About Hayley

Bird parent, dog aunt, walker, photographer, forklift driver, bookworm, maker of messes.

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

Hog Cam

Over the last seven days I have definitely been embracing the lockdown life. I’ve meant to blog several times, but by the time I get around to it I’ve been way too pooped and have instead relaxed on the sofa in front of the TV with me mum. Plus a glass of wine (or four).

Since lockdown started I have seen whole episodes of The Great British Bake Off, Killing Eve, Great British Menu, and the new one about primates. Normally I’m rushing around getting ready for work when these shows are on but it’s nice to sit down and enjoy them with company.

Over the next two weeks I’m going to try to live a little healthier (I’m drinking more than usual for one) but for now the guilt of being safe has subsided enough for me to make the most of this rare opportunity. I always thought it would do me the world of good if I could have a break from night work (well, work full stop) and I was right. I feel like a different person, and although I already succumbed to a nap today, generally I’m waking up at about 8am without the need for an alarm and I’m managing to stay awake for the whole day. What a treat to be able to see all this daylight!

The weather has been a bit up and down, but that’s ok. I had to venture out to the chemist yesterday and since it was raining I didn’t have to queue at all to pick up my prescription. I managed to pop into Lidl’s for a wee top up shop, again without queuing or getting stressed out by other shoppers, and on my walk to and from the shops I didn’t see a single other person on the streets.

Friday was a busy, busy day, but it’s only because I keep a photographic record of everything fun I do that I’m able to tell you that. Time isn’t running like it normally does, that’s for sure, and I don’t know where the last 7 days have gone.

I spent hours clearing the corner of the garden I mentioned in my last post, which was a damn good workout I tell you. I sawed up a large portion of our old tree which was very hard yet very satisfying work. The next day my muscles were like jelly.

At the end of all that work, the area (underwhelmingly) looked like this.

We have a hedgehog house on the left, and a bug hotel on the right, however since I plan to put a pond in here too I figured the hedgehog house was too close (and a danger to the hoggies) so I’ve since moved it to the other end of the garden.

Two evenings ago I put out food and water, and I had instant success! I bought Hoggy Crunch specially which has proved to be a hit with our spiky garden community.

On Sunday, I ‘met’ my little sister for drinks (we had a video chat and got pissed) and it was great fun. Of course I would have prefered to do it in person, but it just goes to show we can still have really lovely moments in our lives.

Considering I’ve been so busy the words aren’t coming easily today, perhaps because I already had my therapy this morning and I’m all talked out. I’ll just leave you with a few of the photos I took since I last posted.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Monty Says

It’s been a surprisingly busy week for me so far. Back in October I had an assessment and was referred to see a therapist through the NHS. I was told to expect about a 3 month wait but it would more likely be sooner as they would try to offer me a cancellation. I got a letter when they accidentally discharged me last year because I ‘hadn’t replied to their messages’ (there were none) then didn’t hear another peep until Tuesday afternoon.

I was offered my first telephone appointment the very next morning. The idea of therapy seems awkward and emotionally taxing to me, which I guess it is, and I very nearly told them I didn’t need them anymore. Which would have been an outright lie. So I did a very adult thing and accepted the appointment. At least I had less than 24 hours to sit and stew over it.

I didn’t have very high hopes, but my first session was surprisingly helpful. I looked into getting a private therapist not so long ago and the advice is to shop around until you find one that clicks with you, but I have been lucky enough to get one I think I like and can open up to. Because services are so in demand I’m pretty sure if I didn’t like this person there’d be very little opportunity to try someone else.

After that I was feeling brave so phoned the doctors to try and sort out my prescription. I tried getting it delivered to me so I wouldn’t have to go to the actual chemist, but the only pharmacy still taking on new clients for delivery were Well who are notoriously incompetent. I thought I’d try the doctor’s first, but when the receptionist put me on hold to speak to someone else, she forgot I was on hold for twenty minutes. She answered the phone as if I was a new caller and was very confused, but eventually I got my answer – we don’t know, speak to the pharmacy. I tried calling them, couldn’t get through, so went back to the normal way of requesting a prescription. Which was also impossible because they wouldn’t let me get a repeat of the higher dose I’m now on.

