Archives for posts with tag: National Trust

Last night we helped to carry out a bat survey on our house. This is because our roof is leaking and we need to fix it, but we had seen some bats flying around at dusk and we were worried about disturbing any that might be living in our roof space.

The “bat woman” came round and gave us this “bat phone”! We had to open a window and put the phone on the sill and then… wait!

The red bat detector, which is plugged into the phone, picks up the bats’ calls and then a little message comes up on the screen, telling you what type of bat has been spotted.

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We discovered that there are pipistrelle bats, brown long-eared bats and noctule bats in our garden. So far, it doesn’t seem as though the bats are living in our roof space, but we will do a second survey in a couple of weeks’ time to double check.

Bats are a protected species, so it is important for us humans to make sure that we do not disturb their nesting sites. If you want to help look after bats, ask if you can put up a bat box in your garden or get involved with the Bat Conservation Trust.

 

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Today is May Day – or Beltane. Both are festivals which celebrate the fact that summer is around the corner and the darkness of winter is finally past. We are now at the halfway mark between the spring and summer solstice: the evenings are longer and lighter and we are no longer waking up in the dark – so lots to be thankful for.

It might seem odd to be thinking of festivals during lockdown, but festivals are a good way of marking changes in the seasons. They give us pause to stop and take stock of where we are in our lives. It can be helpful to look outside, go for a walk and take time to notice how the trees and flowers are blooming, especially if you’ve been feeling low. 

Where I live, the bluebells are an intense blue now, the red campion has gone crazy and there are ox-eye daisies sprouting on the cliffs in places where you would not think a flower would be able to grow. I walked this way in the winter and had to hunch my shoulders against the howling wind and roaring sea and driving rain. It was a bleak and unforgiving place in winter. Today, it is warm and gentle and everything seems to be smiling down on me. I sat on the cliff this morning to write in my diary and thought how impossible that would have been in winter.

So, however bleak and unforgiving lockdown may be feeling for you right now (and believe me, it has done for me at times) try to take hope and comfort from the way Nature is celebrating the light and warmth. Nothing ever stays the same – there is always hope and new life around the corner. Nature knows this, and she’d like to show us if only we’d take a moment to stop, look and listen. Why not try doing that, this May Day?

 

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

 

Today, 22nd April, is Earth Day. This is a day to focus on what we can do to help the environment and protect our planet.

The first Earth Day was in 1970 – fifty years ago! It was set up by an American politician called Senator Gaylord Nelson because he thought it was important for children to be taught about the environment in schools. On this day (in “normal life” when schools are open and we don’t have to observe social distancing…) many schools get involved in local clean-ups in their streets, parks and along their rivers and coasts.

 

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Here are some things you could do to celebrate Earth Day:

1 Walk or cycle to get your daily exercise.

3 Turn off lights when you leave the room.

4 Turn off electrical appliances such as the TV, kettle and computer at the wall when you are not using them.

5 Try not to use a computer or the TV at all for just one day! (Difficult at the moment, perhaps, but what else could you find to do – it’s only one day…)

6 Take time to look at the trees, plants, birds and insects – you could do this from your window or doorstep. Make notes or drawings of what you see.

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7 Ask your parents if you can swap from chemical cleaning products to more environmentally friendly options. Did you know that you can do a lot of cleaning using natural things such as vinegar water and lemon juice?

8 Remember to take a cloth bag or a ‘bag for life’ when you go shopping to avoid using a plastic bag.

9 Did you know that meat production uses much more energy than plants? Try eating vegetarian food for one day. There are lots of delicious recipes to try – some are on this blog!

10 Take a refillable drink bottle out with you instead of buying water or juice in plastic bottles.

 

“…Sugar is sweet – and so are you!” So the traditional rhyme goes. I had no idea until last week, however, that you can actually make sugary sweets from these beautiful flowers…

I was shouting over a two-metre distance to my neighbour the other day – not because I was angry, but because that’s the only way to have a neighbourly chat right now! We were commenting on how beautiful the wildflowers are at this time of year. He told me that when he was a boy, his mum used to make sweets from the Common Dog Violet.

