Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Nothing else matters

Every now and then, when you aren't looking for it, you hear a piece of wisdom that not only makes sense but eases the soul and gives one hope. After sharing a little of how I am feeling these days I have felt rather fragile, somehow exposed but at the same time a wee bit proud of myself. Yep, I have a menagerie of all the emotions swirling around in my head; 'all the feels', as the cool kids say.

Last night I finally got to see the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and though exhausted and depressed I did like it and found it slightly uplifting.

In the film Dame Judy Dench's character writes a blog, which naturally caught my attention. How appropriate then that when she was writing at one point and I was interested in her personal thoughts she said this..

Evelyn: The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. [...] We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.

To be honest, to hear it in reference to others I utterly believe the sentiment and I guess that means I'm not a complete failure either, like I view myself. I'm a fighter, I get up everyday and I do my best and well it just felt good to hear that.

I just thought I'd share it, for all those who think life isn't going their way, that each venture so far hasn't turned out how they hoped - you aren't failing at this adventure called life, as long as you keep going and simply do your best.

With much love

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A glimpse into chronic Depression

The beautiful blue sky contrasts so well with the dense darkness inside me. The wind blowing and refreshing everyone out there is just a little mocking as I lie here still in my PJs on the sofa with a blanket over my head. I can't face the world, there is too much shame and frustration in this broken soul of mine. I hide.

Once I was intelligent and fun, interested in the world. Today I am finding it difficult to think past the humming I hear in my head and the utter confusion. I don't even want to talk out loud; it takes such effort and sounds strange.

Depression is tearing my life apart these days and not even the sweet snowdrops fill my heart with hope. Two stunning bunches of tulips are in the hall, usually my heralds of spring and hope but I can't look to the future, no not even an hour ahead, it fills me with such utter emptiness. I can't cope with these feelings of purpose-less, of always fighting, hoping one day I'll feel my life has actually started.

Imagine a day where the sun shines and you just can't get your act together to go outside. The thought of washing and/or dressing is just insurmountable, plus you couldn't bare anyone to see you.. you're only best inside hiding, not embarrassing yourself or others. Just you and these terrible thoughts and feelings that no one can fix or make sense of...

snowdrops at Springhill ~ '

If you've even gotten through to this point, I've turned off comments on this post. I'm actually a little embarrassed to share such utter weakness but I really needed to be cathartic today 

Carrie xx

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ecotherapy for Valentine's Day

We don't fall for the highly commercialised Valentine's Day trappings anymore. We used too, we used to love it but this was our 17th one together and so no cards, extortionately over priced roses/gifts or super fancy dinners for us.

No, we decided to engage with each other and share the day in the beauty of nature. Holding hands and walking around Tollymore Forest with Maggie was, for us, the greatest way to say I love you.

We took our favourite trail, the red one which allows us to be around trees and the river both, oh the feeling of walking and listening to the rush of the water and the songbirds is heavenly. At the start of the trail to can see some of the remains of the old domain, beautiful walls and bridges, plaster work etc.
Tollymore 1 ~ ''

There isn't a great deal of colour about in Feburary but it made it extra beautiful when we did come across some berries or the last of the still on tree leaf out of a long period of brown and green.....
Tollymore 2 ~ ''

These are one of two sets of stepping stones across the calmer parts of the river. Goodness I remember being so nervous as a child going across these, they are quite wide apart (it was good to hear other children laughing and screaming trying it themselves).

Right by the river there is also an magical building called the Hermitage, it can be walked through on one side but the real joy is seeing it from the other side of the river...
Tollymore 3 ~ ''
This is a true treasure for Andrew and myself...We wouldn't dream of doing it now; carving into a poor tree, but 15yrs ago! Andrew posted a sign of our love for all to see on this huge beech tree. We searched for a good while around a large clump of trees, all of which were heavily vandalised by love but it was after only a good walk further that we saw ours, standing alone, slightly raised and not another mark on it. Gosh I wonder at all those declarations and how many ended so happily as ours. ***

love heart Tollymore ~ ''

It's tradition whenever we are at any place like this with forest, river and wooden bridge, that we play Poohsticks (you know, from the A.A.Milne 'Winne the Pooh' books). Andrew has this knack for winning and as usual he did so again - look at that winner's smile :)
Pooh Sticks Tollymore ~ ''

The trail then heads upwards into the hills, the trees so dense in places it's black in amongst them. I love the mixture here of huge pines and deciduous trees with all the bracken and some primroses yet to flourish again. The air up here is cold and catches in your throat but it is oh so clear and all one can hear is the crunch beneath one's feet and the quiet rumbling of the river, now left below. Look hard up in the hills - snow! I know it's not much but that is pretty much an Irish mountain range you're looking at in the distance. lol.
Tollymore 4 ~ ''

We couldn't have timed our return to the car park any better - just in time for the sunset through the forest and the clouds clearing away for some beautiful blue sky.

