Friday 27 August 2010

So here it is - the grand unveiling of 'the plan'

The plan
You can tell Andy is a trained archaeologist can't you, everything is in perfect scale :)

The real thing

So any thoughts, questions, ideas???? Please do send them our/ Andrew's way :)

P.S. I am always honest on my blog so, well I've had another nervous breakdown. Happened on Tuesday; Wednesday and yesterday are a bit of a blur and today I have the worst headach, terrible concentration and just need sleep (but I promised I'd post this so..).
 I haven't been out, I have barely spoken and naturally I've not been well enough to visit the lottie. I hope to go this weekend and have lots of photos and stories. I just want to thank you, dear friends and visitors for your continued support. I'll be okay - right?
 Sorry I haven't been reading your blogs and commenting as usual, but now you know why xx

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Happy News :)

We got our re-newed mortgage offer this morning, so just waiting on NI Water and then we'll have our new house - yippppeeee! This is just a quick note, I'll be posting Andrew's garden plan tomorrow for you all to discuss and give advice on - Hugs - I have celebratory dessert to eat :)

Sunday 22 August 2010

500 bloggettes and what have we learnt?

It's a war out there. That's what.

We (and by that I mean our plants, but they are so much a part of us that it may as well be our very human selves that I speak of here) are attacked constantly from all sides and there is no platoon 'watching our 6' no, we have to have sharp wits about us and fight tirelessly in each of our battles. We have so many enemies, so many opposed to us growing and eating our own. They come from underground and eat the roots, there is the infantry - those slugs and beetles and damn cats, the air corp -  cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on our brassicas and the resultant ravenous catepillars, birds eating our precious little crops of redcurrants, sawfly destroying our gooseberry plants even when we/they beg for mercy. We also have biological warfare with blight, the dreaded 'B' word which all allotmenteers fear, none more so than us, the Irish (mind wonders off into those history lessons of yore...Potato famine 1840's..)

Oh we tend our ground and we dig, double dig, treble dig and then dig a little more for luck. We pamper our soil with the finest homemade compost we can possibly produce, this is A1 stuff (heck we made it!), we add horse poo, cow poo, seaweed and whatever other stinky things we can get our grubby little hands on. We welcome each and every worm, build homes for the good bugs (our allies, such as the small but mighty Ladybird), we cover the soil in winter with fleece to try and protect it from all the goodness being washed away by the rain and hard frosts, we talk to it, lovingly  and give it a little tickle now and then (okay I do and if you look into your hearts and past societies ideas of 'normal' you know you do it too).

If you are anything like my Hubby you will have gathered up and heck of a lot of books over the past 500 bloggettes and know the names of everything (sometimes even in Latin - eek). When, 500 bloggettes ago you struggled to remember if that there yellow flower was a daffodil or a tulip - hahahahaha, you know it's true Andrew. In gathering these books you will see very clearly that the old ones are the best. Now as long as you don't go into any of my Hubby's favourite 2nd hand books I am now going to encourage, nay, force you all to go looking for the good old war, post war and up to the 80's books on gardening - these will have lots of writing, some line drawings and...take a deep breath... very little in the way of fancy pants photographs! These are text books, they teach, they do not mess about and make it all look easy. This is because Growing Your Own Is War! (see above)

It is in this vain that I write today, few photos and lots of cold hard lessons.

You will fail, you will fail miserably, often and recurrently. You will go through the most terrible grumps when your whole carrot crop is just about fit for a miniature, premature rabbit to get one meal out of; your courgettes all balloon into marrows and you can't for the life of yourself grow a darn pumpkin. Even worse than that seeds will not germinate - they just plain aren't interested and say in their own way - p*ss off I'm not doing anything. Or is this the worst?; the stunningly fabulous plants you have grown, tended lovingly (talked to and even on occasion sung to ~ I know you do, stop denying it) are blown over in a gale or succumb to illness out of nowhere and die seemingly before your very eyes *weep*.

What have we learnt?

***  It is hard to be a gardener/mini farmer. Hard on the soul at times, the hands and even the wallet. It is tiring to be a gardener/mini farmer, depressing in the cold muddy winter and exhausting in the heat of the summer sun. We get let down when crops fail, when we have a glut and feel that things are too much, we can't cope there is too much to do. The weather people on tv are never right about anything - ggrrrr.

