The Aromatic Allotment

I had a wonderful day on Tuesday, with my good friend Anita, on her aromatic allotment in Somercotes. She gave us (my friend Barbara came too) a tour of the extensive plot where she grows all sorts of wonderful plants, some for their healing properties, some to use as cut flowers and some to eat.

Rosa Dascena ‘Kazanlak’

Her Damascena roses (Rosa Damascena ‘Kazanlak’) were blooming in full, beautiful flower, so we picked the petals to distill into rose water. Why haven’t humans invented a way to smell things through the internet yet?! If only you could, it was heavenly, sweet and floral and smooth and rounded and delicious. It’s like getting a hug from your favourite auntie, all encompassing and so comforting and uplifting.

Once we had picked the rose petals, Anita selected some cut flowers to make into a gorgeous hand-tied bouquet for me. Centred around a peony, she added different types of mint, geraniums, black currant stems, nigella, valerian and more, with vetch trailing around the edges. Again, I wish you could smell it as it just smells of summer. Light and fresh, floral and minty, green and bright and refreshing.

My beautiful, locally grown, hand-tied bouquet

With our arms full of fragrant loveliness, we took the short walk to Anita’s house where her still was set up on her hob awaiting the rose petals. They were packed into the bottom of the still with water added on top. The pump to circulate the cold water to cool the distillate was powered up and the gas was lighted below the still. I found the whole process fascinating, and it brought back fond memories for me of touring the Drôme Valley in France in 2008, where a lot of the essential oils I use are grown, harvested and distilled.

The copper still, with rose petals packed into the belly, and the cooling water pumped from the bucket

We watched, mesmerised, as the temperature in the still rose, and the condensed, perfumed water (known as a hydrolat or hydrosol) started to trickle out. As we waited for the process to finish, Anita gave us a yummy lunch of home-made sourdough french stick with a selection of cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber.

Rose petals, now drying in my airing cupboard

I was also given a bag of rose petals to take home, which are drying in my airing cupboard as I type. Every time I open it, I get the most amazing waft of rose. I’m wondering if I should put them into honey and have rose honey in a few weeks?

Anita and me. I’m sure I’m not that much taller than her!

Anita is a very talented florist, and if you’d like a beautiful bouquet (or wedding flowers, floral cake topper, or funeral tribute etc), that is locally grown with love and care, and arranged in the most stunning way, please contact her. You can see her designs on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/aromaticallotment/?hl=en-gb and contact her via her website here http://aromaticallotment.com/

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose

My beautiful rose, The Generous Gardener, has burst into full bloom in my front garden. Please stop on your way in to take a deep inhalation of it’s gorgeousness, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!

I am enjoying getting back to normal, although restrictions are still in place for treatments. I am still offering appointments that last no longer than 1 hour, which includes Indian head massage, reflexology, back, neck & shoulder aromatherapy massage or a combination of any of the above! And I’m still keeping up with the hand washing as you enter, mask wearing and of course thorough cleaning and disinfecting between clients.

Hopefully when all restrictions are lifted I can offer 1.5 hour full-body aromatherapy massages again. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do, but I dare say my hands will remember and guide me through, as they have done many times before.

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to continue with my other jobs (at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, packing boxes for my sister’s mail order business and my voluntary work as a breastfeeding counsellor) throughout each lock down. They have given me time out of the house, social interaction, a purpose and reason to get out of bed in the morning. On the couple of occasions when I had to self-isolate (once because my son had scarlet fever – though I didn’t know it was that until the scarlet rash came out – and once because someone in his class at school tested positive for covid-19), it brought home (pun intended!) to me how much I needed that time out of the house and to feel part of a team with all my colleagues.

My office for the morning

I also feel very fortunate that all my jobs offer me flexibility, so that I can fit most of my work around childcare, lie in the sun on beautiful days like today (whilst pretending to work, or at least working on my vitamin D levels!), run errands for my neighbour who has been isolating for over a year and generally do what I want when I want.

Stopping to smell the roses, which is one of my favourite past-times, is included in this list of freedoms and flexibilities . I hope you enjoy the delicious fragrance next time you walk up to my front door on arrival to your appointment. The aromatherapy starts right there!

