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Strawberries and fire: 2nd day of happy

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What made me happy today? A combination of strawberries and fire I think.

The hubby gathered up all the rubbish wood we had collected over the winter, including an old bush he cut down in the front garden and the old raspberry canes and burnt them. We’ll add the ash to the compost heap.

I sat by Sam tending the fire and separated alpine strawberry plants, the gas company had dug them up and not replanted them. The soil they were in was so clay heavy that they survived. I left them in the greenhouse to dry the soil a little and then separated the plants, potting them individually. We’ll see what survives and re-plant some through weedproof fabric and likely give some away as well. I have so far done about a third of our alpine strawberries but have run out of pots!

Why did it make me happy? The hubby has an affinity with fire, he loves tending it, has a special way with it. Seeing him with a fire just fills me with content and happiness. Being by a fire and smelling the woodsmoke is wonderful on it’s own, but when he tends it it is even better. That I was sitting next to him and doing a task that I had previously found daunting, preparing for what I hope will see us harvesting strawberries, making wine, desserts and jams, all from things we grew from seeds. That was a happy moment. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the fire, we had no phones with us, but I did get some of the strawbs.



Start of 100 happy days

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Well the hubby has challenged me to do the 100 happy days. The aim is to take a picture everyday of something that has made you happy that day. It will mean a post a day but hopefully I can keep them short and not spam whoever follows this blog.

Today has had a theme of happiness; completion.

It started with finally submitting the first draft of a chapter of my thesis. That was happiness. I then took on what we know in the house as the ‘cupboard of doom’, it’s our cupboard under the stairs where everything gets dumped and you can find nothing. I took some ‘pre’ pictures, after I had already been let loose with the hammer and nails. It’s a job that has been on my to-do list for the last year. Felt good to make headway on it.

Then I took on the ‘evil bush’ outside. I have no idea why anyone would plant such a thing. It’s all sharp a prickly and dies back to create a sharp prickly under brush. The bush took a blood offering (or 5) but I filled a 1 ton bag with clippings and we can now park without scratching the cars or ourselves.

Lastly I cooked dinner. Sounds like nothing but I have been so messed up with the thesis this week that I’ve not cooked at all, probably last time I cooked was last Sat night.

Ok so maybe not completion as much as a waking from stagnation. Looking forward to see what tomorrow’s happy is.ImageImage

One day at a time

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During our honeymoon we went to Trinidad, where the majority of my Mum’s family are. My eldest Aunt had been ill and we arrived the day after she passed. Our short time in Trinidad was dominated by the funeral and I spent more time singing hymns than I had in a long time.

I am not Christian, I identify mostly as pagan but I guess I am open to most forms of worship and Divinity. This one hymn, ‘One day at a time sweet Jesus’, stuck with me for a while.

I’ve been trying to get on with the thesis writing for my PhD. I had a pencil, target deadline for a chapter as the end of Feb. Lab work didn’t go to plan and I got a bit held up, but with a concerted effort I hoped to make a good enough dent on it this weekend to send something to my supervisors. I tried, I really did. I got a bit stuck on how to analyse and present my results so looked at some papers for inspiration. I just couldn’t follow them. The words were on the page but they wouldn’t make sense in my head. I was reading but not understanding. I felt stupid. I’ve been yo-yoing a little lately and my mood has been majority mildly depressed this weekend. I got more and more frustrated staring at the page.

I hoped music would help and ended up listening to Beth Orton’s version of ‘Oooh Child‘ on repeat. After a while I realised that today was not my day. ‘Some day, yeah, we’ll put it together and we’ll get it all done, some day when your head is much lighter’. I will get there but not today. I got up and did physical things, laundry, dishes, cooked dinner. Moved around to burn off the frustration that had grown.

Sitting and staring at the papers my head had told me how useless I was, how stupid and pathetic. That I was a fraud for even attempting a PhD when I couldn’t manage something as simple as reading. I wanted to curl up in a dark corner and hide. My head told me I needed to cut and bleed and just wither away and die. I had no use at all in this world. All because I my concentration was poor.

