Allotment Adventures: The Work Area

The work at the back of the plot continues. We sorted the wood we wanted to keep from the wood to be bonfire which is currently piled up in the middle of the new half, a lot of the shed will go the same way and then the hedgerow may need to be replanted (I’ve asked for blackthorn and if they wanted to do that I’d be happy to pay for them, then I can add sloe gin to my allotment gin collection.Last week we sorted out a composting area, but that only covered about a third of the width of the plot. So we wanted to sort out the rest of that back section. As our committee chair says, a full plot does give you some elbow room and most of this section is going to be for work. The centre third will be where I put my wilko greenhouse next spring, but right at the edge of the plot in amongst the rocket that was running amok, there are roses planted, I wanted to give them some space and protection over the winter, so we weeded that area and then covered it with woodchip, to help prevent it getting too boggy, that will also give us the chance to spot and pull the weeds as they come up.Right next to that is a small apple tree which was surrounded by strawberry plants and lots of weeds, Joe had tried to enclose that area but we used some of those boards to demarcate the compost area. I’m not convinced that strawberries are worth growing in the ground as the slugs seem to get them before we do. So I committed allotment heresy and pulled them up and yes you’ve probably guessed it, put down woodchip, my plan is to plan bluebell and snowdrops at the edge of this bit of ground. We used the other two boards to mark the tree/bluebell area off from what is effectively our first path on the new half.So we have a quarter of the new half under control. We will eventually sort out the section of space from the new woodchipped path up to the loganberries but this is going to by my squash area so work on that can wait until after Christmas, once we’ve had a bonfire, we’ll cover and then probably sort out the size of beds (I’m thinking two large beds with a path down the middle and we’ll grow squash and sweetcorn and beans there….

Next week, we’re going to move the dalek compost bin and its contents and sort out the space where the two compost bins were. This will involve moving some beds. The bed that was next to the wooden compost bin is going but we are going to extend the bed on the other side of it. The new plot has two gooseberry bushes in it and I’m going to move them into one large bed. I may get around to moving the other two but that might be something I do next winter!

Once we’ve sorted that, I’m going to plant some daffodils and tulips were along the edge of the plot down there.

Then it’s time to sort out the area between the old plot going up towards the loganberries. I have a sort of plan here. I’m going to add three more long beds to mirror the fruit beds we have.  I’ve planted some flower bulbs that my friend at work gave me. (leucojum or summer snowflakes, some irises and two other things that I’ve planted but I can’t remember what they’re called! I planted too many autumn raspberry canes into one bed last year so I’ll take some out to put into a new bed and I quite like the idea of some yellow ones too. We will move the boysenberry and the loganberries too and then up to where the loganberries are now there should be room for five square metre raised beds.

Having that set up would mean that we had three quarters of the plot sorted. Then we need to take the frame down because I am not keen on dangerous, wonky pipe frames and sort the last quarter out that is currently full of weeds. And I would really like an asparagus bed too!

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Habit and Routine

Some of the best advice I was ever given is that “routines are just habits with a fancy name”. It’s been on my mind recently because I apparently am very into routines and I’ve been getting some shade about how easy this must be to do because I’m single and childless, how difficult routines are to develop and how hard it is for other people to do what I’ve done. I don’t have kids or a partner but I do have chronic sleeplessness and SAD and in winter my mental health is not great. But this is a criticism that really annoys me, my mum had a full time job, two kids and a difficult husband, and yet she managed to have a routine and we had a routine as children. So I don’t buy that it’s impossible if you have those commitments.In the winter, I have a pretty epic daily routine because I really need it, because in winter I’m a mess. Routine is my coping strategy, but essentially all it is, are habits I’ve developed to help me cope with the world, so don’t lose my mind/home/job/friends.

It’s very straightforward, we all have habits. The four times you hit the alarm before you get up in the morning? Habit. The coffee you buy on the way to work? Habit. Getting to the train station and checking your phone? Habit. Just think about how many times you do something just because you have always done them. If you have habits, you can develop a consistent routine because that’s all it is, training your brain and your body to get into the habit of doing something.

The first thing you need to do, is identify the problem. Because you don’t need a routine if you don’t have a problem with your daily life. So what is it that you need to change? My example is my daily bath.

The problem is that I still don’t sleep well at night (despite being tired all the damn time!) and in winter I’m miserable and every day I need to be in the office, I never seem to have enough time in the morning (probably because from about 6am to 7am, is when I really want to be asleep).

