Weather Changes and Autumn as a Spoonie

Welcome Autumn and my favourite time of the year. I adore September and October with their golden afternoons, the abundance of foods, and the cosier evenings. I don’t know about you but I don’t fair well in the heat, it exhausts me and the sun irritates my skin. Neither do I do well in the cold and damp, it makes my joints ache and my mood dip. Autumn, however, seems perfect. I love a crisp but sunny morning, or an afternoon wrapped up warm for a gentle walk.  But something else happens in Autumn that leaves us spoonies floored and I’m not sure quite what it is. I’ve thought through a few of my theories here to try and come up with a Spoonie’s Guide to Autumn.

Weather Changes

So every time a season changes we find ourselves having to adapt. I find at these changing points I’m forever saying ‘we’re just not used to this heat/ cold/ darker nights/ humidity/ damp’ (the list goes on). Yes us Brits like to talk/ moan incessantly about the weather, but I’m sure there’s more to it, especially for us hypersensitive beings. And it seems there is actually proof of this.

Auto Immune I remember my clinic lead, Professor Fortune, telling me that changes in season affect bodies on a cellular level and it seems there is some proof. The BBC has a couple of brilliant articles on this. The first looks at facts behind the myths such as:

  • Rain gives you rheumatism – the answer is maybe but theres no conclusive evidence, its more likely power of the mind.
  • Falling air pressure is a pain in the head – I’m migraine queen aka the human barometer so I swear this is true and one study from Japan seems to suggest its true

The second article is much more focused on an in depth study on how temperature change affects our genes and immunology. In brief an international team of researchers conducted a study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to look at how this happens. They “found genes involved with immunity – the body’s defence against infection – were more active in cold months. And while this helps fight off viruses such as flu, it may trigger or worsen conditions, such as arthritis, where the body attacks itself, they say.” 

The study examined how this happens on a genetic level and found that when looking at genes “a quarter showed clear signs of seasonal variation”. The genes that were of most interest included ones associated with immunity and inflammation. Interestingly it wasn’t the degree of cold that was initiating the changes but the temperature changes themselves as ‘During cold, winter months – December to February for people living north of the equator and June to August for those in the southern hemisphere – these genes were more active. When they studied people living close to the equator, where the temperatures are fairly high all year round, they noticed a different pattern. Immunity and inflammation was linked to the rainy season, when diseases such as malaria are more rife.” A change is temperature is all that is needed to trigger flare ups as it directly affect the cells and ‘that increase in inflammation could now be a risk factor for diseases of modern life’ Prof John Todd, Study author. Big stuff hey?

Viruses and other factors are also linked to an increase in symptoms and flare ups for Spoonies. Many reasons have been given to why this season is prime cold and flu season. Maybe it is because we stay indoors more, have more close contact with each other or beginning of university and schools terms mean more people mixing. One thing is for certain and thats for those, like me, who take immuno-suppressants the exposure to viruses, infection and bacteria is a headache all in itself. Immuno-suppresants mean that, surprise surprise, our immune systems are suppressed and do not work as well in fighting things off. So don’t be offended if you have a cold and I  instantly grab for the hand gel. Getting a cold or virus also can trigger a flare up, even if we don’t fully develop the original cold. I get far less colds than other people but my body knows if I’ve come into contact with one. Unfortunately my immune system just cannot tell the difference between the things its supposed to be attacking and my own body. At the recent Behçets Syndrome Society conference in Bristol, Professor Fortune said that she has a date in October circled on the calendar every year for when they have to open up loads of emergency appointment slots as so many of us flare.

So how can we deal with all of this? My answer is be prepared as you can and a little acceptance.

The Nature Communications study above concluded that as well as a genetic change “diseases and other factors, such as nutrition and stress, could affect how genes function.” So lets build some of these into the survival guide.

How to embrace and survive Autumn

Autumn Activities – Try some of these spoonie friendly adventures to help with wellbeing

