Thursday, 28 July 2016



Life, I just don't 'get' it, why is it so hard, so painful, so full of angst and disappointment? There's something in me that constantly wants it to change; the struggles are too great (and as my personal troubles are in my brain, no one can truly free me from that consistent fight), and the beauty, hard to find. I need a break, I think we all do.

The allotment called to me last Saturday and I answered; longing to find answers, peace, anywhere I may find it. Andrew and Maggie were happy to have me around and I took things slow, even stopping for tea and a snack along the way.
24a - left side and right :)
wild flowers from the hedgerow and time for a break
I couldn't help but tackle some of the worst areas. Yes, you know where....14b. I spent an hour clearing big weeds, some taller than me and many stronger too. It did feel good to make a difference and now the little squashes are going to get more light and room and nutrients. They best taste good!
before and after - squash patch 14b
Sad thing is I know that the next time I go back there is much more of this battle with nature to come. It just keeps coming, I just keep ultimately losing. Oh and of course there's the anxiety and depression to continue fighting whilst I'm there. It feels like I live life as though I'm walking on paper thin tissue paper; always the fear of the fall through and the fall out.

Good things did happen. Andrew pruned the gooseberry patch and the Echlinville apples were finally tided up; the espaliered nature of them is so pleasing to the eye. I know for certain that I felt good being useful for a while. And there was no one else there, just lots of birds, some sweetly singing, many squawking.
Consulting the Dr. and getting the espaliers done right!

I got to harvest the first of our blueberries, and red gooseberries, ha! - All for us and not one for those pesky pilfering, no good birds. Years, it's been years since we had any but the fruit cage has worked wonders and it's almost too much, haha.
Anxiety did take over, naturally. Strong feelings of paranoia and of just shear embarrassment at being me and outside of the house. That saw me going home but Andrew soldiered on :)

I don't know where I am in this world, a seed poorly nurtured, grown up deficient in what it needed and now, an imperfect plant with so many problems that if you had me in your garden or plot, you'd have no hesitation in ripping me out.
Thank goodness Andrew sees through that, maybe he loves the challenge of growing and helping me, maybe he sees beauty in the ugly. I'm just so thankful for him (and the delicious harvests). xx

Carrie x

Friday, 22 July 2016

Playing Catch Up ~ 1

It's been a while dear friends, can you tell my heart just isn't in it these days?

The allotment is a foreign place to me now even though it is but a moments drive away. Andrew is soldiering on but even he is feeling downhearted about the place, for example last night he had things to do but instead spent an hour mowing paths that the council neglect to do; what a waste of his time.

We've had some serious talks about giving up; about only keeping 24a and stopping 14b; of whether we would care if it all burned down one day.... and the answers, well, we would care. We don't need to put so much mental and psychical effort in but we are keeping it and are going to start reigning back the time and efforts spent therein. - 24a overview
24a - looking good if you ask me ( I can't show you the disappointing bits, too upsetting)

So much time, energy (psychical and mental), money and love has been poured into those little slices of 'Eden' and so little has been received in turn. Plus now the plots are truly in their worst states in the A field at least, many friends have left, there is absolutely no community atmosphere and the barren ground, diseases and weeds are really taking their toll.
produce 24a -
Recent produce (plus potatoes) and the garlic lifted

'Be the change you wish to see in the world', has long been a motto of mine, but let me tell you, there is only so much an already mentally ill girl can take and I am saturated.

So - this blog shall continue to log our allotment efforts and gains but now I shall be talking about Ecotherapy as a whole in my life and not limiting it to Allotmentherapy alone. I/We have 'refound' camping and hiking and life is looking like one of adventure and exploration as only last week showed in glorious (almost blinding) technicolor.

We camped out in a tent for the first time in years last week and I journalled, talked to strangers and took photographs (ones to prove I was camping, hahaa, AND fine art ones), a part of me coming back to life! It was scary, it was noisy but Andrew and Maggie were there and all was well.

