Friday 31 July 2009

Moving on...for now

I am literally sitting here with the words 'mutton dressed as lamb' and scary images of clowns wearing all that ghastly make-up whorlling through my head. Why? Because of my new background. Oh, really I can change it back or start all over again. (I roll my eyes heavenward and ask 'why?, why tamper with something that wasn't broken').

But I must move on and I really couldn't wait (before I went on a design madness trip) to tell you about last night's little jaunt to the Lotties. Andrew had some more leaflets about the family fun day and our association stall to hand out/pin on sheds. We're just hoping the good folk of the lotties will donate a little something to the Association stall to sell to our visitors on the big day. It's next Saturday by the way (8th August) and you'll all welcome; if you're coming from afar I'll put you up in my wee house, as long as you spend money at the day and bring your own sleeping bag!!!

Anywho, the reason I wanted to write about it was because I was so happy with the responses we got. Everyone is now getting more interested in the fact that we're having visitors and a BBQ, stalls, a brass band and a petting zoo etc. They want their plots to look good and some have even been thinking of fun ideas themselves. It's a great little community spirit - the only thing that could dampen it would be the weather and that, unfortunately, may be the case. For instance I am sitting here in my living room with a long sleeved top on, jogging bottoms and a blanket over me, and a coffee in my hand tucked up tight against my chest (my glasses are steaming up intermittently but it's a price I'm willing to pay ~ it has been pouring for hours and the wind is fierce and it's making me feel cold. Maggie refuses to go outside, even though I'm pretty sure she must need a pee by now. She doesn't do bad weather, hahaha, a dog that lived on the streets, I've turned her into a softy.

Anyway, a great big virtual hug to all my fellow allotmenteers and fingers crossed we'll have a good day.

Plus if you don't like the new blog background blame Elle May's Mum, she started it. I love the look of her blog and wanted to be like her.

Forgive me...

I am trying to give my webpage a facelift for it's upcoming 1st birthday. This could go horribly wrong..

Okay a million hours later.....what do you think? Be honest. Is it too much, too much colour, too many detractions. Oh I've been staring and staring at the screen trying lots and lots of different combinations.

I shan't be happy until I know if it was a mistake or you like it. With the meds I'm on - it's near impossible to make decisions these days.

HELP xxxx

Thursday 30 July 2009

Show off

I have been shaking and panicking all day today and therefore exhausted and utterly depressed. I also haven't slept properly for weeks and thus slept, rather uncomfortably and fitfully on the sofa most of the afternoon (I still had my glasses on whilst in the land of nod~ sore nose). So you may gather that I am not in the mood to write a bloggette today but I am in the mood to boast.
I can't be bothered loading pictures up and I don't have the full array away to make you truly sick, but....Our Lottie is feeding us so well these days!! Loads of beans (Runner, French) Peas ( sweet garden variety and Mangetout) potatoes galore, beetroot and carrots and kale and chard, squashes growing, leeks looking good oh, the list goes on and on and on and on.....

Here's 1 pic.

Forgive me my boast, it hasn't been the greatest of days. Hope you too are reaping the rewards of all your hard work, sometimes, in the Winter, it can all seem too much hassle and then this! Plus I hope your weather is better than ours, it just rains here all the time and that, coupled with a water pipe leak right by our plot is driving me bonkers. Anyway there is some of that fabled blue sky outside tonight so maybe things have the ability to perk up. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Beetroot and ginger chutney

I was sent this fabulous recipe by my friend Jo last year, just as we had finished all our beetroot! Well, this year I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity to make this yummy sounding chutney (even though I personally can't eat it). I'm intolerant to onions and I just simply despise vinegar ~ not a great mix when your about to make chutney ;)

Beetroot and Ginger Chutney

Makes about 5-6 lb.

