Me and my Squash

It’s all been happening here, I hardly know where to begin! The garden continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, and it has genuinely burst into life over the last few weeks. Considering that apart what’s currently in a greenhouse and cold frame I haven’t added any plants to the garden, it’s looking remarkably lovely.

I started to dig out a little patch at the bottom of the garden for growing some veg soon, and the sparrows have absolutely LOVED it. Where I’ve turned over the earth they have feasted on the worms and grubs I revealed, but also (and this is crazy cute) they’ve been taking dust baths in the soil. I managed to capture it on the wildlife cam.

They have been driving my mum a little bit potty, because although I’ve spotted them feeding their fledgelings and teaching them how to forage by themselves, they are already getting ready for the next brood. These randy sparrows are extremely noisy, but it’s worth it because one couple have just moved into one of our nest boxes. Every day I look out the window to see them collecting more nesting material.

Another thing that has become part of my daily routine is filling up an old dustbin lid with water, as that’s where they like to drink and bathe. It’s funny how my life is currently revolving around several different animals – the evening routine involves religiously feeding our new resident hedgehog.

We have named him Wonder, because I think he might just be blind. He lets me get very close to him even in daylight but if I make a noise he will run away. Now I’ve discovered this I feed him and leave him alone, and I’m glad he found our little house. He comes out like clockwork and doesn’t even wait a whole minute after I’ve put the food out before he starts eating his dinner.

We’ve had aquilegias in our garden for years and they have been self-seeding of their own accord without us having to do anything. This is what a normal single aquilegia looks like:

But these are some of the more exciting ones I’ve been discovering:

Lockdown rules are starting to be relaxed in the UK, which for the most part I think is a huge mistake, however after a lot of thought we decided that it was time for my sister to come and visit. She stayed in the garden the whole time, and it was like the intervening two months never happened.

Of course she brought the marvellous Newton with her, and he has changed quite a bit! He’s pretty much fully grown now and he’s a lot more muscular, but also he has calmed down a lot. He’s not quite the boisterous puppy we saw last, but he’s still perfect in every way.

He very helpfully ‘watered’ the poppies for me (thanks dude) and also helped me eat my strawberries.

He takes things from you so gently, it’s absolutely adorable. I don’t think it’s possible for a dog to be more loved than this guy.

As for the things I’ve been growing, it’s been mostly successful so far. Everything in a pot seems to be doing really well even though I’ve had to improvise. I have stuff growing in old food packaging like tomato trays, plastic bottles and coconut milk cartons. Everything I’ve directly sown into the ground however has been immediately eaten by slugs before it even got going, so I’m waiting on a delivery of nematodes before I plant out my veg.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that aren’t harmful to humans, pets or wildlife, and might give my corn, beetroot, carrots, rocket, cauliflower, chard, four different varieties of tomatoes, chillies and various flowers a fighting chance. The thing I’m most excited about though, is my butternut squash.

When I last ate a squash I just threw a few seeds into a container with some compost and hoped for the best, even though you are supposed to dry out the seeds first. I just thought I’d see what would happen as an experiment, and this is what I found.

This was one squash plant at the beginning of May:

This is the very same plant today:

I’m completely invested in this plant now and rather than just sitting back and seeing what happens, I’m doing my best to look after it properly and hopefully I’ll get a harvest from it in the autumn. So exciting!

I think it’s nap time now as I have to go back to work on the 16th of June. I’m slowly, slowly working on switching my body clock back to nights mode. On the one hand, boooooo, work. But on the other, yay, naps!

Gotta keep focusing on the positives.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Too Happy

It’s been two very strange months since I last went walking just for the fun of it. Individually the days have flown by, but when I think back on that last walk on the 16th of March (with Newton, ah those were the days), it feels like a whole other life. It was an age ago, surely?

I’m still loving our garden, which is getting better every single day, but if it’s going to keep evolving I need outside input. This morning I got loads of inspiration after visiting the nature reserve.

First of all I drove for 20 minutes to a park where it would be much easier to social distance, but when I got there it was closed. After the recent easing of certain lockdown rules, it never occurred to me that a public park would still be shut. Of course I could have just climbed over the fence, who would stop me? But I’m too scared of getting told off! I drove all the way home again, but it was good for the car which has mostly been rusting on the driveway of late.

Despite having to faff a bit first thing, I still got to the nature reserve before 5:30am. Not bad going eh?

It seems I had the place to myself right up until the end of my walk, and feeling like you’re completely alone like that is a little bit magical.

How amazing is that? Wildflowers as far as the eye can see. This is just one field where the wildflowers have been left to grow – I can’t even imagine how many thousands upon thousands of plants there must be altogether. Beautiful.

I haven’t been out since I started learning the names of things, but because of my indoor researches today I was able to identify (to a reasonable degree of certainty) herb robert, yellow archangel, cow parsley, red campion, bluebells, greater stitchwort, iris, dog rose, honesty, speedwell, vetch, wood avens, yellow rattle, azalea and, best of all, what I think is an early purple orchid. It’s definitely an orchid of some kind in any case.

