Oh the Humidity

Yesterday I took myself out on a walk in the woods. It’s been horribly, horribly humid the last couple of days, but I’d decided I was going to go walking no matter what. No excuses.

When I got out of my car the air was like soup, but I thought once I got deep into the woods and into the shade it would probably be nicer. Nope. It was just as soupy. It was 25c outdoors, which is just about my perfect temperature under normal circumstances, but the humidity is just the worst. I spent a few months in Malta some years back, and even when it reached 42c it was easier to cope with than the weather here. Hot and dry, I can deal with. Hot and moist? No. No way. It’s exhausting.

If you’re in the UK and experiencing this drought, you may have noticed a distinct autumnal quality to the woods lately.

But we aren’t experiencing early autumn, it’s simply the trees dropping their leaves in an attempt to stay alive by diverting all the resources they have to essential functions only. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, now I come to think of it.

Some areas of my local woods are looking distincly forlorn, but other parts are doing just fine. Better than normal, in fact, because now we aren’t having any lockdowns, a lot less people are coming here for their exercise. As such this area has gone back to being overgrown just like it was pre-covid. There’s a lot less litter about, too (although still lots of abandoned poo bags, which is just flipping disgraceful).

On the 15th of August we were forecast rain for the next day, so I got every container that didnt have holes in the bottom out in the garden to catch any rain we might get. That’s in addition to the water butt. The ground is so hard and dry, if we do get any significant rain it just runs off instead of soaking in, so I thought I’d catch what I could.

We did get rain the next day, but it was only a few spots that evaporated almost instantly. Very disappointing. So that’s where they have stayed, empty, since the 15th. In fact, this morning is the first time since I don’t even know when that it really rained, and goodness me am I relieved. I’ve only been watering the plants I cannot bear to lose, and I especially couldn’t stand to use up all the water it would have taken to keep the grass green. It’ll bounce back just fine, and at least I haven’t had to worry about cutting it.

This morning we had a deluge and not only is the water butt completely full once more, things in the garden that have been struggling for weeks are already looking transformed.

That’s the very same bush, would you believe.

It’s still raining gently this afternoon, and although it is still humid the air has definitely cleared significantly. Hopefully it will be tolerable for work tonight, because last night was… damp. I managed to grab an impromptu night’s holiday after only being there for an hour-and-a-half, and I was already drenched in sweat. It doesn’t help that the forklift trucks are powered by a half-ton battery which gets hot when you use it, so you’re basically spending 8 hours sitting on a heater. Yuk.

Me, personally? I’m very much looking forward to real autumn and (hopefully) a more manageable climate to exist in for the time being. I’m also seriously hoping I manage to get my act together in terms of weight loss so I can have a much more comfortable summer next year, one I’m able to much better cope with.

Then again, I’ve been saying that for two years now! Still, I can but try.

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Time to Digest

Since I last posted I’ve been trying to take my own advice. I haven’t felt like doing much, and there’s that fine line between moping when you should be picking yourself up and taking the time you need to rest. I’m attempting to listen to my intuition a bit more and my intuition told me to STAY IN BED! I have been feeling that something is amiss, something more than the usual depression, so I spoke to my doctor about it who suggested I get a blood test in case I’m ‘short of something’.

My depressed brain was feeling quite hopeless, and I’d forgotten that just being short of a vitamin or two can have a huge impact on your health. My diet has been ATROCIOUS over the last two years, and although I’ve been eating more veggies lately and taking extra vitamins, at this point it’s probably like peeing into the wind. Maybe something as simple as a couple of vitamin shots will get me feeling better. Who knows.

Something of note that has happened since I last wrote is that my dear friend Mar gave me a tarot reading. Now I am the world’s biggest cynic, but I went into the reading with a completely open mind. This was a few weeks ago now I think (time passes in weird ways when you don’t feel great) but I’ve been quietly mulling over and digesting what she told me since then.

A few things have been floating around the edges of my consciousness lately and it wasn’t until the cards started coming out that it brought them to the forefront. It was something of a ‘YES!’ moment for me, and it really helped me to start organising my thoughts. A lot of career-type things were popping up, and I hadn’t realised until that moment exactly how much work and money had been worrying me. Not that either of them are exactly a problem right now, it’s just that life as it is now is not sustainable. Not if I want to hold on to my sanity. I don’t think I have many more years of night work left in me for instance – I SO miss my circadian rhythm! And I’d like to work with creative people and people who share the same values. As an all-or-nothing kind of person, the idea of going from easy peasy forklift driving to, well, anything else, absolutely terrifies me.

