Friday 28 February 2014

Homecoming and hope

Welcome friends, to the last day of February. Already there are glorious signs that the world is waking up, that colour shall abound once again and we shall be in the arms of nature and her bounteous wisdom. The television is bombarding me with images of pain and anger, real suffering and worry and I am not blinding myself to it, however, for my own well being I need to focus on this beauty, this newness that is all around. I need HOPE.

~ Snowdrops and Crocuses ~
Snowdrops and Crocuses - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

~ Tulips peeping through ~
Tulips peeping through - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

~ Tiny Celeriac seedlings ~
Tiny celeriac seedlings  - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

When I think of planting a bulb or seed I think of the many times in my life where I feel as if I were at the bottom of a deep well. Misery is heaped down upon me as shovel loads of soil backfill the hole; I am scared and alone. It takes an unbearable length of time but slowly I overcome yet a new pile of dirt and eventually things work so I am always standing on top of the new soil. Tamping it down under my feet....I raise higher and one day there is my face above the ground level.

This magical world of bulbs and seeds coming to life gives me some hope for happier days ahead, and more importantly, a jolt of joy and hope just for a moment - enough to keep me fighting :)

Printable on Hope - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

I have much to tell you but for now I shall leave you with your new month's poster :) And a sincere wish that you too are taking the time to notice the changes, the new life that is coming into the world. Stop a moment and realise that this is important for our souls, so dark from wintertime.


Thursday 20 February 2014

Visiting a Nursery :)

On Sunday we made the very darning decision to go out for an hour to a local nursery (ie I have been going bonkers with this cold and this blasted sofa!). As soon as we entered we saw this display of spuds and had to stop...had to peruse and consequently buy :) 'Kestrel' was the spud that caught the eye and, well Andrew gave in right away, haha.
'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

British Potato Variety Database
Personally I felt amazed at being out and was more interested in seeing everything I could, including this beauties in the sunlight...
'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Of course I was coughing and shivering and generally showing the signs of someone too ill to be up and out so Hubby dearest took me for a coffee and scone. Really, I used to get annoyed that nurseries these days are about 40% plants and tools, 35% cafe and the rest, gift shop be honest, on Sunday I could have kissed the cafe people for their warm drinks and comfy seats. Basically, I'd found myself exhausted in no time and in need of rest.

Back home, before returning to the sofa and my blankie, I went out to the potting shed and saw the other potatoes chitting away = exciting times. Maggie came too, you know she likes to be involved :)
Chitting away - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Maggie inspecting the spuds - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog
Back on the sofa and asleep in no time; Andrew planted the Celeriac seeds though there isn't anything to see yet but the soil in the little cells so I'll spare you any photos of that.

May your week be going delightfully, may the weather be getting better slowly but perceptibly and may you dear one, be feeling healthy and happy xxx


Monday 17 February 2014

Venturing plotwards

Andrew was lucky yesterday and unlike his pestilence ridden wife (me), he was able to visit the Lottie for the first time this year and get some work done. Yay!!!

I lay a-weeping on the sofa and blowing my nose, coughing and generally feeling the urge to paint a huge cross on the door to warn people to stay away....Maggie was very adorable and lay on my arm - it made doing anything practically impossible but I think that was the idea...'rest human, who will feed me biscuits if you are too ill?'

Maggie beginning adorable - Grow Own Own Allotment Blog

So, anywho, Andrew took a few photos for me and here they are...
Plot 24a, 16th Feb - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog
Good bright day and look daffs well through in the right hand bed :)
Garlic coming through - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog
Not the best photo but look really hard and there are garlic shoots poking through. 2 rows left .side of the bed
Afternoon's work well done - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog
Lovely manure mulch on one back bed and the other all tidied, bar the leeks :)
There aren't pictures any of 14b, that would tip my sickness over the edge! But I am so thankful that Andrew took these for me - I was really devastated not to be there yesterday. The plot isn't always a great place for me, it doesn't always make me feel better but if it hadn't been for the man flu, I feel my depressed state would have lessened in seeing new signs of life and I do so love constructive destruction - ie. ripping out veggies that are 'past it' and weeding etc.

However, even though I wasn't able to go I do now feel that we have started on our long journey into happier times; a leave taking from the lows of winter, a moving on from the unhappy, unmotivated selves we have been... Come on spring!

Hugs and love (but only virtually as I don't want to smite you lovely people!)

