Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hiking the Ulster Way


We set ourselves a challenge this year of 2017 to walk the Ulster Way; at least all the quality sections (which are those not on main roads). For many years we have seen, as I am sure everyone who lives here sees, those innocuous little signs at the sides of roads all over the country and wondered where they went...we wonder (wander?) no longer....
As you know last year saw us somehow stumble into the world of hiking and we have been ensnared in its grip. Andrew has gone right down the outdoor life rabbit hole and loves to wild camp too; I'm a bit more sensible - I love good sturdy walls, a roof and a proper bed with an en-suite..

So way back in our training for the West Highland Way (or half of it if i'm honest) we started these nice long sections of paths, exploring our home. It worked well, as this was the year when we had planned to focus on the hard landscaping of the allotment and thus have more time at the weekends for a bit of both. (By the way - the allotment only has a few beetroots and leeks in it presently).

The ulster way map via -

The book above by Paddy Dillon is the only one on the topic and even it is 10 years out of date. All hail Mr Dillon though, I appreciate his efforts. The fantastic Walk NI is now the torch carrier of the way and their website is superb -

The story of our walks so far will be told in a backward way as I really want to celebrate the latest one we did on Thursday past - the one wherein we passed the 100 mile mark. The one which I am still aching from as I sit here on the following Saturday morning; there are muscles aching that I didn't know I had!

I hope you'll enjoy my photo filled stories to come !
Carrie xxx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

like tears in the rain

Today marks the anniversary of Toby's adoption  - he's been with us a whole year!

I think it's also very apt that it's world mental awareness day for without this bundle of fur, this sock stealer, I have a feeling I wouldn't be here.

Right now he is in his daily daytime position - squished up against me and sleeping away (with one eye open, in case there are strangers outside). He knows I'm a mess - I haven't showered yet and talking is hard and playing is too energetic - yet he loves me anyway. Though to be fair, I'm the only one here and I do gave immeasurable amounts of hugs, kisses and scratches behind those ears. 
Toby loves life, lives it fully and with such enthusiasm but he also knows how to sleep, to rest hard. He never has shame in asking for attention and has no qualms about giving and receiving all the love. He lives in the now, forgives with grace and snores without shame!

He gets me up everyday when all I want is to hide under the duvet. I open the blinds for him to see out and I step into the world (briefly) a few times a day to make sure he, umm, toilets.

He's the glue that holds me together until Andrew comes home from work. And then the fun and giggles can really begin.


I'm just one of many many people out there whose thoughts are turned towards World Mental Health Day today. I sure as heck don't feel good today, but in honour of all those for whom even writing a blog post is just too much - please support those in need.

Be an ear that listens (no judgement!), a shoulder to cry on or a mate that just treats their ill friend just the same. All of which Toby does in his wonderful and unique way xxx



Friday, 8 September 2017

Violins of autumn

I need to talk, the words have been bubbling up in my throat straight from my heart for the last week or so. I need to speak out in order to take power away from my depression. It has been winning, it has taken me by such surprise, such as when you walk up the stairs, think there is one more to come and fall through the air and your heart sinks. I haven't been able to read or write, barely walk or talk for depression has destroyed me. 

Many days on the sofa in my pj's, forgetting to eat or drink, unable to wash or care about anything - this has been the reason I have been absent from the blogging world. Absent from life.

As Friday night draws closer I feel evermore like rotten fruit felt to disintegrate in a mouldy heap. The weekend is coming and I could see it in hell; I just want to be alone, unseen. Resting, a drugged sleep if need be, until I feel half myself again. 

I did taste a reprieve on Wednesday evening; I thought I'd turned a corner with the help of a wonderful harvest to process - I sang silly songs and worked with Andrew making apple and stem ginger compote and damson fruit leather. It was wonderful. But all the more painful for having been ripped away from me the next morning.

I have fun things to share and lots of photos from weeks past but for now, please hold me in your thoughts a moment and spare a little love for one who feels so empty. 

Though I know I am blessed beyond measure by having Andrew by my side and
Carrie x

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Toby turns One!

It was my canine baby's first birthday yesterday - he is 1 and I can hardly believe it. 

He has come so far from that tiny black puppy that only owned a box on that drive to the pet store (where we bought everything) and fought with the leaves in the back garden in his first week. Wow, he was feisty even then...

