Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Only 1 more sleep...

Ah dear reader, I am off to France in the morning!! I am so looking forward to it; Brittany and Normandy. It's going to be so cool, me and the Hubby. Maggie isn't coming, she's going to stay with her Granny and I have a feeling she's also looking forward to her holidays (she gets more treats at her Granny's house than she does here ~ spoilt rotten, she is).

Anyhow, I think I will take my laptop but I can't decide. But hopefully I'll have access to a web service at some point and then I can tell you what's happening. Maybe even make you jealous with tales of fabulous weather and amazing wine.

We went to the Allotments last night and did 2 and half hours hard graft. I weeded everywhere I could, pulled out the yellow Californian Poppies 'golden values' which were looking worse for wear and had somewhat taken over, and dead headed until I Andrew had to force me to go home~ it was getting dark. I have no idea what he did, though he was working hard I am sure, I know he planted something but I was in my zone, I was feeling much better. Ecotherapy Rocks!
Here is a rather odd little collection of things that we took home. Goodness it really was dark, we didn't get to do any real harvesting, these are just things we picked up whilst working away. It's a little annoying that our sweetcorn and raspberries will be ripening to perfection when we're gone and god help anyone who pilfers one, I have them counted!!

Oh I am excited; holidays! And this time we have our own car so we can go exploring. I shall miss you desperately and will try to say "Bonjour" whilst away at least once. Wish me 'Bon Voyage!' xx

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

If I were a horse I'd be shot by now

Pretty Dahlia in the back garden

I am miserable. Sorry to say. Yes another day of panic and self hatred, not quite off the scale but about 7/10, maybe 8. I feel so low and even though the sun is shinning is feels like it is doing so merely to mock me. I am eating chocolate with green tea and ginger in it 'for wellness', it also tastes bloody gorgeous.

Things got so bad last night that we eat a take away Chinese meal for dinner! Our fridge is bunged full with lovely fresh lottie produce but the big cloud offer this house causes a feeling of depression to all who enter at the moment. There has been a serious case of the 'I can't be bothereds'.

So, yep, we have a bean glut and tonight I guess we need to do something about it. So, just in case you aren't too sure how to go about freezing yours, allow me to refresh your memory, or indeed just plain tell you.
Runners and French Beans :
Top and tail them all, then cut them lengthways so you have 2 long thin bits, then throw them into boiling water for about 2mins, not any longer. Remove from pot and lay them out to cool. Then stick them in a freezer bag.

We were very silly and didn't do this with them all last year , some were just thrown in bags and into the freezer = some de-frosted bags of very limp, slimy beans, not nice!

And while we're on the subject, here's a load of Piccalilli Andrew made with a glut of courgettes. I HATE pickley things and vinegar - yuck! But this is supposed to be gorgeous, and that isn't just Andrew saying that, other reliable sources have tasted some of his mustardy concoction.

I got him the recipe here, at As with all chutney type recipes you can change it to fit your needs.

2kg./4lb. mixed veg (including cauliflower florets, chopped cucumber,pickling onions and small French beans)(I have used courgette or gherkins instead of cucumber)
25g./1oz flour
25g./1oz dry mustard
900ml./ 1 1/2pints malt vinegar (I use pickling vinegar if I can get it)
30ml./2 tablespoons turmeric
4 chillis, chopped (I use red for a bit of colour and heat)
50g./2oz sugar
Spread the vegetables in a large, shallow dish and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside for 24 hours, then drain off any liquid and rinse in cold running water. Set aside to dry.Mix the flour and mustard, turmeric to a paste with a little of the vinegar. Put the remaining vinegar and the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir in the vegetables and flour mixture and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins or until thick. Set aside to cool . Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Makes about 2kg./ 4lb. piccalilli

Hugs to all xx

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thank you

I've had a run of good days, 2 in a row! Thanks to my Hubby and my dearest of friends for continuing to celebrate my birthday over the weekend. Only last night did I start to feel bad and it has continued into today. I am waiting for another tablet to start working to help calm me down. You see I have a problem with people being lovely to me; I feel I don't deserve it and should therfore be punished after, by myself to create balance.

This feeling was further compouned by the fabulous Blogger VP (or veep) when she was recently so nice about a post I had written in the past. See her words here.

It's a very strange and stupid reaction to something that does actually makes me feel good and worthwhile. I just have a hard time with praise. I feel a little crazy right now but need to stay occupied until I can drift off a while. I've being playing FarmVille on Facebook to distract me!! Can't get to the lottie and too serevely anixous to step outside the door so; I bring a 'farm' to me, haha.

