Thursday 5 November 2015

What became of me

It wasn't intentional that I close the lid on my laptop and walk away from my blog, but life has a habit (at least for me) of getting on top of me, crushing all my joy and anything that gives me a sense of purpose.

All the times I've truly felt good have gone by too soon. For now life is endured in between the acute anxiety that can't be rationalised away and the bouts of depression that turn me into this creature, so useless, so difficult to be around, so pointless. I have even begun to fear happiness as I worry how long it will last this time and how long the fallout will be.

Take last weekend for example...[extract from notes taken]

'It's been a beautiful day, one of those fab crisp sunny autumnal ones - perfect for being outside and immersed in nature. In short, an allotment day and I hate the way it makes me feel. Here I write in the dark, having just awoken from another 'I'm too depressed to cope' two hour nap. I'm cold, I'm wearing the same pjs I've worn night and day for a week and I so desperately wish I could touch a switch and my life would quietly stop. I know that isn't the way it happens but, I've dreamt of it most my life....and suddenly I feel so ashamed and slightly angry with myself. I can't think straight any more and this bumbling must stop, I am too pathetic as it is without writing about it, indulging in it.'

I'm sure I'm not like this deep inside; corners of my mind are quick, artistic, interested, wishing to learn, wishing to do, longing to trust people. In short somewhere within this rotting lump is a quivering flame of hope. That's obvious by that very act of getting up each morning, even if it is to sit on the sofa all day.


Okay so I wrote the above in fits and starts over the past few weeks and I am glad to tell you that the depression, if not the anxiety, is lifting. Goes to prove how terrifying the thoughts of suicide are... a permanent solution to a temporary state of mind.

back garden november ~ - an allotment blog
grim weather
I have great news - its shitty weather so no allotment guilt. I have a review of some fab pruners started and a new RHS book arrived to review too, goodness know when I'll get round to reading it!

It will all take me a good deal of time to get down on paper but slowly, with a hell of a lot of patience and kindness towards myself, I hope to be back writing soon.

With Love

Tuesday 1 September 2015

'The Crafted Garden' by Louise Curley - a book review

I'll admit I was a bit it doubtful when it came to this book. I thought it might be one of wasting time and getting frustrated at fiddly ephemeral projects, but reading the introduction Curley makes me want to be more in tune and celebrate the seasons inside my home. When you have had weather like us (no summer to speak of) it is a joy to see fresh flowers and plants whilst cosy and away from the constant rain.

It seems that at Christmas many of us find no problem in bring the outside in with wreaths, garlands and trees etc. Why not make this a year round event and as Louise says, invoke those days of the nature table in primary school, taking time to truly study the intricate beauty of nature in seeds, leaves and lichen etc. A miniature world of magic and miracles, free, forgaged or grown yourself.

On this point of foraging, there are great guidelines provided which are so very important and tips on cut flower care. All this before the book starts in earnest, broken up into the seasons....

As with every season Lousie provides a stunning variety of flower and foliage for you to grow or look out for. Yes, there are some fiddly projects (not great when you have permanent double vision like me) but the terrariums (which are so trendy) and the alpine theatre are really two projects I could see myself doing. Oh, and I love the tips on collecting quintessential spring flowers and pressing them; a fun record of a place or season and educational.

Each chapter ends with making use of nature at every turn, in this case how to make leaf mold.

The big question is put forward - why buy imported flowers when you can celebrate your garden and allotment?! I know we are all guilty at some time of buying exotic blooms when our own home grown are just as beautiful. This chapter provides great advice on choosing and growing cut flowers but also using colourful veg and herbs as centrepieces. There are instructions on drying flowers and tips on how florists make arrangements. Perfectly for the season, this chapter includes some fun kid projects too.

A celebration of the colourful leaves, autumn vegetables such as gourds, bare trees, making very simple but effective decorations showing their fragility and beauty. We have guidance of picking plants and trees with great seed heads and foliage and how to preserve with glycerine. To end we learn the best way to gather seeds for the next year.

