Three Things Thursday… down the pan

three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy

Today – 19 November 2015 – is World Toilet Day!


So, I’m grateful that…

  • I’m not one of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation (source: World Toilet Day)
  • I’m not one of the women and girls living without a toilet who, in total, spend 266 million hours each day finding a place to go (source:
  • I don’t live in one of the many countries in which it is not acceptable for a woman to relieve herself during the day. Where women wait hours for nightfall, just to have privacy, thus impacting on health and putting them alone and in danger just to relieve themselves (source:

There are lots of solutions and there are great charities out there doing sterling work to ensure that everybody, worldwide has access to toilets – providing privacy, improving health, treating human waste as a resource and freeing up time. My personal favourite is Practical Action, who do great work all year helping communities to build toilets using appropriate technology… and are also supporting World Toilet Day.


Limp chicken

Chickens are very good at hiding illnesses, so it’s always a bit of a surprise if one of them is obviously under the weather. They are prey animals and it doesn’t do them any good to appear weak, so they fluff themselves up and put a brave face on it. As a chicken keeper this is deeply unhelpful because it makes it really easy to overlook a problem.

Anna sitting down - it's the nearest leg that's troubling her

Anna sitting down – it’s the nearest leg that’s troubling her

However, it is hard to miss a large bluebell hen hobbling round the garden and sitting down whenever possible. As with human ailments, it’s probably a mistake to take to the internet too soon, where you are bombarded with possible ailments – anything from being egg-bound to having bumblefoot. However, a quick examination revealed nothing – apart from the fact that there’s nothing wrong with her ability to peck (I really wish I hadn’t had my sleeves rolled up). My conclusion is that she’s got the chicken equivalent of a sprain… possibly from jumping down off the higher perch in their house – her preferred roost. Apparently this can be an issue with heavier birds, and Anna is certainly one of those (bluebells are huge).

My remedy, therefore, is to remove said perch and make sure that she is able to access plenty of food and fresh water. Once Mr Snail returns home later today we will examine her for wounds under the masses of feathers (bluebells are also very fluffy). She’s being doing plenty of sitting down, so I don’t think enforced cage rest is necessary, but we’ll see how she gets on over the next couple of days… fingers crossed for a speedy recovery.

Say a little prayer, or not

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie’s blankie was described in the pattern as a ‘prayer blanket’

Recently, I have come across numerous patterns for prayer shawls and prayer blankets and I was beginning  to wonder whether the knitting and crochet community was undergoing some great religious revival. However, the other day I discovered that these are not shawls to pray in (like a Jewish Tallith) nor blankets to kneel on whilst doing so (like hassocks), but creations that include simple repetitive patterns. The idea is that the shawl can be made whilst praying because there is no need to concentrate too much on the pattern, so one’s mind can be occupied by something else.

inner-peace-awardIt was quite a coincidence, therefore, when a few days back Megan (my chronic life journey) nominated me for the ‘Inner Peace Award’ and got me thinking about the whole idea. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a great fan of the chain letter type blogging award, but this one doesn’t really involve that aspect and did start me considering the importance of things like prayer shawls. Even if we do lead a stressful life, finding time to create something simple and beautiful (like Sissie’s blankie in the photo) can really help us to achieve a little inner peace. I have written before about crafting and mental well-being – the fact that repetitive activities, like knitting, crochet and wet felting, can increase alpha waves in our brains and encourage creative thought and relaxation. As a person who has the propensity to get very uptight I can highly recommend this approach to achieving a happier life and as a way to develop a calmer and more positive state.

Other people, of course, seek peace in different ways. Recent research has demonstrated the value to our health of visiting natural places or simply being outdoors. There is also clear evidence that walking can be a useful tool in treating depression. Whatever we choose to do, it seems that our mental state can be improved by participating in the right activities.

As I explore the blogosphere, I come across all sorts of approaches to peace and happiness and I want to share one in particular with you. I found Candy Blackman’s blog London Life with Bradshaw’s Handbook quite recently. You may be wondering what this has to do with inner peace, but if you read this post, you will find out. Candy is exploring London using Bradshaw’s 1862 Hand Book to London as a way to deal with her grief following the loss of her mother. One day a week she visits London, following Bradshaw’s guide and she blogs about it. It’s lovely – great pictures, fascinating links, a whole new (old?) perspective on London. She says that she hasn’t found a direction yet or arrived anywhere, but clearly the pure act of doing something is helping her… and providing those of us who follow her blog with fascinating information.

So, if you are feeling blue or stressed – put on your walking shoes or pick up your knitting needles and see if you can’t achieve a little inner peace.

Hands in the dirt, head in the sun

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul. There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. Alfred Austin

Abundant potato growth

Abundant potato growth

After a rather frantic week retrieving chickens from their holiday home (thank you Glad and Mr Glad for looking after them), retrieving dogs from the kennels (thank you Ann at Rhydlewis – a unique place where the dogs are cared for better than anywhere I know), attending a day-long trustees’ meeting and a learning guild get-together, as well as editing a couple of papers and doing piles of washing, I have finally managed to find some time to spend in the garden. During our two-week absence the potatoes have grown like mad and the raspberry canes have become laden with (as-yet unripe) fruit; the mange tout are on their way up (the variety we are growing – yellow-podded – is tall) as are the runner beans; the courgettes and squashes are settling in and the onions are flowering – boo! As always, some things do well and some don’t, but that is the way of the world and gardening does not come with a guarantee.

Squash, corn and beans doing well

Squash, corn and beans doing well

Anyway, overall the week has been quite stressful, but a few hours in the garden are good therapy. I find gardening to be remarkably good for my state of mind – it gives me time to think, as well as allowing me to be both creative and peaceful. I love seeing plants grow that I have nurtured from seed. Even when it comes to the time that they have to be removed, knowing that what is left will go on the compost heap and contribute to the next cycle is immensely satisfying.

But, reading an article in The Guardian today by Alys Fowler, I discover that gardening is not good for me just because of all the things that I’ve mentioned, but also because there are bacteria  (specifically Mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil that have a beneficial effect on health. These bacteria boost production of seratonin (which is a mood regulator) and help to build a healthy immune system if we come into direct contact with them. So, there you are – get out there and get your hands dirty and you really will be improving your health and happiness!

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