Thursday, 8 June 2017

Getting summery on the plot

Welcome to June dear friends! It's a fabulous month for us Gaults ~ it contains our Wedding Anniversary and Andrew's Birthday, so there is much celebrating to be done and a few glasses of bubbles to be toasted 😄.  Hopefully we'll get some nice weather too unlike today which has been dull and heavy with rain.

So let's look back to last Saturday when the heavens smiled upon us and we spent a nice time at the allotment, enjoying the sun, the new seedlings and planting things out. What was especially nice was this beautiful rose opened up by the shed.

pink rose - www.growourown.blogspot.com

Puts a smile of your face seeing that first thing and then turning the corner and seeing our beautiful, healthy potatoes look smashing - darn it, it made us glad to be there.

These are Sharp's Express in four big black pots that a kindly plot neighbour gave to us. We love growing them in pots; it saves room, we can afford them more protection and the best growing medium, it's easy to earth them up with more compost and boy are they ridiculously easy to harvest. We're all about efficiency and ease!
Potato joy - www.growourown.blogspot.com
When I was sitting on the bench by them I noticed flowers and the intricate beauty of the humble spud leaf.
So here are the new plants we brought with us to get settled into the ground:

  • garlic chives and uchiki kuri winter squashes
  • dwarf bean borlotto and climbing french bean cobra

A couple of the squashes went to our black pot friend and then he gave us a Japanese squash in return! Andrew was surprised and pleased - look at his wee face, haha.

new plants and happy hubby - www.growourown.blogspot.com

I walked about with my camera and here's some pics on 14b, yep, I was still emotionally involved.

Goodbye plot - www.growourown.blogspot.com

We've pretty much taken all we can, even the black weed suppressing membrane and the gravel and wooden edging. Oh it's such a sad sight - look at those little box hedging plants and the rhubarbs etc..

Beauty on 14b - www.growourown.blogspot.com
There were a great many plum poppies on display and the orientals have bloomed now too, in the middle of this collage are the first damson fruits. Out of everything the most I want to try and save a bit of, at least, is that purple poppy. But that's it, now I shall focus on 24a.

So back over to our real plot and I have to show you the garlic and broad bean signs Andrew etched onto slate we had lying around the place. I love them and he's promised more 😀...

Awesome allotment plant signage - www.growourown.blogspot.com

And thinking of the broad beans - we had a green fly infestation starting which lucky I spotted whilst taking these photos. They were swiftly and brutally attacked with our soapy water in a spray bottle. Ha! Victory shall be ours. Funnily the broad beans planted in situ are much darker, stockier and healthier looking than these ones and aren't that far behind.
greenfly on the broad beans -  www.growourown.blogspot.com
die greenfly, die!
Dwarf borlotto beans where planted under the supervision of Toby. Goodness the soil is great this year, so rich, friable and even with a few worms; the whole no dig principle is excellent and we highly recommend it! Check out Charles Dowding if you don't practise it yourself. These beans are off to a good beginning and I learnt that they are planted a trowels width away from each other.
planting out the dwarf borlotto beans -  www.growourown.blogspot.com

There was more going on but I fear this post is getting too long so I shall leave my story here for now (the sweetcorn, squash and seedlings will wait) . Here's a beautiful honeysuckle for you, from beside the wooden bench, beside the potatoes where Toby also happened to be having a good time.

honeysuckle and Toby - www.growourown.blogspot.com

Hugs,
Carrie

Monday, 5 June 2017

Before the tummy bug

For the last half of May I was super ill with a terrible doubt of gastroenteritis. Really the realities of it are too gross to talk about but needless to say I was sofa bound for just over a week and it took 3 days before I could eat more than a cracker. I'm better now, that's what matters.

Before that mess we had a lovely, sunny afternoon at both plots for the last time. We've now officially said goodbye to 14b and even got a little refund as we'd recently paid for another year, we had 2 weeks to clear out what we wanted...
Plum Poppy - www.growourown.blogspot.com
Plum poppy looking great bar all the weeds and dead daffodil stems :)
But the first thing I saw on arrival at 14b were the poppies, god I love poppies and my Patty Plum had one in bloom and many to come. The oriental poppy is always a little behind but so many buds 😊. The roses never did well and looked quite dead, bar one that was struggling to produce 2 blooms.