Scandinavian style projects of rustic Christmas d├ęcor abound here, such as those found in beautiful and expensive shops. Making your own could be fun for all the family and I did really like the alternative tree featuring pine cones, twisted hazel and natural baubles. Napkin rings and gift embellishments are sweet and easy...why have I never thought of this beautiful heartfelt touches before?

The book ends with a long, extensive list of suppliers, so no excuses :)

Overall this is an excellent quality book with stunning photography and written in a friendly and relate-able way. Some projects are childish, but that's not a problem, getting the kids involved and appreciating the beautiful outdoors is a lovely family activity and great teaching method; it also takes you back to your own sense of childhood wonder. Further, if you live to entertain this book is for you and when I think about it now, it would be of fabulous help for great cost effective wedding solutions!!

Love and hugs

Wednesday 26 August 2015

A rant and calming pretty pictures

Today is La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain and, as with every year, I feel my heart breaking at the wastage of all those beautiful red tomatoes in a world were we had an aphid apocalypse in our greenhouse and too many people are truly starving to death or have illnesses like scurvy.

Yep, I'm a spoil sport and I hope everyone who takes part in the festivities today gets hit - whack bang!, in the bum at least once. Damn it.

Deep breath

So I've been ill again for a while and to be honest I still am and the exhaustion accompanying it has had me sleeping whole days away. For you though, I have imbibed much coffee and here we go with a calming post of all those photos I just haven't got around to sharing; I'm also hoping that this will wake up my resolve to get the lottie and use my new Fiskers SmartFit pruners and bring some more flowers home ..... I also have a new book to review on flower arranging crafts so...

forget-me-not ~ '' - an allotment blog
mushroom ~ '' - an allotment blog
climbing french beans - '' - an allotment blog
climbing french beans

blackberries! - '' - an allotment blog
Blackberry bush is covered in fruits = fingers crossed; it's us against the birds!
perfect white cosmos - '' - an allotment blog
White Cosmos - I love them so
mangetout - '' - an allotment blog
last handful of mangetout
allotment cut flowers - '' - an allotment blog
white cosmos, white dahlia, yellow dahlia, pink rose, yellow poppies, red poppies
ittle red peppers - '' - an allotment blog
little red peppers (some have dried tomato flowers petals on them)
Right, I did it, I wrote a wee post and now the whole idea isn't so daunting! I shall be back soon with more photos (I hope to go to the plots this evening) and reviews :)

Much love

Thursday 13 August 2015

All about those Bs

In good old fashioned 'Sesame Street' style, this post is brought to you with by the letter B....

All I am about to tell you what happened on Saturday, a rare day in my life when I was able to cope and more than that, actually enjoy being at the plots!

This year, (as it is for everyone on our allotments) hasn't been going too well; we have been plagued by birds and the weather has been terrible. Thus it was that I found myself, on arrival, pulling out all our diseased and pigeon decimated broad beans. They were still in the flush of fruiting, some had flowers still to mature, but we had to say goodbye, even to the baby successional ones planted in a wee triangle further along the bed.

broad beans - '' ~ an allotment blog

Beside them, the mangetout are starting to look in a bad state too, though there is plenty of flowers and pods on them. The birds have been nipping off the tops of each plant and every growing tip, they've been tugging at them hard too as quite a few plants were barely in the soil at all and had started to crisp up and crumble away from the bottom up. It really could get you down but I wasn't having any of that.

mangetout - '' ~ an allotment blog

Pretty much all and I mean all (we had about 6 berries left) of our gorgeous blackcurrants were gone on Saturday. Only a day, one blasted night, after the bush had been full and gloriously bursting. Boy was I looking forward to a dark, juicy harvest only to have it snatched away from me by - you guessed it, the bloody birds. They ate every ripe one and took those on the verge of perfection and ripped them off and left them on the ground :( Such sad times.
blackcurrants, gone - '' ~ an allotment blog

