Gardening for the enthusiastic.

I named this piece ‘Gardening for the enthusiastic’ and not Enthusiast/Green-fingered/Someone who has any affinity for plants at all because I am none of those things and I can only write from my own experience.

I am Enthusiastic.

I find something/anything to occupy my time and GO WITH IT with such an intensity and obsession it takes over my life. Last summer it was Grow-Your-Own produce. I read up on everything to do with back-yard growing (as you know this fulfills another of my obsessions) and then collected up seed packets for veg such as Peas and Radishes (nice and easy and QUICK) Turnip, Beetroot and Carrot of various colours and mixes (root veg are my favourites to eat) to some of the more exotic like Khol Rabi, Mooli, Asparagus and Globe Artichoke.

Oh yeah, I had my meals planned out for the next eight months.

The thing was, I didn’t have much money and I didn’t have all that much patience. I LOVE growing things. I germinated those seedlings and brought them on and hardened them off and planted them all out with the EXACT amount of precision. It was only once they were in the ground and big enough to fend off the caterpillars themselves that I got bored. The pea plants gave me four pea pods in all. I had FIVE pea plants. The beets were bitter and evil and spoiled my wonderful beet and sausage stew. The carrots were three and a half centimeters long after five months of being in the ground. The lettuces, now this was the craziest thing, were bloody prickly and couldn’t be eaten they were so sharp! I bought all my seeds from reputable gardening stores and did what the instructions told me to do. The only problem was my soil.

After years of weeds and rubbish and neighbour’s cats toileting in the border, the soil was in the worst possible shape to be growing veg in. It takes years of care and knowledge to build up a good soil and lots of hard-work keeping it that way as vegetables take away the goodness as fast as you can replace it. Hard work is fine. I enjoy it when I can SEE the fruits of my labours (so to speak) but I couldn’t afford a quick-fix for the soil and my compost bin was in it’s infancy.

So this year I pulled out all the weeds and the four foot high Kohl Rabi plant that didn’t turn into any type of edible veg and OH and I have sown normal everyday pretty plant seeds- Aubretia to give ground cover, Lavender for scent and for the bees and butterflies, same goes for globe thistles, poppies of 5 types, Red-Hot Pokers, My love lies bleeding (a very beautiful drooping velvety flowered plant that is actually very understated), Sage (I want a herb bed more than anything and given the conditions of my garden think the Mediterranean plants might do better here than anything else), Pansies for pops of velvet ‘Black-Jack’ black and many other to boot.

The Ornamental Corn germinated two plants. The caterpillars took one. The Pumpkin germinated three out of seven (higher mortality rate to last years but the seeds are older) and the caterpillars have just had the head off one. The Lavender looks to be doing well and the caterpillars don’t seem overly enticed by the tiny baby plants so here’s fingers crossed on that front, the pansies look okay but are a little sparse in the patch we gave over to them, the poppies may not take till next year but I’m okay with that and I’ve not seen anything of the globe thistles or artichokes, red hot pokers or aubretia. I will wait. I will be patient. I will go and buy grown plants to fill in the gaping holes in my garden.

I would like to have a herb based bed with other plants adding to it. I think I’ll buy larger plants so the poor things don’t get eaten down by bugs or scratched up by the local cats (mine is a house cat so no probs there).

The only plants I’ve had any success with have been hand-me-downs. The Lemon Balm I found in a corner and split and replanted, it’s doing marvelously. The Shamrock that was grown out and is a close descendant of my Nana’s, both in red/purple leafed and green varieties, brought down from my Mam’s house and replanted here. The Loganberry bush which is thriving after my old neighbour gave it to me through the fence for me to tie in and get to take roots on as she doesn’t actually eat Loganberries. The Gooseberry bush which I bought last year and thought was dead due to the poor thing looking much like a dried twig until a few weeks ago, now I have the sneaking suspicion it was just using all it’s energies for root-formation. The variegated bamboo which I hacked to near-nothingness and has come back thicker and lusher than before as well as being a bit more compact. My powder pink Hydrangea that OH was bullied into buying me one day that as soon as it was placed outside turned shocking pink and then the caterpillars got it bad. I have since planted the thing and dead-headed it, giving it a chance to form stronger roots so next years flowers will be all the better.

