Category Archives: Taking stock

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

redwellingtons

 

And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

plot2018

Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.

Let’s start again #gdnbloggers

shakespeare
shakespeare 2000

 

I think my allotment and I are broken, and I’d quite like to fix both.

I couldn’t tell you the last time that I took a walk down and did something. So much so, that my soul feels a bit less colourful and very much frayed at the edges. As I countdown to the end of February, I am feeling this quite a bit.  Over the last eight weeks, thoughts of the allotment have been shadows at the back of my mind. The allotment has been a spectre, hanging in my awareness as something that I need to make a return to; something that has been a big part of me, who I am and what I do over the last five years.

It is a sorry confession, but the relationship between my allotment and I has lapsed some what. We have become estranged, as life makes demands on the time we spend with each other.

2018, wasn’t a good year for the plot and I. It was a very busy year, as I managed working, training and writing. Writing was a big focus, and I spent less time outside. I spent a lot of time inside, writing and displacing the allotment. There were a lot of plates spinning with lots of different demands. Working part time and being a trainee counsellor has proven to be a challenging combination. I enjoy doing both, but have forgotten to look after myself in the process. In January last year, my poly tunnel was damaged by winter storms and it was basically downhill from there. My life became a tempest of tornadoes, and the plot didn’t get the attention it deserved and needed.

January this year offered a new start and the potential to get things going. I still have a busy life; my week is jam packed with my weekends being the windows for R&R. The windows are not big, so I do need to make the most of them, use them effectively. What I need to do, is to remember how the plot is and was a big part of that R&R. Getting my hands dirty, the exercise and the impact of it all on mental health, feels like a distant memory. A memory that as mentioned before, is a shadow.

Only the shadow is morphing. It is morphing into a fuzzy-faced gremlin. A gremlin that is poking me to take a walk down to the plot.

I need to make the time, the space, to go back to the plot.  I am tired of chaos, tired of things going up, down and pear-shaped. Tired of not being able to pause and colour my soul.  I need to reconnect with my plot, remember why I enjoy it and how it is has helped me the woman that I am. It’s funny,  but the growth and nurturing aspects of having an allotment have actually been a big part of personal therapy.

So I have come to some conclusions.

There are no plans to publish any writing. I am still writing, but I am not pushing to be in print this year. I need to step away from the kitchen table, and use it only for writing coursework. Coursework still needs to be done, with training not due to finish before the Autumn. Writing is officially on a slow-burning back hob.

Don’t worry about produce and preserves. Tidy up, create a blank slate. The plot has evolved over the years and at 200sqm, it is massive. Start again. Get the infrastructure, raised beds and things cleared. Cover the fallow area. Go back to basics.

Don’t rush. Take your time. I have come too far, the plot has come too far to be abandoned. It would break my heart to walk away from that patch of land, and I have thought about it. I have thought about it a lot over the last few weeks. (Okay, there’s a running joke that if I ever got married, it would end. Even that fills me with dread.) It might not look like it, but I have nurtured that plot and the plot has in turn nurtured me. This is not a relationship that I wish to end. It is not done yet.

Not all seeds need to be sown, you’ll get there. I had sown chilli seeds. There were three seedlings, and now I only have one. I did plan to sow some tomatoes at some point. Something is telling me to hold off.

Something is telling me to go back to the beginning.

Let people talk. Let them look at me and the plot, tut and shake their heads as the plot looks a bit forlorn. Yeah, it peeves me off and makes me feel about three inches high. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that was a Empire that had welly despite the harbingers. I remember the flowers, the fruit and the sheer joy that the plot has given me. I’ll get there again, and in spite of the pity, the huffs and the puffs.

I started GYO and allotmenteering as life was going wonky. The here and now is a similar wonky. So a return to the early days, is somewhat logical.

This is not going to be easy. I have an idea as to how physically demanding it will be. There will have to be time made-with the laws of physics-at the weekends. I am isolating weekends, with not all of Sunday being School-work Sunday. I do feel that it is possible and realise that there might be challenges.

The deal is this.

Let’s start again.

 

My two pence #Timetotalk

Imagine.

