Apples, apples, apples!

make apple juice kidsApple day is on the 21st October and a perfect time to see if you have any orchards near you with a special event.  There is one near us and every year they open up the orchard, you can pick apples to your hearts content and they have activities for the children as well.  I love finding places where we can participate in apple pressing too – love the tast of fresh apple juice!

It’s always worth keeping an eye on apple trees as you take walks so that when it gets to this time of year you can take advantage of the harvest (although if they are in someones garden make sure you ask before you pick!)

Connecting kids to the food that we eat is a really great way to get them out and appreciating nature.  And if you get some food in your belly, all the better!!  As some of the apples may be a bit sour look for some recipes to use them in like from here. Hmmmm apple muffins sound interesting!!

 

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October 20, 2012Permalink 2 Comments

Recording and observing

I’ll admit that I’m struggling to get my kids outside lately.  The house is starting to get chilly and we’re getting those first colds of the winter and all we want to do is snuggle up and watch a dvd!  I know we do feel so much better if we do get out, but it can be so hard can’t it?  I must try harder!

One idea I had that would be good to keep connected with nature even if you don’t want to get outside too much would be to start recording some data.  I’m thinking:

  • the times of the sunset each day,
  • the date of the first frost
  • the date when your favourite tree starts to change colour
  • perhaps when you stop seeing bats at night if you have them near you or hedgehogs
  • a graph of temperatures
  • any visitors to your garden

Just a couple of ideas there and if you look again next year you can see if any dates are wildly different.  What we used to do, although it was more in the summer when hedgehogs were out was to put food out and keep a note of the times the hedgehogs came to visit.  It was really interesting to watch!

So just a quicky update here.  Sorry for the absence!  I’m going to practice what I preach though and start recording some visitors to our garden to renew the excitement of the outdoors :)

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Go on a Fungi Walk!

Autumn is a great time to learn and search out fungi.  All that damp weather brings them out in spades and a quick walk around some woods will hopefully reveal them.

If you can’t find any, then keep going, sometimes they are so camouflaged that it can be really easy to miss them, but once you spot some you often find loads and loads after that!

Looking up what we have found.

Guided walks about this subject are great if you can find something local.  Being able to go for a walk with an expert who can enthuse and answer any quiestions is invaluable.  We recently went on such a walk with a ranger which was great.  They had loads of books we could look up and compare pictures of and they even knew of some edible varieties that we could safely taste (although do NOT do this if you are not 100% sure what you have).  It was the first time we’d ever tasted mushrooms in the wild (we tried Chanterelle mushrooms.)

Of course you don’t need an expert, you could just go for a walk and see how many different varieties you could find.  You could bring a camera and try and get a ‘mouse eyed view’ of fungi.  You could bring out a nature journal and try and find a particularly nice version to draw.

This photo was taken by my son a few years ago as a ‘mouse eyed view’!

The best thing about this time of year is that it may well be damp for a while so you can go on fungi walks for weeks to come!

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September 22, 2012Permalink 2 Comments

Is it berry picking time yet?

I never seem to get (black) berry picking season right.  I always think it *should* be around about October time but of course by then it’s completely over.  It doesn’t help that I don’t think I ever went berry picking as a kid, even now it feels really weird to go along a roadside and pick enough blackberries to take home and eat.

My kids do love blackberries though (unlike me) so every year we try and make an effort to pick some.  It’s a great excuse to get outside and go searching along pathways you haven’t been to before in any case!  To be quite honest I think it’s just me that is a little bit strange in not liking balckberries, I don’t think I’ve ever met a child who didn’t like them!  And with hands as pink as the ones above, I’m sure you’ll love them too ;)   The whole exercise is great for showing kids about where food can come from and that it doesn’t have to be restricted to the supermarket.

Much of the time we only ever pick enough to eat as they are, but there are also many ways that you can cook them or add them to things.  Summer pudding (recipe here is like the one we used) is really easy and only really requires bread, fruit and sugar.  Other ideas are jam making, apple and blackberry crumble/pie,or you could even make some Blackberry Bites like thes ones on this Cbeeebies page.  Loads of ideas, if you can get them out of those little pink hands first!