I need to go to the garden center. Our border is empty and sitting outside in our hand-me-down gravel and concrete yard (the poor little thing couldn’t be called a garden yet) is just the slightest bit depressing…

Good luck fellow Enthusiastics. May the force be with you.

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Guilty Pleasures Pt II.

I’ve had an honest think about what else I consider a ‘guilty pleasure’ and will continue the list I started a few weeks ago although really, this is probably just a list of true ‘likes’ of which I don’t feel guilty at all.

Magazines and books. I can’t help myself. I have gardening books, jewellery design books, dog breed and dog training books (I will admit here I own less cat-themed reading) Home decor magazines, wedding mags (no, no upcoming nuptials, just a love of pretties), travel books (a new thing for me) craft books, philosophy books, fiction (you all know my addiction to fiction) and pretty much everything in between! I ❤ books…

Eating and drinking al fresco. I love being out in the garden. I’m not usually so sun-worshippy as I used to burn easily. For some reason this is not the case this year and my tolerance to heat has risen, much to my delight. So any time I can be out in the garden, I will be. Especially with a glass of wine. Pub grub whilst sitting out under a parasol (usually only on holidays but hey) and a ice cold bottle of lager…

Olives. Aw man I could eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve rediscovered them this summer and am trying to put them on everything, much to OH’s distress. Just a classic Caesar salad with feta and olives instead of Parmesan shavings, try it! Crushed with feta and sweet peppers as a topping for pork chops…

I went home for the Jubilee weekend (‘home’ here being where me and OH grew up, a little village outside of York) to visit parents and pick up some more of my stuff from their attic. I collected two HUGE bags of Ty Beanie Babies. Hell yeah.

I am such a Rock Star.

Oh my god I forgot how much I adore those things. The Bears that you just HAVE to collect. The one’s you HAVE to have. The one’s with the cutest faces and the most charming fur colours. Remember, I am 25 this September so this is probably one of my most guilty pleasures. I realised I have more bears than I picked up that weekend and have recruited my folks to find the remaining bags in their attic. I probably have well over 300. The one’s I picked up are PRISTINE. PERFECT. Tags protected and all safe in clean, thick plastic bags. They were (and have now become again) my pride and joy. The guilty secret here is once I saw them all, remembered where I bought each one (with my parents at beanie fairs, on holidays to Orlando, at the local toy store before it shut down…) I caught the bug again. Hiding it from OH, I went on Amazon.co.uk (my go-to place for EVERY online purchase) and started searching for more; new styles and old ones I never managed to get. Unfortunately I bought many when the craze was still strong and spent a small fortune along the way but now I am happy to announce, my new found addiction is a cheap as chips. I bought 2004 Signature Bear after I fell in love with his gold nose. I couldn’t help myself. I’ve hidden the purchase from OH and hope it arrives on one of my days off… 😉

IKEA ‘shopping’ days with my Mum. I have to admit I never need anything when I go shopping with Mum but I always buy something. And we always have either a full-english (if we get their for opening time) or a hot dinner. I love this place. Breakfast is about two quid a person with re-fillable coffee (surprisingly good coffee) on an IKEA Family card and me and Mother have been known to get to IKEA so early we have to wait for the doors to open. We have also been known to race through the store ‘short-cuts’ not even looking at any form of product, flapping through the store, even pushing toddlers out the way, just to get to the dining hall… Hmm… Crazy… But then, me and my Mother have a fair few quirks…

🙂

Puppy.