Then, I get an email from Well saying my GP approved my prescription and now I have to pay. So I paid and I’ll hope for the best… Who even knows what I’ll get and when, but as long as I get enough to tide me over while I get everything sorted that’s the main thing. I’m sure it’ll all work out.

Yesterday morning I got a delivery – a bench with storage for the garden. The storage is a happy bonus, I mainly wanted the bench so me and the old dear (mother) can spend some time together in the garden. Turns out she knows a lot about plants ‘n’ stuff too, but I had to be quite stern with her this week.

I started watching Gardener’s World, and it’s bloody brilliant. As such I demanded to know why she hadn’t made me watch it before but she claims it isn’t her fault. It’s highly irresponsible parenting if you ask me.

Anyway, since I first started watching most of my sentences have started with ‘Monty says…’, because Monty Don is one of the presenters and he’s awesome. Even just watching the show is so relaxing, and it ties in with everything I’ve been thinking about lately – slowing down, noticing things more, making a home for nature, the positive effect nature has on mental health…

I actually got a bit choked up at one point, but then I was laughing again at a guy who is working towards being self-sustaining. He grows a certain plant specifically to wipe his butt with, and although that episode was aired last year it’s rather on point what with current events, don’t you think? We don’t need loo roll, we need more plants!

My own personal plant journey is going really well. My sunflower seeds should have been sown in 2017 at the latest, and although I planted about twenty only two have sprouted so far. I think because they were so old the outer casing of the seeds got stuck on so the first one to pop out is a bit deformed. It’s getting there though.

I reckon by next week most of them will be ready to be planted outside, which is a bit scary because I don’t want anything to die. On the plus side I must have a good 100 saplings so something’s bound to survive. I hope.

Pea will be pleased in any case. She’s not so keen on all these new things in her room.

I also bought a chilli plant as a gift for someone but never got around to passing it on, so I kept it for myself (terrible, I know) and it just started showing some green yesterday.

When the chillies grow they are supposed to look like penises, but whether they will or not remains to be seen.

Whether or not I’m doing any specific jobs, I’ve been out in the garden taking pictures almost every day. The sunshine is glorious and there’s something new peeping its petals out every time I look.

I wish you could experience how glorious that rose smells.

Just a week or two ago I found out that a bee fly is a thing (a fly that looks like a bee) then yesterday I only went and saw one! What’s more, it landed on some blossom right near me and stayed for ages. I was able to get a nice clear shot.

Everything is still scary and so much is wrong with the world, yet I’ve never, ever been as grateful for what I already have as I am now. I hope I manage to keep hold of this feeling for the rest of my life.

Now it’s time to get on with my next job of the day – starting work on this little corner. I can’t wait to show you what the plans are for this little area!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Little Exposures and Some Artifacts

We’ve had some more laughs in our household this week. Well, I say we, but what I really mean is I have had some laughs, because I seem to have reverted to behaving like a 6-year-old. Eating well for a bit has not been going well. Onions don’t agree with me at the best of times, but when my brother excitedly announced his favourite Indian were still open for deliveries I couldn’t help asking him to order me a portion of bhajis. Not only have I been torturing my poor mother with my emissions (it’s been oh so hilarious), I’ve also been sending ‘voice notes’ to various friends and family. What’s more, I’ve had plenty of ‘voice notes’ in return, and it never fails to amuse. Weirdly, most people I’ve contacted seem to be entertained/downright impressed and I think I’ve spread some happiness along with my unearthly gasses.

If any of you were under the impression that I am at all mature or ladylike, I hate to break it to you but you are waaaaaay off the mark. Inside I am about 80% the most uncouthest of prepubescent boys, along with 20% elderly old lady.