Right, we’re off to find some blackberries before I leave it too late again!  Hope we find some!

Image credit – Flickr TinyTall

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September 7, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

The simple pleasures of Autumn

It’s hard to believe that Autumn is here already.  The weather is still looking nice outside but the nights are drawing in and there is that little hint of things changing.

I have to say we’ve struggled slightly with our challenge to be outside every day.  Life did get in the way quite a lot with illness and accidents throwing us off course.  I do love autumn though and so will aim to keep up with being out as much as we can and bringing some ideas to you all.

So maybe if I start with the simple pleasures of autumn? This is what we are looking forward to:

  • Watching the leaves change colour
  • the nights drawing in
  • kicking fallen leaves as we walk along
  • going for a walk in the wind
  • picking berries
  • waiting for that first frost
  • watching the swallows dissappear

actually not sure I am looking forward to the swallows going, although when they come back it always feels nice so I suppose we need to let them go!

What are you looking forward to in autumn?  What’s your favourite season?

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September 4, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

Book review – Nick Baker’s Bug book

Nick Bakers Bug bookOver the years we’ve collected many, many books and recently we’ve begun acquiring nature related books with ideas of things to do and information we can learn from.  I’m going to start a book review series to bring you all ideas on great books to add to your collections!  There may even be a giveaway or two….

Nick Baker’s Bug Book is one we got last year after meeting the author at Bird Fair.  Now I’ll admit, bugs aren’t my most favourite thing, but get yourself with someone who is passionate about them and it opens up a whole new world.  This book is like having that passionate guide alongside you.

What I like most about  the book is the fact that although it is aimed at kids it doesn’t talk down at them and the information in the book would be perfect for an enthusiastic adult to start with too!  There is loads of information about different bugs, going in to all sorts of detail about them as well.

Nick Baker's bug bookThere are loads of experiments to get you involved, from making a pooter to raising butterflies, to making a worm farm.  We’ve only just scratched the surface of what this book can do in our house!  And all of it comes with great clear pictures and photographs.

What comes out most though is the author’s enthusiasm and that is priceless when dealing with things like bugs as that can easily descend into revulsion and fear.  Fascination is definitely the way forward and anything that helps that is fine by us!

disclaimer – we already own this book and all views are my own.  The link above is an amazon affiliate link and if you buy through there I do get a small percentage.  Thanks!

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August 25, 2012Permalink 2 Comments

Great days out – go on a boat trip

Ok, this one is unlikely to be a free day out, but it’s an enjoyable way to get some fresh sea air, or maybe just country air ;)

Often when we’re on holiday we like to do a boat trip somewhere, I love being by the sea and going on it and it’s a great way to see some nature that you might not be able to get so up close and personal with normally!

This year we were in Northumberland near the Farne Islands and it just so happened to coincide with the time that Puffins were on land.  Hmm, that was lucky huh?  So as a birthday treat for my husband we had a fantastic trip round there and saw so many sea birds from puffins to razorbills, guillemots to terns.  We even saw some seals out there too.

wildlife bird boat trip

Enjoying the sea air!

sea birds on a cliff

Puffins – one of my favourites!

 

Of course you don’t need to go to the coast for a boat trip.  You could try a canal trip, or a river cruise.  Why not have a look around nearby and see if there is anything close by so you don’t have to wait until holiday time!

Or how about slowing right down adn canoeing or kayaking?  One of our dreams is to go kayaking around the cornwall coast, how amazing would that be to take kids on?  Fresh air and exercise!  They’d definitely sleep at night!

I’d love to hear your recommendations for good trips too if you have any.  If you do, why not leave a comment or get in touch via facebook or twitter?

 

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Pond Dipping!

kids pond dipping family

We love going pond dipping and have done it many times in the past.  We often go along to reserves or organised events as it’s great to have experts on hand to identify things.  I actually volunteer myself now at said events, and love to pass on what knowledge I have with kids.  A fantastic feeling!

pond dip bird fair celebrity birdfair

At BirdFair last year we even got to Pond Dip along side Nick Baker!

