was a new sight - baby rhododendrons planted in this one. They also use fallen or storm damaged limbs/trunks as art and simple benches.

I didn't take that many photos but just wanted to say hello really and this was a good excuse...
And here's my boys :)

I'm going to the allotment tomorrow for a look around so a 'proper' post will follow......Indeed friends, I must apologise for the lack of blogging, truly had I had anything to say or indeed the health to say it I would have been writing more often.

Wishing you well,

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Wild Camping and Toby

I'm not doing too well with the old blog post writing these past months am I? Well to try and remedy that here's another catch up post, non-allotment related I'm afraid but maybe more adventurous instead :)

The weekend of 8th and 9th October, was seen as one of the last opportunities for us to get into the wilds of the Mournes and camp in our lighter tent for the night. I can tell you that this experience has changed the whole West Highland Way hike we have planned for next spring, truly it was a game changer. (I need toilets - I'm a lady!)

It all started out with us arriving at the car park closest to our destination and proceeding to hike with heavier back packs than before, across bog and squelch for a good 40 mins in the wrong direction. The wrong bloody direction! It was made pretty self evident during this time that I really need hiking boots now and my approach shoes aren't cut out for the ankle high water deposits and indeed the streams that one finds in bog land = wet feet and we'd only just begun. On top of that, I had had a horrendous week of mental ill health and had very little strength AND my double vision was simply nightmarish - somebody remind me why I was doing this!

We got on to the right track and thought immediately that this was better but lo! it too turned into a boggy, squelchy, slippery mess by the last third. I'm not really a fan of hearing my foot being sucked down into the earth, haha. But then came the start of the sunset and the sight of the stile over the Mourne Wall and our thus prospected home for the night. I am quite proud to reveal that I picked out our site and the views were beautiful, but there was no shelter and the weather turned out to be the opposite of what the forecast promised! We were in the Col between Slieve Lough Shannagh and just about on the slope of Carn Mountain.

sunsetting -

Col between Carn Mountain and Slieve Lough Shannagh with Mourne wall -
mourne wall and to the right the sunset on  Slieve Lough Shannagh
Sunset on Binnan where we had or last great summit adventure
The tent was up in a jiffy and soon dinner was on in the dark (though we had dessert first cause that's how we roll ), lovely soup with noddles added and a wee bap-  thank goodness for head torches! With this darkness came a huge drop in temperature and soon I had every extra bit of clothing I had on me and was in my sleeping bag shivering like a tent flap in a gale. Lucky I had my new bobble hat :)

tent up on the lower slopes of Carn Mountain -

the lower slopes of Carn Mountain -
pretty soft to lie on - lots of mosses, grasses and gorse
wonderful soup to warm the soul -

Saturday evening was spent playing daft drinking games and and listening to the heavy rain on the thin tent. But Lord, going outside for a pee was a deal breaker; it was so damn cold, wet and windy and pitch black with 'something' moving about out there. I returned to the tent with a tear in my eye - I'm too girly for this sort of nonsense, many nips of whiskey and multiple cups of ginger tea were needed. I think I slept, eventually for about two hours - I was a human icicle.

The next morning was cold! for quite some time but as we were packing up the tent it started to warm a bit and we heard another wild camp group down below us pitched by the lake
- a dad and two girls with their dog, laughing and chasing each other. (We later saw them on the track back to the car park and the dog had his own panniers, probably to carry his own food and essentials!)

lough shannagh
Lough Shannagh 
sparkley sun on Lough Shannagh -
Taken from Carn Mountain -   Lough Shannagh shinning bright with Doan behind it and Binnan in the clouds
Stile over Mourne Wall at the Col of Slieve Lough Shannagh and Carn Mountain -
Stile over the Mourne Wall at the Col
I took some photos and watched as around 20+ people came over that stile into the mountains at ridiculous o'clock. One guy had his crazy dog off the lead and it was worrying a sheep near to death, ggrrr, that make me so angry AND he was half way up Slieve Lough Shannagh in the other direction, completely unaware.

