Friday 30 December 2016

Sarah Raven Journal Giveaway

So, you want to own the lovely Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'? Of course you do, you're only human and lo, I WANT TO GIFT A COPY TO YOU!

So sorry, this is only open to UK residents but I'm thinking selfishly about the cost of posting a lovely hardback book and I think the speed at which the lucky winner gets it it paramount - there will be planning and dreaming to do 😄

I wrote a little book review of this tome when I received it from Frances Lincoln pre-release way back in 2014. By the evil quirks of the internet the photos I included in that review have disappeared into the ether but trust me, it's gorgeous. I shall find them again on my external hard drive. I do have the text of my review and here it is in edited snippets....

"I may have fallen in lust with this fabulous Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'. Sarah is a goddess of all things cut flower and I just love that she has written a easy, go to book helping people like me to be more confident in her area of expertise."

"Not too much reading, gorgeous photography, plans, projects and inspiration for next year's flower patch."

"It is an absolute joy to the senses; the touch of the paper, the layout, the photography. It is sort of a cross between a coffee table book and a how to manual, so stylish but full of great know how and precise instructions."

"A guide to getting your beds right and full of exactly the right plants. Raven even tells you the best variety of the best plants to grow; how to grow them, where they'll grow best and how long the stems should be cut for the best look!"

Now it's over to you. Just leave your name in the comments section if you want to be entered. All names will be placed in a pot and one shall be plucked out (with my eyes closed tight!) to be the happy recipient. Then I would just ask that the winner contact me with an address.

Go, dear reader and good luck. The winner shall be announced on New Year's Day.


Wednesday 28 December 2016

Delectable feasting

It can not be left quiet anymore - my hubby is a fabulous cook and I am so lucky to have him in my life! I wanted to shout it from the roof tops on Christmas Day but society does constrain one and the word 'mad' gets bandied about, hahaha.

It is a shameful thing to admit here on my allotment blog but, I did not go with Andrew to do our annual Christmas Eve harvest. It was cold and raining heavy and to be honest there were cute films on the TV and I was cuddling Toby - sorry but someone has to do it. Here are some of Andrew's pictures of that glorious moment....

Probably the most laughable harvest yet! The Kale was fabulous but the brussels had been attacked and we had about 3 tiny ones each and there were no carrots or parsnips - the shame. I think we're going to quit carrot growing, the disappointment every year is really too much and to be honest they are so cheap at all times of the year, it feels like it isn't worth it. * Now, I've just learnt (after publishing this post) that we DID have parsnips but the ground was too wet and claggy to dig them up!

* That is unless YOU can tell me of a foolproof carrot variety that NEVER fails.

Our Christmas Day was joyously quiet and uneventful; we started off eating porridge with chocolate drops on top and drinking 'jingle fizz' ~ prosecco and cranberry juice. Ah, there's nothing better than a day were it's socially acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast and (responsibly) drink alcohol all day.

And here was the main event - check out those brussel sprouts, they were delicious and were eaten slowly and deliberately. Plus, I would love it to be known that I didn't eat all the food on that plate - Andrew was a little generous. We did eat all the left overs on Boxing Day though.

And on Boxing Day we went for a lovely walk in Carnfunnock Park, where Toby had his 1st walk ever; this time went a heck of a lot better. There's nothing finer than getting all wrapped up warm and burning off that Christmas Pudding in amongst the trees and meeting cheery fellow walkers (and their dogs). Also, Toby got to wear his festive jumper on the journey and a very sexy red coat on the walk itself. Truly a festive walk is a marvellous activity, particularly when you stop to make tea, find mushrooms, berries and enjoy another sunset.

Today we went into Belfast which was a bit of a nightmare, so many people! Tomorrow we go for another hike in the middle of nowhere.. The allotment SHALL see us soon though, fear not.


Oh, and watch out for a New Year's GIVEAWAY - A copy of Sarah Raven's beautiful 'Cutting garden journal'. I'll only be able to afford UK postage but I hope you'll put your name in, there's every chance this hardback loveliness could be yours 
And some changes will be happening on the blog too, I need a change xxx


P.S. Tell me about your Christmas harvest and walks!

Sunday 18 December 2016

Pushing the boundary (full version)

Sometimes you really have to wake up and grab the day by the shoulders and give it a damn good shake. Saturday was one of those days, a day to be used to the max, to have an adventure and to be content, proud and a bit sore in the evening. We decided to walk the new Boundary Trail at Castle Ward (Co. Down).

We had been to the same National Trust site the Saturday before and taken Toby on his biggest walk yet - a whole 3-ish miles. Remember he's only little and he met other dogs and was attacked by one off lead (grrr) so it was a huge experience for him. (He was ok - Andrew lifted him high and I grabbed the dog by the collar, it was strong!) However that walk also included a picnic at The Temple which he loved. He was pretty wrecked after that walk but came round really fast. 

first CW walk - ~ ecotherapy blog

So.. Saturday last, well we pushed further, a heck of a lot further. Twice as far and a bit more, that kinda further. Toby walked with us for 7+ miles, what a trooper.