You’ve not slept well; you’ve tossed and turned, the alarm goes off but you smack it very quickly. You get up, think about breakfast and the day you have ahead. The lessons are planned, you’ve taken your time doing so. You can do your job, you’ve been doing it ages, and you’re not that bad at it.

Only there is as spikey knot forming in your gut, your heart is racing and you’ve been walking around like Quasimodo as your body’s stress response gnarls at your back and shoulders. Sometimes it hurts to breath, but you are stubborn and soldier on. You want to eat, you have to eat; yet your appetite has disappared, and nothing quite hits the spot.

You feel sick, anxious and things just keep coming. It takes a supreme effort to take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, to get out the door and onto the road. No idea how you will get through the day, but lots of tea will help.

All the time, you think about this being done, that being done; not wanting to ask for help, not knowing who to ask, and things aren’t just grey, but black, brown and swirly. There are very few rays of sunshine, fleeting ones at that. When you get sunshine, you hold onto it, prize every single drop.

I now know when my smile begins to fade, I can recognise the quasimodo contortion that comes from tense muscles and being unable to breath as it hurts. I know the difference between my sloping walk and my purposeful James Bond swagger.  I have slowly but surely, figured out my stress response and how anxiety can impact upon me. I refuse to let it all hold me down. There are rainbows to chase.

My allotment has helped, as has writing. Then there is the whole trained listener and trainee counselor thing too. Jigsaw pieces that over time, have started to fall together and helped me better understand my own mental health and that of others. There is just something about standing on the plot, drinking a cuppa as I smell the roses. The allotment has nurtured me, as much as I have nurtured it. I write, as it is a creative outlet; there is therapy too, to sit alongside all of this. It takes time, all of it, but I have found support, found the things that give my life colour to reduce strands of grey.

The statistic, is that one in four of us, will experience some form of poor mental health. There are further numbers about the difference in male and female health. These aren’t just numbers, these are frightening numbers.

Then there the social and cultural stigma. In some communities, the South Asian community being one of the, mental health is a taboo, swept under the carpet and talked about in hushed tones. This rather annoys me, angers me, that Mental health is not supported in a similar vein to physical health. Annoys me, that we have such negative, perjorative attitudes with blaming and shaming. It angers me, that there is a veil of both silence and ignorance.

Time to talk is making an effort to help turn this tide, there is also Head together. There needs to be further action, an increased awareness of Mental Health concerns. This is not a one-da job, this is going to take time. What we need is an impetus, a movement, of people talking, supporting one another and coming together with a common aim.

Mental health is difficult to put into a box, we all experiene it differently. It’s not easy to talk about, and makes people uncomfortable.

For futher information on the campaign.

 

Forays into Fiction

In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.

allthreebooks

That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.

There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.

Then there is the idea of why write?

Well, why not?

There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.

 

fragments

In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in  many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’  that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.

With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.

Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me.  Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.

Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.

Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.

Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.

Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.

I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series.  This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.

Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?

There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.

First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.

Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.

Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.

Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?

 

A time for reflection and renewal

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised that there has not been much by way of gardening go on. A bit ironic, I guess, when that is a primary function of the blog, the brand and all things Petal.

The last year has been different, compared to previous years. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have found it challenging to shoe horn lots and lots of things in to real life. There have been peaks and there have been troughs; sometimes, that is what you need. There have been many times where there has simply not been enough of me to go around,

I miss the allotment.

At this moment in time, I dread to think what state it is in, A major overhaul is needed, and this is something that I feel very keenly and it is very much part of my process. I have paid the rent of the coming year, and a potato order has been placed. What I need to do, is to go there and see what I can make a re-start on.

This does feel overwhelming; the plot is 200 square metres and over run with weeds and all sorts. There is disrepair, the poly tunnel is still in pieces.  I am loathe to see the tuts and shakes of the heads that might happen from other plot holders. I’ve never aimed for gold standard, I’ve always aimed for what makes me happy, and that is what I need to remember. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day; the allotment wasn’t developed in a day. It’s going to take more than a day to strip things back, and have a relatively blank canvas to work upon.

Over the last few weeks, I have had chillies on  my mind. More specifically, having compost to germinate seeds in during the Christmas holidays. Christmas isn’t that far away, and sowing chillies in the depths of winter is not as odd as it sounds.

