All posts by horticultural 'Obbit

Chronicling the mis-adventures of a would be allotmenteer. Author of 'Playing with Plant pots: Tales from the Allotment' Available on Amazon in ebook and paperback http://amzn.to/1UvWUkb (paperback) http://amzn.to/1QRgVBZ (Ebook) Full buy links at www.horticulturalhobbit.com/books

The Icelandic Adventure April 2018

This is by far my biggest adventure to date. I went to Iceland. Generally, I am very fortunate to have wing-people. Be it siblings or friends. This, this was very different. I did this by myself, much to the amusement of some. Why there, it’s so far away; do you know how cold it is there, Punam?

An amazing CPD opportunity arose, where by I could meet fellow Psychology teachers from across Europe. This was a conference that happens every two years, and I rather fancied making an adventure of it. It’s not that I don’t adventure alone, I do. Just not so close to the Arctic circle.

I’m glad that I did. Iceland is beautiful, Reykjavik is phenomenal. I also met some fabulous like-minded individuals. The camaraderie within the teaching fraternity really is second to none. If you are a Psychology teacher, go find the ATP and also EFPTA; you won’t be let down.

There was a bit walking on this trip, in doing the Golden circle tour. The double waterfall was one of the most soul-tingling experiences ever. I stood there, really quite mesmerised. There a couple of geysers, one big, one small. I will never, ever, complain about rain here in Britain. Icelandic rain comes down in King-size sheets and does more than drench you. Thank goodness, for a Birmingham Blue-coloured hat that Mama F had crocheted for me.  I stood between two tectonic plates, walked passed the dunking pool of unmarried mothers. That was really quite sad and eerie.

The secret lagoon. What do I say? An experience beyond words. It makes me smile as I sit here writing about it. Must have been what two, three degrees, but stepping into that water. That was something beyond magic, I tell you.

This was by far the trip of a life time. Scared the living daylights out of me, whilst giving me butterflies, but I did it. I was very lucky, to have met up with friends and colleagues; this did do something to help me get rid of the nerves.

I did have some sadness too. I actually looked at the coach seat next to me, and there wasn’t a sibling or someone significant there to elbow. That is another story, I  guess.

Gallivanting to Glastonbury

Apparently, Glastonbury is magic. An interesting hypothesis, that I decided to test out. This was effectively my four day summer holiday. On my list, was the tor, the abbey, chalice wells and also the Goddess temple. This was a time to reflect, rest and colour my soul. This was also an adventure that I wanted to make the most of.

Getting to my digs, seeing the Tor was something of an experience. Its quite imposing and my immediate thought, was how the flip to get up there. Luckily, the taxi driver told me the safest route. Taking it, I realised that it wasn’t easy getting up there. I’m not the fittest of people, so taking it slow was key. That was rather important.

Journeying up the Tor is a process of reflection. You also meet interesting people along the way. You all have the same aim, to get to the same place. Part of me felt as though I was channelling Chaucer on the ascent. I did move slow, I took my time to savour it. Getting to the top, I was met with people greeting the sun. There is magic at the Tor, something beyond words. I did struggle making the climb, and I was aware of my own capacity. I made that climb, I got to the top, no matter how much I swore as I walked and wanted to give up. At the top, there is so much to take it, to survey what is before you.

Coming down, is a different feeling and leads you to Challice Wells.

The Abbey, is something out of this world. There is absolute magic in the air there.  I spent hours there, absorbing it all. There is the alleged grave of King Arthur. Though I don’t think I felt his magic there. I felt the magic of people.

The tree. Oh, my, the tree. I think it was a Maple, but it is a magic Maple. The only tree in 35 acres that was so vibrantly red. Standing there, it was breath taking, it was grounding and a process of meditating. There was just something about the tree, it’s beauty and being a force of nature.

Talking of power. The Goddess temple. Go. Absolute serenity, with the essence of the divine. I felt such calm, such power, I couldn’t possibly type the exact nature of it.

 

A year of dresses

 

This year, has  been a year of dressing up. I don’t think I ever had so many different outfits. Then again, I had fairly good reasons for wearing them.

In April I dusted off, arguably what will always be my favourite sari. It’s Imperial, Cadbury purple and always make me smile. It is also swooshes fabulously on a dance floor when busting a move to Bon Jovi.