Tollymore Sunset ~ ''

After this walk we were hungry and found a lovely bar/restaurant in Dundrum called The Buck's Head were we did have an impromptu but perfectly delicious Valentine's dinner, only is wasn't a set menu and the prices were fair ;)

Home to bubbles (yay) and a film.

Hugs and love to all

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

the 14b Plan :)

The wait is over! I can feel the tension, the excitement bursting forth as, yes, the plan for 14b has been drawn up and you dear reader are about to see it in all its colourful glory!

Ta dah!
awesome 14b plot plan ~

Of course the blasted weather here in Northern Ireland is keeping us out of action and we are a pair of annoyed and frustrated allotmenteers. Luckily we haven't turned to the demon drink but darn it its miserable and so cold a wee dram would be divine.

However, movement has happened in the form of shopping for plants:
1 We have just gotten better quality (but equally cheap) Sharp's Express seed potatoes.

2 We bought and planted two of the three main fruit trees for the awesome sounding edible forest garden; a Conference pear and a Regina cherry. I am holding out for a Damson as the third, fingers crossed

3 New green gooseberry bushes and redcurrants are looking lovely and healthy there just outside on the patio for now

Andrew was brave\foolish? enough to make a visit to the plots on Sunday. He got those two trees in to ground he had prepared the weekend before last, but apart from that all he could do was mulch, cover beds and come home almost completely frozen.

As for me personally, well I'm still very poorly after my breakdown but I a stubborn girl and will keep fighting (even if that means, paradoxically, forcing myself to do nothing). At least, and in a way thank goodness, the weather is bad as I couldn't go to the Lottie anyway! Instead I am reading a lot, watching movies and listening to Maggie snore.

Until next time my lovelies

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Shrub rose pruning / All or nothing

So as it is with the world, after Saturday came Sunday and we returned to the plots. See once I get started on a topic I get rather excited and there is so much to be done on 14b; work were I can feel useful and productive, even it is mainly clearing away at the moment.

But to start the afternoon off I did some proper gardening, I learnt how to prune a shrub rose bush. Oh boy you can't possibly understand how great it felt to learn and then be left to do the pruning and mulching. Generally I'm too nervous to do things like that, terrified I'll mess it up, but I didn't and the bush looks happy and healthy again!! Eek!

Main points I remember:

* Make sure secateurs are sharp and cut at a slight diagonal
* Get rid of dead branches and tips
* Prune away all blackspot infected branches
* Prune to an outwards facing bud keeping the centre open (so air can circulate through bush)
* Remove branches that are crossing, as rubbing will lead to infections
* Cut back long spindly growth to encourage new growth from base.
* Lift up all dead leaves (they may harbour disease)
rose pruning - ''
rose pruning
I don't believe I have ever deceived anyone into thinking I'm a 'real gardener', Andrew is the head gardener, I'm the helper\ photographer\ the one who is there for therapy. Dare I say it though...I felt so proud of myself; I'm growing.

We worked for 3 hrs straight and left exhausted! Andrew planted lots of blackthorn and whitethorn hedging plants and prepared for edible forest area. More about that later... Plus he lifted all the dahlia tubers and put them trays to dry out in the shed.

dahlia tubers - ''
half of the dahlia tubers lifted
I wrestled with the clearing of the long raspberry bed (which shall become one of my flower beds. Aarggh the roots of those blasted devils are a nightmare to get out, if I hadn't been for the laboured panting I would have been cursing them so loudly!!

clearing out the raspberry plants - ''
clearing the raspberry bed
However, I received a reprieve as the sun went down and the temperature dramatically dropped; we packed up, lifted a sleepy Maggie and left for home.

fave sights - ''
fave sights - especially Maggie eating a biscuit

Sadly it has turned out I pushed myself too hard. I didn't know how bad until Monday when I couldn't think straight,walk or talk. I slept most of the day and yesterday was better but still poor. Today I think frustration is pushing me on but I certainly have limits. Luckily it's dark, snowing and cold and we got our new sofa delivered's embracing ought to be easy to drift off and sleep\ heal.

Hugs and love to you all
Carrie x

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Saturday - An OK day

Wow, I really didn't think I would get to write a title like that for a heck of a while. However today was indeed, OK :) The depression did not win and the anxiety was under control - maybe it was even BETTER than OK...

