30 Days Wild: Day 5-Grow your own for wellbeing week

A little bit of exciting news for the blog first. The Wildlife Trust got in touch to ask if they could use one of my blogs to feature on their 30 days of wild bloggers. So one of the blogs from earlier in the week was featured on their site. Nice to be asked as I’ve taken part for 4 years now and I’m happy to carry on supporting the campaign for lives more engaged with nature.

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/30-days-wild-guest-author/30-days-wild-our-teddy-bear-picnic-30-days-wild-parenting

Yesterday I decided we’d have a go at a handful of the activities from National Grow Your Own for Welfare Week. Not the snappiest of titles for a national week but a good cause. This initiative has come from Life at number 27, a social enterprise that pushes the mental health benefits of gardening and particularly of grow your own. With many mental health services pushed to the limits through government cuts the last few years the need for organisations like this has gone up. They have put together a nice little booklet of activities to do perfectly suited to kids and fun for the adults as well. Growing your own fits in perfectly with anyone taking part in 30 days wild. It gives you a chance to help create a more sustainable lifestyle, cut your food miles and it’s good fun. Allotment holders are always experts at the sustainable lifestyle side with lots of ideas for creating their plots on a shoestring budget, reusing materials, composting, water collection and all the rest. Whether you grow your own on an allotment, in your garden, a community space or on your windowsill eating your own produce gives a burst of happiness making it well worth the effort.

We started Wednesday evening with some rock labels for the veg pots. Amy and Alice employing their superior artistic talents.

A few made by drawing and some with decoupage using paper tissues Amy bought with bees and butterflies on. I wonder if you can guess some of the things Alice is excited to grow?

Then we carried on with learning a bit more about butterflies reading “what’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth?” This unimaginatively named book gives children lots of key facts to help identify between the two. Sadly out of print currently so a bit expensive for a book I used a lot for teaching.

Then on Thursday, I decided Alice would buy into these activities more as a list. She then got the satisfaction of ticking each activity off as we did them. No pressure was put on to finish them all but it lays out what the options are.

We started with the cress caterpillars and had a bit previously grown to eat along the way.

Then the two have been placed ready to grow.

We had made a few seed bombs during National Children’s Gardening Week so rather than repeating the activity we just went to do a bit of bombing on some of the unkept grass behind the garden.

We headed back in to have a go with the paper pot maker. The sooner Alice masters this skill the less I’ll need to make. These give use a biodegradable pot and a use for newspaper and excess paper packaging with deliveries.

Back outside we got them potted up with some red marigolds (Alice’s current favourite colour).

Then we got some cut and come again lettuce sown in a pot. I prefer growing the salad leaves in batches in small pots as it means we have salad at various stages so we don’t get a glut all at once.

Another task ticked off, we moved onto lip scrub. Olive oil, sugar and fresh-picked mint and a little lemon were mixed together in a bowl and spooned into some tins I had spare.

I think this may have been Alice’s favourite activity of the day but that may have something to do with the size of her scoops of sugar. While she did count out the 6 spoons of sugar she put more effort into getting six large scoops of sugar than 2 of olive oil. She was very excited to show her mum her tin.

After a decent sugar dose, we went out to let off some of that excess energy with the scavenger hunt included in the booklet.

She had good fun dashing about. Here she is finding water.

Another activity in the booklet was to make your own bug hotel. We built a fairly substantial one a few years ago with old bricks and decking panels and tile offcuts.

So we added some of our stones to the top to add some extra decoration.

I think Alice enjoyed herself. She asked to make some more lip scrub, so we tried the lemon recipe as well. And she’s now waiting for our lettuce to grow. She’ll eat it from the veg patch but she isn’t convinced by the shop stuff. She’s also taken a liking to the mint, so I’m not sure I’m going to have any left for my intended mojito but nevermind. But nice that she’s trying new food. The activities today all came from the growing for welfare pack, so if you fancy any of them check it out and there a few competitions to try.

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Floral Friday plant sales

A few weeks back I had written about Floral Friday. Each Friday people are putting on their flowery clothes to raise awareness and money for Greenfingers charity. Greenfingers work supporting children in hospices by building garden spaces. Many of you are suffering on lockdown. Now imagine being stuck purely on a hospital ward. So these spaces Greenfingers make provide a great place for the children to relax in as well as offering the health benefits of being in a green space.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have sown a lot more than normal this year. This has led to a glut of excess plants I don’t need. With the garden centres closed or doing limited openings, people are desperate for plants. They are missing out that sense of normality of buying their sweet peas for the year, buying their bedding plants and getting their tomato plants. So to raise a bit of extra money for Greenfingers I have been putting out some of my excess plants. I did a quick write up of why I’m selling them and they’ve gone out on our front garden wall. People can walk past, still social distancing and see what I’ve got for sale.

