Friday, 7 October 2016

Photo update from last weekend

'Things' have not been good inside the head of your exhausted writer, my dear friends. The debilitation of Depression, Anxiety and BPD is real, really real and I have been in my own personal Hades for quite some times now. I rarely talk to anyone or go outside and life without Maggie is still almost unbearable. So forgive me for the lack of blog posts or comments in fact, if you have a blog yourself, I just haven't been able to think properly - I am experiencing a moment of clarity and am devoting it to this space. Little dialogue but lots of photos....these were the plots last Sunday.

24a is the real producer and it was time for some constructive deconstruction (you know I love that), as the courgettes, sweetcorn and climbing french beans are all finished now and needed composting. Sadly all our leeks had bolted too so 'goodbye' (the plot smelt like soup all afternoon!)

14b is the embarrassing little sister, going through her grunge teenage years and so unkempt but beautiful underneath it all. It gifted us some lovely squashes that we are eating now and loving. Here's Andrew's gorgeous photo of them.

Anyway we focused, as I said on the finished veggie beds on 24a and got as much done as we could before I just couldn't take anymore....

I tackled the bean wigwam and weeded the whole bed .I was so happy to find this little fellow/lady? ladybird which I put in a cosy spot on it's leaf. I LOVE ladybirds!

By that stage we stopped for tea and listened to the crazy lady pheasants running and squawking about. Andrew had by this time cleared the last courgette plants (one last wee harvest first!) and all those sweetcorn stalks. The sweetcorn this year was amazing - Swift F1 as always but a great year!

Back to it and the leeks were lifted (sadly) and composted whilst I did some really quite pointless weeding of the paths which had gotten grassy and slippy up by the arch.  I also noted that the broccoli and even the purple sprouting broccoli  had bolted! What the heck!! The carrots had carrot fly *sad face*, but the companion plants were very happy...

Andrew prepared the #1 bed for mulching with our glorious well rotted horse manure, look dear friend, I know you, as a true plotter will appreciate the wonder of our manure bin....

How lovely to watch such hard work, hahaa.

Sadly we didn't get to finish the #2 bed as I needed home but! it was fabulous to be there once again (bar seeing Maggie everywhere and her bowl sitting out for her). I am thankful for the good times and my amazing hubby who never gives up on me. Let's hope we have another nice wee time to treasure this weekend.

Best wishes to you all,
Carrie xx

P.S. Apologises for the poor photos at times, these are all unedited and from my phone (apart from Andrew's one - it's perfect) x

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Conquering Slieve Binnan

We slept in. That's how the day started, oh to sleep in to 11 o'clock is not great when a hiking adventure is in mind. Quickly Andrew's mind went to the negative but I (though feeling awfully depressed and anxious) was determined we would go. We had a mountain to conquer.

Andrew was instantly back on track and we hurriedly packed our rucksacks with the essentials and were on our way, leaving home at 12ish. By this stage I think our friend Gary had possibly been and gone home from an early photography session in the Mournes. Oh the shame, first for our tardiness and second, for the awful weather he had encountered.

And we were eventually at the Carrick Little car park, which by the way, was overflowing and spilling down the wee country road, car parked behind car. But ever the optimist, Andrew drove into the car park proper and there was a beautiful space just for us, right by the track. Off we went.....

The only people we met were coming towards us, all on the their way out of the mountains and off to a lovely late lunch or some such thing. Hiking people are terribly friendly, we all truly appreciate what we have here, the space, the freedom, the escape, even from your own mind. I have yet to meet a grumpy hiker.

There's a fork in the path and at this were we turned left instead of right. Turning left is a big deal, you have a mountain in front of you, a not so great path and the Mourne Wall stretching up into the clouds which you are going to follow and eventually surpass...eventually. I can admit, there was a little lump in my throat as I looked up; you couldn't even see the top.

Around 3 o'clock we had a lovely little family step to one side to let us continue up whilst they checked on their little girl who was only about 3. Now she was awesome and I high-fived her and told her as much. She'd climbed a good way up in her proper gear and it impressed me so much! :) She give me hope that this wasn't so bad :)

False summits are so very cruel. As I came to each point on the sky line that I had marked in my mind, I discovered that still there was so much more to climb. The first time I thought I might just lie down and quietly die was 15.45. We were starting to get quite high up and my blood pressure was playing up giving me the first of the fun, coloured flashing disco lights of the day. Also I had a damned runny nose. *Shakes fist* Andrew then in helping me up stood on my shoe lace and undid it = bending over to tie it on a slant with rucksack on back = blood rush to head again = thoughts of I'm definitely going to die. Plus, the sheep, the sheep there were mocking me.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Cocky sheep and a view of the path and all the way down to the sea
Higher and higher we went, passed by two older men just casually but quickly walking down, like you or I would tackle the stairs in our homes. I'm really not fit at all 😒. We said hello, well Andrew did, I sort of just grimaced and mumbled something I hope sounded friendly.

