Six on Saturday: 30.1.21

Well, this week has been spent at home. I tested positive for Covid at the start of the week. I didn’t show a lot of the common symptoms but I had a splitting headache and I was very achey. I seem to have been let off lighter than many others. My head is still hurting but I have still been able to move within the confines of our house. Sadly, this means I haven’t got to teach beetles this week. It has meant I’ve been home schooling Alice again but she is happy with this situation. This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve wanted to involve Alice each year and tried to make it an event so even though we are stuck isolating at home we can still create happy memories. The birdwatch helps keep Alice interested in the garden and help teach her care for our world.

1. Robin gingerbread

We can’t do a birdwatch without snacks. I picked up a reduced Christmas baking kit a few weeks back but these would be easy enough to make without. The kit contained a gingerbread mix that you just added golden syrup and butter too. You cut a circle for the robin and a smaller circle for the breast. A hardboiled sweet went in the hole and this melted when baked to fill the circle.

The sweet didn’t come out that red, but I think they are quite cute.

2. Fat candles

Before we went into isolation I brought some lard back from work. We have an eco pantry where we get donated food the supermarkets know they won’t sell and we ended up with an abundance of lard. Fat candles are dead simple to make. Melt lard or suet in the microwave. About a minute will do. Mix in seed, raisins, grated cheese, seed, whatever you have available. Put a piece of sting in a cup and spoon the mix in around it. Put it in the fridge to set and then you can pull it out once set. This is easier with paper cups where you can cut them off. We didn;t have any in so I had to scrape it out a bit.

Off all the different home made bird feeders I’ve made over the years these are the most popular. The Cheerio feeders are largely left, the bottle feeders swing around too much. But I carry on making them with Alice as they help to engage her with the garden and the birds.

3. Bird hide

We used Alice’s den kit she got for Christmas to make a bird hide. It is not the most subtle with the red sheets but it was what we have spare.

4. I spy

I bought Alice the I spy birds book for the occasion. These are published on many themes to suit different children’s interests. You tick off as you see the birds. They each have a score. When they have reached set scores they can send them in for a certificate and a badge.

5. A robin reward

I’ve wanted to try to make the bird watch a memorable experience. While on lockdown we don’t get the chance to go out and visit places but we can still make lasting happy memories at home. So I ordered this fused glass robin to give Alice as a souvenir, something to remember it by, for when we’ve finished our birdwatch.

6. More snacks

We’ve made more chocolate nests following on from nest work. These are particular decadent with milky bar cookie chocolate and honey nut cornflakes. I’m not a big eater of chocolate preferring savoury options but these are particularly good.

The birdwatch results will follow. I’m expecting a dip from previous years due several circumstances. Lockdown means we have more seagulls in the garden as they are lacking fish and chips. These scare off many of the other birds. Also, our next door but one neighbours have had one of the tallest trees cut down. This was a perch many of the birds used before coming down onto our feeders. So, I’m expecting good numbers of gulls and pigeons but I have less expectations for the smaller birds. But we’ll see. I’ve got most of next week in isolation to recover. Hopefully get my head back to a point where it doesn’t hurt. My concentration is pretty low so sorry if I’m not reading your posts. I’m pretty restless. In the meantime, I am planning activities for children who are off home schooling. Next week’s topic is rainbows. Alice is very excited for this topic whereas I have less enthusiasm for it. They look pretty but serve no purpose so I’m looking for some hook to engage me. I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe. Enjoy your weekends.

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30 Days Wild: Day 12-Butterfly gingerbread

I’m going to start my day off with an activity for the grown-ups and older children. We are currently in food trade negotiations with the US. It is well known that the US has appalling food standards, selling food that would never be declared fit for human consumption in this country or raised in conditions that don’t meet our standards of animal welfare. Sorry US readers but this seems to be something that is uniting people in the UK across the political spectrum. They don’t want lower standards of food shipped in. For me, the sticking point is that the US still makes use of neonicotinoids which have been linked to Honey-Bee colony collapse disorder. We’ve made great steps forward in the UK we banned glyphosates in the garden. We banned Metaldehyde slug pellets, though it was sadly overturned. So we don’t need anything that could reverse this process. There are several petitions on the go trying to stop our government weakening our environmental standards during these trade negotiations.

Pesticide action network has set up an easy form for you to email your local MP stating you want safeguards in place during these trade deals. You can change the message if you want to personalise it or you can leave it as it is. Only takes a few minutes to show opposition to what will undoubtedly be a disastrous deal for the already weakened UK environment.

So having talked about the environmental side of food trades now so baking. Having failed at the bee buns earlier in the week I thought I’d go back to basics and do some gingerbread butterflies for our 30 days act of wildness today. Amy showed the other cutters though so we’ve got flowers, hearts and stars for good measure.

Alice has been very interested in space recently and made lots of comments about the star.

“The sun is a star. But it’s not this shape. It’s round”

So we had the conversation about how this is just how some people draw them as if they are shining but she was right. Stars should be round. Contrary Mary that she is.