I’m not gonna say I felt magically better for doing housework, because when your head gets like that nothing will make it magically better. As I did the housework my head told me how rubbish I was at it and how much better I could do everything if I wasn’t so lazy. I recognised the potential for obsessing as I was on my knees scrubbing the cupboard doors ‘just as quick tidy before cooking’. But the physically doing something helped use the frustrated energy, it kept me from working myself into a state and possibly hurting myself.

Sounds good but it took a lot for me to get up from that table and leave the thesis work. My head told me I was a failure, lazy and a quitter. I felt guilty for doing housework rather than continuing to re-read the same paragraph over and over. But the lyrics of the song reminded me things would change and get easier, one day, when my head is lighter, I will get it all done.

As I folded laundry ‘One day at a time’ came into my head. I think the two songs have something I need to remember. I am only human. Some days my head will be heavy. It is ok to take it one day at a time. I will get it all done.

So this evening I release myself from any guilt for recognising my limitations, doing something positive with my time and looking after me. It may not sound like much to most people but for me that acceptance is a big thing.

I’m hoping for a lighter head tomorrow, but if not I’ll take it one day at a time.

PS sorry for the poor quality of the video

Journey so far – growing our own veg

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My first ever veg bed

My last ‘grow your own’ post was all about our foray into growing fruit, which was quite successful I think. Our foray into growing our own veg has been less so. We started 3 years ago with 1 long bed at the back of the garden, a stretch of lawn that we cut away the turf for and then double dug it. Again the soil was poor with stones, nails, ceramics, broken glass and plastic scattered through. We took out the non-organic debris and added compost as we dug it over. As a start we tried some red cabbage from seedlings as we were on a red cabbage and apple kick, and I tried a salad mat I had been bought by a friend. I never knew how many seedlings you can get from 1 packet the bed was pretty full of red cabbage (some of which stayed for 2 more years!). I had no idea how to use the salad leaves so it all went to seed :-(. We also tried some asparagus, some carrots, onion, garlic and some tatties that had started sprouting in the cupboard.

Never let me sow seeds direct, I overcrowded the carrots and didn’t have the heart to thin them, after all the little ones deserve a shot too right? *headdesk* The carrots we got were small, deformed from growing around stones and riddled with carrotfly. The asparagus never made it for some reason. My onions were tiny, but huge compared to my garlic which never managed to form cloves. Tatties were a little more successful but the emphasis must be on little! Suffice to say we weren’t going to feed ourselves from my skills but I was enjoying myself and slowly, very, very slowly, learning.

First harvest part 1
First harvest part 2

Onwards and upwards right? The second year saw tatties, onions and garlic in the bed (I got garlic cloves woohoo). The herb barrel I had started, rosemary, thyme, mint, sage and parsley was doing well, despite mint’s aims of barrel domination (don’t co-plant mint, it is a bully!).

Herbs in a whiskey barrel

We decided a greenhouse was in order, help us fight the Scottish climate and all that. We pretty much had no idea what we were doing, if we were doing it again I would have sited it differently, gotten a larger one and made it so you could plant directly into the soil, but you live and learn, and we were proud of it. I tried growing peppers, toms and aubergines. I failed. I suck at watering things, really suck at it. I also suck at planting things on. We also suffered a major infestation of aphids in the greenhouse and my desire to stay organic combined with my lack of time spent in the greenhouse resulted in the crops being stunted wilting and dying. But I learnt!

Such potential in the greenhouse
It’s starting to look like a real growing garden!