Hopefully I feel better tomorrow x

Friday, 21 August 2009

Guerrilla Gardening and Garlic Braiding

We planted Daffodil bulbs down in Field A, a whole load of them and no one saw us and no one will know it was us, hahhahahahaha. Guerrilla gardening! Just you wait till spring, oh, the shock on everyone's faces.
Everyone in Field A : 'Oh, where did these lovely daffs come from, oh how fabulous. What wonderful person/s could have done this!!!'
Us : (pretending to also be shocked) 'Wow, they are lovely, who ever did it must be amazingly fabulous and just all round great people. Bless them, may this year be a fruitful one for their plot/s'
Everyone in Field A : 'Yes, bless them; may blight, slugs and caterpillars avoid them forever more!!!'

Us: (giggle) 'Indeed'

So sssshhhhhh, don't tell anyone, it's a surprise. We did it together and the bulbs were lovely; fat, hard and blemish free. Hopefully they will naturalise over time, now wouldn't that be pretty?


After that I started to make my 2nd Birdhouse, this time with a pitched roof. More difficult than I though and I got my first woodwork injures ~ a very small cut on my finger and a hammer blow to the thumb. I feel like a real craftswoman now! Unfortunately I got very peeved with the whole project after 3 hours and my double vision was horrendous so I threw it into the shed in a huff and didn't take a photo.

Andrew on the other hand laid a path between the 'grave' and the raspberries. Finally! I think it's starting to look much better down there and the rockery plants are in too so over time I think it will look pretty.

Then he also braided garlic. I was hoping to do it, but he took charge, I have forgiven him now but at the time (and I think I hid this quite well Andrew) I was deeply hurt. I was the one who found the website that explained how to do it and printed out the instructions after all... But he did a fantastic job so I can't be angry.

Before and after tidying up
Just to end this rather fab week of Grow Our Own news ~ Andrew, Maggie and I won a prize in the 'Best Kept Allotment of the Year' competition this year! A big thank you to the judges at Sunnybank Nursery. We get to go to a 'do' in October as well in the town hall, posh.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Garden Society's Competition Day (Alloment entries this year!)

The Carrickfergus Garden Society's 52nd Flower Show was held on 15th August 2009. Andrew and I just happened to be in the town center and though we personally didn't exhibit anything, we were very interested in the competition and wanted to support those from the Lotties with their entries. We dandered around to the War Memorial Hall and although early (the judges were still doing their thing) we were warmly welcomed by Myrtle (yep, she of the lotties and last years chairwoman) who is also on the committee for the Garden society. It was like getting press passes (okay it's only a flower show in Carrick, not a big international musical festival, but it still felt good) and we had free coffee! A couple of other friendly faces were there too - Ivan and Phil, who were stewards for the day.

Ivan, Andrew, Phil and Myrtle
Anyway, as soon as the judges left the hall Andrew and I were in. Straight over to the Veggie section and snap, snap, I took my photos. It was fabulous, such old town charm to see people displaying their flowers and veggies, jams and cakes. We spotted a good number of Eden lottie people's names and lo and behold lots of those same names had won prizes!! I was so proud. Ronnie, Myrtle, Mary and Godfrey were just some I noticed - Congratulations to them.

Look at the cups! Who wouldn't want one of those.

Unfortunately we couldn't stay long as our car parking ticket was running out but boy was I impressed by my 1st ever show. Plus, even though I say it myself, a lot of our own lottie produce could have won a prize too had we been bothered to enter. We generally just eat everything!

Parsley plants looking like Bonsai trees

I leave you with a couple of non-veggie entries..

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

My.. I was excited to finally find out about plot A01 !

For the longest time I have noticed great work going on 2 plots up from us; to my mind it has always been the 'elusive plot no.1'. It seemed like little pixies were working there and working hard too, but I never actually saw anyone at the site. A mystery unfolded......

I did ask who owned it and if anyone had seen someone working on it, but I kept getting answers like 'oh it belongs to some charity' and all these charities that it was meant to have links with would be listed but everyone said someone different and NO, they had never bothered to go over if they did see anyone there. Maddening!

Then salvation came (sort of) in the form of the Family Fun Day. A group of people turned up and hoisted a flag and a big notice board saying 'Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland', plus another poster went up detailing a charity called 'MindWise'. I really did intend to go over and say "Hello" but as you all know I spent that afternoon running around like a headless chicken. When I did have the time, they had disappeared (again, like pixies...) so I wrote a note and pinned it to the shed.

The next day I got an e-mail from a lovely lady called Helen and all was made clear. Join me as I explain.

So, the plot did belong to a charity, a few in fact (hence the confusion around the place). It was run by Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland with volunteers from Belfast with a group of people from the charity Mindwise (from Carrick) and a volunteer from The Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Group.
Helen wrote: 'Most of the people we work with on the lottie have mental health issues and they also find the work very therapeutic and are happy to tell people about the benefits of working outdoors. We have good craic while we work and the guys all loved the event on Saturday. It was great to meet other lottie holders who we don't normally see on Wednesday mornings.'

