Thursday, 16 March 2017

Hiking Tollymore

There are days when everything just aligns perfectly and a hike is the only thing worth doing. On Saturday the sky was bright (if not occasionally blue!), the wind was gentle and the temperature a just-comfortable-no-coat-necessary degrees.

On the flip side (there's always a flip side) I had had a terrible nights sleep, was up early and feeling so heavy and there's an hours drive to get to our hiking point = snoozy, stiff and slightly grumpy me. I fatigued very quickly this time and my yoga injury of a recently strained hip reflexor played up big time. So I was in agony. And forgot my painkillers - stupid, silly girl.

But I thought I'd share some photographs of the beauty we were blessed to witness. Toby had the best time ever and was rewarded with a while off lead in a quiet part of the forest. Andrew used some new pieces of equipment so he was happy and I finished and didn't die = excellent day all round 😃


This is a little example of the walk up to the Forest, these paths are part of many different official walks including the Ulster Way, The Newcastle Way, St Patrick's Pilgrim Trail and The Mourne Way! It's lovely here with a great looking Scout Camp and many different styles of houses and farm animals. For those, who don't know gorse - it's the yellow spiky hedges that are all over Ireland and the flowers smell of coconut = yum.


And so, into the Tollymore Forest Park. I love this place and seeing it slowly come back to life is so exciting; just look at the vibrancy of the new pine needles and the ferns coming alive. We had a wee sit down on a log for a look over at the Mournes which we have been climbing amongst a good bit. Then back into the cover of some deciduous conifers.


This was our lunch stop, quite a few hours and miles later. We found this lovely clearing right on the edge of the park land with a sweet sounding river, that lovely bridge and a farm (with two Shetland ponies) to watch. Toby had his log and we had ours, the ground was littered with bark, mosses, lichen and what looked like hyacinth bulbs (or bluebells?) coming through. Above us was the perfect split between evergreen and deciduous conifers with a little blue sky.


Between lunch and the river we passed through a lot of clearing of trees, large areas of different varieties had been cut down and were stacked really for sell as lots. This the the start of the arboretum area too so there were some lovely surprises such as eucalyptus and rhododendrons. I was starting to feel the searing pain of my strained hip around now and was thankful for the car park and benches we eventually arrived at. Here you can see some of the old pretty walls from when there was a large house here, there are also Game of Thrones plaques (and often groups dressed up) and the large forest park map. But really that view was all that mattered. Then we walked down in to the riverside.


The water of the Shimna River is beautifully clear and fast running and these stepping stones are famous in our wee country. Andrew had little water left so he decided to try out his new(ish) water filter here. It was better than the first time, which was filtering peat water, this was lovely and a little sweet. Toby just stood by like a little trooper and was soon deemed good enough to go off lead for a while. He went a little bonkers at first running back and forth but soon settled into a pattern of walking a little ahead then stopping to wait for us.


I didn't take many interesting photos on the way back, as we joined up with the same trail that brought us into the forest. It was a lot of up hill walking (followed by long descent) my my hip was killing me and I felt sorry for myself. But we did get to see a lovely sunset utterly alone and with only a bird or two singing away. As we eventually arrived back at the car there were bats over head (I love that!). 

And on to dinner accompanied with a wee beer (for medicinal reasons of course).

Thus another 13 miles under our belts in preparation for the West Highland Way next month.

Hugs and love
Carrie x

Thursday, 9 March 2017

An Allotment Reunion

What the bloomin' heck happened to February!?
I think someone stole mine; I remember so very little, I've lost time (anyone believe in UFOs?) There are some photos of me out hiking, hiking with Andrew and Toby and again with Andrew in the rain and such but apart from that, I think I slept. Seriously, I think I slept February away though I can see I read some good books - The Handmaid's Tail for instance. Anyway, it wasn't a good month and I can tell you, I'm glad March is here. The back garden has shown me some much needed hope in it's little blooms, that is something I remember smiling over, in the darkness.

But let us not dwell and instead talk of good stuff! We visited the allotment last Saturday what? - YES! We saw our land again after a very long absence and it didn't look too bad. I'm so glad we did all that work in the depths of winter, so cold and warming ourselves up with many a cup of tea. Apart from the field being a quagmire and the 'devastation' of Storm Doris (a little bit of our netting came down, it's nothing) it looks great, how surprising.