Last year we were preparing to get married and I focused on the fruit rather than the veg. I planted the tatties, onions and garlic as always. I was getting better at the latter two but still had tattie problems. I was also given excess leek, squash, pumpkin and tom plants from my supervisor. I had minimal success with the leeks and toms, none with the squash or pumpkin. I was trying to grow them all in the greenhouse in pots. the bed was full of onion and garlic and the tatties were being grown in bags. I needed more beds. The wild raspberry was giving a very poor harvest and it was time it went I cut it down and covered the whole right side of the garden with old carpet, 2014 would see more beds for veg. Another problem I had been having was the cats using my veg bed as a litter tray. We decided to split the bed into 2, putting an arch in the middle as hubby wanted one, build them like raised beds but keep the soil at ground level and put netting over the top. It works quite well to keep the cats out except for when they use the netting as a hammock. I’m also hoping it might help with carrotfly if I try carrots again.We had a go at peas climbing up the archway and it worked surprisingly well. They are on the list for 2014.

The not quite raised beds and my pallet compost bin

Due to a slightly manic phase last weekend we are now pulling up a patio at the back of the garden which we actually think used to be a greenhouse base (concrete around the edge the size of a green house with screws still in). Once it is clear of all debris we will keep the concrete border, fill with some good, manured soil and have a large bed. Once we have the bed down the righthand side of the garden sorted, we may pop a greenhouse over the concrete base, planting directly into the soil. Lots of jobs to be done in the garden now. Onions and garlic are in, tatties are in bags (trying seed potatoes for the first time) and have seeds for peas, pumpkins and peppers, which I will need to start sorting out soon. Hopefully very soon I will have a post about bed number 3 coming into existence and me planting out pumpkins into it!

Creation of bed #3, aka what happens when a manic Dans goes into the garden

Joys of rapid-cycling

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It’s been a while. I went on honeymoon and had a wonderful time, felt the sun on my skin, swam in the sea nearly everyday, reached a level of contentment with my body that I didn’t think I’d ever reach, learned about and connected with family. It will hopefully fill lots of posts in the future, posts I had half written in my head. But once we got back the PhD needed full attention and I was full of cold. I was well in my head though. I think the break had helped.


I have SAD. Generally Dec-March are my worst times, with my birthday (12th Feb) being the worst. I did get sad around the birthday, not as bad as many years for sure, but it was noticeable, the urge to crawl into a dark corner and cry. I could see all the good stuff in my life, all the ways things were looking up, I listed them even but the sadness seemed completely devoid of logic. I bounced back, credited the short, shallow, birthday blues to the benefit of  Caribbean sun. I got on with work, reconnected with my house and kitties, made plans for growing and brewing and cooking. It was good, felt like things were going up.


But then I crashed, out of nowhere, an experiment went wrong, I was having trouble with my health insurance and suddenly over the space of an hour I went from handling everything to being a mess. I left work in such a hurry I left my phone and I cried most of the way home. I didn’t know why, I couldn’t understand why the health insurance issue was triggering me so much and that I was suddenly unable to cope. I got home, took diazepam and went to bed, it was about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I didn’t leave bed, I slept, woke up, was still completely broken so had more diazepam. I refused to eat or drink, I couldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t even make eye contact. Sam was, as he is most times, very good with me. He kept bringing me tea despite my refusals and left dinner on the bed with me.


In this instance I was eventually able to do some work on the PhD and drank the cold tea and cold dinner. The next day I went to work, I communicated. I spent the weekend doing things in the house, doing PhD work, doing things in the garden and cooking. I bounced had really bounced back, waking up early, really focusing on the PhD, it was like my brain had finally turned on. I mowed the lawn, weeded beds, I was just doing. I was also scouring the net for things I could possibly buy. That was my first warning sign, even though I brushed it off, that I wanted to spend. When I get manic I buy things I don’t need. But it was ok, it was useful. My second sign, and the one that caught my attention, was lying in bed in the dark at 2am drumming my fingers on the bed as I was waiting to sleep. I couldn’t stop moving, and I realised I hadn’t been able to for a while. I had 3 or 4 days of 4 or 5 hours of fitful sleeps, I was more active at work, more sociable, I was planning all the activities I could possible do, lining up different exercises, all the things I could do in the garden, in the house, everywhere. And with all of these things there was urgency, the wheels needed to get in to motion now. I was moving around a lot at work too.


