Friday, 20 October 2017

101 miles of the Ulster Way

Ott Car Park - Rostrevor

We slept in which wasn't the best start, especially as Andrew had taken the day off work to do this. But such is life and we know our gear so well that it didn't take long to get out the door and on our way. It happened so quickly in fact, I hadn't time to feel nervous.

The Mourne Mountains are an hour away, a distance in which I get sleepy and cosy in my car seat. By the time we get to our starting point I'm not at all ready, mentally or physically - putting on that backpack and starting off is a struggle!
I'm into my stride by the time we've walked past Spelga dam, on the road. Then take a sharp left and down into the wilderness, into sheep territory and a fabulous bridge with a creepy skull! Welcome to Slievenamiskan.

It's slow progress around the base of Slievenamiskan and Hen Mountain, as in the Mournes proper paths are few and far between. The land here is bog and with people, rain and sheep it becomes a waterlogged mess. It's a shame as we hikers end up destroying the land we're here to appreciate by having to make many alternate roots.

The views were nice though - archaeo-hubby pointing out places of importance and horses in fields close by. The sheep were friendly enough and lead us round to the next big gravel path. Boy, this was a long uphill trudge that just seemed never ending and ever more windy. At the top I was wobbly and seeing spots!

Lucky there wasn't much more to go - just the Rowan Tree River to cross and then we hunkered down for lunch.
 With full tummys we went through true bog- as in we had to plot a course and run it! At the base of the coll we were able to take a drink of water and then, up, up, up tackling the rocky, boggy climb; sometimes losing the trail, but always going in the right direction. Getting the to top was a happy moment!

Getting down a big hill that's wet, slippery and mucky with rocks sticking up here and there is not easy but by gum, I did it (with many a helpful hand). Our phones changed to Irish roaming tariffs here - always a little novelty near the border. At last, at the bottom we could rest a moment and take off those gaiters (stinking, slimy things by now).

Then came the easy bit - lovely forest walks. Little birds singing, my usual 10 mile pains kicking in and the sweet bliss of ibuprofen. We walked on into the darkness and then a mile outside Rostrevor, booked a taxi. Celebrated passing the 100 mile mark of our journey with a high five and then had an all important energy boost - Cadbury fudge bars for the win!
We got to the finish in plenty of time :) It was dark (the almost black photo is Andrew, by the light of my head torch. I used the flash on the camera for the last photograph; it was here that the taxi picked us up and took us back to the start and our sweet car.

* Chips on the way home! And another 12miles crushed beneath our feet - yay 🤗

Carrie xxx

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hiking the Ulster Way


We set ourselves a challenge this year of 2017 to walk the Ulster Way; at least all the quality sections (which are those not on main roads). For many years we have seen, as I am sure everyone who lives here sees, those innocuous little signs at the sides of roads all over the country and wondered where they went...we wonder (wander?) no longer....
As you know last year saw us somehow stumble into the world of hiking and we have been ensnared in its grip. Andrew has gone right down the outdoor life rabbit hole and loves to wild camp too; I'm a bit more sensible - I love good sturdy walls, a roof and a proper bed with an en-suite..

So way back in our training for the West Highland Way (or half of it if i'm honest) we started these nice long sections of paths, exploring our home. It worked well, as this was the year when we had planned to focus on the hard landscaping of the allotment and thus have more time at the weekends for a bit of both. (By the way - the allotment only has a few beetroots and leeks in it presently).

The ulster way map via -

The book above by Paddy Dillon is the only one on the topic and even it is 10 years out of date. All hail Mr Dillon though, I appreciate his efforts. The fantastic Walk NI is now the torch carrier of the way and their website is superb -

The story of our walks so far will be told in a backward way as I really want to celebrate the latest one we did on Thursday past - the one wherein we passed the 100 mile mark. The one which I am still aching from as I sit here on the following Saturday morning; there are muscles aching that I didn't know I had!

I hope you'll enjoy my photo filled stories to come !
Carrie xxx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

like tears in the rain

Today marks the anniversary of Toby's adoption  - he's been with us a whole year!

I think it's also very apt that it's world mental awareness day for without this bundle of fur, this sock stealer, I have a feeling I wouldn't be here.

