Waking Mother Dirt

springsomewhat

We had a rare sunny-ish day – the clouds were rolling in but I managed to squeeze off a shot.  It’s overcast and dreary now, and even though it will be Feb tomorrow, it’s feeling like a very soggy November.  The season is confused; daffodils are blooming before the snowdrops have appeared, and the bluebells are trying to come up a good two months early. It’s a bit weird, and I feel myself wanting to get my scramble-on in the garden to get ready for planting even though my energy levels aren’t making preparation easy, especially in the rain. I’m struggling to figure out how to make it happen, truth be told. I may end up having to bribe my son into helping me clear some space and organise some pots.

Last week I made wassail and poured a measure for each of the trees my garden. As I did so, I gave the entire garden a look over, plotting and planning what is to be done. Mother Dirt will be waking up and warming, ready for another season of growing, fertilising and food. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed; I did no preparation or overwintering at all last year as I hit a very bad health-slump in July, and I never recovered. I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘recovery’, in this regard; it’s merely my new bar of ‘normal’. Therefore, there is a lot of heavy graft and catching up which is going to require a fair bit of dedication to do, and I’m not entirely certain how to do it, especially on decking so treacherous I’m afraid to walk on it.

The garden is in desperate need of a refit, but due to money constraints that kind of project probably won’t happen till high summer – and as that’s usually the busiest time for landscapers and gardeners, I wonder if the reality will more likely be fall. The decking absolutely has GOT to go, and I’ve realised with a qualm that even if I put a new system of steps in, it’s still stairs…eventually, even those may need replacing someday, which means more money outlay. I’d do it now but it means doing a concrete incline, and inclines +walking = disaster for me at the moment.  I dread going down into the lower garden due to precarious steps and uneven ground; it’s one of the main reasons I put perennial crops and plants I only intend on harvesting when I need them. I’ve decided the raspberries will be moved into the back garden and put into containers; I keep getting rather miserable harvests because I do not feel confident walking down to fertilise/water/harvest. Root veg and self-sowing veg is going into the lower beds where they can be left pretty much to their own devices except when I want to harvest some leafy greens or roots. Fungus-inoculated logs in pots will go on the palettes, and this should mean I rarely need to go down there at all, at least until the stairs are repaired.

Everything is being shuffled and redone; from the front garden weed-control and planting in pots, to the patio reworking for growing tomatoes and chillies, to giving myself a place to sit and for my son and I to dine al-fresco (provided I work through the final niggles and worries of my social anxiety so I can stomach the stares). I’m having to adapt my garden to suit me and my requirements and ever-less-able mobility – with this said, I knew this was something I’d have to do, and I’ve been planning accordingly over the past few years. I’ve taken some inspiration from a lot of permaculture gardeners with self-sowing annuals and a wide variety of perennials so I can keep the sowing/potting/planting on to a minimum but still have a variety of foods to choose from. I’ve learned what fruits and veg we actually bother to eat and I’ve been learning more about bi-annual seed saving, having saved the first of the parsnips last year. As parsnips are essentially replacing potatoes in my garden, I’m looking forward to seeing how well I did with the results. I’m trying to figure out how to grow things which are a bit more a challenge, and yet something I feel is so superior to store-bought I simply cannot do without them (ohai, tomatoes and chillies trying to be grown in the UK! Y Helo Thar, squashes that summon the slug-legions to my garden in droves!).

And of course, the promises I’ve made to the landwight must be adhered to as well; feeding the birds, making sure I don’t overstep my reach, give back what was taken, take back what is given. I spend a lot of money on feeding the birds, but as long as I am willing to spend money on seed, it seems I’m guaranteed to always have plenty of funds to do so. The hedgerow I planted a few years ago is growing with alacrity and I’m pleased to see it. I’m envisioning sloes, wild plums and elderflowers in the future. The soil erosion may slow a bit as a result, and I just have to hope whatever landscaper comes in won’t take it all out or damage it. In a perfect world, I’d plant more of my trees along the line, and perhaps when the garden refit happens, I can ask for this to be done, but the buddileia – in all its encroaching, expanding glory – will be allowed to stay. It’s too much a haven for the painted lady butterflies for me to have it removed. And I guess I no longer feel too crap about not going into the woods more often to clear some rubbish and bits and bobs as this weekend showed me the admonishments of ‘You are of no use to Us if you are injured’ wasn’t just snark. Walking the woodlands with all its muck and inclines is too much for me now. And that’s ok. I have other abilities to check on the pulse of the land that doesn’t involve walking in it.

