Sunday, 27 November 2016


I'm feeling rather overwhelmed at the moment.  I have been looking at the whole, and it is just too much, way too much for me to deal with, even think about without getting stressed or depressed or freaked out or all of the above.  My expectations of my physical abilities are unrealistic, the time I have to do everything is limited, especially as the daylight hours are so short.  I have been trying to make things work that are just not workable.  As a consequence I feel stuck, both mentally and physically.  So although I can't just click my fingers and come up with solutions, what I can do is try to think of a way to make it all manageable and less overwhelming.

Bear with me here as I try to sort things out in my head by writing it down and breaking it down.  The areas that need to be sorted are

Home renovation
Vegetable garden
Social life.


We have been working on the basics, the drinking water is now safe, the boiler has been serviced, we have an electrician checking and sorting everything at the moment who will then issue a certificate. There are many faults and loose wires hanging out of uncovered sockets, not good when you have young grandchildren.   Most of the lights have been replaced with low energy fittings and bulbs and solar panels and battery will be fitted soon although we have to wait for the poles to the house to be upgraded. This will make us more self sufficient.  The stove has been serviced and will work more efficiently and we are looking into log burners and planting some willow for future fuel.

 I knew I would need to update the bathrooms, fill and paint walls and re carpet but it just hasn't felt like that will make it the house we want.  I have been going over and over it in my head and it just doesn't feel right.  A builder suggested getting in an architect, something we had not even considered.  He was a breath of fresh air, challenging us to throw out all of our preconceptions, climb out of the box and come at it in a totally different way.  The house just doesn't work, it is badly designed.  So instead of patching up and making do, we need to totally rethink the space.  The house came with planning permission and foundations for a two story extension so that was what we were trying to find the money to build.  He made us realise that by totally rearranging the space we already have we do not need to do this.  By moving walls and repurposing areas we will have the space we want.  I know....obvious really but sometimes you are just so stuck in your thinking you need someone else to point out the obvious.  He has advised us to take our time in deciding what we want from the house and how we actually use the space, all good advice. We have been so determined to 'get on with it' but as he said, that's when expensive mistakes happen and you wish you had done things differently.  We have to redo all the bathrooms, so that would be the ideal time to move walls and create more space for the bedrooms.  So we will now take our time to decide what we want.  I may paint some walls to make it feel fresh and clean in the mean time but we can live with the rest of it.  Phew, the pressure of trying to make something work that was never going to work is off.  There will be other pressures, finding the money to do this but at least I can now see a way forward.


This has been an absolute nightmare.  My dreams of a no dig garden have been scuppered by the previous owner using the veg patch to burn rubbish.  I have found glass, plastic, metal including bra wires!!, a battery and lots and lots of screws.  So I have been taking off the top layer of contaminated soil to be replaced with soil that I will be happy to grow our food in.  It is a very large vegetable garden, the same size as the whole of the garden in our last house so it has been overwhelming thinking of all the work that needs to be done to the totally overgrown mess.   I have decided I need to concentrate on one little thing at a time and block out the rest of it as it stresses me out.  So I have created one vegetable bed in a none contaminated part of the garden.  I laid cardboard and over the last few days have been wheelbarrowing compost and manure to cover it.  I will have a go at growing some garlic in a little part and leave the rest to settle ready for the spring.  I'm also going to get some compost into the poly to get a little area ready to plant some winter greens and lettuce.  Little areas, little steps and realistic expectations of my time and physical abilities is the way I can move forward without too much stress.


There are huge changes happening at work and I'm not very happy about the change in direction.  It will be a totally different way of working, instead of being out in the community I will be more office based and I'm not sure this will suit me.  The hours are also changing and will not fit in with home life in some ways.  Although I will not be getting home at 7 o'clock in the evening which is horrible in winter, it means I will have less time during the day for working on the garden etc.  I would love to get a dog and chickens but not sure how this will fit in with my new hours.  Decisions decisions......  I have been looking at giving a home to a retired greyhound but am worried about our cat and as they are sight dogs, that it would head off across the fields after a rabbit as we don't have an enclosed garden.  Any personal experiences from greyhound owners out there would be appreciated.


