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

Walking in the woods at Waddesdon

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Was something of a nice experience. Not too far away from the centre of Aylesbury, this pocket of greenery is a refreshing place to adventure. Especially as the snowdrops were out in force and a reminder that the seasons are changing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many and in the same place. There were a handful of hellebores that I spotted too.

It was however a little early for Daffodil valley to be in full bloom, perhaps next time. The rose garden is also on the list for next time. I had to use my imagination to think about how it might look. My own roses are also asleep still, so there is nothing wrong with being hopeful.

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There was certainly a lot of walking. My sister and I covered most but not all of the wellie walks on the first winter weekend. We’d done the most pragmatic thing and worn our walking boots. Oh, I how resisted splashing in puddles. There were only one or two, but plenty of mud to negotiate.

The walking was done slowly, and lunch was taken in the Stables cafe. The whole thing was done slowly; it was important to let everything sink in, to enjoy being in the middle of nowhere and take stock. I do think, that if we’d thought about it, we might have joined in with the kids orienteering that was signposted.  There;s a wonderful serenity, a tingly peace and quiet in the air, that feels very immersive. Even going to the Aviary feels as though you are stepping into a different universe.

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

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The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

Shades of the Supernatural: Tippling Tales at @GunmakersBrum

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On the 25th February 2019, The Gunmakers Arms, Birmingham plays hosts to an evening  of story telling. With shades of the supernatural, a whole armada of local authors will be sharing their creative works.

Guess who will part of the line up!

*AA Abbott: writer of crime thrillers set in Birmingham

* Ali AElsey: Kings Heath author, singer and songwriter

* Billy Babu: Wolverhampton wordsmith who combines the magic of the east with traditional English fairytales

* Dawn Bolton: author of fantasy, suspense & romantic fiction

* Darren Di Toni: sci-fi, fantasy and horror writer * Philip Ellis: Birmingham style journalist and mesmerising short story writer

* Punam Farmah: gardener turned ghost story writer

* Pat Spence: acclaimed West Midlands writer of women’s fiction, fantasy and horror, and stand-up comedy

* Martin Tracey: proud Brummie, who weaves scenes from the second city into his stories of supernatural suspense

* Dennis Zaslona: thriller, fantasy and ghost story writer

You can get tickets here.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to A.A.Abbott, for having invited me to attend. This is my first, proper, official author event!  I will be reading from Postcards From Peace, which is scheduled for release on the 22nd March.  Postcards From Peace is a series of short stories that follows on from Retreating to Peace: A Peace Series Novella.

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Beyond that one day

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A couple of weeks ago, I was in the supermarket. There was baby stuff event and the merchandising sat next to various bits and pieces for Valentine’s day. I chuckled, there was a wonderfully funny link between the two. The Feast of Saint Valentine, the annual celebration, of all things hearts and flowers; you can’t miss it. There is merchandising as soon as Christmas is over.

There is an immense power in this run up. It can make you feel overjoyed, positively ecstatic if you are well and truly in love. There is the sadness, pain and feelings of being something of a social pariah if you aren’t. There is also being apathetic about it, not having any opinion on it. All of these perfectly valid.

However, there is an onus pick a camp and stay in it.

For years, I have had a dislike of February; a dislike of the fourteenth day, that is slap bang in the middle of month and unavoidable.  It has taken me a long time to understand why I have felt like this, how I might change that way of feeling and also accept how I really feel about what is effectively a massive great big marketing campaign entrenched in socially constructed gender politics.

This may well come across as a rant, and I guess in part it is. It is not, a woe is me, what is wrong with me, sort of diatribe. The latter, is the complete anti-thesis of my perspective.

I’ve grown up with the ideology and cultural values that by the time you’ve gone to school, you graduate, get a job and get married. Getting married, happens to everyone, you then produce kids. The notions of love, romance and relationships are manipulated and there is an expectation of everyone following a very linear, very much pre-determined path. This does mean, that by 25 and 30, you’ve been to a lot of bollywood weddings, heard in the following year that the bride is not expecting and then had eyes made at you, signalling that you are next.

But what if you’re not?

I’ve had those eyes made at me, and it is soul destroying. I’ve even been asked why I can’t find someone, what could possibly be wrong with me? Trust me, I raged for days, took it to therapy and wrestled with introjects that ares so deep-rooted within cultural norms and values, I decided enough was enough.

