Brewing

Welcome 2015

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So 2015, it’s good to meet you. There is so much that I would like from you that I feel it would impossible for it all to happen.

I’ll try and start with the most important.

I would like to have a healthy baby in June, hopefully following a pregnancy and birth that doesn’t put me off for life. If we can do this 2015 I think you will go down in my life history as being awesome, nothing else required.

I would like to survive my viva, get through my corrections and graduate. I actually feel hopeful about this. I am pretty sure that this will happen ok. If we can then writing a couple of papers would be quite nice.

I turn 30 in February. Feb is always a hard month for me, my SAD is in full swing and I find birthdays depressing. It would be really nice to just celebrate this birthday. As a bit of a babymoon (last holiday without baby), a celebration of PhD finishing, and a celebration of my birthday my husband and I are hoping to go off for a long weekend to a sunny place, not sure where yet but somewhere new. Just to relax and be together. I don’t know if it will happen, it will depend on when the viva is and how the pregnancy is going, but it would be great.

Now that the thesis is out of the way I would like to move in 2015, find our ‘forever home’ and get settled, hopefully before baby is born. Again I have no idea if it’ll happen but it would be nice.

I would also like, with the free time I have to connect again. I have felt a real disconnect from everything recently. I would like to knit and brew and bake. I would like to grow food and cook. I would like to play boardgames again, I miss it. I would like to read more books, so many books to be read. I would love to learn how to sew. I hope that 2015 will see me using my hands and getting crafty again!

I would like to get into shape, sitting and writing a thesis does not make for a healthy body! I would like to maintain the health I have and build on it. That includes my mental health.

As I said at the top. So much that I would like from 2015. For now I sit here with my baby in my belly, my cats around me, a pregnant friend next to me and the sounds of my husband and our friend playing boardgames. You are off to a good start 2015. I raise my glass to you and welcome you!

Dans

Goodbye 2014

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Way back I when I used to use livejournal I would make two posts at new years, one to say goodbye to the old year, another to say hello to the new year. It used to be a fair few days after new years by the time I got around to it. I tended to be quite drunk at New Years.

This year I am stone cold sober, and fighting off the desire to crawl into bed so I figure now is as good as time as ever.

So 2014, what happened?

Honeymoon. Delayed by a good 6 months my husband and I set off to the Caribbean and to so many firsts. First cruise, first actual swim in the sea, first time in water where I can see my feet, first of so many foods, first time in a submarine, first time horse riding on the beach and in the sea, first time bareback, first time kayaking, first time in a rainforest or a natural hot spring, first time scuba diving or snorkelling, swimming with so many different animals. It was a gigantic adventure that I will always look back on with awe, not believing I actually experienced it all, wishing I could experience it again. Even though we found out I get sea sick easily! I would go back in a heart beat if I could.

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How can you not jump for joy being in the Caribbean?

Whilst on honeymoon we were able to go to Trinidad, my mother’s homeland and meet so many relatives that I had not seen since I was 5 years old. I wish I could have spent more time with them and really do hope it will not be another 24 years before I see them again. Unfortunately, the day before we arrived my Aunty passed away, she had been sick for a bit, but I had hoped I would see her one more time. I did not know her well, only meeting her twice and only one time that I actually remember, but she had a place in my heart and as the oldest sibling she was a central pillar for my family. She is missed, but that just shows how well she lived her life. I hope you are resting well Aunty Irma.

I had really really hoped to finish the PhD in 2014. At first I hoped before the honeymoon, then definitely by August, then by Samhain. I missed each deadline, only finishing lab work in September. I started to despair and think I would never finish but I handed in on the 18th Dec, just before Yule. It’s a bit of an end of an era but such a weight lifted from my shoulders. Just a viva and corrections to get through.

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Thesis ready for initial submission!

