Moving on

Happy, exciting news… I’m moving!  After over a year (would have been 2 this July) in my current house share in Stratford Upon Avon, I’m moving to Redditch into an awesome little pad with the boyfriend.  Very exciting, busy times!  There are, of course, many positive things about this development, but for the purposes of this blog I shall be focusing upon the gardening and crafty side of things.  Documenting our efforts in making the space our own will have to begin with the ‘before’ pictures, naturally.  But first, the ‘after’ pictures from the garden in Stratford.

It is a bit of a fond farewell to said garden, which I enjoyed some limited freedom in, confined to the borders and my pots.  Also, to the one remaining housemate that I more than like, she is my friend and I shall miss our chats in the garden very much, my dear Agnieszka…

We have had fun and if not for her, living in that house would have been incredibly miserable, I hope we always stay in touch.

But back to the garden…

Here is what managed to survive in the border, the Swiss Chard (Rainbow Lights, my go-to, hardy staple) that I propagated from seed last year.  It weathered the winter and my shameful neglect, but was today hacked down to be shared in the kitchen with my (soon to be former) housemates.  Safe to say I took no prisoners and will finish the task of removing what remains before I leave.

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Not a bad harvest for this (very) part-time gardener… well I’m never home and I work five nights a week, but this never being home business is going to change on the 30th of this month, moving day.  I have, in fact, secured a whole week off work to play in my new digs, and do some digging too I’m sure.

I was ridiculously happy at the sight of my apple tree being in blossom all of a sudden…

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The plant on the right belongs to Agnes, but the bucket-type BBQ on the right may have to find its way into my car before I leave.  In my defense, it’s been there longer than me and I happen to be the only tenant left from when I moved in, so I figure it’s not wanted or in use… I do however, confess to the mess in the left corner, lazy!

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This really is full disclosure, and if I was that kind of person I’d maybe be a little reticent to post this picture all over the internet, but I clearly have no shame.

As I’m not staying, I’m not weeding.  The lavender is clearly dead… it was a bargain purchase.  Half dead, it was a fools errand to try to rescue it, given my lifestyle at the time.  Such ventures, in the past (and hopefully in the future), have not been in vain and actually been points of pride in my ability to nurture nature back from the brink.  I feel more purchases like that are on the cards, especially given my perpetual lack of funds.  The mint (in the purple pot) is showing encouraging signs of life, but needs re-potting and the dead stems disposing of, a little job that won’t take long, but may be delayed until May and compost has been acquired.  The three odd-looking things in the large black pot at the front are avocado seeds.  Now, before wise, well-meaning folk comment that it is April in the UK and such things have no business being outside… I am aware that this is highly unlikely to be successful.  But I ran out of space indoors, where I do in fact have some avocado seeds suspended over glasses of water, as my research suggests is a common way to encourage avocado seeds to germinate…

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These (minus one that was looking rather mouldy) are now sat on the book/DVD case near my bed, as opposed to on the floor in the corner as depicted here, and are showing some early signs of germination.  One of them has even split very noticeably, the top left seed here, so I think that removing the outer shell may be the way to go in the future if I decide to try this again.  I actually am not a fan of avocado, but fancied the challenge when the opportunity for me to take away some unwanted seeds from the kitchen at work presented itself.  It is unlikely to be an issue having more seeds to try in the future thanks to the breakfast chef.

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Another picture pointing the finger of neglect squarely in my direction, and fair enough, these chives (grown from seed) are in desperate need of watering and thinning out.  There is always something to do in the garden, happily.  I take no responsibility for the contents of the pots to the left of my chive trough however, they’re nothing to do with me.  The sign also is not mine, it belongs to Agnes.

I may take some more pics before I fully move out, but that pretty much covers all that is left in the garden here that proves I have not been as involved in growing and tending to my ‘green babies’ as I have been previously.  A situation that I have no doubt I will rectify at my new address, it’s inevitable, I’m too excited to not do so!

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Allotments

This is a wistful, yet hopeful post for me.  I miss having allotments so much, even more than I miss having a garden to call my own.  There is no sense of contentment and achievement like having a beautiful allotment that you have created with your own work and sweat, and being able to cook and eat what you have lovingly tended from seed.  I may sound over the top here, but it’s something I am passionate about and enjoy more than I can say.  Plus, it’s good exercise.