There are times the sheer amount of work does my head in; So. Much. To Do. But breaking things down into small tasks is how I’ve learned to roll, and being satisfied that I’ve done something, even if I haven’t done everything, keeps me from berating myself for a lack of progress. Some days, I manage to water. Some days, I fill a trug with compost, even if I don’t actually put it into the intended bed till the following day. A task that would take another gardener an hour usually takes me a week. But it’s ok, because it’s getting done, and that is what counts.

So, today I dump some garlic chive seeds and everlasting onion seeds into two pots to pop onto my windowsill. A simple thing, hardly that involved. But it’s two pots more of perennials than I’ve had, and it counts for something.

It always counts for something.

Chair-Wings

flyingchair (Artist Susan Austin’s jet-propelled wheelchair in her underwater performance)

I debate whether or not to waffle on about disability things in a blog which is supposed to be about Woo. But I feel it would be an oversanitisation to put it somewhere for people (mostly non-disabled) to skim over. All of this is me; gardening, parenting, multicultural, arty, crafty, woo, and illness. I will not cut away the bits others may find problematic or difficult. Indeed, when I try to do this kind of thing, I end up creating more problems than I solve…

I think I wrote at one point about acquiring a Chairiot; this turned out to be a Motability scooter as I hadn’t been able to get a chair into the boot of my car without equipment I could never have afforded. The result of this experiment has been one nearly completely unused scooter: it’s too bulky to move, too difficult to put together or take apart, and the battery is too heavy for me to carry to my car. I never use it, instead forcing myself to try to walk to places I have no business trying to walk, forcing myself to withstand pain and being laid up for days afterwards because exercise is what you are ‘supposed’ to do.

After my walk a few days ago, I am still recovering. I have no prescribed painmeds, I’ve had very little sleep due to pain, and my left knee feels as if it’s being skewered every time I move. It was a beautiful day, a lovely walk, but it came at a price that was just too damn high.  I decided to go out on a limb and contact my OT, who gave me some advice, and then the rheumatologist-nurse, who gave me more.  I have an immediate (for the NHS!) appointment in three weeks’ time to discuss pain relief and options for possible therapy but the elephant in the room was also acknowledged as well – i.e., walking is no longer a smart, sensible thing for me to be doing over long distances.

I expected to feel a sense of loss about this – to a point, I kind of do, but it’s a complicated feeling. Yes, I am all too aware of how people make snap judgments of the fat-person-in-a-wheelchair, and I’m not looking forward to being sneered at by the public. BUT when I went in to the local mobility shop and got the chance to try a wheelchair, what struck me was the amazing ease of moving with one; the way I could turn, move, get about in relative comfort, no pain, and little effort. It was astounding, like magic. I think, like many non-disabled people, I thought of wheelchairs as something you are ‘trapped’ in, even the language used is rather telling: ‘wheelchair-bound’, ‘trapped in a wheelchair’, ‘confined to a wheelchair’.

Using aids are seen as a way of ‘giving up’. Non-disabled – both regular people and health pros alike – push the narrative of staying active and moving at all times, even if pain is present. ‘It will go away’, they say…but the pain never does. No amount of working out or effort will make the pain improve for me, and it took me a long while to accept it.