The way back to the car park was slightly treacherous for me due to all the rain during the night and naturally, like the clumsy fool I am, I slipped on a stone hidden in the bog and fell on my face. Oh! me knee, it was badly bruised and had lots of scrapes (still does) but I marched ever onward and sneakily changed into jeans and clean socks and shoes, by the car when no one was looking ;)

Off to find pancakes for breakfast! Lucky we know somewhere open on a Sunday morning which does excellent breakfast :P We chatted merrily about our learning curve.

But the real adventure, the life changing one, happened a few days later. It was Tuesday night to be more accurate and we drove all the way out to Limavady and found ourselves in the huge shed of a man whose dog had had puppies. PUPPIES!! And not just any old puppies -8 wk old mini schnauzer ones (like Maggie was). Eeekk!

The whole way there I was secretly hoping that I wouldn't connect with either of the two boys that remained of the litter, and I really wasn't sure I wanted a boy. But then we saw the little guys and the one in front was so bouncy and licky and excited and Andrew and I just died, died there on the spot, dead. We HAD to take one into our lives.

mini schnauzer puppies! -

And thus, drum roll please.....
We have welcomed Toby into our home and hearts.

Toby! -

An new companion, a new partner in our adventures; a wee dog that has already learnt his name, the command 'sit' and is no longer afraid of leaves. Life through a puppy's eye is magical and all is edible (he's getting better with that), he a fun, cute and intelligent little fellow and I hope he will be with us for a lifetime.

Toby collage -
From Instragram #it'sToby

Love Carrie xxx

Friday, 7 October 2016

Photo update from last weekend

'Things' have not been good inside the head of your exhausted writer, my dear friends. The debilitation of Depression, Anxiety and BPD is real, really real and I have been in my own personal Hades for quite some times now. I rarely talk to anyone or go outside and life without Maggie is still almost unbearable. So forgive me for the lack of blog posts or comments in fact, if you have a blog yourself, I just haven't been able to think properly - I am experiencing a moment of clarity and am devoting it to this space. Little dialogue but lots of photos....these were the plots last Sunday.

24a is the real producer and it was time for some constructive deconstruction (you know I love that), as the courgettes, sweetcorn and climbing french beans are all finished now and needed composting. Sadly all our leeks had bolted too so 'goodbye' (the plot smelt like soup all afternoon!)

14b is the embarrassing little sister, going through her grunge teenage years and so unkempt but beautiful underneath it all. It gifted us some lovely squashes that we are eating now and loving. Here's Andrew's gorgeous photo of them.

Anyway we focused, as I said on the finished veggie beds on 24a and got as much done as we could before I just couldn't take anymore....

I tackled the bean wigwam and weeded the whole bed .I was so happy to find this little fellow/lady? ladybird which I put in a cosy spot on it's leaf. I LOVE ladybirds!

By that stage we stopped for tea and listened to the crazy lady pheasants running and squawking about. Andrew had by this time cleared the last courgette plants (one last wee harvest first!) and all those sweetcorn stalks. The sweetcorn this year was amazing - Swift F1 as always but a great year!

Back to it and the leeks were lifted (sadly) and composted whilst I did some really quite pointless weeding of the paths which had gotten grassy and slippy up by the arch.  I also noted that the broccoli and even the purple sprouting broccoli  had bolted! What the heck!! The carrots had carrot fly *sad face*, but the companion plants were very happy...

Andrew prepared the #1 bed for mulching with our glorious well rotted horse manure, look dear friend, I know you, as a true plotter will appreciate the wonder of our manure bin....

How lovely to watch such hard work, hahaa.

Sadly we didn't get to finish the #2 bed as I needed home but! it was fabulous to be there once again (bar seeing Maggie everywhere and her bowl sitting out for her). I am thankful for the good times and my amazing hubby who never gives up on me. Let's hope we have another nice wee time to treasure this weekend.