There are no plans to give up the allotment. No plans to walk away. There are plans to reclaim it; to take walk down there with a cup of tea and just take a look. Assess, where I can go from here and how I can return to the passed glories if you like, of the allotment.

2018 promises to be an interesting year on all fronts. This means that I will need the allotment as my space even more. I have certainly missed it over the last year and have felt the impact of not being there.

There has been a physical and mental impact and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There truly is something about having fresh dirt beneath your fingernails. An important aspect of being a trainee counsellor and indeed part of the BACP ethical framework is self care. For years, my self care was the allotment. This has somewhat lapsed, so I am doubly minded to get things going again.

 

There is the allotment, knitting, colouring, preserving and pottering; all of the things that I once used and have lapsed with I would like to resume. There is also writing too. At the moment, I am looking at Petal’s cookbook. Looking at Petal’s cookbook is really important, as it’s all plot orientated and will help get things going again. Nurturing the book and nurturing the plot do feel as though they go hand in hand.  Talking of hands, I get to see which nail varnish is allotment proof.

I do need to re-vamp my seed collection; a major cull and over haul is needed. Some of my seeds have been knocking around since I first started and are no longer viable. Raised beds need looking at, and I want to look at putting raised beds across the whole plot. I know for a fact, that cultivating things there in open ground really doesn’t.

At this stage, this does all seem overwhelming. The arrival of autumn, the dark depths of winter will do that you, will do that to anyone. I will be taking a walk soon, and reclaiming the plot.

 

 

Next writing project

petalscover.jpg

 

At the start of this year, I had a list. A list of books to write. This list got re-arranged and the Peace Novella Series bloomed and blossomed to take shape.  That project is very near a final completion; my novella is now on pre-order and will come to fruition mid-January.

This means that I can now resume ruminating on my to-do list. I have spent the last two weeks looking at notebooks and folders, trying to conjure up things. It is painful, when you sit there for forty minutes looking at your handwriting and you can’t see a single solitary thing in your minds eye.

What is the use, if you just can’t? What if in that particular set of pages, that universe isn’t materialising?

There is no point in defying the laws of physics and trying to make something out of nothing. Especially, when I already have something that is started.

Eleven months ago, I stashed away the idea of writing another gardening/cookbook. It didn’t feel right, there was nothing in the tank.  I couldn’t settle on what to do and how; I wasn’t sure as to what I could offer and whether it was of any use.

Then I drove to work this morning.

I had Maroon5’s Red Pill Blues on shuffle.

I remembered this folder, this idea.

Coming home, I had to go find it, and flick through. I felt zinging, I was trying to smile. There was half a plan all those months ago.

Time to let it roll.

Season’s end: A reflective review #gdnbloggers

2017 started with chaos and carnage. My poly tunnel fell victim to unseasonably strong gusts and was rendered kaput. Still hasn’t been fixed.

In real life, I was one third of the way through the first year of a level four counselling diploma, there had been a family bereavement and this combined with a self imposed writing/publishing deadline and increased hours at work.

There were a lot of variables that all combined and made going to the allotment more challenging. This has not felt like a productive year; this has felt like a duff year, with nothing quite coming off as it should.

I did sow seeds, these became seedlings and I split them all with my mum for her plot. It all however felt very cumbersome, as though the universe and I were embroiled in some kind of psychological and physiological tug of war that defied the laws of physics to make time turn to grains of sand.

There simply wasn’t enough time or me to go around. I was focusing on the diploma and it’s process of transformation-still going, now in the second year-writing was and in there someplace, there are projects in the pipeline, some more immediate than others, I have decided not load my writing plate. Then there is the real job, the teaching job that I do three days a week; this ebbs, flows and keeps me going in a straight line.

What I have missed, what my brain and body have needed but not had, is the allotment. And Zumba, but this is another story.

Somewhere in there, is my allotment. My little piece of England, my eden, my demi paradise.

It doesn’t look so pretty, now does it?

If you’d been neglected, unloved and not had your potential actualised, I daresay that is what you might look like.

Over the summer, I did get asked, ‘Punam, what you doing, do you want me strimmer?’

As you might remember, I spent summer doing nothing. I was feeling very spent, as though my figurative lego bricks had been smashed to smithereens and I was trying to put myself back together again. I am still trying to do that!

tngbridge

I am trying to resume course in the Captain’s chair to be in charge of my own figurative starship.

