Watering and feeding

By Lisa

Hello to those of you I didn’t send off to sleep in the last blog! For this blog and the next, I’m going to cover the basics of how to keep your garden ticking over and growing well as we head into Summer. This means watering, feeding and the eternal battle against weeds, pests and diseases.

Gardening is hard enough work when you’re at full health, so for those of us who struggle, even when we have good days and bad, it can seem like a total nightmare. Watering cans and bags of compost weigh a tonne, then you’re fighting with the hosepipe and you’ve no idea if you’ve got the right feed for your plants. With a bit of careful planning, though you can take the sting out of it. I’m going to go more into planning your garden to suit you and your current needs in my Winter blog, but please do get in touch if you need any help in the meantime.

The condition of your soil is the key to good strong plants, and how healthy your soil is depends on the amount of organic matter it contains. Compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure all act to retain moisture, provide key nutrients, and attract beneficial microflora and fauna. Even if you can’t dig the ground over, adding a mulch of organic matter in Spring (and Autumn if you can manage it) will help to condition your soil over time, and will help to solve any problems you may be having.

Sandy soil is the driest and most nutritionally poor. Adding organic matter will act like a sponge, retaining water and preventing vital nutrients washing away. More nutrients are released as all those fantastic microplants and beasties break it down.

Clay soil sets like a brick in Summer and is a bog in winter. It is also, however nutritionally rich. Again by adding a compost mulch, you will improve the soil structure thanks to the tunneling actions of earthworms and other burrowing creatures that feed on it. This improves your drainage and stops the clay from being one solid mass in the Summer.

Organic matter will get to work quicker if dug in, but again, even a surface mulch will bring benefits to any soil over time.

Watering Methods

I’m moving my veggie patch from the shady back garden into the baking sunshine of the front. Watering is going to be a big issue – the front is hot and the soil is drier and gravelly; there are no outdoor taps anywhere near, and it’s too big an area to heave my watering can up & down enough to water it properly. I also try to keep my time in the front to a minimum when I feel anti-social, or I just don’t get the time.

 

My idea, therefore is to run a seeper hose from the back garden right down into the front. I can water everywhere at once by connecting up my hose in the back, leave it on for half an hour, maybe an hour or so, and hey presto, happy veggies, happy Lisa!

As you can see here, I’ve dug down about 2 feet and enriched the top soil with compost before returning it. The seeper hose is just laid on the surface, and I’ll just cover it in a thin layer of soil. I made my seeper hose, but you can buy professional ones if you want to, and want less hassle. I’ve blocked the end off an old hose offcut, added a connector at the end by the tap, and poked quite large holes along the length. Getting an even flow was a matter of trial and error, but it’s been tested & seems to be working great.

If you are growing in containers, you can buy irrigation kits, or buy multi-connectors and run old hose offcuts into the pots to achieve the same easy watering system.

Where you can, I’d recommend having a water butt installed to run your seeper hose or to water from. It’s great for the environment, and, depending on where you live, the pH balance of tap water can be wrong for plants such as rhododendron, azalea and pieris, which need a higher pH level. You can also add nutrients to the butt, such as comfrey or nettles, so you’re giving your garden an extra boost every time you water. I couldn’t have a water butt in the front because the drainpipe is right next to the path.

If you grow in pots, you can poke holes in plastic drinks bottles and sink them in next to your plants, just topping them up as you need to, and you can also try soil additives when you are planting up.

Especially for containers and baskets, which dry out pretty quickly, soil additives can hold a large volume of water and slowly release it back into the soil. You can buy special water-retaining compost or a bag of pellets that you add into your own compost. You can also try using old soaked cardboard, newspaper or even a fully drenched (unused!) nappy at the bottom of the pot. Remember a layer of gravel or broken crocks at the very bottom though, to aid drainage and stop the drainage hole getting clogged.

To help keep in more of that precious moisture, a mulch is a must on the ground and in pots. You can add a layer of compost, bark, coir, gravel, ornamental glass chips etc that act as a blanket. It slows down how fast the soil dries, retains warmth in cold spells, hampers weeds from forming, discourages slug and snail activity.

