Issue 22

Compost Corner Special          wateringcans2Tilt

It is hard to believe that I have been at the clinic for over a year now. When I started back in January 2007, I wasn't certain that I would stay the course. I began working on Cardigan ward with another new starter, which I believed at the time, that he would still be here and that I would have moved on.

He was into sport and fishing and got on well with the younger patients on the ward. I had come from hands on in the community services, working with service users with learning difficulties, which included person care duties and before that I worked in the operating theatre of several London hospitals, as a Theatre Assistance. So when I first arrived at the clinic, I wasn't certain if I was a security officer or a prison officer. My first week was without keys and had to ask when I wanted to go to the toilet. Those early days, I just wondered "what the hell I was doing here?" A year on and I am still here with you all. That is thanks to the great ward manager who understood his staff and gave great support to his staff and to the great team on cardigan ward that I was lucky enough to work with. Each of them works hard and cares passionately about their vocation and the patients in the charge and not forgetting the endless reports and meeting they all have to keep up to date with. Not that all other staff on other wards in the clinic do not work as well, they do and I have seen it with my own eyes. So what have this to do with the Compost Corner and gardening? Well I am getting to that. If you look at the Caswell Chat over the last few issues, you will see my name over and over again. Not that I am trying to take over that, but I love to tell a great story. Back to the time when I just wasn't certain what I was doing here, the OT department asked me if I would help out in the Gardening group. I said yes. After all it got me off the ward and stopped me leaning against that radiator, watching everyone. I was now doing something that I knew a little something about. After all I have my own allotment, also keeping a number of chickens and a few geese. I also spent a few years as a self employed landscape gardener and I must have installed at least ten garden ponds over my lifetime. Shortly after running the garden group, I was the asked if I could run an Open College Network course! All of a sudden I became a tutor, having to write a course on basic horticulture skills and then passing that knowledge onto the patients who enrolled into the course. By the end of the year we had eight patients who had gained accreditation and earned real credits for their future. This was not possible without the help and support of Paul which I am sorry to hear we are loosing this year, good luck with your future and hope to see you again soon and of course the OT department, without who's support this could not have happened. This first year also found me getting involved in the Caswell Chat. parsleyFirst writing the Compost Corner and then within a few months, adding the Cardigan Garden and later adding Garden Hints and Tips, which included my articles on Herbs. Last year in the garden, was not without incidents. We had the great slug invasion and rain after rain. Building work put the gardens out of bounds time after time or not enough staff on duty to be able to release me off the ward and into the garden. I also had to learn to come to terms with working within the rules of the clinic.

At years end we made it. Not as great as we would have wished, crop wise, but satisfactory and eight patients holding certificates. This year I have twelve patients taking the OCN course. Don't get me wrong, I love it; many hours spent during the winter months, writing a new course and looking forward to getting everyone all through it. That's what I am paid to do. Or is it? I sometime think that I have somehow written my own job description. But team consider that the gardening group is one of the best groups running, it is group leave, social skills, learning skills and there are certificates at the end of it. It is not one staff member taking one or two patients to the Pine to do some shopping, not that I am trying to knock that, it too serve a purpose and has a valued use. lavenderI enjoy doing some of these leave myself, it how I can get to know the patients, bond with them and get to know their likes and dislikes and help them to adapt in the community and not forgetting, getting a decent cup of coffee in a real cafe. But the gardening group is twelve patients on group leave, learning skills that will stay with them when they move on into the community. I might start to wonder if I am paid enough. So what is happening this year in the OT garden? Well herbs will be a big thing and we will over the next few years build and maintain the best herb garden that we can and hopefully then encourage all the patients to come out into the herb garden, pick the herbs and use them to cook with in the OT kitchen. We will still be growing the usual vegetables but we will begin to do things the correct way. The gardening group have not been ideal during the winter months. We have almost re-designed the greenhouses, making extra beds and doubling the growing area. Yes I have created a lot of mess, but OT will get around to dealing with that, for me. We have also prepared a large bed, edged with box hedging and this will be the foundation of our Formal Herb bed Yes it is a social leave, but it is also a learning skills leave and I want patients to take what they learn in the gardening group on with them when they leave us. I want them to be able to maintain their own gardens, or learn look after other people's gardens, or even just know how to maintain a simple window box. Plants are not unlike us, they get sick too, they get disease and attacked by pests and are at the mercy of our environment. So pest and diseases will also play a major role in this years OCN course. I like to finish by welcoming all our new comers to the OT Gardening Group and wish you all great success in the course ahead. So here's to the new season ahead. I look forward to working with you and for you.