Tag Archives: Lyme Disease

A Different Mindset for Consistently Successful Veg Gardening

I grow vegetables every year. I have grown at 1000ft with winters of sub minus 20 and also at sea level with drought and long hot summers. I have to live a stress-free and mainly physically undemanding lifestyle. I cannot afford staff!!

These are my canny, tried and tested, tips for virtually guaranteeing success when growing your own food…

Remove Rigidity and Relax: Gardening is about working with nature… not against it or with it under tight control… if you try to control it too much, you live in a perpetual state of angst when you do and guilt when you don’t… have the time and energy to devote. I’ve been there and it can be quite soul-destroying… I realised I was setting myself up for disappointment and failure.

Go Old School when planting your seeds:

One for the mouse, One for the Crow, One to Rot and One to Grow – it is rare for all four to fail. I always aim for a quarter of my seeds to go on and produce vegetables. If I end up with surplus, which I usually do, I give, swap, sell and save and on bad years I normally end up with just enough for the household. I’ve never had total failure unless the seeds were dud in the first place… and that is rectifiable early in the season.

I believe that the word “weed” was coined by a weedkiller producer. We all automatically hate and worry about them but unless they are literally vying for root space with your plants they are usually more beneficial than detrimental…. other than purely aesthetically…. but even that is up to you – I pull mine in a design to look purposeful!

Nettles are necessary so try and embrace them: I pull nettles like the next person but only selectively. Nettles provide important habitat for animals and insects that are garden helpers…e.g. butterflies. I find they also protect from rabbits eating my leaves for some reason…. they provide shelter from wind, rain and cold and they provide shade from the sun. They also help hold the moisture in the ground and prevent erosion and bare patches. You can eat em and brew em and soak em to make a great liquid feed. I let them grow around my beds and pots and containers as protection. You can even broaden this embrace to include other native wild plants… the more you provide for your pests the better…

Immaculation breeds contempt: We all love a neat and tidy garden that looks beautiful and well tended… the thing is, the garden doesn’t really like that so much. Welcome a bit of organised chaos and disorder and you remove the metaphorical neon arrows pointing to your tender young morsels that are exposed for any hungry being to spot and steal. Remember, the birds, beasts and insects were all doing fine before you showed up with your fancy foodstuffs… leave them some of their own scran and they’ll leave yours alone. If you embrace the plants that thrive naturally – please note I tend not to use the negative word “weeds” – you’ll find that they put on a magnificent display when their flowers appear.

Spread Bet: Staggered multiple sowings ensure a longer season and a higher percentage of success. Don’t plant all the same seedlings in the same bed – spread them around a bit. Put some in containers too. All sorts of silly things can cause crop failure – from bad positioning to dodgy soil and pests. If you have a few here and a few there you should always get some whatever the season throws. Pests usually won’t be in 5 places at once if you’re canny with positioning.

Cram them in: I plant seedlings quite close together. After years of panicking about exact measurements, I now cram them in and thin (and eat!) regularly – most veg seedlings and young plants are perfectly delicious.

Squat don’t bend: For weeding, and all the other ground based jobs, don’t kneel or bend and constantly strain your back…. squat – preferably with flat feet if you can. It’s simple – it keeps your back aligned, straight and supported. Don’t be self-conscious, that doesn’t help anything, squat and work between your legs… if you are female just wear something appropriate.

Let it go to seed if it wants to: Things go to seed, that’s just the natural cycle. If your veggies are turning to seed, do something about the ones that haven’t yet… if you want…. but let the others continue to full term. So you have slightly less food this year… next year you’ll have no seed outlay or more seed – one in the bank for the future, as they say, and many plants produce tasty edible seeds anyway.

Plants have a drive to survive too: If you are growing native plants… or those that are generally happy in your climate and soil… they will work hard to look after themselves. You can over-Mother plants to the point of expiration. Quite a few veggies, I find, thrive when left to their own devices. Obviously growing extreme produce in the opposite climate is a different matter and requires precision and care and skill on the whole… then again someone grew a lemon outside here, through neglect!

Water is the primary concern: Too much or too little, water is the deciding factor. That’s what I’ve found. We humans are comprised of over 70% water… most veggies have a higher content than that… I’ve never yet managed to overwater anything… although I find that most herbs don’t like to sleep with wet feet – particularly Basil – so water them before midday. Nuff said.

I put in the hard graft in early Spring – if everything has a good start then I can potter and gently maintain the garden, consume the produce and divide my time, throughout the rest of the year. A bit of focus again in Autumn to make sure everything is snug for the Winter and the ground has a good feed in preparation for the Spring… and so on. Once you have your old faithfuls identified you can use the extra time to experiment with more exotic delights, safe in the knowledge that the bread and butter will reliably continue.

