Friday, 30 May 2014

Saving our sanity

Arrrghhh! 14b is really messing with our heads and it's all just a bit much. We finally broke last week and had to make a decision...we are covering half of it in plastic or some such material and focusing only on the cut flowers, raspberries and gooseberries this year. So well play 14b, well played.

The darn gon' freaking weeds are just too much to handle and I swear that plot is the major breeding ground for, oh let's say, half the known slugs in the world! We are miserable every time we look at it and I just seem to waste hours every weekend in there battling with some really stubborn mutant dandelions the size of my head and grass, grass growing everywhere. It's cleared one day and they're back the next. On top of this the soil is terrible no matter how much we improve it with compost, manure, grit etc.

****** Its a freaking money pit! ******

So more love and attention is going to given to 24a and I think in the end we won't renew our ownership of the other half plot when spring comes around again in 2015. That's just how we feel right now. 14b I think we shall have to part next year, you take up too emotional and physical energy from us.

To be honest we are having differences in our lookout on the allotment means to us. This year particularly,
* Andrew is NOT enjoying the plot, he believes himself to be so far behind with everything, complains about the soil, the weather the way the seedlings aren't growing right, the fact that we have every pest there is and the pigeons, do not get him started on the pigeons! Then again he is the gardener and does the majority of the work.

Me, I'm proud of it. I am proud that we are in this for the long game and aren't thinking along the same paths as so many young people today - we don't need to have it now, it's not like some video game, we aren't doing this to gain fame and fortune. I have wanted to be there more often this year than the last 3 years put together, I've even been by myself! I can work for an hour or so alone as Andrew drives off to collect supplies and guess what - I haven't completely freaked out. It's pretty much been the only consistent thing that gets me out of the house.

Yes I see all the problems and I do lament the loss of seedlings and 10, 10! marigold plants over night. I don't like slugs, aphids or cheeky birds eating my food. It's hard work for me to get myself there, I often don't enjoy it and feel often like giving up bar the fact we have spent so much money on it and of, lordy, much time.

But it feels meaningful to be growing our food. I don't know that I would have anything to do with my life if I didn't have those days of taking photos and working the day away, putting what energy I have into this blog... It helps save my sanity.

It's Friday, we ought to be happy, sorry..

I did this last Saturday on 14b all  by hand as we don't have any petrol strimmers or lawnmowers....
saved the blackberry and rhubarb from so much grass - '' ~ An allotment blog
saved the blackberry and rhubarb from so much grass
chives, gooseberries, blackcurrants plus new dahlias and roses in place - '' ~ an allotment blog
Beautiful produce - chives, gooseberries, blackcurrants plus new dahlias and roses in place
Much love and best wishes to your plots and gardens friends!
Carrie xx

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

(3rd) Happy Days Project

Still loving this project of collating an instagram photo a day to make up a collage of happiness. Okay, I may have missed a few days here and there and it isn't exactly the continuous stream it ought to be but in my world some days are just best forgotten.

Anyhow, here is the third instalment of my Happy Days (varied I know, but hey, lots of things make me happy when I think about it).... Click to enlarge!

41 A night in alone :( Made better by this - bubbles and chocolate!  42 Maggie has designs on making gourmet dinners for herself.... 43 Cows :) God I love my countryside!!!  44 Never thought of this before....zebra = tiger horse ;) 45 - Damn you human!!! A bath??! I smelt wonderful. But oh, a biscuit? Well okay... 
46 -16th Century village trapped in time and cared for by the National Trust - Culross, Scotland 47Stunning golden lion's head door knob. The Golden Lion Hotel in Stirling, Scotland. 48Ohh my good god! = happy! 49Just some of the veg seedlings to be planted. 50Summer dinner no.1
51Beautiful vignette of plot 14b. It's so messy at the minute! 52Super cool elephant drawing on the community board in Starbucks today. Loved it!! 53It's true! 54Butterfly on the brambles, this showery April morn. 55Chocolate chip dog shaped shortbread :)
56Pretty important day for anyone who cares about democracy in our country! What a privilege it is to vote. 57Moving On by Ainslie Henderson. Incredible. 58A mini schnauzer as seen in the majestic! 59Celery, carrots and hummus out of our new handcrafted pottery...yummy Saturday nights in. 60Tree peony at Rowallane
I'm exploring a load of different printers at the moment and have one more I really want to try before I decide on my favourite - price/quality etc. I have lots more photos on my instagram page here and am toying with the idea of selling some either as perfect little squares or as greetings cards.