However in that chair I was in, I felt as if I had been given wings – freedom I haven’t experienced for a long time. The ability to move without pain. The mere idea of it baffled me. Yes, the UK is woefully inaccessible with its tiny roads, stepped and narrowed shops, and tiny pubs. BUT the scope of it! To be able to wander around for as long as the batteries would last and not continually do calculations in my head of whether I’d have the energy to drive home safely, to not have to constantly decline invitations to go out, to stop attending social events as I knew the car park was too far from the venue…all this in five minutes in a wheelchair.  I knew even then the chair was what I needed; knew it as soon as I sat in the scooter with my arms held out in front of me with no support, knew with the way I tried to keep all the parts that needed to go together straight in my head, knew when I hefted the battery for the first time and realised I’d never be able to get it to my house without a struggle.

I’m getting a new car in a few months’ time, and the way the Motability scheme works, I can get a chair hoist (the one big roadblock in my plans for a chair previously). It is covered in the cost of the new car, and will cost me a few hundred, as opposed to retrofitting one for several thousand. The chair can easily be covered as well once I find one suitable.  I mean, yes, I know, it might be I will struggle to make all these pieces come together. There may be problems, but it’s perfectly possible.

I’m trying not to jinx the mere idea of being able to go out during the summer months to gigs, parties, shows and events. I’m trying not to think of finally being able to attend events at my son’s school as I won’t have to worry about standing for hours at a time. Weekend outings and gatherings, re-creating a social circle…I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

But wheels have never felt so much like having wings.  Fingers crossed, and hope my P.T.B can lend a hand to clear the way.

In praise of rot

After days and days and days of dreariness, we have brilliant sun today.  It’s beautiful, and while it heralds another front of rain (as it always does in this region) for today, it’s a delightful change. I’ve been able to take a walk in the nearby woodland as I had a dream about finding a fungus on the birch trees I wanted to harvest – I used to see it all the time as a kid in MN, but it’s difficult to find here. I’ve been doing a lot of research into mushroom growth, and it’s probably more a statement of my new obsession than anything else! But I’ve got a lot to go on and I’ve always been fascinated by mycology.

Fungus is incredible stuff; it is a prime decomposer and for all the science behind it, it’s fascinating just how little we know about fungus. We’re not entirely certain how long it lives, how big it can get, or what fungus is. We can’t always cultivate it because we don’t know how it grows. But what we do know is without fungus, a forest would not exist. Something needs to break down the wood of old trees, and fungus is one of the few things which can do so. The best way to grow mushrooms, therefore, is usually with wood by-products, allowing the fungus to rot wood down.

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I found lots of shelf fungi growing and the faint hints of snowdrops and bluebells which will soon carpet the British forests in faerie shades of blue.  The local children built this little cave fort, which looks like forest hermit’s hideaway.  Ah, to be a child in the country, such a wonderful thing! They must have scoured the woods for ages to get all this stuff – they cleared their own BMX track area in the forest and I suspect that’s where all these twigs and boughs came from. It’s been here for quite a while now, and the kids who built it have grown up, but this will remain till it rots.

Invigorated by the return of the sun, I’ve been doing a hell of a lot more than I’ve been doing previously, and probably a good deal more than I should be doing. But the Hotbin I purchased last year went anaerobic and stank to high heaven, so the rather unpleasant job of emptying it and starting over needed doing. In all honesty, it’s not a disaster – anaerobic compost serves a purpose too, but the smell tends to put many people off. I just tend to dump any compost that is struggling into another bin for a few months and it is eventually ready for use.  In any event, come what may, I turn old clippings, chicken manure and used wood chip, veg and fruit peelings, eggshells, old herbs, shredded paper and cardboard all into food for worms, which eventually becomes food for us, and rinse, repeat.

I’ve been trying to rely more and more on local material and less and less on ordering stuff from ages away – leaves are free and I live in a wood where branches and boughs are falling down all the time. I also have neighbours who dump all their grass clippings, garden trimmings, and plant matter in the woods – it baffles me because I never see them go back to gather up the glorious compost such a practice creates, but I certainly do! Sometimes I sneakily grab some of the grass clippings to throw into the Hotbin for a quick boost, and last year I filled trug after trug with leaves for the lower raised beds to be filled as the material in them broke down so much last year they reduced by half. I’ve still got to fill the beds with a lot more to get them level again.  Thankfully, rot does its job well, and there’s plenty of material around.