** To begin with we slept in late, oh I love my sleep ;) Then we had breakfast, made coffee and started our hour of birdwatching for the RSPB Birdwatch Weekend. This year we really did have a good time which sounds so geeky but I swear it was glorious so see the crazy amount of feathered friends that come to feed in our garden. We had seeds, peanuts and fat balls and all stations were busy.

RSPB birdwatch sheet ~ ''

** After that we visited Ballylagan organic farm, farm shop and tea room that (to our surprise) is just up behind Carrickfergus; embarrassingly it's been open since 1999 but we only heard about it earlier this week. Yep, it was the ever knowledgeable Mamma G that pointed us in the right direction. It's fabulous and for purely academic reasons we had to have cake and coffee = thumbs up.

** Then the best bit - we went to the Lottie. It was my first time there this year to actually work and not just to glance round it and go home. I had my lucky favourite socks on, many layers and my farmers' hat (or flat cap, that I bought in the farmers' shop). For only being there an hour, when the sun went down, we managed surprisingly a lot, well I did, Andrew did a lot of chatting to a friend ;) In his defence though he is the head gardener and has been there a few times already this year.

Me on the allotment ~ ''

** His other, earlier visits have seen the apples cut back and training started, the autumn raspberries cut down and the whole back of 24a mulched. 14b also has lots of new Blackthorn hedglings planted and a windbreaker all a long the left side. It's becoming annoying to my brain that that plot is spilt in a different way than our other one.
First before and after photo of the year :)
** I focused on the flower bed and got it almost completely weeded and removed a plant of two that weren't happy. More to do tomorrow. In the plans for this season (our 8th year!) is for me to have 2 long thinner cut flower beds and I'm going to learn more about their care and maintenance :) The new plans will soon be drawn out to share with you, you know I love a good plan.

YES - cut flower bed seeds ~ ''

Home to a steaming bowl of tomato and chilli soup, a shower and a wee whisky..

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Just like a bulb...

...I hibernate; with no expectations being made of me, waiting for the winds to change and life to become a more settled environment. Then I shall hopefully find that the sun and some TLC will bring me forth into life and once again I shall bloom.

I have been finding this new year, thus far, one of deep depression and confusion. The big questions playing on loop in my head are: what is my purpose? where is my voice? what has happened to my creativity? I haven't got any satisfactory answers yet and so I continue to wrestle and find myself utterly exhausted. 

One thing I am doing and getting some satisfaction from is decluttering. I'm getting rid of lots of things in my life, really old shoes, my old photography work, music CDs, books I didn't like and yes, even blogs from my reading list. I'm trying to be tough and simply get rid of that which I don't need, don't want, don't like anymore. There is a little weight lifted each time I say goodbye.

Andrew, Maggie and I have also started to do after dinner walks in all sorts of weather and slowly they shall get longer and longer. Next week I'm back into yoga too - I'm hoping I can learn to respect myself more through the dedication and slow improvements.


Allotment wise ~

Well our field is a wind tunnel at the best of times so imagine it today, we had gusts up to 42 mph! Plus it's just been so damn damp and cold there that, though we have made quick visits, it's not suitable for doing any work. We happily still have leeks, chard, parsnips and the purple sprouting broccoli looks good :)

The local nursery has been closed until this week and the other one we visit is still trying desperately to de-christmasify itself  = buying seeds and supporting local shops has been proving difficult. Still, you know me, I have my flower seeds all picked out and think I'll go with a smallish online shop. Andrew needs asparagus crowns too, so he'll also be shopping online. Oh we have such plans!

 *** P.S. NOW is a great time for pruning your fruit bushes and for training trees into shape. ***

Hugs and love and I hope you too are plotting, planning and scheming for a good year ahead 
Your Carrie x

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell 2014

Is it just me or is the fact, yes FACT! that it will be another whole new year tomorrow really rather shocking?? I can't begin to think what it has in store but I am looking on it in a positive, open minded way. Andrew and I shall march forward and conquer our little list of goals we have written down and 2015 shall, I declare, be the year we LOVE OUR LOTTIE. It's a movement, a state of mind, I hope you shall join us.

Over the past few days we have been doing some lovely things....

On Monday we took Mamma G with us to Carnfunock for a lovely walk. We have been so lucky with our weather, no snow and only the slightest bit of frost so the days have been gloriously still, cold and rosey cheek making :) We were quite overjoyed watching some squirrels run about chasing each other and seeing so many little birds active and eating from the many fat balls in the trees. I didn't have may telephoto lens but this (I swear) is a squirrel...

The gardens were closed which was a downer as I really wanted to see what they had that was looking good this time of year but, hey the trees, the sunset and the moon were gift enough.