This includes the allotment.

At the moment, it looks awful; completely and utter derelict, it’s not in the best shape. I guess that reflects me, and the experience that I have had over the last nine months.

I haven’t been listening to myself as much as I should have, and this summer was about resting and taking the best care of myself that I could. My actualising tendency had been battered, bruised and broken in some part. The allotment is choking with bindweed, the raised beds need tidying up and the whole allotment needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

A lot like me, I guess.

The allotment is sizeable, 200 sq metres. It’s got its own micro-cosm, does what it wants, prefers to be negotiated with rather than told what it should do; it has a thing about experimenting, trying it’s best and doing what it can do, rather than what it can’t. It would rather have a go, learn it’s lessons and move on to do what makes it happy.

Remind you of anyone?

As the seasons change, and autumn arrives, my thoughts are still about rest, rejuvenation, about taking stock. In the autumn and winter, we have the natural cycle of things bearing fruit to then reaching the natural end. The allotment may not have done much this year, but it is now time for it to rest and recuperate. I have lots of tidying to do, and with foliage dying back, perhaps that will be easier to do.

That 200 sq metres does look intimidating. I do feel an overwhelming urge of ‘how the flip do I tidy you up, where am I meant to start, and do I have enough hours for you?’

I’m not giving it up, that’s for sure. I have no plans to walk about from this allotment plot. What I need to do, reconfigure things. Take one corner at a time, do one job at a time.

There is no rush.

Well, there might be, when the allotment secretary sends me a warning. He’s been pretty nice about it so far, given how there was some productivity.

There won’t be any breakage of the laws of physics; that never helped anyone, not Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek Captains or Buffy and Angel.

We’ll get there.

Hopefully.

 

Pudding prep

 

There is quite a stash of fruit in the freezer, waiting to be used up. For the most part, I plan to jam or jelly. However, over the last few weeks I have been harvesting raspberries every other day and stowing them away. The plan had been to be jam them. However, when it was announced that work would be hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, and that colleagues were invited to bake, I thought about what I might do to support the event. I was racking my brain for a while. It is not usual for me to experiment, make a bake and inflict in on my colleagues.

There have been crumbles and cakes made using allotment produce that have shared in the work kitchen. Depending on what it is, the bake doesn’t last long. The quickest to go and recently was a bakewell containing some home made jam. I remember putting it down, and coming back one hour later.

A handful of crumbs was all that was left behind. I have never seen a pudding move so fast, and stood there a little perplexed as to how and why.

I quite enjoy baking, I find it quite therapeutic; in most cases, I make a bake for home, and a second is taken to work. That doesn’t mean I’m a proper baker, I enjoy making mistakes and things, rather than showstoppers.

So with Macmillan Coffee morning 2017, it seemed quite straight forward to volunteer something. I just couldn’t think of what I might make.

Only, for youngest sister to look at me, and say cheesecake. “Make that cheesecake,” she said, “The baked one, you’ve not made on in a while. That was nice.”

If in doubt, ask your sister.

I haven’t made the baked cheesecake in a while, no, and it was nice. I think I have made a couple previously; one was with blueberries, another with strawberries, all the fruit was from the shop.

Now I have my own fruit; blueberries have come and gone, strawberries are not my thing, those raspberries have now got an opportunity to actualise their potential. They are going into Ms.Farmah’s baked raspberry cheesecake. I just need to find some white chocolate to go with it.

There is another reason why I wanted to support the event. Regular readers will be aware that two years ago, as a family we experienced the loss of my Maternal grandfather. Without the support of palliative care staff, his final days may have been even more difficult. Plus. he rather liked my allotment, and one of my fondest memories is Nana visiting. He would then ask what I had growing and what I planned to do with it all. So when I said my last goodbyes to him, I may have sent him off with a packet of sunflower and cabbage seeds. it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

So this year’s raspberries are not just raspberries. I have just harvested what might be the last batch to freeze.

Here’s to pudding.

 

Eight years on #gdnbloggers

petalcoastercard

Eight years ago, I was coming to the end of my initial teacher training; the PGCE was over and I was looking to the future. I had also started to do an experiment.