* If it seems that it wouldn't be expensive I would open up the option to my readers - what do you think? *

Love and hugs

Friday, 23 May 2014

Our urban oasis

Yesterday was one of my worse mental health days for a very long time. It's left me exhausted and upset and truly looking back I can't believe I got through it - but I did, just. So I am very thankful that this is a long weekend and hopefully there will be plenty of fun to be had and yesterday can be forgotten...

I started putting these photos together before the world collapsed around my ears and to honour myself I am going to continue with the post I had planned....
So, I'm being a little improper and boastful here and am going to talk about our wonderful hideaway of a back garden. Over the last fortnight it has really started to show what it's capable of and we are so looking forward to more to come as the summer progresses. It is truly becoming what we envisioned - a secret, calm hideaway filled with lush greens and soothing to the soul.

  • A fortnight ago we were saying our goodbyes to the tulips and I felt rather sad...

back garden - '' ~ an allotment blog
* awww look at them, they did so well and made me smile every morning
* hey, it's Maggie. I would imagine she's angry at me as it looks as though she's just had a bath
* the Virginia Creeper is taking off
* I love ivy!! there was lots at our wedding but this is getting out of hand... plus happy Camelia :)


  • A week ago we sat out for the first time with a glass of wine after a little pottering...

back garden - '' ~ an allotment blog
* Awww what a cute Maggie pic - she was feeling good in the sun
* One of those joyous moments that makes gardening worth it
* Just love the way wisteria stems wrap around themselves so tightly
* Ivy has mostly gone, replaced by Buddha

  • Yesterday morning the weather was simply too glorious not to take photos (even without any hayfever tablets!), though going right round to the tea garden was a bit much.. 

back garden - '' ~ an allotment blog
* Left side as you step out - the beech hedge looks so happy and healthy now, the tulips are gone, water feature cleaned out and working again and look at that Virginia creeper!
* Japanese maple looks it's best so far, our lovely big stepping stones, the Virginia creeper need it's wires lengthened, hoorah!
back garden - '' ~ an allotment blog
* the right hand side of the garden and the Norway Maple is such a stunning colour, the box hedges growing and getting fluffy and the bamboo doing great bar one or two branches
* the star jasmine is truly starting to take over and is so healthy (we want it to be vigorous at it has a big blank wall to cover), it reminds me of our honeymoon

Hugs and love; today shall be better.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Growing Celeriac

We love our celeriac in this house and have been growing it on the plot since the first year; always Giant Prague and always with the happiest of results. It amazes me that these vegetables aren't more popular in supermarkets and restaurants, its high in fibre and low in calories, but I guess we can change that, fellow growers!
picture taken from seed parade where we got ours
Okay, they aren't the prettiest of veggies to look at and uneducated people may see them and think it's a really ugly turnip and maybe slightly diseased. In some causes they are known as 'turnip-rooted celery', it would be an easy mistake to make. They are knobbly and swollen and smell like celery (not what you expect if you think it's a turnip!) but oh, they taste so good and are an all round unsung hero of the larder! You can eat the leafy tops and of course, the root and they keep well after harvesting and are freezable if blanched :)

celeriac seeds - '' ~ an allotment blog

* The seeds are tiny... plant 2 in each module with rich soil and pull out the weaker one when they are seedlings. It only takes 2-3 weeks before they look like proper plants and for us the germination rate is usually 100%. This should be done in early spring in the potting shed and later hardened off in a cold frame.

seedlings in the cold frame - '' ~ an allotment blog
there they are bottom left ;)
* We are at the planting out stage which is done in May and June. This bed was marked out for them back in Autumn and thus given loads of good old horse poo and compost, they are hungry plants (hungry for nutrients, water and sunshine) and general purpose compost a week before planting out isn't a bad idea too!