I’m doing my best to buck a massive trend. I should in theory, be married, have two and half kids, and be settled. I’m not trying to avoid the linear strand of expectations; no, I’m just re-arranging the tracks a little.  I’m trying to do what makes me happy, allows me to nurture my own actualising tendency, and consider my own valuing process.

Valentine is an introject, it has become an normalised part of that linear experience. That’s part of why I’ve found it all uncomfortable.

Just because everyone else is loved up, it’s okay if I’m not. I’m okay with it. I don’t need someone else to complete me, to be my better half. I don’t see why I have to dangle off someone else’s arm, or have someone else dangle off mine, to be perfectly honest. I’ve got to some level of acceptance; I’m okay with being single-don’t assume I’m alone, that’s different-the world will recognise that when it is ready.

Single woman are stigmatised for not being part of a duo; our value diminishes and is only increased when in the company of others. Our individuality, assertiveness and autonomy is considered to be defiance, to be disrespectful and contrary to the norm. As though we need a counter-weight and counterfoil to validate who we are. A single woman is a threat to the status-quo and that just won’t do.

I am enough. I have a lot about me-she types, oh so modestly-in my own right, to help me feel content. No one other person, should be needed an auxiliary or an accessory to contribute to my self concept, self image and self worth.

Yet, apparently, I need a boyfriend/husband to do what I do, to go wherever I go.

Above, you will see two images. The first, is me having a laugh; a plastic sword and an out-sized lid for a pan. One of my colleagues reckons I look a lot like a shield-maiden in that image.  Second. I am in Amsterdam, on something of an adventure and wondering where to adventure next.  The two images, in  my mind at least, sum up how I feel right now.

There has been a lot reflection to get that far.

The number of times I have heard the following, or words to this effect:

  1. You’re here by yourself?
  2. Where is your husband/boyfriend?
  3. Who you going with, you’re not going by yourself are you?
  4. You really should take someone with you.
  5. Oh, I’d never go by myself
  6. You should get your parents to put on your matrimonial list (This was interesting-the time of my birth, my height, my qualifications. whether I was a meat-eater, all factored in, and before I so much as got in touch with the candidate..I mean, suitor. The best response ever….We were looking for a doctor, not a teacher.)
  7. Have you tried online? (Oh, please, that’s weird window shopping and then some…swipe, swipe, swipe….)

I have also be told :

  1. It’ll happen when it is supposed to.
  2. Yeah, but being married/in a relationship, isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
  3. You’re still young!
  4. Oh, I didn’t get married until I was X, Y, Z years  old

I used the word perspective above. I do feel that this is important, given my how I’ve been raised, how I have experience the world and what I am continually learning about myself. Bend it like Beckham, East is East have a lot to flaming well answer for.

The next time, that a relative asks me, why aren’t you married, what is wrong with me, I’m not sure what I might say. I would like to have to the audacity, the bravery, to ask what this means for them, why is my relationship status so important to them? I know, that it is important for them. That in their world, we are all neatly paired up, there are babies and all is well.  For now, I will remain stoic -‘It will happen when it happens; when I find someone, what will be, will be.’ Any other response, would most likely get me labelled and ‘told off.’

The key is, knowing what I want, and how this is different. I can recognise and respect the difference. It is not up to them, how I do things, when and with whomever I might find. I might even cite Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone. Two Bollywood starlets who dared to defy convention.

I do think my animosity towards the feast of Saint Valentines has reduced somewhat. It’s cute, glittery; there are roses everywhere. I can grow my own roses, proper special ones at that, so I will shake my head at the air miles, as how they might not last more than a few days. Mine, last up to weeks, and the joy they elicits lasts longer too.

Thursday will come. I will go to work, come home, do what I do any other day of the week. The love, will be the love I have  myself; a love centred on acceptance of me being me.

Whatever you do, where ever you are and with whomever, have a good one.

Read…never mind the romance

It’s February, so the world and his wife is obsessed with hearts and flowers. With the feast of St.Valentines slap bang in the middle of the month, it’s impossible to move for commercialism.

Most years, I have an Anti-valentines plan. Something, that I can do solo, enjoy and not feel compelled to feel bad for not having a significant other. One year, there was pizza, Pinot Grigio and I think the Brit awards were on….even watched Down with Love.