Not much wall left at this stage and no distinguished path at all, bog had taken over and we walked were we could get a foothold. At the final push up to the tor I became a disbeliever, doubted my sanity, doubted the sanity of any hiker, doubted that I'd make it up, along, down (way over there) and all the way back to the car. But, Andrew shook me out of all that and whilst I never wanted to be a rock climber, I found, through helpful hand pulls and shear stubbornness - I am just like a mountain goat, maybe a gazelle.

Then somehow it happened. I was at the top of a mountain! As I sat there in the dirt between strange and beautifully wind sculptured rocks, a wonderful euphoria came over me. I wobbled to my feet again, turned round and walked four of five steps and saw this view. I believe I cursed quite loudly, but wow, this was f@#king beautiful!

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
At the top and 'that' view over the back of the mountain with the Silent Valley Reservoir
I heard Andrew call, he'd found a spot with shelter for lunching in and we had celebratory little beers! Oh they tasted of sweet, sweet hoppy victory. Never has a ham and cheese bap been so rewarding, never, I tell you has Cadbury's chocolate tasted so good. We devoured it all, grinning at each other. Then Andrew reminded me we were under a large tor so, conquer it we must to claim our - First Ever Submit!

Lunch on Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
'You are here' and mini beer and bap (we also drank litres of water throughout the walk!)
With the temporary courage of a beer we each packed up and set about on our way again, this time along a truly beautiful and exquisitely quiet path behind the The Back Castles and to the North Tor. Up here is is all bubble bees, little chaffinches (which sing so loud and clear) and bog, which means gorse, heather and wild primroses. Truly it was a joy to walk this route and the scenery was stunning; our wee country is truly a green and pleasant land.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Heading off for the Back Castles to the North Tor and a fabulous Black Castle that looks like Janus
The Back Castles and the North Tor are large stacks of rocks carved by the wind and, to me at least, they look comically like something out of The Muppets or Labyrinth - like they're going to talk to you any minute.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
The Whale in the wall and a view of the lovely Ben Crom Reservoir 
Now we come to the nightmare part, the decent from the North Tor which is completely butt clenching as there is no path for a good bit only your strong desire to get the hell out of this mass of tumbled rocks and not break your leg. Now, I don't like to make out that I'm weak and pathetic but permanent double vision and an inability to see the right hand side does not with scrambling down a vertical mountain go. My walking pole only helped so much but when you need your hands to navigate some pretty nasty drops it can also be a real hindrance. It is thus we discovered the reason for the earlier curses and screams of another people who had climbed up this monstrosity.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
There's a shear, rocky and torturous drop over that edge and the lovely Blue Lough
When we finally got to level ground, the clouds were starting to close in and one big beauty had formed in between the ring of summits we now walked within. We didn't stop at the Blue Lake as planned as it was getting cold, but the rest of the way was fine and dandy. I like a path not to rocky and relatively flat, though two streams have to be danced over, balancing on carefully placed rocks. Thank goodness for yoga!

We got ourselves back to our car for 8.15, almost in the dark but not quite. Houses were little specks of light now looking down towards the sea and we were done. Getting those backpacks off and setting them in the boot of the car was joy, sitting down in the car was such sweet agony.

What a day.

Love and hugs

Friday, 2 September 2016

The clock keeps ticking

It was been a week and life goes on, as of course it should and indeed, must. These past few days have been so terribly painful that I have found myself numb to feelings and confused by the utter silence I have been living in. Andrew goes off to work and I am completely alone now.

I hear her, well, I think do, every now and then and find that I still walk looking down at my feet (so we don't get entangled going back and forth), though she is not there. Her living room bed is now on top of the dining room one, I have gotten rid of all the food stuffs that were for her but the toys lie where they last fell and I can't bear to put her drink bowl and food bowl away yet.  I guess these things will simply take time.

That small collar with her name tag sits beside an old favourite black and white photo of her.