3 lb beetroot, roasted
1 lb onion, chopped
2 pints vinegar
1 lb dessert apples, peeled and chopped
1 lb seedless raisins, chopped
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 lb granulated sugar

  • Peel and cut the beetroot into cubes.
  • Place onion and a little of the vinegar in a large preserving pan and cook for a few minutes to soften the onion. Add apples and raisins and continue cooking until pulpy.
  • Add beetroot, ginger, salt and half the remaining vinegar.
  • Simmer gently until thick.
  • Stir in the sugar and remaining vinegar and continue cooking until thick again.
  • Pot into cooled, sterilised jars, seal with a vinegar proof lid and label.
  • Store for 6-8 weeks before using.

It takes a good few hours for the mixture to thicken up properly, but it is worth it!

So Andrew and I made it for the fun day, to sell on our own Eden Allotments Stall. We didn't have quite enough beetroot but it was easy to make the recipe work with some maths (which Andrew is good at ~ I suck at maths). We had bought a lovely new thick bottomed big pot in Ikea especially for preserve making and so we were rather excited to get going. Wow, the Gault household sounds so dull if that makes us excited!

It did take a while but nothing about is difficult and we were able to watch bits of tv and then go and stir the mixture; all made better by a glass of red wine in one hand, hehe. We got a lovely full Kilner jar (for ourselves) and 3 jam jars of the glorious food stuff out of our quantities. Okay, the house stank of vinegar for a couple of days afterwards but it feels great to make lovely things out of your own produce, and it will make money for the association on one hand and make Andrew happy on the other (me? ~ I happy to make money for the allotments, not so overjoyed with a stinky house and hubby ;) )

Just have to prettify (is that a word?) the jars with material over the lids tied with twine and they're ready to go. The chutney is the most beautiful deep red/purple colour and Andrew's labels look great, well done us!

Give it a go! Lovely pressie for a loved one, or for yourself x

Monday 27 July 2009

Little acts of kindness

At the weekend (I have a good bit to write about this week) there were a few random acts of kindness around the lotties, a lovely community spirit.

Firstly Gary's plot was all strimmed down and then mown for him by Bobby, Doug and Andrew. It was hard work and took a couple of hours for the 3 of them but they didn't complain and threw themselves into the task. The sun was blazing on them as well and it was tiring just to look at them. I didn't help because the grass was over my knee height and in flower, my hay fever was bad enough over on my own plots with all that pollen flying around! Through my hay fever meds are a godsend to be fair, sometimes they are just pushed to the limit, hahaha. Hopefully Gary won't find the sight of his plot too heart wrenching now when he gets back, his work has been sending him off to Scotland recently.

Then there was the happy news that we have more preserves being made by Ronnie and Bill's lovely wife and set aside for our stall on the fun day. Andrew and I spent hours making chutney on Friday night (I'll tell you about it tomorrow), so we know only too well how much effort goes into producing stuff and then there is the added knowledge that it isn't all for you to eat!!!

We were given lots of unwanted pavers on Sunday for free for the second plot. They're great quality and a good size but I'll leave that for another day too.

Lastly I was given the most beautiful bouquet of sweet peas, completely out of the blue by Donald. How nice was that?!!! Take note my love, another man giving me flowers! Donald's sweet peas are fabulous, so many colours and the plants are huge, tall and heavy with flowers; after I was given that delicious smelling bunch I was spurred on to gave my much smaller and less productive plants a good feed ;)

My depression was horrendous over the weekend, it helped being down at the lotties on Saturday and keeping myself very busy. I worked so hard and you probably wouldn't even notice ~ don't you just hate that! But Sunday I couldn't even go at all. I sat all dressed to go but couldn't leave the house. How can I hurt so much when there is no wound to heal?

Today is another BAD day so I'm off now to try and calm down on the sofa. Been depressed and uber panicky since I woke up and shaking even with a good dose of meds. Taken a little extra and hoping for peace soon, I find this all very distressing and frightening. I'm tired.

It's a lovely day outside and Maggie is sunning herself on the bench in the back garden; she's such a cutie.