“What, like Parma Violets?” I said. “I don’t really like those.”

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“No, the homemade ones are much nicer!” he assured me. “They are like crystallised fruit, only made with petals instead.”

He then went on to tell me how to make them, so I did! And I am hoping that I might be able to include this recipe in the next edition of my nature almanac, Nature Month-by-Month which I will be starting on quite soon.

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In the meantime, here is what you need for the recipe:

One egg white

A plate of caster sugar

A small bunch of washed Common Dog Violets

A pair of tweezers or tongs

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And here’s what you do:

  1. Take the stalks off the flowers, leaving a small bit so you can grip it for the next step:
  2. Using the tweezers or tongs, dip a flower into the egg white
  3. Next, dip the flower in the caster sugar, taking care to cover it all over with sugar
  4. Set the flower on another plate
  5. Keep going until the plate is full
  6. Put the sugar-coated flowers in the fridge for a couple of days
  7. Use as decorations for cup cakes – or eat as sweets!
  8. Can be kept in a jar for a couple of weeks

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You can crystallise rose petals in the same way when the summer comes. Until then, keep safe and well and enjoy your homemade crystallised violets!

 

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Tonight is the start of the Jewish festival of Passover. I was just listening to a woman on the radio talking about the preparations her family normally make for the festival – cleaning the whole house from top to bottom, clearing out the fridge and freezer, getting rid of any food that has yeast in it… This year she said she felt strange celebrating a Festival of Freedom when she currently felt like a prisoner in her own home.

To all of you celebrating Passover, I wish you a Happy Pesach and am thinking of you as you are separated from family and loved ones at this difficult time.

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Tonight is also a beautiful Full Moon. It is a also a Pink Supermoon, and seeing as the night skies are so clear at the moment, we should all get a good view of it!

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Whatever you do this evening, I wish you well. Stay safe.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

 

If you’re getting bored of pasta, how about livening it up by making some homemade pesto to go with it, using plants from the woods or garden? Normally pesto is made with basil leaves, but you may not have any and it can be tricky to find in the shops at the moment. Don’t worry, though, pesto can be made from so many different leafy veg and herbs: the word “pesto” has nothing to do with the plants used in the recipe. It is an Italian word and comes from the verb “pestare” which means to pound or crush. Read on for ideas of the different herbs or tasty leaves that can be crushed up with oil, nuts and cheese to make a delicious sauce for pasta.

For example, right now there is a lot of wild garlic sprouting in the countryside and this makes excellent pesto. If you can easily walk to somewhere where the wild garlic is blooming, then fill your boots! (OK, maybe not your boots… Take a carrier bag with you instead.)

 

Or, if you enjoyed the nettle soup recipe that I posted a few days ago, you could have a go at nettle pesto instead! If you want to do that, you must plunge the washed stinging nettles into boiling water for a minute to get rid of the sting. Then drain the cooked leaves and then put them in between a couple of layers of kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess water.

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Now you can follow the recipe below, putting the cooked nettles in the whizzer (technical term for a food mixer…) and use all the same ingredients to make up your pesto:

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Wild garlic is also known as ramsons. The leaves can be wilted and used in place of spinach.

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Why not do a search for all the things you can cook with wild garlic or other green leafy vegetables? You’ll be amazed at the ideas out there. I have cooked quiches and omelettes with wild garlic leaves and also stirred them into curries and soups at the last stages of cooking. Even people who usually don’t like dark green leafy veg find that they love them mixed into other things. And they are super-healthy for us, packed with vitamins and minerals, which we all need right now!

Other leaves you can use for pesto are parsley (flat-leaf is best) or kale. And if you can’t get pine nuts then you could use toasted hazelnuts or almonds or walnuts. There are lots of hard cheeses that can be used instead of parmesan, too. Hard goats’ cheese is particularly yummy.