As such, my love affair with the garden continues to develop. Is it just me who thinks of old people when they think of gardening? Perhaps it’s because my grandparents were into it in a major way. On the one side of the family I have memories of being allowed to pick a bunch of flowers from the garden once in a while. My favourites were marigolds, pansies and snapdragons (who doesn’t love a snapdragon I ask you?) On the other side, my nan would always be growing broad beans, which I loved to help pick and put through the bean stringer. It was a simple little plastic contraption with a number of blades in it that was incredibly satisfying to use, and it was almost as good as eating home grown strawberries straight from the garden with sugar and cream. Ok, maybe not quite as good.

Up until now I’ve found the concept of gardening way too overwhelming, but I’m learning to not overthink it and just go out and try, without worrying about doing stuff wrong. I will do stuff wrong, it’s inevitable. But I will learn more as I go along. I’m also absorbing loads of new information just by exposing myself to gardening and wildflower accounts online. Without realising, I’ve been putting away little nuggets of information which pop up when I least expect it.

The other day I was out digging up an immense thistle when I spotted a little purple flower hidden amongst the grass and weeds. See it?

I actually have no idea how I spotted it. Let’s get in a little closer…

Because of my gradual absorption of flower information, the word ‘speedwell’ popped into my head when I saw it. The pictures I’ve seen of speedwells so far are much, much bigger than this, but I was right. I’m pretty sure this is a wall speedwell, but the other varieties you are more likely to find in woods are indeed a lot bigger.

Yesterday I was out in the front garden, clearing up poop. The neighbour’s cats seem to love to use it as a toilet, and I can hardly complain since our cats use to go out and no doubt pooped all over the place.

Once the poop was removed, I stumbled across a wood sorrell, more tiny hairy bittercress, some sort of pupa plus a load of old rubbish, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Neither my phone or any lenses currently in my possession were suitable for taking pictures of tiny things, so I’ve been on something of a spending spree. This week a rather old, second-hand macro lens arrived. Because it’s old, it’s very noisy, so I won’t be creeping up on any animals with it. But for stuff that’s simply growing, it’s perfect.

As for the rubbish, when our estate was built the housing association started to run out of money by the time they got to our bit. To cut down on costs, instead of paying for the rubble to be taken away, they buried it. As you do.

This is what I’ve found so far this week:

I’ve decided to start making collections of things I find, which I’ll start to separate into plastic, metal, tile etc. One day I might make some sort of mosaic from the tile. I think that would be pretty cool.

This was inspired by one of my favourite Twitter accounts at the moment, @legolostatsea. In 1997, 5 million bits of lego fell into the sea, and it’s still being found to this day. I’m almost desperate to get to a beach and start collecting, well, rubbish, because not only does it sound like fun but it’s also helping clean up beaches. It’s a win-win.

In the meantime, I’ll just collect crap I find at home, which I’m really enjoying anyway. Have I just completely gone mad? That’s up to you to decide. Since I don’t appear to be a danger to myself or others, I’ve decided to just go with it. What’s the worst that can happen?

Because of my fantastic lens purchase, I can now show you my favourite weed. This is what I used to see – a pretty ordinary looking patch of… something.

It’s a red dead-nettle, and it’s so common you’d probably be able to find it yourself within ten minutes of leaving the house. But when you look closer…

It’s so beautiful and delicate. How have I never noticed that before? The things I’ve been growing myself are coming along nicely, I’m just waiting for the weather to perk up again before I transplant them into the garden.

Future plans include enticing hedgehogs and a pond, but I’ll write more about that another day. For now, me and my green fingers are done with typing for the day, and the plants demand to be watered.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Invasion

There’s one thing I know for certain – no one, and I mean no one, had an Easter Sunday like mine. There are three adults in our household, and for the most part we all cook our own meals because of our weird tastes and eating habits. Once in a while though, for a special occasion, I get invited to a Sunday roast.