Right now he is in his daily daytime position - squished up against me and sleeping away (with one eye open, in case there are strangers outside). He knows I'm a mess - I haven't showered yet and talking is hard and playing is too energetic - yet he loves me anyway. Though to be fair, I'm the only one here and I do gave immeasurable amounts of hugs, kisses and scratches behind those ears. 
Toby loves life, lives it fully and with such enthusiasm but he also knows how to sleep, to rest hard. He never has shame in asking for attention and has no qualms about giving and receiving all the love. He lives in the now, forgives with grace and snores without shame!

He gets me up everyday when all I want is to hide under the duvet. I open the blinds for him to see out and I step into the world (briefly) a few times a day to make sure he, umm, toilets.

He's the glue that holds me together until Andrew comes home from work. And then the fun and giggles can really begin.


I'm just one of many many people out there whose thoughts are turned towards World Mental Health Day today. I sure as heck don't feel good today, but in honour of all those for whom even writing a blog post is just too much - please support those in need.

Be an ear that listens (no judgement!), a shoulder to cry on or a mate that just treats their ill friend just the same. All of which Toby does in his wonderful and unique way xxx



Friday, 8 September 2017

Violins of autumn

I need to talk, the words have been bubbling up in my throat straight from my heart for the last week or so. I need to speak out in order to take power away from my depression. It has been winning, it has taken me by such surprise, such as when you walk up the stairs, think there is one more to come and fall through the air and your heart sinks. I haven't been able to read or write, barely walk or talk for depression has destroyed me. 

Many days on the sofa in my pj's, forgetting to eat or drink, unable to wash or care about anything - this has been the reason I have been absent from the blogging world. Absent from life.

As Friday night draws closer I feel evermore like rotten fruit felt to disintegrate in a mouldy heap. The weekend is coming and I could see it in hell; I just want to be alone, unseen. Resting, a drugged sleep if need be, until I feel half myself again. 

I did taste a reprieve on Wednesday evening; I thought I'd turned a corner with the help of a wonderful harvest to process - I sang silly songs and worked with Andrew making apple and stem ginger compote and damson fruit leather. It was wonderful. But all the more painful for having been ripped away from me the next morning.

I have fun things to share and lots of photos from weeks past but for now, please hold me in your thoughts a moment and spare a little love for one who feels so empty. 

Though I know I am blessed beyond measure by having Andrew by my side and
Carrie x

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Toby turns One!

It was my canine baby's first birthday yesterday - he is 1 and I can hardly believe it. 

He has come so far from that tiny black puppy that only owned a box on that drive to the pet store (where we bought everything) and fought with the leaves in the back garden in his first week. Wow, he was feisty even then...

 I've wondered many a time weather I should be this 'human'. I don't cope well with life in general and am very often a bad playmate; sometimes that saliva covered chipmunk toy is just too annoying and squeaky, haha . Plus I don't take him for those nice walks and picnics at the allotment, that I dreamt off, I simply can't go out alone. 
But I wash and groom him. I play until he's tired, give him treats and brush his beard. I allow him up on the sofa and even under my blanket to sleep with him every afternoon. And try to reassure him of 'scary' outside noises and stranger danger that his sees in everyone who walks by the windows.
He gives me motivation to get out of bed everyday and can tell when it's a bad time and either plays quietly alone, snoozes with one eye on me or allows me to cuddle him so close.

Yesterday, was stung by a wasp and he was very unhappy for a while. But his other man human had bought special dinners and treats and boy did he chomp it all down once his lip pain eased off.

WE LOVE you Toby - here's to many more birthdays!!!