Thank you all for the continued support and kind encouraging words x

Thursday 23 July 2009

Right, enough whinging

Okay, so I have had a terrible time of it but I have to share the good with the bad. I am glad to say that I am feeling stronger and even managed a walk with the dog and a photographic trip out into the back garden yesterday by myself. I just needed rest, lots of it and I still need more but I can cope better today and therefore here I am with all the love and thanks in the world to those who encouraged me and supported me through yet another blip.

Here are a few of those photos from yesterday, it was sunny for a while!!....

Insects; fascinating up close.

I have concentrated on the photography side of things and opened my own on line shop of pics from holidays, but mainly from the allotments and of nature in general. I only opened it yesterday and already sold one photo! We did visit the lottie last night but to be honest I have been neglecting it and found it to be overwhelming - too much to do! Plus I made the mistake of dandering over to Bobby's plot (which is eerily perfect in every way) and made myself ill with jealousy. My strength suddenly was zapped from me and we went home! What an effect the 'competition' can have on you, so silly.

Plus our new road is so far looking far from promising. I hope major improvements are afoot as the new hardcore that's been put down is already potholed and terribly thin (to my, albeit, untrained eyes), as a surface for delivery lorries and the odd car to drive down, never mind a person to walk down safely. Arrrgghhhh! I hate it when things aren't done right. I must give them the benefit of the doubt and just hope it gets good.

So, as I said, I still need a heck of a lot of rest so I'll leave it here for today.

I just want to thank those who cared, worried and wrote messages, it honestly helped; when I am so low I can't see a way out and you helped me fight on xx

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Gone to seed

I haven't been coping, in fact I've had a few frightening break downs and haven't even been willing or able to visit the allotments recently. When I have been there it has been hell and I've been on sedatives and hating every minute of it. Ecotherapy is bunk. I am utterly disillusioned and hopeless. I get these totally fantastical ideas of being 'someone'; a photographer, selling my own works, a carpenter, a potter. I feel like, no, I have given up. Today is just another day in a long line were I am drugged up and in physical and mental pain, I couldn't care less about myself, I wish it was over. I'm so depressed I can't even feel the upset properly, I can't cry; I'm numb. So tired, which makes my double vision worse, leaving me with little I can do comfortably.
Forgive me. I shall be taking a little more time out for a while.
Enjoy your gardens, allotments, life....and think of me, please, I need help.

Thursday 16 July 2009

The one that got away...

Yesterday we discovered a little amphibian friend under our wheelbarrow, well to be honest it was Andrew who found it and squealed like a little girl. He says it was more like a yelp but it really wasn't. I managed to get this photo of him but he had hopped away before I could attempt a kiss - he could have been a handsome Prince!
Plus we ate a fabulous soup for dinner, made by my very 'brave' hubby. It was made with our own freshly lifted early potatoes, broad beans, peas, garlic, parsley, mint (and a bought leek ~ ours aren't ready yet). Then, for dessert we had the last of our strawberries and some cream. Fantastic!!

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Glenarm Castle Gardens

We made our 1st visit to the Glenarm Castle gardens 3 weeks ago and I am only now getting around to telling you about it, which is odd because we really enjoyed our time there and I couldn't wait to upload the photos, but something just made me forget. The website is nice, check it out.

Yesterday and today the Castle is holding it's annual Highland Games, which is a big deal over here. We've never been though and yesterday, after fresh baked plum crumble at our favourite cafe in the village we dandered over to see how much it was to get in ~ £12 per adult!!!! Couldn't believe it, there was no way, so we missed out on seeing the games, stalls and the castle (still in private use [I've met the Viscount's brother, oh hark at me!]) up close. Anyway, that is what reminded me about the gardens...

They weren't all that cheap to visit either £6 each I think, but it was a beautiful day and it turned out to be worth it. This is the kitchen garden that greets you as soon as you hand over your money. Beautiful, I really want to live in that gardener's house at the back. Here they were growing pretty much everything we grow at our lotties apart from the soft fruits. I could post all the photos I took but it would take forever and you'd get very bored. Plus I'm writing about this place for my monthly Benches Photojournal in a few days and I'd get bored too!
On the right of this area there was a wall with figs trained up it and they were fruiting, something I would not have believed possible in Northern Ireland by the sea.