On a good note, I am more interested in the allotment now and have been there a few times since last Friday. Now it's a place of sweet Maggie flavoured memories and particularity of her last day, where she dandered about and lay in the sun before the trip to the vet.

The harvests have been prolific but the broad beans and the mangetout are now finished and some things such as the leeks and the broccoli have started to bolt. Our carrots have however been a triumph and after a few years of lament over them, we are certainly glad of success.

harvest time -

I haven't a photo but the Echlinville apple espaliers had their first harvest and a pie by Mamma G was duly made = darn good apples! There are more, so next time I'll give cooking with them a go.

courgette and garlic -

Back again on Sunday and it was incredible how small courgettes the day before had become marrows! There were so many we had to give more than half away, literally carrying them to another plot holder's car and setting them down with their own harvest. Then the garlic was cleaned and it's perfect again, as each year so far - we have been so lucky.

Tonight were having more of our own vegetables, every meal has had organic, lottie-grown produce in it this week and so in an hour or so, it will be roasted root vegetables and a little chicken - I'm hungry! My appetite came back today and I am ready for a healthy feast :)

With love and thanks for your condolences last week,
Your Carrie x

Saturday, 27 August 2016

In the shade of the shed

Time marches on, callously and without any regard to the quiet devastation that has occurred to myself and Andrew. How can anything, anyone, continue to live normally when Maggie has passed away?

It's not right, it's not fair, time must stop. We need to process, to grieve, to be enveloped in this beautiful pain. Our sweet little dog is gone.

maggie in the shade -

We covered her body in allotment flowers.

Carrie x

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Simple Courgette Salad Ideas

I'm not a cook, I'll put that out there to begin with! I like baking (maybe twice a year, haha) and I am not a fan of courgettes BUT this way of eating up our glut of courgettes has changed everything :)

Now with my disclaimer out in the open you will have to just forgive me the lack of absolute measurements and merely use this recipe as a guide. I think with mixing a salad up together that it's up to your individual tastes anyway, this is not a science, it's an art.

Simple (tasty) Courgette Salad

You'll be in the glut season, and yes courgettes are coming out your ears, you can't even give them away and you really don't want them to turn in to marrows; that just means MORE courgette to deal with at a time. Fear not my friends - I am here to help...

1 - Take a courgette and give it a wash, then top and tail it.

www. - courgette

2 - Take out your potato peeler and peel that courgette to death = ribbons of courgette!

www. - making courgette salad

3 - Gather a really big bunch of coriander and one of fresh mint (hopefully your grow your own, basil would be great too)

www. - courgette salad (coriander and mint)

4 - Wash those herbs, remove any thick stems and chop up chunky

5 -  Add these three ingredients together in a bowl and grind some salt and black pepper in (to taste)

www. - lemon squeezed for courgette salad

6 - Cut a lemon in two and squeeze like your life depends on it; let that liquid summer cascade down through your fingers onto the mixture.

7 - Add the same quantity of olive oil as your lemon provided (roughly)

8 - Take a deep breath in of this magic and mix it up together with your hands

www. - making courgette salad
Crappy photo but this was the seasoning part and i was more smelling it all
8 - Add your favourite bashed up nuts, pine nuts (roasted for full flavour), goats cheese or wild rice and quinoa. You know what you like :)

www. - courgette salad
Here, a pack of wheat, quinoa, and rice was added.

Serve and share the joy or take it somewhere quiet and gobble it all up yourself.

Carrie xx

I have a broad bean hummus recipe to share too, but need to take photos for it :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Hiking the Dungonnell Way

Cargan, a little village in the back of beyond. A school, a garage, a pizza/chippy takeout and a petrol station with a Mace food market attached. This, and some houses, old and new builds is what you'll find. Oh, and there is a much valued toilet in that Mace/petrol station - it's important to know these sort of things!

1.50 pm
We parked our car at the side of the road, half up on the footpath, by the new builds. Got our backpacks out and without any formalities, we started walking on the Dungonnell Way. Well, there was the obligatory selfie 💑.

The first official sign we came to was broken, laying in the long grass, just a wooden post. We lifted it, saw the arrows pointing the way and propped it up for the next people who may pass this way. Then we walked, up out of the village, past the farmsteads and to the hills where the sheep are kings and the roads barely used, save for the water board checking the most lovely little dam and the few fishermen who while away the afternoon there.

