Friday, 15 January 2016

Forgiveness and friendship

It seems to me that there is not enough forgiveness in our world and I don't imagine for one moment that I can do much to change that. What I can do is to live by the best set of personal values that I can.

We all make mistakes and we all make judgement errors that we only realise were errors in hindsight, that is the nature of us as beings. What would be marvellous, though, would be that we learn from our mistakes and errors in judgement and not repeat the actions, words or inactions again. But all too often we don't and we continue to make the same old mistakes again and again.

During the 1980s, when my children were small, the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland were still rumbling along. I'd grown up being careful to note and report unattended packages and was aware of bombings in a not too distant part of our world and been shocked and even frightened by bombings in London and in my home town of Bristol (in 1974), not too far from my school. I didn't really understand the reasons behind the troubles as a child, and to be honest I am not sure I entirely understand them now.  I certainly don't understand how violence is supposed to bring about a desired change. However, this blog post is not to discuss or explore political issues.

As so often is the case, it was the actions of a single person that had such a profound effect on me at a time that I was really starting to get to know myself as a person. Following the Remembrance Day bombing at Enniskillen in 1987, Gordon Wilson, the father of one woman (Marie) that was killed in the bombing said that he bore no grudge, that he held them no ill-will. Here's the recording of an interview with him the day after the bombing (from a BBC broadcast).

I remember being deeply moved by his words and so surprised that someone who had just lost their child could be so forgiving and knew that I couldn't be in the same situation. But it got me thinking.

It was following this period that I started to think about what forgiveness meant to me. It doesn't mean giving someone permission to continue to hurt, abuse or take advantage of you, but it does mean not carrying around the weight of anger, hurt, or feelings of revenge or ill-will. Let's face it, usually somebody that I haven't forgiven doesn't know that I don't forgive them, it has no impact on their daily lives but it does on mine. I am walking around with negative feelings, being weighed down, made tense or dwelling on something that I have no control over. Unless I let those feelings go and forgive the action, words or whatever it is that has provoked those emotions in me in the first place, the only person being hurt is me. The understanding of this has given me the option to make positive decisions, putting it into practice in my daily life is much harder, but something that I do try to choose to do as often as possible.

Nowadays I give people the benefit of the doubt about three or four times and forgive their actions or words and if their behaviour towards me doesn't change then I choose to not let them hurt or abuse me any more. If this means cutting them out of my life because that is the only way to protect myself from their continued unacceptable behaviour, then that is what I do. I don't expect to change the way other people behave, of course I have no control over that, but I do have a choice about the way that I react to their behaviour.

This means that over the years I have a developed a network of friends who share similar values to me. This doesn't mean that we see eye to eye about everything or that we necessarily like similar things, but it does mean that, on the most part, we share the same code of behaviour and values. I appreciate that my way isn't necessarily the 'right way', after all, we each make our own decisions about what is right or not.

So here's the rub... what do I do when somebody who I have opted not to spend time with any more (because I felt hurt and abused by their behaviour 'back then') gets back in touch and wants to make contact with me again?

This has happened recently. This person had been a close friend for twenty years, we'd had heated discussions, been cross with each other and all the other emotions that close friends share, but we had been really good friends, speaking almost daily on the phone and seeing each other often. Then a series of words and actions left me feeling vulnerable and hurt and I chose to end the friendship rather than leave me open to what I felt was abusive behaviour.

Sadly at the time I didn't feel strong enough or able to explain my reasoning to her and just stopped communicating with her. I do regret not explaining it to her and wish that I had felt able to tell her why I had chosen that course of action, but I didn't and it's probably too late to try to discuss it with her now and I don't really want to drag up old feelings of being let down. We haven't communicated for about ten years.

Anyway, recently I received a 'friend' request from her on Facebook which I ignored as I wasn't sure how I felt about letting her back into my life, albeit just my online life. Then I noticed that she had asked a mutual friend on Facebook whether they had heard from me recently and our mutual friend said that she had indeed and that I now write this blog. So I get the feeling that my old friend is genuinely interested in rebuilding some links with me.

It's been ten years, I'm in a different situation, different relationship, different headspace, perhaps I should accept that she is making the effort to reach out and get in touch again. Or perhaps I should remind myself that whilst I try to be forgiving, I also need to protect myself from the behaviour of those who have repeatedly hurt me.

I certainly have never felt any ill-will towards her and forgave the behaviour that I felt was unacceptable a very long time ago (after all I understood the cause of the behaviour at the time). I simply chose to not have what I felt had become an unhealthy friendship with her.

I am still undecided about how to respond to the recent friend request. In this situation what would you do?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Caged Bird

It's been a pretty normal and gentle day here on our little smallholding. Following a poor night's sleep I have been indoors for most of the day, curled up on the sofa with a roaring fire to warm me, body and soul. Mr J has brought in lots of wood to keep the fire topped up,

About an hour before the light was due to fade, we wrapped up warmly and ventured outside to give the chickens some mixed corn to keep them going through the long, cold night ahead. Bluebelle and Jack raced around the corner from behind the piggeries to greet us. Bluebelle is particularly fond of running up to Mr J and walking 'to heel' so that she can be the first to have anything on offer, yet I've noticed that if we have a tub of mite powder in our hands, she is nowhere to be seen (how does she know I wonder).