If your ground is always damp, there isn’t much else you can do outside of looking at land drainage. You could always try a reasonably high raised bed (making sure the base is treated against rot) or large terracotta pots (terracotta holds a lot of moisture). There are many, many beautiful plants that will thrive in this environment, however, so you could roll with the punches and try to suit your space instead of forcing it to suit you.

Composting and Feeding

I’ve gone on at great lengths about compost, but haven’t talked about sourcing it. The best way, if you have room, is to make your own. It costs nothing, it’s recycling at it’s best, it will feed your plants a panacea of nutrients (we’ll get to specifics later) and it will boost your quota of beetles, worms, spiders and all those other lovely little creepy crawlies that work their magic keeping your soil in good condition and preying on pests.

For composting, you’ll need a bin (I have an old wheelie bin with the bottom cut off so the worms can get in). Just throw hedge clippings, leaves, grass cuttings (add shredded newspaper with this) vegetable peelings (not onion), teabags, eggshells, banana skins in there. Once it’s full, it will need a year or two to fully rot down before you add it to your garden. It will also need turning a few times (emptying, mixing up & putting back), which is a heavy job. You can buy worm bins on a frame that you can spin by turning a wheel if that suits you better. It’s ready when it looks and feels like soil and carries a sweet smell. This is a long process, so if you have room, you can have more than one bin on the go for a more consistent supply.

If you have pesky cats like mine, it may be a good idea to leave out the larger vegetable matter as you’ll get small furry mouse presents delivered.

Leaf mould is another fantastic soil conditioner. Sweep up all those Autumn leaves, put them in a bin bag and forget about them until they’ve crumbled down. Then just use them like you would compost.

If you’re buying in compost, please buy peat-free. Peat is a carbon sink, and removing and drying it releases CO2 back into the atmosphere. There are many great alternatives available.

Bought compost has the advantage of a pretty universal nutritional level, whereas your own will depend on what it’s made from. Some plants need an extra boost with some fertilizer.

Nutrients

The three main nutrients plants need are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). I’ve included their elemental symbol because fertilisers have an N:P:K rating on them, to help you decide what you need to get the most out of your plants.

Nitrogen contributes to healthy growth of leaves, phosphorus contributes to root growth, and potassium encourages flowers and fruits. All fertilisers carry a number such as 5:5:8 – this is the NPK rating, and in this example, tells us that the K (Potassium) level is higher, so this will help boost flowering.

Compost carries a pretty level N:P:K rating, but you can tailor it with additives. I very often use Fish, Blood and Bone, just sprinkled around my plants, this is high in phosphates and helps boost their root growth. Tomato feed will be high in potassium to boost flower and fruit set, and this works for any flowering plant. Banana skins in the compost can give an extra potassium boost for free.

If you garden in containers, you must feed regularly, as the potting mix will have run low on nutrients after about 6 months. Ideally, you need to re-pot in fresh compost, but liquid feeds and slow release pellets are easier to use.

There is also an ancient technique called ‘Hugelkulture’ where you bury logs under your plants. They gently rot down and feed your plants. This could be handy if you have recently had any tree work and no way to dispose of the cuttings. I have some reservations about this encouraging fungal growth, but it’s been around a lot longer than I have!

Well watered, well fed plants will grow strong, and will be better able to fight off weeds, pests and diseases, but I’ll go into how best to deal with these next time.

I hope this has helped and been informative, as always, let me know if you need any advice, or have any feedback. Blessings and happy gardening!

The online Imbolc Festival 2018

The Pagan Federation Team recently ran an online disabilities festival for Imbolc – this was held on Facebook, and some of the videos were posted directly to Facebook in a way that makes sharing them outside of that space difficult. In this post, we offer you the videos that also went up on youtube, so if you missed the event itself you can still enjoy much of the content.

Online Imbolc Festival 2018 – Awakening – Meet the International Disabilities Liaison. Pagan Federation Scotland Disabilities and Inclusion Officer, Lauren Edwards, introduces herself as Pagan Fed (England & Wales) new International Disabilities Liaison.