I weeded wildly, fuelled by my annoyance for a while but soon calmed down. Andrew was off again to Gleno village for more wood - by goodness there was a netted fruit cage to be built this day! Damnation - thou shall not pilfer our blueberries! *shakes fist at sky*

beautiful blueberries - '' ~ an allotment blog
the fruit cage has been working!
But, I mean look  - bird beaks have gotten to our Kale and the Pak Choi. Plus the Kohl Rabi  and PSB looks so sad. At this rate we would seriously need to consider netting our whole plot; one great big fruit cage!

sad Kale and Pak Choi - '' ~ an allotment blog

So I turned my back and focused my attention on the beetroot, which amazingly Andrew had forgotten about. But then he has been doing everything else and was on Saturday building us a lovely gravelled parterre path on 14b. We really wanted a big tonne bag of the stuff but had to be happy with some smaller bags as the deliveries were over for the day at the depot. However he did a fabulous job.

Andrew's parterre paths - '' ~ an allotment blog

Plus the Blackberries or as I like to call them Bramble berries are fruiting like crazy over there, it really does the heart good to see that one bush so big and healthy this year when so much else is a little disappointing.

Blackberries ripening - '' ~ an allotment blog

Anyway, back to the beetroot, both yellow and red varieties had been sown direct and forgotten about so I thinned them all out, put the really tiny ones straight into the compost and the rest into our harvest bags. Oh did we have a feast! Now the rest will have more room to grow and become big and beautiful.

yellow and red beetroot thinnings - '' ~ an allotment blog

Lastly, I missed my own Blog Birthday. It was on Monday and it passed me by in a whirlwind. So happy belated 7th blogiversary to me - yay! I must remember to eat cake at some time :)

More photos to come from that day and some from Sunday too when Andrew made a quick visit :)
Love and Hugs

Friday 7 August 2015

you say tomato..

If you remember, this is first year we have had a proper little lean-to greenhouse and it's been fabulous. One day we will get a standard sized one (I promise Andrew) but until then, it is amazing the amount of produce you can get from two tomato plants in the right heat and one pepper. Here is a photo of our, I think 3rd little haul from the toms so far and there are many, many more to come. These are Tumbler tomatoes for a change, we usually only grow Gardener's Delight.

little tomatoes - '' ~ an allotment blog

See now, I have actually come outside with my camera to prove to you that these plants are bonkers full of new fruits and really that's just a flavour, a couple of close ups :) Can you tell I'm pleased?
tomato plants- '' ~ an allotment blog

There is also a pepper plant out there, I don't know the variety, I think Andrew rescued it from certain death one day in a nursery. Well that's what my brain is telling me anyway. As far as I can recollect (my memory isn't great today) this is the first successful pepper plant we have had and it sure beats last year's disastrous chili plant attempt - oh the aphids, oh the inhumanity of it all...

We haven't picked any yet as they're still small but they sure look good and so shiny :)

Just whilst I'm on the title of 'you say tomato', I ought to show you the potatoes/potatoes before I 'just call the whole thing off' and go for a nap. 

These are either Sharps' express or Pentland javelin - okay, it's official I suck at remembering things! - but they are great looking and every one is edible. To think back in April we thought we'd never get any planted with the weather so bad, but there's been as good a haul as any year previously :) However not a single plant flowered and I do love me a potato flower photo :(

lifting the last potatoes - '' ~ an allotment blog

So, there we are, just a little more boasting about the things that have gone well, to keep this blog and this summer from sounding like an awful season.

Hugs and Love

Thursday 6 August 2015

harvest time on the allotment

This is a mostly very enjoyable post with much to be pleased about and a fabulous dinner for Andrew and me at the end of it. It's all about the harvest bag he brought home from the plots on Saturday.

