Sunday, 21 February 2016

Keeping the Black Dog at Bay with #RonsToms

I woke up this morning with a small sense of impending doom. A bit anxious and a bit fidgety. Wanting to get out of bed and yet really wanting to stay under the duvet and hide.
Completely overwhelmed but not sure by what.
I got out of bed and got back in again.
Eventually the need for tea was too much and I got up but ended up under a blanket on the sofa, just with tea in my hand.
I quite often have days like this, but usually have to ride rough shod over them in order to get to something but today there was nowhere to go. Nothing to hide behind.
So I did a load of work. I updated the events section of the Incredible Edible Bristol website, scheduled Facebook posts and Twitter updates, firmed up my diary for the week ahead. After around 3 hours I was still anxious, and had nothing left to do in terms of work, so I forced myself to look at what the problem was........
Sometimes when the black dog is around I really want to do something but I can't. Physically it is as if my body and brain work against me to persuade me that I must do a zillion other things rather than actually do the thing that will make me feel better, more in control.
So I took myself off to a local garden centre, thinking that a bit of plant therapy might help, but however hard I kept thinking about what I might need for the garden it was impossible to make a decision. I bought potatoes for one of the beds we are working on in the city centre and came home.
And then I remembered some seeds that I had. Last summer I was sent some American heirloom tomato seeds from Ron Finley in LA in a package along with a t-shirt. I had kept those seeds safe since then and through our move thinking that they would be grown on the allotment this year, probably in the greenhouse and then it occured to me that actually my issue for the day had mainly been that I was panicking about not having an allotment. Not the kind of earth shattering all consuming panic that can knock you off your feet, but that slow, niggling panic that really makes you have to work out the issue which will often hide behind other things and catch you out.
Of course I have a new garden and I have a greenhouse in it, but having had an allotment for the best part of 20 years I realise now that the plot sized space in my life is huge and gaping right now. Us allotmenteers have the seasons embedded within us and this is the time of year when usually I'd be barrowing large amounts of muck around the plot to keep warm, beginning things off in the greenhouse and making plans for the growing year ahead whilst drinking copious amounts of tea in my shed and the black dog, in it's usual cheeky way, has jumped on the fact that there is a gap in my usual schedule and jumped into it.

So I found those seeds, along with a few others and sowed them. Popped them into pots of soft, seived seed sowing compost, popped their labels in and watered them whilst whispering "grow you buggers, grow," as taught to me by Alan Titchmarsh whilst watching him plant a tree on one of his shows. I never plant or sow anything without that phrase.
And immediately I felt that black dog start to disappear. So I sowed some crimson flowered broad beans too and popped a mashua root into some compost too whilst I was outside and playing with soil. And then, in a way I have never done before, I popped my seed potatoes into egg boxes and put them on the kitchen windowsill to chit so that they are ready for the potato sacks I am going to grow them in. I sorted out my seeds and looked at what I can grow in the garden, and what I could grow in containers and had a long think about what and why I was going to grow if I don't get an allotment this year, which is very definitely possible. I haven't quite made a strategy but I have decided I am going to look at growing mainly heirloom varieties and there will be a blog about that at some point in the fairly near future.
And then I felt better and again it occured to me how fortunate I am to have gardening in my life. not just professionally, but as a human being who needs that connection with soil, with the earth and with nature. If there is one thing I am determined to do this year it is work with others who have yet to be able to access the therapy that growing plants, be they edible or ornamental, is. There will be more on that soon too, but in the meantime I'm glad I made myself have an honest conversation with myself today because I have sent that black dog packing and that makes today a good day!!

If anyone might like to know, the tomato seeds are all cherry varieties from a selection of US nurseries. They are T. Red Pear, T. Isis Candy and T. Black Cherry and if you want to follow how they grow I will be documenting here and also on Twitter with the hashtag #RonsToms which was coined by Alison Levey of The Blackberry Garden blog fame!!


  1. I too know the "Black Dog" feeling. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, so it comes with the territory. Do you know the saying "I swapped a black dog for a monkey"? It means I swapped something not very good for something even worse. Know that feeling?

    1. I haven't heard that before Mark but I am so sorry to hear that you are unwell. I know several people with Fibromyalgia and I know how awful it is. I hope your garden does for you what mine does for me. x

  2. work the earth is just good for your soul :)

  3. Now come on Sara. You're experienced enough to know that if you want plant therapy the last place to go is the garden centre. If you need to spend, look for a nursery (and there are so many near you compared to the dearth near me - I'm jealous!). If you need tranquility, shove some earphones in your lugholes but don't connect them to anything. Then put a chair in the middle of your garden. Sit in it. Shut your eyes for five minutes. Enjoy the silence, knowing it's entirely yours. Then open your eyes. Look around. And commune with what's entirely yours. Try it. You'll see I'm not talking loony!

  4. I have used exactly the same therapy today in getting my seed sowing started at last. This relentless rain has been keeping me indoors and it's so depressing. The only thing is.. I'm worried about them now, because I neglected to tell the buggers to grow. Do you think tomorrow will be too late? Take care Sara x

  5. Lovely piece Sara,that Black Dog gets around,but a trip to the garden centre well, might be a drain on the purse but oh does it feel good,Reading this has cheered me up, I'm thinking about the long shift ahead I of me tonight and why at my age I do it,But that's life,Hopefully Sara your allotment will comrades in the mean time Enjo watching your toms grow ,take care :-)) Ant