Friday 14 February 2014

Happy Valentines Day x

Loads of love from Maggie

And this is from Me...
Thank you for reading my blog and being a friend!

Thursday 13 February 2014

Under the weather

Maggie and I are really feeling low, its terribly sad, I know. You want to make us cakes and biscuits and send chocolates? Or that is very kind, thank you :)

Yesterday we were both firmly ensconced on our own sofas, wrapped up in blankies and simply looking at each other and then out the rain splattered windows then sighing..

Forgive us, we aren't going through the terrible heart wrenching floods on TV, we aren't snowed in and really its not been that bad but the rain has been heavy and continuous. The sky all grey and darkness at 11.30am yesterday! I know I feel like the storm has got inside me :(

Today Maggie is brighter but my brain is still addled, I can't get warm, the bad cold is back and ohh I feel so confuddled. Thank goodness for coffee and a friend and a brighter sky or I think I would still be in bed; I look like and feel like poo but that just because it's a bad mental health day.

Desperately I look through gardening magazines, books and cookery websites. I so want a classic trug made of wood which Maggie and I will go and fill with our own cut flowers to celebrate the colour and joy of summer (if it ever comes). Oh simple dreams as we vegetate in this weather and mental fug..... Anyone know where a girl can get one of those trugs without taking out a second mortgage!??

The pictures of Maggie above are from a new little venture we decided to try - we have started an Instagram account. I downloaded it when I got my newest phone but never used it until someone at the Culloden started to take photos of their friends for their account and I thought - 'oohh I can do that too'. The first photo on my account is that dessert from that night :) The rest, well it's all Maggie so far! It'll be fun I think when we are at the plot together to take little photos and videos and we are reaching a whole new audience of dog lovers and outdoorsy types :)

Click here if you would like to follow Maggie in her adventures - photos everyday. You can't have enough Maggie in your life!
(Don't fear I will make a super cute little button for the right hand bar later)


Hugs and love

Monday 10 February 2014

Potato Selection 2014

A real odd ball fact about me is I don't enjoy eating potato but I do get way too over excited about growing them. Seriously, I am not a chip/mash/roastie or baked potato girl though I do eat them and heck I live in N. Ireland so it would be difficult not too. It's not that I have anything against them, they simply make me feel  as though I have been run over by the 'sleepy, bloaty' train.
Last year's earlies - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog
Some of last year's earlies
But as I say, I do get inordinately excited about growing these starchy sleepy balls of yum. I think, no I know, it has to do with my memory of Papa out in his back garden when I was little and thinking him utterly magical when he lifted fresh spuds from the ground for dinner. I don't know, maybe everyone has someone from their past that just seems to have been a gentle giant, a can-do genius, an inspiration to your childish eyes and that has never changed.
My grandparents and Me - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog
Nana, Papa and Me
Somehow being a part of that magic back then still echoes within me each season when we pick our spuds, chit them, plant them, watch them grow and then dig up that hidden treasure for ourselves. I have been waiting for the weekend when we would go to get our seed potatoes since Christmas and last weekend (Sunday) was that day. Sadly I was extremely poorly and ended up only getting as far as the car park of the nursery and sat there in the midst of the most earth shattering panic attack of many years; I was about 300 meters away from the joy of picking our seeds, but a million light years away from my own sense of self.

So Andrew, he is wise and we trust him, picked the 2 types for 2014.
** First earlies Pentland Javelin
The British Potato Variety Database

** Saxon for our second earlies (these are new to us)
The British Potato Variety Database
So expect photos of chitted spuds and spuds being planted and what not - lets all share the magic of the humble potato, together :)


Saturday 8 February 2014

Cactus Killer; Cookbook lover

I did the unthinkable - I killed Eduardo! He's gone, gone to the cactus heaven in the sky and he was so young...I loved him too much, I over watered him, I wanted him to be so stylish I neglected his environmental needs. I, my friends, am a murderer, though my tiny fake flamingo is awesome - right?.

Eduardo was only a couple of years old, I got him for my study as I thought, foolishly, that there was no way I could possibly kill a cactus, they live forever, right? But I put him in a room without good sunlight and certainly no direct sun at any time of the year; I really wanted to use this fabulous glass container Andrew has saved from the lab at work, I wanted to try and have at least one plant in the house. I failed, again. I have only ever owned 2 houseplants Eduardo and an ivy which I placed in direct sunlight, in a bathroom and never watered. Oh the shame of this is too much to bare - I have black thumbs!!

