Archive for January, 2007

We both had free days today, so we convened at 9am for an early start at the allotment. We wanted to make a good stab at finishing off our fruit area.

Before we got there we needed to pick up some supplies – and of course we didn’t wanna pay for them. Beener is really good at spotting useful things lying around on streets and in skips. By the time I got to her house, she had already spotted a bag of compost (John Innes no less) in a skip, whilst on the school run. However, before we went to scoop that up we asked one of her neighbours if we could have some wood that was lying around in his backyard. He was more than happy for us to take some off his hands.


By the time we got to the allotment we had pulled over several more times as we had also seen some guttering, some useful plastic coated wire and some metal mesh. All of these things were found on the road side, amazing what you can find when you’re walking/driving about if you look (and have no shame!).

We arrived, ready for a hard days graft, when out of no-where we noticed two horses heading towards us. Neither of us have any experiences with horses. They kept following us and it was a scary few minutes until we realised that they were not going to eat us.


The horses are normally in the field next to the allotments. It looked like vandals had kicked down the gates the previous night. We tried to coax them back into their field, but they didn’t respond to the same commands as Beener’s Staffordshire Bull Terriers for some reason. We decided then to give them a taste of their own medicine and ignored them. Finally some local scamps came down proclaiming loudly ‘who the f~~k let them out’. They managed to mend the fence and gate, achieved by nicking some of the wood we’d brought down, when our backs were turned. The little darlings! Oh well easy come, easy go!

 We then set about planting up the remaining fruit trees/bushes. We planted up our 2 blueberry bushes, filling our planting holes with ericaceous compost as they prefer an acidic soil. We also planted up out apple tree which we intend to grow as either a cordon/ or espalier, as we don’t fancy being responsible for a massive tree! Finally we sunk the gooseberry bush in the ground. We added well rotted manure and fish, blood and bone to our planting holes and arounnd the bushes/tree, so they should be happy for a while.

We then had several rambling conversations about paths in what used to be the fruit area, but was incerasingly being called ‘The Orchard’. We decided to use the wood we had procured, around the perimeter of the orchard and to create a circular path in the middle of the orchard with various paths leading off from to ensure ease of picking of all the beautiful fruit we will be picking.

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There are fruit bushes in there – honest!

 We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and happy with the look of the orchard as well as the ease of access for cultivation/picking. Then our mate  turns up with a load of wood chippings hes got for us and we eagerly applied it to out paths and this is the end result:


We will eventually put a cage of netting over the entire area, so those pesky birds don’t munch all our crop, they can stick to the blackberries in the hedgerows! We will also be putting some annuals in there, as we are very interested in the effects of companion planting and also because we want our allotment to be a place of relaxation and beauty.

After our day up the allotment, we went to our yoga class, so a lovely full-on productive day. However I don’t suppose either of us are good company tonight, not cos we’re dead tired or anything, but because we’re feeling incredibly smug!


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The initial rapport that we felt with our teacher was due to the fact that he pretty much ignored us. Of course he said hello, but he didn’t want to know who we were, why we had come to his class or anything about us. That suited us fine as we could skulk to the back of the hall. He welcomed us and then instructed us to ‘help yourself to a mat,  yeah’, in a way which almost sounded like a question. Minimal fuss – good.

 His talk about health and safety, which he always gives to the class when new comers arrive, never ceases to amuse us. His philosophy on this is that you shouldn’t do anything in class which causes your mind or body pain and therefore if you get any injuries in class ‘its your fault not mine don’t blame me yeah i didn’t make you yeah.’ Throughout the class he warns us which posture should not be done if you have a particular ailment. We both find this approach refreshing, as ultimately he asks us to take responsibility for ourselves. 

Our teacher does not follow a lesson plan, in fact he told us that he decides what to do as he goes along. Apparently feeling the energy of the class. However he tells us that he is not a teacher, and that he is just a yoga practitioner, just like us. In the next breath he explains what he’s about to teach us. It is funny the way he contradicts himself, but we take the point that the greatest most knowledgable and the ‘best’ teacher is your own experience.