 I've wondered many a time weather I should be this 'human'. I don't cope well with life in general and am very often a bad playmate; sometimes that saliva covered chipmunk toy is just too annoying and squeaky, haha . Plus I don't take him for those nice walks and picnics at the allotment, that I dreamt off, I simply can't go out alone. 
But I wash and groom him. I play until he's tired, give him treats and brush his beard. I allow him up on the sofa and even under my blanket to sleep with him every afternoon. And try to reassure him of 'scary' outside noises and stranger danger that his sees in everyone who walks by the windows.
He gives me motivation to get out of bed everyday and can tell when it's a bad time and either plays quietly alone, snoozes with one eye on me or allows me to cuddle him so close.

Yesterday, was stung by a wasp and he was very unhappy for a while. But his other man human had bought special dinners and treats and boy did he chomp it all down once his lip pain eased off.

WE LOVE you Toby - here's to many more birthdays!!!

Carrie xx

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Echlinville Apple Harvest

Today's post is brought to you with the assistance of a damned good nights sleep, coffee and the sweet, sweet joy of having just finished cutting Toby's hair. He didn't enjoy the experience but then neither did I; though he feels great now, a whole lot lighter and after my shower, I do too. So everything has balanced out I think...apart from the fact that I had to do all the cleaning up and he went to bed.
Toby -
Before and After (arrghh those eyebrows!)
It was my first shower in some days... I know what you're thinking - "ewwww, she's gross!" - I have been super ill and too depressed, too wobbly on my feet and too tired to shower. If you have experienced poor mental health you'll understand.  In fact I'm going to add links in this post and at the side of this blog to two fabulous websites I recently found that are helping me feel supported in my fight - you might like them too, you know who you are xxx

The Blurt Foundation ~
The Mighty ~


Happy apple -

So, anyway let's celebrate the apple harvest! Hurrah! On Saturday I was the lucky one to gather up the bounty from our 2 espaliered Echinville trees, tied into each side of the archway at the back of the plot. The birds had gotten through about half of them now and I couldn't stand it anymore. Plus, though we had been told that they are ripe in September; it seems that August is more correct.

allotment apple harvest  -

Here's the haul we took home and the very bad ones that went into the compost. I also left about half a dozen on the ground for all the wasps and insects that were feasting on them.

Now we are slowly processing them and freezing batches. So far we have used 20 apples and made two big freezer bags of porridge topping/ apple pie filling. Just by stewing the apples and adding mixed fruit and brown sugar (to taste). Easy and so delicious!

Celebrating 9 yrs of allotment blogging -

PLUS today is the 9th anniversary of this very blog - hurrah!
Thank you to everyone who reads and especially those commentators and 'likers'. I never did intend for this to be public, but back then I had no idea what I was doing, haha. It's been one of the best decisions (if you can call it that) that I've made, though I still don't know about the title....

Big love

Friday, 4 August 2017

July allotment recap (2/2)

Sunday afternoon saw us return bravely to 24a even though there were more thundery showers foretold by the weatherman. I will admit that I guffawed at the thought as the skies looked beautifully blue with white fluffy clouds and it was warm enough to be working only in a t-shirt. I was soon to be humbled, but in the intervening hours we managed to get some good progress made.

Pink climbing rose - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Upon arrival I took a photo of the climbing rose - still in full bloom and with more flower buds coming! To think I have tried to get rid of this plant twice, well again, I sit here red faced. Shame on me.

I took a moment to take in the joy of our apples, the first photos are from the Saturday - It was hard to witness the bird beak damage to some of the best ones that had happened just a day.  I love birds and am happy that the insects were enjoying them (this wasp was drinking away all afternoon) but their mine damn it!
Echlinville apples - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Andrew made the first of the new paths. Here is the evolution of it in photo form..
evolution of a path - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The planks we edged our beds with 9 yrs ago are rotting and so this summer is all about refurbishment and a little less about the growing. We also decided to make the paths extend right the way round the beds inside of just down the 3 sides. It will be a lot easier to weed and tend and harvest now. Yay.

the berries - ~ an ecotherapy blog
gosh you can really see how the weather changed over this period - thunder just after I took last photo..
There comes a time when you just have to reprimand yourself for growing things you don't actually want or use!