So for me the solution is having a bath before bed. This can relax you enough to help you get to sleep, consistently raising your body temperature may help depression and having a bath cleans me so I only need to wash in the morning instead of have a shower. I also know that at night it’s best not to use screens before bed and lowering the lights before bed is conducive to sleep and I love to read. So I have a bath for at least 20 minutes at 9pm if not every day then certainly Sunday to Thursday. Yes it does seem like I have an indulgent routine but it’s a solution to a couple of problems that I have, and honestly, many times it feels like a hassle when I could have another hour of Netflix or something else that seems more fun.  The thing is, it does help. The same thing for making sure that I have clothes ready and the house is tidy before I go to bed. Mornings, suck all the time but they are much easier when I get up and can make my coffee without having to have a sink full of dishes or wonder what I’m wearing.  My routine is not about everything in it being things I want to do, it’s about doing things I don’t always want to do to make my whole life easier. Ultimately, it gives me control and the freedom to do the things I want to do because I’m a bit happier and less grumpy.

And all it is is habit. Everything I do as routine is a glorified habit, once I realised that the habits were helping, I did it consciously until I worn down a groove down in my brain. That’s not to say that I don’t get out of the habit sometimes, but it’s easy to fall back into the routine because my brain wants to do that.

That’s all that a routine is. Repetition is habit forming, you train your brain and you have a routine. It’s not rocket science.

So if you look at people like me and think, I wish I could do that. Why do you want to. Have you tried and failed to make a consistent routine before? What is the problem with your daily life now? Is there a problem? you have, a problem that is serious enough that you need to change something. If you are genuinely struggling to form a routine, then maybe you don’t care enough about the problem you want to solve? Or you don’t have a problem. But if you do, just do the thing, make it a habit, eventually, you’ll have a routine.

In the meantime, please for the love of God, stop criticising me or make me feel bad for finding a way to cope with my life because it’s really tiring…

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Monday Miscellany: How Long is November?

Happy Monday!I’m struggling with November right now, for all the usual reasons.

It’s really hard to have any motivation right now, all I really want to do is be cosy in bed and that doesn’t pay the bills! Could we also talk about my friend taunting me with photos of her and Didier Drogba. She claims that this photo should make up for the one of her in the Liverpool shirt in May. I’m not convinced…

This was for work, so I’m clearly in the wrong job.

Despite my brain, I’ve actually been pretty busy. Work is busier and this week we have an offsite which is requiring all sorts organisation. It’s two days, one is work related and the other is a team volunteering day, I’m not that impressed because it means that I won’t be able to go to Oli’s birthday dinner!

I’ve been trying to work out a date for seeing Christelle before Christmas and can’t find a Thursday, Friday or Saturday that I’m free, which is ridiculous, I am the definition of boring and it’s too busy. At some point, I’m going to need to be put in a white silent room to calm down!

This week’s plan is to get to the end of it and spend some time on the plot and sleeping!

Have a good week!


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Friday Links: Floods

Happy Friday!

Single people are an electoral force in the US. Is the UK following suit? Well this is frightening…

The median English home now costs eight times the salary of a single man on median male earnings, according to the Women’s Budget Group, and 12 times the salary of a single woman on median female earnings. More shockingly, it calculates that for a lone woman on median female earnings, no region in England is affordable to rent in the private market.

When Jacob Rees-Mogg lets slip what he really believes, the choices become clear

Boarding schools warp our political class – I know because I went to one. My friend Tina, went to boarding school at 7 and refused to send her children to board. She said the only thing it did was make her a really good liar. George Monbiot would agree.

When I became pregnant with twins, my mess stopped feeling cute. I’m having my usual winter urge to sort out my stuff. I want a weekend to start chucking things away!

I’m a mental health nurse. There are no good decisions, only least bad ones

Austerity has pushed families into crisis and then thrown away the lifelines

A decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work – why are we still waiting for this?

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What I Ate: Cooking and Budget Reset Wrap Up

I totally dropped the ball with documenting how I did with this, partly because I used all of my available ‘write it down’ brain power at work and partly because it was really easy to get back into the groove. For the record my total for the 8 weeks was £110.32. So under but I had a very full freezer!

Autumn and winter more naturally lend themselves to meal planning, there is less fresh product to use coming out of the allotment and I’ve fallen into making sure that I always eat the same thing for breakfast on work days (right now that’s yoghurt and fruit) and making more dinner than I need and dividing what’s left into boxes for the freezer so I take them to work for lunch. Dinners are therefore pretty simple, what I have started to do is not plan all weeknights. There are times when ‘thing on toast’ is the only right answer to what’s for dinner so including that in the plan means I don’t over buy.

I’m also really enjoying cooking right now, not on weekdays, basically I come home from work and want to slump so food is generally reheated or bung in the oven. But I have cooked more new recipes recently, including some really good cocoa brownies and I’m thinking a bit more interested in cooking again.