The Boundary Trail is lovely, a genuine surprise in its glory and varied landscapes. We didn't start down at the proper place as we parked in the main car park. So we started off with a walk we do often, down through the farm yard, along by the millpond flat Strangford Lough, up past Audley's Castle round the back of the walled garden. These are all Game of Thrones filming locations and is not rare to see fans and tours about.
by the water CW - ~ ecotherapy blog

Then we took a right turn instead of a left! Wonderful, we ended up in the farmland of rolling drumlins, the old estate boundary wall by our side and stunning views. (But I forgot to take any photos - I'm a wally I know!) There weren't any cattle about so Toby wasn't a threat and the new paths and fields are separated by electric fencing. Plus our dog was on a fecking lead!

After a good while we walked into a lovely little forest. The Mallard Plantation, the name of which doesn't make sense until the end where one sees the water and hears the ducks. This was maybe my favourite part of the walk, after all the gravel paths we were now on soft ground  in amongst the trees and ferns with light streaming in strongly only here and there.

The Mallard Plantation - ~ ecotherapy blog

After a spell on a proper road we re-entered more woodland, much more open and newly cleared for the path. By now we were really in our stride and not many photos were taken at all. Andrew had to declare tea time as I get a bit forgetful and just plod on for miles, forgetting to take a break, eat, drink, breathe. Hiking is such a beautifully passive experience were all I think about is the trail, no bad thoughts, no hurtful emotions. But I do need to look after my body, so yay! for sensible Andrew.

Right pic below : the trees on the far ridge are were the other side of the boundary wall is, we walked quite far.
halfway point - ~ ecotherapy blog

We sat on some logs, had lemon and ginger tea and a lemon cupcake. Haha, how fancy of us. Then we ate a fabulous trek bar each; they're like a meal packed with energy rich foods like prunes, nuts, chocolate etc. Toby had his kibble and a big drink.
tea time for all -- ~ ecotherapy blog

Then up and away (all rubbish came with us) and  10 minutes on we came to the viewpoint. Wow! That was pretty darn beautiful but we couldn't stay longer, the sun was going down! And it was cold, brrr.

From the viewpoint to the Mournes - ~ ecotherapy blog

More of a gorse and bushes landscape now and we were walking fast. This whole place would be heaven in the spring, there were primrose and bulb leaves all around and of course we ended up back in deciduous forest which I so look forward to going back to with all the bright greens everywhere.

Here, near the end of the mystery trail we could see the grand driveway into the estate on the left and this sunset to our right.

sunset- ~ ecotherapy blog

 Oh poop! We had to use our phone torches to walk through another forest bit and there were scary bird sounds at every turn. Wow, the world is a different place in the dark and boy it was pitch black without our specks of light!! This wood must have been evergreens as the smell was delicious and our foot steps silent.

Thank goodness for fairy lights and Santa visiting the big house. We could use these lights strung all the way along the fence to get back to the car park and see (and be seen by) the other people and cars on the road too.

the driveway with fairy lights - ~ ecotherapy blog

Toby by this point gave up, he began to heave as though he would be sick and Andrew had to carry him. What a trooper, he's never walked so far in his life and almost made it the whole way! So proud, he wanted down again after a minute and was fine again. Boy did he sleep on the way home all evening and night and Sunday 

I really wanted to take him to see Santa but it was pre-booked -  human children only - bah humbug. Haha.
So that was that, sorry I posted a tiny draft version before. We all make mistakes and let's face it I was pooped when I tried to do that post on the Sunday.

Hugs and wishes for good health and thoughts of brighter, warmer days. 
Happy Winter Solstice 
C xx

Saturday 3 December 2016

A damp dander

Times have been tough with my mental health (not helped by these darker mornings and evenings) and the training of Toby. Oh Lord, I had forgotten how frustrating and exhausting teaching a puppy was. A few weeks ago we wondered what we were doing with this little stress maker!
...... But today (I write on Saturday evening) Toby did us proud and broke a few hearts on his second walk ever; he is adorable.

We visited Mount Stewart and walked around the lake there, it's so beautifully planted and works to please at all times of the year. Santa was also visiting but we hadn't booked to see him sadly, though a friendly elf cuddled Toby for a wee minute. I just love how the National Trust staff seem to love dogs and make all their gardens dog friendly with water bowls, free poop bags and places to tie yours up when coffee calls.

There is a micro climate in and around Mount Stewart and though it drizzled and I was cold (2 tops and 2 coats plus a fleecy lined hat) it wasn't a bad day at all. Many varieties of trees there still have their leaves or have very recently dropped them and even the tree ferns are still unsheathed.

I love the Trust's practise of using old and rotten logs as habitats for insects and fungi but this was a new sight - baby rhododendrons planted in this one. They also use fallen or storm damaged limbs/trunks as art and simple benches.

I didn't take that many photos but just wanted to say hello really and this was a good excuse...
And here's my boys :)

I'm going to the allotment tomorrow for a look around so a 'proper' post will follow......Indeed friends, I must apologise for the lack of blogging, truly had I had anything to say or indeed the health to say it I would have been writing more often.

Wishing you well,