Books are useful for reference… but not the law! Enjoy learning on the job: Watch your garden grow. See what is happy where. Identify where the worst pests lurk or live. Adapt, Adapt, Adapt.

We don’t have to work at making the weather or the seasons… they aren’t always ideal but in extremis is the point where our human intervention should come in, in the form of sun protection or watering or whatever is required.

The planet is designed for us to feed ourselves – Don’t insist on making it so impossible for yourself

Savouring Now

I’ve found myself zoning right in to the tiny things just now. The pollination around the garden, the birds raising their young… sunrise… sunset… ant colonies and spiderlings. The organic wildflower meadows leading down to the river, the barn owl floating by at dusk while the bats flit about overhead.

I’m missing writing but have been taken over by a period of unintended deep meditation. It could be the heat, the pleasure of watching my garden grow after all the hard work or just my way of coping with the palpable changes going on for us as a species.

Within these hedges I am unencumbered.

Guilt is a powerful subverter and I have been wrestling with the guilt of not following the news, keeping up my opinions on global affairs and generally being downhearted about the state of the world… not being superbusy 24/7, not being sociable summer stylee, as well as the perennial guilt attached to not living how everyone else does and expects… of course.

I earn enough to cover what I need and, most of what I personally need… is free. I don’t feel my lifestyle is particularly selfish – I contribute to my local community and loan to farmers in developing countries, I provide a natural habitat for local flora and fauna and put up with creatures I’d really rather not for the greater good of humanity! I can’t summon any guilt for not being a rabid consumer or being in a perpetual state of, “What next? Where next? What do I want now?”

I am content.

This is a good thing. A wonderful feeling. A much sought-after state of mind.

I have realised that I finally do live somewhere that I don’t feel the need to get away from… I am now living a lifestyle I don’t need a holiday from. The restrictions that come with Lyme have actually given me freedom.

This split second in my life is to be savoured


In Defence of the Dandelion

There is a barrage of abuse out there against the Dandelion, a seemingly unnatural backlash, and I truly wonder what this plant has done to be on the same level as the likes of, say, al qaeda or the Taliban, when it comes to excessive media coverage and the widespread emotion relating to it’s desired extermination. Talk about over the top.

Dandelion destruction is, simply, dimwitted.


Credit: Nightmare Logic

Much of the animosity does seem to be lawn-related…

Now, there are those who appreciate a lawn but complement it with a bit of wildness and biodiversity round about…that’s compromise. Fine. I happen to have a small patch of short ‘lawn’, which is a diverse mix of grasses and plants…. and Dandelions, because it allows me and mine a bit of relaxation and lounging about safe in the knowledge that we are tick-free. Those, however who only allow one type of grass……. I don’t care how important your lawn is…. what exactly do you use this barren result of dictatorship for? It must be incredibly important to require the destruction of everything that supports healthy grass growth and keeps the soil, not just alive, but positively bursting with vitality. Oh…and I note you are constantly miserable about it anyway!

This has bugged me for years and was reignited recently;

A couple of days ago, I had a man here who couldn’t stop bragging about his £5k lawnmower… yes, five thousand pounds. This lawnmower was soooo superior, that he still had to use his old mower as well, for the more natural bits of his grass growth. He was aiming for a “cricket pitch or bowling green”. WTF??? I’ve never even seen the guy sit on his lawn, or play bowls, cricket or any other outdoor game requiring a flat lawn that is clinging on to life by a thread. Grrr. This is a man who complains about the leaves falling on the grass and so uses non-renewable power to drive his leaf blower….God forbid one should lower oneself to use a rake, or even just let the leaves do their thing in delivering nutrients to the soil and protecting the grass during the frosts. He then burns all those leaves. Next he petrol mows it within an inch of it’s life, a bit of petrol strimming while he’s about it, and then applies weed killer, fertiliser, insecticide and who knows what else. The cost alone is staggering – environmental and financial.

I find it hard to keep my mouth shut around such complete lunacy…. my brain can’t decide if it’s suicide or ecocide or some niche form of OCD – removing all flora, but one type of grass, and consequently virtually all the fauna from your two acre plot…. I managed it though, this time. It scares me how far removed from understanding the natural cycle some folk genuinely are.

There are adverts everywhere showing the Dandelion as an evil invader, something to dread, fear and hate. GET A GRIP. Sometimes you can have a few where you don’t want them but this does not excuse the level of hysteria that has been reached. What are we teaching the next generation?

