Tag Archives: 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.

 

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.

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…..

 

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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Trussing up tomatoes and furtling for carrots #gdnbloggers

Eau De tomato. There is nothing quite like it. The spiced warm scent that nearly all tomatoes provide if you so much as touch their foliage. Then there is that yellow pollen that lingers on your fingers tips; staining them as though you’d smoked one too many.

 

Was a bit warm today, weren’t it, and tomorrow things gets warmer still.

I hid for most of today, doing school work and then watching ‘Henry VI part one’-Didn’t particularly rock my world that play-as it was rather warm. Once it had cooled down a little at tea time, I took to the plot with pair of scissors and some wool. I wanted to sort out the triffid like tomatoes that over the last few weeks have become wonderfully luscious and sending out cascades of yellow flowers.

My thoughts were that as the weather had been so erratic, that like the squashes, the tomatoes would be a little stroppy. However, for some daft reason, Blighty finds itself in the middle of a temporary heat wave. I add the caveat temporary, as it may well be our entire summer compressed into a few weeks.

Anyway, off I pootled, having forgotten to take a drink-I eventually got thirsty, came home and then returned with a bottle of squash-and spend a good three hours trussing up tomatoes. Unlike a more seasoned grower, I don’t defoliate very often, and I don’t arm pit the stems that turn up in the nook between the stem and branch. Primarily, as I can’t keep up, forget or find it some form of torture for a plant that I really want to do well and be happy. Result being, I end up with plants that have three or form long gangly arms that sprawl across the bed. Tomatoes take on an almost alien like quality and become monsters. The long extended limbs then need tying to canes and being raised aloft. It also helps prevent the foliage getting all tangled and promotes air flow.

It dawned on me, as I was trussing up the tomatoes, that this was an exercise in mindfulness.  I actually smiled as I thought it. There is the undeniable scent of the tomato plant. The feel of the fluffy leaves, as you try and detangle them and stretch out the tomato vine. The sound, of nothing but birds and the occasional “All right, Punam?!” from a passing allotment neighbour. You know it’s mum, when you hear ‘HAYYYYY PUNERRRRRM!”

Slowly but surely, I went around each of the 15 plants-mum’s got the same number, I just didn’t get so far as trussing hers up-and carefully tied up leafy limbs. This is the same concentration, that I use when colouring and knitting. The sort of concentration where you pause your mind, and take stock of the moment. Take stock of all that you see, hear and feel; take stock of your experience. A really profound effect of gardening, this is why I will always stand by it as a therapeutic intervention when it comes to mental health.

So that occupied me for a while. And I liked it. It was only later, that I remembered that tomorrow it’s meant to be a bit hot again. I should then perhaps open the vents in the poly.

poly chillies

That is my polytunnel. It’s not a huge great big thing; it’s two by three metres. And rather filled with chillies; I would adopt more tomorrow if I was so tempted to do so. There is quite a diverse range in here. On the left, you have Sparkler, coffee bean, devils rib, apache, red scotch bonnet and orange habanero on the staging. On the right hand side, we have patio sizzle-one plant-patio sizzle, jalapeno, purple haze and hungarian hot wax in the corner. You can just about make out the white flowers that have started to appear. I have opened the vents to offer some breeze to the plants. Otherwise, they may well cook to death in there; it is not fun trying to revive a chilli that whilst it needs warmth, might well have been cooked alive. I am aim to water them tomorrow evening anyway as it does get wonderfully hot in there. When we have a temperature of late teens to twenty something, the mercury sky rockets anyway.

Now what might I do with all of those chillies? Well, if they all crop, I have a plan to make chilli powders as well as use them in Mum’s kitchen. There are many flowers, so for now, we live in hope.

I also furtled for carrots. These were an experimental sowing direct into the raised beds. They are small, but they are straight and have a wonderful carrot smell. One of the crops that I haven’t sown very often, so might have again. And yes, there is a stray snow ball turnip in there.

#NABLOPOMO: Colouring with Horticultural tendencies

I like colouring. Over the last week, I have spent lots of time after work, colouring as a wind down activity.