While I was mooching around in my room I got a text from mother requesting that I do a quick sketch of my sister, her boyfriend and the doggo. I’m not talented enough to do a quick sketch of something like that so it would end up taking me all day. I said no, but when mum explained why she wanted them, I went one better.

If there’s one thing I love about my family, it’s that we are all quite bonkers. Mum wanted pictures of our absent family so that we could pretend they were joining us for dinner. Then I got carried away.

I printed out pictures of their faces, but then wondered how awesome it would be if I attached them to sticks and sat them at the table. Mum then encouraged me by suggesting that we give them t-shirts (by this time I’m nearly wetting myself with laughter) then the icing on the cake was when I thought to give them stick arms. I haven’t laughed so much in such a long time.

As I was looking for pictures that would print well, I couldn’t resist this hilarious picture of my sister’s boyfriend doing a pretend grumpy face one Christmas. I looks as if Newton has just let off a really smelly parp, which is exactly what he would have done if he was really there. Just before we ate, I video called my sister and luckily she wasn’t frightened at all and thought it was as funny as me and mum did. My brother said something like ‘save me’, but deep down I bet he was really just impressed at our stroke of genius. That must be it.

We decided to keep stick-Newton until we can have the real one back. Even stick-Newton is better than no Newton.

On Monday I had planned to start eating healthily again, however when I last went shopping I bought a huge bag of granola for ’emergencies’. Well, it kept calling to me and I ended up having granola for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (with ice cold coconut milk, flipping delicious I tell you) and couldn’t leave it alone till it was all gone. I regret nothing, it was ace.

Yesterday though, I realised I had to get myself sorted. Not because of weight gain or anything like that, but because I believe I had genuinely become a fire hazard. When I eat rubbish, my tummy does not at all approve and what with the vast quantities of broccoli and cauliflower I ate Sunday, there was a critical build-up of noxious gasses. Lives were at steak – a flick of a light switch and we all could have gone up in flames.

After a day of eating sensibly (including some absolutely banging Marmite roast potatoes), all is back to normal and the crisis has been averted.

Last week, after a delivery of compost, I decided to test my green fingers. The last time my sister came to the house, I don’t even remember when, she left me some plant babies. I thought I had compost in the garage but we were all out, so I just got some mud out of the garden and popped them in an old container I found.

So far so good.

As they’re house plants, I had to bring them indoors. I popped them on the windowsill, and happily went about my day.

Next morning, I woke up to find that I was not alone in bed. I was sharing the duvet with several ants. Ah. I tried to live with them for a while, but in the end I was overrun and had to risk leaving the plants outside.

By the time the compost had been delivered, they were not happy. But then I cut away the dead bits and I have new growth. Perhaps I can be a plant lady after all!

I’m not a huge fan of instructions. I’ve had some seeds in the cupboard for years, but when I read the instructions I put off planting them. It all sounds so complicated – acidic soils, alkaline soils, sunlight, shade, indoors, outdoors, not too much watering, not too little… in the end I just decided to stick everything in pots randomly and hope for the best.

Then after a few days of nothing, we have… life! Check out my cool timelapse, taken over a period of about seven hours yesterday.

Considering some of my seeds should have been sown by 2017 at the latest (according to the packets), and the most recent of them should have been sown by April 2019, I’m really pleased that I have anything at all. It’s all surprisingly exciting!

I’m sure you’re all sitting on the edge of your seats at this point. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

This is the Life

Is anyone else already feeling massively changed by recent events? I think it’s impossible to not reevaluate what’s important to you in these circumstances, and although I suspect once this is over we’ll all fall back into our usual routines quite easily, I sincerely hope I don’t.

