7 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 7 Wildflower Hunt

Today is the last day of the Wildlife Trusts 7 days of Wild Christmas. It has been fun blogging daily again about our wildlife experiences, but it is time consuming blogging each day. So while my engagement with nature won’t stop the daily blogs will.

Moon Gazing

The day started early with Alice up at six. She is sleeping through on her own now most night so while it was an early start at least we’re not being woken up several times a night. As soon as Alice got downstairs she checked out the window. She is currently a bit obsessed with looking for the moon but lately, it has been too cloudy. So she was very excited to see stars and the moon this morning. We’ll have to spend a bit more time on astronomy rather than our usual biology studies.

New Years Plant Hunt

Today Alice and I got out for a walk to leave Amy to get on with some of her teacher prep. I haven’t done my New Year Plant Hunt for the BSBI so I thought today was the day. Last year we were up at Robin Hood’s Bay, so we saw no end of gorse. We headed out through the local park initially.

Alice was in a cheeky mood.

In the park, we found daisies, groundsel, and a small white flower I need to check up.

Alice told me the birds were singing and we managed to find the source of the singing.

We walked through town spotting a good spread of Winter heliotrope, a form of forget-me-not, and Herb Robert. I’m going to have to dig out the wildflower key to check it up.

Then we headed for home back along the seafront spotting another patch of winter heliotrope.

Not a massive number of species, but not bad for a walk just through town. Before I took part in 30 days wild I wouldn’t have known the names of most of these or even probably noticed them. So the fact that I can now name some of them shows some progress. It’s a simple joy spotting and being able to name elements of our natural world. Then by submitting my sightings I help contribute to the BBSI knowledge of seasonal shifts.

#WaveofWhales

The author Nicola Davies has called for a protest on Japan’s decision to resume whaling. She is requesting people send pictures, paintings and drawings to the Japanese ambassador to show opposition to this backwards step. I talked to Alice about the news story that whales would be killed and her answer was “Why?” A question I can’t really answer. Should you want an activity to do during the holiday this seems like a good activity to do with children and teach them responsibility for our world. Alternatively a good task for teachers when we return to school.

Post to be sent to Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka, Embassy of Japan 101-104 Piccadilly London W1J 7JT

Alice reading the snail and the whale

I was considering making seedballs today as got all the components ready, but after our walk, Alice just wants to colour and watch some Fireman Sam. As ever, Norman Price caused havoc. It really is time to look at pre-empting the trouble and look at getting Norman into a young offenders institute. At the very least Dilys should be getting monitored by social services for irresponsible parenting. I may get round to making seedballs later in the week but for anyone who fancies it here is a guide.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my return to taking part in the acts of wild. The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days wild will return in June. While I won’t be blogging the same quantity enjoying the natural world will still continue. From taking part in 30 days wild taking joy from nature has become pretty ingrained in my daily practice.

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7 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 6 Field Guide to Fantastic Beasts

The seven days are going quickly. After writing about cutting down my environmental impact I saw this article on people who have gone that extra mile. While I don’t think Amy is ready to part with her electric toothbrush it is inspiring to read how other people have made the shift to reducing their waste.

Inspired by Alice’s love of stickman I thought I’d look at some other sources of mystical creatures outside. While the actual wildlife outside brings me a lot of joy I don’t mind adding a fantasy element to journeys outside. After the holiday I am going to be sharing the story Zog by Julia Donaldson. This is the story of a young dragon learning its school lessons. Alongside this, I have plans for setting up a few fantasy elements outside.

Here are three books I’ve found make for excellent inspiration for children’s imagination with the intention of searching for magic outside.

  • Fantastic Beasts and where to find them-J.K. Rowling
  • Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide- Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
  • The Lost Words-Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

J.K. Rowling’s books are probably a bit above Alice’s level at 2 years old but for the five-year-olds at school, the odd entry will inspire some hunting outside I hope. The children have been finding lots of trolls under the bridge (climbing frame) and their interest in unicorns is still high. Hopefully introducing them to a few more beasts may develop their plots a bit further.