Then we also hiked for 8 miles on Friday with amazing friends. Up in the Mourne Mountains, I still can't believe I did it but we have photos to prove it! With my double vision, it was more of challenge than one would imagine, plus I fainted about a quarter of the way in, but my stubbornness pushed me forward and, what?, I walked from the Trassey Trail to Bloody Bridge (Walk 16 in the book The Mournes Walks).

Mournes lunch -
Lunch time :)
I've been asleep ever since and only today am I starting to feel human again but I think I may have caught the bug. This ecotherapy is passive and yes you give A LOT but boy do you receive A LOT in return.

Anyway, my love to you all as always,
We shall still 'Grow Our Own' but now we shall also be just generally 'Growing'

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The allotment without me

This is a super huge catch up post and boy does it make me feel all the feels. I'm embarrassed and ashamed as Andrew has done everything himself, I'm proud of him, I'm sad that it doesn't interest me and actually being there causes panic, and I'm amazed that the plots around us are in such a wild state that it feels so pointless to even try - is this all a waste of time?! ~ an allotment blog
plot just before ours - ggrrrr
So Andrew and I were coming home from a trip to Belfast on Sunday and he needed to go in to the plots to get some food for us. Ahh, sneaky - that got me there off guard for the first time in months. I could have stayed in the car but I walked down, just with my phone and had a wee look. Here, this is proof that I was in fact, literally there - ~ an allotment blog

OK so this is the first born plot, the original and the best. The one that once won 'Best Allotment Garden' and which this blog was all about for a long time. It still feels like the important one; there sits the shed, the benches, the compost bins, the soil there has my blood, sweat, tears and adrenaline in it from those first exciting months of allotmenteering.

what you can see here: (with thanks to Andrew typing these lists!)
* left side - courgettes, sweetcorn, broad beans, french beans, mangetout
* right side - kale, kohlrabi, purple sprouting broccoli, garlic, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, spring onions, turnips. ~ an allotment blog
standing at the entrance to 24a

Okay, so it's ours too; in fact is was gotten under my name. However, the blackberry, rhubarb, poppies and roses are the only things I ever feel a connection with. Andrew has worked so damn hard over there but the asparagus has failed (I saw one frond) and I have been too ill to use the rhubarb this year or look after any flowers.

Good new is the woodland area trees are looking good and there is a nice wee under planting of herbs. I forgot to take a photo but hey, these are all terrible phone photos anyway :) ~ an allotment blog
back half of 14b ~ an allotment blog
a tidy up and this would show some nice flowers and many to come
We have thought often about giving this half plot up but when you think of the money pit it has been and the hours of work to get it to this stage were food is growing it breaks your heart. Plus 3 sides of it are coming down with weeds up to my thigh height with mostly grasses, nettles, dandelions and other unwanted seeds constantly floating over - arrghhhh. ~ an allotment blog

I only managed about 5 mins there this first time and then I had a panic attack and had to run to the safety of the car. Thank goodness I have been taking my hayfever medication though, it could have been deadly!

So far this year we have been eating *

broad beans
spring onions
potatoes (grown in big pots)
mini carrots

With much love and hopes for more blog posts (and much better photography) to come,
Your Carrie xx

Friday, 1 July 2016

A thank you

 'The world will give you that once in a while, a brief term out; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where someone dabs mercy on your beat-up life' 
From the book 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd

Those dabs have come from a few lovely people who have taken the time to not only think of me but let me know they are. There is more magic elixir in that kind act than I could hope for.

The fight is still ongoing and the mental illnesses are still certainly winning more times than not, however seeing little notes of love today gave me strength. Strength to rest all day even though I hate being unproductive and 'lazy', but then, strength to do 2 hours of healing yoga.

I truly thank you.
Carrie xx

By the way, Andrew and Maggie remain awesome and keep me alive everyday - I LOVE YOU so much, my wee family x

Thursday, 12 May 2016

When you're going through hell

...keep going!

April the 4th was the last time I had anything to do with the allotment. I haven't even been in the vicinity of the place and I didn't plant one single seed this year, not one. I barely even think about the plots and don't feel guilty about it either.