Even though I know rot and regrowth is a natural cycle of the garden, I still feel rather bitter-sweet about it sometimes.  My sacred cherry tree – the first of my sacred trees I ever grew – is coming to the end of its existence. It gave me hardly any fruit last year, and the leaves turned a sickly yellow and started to drop in August. I tried to fight to keep it going, but the truth is cherry trees don’t live very long (16-20 years average), and trees kept in pots even less so. My cherry tree has been with me since 2003, and it was several years old before that. So at roughly 14 years of age, it makes sense it’s become prone to disease and come to the end of the line. I am ordering two new trees to replace the current one, and when they arrive I will the cherry tree a fond farewell and cut it out of its pot, chop it up into miniature logs, and either reserve this for sacred fires to burn or bury a piece in every raised bed as part of the hugelkultur going in several of my raised beds.

Growing things takes a heck of a lot of rot; poo, fish, blood, bone, and broken down materials to be turned into something else. My taciturn great-grandfather said ‘Folk who don’t live in the country have no idea how many smelly things and death is involved in country living.’ True enough – my Henz are elderly and I will need to make plans on how to dispose of their bodies when the inevitable happens, the plans I have for growing mushrooms will all involve local logs being allowed to rot, and I’ve got compost slowly decomposing away in every corner of the garden I can find space to put a bin into.  It isn’t tidy stuff, it’s not always sweet smelling, and it doesn’t come in pre-packaged pellets.  But without rot, nothing grows.

 

If you must paint, then paint

vangoghI admit, I wasn’t a massive fan of Van Gogh for a long time; I didn’t get the intensity of his paintings and found them ugly. He was a painter who got fame from dying tragically, as many artists are wont to do. It took a lot of delving into his life for me to truly appreciate his work – the mathematical theories he based his work on is utterly mind-boggling, the fact he had to often choose between eating or painting (and eating his own paints may have been part of that, although lead poisoning was also a potential contributing factor not only to his state of mind, but also the hallucinogenic quality of his work). It may stagger you to know this, but Van Gogh only sold one painting out of the hundreds of paintings he did.  Just one.  And even so, somehow, someway, he kept painting until the despair of a world that didn’t understand his work finally claimed him.  But Mozart died penniless and unknown, Oscar Wilde died in a gaudily wallpapered hotel room. Humanity doesn’t treat its visionaries especially well.

Before anyone assumes I am comparing myself to a frustrated genius, I’ll get to the point I’m actually trying to make.  “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” I make art, I write, I do things partly because, yes, money is good. We need it to survive. Thinking money isn’t important to life is the ultimate place of privilege – usually by people who have never really had to worry about starvation or homelessness before. Earning a bit of money is why I try to put out regular work.

But the real reason I do art or writing or creating things rather than a different job is because when I don’t create art, life is pretty bleak and colourless. I’ve gone a long time without doing anything creative at all, as I thought it made me a more responsible person. It didn’t.  All it did was make sure I turned into a person who cycled through work, sleep, and expensive distractions because I had holes in my centre and I couldn’t find anything to fill it.

This isn’t to say I’m a good artist.  I’m not. I’ve never gone to school for any of it. I’ve have to learn through trial and error, through ruined paintings and wasted paint. I’ve got piles of experiments lying forgotten in corners of my house, work I look at now and cringe at how terrible it is. There are days when I think my art is crap. When I’m the laziest artist ever. When I look at other people’s work and think ‘Holy various gods, Batman, I’m an idiot to think I can compete with this!’  And it’s true, I’m not Waterhouse. I’m not Bauer. I’m me. And I do me-art.  Me-writing. Me-making. And I do it because not doing it leaves a hole in my soul that nothing can fill.

I do art for the same reason I do gardening, spin wool, tend Henz, and gather herbs and forage – it suits me to live this way, even when I’m sometimes too tired to do any of it. I’m behind on my gardening cycle, I haven’t spun wool in months, and my Henz are all elderly and I don’t think I’ll have more, but I WILL add something to take their place (I’m thinking culinary mushrooms). I’ve lived in cities and I’ve worked full time type careers. I can’t do it anymore, and even if illness hadn’t given me an ‘out’ – what a costly way out! – I don’t think I could be doing it anyway.