 

Catkins and urban nature with Nimue Brown

 

Imbolc Ceremonial Drumming 2018

 

National Deputy Disabilities Manager and District Disabilities Liaison for the South East! Jenny Luddington!

 

Secret Strength with Cat Treadwell

 

Transdruid blogger, Alex Bear, discusses awakenings and the many changes we have in our lives!

 

You can find the online festival in full at https://www.facebook.com/PFDisabilities/

 

Thoughts on how to complain

Sylvia Rose writes about how to bring up issues if your needs are not being met.

Firstly, it may help to see it not as “complaining” but as a somewhat more constructive process. And for that you may need to be clear in advance what you want the outcome of your complaint to be. Often when people complain they’re splurging their anger at something that’s just happened. That may be useful and it may be what you need, but it doesn’t usually help you in getting heard. Venting your frustrations may be better done on Facebook.

Something has happened which you think shouldn’t have. Do you want to give feedback to help make sure that it doesn’t happen again? Do you want to appeal an unfair decision? Do you want some form of apology or compensation? It helps to choose your strategy. And if your brain is inclined to be hazy (mine often is) it’s worth listing beforehand the points you want to cover, and what responses you are asking for.

Knowing your rights helps, be it disability rights, consumer legislation, whatever (see my previous post). This info is fairly easily accessed online, and it’s worth knowing what grounds you stand on before taking on an unsympathetic organisation.

And how you actually communicate can play a large part in how successful you are in getting your points across. It helps to aim to be assertive, not aggressive or aggrieved. If you can, watch your body language, your vocabulary (keep it polite) and your tone of voice. In my experience, nothing spoils your chance of being listened to as much as sounding shrieky and high-pitched. Aim for calm and reasonable. And in the interests of this, listen well to them as well. Acknowledge that they are human too, try to see where they are coming from, as well as not losing sight of your own agenda.

In addition to formal situations of complaint, there are innumerable ones where, as people with disabilities, we have to stand up for our rights to be different, often with people we like and respect, and who runs groups or rituals we want to still be welcome at. This may take more subtlety. Firstly, I find it helps to really deep-down believe in disability rights as important, and that in challenging someone’s “ableism” I’m arguing not just for my own good but for that of everyone who comes after me who could find themself in a similar situation. Often these are times when we can’t change what’s just happened, but we could help avoid it happening again. But only if we make our case in a way that can be heard.

There is a Buddhist saying that all speech should first pass through three gates: “is it true”, “is it necessary” and “is it kind”. This can be a helpful reminder.

Non Violent Communication theory is another way of helping us look at how we ask for things to be changed. It runs roughly along the lines of: name the issue, say how you feel, say what you’d like changed. So maybe “when you tell us all in ritual to stand up, I feel embarrassed because I can’t. Perhaps in future you could take that into account”. Not “you make me feel horrible about myself because I can’t stand for long”.

Starhawk has written in The Empowerment Manual that many problems in groups can be helped by having a group commitment to feedback as a useful process. This means both finding ways of giving it, as kindly as possible, and being open to receiving it too, in the interests of all learning to work better together for our common purpose. People don’t know what disability feels like unless we tell them.
Donald Engstrom-Reese, another Reclaiming teacher, has put together what is my favourite guide to critique. Before you speak, ask yourself: is this feedback given with the other person’s permission? Am I speaking for myself not for unspecified others? Am I saying this at a good time and place, not just when it occurs to me? Am I specific and clear? Am I focusing on something that can actually be changed (because if not, there’s not much point)? Is my intention to be helpful, not just to sound off about how I feel? And am I open to receiving feedback in turn, because if I’m not, it’s a bit hypocritical of me? http://wearewalkinginbeauty.org/Walking_in_Beauty/Sustainable_Critique.html

These things are of course not easy, especially in the heat of the moment. And disability needs are so shockingly ignored that often we are right to be angry about it. But let’s also remember that as Pagans we can see the bigger picture, and hold our intent of moving things forward in the best way for everyone.