Never pond dipped before?  Well this is what you need to do:

You need:

a net

a tray or washing up bowl to empty your catch in to

an ID book or sheet (this is a good website to look at)

possibly a smaller container or shallow bowl and a plastic spoon

some hand sanitiser for afterwards!

 

  • You need to have some pond water in your tray/bowl so that anything you catch can swim around so first of all add some water to that.  If you have a shallow bowl put some water in that and keep to one side.
  • Get your net and swish it round the water in a figure of eight movement.  It’s ok to get in among weeds, but try not to disturb any mud at the bottom.
  • Once you’ve swished take the net out and empty it all into the tray.  Do this as soon as possible as the creatures need the water to live!
  • Get looking!  See if you can see anything moving around and if you find anything you can use the spoon to transfer it to a smaller container to look better at it (the tray can fill up with weeds and muddy water sometimes)
  • Identify it!  See if you can identify what you have found.
  • Keep dipping, until you have had enough!
  • Make sure at the end you empty the trays back in the water gently so the animals can get back to where they need to be.

And lastly make sure you wash your hand afterwards!  Common sense I know :)

ramshorn snail pond dip

We found a large ramshorn snail!

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Photography challenge 2 – All the colours of nature

So the challenge for the last couple of weeks has been to get outside and try and capture some colours in nature with the camera.  We wanted to try and get every colour in the rainbow, or maybe even a rainbow itself!

Unfortunately no rainbows were to be seen when we had the camera, so we headed ot one evening and had a lovely walk in the fading sunshine, which just made for some lovely pics.  Here is what they came up with.

DS (age 12)

Red poppy

Red

Pink / Red

Yellow

Green holly leaf red edge

Green

Blue sky with diagonal plane trail

Blue

 

And from DD (aged 10)

Red leaf with brown

Red

Birds foot trefoil yellow

Yellow

Blackberry green leaf sun through

Green

Plae train in the blue sky

Blue

Purple lavender

Purple

cluster flowers pink

Pink

It was amazing the colours that were found when we took the time to really look up close.  Who would think that holly leaves would sometimes have an edge of colour all the way round them?  Or that those white flowers look a beautiful pink when you look close.

Summer is the perfect time to see the riot of colour so why not take the camera out and see what you can find?  If you want to link up with me then leave me a comment and I’ll add your link into this post.   Huge thanks to Jax from LiveOtherwise and Big for their contributions from their camping trip last week!

Also if you want to try out our last photography challenge then look here where we were exploring patterns in nature.

So next challenge?

We’ve been really enjoying this challenge, it gives up focus to have a nice walk out and slows us down to look for things.  So, the next theme will be WATER!  Rain, river, stream, sea, puddle, splashes – what can you find to take a picture of in nature?

 

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Star gazing – Perseid Meteor Shower

There’s nothing like gazing up at the stars to while away an hour or so on an evening.  It can make you feel so small and insignificant, but in a good way!  In August there is an amazing meteor shower that comes round each year called the Persei Meteor Shower.  (or more likely in this house they get called Percy wotsits!)

This year, in 2012, the peak of the shower is from August 11th to August 13th so if it’s clear skies then do have a look outside.

  • Make an evening of it perhaps?
  • Grab a picnic blanket and lay on the ground looking at the sky.
  • Maybe set up a tent in the back garden and have a proper evening outside.
  • Or just wrap up warm with blankets and sit on the chairs and have a good natter while looking at the stars!

image credit – Evosia (flickr)

While you’re out there you can try and identify some constellations.  Two of the easiest ones I think there are to find are the Plough, which is like a giant scoop, and Cassiopeia which is a little bit like a W.  I think this year I’ll aim for us to recognise something new.  We’ll take it a little bit at a time!!

The BBC have a good guide on their site too which, if you’re like me is great as I need all the help I can get when it comes to stars!  But really spotting a shooting star is easy and oh so satisfying, so when they predict up to 60 an hour you’ve got to give it a go and see if you can see some eh?  Plenty of opportunities to make a wish as well.

I’d love to know i you see any, do comment or keep in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

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