The third chicken, Diesel, didn't join them so we called for her. The chickens are familiar and comfortable enough with us now to come when we call them, at least to have a look to see if we have anything on offer that they may be interest in. She still didn't join us, so I went to find her.

Mr J got to enjoy yet another of my 'come here now, faster than lightning' yells. (I really must learn to be calmer when I get a surprise).

Along the side of the piggeries is a narrow pathway that we haven't yet tackled. The previous owners have done an amazing job in clearing a pathway immediately next to the piggeries and next to that there's an overgrown hedge before it dips down to an additional strip of land about two feet wide beside a pig netting and post fence. So actually there's a ha-ha then the post and netting fence that borders the fields surrounding our garden. 

Anyway, tucked into the ha-ha (the dip part of it) was a hoop of rolled of pig netting that has been carefully rolled and secured to form a hoop that's about four feet across. Diesel had managed to get herself into the centre of it and couldn't get out!

I was worried for her but also couldn't help but laugh a little as I kept having an image of Tweety-Pie in its cage popping into my mind. Diesel did a few rather comical, feeble little jumps, which quite honestly looked like a rather pathetic attempt to free herself. This gave us time (to giggle) to assess the best way to free her. Mr J and I carefully lifted up the roll of pig netting up and away from her and stored it in the back of the piggeries.

We both thought that she would come rushing to us in gratitude and joy at being released but Diesel seemed less than impressed at being set free from her temporary captivity and spent the next ten minutes strutting up and down the dipped area beyond the overgrown hedge while we stood like a couple of (now very cold) lemons trying to encourage her back through a little gap in the hedge to join us

It was only when she saw Mr J offering some mixed corn to the other girls that she left her new playground. Appealing to the chicken's stomach wins yet again!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Dust Bathing Hens

The chickens have provided no end of amusement today. They've spent ages pottering around in the stable which still hasn't quite been converted into the chicken condo, but it seems that they are moving in anyway!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Creating Boundaries, choosing a hedge

I'm very excited about a delivery that is due. I have ordered the first of the plants that will create the hedge around our fruit and vegetable garden. We will probably have plant the hedge in stages because it's a fairly long hedge (around 500 feet, which I think is around 150 metres) and we can only plant so much at a time and I want to propagate some plants from the ones arriving.

Over the weekend I browsed the internet for the first of our hedging plants and ordered from Beechwood Nurseries. I was pleased to receive notice yesterday that the plants would be arriving within 48 hours, so I am hoping that they will be here today.

I want to create a hedge of native plants that will provide some wind shelter for the fruit and vegetable garden and provide the local wildlife with flowers (to encourage pollinating of our garden) and berries and nuts (to provide food for the autumn wildlife visitors to the garden). I also want to create some visual structure to the boundary of the garden as currently it is post and pig netting. While the existing set up is great in some ways as it allows an almost seamless view, making our garden look huge, the downside is that there is nothing to reduce the howling winds that come up from the estuary.

The obvious choice would be a fast growing evergreen screen like Leylandii or a thick one like Yew but I don't want to completely obscure the fabulous views that we enjoy so much nor do I want to create too much shadow over the garden as the hedge will go along the east, south and west sides of the garden.
Mixed native hedging from Beechwood Nurseries

So I am starting off with a mixed selection of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, beech, wild rose, holly, guilder rose and dog rose, which should give us a variety of textures, colours, flowers and fruits.

I'll add into this some willow, which together with the wild and dog roses should be easy to propagate from cuttings. I remember being delighted with the little furry buds of willow even as a small child, my parents called them 'rabbits feet', I still get a pleasure from seeing them every spring.

Then I will break up the hedging by interspersing with some taller trees. I've selected five Lombardy Poplar which will add height but are also fairly light in their structure. It will take many, many years before they are as huge as the one shown in the photo below and no doubt we will have replaced them before they get to monster proportions.

And also a Rowan (Mountain Ash) because I love the featheriness of the leaflets and the vibrant berries in the late autumn. 

Just inside the hedge as a group on their own I have chosen three Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) trees. I like the sound the of wind rustling their leaves, the airiness of their structure and of course, the pale bark.
3 Silver Birch Trees from Beechwood Nurseries

So it looks like we are going to be busy around the edges of the paddock which we are slowly turning into a fruit and vegetable garden. I think we will both be pleased when the bulk of the structural work is completed and we can get on with growing our own food, but in the meantime at least I have some planting to look forward to.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Curious Case of the Capsicum

It's been a very quiet Sunday, we popped to our local farmers' supplies store this morning and still feeling rather ropey after last week's set back with my adrenal glands, I've had a horizontal afternoon watching nature programmes and a Disney cartoon.

Then this evening I had a peculiar text conversation with my daughter and here's what we said.

D. What is that?! Can I still eat the edges?!
M. Is it a baby pepper growing inside?
D. Oh maybe
M. I wouldn't eat any of it unless it looks like veg too. I think it would put me off eating the whole thing.

M. Have you tried cutting in to it?
D. No.
M. It looks even yuckier now!
D. I'm scared lol

M. Oh that's grim
D. Yes haha

D. Lol it's freaking me out
M. Cut it in half and photo
D. That means touching it
M. Knife and fork?
M. Well I'll be.
D. The pepper looked totally normal from the outside.

I've never seen this before, a pepper growing inside a pepper. My lucky daughter got two for the price of one!