Here's Andrew showing us how he likes to plant them... about 20cm apart in a line without burning the crown, you want the soil right up to base of the stems. Our second row is a good trowels length apart, so about 30cm; some people like to do them much further apart.
planting out celeriac seedlings - '' ~ an allotment blog

There that was easy enough, now to look after them....
* So whilst they grow you must keep the area weed free and mulch them if the weather gets hot (to keep the nutrients in) and as with all veggies, remove those side shoots and old leaves.
Keep an eye of those blasted slugs - grrrr.

We'll return to this later in the year when we harvest and eat ;)

Hugs and love

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Duality of the allotments

Over the past few days I have been taking Maggie for a walk right the way up the road and through the allotment gardens, out the bottom and along home again. It takes us about 25mins and has definitely been a huge step for me personally. It's funny how one's own fears and anxieties can be pushed to the side when you need to help another being - Maggie has developed arthritis in her back leg and needed a little more light exercise to ease the stiffness...she now has medication too, poor darling.

So on one hand the allotments are a great aid to us; somewhere quiet to walk and take our time, undisturbed and I think we'll be back tomorrow.
from my instagram account
However, no matter how much I try to enthuse about the place and remain optimistic our two the plots, only one is filling me with any joy these days. 14b is a weedy nightmare yet again with the damned plots around us casting all their blasted weed seeds into my lovely virgin soil yet again. It's enough to make a girl scream.

So permit me to just show you 24a; it's really maturing and we are loving it. This is by no means all that is happening there but just some highlights. In fact it's only the 2 beds on the right of 24a ('A' - for awesome!) Though of course Andrew only sees the things that aren't perfect and which he hasn't had time to do which puts a downer on things..
garlic, broad beans and beans - ~ an allotment blog
broad beans, garlic, mangetout

The spuds doing good so far :)
potatoes doing well - ~ an allotment blog

Tomorrow I'll share with you all about our Celeriac seedlings :)

* Now * - the most happy news of all.....the bird box I made years ago now has it's 3rd family of bluetits. That's a family every year in a row :) I am so terribly impatient when it comes to taking photos of birds - sorry....

awesome 3rd year in a row for bluetits :) - ~ an allotment blog

I swear I made this by myself, with my dodgy vision and wonky handsaw skills, so basically anyone can do it. Here's the link to the RSPB website which shows you how to do boxes like this....nestboxes for small birds

Hugs and love

Friday, 16 May 2014

An archaeologist's wife

Like everyone, I wear many hats in my life (though I have misplaced a couple recently) and I am not only an allotmenteer and blogger. No. I am a photographer who used to sell works, a felt crafter who stills sells a few bits, a dog owner and groomer, housewife and archaeologist's wife, given the chance I am also a loyal friend and quite a good baker.

For this post I would like to talk about what it's like being a wife to someone whose life at present is all about the archaeology and work, work, work. We haven't been to the plot for a wee while now and well that is terrible but weather has stopped us and archaeology has recently taken over our lives anyway. We have so much to do at the plots, but any free time is so precious we have tended to go to National Trust sites and pretend we're on holiday. Yep, we have even become members!

So along with talking, thinking, watching and reading archaeology, we have been visiting places too.

Those of you who are regular readers (how I do so love you for your encouragement) will know that in the past few months I have been in England and in Scotland with the hubby on fact finding missions. The reason being that there is a huge new project in the pipelines for Dunluce Castle! Naturally they want the best ideas for preservation, conservation, interpretation and the ultimate goal at these early stages.

(Maggie has been enjoying many a wee break with her Granny.)

Well I was away again on Monday and Tuesday there, back to Scotland. It's got me back into taking photographs again, not for sale, just for pleasure and thought I would share some.. I am trying, in my own way to enjoy this experience; as Andrew works hard and takes notes, I take photographs for him and try to feel helpful. I think I have mentioned before that we are so lucky with Andrew's work, as they know I can't be left alone overnight and must go with him if he is to be away for longer than a day trip. I find it all extremely stressful  but I know the final project will be worth it all and I am so proud of my hubby!