Did you know that the Dandelion is nutritious, full of flavour and brimming with health benefits. That is; the flower, leaves and the root. The whole plant. Shown to be particularly beneficial to liver and kidney health, regulation of insulin and packed full of vitamins, I’m not going to go deeply into them as, if you’re interested you may well go and look into the facts further. Suffice it to say, many of you sitting there ingesting expensive pharmaceuticals whilst looking at a pristine green lawn have got the wrong end of the stick. Harsh, but in many cases true I’m afraid. Consumption of Dandelions was a contributor to my healing from Lyme disease….. and you can even make wine out of it for goodness sake!

On a purely aesthetic note, I must say I simply can’t get my head around the hatred of a beautiful yellow flower that, once ready to reproduce, turns into fun for children……and trust me, the more the better where children are concerned. It’s just churlish to vilify and then kill them all.

Just FYI: All the damage they do to your precious concrete paths and patios is simply reclaiming the land for soil – they, along with other plants and fungi, are able to transform the concrete jungle back into a true wilderness and for that we should be grateful. I accept that the idea of beautiful yellow flowers dotted around your prized concrete is horrendous for you but could we please agree a compromise?

You can pull Dandelions from your prized concrete, or lawn….if you leave the ones on the verge or the grass or even just in one small corner. Please don’t spray nasties – you are quite literally damaging the health of those whom you invite to your home: your nearest and dearest, even if you don’t care any further than that about the widespread damage to habitat – flora and fauna.

Try some! Just pick a few young and tender leaves, wash them and add them to a salad. Or be more adventurous and make some wine.

Please reconsider your position on Dandelions…. is it really sense to devote your precious time and money to delivering more pain and hatred towards a beneficial plant than you’re prepared to dish out to real problems, like; war, suffering, environmental destruction, greed, crime and persecution of humans and animals. Sounds over-dramatic? You should hear yourselves…

If you can turn a blind eye to sexism, domestic abuse or thievery you can damn well turn a blind eye to the mighty Dandelion…..persisting in it’s right to live alongside us in harmony, it’s only threat is to provide us with better health.

We can’t blame the Dandelion when the quantities of weedkiller you employ en masse to try and obliterate it have damaged great swathes of soil, flora and fauna.

Priorities People – Only Pull and Pull in Moderation…..Please.

The pollinators will thank you and so will the kids……. not to mention, you’ll never win anyway!

Grudge match over a compliment

Credit: thestylecuratorblog.com

Credit: thestylecuratorblog.com

An inherent social, mainly familial, problem was highlighted for me today:

Folk never tell folk meaningful stuff to their faces. In other words, parents, siblings, teachers, friends…whoever…..tell everyone else but the person in question, how great said person is and what their particular shining attributes are. Within families this can create completely unnecessary rifts.

My wise old friend was being very wise the other day as we sat admiring her garden. She told me that she and her brothers had always hated one set of cousins, mainly because their Grandmother constantly went on about how wonderful they were. Recently they were all reunited at Grandmother’s funeral and were harking back to childhood….it turns out she did exactly the same about her and her brothers to their cousins, who had also felt collectively miffed for the best part of 60 years.

What is with us that we can’t just tell someone we are proud of them, they’ve inspired us, cheered us up or done themselves proud?

I believe it is mostly a British thing….other nationalities seem to be much warmer in that respect. We must have had generations of people feeling inadequate and inferior, simply because we ‘talk behind their backs’. It may not be in the traditional bitchy or gossipy sense but nonetheless it is damaging.

There are obvious exceptions; cool threads, great hair, wonderful cuisine……soooooo pretty. We are happy to gush openly about them. So what about kind? Long-suffering? Patient? Inspiring? Infectiously motivating? Tough? Capable? Anything deeper than looks and fuel presentation???

I just reckon, we live in a world where dark skinned folk want to be light skinned and light skinned folk want to be dark, people are implanting crap into their bodies to all look the same as one bloody doll – a product, beauty is still only skin deep but some seem to think that if they keep layering it’ll all work out…..what I’m saying is that it would be great if we could go back to respecting traits, generosity of spirit, selflessness, positive attributes rather than merely singling out good assets.

I don’t reckon that we should all be constantly ego stroking each other – no, that would be torture… that’s how it is now! I just mean, when someone does something pretty amazing or makes you think differently or changes your world, even for a moment, just tell them. Presents are all very well but telling someone face to face….or writing a letter to say, that you really appreciate them, is genuinely priceless.

I’ve been cogitating this for a while. One of the things that struck me hardest when I realised and accepted that Lyme might shorten my life considerably, was that I really wanted all the people I cared about to know it and know why they are so bloody brilliant and how much I value them…..including people from way back who I’ve always remembered for one reason or another, which was probably a bit over zealous but what the hell, how bad can a compliment be?