Best wishes to you all,
Carrie xx

P.S. Apologises for the poor photos at times, these are all unedited and from my phone (apart from Andrew's one - it's perfect) x

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Conquering Slieve Binnan

We slept in. That's how the day started, oh to sleep in to 11 o'clock is not great when a hiking adventure is in mind. Quickly Andrew's mind went to the negative but I (though feeling awfully depressed and anxious) was determined we would go. We had a mountain to conquer.

Andrew was instantly back on track and we hurriedly packed our rucksacks with the essentials and were on our way, leaving home at 12ish. By this stage I think our friend Gary had possibly been and gone home from an early photography session in the Mournes. Oh the shame, first for our tardiness and second, for the awful weather he had encountered.

And we were eventually at the Carrick Little car park, which by the way, was overflowing and spilling down the wee country road, car parked behind car. But ever the optimist, Andrew drove into the car park proper and there was a beautiful space just for us, right by the track. Off we went.....

The only people we met were coming towards us, all on the their way out of the mountains and off to a lovely late lunch or some such thing. Hiking people are terribly friendly, we all truly appreciate what we have here, the space, the freedom, the escape, even from your own mind. I have yet to meet a grumpy hiker.

There's a fork in the path and at this were we turned left instead of right. Turning left is a big deal, you have a mountain in front of you, a not so great path and the Mourne Wall stretching up into the clouds which you are going to follow and eventually surpass...eventually. I can admit, there was a little lump in my throat as I looked up; you couldn't even see the top.

Around 3 o'clock we had a lovely little family step to one side to let us continue up whilst they checked on their little girl who was only about 3. Now she was awesome and I high-fived her and told her as much. She'd climbed a good way up in her proper gear and it impressed me so much! :) She give me hope that this wasn't so bad :)

False summits are so very cruel. As I came to each point on the sky line that I had marked in my mind, I discovered that still there was so much more to climb. The first time I thought I might just lie down and quietly die was 15.45. We were starting to get quite high up and my blood pressure was playing up giving me the first of the fun, coloured flashing disco lights of the day. Also I had a damned runny nose. *Shakes fist* Andrew then in helping me up stood on my shoe lace and undid it = bending over to tie it on a slant with rucksack on back = blood rush to head again = thoughts of I'm definitely going to die. Plus, the sheep, the sheep there were mocking me.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Cocky sheep and a view of the path and all the way down to the sea
Higher and higher we went, passed by two older men just casually but quickly walking down, like you or I would tackle the stairs in our homes. I'm really not fit at all 😒. We said hello, well Andrew did, I sort of just grimaced and mumbled something I hope sounded friendly.

Not much wall left at this stage and no distinguished path at all, bog had taken over and we walked were we could get a foothold. At the final push up to the tor I became a disbeliever, doubted my sanity, doubted the sanity of any hiker, doubted that I'd make it up, along, down (way over there) and all the way back to the car. But, Andrew shook me out of all that and whilst I never wanted to be a rock climber, I found, through helpful hand pulls and shear stubbornness - I am just like a mountain goat, maybe a gazelle.

Then somehow it happened. I was at the top of a mountain! As I sat there in the dirt between strange and beautifully wind sculptured rocks, a wonderful euphoria came over me. I wobbled to my feet again, turned round and walked four of five steps and saw this view. I believe I cursed quite loudly, but wow, this was f@#king beautiful!

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
At the top and 'that' view over the back of the mountain with the Silent Valley Reservoir
I heard Andrew call, he'd found a spot with shelter for lunching in and we had celebratory little beers! Oh they tasted of sweet, sweet hoppy victory. Never has a ham and cheese bap been so rewarding, never, I tell you has Cadbury's chocolate tasted so good. We devoured it all, grinning at each other. Then Andrew reminded me we were under a large tor so, conquer it we must to claim our - First Ever Submit!

