Category Archives: mental health/mindfulness

Bliss at the Brum Botanical Gardens

I spent this morning, having something of  botanical, therapeutic adventure. It’s book release day; I didn’t want to stay inside and sit on my hands. A few days ago, whilst walking through the greenery around Sarehole Mill, I decided to plan a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Despite the fact that I’m a born and bred Brummie, I’ve never actually spent any time there, enjoying it. I remember going to a wedding reception, by the Arid Glasshouse and making a mental note to come back.  It’s taken me  few years, but I made it!

There wasn’t a concrete plan, not really. I had a thermos of tea, some lunch and a pair of walking boots.  A class of kids-Year 2 from a local school-were also wandering around, so I made sure I was well off their radar. Their teachers, have my empathy. Not my school kids, not my trip. I carried on.

As I sit here and type, I’m actually creaking. Who knew, that such a gentle, aimless and ambling walk could have an impact?

Anyway. Using the map from the entrance desk, I did amble and quite aimlessly. Everything is labelled clearly, the information is presented concisely for everything. Better, in my mind, than most museums.  I could spot Camellias-Dad has two in the garden-so I didn’t feel completely clueless. There were daffodils in dots and splodges, all very timely as we kick off with spring.

 

Whilst not a huge site, Birmingham Botanical Garden is best savoured slowly. It didn’t take long for me to take a walk around. So I made the conscious decision to sit, stare and take tea a couple of times. Least of all when three pea hens and a peacock were in the vicinity. Taking that one picture, the peacock more or less posed and looked me in the eye as though I was crazy. Even the pea hens shuffled around as though indifferent. I had hoped that the peacock might shake a tail feather to give everyone a display, but alas no joy. To sit, stare and sip tea was part of the deal for today’s adventure. To be completely immersed in greenery, to take stock and just absorb everything has been crucial this week.

A special mention, goes to Alison Levey, who made me smile today. A couple of days ago, she posted an image of a Magnolia. I happened to read the name as Lionel Messi. Yes, the footballer. I forget now, the proper name of this plant. It struck a cord today, whilst I was adventuring. In walking through the memory garden, I saw a sign in the boughs of a pink Magnolia. I read it as Lionel Messi. In the image above, the white magnolia does cover the pink footballing one in the fore-ground; it genuinely made me giggle and out aloud.

I nearly missed this, but on the way out, I found the Japanese Garden. I’m glad I did too. This is a pocket of serenity, that I might have otherwise missed had the universe not nudged me to head out of one of the glasshouses. This garden is tucked away, and there is just something about it; even the air is different.

Carefully observing, I was wandered in, and there were three red camellias sat in water feature. Whether they were put there, or landed there through serendipity I don’t know. There is a sign, that details how in Buddhism and Shinto, fallen blossoms are a sign of the transience of life. That really did strike me; life is too short, to sit back and not smell the Magnolia. I edged in and I found this one.  A Saucer Magnolia. Something was ringing, and for three seconds I had no idea where the sound was coming from. Then I realised it was the chime sat in the middle, caught by the breeze.

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There was just something about that moment that felt almost ephemeral. I don’t have any other words to describe it.

I’m glad that I went, even if the gardens are half asleep. I want to go back and see the rose garden in full bloom. I do think, that when the whole thing wakes up, it will be even better.

 

Soul revival: Hello, Spring

It’s half through the week off, and I’m pottering around, practising some much needed self care. I say I’m pottering, I’m pacing around til the new book goes live and have a distinct lack of writing mojo. Writing other than the blog, that is.

I find it really hard to wander around aimlessly; generally, I have lists and plans as to what to, when, and will be diligent in doing what I have to. What I need to do, sort of gets jettisoned out of the nearest air lock.

Until this week, that is and I’m making a conscious effort to stop.

Sowing of seeds was definitely on the agenda for this week. I’ve been keeping an eye on the chilli seeds; with two more little green babies fished out of the propagator. These were the recently re-sown batch of Cayennes. I do have a few slow growing habaneros in there, I think. I may well find myself rescuing chilli plant from garden centres at some point, by way of experimenting.  I wasn’t originally going to sow cucumbers, it’s been a while since I have. These are Marketmore, and we shall see if these germinate. I don’t tend to have much luck with home sown, home grown cucumbers. They are however wonderfully delicious to eat and do make a nice raita or a good side salad. I might have a a look at other varieties, with a few crystal lemon ones knocking about.