Summer harvest - '' ~ An allotment blog

Let's get one point cleared up and put behind us right at the outset. The carrots had carrot fly (I didn't know about this) and when lifted they had carrot fly larvae in them. Oh gross, how disgusting to watch them try to flee their host and to think, it was happening in my kitchen, on my draining board! I have a graphic photo I am going to share in the interests of science, be warned...

Carrot fly larvae- '' ~ An allotment blog

Can you see that in the carrot behind there are 2 more larvae coming out, the longer we watched the more emerged from all the carrot harvest and they were very quickly dumped in the bin - by Andrew, I couldn't touch them.

* We planted a variety called 'fly away' which are meant to provide carrot fly resistance and it did work for a few weeks but then this. We will be doing everything next year, all the tips and companion planting possible - I love me a carrot and so does Maggie.

On with the rest of the harvest. The yellow beetroot, ugly even after a good scrub, but super tasty..
yellow beetroot - '' ~ An allotment blog
I love the beetroot 'dye' that comes out and disperses into the water after scrubbing with our Mr Carrot brush.

The kale is still going, though not for much longer, which is really sad as I love it and it seems to be one of the best foods for you too, if you believe the hype around it. Superfoods, why must there always be something in fashion - good food grown organically and picked at the right time is always going to the best there is for you!

Kale - '' ~ An allotment blog

Not a thing wrong with the beautiful newer harvests of scallions, mangetout and green garlic, long may we eat these glorious fresh veg. For a summer snack, mangetout dipped in hummus is a tasty and much healthier nibble than crisps any day! Plus the garlic is drying in the shed so we'll have it for months :)

Scallions, mangetout and garlic - '' ~ An allotment blog

Our pak choi is coming to an end now, only one left and yes they all had little holes caused by flea beetle but that's harmless enough.
Pak choi and all the other veg - '' ~ An allotment blog

Then is was time for a stir fry with added chicken and rice (which we can't grow on our plots). YUM.

Goodness I started writing this post way back on Monday but I've been going through one of my sleepy periods where I sleep nearly all day and night. Getting back to normal now though (in time for more action on the plots this weekend!) and have so much still to share and blogs to read... Plus it's going to be my blogiversary on the 10th - I can't believe it 7 years!

Hugs and love

Sunday 2 August 2015

I weep to no avail....

I am cloaked in hysteria, saddled with despair.   My apple is gone.

Look do you see it in this photo?

bare red goosberry bushes - ''

No.  All because some greedy little bugger of a bird ate the most of it and left the rest on the ground. He (I am sure it was a he) didn't even do my prized Ecklinville the decency of being savoured at all; he didn't take it home and make a miniature French style 'tarte tatin', so carefully, without wasting a juicy morsel. That was my dream.

Ecklinville apple - ''
memories of my apple
I eye each bird now with suspicion, any one of them could be my nemesis. Damn them all - I shake my fist at the sky. Why?? You heartless winged demon!

We did have 2 gloriously bountiful red gooseberry bushes but the birds took those too. every. last. one.

And last, but not least, my ornithology related tears continue to fall as I gaze upon the mangetouts. Is nothing sacred? The tops are all nibbled away despite Andrew stringing up some mildly annoying pots and bottles to deter such villainy.

bird pecked mangetout plants - ''

I must rest now. Happier news shall come soon...

Thursday 23 July 2015

The Head Gardener

Today* I have lived inside a big dizzily rain cloud, metaphorically and meteorologically. It's not been fun. At these low light levels I'm like a little Livingstone daisy and stay all shut up, my colours hidden away just as those outside are so dulled and touched with grey.

So to shake me out of this terrible funk I thought I'd talk about one of my favourite subjects - my hubby.

First off I'd like to once again shout from the shed rooftop that he has done everything on the plots this year. As I said in the last post, I have only started to join in recently.