Sometimes he reminds us of Borat.

He was born in India and Yoga has been the main focus of his life since he was three. His Grandad taught him, although he has explained to us that Yoga is not practised that widely in India. You can tell that he has sat in meditation for prolonged periods, and he has shared some of his experiences with us. He has experienced many strange things and he has deep spiritual beliefs. He says that he has experienced bodily death and soared through various parts of his consciousness. He only speaks of these things when he is confident that the class members are open to hearing about it. But he never tries to convert us, he is not a self-styled guru. 

Sometimes he has a crazy look about him, with a far reaching stare or concentrated look in his eye. Sometimes we worry about him – has he left some of his consciousness in the stratosphere?  But then we remind ourselves, he is always peaceful, relaxed, content, at ease and happy. He must be doing something right. He has a marvellous giggle.

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To make a natural organic rooting powder to use when taking cuttings you will need to find a willow tree, any of the Salix species is fine.

Cut off some of this years growth, remove the leaves and cut into one inch pieces. Place these right side/way up (direction is important since rhizocaline- catalyst to promoting root formation travels down the stem of any cutting)  in a glass, add 1/2″ of hot water, cover with a plastic bag and let sit 24 hours. Steep your cuttings in this for 24 hours, and then place in the rooting medium. The willow water may be stored in the fridge and covered to prevent contamination, but is best used up within three days.

Ive used this method many times and had excellent results. Also another method I use, which comes in dead handy if your out and about is to take the cutting and lick your clean fingers and gently rub them over the end of the cutting. Not sure why or how this works but it does.

If you have any other organic gardening tips we could use on our allotment please let us know.

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A selection of gardening/allotmenteering videos are available to watch here.

They cover the basics of a wide variety of topics including how to harvest various fruit and vegetables, seed sowing, propagation and pruning. An encyclopedia of gardening videos for nowt.

The list of topics are:

  • How To Care For Your Lawn In Autumn
  • How To Dead Head Roses
  • How To Deal with Black Spot Leaf Disease
  • How To Deal with Mildew Leaf Disease
  • How To Harvest Beetroot
  • How to Harvest Blackberries
  • How To Harvest Carrots
  • How To Harvest Chives
  • How To Harvest Courgettes
  • How To Harvest Josterberries (whatever they are!)
  • How To Harvest Khol Rabi
  • How To Harvest Lettuce
  • How To Harvest New Potatoes
  • How To Harvest Raspberries
  • How To Harvest Red Currants and White Currants
  • How To Harvest Swiss Chard
  • How To Hot Compost
  • How To Mow a Lawn Using a Petrol Lawn Mower
  • How To Plant A Shrub In A Container
  • To Plant A Tree From A Container
  • How To Plant A Window Box
  • How To Plant Daffodil Bulbs
  • How To Plant In Containers;
  • How To Plant Peas
  • How To Plant Seeds in a Basic Seed Tray
  • How to Plant Seeds in a Modular Tray
  • How To Plant Tulip Bulbs
  • How To Plant Winter Bedding Plants
  • How To Prick Out Seedlings
  • How To Propagate Semi Ripe Stem Cuttings
  • How To Propagate Vegetables from Seeds in Pots
  • How To Prune Bush Roses In Autumn
  • How To Prune Bush Roses In Winter
  • How To Prune Herbaceous Plants In Autumn
  • How To Prune Trained Fruit Trees During Summer
  • How To Test Soil pH
  • How To Transplant Seedlings InTo the Ground

keener and beener

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We always save our toilet roll tubes. But don’t throw them in the compost bin, use them as pots for sowing seeds. When you need to pot on or plant out, you can plant the tube as well, as it will rot down. This avoids disturbing the roots when pricking out. Therefore, this is a good technique for seedlings that don’t like to be disturbed/transplanted. We have also heard that it reduces the chances of carrots forking, though we’ve not tried it ourselves, its gotta be worth a go…Keener and Beener

