Today was our first day on the allotment. We were quite lucky in that we didn’t need to be put on a waiting list, we only signed up yesterday!
We decided that the best way to clear the allotment was in columns, starting from left to right. I concentrated on removing the smaller weeds and stones as well as turning the soil. Thomas dug up the larger rooted plants throughout the left side.
There is still quite a lot to do but I feel we managed to clear a lot in just four hours. We are still working out on a plan of what and where we want to plant things, but one step at a time.
I will probably post an update on here every Sunday with our progress on the allotment. Lets hope the weather is good for us!
Here is a simple recipe for a small batch of mixed jam. This should make two jars or about 700g-750g of jam.
Ingredients: – 200g of strawberries – 200g of raspberries – 200g of granulated sugar – 180g of pectin sugar – 50ml of lemon juice
Equipment: – Two metal pans, one for the jam and one for sterilising the jars – Two jars – A wooden spoon – A slotted spoon – Tongs – A saucer (to test your setting point) – A wooden cutting board – Cellophane – Wax discs
Firstly, put your saucer in the fridge, you will need this later. Wash the berries thoroughly and trim off any stems. Cut the strawberries in half, the raspberries can be left whole.
Place the strawberries in the pan with the granulated sugar, once the strawberries begin to break down add in the pectin sugar and raspberries. You can mash the strawberries if you wish to speed up the process and have a smoother jam. Raspberries also break down a lot quicker, thus needing less time in the pan. Remember to stir your mixture as it breaks down. Once the sugars have dissolved, add in the lemon juice and raise the temperature of your stove to eventually bring to a boiling point. Skim off any scum with the slotted spoon that may be on the surface. It is okay if you cannot remove it all, a little won’t hurt. Boil for around 8-10 minutes.
Take the saucer out of the fridge and dab about a teaspoons worth of jam onto it. Place it back into the fridge and leave for a minute or two. If it crinkles on the saucer when it is touched, it has reached setting point. If not, place your mixture back on the boil for another 2-3 minutes. Add a little more pectin sugar if you feel that your mixture needs it.
Once you have reached setting point, take the mixture off the boil and allow to rest. You can now begin to sterilise your jars. You will need to bring your jars to the boil, making sure they are fully submersed in water. Allow them to boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and use the tongs to pick the jars out of the pan and drain the water, place them on side. It would be best to place them on a wooden board to protect your counter from the heat. Do not let the jars cool too much when potting your jam, it is best done when the jars have just come off the boil but do be careful not to burn yourself. This limits the amount of time the jars can come into contact with bacteria.
Pour in your mixture and then place a wax disc on top of it, then cover the top of the jar with cellophane. Screw the lid on and label your jars.
It has been one year since I decided to make a change for good. I quit the job I didn’t enjoy and left England for a while. At the time, leaving England was the only thing I could do to try and leave the rut I had got stuck in. I didn’t know where I belonged or where I fit in in the world. I knew if I didn’t do it now, I would never do it and forever be stuck in a continuing cycle of monotony and loneliness.
Along came 27th May and time to leave. I had booked a late night bus down to London as I had an early morning flight to Reykjavík, Iceland. It had crossed my mind several times if I was doing the right thing. Was quitting a stable income close to home because I was “restless” the right thing to do? I suppose I was going to find out in due time.
I arrived in Reykjavik on the 28th. For anyone who knows me, they know that this is one of my favourite places on the planet. I had even planned to relocate to Iceland at some point in my life. This time, it just didn’t feel the same. Something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was.
I spent eight days in Reykjavík, visiting my old haunts and discovering some new ones. Yet still, I felt a lack of something. Perhaps it was because I had been there four times previously; somewhat lacklustre I suppose? This is what I originally put it down to and hoped my feelings would subside when I got to Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.
Needless to say, they did not. In fact, the loneliness was crippling and there were days where I didn’t even leave my apartment in Tórshavn. I was in an unfamiliar place with no one I knew at my side. I had wanted to visit this country for years but now I was struggling to leave and explore it. At this point I thought about calling it quits and going home.
I had one more flight booked, it was to Bergen, Norway. I honestly felt some sort of relief when I left the Faroe Islands, although I was tinged with sadness. I hadn’t seen as much of this beautiful place as I would have liked to and I knew that it was fully down to me and the state of my mental health at the time. I needed to learn and grow from this. I couldn’t let my mind defeat me. It had done that for far too long.
Once I arrived in Norway, I felt like I could finally rest and settle somewhat. I spent a few days in Bergen and eventually decided to book a bus to travel onto Alesund. The bus journey from Bergen to Alesund was nine hours, but it flew by and I had the most beautiful scenery to gaze upon.
It was early evening by the time I arrived and I needed to find my hostel. I grabbed my suitcase and headed towards the town. I eventually bumped into two older English ladies who happened to be looking for the same hostel as I was, although luckily enough they happened to actually know the way. I mention these two ladies because they were really the first people [strangers] to enquire if I was okay in the time I had been travelling thus far. I check into my [female] dorm room and I am greeted by other women around my age. Eventually a few others came into the dorm, but it was never full. People struck up conversation with me and I can honestly say this was the first time I felt human in a while.
In this small moment, I knew I was going to be all-right. With such basic human contact I felt renewed and more confident in myself. My mindset was completely different now, I was finally beginning to enjoy my own company.
After four days traversing Alesund I moved onto Trondheim, where I spent just one day. It was probably the most action packed day of my trip to date, I probably saw more in just one day here than I did in a week in Tórshavn. Plus, my new found confidence and motivation certainly helped.
Somewhat exhausted, I moved onto Östersund, Sweden for the Midsummer celebrations. I originally only planned to stay in northern Sweden for two weeks and move down south, but I ended up staying in the area for around five weeks. Here, I felt like I could finally get the mental and physical rest I truly needed with no rush to do so. Whilst I was here I reignited my love of baking and nature again; thus leading me to discover the joy of foraging. I even learnt how to fish!
I eventually decided that it was time to head back to England [I had an event to attend]. I left Sweden with a heavy heart. I felt like I had unfinished business, as I had not continued down south and headed onto Denmark. I didn’t know what to expect when I got back to England. Would I revert back to how I was? I was heading back into uncertainty.
I flew back to England from Trondheim, Norway [direct flights]. I was awash with emotion when I saw Blighty for the first time in over two months. I had missed her. I had truly missed my homeland. I knew I had changed. This is where I belong.
I settled back into life in England. I easily gained employment once again and eventually even found myself dating, which was certainly unexpected. This eventually grew into a loving, stable relationship.
“You cannot love anyone until you love yourself.”
I suppose it is somewhat of a cliché when people say “travel changes you”, but it is true. It changed me in ways I never imagined. For years I had lived in my own misery but never doing anything to change it. In just over two months, I had grown exponentially. I was no longer a shell of a person. I enjoyed my own company, liked myself as a person and felt confidence I never had before.
Whilst originally I just wanted to leave the job I hated so much and see some of the world, it actually became a journey to better myself. I pushed myself far out of my comfort zone and came out the other side a lot stronger mentally.
One year on I still feel the positive affects of my travels. I look back on who I was as a person a year ago and I am grateful for this journey, no matter how hard it was at times.