It's not that we fell out with the place but that the weather has been crappy and of course the field was never prepared properly and there is no drainage in place. This year, as last, we're absolute champions of the no dig system and we are going to sow direct as much as possible; in our 9 years at lottie owners we can't see that home sowing and planting out seedlings makes that much difference.

However, one thing we do plant out early is our garlic. We love our garlic and it loves us - 100% germination this year again. Aren't they just a happy sight standing like little soldiers all their rows.


Even had we wanted to do any work or even fork some wheelbarrows of newly delivered manure to the plot, we couldn't. The paths were sodden and these two very inadequate photos try to show. Look, even the slugs were being flooded out!


But TRUE JOY was to be found on 14b with our rhubarb patches. These young forced stalks had been so happy to get to the sun that they had pushed off the forcer lid :) We naturally took all these beauties home and I was supposed to make some of my compote and even some compote with ginger - but I've been a crappity mess so far this week. Poop.


There were also some purple sprouting broccoli plants that I reckon deserve a mention and these glorious little daffodils - what a happy sight.


Love and hugs
Carrie

So this weekend we are trying to go for a good hike and I'm not sure if we'll be at the lottie. This hiking lark has really given us a great joint hobby that's healthy and fun. It's just as, if not more, important than the lottie these days! x

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Tenerife (living dangerously)

In the middle of our trip my body just simply shut down and so I ended up on the very comfy sofa of our wee house for the morning/afternoon. What a disappointment. Andrew however went off and did a hike, a crazy hike that was more like a vertical climb up the steep hillside. When I say it almost broke him you know it was hard - I would most likely have died, right there, a corpse to be rolled down hill and taken home in a box, done, finished, kaput. He has kindly lent me these photos.....

Andrew's hike - (Andrew Gault) www.growourown.blogspot.com
Andrew's crazy hike up above El Palmar
******
But then the big day came and I was refreshed and to be honest rather excited and floating about on adrenaline; we were going to Volcano land in the El Tiede National Park. Breakfast was gobbled down and forgive me, but I had to pee a million times due to nerves, but then backpacks ready and off we went!

Chinyero
So my friend, have you ever walked around a Volcano? I hadn't and I really didn't expect what we came across doing the circular trail around Chinyero, over lava flows and ash and through burnt pine tree forests and paths littered with the largest pine cones I've ever seen.

Allow me please to be your guide...
Hiking Chinyero -  www.growourown.blogspot.com
top - the path from the roadside; left - the true path starts; right - massive pine cones!


Hiking Chinyero 2-  www.growourown.blogspot.com

So this was the official start of our route, as modelled by Andrew, note the white and yellow painted lines on the rock behind him, they denote an 'ok you're going the right way'. I step off the path to hug a pine, it smelt so good! The paths were all winding and beautiful and then they opened right up and lava rock was everywhere.

Hiking Chinyero 3 -  www.growourown.blogspot.com

Then it began to narrow and after a wee climb we ended up on pure lava rock without plant life bar some lichen, for a good time and then saw this massive erratic rock. This section ended abruptly with a move to grey sludge and red grit.

Hiking Chinyero 4 -  www.growourown.blogspot.com

The other side and the lava rocks continue on as a river into the fog, we followed it a little while and then turned back into forest with slightly rougher paths which soon smoothed out. Oregano grows wild by the side of the paths at this point and it is so refreshing to pick some, crunch it and smell it in.

 The landscape is at it's most beautiful (the ground is bouncy with pine needles) when you get your view of the volcano. I took so many photos from all areas but I like this one due to the memory of the smell and cool air just here. The rest of the way back to car was a lovely walk though open pine forest, slowly climbing upwards.

The last eruption here was in 1909 but in 2012 there was also a fire that ripped through the forest so it adds to the drama of the landscape and the other worldly atmosphere of the hike. The smell is beautiful bar that of the lava flows which do still have a peculiar sulphur whiff and a feeling of being on Mars as some of the lava stones are red and so in fact is the hue of the volcano. We met a good few people doing this walk but everyone was going in the opposite direction! It's circular but come on, the guide books say to go our way.
us two and a volcano - Hiking Chinyero -  www.growourown.blogspot.com
Us and Chinyero

El Tiede
Oh my goodness, this is one of those bucket list adventures that you simply must do, if it's possible. The landscape around El Tiede is mesmerising and the view of the volcano took my breath away, it's the 3rd highest in the world. Even the drive to and from the area is other-wordly, I imagine it will stay in my memory forever. It was hard to capture it in photographs as it changed so much mile after mile, so I'll leave it at one panorama with the Volcano in it.