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We really like Monty Don. Here is what he says about his experience of coping with depression and of course gardening, as recalled to the Daily Telegraph

“My technique for coping with depression is shaky at best and decidedly ineffective half the time, but The first thing I do is to get outside. It doesn’t matter what weather or time of year it is, it is essential to go out of doors. Just walking is good but doing something is better. Gardening is the obvious thing, but it has to be a clearly defined, simple project, like weeding a particular bed or planting out some trays of seedlings. Whatever you do must be specific and modest in ambition. The idea is to forget about yourself and concentrate on the doing.

When things are very bad, I can’t do much but I do physically fight it. This last winter, I spent a week concentrating on keeping my head up. Sounds silly, but it took all my energy and it worked. Holding my head up made me look out, whereas everything longed just to drop forward and look down. The world makes one sad and angry, but the only cause of depression is yourself. So all the obvious things to make you like yourself do actually help. I cut my hair, take exercise, shave, make an effort to wear nice clothes. These things can be hard and appear hopelessly superficial, but they do help.

And best of all is to have someone who loves you.”

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Here is part 3 of my journey . This part of my tale charts how I struggled to find a footing in the world and to find joy in it. However the ‘happy ever after’ part ultimately became somewhat delayed as I made a slight detour into utter insanity. Part one can be found here and part two here.

So, I continued to see my counsellor, I would often leave her house thinking well what was the point in that – that was just a chat, where’s all the analysis I’m paying for! However, I soon came to learn that she was very skilled , as I digested and assimilated our ‘conversations’, I would realise how a seemingly innocuous story or anecdote that she had told me was in fact directly relevant to how I experienced things. It was truly enlightening and I learnt so much about my self – and I finally started to realise that I had many positive attributes.

Whilst my days were filled with panic, tears, fear and all manner of self-tortuous thoughts, things were shifting onwards and upwards. I couldn’t see it nor could anyone else, but sure enough subtle changes were occurring and to use my therapy speak, I became more self-nurturing and completed less acts of self-sabotage. Or at least I was noticing the tendencies in myself and the repercussions.

Daily life was still tortuously uncomfortable and uninspiring. But small chinks of hope began to shine through. I began to wonder what ‘normal’ people did with their time and realised that I had no hobbies, interests or opportunities for joy in my life. Enter gardening. I had always keenly attended to my house plants. I had a particular interest in nurturing sick bedraggled plants – sometimes nursing them back to health, sometimes not! I had a rather daft conversation at the time with my counsellor as I explained that I was concerned that I was spending too much time obsessively thinking about my plants, reading about them and looking at them. I genuinely believed that it was a developing problem! She giggled at me as she reassured me that it was not a problem, but something to embrace. I walked away not entirely convinced by her argument, as I suppose the ‘obsessive’ thoughts were so reminiscent of the yucky negative thoughts. But I continued to read and learn and branched out into developing my own overgrown garden. I started to make new friends, who didn’t want to sit down the pub all night and who seemed to like me!

In the mean-time I had been allocated a Psychiatrist in my new area. I only went to see him once, because to put it politely – he was rubbish. He spent the session rabbiting on about his wife and the fact that she was pregnant. When I told him about how ill I became if I missed a dose of Effexor , he looked at me a little bit funny and changed topic on to something much more interesting ie himself. When I told him I really wanted to give up smoking, he told me how he had and how marvellous it was and how the decor of his home had benefited from his decision. I walked out of his office slightly confused by his clinical practice and trying to decide what his diagnosis was.

So life trundled on and I started to feel more competent. I went back to the social work course and graduated and got a job as a manager at a mental health charity. I stopped drinking. I started Yoga. I ate and taught myself to like fruit and veg. I gardened – sporadically, messily, haphazardly and inefficiently. But nevertheless I grew things and could stand back pleased with what I had achieved.