Saved from the plot before the new owners come (wonder when that will be?):
  • Posts, fencing, wooden edging boards,  
  • hardcore gravel and paving slabs, 
  • comfrey plant, my wee red geum (Mrs Bradshaw) and 2 huge box balls, 
  • our sanity!
But we had to say goodbye to our:
  • blackberries, new happy blackthorn hedge
  • cherry tree, damson tree and pear tree?, 
  • rhubarb (maybe we could save some?) 
  • poppies and rudbeckia (Goldsturm) , two of my favourite plants ever. 
Not to mention all the other bits and pieces. We couldn't lift them or a lot of other plants as we simply had no where to put them and silly emotional me had a wee cry. Though I have been promised a wee flower area on the back patio.

rhubarb, buttercups and blackberries - www.growourown.blogspot.com
Blackberries alive with bees, rhubarb past it's best and some lovely weeds
One more thing - some damned brute had broken part of our cool artisan 14b sign. Andrew had made it with glass test tubes and they were super sturdy and we liked it...and ggrrr. Well we won't be needing it now anyway, I guess but it's the principal.
damaged sign - www.growourown.blogspot.com
grrr
It's all about 24a from now on.

24a plot signs - www.growourown.blogspot.com
My mosaic number, beautiful bought tiles and an 'A' etched by Andrew on slate
I spent my time weeding 24a whilst Andrew did all the heavy lifting and moving from 14b. The poor plot had been a little neglected in the choking weed department and it's what I'm comfortable with at the moment. For a goodly while now I simply haven't had the confidence to plant things - my anxiety disorder is winning these days - boo hiss.
24a plot signs - www.growourown.blogspot.com
Blueberries, gooseberries and apples
Weeding in and around the blueberries and gooseberries I was amazed to find so many well developed berries - we need to get them netted as the birds are pesky pilferers and can strip all the bushes in a day! The apples either side of the fruit arch are also doing really good.

I do wish we had of got rid of the gooseberries over the redcurrant bush (as I actually like redcurrants) but Andrew has plans for a raspberry bed, though maybe it ought to be a rhubarb bed... I'm just thinking out loud.
chocolate chip shortbread squares - www.growourown.blogspot.com
oh yes, don't mind if I do
All this work was making us hungry and Andrew went up to the community centre and got two of these, yum! Dark chocolate chip shortbread squares, oh my, they were delicious.

More next time, hugs,
Carrie

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Less is more

That's it, we are giving up 14b.
a sad farewell - www.growourown.blogspot.com - an ecotherapy blog
a sad farewell
I do write this with a slightly heavy heart as no one wants to feel a failure, but we have finally come to our senses and realised we are not superhuman and that hell of a half plot must exit our lives. 24a will always be our first and true love and now we are going to dedicate our allotmenteering time to it alone.
bloody weeds!! - www.growourown.blogspot.com - an ecotherapy blog
3 hours of virtual non-stop work and this is all I got weeded of the hell plot.
We are 9 yrs into our allotment journey now and still enjoy it, however, we have other passions too and hate the feeling of being obliged to go and work in misery in an area we can't stay on top on. From now on we will use our time for more us time; hiking and day trips to the beach with Toby etc.

We're in a transitional year on 24a anyway - paths need made, others need fixed up; bed edging has rotted in practically every place and the apple arch needs refurbished too.
24a currently - www.growourown.blogspot.com - an ecotherapy blog
A24a and Toby with his beloved ball :)
apple blossoms - www.growourown.blogspot.com - an ecotherapy blog
I'm just madly in love with all the apple blossom this year
Some seeds have been planted and are growing well, some were direct sown last Sunday - we are still growing people (😀 ), we are simply cutting back and concentrating on what we actually need and use every year.

So dead raspberries and a hated spiky nightmare of a redcurrant plant are gone! Plus we have some big pots to fill with some beloved plants from 14b - it's going to be a busy Saturday :)

***********
Plus, I hate ignoring the elephant in the room....I'm ill, still very ill indeed to be honest and struggling. Yes, I want to immerse myself in nature whenever, however I can but it can't stress me out. Now, things are changing and ADVENTURE AWAITS.

