Digging myself sane


If you have the misfortune to follow me on twitter, instagram or facebook, you will no doubt be sick of the sight of posts tracking my efforts at digging my not small garden areas.

Feel free to ignore them. They are not there because I want likes, or because I want to show off how much I dig in a day (although, I’m not going to lie – that’s a nice bonus) they are there because it is my way of tracking my health. Both physical and mental.

The world is full of crap right now. The news is depressing, my feeds are full of rage and as the cartoon I saw recently so eloquently put it, my desire to stay well informed is currently at odds with my desire to stay sane.

I’m a news and politics junkie, I work a full time job, I’m renovating a house and trying to grow a veg business, I sit on the local community council, look after a range of creatures and I have a mental health condition. Now, all of the things I do and work at, I do and work at because they keep me active. A bored Rhoda is never a good thing. I need to be busy, so I take on lots of things. Sometimes, that implodes. Sometimes I just can’t do it all. But that doesn’t change the fact that I need it in my life. I need to know that I am being productive, or I get seriously morose.

The garden got the better of me last year. I got the big part of the house renovated. I worked. But I didn’t keep on top of the weeds or my weight. Both things drag me down. I put on weight easily thanks to my medication, and when I’m depressed, a packet of bacon and a loaf look much nicer than a bowl of salad, however hard I work to grow it. When a plot with in excess of 300sqm of planting space gets out of control, getting that back is almost impossible mid-season – by the winter it looks like it has never been touched by a spade, nature gets the upper hand very quickly.

I never know when I will hit a bad patch, that’s the bugger of brain chemistry. What I do know is that if I keep fit and active, and set myself targets – with realistic, incremental steps – I can achieve most things. I lost 3.5 stone 2 years ago. I can lose this stone. I kept on top of the plot in year one, I can do it again in year 3.

Running was something I loved and hated equally. I hated doing it, but it was good for me – it worked out my tension and gave me space to think. Sadly I hurt my heel and haven’t been able to run since the summer. I missed it badly.

Sometimes, the obvious is staring you in the face. I needed to exercise for my own mental well being and weight, and I needed to get on top of the plot before the season started. And so I started digging. One bit at a time. It is a huge area, but I reckon I can do it. Not just can do it, need to do it.

I am structuring my day carefully. Working in the morning til 12, 12-3 out on the plot doing chores and digging, and 3 onwards working again. My digging time (which as the season wears on will become hoeing and weeding time) gives me breathing space. I chat to myself, listen to the birds, swear at the wind/rain/nettles/cat/dog*. By the end of my digging session, I feel better. I’m physically tired, and my brain is ready to work again. It’s working. So far, so good.

This wasn’t the post I meant to write. I have no idea what post I intended to write. Anyways, if you’re struggling to find a way through right now, find your “digging session”. Take something that scares you or that feels insurmountable and work at it, one step at a time.

*delete as applicable


Just keep digging…

It’s been a week of digging. Digging. And more digging.

It may only be January, but things on the plot are technically behind schedule. We didn’t get as much ground preparation done as we should have in the autumn, and there is a lot of ground to cover.

The walled garden, where I have been grafting this week is 15m x 15m, and has about 60sqm of planting space. What is known as “The Allotment” is a third of an acre, with a possible 300sqm of planting area. If we use 200sqm of it I’ll be happy.  So yeah, a way to go. 200sqm+ to go, to be exact.

It’s pretty addictive seeing the improvement as I go. Looking carefully there are early signs of spring; wild garlic peeking through, chives appearing, mint making an appearance and daffodils braving the wind. In total, 198 garlic bulbs were planted, 65 strawberry plants were saved and repositioned, and 6 blackcurrant bushes got a new home. I lost count of the chives I split and replanted, and the mint… well, that marches to its own tune.

The wind has taken its toll on the net tunnel, and on one of the polytunnels. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of ingenuity, though! Tape sorted the polytunnel.

And it’s not just me working hard. Whilst I have been working outside, Jane has been working in tunnel 2, clearing the detritus of last year, and getting it ready for planting again – which involves barrowing a sizeable quantity of manure! We gained 3 large frogs in the course of the winter – there should be some delicious slugs for them as soon as the weather warms up!

For anyone interested in the avian flu situation, the hens and ducks have been locked up since 6 Dec, and despite that are doing ok. I would much rather they were outside but so far so good. Combs look good and thanks to a window they are laying at about 50-60% capacity. The cost of bedding however is a different story. If I never clean the hens out again it will be too soon. On the flip side, we won’t be short of fertiliser next year!

Best to just keep digging. Tomorrow, the right hand side of the net tunnel will get done, at which point I will move on to the even bigger challenge… the Allotment (unless I give in to temptation and sort out the paths in the walled garden first. We shall see).


Verkís “Message In A Bottle” makes landfall in Tiree

I was quietly digging in the walled garden this morning when my phone alerted me to a facebook message. A journalist friend of mine wanted to let me know that a message in a bottle had arrived on a beach near me. Would I go and look for it? Well, if it’s a toss up between digging in the rain and going on a treasure hunt, I’ll pick the treasure hunt every time. I set off with nothing more than a google map of the location. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of finding it was pretty exciting – I am a geocacher after all, I like a good hunt for a needle in a haystack. I can also quote chapter and verse of pretty much any Famous Five or Secret Seven book, so all in all, the kid in me was pretty darn up for it.

It look less time than I thought to find the bottle, because as bottles go, it was practically bomb proof! Once I got it home, I did a bit of research and found out about the story behind my new yellow friend.


One year ago (January 10th 2016), Verkís, in collaboration with Ævar the scientist, a popular Icelandic children’s TV personality, launched two messages in a bottle. The bottles were equipped with a satellite transmitter that locates them every four hours via a GPS receiver.

The route it has taken in the last year is bonkers! Check out http://gps.verkis.is/. The one I found is bottle number 1. Its friend is 10-14 days behind it, following a similar route. You can read more about the project here http://www.verkis.com/about-us/news/message-in-bottle-traveling-for-a-whole-year

Since it was the BBC who called me and asked me to go on this delightful distraction of an excursion, I indulged myself with a little filming. The video below is my attempt, with a phone and movie maker. It is a sad indictment of my 6 years in media and I wouldn’t speak for its production values, but I hope it gives you a flavour of the discovery ( I was fresh out of the garden which should explain my muddy hands. My mother will doubtless suggest I should have washed them before filming…)

Keep an eye out for the Scottish and Gaelic news tomorrow to hear my dulcet tones. In the meantime, I have been instructed not to open it, as there is nothing exciting inside, and to cover it in tinfoil ASAP in order to reduce the signal. It is sitting outside on my bench as, quite frankly, it stank to high heaven. I shall wrap it up as instructed and have a little dram to celebrate its auspicious arrival on the shores of the best island in Scotland 😉

Never a dull moment, I tell you.

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