So far I’ve put out the excess sweet peas. I’ve got two teepees worth already planted and that feels like enough for my own garden so the extras went out on the stall. I’ve planted out my broad beans so the excess went out. They were all taken within one morning. Unfortunately, I don’t have much grow your own spare as I pretty much planted up what I needed. I think if I had more it would sell just as quick as the broad beans. Through one of the local Facebook groups, I’d had seen requests for hollyhocks. I’ve already moved several self-seeded hollyhocks to the back of the borders. But I’m still finding a few more so these have been dug up and potted on for sales. I have a mass of ox-eye daisies that self-seed all over the garden. I’ve dug out some of the overcrowded areas and potted them up for sale. Jack Wallington would be proud of how quickly the ‘weeds’ are selling. The hardy geraniums always need dividing and these are great for people getting started in gardening. With so many people looking to tidy their gardens on lockdown these have sold well. So as well as raising money for charity I’m also managing to help place pollinator-friendly plants across the neighbourhood.

I’ve been surprised by how generous people have been with donations. Many are paying well over the price the plants deserve. I’ve got a few more plants to go over the next few weeks and then I’ll make an online donation to Greenfingers when I’ve seen how much I’ve raised. If you’ve got excess plants though I would suggest this is a great way to make sure they don’t go to waste and support a charity of your choice. There are other people raising money for Floral Friday today. Skinny Jeans Gardener is doing a 24 hours podcast to raise money on the 15th May. I’m sure he won’t struggle to talk that long. Greenfingers are asking to see your red, white and blue flowers to celebrate VE day on social media through the hashtag #FloralFriday Have fun with whatever you are doing. We have a social distancing VE street party so I’m looking forward to my afternoon tea later.

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The Deep #TwoPointSixChallenge

The Deep is looking for support to help with their running costs during this period of closure. For those of you who don’t know The Deep is an aquarium in Hull that is normally open to the public. It is home to sharks, turtles, stingrays, penguins and more. But, it is also involved in conservation work and breeding work. This important work isn’t necessarily as well known. It was the first UK aquarium to successfully breed zebra sharks. The Golden Mantella frog is under threat in the wild from viruses and habitat destruction. Work at places like The Deep safeguards their future so research can continue and they have the possibility to be reintroduced into the wild in the future.

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In order to raise funds to continue to support this work, five members of the animal care team are planning to run 26 miles around their site later today. They will be running in a relay team maintaining social distancing. You can find details of how, if you wish, you can support below.

https://www.thedeep.co.uk/conservation/support-us

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Floral Friday-Supporting Greenfingers

After a downbeat blog on the crisis in Horticulture earlier in the week I wanted to look at doing something more positive today. Today is Floral Friday so we are dressed in our best floral print to raise some awareness for Greenfingers Charity. Greenfingers are a UK charity that supports children and families in hospices. They help to create green spaces to give therapeutic benefits to children with life-limiting conditions. I am very fortunate to have a lovely space to garden in with Alice and we love our time together out in the garden. A beautiful garden space can uplift the spirits like nothing else. At this difficult time any support, no matter how small will be appreciated. This is a time for kindness. Donations can be made through https://www.justgiving.com/greenfingers/donate

https://www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 5

Today we made it out for a brief walk around Hornsea Freeport. Not the wildest location for 12 days wild. But Alice and I have been wearing our wildness the last week. She had one of the RSPB badges with a robin with a Santa hat on, while I have a robin on a holly branch. Alice’s has been put down somewhere in the house but don’t know where. I’m sure it will turn up after the Christmas period is done and she’ll then insist on wearing it. One of the cafes at Freeport stocks the collection box, so she choose a new badge. We looked through as she was asking which we got in our garden. We had a choice of several finches, sparrows and butterflies.

Alice went for the peacock butterfly, a regular visitor to our garden in summer and sometimes into autumn.

I’ve also done my bit for promoting the Wildlife Trust wearing my bug shirt. Alice always likes asking me about the different insects on this one.