2.50 pm 
This countryside was beautiful with many birds singing, rabbits (one very dead), crickets (if you listened hard enough), butterflies and the hugest dragonflies I have ever seen. I guess I always thought dragonflies were the same as damselflies but no, these guys are on steroids and don't think twice about dive-bombing your head, haha. With such peace as this, walking through here it felt like each worry, each stress melted away with every footstep; my breathing became deeper (the air smelt so good) and my steady gravely sounding plod was music to my ears. All round was green, many shades and textures, this is where I was meant to be. I think it's where we all need to spend time.

Before we saw the forest, we smelt it, delicious sweet pine in the air. It's a place I thought I knew but as usual, I was so wrong, we have only ever seen the smallest part and stuck to the little different coloured sign posts. This was the back entrance, the tradesman's entrance, slightly rougher and far more interesting.

3.10 pm
Under the tree canopies here there is a whole world of moss, I love moss, I mean I LOVE MOSS. Don't question it, deal with it, I love moss, every kind, oh and mushrooms again every kind out in the wild. I couldn't eat one unless you paid me a ridiculous amount but I am compelled to study them and photograph them. Moss and fungi = happiness.  It was in here we saw peat dams and dragonflies, cleggs (one b*stard got me 3 times on the leg) and blue damson flies, being super loved up!

3.52 pm
The time flew by and then it was lunch. We stopped at a gate into the back of this much loved forest and set up our Trangia, using the stile as a seat. Fruity porridge was the dish of the day and it was SO good. Here was a damn good seat, any seat is good when you've walking 5 miles with a backpack though :)  We met a friendly Mountain biker, had a chat and then he climbed over our stile bike on his shoulder and shot off, he was super impressed that we had come so far on foot and were only half way. As we were leaving runners swooshed by, arggh, they make me feel so unfit but then they have no backpack and we later saw where they had parked, half a mile away at the most.

We crossed the road and into a deforested area were we came across a urea storage unit; we aren't farmers but we know what urea is, and this, well this didn't make sense, why store it? Past that there was an incredible machine for cutting and limb stripping trees into logs - the accident book that the foreman must have would have some horrific injures I should imagine; I didn't really like being so close to it, even though it was off! Then around a corner and boom - a hill, a long one, but one step at a time and the view from the top was awesome (in the proper sense of the word).

 A wee dander on and we were at another road side and a huge (for hikers) intersect of the International Appalachian Trial, Dungonnell Way and Ulster way. Plus there was a Pony trail here too and dog walkers with the happiest dogs ever - which made me miss Maggie but there was truly no way she could have walked this far, never mind that which was to come.

I took the lead walking along a busy, very curvy road (scary times) to get to next part of our walk, there's a handle on the back on my rucksack so Andrew could have used it to save me but using my noggin' I was OK. This was one of the most beautiful parts of the walk, I can't even begin to explain the emotion that this pathway through more trees, covered in moss and dappled light brought up. It felt like home in a spiritual sense, it was ophric and I realised that we as a people are so removed from this real nature that we don't even have words to express it, to describe it; it's gone from our vocabulary.

Suddenly there was an elderly man with his tiny but feisty little dogs, he did the country thing were you nod your head, lift a hand and mumble something like "great day isn't it". I love that, being out of society, sweaty, dirty and others like you don't care, they're just happy to see you, no matter your clothes, make-up, hair. You don't have to be anything but your authentic self.

The sunlight was falling down here in little beams where there gaps in the tree tops; how beautiful to see a fern or a new pine glow where that beam touched the ground. I could live in places like this revelling in the sense of wabi-sabi I spoke of before.

Then we hit the most quiet road in Ulster, Skerry East. Well contradictorily it was busy today, with many very disgruntled teenagers seemingly doing the Duke of Edinburgh with 70 litre back packs on and compasses swinging from their hangdog little necks. They were in misery and there we were laughing and smiling, two 'old people', crazy for actually liking this hiking lark; it made me smile harder.

Off to the left of this incredibly beautiful area we saw what we thought was a mine shaft wheel (the area was once mined for iron ore). So we took a detour and found this brought to us by those people at The Woodland Trust, a new little forest and this stunning sculpture.

The rest of the way went by so quickly and before we knew it, there we where back in Cargan, our car still there (thank goodness) awaiting us. It was 6.45pm, time to get these backpacks off and go in search of dinner!

*Speaking of which, my backpack was on it first ever outing, it's a turquoise 'Montane Women's Habu 22' and it's incredible* (This is my personal opinion, I'm not affiliated with any hiking company) - montane habu 22 backpack

Hugs and Love

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'
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