Secret Seed Swap 2018

https://www.whatyousow.co.uk/pages/secret-seed-swap

Today I encountered the seed swap. The basic idea is you register. You are sent an address. You choose seeds you have collected or bought and send them on. In return you recieve a suprise seed packet from a stranger. To add another dimension people create their own seed envelopes. Looking at the website some of these are mini works of art. A lovely idea for bringing gardeners in the digital age together.

Once you recieve the seeds you can post progress growing using the hashtag #secretseedswap

Registration is open through January. I’ve registered. Now the hard choice of what to send.

Forget me nots

Forget-me-nots cannot be kept out of any garden and no one would want to banish them completely, although they are sometimes too generous with their offspring. I do not feel kindly towards them when I find seedlings coming up everywhere but when later they turn themselves into a haze of blue that fills every space and melts into the flowers around them, I am grateful for their persistence.

Margery Fish-Cottage Garden Flowers 1961

Forget me nots are returning to the garden for the second seeding of the year. I planted a small patch last Autumn knowing they would self seed and fill any gaps. They are fulfilling there role well suppressing weeds that would otherwise grow.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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30 days of wild: Day 4 butterfly banquet, music in the gardens

Today I used the 30 days app to assign a random act of wild. The first that came up was simple enough to feed the butterflies. So as we had some over ripe fruit in the bowl out it went for the butterflies. I haven’t seen any takers today, but from previous experience the butterflies tend to like the fruit when it’s gone a bit pungent. As there are plenty of flowers in bloom currently the butterflies may not be interested. However in Autumn leaving out fruit in this way can really benefit the butterflies.

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Then this afternoon we headed out to the memorial gardens. Hornsea has a new band stand and there are musical events planned across the Summer. Today was the Driffield Silver Band.

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There was a good turn out. Many people came to enjoy the music and sun. Alice wanted to get a bit closer to the action.

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Her cousins joined her, although not sure what they made of the brass music from their faces. But I rather it was rather jolly.

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So Evie and Alice went to explore more of the gardens.

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Then back for another barbecue in the sun, more eating out. Tomorrow I return back to work, so it will be time to start 30 days wild with my class.

One last picture from my own garden today. The garden is full of dragonflies at the moment and this one obligingly posed on one of the roses in glorious full bloom.

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A morning stroll

This morning me and Alice took a stroll out to let Amy get some more rest. We headed out across town to Hornsea Mere. Alice has been fascinated the last week any time we go under the shade of trees her head darts about looking at the branches excitedly. As we came along the path to the mere she had the double excitement of branches and bird song.

 

The mere was looking stunning this morning with the sun reflecting off the water. Beautiful blue sky and a slight breeze.

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A great variety of ducks, geese and seabirds were resting in the sun. I’m going to need to work on my identification skills seeing a greater variety. I can pick out the mute swan, the canada goose, but too many of the others are just duck currently. There are also lots of faster moving smaller birds which I think are sand martins, but my lens isn’t able to take a decent photo at the distance.

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The waters edge has some lovely wild flowers keeping the bees happy.

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We then walked home back along a section of the Trans Penine trail along the old railway track and seafront. Not too bad for a gentle morning stroll.

 

Start a wildflower meadow

Continuing my RSPB home for nature plan I have set aside an area in the front garden for a wildflower meadow. Wildflowers creates a feast for bees, butterflies and other insects. From that it gives the birds another supply of food. There also very attractive looking.

RSPB link

The patch chosen is a little strip alongside the front path. It had nothing growing of any major use. A couple of dandelions, but no great variety for attracting insect life.

I started by turning over the soil and taking out the couple of dandelions.

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I broke up the soil to make it finer. Wildflower mix will generally find a way to grow, but might as well make it easier to take.

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I added a thin layer of compost from the heap to give the soil a layer of fresh nutrients. The soil in my garden is mainly clay, so the compost will hopefully help the flowers a little further.

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Then scattered a box of wildflower mix, a bag of seeds from the friends of the earth bee pack then a few poppy seeds and other seed packs.

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Lastly walked over to step it in and watered.

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I was concerned that it was too late in the year but watching a gardeners world episode it encouraged setting up an area pretty much any time except late Autumn and early Winter, so we’ll see what happens.

Currently we have not moved into the house so took across one bird feeder from the current house to see what comes in. So far just pigeons, but at this point of the year most birds will find their own food while insects are plentiful. We are by the sea, so slightly concerned that the seagulls will scare away some of my favourite garden birds, but will have to wait and see.

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I’ve potted some lavender. I like lavender as an insect attracting flower and cat repentant (don’t want the birds eaten), but it does badly in clay soil, so I’ll see if it can manage in pots.

I’ve added a insect home and butterfly home ticking off another home for nature activity.

Build a bee B&B

The garden is currently pretty wild, which I’m in favour of, but mainly just for slugs and snails. So I’ve worked on clearing the dandelion forest to claim a flower bed back. A good afternoons work digging and turning over.

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I’ve got some ivy ready to continue adding to the  on the fence. Very important for many moth species, spiders and giving some further cover.

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And a butterfly enjoying the garden.

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The petition is gradually growing.  Please continue to share and support.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/161489

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A new garden

Me and my partner, Amy, are set to move house. While we’re very happy in our current house it just isn’t going to be big enough as Alice gets bigger. Amy has a house in Hornsea, a small seaside town on the North East Coast. It has been rented for the last few years while she was living in Indonesia and then at mine. Her tenant has now moved out and we are set to move next month. We went to check out the house today. I’m excited to get to work on the garden. The flower beds are a bit heavy on the dandelions. It needs a bit of love and attention to encourage a greater variety of wildlife than the mass number of slugs and snails currently.