I think I’m a person who’s quite easily influenced by those around her, I’m a bit of a sponge in that respect, but since I’ve mostly been in my room alone (except for little Pea of course) I’ve been thinking about what I really like and what I really want. How often in life are we given the opportunity to stop and think about such things, without expectations from family, friends, partners, employers, society in general…

One thing I’ve been thinking about (which will come as a surprise to absolutely no one) is my weight. When I first started losing weight, it really was out of necessity. Life was hard. The world is not made for morbidly obese people. Our bodies aren’t made to be able to handle it. My joints hurt, bits of me rubbed till they bled, I was tired, I was miserable. Everything from using public transport to trying to get clothes that fit was a massive ordeal. Life was definitely put on hold at that time.

Now, although I’m almost four stone heavier than I was at my lowest weight in November 2018, apart from fitting into smaller clothes I can do everything now that I could do then. What’s more, I feel so much better now in every way imaginable.

I’m happier, more confident, almost as fit as I was, and more aware of who I am. This is in the middle of a global crisis. What does it say about my previous life that I’m happier now in the midst of all this terror?

When I think of my motivations to lose more weight right now, it all comes down to what other people think of me. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. Apart from that? I feel sad about all the nice clothes I have that no longer fit me and buying new clothes is marginally less fun. That’s it.

So, I’m trying something new. My only goal between now and when I may possibly be free again at the end of June (all being well) is to be the same weight I was when we went into lockdown. As it happens, this week I’ve had an enormous gain and my clothes have again become tight, so I do want to get that off so I can feel comfortable again, then I’m just going to concentrate on enjoying my life.

I’ve spoken before about building the life I want, but everything I want is already right here. My life goals have changed from wanting the things I think I should want, to something a lot more simple. I want (NEED) to get enough sleep, and I want to enjoy doing things just for the sake of them. That really is the crux of it.

I’ve been feeling the call (or is it a shout?) to slow down for such a long time, and oh my word I’m doing pretty good at listening to that voice. I always felt such an enormous sense of urgency. Even reading a book made me feel a bit panicky, like I should be reading it quicker, as if the main reason for reading it in the first place was to tick an ‘achievement’ off a list. I never planted anything, because I was afraid it wouldn’t grow. I found it hard to draw and paint, because I was afraid it would be crap.

It was so hard for me to remember that just doing these things is fun, no matter what the end result.

I felt like I had to be skinny now, before I could enjoy the rest of life, and would put my body through all kinds of abuse to make that happen. In 2018, I was barely getting 6 hours sleep a day and mostly living off of conflict and adrenaline.

It wasn’t worth it.

I want a life that has family meals and red wine and cake and hugs and biscuits and long walks and wildflowers and birds and hedgehogs and mountains and trees, dogs, cats, friends, ice cream, beaches, good coffee, the fresh page of a journal, the smell of an old book… These are the things that are really important to me, and I can get a huge chunk of them without even leaving my back garden.

I couldn’t slow down enough to enjoy these things till now, because I always felt there wasn’t enough time. I needed to use as much of my spare time as possible on exercising, because if I didn’t exercise enough then I’d never be skinny enough. Yes, I did do most of my exercising outside, but I never allowed myself enough time to stop and take notice of things. Not properly.

This week I found out that a weed I’ve been seeing for all of my life has flowers like tiny little orchids or pitcher plants. I found a plant in the garden that has such tiny petals I couldn’t count them with the naked eye, then discovered it’s a hairy bittercress. A plant I took a picture of in a field in 2018 is a spotted orchid. These things have all made me happier than being skinny ever did.

I’m not saying things are perfect. I think I’ve had a massive breakthrough, but I have to consider the fact I might change my mind halfway through next week and decide I can’t be happy unless I fit into a size 14. There’s also the fact that my mind is naturally quite morbid. As soon as I felt I had stuff ‘figured out’, my brain said great, now you’ve got your act together you’ll probably die before you get the chance to enjoy it.

Maybe I will, but I won’t let it stop me trying.