Gardening for the soul

Ommmmmmm

I’ve never thought of gardening as a spiritual practice before, but spending time in my garden today has inspired me to reflect on the processes involved and how they intertwine with what it means to me to grow, both spiritually and practically. 

It’s not about being perfect. 

My garden is not perfect. It never will be. I yearn for a lawn big enough to have a trampoline on, and enough space to host my friends, as we while away a lazy afternoon, eating, drinking and laughing together in the sun. But when I think to times when I’ve had large gardens (up to 1/2 an acre when living in Alderwasley), I think how overwhelming it was, how it was a constant pressure just to mow the lawn, let alone keep on top of the weeding, pruning and actually growing the things I wanted to grow.  My present garden is tiny yet manageable for me, a little bit of time spent in it makes a big impact and it means I have time to lie back, relax and enjoy it (sunbathing is one of my favourite activities, and right now I’m multitasking by writing this whilst laid-out topping up my vitamin D). 

Tiny, lots of work to be done, loving it.

Currently my garden sports a large collection of pallets, that suit my budget (ie free) but not my aesthetic. They are ugly (too square, too utilitarian, too cheap!), but useful and have been repurposed as strawberry planters, a vegetable bed and sun bathing deck. One day I shall have raised borders, with proper garden furniture and a new fence that I can safely grow things up. I’m enjoying the process, however, of getting creative with zero budget (I have wonderful friends and family who donate seedlings and cuttings to help my garden grow and develop) so that I can save money for the big stuff. 

Plants aren’t perfect either. No one says “oh that birch tree is gangly”, or “that lilac smells too much, turn it down a notch” (see Hollie McNish’s poem ‘If flowers had disposable income’), and yet my garden is full of beauty, and scent, and texture, and things that bring me pleasure every day. 

The work is constant

If only you could weed once and that would be it. Not even an annual event. Just the once and no more weeds, ever. But much like the negative thoughts that are a seemingly constant, internal companion, when weeds are accepted as part of the deal with life, are confronted often and early, literally nipped in the bud, they are far easier to contend with and maintain than when left to run rampant and unchecked. Don’t let them become monsters!

Toes as tools for weeding

Gratitude 

My garden also reminds me to celebrate the little things, like the promise of my strawberry plants getting flowers on them, pea shoots sprouting to the sky and the return of the stunningly deep red/brown/burgundy/purple (it changes daily) leaves on the copper beech tree on the opposite side of the road. I’m grateful I have a space I can do yoga in, dry my washing (what’s better than snuggling down into bed sheets that smell of outside?) dine alfresco on food that I’ve planted, watered, nurtured and harvested, and have water fights in with my son.

Home-grown lunch

I could go on. I’m practicing the art of not being attached to outcomes, and my garden is a great proponent of this, but I think that’s a separate article, that I may or may not get round to writing. And I had to come in inside because I’d had enough time sunning my back (I didn’t realise how long this would take to explore/write when I first got started), and I can’t sun my front whilst writing this. So I’m off back outside to sunbathe a wee while longer, dig up a bit more earth, get mucky and grow things, myself included. 

A Tea Tree in Sheffield

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I had a wander around the Winter Gardens in Sheffield the other day, a stunning feat of architecture with huge timber beams soaring cathedral-like towards the heavens.

Sheffield, winter gardens, olive, tea tree, Aromatherapy, massage, essential oils, Belper, Derbyshire, gardens

Inside is housed a collection of plants often found in temperate climates and sections devoted to Australasia, including a tea tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the flesh before so I was delighted!

Tea tree, gardens, winter gardens, Sheffield, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire

Tea Tree is one of the most commonly used essential oils as it has great antibacterial, anti-infectious and anti-fungal properties, to name just a few. It appears in many different products from skin cleansers to natural toilet cleaners. According to Tisserand, it is also an emotional tonic for lethargy, anxiety and depression. It is often known as the bottle brush tree due to the formation of the needles, as you can see below.