The first batch of tomatoes have been sown, I say first batch as I will probably end up sowing more. I’ve sown four different varieties. The ever present Roma and Marmande, with a sun-blush orange variety and another, which I think is called Indigo. The latter is a blue/black tomato, so we shall see. Roma and Marmand have proved to be reliable varieties. They are heavy croppers and tend to get used up really quickly.

There is a whole list of other things to sow. I will hanging fire yet, before sowing squashes, for example. These grow quickly and the frost window here in Birmingham doesn’t close til the end of May. I will have a think about Runner Beans and Climbing French Beans, The latter will definitely be used across different dishes.

My plan is to continue pottering for the rest of the working week. The weekend is reserved for the allotment, provided that the weather stays stable.

 

Today and yesterday, I decided to take a walk around Middle Earth. Within walking distance, there is Sarehole Mill. A place, said to be the childhood haunt of J.R.R Tolkien and something of a local heritage treasure.  This morning, I donned my walking boots, took a thermo-mug of tea and off I went. I wanted to do this as slowly and as serenely as I could. Yesterday, I thoroughly enjoyed just ambling along, listening to the birds, being a green space and feeling my heart rate slow down. This was about being, taking time, absorbing the universe and being at peace. I think I might do the same again, and make the most of my down time.

 

Super Sunny Sunday with seeds! #Gdnbloggers

Hold on, this could be a bumper blog. I have lots to share!

Today started off with a seed check in. I was thinking about what seedlings I have, how i might keep rolling with growing season and what I might sow next. It turns out that there were quite a few and at varying stages of development. I would have expected that the chillies would be a further on. However, they have been growing with less light and heat that they might want. The plants have only just been moved to warmer and more light part of the house, so I am hoping that this will go someway to nurturing them a little more. Tomatoes are actually quite fluffy and feathery, and could probably do with being potted on. They are few in number, in comparison to previous years. Last year, there were thirty something plants and we have lots of green tomatoes. Hopefully, these will be enough; but me being me, there will be probably be further plants bought and in a episode of hysteria. Today really was going to be about taking stock, reflecting and remembering to enjoy the allotment.

 

(You can see the youtube version here)

Remembering the allotment, started with a Rhubarb rummage. Okay, so it happened on Mum’s plot, but it was a rather positive experience. Mum inherited quite a bit of rhubarb, and today some of it was harvested.

This looked like fairly heavy duty, industrial strength rhubarb; I am convinced that my hands were zinging with its acidity after I had finished chopping it all up. I am not yet sure as to what I might do with it, and there is a something like eighteen pounds now in the freezer. That could result in a fair bit of crumble, preserves and perhaps a batch of homebrew. That said, there is already some rhubarb wine stashed safely away.

You can also find the youtube video here.

The whole concept of taking stock, also involves reclaiming the plot. This is happening slowly, and I am realising just how much I have missed playing on the plot. This really isn’t going to happen over night. It has, after all, taken me a fair few years to get this far. Again, there are plans. The sort that can be changed, are on a short list and can be done in a manageable way. Having a long list of things to do, just makes it harder to get back into the swing of things. It did help that the sun was shining today! Otherwise, the rather grey and melancholic pathetic fallacy with the weather can rather make it difficult to take a walk down to the plot.

It does look a bit green and leafy yes; there are lots of weeds, patches of grass and patches of bare earth that do rather need to be put to good use. The plot is not exactly a show garden. I wouldn’t want it to be. It is a working document garden; things change and all the time. There are also those amongst us, who might disagree with that I have been doing; if we all had the same opinion, there would be one very stagnant status quo, and no room for innovation.  There is potential for movement and forwards. It might not be immediate or quick, but it will  happen.

I can genuinely say, that I have felt that bit happier and less frazzled in taking stock today and also getting my hands dirty. I have a timely reminder of self care, and how it is important to look after yourself and every part of you. Lately, I have spent alot of time cooped up indoors typing, concentrating on two different school work fronts and not really made-yes, made-the time to play on the plot. Simply going to harvest rhubarb, to take this video has been something of a very bright, very apt reminder that it was time. Even seed sowing took on a therapeutic role today. I felt altogether rejuvenated really, and I haven’t felt like that for a long time. See, Sunday has been school work Sunday and for three quarters of a decade. That had to pause today. I had my work set out, ready and everything; there was even a post it list. Only the plot was what the psyche needed today, it was what the actualizing tendency and organismic self needed.

Person centred theory makes a lot of sense when it comes to the my allotment plot. Go read about Carl Rogers and his potatoes.

