Helianthus 'Velvet Queen'
It's never easy when something is staring you in the face that you are doing your best to ignore. It doesn't matter where you turn, it's there telling you it's time to face some hard facts. The fact is my ME is getting worse, not better. The fact is if I want to recover, I need to give more things up so I can rest a lot more. The fact is, I simply cannot garden with ME as I have been in the last year.
Of course, it's not just gardening of which I've still been doing too much. It's other things too, such as trying to study, long-distance, for my bookkeeping certificate, helping my partner set up our new company, Zukini, as a platform to launch his video-editing Mac software, the day-to-day life stuff (from having a shower to paying bills and doing housework) and of not pacing out more carefully time spent with friends. It's very hard when you are enjoying the company of friends to stop and say "I have to go and lie down for an hour".
Climbing French Beans waiting to be picked (I'd already picked c. 2 kg prior to this)
Stopping gardening altogether is not an option. No gardening, what's the point of life?! So I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to continue gardening, but on at a further reduced level. I've come up with the following plan:
Paying someone to help me with the gardening: this I've already started, with a lovely guy, Chris, who isn't a gardener per se, but is interested and willing. It's only short term as he is looking for a full-time job (he is a chemist PhD), so I'm trying to make the most of him whilst I can. He has got lots done, from weeding and mowing to adding well-rotted manure and compost to the beds and planters in readiness for spring bulbs and garlic. The latter is so I don't have to do any preparation at all, just push the bulbs and cloves in to the soil, which is the easy part.
Helenium 'Lemon Queen'
Courgettes are fairly easy to grow with little maintenance besides watering and an occasional feed.
A good Spoonie Veg.Cutting back on what vegetables I plan to grow next year: I'm working on a list of Spoonie Veg*, that is, vegetables that don't need too much attention and are easy to grow and maintain for people with chronic health conditions like ME. I hope to blog about this in more detail over winter. To give you a quick flavour:
In: garlic, dwarf broad beans, dwarf french beans, peas, spinach/chard, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, courgettes and pumpkins. Except for garlic, I'll be growing less of each next year, compared to what I grew this year.
Out: tomatoes, most brassicas (except kohl rabi and maybe kale), climbing french beans (the extra work putting up the canes), potatoes, aubergines and sweetcorn.
Spoonie Veg example (below): Brassicas in cages to left in the dark (the angle of the sun, not normally in the dark), and to the right. Brassicas can be quite a bit of work, from setting up cages to protect them from pests, to ongoing maintenance over a long period of time. Not a good Spoonie Veg. In the middle bed there are some young Kohl Rabi plants. These seem to survive pests much easier and are low maintenance, so a good Spoonie Veg.
Right: Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group) 'Brunette' in the Long Shady Border
Severe reduction in plant buying: this is going to be really hard, but I'm setting a rule that I cannot buy any new plants until any previously purchased plants have been planted out. In fact, I really need to stop plant buying and focus my limited energy (spoons!) on the maintenance of what I already have. Easier said than done though. It's so hard to stop buying more plants. There is so much pretty out there.
Future garden help: in the long term, I'd like to find an experienced gardener that can help out say once a month, but I will worry about that next year.
After the Climbing French Beans have been removed (thanks Chris)
Overall, my aim it to try to continue to garden with ME but on a much smaller scale. I have to accept there will be weeks where little, if anything, gets done. I'm trying hard psychologically to be ok with this, which isn't easy, as I'm sure you can imagine. But I need to face the hard facts as they are. If I want to be able to continue to garden in the future, I need to look after my health now.
* * * * *
*Spoonie comes from Spoon Theory, by Christine Miserandino. Her website But you don't look sick explains it fully. For a simple introduction, I recommend Suzy Coulson's How will I use my spoons today poster (right). I have c. 15 spoons a day and might use some of them thus:
x1 spoon getting up
x3 spoons shower
x2 spoons x 3 for breakfast, lunch & dinner
That's 10 spoons already.
I welcome your thoughts and comments. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, do link to this post in your blog and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.
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