During that final summer time, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive. I had no idea whether I would make it through the course, my morale was very low and I wondered whether the vocation that I felt was just a whisper on the wind that I had misunderstood. For some daft reason, I threw aside the applications for NQT posts having been sat in the garden trying to fill them in in the sunshine. I took the bus to the High street, went into Wilko’s and came out with seeds and pots.

I really fancied sowing those seeds, and how difficult could it be to sow a tomato, a chilli and why not throw a runner bean into a pot. See what happens. A few weeks later, I was in a gardening store, and I saw a crate of onion and shallot sets. There were far too many for me, so I sunk some into the garden-my parent’s garden-and gave away the rest to a neighbour.

Watching seedlings come through-the summer of 2009 was freakishly warm-and then having chillies and tomatoes growing lusciously and then cropping, was something of a marvel to behold.

As the summer drew to end, my sweet peppers were damp but productive; something had clicked, changed; I found that I rather enjoyed sowing seeds, watching them grow, and you know, those four courgettes a week did come rather handy in Mum’s kitchen. I thought about expanding the science experiment-that is in essence what it was-and to be fair, Dad was thought there were a lot of plastics pots lining his garden.

I knew that there were allotments in the area, the neighbour who I had palmed off onions too, he told me about them. Off I went to a search engine to investigate.

What he didn’t tell me, and it was only after I called the allotment secretary as listed on the local authority information, that I found that the onion neighbour were the one and the same. I know, daftness. I put my name on the list, I wanted an allotment.

 

 

I had already been documenting my seeds sowing; by writing things down, I used another website. Horticultural Hobbit was born, there was a growing-literally-body of work. I even asked a good friend of mine, to give the name a face, give the name a face. He took one look at me, and came up with the figure holding carrots. The figure that we now know as Petal. I was adamant. that this would be my alter ego, that the allotment in the shadow of the Shire Country park and Sarehole mill would be a good record of my growing adventures.

By November, I was renting half an allotment plot. This was now about allotment adventures.  It took two weeks to clear it, and to get cracking. There was half a plan-sketched out-as to what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve. This was going to be anything but easy.

Put quite simply, I didn’t have a clue. What I was doing, how I planned to do it, was a bit of a haze. What I did next was to join an online forum, I had questions needed answers. This was by far one the best things I could have ever done. To have joined a community of like minded people, from whom I could learn,  use as a sounding board and also pass on the benefits of my mistakes.

What followed was growth, development and further scientific enquiry.

Growth. Development and a journey. A journey, that is on going and to this day.

There have been peaks and there have been troughs. That’s a lot of tomatoes, more courgettes that you can shake a stick at. There have been weeds galore-current, state of play, by the way-and storm damage, sometimes not enough time in the life space continuum; everything has ebbed and flowed.

 

 

It is impossible for me sum up in this post every triumph and disaster, every seed sown and harvest made. Plus you can find it all in the archives. All in all, a journey is documented and is shared.

Sowing seeds and then writing about it has had benefits that I could not have possibly for seen. I remain a teacher, although my jobs have varied since that summer of 2009. There have been a few posts, where I have been able to use gardening to support students; at one point, I grew chillies in a classroom. The plan is to continue with the vocation.  I have become a trained listener, started to train as a counsellor, as the impact of gardening on my own mental health has encouraged me to consider how the mental health of others could be supported. In particular, work carried out with veterans, mental health and gardening really struck a cord and led to the development of the Pledge for Warriors.

Then there was the writing outside of the blog. I was able to write guest blogs with the support of Michael Perry and this tipped something of a balance.  I felt that this was really positive step forward and helped to move within the blogging and gardening community. Plus, there was the whole ‘bollywood gardener’ hashtag, I couldn’t tell you how that came about, but I am grateful for Michael coining it and I am keeping it! Plus, I remember swooning and almost keeling over when termed as being gardening royalty…that is a dream that I will continue to keep a hold of as motivation to persevere.

I am still trying to be a part of that community, but what this did was edge me towards writing a book. I looked at the guest blogs that I had written, and had a gut reaction. Two years ago, in something of a haze I sent my youngest sister a text message; I was going to write a gardening book based upon the blog.