As if that were not enough excitement to be getting on with, I have a few things filed away that I’ll hopefully be able to identify at a later date. When I got home I ordered some of seeds of the flowers I saw that I want in the garden, so this time next year we’re going to have a riot of colour out there.

When I got home, I immediately noticed that the first icelandic poppy of the year had flowered while I’d been gone. That’s the first time I’ve ever wanted (or tried) to pinpoint when it flowered. The thing is almost the size of a bloody plate!

We have these along with Welsh poppies in the garden, but another plan for next year is to have loads of different varieties of them flowering at the same time in all different colours. Go big or go home, as they say.

Since I last wrote, I had my final counselling session. I have been discharged, because simply put, I am now too happy to qualify for their services. Well I ain’t complaining! I have discovered that I find therapy extremely useful and I fully intend to get private help by the end of the year. Yes, I’m fine now, but I think it would be helpful to have ongoing advice. For one I’d like to come off the anti-depressants at some point, but I especially struggle in the winter so it would be nice to have someone to help keep things on track. That’s the idea, anyhoo.

It’s so nice to allow myself to be happy and enjoy the moment without replaying the past or obsessing about the future. It makes simple tasks so much more fun. Yesterday I spent the afternoon putting stones in the ground around the cherry tree, which next year will be a huge circle of wildflowers. Some bird’s foot trefoil already made itself at home there, so I figure why not get it some company?

I can’t even begin to find the words to describe the pleasure I’m taking from such simple little things right now.

I did have a call from work this morning, and I’m officially due back in on the 15th of June, so there will be a new dynamic to get my head around. As long as I have the garden though, I have no doubt I’ll be fine.

Right, time to get outside I reckon!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Seeds of Change

For the last few weeks, I haven’t bothered with trying to find any balance in my life. Since I finally decided to stop feeling bad about my weight, I have gone to town and have been treating every day like a holiday. It has been great. I’ve had good food, good wine, and made some irreplaceable new memories with my family.

One highlight was these immense doughnuts from Doughnut Time. I was supposed to be going to a doughnut decorating class with my sister but lockdown interfered with those plans, so I bought a couple of kits to try at home. My brother ate one and literally had to have a nap in order to sleep off the sugar overload.

They aren’t exactly cheap, but I cannot recommend them highly enough. They’re out of this world.

Another standout was toasted marshmallows on the BBQ last weekend. I had to wait forever for vegan-friendly marshmallows to be delivered (I don’t care what your dietary preference is, beef and pork do not belong in sweets) and when they did to be honest they seemed like sad, flat little things.

However, if you stick em on a BBQ and turn them slowly, they puff right up! Toasted marshmallows are delicious, but if they catch on fire? EVEN BETTER.

Me and my little bro spent the whole evening outside, and we got to see about four hedgehogs with our very own eyes. Plus we heard even more snuffling around in the bushes. Another magical memory to store away for a rainy day.

As much as it’s been fantastic not worrying about my weight, the fact remains that if I continue to eat and drink the way I have been, my health is going to suffer. So, it’s time to put holiday mode to one side and eat same damn veggies.

This isn’t my usual diet mentality though. First of all, my aspirational clothes are going. On eBay, to the charity shop, whatever, but I am DONE keeping things to ‘slim into’. I just recently bought some clothes that fit me (well they did, they’re just a little tight right now!) and it’s so freeing to try something on and think ‘yes, I like this on me now, just as I am’. Or to try something on that doesn’t feel right and assume there is something wrong with the garment, rather than something wrong with my body. It’s no longer ‘I am too big’, it’s ‘this item of clothing is too small’.

I am almost, almost ready to say goodbye to diet culture once and for all, but before I do I just want to lose a tiny bit more weight. I have set a sensible goal, and when I get there I will be able to maintain it easily. I was ‘stuck’ at that weight for perhaps a year at one point, and it was mainly outside influences that made me want to lose even more. There was a voice in my head at the time asking if I shouldn’t just stop right then (I really could have been happy y’know), but I didn’t listen to it. Ah well, the message got through eventually!

Once the final diet of my life is out of the way, I can, for the first time ever, discover what it’s like to live a life that isn’t ruled by food. I had a taste of this during holiday mode, and although it was wonderful, I did go too far the other way. Or at least, if I were going to eat like that all the time it would be too much. As far as making the most of lockdown and some beautifully sunny days, I can say, hand on heart, that I haven’t wasted a second of it.

And then, in the very near future, I can be someone who eats sensibly during the week then relaxes with a few treats at the weekend. Imagine that, not living a life of restriction, guilt, shame, binges and purges! This is a journey (sorry to drop the J word on you there) I’m really excited about, more excited than I ever got when I was close to my so-called target weight.

Although I’m telling you my plans now, I probably won’t be saying much about weight-related things from now on. That’s because it is now taking up such a tiny amount of headspace, it stands to reason it should take up a small amount of blog space as well. Going forwards, if you aren’t interested in how my plant babies are getting on, then this probably isn’t the place for you! You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on then! The plants are doing well, and although I’d planned to plant them outside soon a sudden cold snap has scuppered that plan. For now, my bedroom looks more like a greenhouse than a place to sleep, but come spring next year I’ll have a much better system in place. I seriously underestimated how much I would care about gardening, but I’m totally invested in these little seedlings. I repotted my sunflower and it was touch and go for a few days – the leaves kept going limp and I couldn’t figure out why (I’m still not entirely sure) but it pulled through and now it’s started growing again. Crisis averted… for now.