I was given a new extra medication to try in March of this year and by the middle of April I was ready for the hills; it simply didn't agree with me and conversely, all that it was meant to help with, it made a lot worse.
Self harm has become a 'normal' everyday desire and suicide often seems the logical solution to my pain. In short, times have been epically bad, we're talking on a biblical scale and Andrew and I have just barely pulled through.

Now there's a little green light at the end of that monstrously long tunnel of despair. I'm starting to catch glimpses of it, at long last, though they are few and far between.

The last couple of days here in glorious Carrickfergus have been sunshine-y and though it doesn't fill me with glee I am pleased to see the healthy plants in the garden (bar the absolutely dead Acer) and interested in the first wisteria buds on the vine.
wisteria buds -

I know Andrew will get my bum to that allotment soon and with hope I will be able to return to blogging and connecting with you, my gardening friends.

Wishing you all the very best

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Seedlings ahoy plus rhubarb and ginger compote

'Oh the weather outside is frightful...' with a chill in the air and regular rain/hail downpours; it's just plain miserable. But luckily the seedlings in the greenhouse are doing grand and all those little green dreams are coping well. The cold nights have necessitated a little bit of literal thinking and Andrew has deployed extra large tea lights (from Tesco) which burn for 8 hours; it's saved the babies on a few occasions by upping the temperature by a couple of degrees, compared to the shed.
leeks, broccoli, mangetout, purple sprouting broccoli, chard and cosmos
What a delightful sight it is out there with trays upon trays of tasty crops-to-be (more than pictured here). Plus I just adore how leeks germinate bent in half firstly and then growing tall :)


Due to such terrible weather I have been cleaning the kitchen and cooking! 

We are really trying hard not to waste any food this year and gluts will be tended to more creatively this year. Today I made a rhubarb and ginger compote. It follows the same recipe as my plain rhubarb compote but with a little twist. Making it tangy with a touch of heat :)

* instead of the half cup of orange juice - I added 2 teaspoons of diced ginger (in it's own syrup) and
* instead of the half cup of brown sugar - I reduced it to a quarter.

Rhubarb and Ginger Compote
rhubarb and ginger compote - '' ~ an allotment blog
making delicious rhubarb and ginger compote
Later I shall also be tackling the leek glut by simply cleaning, chopping and bagging them up individually to be frozen. I just learnt today that they do not need to be blanched first :)

Love and hugs

Monday, 4 April 2016

April, tea breaks and garlic planting

April was crept up on me from no where! I'm in shock. It's probably not helpful that I forgot to get us a nice new house calendar at the start of the year - I'm constantly lost. Okay, I do know April comes after March but woah, hold on a minute, I was only getting used to it being March; it just doesn't feel April-y to me, not so much the 'drip, drip, drop, little April showers' and more buckets of rain and hail!

Except for these utterly glorious moments of blue sky, chill air and uplifting sights of yellow daffodils :)

daffs at the lottie - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog

As a born overachiever I worked my self into the ground on Tuesday and Wednesday at the allotment. I only stop when I get really dizzy or simply can't breathe any more. It's not right and its not clever and so Andrew bought a new stove and kettle and we now can have tea/coffee breaks. I love my hubby *blush*

Also, I am trying a new additional medication and it seems to be slowly killing me, so I do have very legitimate reasons for truly not knowing my limits at the moment. Funny, I despise being ill, I am so very frustrated by the illness itself and the bloody medications and their side effects. For all my bluster and positive messages about Ecotherapy and such, I just want to sleep, I'm tired fighting.

tea and coffee at the lottie - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
so shiny :)
Tuesday saw the planting of our garlic! What joy is beheld in such, the beginning of a new season, hands in the soil with a nurturing intent rather than a ripping out. Andrew had to plant out the garlic into modules this year as the ground was so terribly wet, but that was back in January and now it is a good bit better. So it was wonderful to see these healthy babies being placed in their new places of growth.

Here they are approx 6 inches apart in rows a foot apart - good luck little guys!
garlic on the plots! - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
Planting out the garlic seedlings
Over on 14b I am still, yes still, trying to tidy up; my goodness every weed on earth seems to be deeply embedded in the ground over there! Plus I finally got rid of the torn and tattered tarpaulins and lots of empty gravel bags - goodbye blue blight! But I tell you the forest area is killing me! Though I am happy to say that I have done a lot more than the following 'after' photo shows. We shall have finished paths someday!