“Okay, good luck,” she said. “Do what you want.”

I did.

There was definitely a haze, and I did write that book. I wrote two. Now, they might not be Pulitzers, and you won’t find them on The Times 100 Best seller lists any time soon. But they are my books, and I am very glad to have written them both. They are not perfect, I don’t pretend to be perfect in anyway; I have however, learned from the processes and there is further development, dare I say it, growth. Writing the two gardening books led me to the Indie authors community and has set me onto another, additional pathway. A pathway towards fiction, towards writing in another direction.  I wrote ‘Fragment’s and that couldn’t have been more different to Plant pot tales and so grow eat. This writing journey continues, and there is a release scheduled Spring 2018. As for a return to gardening books, maybe; there are plans.

allrangetwo

Then there was the swag, the merchandise that the figure holding carrots-Petal-was emblazoned upon. Petal, who gave her name to Petal’s Potted Preserve, and was far more than the Orticultural Obbit; far more than just my alter ego. There have been lots of bits and pieces-through trial and error-that have been developed, shared and have actually gone to loving homes. A good sign, I guess, of how much this blog, the process of gardening and growth has changed as there is now also a Petal shop.

Petal is something that I believe in, that I enjoy developing. She is a brand. A brand that is diverse, growing and hoping to get bigger, better and stronger. There are many different facets to Petal, the Orticultural Obbit and her Potted Preserve. To date, I have have uncovered just a few. The plan remains to keep searching, to keep growing and developing.

It truly has been an interesting eight years.

 

Summer of 2017: Pause in Play #gdnbloggers

As I sit here, I have Adele singing ‘set fire to the rain’ on loop in my ear phones. This is the summer  of 2017, and I am having a rest.  I’m not very good at having a rest; school and counselling training form a big chunk of my life, then there is the allotment, writing and occasionally I go on adventures. So when school ended about two weeks ago, I took the conscious decision to not fill my diary.  This is time for a full stop.

From August 2016 until now, there has been a lot going on. Work has been busy, there have been lots of students; I have spent my working days, prepping, marking, teaching; doing my day job to the best of my ability. Alongside that, I have also been at night school and undertaking a two-year level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic counselling.  That’s two fairly big plates and spinning all the time.  I had forgotten just how demanding a degree-level course was, and it has been ten years since I got my Psychology degree from Aston University. Training to be a counsellor and a being a  Psychology teacher are at two different ends of a spectrum

Anyway. The first year of the diploma ended in July, but school continued for a bit. When it did, I wasn’t going to go around spinning plates this summer.  I was and am, going to try and have some down time.

Whilst the plot hasn’t had the best year, it has had some therapeutic value over the summer.

For example, the growing stash of homebrew. I didn’t think that I would do much homebrewing or any other preserving for that matter. Only for blackberries to catch me by surprise and appear abundantly on the allotment. I have made blackberry wine before, I made some last year and added plums and currants. This year’s experiment is purely blackberries with some cinnamon and star anise thrown in.  I had been given some plums by a plot neighbour, and only today the must made from them has been transferred into a demi-john.

I have seen lots of fellow allotmenteers start to worry about blight warnings. This can be awfully demoralising, and when you have been working hard to maintain a crop, it’s awful to see it decimated. There are less than half a dozen plants on my plot, but I have harvested lots of green of tomatoes. I think that we currently have all of one red marmande tomato! I wasn’t too convinced by the crop of Roma tomatoes. I do believe however, that there was just something not right about this year’s growing season, least f all because of my own reduced productivity.  The tomatoes that have  been harvested have been used alongside apples and fenugreek to make a green tomato chutney.  There has been less playing with the preserving pan, and to return to that was actually really nice. I have yet to make jam, though Mama F and her sister did borrow my kit to make some blackberry jam. Making Jams, jellies and chutneys is actually really nice; it is a form of mindfulness, I guess, but more on that later! The batch of chutney now needs some time to mature and mellow; hopefully, it will find loving homes.

A bit delayed, but better than never; we  have glads! Appearing a lot like Roman candles, they have burst into bloom all over the plot in a riot of colour.  I don’t dig them out, and let them be. May be, once I have cleared the plot, I might consider sinking some more next year. It never ceases to amaze me, how colourful or abundant they are. They also attract  a lot of fuzzy bottomed bumbles, so having them on the plot for them is doubly useful.