Carrie xx

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Echlinville Apple Harvest

Today's post is brought to you with the assistance of a damned good nights sleep, coffee and the sweet, sweet joy of having just finished cutting Toby's hair. He didn't enjoy the experience but then neither did I; though he feels great now, a whole lot lighter and after my shower, I do too. So everything has balanced out I think...apart from the fact that I had to do all the cleaning up and he went to bed.
Toby -
Before and After (arrghh those eyebrows!)
It was my first shower in some days... I know what you're thinking - "ewwww, she's gross!" - I have been super ill and too depressed, too wobbly on my feet and too tired to shower. If you have experienced poor mental health you'll understand.  In fact I'm going to add links in this post and at the side of this blog to two fabulous websites I recently found that are helping me feel supported in my fight - you might like them too, you know who you are xxx

The Blurt Foundation ~
The Mighty ~


Happy apple -

So, anyway let's celebrate the apple harvest! Hurrah! On Saturday I was the lucky one to gather up the bounty from our 2 espaliered Echinville trees, tied into each side of the archway at the back of the plot. The birds had gotten through about half of them now and I couldn't stand it anymore. Plus, though we had been told that they are ripe in September; it seems that August is more correct.

allotment apple harvest  -

Here's the haul we took home and the very bad ones that went into the compost. I also left about half a dozen on the ground for all the wasps and insects that were feasting on them.

Now we are slowly processing them and freezing batches. So far we have used 20 apples and made two big freezer bags of porridge topping/ apple pie filling. Just by stewing the apples and adding mixed fruit and brown sugar (to taste). Easy and so delicious!

Celebrating 9 yrs of allotment blogging -

PLUS today is the 9th anniversary of this very blog - hurrah!
Thank you to everyone who reads and especially those commentators and 'likers'. I never did intend for this to be public, but back then I had no idea what I was doing, haha. It's been one of the best decisions (if you can call it that) that I've made, though I still don't know about the title....

Big love

Friday, 4 August 2017

July allotment recap (2/2)

Sunday afternoon saw us return bravely to 24a even though there were more thundery showers foretold by the weatherman. I will admit that I guffawed at the thought as the skies looked beautifully blue with white fluffy clouds and it was warm enough to be working only in a t-shirt. I was soon to be humbled, but in the intervening hours we managed to get some good progress made.

Pink climbing rose - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Upon arrival I took a photo of the climbing rose - still in full bloom and with more flower buds coming! To think I have tried to get rid of this plant twice, well again, I sit here red faced. Shame on me.

I took a moment to take in the joy of our apples, the first photos are from the Saturday - It was hard to witness the bird beak damage to some of the best ones that had happened just a day.  I love birds and am happy that the insects were enjoying them (this wasp was drinking away all afternoon) but their mine damn it!
Echlinville apples - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Andrew made the first of the new paths. Here is the evolution of it in photo form..
evolution of a path - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The planks we edged our beds with 9 yrs ago are rotting and so this summer is all about refurbishment and a little less about the growing. We also decided to make the paths extend right the way round the beds inside of just down the 3 sides. It will be a lot easier to weed and tend and harvest now. Yay.

the berries - ~ an ecotherapy blog
gosh you can really see how the weather changed over this period - thunder just after I took last photo..
There comes a time when you just have to reprimand yourself for growing things you don't actually want or use!

The red gooseberries that I fought gooseberry saw fly larvae for, got scraped and jabbed all over my arms for, fought the birds for the the few berries we got (still in a bag in the fridge as we aren't fussed on them) are going. I have one cut down to the ground and other still to do, then Andrew will lift the root balls out.

They also really hindered the tending to and harvesting of blueberries, of which I seem to have missed the boat on again. Damn birds just find a way into the cage every time! Next year it will be different.

Late July harvest - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Taken from Andrew's Instagram (there's a cool filter on it)
There have been some delicious dinners from the produce we have been getting though and I can't complain. Andrew does this lovely side of crushed potatoes with scallions finely chopped, some mushed up garlic and butter all mixed up = yummy :)

And I shall once again, as with every year, remind you that ROASTED beetroot is the way to go - it's so incredible. If you only grow yours to pickle them....shame on you! x

beetroot - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Hugs, have a great weekend
Carrie  x

Thursday, 3 August 2017

July allotment recap (1 of 2)

It's official, July in Northern Ireland sucked, it was the worst since 1993 - the good old BBC News has the story here.

But still we struggle on and heck, it makes you appreciate those sweeter moments of sunshine and the sparkle off the plants....We're due more rain today sadly but at least not as bad as the weekend when the thunder and thick rain (each drop like a bucket of water being chucked down by the angry sky Gods) caused us to abort our time at the allotment and run."Run RUN! grab everything, take the dog!"