El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
El Tiede Volcano with many different coloured deposits and the ridge of the caldera.

It's 27 Euros to get the cable car to the top of the volcano but I believe it was totally worth it, the ride up was fun in itself. Neither of us have never before stood so far above the clouds and had such vistas stretch out before us. It was cold and there was snow, it being  -4 and 55km/h when we were there. But you just can't wipe the inane grin off your face and we even got the giggles. The paths were really good but the tiredness had hit me a bit and I think I had mild altitude sickness, so I was wobbly for a tiny bit.
Up the top of El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
1. The extra bit up to the 'cooking pot' 2. Recycling is important even up here! 3. The view from the cable car (the shadow) and the caldera.
It's odd that this was so awesome but I just can't find the words to talk about at, it was a simply overwhelming sensory experience. I really can't show all my photos from up here as picking which to leave out is too hard.

Caldera of El tiede - www.growourown.blogspot.com
panorama of the caldera from the viewing point at the cable car station

Only a few people get to right up to see into the volcano and you have to pay extra and have organised a license beforehand. Believe me, I had seen enough to blow my wee mind! We were the cable car last down but one and the only sad thing was the shop was closed - I so needed a souvenir.

To finish the day we had grand driving tour of the national park and north coast back to Garrachico for a late dinner and then home for the last evening, exhausted. The last day was spent driving all the way back to the airport sucking in every sight from the road that we could, sadly it doesn't take long to end up back in resort hell with millions of horrid apartments, water parks and clubs. Give me rural any day...

El Tiede from the air - www.growourown.blogspot.com
El Tiede waves goodbye from above the clouds as we fly homeward.
Hugs and love
Carrie

Next - back to the allotment!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Tenerife (the quiet life)

I'm at that point in the year where it feels like I have been doing push ups everyday and now, well my arms are trembling and my knees are weak and each attempt is causing more sweat to drip from my brow and I just can't go on. It's been dark, dreary and cold out there again and my energy levels are at about 2 out of a possible 10. I've been out of action since last Sunday's hike in the freezing cold Mournes, which was not nice at all; it was the last straw and I have been through a delightful breakdown this past week. But let's not get into that, eh?

Goodness me I was falling asleep there, staring at the hypnotic blinking text cursor. I need a good slap about the face with a wet lettuce. [Or....as it turned out, a bloody long nap.]


I know what will cheer us all up...blue skies, picturesque scenes and the wonder of a volcano or two. Yes, I'm talking Tenerife photo time!

1. On our way above a blanket of cloud. 2. A roadside stop to view the rugged landscape and La Gomera in the distance 3. The stunning landscape, crazy road and Masca (a tourist trap!)

It only takes 4 hrs and around 20 mins to escape the weather and drudgery of Northern Ireland and reach the shores of Tenerife, and it is all the more wonderful when you get the window seat, as I always do! Everything was fine and dandy with our flight, our hire car and Andrew's driving from South to North East (Isla Baja); the weather played it's part beautifully and the locals were simply a delight as we stumbled through our Spanish. But the scenery! wow.


El Palmar
1. Sculpture of the Devil who runs through El Palmar during the Harvest, on fire! 2. Just a few of the hiking paths, all fabulously signposted along their length. 3. Andrew at our house with one of the cats :)

It was the first time we used AirBnB and we stayed in the most idyllic little place - here's the link - Esperzana's Place. It was in the little village of El Palmar and sweetly tucked away down a lane you had to go on foot and which was so extremely quiet and dark at night, I've never seen so many stars - Heaven. We were surrounded by vineyards on one side and (after a little walk further) stunning views of small terraced farm plots and banana plantations down to the sea, on the other, but mostly we were nestled deep amongst the locals in an very old small farmhouse, complete with it's own cats.

Inside our beautiful house, the kitchen and the little patio area outside

We were met my the owner Andres and he told us all about the area, the hiking to be considered, the places to visit, the history of the house (well two houses knocked together) and he tipped us off with a great restaurant recommendation. Travel makes us hungry. We did have a beautiful big box of local organic fruit and vegetables and some bottles of banana wine (!?) but who wants to cook on the first night!