So, ever since I moved in with OH (three years ago on June 27th to be precise) I have wanted a dog. I think he secretly wants a dog still but he is, thankfully, too sensible to let me run wild with it. We lived in a rented flat and ‘rented flats aren’t allowed pets in them’. We were going on holidays and ‘you’d never leave your dog in a kennel’. We didn’t have a car and ‘we can’t pick up a puppy on a train’. He has preferences and ‘I’m not owning a girly dog’.

His excuses got steadily thinner until he just stopped acknowleging my research through adverts for pups. Our parents said ‘Oh, you don’t want the responsibility’ and ‘they tie you down’.

Well, one night as we were having a glass of wine I told OH (rather tearily I might add) that I didn’t want to be alone when I knew he’d be going away to work for six months the next year.

He looked at me and said ‘We can’t have a dog here Kirst.’

I squarked back through wine and tears ‘I know!’.

So he replied ‘So lets buy a house.’

So we did. That didn’t stop him going away to work for six weeks just as we were finalising purchasing details and solicitors. He has to work. I get that. I have to pick up the slack and know exactly what’s going on while he’s away. That’s my job. I’m pretty good at it and I am stronger than I give myself credit for. But I was in a new house on my own in a new part of town. I broke again one night and called my poor father at 2am. He listened.

The next day, on my way to work, Dad called.

‘I think I’ve found someone who can help you.’ (Aw hell, I thought, a shrink!?) ‘Just give her a call, we think this is the answer.’

‘What answer Dad?’

‘We want to buy you a kitten.’ I cried all the way off the ferry and into work. I love my parents but this was something I could never have guessed they’d do. The trick was getting it approved by OH.

‘You don’t even like cats.’

Hmmm. Incorrect. ‘I don’t particularly have an affintity for them.’

‘You’re Dad’s pretty much sold you on this hasn’t he?’

‘Yes.’

‘There’s nothing I could say is there?’ (smile in his voice now)

‘Well, there probably is but please don’t say it.’

So we got Jethro. A cat.

I think my desire for a dog has never really dissapated but Jethro was and still is my lifesaver. Now I see dogs on walks and I always shout to OH ‘Look at that! Isn’t he cute?!’ I am still missing a puppy and the more wild and rough Jethro gets, the more I want to find him a companion too. I have only ever had dogs (at home growing up) from puppies and for me personally, the benefits of this outweighs  getting an older dog.

So, here’s my wish list for dogs. I have carefully taken into account that when I’m on my own I may not be able/want to walk for miles and miles at night by myself so ‘big’ dogs are out of the question. Although when OH is home, we walk for miles and miles. There are a couple here that are probably too vivacious but I’ll eventually admit that to myself and NOT get a breed that would be bored or not excersised correctly.

The Basset Hound. The only things I really worry about with this breed are- how Jethro may bite or grab at dogs ears, their short stature is not reccommended for houses with stairs as going up and down stairs can affect their development and therefore their health and the fact that, despite it’s short stature this is actually a Big dog.

Hmmm. So, to the next.

The Dacshund.

Again, I worry about their health as they are considered an ‘extreme’ body type but the weight of these little dogs isn’t quite as tough on their joints as that of a Basset. This breed is on the ‘girly’ list of banned dogs OH has set.

So, onwards.

The Boston Terrier.

I am not sure if the Bozzy is on the banned list but they are peppy little dogs that apparently are couch-potatoes on the sly. A smaller dog, they have unfortunately become ‘trendy’ in England and now command rediculous ‘designer dog’ price tags which doesn’t always mean you are getting a healthy pup.

And the next…

The Beagle.