The PhD took a lot of my 2014 but we still brewed, still managed to get to Oakleaf, we had a good friend living with us for 8 month of it, still did some gardening, some reading, limited knitting and boardgaming. We also managed a short holiday to Finland in the summer which was nice. I really do love that country.

I did have one other major achievement in 2014 other than finishing the PhD. I’m pregnant, due June 9th. I’m excited and nervous and terrified. There will no doubt be a post soon about me and pregnancy and my mental health, my fears and worries etc. For now I will just say: ūüėÄ

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I’m having a bubba!

2014 was ruled by the PhD but I ¬†am thankful for the memories that were made. I likely wouldn’t be human if I didn’t hope for 2015 to be better. I will always hope for less heartache and tears. I will always hope for better health for me and my loved ones. And whilst 2014 didn’t do too well on those aspects, an amazing honeymoon, making a baby and submitting a thesis will hopefully be the memories I take forward!

I raise a glass of spiced mead and wish you farewell 2014!

Getting back into the swing

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I’m back but I’m not back.

I’ve been knitting and loving it. I can’t post the pictures here yet as it is a surprise for a friend’s baby, but I’ve also taken an old hibernating project out of the drawer and started on it again. It’s a jumper I started back in 2012, but hibernated as I was having trouble with the pattern repeat. I was still having trouble, and was daunted by the idea of knitting the front and the back and then stitching up so I frogged it. I then had a look at the pattern and decided to convert it to be knitted in the round. Fingers crossed I can get the pattern right this time. It may just work out to be a jumper that I have to focus on 100%, not a knit whilst watching TV project.

 

The evil pattern repeat
The evil pattern repeat

 

I’ve tackled the brewing a bit and done a mass sterilisation of bottles and demijohns. The Midsummer Elderflower Mead has come off and been bottled, all 5 gallons. Feeling very proud of that and I am itching to put the next wine on. I think I might do step by step posts when I do it. This mead is a bit sweet for my hubby, but the MIL really likes it and I think a fair few others will too. Think I might reduce down how much honey I use to the gallon on the next one though.

Getting somewhere in the garden too. We hadn’t been on the ball with our courgettes and they have all gotten huge so it has been marrow based dinners! They have really grown well though. Also had a good run with the strawberries too. Problems with the tommies, in that they keep splitting. And I have no idea what I am doing with the sweetcorn, but I’m sure it’ll be ok.

I’ve also been writing again. No don’t get excited, it is boring writing, the PhD kind. But it is important that I do it. So yes, something down for all results chapters, working on discussions for 2 results chapters, 1 results chapter is an utter mess and needs rehauling but all the results are in, and the fourth results chapter is with a supervisor, complete. Little bits to add to materials and methods chapter. And I need to add a hell of a lot more to introduction and I’ve not put anything in my overall discussion. I am feeling good about all that though.

Managing all that has pretty much meant very little sleep. I don’t seem to be writing during the day, so that’s when the practical things happen, then at night I stay up and write. Energy drinks and caffeine pills have been my staple. Not ideal but I just want this PhD done with, so if it works, it works.

But I’m tired. I’m emotionally frayed. I’m physically shakey. I’m seeing things out of the corner of my eye. And right now the whole world is hazy. Some of that is due to me coming down with cold/flu. I always have 1 or 2 bad days of dizzy head, fuzziness, aching bones, burning eyes, freezing cold then boiling hot etc. Then I am ok again.

I don’t have time though. I haven’t pulled an all nighter since Weds night, I’m pretty sure I even slept 8 hours last night. But my head is lolling and I am getting increasingly pissed off at it. My right eye won’t stop blurring, but the optician said it is fine. My legs are restless. And I just want to shout and scream at my body to pull itself together so I can write what is in my head.

I will finish this chapter discussion tonight. It is a small chapter, the discussion is already in bullet points. I just need to snap out of whatever cold induced funk I am in right now. Caffeine tablets again I think. And maybe a shower whilst I wait for them to kick in. I am so looking forward to giving you a lovely post about courgettes and the things I am making with them, or my lovely jumper and the positive progress I am making on it, or the next batch of wine that goes on. But I need to get further on my thesis before I can take the time to do any of those! Right, pills, shower, write like a boss!