Lunch on Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
'You are here' and mini beer and bap (we also drank litres of water throughout the walk!)
With the temporary courage of a beer we each packed up and set about on our way again, this time along a truly beautiful and exquisitely quiet path behind the The Back Castles and to the North Tor. Up here is is all bubble bees, little chaffinches (which sing so loud and clear) and bog, which means gorse, heather and wild primroses. Truly it was a joy to walk this route and the scenery was stunning; our wee country is truly a green and pleasant land.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Heading off for the Back Castles to the North Tor and a fabulous Black Castle that looks like Janus
The Back Castles and the North Tor are large stacks of rocks carved by the wind and, to me at least, they look comically like something out of The Muppets or Labyrinth - like they're going to talk to you any minute.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
The Whale in the wall and a view of the lovely Ben Crom Reservoir 
Now we come to the nightmare part, the decent from the North Tor which is completely butt clenching as there is no path for a good bit only your strong desire to get the hell out of this mass of tumbled rocks and not break your leg. Now, I don't like to make out that I'm weak and pathetic but permanent double vision and an inability to see the right hand side does not with scrambling down a vertical mountain go. My walking pole only helped so much but when you need your hands to navigate some pretty nasty drops it can also be a real hindrance. It is thus we discovered the reason for the earlier curses and screams of another people who had climbed up this monstrosity.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
There's a shear, rocky and torturous drop over that edge and the lovely Blue Lough
When we finally got to level ground, the clouds were starting to close in and one big beauty had formed in between the ring of summits we now walked within. We didn't stop at the Blue Lake as planned as it was getting cold, but the rest of the way was fine and dandy. I like a path not to rocky and relatively flat, though two streams have to be danced over, balancing on carefully placed rocks. Thank goodness for yoga!

We got ourselves back to our car for 8.15, almost in the dark but not quite. Houses were little specks of light now looking down towards the sea and we were done. Getting those backpacks off and setting them in the boot of the car was joy, sitting down in the car was such sweet agony.

What a day.

Love and hugs

Friday, 2 September 2016

The clock keeps ticking

It was been a week and life goes on, as of course it should and indeed, must. These past few days have been so terribly painful that I have found myself numb to feelings and confused by the utter silence I have been living in. Andrew goes off to work and I am completely alone now.

I hear her, well, I think do, every now and then and find that I still walk looking down at my feet (so we don't get entangled going back and forth), though she is not there. Her living room bed is now on top of the dining room one, I have gotten rid of all the food stuffs that were for her but the toys lie where they last fell and I can't bear to put her drink bowl and food bowl away yet.  I guess these things will simply take time.

That small collar with her name tag sits beside an old favourite black and white photo of her.

On a good note, I am more interested in the allotment now and have been there a few times since last Friday. Now it's a place of sweet Maggie flavoured memories and particularity of her last day, where she dandered about and lay in the sun before the trip to the vet.

The harvests have been prolific but the broad beans and the mangetout are now finished and some things such as the leeks and the broccoli have started to bolt. Our carrots have however been a triumph and after a few years of lament over them, we are certainly glad of success.

harvest time -

I haven't a photo but the Echlinville apple espaliers had their first harvest and a pie by Mamma G was duly made = darn good apples! There are more, so next time I'll give cooking with them a go.

courgette and garlic -

Back again on Sunday and it was incredible how small courgettes the day before had become marrows! There were so many we had to give more than half away, literally carrying them to another plot holder's car and setting them down with their own harvest. Then the garlic was cleaned and it's perfect again, as each year so far - we have been so lucky.

Tonight were having more of our own vegetables, every meal has had organic, lottie-grown produce in it this week and so in an hour or so, it will be roasted root vegetables and a little chicken - I'm hungry! My appetite came back today and I am ready for a healthy feast :)

With love and thanks for your condolences last week,
Your Carrie x

Saturday, 27 August 2016

In the shade of the shed

Time marches on, callously and without any regard to the quiet devastation that has occurred to myself and Andrew. How can anything, anyone, continue to live normally when Maggie has passed away?