A sweet natured family dog (a must with Jethro around) this breed requires a lot of excercise and open running which would only ever be an issue occasionaly if OH was working away for months and I was left on my own with dog, cat and job…

I think, in reality that’s it. The only true contenders in my mind. I’m reluctant to pick one as I’m still trying to be objective and honest about our situation and I’m trying to be responsible, not to mention OH won’t let me have a puppy until I’m teaching which will be another two years at least. My thinking is, would it make us happy? Yes. Would it get us out the house and excersising more? Yes. Is now the best time as OH is definitely home for the next two years? Yes. I don’t want to be hearing what I want to hear here but at the end of the day, the more me and OH talk about something, the more we talk ourselves out of it i.e. the car dilemma.

But never mind, I’m sure we’ll get there and add another furry bundle to our little family eventually. Wish me luck 🙂

 

Busy Bodies.

There’s always someone who thinks they know better. Like they’ve lived your EXACT life, know the best way to live it and that you are definately doing it wrong. They don’t give gentle advice at the point you need it, they hammer you with THEIR opinions as if it is absolute fact when ever they get the chance.

You find them every where; the nosy, overly helpful and insanely sweet old neighbour who pokes her nose through the fence to ask if you excersise your pets enough and who parks her horrific old banger of a car directly outside your front door as her husbands’ car is in their spot, the boss who still lived with his parents at thirty six and thought he new better just because he shouted his opinions louder than you, the uncle who thinks he knows better cause he was a police officer and ‘head’ of the house, the grandmother, well, they always know better… You find them every where.

You live with them quite happily most of the time but then one comment hits you right in a soft spot or that one comment is one comment too much.

And sometimes you just need to rant about it a little so you don’t end up saying something rude to shut them up…

 

Being a Grown-Up

Sometimes, being a Grown-Up sucks. Expectations. Bills. Work. Bills. Houses, meaning mortgages. Food, meaning supermarkets. Bills. Responsibility. More expectations and did I mention Bills?

There are a few good things about being a Grown-Up that makes it all worthwhile, the biggest and best is FREEDOM. Okay, you have to work but you can choose what and where to do that. We chose what size T.V. we wanted (and later cursed it for not being big enough) we chose our own kitchen and bathroom suit. We choose where we go on holiday. We chose where to live. We picked our house.

We do have two full sets of parents between us that have offered their own advice and wisdom but at the end of the day, it’s on us. Got a mortgage you can’t handle, sorry kid, that’s freedom for ya.

I used to dispair sometimes at some of the people I worked with. I’ve always got along with much older folks than myself you see and listening to the same old “I got SOOOO smashed last night” stories from fellow twenty-somethings got tedious extremely fast. Even worse when those stories came from over-twenty-somethings and over-thirty-somethings-too. I find I have very little in common with the average twenty-four year old. Or at least the average twenty-four year old retail worker. I do intend to fix this. This year I’m applying for a PGCE and will get out of reatil as soon as I’m fully trained. I want to teach in a Primary School.

But anyway, back to FREEDOM. This week we’ve done a lot of big-deal things that we just seem to take in our stride. Lasik eye surgery, upgrading banking, reading through our life insurance policy… And hopefully, buying a car.

Have I mentioned before that we haven’t owned a car since moving to the South Coast? We’ve been here three years. Now is time. We just want something small and nippy- a Peugeot 206, a Fiat Punto, a Vauxhall Corsa, a Renault Clio… Nothing too fancy. With this new found freedom we want to visit family on the fly; without booking weeks of holiday off or renting expensive cars. We want to throw a two man tent in the boot and go camping for a few days where ever we end up. We want to tour the pubs of Hampshire on the weekends. We want to visit places like the zoo or national trust houses (I like old buildings, OH likes history) We want to go to France on the ferry (I know, I’ve never been but this will be fixed)

This we shall have as soon as we have encompassed the epitome of freedom that is being a car owner into our lives. See, sometimes being a Grown-Up doesn’t suck at all.

Lasik eye surgery.

Today we journied to Southampton for my extremely nervous Other Half’s Lasik lazer eye surgery. He’s wanted to lose the glasses ever since we got together nearly five years ago and this year he bit the bullet and did it. He didn’t sleep last night and had a very nervous morning and subsequent train ride to Southampton.