This was the most wonderful place of all that we have visited - Culross, a preserved town from the 16th Century which was left abandoned then bought by the National Trust of Scotland .. read more about it here. Culross Palace was incredible but it was its gardens are what really took our breaths away. So many vegetables, fruits and flowers together in such a pleasing arrangement.

So that's just a little or what I have been up to, ruins, castles, more castles, and a beautiful town and gardens.

We have much to do now we have time at home, so hopefully I will get back into writing about veggies and growing and hope and Maggie and such next week.

Much love and I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our adventures.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

(2nd) Happy Days Project :)

I adore the ease and instant gratification of Instagram - I just have my phone near me all the time away and the camera on it is great and can capture a wee image at any time. Then of course there are the digital filters to play around with = fun :)

Here is the second installation of my series of 100 happy days - really rather varied - click to enlarge.

21-Whitehead's Victorian Train Station;  22-The famous Albert clock in Belfast;  23-Daffodil farm in Scotland;  24-Us at the Glenfiddich Whisky Distillery;  25-Locally brewed pint in the Loch Ness Inn

26- Castle Urquhart;  27- Lovely Glencoe;  28-Spring has arrived in the garden;  29-Simple rice, peas, beans and chilli sauce - yummy;  30- My love bird salt and pepper

31- Maggie enjoying the sunshine and those tulips;  32-Dunluce Castle;  33-Lunch of melon, natural yoghurt and dried fruit outside!  34-My gnomes on the plot :)  35-Back into yoga properly and first mandala coloured in a while

36- Rhubarb and Ginger compote;  37-Sweetcorn coming along nicely;  38-Fabulous abandoned door in Bushmills;  39-My two favourites at Springhill;  40-Maggie kills her nemesis (everyday)
Just love all these reminders of good days, or even just one good moment in a bad day (eg. rice and chilli sauce photo). Still continuing with it...

We haven't been at the allotment for a little well now due to weather and Andrew's job (working a whole Saturday at Dunluce!) I have some lovely photos to share of Dunluce and 2 National Trust properties we've visited (we're now members!!) Today is the Giro d'Italia in our area and the whole place is on lock down, haha. So much PINK! xxx

Love and hugs
Carrie xx

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Eminent imploding brain

My brain is so very fragile that the last time I wrote anything here was last week and I couldn't even finish it. Even then the post was about days earlier and I was feeling down on myself for being so far behind. Well, look, it's taken a week to get to the point where I feel strong enough to open the laptop again!

Here is that unfinished piece.... 

"I'm getting tardy with my posts, or more like, there is so much going on that I simply can't keep up. I could write everyday but I think that would get a bit boring for you dear reader. Also my brain has slightly imploded over the last few days and I am having a hard time getting my words into coherent sentences; feels like I just need to sleep for a week.

So last Sunday we didn't get that long at the plots but we did try to get stuff done. Both of us were really tired and I was in a perpetual state of anxiety (which makes breathing difficult and this gardening almost impossible), but we wanted to be there. Cue - the planting of some root vegetables direct (two different carrots, turnips, parsnips and something); and me clearing out the long bed in the 14b of all it's left over weeds.

I also took a few excited photos of the potatoes and garlic which look so good thus far.

We are over run by seedlings everywhere here at home...

I made Rhubarb and Ginger Compote....(should give recipe, nicer than first one)
love and hugs "

So now today (or maybe tomorrow) I have a task; to catch up with life. If I don't record it then I have only darkness in my mind and nowhere to look to for encouragement as I sit here each day, alone with my destructive thoughts and the sound of screaming inside my head. Yep, it's not all strawberries and cream in my world and I'm not afraid to say that, I can't lie to you or myself. I am struggling, I have been for weeks.

I'll fight, I'll get my mojo back. 
Love and Hugs
Your Carrie