However, Mar was there to remind me that I don’t have to COMPLETELY change everything all at once, and to give me a good dose of self-belief. So I have a wee little seed of a plan that I’m nurturing and I’m not convinced it would have germinated without a bit of outside help.

If you would like to try a reading for yourself (which I CANNOT recommend enough) then Mar offers Zoom and email readings that are totally affordable. Check out her Instagram page for all the details: @the_gentle_spiritualist

PS She is also the most lovely and wonderful person ever. You won’t regret it!

I must admit that after my reading, despite still struggling, my heart has felt a little lighter. With that lightness I have been slowly, gently, starting to get back into my gardening. Over the last few weeks I have been through my seed collection and picked out things that are easy to grow and things that I would absolutely love to see in the garden this year. Then once a week, I’ve been sowing just a few at a time.

This approach has worked really well – I have some chillies, sweet peas, rocket, a nasturtium and one really cool dahlia that I’m very excited about, germinate.

This is my current setup, although the seedlings that already emerged have been promoted to the windowsill. I have been trying out coconut coir to start my seeds off, which is a really affordable alternative to compost (and much better for the environment). Apart from the price, my favourite thing about it is that is comes in small blocks which expand massively when you add water. Until now I really hated lugging huge compost bags around, and the quality of the compost is so hit and miss… I shan’t be going back!

Coco Dots are definitely something I’ll be using a lot in the future. They come in a kind of little net, which holds the coir in place but as roots develope they grow through the netting easily. When the time comes you just plant them on as is. I’m naturally a very messy person so the lack of mess these create is a real bonus for me. I got mine here.

In the garden things are starting to come to life. The first thing to emerge was this iris, which I originally planted last year. I’m glad to see it doing so well this year as well. For next year I plan to plant more of these to make more of an impact. Since they’re so early to emerge, I think it will be a joy to see a lot of them at once from the kitchen window while everything else is so grey and miserable.

In my painting life I believe I have turned a corner. Getting a likeness is something that’s INCREDIBLY hard but also something I think it’s only really possible to achieve if you just keep practicing. In order to get to this point, I have drawn and painted many, many horrors. However, I have now completed a self-portrait that I’m actually happy with.

My eyes, nose and mouth are in the right place (more or less) and it is unmistakably me. What’s more, I am sharing the picture here with you! As my mother pointed out, it wasn’t that long ago where anything I painted (even something I was fairly happy with) would never again see the light of day. This is a nice little confidence boost, because there’s always that little voice telling me I’ll never be good enough.

I never thought I’d be good enough to paint what I’ve painted now, so clearly my inner self is full of crap and shouldn’t be listened to. In matters of art, at least.

What I would like to do in the future is offer pet portraits, but I didn’t think I’d be good enough for that, either. I started a portrait of our cat, Chester, last October. Part of the reason I didn’t work on it again was because he passed away and it hurt too much, but another factor was that I really liked how the initial sketch came out and I was scared to touch it again after that.

Well this weekend I bit the bullet and got back to it, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. Again, I have that likeness, but the most important thing for me is that I now believe that if I lose that special ‘thing’ I’m going for, I am good enough to bring it back. it’s not just a fluke – if I do something cool once, I can clearly do again. It was not just a happy accident never to be repeated!

I am enjoying practicing just for me, but from the middle of the year I am going to open up a few commission spots for pet portraits. It scares me, because what if someone really doesn’t like it? Am I strong enough to deal with the rejection of something I put so much love into? I can either take a leap of faith and find out, or stay where I am now and never know. I think it’s time to put it to the test, don’t you?

I think I’m giving myself very healthy goals where it comes to my art – enough to get me out of my comfort zone but not enough to overwhelm me. I am tentatively quite excited!

When the time comes I’ll give more details if you’d like a piece of original Hayley Murphy art of your own. Which is something I never thought I’d ever be writing, yet here we are.

Who knows what else the future has in store.

Hayley x

Babies

Excuse me? It’s February now? It seems I’m falling into a pattern of one post a month so I guess it’s time to get writing.