When I was uploading the pictures for my last post, I discovered pictures of my old allotmenting efforts.  Please indulge me a little reminiscence…

These are pictures of Cyrils allotment that the lovely Vanessa and I helped with.  I miss these days, but feel blessed to have shared them, very fond memories…

We would drag up our children and Ramsey (who passed away very recently, so very sad to hear about this, he was a lovely boy.  A beautifully natured dog).  Which was good for everyone to feel a part of something, a real sense of community that is sorely lacking in secular society (more on that another day).  Plus, I enjoyed digging away like a nutter to Slipknot.  Funny given the demographic age range up there, fact.

It really was a happy part of my life, it got me through some tough times and I’ve missed that side-effect.

I think it is also important to teach children where their food comes from, where would we be in a zombie apocalypse if no one knew how to grow food?  Seriously though, I would like to think that when I was still living with my beautiful children, that time spent up there imparted a respect for food.  Also, it was time together, outside, being active.  Bethany would tell me stories of such creative intricacy… she stunned me.  I am so very proud of her and her brother and miss them more than words can adequately convey.

This was our allotment, Vanessa and I shared this space…

It was good, honest hard work in the fresh air.  What could be better than quenching your thirst whilst surveying the fruits of your efforts?  I need an allotment!  Hence why this post is hopeful, I plan to get one asap, maybe in time share it again with my babies.  I’ll probably drag along some long-suffering friends too.  The boyfriend will probably either come along with some drinkies and Peaches, or have some time to himself gaming on the line, either way, everyone’s happy.  A little time to yourself is important and good for you.  Everyone will get to eat the fruits of my labour therapy anyway, which I need a kitchen to cook for friends in comfortably, this is also part of the plan, when I can.

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I’m back

After the craziest few years (it will be 3 in July), I am gently starting to write again.  This blog, as opposed to my other one, Type B Negative, seems like the most logical place to pick up my old habit of writing.  The reasons behind this will become fairly clear as you read, but put in the plainest, most simple terms, it is because this is where the most profound differences in my life and its focus are likely to be evident.  For starters, I no longer have much of a garden to speak of, let alone a polytunnel or allotments.  No chickens.  No family home to call my own any more.  Without getting too personal, I live in a rented, ground-floor room, in a shared house, in a town 20 odd miles away from sleepy old Stretton-on-Dunsmore.  But despite such a radical change in lifestyle, I know where I find my peace and considerable fulfillment… it remains in the nurturing of nature (and writing about it).  More to the point I have never forgotten this simple fact about myself, I have but neglected it in my day-to-day life.  Time to continue with making the necessary changes to improve on where I have come up to this point.

So I come bearing my own good news and will be catching up with my fellow bloggers again.  I hope to discover your good news and look forward to catching up with some old friends who actually write, rather than just ‘Facebook’.  That said, I’ve been somewhat unhealthily addicted to that particular social media.  So that is another positive change I intend to action from now on, I’ll be using it more intelligently and less frequently.  It’s a massive waste of my time, no matter how much I do enjoy it.  I spend too much time on there/my smartphone and not doing things that bring me pleasure, like reading, writing, gardening etc.  It’s a bad habit and I need rehab, get off the junk, so to speak.  Not in a derogatory sense, as I said, I enjoy it and my life would likely be much different to how it is now if I had not joined Facebook, so I’m actually oddly grateful for it and cannot regret it for a second.  I just don’t need it.  There are many other things I need to spend time doing, so as to properly get to where I need to be for my sake and of those I love and care about.  As I’ve said before, if you don’t look after yourself first, you cannot look after anyone else.  A very helpful thought that encourages those struggling with depression/mental health problems (ahem life!) to be gentle with themselves.

Welcome back me, it’s been a stupidly long time!  But in my defense, it’s been stressful and heartbreakingly difficult.  I’m still standing though, just.  Thanks in no small part to the kind love and support of some very dear people, another shining positive.  Inspiring a little… thinning, but it’s long overdue.  All change!  Adjusting has been tough, I’m strong enough to admit that, and forgive myself for being unaware of how ‘unwell’ I’ve been.  I say unwell with utter disgust, as many of you know my feelings about some mental health ‘professionals’ (oops the bitch is back) medicalising reactions to life.  I’ll concede that I do not believe psychiatry to be quite as Michel Foucault portrayed it, as a means of social control to replace the hold religion had on the population.  I do, however, think it can serve to dehumanise the reactions people can have as a result of stress and various other influences, both exogenous and endogenous.  But enough of that.  Yes, mental health is something I have my opinions on and considerable experiences with, but this is not my preferred forum for such musings.  This blog is, and will remain, dedicated to simpler, more practical aspects of life.