14b overview - 'growourown,' ~an allotment blog
before and after pics of the slow but steady work on 14b

After this it rained, it poured, it was almost biblical and we could have been washed away in our shed - though we would have had tea and coffee....

And that, my darlings is you all caught up :)

We haven't been able to go over since Wednesday as Andrew has been diy-ing here at home, laying a new and beautiful wooden floor. I have been reading a lot, yoga-ing and fiendishly hoarding any and all toilet rolls for some of my fussier seeds.  Maggie has been sleeping :)

I'll have a look at the seedlings etc for next time and record how everything is going.
Hope you are all seeing the changes of the season and gaining happiness from the lighter evenings.

Hugs and love
Carrie x

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Regarding that warning letter

I really ought to learn to let things go. I know this, I'm too sensitive and once hurt by something it takes me goodly time to heal. So regarding that recent warning letter we got - I am still smarting and though it has all been sorted out and we got our apology, I still feel slightly aggrieved.

I mean look at this, our 24a plot (a before picture!) compared to the one next door. I only use this plot as it is so very close, believe me there are a lot that are in a sad state. I do so hope they received a warning letter but now, after the 12 days given to show some improvement and active cultivation, here it lies as it has been for the past 5 odd years. Goodness, Maggie even made a nest in it once the weather turned colder yesterday afternoon.
our plot and theirs - ~ an allotment blog

Anywho, rant over.

We're bang on schedule with our two plots and though the weather has been fiendish and the soil often unworkable we have found ourselves lifting the last harvest and planting the first this week! ( I'll write in more detail about that soon)
leeks, last harvest - ~ an allotment blog
leeks galore 
Forgive us if we haven't gotten around to finishing the paths on 14b but quite frankly we have just paid out a load of money for new flooring at home and the allotment does come second.

And so I'm off back to the plots now whilst there isn't any hail or sleet (yes we have been having both over the long Easter weekend) to try to finish weeding the forest area and possibly prune my roses.


Friday, 25 March 2016

A monster!!!!

This is all I have to say/show...

Take a look at @andrew_gault's Tweet:


Thursday, 24 March 2016

First seedlings pop through

It's a dreary, dank day and I'm feeling a little depressed. Though Maggie is a healing balm and I have a great book to read and pen-pal to write to; plenty to keep me busy.

But I want to be outside, I want to be planting seeds and clearing the orchard patch at the Lottie.

So the closest I get is stepping out into the mizzily, maudlin morning and taking a peek at the seed trays. And lo, joy is to be found in those little green shoots! Life is pushing through the dirt and darkness and filling me with hope.

Let these bursts of gorgeous greenery delight your eyes too. We need to share the love, the hope and help one another see light ahead xx

seedlings ~ ~ an allotment blog
Broad beans, Broccoli celebrese, Kale, Purple sprouting broccoli
And I noticed this baby too :)

seedlings ~ ~ an allotment blog
a tiny kohl rabi!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Progress is joyful

Is there a happier sound than that of a wee, elderly dog barking in her sleep? I think not. And that is the sound I awoke to on Sunday morning, which led to a dozy smile upon my face. Maggie is the best thing we ever did - it's soon to be her adoption day celebration!

But the allotment is what your here for so I shall spill all the juiciest bits.

Sunday at the plots was a mixture of more soil prep and a mystery; our wheelbarrow had been pilfered! I was fine and dandy weeding the paths and pots with my trusty trug by my side, but Andrew was suddenly heard to call out "Where's the wheelbarrow? I need it." Well, my friends, this lead to a minor panic and a walk around our field, looking in ditches and checking to see if someone else (in a fit of wheelbarrow necessity) had borrowed it. Oh how we looked and tweeted to relieve the pain a little.