It's not right, it's not fair, time must stop. We need to process, to grieve, to be enveloped in this beautiful pain. Our sweet little dog is gone.

maggie in the shade -

We covered her body in allotment flowers.

Carrie x

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Simple Courgette Salad Ideas

I'm not a cook, I'll put that out there to begin with! I like baking (maybe twice a year, haha) and I am not a fan of courgettes BUT this way of eating up our glut of courgettes has changed everything :)

Now with my disclaimer out in the open you will have to just forgive me the lack of absolute measurements and merely use this recipe as a guide. I think with mixing a salad up together that it's up to your individual tastes anyway, this is not a science, it's an art.

Simple (tasty) Courgette Salad

You'll be in the glut season, and yes courgettes are coming out your ears, you can't even give them away and you really don't want them to turn in to marrows; that just means MORE courgette to deal with at a time. Fear not my friends - I am here to help...

1 - Take a courgette and give it a wash, then top and tail it.

www. - courgette

2 - Take out your potato peeler and peel that courgette to death = ribbons of courgette!

www. - making courgette salad

3 - Gather a really big bunch of coriander and one of fresh mint (hopefully your grow your own, basil would be great too)

www. - courgette salad (coriander and mint)

4 - Wash those herbs, remove any thick stems and chop up chunky

5 -  Add these three ingredients together in a bowl and grind some salt and black pepper in (to taste)

www. - lemon squeezed for courgette salad

6 - Cut a lemon in two and squeeze like your life depends on it; let that liquid summer cascade down through your fingers onto the mixture.

7 - Add the same quantity of olive oil as your lemon provided (roughly)

8 - Take a deep breath in of this magic and mix it up together with your hands

www. - making courgette salad
Crappy photo but this was the seasoning part and i was more smelling it all
8 - Add your favourite bashed up nuts, pine nuts (roasted for full flavour), goats cheese or wild rice and quinoa. You know what you like :)

www. - courgette salad
Here, a pack of wheat, quinoa, and rice was added.

Serve and share the joy or take it somewhere quiet and gobble it all up yourself.

Carrie xx

I have a broad bean hummus recipe to share too, but need to take photos for it :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Hiking the Dungonnell Way

Cargan, a little village in the back of beyond. A school, a garage, a pizza/chippy takeout and a petrol station with a Mace food market attached. This, and some houses, old and new builds is what you'll find. Oh, and there is a much valued toilet in that Mace/petrol station - it's important to know these sort of things!

1.50 pm
We parked our car at the side of the road, half up on the footpath, by the new builds. Got our backpacks out and without any formalities, we started walking on the Dungonnell Way. Well, there was the obligatory selfie 💑.

The first official sign we came to was broken, laying in the long grass, just a wooden post. We lifted it, saw the arrows pointing the way and propped it up for the next people who may pass this way. Then we walked, up out of the village, past the farmsteads and to the hills where the sheep are kings and the roads barely used, save for the water board checking the most lovely little dam and the few fishermen who while away the afternoon there.

2.50 pm 
This countryside was beautiful with many birds singing, rabbits (one very dead), crickets (if you listened hard enough), butterflies and the hugest dragonflies I have ever seen. I guess I always thought dragonflies were the same as damselflies but no, these guys are on steroids and don't think twice about dive-bombing your head, haha. With such peace as this, walking through here it felt like each worry, each stress melted away with every footstep; my breathing became deeper (the air smelt so good) and my steady gravely sounding plod was music to my ears. All round was green, many shades and textures, this is where I was meant to be. I think it's where we all need to spend time.

Before we saw the forest, we smelt it, delicious sweet pine in the air. It's a place I thought I knew but as usual, I was so wrong, we have only ever seen the smallest part and stuck to the little different coloured sign posts. This was the back entrance, the tradesman's entrance, slightly rougher and far more interesting.