The reason it was highlighted today was because a member of the older generation was visiting and, being objective…. with gritted teeth, I think I could concede that maybe he is merely perpetrating the usual grudge-inducing round robin of wrongly directed continual praise in mismatched company when he makes us feel quite as inferior as he does in his lauding of other siblings whilst seemingly totally ignoring the tour of the fruits of our endless hard work and throwing barely a scrap of positivity our way.

I just want the next generation, my kids if I’m fortunate, not to have to do battle with the smog of the family merry-go-round or the general beauty rankings and just get on with being wonderful people. How can any of us reach our full potential if noone is prepared to tell us the good, and meaningful, stuff like it is?

Silver Linings

Today’s post has been quite tricky…. I hadn’t expected the response I received to yesterday’s Lyme post and just feel a related, positive follow up is what should be done.

So, what are the silver linings to my own long and arduous storm clouds?

Music just sorts it all out: Another Lymie wrote a great post (sorry I can’t recall who!) about how heavy metal music made her feel better….I wholeheartedly agree, it is great for anger and stress relief! Muse Uprising is a good shouty fighting tune, a selection of the rest of my personal medicinal tunes are listed at the end of the post… I did a lot of angry shout singing and “letting it all out” – wonderful therapy….and gets the oxygen flowing and the heat up!!

Perspective: on life in general, what life is about, what is important, what should be ignored, what is real and what is just drivel. On what I really enjoy, on what I really want from life and on what truly makes me happy. On what the point is…

Limits: Whilst I entirely advocate doing everything that doesn’t kill you, limiting my life to suit my circumstances was quite liberating, limiting unnecessary drains on personal resources was freeing and limiting who I put myself out for was a huge burden lifted.

Lyme made me less fit and able than my 94yr old Grandmother…….Lyme also freed me to behave in ways only old folk can get away with: I now feel that release that older people say they get after a certain age – shrugging off all the insecurities and insignificant worries that younger folk suffer from. It’s marvellous!! and it’s happened, like thirty odd years early whoooop!!

Chronic illness, especially of the little known variety, sifts out true friendships: At first, the feeling of people disappearing from my life as they learned that I was diseased was pretty depressing….however, it clearly strengthened other relationships and I have now got the most fantastic set of people in my life. My goodness does quality outweigh quantity in this sphere!!

Years of anxiety, worry and angst have given way to a new way of thinking: Has anyone died? Is anyone or anything going to die? Is the world going to end? No? Right well, let’s just not get unduly stressed about it.

Longterm deprivation of all things pleasurable makes every tiny thing a great joy: I will make sure I never forget the soul-destroying feeling of having to concentrate intently, pulling every ounce of physical power and psychological strength from nowhere, and work my absolute hardest to put one foot in front of the other…..just to get to a place of safety to collapse. I’ll never take the little things for granted again.

Self-Sufficiency: Not in the funky sense…although sort of, as well, I guess. I feel empowered, obviously with hindsight, that I was able to learn all that science and sift through the rubbish information and, armed with just a CD57 test result, the Burrascano guidelines and a name of an antibiotic from the LLD, get myself back shipshape….myself! It is possible. Doctors can’t know everything – mine all used google search, even the good ones! Really we’re all in the dark together and should work together to solve the testing and treatment issues…..but that seems a wee while off yet. I think there are a few American corporations that would rather we didn’t!

Ferris Bueller was right: Life does move pretty fast and it’s just so worth stopping and looking around you,……..more frequently than, “once in a while”, though!

So, even though I spent most of, according to previous generations, the best years of my life, wallowing in pain and misery, sweat and spirochaetes, exhausted, frightened and broken….there seems to be some pretty good stuff the other side. When lucid during treatment I used to feebly whisper, “if this is the down, imagine what the up is going to be like”, not really meaning it….. I genuinely didn’t feel I was going to survive for a while there to be honest. It’s quite difficult to remain resolute in the face of an organism that is so cunning, adaptable, all-pervading and advanced – I kinda respected (and still do,) from a biological and evolutionary perspective the little squiggly telephone wires….which is annoying! The more I learned, the more interesting and impressive they became  – but I always felt that if human beings hadn’t evolved beyond bacteria then we’re doomed anyway, so I used my brain (what little of it worked by then!) and learned their behaviour and habits and looked at electron  microscope pictures and read endless theses on borrelia and spirochaetes and syphilis etc…….and then double-bluffed the little brutes! I don’t necessarily advise it, but one example is that I used to jump in the river to get really cold…..stay cold for as long a possible to perk them up a bit and then hit them with pills and heat and exercise haha!