  1. Get outdoors. Take a visit to somewhere you can take in all the beauty of nature and how dramatically its changing at this time of year. Do what you can, you don’t have to hike for miles across farmland and forests to appreciate the changing landscape. You could take a car ride, visit a city park or sit in the last of the warm sunny days in your garden. Boosting vitamin d levels at this time of year can really help with the impending winter blues too.
  2. Get crafty. There are so many things that are nice to make as we want to spend more time being cosy indoors.
    • This month I am making a wonderful leaf garland, inspired by Hannah at Seeds and Stitches
    • I am embroidering fabrics in preparation for Christmas presents. If you are like me and like to hand make your Christmas presents, start now so you don’t put pressure on yourself.
  3. Get Cosy and warm and hermit without guilt. Get out blankets and hot water bottles ready for colder evenings. Give them a wash and some care before they do into their full winter sofa bound days. Enjoy activities that are away from screens (save those Netflix binges for sick days). Non screen time is much better for you and there are things that can occupy you. I’ve just found a new love for jigsaw puzzles!
  4. An Autumn Feast – Wow there’s food aplenty at this time of year, especially after a long hot summer, heres how to make the most of it. Enjoy homegrown fruits and vegetables. If you’re like me and have a garden then at the moment you’re probably overrun by crops such as tomatoes. When I’ve had the energy I have been picking them in droves and jarring them as passata. A basic recipe can be found here and its easily adapted to include herbs and spices you’ve grown too.
    1. Get to a local food festival and treat yourself to something scrummy. Food festivals re great at finding a huge variety of foods and you’re more likely to come across diet friendly snacks too. Ive been to two in the past three weeks including a chilli festival!
    2. Go on a forage. From September onwards, you can pick a huge amount for free from forests and hedgerows. Pick fruits such as elderberries, blackberries, rose hips and more. I turned my elders into a vitamin c boost spiced syrup and my hips and chillies into a spiced jelly. Theres also other treasures to be found like sloes, bullaces, crab apples, cob nuts, sweet chestnuts, mushrooms and fungi… just remember to only harvest them if you are 100% sure you know what they are!

Autumn is transition, change and drama. In slow living it’s the time to prepare for what’s ahead. Don’t rush it, save your spoons, enjoy the beauty and prepare for the winter ahead.

To find out more about things mentioned in this post visit…

How to make plastic bottle planter | Gardening on a budget

Since my life style change, including being unable to work, and being ‘on benefits’ I have been forced to slow down and re-evaluate spending and consumerism. Yes it’s a challenge, but I have made some delightful discoveries along the way. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and growing my own vegetables and plants. In fact my plant addiction is a little out of control. But I’ve got to the point where I don’t have the money to spend on a lavish garden or a house full of the latest plants. I also want to make the garden work for me and feed me.

Being creative, and little bit crafty, I’ve managed to garden this year on a minuscule budget. Most of this has been by refusing to buy new accessories and tools for the garden such as pots, propagators and netting. Instead I’ve decided to make my own using what most people would class as rubbish. This has tied nicely with my war on waste ( you can read about it here), and has forced me to recycle things from around the house in order to grow my plants.

My first tutorial ( I’m going to attempt a series) is how to make a plastic planter from an old bottle. For those who don’t know this is EarthDay, a day dedicated to making us aware of environmental issues and care for our planet. This year, like we have seen in many parts of the media, the focus is on the war on plastic. So I’ve made for you a guide on how to make recycled bottle planters. The tutorial is for a basic hanging planter but you can make variations to suit your needs.

Instructions for a recycled plastic bottle planter

You will need: A plastic bottle, scissors and string or wool

In addition to this you could also use lollipop sticks as labels, pretty tape to decorate the bottles, a , pokey stick to help make holes, and a craft knife if you prefer cutting this way.

Oh and don’t forget your need some soil and some seeds or seedlings.

Step one Remove any labels, so far these are usually not recyclable, boo! Draw a line around the circumference of the bottle about halfway down. Then draw a tab coming out of the line so this will become your hanger.

Step two Cut around line until you get to the tap and then cut out so it becomes all part of the lower part of the bottle. Then separate the two halves.

Step three With the cap still on the bottle carefully push your scissors or pokey all through the bottle cap to make a hole big enough for the string. Then thread your string through the hole you have just made so half is on the inside of the bottle and half is on the outside. Tie a knot so the string can’t pull all the way through the cap. You will also need to make a hole in the tab if you want to hang your planter by using string.

Step four Put some water into the bottom half of the bottle. Turn the top of the bottle upside down and placed into the base with the cap facing down so the string on the outside dips into the water.

Step five Fill the upturned bottle top with soil and plant your seeds or seedlings.

Step six Thread string through the tab to hang your planter. Alternatively you could staple the tab to a fence or shed. Now the plant pot is finished keep it in a sunny place.

The plant pot is self watering as the string soaks up water the plant needs just like roots would. You just have to keep an eye that there is water in the bottom half of the bottle and top it up as needed.

Variations

  • Add another half cut bottle to the top to make a minute to greenhouse. When you do this the bottles become their own microclimates.
  • As the bottom is flat and so should stand up if you want use the planter on a tabletop or windowsill.
  • I decided to decorate some of mine using Washi Tape to make them more colourful.

These are so simple to make and you can make them with children, as long as you supervise the use of scissors and a sharp knife. I made a ton of these as plastic bottles seem to be in abundance and they’ve worked perfectly for growing peas broad beans and sweet peas. I’m also trying out some ginger root, turmeric root and lemon seeds see if they will grow too.

I’ve made a handy printout sheet that shows this tutorial in brief. Please feel free to use and share it.

So hope you enjoyed this tutorial I’m planning to make some more and my next one will be on other ways to use plastic. And I also will do tutorials to recycle paper and glass, alongside growing vegetables from the leftover scraps. Let me know in the comments how you get on with your planters.