The red gooseberries that I fought gooseberry saw fly larvae for, got scraped and jabbed all over my arms for, fought the birds for the the few berries we got (still in a bag in the fridge as we aren't fussed on them) are going. I have one cut down to the ground and other still to do, then Andrew will lift the root balls out.

They also really hindered the tending to and harvesting of blueberries, of which I seem to have missed the boat on again. Damn birds just find a way into the cage every time! Next year it will be different.

Late July harvest - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Taken from Andrew's Instagram (there's a cool filter on it)
There have been some delicious dinners from the produce we have been getting though and I can't complain. Andrew does this lovely side of crushed potatoes with scallions finely chopped, some mushed up garlic and butter all mixed up = yummy :)

And I shall once again, as with every year, remind you that ROASTED beetroot is the way to go - it's so incredible. If you only grow yours to pickle them....shame on you! x

beetroot - ~ an ecotherapy blog

Hugs, have a great weekend
Carrie  x

Thursday, 3 August 2017

July allotment recap (1 of 2)

It's official, July in Northern Ireland sucked, it was the worst since 1993 - the good old BBC News has the story here.

But still we struggle on and heck, it makes you appreciate those sweeter moments of sunshine and the sparkle off the plants....We're due more rain today sadly but at least not as bad as the weekend when the thunder and thick rain (each drop like a bucket of water being chucked down by the angry sky Gods) caused us to abort our time at the allotment and run."Run RUN! grab everything, take the dog!"

For this July allotment recap, my photos seem a bit odd, but obviously I only took ones when it was actually sunny! Most are from the weekend past but here are a few from the 13th when the heat was too much for Toby -  hiding under the potato buckets...
My Toby - ~ an ecotherapy blog

And Andrew lifted the garlic and got it drying on the bench :)
Lifting the garlic - ~ an ecotherapy blog

*** Anyway Saturday on the plot ***
The plot (right hand side) - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Ok, it was our own fault, there's no denying it; the plot was coming down with weeds. However, we were in the mood to destroy and reclaim so things started off well.

Climbing beans - ~ an ecotherapy blog
This first bed with the legumes in it is giving me a little heartache. The climbing beans are doing well and we've had a good few dinners with them included so far.

Dwarf borlotti beans- ~ an ecotherapy blog

Broad beans - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The dwarf borlotti are happy enough but the broad beans - oh dear. They are not happy, not even the ones that were directly sown and seemed happier and stronger a few weeks ago. We had to pull some of worst ones out and saw that they hadn't even spread their roots out into the ground; they were barely in the ground. Plus those that were doing OK and had beans have had them eaten by birds or slugs or any one of the damned pests we have in our field. It's not looking good, apart from the one above which is only slightly damaged.

Sweetcorn details - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Squash details - ~ an ecotherapy blog
The sweetcorn and squashes are looking great though. I just love taking photos of them, such texture, colours and oh, those twirly tendrils. So much detail to get absorbed in and be in awe off.

thundery rain coming - ~ an ecotherapy blog
Things were going great, I even spent 30 mins at the plot alone! But when Andrew had just got back from the landscaping shop with wood for a new path we were confronted with this! Thunder and downpours galore; we had quickly pack up everything, grab our potato harvest (which was great but I didn't get to photograph it) and to run to the car. Soaked.

The rest tomorrow, my loves

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Three Good Days

As anyone with a chronic illness will testify, good days are hard to come by; like trains they are often nowhere in sight and instead you must take the crappy alternative bus service and make do with getting through the journey of the day. A lot of the time, it can even be a little scary to feel 'good' as you just keep wondering when it's going to be pulled from under you and in my case, a good day is often followed by many bad ones.

Well, let's just look at Saturday and Sunday forget Monday (yesterday, it sucked) and move straight onto today.

OK how you look at a good day may differ from mine. On Saturday I went outside! That was a great thing in itself -  I was able to go to IKEA, that haven of flat-pack and very clever ideas and then on to my favourite cafe/art gallery.