During my treatment, I was able to narrow the symptoms of a relapse down to one solitary marker: caffeine suddenly makes me sleepy. So nowadays, for me, “a coffee a day proves the buggers are at bay!”  If it happens ever again, I do have a stash of Cefuroxime which I will just start all over again. Come ahead if you think you’re hard enough – I’m armed and ready!

My fighting tunes:

Muse: Uprising

Carl Orff: Carmina Burana

Nirvana: Breed

Metallica: Master of Puppets, Nothing Else Matters (the album with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra is awesome!)

Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance

Iron Maiden: Bring your daughter, Run to the Hills, The Clansman, Phantom of the Opera, The evil that men do, Wasted Years

Eminem: Lose Yourself

Smashing Pumpkins: Rat in a Cage

Prodigy: Their Law

Deep Purple: Cut runs deep

Killers: Human

Therapy: Trigger Inside

Rage Against the Machine.

“I am so blessed”. Lucky old you…


Blessed adj : consecrated, revered, endowed with divine favour

“I am so blessed”. The phrase that most irks me in every day life and drives me away from people faster than a fart in a confined space.

Be clear – this is not a rant about religion, merely the above phrase which happens to have it’s roots in religion and is usually spouted willy nilly by those who subscribe. My own religious views have no place in this particular discussion and do not influence this frustration.

Many people happily pronounce how blessed they are to anyone who will listen. I refer specifically to my own experience in the UK. At first thought this seems benign enough, and I fully appreciate that many say it from a good place, but….. has it ever crossed their minds that they are basically claiming that a divine, omnipotent being has decided that out of over 7 billion people on this planet, they are the special ones?

My gripe started as a child but with no tangible basis – it just irritated me and I didn’t like the tone with which it was usually delivered. As I got older and saw the types of people around me who were repeating this mantra, it irritated me further. From the age of 14 my own life threw up some real tricky times (through no fault of my own) and every time some numpty with a charmed life (through no achievement of their own) chanted the phrase, I felt a bit sick.

My tolerance left the building the day one of my oldest ‘friends’, fully aware of my hopeless diagnosis of chronic Lyme Disease, inability to work or play and, most seriously, the potential not to be able to have healthy children, said to me; “I am so blessed to now have my 3rd child and be so fit and healthy, living the dream”. Now you might say that I am being unfair, perhaps churlish even, or that it just wasn’t a very nice person but you see this person is just an extreme representative of a group of likeminded, self-important individuals protected by their constant reference to religion which precludes them from actually considering their words and actions in context. She could have simply replaced “I am so blessed” with, “I feel very lucky…” and suddenly all is forgiven, there’s no problem here.

The list is endless but the point is clear. What the hell did I do in a former life or as a babe-in-arms that warranted the level of persecution that the same omnipotent being (according to the  beliefs of those that say it) has apparently chosen to accord me or anyone else who has had to face heavy struggles not of their own making? What makes you so special? What makes you believe you are so special? It’s even harder with  so-called ‘friends’ whom you know are very, very far from perfect and, from birth, have been fortunate in extremis.

What’s wrong with something slightly humbler? “fortunate”? “lucky”? “happy”? With the use of any of those you are not claiming superiority – the fateful superstition of “unluckiness” is serendipitous, likewise “misfortune”, and happiness is merely a state resulting from good luck or good fortune. It is the overlooked concept of being chosen that is so wide of the mark –  I can’t remember where it says in the bible; “Those whom I decide are far superior to anyone else will have a seriously easy time of it, won’t have to try or work hard or be genuinely decent or respect others…. no, for these guys it’ll all just fall in their laps. Coz I like ’em!”

If you are someone who uses this phrase with impunity, perhaps without considering what meanings lie within such a phrase depending on the circumstances, understand that, unless something incredibly rare and profound has happened to you (e.g. near death experience) and you are deeply religious, you just come across as incredibly smug to those who are suffering. In fact, you’re just rubbing it in.

Just saying

NB. We are all lucky in the UK, I am not whinging just saying something that’s on my mind. I’m out the other side of my struggles, I believe, but even if my life is rosy I will be quietly grateful and not feel the need to compound others’ current misery by proclaiming how special I am that I am apparently a chosen one. Because I believe we are all equal and what comes to us is life, not gifts for the favourites. If I’m wrong then I’m not sure heaven would be a place I’d like to reside – I never was a good devious sycophant.

P.S. It is of course good to count your blessings….. but perhaps call them “all the good things in my life” or “all the positives” or maybe, just sometimes, keep it to yourself?!