Disability legislation made easy

Sylvia Rose explains some key legal points about disabilities rights.

It’s tough having a long term illness, impairment or disability, and even tougher in these times of austerity cuts. But something that cheers me up is knowing that there is legislation that supports our disability rights, in various ways. And knowing about it can really help. In theory at least, the law is on our side.

First and most important is the Human Rights Act 1998. Under this, disability is a “protected characteristic”, which makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their disability. This is fundamental legislation that underpins our rights, and can come in handy in all sorts of circumstances.

Next comes the Equality Act 2010, which incorporated all the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  Amongst other things, it makes it illegal for providers of goods and services to give a lesser service to someone because of their disability, unless they have good reason. So, anyone with a “substantial and enduring disability” can make a reasonable request for a service provision to be varied in order to meet their specific needs, and if the provider refuses and is challenged, it is up to them to then justify why their refusal is reasonable. So, if you have mobility difficulties and need to borrow a wheelchair to get round a large supermarket, that might be a reasonable request. If you’re asking for the provision of one to get around a public park, they might say, bring your own.
Incidentally, provision of goods and services can also apply to Pagan events, and there doesn’t need to be money involved. Anyone who is running a Pagan event or ritual that is open to the public is responsible under this and other legislation, and can potentially be sued. (Many Pagans would be shocked to know this).
This Act also puts a duty on local authorities to promote the rights of people with disabilities.

Then there’s the Care Act 2014, which gives adults the right to an assessment of their care needs by their local authority – i.e. by adult social care social workers. If they are found to have “eligible needs” due to either a physical or a mental condition, a care plan must be drawn up of how these needs will be met. This can include the provision of services direct to the person, or direct payments to them for them to arrange and pay for these services themselves.
If the person has a carer, that carer is also entitled to an assessment of their own needs for support.

Finally, if a person with disabilities has children, and due to their disability they struggle to care for them, then under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 those children could be deemed “children in need” and the local authority children’s services department would have a duty to provide support and help, to ensure those children are not disadvantaged compared to other children. This could be financial help, respite care, or funding of childminding or whatever would help. (This does not mean that the person would be assessed as an inadequate parent.)

And of course there’s lots more: these are just the headline Acts. Some is decided by case law or government guidance; some is down to what the local authority can actually afford when it balances these requirements against all the other demands on it. But I think it’s good to know what the rules are.
As I write this, I can hear people saying, yes that’s all very well, but I couldn’t afford a lawyer, or don’t have the energy, to challenge breaches of it. Well, there are several answers to that, as well as that you have my great sympathy. One is that there are various disability organisations that can advise you, and sometimes even pursue a case on your behalf. These tend to be related to the specific illness or disability in question. Another is that, in these times of legal aid cutbacks courts or tribunals are increasingly sympathetic to people conducting their own cases without legal help – you’d just need to have done some basic research first, and maybe bring a friend along for support.
And lastly, there is the power of threat. It works, but it helps knowing your rights first. Try suggesting that you will launch a formal complaint to their organisation, or write to your MP, or even sue. Then drop in exactly which Act you are planning to sue them under. It’s remarkable how it can focus people’s minds. My favourite helpfully non-confrontational phrase is “I wouldn’t want to have to resort to legislation, but….”.  Which is a polite way of reminding others that these laws exist.

You’re not being difficult or demanding. You didn’t choose to have these extra needs.These laws are a fundamental part of living in a civilised society, and are there to be used.

Finding new ways to be accessible

Nimue Brown writes about new ideas from the Pagan Federation Disabilities team

The online disabilities events were set up more than a year ago to provide a way for people who can’t get to events to get some of the benefits those spaces offer. There are lots of reasons that public events aren’t viable for many Pagans – access is not just an issue at the venue, but it’s an issue for getting to the venue. For some people, pain and fatigue make events too draining to contemplate. For people with anxiety issues, public gatherings can be just too much, and for folk who are not neuro-typical, big, busy, noisy spaces can be impossible. The list goes on. Sometimes it isn’t enough to adapt existing spaces to accommodate needs. Sometimes you have to build a whole new space.