Very popular dish of wood fired chicken and chips

We went after a darn good look about to the restaurant and had chicken and chips cooked over pine wood and needles - wow, it was gorgeous. Not terribly fancy but the flavours were so good and the smell! This place was dead when we went though it was filling up as we left but on Sunday - it was bunged all day and night, with people from all over the island. What a little gem.


Garrachico
1. Gift shop and beautiful old buildings and cobbled streets. 2. Always, there are groups of men talking all over one another in every village. 3. Courtyard into someone's home - heavenly. 4. Insane para-gliders can be seen all over, the cliffs are so high!

Behind this beautiful church there is a square which is fabulous for people watching and you can also get a snack and a beer. We sat for a good time and saw all of life pass by from a newborn baby to a large funeral, tourists and locals, friendly policemen and the most beautiful hotel. I'm not a beach person, this is where I love to sit in the sun and see the comings and goings of a place.


1. Iglesia de Santa Ana and my hubby 2. In La Plaza Libertad with his and her's beers

The seafront of Garrachico is pretty special with natural pools and channels formed by the lava flow of a volcano eruption in 1706 which destroyed half the town. In the summer they are swam in but in January - not so much. Beside them stands an old Fort - Castillio de San Miguel, pretty cool to look at but it had just closed when we got there.
1. One of the many pools with steps down into it! Not today thank you. 2. The Castillio de San Miguel

Punta de Teno
At the most westerly point of Tenerife there is a beautiful working lighthouse (only a year older than me) and the steep and dangerous looking Los Gigantes cliffs and gorges. The road collapsed last year out to this point so traffic is restricted at the weekends, luckily however that meant we were there at dusk and the light was beautiful.
1. Los Gigantes from a sweet little harbour. 2 The lava outcrop of La Punta de Teno. 3 The lighthouse (solar powered) 4. Rainbow just before a storm
Hugs
Carrie x

Join me next time for.... VOLCANOES

Friday, 3 February 2017

What's going on?

It's like that feeling most often attributed to Mondays and getting back to work. The sudden increase in heaviness and utter exhaustion hits and simply moving seems a Herculean task. I'm home from my holidays over 9 days ago and still.. I simply can't.

I can't stop sleeping all the time; fearing the housework that is being neglected; worrying that the dog needs more playtime from me. I can't stop feeling so empty and depressed, uninterested in life and just wishing I could hide until it's all over.


Plus, the world has become a scary, unstable place to match that which is in my head. My mental health has had a referendum and decided to truly co-ordinate and gang up against - trample any good thought or feeling I may hope to have. It's a nightmare of depression, anxiety, panic attacks and utter confusion all day, everyday.



Toby - Carrie Gault

Sorry friends. I have stories and many glorious scenes to share with you from our wee trip to Tenerife. Toby is delightful and I must update you. Plus the snowdrops are still coming out and though no hope has been felt in their white flowers this time (and the fact that the patch is spreading), there are many things planned for this spring that I ought to be excited about.

I'm still here, still fighting and will write soon.


It's going to be OK, right?
C x

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Coming and Going

It was yesterday I thought of them. I knew where to look of course and under a fine layer of dead bamboo leaves I found them. Sweet, fresh green harbingers of Spring. They have burst forth from the darkness and exude hope, a reminder that warmer days and longer days are coming and we can make it through this cold, dark, dank period. We always do. But for someone like me, whose brain is heavily fogged with depression and confusion and all matter of clutter, the sight of these snowdrops is a powerful annual sign that I too can make it through another winter, another period of suffocating darkness.....