Love and hugs
Carrie

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Growing, always

It was a very tentative step I took to the allotment today. It's been a while, as you know, and my nerves were on tender hooks.

Ecotherapy works and is (with yoga and the joy of novels) my light in the ever present darkness. However the interpretation of the word Ecotherapy has changed recently for myself; the world of hiking, passively immersing in nature has been my life recently.

I have grown a lot this year with hiking and a walk now has to be over 13 miles to feel good. Only a week ago I completed the northern half of The West Highland Way with my hubby. We walk together and it has strengthened our relationship and sense of adventure. (We're already planning a return to do the whole damn thing soon!)
Two of about 200 photos from our Scottish adventure :)
follow my Instagram for many more
Toby comes on many of the walks and become a strong and manly little dog (9mths old now). He was with Andrew at the allotment during the week - how wonderful to have another pup sitting  and playing where our fabulous Maggie did.

https://www growourown.blogspot.com - Toby!
Toby! 
So, back to today and it went great 😊. It was quiet and the weather nice, we had a picnic for dinner and got lots done. Toby didn't do too bad and met a new friend.

https://www growourown.blogspot.com - today's work
what I did - clearing a lot of weeds and unwanted raspberries.
I'll write more later but for now I'm just going to re-share this RSPB link to making a birdhouse. I do this is hopes that you will consider giving it a go. I did it a few years ago and was so happy with mine and the many babies it held each year until now - someone only went and bloody stole it!

Love and hugs from a tired me,
Carrie x

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Hiking Tollymore

There are days when everything just aligns perfectly and a hike is the only thing worth doing. On Saturday the sky was bright (if not occasionally blue!), the wind was gentle and the temperature a just-comfortable-no-coat-necessary degrees.

On the flip side (there's always a flip side) I had had a terrible nights sleep, was up early and feeling so heavy and there's an hours drive to get to our hiking point = snoozy, stiff and slightly grumpy me. I fatigued very quickly this time and my yoga injury of a recently strained hip reflexor played up big time. So I was in agony. And forgot my painkillers - stupid, silly girl.

But I thought I'd share some photographs of the beauty we were blessed to witness. Toby had the best time ever and was rewarded with a while off lead in a quiet part of the forest. Andrew used some new pieces of equipment so he was happy and I finished and didn't die = excellent day all round 😃


This is a little example of the walk up to the Forest, these paths are part of many different official walks including the Ulster Way, The Newcastle Way, St Patrick's Pilgrim Trail and The Mourne Way! It's lovely here with a great looking Scout Camp and many different styles of houses and farm animals. For those, who don't know gorse - it's the yellow spiky hedges that are all over Ireland and the flowers smell of coconut = yum.


And so, into the Tollymore Forest Park. I love this place and seeing it slowly come back to life is so exciting; just look at the vibrancy of the new pine needles and the ferns coming alive. We had a wee sit down on a log for a look over at the Mournes which we have been climbing amongst a good bit. Then back into the cover of some deciduous conifers.


This was our lunch stop, quite a few hours and miles later. We found this lovely clearing right on the edge of the park land with a sweet sounding river, that lovely bridge and a farm (with two Shetland ponies) to watch. Toby had his log and we had ours, the ground was littered with bark, mosses, lichen and what looked like hyacinth bulbs (or bluebells?) coming through. Above us was the perfect split between evergreen and deciduous conifers with a little blue sky.


Between lunch and the river we passed through a lot of clearing of trees, large areas of different varieties had been cut down and were stacked really for sell as lots. This the the start of the arboretum area too so there were some lovely surprises such as eucalyptus and rhododendrons. I was starting to feel the searing pain of my strained hip around now and was thankful for the car park and benches we eventually arrived at. Here you can see some of the old pretty walls from when there was a large house here, there are also Game of Thrones plaques (and often groups dressed up) and the large forest park map. But really that view was all that mattered. Then we walked down in to the riverside.