 

Dans

Perfect day

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I was over on Elefriends and someone posted asking what your perfect day would be. I wanted to be able to go back to my answer and thought I’d share it here:

I would wake up next to my husband without the dark clouds. The sun would be shining outside and my cats would be in the room. I’d get up shower and dress without hating my body. I’d have breakfast and I would clean the house. I’d go into the garden and mow the lawn, weed the veg patches, harvest fruit and veg and plant things. I’d do laundry and see it hanging out. I’d make some lunch for my husband and I. I would do some knitting and some reading, maybe bake something as well. I would go horse riding then come home and cook a fully home made dinner with food we have grown and raised. I’d curl up with homebrew and my husband and watch TV or a movie. Then we will go to bed. I’d feel happy, relaxed and loved. And all through the day there will have been no tears or uncontrolled emotions or intrusive thoughts. I would fall asleep easily and happily.

Past few weeks

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Horribly frustrated with the thesis writing so I thought I’d distract with an update on what’s been going on with me.

Garden:

The wonderful hubby has been working flat out on the garden. Making me some lovely borders as long as I did the digging. We have finally made use of the right hand side of the garden and today he finished the borders and the first bed was completely finished. Not sure about the wood chip, it’s been dyed red and I’m not sure if the slugs will just have a new home and if the cats will have a new toilet. We will see. If it works ok we’ll get more for the bigger fruit patch.

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New strawberry bed. Alpines on the left, normals on the right

On the veg front I tried co-planting for the first time. Have sown some carrot seeds in the onion and garlic beds. Some of the carrots are on their own with the correct spacing on a nice (thin) layer of stone free soil. The rest of the seeds are sown in between the garlic/onion rows on horrid, hard stoney soil. I’ve got seedlings in most places so we’ll see. The only other time I’ve tried carrots they were ravaged by carrotfly, but these were free seeds and they aren’t taking up extra space.

I was given a pumpkin from my supervisor, and saved seed from a squash a friend fed to us in soup at Yule. I decided to sow these in biodegradable pots, 5 of each, destined for the new beds. I didn’t give them high humidity so tried sowing some shop bought seeds in the same pots (so 1 saved and 1 shop bought seed per pot) and brought out the propagator. 4 of the pumpkin pots have seedlings (multiples) as did one of the squash. The other 5 pots haven’t germinated. I tried bringing them in, tried them in the propagator in the green house and just got lots of mould on the pots. Must disinfect things every year! Gonna try a couple more of the saved seed in a clean propagator with the lid so they have humidity. Fingers crossed. Also got some free leek seeds with a magazine so giving those ago in a propagator the hubby bought a few years back with these peat blocks to grow on. I try to avoid peat products but he wanted to try this and they are there now so giving them a go.

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Pumpkin and squash seedlings

We also had a visit from my Mum from London, they brought up my rhubarb plants. I’ve had these plants for about 8 years but left them in London 4 years ago, they’ve moved house 4 times now! One of them appears to be alive not sure about the others. They are potted. In the last 4 years I’ve tried starting a new rhubarb off a couple times but every time they die. Fingers crossed better luck with these old faithfuls.

Knitting:

I picked up the needles again! Had a go with aran weight yarn and knitted up a simple cowl in the round. Still took me a fair amount of time, and it helped me take little breaks from the writing. Hopefully there will be some more knitting happening in the future. I miss it so much.

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Simple cowl

Brewing:

I’m brewing again! Some parsnips called to me at the store so we now have 4 gallons of parsnip wine on. We did a 1 gallon batch last year and really liked it so seeing how this batch turns out. Hopefully I’ll also get to checking up on some of the wines that I have abandoned in demi-johns whilst writing has taken over.