How to find joy

  1. Walk with a dog, more people talk to you than if you walk alone
  2. Use the ‘golden hour’ to take a photo and marvel at your skills 
  3. Wake up just to see the sun rise and do step two. You’re allowed to go back to 
  4. Laugh really really hard till it hurts. Friends and YouTube videos help
  5. Make someone cake for no reason and share their joy 
  6. Show a child ‘wonder’ and watch their joy, it’s infectious 
  7. For slow burning joy plant some seeds and feel joyful each time you see them grow a little bigger, and think ‘I made that happen’ 
  8. Light a fire, indoors or out, and spend time roasting parts of your body till they go red. Decide it’s probably bad for you so sit and stare and getting lost in the flames 
  9. Eat cheese and don’t feel bad
  10. Climb as high as you can to get a really good view

Blink and you’ll miss it.

The sun barely shines in the bright cold sky. The cold creeps in every gap and forgotten tuck-in.

The bonfire burns old whilst the smoke writes the memories across the sky. Warming the sun bleached snow as it melts into clear furrows.

The land sighs as it sleeps, turns over, seeing the Sun isn’t shining she goes back to her dreams. The excitement and magic melts away, the only day you wish the sun took leave.

In a day the stream flows. Playing it’s cool melody on the slowly warming rocks. The pond might be frozen but it’s path is too risky to find out.

With fingers wrapped in gloves that make them too cumbersome. Take off the gloves, use your hands briefly before they freeze and become just as clumsy.

The crow carries the sound of winter on its breath, Its black heart never dies.Only chased away by birds of song, shrill and tinkling, dancing in the fragile sun.

All that’s left of the snow is the snagged fleece in brambles; fake snow that sparkles with dew. My fingers bleed on it’s purity as I snatch it from the branches.

Pines that defy the cold breathe their sent into the warming air. Something is afoot, but blink and you’ll miss it.

 

Photography Lesson #1

You may remember that a while ago I asked for people to donate or exchange creative skills with me. I wrote a post all about the adventures I would like to go on. You can read it here.

On Saturday morning I was lucky enough to be offered a beginners lesson in using my camera with Pete Fry.

We got up early, wrapped up warm and headed off to Seasalter. I love the beach in winter with it’s washed out colours. It was a misty morning across the marshland and perfect for some beginner shots.

Pete patiently explained how to use the exposure, shutter speed and ISO on my camera. I just experimented with what worked and what didn’t. How to make changes to get more interesting shots. I still have a lot to learn!

Its just a start but here are my 6 fave shots from the morning.

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Thanks to Pete for his patience and insights. If you would like to swap or donate me a creative experience please contact me below:

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All wrapped up

I get really excited when autumn arrives. Not only is it beautiful outdoors but I get to pull all my woollens out. Dress up in scarves and boots and gloves. Go on walks all snuggled in layers. Here’s some of my inspiration for being all wrapped up, from my Pinterest board. Enjoy 🍂🍄🍁🌾🍃


All images are taken from my Pinterest board. None were taken by me. For the originals please visit my board and follow the individual links.

Goodbye 2015…

…and a list of ‘I can’ts’.

A lot of living with Chronic illness is about learning to say no. This is all well and good, but I can’t help thinking there must be a way to say ‘I can’. To live within boundaries and spoons but still be able to do stuff.

Today I felt the pressure of New Years and the forced fun. I imagined getting dressed and going out, drinking cocktails and staying up till the early hours. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do right? And everyone else is doing it. Or are they? When I woke up this morning I was shaking, my whole being ached and everything was swollen and I knew the plans just wouldn’t happen. So we changed them, the girls are bringing over takeout and then slipping off to celebrate leaving me with a duvet and my pjs. Instead of thinking I’ve missed out I can see that I’m just doing it differently thanks to great friends. It’s OK to think you’ve missed out but check and see if you really have. After speaking to people I realised that so may others are doing the same! Do what makes you happy not what you think you should do.

Earlier on today I went for a walk, went too far, got stuck in a muddy field. and Paul had to pull me out. Again I had gone too far, got frustrated and shed a little tear over what I can’t do. On reflection the good thing was that I was able to walk as far as I did and chat to Paul along the way, laugh at being stuck in the mud and the puppy trying to chase birds. Being outdoors is always so healing whether it is just for a short time. So what if I can’t walk as far or as fast, I can walk and enjoy the outdoors that is what matters. The winter skies, crows cawing and being outdoors makes me happy.

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I saw a post earlier that said make a list of what you do every day, then make a list of what you love doing and compare them. I already know that having chronic illness has slowed me down and made me savour the small stuff. When you only have a few spoons spend them on those you love and that list of loved things.

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So my New Years Resolutions are not to take things away but to add more in!

  1. Dates with the boy for my heart
  2. 10 stretches everyday for my body
  3. A meal plan each week for our budget
  4. Oh and my dream of riding my bike again

Happy New Year all, remember do what makes you happy.