Friday, 28 February 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

An immediate effect of cutting down on my sugar has been a noticeable increase in energy levels.  Not quite back to the Energiser Bunny levels of previous years but rapidly heading towards Hobbit-who-never-stops and is always on the go.  "Nearly but not quite" is wonderful compared to how I felt last year and LP and I have 'celebrated' this by making phenomenal progress in the greenhouse.  We had nearly SIX INCHES OF RAIN in February and compared to the previous two years we should have been building an Ark not raised beds, but the horrible conditions outside were a perfect opportunity to work under cover and completely transform the greenhouse.

We made a start at the end of January but the real progress has been in the last couple of weeks.

Rather pleased with ourselves that we thought to lay in conduit now rather than think about it later. We're probably going to extend the electrics from the adjacent shed.


Assistant Gardener was quite determined to check our progress, sit right in the middle of what we're working on (that takes Special Skills), and contribute in her own unique way.

We've turned a very lovely greenhouse into something entirely new and I have a "pinch me, is this really mine? " moment every time I go near it!

 The whole space feels completely different; this is going to sound totally cuckoo but it's more friendly, more enveloping, more welcoming.  

I feel a quite uncharacteristic urge to make some Cath Kidston style bunting .....

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A bit personal, skip this if you only like gardening or fellwalking :}

Let's not beat about the bush, 2013 was crap.  It should have been a marvellous 12 months - our first full year with Daisy, a period of glorious weather during the summer, a bit more of the garden under control and no major disasters in the house.  Reality was different.  I struggled through the whole year in a fog of what seemed like perpetual exhaustion.

If you never got a reply to a friendly email, never got a birthday/Christmas card, if I didn't visit your blog, or I just seemed to ignore you and left you thinking I didn't give a sh*t about you then I am very sorry; last year there were so many things I wanted to do but never had the energy to accomplish.

At first I put the tiredness down to having done way too much since early-2007 when Management and I decided to up sticks and relocate 350 miles north.  The 'cure' for that was to do less in the garden, ensure LP did all the heavy work, and get out on the fells more.

That plan didn't work and fundamentally I felt as fit as the proverbial fiddle (apart from being tired all the time) so I put the malaise down to a dreadful cold I'd had in October 2012.  'Post Viral Fatigue' - that'll be it then.  I even had a phone appointment with a GP who agreed with me:  Eat well, make time for hobbies, be nice to yourself, all great advice which I followed.  Didn't make any difference.

Eventually (mid January) I went to see a GP who was helpful and understanding.  He was working on 'diagnosis by elimination' and did a load of blood tests.  I was surprised and not very happy to learn I had a Blood Glucose level which just tipped me into the 'at risk of developing diabetes' band.   My weight is right in the middle of the 'correct' range for my age & height, BMI is 22.  Blood pressure is low.  Cholesterol is fine. Don't smoke, drink or play with recreational pharmaceuticals so I didn't tick any of the obvious 'risk factor boxes'.  However, given how much orange juice I have consumed over the years I reckon I've brought this on myself with my sugar intake and immediately made changes to my diet in the hope when I have another HbA1c test in three months time the results will be healthier.  Not a drop of juice has passed my lips since:}

As per usual, I've done a great deal of my own research (Google Scholar is wonderful :} ) and found that diabetes treatment and prevention is a confusing minefield.  NHS advice is not the same as that from Diabetes UK and both are polar opposite to currently perceived best practise in Europe.  The one place I did find articulate reasoning was the global Diabetes Forum.   Despite the mixed messages, when offered a place on a "Walking Away From Diabetes" programme run by Cumbria NHS, I went to Whitehaven in atrocious conditions to spend the afternoon in an overheated airless room in a health centre.  The idea was education on how to stop pre-diabetes becoming diabetes.

Diabetes Educator:   The amount of sugar you eat has NO effect on your Blood Glucose level.  You must walk at least 10,000 steps each day and you must reduce your Saturated Fat intake to an absolute minimum.