Tea tree, Sheffield, winter gardens, Aromatherapy, massage, essential oils, Belper, Derbyshire

There were also some great examples of New Zealand’s Norfolk Island Pines, which have been around since the Jurassic period.

Norfolk Island Pines, Sheffield, winter gardens, essential oils, Aromatherapy, massage, Belper, Derbyshire

As far as I’m aware, these pines aren’t used in aromatherapy. I dare say they are used medicinally in some way in their native home though. Other plants I found that are harvested for their healing properties were eucalyptus, aloes, jasmine and the olive pictured above.

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Aloe, aloe Vera, massage, essential oils, Aromatherapy, Sheffield, winter gardens, Belper, Derbyshire

A selection of Aloes

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Jasmine, it caught my nose before it caught my eye!

There was also some beautiful colours dotted around, although I don’t know the name of those plants as there’s no essential oils produced from them! The Winter Gardens are well worth a visit, I’ll definitely be hanging around in there again soon.

Dunroamin

This is a personal one for me, I’m not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve or being in the spotlight but I’ve felt the need to reflect on and share where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and how I want to shape the future for myself and my beloved son.

2.5 years ago I left my husband after our marriage exploded and left me in a heap on the floor (literally). There had been a few rumbles leading up to the explosion, but nothing could have prepared me for the destruction and devastation of that day, or the waves of shite that kept breaking over me and swiping my feet from under me, again and again in the months that followed.

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Making the most of few times my son falls asleep on me 😍

When I got married, I had a house’s worth of savings in the bank. By the time I left, I had incurred more debt than I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have again. Debt that did not benefit me or my son and yet was in my name. There were other issues during the fall out that caused deep distress and led to ill health, both physical and mental.

I have long been ashamed by the debt and the circumstances that lead to the state I found myself in. This, and the inevitable grief of a relationship ending, led to a period of depression. But as the great Brené Brown says ‘Shame can not survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy’. Which is why I wanted to talk/write about my situation, to shine light into the darkness, for myself and maybe others too.

When I look back on that time in my life, I see a woman who had been trodden down, rolled around in the mud on the floor and expected to be happy down there. I didn’t see it coming, or realised it was happening until I stepped away. And even then it took a while to see just how much I’d been in denial. If I just did this, or that, then everything would be better. It wasn’t better. Not for me anyway.

I am supremely fortunate, and eternally grateful, to have a wonderful mum who took me in (and my son, who was 2.5 at the time) and has supported me in so many ways over the last few years as I have rebuilt my life, piece by piece. I have amazing sisters who have provided loving shoulders to cry on and fabulous friends who have mopped my many tears.

I felt compelled to write this post as there are two significant events that have marked the end of the troubled times and the start of new, exciting and enriching times. The first is the end of my counselling sessions*, that I’ve had on and off for the last 2 years. I highly recommend being brave and digging around your life with the guidance of an experienced, qualified and compassionate counsellor or psychotherapist. It has helped me to grieve, stand up for myself, see situations from a different angle, be more resilient and confident in my ability to handle whatever life throws at me.

The second event is that I will very soon be getting the keys to my own house. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, and what an impact it will make on myself and my son. I’m also anxious about it, as it is a huge responsibility for one person. I’ve no doubt it will be challenging and stretch me in unfamiliar ways but I also know that I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to have my own space. A home to put my own stamp on and express myself in creating a warm, welcoming and comfortable interior, and a relaxing, healing garden.

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Me in my happy place, doing a happy thing ☺️

I can see a path of where I want my career to take me, and the people I will help as a product of that. I have ambition again, fire in my belly that I’ve not had for a long time. I can see my son and I building a wonderful home together and making lots of mess along the way. I can see myself going on dating sites/apps for the first time in my life. That’s a very scary thought, but you don’t get to feeling brave without feeling scared first.

Thank you to everyone who has been there for me in the last few years. Thank you to everyone who has offered a helping hand or a spare piece of furniture for my new home. It has been the worst of times, and the best of times. To quote Hannah Gadsby, “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who has rebuilt herself”. Here’s to the ones who have rebuilt themselves 💪.

* I had free counselling sessions via the NHS in Derbyshire via talkingmentalhealth