Well, let's just take a look at what he did on Sunday at the Lottie. If you look again at his cosy hideaway area in the last post, you'll notice how happy I am sitting there. But really, its a shame you can't see how happy he is, at this point, at my happiness. I should have taken a photo of that moment from my point of view.

Then as I headed over to 14b, he got stuck into the work by leaving again to take lots of rubbish to the dump. On his return he planted my zinnas out, harvested the extra broccoli sprouts and weeded the runner beans...
weeding the runner beans - ~ an allotment blog

Onto to the apple trees which he espaliered like a pro. Lots of pruning, shaping and tying branches to wires and bamboo poles. Check out this RHS advice page if you are interested in doing the same to your apple or pear trees, it's a superb way to grow them in restricted spaces.

The bottom photo is one I pilfered off his Instagram account - it's of the other apple tree (the one behind him in my photo) but they were pretty much in the same condition so it gives you an idea of the shape he was able to get them into. Each tree has one apple - one each for us, shhh don't tell Maggie!
apple pruning - ~ an allotment blog
espaliered apple tree- ~ an allotment blog

But on top of everything, he encouraged me to go, made me dinner afterwards and praised my efforts. In the evening he went back (whilst I showered and yoga-ed), to plant out some more baby leeks and to use his petrol strimmer and make the place all tidier. He had his mum round to gather a harvest for her too :)

He's just all kinds of fabulous, sometimes it makes me really sick, haha.

Hugs and Love

P.S. This is what Maggie did for most of the afternoon, supervising is such tiring work...
Maggie out in the wild :)

* (written on Tuesday - the weather is nicer today)

Sunday 19 July 2015

My timing isn't so great

The stars aligned today, the medication kicked in, that fabled golden orb shone in the blue sky and I felt good.

Maggie on the bench - '' ~ an allotment blog

I saw the bench, my cosy hideaway and couldn't help but giggle, it's perfect. Rustic, handmade by the man I love, with a gravelled area and with two healthy climbers to help shelter me. Maggie of course had to nosey but funnily wasn't so interested in it than the exceptionally tiny dog that just wandered on to the plot :)

I got to work and suddenly (because today I care about such things) I noticed half finished jobs and the real state of my flower beds, which I have simply been ignoring bar some weeding. Oh they were meant to be my project this year but so far I haven't had the best 2015 and boy does it show here. Half the lovely seeds I ordered haven't been planted and I never did get round to buying another permanent flowering bushy plant.

rose - '' ~ an allotment blog

I start with the roses. Dead heading is pleasant and fragrant but then the black-spot is more noticeable and I realise why Andrew bought me a pair of secateurs a few months ago and encouraged me to garden.....most of both rose bushes need cut away, including lots of sweet buds too. The plants look great, well, healthy at least once I'm done; I'm scratched and bleeding (which is only fair after their neglect) and set an intention to look after them better.

Then on Monty's advice I cut back the two oriental poppies that I missed in their fabulous moment of flowering and cross my fingers that they may come back for a little flush again. It's so weird to think about it, I didn't really do anything this year, I simply couldn't care less and not one seed or bulb has been planted by my own fair hand. It has been all about the therapy of simply being outside in the air and getting my hands dirty weeding and creating pathways. I really miss the sunflowers this year :(

oriental poppy, sort of - '' ~ an allotment blog

I finished the evil weeding between the two flower beds and we plan to get a ton more gravel delivered soon so we can have proper paths for once on 14b. It looks ok and though I'm tired (Andrew so lovingly telling me I look like I am about to collapse - thanks) I want to do more,  put my mark on the place but it's time to go. It's bloody rotten timing as I actually want to be here and get suck in, not something I can admit to that often. Plus the very first cosmos and dahlia are blooming, both are white and I think of new hope, new beginnings.

new buds - '' ~ an allotment blog

A quick harvest of some broccoli, great broad beans and 4 mangetout, a sit down on the new bench and then off we go. I realise *blush* this post is completely about me but I shall chronicle as much of Andrew's day as I can in the next post.

a little harvest - '' ~ an allotment blog

And then when I came home I had a panic attack thinking of how utterly crap I have been and am. I was a mess whilst Andrew calmly cooked some dinner (with our wee harvest). But later, once I'd settled a bit I read my own 'Allotmentherapy' essay and rediscovered the reason I go there at all, seems I do talk sense sometimes :)

Love and hugs

P.S. Our Instagram accounts are great for on the spot photos which are sometimes better than these I put up!