Jayne:  I walk, on average, 12,000 steps a day.  I already have a low fat diet.  Given I'm already meeting/exceeding these recommendations, are there any tools I can take away with me today that will help me avoid developing diabetes?
(coincidentally I'd bought a pedometer at Christmas)

Diabetes Educator:  {shrugs}  Not really, some people are just unlucky.

Jayne:  Do you mean that regardless of what I do, I'm going to develop diabetes anyway?

Diabetes Educator:  Probably

I had been told earlier in the session that doing 15,000 steps one day confers no 'credit' towards tomorrow if the weather was too dreadful to go for a proper walk.  Instead, as I had neither a treadmill or static bike at home I should not sit down in the evenings to watch TV.  I must stand up in front of the television and march on the spot to make up my 10,000.  There was no interest in the fact I've got a large garden and often work very hard outdoors.  Being bluntly informed I was probably going to develop diabetes regardless of what I did was fairly devastating even if the Educator is likely to be wrong because she knows stuff all about me.  If that's the NHS-sponsored advice then I should have shares in whatever Pharma companies make insulin drugs.  It's no wonder that 'experts' reckon by 2020 over 4 million Britons will have this horrible condition that will consume 10% of the already-stretched NHS budget.

I'm placing my faith and future health in our own research and common sense.

Through my own research I found the work done by Newcastle University on reversing diabetes.  As weight loss is a key part of this I can understand where the instruction to cut down on fat comes from.  However, in October the BMJ reported that Saturated fat is not the major issue,

... a “low fat” diet showed the greatest decrease in energy expenditure, an unhealthy lipid pattern, and increased insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) compared with a low carbohydrate and low glycaemic index (GI) diet.

... the government’s obsession with levels of total cholesterol “has led to the over-medication of millions of people with statins and has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidaemia” (an unfavourable ratio of blood fats).

There's much more, and the responses/comments from medical profession are just as interesting.

So for the last month it's been low GI carbs, lots of veggies and good quality protein and I already feel better.  I have more energy, am more alert, feel more like "me".  I'd to lose nearly a stone but will do it gently, that way I'm more likely to keep the weight off.  I've never had to diet in my life but I've seen what yo-yo dieting does to people and it's not an inviting situation.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sunshine at the seaside

It's not all doom and gloom.  On Saturday everything came together for one of those perfect walks at Allonby - the sun was out, the tide was out, the wind had dropped (a bit) and Management came with us.

A big beach, and even bigger sky

Such a great walk that Madam and I repeated it a couple of days later.  More wind but it wasn't cold and Daisy encountered Oystercatchers for the first time.  I think she was more impressed with them than they were with her ☺

And then home for a rest ☺

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Windy walks

If it's not the rain it's wind.  Sometimes it is both.  February has not been a particularly good month for Daisy and I as all of our favourite fell walks become wetter and muddier and frankly, fairly unpleasant.

Such as the morning we only got three-quarters of the way up Sale Fell before 40mph winds go the better of both of us.

We've been going over to the coast far more and even had sunshine at times.  On one trip poor Daisy was so battered by the wind she placed herself behind my legs as it was the only shelter she could find and stayed so close I couldn't move without either kicking her in the face or tripping over.  That was another outing where we turned round and went back to the car ☹   

But generally, I think it's fair to say she's enjoying herself and is OK with the life she has at Bag End.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Nursery evolution

The nursery area is a brilliant idea (thanks to Management) and I wouldn't want to be without it, but we've never really made the most of the space.  I seem to change the layout around each year and it works for a while, and then all the mess builds up again as I treat it like a glorified dumping ground . . . which is stupid.