I used a recipe for gingerbread from one of the bake-off cookbooks designed for festive ginger baubles. I think the recipe was intended to give you enough gingerbread for the whole family and visitors for the whole of December. But that will give us plenty for taking out on our 30 days adventures. Snacks are a vital part of any trips out with a young child to avoid tantrums. Luckily these taste a lot better than the bee buns as we’re going to be eating them for the rest of this week and next.

Then once cooled we moved onto a bit of decorating.

Then the agony of choosing which one to have.

They went down well. Very tasty.

Alice has enjoyed the fruits of her labour if nothing else. Hopefully, the wind and rain will die down for us a bit for us to get back out even if we do have to wrap back up. for now, I’ll enjoy bird watching out the window. I restocked the feeders with Haith’s sunflowers and had multitudes of blue tits, goldfinches and a chaffinch in the garden. Great to see.

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30 Days Wild: Day 10-Dandelion rainbow, bee buns, lettuce soup, flower crowns

Already a third of the way through and done an awful lot already with more to come. If you want to check back on what we’ve been up to check the contents page. I realised looking at the blog stats that I have been referred by two schools for their homeschooling recommendations during the lockdown. I think that’s one of the nicest compliments the blog has ever received. So if you are one of the parents directed here by your child’s school I’d love to know how you get on with any of the activities if you give them a go.

Today’s idea I’d seen on the 30 Days Wild Facebook page. There are lots of people sharing wonderful activities they’ve done as well as photos and chat. I saw this idea of a fingerprint dandelion. I thought it would be a nice easy one for a canvas as we had one spare.

Alice wanted to go right round the edge of the stem and I didn’t want to stiffle her creativity.

We worked through a few colours with wet-wipes on hand. She wasn’t that keen on this activity as didn’t like the paint on her fingers so if we try another like this might have to try a sponge printer instead.

Not quite what I envisioned but it looks quite pretty and it is her work.

Then I felt we should do a bit of wild baking as I’ve neglected to any with Alice. Amy is good about doing baking with her but I don’t tend to do as much. So settled on as basic bee bun.

Bright yellow icing.

Not the best decoration. No bake off for me yet. But we had fun doing it together The buns were tasty. The icing was disgusting. Cutting the top of them as we eat them.

We carried on with the cooking making use of some of our own veg. I’ve read and seen people, particularly Aaron Bertelsen of Great Dixter praising lettuce soup. Now Alice has been picking off lettuce from the patch as they grow. She tries to sneak them out when she thinks I’m not looking.

And the birds and possibly next doors cat have been nibbling so the lettuce is a bit patchy. I need to net it again. So the lettuce soup seemed like a good plan to use it up as the family wouldn’t see how patchy it was.

I managed to get enough lettuce out of the patch. Then a potato, 3 cups of water, salt, black pepper, onion, garlic and corriander went in the soup maker.

This was apparently popular with the French aristocracy and it may have been suited to a banquet as a starter that leaves you unsatisfied but I don’t think I’d use the recipe I tried today again. Alice ate it but it took a bit of persuasion. Mainly bribery with one of the buns we’d made earlier.

Having had failures at cooking I thought we’d try for an easy craft activity making a flower crown. Having made a mess of tape and wire Amy sorted it out.

I’ll stick to growing the flowers and leave arranging to others. Alice was happy with her crown once Amy had corrected it.

Now she was ready for being a flower fairy we headed to the park. The den we found earlier in the week had been knocked down. We’re not sure if it has been knocked down by other kids or by the council for safety. We propped it back up into a seating area and left the roof off.

I spotted what I think was a treecreeper. They are common enough birds but I’ve never noticed them there before. Since I started in 30 days 4 years ago I do find I notice much more of what is around me to appreciate.

And Alice wanted a bit of time to dance in the park. She is at the age of lots of twirling and dramatic arms for dancing.

A fully packed day. It left her totally zombified after her walk. Maybe a slower pace needed tomorrow.

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National Allotments Week

This week is National Allotments Week. This is organised by the National Allotment Society. With people having smaller gardens in new builds and pressure to remove allotments for new housing it seems nice to celebrate the allotment. That little space where Brits have escaped to for many years. The first were established in the 1700’s for the use of the poor. By the name Victory Gardens they played a role in digging for victory in the World Wars. Now with a young child I don’t have the time needed for an allotment. I’m still getting on top of my own garden. But my parents do and they have donated various fruit and veg. So to celebrate National Allotment Week I have attempted a rhubarb and apple crumble using the recipe here.

The variety of apples my parents have grown are supposed to be a cross between an eating and a cooking apple depending on when you pick them. So we’ll have to wait and see whether they are tasty or disgusting in the crumble.

The crumble mix felt suitably crumbly before going on.

The finished result. My parents are visiting tomorrow and since they donated the apples and rhubarb I think I will have to save it for them to test. Just crisp it up a little bit more. So we’ll see what do you reckon will it be delicious or totally inedible?