Poverty is also a real barrier to attending events, and it is an appalling truth that disability is very likely to put you in poverty.

So, online events became a thing, with speakers, and subtitles and free access, and it’s been good. We’ve just discovered a way to take this forward and include more people in the festivals.

Not everyone can record videos. There are all kinds of reasons that might stop a person talking to a camera for five to ten minutes. We’re going to find readers to present pieces for people who, for whatever reason, can’t make their own video. There will be a round of this for the Samhain festival, and then we really want to open things out for midwinter.

Midwinter will be a bardic gathering this year, and we’re inviting people to submit poetry, short stories and songs. If you aren’t able to read or perform yourself, then you can send things in and we’ll find someone to do it for you. Please get in early so that we have time to find readers and film them. I’m also offering to put a poem to music for the event – it will need to come in by early December, and I can probably only do one, so if there are a few I will go with whatever I think I have the best shot at making work.

Email disabilities.web@paganfederation.co.uk if you’ve a poem that might be set, or anything you want read, or let me know if you’ve any videos you’d like to share. we’re looking for Pagan content, first and foremost. Seasonal is nice, but not essential, and if you want to use your bardic skills to raise a disabilities issue – that’s always welcome.

 

A Healing Call

A guest post from Potia Pitchford about her new, virtual healing circle.

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature. There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself. Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one. When I sit at meals I look across at this whiteboard so I am reminded daily of those people.  Even if only briefly I pray for their well-being, when things are quieter I sit beside my shrine,focus my mind and send out healing energies.

I’m not medically trained. I’m not trained in any of the many and varied healing and associated professions and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work. What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise. What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Gradually I have felt the need to do more and a few months ago I was inspired to do a full moon healing ritual.  I put a post on Facebook about a day before I did it in case anyone wanted to request healing and I was surprised at the number of people that asked me to include them.  But still I felt I needed to do something more. I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group, something that would send out healing more regularly.  I mused on ideas for a while and asked in a couple of Facebook groups if anyone would be interested in joining some form of distance healing circle.  I got replies from a few interested people. I bounced my ideas around with a few of those, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups. I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join but that would send healing out to those of any faith who requested it.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual. I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through. And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

In May this year I decided to set a virtual Pagan Healing Circle up and I think this is something that can grow. The group is still young but already there are close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address of paganhealingcircle@gmail.com or via Facebook. I’m cautious with accepting requests.  Consent of the individual the healing is to go it is vital so ideally the requests need to come from the individuals themselves.  There are always cases where that is not possible though.  If the healing is for a child or for someone unable to give consent themselves then we trust the parent, guardian or carer of that person.  If the healing is for a beloved animal companion (hasn’t happened yet but we are very open to that possibility) then the consent would come from the person who care for that the animal companion.  Sometimes healing requests come via a third party, if that is the case I confirm that the individual themselves is aware of this and agrees to the healing being sent.  This may sound over the top to some reading this, I know  people who say if you send healing with good intentions it’s fine.  But I have known people who have become upset and angry when they have discovered someone sending healing being sent to them without their permission.  I also know people who are very sensitive to incoming energies and if they do not know something is being sent to them it can cause them problems.  For these reasons I strongly believe that consent of the individual concerned wherever possible is very important!

Once I receive requests I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round in a little notebook I have. The current plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending. A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for although more information such as the approximate location of the individual is also useful. If the request comes via email I do not circulate the entire email just the essential information to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

Some of those we send healing to have been on the list since the beginning and have chronic health conditions, sometimes multiple conditions.  We are not expecting to “cure” situations like this, we are not miracle workers although we might like to be.  We seek to help, to provide support and healing energy boosts.  In return we ask for a little feedback, this helps us target our efforts to what is causing the most problems for that period of time and also helps us feel better connected to the person we are sending healing too, it helps build a relationship. Feedback also helps us feel valued and it’s always good to feel valued.  Some people request healing for short term illnesses or injuries and knowing that is coming to them often helps them improve more quickly than might be expected. We also sometimes ask for healing ourselves. Several of us have very personal understandings of chronic health conditions, we are wounded healers and circumstances in our lives can mean it is us who need the additional healing boosts as well as others that have requested healing from us.