So many people are Too Busy to do art or creative things, and I don’t think that’s an oversight. I think our society and culture likes to keep people as busy as possible, as busy people who only have the energy to eat, work, sleep, and shag have no energy to think, create, or challenge. It’s deliberate. Creativity can become a revolutionary act, and it doesn’t even have to be a big one – even saving seed from one’s own crops is borderline illegal. Having time to even do anything creative is considered the ultimate in privilege – if you are doing creative things, you clearly aren’t actually working, and you certainly aren’t working very hard. Thus does the artist become an irritation of have vs have-not, hipsters vs working class.

I want everyone to pick up their creative spark and fan it into flames. Not to become famous (chances are you won’t be), not to make lots of money (chances are it won’t, but if you can make SOME, by all means do). I want it because everyone needs that nurturing of the soul, that little bit of something they can do to give themselves more meaning and purpose in their lives than Being Busy. There isn’t a single person who has ever laid on their death-beds and said ‘I wish I had worked more’. Quite the opposite.

Paint because you need to. Create because it is a compulsion. Make things because it nourishes a part of you society can’t touch. It’s ok if you’re not perfect at it. It’s ok if it’s rough. There’s always room for improvement in all things, and perfection isn’t the goal anyway. The goal is to do what is authentic to your very being, somehow, some way.

If you must paint, then paint.

Adventure Calling

travel I’m a creature of comfort and habit, especially when it comes to setting down roots. True to my Cancerian nature, I need to have a place to call home. I spent entirely too many years homeless to ever be happy with a completely nomadic lifestyle, but travel is something I used to enjoy once upon a time, and travel eventually became a bit of an addiction. I got to the point where if I couldn’t put things into a bag, I didn’t keep it – it was partly preparation, partly insurance against getting too attached to anything as my life was so often in flux, I became gun-shy when it came to calling anywhere home.

The UK government in its infinite, xenophobic wisdom has passed a law to deport anyone who isn’t making above a certain wage. The wage they assume is easily attainable is actually completely impossible for me. If we don’t conform to the idyllic status of Britishness, we are to begone. I’ve been eyeing the situation in the UK with considerable dismay, and the growing realisation my time here is coming to an end. Even if the rules don’t apply to me (I didn’t come here on a work visa) and even though the rules aren’t an immediate deportation, it’s a sign of things to come. Once again, no matter where I go, I don’t really belong anywhere.

So my needs have changed in ways I hadn’t ever foreseen. I thought I could live out a quiet, idyllic life in the middle of nowhere here in the UK and be left in peace. For the most part, this has been true – isolating and somewhat phobia-inducing, my hermitage has been vital. Illness is daunting and the future isn’t looking very good, but for now, I’m able to walk, able to recover from pain, able to work, and I have medications which help. While I have the strength and the energy, it’s time to plan to move on and away, to find a new place to call home.  I’ve my eye on Toronto at the moment, but in order to achieve that I need citizenship, and a passport, and again more rules and red tape haven’t made things easy. I need to memorise an entire booklet of useless facts to ‘prove my dedication’.  Cognitive function doesn’t help me process this information at all well, and the testing centres are almost 2 hours away, which demands a further drain on my energy levels. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I am a Witch; I can do the Work needed to make sure things get done.

I’m stubborn. I tend to want to cling to a situation out of a refusal to give in. I think of challenge as a test to be overcome, and it’s difficult (if not nearly impossible) for me to give in unless odds become completely insurmountable. I still end up seeing the impossible odds as failures. I had thought if I just stayed brazen and stubborn in the face of what my P.T.B have been telling me for the past few years, I would be able to stay in my comfortable, isolated life.  But that isn’t the case.