The lost words is a beautiful book for encouraging people to get out into nature. While this one doesn’t have the fantasy element the poems work as spells to summon the various entries. If you want to encourage writing in slightly older children this is an excellent source of inspiration. But for the younger children, there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the gorgeous illustrations. Alongside this, I plan to use Jackie Morris Tell me a dragon for some furth inspiration. This, again, has beautiful illustrations for inspiration.

For parents and teachers wanting further ideas look on the John Muir Trust website.

The last of the three books, the field guide, is based on the Spiderwick Chronicles series of books. The field guide is another beautifully illustrated book with sketches and paintings of beasts to find and notes on where to look.

Then on top of the books, you need your beast hunting kit. A notebook for field notes. Binoculars and magnifying glasses come in use. Then a pocket wand is always useful. If you don’t own a pocket wand sticks are often available outside. Alice reminded me we need a camera as well to record our sightings.

We’ve got family visiting today but hopefully get out later to look for signs of beasts. Equipped with knowledge of what to look for and kitted up who knows what we’ll find. Hope you all enjoy the last few days of 2018.

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beast kit

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

In between writing all my seven days of wild Christmas and six on Saturday blog posts I haven’t got round to posting about Christmas Day yet. So here it is the Christmas summary post.

We had a slow morning at our house waking up to open presents. This is the first year with Alice having some understanding of what is going on which is magical in itself. Her first present of a crane for her train set probably would have kept her entertained for most of the day. As has already been commented on much of what we bought was second hand but I feel this has taken away the feeling of adding to the ridiculous commercial aspects of Christmas with thousands of pounds being spent on golden children. As for me and Amy, we mainly gave each other utilitarian gifts like steak knives and kitchen bowls. Though my secateurs are worth another mention. I couldn’t be happier with them. But I think we’re at an age where good quality useful presents bring us joy.

She was very determined to collect her own presents even when too big to handle.

Alice and her Minnie Mouse potato head.

She already has a pop-up version of Peter Pan that she loves. We found there was also a pop-up version of Alice in Wonderland. We couldn’t resist buying the book of her namesake.

After a settled morning, we headed to my parents. Alice wasn’t too impressed that the presents weren’t all for her.

I snatched glimpses of the wildlife outside.

After a sausage sarnie to keep us going, we headed to my sisters for the main event. Alice received a variety of tools which she loved.

Though in the end the drill was mainly used for surgery.

My mum, sister and wife wearing aprons made by my aunty. They’ve each been made with details specific to each person. So ours has bees to remind us of the wedding.

We were well fed though Alice still isn’t at a point where she’ll tuck into Christmas Dinner. She did enjoy a lot of cheese biscuits. I was driving as Amy and my dad wasn’t too well so I missed out on the delectable drinks being passed around. But, I did manage a good beer when we got back to my parents where we stayed the night.

The next day was spent pretty lazily as already discussed in a previous blog. Alice enjoyed lazing around and collecting everything in one of her new backpacks.

We had a nice couple of days away and have been spoilt by everyone for choice of food and drink. Alice has had a lovely Christmas seeing my side of the family Christmas Day and Amy’s either side of Christmas. A couple of days on she is just as happy with her train set as she was opening it. So we picked her main present well. Though all she asked for was choc choc. She loves her family very much and we remain fortunate to lead such pleasant lives where we don’t want for anything.

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7 Days of Wild Christmas: day 5 cutting the damage

Not all the wild acts involved in the Wild Life Trusts initiative involve getting outside. Some encourage looking closer to home at our impact on the environment.

One of the wild acts I started on back as part of 30 days wild was to start using more eco-friendly products. We use Tesco’s own brand Eco-Active products to cut down the harmful chemicals we are washing down the drains.