After our walk we had coffee and scones in the nearby Ballycastle Hotel which was so cosy and christmasy, if you discount the haunted turret and the terrible myth that goes with it...oooohh


Yesterday we went to the allotment! I know, I couldn't tell you the last time I was there! But shockingly it looks good :) All the work we did at the end of autumn really paid off..we even have food ready to eat (leeks) and purple sprouting broccoli doing well (we'll surely get some this season). There are big plans afoot for 14b so stay tuned, it's going to be a good allotment year!

Maggie - from Carrie's instagram account

And remember :

Hugs and love and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Carrie xx

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Holidays

I engage in far too much negative thinking during winter. I end up with the darkness and the miserable weather invading my heart and causing it to be such a sorrowful place. It's very difficult to fein joy at this time; my chronic depression doesn't take a break and my acute anxiety goes into overdrive. I rarely go out, preferring to hide within a book and my blanket. Plus I don't really like to see the bare bones of the landscape, the deathly looking trees and the bare soil - it all seems too much like a skeleton, without life or hope there of.

However, Edith Sitwell said "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home". I love this quote and could not wish you, dear reader, anything more than this sweet feeling of contentment. It is my dream to feel it deep in my soul myself, here at home with my hubby and little Maggie.

Our gifts are wrapped, we have a carol concert to attend this evening and Mamma G is coming to spend Christmas dinner with us - the sloe gin has been an absolute triumph this year and the champagne is chilling in the fridge for 'jingle fizz' cocktails in the morning - hehehe. No matter my mood, we shall have a cosy home full of love and good food, may you have the same xxx

The holiday harvest was taken from the Allotment today...parsnips, leeks, kale (we don't do sprouts!)
Andrew's photo collage :)
If the weather permits I hope to back there at 24a before the year is out! Until then my friends....

A heartfelt thank you to all who commented on my last post, we are healing, slowly x

With love

Friday, 12 December 2014

Getting back to normal

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break"
Shakespeare -  from Macbeth

We lost Andrew's sister on the evening of the 29th and have been numb ever since it. There shall always be a missing element and particularly at this time of year when it is so natural to think of ones family and being together. But we are thankful her fight is over and her life ended (though much too soon) peacefully.

This week has seen a return to the more common path that Andrew and I have walked together for many years. He has returned to work, housework is being done, Maggie getting tickles etc. We have no decorations up, it doesn't feel right but tomorrow shall be busy with Christmas present buying.

Thank you for your comments and best wishes from the last post.

Love Carrie

Thursday, 27 November 2014

I'm still here

It's been a long time since I wrote to you my lovely friends. I hope that in my absence you have all been well, merrily busy with Christmas plans and just plain content in your souls. Anyone out there who has also written a blog recently - I promise I will try to get caught up with your adventures as soon as I can.

My dears I am afraid I have had problems with my medication and ended up in minor anaphylactic shock some weeks back, it's taken a while to recover and on top of that I have started another new medication and in the meantime have had a bit of a nervous breakdown. Lordy, it doesn't rain but it pours. Today is the first day in a goodly while where I have been able to look after myself and think sort of straight.

I feel I would also like to share that fact that a close relative has/is going through hell. It was late in day when this dear person found out they had Cancer, it fact they were to discover that it was already in many places in the body and was a particularly aggressive kind. The future looks bleak and thus I haven't felt like writing, nor will I feel like it for a time, sometimes the allotment simply isn't important.

Oh a side note Andrew and I have been nesting in our lovely home and trying to cope with the stresses and worries by making the kitchen, dining room and living room more beautiful and less cluttered. It is wonderful to have these distractions. Here is where I can introduce some colour and light into this post and share a treasury I did on the theme of our paint choice for the kitchen - 'Overtly Olive'. It's a simple and silly thing I love to do on Etsy, making these treasuries as they are called.

Much love and best wishes. I hope to be in a position to write again in the next weeks but until then, tell those that matter you love them, fill your lives with joyous and even silly pursuits and simply enjoy each day as it comes xxxxx

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Winter Warmers

A hot chocolate made with lots of froth and a cheeky little gingerbread man are the things I need right now. Oh and a blanket and for everyone to stop driving around and making noise and for me to have a wee dose....

It ain't happening and holy moly a huge stream of light just reflected off the window of the house across and way and I'm temporarily blinded. Still typing though, I'm awesome like that :) lol

Although work was achieved on the plots at the weekend I want to share with you those things that made me feel all warm inside, literally and figuratively. Sometimes I feel there are just too many photos of soil and muck and rain on the internet at this time of year that I feel it my duty to liven things up.