For all the above reasons I find myself working all the time and having no time for fun.  This has to change but how I'm not sure.  I started typing this a 5.30 this morning, trying to cram as much into my day as possible.  After a melt down yesterday I met up with a friend for a walk on the beach, listening to the waves crashing on the shore as dusk descended was just what I needed to feel better (well that and the hot chocolate and brownie from Swanpool cafe).  I need to build these times into my timetable.  Crafting  and cooking also lift my spirit so need to be included somewhere.   I was very excited to find red cabbage in my seasonal veg box so my first batch of braised red cabbage was made.  It's the little things that bring me joy.

Anyway, that's my life at the moment.   Don't get me wrong I am very grateful for all I have, I just have to manage my time so I can actually enjoy it. It is dark and cold but there is still beauty to be found.   I will keep  you updated on our progress on the house and garden, but don't expect it any time soon.

Chickpea xx

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Permaculture, Activity and Diet Courses

I have been on several courses lately and my brain is frazzled, it's like being back at Uni, trying to take it all in.  I think I lost the plot towards the end.  The Permaculture course was a personal choice, the others mandatory for work.   So what did I learn?  I have been doing 'permaculture' for many years without even knowing it.....well I am an old hippy at heart.  We  had a really enthusiastic tutor full of ideas and energy.  Putting his ideas into practice in his own home.  Compost toilet, rocket stove mass heater, all in his eco hut that he built himself.  I love all of that but there is no way in hell I would pursued the bearded one that we should have a compost toilet.  These things are all wonderful but both of you have to be on board.  He is keen on us having solar panels as they are pretty mainstream now, but as for some of the more way out things, it's not going to happen.  Having grown up on a farm his dad and himself look with amusement at my overgrown veg patch with cardboard scattered around, including in the neighbouring trees as it dries out and peels off.  ' Could do with putting a rotavator over that" they chorus. After growing things in a certain way for decades they do not get the whole 'no till' thinking, but I will persevere.   I do think the permaculture way of thinking is a really good way to approach things, we really need to step gently on the earth......literally.

The Encouraging People to be more Active course was a lot better than I thought it would be, having good tutors makes all the difference.  They were not your usual sporty types who run 50 miles a day and make the rest of us feel like sloths thank goodness.  It is about getting everyone to do something as it helps not only with physical well being but mental wellbeing.  I know I for one feel a lot better after going out for a walk, even if I have moaned and practically had to be dragged out.  I have actually started swimming in the outdoor pool in the evenings, it is painful to start off, it involves a lot of shrieking but once I'm in as long as I keep swimming it is wonderful.  Swimming under the stars and moon is bliss.  Anyway as far as I can remember, people aged between 19 and 64 need to do at least 150 mins exercise a week of moderate intensity, which could be 30 minutes a day for five days, OR 75 minutes vigorous intensive activity spread across the whole week.  Plus muscle strength exercise 2 days a week, which is why I'm swimming in the freezing cold weather!

As for healthy weight, well I already knew I was overweight, ( or too short for my weight) but after being weighed on a body composition analyser  found that my visceral fat level is healthy YESS!!!  I knew there was a thin person inside :)  Your visceral fat is very different from the squidgy fat you can squeeze on the outside.  It wraps itself around your organs and makes you prone to heart disease, diabetes etc.  It is a hidden fat that even if you are thin, can be lurking inside.  I eat healthy food, vegetarian and gluten free,  just much more than I burn off which may account for my results.

I am saddened by the news of Trump winning the election but can't say I'm surprised, after Brexit, nothing surprises me.  Michael Moore who predicted the win months ago warned that people who struggle to put food on the table and roofs over their heads are desperately looking for someone who says he will listen to them and fix everything.  Sadly they will be bitterly disappointed, a bit like the 350 million that was going to the NHS, yeh pigs might fly.  In my opinion he is a thoroughly nasty piece of work who shouldn't be in charge of a car park, let alone a country!

Anyway, enough lecturing! The next post will be on lighter subjects I promise :)  I will leave you with some photos from my week.

The deer spotted on a dawn walk, sadly we haven't seen them for days, I think they were scared off by the huge firework displays going on all around us.... and there was me thinking that living out in the country we would avoid all the fireworks!

Some photos taken at the fabulous Mount Pleasant Eco Park where the  Permaculture course was held, we had the delicious vegan roast for lunch accompanied by the owner on the decks playing reggae in the cafe.

Beautiful sunset, frosty morning and the venue for other training.

Chickpea xx