So how totally fabulous is that!!!! There's an Ecotherapy group on my freakin' allotments, 2 plots up from me. I was blown away, I was/am so happy that a group of people are there working away, having a laugh and growing as individuals, just like I have been trying to do on my own wee plots. Ecotherapy Rules, my friends!!!! Tell everyone you know, tell people you don't know, grab a random passerby and tell them (yes, the Police may get involved due to you harassing other members of the Public, but wait.... then the papers might get involved and follow the court case - Ecotherapy would be the word on everyone's lips!!!!!) Oh, I'm getting Evangelical about it all I must calm down.

I just wanted to share that. I'm passionate about Ecotherapy and I believe it can work, for everyone, anyone. A connection with nature, getting one's hands dirty, growing food and being around people in a relaxed environment can make you feel better. Okay it isn't going to make you 'better 'and all of a sudden you'll be out there taking over the world, but a smile, a genuine smile on your face and the face of those you care for - THAT is priceless and this is one way of guaranteeing it.
Hopefully I will feel up to accepting Helen's lovely offer to come down of a Wednesday morning and meet everyone. But for now I just want to wish them all continued success and better mental health! xxxx

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Great Day

Thanks for all the Birthday Wishes xxx
My Birthday centred around the lottie! At 2pm Andrew picked me up and we went to the gardens, I noticed my Mother in law's car there and thought ah ha, something is up! I wasn't wrong, there was a super duper little tea party awaiting me. And this fabulous sign that my darling Hubby made all by himself (I love it, I have it here, no idea what I 'm going to do with it..)

I was jumped out at by my niece and Mamma G singing 'Happy Birthday' and wielding party poppers! There were other people down there working a way quietly but we were the rowdy, giggling kids for that afternoon. After opening gorgeous pressies,(one of which was from my little grand nephew for the lottie - a glow in the dark butterfly!) we had sandwiches and loads of cake. Brilliant. Then I got the bumps!!!!! Austin and Pauline came over from next door and Andrew and Austin managed to give me 5 bumps - scary but I couldn't stop laughing.

What a fab time and all a surprise.

Later after dinner out we went back, all of us from earlier and my sister in law and grand nephew, Robert. He dug up some potatoes, so much fun to do with a kid I heartily recommend it. Plus I got 2 more presents! Meta had made some gorgeous Strawberry jam (so good I think I'll hide it from Andrew...) and Bill had made a wood stove for us. Well had I not been laughing so much I think I would have cried a river right there and then.

Of course the family had to go on their merry way but we stayed in A24a and lit our burner. Fire - it is so comforting, do you end up in your own world just staring into the flames? It's like meditation. We stayed until it began to rain and was really rather dark, unfortunately Meta and Bill couldn't come over for cake and tea with us so that was the only sad thing about it.

Allotments rock; a fabulous surprise tea party, presents and laughing with friends in the sunshine. Oh, I love it!
Tomorrow I promise to write up some of the other fab things other plot holders have been up to!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Happy Birthday to me, 21 again!

I'm not staying on line for long today but I just read my good friend Bangchik's blog and he had found out about this cool photo manipulation site; it ages your photo by 100+ years. Of course I had to give it a go. So this is me and Andrew last night (after midnight so it was offically my birthday) having celebratory Cava. Ahh! I'm 30, have to go and lie down, the shock you see, just too much.....

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Friday, 14 August 2009

Finally back to work

We did have that picnic yesterday at the lotties. I was lovely, not too cold and very very quiet, almost as if everyone in Carrickfergus had read the blog and decided to give me some space down there. Thanks guys, haha.

We had a giggle with Maggie and then were able to finally do some work on our plots. For the last few weeks every time we've gone down there Andrew has had to go off and have a chat with someone or a committee meeting about the Fun Day and very little has been achieved. I don't really like being out and about on my own still so when I can't see Andrew well, I'd rather hide in the shed. I am getting better though, sporadically.

So last night weeding galore was done and boy was there a lot of it, half a compost bin full! I also dead headed my flowers and got rid of some poor annuals that had flowered their socks off for me and were now knackered. Then I started what I assumed would be a nice quick job ~ harvesting all the beans. It took forever. A whole, full harvest basket of runner beans, green beans and french beans, boy are we going to have to have another massive blanching and freezing session again this weekend. It is great, don't get me wrong but why do they all have to ripen at the same time?

I also thinned out the stems and old leaves, opening up the wigwams to let in more air and light. I felt rather gardener-y.