…and breathe.

Nurturing plants/new life, is something that grounds me.  It gives me peace and feels almost creative, as I’m not actually creating anything, just helping nature do her thing.  I do feel though that being creative, or having a creative outlet, is so important to maintaining ones mental health.  Staying healthy, which if you grow and eat your own veg tends to contribute to your physical health too, is just sensible, especially so given that I took myself off all antidepressants and diabetic medications a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, I am back on Metformin (for type 2 Diabetes), but I’ll work at rectifying that with diet and increased physical activity.  So much more to be doing with life.  Although, I have been busy rebuilding my life from scratch, I do need to pull my finger out now I’m feeling stronger and am supported by some of the finest people on the planet, in my humble opinion.  I am truly fortunate and grateful to have you all in my life, chaotic as it has been.  So what better way for me to look after myself, to enable me to look after these wonderful people in return, than by focusing on activities that have proven to be intrinsic, not only to my health and happiness, but to the very core of who I believe myself to be.  Or perhaps more accurately, create myself as the person I want to be, because there is always a choice.

So lately I have been making plans and thinking about what plants it is viable for me to grow, given my lack of a space to grow that is my own.  Having said that, I did make some efforts in the chaos of last year…

May 2016 looked like this –

June

August

Not too bad all things considered.

I have perhaps rambled on a little, no pun intended.  So I think I may leave it here for now, press that ‘Publish’ button and plan the next post, which I hope will be a little more focused on the activities that I engage in when I am able at the moment.  Like the crochet I’m working on and the avocado seeds I’m attempting to germinate, not to mention revisiting the things I was working on with my silent partner in Stretton towards our book on small-holding.  Things I look forward to putting more energy into, amongst many other little projects and activities that I have sorely neglected.

Before I do sign off though, here’s a couple of pictures from a visit to Mary Arden’s Farm with some friends last May, where my love of those adorable reprobates, goats, was further reinforced…  So cute!!

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Lots to catch up on…

Wow! It’s really been a long time since I wrote anything here! So much for my good intentions, again. Ah well, let’s have a quick catch up. The header, as you have probably noticed, is no longer a winter scene, but a more seasonal one. Okay so we missed out spring, so this is what I was up to at my ‘tiny-holding’ back at the end of March –

I had propagated more seedlings than my other half could tolerate, not only had they filled up the front porch (which I use as a mini greenhouse), but they had encroached upon the conservatory too!

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Ooops!  So they had to go out, but they were far too tender, as it was the 24th of March.  Something had to be done.

So it was time to dig over the sorry remains of my first veg patch (in the back garden) from last summer, to prepare the ground for a polytunnel (purchased on sale at the end of last growing season).  Now, the soil where I live in the village is a very clay soil, just a bit of throwing or casting and a kiln and I’d have pots for every plant on that table in no time!  So the digging wasn’t exactly as easy as it would’ve been had I got sandy soil or a picture-perfect loam.  No matter, I set to –

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Work was interrupted, of course, by our wondrous, ever-changing, crazy weather, but by the 31st of March (the same year!) we were in business –

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Yay!!!!  With the flaps weighted down (and later buried) the tunnel should be able to stay up all year round and, with a bit of planning, work and luck, keep my little family in fresh produce through the seasons.

I even managed to acquire (legally) some crate-type raised bed-looking things for the inside –

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Not the most chic or stylish look, but they serve my purposes and were free.  Happy days!

Since these pictures were taken there has been some switching around of crops in there.  The nasturtiums, which began to take over, have been moved outside, along with the Swiss chard, parsnips and beetroot.  The aubergine under the plastic bottle, died.  I took out everything from the right-hand border and replaced it with a pumpkin (which is growing rather large) in the far corner and alternate ‘Tamina’ and ‘Golden Sunrise’ tomato plants.  The tomatoes (Gardeners Delight, I think) down the centre are looking a bit sorry for themselves, instead of watering them this morning, as I usually do, they had an early evening drink.  I’m having a go at growing some watermelons, as you do.  There are also new sowings of lettuce, mange tout and chard.  In the top left corner are some cucumbers, which I hope will not be bitter like last years’, now I know about pinching off the male flowers!  There is a ‘Gypsy’ sweet pepper plant in a pot to the right of the door and a strawberry planter to the left, which had to be moved inside away from the flippin’ chickens.