*** It is a blessing to be fit enough to tend our own seeds, seedlings, plants, collect our harvests, cook our food and compost the leftovers to start all over again. It is utter joy to taste our own sweet fruits ripened by the sun which gives our faces that ruddy glow and lights the fire in our bellies. The hope that we have continuously in our hearts that things will grow because of us and without additives and chemicals. The natural wonder of being close to nature where we belong, where our souls sing - concrete is not our natural habitat people!!! The interaction with others of all ages and creeds both in the real world and in this virtual wonder world we call so simply 'the web'. That Ecotherapy isn't a panacea but can help and that, as we know, it ROCKS! The photographs, the showing off, giving gifts to friends and family and the lottie bbqs :) Oh, and purple sprouting broccoli that is worth the hassle and the long weight :)

I have learnt joy, sadness and hope. I have become more articulate and interested in nature. I have met some fabulous friends, had lovely moments of utter serenity in my plot conversing with ladybirds or our friendly robin; watching clouds float by to the music of the birds in the hedgerows. I have had horrendous panic attacks and periods of depression when the lottie has been my enemy. I, me, I have made a birdhouse that was used to raise a healthy family of Blue Tits and I saw the last fledgling take it's first flight. I've got my hands dirty, broken nails; I have fallen; I have lost a dear friend called Bobby.

500 blogettes - I've found a little more of me and I have felt love from you. I have grown, felt the full spectrum of emotions, lived. What more can I/we ask for?

My heart felt thanks to you, dear reader for sharing this with me. Here's to the next 500 little pieces of life xx

Saturday 21 August 2010

Benvarden part 2 (beautiful flowers)

Oh my Benvarden was a place you could easily spend all day in, or even better - wait the the owners are on holiday and 'move in' you know, not necessarily invited but you are tidy and things are just as they left them.....Ummmm I must think further on this. If  you are a member of the police force (you do a great job!) just ignore that; I'm joking, honest *nervous laughter*.

Anyway, back to my point - it is lovely; all these older gardens that are surrounded by walls and have rose gardens, a tennis court, a lean to greenhouse, a hiding sitting area with the oldest wisteria ever and a court yard (that just to have horses in it, but no longer). Oh it was lovely and there was more to come but really, it's 5 mins past 2 at night and I am not that sleepy strangely but Spinal Tap the Rockumentary is on and I've never seen it and Andy is yawning VERY loudly and I often think his mouth won't close again...

I have prepared another small collage that doesn't really do it justice but it might make you want to go and see it for yourself  ~ I should work for the NI tourist board :) I can not fault the place, though I didn't eat in the tea room which I always do and then give critic to friends (I find that finding nice places to eat on a day out is invaluable information) as I had been feeling rather sick - yes poor me and my dicky tum.

I do so hope this gets you through the weekend and I shall be back with a little more on the place, and hopefully news from the lottie AND if you are extra good children, I will tell you about Andrew's utterly brilliant designs for our new back garden - oh I am a tease!

Hugs xxxx

Thursday 19 August 2010

Benvarden Gardens (the veggie section)

When Andrew was off work about million years ago (okay it was the the first week in August) we did lots of lovely days out and lots of days doing very little too :) But on the Thursday we decided we really ought to visit a place we had been procrastinating over for a couple of years. Benvarden is inland from the gorgeous Antrim coast way up Ballycastle way and won the best garden in Ireland award from the Irish Times in 2009 - so it is pretty darned good.

'This historic estate was built in the 1630s and owned by the Montgomery family since 1798' and you basically are walking around their kitchen garden, walled garden and small forest area. At one point you are very close indeed to the house which makes you feel a little like a stalker but hey they let you in and you have to pay £3.50 for the pleasure so I really didn't feel naughty for long.

We were pretty lucky to be there on a day when the gardeners where working. Using old machinery (for which they have a little museum) plus as there were few visitors Andy and I got to take 2 apples (the gardener told us too) and a good hoke about in the Victorian greenhouses. Happy days.

Have to say, the quality of the kitchen gardens was very good indeed and there was very little sign of disease or nasty bugs, however Andrew took great joy in pointing out things that he had grown better this year and also in pointing out all the bolted red lettuces (bottom left photo). Hahhaha, there is always a little competition amongst gardeners.
Click the collage to make it larger and enjoy your own wee trip to the veggie garden, go one compare your own crops to the professionals - bet you find something that you grow just as well or indeed better! ;)
I'll show you the pretty flowers and the pond tomorrow xx

Tuesday 17 August 2010

It's my birthday :)

As it is my birthday and I can therefore do what I like, I want to share some photos of the lottie that haven't fitted in anywhere. I'll talk more about the amazing Benvarden gardens and Castle Ward which we have been to over the past couple of weeks later but for now I am lounging happily in my new slippers reading other blogs...

Wednesday 11 August 2010

the great onion challenge

So it all started when Bill grew some 'Kelsae' onion seeds and each participant was given 6 seedlings each, all from that one batch. They were planted and then the secrets began, the 'special' fertilisers that people won't share, the fleece to protect them, the placement of the seedlings and what soil they were put in and goodness knows - the type of persuasive loving chats that each person has with their potential winners?, I wouldn't be surprised.