The water of the Shimna River is beautifully clear and fast running and these stepping stones are famous in our wee country. Andrew had little water left so he decided to try out his new(ish) water filter here. It was better than the first time, which was filtering peat water, this was lovely and a little sweet. Toby just stood by like a little trooper and was soon deemed good enough to go off lead for a while. He went a little bonkers at first running back and forth but soon settled into a pattern of walking a little ahead then stopping to wait for us.


I didn't take many interesting photos on the way back, as we joined up with the same trail that brought us into the forest. It was a lot of up hill walking (followed by long descent) my my hip was killing me and I felt sorry for myself. But we did get to see a lovely sunset utterly alone and with only a bird or two singing away. As we eventually arrived back at the car there were bats over head (I love that!). 

And on to dinner accompanied with a wee beer (for medicinal reasons of course).

Thus another 13 miles under our belts in preparation for the West Highland Way next month.

Hugs and love
Carrie x

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Allotment Reunion

What the bloomin' heck happened to February!?
I think someone stole mine; I remember so very little, I've lost time (anyone believe in UFOs?) There are some photos of me out hiking, hiking with Andrew and Toby and again with Andrew in the rain and such but apart from that, I think I slept. Seriously, I think I slept February away though I can see I read some good books - The Handmaid's Tail for instance. Anyway, it wasn't a good month and I can tell you, I'm glad March is here. The back garden has shown me some much needed hope in it's little blooms, that is something I remember smiling over, in the darkness.

But let us not dwell and instead talk of good stuff! We visited the allotment last Saturday what? - YES! We saw our land again after a very long absence and it didn't look too bad. I'm so glad we did all that work in the depths of winter, so cold and warming ourselves up with many a cup of tea. Apart from the field being a quagmire and the 'devastation' of Storm Doris (a little bit of our netting came down, it's nothing) it looks great, how surprising.


It's not that we fell out with the place but that the weather has been crappy and of course the field was never prepared properly and there is no drainage in place. This year, as last, we're absolute champions of the no dig system and we are going to sow direct as much as possible; in our 9 years at lottie owners we can't see that home sowing and planting out seedlings makes that much difference.

However, one thing we do plant out early is our garlic. We love our garlic and it loves us - 100% germination this year again. Aren't they just a happy sight standing like little soldiers all their rows.


Even had we wanted to do any work or even fork some wheelbarrows of newly delivered manure to the plot, we couldn't. The paths were sodden and these two very inadequate photos try to show. Look, even the slugs were being flooded out!


But TRUE JOY was to be found on 14b with our rhubarb patches. These young forced stalks had been so happy to get to the sun that they had pushed off the forcer lid :) We naturally took all these beauties home and I was supposed to make some of my compote and even some compote with ginger - but I've been a crappity mess so far this week. Poop.


There were also some purple sprouting broccoli plants that I reckon deserve a mention and these glorious little daffodils - what a happy sight.


Love and hugs
Carrie

So this weekend we are trying to go for a good hike and I'm not sure if we'll be at the lottie. This hiking lark has really given us a great joint hobby that's healthy and fun. It's just as, if not more, important than the lottie these days! x

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Tenerife (living dangerously)

In the middle of our trip my body just simply shut down and so I ended up on the very comfy sofa of our wee house for the morning/afternoon. What a disappointment. Andrew however went off and did a hike, a crazy hike that was more like a vertical climb up the steep hillside. When I say it almost broke him you know it was hard - I would most likely have died, right there, a corpse to be rolled down hill and taken home in a box, done, finished, kaput. He has kindly lent me these photos.....

Andrew's hike - (Andrew Gault) www.growourown.blogspot.com
Andrew's crazy hike up above El Palmar
******
But then the big day came and I was refreshed and to be honest rather excited and floating about on adrenaline; we were going to Volcano land in the El Tiede National Park. Breakfast was gobbled down and forgive me, but I had to pee a million times due to nerves, but then backpacks ready and off we went!

Chinyero
So my friend, have you ever walked around a Volcano? I hadn't and I really didn't expect what we came across doing the circular trail around Chinyero, over lava flows and ash and through burnt pine tree forests and paths littered with the largest pine cones I've ever seen.