On Sunday afternoon and early evening I spent the day working in the back garden with my hubby. In fact I was in the hubby's shed, potting up more colourful flowers, re-potting a bit of mint that I saved and is growing really well and tidying a little, haha.
hubby's shed -

my tiered garden -
My tiered garden and some details of flowers in bloom below
That space at the bottom is for the mixed leaves mix I have germinating

my tiered garden flowers 1 -

my tiered garden flowers 2 -

Andrew cut back the hedges and wall coverage - it's looking good out there :) The secret Japanese tea room is beautifully sheltered and very calming.
Back garden (left side) -

Today I read and I cleaned. I got the downstairs vacuumed and tidied and I scrubbed my kitchen floor and cleaned the surfaces and did washing (it's drying on the line) and dishes and played with Toby. And I felt able to think straight enough to write this blog, it's a miracle! 😀

Carrie xx

Friday, 21 July 2017

900th blog post

I'm starting to feel stronger, just a little and I know it's fragile but (and maybe this is the wine talking) I want to enjoy the small victories.

In with that in mind - it's my 900th blog post and that ROCKS for someone who battles each and every day to get up and even brush her teeth, never mind get dressed, or ever put make up on. I fight with myself and I think that so far, with help, I am winning - I'm still here and I'm not self harming 😇.

So I am going to allow a moment of celebrating myself - I have put up the WEGO health awards endorsement badge, they made me one, so... If you can be bothered, you can vote for me as a new comer to the patient helper category..... *wink wink*

This is just a quick hello, a reminder to you and myself that I WILL keep fighting and I WILL do what's right for me and not be ashamed that I don't live up to others' or my own true expectations.

Best wishes and love, hopefully I will soon share some awesome photos of my recent Ecotherapy experiences...
Toby in Donegal - beach fun -


Monday, 17 July 2017

When you've lost your way

My mental health has taken a downward spiral and I'm really not coping this days, these weeks, these months... I want so much to be 'normal' to enjoy the great experiences I've been having recently with Andrew (and Toby) but depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder aren't things you can just forget to pack. I need to remember that, I need to recognise my illness and I need to stop, take off all the pressures and accept help.

Our tent in Donegal -

I am of the opinion that all of us are slowly eroding away who we really are. I mean it; it's not just those of us suffering poor mental health. I believe we are all caught up in an EVERYTHING NOW way of living. It's got to stop or at least we need to become more aware of it.

Let me explain...

I was recently nominated for a WEGO Health Award, under the 'Patient Leaders' category for this very blog. I was nominated last year too but to be honest this time, it mattered. I haven't even a clue who WEGO is but good God, I was thrilled to be nominated and now the endorsements have opened up, it seems so very important that I get at least one backer. Quite frankly it's pathetic and embarrassing but it's raised a huge mirror up and taught me to look deeper at myself.

* Do you live life with a smart phone within your reach all the time?
* Do you hate it when you can't get online for a period?

social media icons -
Networking Icons from

I'm placing my worth in other peoples' hands. I've always done it; I have such a low opinion of myself that even as a child, I wanted to be perfect. Now that I haven't succeeded in finishing my tertiary education or have a job, that need to be valued is sort of, very poorly, being met by strangers 'hearting' an Instagram photo or a Tweet, or this blog. Constant little boosts of my ego and I'M HORRIFIED.

Ironically our bodies and minds know exactly what is best for us - those hikes and picnics in the middle of nowhere, reading a great book, naps, simply laying on the beach and being with loved ones and friends.

Toby on the beach (Donegal) -

Thursday, 6 July 2017

More sweet little victories

rose photo and Moore quote -
single rose from 14b

I can't quite put into words that which this little scene it brought up within me, but there was something so beautiful about such a sweet and delicate bloom surrounded by harsh dead wood; twigs that will surely trip and tear at the fragile petals as it opens...

I spent a while looking for quotes on roses and they were all about thorns and such. Well I have news for you, news for the great and good writers of the past -- roses don't have thorns they have prickles!

The only other rose alive (barely) on 14b has been stolen, along with my huge and beautiful red oriental poppy. I knew I had to stop thinking of those plants left behind as no longer mine but boy, it hurt. It seems there has been a spate of pilfering going on, actual plants and trees tripped from the ground! It beggars belief and one particular friend has had a terrible time.
Anyway MORE sweet little victories from the plots last weekend....

climbing beans -

This is the 1st bed as you walk into our plot and at the moment it's my favourite. Here we have our legumes and first up are these beautiful tepee-ed climbing beans which are romping away. I simply adore the way they wind their way up the poles. As you can see, the plot next door is truly abandoned now - that grass is hell to my hay-fever, even with the medication. 
dwarf french beans -
Beside the tepee are the Dwarf French Beans which are all doing great, bar one. No idea what has happened to it but losing only one is fine. (Unlike the courgettes seeds which had zero germination this year! No glut for us, which is strangely upsetting, haha). 