My gardening jacket is gradually filling up with the wildlife that visits the garden.

Back at home, there doesn’t seem to many signs of life in the garden. A bird of prey seems to be circling the area. Combined with the wind there isn’t much visiting the feeders today. The wren and dunnocks are sticking to the shelter of the shrubs and the sparrows are flitting in and out. The pots are showing signs of things to come, though I think the weather will probably go colder again slowing their growth. Time to settle in the warmth inside with a fire and a good book and chill out.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 1

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having fantastic days spent celebrating however you prefer. Today is the start of the Wildlife Trusts 12 Days Of Christmas. For 12 Days from the 25th December to the 5th of January, I will be looking for different ways to engage with nature. These can be little things like feeding the birds, going for a walk in nature or admiring the winter sunset. It’s not too late to sign up to show your support for nature. Go on the website, sign up, it’s free, and you’ll be added to the map.

birdwatch

As today I imagine many you will be overwhelmed with commitments I am suggesting an act of wild that you can do from the comfort of your own sofa while waiting for visitors. During the weekend of the 25th January to the 27th of January, it is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. For one hour you sit and watch the birds and record what comes in. It is free to take part and you don’t need to be an RSPB member. This survey provides valuable information about the increases and decreases in bird populations so conservation efforts can be targetted.

BLue tit 3

I’ve taken part the last few years and have usually found my garden just manages double figures of species. Last year was a bit low with building work going on and wet weather. The builders still have some jobs to come back to a year on so they may have people in and out in the run-up to it. But in order to maximize the birds that come into your garden, I have a few tips.

  • Put out a variety of foods: seed, suet, fat balls, mealworms or meat scraps. Different birds favour different food.
  • Use feeders at different heights. Some birds such as the blackbirds eat from the ground, some like the feeders in cover near shrubs, others need more space around the feeder.
  • Clean the feeders beforehand. This stops the spread of diseases between birds.
  • Provide water sources in the garden. During winter water is often frozen so the birds will come in for water as much as food.

Enjoy your Christmas Days and I hope you all have wonderful days.

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30 Days Wild: Idea 22-Get closer to the grass

Previous years I’ve walked barefoot on the grass but as Alice doesn’t like going barefoot very much we’ve just looked today at getting closer to the ground. While she might not like going barefoot she is quite happy rolling it and sniffing it.

Grass has many potential benefits. It can improve air quality by capturing carbon and it acts as a pollution filter. Areas of grass stay cooler than many hard surfaces. Then there are the mental benefits of green spaces. Green spaces can lower blood pressure and help mental well-being. Well worth celebrating and getting a bit closer with to connect with.

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30 days of wild: Idea 18-Listen to birdsong

With the break in the rain, the birds are back out in force. The dusk chorus has been singing away and it was a joy to listen to.  Taking a few minutes to sit and listen to birdsong is a simple pleasure but a very enjoyable one. Earlier in the year, the RSPB put birdsong in the chart with let nature sing. If for some reason you are unable to get outside or to a spot you can hear birdsong through this track and it gives a donation to the RSPB.

Robinhead

While it is nice to hear the songs I’ve been working on tuning into the bird’s songs to be able to identify through their sound. The RSPB has a new book and CD set out to help identify birdsong. Earlier in the year, I was gifted this lovely set that gives details of each bird then has tracks it plays through a built-in speaker.

For a free option, the long-running BBC Tweet of the day gives you a way to gradually build your knowledge. There is a massive back catalogue of episodes to listen to all for free. With many people following this blog for my gardening content you may enjoy Monty Don on the return of the swallows.

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30 Days Wild: Idea 17-pick up litter

Today might not be the most glamorous act of wild but it can make a huge difference. Wildlife can suffer very badly with waste humans have left. More an more plastic has made it into our oceans. It is now thought that this may be having an impact on us through the water we drink and the food we eat.

Just picking up one or two pieces of rubbish during the day could save an animal. My local community is aiming for the plastic-free beach. They have set up a beach hut where on weekends you can go pick up a litter picker and a bucket to collect. Across the country, there are many 2-minute beach clean stands. I keep a set of work gloves under the pram for if we find anything on our strolls. It doesn’t take any time out of the day but helps make a difference to the community and wildlife. Our beaches are much cleaner since these initiatives began. On recent strolls, I’ve hardly found anything. The main find being cig butts.