Amy attended an Norwex cleaning party earlier in the year and shifted to an alternative wash powder. A bit like an old-fashioned tupaware party women are encouraged into a pyramid scheme of selling eco products. The enviro cloth is supposed to cut down the need for surface sprays and the need for kitchen roll that adds to landfill. The silver it contains is supposed to act as a microbial agent and reduce the smell of the cloth. They claim to remove 99.9% of bacteria. These claims are clearly nonsense as is their faith in silver. However, it does wipe well and we have no werewolves in the kitchen as a bonus.

Also from Norwex, we changed to their laundry detergent. This doesn’t contain as many bulking agents or harmful chemicals as normal detergents. The Norwex speel is that normal wash powders contain unnecessary chemicals designed just to make bubbles to convince you they are doing their jobs. Norwex has no scent which was the biggest change using it. We add a few drops of essential oils to it so the washing comes out with that fresh wash smell. It does do the job though. Clothes come out feeling clean and we haven’t had any issues of allergies.

In the bathroom, we started to use eco-friendly spray and toilet cleaner. The toilet cleaner isn’t really as powerful as standard bleach. But it isn’t supposed to be causing as much damage polluting our waterways.

Amy made the shift back to bars of soap for washing with in the shower. Though we haven’t been as good with this one as other steps we took. These soap bars came in cardboard packaging with paper wrapping rather than the plastic liquid soaps come in of the plastic wrap many soap bars have. So right down to the packaging, it pushes better eco credentials.

Then the must-have eco product of 2018, the water bottle. I’ve never really bought mineral water in one use bottles. I’ve used reusable bottles for a long time as a tight fisted Yorkshire resident. At work, I try to keep my self hydrated through the day and this has lasted me a good while.

Within the gardening industry, there is a lot of plastic waste. This has been examined well within Gardener’s World this year with Monty cutting down the waste at Longmeadow. One product I’ve bought to cut this back is a Burgon & Ball pot maker. These make paper pots to start my seedlings in.

It doesn’t look exactly like the product photos as the photos from the site show a metal cap on the top, which this doesn’t have. This won’t affect the functionality of it though. The reason I bought this one over several of the competitors was that it makes 3 different sizes while many just do one.

These might only be little steps in cutting my damage to the world, but every step helps. The more people buy eco-products, the more it sends a message that people want to make a difference. Then they become more readily available until they become the norm. If you’ve bought a real Christmas tree this year here is an interesting article on how these trees could be put to use after the Christmas period.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46647790

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Six on a Saturday: Christmas presents

So garden bloggers we are out the other side of Christmas I’ve seen lots of the Tweeters and bloggers I follow were treated to many gardening gifts. Today I’m going to share some of my presents. I didn’t ask for very much this year. I just wanted a couple of top quality tools. My theory being that it is better to buy a few quality items that last rather than replacing every few years.

1. Niwaki okatsune secateurs

This was the main gift I’d asked for. I proffer to ask for something that will get used a lot rather than something I merely desire. While pricey by most standards they are tools that will last me for a long time. Japanese steel and a razor-sharp edge make these a pleasure to work with. I got in the garden yesterday to do some pruning and these made the jobs so much easier. Between my Gold Leaf gloves and these, I felt like a proper gardener. The roses were dealt with ease with no scratches to show for it.

2. Grass edging tools

My parents bought me edging tools clearly in the hope that I will do it neatly. One will cut vertically, the other horizontally making the job a bit easier.

3. Poppy seeds

My mum picked these up while on holiday. The colour looks nice if a bit more ruffled than I’d normally go for.

4. Cosmos

My mum asked for some cosmos for Christmas. I got her a variety of packs from Sarah Raven. I added a pack of a rich purple variety “double click cranberries” and “candy floss” a white variety with pink edges.

Combined with a pack I got free with a magazine and a pack from our wedding gifts I think I have more cosmos than I can really fit in the border, but never mind.

5. Air plants-Tillandsia

I got an air plant Christmas decoration from my mum. Most tillandsia are epiphytes meaning they grow on the surface of another plant. They get their nutrients from the air and water. Many orchids are epiphytes growing on the bark of trees. Many air plants grow on rocks, cliff faces, and trees rather than soil. In theory, they are easy to keep needing the odd spray of water and an occasional dunk. However, they don’t like hard water. Air plants take in water through specially adapted water absorbing cells called trichomes. Hard water contains minerals which can block these preventing moisture absorption. So I’m going to need to try and collect rainwater or at least filter the tap water.