Then came the annual international conference of the Association of Teachers of Psychology in July. Every year, I have a think about the dresses for conference, for the gala dinner amongst everything. It is always a great event, dressing up is part of the excitement. I clearly have a thing about vintage inspired swing dresses, so purple was factored in. The came the gala dinner. This was different. I actually wore an Indian outfit, and liked it.

And blimey, it’s been an Indian outfit summer. The weather certainly helped with a massive, Bollywood wedding. A family event that was nearly a year in the planning. With it came the outfits.  Quite a few outfits.

So let’s put this into context.

I’ve never done that before. Having these outfits for the wedding, was a big deal. From not being silver-I’ve been going grey since 16, I’m mid thirties now-so having to go back to being raven haired, to wearing outfits that only exist in movies. Outfits that tall, beautiful, model types wear.

I woke up at half two to  have my hair and make up done. Looked in the mirror at six, nearly scared myself. That woman in the photos, she really doesn’t look like me.

‘Wow, you look different.’

‘Punam, that you? I almost didn’t recognise you.’

That, that is a big point.

I don’t do glamour. I don’t do hair, make up, eyelashes and swooshing skirts.

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But for that day, I felt like a princess. I was still me beneath it all, that’s for certain.

I am not what you see in the Indian bridal mags. That’s an uncomfortable thought, when the world around us is based up on physical appearance. What we look like, is what we get judged on.

Three days after the wedding, I had a massive hair cut. I’ve not coloured my hair since either. I actually got ID’d when my hair was black. It’s been a struggle, trying to defend why I don’t dye my hair. There is sadness too, what with the ID’ing; to look that bit younger. Having silver hair as woman, is viewed as being negative. For a man, not really a problem.

Being me whilst wearing all those of outfits has been incredibly important and still is.

 

Bounty of books

 

It’s that time of the year again.

There are gifts to buy, people to meet and good times to celebrate.

There may be someone you know, who might like one of mine.

Never underestimate the power of a book.

Be it how to grow chillies, how to make jam.

Be it healing after a loss, or chasing rainbows with a spot of romance.

You never know what you might find in the pages of a book.

All of them are available in paperback, links to the right!

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.

From seed to six years #gdnbloggers

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floral trug with fruit and roses

 

Six years. WordPress tells me that I’ve been writing this blog for six years. If this blog was a human, it has probably started school already and hopefully made some friends.

The whole idea of sharing started well before that, in a slightly different place with a slightly different aim. Slightly different in the way it was organised, and how I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. However, here I am; here is the blog.

A lot has been covered in that six years. There have been highs, lows, lots of things in  between that have made blogging and the writing process wonderfully human.

This blog  was quite literally founded on the seeds of an idea; a gist of which you can find on the About page. I do feel it is important to reflect upon where this blog started, what has been experienced and subsequently where it might go in the future. I do feel that it is evolving and over time things may change.

Highs, there have been a few. Gluts, for one. After three, four, five courgettes, what’s a girl to do? There have been pickles, preserves, the Petal Plonk experiments that will be really very interesting to comeback to. All in all, I’ve cultivated a piece of land that was unloved for a very long time. It was nearly five foot high with weeds when I first took it on. In it’s present state, the allotment does look rather sorry but it has already gone through a great deal. There have been glorious summers, where there has been lots fruit, vegetables, lots of glads, sunflowers and roses. There has been a lot of abundance. There have been both physical and mental benefits too. All in all, the impact of the allotment is very much holistic.

The lows experienced have always been hard to process, to understand but there has always been potential for learning and forward movement. I don’t think I will ever forger the broken cold frame and destroyed polytunnel. Those two things, were like being punched in the gut-my heart tore straight down the middle. Then there is the heavy clay that has meant raised beds. Raised beds that I built myself, much to my Dad’s amusement. I pinched his cross-head screwdriver and got blisters. He then picked up his drill to make sure everything was secure.  There are of course Human factors such as work, family, time and energy.  This year, I have felt those a great deal. At times, I have put so much on my plate, the allotment has felt very far away. Wheeling Mama F down there in a wheel chair during her post spinal surgery recovery was one of the most surreal things ever. She missed going to my allotment. She has since got her own and loves it.