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Yes, I now share the back garden with, not only a massive trampoline (my daughter’s 9th birthday addition), but 2 feathery girls who scratch and scrat at everything!

Introducing Rebecca (Pecky-Becky) and Megan (Eggy-Meggy) – I know!!!

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I sway between finding them annoying, as they crap everywhere and eat my veg, and adoring them.  They can be very restful to watch, especially as they sunbathe.  Meg isn’t doing very well with laying now, but we certainly won’t hold that against her.  Becky does pick, or peck, on her somewhat.  It is nice to have very fresh eggs, that you know come from very happy chucks.  Although, I did annoy them slightly today, by shutting them in their pen as I dabbled in some flower planting.

Let me explain.  I usually don’t have a great deal of time for growing anything that I can’t eat or use in the kitchen, never mind give it space in my garden.  However, I saved a load of plants that were destined for the skip after the closing of a farm shop nearby.  So after giving away some, I thought I’d plant up the border between the shed and the oil tank in the garden, a space usually devoted to veg (last year it was corn and cucumber).  I am feeling generous with this bit of space, due to my recent adventures in allotmenting (we’ll get to that).

Now, I have never done a border before, which is pretty obvious I think –

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I just picked the plants that I liked and put them in!  Be kind, I’m having a bash and crossing my fingers that it’ll bloom in a couple of weeks.  If not, I’ll let the chickens at it, they can clear it for me!  Until then it has been secured from the two-girl demolition squad, who will probably get a big run built for them if they can’t keep their beaks and feet to themselves – I love them really!

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It may never make it into Gardener’s World, but anything is better than the skip surely?!

 

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Regaining Simplicity

I couldn’t agree more…

Mama Kate

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While I was on maternity leave and then working part time, I was drawn towards simple living and embraced the idea of paring everything down. I made my simple goals and as a family, we made decisions about our spending, our ambitions and our way of life which centred around intentional living and which moved away from stuff. Stuff has a way of getting in the way. Stuff weighs you down. Stuff is why we are not where we would like to be, financially and aesthetically.

Since then, I left my job to retrain as a teacher and spent a year unpaid but working full time. I am now working as a teacher and though I am now being paid, we are still paying for last year. I no longer have the luxury of time to dwell on a simple life and yet it is as important that we keep…

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Food is fuel

What with the festive season over now, many people are feeling bloated from the odd tradition that has evolved within our culture of stuffing ourselves stupid with food and alcohol, so they look to improve their diets in order to lose weight. Fine. But is it enough to change what you put into your mouth/body? I would rather inspire a change of perspective, which would most likely last a little longer than those (very well-intentioned) New Years resolutions that barely make it past February.

As my day job is a checkout operator for a large supermarket, I have been witness to the spending/shopping habits that we indulge in at Christmas time. It is staggering how we blow our budgets every year on this one day of feasting and gift-giving.
Goodness I do sound like a Grinch!
But this year, what with the current economic climate, focus being very much on the dreadful effect of our behaviour as part of the consumer credit culture we live in, it has felt absurd to throw away hundreds of pounds that could be put to much better use. Rather than expanding our well-fed waistbands with large amounts of rich, indulgent food, we could put it towards any debt we may have, or put aside some savings for our children’s’ futures.
Also, the food that is consumed would be better served (pardon the pun) going to people who are struggling to feed themselves and their children. I don’t say this to try to make myself sound superior, self-righteous or to engender any feelings of guilt, which is a pretty pointless emotion, unless it inspires positive change perhaps… I myself am far from being beyond the ‘traditions’ of cooking an enormous turkey dinner with extra effort and calories going into all those delicious trimmings, buying large boxes/tins of chocolates, puddings, cheeses, mince pies, cream and the like.
It wouldn’t ‘feel like Christmas’ without these things, what with them being part of our childhoods, this tends to cement them in our minds as being ‘done’. So this is the situation we find ourselves in every January, feeling fat, broke and guilty. So everyone goes on a diet.