I have spent two days working with the students that I support and using colouring as a mindfulness activity. For some, it was rather novel; they had never coloured before. For others, it was a throw back to their childhoods. There were even those, who really didn’t like the experience. Good feedback, for the latter; for future reference.

I did actually confess to them, that whilst I was just over thirty; I enjoyed colouring. Brandishing my copy of ‘The Secret Garden’, I flicked through the pages that I have coloured to date and modelled, if you like, what a possible result might be for them. Modelling is good, success criteria, if you like, of what students might achieve. This is what all teachers are supposed to do! Model a successful outcome for their students to aim for.

That however, was not my only aim. I was also asking them to experience mindfulness. To sit, reflect, and be aware of their own processes. This was how I started my sessions, as the aim, the objectives if you like, again, this what we are supposed to do in starting our lessons! Sorry, I know it’s odd. How can I address this as a lesson? Such is the world of teachers, everything has to be organised as such.

I found it a really valuable experience. Students were able to say how they felt it, there were a number who did enjoy it and wanted to do it again. A few, but not many; would not want to do it again.

We shall see, it might just happen again.

#NABLOPOMO: Hello November, Hello again NABLOPOMO

NaBloPoMo_2015

It’s been a whole year since I first participated in NaBloPoMo. It was a really interesting experience, sharing plot adventures to an entirely new audience. An audience who wouldn’t perhaps ordinarily be reading about the adventures of an allotment holder in Great Britain. Throughout NaBloPoMo the blog audience grew, and it was amazing to see just how far the blog was going.

In the time since, I have also participated in the April NaBloPoMO too. That was an additional learning experience, especially as the theme was ‘Grow’. Seemed apt given the nature of the blog.  Plus, it was the start of the growing season, and sharing the start of the growing season was really very useful. Since then, both the November and April NaBloPoMo’s the allotment plot has changed, grown and developed a great deal. There have been the usual slug, snail and crop dramas. As well as the qualified and unqualified successes.

You can see from the gallery just how it has all developed. From the tranche after tranche of runner and climbing beans-ma got fed up of freezing them-the potatoes. I really recommend Pink Fir Apple, for being such an abundant cropper. Chillies, that were hit and miss, with the tomatoes really struggling this year. There was home made ice cream, when there were lots of home grown strawberries.

Whilst there was a lot horticultural allotmenteering happening. There was also another project that started out as something of a whim at the start of the summer. I remember saying to my sisters, that I really fancied writing an ebook. Also, I had written some guest blog posts for World Radio Gardening, so this seemed something very natural to do.

So I did. I wrote that book. Over the course of the summer, between work and the plot; I wrote the book. My book. One of the NaBloPoMo prompts from last year, was whether or not one had book within. At that point, I didn’t think I could have. Writing the book really was process. From writing down chapter headings, writing in my notebook in blue ink, to listening to my mum dictate recipes. I cannot describe the feeling of words and ideas surging around in my brain and wanting to exit onto the paper. This book really wanted to be written. I would be lying if I said this was an easy process. It wasn’t. It was hard for hear about feedback, for example. It wasn’t bad feed, it was feedback to help me make the book better and from cheerleaders. Cheerleaders. These are very important people. People who have faith, inspire you, encourage you. Not the sort who huff, puff, and tell you that what you have done, isn’t worth the paper that it is printed on, or the e-ink it contains. Good people, and the feedback was important. It came from the right place.

The book was on kindle at first, and it took a while for me to pluck up the courage and then put the book into print. After all, not everyone has an e-reader. I am also a book worm, and books have always been a part of my life and my job.

What started with the book, has diversified. You all know petal, she’s the avatar, the logo, the brand that is on the logo. The figure holding carrots. She is all mine, and perfectly sums up the blog. So, putting her on a bag and a logo, seemed a good thing to do.

Beyond the plot, there has been a spot of mindfulness. The magic square project is still going, alongside the johanna Basford ‘Secret garden’ colouring book.