Wednesday 18 January 2017

Coming and Going

It was yesterday I thought of them. I knew where to look of course and under a fine layer of dead bamboo leaves I found them. Sweet, fresh green harbingers of Spring. They have burst forth from the darkness and exude hope, a reminder that warmer days and longer days are coming and we can make it through this cold, dark, dank period. We always do. But for someone like me, whose brain is heavily fogged with depression and confusion and all matter of clutter, the sight of these snowdrops is a powerful annual sign that I too can make it through another winter, another period of suffocating darkness.....

This is only a part of the hidden cluster you must walk around the tea house to get a glimpse off, but the effect is so magical. I look forward to them growing taller and flowering; that almost blinding white is forming inside.

first signs of snowdrops -

It's a times like this that a William Peter Blatty quote always comes to my mind. In the midst of reading his book - The Exorcist, there are moments of pure reassuring peace amongst the horror and evil. This is one quote that truly lifts my spirits every time I read it and hope it goes down well with you....
William Peter Blatty quote -

It is also times like this that I wonder about the allotment and what jobs might need doing. It's fun to think of all the trees and bushes over there that look so dormant but are really working hard to rise the sap and withstand the cold. Soon there shall be buds on their branches and the joyous cycle begins again.

rhubarb forcing -
Not a great photo - sorry.
Already the rhubarb is growing strong and we have one crown under the forcing pot for that special treat of extra sweet branches. The beds are mulched with lovely compost and manure, no seaweed this year as it's just been too blasted cold to collect any. Andrew has already done a lot of pruning. I would like to think the garlic is poking through now too, but the weather is just too poor to go and check.

This month is truly for dreaming and planning; thinking about optimising your space, noting where raised beds need fixing, timbers replacing, looking at seed catalogues and remembering what worked for you last year. Enjoy! In no time the hard work shall begin.


I'm off on a holiday this week to the sunshine and other-worldly beauty of North Tenerife, time to take a break from the everyday and go climb a volcano or two. I look forward to the many different plants I hope to see, the incredible black sand beaches and the blue sky. We're booked into a small place in the middle of nowhere with hiking trails all around....


Friday 13 January 2017

101 Organic Gardening Hacks - Book Review

Well I have been either living under a rock or the Americans have been keeping Shawna Coronado away from me; she's huge with 7 thousand + followers on You Tube, almost 3 thousand followers on Instagram and nearly 20 thousand on Twitter. That doesn't even include those who love her blog and have bought her books (yes she has written two).

She describes herself thusly...
"Wellness, garden, & foodie author. TEDx speaker, photographer, blogger, travel adventurer with spinal osteoarthritis & a passion to make a difference."

Pretty impressive already, eh? And then, I get her latest book published by Cool Springs Press (sent to me by Quarto Publishing plc to review) as it launches here in the UK. And yes, I too have fallen for her no nonsense, fun and actually do-able gardening ideas.

So above is the book, please do not be put off by the word 'hack' by the way, her publishers simply say it is a word for 'a great idea that's come to life'. I have been flicking through this over the last week and really getting into over the past two days. It is so photogenic, so cute but most importantly, I found it to be inspiring and a friendly read, with practical ideas that are actually useful and easy to replicate. 

The publishers blurb is so on point...
In 101 Organic Gardening Hacks, you'll find the top tips, tricks and solutions unearthed by Shawna Coronado. Some are practical timesavers; others offer clever ways to 'upcycle' everyday items in your garden. Every hack, however, is completely organic and unfailingly environmentally friendly!

I suggest to take a wee look at the contents page pictured below, it covers everything from the beginners needs to inspiring ideas for the allotment, garden and even unused spaces. There is literally something for everyone and nothing is too expensive. Even those with little room can't get away, there are no excuses :)

As a bibliophile, the feel, text, layout and beauty of this book makes me very happy. It's easily going to fall into a coffee table book by it's looks but honestly don't let that fool you - it's got great ideas. We are certainly going to enjoy using it. Oh, and the cover is wipe-able, which is great as I'm also the muckiest allotmenteer out there.

Of course this book is for the organic grower, which I do strive to be, but the section on pollinator hacks really got me interested as it's maybe one area were we could try harder, especially with the terrible decline in bees these days. Shawna is also an advocate for the no-dig gardening style we have adopted over the past couple of years and seems to be just as in love with composting and manure as we are, haha.

101 Organic Gardening Hacks
Eco- friendly Solutions to
Improve Any Garden

by Shawna Coronado

January 2017
£12.99 | Paperback
Published by Cool Springs Press

If you go to her blog, which I know you will - you will see those words again 'wellness author' and she truly seems to be. Inspiring in her fight over spinal osteoarthritis, a seemingly great cook and someone who sees the garden area as a place of therapy and joy. Her ideas in up-cycling see a creative desire mixed with growing food and beautiful plants. I find her quite the exciting find, even if I am way behind everyone else.