Rest in peace Eduardo, sorry Andrew ripped off your head to see just how stinky it was inside you. I promise never to get another houseplant again. Oh goodness this photo just says it all - look how brown he is and a gaping hole; 'I love you' ? How insulting...

If you're interested in how to care for a cactus in your home, ignore me and go to this page instead *blush*


I received a wonderful gift earlier this week from Mamma G (yes I am quickly changing the subject) in the form of an old Cookbook. I'm sure everyone has something like this in their country - a recipe book of traditional fare with the recipes provided by everyday women (many farmers' wives) that tell you the right way of making those dishes your Granny used to make. It's a Federation of Women's Institutes of Northern Ireland book - they are still going and still making cookbooks but this one is from sometime in the 1960s.

I am planning on trying to recreate some of the dishes with the produce we grow on the plots - if there are any success stories I will share, though maybe it would be funny to share my disasters too :) My hubby is a better cook than me but I want to give it a try.

Hugs (and may you see a little blue sky over the weekend - we can dream, right?)

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Fabulous Culloden Estate and Spa

a.k.a. A night away in utter luxury which saved our sanity!

So I told you Andrew had organised a little break for us last Friday night to a super posh hotel, well I didn't lie... We went to the utterly gobsmackingly gorgeous 5* Culloden Estate and Spa for drinks, dinner, one of the most wonderful sleeps ever and breakfast. Some people would term this B&B but this was so much more!

When we arrived we were greeted by a gentleman in a top hat that wanted so much to take my bag but as I refused (I felt funny about being treated so posh-like) he opened the door for us and bid us welcome. This welcome was extended and dare I say, improved upon by the receptionist who not only went and said those magical words...'ah I see you have been upgraded to the Troon suite, I hope that is to your liking' = internal giggles of utter pleasure but a calm response of 'oh, how delightful!'

Our room, sorry, suite was amazing and even had its very own turret, remote controlled gas fireplace, dining table, 2 sofas and the ultimate in comfy beds and macaroons!

We had cocktails - free! called 'Christmas Crackers' - I did flag this name up with the lovely barman and we decided that it needed changed right away. I think 'The Cheeky Bishop' would be good as the bar is in what was once a church ;) Yes Culloden House was at one time the home of the Bishop of the Church of Ireland and seriously, there is a church building within it, the stained glass of which is amazing! We lounged about there chatting, drinking coffees and then went up to our room to relax before dinner.

I put a dress on for dinner and we went down to find that we were listed as VIPs and were to have a free after dinner whisky each = happy days! Dinner was incredible (all locally sourced foodstuffs which goes down super well with us, the hotel group seems very passionate about that and has booklets explaining where everything comes from) with views over the Belfast Lough (which was all a-twinkle) and delicious wine. As I am so short I was perched at the edge of my chair so my feet touched the ground and would you believe it...a kind waiter brought over a cushion for my back - I could so get used to being a VIP :) 

It was a lingering affair and the staff were lovely, so attentive and friendly; but eventually we rolled ourselves to the elevator and went back to our room and the huge flat TV screen and fire. Cue complementary toweling robes and slippers, a bed turn down and a movie :)

We slept so good (on a 'cloud bed') and breakfast had so much to offer, oh yummy! I didn't have room for the porridge but I so wish I had of as you had the option to put Bushmills Honey flavoured whiskey in it :) 

Sadly there aren't many pictures of the grounds or any of the herb garden (regularly used by the chefs) as it was bloomin cold and raining and we didn't give ourselves enough time to visit the gym or spa....but there is always next time :) 

* Here's our turret again though - inside and out. Awesome! :)
All views are my own and I have not been given any incentive to write this bar from sharing the fabulous time I had.

Hugs and love

Monday 3 February 2014

Stupid blasted weather

Arrrrghh and huumpph - I'm in a huff with Mother Nature and feel she really is being rather unfair and well, down right nasty. Look at this! and it's bloody cold and getting windy I can tell you! The only upside I can see is that unlike Maggie I don't have to go out there to use the bathroom. Ohhh but I feel so trapped, my immune system isn't strong enough to venture out anywhere in that *shakes fist at sky*.

Today -

So instead let us cast our minds back 6 months and rejoice in the sunshine...
Joyful sunshine in July - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog

More joyful sunshine in July - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog

Maggie savouring the sunshine - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog
Yes, she has a bark chip in her beard, that's how she rolls :)

I know Spring shall conquer but today it really can't come soon enough.