In the background you can see the Keter Eden bench is still going strong and we love it! The storage is full up of sheets, netting and Toby's necessaries. I'd say it was a great investment but I remember now I was given it for free, haha. Our water butt was full again and gave us enough water to do almost everywhere - they are great, couldn't not have one.

Broad beans -

Last in this bed is the broad beans, two sowings, a few weeks apart; you can't have enough of them in our opinion! I love seeing the baby beans arriving on the first batch but yet also have the stunning like flowers next door - best of both worlds when you like to take photos and study the details. 

So the second bed is all full up now too....
leeks, spring onions, carrots, beetroot -

Here we have the beetroot which is growing so well, too well; I think it maybe time to thin some out but in comparison too the carrots, of which there are only 4, I'm reluctant to remove anything just yet, haha. The parsnips just gave up the fight, there was one I think and Andrew put it out of it's misery and replaced the row with some very happy spring onions. Then at the weekend he planted the leeks out. Then had been sown in a pot at home and had some very feisty roots trying to escape and plant themselves by the time he put them in these sweet rows. I see there is a piece of slate there, I'm hoping that is going to be a future etched 'Leeks' sign - nudge nudge Andrew..

So that's pretty darn good for two beds 😊 

* Today's blog was brought to you by coffee, sweet coffee and the musical jams of Mr Stevie Wonder. Sadly my coffee buzz has worn off now so I shall leave it there for now. 

* I am hoping to harvest the red gooseberries tonight and do something with them.. I'll let you know how it goes

Much love and happy July - where is this year going!?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Small victories

Victory No. 1 
My computer is fixed and I didn't totally freak out when it decided to pack up in the first place!

Victory No. 2
The gauntlet was thrown down on Monday to my anxiety and I planted up some pots for the back garden. Yes, after a good year of not planting anything due to an irrational fear that I'd do it wrong and kill anything I'd touch - I have overcome. (Need more to fill it up nut all in good time.)

Soil under my fingernails, terracotta pots emptied out, cleaned and reused. I have been feeling rather like a green-fingered gardener - let's hope they survive or my pride will take a darn good beating! haha. The tiny thing on the bottom shelf is some mint I am trying to grow - we'll see...
We have :
Sanvitalia 'cuzco' yellow 
Bacopa 'snowflake'
Osteospermum 'special fire'
Osteospermum 'pink'
Wee bit of mint

Allotment news from the weekend and hurrrip, more small victories :) 

Victory No. 3 
The first harvest! Spuds ahoy my friends; come on over to our house and have a nibble, haha!

Ok, as these photos prove, we were a little too excited to see how the potatoes were doing and harvested these ones a wee bit too early. But there were lots of a good size and I like them small, plus sometimes you just need some instant gratification.

You can see on the top right photo that some were fingernail size, haha. But we were happy and I could easily put up that harvest photo up on my desk 😀. The used potting compost was placed as a nice wee mulch around the growing dwarf french beans.

Victory No. 4

As soon as we arrived at the plot I scared off a bird that was sneaking in amongst the gooseberries. Ggrrr, as much as love birds, that food is mine and I've already had a battle with the sawfly larvae! So it was time to deploy the netting and now the blueberries and gooseberries are much safer. Of course the blighters have been known to get in away but hey, we've done something.

The gooseberries are so close to being ready but the blueberries are teasing me and have stayed this shade of glaucous blue for weeks now - I want to eat them! I'm going to get new recipes for both berries, any that work really well, I'll share x

The garlic looks ready to lift too - it's all starting to happen.

Victory No. 5

I just wanted to show you how happy the sweetcorn and squashes are. It'll be a long time until we eat any produce from these plants but it's a joy to see them looking good.

Lastly, Victory No. 6 is my hay-fever medication is working! Thank goodness for it as look what we are surrounded by - a couple of weeks ago I could have ripped my nose off and eyes out but now I am feeling almost invincible in the face of grass pollen!

More soon - I didn't even show the right hand side of the plot this time. Stories and even a hand-drawn plan of the site to come.