This is only a part of the hidden cluster you must walk around the tea house to get a glimpse off, but the effect is so magical. I look forward to them growing taller and flowering; that almost blinding white is forming inside.

first signs of snowdrops - www.growourown.blogspot.com

It's a times like this that a William Peter Blatty quote always comes to my mind. In the midst of reading his book - The Exorcist, there are moments of pure reassuring peace amongst the horror and evil. This is one quote that truly lifts my spirits every time I read it and hope it goes down well with you....
William Peter Blatty quote - www.growourown.blogspot.com

It is also times like this that I wonder about the allotment and what jobs might need doing. It's fun to think of all the trees and bushes over there that look so dormant but are really working hard to rise the sap and withstand the cold. Soon there shall be buds on their branches and the joyous cycle begins again.

rhubarb forcing - www.growourown.blogspot.com
Not a great photo - sorry.
Already the rhubarb is growing strong and we have one crown under the forcing pot for that special treat of extra sweet branches. The beds are mulched with lovely compost and manure, no seaweed this year as it's just been too blasted cold to collect any. Andrew has already done a lot of pruning. I would like to think the garlic is poking through now too, but the weather is just too poor to go and check.

This month is truly for dreaming and planning; thinking about optimising your space, noting where raised beds need fixing, timbers replacing, looking at seed catalogues and remembering what worked for you last year. Enjoy! In no time the hard work shall begin.

******

I'm off on a holiday this week to the sunshine and other-worldly beauty of North Tenerife, time to take a break from the everyday and go climb a volcano or two. I look forward to the many different plants I hope to see, the incredible black sand beaches and the blue sky. We're booked into a small place in the middle of nowhere with hiking trails all around....

Hugs
Carrie

Friday, 13 January 2017

101 Organic Gardening Hacks - Book Review

Well I have been either living under a rock or the Americans have been keeping Shawna Coronado away from me; she's huge with 7 thousand + followers on You Tube, almost 3 thousand followers on Instagram and nearly 20 thousand on Twitter. That doesn't even include those who love her blog and have bought her books (yes she has written two).

She describes herself thusly...
"Wellness, garden, & foodie author. TEDx speaker, photographer, blogger, travel adventurer with spinal osteoarthritis & a passion to make a difference."

Pretty impressive already, eh? And then, I get her latest book published by Cool Springs Press (sent to me by Quarto Publishing plc to review) as it launches here in the UK. And yes, I too have fallen for her no nonsense, fun and actually do-able gardening ideas.


So above is the book, please do not be put off by the word 'hack' by the way, her publishers simply say it is a word for 'a great idea that's come to life'. I have been flicking through this over the last week and really getting into over the past two days. It is so photogenic, so cute but most importantly, I found it to be inspiring and a friendly read, with practical ideas that are actually useful and easy to replicate. 

The publishers blurb is so on point...
In 101 Organic Gardening Hacks, you'll find the top tips, tricks and solutions unearthed by Shawna Coronado. Some are practical timesavers; others offer clever ways to 'upcycle' everyday items in your garden. Every hack, however, is completely organic and unfailingly environmentally friendly!

I suggest to take a wee look at the contents page pictured below, it covers everything from the beginners needs to inspiring ideas for the allotment, garden and even unused spaces. There is literally something for everyone and nothing is too expensive. Even those with little room can't get away, there are no excuses :)


As a bibliophile, the feel, text, layout and beauty of this book makes me very happy. It's easily going to fall into a coffee table book by it's looks but honestly don't let that fool you - it's got great ideas. We are certainly going to enjoy using it. Oh, and the cover is wipe-able, which is great as I'm also the muckiest allotmenteer out there.

Of course this book is for the organic grower, which I do strive to be, but the section on pollinator hacks really got me interested as it's maybe one area were we could try harder, especially with the terrible decline in bees these days. Shawna is also an advocate for the no-dig gardening style we have adopted over the past couple of years and seems to be just as in love with composting and manure as we are, haha.

101 Organic Gardening Hacks
Eco- friendly Solutions to
Improve Any Garden

by Shawna Coronado

January 2017
£12.99 | Paperback
Published by Cool Springs Press


If you go to her blog, which I know you will - http://shawnacoronado.com/ you will see those words again 'wellness author' and she truly seems to be. Inspiring in her fight over spinal osteoarthritis, a seemingly great cook and someone who sees the garden area as a place of therapy and joy. Her ideas in up-cycling see a creative desire mixed with growing food and beautiful plants. I find her quite the exciting find, even if I am way behind everyone else.