Oh I love the camaraderie of it all, the sneeky glances and the questions over whether the prize should go to the biggest one, or the heaviest one. Do they need to be trimmed and tied up according to the RHS show rules and more importantly -WHO exactly is the judge going to be???

There are far more people involved in this challenge than I have photos for and you will notice I have taken the pictures from different angles and some are close ups - just so you can't tell for sure whose looks best.
The big day must be coming up soon but this is a boy's game and I'm just watching from the side lines (though of course I know where my loyalties lie, haha).

Any tips for making your onions big and heavy (without cheating!) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks xx
Oh and the prize? some beer probably, a WEE CUP! and the knowledge amongst the lottie community that yes, you were the best in 2010!!


Our's (the best maybe, hehehe)

Stephen's ~ one of which is stuck in the yellow tube and is now a leek of sorts instead :)


Colin's (he has a cheeky hidden one too that is rather big)


News just in : there are 2 sections to this competition.
1- the biggest (weight) onion
2- the best pair (closest matching) out of the 6.

The competition is fierce my friends and I shall of course cover the big day for you. Including an interview with the winner perhaps!!

Tuesday 10 August 2010

This time next week...

I have been honoured by Gill Carson of My Tiny Plot to be a co-founder of the UK Veg gardeners group. An on-line community for those of us in the UK who love to garden and grow our own. Check it out - you can join up now of course but the big launch is next Tuesday.

Monday 9 August 2010

Bloomin' Monday

hello remember me? I took a break from the blogging whilst Andrew was off; sorry if that last post was a bit graphic but it's how I felt and I needed to express myself. I haven't been much better since then and the attacks and the depression are continuing to plague me, my every thought.

Even today (which is a beautiful summer day were I would eat a little ice cream if I liked the stuff) has been turned sour.
I went   on my 3rd solo walk, it was going quite well and Maggie was being a good girl but then this lady started shouting at me from across the road (which she and her friend's cars were blocking), I was panicky and nearly home so forgive me but I ignored her, 4 times (yes I know, I'm horrible), then she touched my shoulder and liver flew up into my mouth. She had me crushed up against a wall and complained that she had been calling me - I told her 'sorry, I'm having a panic attack- need to get home', but she started asking many a question about how to get to Mauds (my fave coffee and bun cafe - famous for ice cream). She just would not let me go, and was smiling away as if I was just startled by her loveliness. Information was gurgled out and then (heavens preserve me) I ran like a little girl the rest of the way home. It's taken an hour for me to calm down and for the low screaming sound to stop in my head.

So your wonderful post on the fab flowers at the lottie will have to reduced to this.
A bunch of Cone Flowers that Andrew picked for me about 5 days ago and a posey I picked on Saturday, with my sweet peas, a dahlia and 2 miniature ilium seed heads in my favourite jar.

I also picked a posey of my 'Cupani' sweet peas (the purple and pink ones) hand tied them all professional like and gave them to the first person I saw (that was the rule in my head), which happened to be a very hard working lady, who was a bit miffed as we don't know each other :) Spreading a little free love is my new vice baby ;) ~ but please, only when I am not having an attack.

Wishing you a happy, relaxed afternoon/evening and let us all have a better tomorrow xxxx

Wednesday 4 August 2010

too many panic attacks

I need to bend in this storm like the carefully staked young tree. Hold me in your arms, tie me to this earth. I feel so lost in the fog of my past. 'Live for the moment' you say but pure panic is all feel in the now. I need stillness in this turmoil, it blurs all sight of any path to a future. This wind is so cacophonous, discordant and perpetual. I think I'm screaming but none can hear me.

Rooted to the spot, I am ridgid about to break. All is madness.

Monday 2 August 2010

The Sun is shining

There is blue sky, I can hardly believe it but when I'm not looking at the screen in front of me my eyes drift up to the Velux window and yes, it's still there - all that blue! July was officially the dullest on record and boy did we all feel it, the oppressive, heavy clouds every single day and rain, oh rain all the time! But it's the 2nd of August and although it was nasty yesterday I'm thinking maybe someone has told Mother Nature that it's August and it's about time we had some bright skies.

I'm super excited about this as Andy is off on a weeks holiday. We are stay-cationing if that makes sense (we're not going away on holiday) so it couldn't be nice and blue at a better time :)

We had baked rhubarb, ginger and cardamon pods with cream last night for dessert (after a very healthy dinner of peas (frozen, but still ours) and mixed beans (broad and runner) and chorizo on toast - just before you call me a fatty). It was delicious and very tart and cleansing, plus there's more in the fridge - Happy Days all round.

Must dash, shower to have and then get my hubby out of bed and into the sunshine. Big hugs to you all xxxx