So now I need to gird my loins and re-direct. I need to establish enough of a career in writing, painting, or something which I can do even when I’m at the most ill. I have plots and plans, because currently I have the leisure of time and a lack of urgency. I need to take a few steps, gradually, in order to make things happen in the way they need to progress. I need to travel and seek a new place to call home, taking into account my various challenges with energy, illness, and income. I need to call on the help of my P.T.B and Beasts that Are and anything and everything else to make a move happen before I’m too ill to do any of it.

So onward, the Fool dances toward the cliff, marvelling at the birds flying overhead, and trusts one’s foot doesn’t come down on thin air.

 

Be More Bowie

In 2015, I tried to start dating again. Which sounds like no big deal, but I am well past my prime – in my 40’s, fat and disabled and a person of colour in a country that really doesn’t care for any of these things. Yes, yes, someone for everyone, blah, blah, the soul mate is out there. Only…he isn’t. The whole year was just one heartbreak after another, with man after man encouraging me to give them a chance, even when I fought against it…then eventually bailing when my defences were down.  It’s a veritable comedy of errors; the man who neglected to tell me he lived in a mental hospital, the young man who eventually just wanted cybersex and went and found another poor sod a few hours later, the charming fellow from Holland whose unhinged ex-fiance decided to stalk us both for a week. I had to call the police for that one. Broken, he went back to her.  I’m honestly not entirely unconvinced someone hasn’t placed a hex on me, but if they have, it’s a clever one as I’ve never been able to break it.  I’m sure some oh-so-helpful soul will suggest the curse is by myself and my refusal to open myself to love, etc etc….but that’s like saying I’m disabled because I’m not trying to believe hard enough that I can be healed.  Take your victim-blaming and shove it somewhere.

After the last one decided to break up on Skype of all things (I’m still rather shredded, things were going well and I thought the curse had eased up), I decided I wasn’t having any more of it. I’ve stopped giving a damn, which is well enough. Men my age are chasing women half my age, and men half my age think I’m interested in being their Older Woman Experience (nope, go away…and go clean your room *stern look*). I’m too weird, too ‘flaky’ (in the spiritual sense; the UK is a haven for Dawkins-esque atheists), too tall, too fat, too childlike, too liberal, too ethnic, too whatever.  I have been a freak of nature ever since I came to the UK, and that has really been difficult for me to cope with.

Like many people I know, I was hit by the death of Bowie – it was my Diana Moment; someone I had never met but who had a huge influence upon me was gone, and I mourned as if I had lost a beloved relative. The sheer amount of people I knew who felt the same astounded me, and not the usual suspects: perfectly ‘moderate’, straight-edged people with their mortgages and holiday homes, their middle-class jobs and cars, were utterly gutted.  Suddenly, it was as if they looked around at their ticky-tacky and thought ‘What the hell am I doing?!’

One person coined the phrase ‘Be More Bowie’, as Bowie’s passing has lit a fire under her to be more herself – more authentic, more true to her experience. She is an academic prof in a university, but she’s already making changes to her appearance, her teaching style, her enthusiasm. I expect it will be met with resistance, but I applaud her courage, as I applaud the courage of the solicitor who put streaks of pink in her hair, and the accountant who got his first tattoo or piercing. It shouldn’t have taken a death to fly the freak-flag high, but at least now, people are flying them.  I hope the momentum holds.

For my part…I’m done with seeking much. Now I look for dinner and conversation and I refuse to entertain anything else. It isn’t worth getting my hopes up for.  For the most part, this is relatively successful. I think it’s because I’m done trying to shove myself into a acceptable veneer for the British palate. I bought platform Mary Janes, which make me tower over people unapologetically. I bought more stripey socks and petticoats to wear, not even bothering to ‘dress my age’.  I blow bubbles. I rock out to my 90’s grunge music in my car with the windows rolled down without apology.  I wear lots of wigs and clip in hair now as mine is so thin, and I don’t care how weird the colours are. My nail polish changes colour when temperature changes.

Stares be damned; and there’s been plenty of those, as well as nasty commentary. I’m growing rather zen about it, which is saying something considering how sociophobic I’ve been for the past four years. I have heard more insults in a day than compliments since I’ve been here…but I AM hearing compliments.  And that’s unusual, too. British people don’t compliment each other.  But I’ve been receiving them, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because I am rocking my authentic unabashedly. Maybe they think I’m being ‘inspiring’ (really not a compliment, but oh well).  I don’t know.