I continued to take the effexor, just ticking the little repeat box on my prescription. Blissfully unaware that it was a ticking time bomb. I believe that over time my body adapted to the presence of this poison, but its effects were still there to be noticed in the background. As it settles in, the body makes some desperate attempts to rid itself of the unhelpful substance. The unsightly acne on my chin – which would not go despite all manner of remedies – some sensible, some not. The flatness of emotion, but most troublesome to me was the exhaustion and the ridiculous amount of sleep that I needed. My personal best is from Friday night to Sunday night. I have a blurred memory of stumbling to the bathroom, drunk on sleep, but nothing else for the whole weekend.

Now in my opinion, that ain’t right. So I mounted operation ‘get my brain scanned, x-ray-ed whatever’. I made a couple of visits to the GP to explain to them how I needed at least 12 hours of sleep a night to feel normal, sometimes 14 and that I don’t have a life cos all I do is work and sleep. Its a quality of life issue, please help me. They would look at me perplexed and kinda say most people with depression would be grateful to sleep so much – whats the problem? For pity’s sake! I went back again and saw a newly qualified locum and went in for the kill. I explained my predicament and that I had tried all manner of things – better sleep hygiene, varying when I took the effexor, light boxes for SAD etc etc. I told her I think I really need a referral to the sleep clinic. After my waffling on and on, she eventually caved in and agreed to send the letter.

I was very excited, I really though they’d invite me over and put one of those colander things on my head and wire me up and study me. Instead, after spending 4 hours there retelling my life history for the umpteenth time, I was offered a prescription for a stimulant, which I refused. He told me if I ever fancied giving them a go, I should ask my GP, he’d send a letter. Thanks very much, just what I need to start – necking a load of speed! He also referred me to a support group, when the letter arrived it said ‘insomniacs support group’. I thought I better not go because other group members might think I’m taking the mick! I phoned up the nurse in charge of the group fuming ready to complain and to give them a piece of my mind …. but the bloke was really nice, he was real embarrassed and explained that was the information that he had received from the doctor. I told him not to worry and he gave me some numbers of other groups and stuff that might be able to help in the voluntary sector.

I gave up then, bored with the incompetence and determined to get on with it, taking the advice that actually it is within the ‘normal’ range. I therefore adapted and practised a bit of the old ‘accept what you cannot change’, seeing copious amounts of sleep as being part of ‘me’.

A couple of years went by, popping the effexor, getting on with it, bouts of depression, stress, and anxiety and panic attacks but doing ok-ish. I knew that stopping the effexor would be difficult and that’s why I kept taking it, everyone learns that when they forget to take a dose. I didn’t think I needed it anymore, but I guess I was putting it off until things were just ‘right’, whatever that means. Anyway I came to the conclusion that the time had arrived in Nov 05 and began, what i though was a slow withdrawal over a three months. It is nearly a year ago now that I was sectioned after becoming acutely psychotic and manic (twice). Now of course that reaction is well known and is written in the little medication hand out thingy. My story is about how easily that can happen, but more importantly (I reckon) it is about what happened after that – how not a single professional in the countless number I saw recognised it for what it was – drug withdrawal. Also how difficult it was for me to escape more medication and convince people that yes I am absolutely bonkers fair point, but I don’t have schizophrenia or bi-polar, not that there’s anything wrong with that, its just that the problem is the bloody effexor!

Suffice to say things have been a little bit tricky in the last year.

I intend to explain more about what happened when I was hospitalised. My fear is that people will think its too sensationalist, too rare, too unlikely to happen to them. In some ways, thankfully it is – but don’t bet on it. However there is a huge screaming question mark in my head – how many people out their believe they have bi-polar – the doctors think it, the patient, family and friends think it, the ‘scientific’ literature backs up their conclusions and the medication proves it because it makes them ‘better’.

I could easily be sat here now believing that I have a very serious condition and my world would have shrunk again, but the point is that I would have been in a very serious condition – on some hardcore drugs and believing once again that I have something wrong with me..

Cheers keener

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