End of the season

I started season of mellow fruitfulness mainly as a writing exercise, to get myself typing instead of thinking and to allow other people to read what I wrote. When I started I set myself a few rules – don’t talk about having ME/CFS, don’t set posting targets and never apologise for not posting for ages.

I’ve stuck to the last one, I think, and I didn’t set any public goals, though I did set some private ones from time to time. Writing about my experience of having ME/CFS crept in as it became clear that the hopes of recovery that I had when I started were not going to be fulfilled.

It’s been fun, a good learning experience and I’ve “met” some lovely people along the way. But (you could see the “but” coming couldn’t you?) it’s now time to wrap it up, to say a big thank you to followers, commenters and supporters, and to move on to something else.

I had intended to keep going with this blog until I had a follow-on lined up, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do a bit of space clearing before I start whatever comes next. I have several ideas, but I need some time to play around with them to see what emerges.

Feeling that I “ought” to write a post on here when I’m no longer mentally engaged with the project causes a small, but unnecessary drain on my creative energy. I mention it just in case anyone reading is mulling over a similar decision – if whatever it is has run it’s course, let it go and stop the energy drain!

Thank you all again for sharing this venture with me and best wishes to you all.

Buttercups, daisies and other treasures

I love my back lawn! It looks particularly beautiful at the moment when the buttercups and daisies are shining in the sun. The flowers are a welcome bit of colour on dull days too. This afternoon I did a very quick audit of the plants that live in my lawns and found:

Buttercups (back garden only)
Lesser yellow trefoil (lots of this)
English Plantain (many more in front garden than back)
Creeping oxalis
Geum (back garden only)
Dog’s mercury
Thistle (back garden only)
Field chickweed (back garden only)
Liverwort (back garden only)
Forget-me-not (self-seeded from garden plants, back garden only)
Viola (self-seeded from garden plants, back garden only)
Various grasses
White clover (front garden only)
Self heal (front garden only)
Bittercress (front garden only)
Mind your own business (front garden only)
Common mallow (front garden only)

It was a very unscientific survey done while I drank a mug of tea – I’m not good at just sitting doing nothing. I know there are other things lurking such as birds-eye speedwell and scarlet pimpernel, but I didn’t actually spot either today. I was quite surprised by the differences between front and back lawns. I assume the different aspects account for some variations, but still it’s curious that there are so many things that only appear in one or the other.

What plants live in your lawn?

Mizuna flowers

I’ve been growing mizuna as a leaf crop for some years now. In the past I just sighed and sowed another batch when the plants started to bolt, which happens quite quickly in hot weather. But last week some impulse made me decide to nip out the flower shoots to see if I could keep the leaves going a bit longer. And a further impulse made me pop one of the shoots into my mouth just to see what it tasted like…

Then I had to kick myself for all the years I’d just written the plants off as soon as they flowered, because the flower buds are LUSH! And, even better, having nipped out the leading flower shoot, the plants are now producing lots of delicious side shoots, so they’ll be productive for a lot longer. I will make another sowing, but it’s good to know that I’ll be able to keep on harvesting tender young flower shoots until the new batch is ready.

Mizuna a very easy to grow cut-and-come-again Japanese mustard green. Like rocket, it is relatively unattractive to the wretched molluscs which usually devastate any lettuce I try to grow. With successional sowings it has a long season outdoors here in the south of England and would probably grow year-round in a polytunnel. I primarily use mizuna raw in salads, but it’s also good in stir-fries and soup.

I buy mizuna seed from the Organic Gardening Catalogue.

Pain update (in case you were wondering)

The doctor diagnosed “nerve pain” and offered me a variety of drugs, one of which I’ve already tried as an insomnia remedy and found the side effects outweighed the benefits. I looked up the other options on the internet and decided that my current sufferings aren’t bad enough to risk the possible side effects.

There appears to be no treatment available to repair the damage or prevent further decline, so my decision for now is to manage the symptoms as best I can. Most of the time I’m not completely immobilised by pain and, although things are getting worse, I think my quality of life will probably be better without adding an extra burden of toxicity to my system.