If you would like to join this virtual circle of healers or wish to request some healing please contact me at paganhealingcircle@gmail.com

Resilience

by Becky Dowley

If, like me, you have been nurturing seedlings in a greenhouse or on a windowsill throughout Imbolc and Beltane, you will be glad when midsummer is upon us. Then you can stand back and let your seedlings stand on their own. You will have got to know their strengths and weaknesses and their individuality, having provided them with soil, water and warmth. There comes a day when they have to be strong enough and resilient enough to be planted out and left to grow and develop.

We humans are the same. If we are lucky enough to be nurtured in supportive surroundings we too can be encouraged into the world to grow and develop. If we have a disability or poor health, we may have extra needs. We may have to have someone there to assist us. In the case of autism, which I have, we might prefer to do things alone and not know when we need help.
What we must do is develop resilience. Resilience grows out of experience from knowing that we can cope, especially if we are supported.

Just as when our seedlings are tossed about by the wind and rain, sometimes we can feel as if we are being battered, bent and shaken by life. This can seem relentless and never ending. Our tolerance, strength and courage can be tested beyond limits. We might sometimes question “why me?” or “why now?” and feel as if we cannot go on. We might question where difficult events or things that test us fit into the greater plan. Disability and illness can be isolating and it is important that we surround ourselves by people who can encourage and support us.

As I have been nurturing my seedlings this Spring I have been grieving the loss of my younger brother. Nearly two years my junior he was funny, handsome, clever and a family man. He is interwoven with my life from when I can remember him being in his pram, from when he was a tiny little boy with big brown eyes and a coat that was too big for him. He died in February after a brave fight. I was with him when he died as the warm sun flooded in the window and I spoke gentle words in his ear to comfort him on his way. His wife and I held his hands and his friends and family gathered to support him as he set off on his last journey.

My resilience was tested. I had lost my mum to the same illness four years previously. I had lost my baby daughter, my father. Why them? I felt so alone and with my mum, my dad and my brother gone I felt bereft and the only one left.

My autism makes it hard for me to express my emotions and during this spring there have been times when I have been overwhelmed by my sadness, my helplessness and my anger. It’s been during these occasions when I have felt so vulnerable, weak and low. People with autism are mistakenly assumed to have no emotions, but the fact is that research has shown that we have very deep emotions that we find hard to share. Friends and family have supported me. They have sometimes just sat next to me as I cry or walked with me as I speak of him. Quiet reminders to listen to the birdsong, to walk bare foot in the wet grass. To write poetry with my niece. Gifts of smiling roses and frames to put photographs of my brother in. The gift of a new god child due in autumn, conceived as my brother died.

I have had reminders to come back to my beliefs. Just as the tiny seedlings need support towards being resilient, so do us human beings. I have been reminded to come back to what I know is certain. To feel the heat of the sun on my face, to pick and eat my allotment vegetables and admire the deep pink clematis. To remember that everything is interconnected and everything is part of the wheel of life. Just as winter ravages, spring renews and summer replenishes.

As spring has worn on and the black cloak of grief has lifted a little I can see that I am not alone and that I have my precious family, my sister in law, my niece and nephew and their strength inspires me. I am surrounded by love and positivity. The cycle of life and the wheel of the year turn and bring wonder and joy.

As I write this I am travelling by train to see my brothers loving, resilient family. This weekend we will scatter his ashes together. The sun is pouring in the window as I write, across the page and across my face. I know he is near.

This spring has taught me what it is to be resilient. When I return home to Cornwall I will walk barefoot across the wet grass to tend my sturdy seedlings and think of my beautiful brother with a smile. My autism has meant that a lot of my journey through grief has seemed to be alone but woven around me have been love, support and this wondrous world we live in giving me the strength to look forward to the future.