Personally, as that is the only perspective from which I can speak, I find dieting to be incredibly bad for your health (both physical and mental). I’m not, of course, saying that we should continue to eat calorie-laden food with no regard for the ill effects this has on the millions of obese people in the developed world. Again, I know this also sounds a bit cringing, but I do know that diabetes is not much fun, as I was diagnosed with adult-onset type 2 at the age of 23! Clearly my lifestyle was on a highway to illness. Yes, I did change my eating radically, for a while. Slowly, slowly however, old habits slipped back in and I occasionally need a reminder to be kinder to my body. It is, after all, the only one I have.

So, this perspective change I mentioned… Well, I have a bit of a theory, not entirely my own original thought, but stick with me here. It is pretty simple. Stop thinking about food! At least stop thinking about what you ‘shouldn’t’ have, it tends to make you want it all the more, I find. Food is fuel for our bodies, at the most simple, basic level. You wouldn’t not put fuel in your car and expect it to keep working, likewise you wouldn’t put diesel in a petrol car.

Chocolate is a particular favourite indulgence of mine, not the laxative sugar-free stuff, proper chocolate. But, I have had it before, I know what it tastes like. I don’t need to have it right now. I want to have it when someone tells me I can’t or when I think it might improve my mood. But, rather than turn to ‘naughty’ food in these moments, I try to distract myself or at least tell myself “maybe I’ll have it later”. Do something else and you might just forget about it. Hey, if you’re lucky you might even go off the idea, it has been known!

Back to the ‘Food is Fuel’ argument, not emotional eating or indulging in extraneous treats/snacks, just eating to live. As Epicurus might say, food serves to alleviate the pain of hunger, that’s it. A simple meal would satisfy this pain just as well as an extravagant banquet would. Sure the taste experience differs and perhaps the individual preference would be for the more luxury-laden table (erm, yeah!), but both actions of ingesting food have the same hunger-quelling capabilities. So let’s keep it simple. Simply eat, when you are hungry, simple food to simply alleviate the body’s need for fuel.

Also, instead of feeding yourself unnecessarily, feed others who do need nourishment at this time of year – like the birds.

A couple of days ago it was my 33rd birthday, for which my lovely quiet partner gave me a gift that she made, being the brilliant potter that she is –

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In the spirit of the philosophy we are sharing here, I have re-purposed my beaten-up old garden swing into the new home for this lovely gift.

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By using the frame as a big bird feeder (I will add more birdy treats) in the winter and then, hopefully, as a means of growing some grapevines when the better weather arrives, the swing will continue to be useful.  Even if I am too scared to sit my big bum on the questionable seat!

Happy New Year!

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The first step

This blog has been an awfully long time coming, I have been mulling over the concept since July (2013), trying to settle on what it’s purpose should be, what to call it and, of course, what to include. Well, the answer to the latter is simple – warts and all!

It’s title… that one would not leave my mind, despite many wonderful ideas from my quiet (journey) partner. There it is, at the top, encapsulating my genuine feelings about what we are doing in our quiet little corner of the Warwickshire countryside! Highlighting the fact, which will become pretty obvious in time, that I am NO expert! Just someone who is learning and exploring things that are new to me, and wanting to share the simple magic and wonder of it all.

So, we light upon the purpose, about which I will be absolutely upfront, there is more than one intent going on here. Firstly, it is a way for me to keep track of what we did when. As you will see by the entries that follow, I am not great at being contemporaneous. I will not, however, let that stop me from revisiting notes made at the time and recounting the stories that they evoke.
Secondly, in a rather business-like mind-set, I hope that this blog will become a companion to the book that is in progress (title pending!) and help in eventually ‘getting it out there’. Onto bookshop shelves and then onto yours. As this blog hopes to be a companion to the book, we hope that the book will become your companion throughout the year. Albeit a quiet one, nicely unobtrusive, waiting for you to look to when a new season begins in the kitchen or garden.
The final, conscious intent behind writing this blog, as I have previously said about another blog, is to do just that – write. I love to write, but like many things that bring simple pleasure, it is often pushed aside by other commitments. This is an attempt, by myself, to remind us all that there is more to life than the everyday drudge and that it is not always where or how you may expect to find it. It can be both magic and simple.

Shall we begin?

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