All that any would be suitor needs to worry about, is investing in Diamonds; I can grow my own beautiful flowers, and petrol station flowers are never crossing my palms.  So may be just by my bulbs and things, that would work yes? You’ll have do your own weeding, mind.

 

I started off, saying that I was having a rest; that there were no adventures planned. In some part, that is true. I am very fortunate to be within a stone’s throw of Sarehole Mill. Something of a landmark and a beauty spot, the mill is said to have inspired J.R.R.Tolkien. Whilst I am not a real hobbit-the last that I checked-taking a walk down to the mill was something of an adventure. I’m glad that I did, that I wandered around by the Mill Pool-the mill still works-and even sat in the tearoom with a cuppa and tea cake. There was something magnetic about the place, and no wonder that Tolkien was inspired by it.

I had taken my notebook with me, thinking that I might sit there and write. I ended up taking pictures so that I could write about it later; I could imagine a protagonist stood musing his existence whilst looking at the mill pool. I made a note on the ‘to write’ list, and have plans to write when my brain feels like it. You can’t see it very well in the photo sadly, but there is actually a veggie patch outside mill. I remember seeing raspberry canes and rhubarb; there is all an apple espalier that overhangs a door. I’m not the only would be ‘obbit, that likes gardening.

Having a rest, will hopefully give both my brain and my soul a rest. There are no concrete plans per se as to what I shall do over the summer.

I have re-discovered my colouring books, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this. I must have sat there for hours, with my pencils, fineliners and fibre tips just not thinking, but just colouring. I cannot describe the sensation, but it does feel as though you are floating away as you feel your attention span loosen out and become aware of your breathing, your heart rate;  all occurs whilst your mind empties.

As a well as colouring, there are books to write and to read.

In terms of writing, there are three, no wait, four separate notebooks/folders waiting to be looked at. But no mojo. Whilst colouring completely empties the mind, writing requires that it is full and with all sorts; for me, the day dreams have to be in full techi-colour and able to flow through my inky pens. It is only when my pens have a mind of their own, that I am able to write, commit things to paper. I don’t type and write. I write it all out in notebooks, it feels a more soulful in analogue rather than doing it via digital.

Having nothing to write, makes trying to rest a little difficult. You, I know that I, feel as though I should be doing something. Trouble is, the impetus, the drive is not there. Waiting for it to come back, the ideas to come back, is a trifle disarming. It is also unpredictable, and I have no idea when it will come back. I don’t want to call this a ‘writer’s block’, not in the least. There is no congestion-as it were-no back up, that needs a wiggle, or a flick to let it pour. Just no material to set a spark to, that oxygen might then fuel.

I can’t write anything at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. In the last two years, I have written three books, and have another scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Whatever happens next, is the next phase, the next chapter; what will be, will be. I don’t want to force it; I am great believer in things-creative things-happening organically, spontaneously, to make your soul zing and may even a smile appearing on your face. I am going to sit on those four books, and let them appear when they are ready. Trust, me, when they turn up, make themselves known, I will tell you.

I’m not writing anything, so I will read. I am currently two thirds of the way through the Malbry Cycle by Joanne Harris.  Alongside that, I have the Hannibal Quadrology, written by another Harris.  I have only made a small dent in ‘Red Dragon’. Now both of the Harrises have written anthems for my doomed youth. I read ‘Blackberry Wine’ and three out of the four Hannibal novels during my A-levels. At 33, I am having a literary renaissance by making my way through Ms.Harris’s back catalogue and taking on Hannibal once again. Then I have lots of other random stuff-George Eliot, Virgina Woolf, Gustave Flaubert and lots and lots of historical fiction-on the ereader to also look at. There is no shortage of works to read.

I need to read, I want to read; as with colouring, with gardening, it’s time to submerge my soul into what makes it zing.

waltonscarecrow

Last but not least, my thanks to waltons! They very kindly sent my Spike and Drusilla the scarecrows.  There was never any doubt in my mind as to what they would be named.

Right, colouring, reading, watching Bones, Angel, Buffy or Star trek….all options on doing nothing…..