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Good ole parsnip wine

Writing:

Ummmm yeah. Another chapter through in first draft form, 3 down, 3 to go. Currently doing some major edits on a chapter and it sucks as I’ve had to go back to the data it looks like something has gone wrong in my database. Lots of time consuming data entry to do. And I need to go through and check all my other data is ok. Hence why I am here typing. On the up side my supervisors want me to hand in in the next 2 months. At least that way it’ll be over soon one way or another!

Journey so far – growing our own fruit

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In my last post I said a bit about who I was in different aspects of my life and where I am currently. I thought as a nice easy start I’d write a bit about those journeys. Today’s post is my journey in growing my own fruit. I had been looking back over some photos and was surprised at how much we had done.¬†We bought this house in Scotland 3 years ago. My previous growing experience was limited to a dead blueberry bush, a potted rhubarb that wasn’t doing too bad and strawberry and tomato plants that gave a fruit or two and then died.

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The garden here definitely had ‘potential’, plenty of lawn to dig up, and a huge shed. I’d never owned a shed before.¬†The house itself was quite run down though and winter was coming so the garden was a low priority.

With a husband that is a self confessed fruit addict our first job was to establish some berry bushes. The hubby also sees little point in maintaining plants that don’t produce food for us, so the bush was the first to go as well as the paving slabs in front of it. We decided we should do our best to get the job done properly so did the whole double digging. The soil was pretty awful though, full of stones, broken crockery, glass, nails and all other kinds of debris. We invested in some raspberry canes, 2 blueberry bushes (hubby’s favourite and need two to pollinate), white currant, red currant and white gooseberry (3 proven great fruits for wine making). We bought ¬†6 strawberry plants as well and planted them between the bushes to make the best use of space. And because hubby loves them we got some alpine strawberry seeds.

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Double digging
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Clearing the way

The first year we were quite pathetic, harvested a small amount of fruit, not enough to do much with though, and we kept forgetting to pick¬†berries. It¬†didn’t help that one of blueberry bushes didn’t establish. We replaced it the next year, but the new one failed too. The alpine strawberry seed were much more successful than we expected and¬†we ended up planting them in clumps, with far too little space.

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Fruit patch freshly planted

The second summer we had enough fruit  to make our own garden wine and the alpine strawberries cross pollinated with the other strawbs, we had larger alpines but with that same lovely flavour. The feeling of planting and nurturing something, harvesting it and turning it into a consumable product was so lovely. We even kept some bottles for our wedding. I nervously tried hard pruning the raspberries.

Three years on we were overwhelmed by the fruit harvest. We worked at harvesting fruit every two days, eating some and washing and freezing the rest for wine making. As the end of the growing season approached I started on the wines. We had enough strawberries to make 5 gallons of wine, without alpines. This was the first year I had applied nemaslug, it was late in the season when I did but I think it really helped. The raspberry canes, which are now overtaking the patch so much we have started to cull them, produced 6lbs of fruit and we left loads once the frosts came. Our lovely red currant gave us 3lbs of fruit despite being savaged by Sawfly, I think next year I will give Nemasys a try, this year I picked off the larvae as often as I could and left them at the back of the garden for birds. I have so far managed to stay quite organic with our growing and would like to keep to that. The white currants are still in the freezer, I’ll start their wine after Christmas. One of my cats has taken to chewing the gooseberry so that has never produced much and the blueberry is alone so doesn’t produce much either.

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3 years on

Unfortunately the gas company has dug up the garden for some work just last week and killed the alpine strawberries, much of the normal strawberries, the blueberry and the gooseberry. Once the worst of winter has passed we will dig the area just to the right, planting some more currants. We’ll also replace the blueberry and give it a partner and replace the gooseberry and some of the strawbs. Well that’s the plan at least!

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Some of the 2012 pickings
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Alpine strawberries

I’ll leave you with some end product photos.

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5 gallons of homegrown strawberry wine