The gardening, blogging and lots of other communities have been instrumental in helping. You’ll notice the Garden bloggers hashtag in the title; this is more than a homage. It is an acknowledgement of their support, their forum as well as the vibrancy and diversity.  I am always surprised by how far the gardening and blogging community stretches and therefore where the blog gets read. I am touched somewhat, that 200 square metres in the middle of England can reach so far a field. There is a pun in there somewhere. At the outset, I relied a great deal on online forums, and this is something that I will not forget.

My own journey behind the blog has been woven in at times. Teaching and counselling training have impacted a great deal on how this blog, how the allotment has developed. There has been writing too. I must admit, that at times there has been a sway towards the writing projects on the blog. That has felt as though it was a big move away, but I stand by that this blog is what triggered that. If it wasn’t for this blog, there’d be no green or yellow books. Therefore, the writing is an extension of this blog; that goes for both the fiction and non-fiction. This blog, the ideas and learning are the umbrella for what I have produced. So my profuse apologies, if you do feel that I have betrayed my green-fingered roots. I have genuinely struggled with whether or not things are so divergent. I like to think of this as configurations, different aspects of me, the blog and everything in between.

It is then only natural to think of the diversification and The Petal’s Potted Preserve Umbrella. There is a lot that goes on here.  The essence of the the blog, a shop front amongst other things, an umbrella of gardening, writing, adventuring, mental health and Psychology.

As for future growth, I have no idea. I give up on making plans!! I am thinking about forward movement, of getting things going. That does in part mean looking back to see who far things have come. I have missed writing about my allotment. Sat here, I have set aside a meaty big bit of Counselling diploma work to write this. I will do it, albeit when my mind feels like it. I do have writing projects, and I am learning how to marry those into things. These are bubbling away on the other hob and will no doubt filter into the blog writing.

So, I have a list of things to write  on here. I’d quite like to share things that I have experienced over the last year, there’s some gardening stuff that I’d like revisit. I have very much a forward looking view, and that makes me hopeful.

Stand by, I guess.

To resume a love affair #gdnbloggers

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To my dearest allotment, my wonderful blog and my alter ego, Petal.

I miss you, I would like to fall in love with you again. Shall we give this another go?

As I come to the end of 2018, I look back at an eventful year. There have been adventures, a level four counselling course and one big massive Bollywood Wedding. The Punam Farmah universe has been going through huge changes.

Oh, and two books too.

So I haven’t been around as much as I could have been My brain has been full, my body stretched and my soul has been spread horribly thin. I think I have also displaced my smile and my purposeful James Bond walk. This has been painful and then some.

Quite simply, I have lost my bounce and my flow.

Two things, that I would like to get back. Two things that the plot, the blog and Petal have always given in abundace.

I should go down the plot. (I hate the word should). Given the storm currently bashing Blighty, I know it will all be a mess. There is no colour, only chaos and this pains me greatly. The once or twice that I have been there, it has felt as though I was feeling devestation. The whole thing looks ravaged and that hurts me.

How could I have let something so beautiful, so well made and cherished slip away?

Last Christmas, I planted chilli seeds. These failed, something didn’t feel right. Perhaps I knew on an intuitive level that this year wasn’t going to my year. That there wouldn’t be enough of me to use the plot.

The allotment, the blog, Petal all make me happy. I have bored so many people senseless with the tales from the alloment. Handed over jars of preserves, and then there is the Petal Plonk. I swear Gardening appears in all the books in one shape or form.

So I need to resume my love affair. Or at least flirt with the idea of having another crack at things. Admittedly, I have said this so many times this year and not acted. I guess the universe didn’t want me to.

Right now, the wind is blowing. There are big fat storm clouds. I am reminded, that big fat rain clouds will burst. Contained within their silver lining is rain, that washes things away. The droplets nourish arid earth and let greenary bloom. The rain might get caught in the sunhsine. Light splits, you get rainbows.

Every grey cloud has a silver lining.

The new year will soon be upon us. The start of another 12 months with a whole lot of potential, a whole lot of growth.

Plus, if I can get up Glastonbury Tor and then down again, I can probably do this.

So, to resume the love affair.

A time to flirt, with the seeds of an idea.

 

And if you wondered about the Big, Bollywood Wedding….

….it wasn’t mine.