Below is the view looking back to the entrance/cafe, check out those artichokes.

On the right it the gate into the main gardens which you can see at the very edge of the 1st pic.

Inside this is a magical place of 'rooms' as proper landscape designers call them. But immediently to the right was the most glorious old greenhouse with peaches growing away merrily and just out of reach - darn it! On the outside of this long building was a huge line of lavender-like flowers ('nepetias', I am told by my hubby here) full to bursting with bees. This gave us the idea to grow loads of lavender on our plot, something I'll write about soon.

You can see some beautiful trained beech trees on the left here, they were a big feature around the gardens except at the very back wall (in the distance in this 2nd photo) which was totally covered in many different types of apple. Just lovely, though again there was a sign forbidding you to eat any ~ double darn it!

Well, we'll be back to see the progress as a good lot of the main walled gardens is pretty young and it will be nice to watch it mature.

Monday 13 July 2009

Can't believe NO ONE has commented on THAT photo of Andrew from Friday!

I haven't been sleeping the past few nights, plus I've been having to take a lot of tablets to calm down some very very severe panic attacks. So this all equals a very tired and concentration-less Carrie. I did manage to sleep for half an hour in the car at the lottie today whilst Andrew worked away; uncomfortable? - yes but it felt good too.

It was pretty stinky today down there, windy and some heavy rain and damn cold. It feels like February here a lot of the time, I truly find it difficult to believe this is JULY. Andrew is off for a few days for the 12th July national holiday and then he has taken a couple extra, so I have him all to myself for a whole week! Tomorrow we are going to try to go out for the day, away from the the Lottie, the house and Carrick altogether.

Along with the usual gardening work and planning we have had our heads turned with the organisation of the family fun day in August. I've been planting lots of seeds for the kids to pot up and have their own mini-lotties, thinking about games, begging folk to make jam/chutney/pickles and donate produce for the day and doing some photography and framing for the Allotment Association stall too. Lots to think about!

(My preserves group isn't really getting off the ground, so many people have plans to do things like that in the years to come but their plots and the plants thereon aren't mature enough yet. There just aren't enough fruits and extra veggies there to use. But it is something I'll keep working towards.)

August just isn't going down as the best time of year for this open day, most people would prefer spring and autumn events when things are a bit more exciting on the plots. However the Fun day is us taking part in National Allotment Week so it does make sense. However, who knows, maybe we could have more fun days throughout the year, I think it would be lovely to celebrate our work together and get to know eachother better. We are the largest Allotments in the island of Ireland and we have grown in such a short time!

Andrew is off to the Lottie again to continue his work in the shed ~ we have a great working bench in it now and extra storage. I still doubt that you could swing a cat but it does seem larger inside. I'm waiting for another panic to go away and am typing frantically to keep myself occupied but hopefully I'll get a nap in soon, it's terrible taking all this medication but I'd pull my hair out if I didn't (literally). Some days the Ecotherapy thing just isn't right for you, pity, it isn't a panacea.

Don't forget tomorrow (14th July) is the last day for entries into Matron's Worldwide Veggie Show 2009.

Friday 10 July 2009

try to save some rainforest...

with the Prince of Wales, or as I like to call him, Charlie!

Add your name xxxx

Fairies and garlic

Darn it, I think I must have eaten an big red, juicy apple given to me by a witch somewhere. I am so sleepy; I think I could represent the UK in a sleeping competition and totally kick everyone esle's butt.

It's been all go, at least in our heads this past week. We have a fabulous family fun day at the start of August to organise and once you get to thinking about it, well your head just runs away with the fairies and darn it, it's hard to get it off them again. Do not be fooled by fairies, they have their evil ways! Boy, what am I on about ~ so tired = blabbering away.....