It already has some lovely flowering bushes. A good collection of roses and a small apple tree.

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The roses are looking good.

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With a bit of love and attention maybe get enough apples for a crumble.

The back is a bit bare currently. We need a rail around the decking for when Alice is walking. A few pot plants will add some colour and get some wildlife closer to the house. I reckon one of the bird feeders can go up this end close to the house so I can see through the windows in the kitchen.

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There are two bays for vegetables at the side of the house, but there pretty shaded. Considering a mud kitchen for Alice.

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Various flowers.

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The shed has been overtaken by a rose currently. Unfortunately we need to replace the shed at some point so it will need cutting back but currently it is festooned with pollen beetles (identified thanks to the 30 days of wild facebook group)

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Being a wet grey day the snails were out in force.

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I’m looking forward to getting to work. We’ve got a good compost heap at the bottom which looks like it has some compost ready at the bottom for me to use. I’d like some trellis to put some more wildlife cover along the edge. The trees need a bit of care to encourage some upward growth. I’d like a small water area somewhere. I don’t want to go for the full pond while Alice is little, but can at least have a small water feature somewhere. I’m hopeful for a greater diversity of birds than my current garden gets. There is a nice passageway behind of hedges, so there is the possibility of hedgehogs or foxes. Within Hornsea there is a mere where bats sly, so may look at getting  a bat box up. A whole new world of wildlife possibilities.

Trying out apps

Spent the last few days playing around with the pl@nt net app. The plant net app works by you taking a photo then it compares with its database to see what matches. It then brings up a list of what organ you have photographed: leaf, flower, fruit, bark, other. So far just tried flowers and leaves. It seems more confident on flowers than leaves. The app was developed in France and designed with wildlfowers in mind rather than ornamental flowers from the product description. Although so far I’ve found it better with garden flowers than wild flowers.

After playing around for a few days it currently doesn’t seem that great at identifying unless you already have a vague idea of what it is already. However the app is reliant on contributions from users. So in theory it should get better as it is used more, so I will persist to see if it improves over time.

Here are a few of my submissions.

It knew the rose campion.

It identified the fuchsia, but it gave quite a few suggestions before the fuchsia came up. I thought this would be an easy one with the distinctive shape and contrasting shades of pink and purple, but it wasn’t the first suggestion.

It wasn’t sure of this, but neither am I.

The poppy it identified as the first result.

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The woodland trust have created a tree id app which I would like to try. However it is only currently available for apple devices. It is due out for android later in the Summer.

One of my favourite apps from the last month is sadly defunct. The Great British Bee app is now inactive. I did however manage what I reckon has been my most detailed bee photo yet.

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Day 30+1 or -364 days-Staying wild

Well the day after the official end of the  30 days of wild sees me reflecting on the month and the year ahead. Obviously for most people who are involved in nature this is a life long obsession, for all the year, not just a month. For those who are enjoying nature note from this month hopefully they will continue. But for me my social media and blog level will undoubtedly drop from the more intense daily posts. I have loved being part of the Facebook group. My wall has been flooded with beautiful and amazing photos all month. This was a welcome distraction from the news this month. There have been some wonderful heart warming stories of people re-engaging with nature, people tackling depression with exploring nature more, people sharing their super activities with their children. This simple idea from the Wildlife Trust offers so much for so little. While I have bought some new seed, bird food and a trail cam. Most of the positive experiences from 30 days cost nothing, just taking the time to look and appreciate what is there already. So thank you Wildlife Trust.

Looking to the future I have lots of ideas for next year for when Alice is a year old and can start having more involvement with the 30 days.

I am continuing to develop my knowledge of the outside world with a free course on soil.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/soils

Within my job as a teacher it has made me consider what I want to teach my class. I’ve always placed a high focus on outdoor play, but I want to take this further over the next year. I was put through quite a few forest school training courses when I first qualified, but haven’t used these skills enough, so need to rectify that.

Post EU referendum there are many environmental issues that will need to be addressed ad EU regulations are dropped. So I pledge to continue efforts to keep this world full of natural beauty so my daughter gets to experience it herself.

Looking back on the month I think my highlight has to be watching the foxes. Watching these animals has given me endless joy. I move house next month to Hornsea, a little town on the North East coast. So the next year will see more of exploring coastal nature. I’m also closer to Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head, so next year will aim for puffin photos.


Day 23-survey time

Today I had put aside the afternoon to teach my class about bees, their importance, identify several types and a look at bee anatomy. I had also planned in time for us to go outside and take part in the great British Bee Survey for Friends of the Earth as a class. I had previously scouted the field to see what types we were likely to see. I covered the identification of the white tail, honey bee, early bumble bee and wasp. Richard Louv talks about how identifying specific species is good for children in his book last child in the woods. Strangely looking at the different types did seem to be therapeutic for the children. Taking part in a survey will gain the children another point towards their RSPB wildlife action awards.

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illustration by Catherine Pape

 

 

Armed with clipboards and identification sheets we set out onto the school field ready to tally our sights. We took out a bin bag and the litter picker grabbing stick to help clear the field. We had read about how rubbish kills small mammals and they were keen to stop that happening. The children quickly tuned into looking at the tails as they realised we were mainly finding white tails and early bumble bees. On the whole they were pretty good at spotting an tallying fairly accurately (with the exception of one boy who thought everything was a wasp).

Returning to the classroom we looked at identifying the parts of the bee. They are rapidly developing super insect knowledge and more of them are using it when we’re out. They are gradually using more of the scientific language of habitat, prey, predators, herbivores, carnivores, thorax, abdomen, which is reassuring that some teaching is going in.

 

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We also found a super looking beetle. Flew off before I got a decent photo.

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And a nice looking wildflower.

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