Spent a lot of time last summer thinking about what I really need and concluded that with the main planting of the garden nearly completed I don't need as much space to raise new plants, and I only use areas as dumping grounds when they don't have a firm purpose which cannot be subverted.  LP's gift of a greenhouse/cold frame needed a permanent home so we came up with the idea of a fairly radical makeover which is to:

Re-arrange the main part (again) to maximise growing space and turn the side bit (between the greenhouse and fence) into raised beds for strawberries.

Mid August:  It was sad to take down the old ivy but the dead cotoneaster underneath is rotting and will fall down one day.

Early September: Management helped build the greenhouse/cold frame which immediately became a dumping ground for the polystyrene boxes I'd acquired.

Mid September:  I re-arranged the staging . . . again . . . and most of it blew down in the December gales

January 2014:  LP took out the second ivy/cotoneaster trunk and removed the stumps.

and now we've taken the area apart we can start to rebuild it.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


You know how it is when you glance up the garden and something's just "not quite right".  That is how it was when Daisy and I returned from our walk yesterday.  I looked up at the squirrel box in the Coppice and knew it didn't look as it should.

Had a closer look, not sure.  Fetched binoculars, very confused.  Got the camera with big lens = very worried.

Fortunately the next two things to happen were helpful;  LP came over to work for the afternoon and I was able to speak to the co-ordinator of the local Red Squirrel group.  As luck would have it she was on her way to our village to see a neighbour so came over to us.  LP climbed long ladders and retrieved the box and Jo inspected the very sad contents.

A male, probably only a couple of years old, no obvious signs of injury but thankfully no sign of the dreaded 'squirrel pox' virus either.  I recognised him, one of our regular visitors.  Dead a couple of days by the look of the body and no indication what caused it.  Unfortunately the Government programme which paid for post mortems has been stopped.  We found out how much it would cost to pay for a private PM but the cost was prohibitive so we will never know.

The box has been thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and replaced.  So very sad, not our finest day in the garden.  There are greys only a couple of miles from here and whilst programmes are in place to "curtail" their spread I fear it is a losing battle.  We have been blessed with almost daily red squirrel visits for the last six years but I've always said it wouldn't last.  Now I worry that will come true sooner rather than later :{

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


The wettest winter on record but despite saturated ground and endless rain we have nothing to complain about at Bag End.  Compared to other parts of the country we are unscathed by the flooding devastation.  Places very close to our previous home are flooded and the daily news shows more and more communities who will be changed forever by the damage.

I seem to be in a walking rut and settling for the easy option which is returning to Sale Fell day after day. On Monday the visibility was excellent and for a while I regretted not making more effort and going over to the fells behind Skiddaw.

On Tuesday it was a very different picture.  For a dog who detests getting cold and wet, Daisy turns into a lunatic anywhere near snow.  As soon as she realised the unusual white bits were frozen she "shouted" at me until I threw snowballs for her.  It's tricky co-ordinating the camera and a snowball but Madam didn't mind :}

The caption for this should be "oh, get on with it, will you?"

Very different from yesterday but the snowdrops in St. Margaret's are beautiful.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Three short walks

Compared to other parts of England we are getting off very lightly this winter.  Whilst the ground is saturated and it feels like the rain will never stop our flooding is nothing compared to Somerset and the south of the country.  This week Daisy and I went out for a walk whenever we could even though conditions were a little dubious on occasions ...

Tuesday:  A damp and cold slightly off-piste excursion up Lord's Seat at Whinlatter, the camera didn't see much action but we did briefly see a little blue sky.

Wednesday:  A thoroughly windswept Sale Fell, on the summit I could lean into the wind at nearly 45 degrees.  It needs to be blowing about 45/50mph for that to happen.  Daisy coped very well, there was tail chasing and a few whippet moments as she went into racing mode.

Thursday:  Sale Fell again, well, why not?  I can see from the house if the summit is clear, it's a short journey with easy parking, and safe & varied walking.  Not quite so windy today but still gusts of nearly 40mph at the top.

Did I say safe?  That doesn't include slipping over again on the descent . . .