So I have been a goddess once again the kitchen. Made more strawberry jam, this time I had a sterilised jar and a label, so this one is being kept for the big day. Looks good, no?! Of course now we're thinking about what else we can preserve, pickle and generally bottle up for sale. So many ideas, but really I think it will take off next year and we'll be far more organised. I want to start a club so it can be coordinated and we get loads of yummy food stuffs for the next fun day. Any money we make goes into the Association coffers so it's important to us that it goes well, money makes the world go round, eh?

Andrew has also been his usual god-like self in the kitchen making yummy dinners for us from our own produce. This is the excited part, no? Look at all that food, first carrots too. And after a quick stir fry and some chicken and noddles - yum, so fresh and tasty.

He is feeling the pressure of the fun day (he's on the sub committee for sales and children's education) but he finds his own way of dealing with the stress....unusual maybe, but it works for him.

The garlic is slowly and tentatively being lifted. Such a thrill to see them, they've been in the ground since November. Unfortunately Bobby said his were far from pleasing, our ones in their pots have turned out well and John's are fab! We were showing off last night. The key is to treat them mean, don't water them lovingly as it all goes into top growth and of course we want big juicy bulbs that will make our stinky breath be smelt for miles across the land, hehe.
Here I am lifting a great one, Andrew with a good haul from 2 pots and John with one of his whoppers.

Andrew is off for the holidays (the 12th July, is a National holiday here in Northern Ireland), his office closes early today and he decided to take extra days off, so we have a whole week together. Time to get this house and it's gardens into shape and go on picnics, maybe a camping trip, who knows...Or course the weather will turn nasty, just you wait and see.

looks like a bald hedgehog to me.
Big hugs to all (the sleepy Carrie talks again), night night. Ooops it's only 1.45pm, well I'm having another dose......NO must stay awake!!! yawn....

Wednesday 8 July 2009

other people's plots and produce to be jealous about

I love my friends in field A, they are approachable, funny and passionate about the lotties, blah blah, blah. But sometimes I tell you, they grate on my nerves! Just look at some of the great plots and fab produce they are growing. One person even has a pumpkin (the darn plants just WILL NOT fruit for us ~ conspiracy??) and look at Ronnie's onions drying~they are huge and just perfect. (I'm not that jealous about this though as onions and I have a very bad relationship - they make me very ill).

That broccoli head is massive, the photo doesn't really show that.

Overview photos are of Mary, Colin and Bobby's plots (just a few great ones).......

Down at the lotties last night was very disheartening as the wind, the damn wind!, was blowing a gale in our field; battering some plants to actual death on our new plot 14b. It's because we haven't got any wind breaks up yet in that plot and the site as a whole has no shelter, especially after the disastrous hedge 'trim' (read 'massacre') we had recently.

Ah well, I am really happy that my friends are doing so well, honestly. After all it isn't a competition.
However! I do have this ......

and that trumps everything everyone could grow!

Friday 3 July 2009

An overview of our rather bountiful plots

I took photos for my archives of the plots at the end of June, just to see how far we'd come. Now that we have so swiftly moved in July I'm using a different folder for this months pics and forgot about the overviews. So here we are, they were taken as the sun was setting on a rather lovely day.


There is just so much going on in there. We're really pleased with everything though the dreaded blight is affecting our Maris Piper potatoes, there is rust on the Garlic, and the darn pigeons are eating the brussel sprout leaves. But the broad beans have just been giving and giving, we're using ones we planted in the Autumn first and then the second spring planting and starting to plump up too. The peas and the beetroot (can't beet 'Boltardy') are gorgeous!! And all the climbing beans (runner, french and borlotti )are starting to flower. If I told you everything I'd be here all day.

What you can't see in the overview is 'the grave' with the rhubarb and 2 new blueberry bushes in it. Here it is separately. Oh and sadly one of my fab sunflowers in the second photo (you remember, the sunflower hedge idea, right?) has broken off at the bottom. Completely my fault, I tied each one to a support and them forgot to check only that one as they all grew, thus the string ate into the stem and 'snap!' :(

A14 b

I only took one photo of this for an overview, we still haven't tackled the other half yet. But we are doing very well and have it all planned. Plus I spent the Sunday last week on my hands and knees laying black membrane for the bark mulch path. We got our first section down last night, with some careful cropping you can see how good it's going to look. The bark is a good few inches thick so it costs a bit to do this, it may take a while.....