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Apple Picking-Robert Browning

A quick poem linked to the apples.

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Garden update

The long tailed tits have been back again. They are gradually becoming more comfortable with me being around allowing me to get a bit closer for clearer photos than last time.

30 days of wild; day 25-garden watch and a wild drink

Today I have been sat working in the kitchen with the patio doors open working to check over my classes evidence for Local Authority moderation tomorrow. I decided while doing this I’d keep a tally of visible species. As with the RSPB gardenwatch I’ve only recorded the highest number seen at once.

The work I’ve done trying to make the garden more wildlife friendly over the last year is really showing.

Over a two hour period of putting my head up from my work every so often I’ve seen:


  • blackbirds 2
  • coal tit 1
  • starlings 6
  • common gull 1
  • sparrows 3
  • pigeon 3
  • jackdaws 3
  • collared dove 1
  • goldfinches 2
  • wren 1
  • long tailed tits 2

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    • Carder bee
    • White tailed bumblebee
    • red tailed bumblebee
    • carder bee
    • honey bee

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  • Speckled wood
  • Small tortoiseshell
  • Small white

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Now most of these species are fairly common to gardens. However these were spotted between about 10 and 11 in the morning. Not a prime time for birding. I wasn’t watching the whole time, so there is a chance there were other species. What this shows is from last year when I moved in the efforts I’ve made are working. Just a small amount of planting and providing homes and food for various wildlife has improved the biodiversity enormously. If everyone contributes that little bit in their garden it all comes together to allow us to coexist in our gardens alongside some spectacular wildlife.

To relax while checking over books I thought I’d try another wild act making a cup of nettle tea. I collected a mug of nettles from the wilderness behind the garden and boiled with 2 cups of water. Once boiled it loses its sting. Nettle tea apparently has many benefits for skin, health and urinary tracts. I can’t comment on that side yet, but it tasted pleasant enough.

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While collecting nettles I disturbed this rather interesting looking moth. I think it’s a small magpie, but the world of moth identification is a much bigger one than butterflies or birds, so may be wrong.

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30 days wild 2017: day 7-read a wild magazine

Today started early with Alice awake just before 5. This gave time for half of springwatch. I’m enjoying the coverage so far. Though I think I possibly like Brett Westwood on the live updates and unsprung more than the main show.

Looking in the garden the rain had brought out lots of flowers. I have a single bloom on my rather straggly clematis.


I had a pot of what was meant to be sunflowers. However I think the birds raided it early on and it now has borage growing out of it. So I have accidentally ticked another wild act. Borage is loved by bees and should see lots of visitors.

In work I added some extra feeders to the bird feeder I added yesterday. Already I’ve seen sparrows, starlings, blue tits, pigeons and a pied wagtail investigating the area. We also have house martins swooping over the area, which are nice to see.


The kids have been stuffing the bug hotel with cut grass and leaves to encourage more bugs to settle in.


Then dinner time completed my planned wild act to read a wild magazine. I’d gone with the BBC wildlife magazine, always an enjoyable read. I read the puffins article and part of the orangutan feature. I saw a few books I fancy as future purchases in the review section.


Boxing day

After a busy day of back and forth to Hornsea for Christmas day boxing day was assigned as a chill day at home to recover from colds.

We had a quiet morning. Alice had a play with her new Noah’s Ark from her granny and granddad Johnson. Each of the animals makes the right noise when placed in the right place and it has a mini piano on the roof. The only oddity being the giraffe. The designers were obviously unsure what to do for an animal with no voice box, so gave it a horse sound.

Sound of a giraffe link.


After breakfast (an hour long procedure with Alice at this point) we got a few more pictures hung in the house. Since moving in pictures have set leant against walls with us unable to find the time to get them up. So we got a few more hung, until we ran out of hooks.

Then we had a feast of leftovers for lunch. We have been trying the chutney I previously made from the apples in our garden. The recipe from has been lovely. The spices make it taste suitably festive.


We tried Alice around the house in my Christmas present, the baby howdah. Of all the ways to travel this has to be one of the best. Carried around by a slave parent in the lap of luxury, at a better height to see everything. Alice seemed to like it. I look forward to getting her out in it for more adventures.

The straps seem to support well, so hopefully will be comfortable for walking.



Alice had a nap and we managed an episode of Christmas bake off and a Christmas drink each.


Alice woke up with lots of energy.

A nice settled day at home.


Today Amy has gone out and I am home marking. While marking I have set up our tea in the slow cooker. We have had an abundance of apples from our fruit and veg box from the local grocers. So in the slow cooker today we have pork and apples cooking in pear cider. Hopefully be scrumptious.


I’ve also had a go at cooking apple chutney using the apples from our garden. It used up all the of our tiny apples. Next year hopefully cultivate them a bit better and give the tree a bit more love than it has had under renting tenants.

I used the recipe from farm on the hill’s blog. I used cider rather than vinegar.

So while I got on with my marking had this simmering away. It smells delicious, but have to wait a month or so to see if it.