The day when on without our dear friend and we were sad. But wheelbarrow-gate was still haunting us. Deflated we left for some late lunch and lo! on the drive out Andrew's 20:20 vision spied our barrow and he jumped out of the car and rescued her. She had indeed been kidnapped/wheelbarrownapped but we had her back - joy! Just look at that loving glance...
wheelbarrowgate - '' ~an allotment blog
Where the wheelbarrow wasn't (left) and when we finally retrieved her (right)
So back from our lunch now and Andrew spread thick mulch all over our raised beds *with the use of the wheelbarrow. And now 24a look fabulous and tidy to rock!! I'm doing my best with 14b and later it was mulched a bit too.
glorious - no?!

Monday came quickly and seeds were been sown in the house shed when a letter from the Council - a warning letter, telling us that our plot would be taken from us if we didn't start cultivating it. What?? There were attempts at phoning the department, tweets were twitted and an email sent all asking how on earth could this be happening! Oh, a dark cloud hovered over our home that day and so soon after the stresses of wheelbarrowgate  :(

In all honesty I was devastsated after the amount of effort I had recently been putting in, just getting to the plots in the first place. Stupid, stupid people.

Well thank goodness it was Pi day in America (you know how they write the date wrong - well it was 3/14/2016, like 3.14 = Pi) and we took the opportunity to drown our sorrows in pie, apple and cinnamon pie at a local, lovely cafe. It helped. We came home and worked in the back garden.
apple pie - '' ~ an allotment blog
Uuumm - pie :)
Tuesday and back on the plots, there was pruning of the blackthorns and blackberry, plus tying in branches etc. I cleared the damnable old squash bed which had yielded not one squash for us last season but had plenty of grass, nettles and dandelions in it now (thanks neighbouring unused plots!) I tell you, it took hours to do that one bed! And I was exhausted.
squash bed - '' ~ an allotment blog
A cleared bed, an exhausted me

Wednesday saw the Gault's out and about at Castle Ward and Downpatrick, away from everything and just enjoying ourselves. But to top the day off, we came home to an email of apology from the Council for sending the warning letter to the wrong people. Thank goodness for 'sorry' and recognition that we do in fact have a lovely set of plots.

On Thursday I wasn't feeling good but it was St Patrick's day and that means only one thing in our house - planting the spuds! We got two new big pots and re-used an old fertiliser pot, drilled holes in the bottoms and planted our Sharp's Express in them. We'll take them down to the lottie soon.

Andrew made a quick wee video of the planting - 

So there you are, all caught up; a good lot of plot work, seed planting, home gardening and time away - it's been lovely having my hubby off for the week :)

Hugs and best wishes to you and your gardens

Monday, 14 March 2016

Hopping into action

I say ' hopping' so as to conjure up images of bunnies and the associated Easter/spring paraphernalia, but it's leading me astray already and now I'd like an Easter egg - concentration is lost....ummm, where's the chocolate.

We awoke on Saturday to a nice-ish day which whispered 'allotment' on the mild air. Not wanting to be rude, we heeded it, went out for much needed coffee and then seed shopping, yippee! But oh my, we bought quite a lot for this first phrase of sowing. To be fair though, we didn't get that Japanese pine or the acer and managed to stick to the essentials, just about; nurseries look so good this time of year.

Once home we then, like amateurs, checked through our seed boxes and yes, threw a good deal of old stuff out but also came across a few 'in use' doubles to the ones we'd just purchased. Oh, well the new ones will keep until next year.
seeds - '' ~ an allotment blog
Andrew's seed box for veg (left), mine for flowers (right) and the rubbish trug
Naturally the seed planting came next and compost was sieved, the plug trays lifted down from a high shelf and brushed and...action. I am putting up a plant list in a different page to keep track of the names of varieties etc so you can see what we've planted as it happens. I didn't do any sowing myself, my confidence has nose dived and though it's so super easy and the seeds actually want to grow, I just came over all nervous and was sure I'd kill them by my mere touch.