And then I realised, I’m cycling, I’m in for a period of being high and manic, reckless and embarrassing myself, followed by being crippled with depression, unable to socialise and just cry. Rinse and repeat. Even as I write this post I can feel how scattered it is. I was exhausted just thinking about riding that rollercoaster again. But we were still on the high so on we went, gotta keep going, gotta keep doing. Home from successful day of experiments and it is still light? Go outside, do stuff with plants, lift paving slabs and move broken concrete. Back starting to give way from that? Go do the dishes and start cooking dinner, lament that the washing machine is in use so you can’t do a load. Too dark to go outside, write PhD. What do you mean I need to stop, I’m still good.


Today I am alone, the last 5 days of going at that pace have taken their toll. Hubby is away overnight for work and housemate is away for crufts. I feel lonely. I’ve been to work, done PhD work, cooked, done some cleaning and now I’m too tired for any more work using the brain but the adrenaline is pumping. I know I need to sleep so I have told myself no laundry, no reorganising or cupboards and definitely no going out into the garden to do work in the dark. My eyes are too tired to read much but I want to run and jump. I need to be doing  something. I know this will lead to bad. I will get tired and become an emotional wreak. I already had a bad turn last night when I struggled with my database and the health insurance came up again. I guess I figured if I needed to do something then coming here and finally updating might be the most productive I could be. I set this journal up to share about my life, Dans the crazy cat lady who is trying to do a PhD and connect with the land. The crazy bit of that is reflective of mental ill-health. I don’t want this place to be depressing, or a pity party. This is my first instance of my rapid cycling that I have been concious of since I started this blog, and as rapid cycling is a less common form of bipolar I thought it good to share it whilst in it. Right I think that is it for me. No lovely pictures today, but I will leave you with a comics that relates to me and a really good article that I stumbled across today.


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.



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.

Double digging
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.

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.

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!

Some of the 2012 pickings
Alpine strawberries

I’ll leave you with some end product photos.

5 gallons of homegrown strawberry wine

Hello there!

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I’m Dans. A self confessed crazy lady. Currently indentured servant to 4 kitties.

I’m a student at the moment. Doing a PhD in Veterinary Parasitology. Shamefully in my 4th year, with lab work and writing still ahead of me. Currently getting my head down and ploughing through lab work.

I’ve dealt with mental illness for at least 17 years now. Current diagnosis of ultra rapid cycling bipolar, with possible SAD. I say dealt with as sometimes I have suffered with it, sometimes I have fought it and sometimes I have simply lived with it. Trying to find a good balance between fighting it and living it at the moment.

I guess I am a pagan. Had inklings of a pagan nature for about 10 years now. The more time passes the more I move away from that word. Currently I feel at home with nature, believe in some kind of spiritual energy and pretty much do my own thing.

I long to connect more with the land, with its cycles and seasons, become closer to my food as well as other things I use and consume. Currently to do that I brew wines, grow fruit and veg in my garden and have taken on an allotment recently. I also knit, can crochet and spin a little and am hoping to learn to sew.

I’m also a geek, I like sci-fi and fantasy. I used to go to a fair few conventions and spend a fair bit of money on merchandise. Now I seem to be more of a fan from a far, reluctant to part with my money, and becoming more of a hermit as the years pass.

So that is me. Why am I here? In a way I would like to blog for myself to help monitor my progress in my journey to fight and live with my mental illnesses. If it ever helps anyone else then all the better. I would also like to share about my various crafty and growing experiments, failures and successes. So others may learn and so I can look back.

This is likely to be a place of short updates on practical things and long winded ramblings on mental illness and spirituality. I will note that sometimes when I speak about mental illness it will be the ramblings of crazy person (kinda comes with the territory), but at other times I hope it will be insightful, thought-provoking and inspiring to others.

If any of the above interests anyone woohoo, happy reading. If not I’ll be over in this corner of the internet typing to myself! 🙂