 

 

 

Retreating to Peace-revisited #peaceseries

 

 

It’s been nearly nine months since Retreating to Peace was published. It seems at though barely any time has passed since I first opened a notebook and tried to think of who I might write about. Devan Coultrie started life as blue and black ink scrawl and was literally a day-dream as I tried to exercise my imagination. He has a love interest, Aditi Rao, who was also plucked from thin air.

Only this man has a story; why on earth would he want to up sticks and fly half way across the world to start again.

Retreating to Peace is by no means a sad story. It’s a hopeful one; the sort of story that might make you smile. It is also one of many, with nineteen stories written by different authors converging on the fictional town of Peace, Montana.

Nine months on, I am reflective I guess, of how RTP (as I have lovingly christened it) grew from the seeds of an idea to blossom and bloom. I like Devan, he’s the sort of dude you might want as your ‘yeah, all right,’ wing-man. He was also borne out of frustration; there are not many romance books out there who have characters of Indian-ascent. Devan’s dual heritage was something I reflected upon a great deal. With Aditi as his foil, there was a huge opportunity to craft and combine culture when this doesn’t normally happen.

Since then, I’ve gone onto explore that further with Kangana, but only as I was able to nurture Devan and Aditi. These two gave me a great deal of courage to pick up an idea and run with it.

I think Devan is happy in Peace, Montana. He’s made an interesting new start for himself.

I don’t think he’s done, either.

 

 

It’s no good taking my word for it; I mean, I’m hopelessly biased.

reviewsRTP

 

Devan Coultrie was at a loss. His world had been shaken, his heart fractured and emptied by death. In search of a way to heal and shake of the damage, Devan sticks a pin a map with the intention of going wherever it lands. Leaving the shores of the United Kingdom, he ends up Stateside, deep in the heart of Montana. With all of his worldly possessions, Devan drives into Peace and onto a plot to land to start life over.

Like him, the farm and its acreage is downbeat, derelict and defeated. When Aditi Rao arrives in Peace, Devan’s plans for himself and his home are disrupted. He has history with Aditi and she’d quite like to write another chapter. Can he show Aditi that his retreat to Peace is more than just a plot of land and on a different continent? Can he find a way to share his home, his heart and a new beginning?

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Read, review and Share!!!

Retreating to Peace is a Peace Series Novella.

Don’t forget to check out all the other other stories!

 

Peace logo BLACK

 

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Kangana: Light after dark

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A month ago, I was starting to pace up and down.  Book number five was lined up to go live. My fifth book in four years, there was a lot of anticipation hanging in the air. There was fear, anxiety, but also some level of excitement too.

Of all the books, Kangana makes me smile, and I am only just starting to figure out why.

Kagana is my ray of sunshine, rainbow book. A book that signals a change in me, my mind-set and subsequently my writing mojo.

It marks the end of what has felt a jumbled up, chaotic time. A time during which my life has gone through all sorts; there’s been growth, development, sadness, joy, not to mention lots of interesting adventures. The last five years have been wonderfully formative, giving rise to five very different books. Five. I still don’t know how that happened.

Previously, I have noted that writing about gardening was some of a multi-layered metaphor; this blog, has evolved and grown from the seeds of an idea and continues to do. Writing two gardening books, was much about my growth and development as much as it was about my allotment.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I made the leap into writing fiction, writing stories that couldn’t be more removed from roses, mud and raspberries. I remember the moment when; mid morning, tapping my pen-a green biro-against lined paper. I had an idea.

The genesis of Fragments came from grief, bereavement; it is not an easy, soft, all is rosy book. Fragments is a whirling tornado of emotions, humanity, tears and pain. Don’t get me wrong. In the same way that every grey cloud has a silver lining, so does Fragments.

Fragments is  a book about getting up again having fallen down; about dusting yourself off and moving on. It is a book about finding strength, even when don’t think you have any. This is a book that shook me sideways, and at a time when I was feeling broken; this was my way of finding out my depths and layers.

When Fragments went live, I remember feeling wounded. I’d written this book, eighty something thousand words, and it hurt. I had this massive great big hole, as though something had been wrenched out of me. Absolute internal pain, and it throbbed. I remember feeling as though I had been kicked in the stomach.

What the flip was a girl to do?

Well, she waited four weeks and decided to go find the Peace Novella series.