But I’m doing my best to Be More Bowie, and taking some counsel in feeling as if I might finally be too old to really give a shit.

 

Planning Mum Dirt

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(back garden in June 2015)

 

It’s a rather bittersweet thing for me to look through this blog at all the gardening, preserving, plotting and planning I’ve done in previous years – I was functioning at a level of energy I found frustrating but was still a lot more energy than I have now! I no longer brew beer or mead, I do very little baking, and preserving is often beyond me due to fatigue. However, I have to acknowledge I have made positive strides; half of the treacherous decking was removed, and I placed stepping stones instead, with beds to either side crammed with fruit, vegetables, and flowers.  However, it’s not done yet – the house I live in is undergoing massive renovations and they will need to tear down and replace the outbuilding – which means I need to be sure to move some of the Jacob’s Ladder before it’s buried under rubble and concrete.  The remaining decking is still in place, even more treacherous than before, and has rotted away in several places. It needs to go, but I do not have the energy do it.

Thankfully, one thing I do have is decent credit, and thanks to a loan for a computer I secured last year (and have been paying back faithfully), I should be good for a loan to completely renovate the back garden into something more ability-friendly and lower-maintenance. I’m aiming for railroad tie/aggregate steps into the lower garden, with more aggregate levels and handrails in place to be able to keep my footing if my mobility continues to decline. I have plots and plans for extending my growing footprint as well to maybe include aquaponics or mushroom cultivation.  I admit I’m leaning more towards mushrooms at the moment, if only because having more animals may be too much for me to handle.

My Henz are coming to the end of their egg-laying days, with one hen in particular on her way out, I think.  It is now left to me to decide if I get more this spring. I’m undecided – the eggs are very nice, and the manure the Henz provide is good too! But, I have to admit that we really don’t seem to eat eggs very much, and even though I love the girls and their upkeep is easy as pie, the space they’re occupying is valuable territory for growing more food.  I’m concerned about future energy levels – I’m finding it a struggle to regularly clean out their pen, tend the girls,  and clean their coop, even though none of these things are especially difficult. I have to be realistic about my future energy levels, and I’ve been rather concerned about how quickly my ability took a downturn, and stayed down. It may be less animals makes more sense. The cats alone are a huge requirement on my time and responsibilities.  I guess the perk is the Omlet Cube is easily resold provided it’s cleaned well, and I should get a fair bit of money for it when I get rid of it.

On top of all these concerns is my responsibility and my pact with the Landwight of the area to keep the birds and beasts of the region happy. I continue to feed wild birds, and the hedge I planted to control soil erosion is working very well. The various measures I’ve put in place to deter pests from marauding my garden without needing to poison or exterminate them is working well; the cats have killed all the rats, I have several rudimentary ponds for frogs and toads in the lower garden, and the deer have learned the raspberries and currants I’ve planted on the edges of the garden are very tasty (and they leave the lettuce alone now).  Blackbirds enjoy the loganberry surplus, honeyberries provide a treat for bees and blue tits.  New bird houses are along the side of my home for nesting.  I continue to whisper secrets to the bees, and harvest the dandelion root for the dead.

However, I try not to do too much; I’ll be wassailing the trees and replanting them as they really didn’t do well in their tubs this year, and I’m trying to remember that I am retired; what I do now is for me and mine. There are no other requirements to do large amounts of Work.  My main work right now is to find a way to create the best garden I can for low-energy days, as it’s important for me to having something low-maintenance and productive. My focus is changing and I’m finding I have been a hermit for so long, I struggle to function in social situations. I’m having to make big strides in trying to leave my house and interact with the world, travel and enjoy things while I still can do so. This is a bigger task than it sounds, but I’m doing my best.

I’m well aware 2015 was a hell of a year. I’m hoping 2016 is a lot kinder to me, but I continue to do what I can, in order to make life a little easier for myself.