The reset meant I’ve started to make bread a bit more often too. I’m not perfect but I feel much more in control of amounts and waste and enjoying food and cooking again. So it was a good if poorly documented thing to do. But the freezer still needs defrosting!!



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Allotment Adventures: The Compost Area

After a week off, we finally started to think about our plot extension, Joe has taken what he wanted and it’s now all ours, this is the view from the back of the plot.

There is lots of work to do. One of my plans for next season is to do better at producing compost. We were gifted another, heavier plastic compost bin on Sunday (with a lockable list. So we decided to set up an area. We moved our oldest compost bin and all it’s contents, we did have compost at the bottom but all the stuff that wasn’t properly composted (and some bags of stuff that didn’t fit into the bins) was layered with woodchip into the new bin.

Behold the new compost area!We are going to create two other wooden bins and move the black bin and it’s contents to this area, so the work isn’t finished yet but it feels like a good start.

That shed in the background needs to come down too, so we’ve offered to go halves on the cost of a skip with the allotment society, so we can get the stuff we don’t want off the plot. As we move the two compost bins we’ll need to sort out the areas left open. I also want to move the four gooseberry bushes we now have on the plot and split one of the rhubarb plants.

Then its sorting out the weeds and loganberries and building beds and tidying up. It’ll be quite a lot of work but we know more now so in some ways I think it’ll be easier. One of the good pieces of news for Ma is that Joe left a load of massive beetroot on the plot, which has made her month!

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What I’ve Read – October 2019

How are we into November already? This is the month I got real about the TBR list on the Kindle and started to get rid of stuff, I just wasn’t going to ever read. I’m at 37 now but the actual physical books list is higher, I think because they are not books I can read in a couple of days and aren’t as portable as the Kindle, I’m being commitment phobic about them!  Anyway here’s what I read in October.

The Duke Who Ravished Me – Diana Quincy

I came out of the house without my book and this was on the Kindle app on the phone. It was fine. I had to open it just now to remind myself what it was about and it was fluffy with a suprisingly melodramatic plot. I could see it as a gothic novel. However, I liked that everyone got a happy ending.

Archangel’s War – Nalini Singh

I read this in one gulp. It has all of the things that annoy me about her writing, but aside from the repetition of how feisty Elena was and how Raphel would destroy everything should she be harmed etc. I enjoyed it. It seems to me that this it either the last book in the series or much like the pys/changling series, she’ll be onto a second arc. I love the world building, I wish she would show more than tell me about the feelings of the characters

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

If you read one book on this list. Let it be this one. It was just plain good. I also find telling that it resonates with women but not so much with men. Briseis notes in the book that she begins to think of herself as a thing, not a person but because she is a person, she has feelings and she has to find a way to accommodate the huge rift that occurs when you lose everything and yet have to find a way to live with the people that hurt you. I want to go and read it again.

Doing Time – Jodi Taylor

I love Jodi Taylor’s books and this is the start of a new series, a diversion from St Mary’s and about the Time Police. I really enjoyed it and it was just what I needed after Pat Barker. It’s three main characters (Team Weird) have nothing in common and don’t help one another but Taylor is brilliant at showing development, showing characters changing and becoming a team, as well as showing how easy it is to lose that bond to. And it’s hilarious and we get to go to St Mary’s and the next one is an autobuy!

On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

I also really liked this, enough that I stayed in a bath for 2 and half hours to finish it! I enjoyed how real Bri is, it doesn’t at all stray away from how difficult it can be to be black and poor, but it’s about finding a way to survive AND be ok with yourself.

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

As part of my commitment to getting my kindle TBR down (this one has been sitting on it for 4 years!). I’m not sure what I’m expecting but this wasn’t it. Which isn’t to say, I didn’t enjoy it, the voice was so strong and so hopeful, although it’s not actually very hopeful. It’s about how we find ways to be human when we live with inhumanity. I liked it.

NOD – Adrian Barnes

Another Kindle TBR, which I’m still not sure about. It is such a dark book, most people stop sleeping, we need to sleep society breaks down and we see it happen but the book ends in the middle, we don’t know what happens because the narrator goes to sleep.

Madly – Ruthie Knox

Completely – Ruthie Knox

Ok, I did enjoy these books but both books had British characters, in them, not only British but the heir and ex wife to the heir of a Baroncy, so as with other British characters, Knox has written, the language is slightly off for me. I’m pretty certain that if you are a Baroness (that wasn’t politically appointed to the House of Lords), then your granddaughter is not going to call you ‘nan’, she might call you Grandmother, Grannie or Grandma or some bizarre family version of it but not ‘Nan’. There were other instances. However, they were interesting books, although in the second, if at 19, I had behaved like that towards my mother, well the sound of the shouting as Ma ‘explained why I was being completely unreasonable’ would have been loud and gone on for a long time.

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