Stay cosy this weekend
Hugs
Carrie

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Two Allotment Afternoons

I had a good mental health afternoon on Monday and experience has taught me that I need to grab these windows and get out there. Toby stayed at home snoozing but Andrew and I went to the allotment and got started on a new year. Oh lord, how I love ripping old stuff out and seeing lovely rotted poop go on the cleared beds.
me, I was at the allotments! - www.growourown.blogpsot.com

Andrew worked on 24a tiding up and mulching. He also pruned the espalier apple trees and gathered many wheelbarrow fulls of the horse manure that had been delivered to the field, for our compost bin. I was hoping to get a photo of garlic poking through the soil but we planted a little late this year and I guess we'll just have to be patient. Our garlic has never let us down in all these years so I am optimistic. Happily we also came away with some excellent beetroot from that plot. Still in the dark, damp days of winter, the allotment provides :)

We also have some parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli and kale going strong there.

I went over the terrifying-looking overgrown disaster that is 14b and began my attack. Goodness the yoga and hiking really has made a difference to the loads I can carry and the duration I can work for; it's nice to see some progress there - hopefully I'll start to tone up soon!

Anyhow, I just dived into the middle flower bed and ripped and hacked my way through it all. It was so woody that I couldn't even cut most of of it down for composting but boy did I have a grin on my face just getting rid of it all. I also cleared paths as I went and am resolute about getting some membrane and gravel down this year!


Once all the stems were removed I started on the weeds and lumps of grass that were thriving. But luckily Andrew made tea and I had a break with him just as I was getting weary and thinking how weeds are always going to be a huge problem there when you have three abandoned sites surrounding yours, grrr. Anyhow, calming lemon and ginger tea is wonderful and after it I was back and got the whole bed cleared. It was a good day for getting dandelion roots out too, the ground very friable though a little moist.

I have my plan for that bed already - sunflowers which simply last for ages and look sculptural in winter and some daisy-like happy flowers to cut for bouquets. I wasn't well enough to do the multi-flower bed last year so I am learning to live within my abilities.

Only two other couples came and quickly visited their plots whilst we were there, it seemed so funny not to see many more people, it was such a perfect afternoon for working. It was odd how Maggie's presence was strong and rather upsetting to look up and not see her. It helps to know she would have been fuming though - far too cold and wet for her, she was a sun worshipper that one :)

24a monday and horse poop - www.growourown.blogspot.com

****

But lo and gasp! On Tuesday I was furiously cleaning the downstairs of my house and when Andrew woke up we (actually I!), decided that for his last day off we ought to go back to the plots and continue our work. We went out for apple sponge cake and a coffee first but only so we had enough energy to attack those beds, hehe.

It was damp, that seriously cold damp that seeps into your bones and freezes your cheeks and hurts even your eyes. But damn it, I got almost all of the second flower bed weeded, Andrew pruned all the hawthorns, tided the rhubarb bed and gathered more wheelbarrows of manure and we had a goodish time.

14b - www.growourown.blogspot.com

We had tea and took a dander round our field and oh my, it was so upsetting, no, it was frustrating to see the majority of plots in absolute messes. So over grown, returned back to rumble sites covered in weeds and long grass. It truly made us think 'Why do we bother?'

Back at our plots we worked a little more but I was stiffing up now and had a headache starting. However, miraculously it started to drizzle and both of us were secretly very thankful to be 'forced' to go home to Toby and blankets and the fire. 😄

My cheeks took an hour to defrost, my nose was like an open tap, I got a chill and a migraine later on BUT it was worth it!

Hugs
Carrie x

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A New Year and a Winner!

I thought it would be wonderful to start the new year off with a blog post, a sort of sign of my good intentions to write more in 2017. I also have a longing to get more in touch with my readers so I have also set up a Facebook page for the blog (I do hope you'll join me there). 
AND of course I hope I can do more giveaways!
*********
A new year, a new day and the same horrid battle with my poor mental health. An ill brain doesn't care if you wanted to go for a cobweb blowing hike in the Mournes or a few productive hours at the Allotment. So here I am, still in my pyjamas sort of watching TV at 6pm.

I'm so lucky though as Toby has been asleep and ever so cuddlesome all day, up on the sofa with me. He stayed up really late for a pup and saw in the new year; he's paying for it now.


Andrew has declared today to be an official films and pyjamas day with much herbal tea and naps. He demands I do as little as possible. What did I do to deserve him? - he's so understanding.

And then there's my giveaway and giving gifts lifts my spirits. Thanks to those who entered!
Here we go with our winner -
Drum roll please!!