You’ve heard a lot about RTP-that’s Retreating To Peace. I feel bad writing this,  but Devan Coultrie was definitely a band-aid. A sticky plaster to fix into place what ever Fragments had done.

RTP is a romance, yes; a contemporary romance. It’s not fluffy though, Devan and I both had dents. So we both fixed them, together. I rebelled, I wasn’t willingly going to write a fluffy romance. I still couldn’t find it in my soul to do so.  I remember asking my fellow Peace writers to read it, but wincing in anticipation.

I’ve never been so scared to let anyone look at my work. (Team Farmah never get a look in, honest) I sat there, with the handwritten manuscript pressed to my chest. I didn’t want anyone to read my romance novella and then beat me with it. I struggled with the concept that all romance novellas were full of bow-chick-wow-wow that defied the laws of Physics. Full of bodice ripping country squires and doe-eyed damsels.

But I took stock, received positive feedback. I prized the manuscript from my chest, and did a really funny happy dance. The ladies of the Peace Novella series , picked me off the floor to dust me off. I stood up, held my head high.

Then I bit the bloody bullet.

Off went RTP, released into the ether and unto the masses.

There was something very nice, warm and fuzzy about having written RTP. Devan Coultrie was a lovely, faith-restoring band-aid, and I am most certainly not done with him.

The ladies of Peace, were sent to my universe for a reason.

Anyways.

I took the summer off, decided that I was I need of a break. Both Fragments and RTP had changed my head space, and now there was a scope for sunshine after the rain.

Taking a walk to Sarehole mill with my sister, I let the greenery of Middle earth talk to me. That was August. I went home, wrote three thousand words, then put my notebook away. I was not in the mood to do any more writing.

Autumn and winter passed. I got busy, and there were too many things happening for me to be creative. One Saturday, I sat with my soft pastels and decide to make rainbows. Three were created in varying configurations. Rainbows had been very much on my mind, especially with counselling therapy. I even had a set of oil paints and tried to paint one with the EMS as a reference.  In my mind, rainbows demonstrate the power of the universe. Light after dark, hopefulness. The way that light bends with water to give the different wavelengths. It makes great scientific sense, but its wonderfully magic.

Putting aside the pastel creations. I went looking for my notebook. I looked at the three thousand words and knew that one character from Fragments was my next venture.

That character was Gorbind; a bit part character that had a sliver in a chapter. You could literally blink and miss him.  As with Devan Coultrie, Gorbind was borne out of a lack of Indian romance books. This continues to annoy me, so perhaps I can do something about it.

I was writing yet another romance.

Romance.

Kangana was now being forged;  I had a chapter list, a sequence of events and also a playlist.  I had  also more than once visited Birmingham’s Museum and Art gallery, where seeing the Lucifer sculpture and Rosetti’s Porsepine fueled my imagination further.

For the next ten months, my poor parents heard Dr.Zeus’ Kagna-two versions-, Hallelujah-three different versions of that-, Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla, not to mention Cyndi Lauper’s ‘At last’ on loop. This made a huge change from Jolene, two thirds of Adele’s back catalogue and all of Maroon 5’s as used in RTP and Fragments. I do have to say though; for some daft reason, halleleujah has occured for all three fiction books.

Kangana has made me laugh, it has made me smirk. It has also made me think of Gianluigi Buffon in a whole new light.

Why?

Well, most of my main characters have faces as I write them. Gorbind was the esteemed Mr. Buffon. Devan Coultrie, was Aidan turner. In Fragments, Jamie Dornan inspired Christopher and Adelphi. One day, all the rest will have faces. Albert Finney, is Grandad Albie.

Kangana is a lighter book. It does have its dark bits. All rainbows do. Kangana is a book that marks a change; it’s a book that marks a movement forward into a different direction.

No idea what that direction is. There is a stack of writing projects sat on my desk.

Two have been pulled out for development. The one, is labelled Hades. Yes, him of the underworld. The other is identified as Aurelia and involves vampires.

That is all I have for now. I have no further details as my mojo is at rest until Spring. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be planning and gleaning the universe for inspiration in the mean time.

All in all, this means a break from intense hot-housing and slowing down to regenerate. For now, I am going to bask in a rainbow and colour my soul.

Go grab your copies, try to do the same.