seed planting  - '' ~ an allotment blog
preparation of a lovely bed for seeds (plus radio which has been outside for 2 years and still runs on the original battery)
seeds and a tip - '' ~ an allotment blog
super tiny seeds that will become tasty large beetroot
wire wool to re-use old labels - great tip from Monty! on and Maggie standing by the gate and getting chased my me every now and then, we had a nice time and got lots done.
Maggie - '' ~ an allotment blog
fish, blood and Maggie :) 
Phew! *I wiped Andrew's brow for him* he did a lot of sowing; I watched and used my lovely camera for the first time in ages. This year (we say this every year) we are concentrating only on that which we will eat; we're more serious this time. One early potato ('Sharp's express') will be grown in a pot and no garden peas - they are just so cheap to buy frozen and taste as good without the effort!

spuds chitted and ready to go - '' ~ an allotment blog
Sharp's Express are ready to go, just need the soil to dry a little more
So much more to come :)
Love and hugs

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Held Captive

Yesterday I had the crazy idea that maybe I could walk to the plots alone and have a look and come home. It would be about a 20 min adventure. I've done it before (a lifetime ago) so why, especially when I actually wanted to see the allotments did I not go? ~ an allotment blog
looking through the peep hole at the world
I got washed and dressed, walked downstairs and came to the door. Ah, the door. For me this beautiful piece of thick painted wood, covering an opening in the wall of my home is impenetrable even with keys to the lock in my shaking hand. Before it, I shrink and like some sort of weird Alice in Wonderland plot line, I can't get to any potion that can make me bigger and stronger again.

This door is hot lava, it's a yawning crevasse, the highest and sharpest mountain. It simply towers over me and I am held captive on this side with fear. So back to the living room I go and into a book to escape real life. ~ an allotment blog

I am desperate to get moving and pruning and planting and weeding and tidying and building and seeding. But I must be patient, I need someone to help me go through, get past, that door.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

Grow Your Own Cake - book review

First off, how could you not want to own a book called this; I mean, seriously, who doesn't dream of cake all day long. (If you don't, I worry about our friendship and suggest that you seek help - cake is everything!) Now take that fact and add in the allotment gardener and you get the perfect scenario. Growing the ingredients of the most delicious cakes and pies plus getting to bask in the glory of that fact that you, yes you make a cake of dreams. Your friends will be in awe, your enemies will be forever begging for forgiveness.

Basically this book, written by Holly Farrell, is one of tending to nature, creating beauty and stuffing your face with goodness :)

The feel of this book is beautiful; it's prose is friendly, the photos by Jason Ingram are inspiring and it is so well laid out.

* Gardening Basics - covers how to pick good plants, do your soil preparation, learn about compost, fertiliser, mulch and weeds. It goes over pruning, seed sowing, tree planting and maintenance. All in a concise, no nonsense, point by point way - making things really approachable.

* In the Kitchen - is a great chapter on all the basics written in a down-to-earth way and with personal preferences that are just so much more realistic than many chef written books. Holly talks about how to do all those little technical bits such as folding, kneading, crystallising flowers, piping and pastry making. She also explains oven temperatures and what sort of equipment you would need to bake things form this book.

* Recipes - Now it's recipe time and oh my! Cakes are spilt into seasons; spring & summer and autumn & winter, which makes so much sense when you are trying to grow the ingredients at the same time. Each main home grown ingredient is written about on the 'grow' page, talking about best varieties, planting, maintenance and harvest, then comes the recipe on the 'bake' page.

* Then there are chapters on Afternoon Tea ideas and Puddings rounded of with a chapter on Savoury bakes, cause sometimes we do need a little non-sweet food stuffs, I guess :)

Author - Holly Farrell (@Holly_E_Farrell )
Photographer - Jason Ingram (@jasonphotos)

There are so many things I want to bake, though I may eat everything's a risk. I would like to see myself use this book and give a little added excitement to harvest time.

In summary I found this book really approachable, inspiring and full of nothing but useful information and recipes you will want to eat and now won't be too daunted to create. A triumph really and a push to get me back on the pots again this weekend and to start doing photography again :)


This book is out today, 3rd March 2016!
Publisher - Frances Lincoln (@Frances_Lincoln)
Twitter hashtag   #GrowYourOwnCake

Love and hugs
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