We left as the weather started to turn a bit and were shocked to see that we'd been there over 3 hrs, it had flown in and no big panics from me ~ HOORAH! Only 1 downfall and that is the fact that the burst water pipe just above our shed STILL hasn't been fixed, the whole path is a swamp and it stinks too because the manure heap is there and manure-y juices are being washed past us - boke. No birthday party at the Lottie for me then :( It's my big 30 next week (tell anyone and I will track you down and hit you across the face with a wet lettuce leaf, I swear ~ I shall be 29 for a few more years to come thank you very much!!) and I wanted to have cake and tea at the lottie, ah well....



Here are a few overview photos, haven't taken them in a while. Everything is going really well, bar the brassicas (damn them) and we're starting to see lots more squashes coming which is such a relief, Andrew was getting pretty peeved with them.

Oh and I made my 1st ever bird box, wee little old me is getting into the wood work :) Hugs for a good weekend, may the weather be a little better x Plus I've just noticed whilst uploading photos that I have lots to talk about and loads of very pretty flower photos too, when is Garden Bloggers Bloom day again? This is my fav

a calendula growing up through the purple kale, wow! I could just go on and on writing but you'd get really bored and grow to hate me and I don't want that!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

300th Post!!!

Unfortunately I'm not in a celebratory mood though. I am in the midst of a horrible day of panic attacks and depressive lows, at the same bloody time. I feel like road kill. Luckily Andrew will be home a little earlier today and we are going to go to the lottie and have a picnic. God willing I will feel better for the company and the air; please let it be quiet down there, any noises are making me jump. Andrew phoned a little while ago and I swear I was nearly off the sofa, just so scared and trying to get away from the noise. Silly girl.
Luckily I have taken meds for this latest panic and I hope (I so hope) I can get sleep or at the very least just lay down and not be shaky and think those bad thoughts for a while. I am writing because I need to keep busy and other people's words on TV or in books don't seem to make much sense at the minute.
This is also the last part of the Family Fun Day write up. I have little left to tell....

The closing chapter:
Field B held its own Pitch and Putt, I saw the green and it was fabulous but I didn't manage to get a go :( And also in field B Ricky had made lottie soup and rolls for sale, I really wanted some; I had heard it was so good but this sign greeted me at the entrance to their field. I was not amused!! I had said the night before I wanted some soup set aside, people, really, they can be a pain sometimes, haha. I did get some fresh soda bread right off the griddle though in field C so all was not lost. In fact I stick my tongue out at the idea of soup (lovely lottie and chicken soup....) and embrace the warm yet crispy soda with vigour. So there.

I'll ask Andrew if he really does want to contribute to the post but I'm not sure if he will. Look out for an Update.

Suffice to say, we all had a great day, raised lots of money (not sure how much yet!) and a good few of us staid at the lotties until it got dark, laughing away like eejits. We even tidied the whole place up, you wouldn't know there had been 100s , dare I say 1000s! of people there all day. Maggie particularly enjoyed the evening, teasing Gus (her boyfriend - sadly they are both neutered) all night, chasing him all over the place, she had him exhausted.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Family Fun Day ~ part 2

So were did we get too.... Ah yes the Allotment Holders Stalls and kids education.
As well as that the Council had it's own tent containing the Beekeepers of Northern Ireland for one thing. Quite exciting really, there is talk of some beehives being put into a field close by to us, I do hope they go ahead with it, it would be great for the pollination of all our fruit and vegetables. Plus if you eat local honey, your hayfever symptoms are supposed to lessen. I really wanted to buy some of the honey they'd brought with them, but I'd no money! Can you believe it, I came only with the float for the stall and nothing for me!

As well as that there were a few stalls and face painting, a jazz band, a bouncy castle (damned unfair that adults aren't allowed on them), the fire brigade and wait for it.....a petting farm!

Good grief I could have stayed with all the animals all day but instead I had to make do with 5 mins here and 5 there to get some photos and then get back to the stalls. What cutie pies there were; pigs, goats, sheep, calves, miniature ponies, rabbits, donkeys and chickens. It was fab and the kids (and big kids) were so happy to get close to them. I made a friend of one of the lovely cow calves ~ it was hiding it's head under my arm and getting sleepy when I tickled it behind the ears. Sweet.

The Council held a scarecrow competition too. The entries were great and I just caught this boy as he ran screaming with his friends to theirs, jumping up and down because they won! Little Weed was 2nd and Cecil's grandchildren's one, called Stanley, was 3rd (our next door lottie neighbours). They're getting a prize in the post, no idea what but I'll find out.

Only 1 more part to go and I think I will get Andrew to say a few words on how he felt the day went. Oh, check out even more photos here, taken by Stephen.
P.S This morning I harvested a handful of my own blueberries from the back garden. There has been a war going on between me and a lady blackbird over the past weeks, b*tch. Well today, victory was mine!!!!! Victory tasted good too.