His were in a basement, mine happen to be under dirt.

The youtube version  of the video can be found here.

As well as taking stock and reflecting,  lots of seed sowing has been happening today:

The first session involved sowing sweetcorn and some further scarlet emperor. I have previously sown a handful of runner beans as well as some climbing french beans. However, a few of these have rotted away in the modules in being too wet and cold. I always find it a little tricky to get the balance right when it comes to how to much water to use. There are a few survivors though, and for these I am thankful.

(Video on you tube is here)

The second session of seed sowing involved sunflowers and marketmore cucumbers. It has been a while since I have last sown and experimented with cucumbers. So why not have another bash! For now, the polytunnel is out of action, but I would rather have the cucumbers outside anyway. Sunflowers are rather dear to me; again, I haven’t sown them in a while and the last time that I did they all rather keeled over in the cold. The ones sown this year are a single giant variety. In the past, these have been over six foot tall and have a mass of triffid like flower heads. It does feel a little late to be sowing them, but it does all feel like a good chance to do so.

(Video on youtube is here)

Having harvested  fair bit of rhubarb, I then thought about double checking the home brew from last year. Last year, there was a lot of homebrew experimentation and lots of learning experiences had. Most of the experiments have been put into bottles, but there are three demijohns waiting in the wings.  There is the rhubarb, strawberry and currant wine, as well as blackberry wine which is rather recent actually; as well as apple wine, this is taking it’s time clarifying. On the shelf though, we have strawberry wine. This was the first experiment that was ever done; and it does rather taste of cheesecake. Second, there is Blackberry, plum and currant, which is just as claret coloured as the blackberry wine. Thirdly, there is is Rhubarb, currant and gooseberry.  Not quite sure what will happen to them all, and how! I  might have to take stock and see if there are good homes for it all.

 

In other news. Good news; I made a list!

Not the sort that I would be checking twice, but that made by someone else. The lovely people at Waltons have very kindly placed me on their list of adventurous blogs!

You can find the list at https://www.waltons.co.uk/blog/9-more-adventurous-allotment-blogs. It would appear that I am in very good company with a few fellow #gdnbloggers.

It did make me smile, that the blog is more adventurous!   I guess that echoes one of many reasons that the blog exists and also how far it might reach and into the world.

I guess I should continue and with the whole adventurous allotmenteering! If that isn’t a bit of encouragement, I don’t know what is.

 

Magic Squares and Chillies #gdnbloggers

The chillies have had something of a spurt; with the low light levels and lack of direct heat, they have become leggy. When leggy, seedlings stretch towards a source of heat and light, stretching upwards and being at risk of keeling over. This can be quite disheartening when you really want seedlings to grow.

Of the forty something seeds grown-scotch bonnet yellow, purple haze, cayenne, jalapeno and purple haze-we have approximately 15 seedlings that are some wiry, tall and gangly. I would rather they didn’t keel over. so I have decided to pot them up today. Using multi-purpose compost and some 7cm pots, chillies are being made a little more comfortable.

 

You can also find the video here

For me, this is the first transplanting. There may be another pot change, before they end up in their final pots in a at least three months time-ish. After that, any surviving plants will live-hopefully-in the poly tunnel. As you can imagine, this is something of a lengthy process, and we are only at the very start of the growing season.

Currently. the weather-in Britain, at least-is fairly hit and miss; it is cold outside. I, like many other Britons, scraped frost off the car windscreen this morning. This directly impacts upon all the tiny, dainty seedlings that might have already taken up space upon the window sill. I am keeping my chilli seedling away from the window pane. They will still get light, they-hopefully-will have some protection against the drop in night time temperatures.

With the heated prop empty, I have sown an emergency batch of about a dozen cayennes; it all felt a little thin on the ground. I shall monitor these over the next week to see what happens with them

So, seeds have been sown, they have germinated and grown. I like that feeling of new beginnings, as we look forward to the new growing season. I have written before, that allotmenteering and GYO both impact upon mental health; for me, that is really important. Least of all, because I teach about it, I am a trained listener and currently enrolled on a Diploma for Humanistic Counselling; the plot has a profound effect on me, my wholeness and the way I view the world. It all helps me to obtain mindfulness and improves my mental health.

You may have seen that I rather like colouring. I also knit.

Couldn’t be more different from gardening, could it?

For the last year, a knitting project has been on pause.

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With the chillies adjusting to their new pots, I quite fancy a couple of hours revisiting knit one, purl one.

 

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