I also have two I received from Geo-Fleur. Amy doesn’t like them much so that is largely going to dictate where they end up being placed in the house.

6. Robins

While not for the garden Amy knows I like my garden robins and got me two robin presents.

She got me a robin for the tree.

Then a carved robin. She said I don’t have to put it away after Christmas, but not sure if that means it will lose its specialness.

A lovely collection of thoughtful gifts. It was good to get in the garden yesterday and put some to use. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas days and had time with people you love. With New Year coming up I’ll be looking to write my review of the year. It’s been a busy year with the wedding and the garden has come on a lot in this time as well. Enjoy your weekends.

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7 Days of Wild Christmas Day 4

Today saw another early start with Alice up at 6. She wanted to watch the TV version of we’re going on a bear hunt. She hasn’t been that bothered for this story so far. She generally chooses Julia Donaldson stories or Burglar Bill for bedtime. But now she’s starting to enjoy bear hunt we can get out to enjoy some hunting. While not that wild watching TV she sat entranced by the snowman. It’s nice to see this nice gentle viewing still engages.

Second Hand Christmas

Much of Alice’s presents were bought second hand from eBay and Facebook marketplace. One of the main toys Alice likes is her trains. We managed to win several bundles giving her a really amazing train set now. Modern Christmas involves a lot of disposable commercialism. Presents people and particularly children will play with for one day and discard. These toys are good solid wood, metal and a small amount of plastic that should last and be able to be passed onto another child after Alice. She doesn’t know or care that someone else has played with it first. A little less waste at the busiest time of year for landfill.

Tree pruning

I put one of my Christmas presents to use and pruned the Acer today. I’ve spent most of the morning pruning and clearing away in some of the borders. I feel a lot better for the time outside and the garden looks a bit better for it.

The whole time I was working the birds were watching. The second I left they returned to the claim the fresh food put out.

Stickman

I saved a few branches to make Alice one of her favourite book characters. Two sticks, a few grooves cut in and some string and we had a stickman. She’s held onto tightly and has got annoyed with other people touching it. Not bad for an almost free creation.

News

This story in the Guardian caught my eye. It makes for quite interesting reading examining many beliefs about sustainable eating.

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/sep/05/ditch-the-almond-milk-why-everything-you-know-about-sustainable-eating-is-probably-wrong

 

7 Days of Wild Christmas Day 3: the mist descends

Bird watching

Day 3 of 7 days of Wild Christmas saw our last day staying at my parents. I relocated Alice’s binoculars which have been missing for a few weeks wrapped in a blanket. She watched out my parents window spotting a turtle, a door, birds and a lion.

There was a good variety out today. My favourite group was the charm of goldfinches that kept visiting through the day.

Mist

After a rather scrumptious lunch, we drove home. On the way home I had to stop and admire the mist for a minute as it floated eerily over the fields. The mist draining the colour from the outside world.

Bizarrely an urchin and group of crabs had been left in the ditch.

The mist over the mere was particularly stunning with the sunset coming down.

Swans and waders floated through the mist.

Local News

I returned home to a positive news story. My town has been awarded plastic-free communities status as local businesses have made pledges and taken action on cutting down single use plastic. A lot of hard work has gone into this inclusing community beach cleans and work with the local schools. The steering commitee has worked hard and I’m sure they are proud of what they’ve achieved so far.

Recharge

Having spent a few days at my dads with his many rechargeable batteries I felt I should dig mine out to power some of the Christmas lights rather than adding to the disposable culture issues. I dug out some I had and these are now powering a string of lights rather than ones that will end up thrown in a few weeks. While it might only be a small gesture every little bit of waste reduction helps.

Now I’m back home I’m looking forward to trying to get out in the garden and putting some of my new Christmas presents to good use and continuing my seven days of wildness.

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