I planted some seeds I took from a butternut squash I ate a few weeks ago but didn’t expect much to happen. I thought you had to dry the seeds out and plant them next year, but I decided I’d give it a go anyway. Yesterday, their first true leaves just started peeping out! I can hardly contain my excitement!

Last week was a busy one in the garden. I finished digging the hole for the pond which was bloody hard going. You wouldn’t even believe the amount of rubble I dug up. It’s way too exposed to attract much wildlife just yet, but I have some oxygenating plants on order then I’ll build up gradually from there. Please note the hedgehog ramps devised by my brother. You see, hedgehogs can’t swim so if they fall in they need a way to get out again. Bless them.

The area I showed you a picture of a few weeks ago has gone from looking like this:

To this:

It’s getting there! Also, these are just some of the bits of tile I have so far pulled out of the ground.

I am making new discoveries in the garden nearly every single day, but I’ll save that for next time.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Manual Labour

Another day, another opportunity to get out there and enjoy the garden. Yesterday it was raining most of the time, and I can’t even remember why I went out at all to be honest. What I ended up doing was weeding a little section of the garden and transplanting some wildflowers that were spreading over the grass. It’s nice to just do whatever I feel like doing at the time.

I don’t know if the transplants will work, but I thought it was a much better idea than just mowing over them. Hopefully they’ll stay healthy. I’ve also created some space to put out the plant babies when they’re ready, though I don’t think they’re quite there yet. Even so, my hand may soon be forced as I have way too many per pot and nowhere to put them. It’s fun not knowing what the hell you’re doing!

I didn’t take a before picture, and since it was in such a terrible state it’s one area I tend to avoid when I have my camera out. Once I had started I was in my happy place and forgot all about it. Here’s the after picture anyway:

After I took this picture and went indoors for a nice shower, we only went and had a poxy hail storm. I timed that just right, because although I stayed out when it was raining I draw the line at hail. Luckily it didn’t seem to harm the plants.

My task for today was to give the pampas grass a haircut, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The garden has just been going wild for the last few years without any intervention from us apart from cutting the grass from time to time when absolutely necessary, and the last time I even went near the pampas was to photograph a fly five years ago.

There are a couple of viable options with a pampas grass. You can cut it right back till it’s just a stump, but now is the wrong time to do that. Or, you can set it on fire. I decided to give that one a miss. Before I started it looked like this:

I thought it would be a case of pulling out the old stalky bits from the top (technical term) and yanking out a few of the dead… leaves? The dangly bits, anyway. But when I got right into it, I saw that were a lot more dead dangly bits than I thought.

The pampas grass should be renamed the Tardis grass.

That’s not even all of it! It’s also razor sharp and the seeds are all fluffy so I’ve been sneezing like mad since I stopped. Now I’m learning about these things, it should never get that bad again. So that’s something. When it’s the proper time, it’s not just getting a haircut, it’s getting shaved.

There have been some developments as far as the wildlife cam goes. You can get up to ten different hedgehogs visiting your garden every night, but I now know for sure the little chap/chapette visiting us every night is the same one. I suspected our little friend has a leg missing, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just hidden in his underfluffies. After reviewing around 3 hours of footage (so far) I can now say for sure he (I’m also around 60% sure it’s a boy) only has the three legs.

A friend of mine suggested a great name for him, so henceforth he shall be known as Tripod. He seems really well adapted and he’s obviously getting along just fine, but yesterday night he had an itch that he just couldn’t scratch. If I didn’t think it would be scary and stressful for him I’d be tempted to catch him, but since he’s seems happy and healthy enough I’ll just leave him be.

I almost forgot to feed him last night but remembered just before going to bed. When I checked the camera in the morning it showed he had appeared a mere four minutes after I put the kibble out. He must have been waiting!

We’ve so far had an appearance two nights running from what I believe to be a field mouse, but on the second night it came too late and there was nothing left. It’s name is Dangermouse.

Last night we had what is possibly a house mouse, but I don’t know enough about these things to be sure. The field mouse has longer legs, and is much more nervous. And fast, too! This one, as yet unnamed, seemed much more relaxed.

The final species was our neighbour’s cat. I’m so glad it didn’t eat any of my new friends, both of which visited again after it had gone. Nothing will come between them and Hoggy Crunch, it seems.

Yesterday I found a wildflower which I think may be a common vetch. Or perhaps a spring vetch. Either way it’s delicate and pretty. Once I spotted that one I found three others, and avoided doing any more gardening around that spot. I’ll keep an eye out for when the seed pods are ready and we’ll hopefully have loads more next year.

Finally, I saw my first ever brimstone moth today after my bright gloves confused it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I FLIPPING LOVE OUR GARDEN! I love the physical work, which completely takes me out of myself while I’m doing it, almost like meditation.

Simply marvellous.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x