First we simply must talk about the new gas heater in the shed and if you haven't got one - get one, they are fabulous. We also recently purchased a new 'welcome' mat and another blanket - you can't have too many blankets. The whole shed has been cleared out and now there is space again to sit and indeed be warmed by the fire.

Maggie had her jumper on but she couldn't truly feel the benefits of the new heater as all the good smells and interesting noises were outside the shed. In the end she was a wee shivering wreck and went to guard the car by sleeping really hard on the back seat.

Here are a few photos from around the sites near by. Top row ~  One stubborn and glorious dwarf sunflower, still lots of cosmos about and a rudbeckia from 14b. Bottom row ~ one of our sunflowers with the seeds well and truly being devoured by the birds, a sweet sort of weed in the main path (I love everything with colour at this time of year) and a snail, yep he was inside there sleeping, I felt suddenly that snails have it right - carry a cosy house around wherever you go - dastardly clever.

I'll show those photos of messy and then cleared areas some other time but for now, it's cold in this here house and I need a nap with a blanket. Maggie has it right - she's been snoozing like a champion all day so far ( I love her little snores).

Hugs, love and stay warm friends!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Cape Aloe

Are you like me, do you need to know about your plants in detail once they are in your loving embrace? Well, yesterday's delivery of (excuse me but my plant is a girl *blush*) Rosie led me to do some research; I'm sharing most of it here so you too can feel like a professional ;)

*  First I went to the RHS, naturally. They had virtually no information at all, in fact I was so shocked (it was like getting a googleplex) that here is the information they had. 

"What?!" I hear you scream.
"I know" say's I.

I mean even I have known since forever that it exudes a clear gel that eases minor burns, insect bite and rashes. I've heard it alluded about in face care products as great for re-hydration and toning! Come on RHS, look up Google images, Wikipedia even and write something!

*  So next on to the Kew gardens website and lo and behold we have some information..

Cape Aloe is pretty common then and grows in South Africa and Lesotho, though also very common in cultivation like Rosie. It is used for its colourless leaf gel in 'cosmetics, herbal remedies and food supplements' but also, and I didn't know this, for 'a bitter brown leaf exudate'

This bitter brown exudate is prepared from the cut area of mature leaves which are stacked and allowed to drip into a central well. This goop is then concentrated and dried to achieve a dark shiny crystalline form, referred to as 'Cape Aloes' It is taken as a laxative and purgative and may ease arthritis. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME

*  The Eden Project tells us that in it's natural state the single stemmed plant can grow up to 3.5 meters tall! I really don't think my little one will ever get there. The leaves are generally smooth in the centre (though there may be some spikes especially on the undersides) and go out to spikes along the edges, which is where is gets the name Latin name ferox (fierce).

*  So here is Rosie all settled in her new home and loving the camera for me....

And here are the flowers that would be produced been half a chance - pretty spectacular!

Google image 
I lastly leave you a photo of Rosie with her new friend Claude (yes he is a handblown glass snail) and a reminder that my Cape Aloe came as a gift from Jersey Plants Direct.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Mustn't grumble

Okay so I'm not going to lie to you, it's bloomin' nasty out there even though they said today would be nice (nice for November that is). It's sunshiney but good grief the grey patches are like, well, seriously grey.

It seems going by this paint chart that it is literally 'smouldering' out there, smouldering with a little touch of 'celestite' in some areas. I don't like this, I think I shall have to schedule in some time for a cry later, after I finish this post.

So how are you?? What's it like where you are? Have you been able to do any gardening at all or is it all simply a muddy slushy mess like ours?

At times like this I find it's best to just turn away from the windows and look at lovely things online. I put together a lovely collection of gardeny-ness from the Etsy website - do enjoy.

I would very happily have every single thing in this collection, especially the dungarees, I think it's the best form of clothing for the allotment there could possibly be. You could be fighting with the weeds and bending over all afternoon long and never once worry about your bottom being shown off to all who care to glance your way. I must get me some dungarees (though cheaper than £75) - a revolution has begun!


Today I also received a gorgeous Cape Aloe plant from those kind and friendly people from Jersey Plants Direct. They even gave me a really cool information sheet about Cape Aloe history, the benefits of the gel it produces and even the best way to harvest the gel! I am going to read more into this; I'll share my findings: D

I tell you, he is in the kitchen, on the window sill for emergency burns! He's really cheered me up.

So off I go to read the information sheet and then drive into the depths of the internet to find out even more :) We'll all be experts by the end of the week, hahaha. And if you want to name him, I am open to suggestions ;)

Love and hugs
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