Allow me please to be your guide...
Hiking Chinyero -  www.growourown.blogspot.com
top - the path from the roadside; left - the true path starts; right - massive pine cones!


Hiking Chinyero 2-  www.growourown.blogspot.com

So this was the official start of our route, as modelled by Andrew, note the white and yellow painted lines on the rock behind him, they denote an 'ok you're going the right way'. I step off the path to hug a pine, it smelt so good! The paths were all winding and beautiful and then they opened right up and lava rock was everywhere.

Hiking Chinyero 3 -  www.growourown.blogspot.com

Then it began to narrow and after a wee climb we ended up on pure lava rock without plant life bar some lichen, for a good time and then saw this massive erratic rock. This section ended abruptly with a move to grey sludge and red grit.

Hiking Chinyero 4 -  www.growourown.blogspot.com

The other side and the lava rocks continue on as a river into the fog, we followed it a little while and then turned back into forest with slightly rougher paths which soon smoothed out. Oregano grows wild by the side of the paths at this point and it is so refreshing to pick some, crunch it and smell it in.

 The landscape is at it's most beautiful (the ground is bouncy with pine needles) when you get your view of the volcano. I took so many photos from all areas but I like this one due to the memory of the smell and cool air just here. The rest of the way back to car was a lovely walk though open pine forest, slowly climbing upwards.

The last eruption here was in 1909 but in 2012 there was also a fire that ripped through the forest so it adds to the drama of the landscape and the other worldly atmosphere of the hike. The smell is beautiful bar that of the lava flows which do still have a peculiar sulphur whiff and a feeling of being on Mars as some of the lava stones are red and so in fact is the hue of the volcano. We met a good few people doing this walk but everyone was going in the opposite direction! It's circular but come on, the guide books say to go our way.
us two and a volcano - Hiking Chinyero -  www.growourown.blogspot.com
Us and Chinyero

El Tiede
Oh my goodness, this is one of those bucket list adventures that you simply must do, if it's possible. The landscape around El Tiede is mesmerising and the view of the volcano took my breath away, it's the 3rd highest in the world. Even the drive to and from the area is other-wordly, I imagine it will stay in my memory forever. It was hard to capture it in photographs as it changed so much mile after mile, so I'll leave it at one panorama with the Volcano in it.

El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
El Tiede Volcano with many different coloured deposits and the ridge of the caldera.

It's 27 Euros to get the cable car to the top of the volcano but I believe it was totally worth it, the ride up was fun in itself. Neither of us have never before stood so far above the clouds and had such vistas stretch out before us. It was cold and there was snow, it being  -4 and 55km/h when we were there. But you just can't wipe the inane grin off your face and we even got the giggles. The paths were really good but the tiredness had hit me a bit and I think I had mild altitude sickness, so I was wobbly for a tiny bit.
Up the top of El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
1. The extra bit up to the 'cooking pot' 2. Recycling is important even up here! 3. The view from the cable car (the shadow) and the caldera.
It's odd that this was so awesome but I just can't find the words to talk about at, it was a simply overwhelming sensory experience. I really can't show all my photos from up here as picking which to leave out is too hard.

Caldera of El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
panorama of the caldera from the viewing point at the cable car station

Only a few people get to right up to see into the volcano and you have to pay extra and have organised a license beforehand. Believe me, I had seen enough to blow my wee mind! We were the cable car last down but one and the only sad thing was the shop was closed - I so needed a souvenir.

To finish the day we had grand driving tour of the national park and north coast back to Garrachico for a late dinner and then home for the last evening, exhausted. The last day was spent driving all the way back to the airport sucking in every sight from the road that we could, sadly it doesn't take long to end up back in resort hell with millions of horrid apartments, water parks and clubs. Give me rural any day...

El Tiede from the air - www.growourown.blogspot.com
El Tiede waves goodbye from above the clouds as we fly homeward.
Hugs and love
Carrie

Next - back to the allotment!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Tenerife (the quiet life)

I'm at that point in the year where it feels like I have been doing push ups everyday and now, well my arms are trembling and my knees are weak and each attempt is causing more sweat to drip from my brow and I just can't go on. It's been dark, dreary and cold out there again and my energy levels are at about 2 out of a possible 10. I've been out of action since last Sunday's hike in the freezing cold Mournes, which was not nice at all; it was the last straw and I have been through a delightful breakdown this past week. But let's not get into that, eh?