My gosh he’s brave, although the thought of the surgery is far worse than the actual procedure, this taking around 35-45 seconds in total. In total. Then, perfect vision for the rest of his life. Cool huh?

The train ride home was just as emotional and a little more painful. The sensation of sand-in-your-eyes-after-rolling-down-a sand-dune-halfway-through-a-long-bing-drinking-session comes to mind but I can’t be 100% accurate as it was OH’s eyes and not mine.

Pain killers, three different types of eye drops and a 3 hour siesta later and he’s feeling grand; marvelling at his brand new sight and now watching re-runs of QI without any glasses.

I would urge anyone considering this incredible form of elective surgery to brave it out. I can already see the possibilities for OH and his excitment is palpable.

Being owned by a Bengal…

No, not a Bengal Tiger but damn close.

At two years old this month, Jethro (after my hero Leeroy Jethro Gibbs of favourite show NCIS) is fully grown and full of attitude. He slinks around his territory like a panther and treats me like a warm knee to sleep on/warm something to curl up in bed with/toilet cleaner/food bringer/companion and toy.

He jumps in the shower every morning to check there are no foul beasties lurking there for me. We play chase the length of the house which he particularly loves as he gets to skid on the wooden floors. We wrestle (no, not like I would with a tiger) where abouts he grabs my right arm, never my left, and continues to scratch, shred and bite. He’s not aggressive, I just play rough. We chat about cat things… Yes, in cat speak. I am adept at the intricasies and potential for disaster with this new language of which OH is completely ignorant.We head-butt (no, not me and OH) which is cat for hello.

At almost twenty five, I am THAT Cat Lady.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not as some are, a die-hard cat fanatic. In fact, I have absolutely no preference for either cats or dogs. I am not a ‘Cat Person’ or a ‘Dog Person’. I just happen to be owned by a cat and an infatuated with him. I do however see clearly now what my poor mother had been mocked for all the time I lived at home. She’s incredible; obsessive, possessive, passionate, caring, sensitive, totally hilarious, generous, opinionated, loving, creative and the most wonderful best friend. She just loves animals. They are her babies.

My parents taught me to see. It’s not as silly as it sounds. They taught me to watch and look, question and learn. Appreciate. That is seeing. I see things when I’m out on a walk that Other Half doesn’t even look at. When I explain why that tree is so interesting or point to yet another squirrel in the grass I don’t think he gets it. I’m no new age hippy but I can tell when Jethro is hungry, when he’s bored etc. Yes, it’s part of living with him every day but it’s also more than that. Small tells from an animal are IMPORTANT and many people don’t even notice them. Body language is SO important for animals and even humans subconsciously respond to it without engaging their brains to question WHY. When Jethro starts ripping up the carpet he’s not being badly behaved, he’s just bored. When he gets what the family call ‘Crazy Eyes’ dilated pupils, we know he’s stalking something and to get out of the way. My parent’s dog does this too; we know when she’s like that, she’s in the zone and nothing will distract her. She’s killed a baby chicken this way which Mam was devestated over but the dog did give the ‘tell’. She was very obviously in the zone. Since owning a cat I’ve appreciated silence more. Dog owners never get silence. My parents’ two Wiemeraners make noise even when they’re asleep- Kim snores, as she tucks her head into her chest too tightly and Charlie dreams, making whinnying noises somewhat like a wild Zebra.

People say you don’t understand what it is to be a parent until you’re a parent. After my folks bought me Jethro, I finally get it. Or something close to it. I know when I have kids I’ll know the difference but having Jethro, a creature you’re wholly responsible for, is a huge thing. I don’t think enough animal owners understand this, let alone some parents. I would run into a burning building to save him, some people might call me crazy and I am proud to say that this kind of crazy feeling is inherited from my mother.

I just feel better when I’m with my cat and Other Half. They’re my family and what’s more important than that?