CHELSEA
I'll be in touch xxx

Hugs and best wishes
Carrie x

Friday, 30 December 2016

Sarah Raven Journal Giveaway

So, you want to own the lovely Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'? Of course you do, you're only human and lo, I WANT TO GIFT A COPY TO YOU!


So sorry, this is only open to UK residents but I'm thinking selfishly about the cost of posting a lovely hardback book and I think the speed at which the lucky winner gets it it paramount - there will be planning and dreaming to do 😄

I wrote a little book review of this tome when I received it from Frances Lincoln pre-release way back in 2014. By the evil quirks of the internet the photos I included in that review have disappeared into the ether but trust me, it's gorgeous. I shall find them again on my external hard drive. I do have the text of my review and here it is in edited snippets....

"I may have fallen in lust with this fabulous Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'. Sarah is a goddess of all things cut flower and I just love that she has written a easy, go to book helping people like me to be more confident in her area of expertise."

"Not too much reading, gorgeous photography, plans, projects and inspiration for next year's flower patch."

"It is an absolute joy to the senses; the touch of the paper, the layout, the photography. It is sort of a cross between a coffee table book and a how to manual, so stylish but full of great know how and precise instructions."

"A guide to getting your beds right and full of exactly the right plants. Raven even tells you the best variety of the best plants to grow; how to grow them, where they'll grow best and how long the stems should be cut for the best look!"

Now it's over to you. Just leave your name in the comments section if you want to be entered. All names will be placed in a pot and one shall be plucked out (with my eyes closed tight!) to be the happy recipient. Then I would just ask that the winner contact me with an address.

Go, dear reader and good luck. The winner shall be announced on New Year's Day.

Hugs
Carrie

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Delectable feasting

It can not be left quiet anymore - my hubby is a fabulous cook and I am so lucky to have him in my life! I wanted to shout it from the roof tops on Christmas Day but society does constrain one and the word 'mad' gets bandied about, hahaha.

It is a shameful thing to admit here on my allotment blog but, I did not go with Andrew to do our annual Christmas Eve harvest. It was cold and raining heavy and to be honest there were cute films on the TV and I was cuddling Toby - sorry but someone has to do it. Here are some of Andrew's pictures of that glorious moment....

Probably the most laughable harvest yet! The Kale was fabulous but the brussels had been attacked and we had about 3 tiny ones each and there were no carrots or parsnips - the shame. I think we're going to quit carrot growing, the disappointment every year is really too much and to be honest they are so cheap at all times of the year, it feels like it isn't worth it. * Now, I've just learnt (after publishing this post) that we DID have parsnips but the ground was too wet and claggy to dig them up!

* That is unless YOU can tell me of a foolproof carrot variety that NEVER fails.

Our Christmas Day was joyously quiet and uneventful; we started off eating porridge with chocolate drops on top and drinking 'jingle fizz' ~ prosecco and cranberry juice. Ah, there's nothing better than a day were it's socially acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast and (responsibly) drink alcohol all day.

And here was the main event - check out those brussel sprouts, they were delicious and were eaten slowly and deliberately. Plus, I would love it to be known that I didn't eat all the food on that plate - Andrew was a little generous. We did eat all the left overs on Boxing Day though.

And on Boxing Day we went for a lovely walk in Carnfunnock Park, where Toby had his 1st walk ever; this time went a heck of a lot better. There's nothing finer than getting all wrapped up warm and burning off that Christmas Pudding in amongst the trees and meeting cheery fellow walkers (and their dogs). Also, Toby got to wear his festive jumper on the journey and a very sexy red coat on the walk itself. Truly a festive walk is a marvellous activity, particularly when you stop to make tea, find mushrooms, berries and enjoy another sunset.

Today we went into Belfast which was a bit of a nightmare, so many people! Tomorrow we go for another hike in the middle of nowhere.. The allotment SHALL see us soon though, fear not.

******

Oh, and watch out for a New Year's GIVEAWAY - A copy of Sarah Raven's beautiful 'Cutting garden journal'. I'll only be able to afford UK postage but I hope you'll put your name in, there's every chance this hardback loveliness could be yours 
And some changes will be happening on the blog too, I need a change xxx

Hugs
Carrie

P.S. Tell me about your Christmas harvest and walks!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Pushing the boundary (full version)

Sometimes you really have to wake up and grab the day by the shoulders and give it a damn good shake. Saturday was one of those days, a day to be used to the max, to have an adventure and to be content, proud and a bit sore in the evening. We decided to walk the new Boundary Trail at Castle Ward (Co. Down).