Monday 6 July 2015

Sunday allotment live!

My smartphone, like most I would suppose, has a feature were you can write yourself notes, reminders or indeed long pieces of prose. For today's blog I thought I would share a couple of hours on the aplotment (wow, I haven't called our plot that in years!) as it was happening...

3.00 pm
Thank goodness we're here I really thought it wouldn't happen today with all that rain. I've just got Maggie all set up on her running lead and am now admiring the cosy hideaway corner Andrew has been building. At the moment he's putting up netting around the trellis for more of a wind break. Time I got my weeding stuff together.

3.15 pm
I'm alone on the plots for a wee while whilst Andrew runs and gets his drill, some netting and hopefully some marigolds for me. I told him I could do this on my own but I'm struggling, someone else is in the field, I can hear them but not see them. Thing is, what if they come over for a chat - I'd die, dead on the wet grass, dead, that's how strong my anxiety levels are right now.

It's rained heavy most of the day and the ground is really squelchy. I can also hear the boats on the Lough as the Tall Ships leave Belfast. Oh and I just saw that wren Andrew's been harping on about - it's nesting in our compost heap.
Big deep breaths.

eminder on shed door - - an allotment blog

I really miss my music at these times. I need to get one of those wee mp3 players and wireless headphones...

3.40 pm
Andrew's back and instantly it rains. Maggie has gone bonkers, she hates the rain yet she will not stay in the shed and goes for a run around - who is this imposter dog?! ....We three are now locked in the shed, not exactly fearing for our lives but it is a downpour of quite epic proportions.
shelter in shed- - an allotment blog

Now we can but stare out at the plot and the things we so want to do. Andrew wasn't able to get netting for over the blueberries and gooseberries and it's just as well as there wouldn't be time to do anything with it. There are puddles forming all over and I only brought one glove in here with me, why, Carrie??

3.50 pm
Ventured out again. Oh goodness that other glove is sodden, gross.
glove on post to dry out- - an allotment blog

4.00 pm
Typical, it's gotten sunny again and the fleece is off; that's Northern Ireland for you. I've just hoed around the peas - our compost had a lot of seedlings in it - oops. It goes against everything I stand for, I get very weed by the root and turf it, but boy using a hoe instead, well, it was extremely satisfying and the area looks great in no time at all.

Andrew is planting the celeriac babies, they're really healthy looking and will love all this crazy apoplectic rain.
planting celeriac - - an allotment blog

4.20 pm
Andrew is just thinning out the kohl rabi and pak choi (which are being attacked by flea beetles). We need to move the netting from over the kale and calabrese to over them. One line of garlic must be lifted to facilitate this - eek!! our first harvest of the season :)
calabrese, pak choi and kale - - an allotment blog

first garlic lifted - - an allotment blog

4.45 pm
All paths are weed free (for now, boy that was 3 trug loads! Now to more glorious weeding and removal of dead leaves in the newly released brassica area :)

5.00 pm
I run around tidying up my stuff, taking some pictures and throwing in a few yoga moves. I'm desperately trying to find any more gooseberry sawfly too, darn things, I hate them! You can really tell I am nought but the undergardener here :) But awesome work have been achieved between us.

Parsnips, carrots and beetroot doing good - turnips have bolted; pink roses and poppies; the asparagus fronds are so pretty
Proud I came, glad I got over the panic attacks but...time to go home :)

Hugs and love