Winter feeding

The last month has been busy with Christmas preparations beginning. The disaster that is my Nativity play has begun. So blogging has been low of late. But now I’m getting past deadlines. Quite a bit has been happening in my garden and progress has been made on my school outdoor area, which I will try to update during the next few weeks.

After thick snow descended on Thursday the garden has been well coated with ice on snow. It had just thawed on Saturday. This has left the garden with lots of hungry birds struggling to find food.

Through Winter it’s important to help the birds. The water sources freeze, so I’ve been trying to get out to crack the ice in the bird bath. The food I put out disappears quickly. The seed goes in a few days. So as well as the seed I try to keep the peanut feeders filled with either peanuts or suet pellets. These seem to last a bit longer than the seed. So even when it’s been a busy week and I haven’t got out to replenish the seed I’m still leaving something for the birds.

Haith’s have been helping me out as they sent me a bag of their help to fly Autumn/Winter mix to review. This is a seed mix with high energy and oil content to  help give birds that fat and energy they need to survive the Winter. Haith’s bird food is put through a cleaner process. The grain dust created during harvest can be damaging if seed is not cleaned. Much of the bird food you buy won’t be cleaned in this way.

Haith’s sent me a bag of both the cleaned and the unclean mix. I wonder if from the photo you can spot the difference?

On the left is the cleaned and the right the unclean. I was surprised at how much of a difference I could see in the two batches. While I’m not able to do the test taste to appreciate  the difference I’m sure the birds will appreciate it at this time of year when food is scarcer.

Before filling the feeders I also gave them a good clean out. I’ve talked about it before, but it is important to clean feeders to limit disease spread.

Before I’d left the garden the birds were already sneaking in, clearly ready, for a feed.

Over the day I’ve seen a good mix of visitors: sparrows, great tits and blue tits got in to test it first. Then pigeons, starlings and jackdaws followed. Then had wrens, dunnocks and robins in and out.

Then a few herring gulls came in, although not for the seed.

Alice has enjoyed getting out to explore the garden again after several days of frost. She checked in on the bug hotel and gave the flowers a sniff.

Thanks again to Haith’s for sending the bird food to review. The birds seem to be enjoying it. It’s been nice to get out briefly into the garden and then sit in doing data input while looking up to see the birds enjoying the new seed.

Fireworks

We headed last night to one of Amy’s sisters houses to watch fireworks. Alice had good fun chasing cousins in the dark.

Alice claimed her cousins phone.

Alice was interested in the first few sparkling fireworks, then the first loud bang led to tears and us retreating inside.

By this point she was too tired and just wanted to hang onto me.

All still a bit much for Alice this year. Maybe by next year she might be ready for the later night and loud explosions, but she had a nice time until tiredness crept in.

School garden

Over the Summer the allotment section of my outdoor area had become quite overgrown. I’d been working gradually to weed it with the kids, but it needed  a decent chunk of time in one go. So on Thursday I got into school during the holiday to get the garden back on track.

The garden is overlooked by magnificent trees, which I’m grateful to have, but means a lot of time is spent on clearing leaves. Luckily the kids quite like doing this and I’ve set up a leaf box, so next year we should have some lovely leaf mould. Monty Don would be pleased. This was the garden at the start of Thursday.

The first allotment section I’ve dug over and put weed matting down. Then going to use the tyres as planters. These are going to be used for fruit and veg. It’s important to show the kids where our food comes from and they’ll enjoy eating something they’ve grown.

The middle section I’ve moved around the existing plants. The plan for this section is to have a garden section of shrubs and flowers requiring little maintenance. So I’m adding shrubs and flowers that will suppress weeds and will gradually fill the space. We had several patches of rosemary that have been doing well. I’ve put the three together to hopefully grow into a bush. Then lavender next to these. I dug in plenty of grit for drainage. These should be fine with the Summer holiday where they will be neglected of watering everyday.

Along the back I’ve got four conifers to give us some greenery through the year. There only meant to be small varieties, but have plenty of space to move them if they get too big. Then in front of them a number of hebes, again to give us some greenery through the year and the flowers are beloved by many insects. Mainly small varieties, so we can still see across the two playgrounds.

The front I’d planted daffodils with the children. I like doing a few bulbs with the children as they learn to wait for that long term pay off next year.

The third section I’ve just dug over for now apart from the dwarf apple tree I planted earlier in the year. This has established well. This last allotment section I’d like as an orchard, so I’m going to look at a few more dwarf fruit trees. I reckon I can fit four in. Again this will teach the children more about where our food comes from. Again once it’s set it won’t involve too much maintenance. As it was four large allotment sections is too much work to do with the children. Hopefully how I’ve set it now the children should be able to be involved in the upkeep and see some rewards for their work later next year.

The water butt has some willow cuttings I’d taken earlier in the term. Their starting to root now. We have a number of willow tunnels and structures, but some are looking the worse for wear. Hopefully the cuttings can help build them up again or be used to extend the structures.


Not a bad days work. While it may not look like much now. Give it a year and it should be looking more like an area the children can be proud of. While I’ve been busy working Alice had a nice day out at the deep in her Halloween costume. She loved the fishes, running from tank to tank in excitement. She’s that little bit older than last time, so could enjoy it better.

Farm trip

Today we visited an apple event at a local farm. Apple pressing and baked goods were on offer.

We went for a nice walk out from the farm.

A little way along we came to a tributary of the River Hull. I saw a brief flash of blue as a kingfisher disappeared.

We settled down on the bank for lunch.

Owl boxes have been set around to encourage nesting.

Alice had a good attempt at copying a neigh from the horse.

I saw my wildflower for the weekend: poppies and chamomile.

In a gypsy caravan Alice went for the biggest pumpkin on offer.

Autumn Sun

Today has been unusually hot. Lots of people sat out at the seafront pub. We got out for a walk along the front. Alice got out of her pram to walk the whole front.

The gulls lining up on the sea defences.

Alice had a good run.

In the park she had a good explore of the Autumn leaves. A lot of fun from the simple pleasure of throwing them. It’s the simple things in life.

Wildflower Hour-cow parsley

My wildlflower hour for this week is a common one; cow parsley. Part of the Apiaceae family alongside carrots, parsley and parsnips. The stems grow hollow up to around a metre. The flowers usually come out mid Spring to Summer, so most have gone over by now. Around Hornsea though there are still plenty flowering. A native species in the UK it provides a food source for many pollinators. This makes it an important link in helping support more species further up the food chain. Within the US it is considered invasive with its ability to make may seed heads in a single season a serious issue. Its sale is banned in some states.

Wildflower hour-Himalayan Balsam

A while back the environment agency were heavily cutting back along one of the drainage ditches near us. I’d wondered at the time, then realised this weekend. Watching gardeners world there was a feature on Himalayan Balsam. This non native species of flower became popular for its pretty flowers in gardens. However its seed pops and spreads quickly. This has led to it growing wild where it drowns out native species. The gardeners world feature discussed how rust is being introduced in sites across the country. This won’t kill it, but will limit the growth.

Made it to the mere for a quick walk around in the sun with Alice.

This swan had picked up some additional decoration.

The birds pay no attention to crossing that line.

And went for some headshots of the mallards.