We had been to the same National Trust site the Saturday before and taken Toby on his biggest walk yet - a whole 3-ish miles. Remember he's only little and he met other dogs and was attacked by one off lead (grrr) so it was a huge experience for him. (He was ok - Andrew lifted him high and I grabbed the dog by the collar, it was strong!) However that walk also included a picnic at The Temple which he loved. He was pretty wrecked after that walk but came round really fast. 

first CW walk - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

So.. Saturday last, well we pushed further, a heck of a lot further. Twice as far and a bit more, that kinda further. Toby walked with us for 7+ miles, what a trooper.

The Boundary Trail is lovely, a genuine surprise in its glory and varied landscapes. We didn't start down at the proper place as we parked in the main car park. So we started off with a walk we do often, down through the farm yard, along by the millpond flat Strangford Lough, up past Audley's Castle round the back of the walled garden. These are all Game of Thrones filming locations and is not rare to see fans and tours about.
by the water CW - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

Then we took a right turn instead of a left! Wonderful, we ended up in the farmland of rolling drumlins, the old estate boundary wall by our side and stunning views. (But I forgot to take any photos - I'm a wally I know!) There weren't any cattle about so Toby wasn't a threat and the new paths and fields are separated by electric fencing. Plus our dog was on a fecking lead!

After a good while we walked into a lovely little forest. The Mallard Plantation, the name of which doesn't make sense until the end where one sees the water and hears the ducks. This was maybe my favourite part of the walk, after all the gravel paths we were now on soft ground  in amongst the trees and ferns with light streaming in strongly only here and there.

The Mallard Plantation - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

After a spell on a proper road we re-entered more woodland, much more open and newly cleared for the path. By now we were really in our stride and not many photos were taken at all. Andrew had to declare tea time as I get a bit forgetful and just plod on for miles, forgetting to take a break, eat, drink, breathe. Hiking is such a beautifully passive experience were all I think about is the trail, no bad thoughts, no hurtful emotions. But I do need to look after my body, so yay! for sensible Andrew.

Right pic below : the trees on the far ridge are were the other side of the boundary wall is, we walked quite far.
halfway point - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

We sat on some logs, had lemon and ginger tea and a lemon cupcake. Haha, how fancy of us. Then we ate a fabulous trek bar each; they're like a meal packed with energy rich foods like prunes, nuts, chocolate etc. Toby had his kibble and a big drink.
tea time for all -- growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

Then up and away (all rubbish came with us) and  10 minutes on we came to the viewpoint. Wow! That was pretty darn beautiful but we couldn't stay longer, the sun was going down! And it was cold, brrr.

From the viewpoint to the Mournes - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

More of a gorse and bushes landscape now and we were walking fast. This whole place would be heaven in the spring, there were primrose and bulb leaves all around and of course we ended up back in deciduous forest which I so look forward to going back to with all the bright greens everywhere.

Here, near the end of the mystery trail we could see the grand driveway into the estate on the left and this sunset to our right.

sunset- growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

 Oh poop! We had to use our phone torches to walk through another forest bit and there were scary bird sounds at every turn. Wow, the world is a different place in the dark and boy it was pitch black without our specks of light!! This wood must have been evergreens as the smell was delicious and our foot steps silent.

Thank goodness for fairy lights and Santa visiting the big house. We could use these lights strung all the way along the fence to get back to the car park and see (and be seen by) the other people and cars on the road too.

the driveway with fairy lights - growourown.blogspot.com ~ ecotherapy blog

Toby by this point gave up, he began to heave as though he would be sick and Andrew had to carry him. What a trooper, he's never walked so far in his life and almost made it the whole way! So proud, he wanted down again after a minute and was fine again. Boy did he sleep on the way home all evening and night and Sunday 

I really wanted to take him to see Santa but it was pre-booked -  human children only - bah humbug. Haha.
So that was that, sorry I posted a tiny draft version before. We all make mistakes and let's face it I was pooped when I tried to do that post on the Sunday.

Hugs and wishes for good health and thoughts of brighter, warmer days. 
Happy Winter Solstice 
C xx