I wasn’t intending this post to be that deep, but it just kind of… came out of me. It happens like that sometimes! I do have a few other updates, but I’ll put them in a separate post tomorrow. For now, I’m just content. Nuff said.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Duality

Every time I want to write about something positive I feel I have to start with a disclaimer, but I decided that from today I’m going to let go of that guilt. After a quick disclaimer of course! I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter recently, which comes with a disclaimer all of its own. Twitter is a funny old platform, it seems to inspire so much hatred and bile in the people who use it. I don’t post much myself, but even the people I follow who post about the most seemingly innocuous things – even flowers – will end up being targets for the trolls.

It can be a mine of information though, if used carefully, and one person I follow is also one of my favourite Instagram people, Michelle Elman. She very helpfully put into words what I’ve been trying to say but couldn’t.

You can see the thread on Twitter/follow her here, follow her on Instagram here, or even go and buy her book here. I highly recommend doing all three.

So yes, that. Just because I’m trying to focus on small, positive things (because that’s what helps me personally) that make me happy doesn’t mean that I’m not simultaneously experiencing a whole load of other less pleasant emotions. Let’s just make space for the good stuff too.

One of my happiest moments from the weekend came in the form of a message from my sister. Newton’s brother’s owners found him through Instagram and sent a message, which I think is possibly the sweetest thing I’ve heard in a long, long time.

I really hope I get to meet him one day! It’s also crazy how their colouring is so different yet they look so alike. Flipping adorable.

Saturday was a good day. I spent the early afternoon in the garden doing a little prep for the evening, as me and the little brother had a plan. We had a dead tree cut down a while ago, so of course a little bonfire was in order.

Whilst collecting old paving stones to make a little fire pit I took my time looking at all the smaller details in the garden. A not-so-small find was a massive earthworm that actually frightened me a bit when I first saw it. I haven’t seen a worm that big since I was a kid. I did what any rational adult would do – put it in a pot, took it to show my brother, then released it back into the wild. He suggested putting it in a pie and feeding it to my mum, which yes, would have been hilarious, but she’d also never forgive us.

Mooching around in the garden done, I went for a small nap and waited for darkness. Fires are always better at night, and in any case I’m bloody loving nap time lately.

You’d think that living together and not going out would mean me and the ‘little’ bro (he’s fast approaching 30 and is taller than me) wouldn’t have much to talk about, but we were out in the garden for hours. Me with a bottle of red wine, and him with a couple of bottles of beer I’d secretly bought him as a gift for this very occasion. I am a good sister.

We’re quite similar in that we enjoy burning stuff (not in the arson kind of way) and we love companionable silence. As such he’s an excellent fireside buddy – plenty of time was also spent just watching the flames and enjoying the warmth. It was a very wholesome evening, especially as I got to play with long exposures. It’s such great fun, and you don’t need anything fancy to give it a go. Well, unless you count having an iPhone as being particularly fancy. Which I suppose it is when you consider the cost…

Anyway, if you take a live photo and then open the picture in your gallery, you can scroll down and choose long exposure. Then the picture on the left will turn into something like the picture on the right.

Or if you happen to have a DSLR handy, you can do something like this…

Cool, huh?

At the end of the night we hadn’t burned the house down so we extinguished the fire (we really got some heat going – it took three large watering cans before it stopped sizzling) and went to bed feeling pleasantly fuzzy.

Drinking alcohol is DEFINITELY something I don’t want to make a habit of during lockdown. I felt really anxious on Sunday and the bottle of wine was probably why, plus I’ve had a massive five pound gain. My next goal is to get into the 14 stone bracket, which is a hefty 12 pounds away now. We absolutely plan make a fire again (I’m going to try to source some veggie marshmallows in the meantime), but I’m going to wait until I’ve achieved that goal first for sure.

It helps me to have structure and something to aim for.

Now we’re in a new week I’m going to spend the entire 7 days on plan and carry on edging slowly towards my goals. I’ll keep you posted.

Take care,

Hayley x