Goodness me I was falling asleep there, staring at the hypnotic blinking text cursor. I need a good slap about the face with a wet lettuce. [Or....as it turned out, a bloody long nap.]


I know what will cheer us all up...blue skies, picturesque scenes and the wonder of a volcano or two. Yes, I'm talking Tenerife photo time!

1. On our way above a blanket of cloud. 2. A roadside stop to view the rugged landscape and La Gomera in the distance 3. The stunning landscape, crazy road and Masca (a tourist trap!)

It only takes 4 hrs and around 20 mins to escape the weather and drudgery of Northern Ireland and reach the shores of Tenerife, and it is all the more wonderful when you get the window seat, as I always do! Everything was fine and dandy with our flight, our hire car and Andrew's driving from South to North East (Isla Baja); the weather played it's part beautifully and the locals were simply a delight as we stumbled through our Spanish. But the scenery! wow.


El Palmar
1. Sculpture of the Devil who runs through El Palmar during the Harvest, on fire! 2. Just a few of the hiking paths, all fabulously signposted along their length. 3. Andrew at our house with one of the cats :)

It was the first time we used AirBnB and we stayed in the most idyllic little place - here's the link - Esperzana's Place. It was in the little village of El Palmar and sweetly tucked away down a lane you had to go on foot and which was so extremely quiet and dark at night, I've never seen so many stars - Heaven. We were surrounded by vineyards on one side and (after a little walk further) stunning views of small terraced farm plots and banana plantations down to the sea, on the other, but mostly we were nestled deep amongst the locals in an very old small farmhouse, complete with it's own cats.

Inside our beautiful house, the kitchen and the little patio area outside

We were met my the owner Andres and he told us all about the area, the hiking to be considered, the places to visit, the history of the house (well two houses knocked together) and he tipped us off with a great restaurant recommendation. Travel makes us hungry. We did have a beautiful big box of local organic fruit and vegetables and some bottles of banana wine (!?) but who wants to cook on the first night!

Very popular dish of wood fired chicken and chips

We went after a darn good look about to the restaurant and had chicken and chips cooked over pine wood and needles - wow, it was gorgeous. Not terribly fancy but the flavours were so good and the smell! This place was dead when we went though it was filling up as we left but on Sunday - it was bunged all day and night, with people from all over the island. What a little gem.


Garrachico
1. Gift shop and beautiful old buildings and cobbled streets. 2. Always, there are groups of men talking all over one another in every village. 3. Courtyard into someone's home - heavenly. 4. Insane para-gliders can be seen all over, the cliffs are so high!

Behind this beautiful church there is a square which is fabulous for people watching and you can also get a snack and a beer. We sat for a good time and saw all of life pass by from a newborn baby to a large funeral, tourists and locals, friendly policemen and the most beautiful hotel. I'm not a beach person, this is where I love to sit in the sun and see the comings and goings of a place.


1. Iglesia de Santa Ana and my hubby 2. In La Plaza Libertad with his and her's beers

The seafront of Garrachico is pretty special with natural pools and channels formed by the lava flow of a volcano eruption in 1706 which destroyed half the town. In the summer they are swam in but in January - not so much. Beside them stands an old Fort - Castillio de San Miguel, pretty cool to look at but it had just closed when we got there.
1. One of the many pools with steps down into it! Not today thank you. 2. The Castillio de San Miguel

Punta de Teno
At the most westerly point of Tenerife there is a beautiful working lighthouse (only a year older than me) and the steep and dangerous looking Los Gigantes cliffs and gorges. The road collapsed last year out to this point so traffic is restricted at the weekends, luckily however that meant we were there at dusk and the light was beautiful.
1. Los Gigantes from a sweet little harbour. 2 The lava outcrop of La Punta de Teno. 3 The lighthouse (solar powered) 4. Rainbow just before a storm
Hugs
Carrie x

Join me next time for.... VOLCANOES