Last year, I saw a live relay of Twelfth night; by far the best Valentine’s night I have ever had! This year, it is most likely to be book, blankey and junk food. Though a certain streaming service does have an Eric Bana show on that I do rather like the look of; I will watch anything with that man in. (Yet to watch love the beast, and Romulus, My father; both on the list.)

So, books. I will probably be curled up with one about the Medici’s-research, of a sort. Funnily enough, there’s romance, sex and intrigue in that too.

You know, it’s okay not to have a date on Valentine’s day. No one say’s you have to, and enjoying your own company is severely underrated. Plus, the day before and the day after-what I call the heartbreak days-are the one’s where folk’s need understanding the most.

I’ve been thinking, therefore. As cynical as I might be, I’ve written stuff with hearts and flowers in.  Despite its over arching themes of grief, loss and bereavement, Fragments is actually quite hopeful. There is romance in there; Lydia and Matthew, with Albie and Lilly are probably the most standout examples. Retreating to Peace, is a contemporary romance, with Devan Coultrie eventually being loved. Kangana, is a romance with characters of Indian ascent, but not your average Bollywood drama. It deliberately has a rainbow cover, and Arjun’s story is a thread that is really important.

In a few weeks, Retreating to Peace will be joined by it’s follow up. That you will have to keep an eye out for. There will be pre-order stuff, very soon.

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Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

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Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

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I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Postcard from Peace @Peacenovella

In Retreating to Peace, Devan Coultrie moved kit and caboodle to Montana. Before long, he was joined by Aditi Rao. Their history laid the foundations for a rosy future together. Devan now calls Peace home and his life has become eventful.

This collection of short stories sees his family visit, his romance with Aditi develop further and his dreams in Peace blossom.

Devan Coultrie’s life in Peace is a picture postcard with more to it than meets the eye.

So here we have it.

The title and cover for Book six is officially revealed. I knew that Devan Coultrie and I were far from over; there was more to him than meets the eye! It is just over a year since Retreating to Peace was published and I’ve been sitting on this ever since.

This is a series of short stories that builds on what we already know, answer some questions and also fills Devan Coultrie out a little more. There are some new faces in this book, with cameos from folks from the rest of the Peace Novella Series. I couldn’t possibly have written this book without make reference to the rest of the town.

I can confirm that Devan still has his ox-blood Dockers. They are after all, a big part of his being. He now has a job, a sense of purpose and is making Peace his home.

Then there is Aditi Rao.

If you’ve read RTP, you will know what happens as far as she is concerned.

However, hold that thought.

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And another thing.

This aint over…..

Back to the plot #gdnbloggers

Let’s get back to it, let’s get back to the plot. I finally put time aside and I took a walk to the allotment. I had black plastic, I had my secateurs. This didn’t mean I was about to lay waste to everything. No, I was and am taking baby steps back to the allotment plot.

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This may not seem a lot and there may be those who say it’s barely anything. It is a lot to me and it is something. I had did my best to chop down bits and pieces that were sticking up and out. Unfurling plastic, I set it down onto the grass that had been left to weather away before Christmas. Weighing down, I’m slowly surely covering the top half of the allotment. I can then concentrate on clearing the lower half where there are raised beds to be tidied up. This is not going to happen overnight; I want to be able to organise my canvas and go from there. There will be no cultivation til I have some sense of order and some sense of things being organised. I actually ached from doing this; I’d forgotten what that pain felt like and why it feels different to other pain.

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That said, I do want to sow some chillies. I have seeds and pellets now. In the next week or so, I will keep an eye on the weather and see to sowing cayenne and habaneros. I do have a heated prop, so that’s where things will be. Light levels are still low, and heat levels fluctuate daily.  If seedlings do germinate, I daresay they will be the most pampered plants in the house. It’s not easy to sow and grown chillies. I have observed that the hotter the chilli, the harder it is to get the seedcase to crack. Many growers have grow lights, and swear by them. I tend to grow things cold; there’s still something about using grow lights that feels really very intimidating, and not very me.

Beyond that, I will think about tomatoes. It is still too early. I have know tomato plants to keel over if we have a cold snap at Easter.

 

 

 

Retreating to Peace: Happy Birthday! #peaceseries

 

On January 19th 2019 Retreating to Peace is officially one year old. A title from the Peace Novella series, we read about how Devan Coultrie moved to the States with something of a broken heart. What he didn’t bank on was being followed by Aditi Rao, a woman with home he has history.

If you pop along to the petal FB page, you can share your thoughts on RTP and maybe even win a copy of the paper back.