Stay cosy this weekend

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Two Allotment Afternoons

I had a good mental health afternoon on Monday and experience has taught me that I need to grab these windows and get out there. Toby stayed at home snoozing but Andrew and I went to the allotment and got started on a new year. Oh lord, how I love ripping old stuff out and seeing lovely rotted poop go on the cleared beds.
me, I was at the allotments! -

Andrew worked on 24a tiding up and mulching. He also pruned the espalier apple trees and gathered many wheelbarrow fulls of the horse manure that had been delivered to the field, for our compost bin. I was hoping to get a photo of garlic poking through the soil but we planted a little late this year and I guess we'll just have to be patient. Our garlic has never let us down in all these years so I am optimistic. Happily we also came away with some excellent beetroot from that plot. Still in the dark, damp days of winter, the allotment provides :)

We also have some parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli and kale going strong there.

I went over the terrifying-looking overgrown disaster that is 14b and began my attack. Goodness the yoga and hiking really has made a difference to the loads I can carry and the duration I can work for; it's nice to see some progress there - hopefully I'll start to tone up soon!

Anyhow, I just dived into the middle flower bed and ripped and hacked my way through it all. It was so woody that I couldn't even cut most of of it down for composting but boy did I have a grin on my face just getting rid of it all. I also cleared paths as I went and am resolute about getting some membrane and gravel down this year!

Once all the stems were removed I started on the weeds and lumps of grass that were thriving. But luckily Andrew made tea and I had a break with him just as I was getting weary and thinking how weeds are always going to be a huge problem there when you have three abandoned sites surrounding yours, grrr. Anyhow, calming lemon and ginger tea is wonderful and after it I was back and got the whole bed cleared. It was a good day for getting dandelion roots out too, the ground very friable though a little moist.

I have my plan for that bed already - sunflowers which simply last for ages and look sculptural in winter and some daisy-like happy flowers to cut for bouquets. I wasn't well enough to do the multi-flower bed last year so I am learning to live within my abilities.

Only two other couples came and quickly visited their plots whilst we were there, it seemed so funny not to see many more people, it was such a perfect afternoon for working. It was odd how Maggie's presence was strong and rather upsetting to look up and not see her. It helps to know she would have been fuming though - far too cold and wet for her, she was a sun worshipper that one :)

24a monday and horse poop -


But lo and gasp! On Tuesday I was furiously cleaning the downstairs of my house and when Andrew woke up we (actually I!), decided that for his last day off we ought to go back to the plots and continue our work. We went out for apple sponge cake and a coffee first but only so we had enough energy to attack those beds, hehe.

It was damp, that seriously cold damp that seeps into your bones and freezes your cheeks and hurts even your eyes. But damn it, I got almost all of the second flower bed weeded, Andrew pruned all the hawthorns, tided the rhubarb bed and gathered more wheelbarrows of manure and we had a goodish time.

14b -

We had tea and took a dander round our field and oh my, it was so upsetting, no, it was frustrating to see the majority of plots in absolute messes. So over grown, returned back to rumble sites covered in weeds and long grass. It truly made us think 'Why do we bother?'

Back at our plots we worked a little more but I was stiffing up now and had a headache starting. However, miraculously it started to drizzle and both of us were secretly very thankful to be 'forced' to go home to Toby and blankets and the fire. 😄

My cheeks took an hour to defrost, my nose was like an open tap, I got a chill and a migraine later on BUT it was worth it!

Carrie x

Sunday 1 January 2017

A New Year and a Winner!

I thought it would be wonderful to start the new year off with a blog post, a sort of sign of my good intentions to write more in 2017. I also have a longing to get more in touch with my readers so I have also set up a Facebook page for the blog (I do hope you'll join me there). 
AND of course I hope I can do more giveaways!
A new year, a new day and the same horrid battle with my poor mental health. An ill brain doesn't care if you wanted to go for a cobweb blowing hike in the Mournes or a few productive hours at the Allotment. So here I am, still in my pyjamas sort of watching TV at 6pm.

I'm so lucky though as Toby has been asleep and ever so cuddlesome all day, up on the sofa with me. He stayed up really late for a pup and saw in the new year; he's paying for it now.

Andrew has declared today to be an official films and pyjamas day with much herbal tea and naps. He demands I do as little as possible. What did I do to deserve him? - he's so understanding.

And then there's my giveaway and giving gifts lifts my spirits. Thanks to those who entered!
Here we go with our winner -
Drum roll please!!

I'll be in touch xxx

Hugs and best wishes
Carrie x