For this July allotment recap, my photos seem a bit odd, but obviously I only took ones when it was actually sunny! Most are from the weekend past but here are a few from the 13th when the heat was too much for Toby -  hiding under the potato buckets...
My Toby - ~ an ecotherapy blog

And Andrew lifted the garlic and got it drying on the bench :)
Lifting the garlic - ~ an ecotherapy blog

*** Anyway Saturday on the plot ***
The plot (right hand side) - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Ok, it was our own fault, there's no denying it; the plot was coming down with weeds. However, we were in the mood to destroy and reclaim so things started off well.

Climbing beans - ~ an ecotherapy blog
This first bed with the legumes in it is giving me a little heartache. The climbing beans are doing well and we've had a good few dinners with them included so far.

Dwarf borlotti beans- ~ an ecotherapy blog

Broad beans - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The dwarf borlotti are happy enough but the broad beans - oh dear. They are not happy, not even the ones that were directly sown and seemed happier and stronger a few weeks ago. We had to pull some of worst ones out and saw that they hadn't even spread their roots out into the ground; they were barely in the ground. Plus those that were doing OK and had beans have had them eaten by birds or slugs or any one of the damned pests we have in our field. It's not looking good, apart from the one above which is only slightly damaged.

Sweetcorn details - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Squash details - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The sweetcorn and squashes are looking great though. I just love taking photos of them, such texture, colours and oh, those twirly tendrils. So much detail to get absorbed in and be in awe off.

thundery rain coming - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Things were going great, I even spent 30 mins at the plot alone! But when Andrew had just got back from the landscaping shop with wood for a new path we were confronted with this! Thunder and downpours galore; we had quickly pack up everything, grab our potato harvest (which was great but I didn't get to photograph it) and to run to the car. Soaked.

The rest tomorrow, my loves

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Three Good Days

As anyone with a chronic illness will testify, good days are hard to come by; like trains they are often nowhere in sight and instead you must take the crappy alternative bus service and make do with getting through the journey of the day. A lot of the time, it can even be a little scary to feel 'good' as you just keep wondering when it's going to be pulled from under you and in my case, a good day is often followed by many bad ones.

Well, let's just look at Saturday and Sunday forget Monday (yesterday, it sucked) and move straight onto today.

OK how you look at a good day may differ from mine. On Saturday I went outside! That was a great thing in itself -  I was able to go to IKEA, that haven of flat-pack and very clever ideas and then on to my favourite cafe/art gallery.

On Sunday afternoon and early evening I spent the day working in the back garden with my hubby. In fact I was in the hubby's shed, potting up more colourful flowers, re-potting a bit of mint that I saved and is growing really well and tidying a little, haha.
hubby's shed -

my tiered garden -
My tiered garden and some details of flowers in bloom below
That space at the bottom is for the mixed leaves mix I have germinating

my tiered garden flowers 1 -

my tiered garden flowers 2 -

Andrew cut back the hedges and wall coverage - it's looking good out there :) The secret Japanese tea room is beautifully sheltered and very calming.
Back garden (left side) -

Today I read and I cleaned. I got the downstairs vacuumed and tidied and I scrubbed my kitchen floor and cleaned the surfaces and did washing (it's drying on the line) and dishes and played with Toby. And I felt able to think straight enough to write this blog, it's a miracle! 😀

Carrie xx

Friday, 21 July 2017

900th blog post

I'm starting to feel stronger, just a little and I know it's fragile but (and maybe this is the wine talking) I want to enjoy the small victories.

In with that in mind - it's my 900th blog post and that ROCKS for someone who battles each and every day to get up and even brush her teeth, never mind get dressed, or ever put make up on. I fight with myself and I think that so far, with help, I am winning - I'm still here and I'm not self harming 😇.

So I am going to allow a moment of celebrating myself - I have put up the WEGO health awards endorsement badge, they made me one, so... If you can be bothered, you can vote for me as a new comer to the patient helper category..... *wink wink*

This is just a quick hello, a reminder to you and myself that I WILL keep fighting and I WILL do what's right for me and not be ashamed that I don't live up to others' or my own true expectations.

Best wishes and love, hopefully I will soon share some awesome photos of my recent Ecotherapy experiences...
Toby in Donegal - beach fun -