Grow Your Own

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

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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: 😀

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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.

New strawb bed
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!

Salvaging the fruit patch!

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The aftermath of the gas works
The aftermath of the gas works

This is what we were left with after the gas company left. You can see the before here. The blueberry was ‘re-planted’ in the middle space, a good 5cm above the soil level. The strawberries were left on the lawn and on the raspberries, and the goosberry was ‘re-planted’ above the soil level as well. I decided to use the disruption to re-haul the patch.

The raspberries are autumn fruiting so now was the time for hard pruning. I tried to salvage what I could of the alpine strawberries first. I posted about that here. I’ve now separated and potted 2/3rds of the alpine strawberries, they are surviving well and I have re-homed a dozen but am still over whelmed. Think the other third may end up composted, though I struggle to come to terms with ‘dumping’ them. It’s the problem with thinning carrots all over again. I started to do the same with the normal strawberries but quickly ran out of pots and was overwhelmed again. I was a bit more ruthless and just threw all the excess plants in a bucket, if they survive and I can replant them great.

The plan for the fruit patch was to pull up all the strawberry plants, put down weed proof fabric then replant strawberries and keep control over the spread. The reasons for weedproof fabric were:

1) Keep strawberries off the soil.

2) Keep the strawberries and raspberries from taking over the whole patch and choking the berry bushes.

3) Possibly help the soil warm up and dry a bit, very heavy clay soil

4) Keep the weeds down.

Just to clear the strip between the red and white currant bushes I filled an entire wheelbarrow with strawberry plants. I pulled a fair few raspberries too, those are tough. We’re going to leave the left hand side of the fruit patch to the raspberries. Faced with a wheel barrow full of strawberries I started on the strip of the garden on the right hand side. Took the top layer of ‘turf’ off – more weeds than grass, and dug it over. Our garden is slanted right to left and back to front. We are attempting to level it so the hubby made up a barrier and I filled the soil to it. I’ve dug what will be a strawberry patch so far. Hopefully by next weekend I will have dug the entire strip and levelled it. Then the strawberries can go in, may need a normal strawberry patch and an alpine strawberry patch, and I can start looking at all the things I want to grow from seed as the greenhouse will be empty. I got a subscription to Kitchen Garden from the MIL for my birthday and they keep sending seeds. Itching to get growing.

The other ‘bed’/greenhouse plot at the back of the garden is also coming along. I’ve started digging off the stop layer which still has lots of gravel. Then I will dig out the really heavy clay, replace with some of the soil from levelling out the long strip and work on planting that too. Lots going on right now, and being out working in the garden feels so right. Had a tough week or so with the mental health, a post for later in the week I think. Saturday I just didn’t know what to do with myself so I went out and dug. The anxiety just leaves, and the thoughts go away. I really do wish I could spend more time outside, it doesn’t even matter if it is raining or how cold it is. I layer up, put the waterproofs on and get to it, finish up fairly soaked in sweat and exhausted but feeling better for it. It’s a good job we don’t have a light out there or I’d be there now!

Leave you with a picture of the finished article. Think the fruit patch is salvaged now, at least as long as I haven’t killed all the bushes by digging near them!

Salvaged fruit patch
Salvaged fruit patch
Soon to be strawberry bed
Soon to be strawberry bed

 

7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Happy days

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Been saving these up, I didn’t really have much to say, and to be honest I wasn’t really at my happiest, but here goes. None of my own photos until today, just wasn’t up to taking them.

Ice-cream – 7th Happy day

I tried to get some lactofree icecream at my Tesco (I’m lactose intolerant) but they were out of stock so I gave Swedish Glace a try. I didn’t have much hope for it but was pleasantly surprised.

Much better than I expected

Running chickens – 8th Happy day

Visited a friend with a smallholding. Seeing her chickens run up the path made me happy. I had never seen a chicken run and the waddle just made me smile.

Wobble waddle

Statistics – 9th Happy day

Odd I know, and it wasn’t the stats itself that made me happy. Going over the appropriate use of decimal places when reporting data my husband was utterly confused as to the way I currently used them (generally reporting to 2 decimal places the whole way through even if that meant adding a 0 on the end). His exasperation made me very happy.

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Never realised I didn’t use decimals properly

Accomplishment – 10th Happy day 

Finally finished lifting all the concrete and gravel from the soon to be veg bed. Just need to dig up some of the soil, it’s heavy clay with gravel mixed in. Then we can fill it in with better soil and get planting 🙂 Quite a few trips to the tip with rubble in the future (the bags).

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Concrete cleared now for the digging