I’m a lot less stressed than I was when I last posted, and this is because I have stopped trying to control things I can’t control. After a lengthy meeting at work with my shift manager, it seems that (at work at least), people cannot be made to wear masks or made to social distance. If they want to kill or make seriously ill their siblings, children, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, or anyone else they come into contact with, that’s absolutely fine as long as the parties breaking the rules together consent. The only right I have is to stop people encroaching my personal space. So there it is. I took it as far as I could and got nowhere so I have decided to let go of this feeling of total responsibility in my head. If anyone comes to close to me however, god help them!

All I can do is stay as safe as I can and screw everyone else.

It’s harder now than it has been since the beginning of Covid though, because I am OH SO CRAVING PHYSICAL INTIMACY. I’ve made huge progress as far as my relationships go over the last year or two, and I know full well I have no desire for romantic love. I am exactly enough exactly as I am, and unless they want to come help with the gardening I have no desire at all for a partner. I’m not without love though. I despise the Covid rule-breakers but I absolutely CHERISH the good people in my life right now. We don’t talk enough about the genuine love we feel for our friends in our society.

Still though, I’d dearly love to have some fun and snuggle a warm body, before kicking them out the door in the morning.

Because I care about people other than myself, even people I’ve never met (can you imagine? Many can’t) I won’t be meeting up with anyone outside my household, as much as I’d like to. Although this makes me sad, I’m also a bit in shock. I was feeling bummed last weekend, was able to sit back, listen to what my feelings were trying to tell me and figure out what was wrong. That was half the battle really. Gosh I do love a bit of healthy progress!

Maybe this is something other people do anyway? I wouldn’t know. For me this is MASSIVE.

So if I haven’t been intimate with anyone then why do I want to talk about babies? That’s because it’s all about the plant babies now!

I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting in my bedroom greenhouse. Some things I’ve seen others do, like starting off chillies, peppers and aubergines under grow lights. It seems to be widely known that this will actually work, and so far it appears to be going quite well. Since I have literally thousands of radish seeds, I decided to try sowing a few and see what would happen.

It was not a success. They got so ridiculously leggy that they could not support their own weight and fell over. They did make me giggle though. What were they actually trying to achieve?

My windowsill dahlias seem to be doing well (Dahlia Mignon, a freebie with my last Gardeners’ World mag) and the echinacea have started making an appearance too.

I have my first EVER germinated strawberries. I tried strawberries last year from a stocking-filler but the instructions were wrong and I didn’t know any better. I didn’t get any strawberry action whatsoever. Now, however…

I have other varieties to sow later on, so I’m very hopeful we will have actual strawberries this year. You really cannot beat a homegrown strawberry.

Other things doing well so far are onion, hollyhock, lemongrass, dolichos, rocket, lobelia and laurentia. That’s just my January sowing. These are all things that can be sowed in February:

It doesn’t end here, because my houseplant obsession has now reached an unstoppable momentum. I assumed for a long time that I simply couldn’t keep plants alive. The easiest things are supposed to be cacti and succulents right? You know, the plants that THRIVE on neglect? Well not for me. I just cannot keep them alive!

After trying ‘real’ plants and finding that, actually, I’m pretty good at looking after them, I decided to expand my collection.

Plant-buying can be expensive. I keep eyeing up a rare pilea right now which is £50, but your average plant babies are a good place to start.

These are my January payday purchases:

Here we have Chinese money plant, rose painted calathea, begonia maculata, tradescantia ‘nanouk’, string of hearts, another kind of calathea (the website didn’t say which), heartleaf philodendron and asparagus fern.

All of these were around the £5 mark and nearly all of them are supposed to be super easy to propagate. Baby plants means (one day) an inexpensive way to get healthy adults plants. But more importantly, LOTS OF THEM. I intend to make my room into a jungle.

For the garden I have started growing some parsnip tops. I have parsnip seeds for this year, but I’m also hoping to get these to flower because parsnip flowers are surprisingly lovely. They were only going in the compost bin anyhow. This one is two weeks old:

Also on the propagation front, I prepped these avocado stones in NOVEMBER and now they are finally showing some sort of life. Which is good because I’ve found it impossible to throw away an avocado stone since then and have several many, many more on the go.

Obsessed? Moi? I don’t know what you mean.

Hayley x