3.10 pm
Under the tree canopies here there is a whole world of moss, I love moss, I mean I LOVE MOSS. Don't question it, deal with it, I love moss, every kind, oh and mushrooms again every kind out in the wild. I couldn't eat one unless you paid me a ridiculous amount but I am compelled to study them and photograph them. Moss and fungi = happiness.  It was in here we saw peat dams and dragonflies, cleggs (one b*stard got me 3 times on the leg) and blue damson flies, being super loved up!

3.52 pm
The time flew by and then it was lunch. We stopped at a gate into the back of this much loved forest and set up our Trangia, using the stile as a seat. Fruity porridge was the dish of the day and it was SO good. Here was a damn good seat, any seat is good when you've walking 5 miles with a backpack though :)  We met a friendly Mountain biker, had a chat and then he climbed over our stile bike on his shoulder and shot off, he was super impressed that we had come so far on foot and were only half way. As we were leaving runners swooshed by, arggh, they make me feel so unfit but then they have no backpack and we later saw where they had parked, half a mile away at the most.

We crossed the road and into a deforested area were we came across a urea storage unit; we aren't farmers but we know what urea is, and this, well this didn't make sense, why store it? Past that there was an incredible machine for cutting and limb stripping trees into logs - the accident book that the foreman must have would have some horrific injures I should imagine; I didn't really like being so close to it, even though it was off! Then around a corner and boom - a hill, a long one, but one step at a time and the view from the top was awesome (in the proper sense of the word).

 A wee dander on and we were at another road side and a huge (for hikers) intersect of the International Appalachian Trial, Dungonnell Way and Ulster way. Plus there was a Pony trail here too and dog walkers with the happiest dogs ever - which made me miss Maggie but there was truly no way she could have walked this far, never mind that which was to come.

I took the lead walking along a busy, very curvy road (scary times) to get to next part of our walk, there's a handle on the back on my rucksack so Andrew could have used it to save me but using my noggin' I was OK. This was one of the most beautiful parts of the walk, I can't even begin to explain the emotion that this pathway through more trees, covered in moss and dappled light brought up. It felt like home in a spiritual sense, it was ophric and I realised that we as a people are so removed from this real nature that we don't even have words to express it, to describe it; it's gone from our vocabulary.

Suddenly there was an elderly man with his tiny but feisty little dogs, he did the country thing were you nod your head, lift a hand and mumble something like "great day isn't it". I love that, being out of society, sweaty, dirty and others like you don't care, they're just happy to see you, no matter your clothes, make-up, hair. You don't have to be anything but your authentic self.

The sunlight was falling down here in little beams where there gaps in the tree tops; how beautiful to see a fern or a new pine glow where that beam touched the ground. I could live in places like this revelling in the sense of wabi-sabi I spoke of before.

Then we hit the most quiet road in Ulster, Skerry East. Well contradictorily it was busy today, with many very disgruntled teenagers seemingly doing the Duke of Edinburgh with 70 litre back packs on and compasses swinging from their hangdog little necks. They were in misery and there we were laughing and smiling, two 'old people', crazy for actually liking this hiking lark; it made me smile harder.

Off to the left of this incredibly beautiful area we saw what we thought was a mine shaft wheel (the area was once mined for iron ore). So we took a detour and found this brought to us by those people at The Woodland Trust, a new little forest and this stunning sculpture.

The rest of the way went by so quickly and before we knew it, there we where back in Cargan, our car still there (thank goodness) awaiting us. It was 6.45pm, time to get these backpacks off and go in search of dinner!

*Speaking of which, my backpack was on it first ever outing, it's a turquoise 'Montane Women's Habu 22' and it's incredible* (This is my personal opinion, I'm not affiliated with any hiking company) - montane habu 22 backpack

Hugs and Love
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