Like many other people with ME/CFS my body doesn’t handle drugs well and I only try new things if and when absolutely necessary. Past experience has taught me to be extremely cautious and to start with the smallest dose possible. It’s a family thing – my very healthy brother was once hospitalised after a bad reaction to prescribed drugs and other relations have similar sensitivities.

I do take take over-the-counter painkillers when necessary, and diazepam to help me relax and sleep occasionally, but I’ll save the heavy duty drugs for later. In the meantime I must heed the wake-up call and take better care of myself. I must take time out to relax my muscles thoroughly, do more gentle yoga stretches and maybe get a massage occasionally.

Spicy roast chickpeas

Roast chickpeas are my favourite savoury snack at the moment. The only thing wrong with them, is that I can’t stop nibbling until the whole lot is gone! I’ve established that they keep perfectly well for two days in an air-tight container, but so far that’s the longest I’ve managed to spin a batch out.

How do you make them? Easy peasy and infinitely variable – Google for alternative recipes. What I do is this:

Rinse 250-300g of cooked chickpeas* in fresh water and dry them in a clean tea towel. Put the chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle a teaspoon or three of olive oil** over them. Add a heaped teaspoon of medium curry powder and a good shake of salt. Mix thoroughly to coat the chickpeas as evenly as possible with the other ingredients.

Spread the chickpeas on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cook in a pre-heated oven at about 200C for about 40 minutes. Give the tray a gentle shake and turn it if necessary after 20mins. You’ll probably need to experiment a bit with cooking times and temperature as all ovens vary. It’s important that the chickpeas are completely dried out and crunchy, but leave them too long, or have the oven too hot, and you’ll shatter your teeth trying to chew them. Luckily they cool down very quickly, so frequent testing is easy…

* I use dried chickpeas as I think they taste nicer than tinned, have no additives and are cheaper. I cook up a whole 500g bag at a time and freeze them for later use. A 500g bag of dried chickpeas costing about £1 at the time of writing yields over 1kg cooked weight. Even allowing for cooking and freezing costs I think this is less expensive than buying tins which contain 240g drained weight for 70-80p. The only downside to cooking your own is that they stink the house out while they simmer!
** I use the flavourless light and mild kind of olive oil for cooking.

What a difference a day makes

I had a good stretch of unbroken sleep last night, the weather has been cooler this morning and the neigbourhood is, at least for now, blessedly quiet. A pleasant spell of peaceful respite before the bank holiday.

There are many compensations for the trials that summer weather brings to my ailing body, sweet scented full-blown roses being just one, and when I’m not frayed to bits with weariness they give me much pleasure.

Sadly, although I felt better this morning than yesterday morning and I have crossed a few tasks off my list, my energy is going now. I can feel my muscles starting to seize up and a headache brewing. It’s time to take some painkillers and rest again…

Summery weather

To be honest I hate it. The heat is debilitating in itself, especially with such a sudden change from rather cool to very warm. Opening windows to let in what breeze there is also lets in the sound of traffic, lawnmowers, power tools, children playing, outdoor conversations, music, burglar and car alarms, adults partying, seagulls screaming, cats yowling etc etc.

The more exhausted I am the harder it is to rest. I’m writing this because someone is cutting a lawn nearby and the uneven whine of the mower is driving me nuts. I’d rather be lying on my bed, but it too hot up there with the windows closed, so I’m marginally more comfortable sitting downstairs. Though I can still hear the bloody thing even with the doors and windows shut.

The more exhausted I am the harder it is to ignore irritations and getting irritated makes it even harder to rest or to organise irritation-mitigation strategies. I’m pretty much at the end of my rope at the moment, but I will get past this, no matter how many days of living at basic ME/CFS survival level it takes. If nothing else, the weather will change, even if not until autumn!

In the meantime I must grab what rest I can, when I can. The lawnmower has stopped and I’ve hopefully got a few hours of relative peace and quiet until 3:30pm when the football-kicking starts… Bah humbug to hot weather and noise!