I'm rather proud of this plot, it's where our early potatoes (2 varieties though you can only see one here), our leeks (which look great), squashes and a celeriac bed are. It's the first time we've grown celeriac and so far things are looking good, fingers crossed. Plus, of course, it is where my flower border is and it's filling up nicely and the massive blue container where there are loads of carrot seedling emerging. In fact I think I'll do a big collage of all the different blooms, as they are looking fab at the moment and post it on Monday.
Plus in that last photo you can see other people's plots too. I must not be so selfish and next week I will show you some great things that others are doing, promise.

Rose Timeline ~ updated

Can't sleep tonight after a day of fighting so hard to keep my eyes open ~ I don't understand :(
So I have spent some time trying to get sleepy by making a collage of my new white rose and how it blossomed over the past couple of weeks. I really wish I could remember the name of it. Is it Arctic something?? Oh my brain is so tired my body just won't let me switch off. Wouldn't it be great if you could just unplug yourself for a few hours every night? xx
Sweet dreams everyone else

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This ought to have been the last photo in the collage series but I was obviously too sleepy, ooops. I had to chop off it's head last night but it was great watching it and there is another one now on about stage 4. Plus a climbing rose we bought a long time ago has really begun to flourish, there are lots of buds on it and this absolute beauty was waiting for me yesterday. It's called 'Queen Elizabeth' and god bless her! We're growing it up the old front gates, how lovely that the first one should open right on the gate's handle - picture perfect.

Thursday 2 July 2009

I'm a fricking domestic goddess!

I'm making jam!!! I rather excited, I don't cook as it makes me so anxious I hate it. Plus I don't bake anymore as I used to eat it all! Ooooppps. So, yep, me, I'm making Strawberry jam like the domestic goddess I knew I had inside me. Though I'm not wearing a fabulous 50s dress or even an apron, should I confess?....okay, I'm still in my pajamas.

I'm having fun ~ I have the 'Ultimate Carpenters Collection' on and singing very loudly ~ thank goodness the neighbours are out. I have to have music on, I have to watch this pot very slowly heating up for, oh about 45 mins, I think I'd fall asleep if Karen and Richard weren't filling my ears with groovy, chilled out tunes. ('So they sprinkled gold dust in your hair.....')

So as you my have gathered I needed a very easy recipe to use or this momentous occasion would not be happening. I got this super easy one from the Good Food channel, here. As I have half of the strawberries, am using half the lemon and sugar amounts. And I did some further research and discovered that using berries that are not ripe in the mixture adds the much need pectin, so throw the best juicy bright red ones in your mouth and use more the pale and red-one-side-green-the-other ones. (Oh, this is smelling so good)

Time to add the sugar ~ good grief, it never fails to shock me just how much you seem to need!

Okay, so do domestic goddesses curse?? I do. A lot, aow, hot jam spots jumping out of the pot to hurt me. I suppose most people don't have to take a phone call at the vital last moments and then it all gets stuck to the pan etc either. You know who you are!!!! Well there we are 2 sterilised tubs (I didn't have any jars) full to the brim with 'Carrie's not so secret special strawberry jam', damn it, I haven't any labels either, or bread for that matter. x

Later tonight, we'll be back at the Lottie and there will most likely be another load of fresh strawberries to begin home, it's just as well we like them. That's a very good point to rise - DO NOT grow things you don't want to eat lots of! Wow cooking and motherly advice, I've changed...

Here's one of last night's 1st beetroots of the season - super yum!


I have just made my lunch, a simple tasty stir-fry. Our very own chard, spinach and broccoli sprouts with some sesame seeds and honey. Happy days. Plus in the fridge we have our own broad beans and peas for tonight's risotto! Grow your own friends!