Whatever you cook today, have fun. And stay well.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

 

 

 

 

My children are no longer children really – they are 19 and 21. This is the first time in a very long time that all of us have been together in the house for more than a few days. We had a family meeting the other night to talk about how we were going to get along and not annoy one another! One of the things we decided was that we needed to give each other space occasionally, so whereas in Normal Life I might ask them to be sociable in the evening, we agreed that if they wanted to go off and FaceTime their friends or watch their own choice of TV in their rooms, that’s OK.

However, we also all thought it would be nice to have some planned family time where we come together to do something fun. There was a lot of enthusiasm for a movie night with popcorn. Luckily we have some microwave popcorn in the cupboard. You might have this, or you might be able to get hold of some popping corn the next time someone does the shopping. If you can’t find either then ask what you are allowed to cook with or make snacks with – be creative! Maybe you could go for a complete picnic as in the suggestions below:

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Make the room comfy – make a den, or even put up a tent if you are allowed! Get beanbags and sofa cushions and rearrange the room to make it cosy for everyone. Then grab your snacks and settle down to a film that all the family will enjoy. Here’s hoping we can all agree on what we want to watch now…

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

 

As we can go for only one walk a day – and many of us do not have access to the countryside in which to do this – I thought I would bring a bit of the countryside to you.

Last week when I was out walking in the woods near my house, I found these.

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I expect you’re looking at the photo and thinking, “Ugh! Why would you want to pick THAT up?”

Don’t worry, it’s not poo. They are owl pellets. And I picked them up using a small plastic bag that I had in my pocket. I also washed my hands after examining them back at the house.

The reason owl pellets are such an exciting find is that once you have carefully picked them apart (using tweezers, ideally) you’ll find all sorts of treasures inside. Like these:

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I have put a one pence piece next to these tiny skeletons so that you can see just how small they are. They are the skulls, jaw- and leg-bones of tiny mammals such as shrews and voles and mice. Judging from the information on the excellent Barn Owl Trust website, I think there are some field mice and field voles here. Not sure about the round skull – maybe it is a small bird? If anyone knows, please let me know! I think I might ask on Twitter and I’ll update this post if I find out!

Here is a selection of bones and skulls that my son has found from dissecting owl pellets over the years:

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Owls are out and about now in the early evenings and mornings, hunting for food. They don’t just hunt in the countryside, so maybe now that there is less traffic about, you will be able to hear an owl through an open window if you live in a town or city.

Below is an illustration of a tawny owl, drawn by Elly who is the illustrator of Nature Month-by-Month. Tawny owls call to one another: the female calls out “too-whit!” and the male answers: “too-whoo!”

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Once you are able to get out and about and explore again, tread carefully as you go through the woods, lanes and scrubland. You might be lucky enough to find your own owl pellets. They are easily recognisable as they are fluffy and grey. The fluff is all the undigested parts of the animals the owl has eaten. This is because owls swallow their prey and then regurgitate (or bring back up) the fur and feathers and bones which they don’t need or can’t easily absorb. As explained on the Barn Owl Trust website, these pellets are not droppings and they don’t smell at all. You can learn a lot about owls from dissecting the pellets to see what they have eaten!

If you would like to find out more about owls and other creatures who are getting busy now that spring is here, ask an adult to follow @foxcubstudio on Instagram – Elly is giving away copies of Nature Month-by-Month today!

Also you could ask an adult to follow Chris Packham over on Twitter at @ChrisGPackham. He is streaming a nature quiz most days to stop us from all going crazy while we are stuck indoors.

Whatever you do today, after you have taken a little bit of exercise with your family, remember to stay inside and keep safe and well.

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

NB The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the content from links added to this page. Please supervise your child’s use of the internet.

 

A lot of us are finding it difficult to get the ingredients which we normally enjoy to cook with. As I heard someone say on the radio, we are all going to have to get creative when it comes to how we cook and how we spend our time. So, over the weekend I started thinking about food that we might be able to find in our own gardens and back yards.

The one plant that immediately sprang to mind was the humble stinging nettle, as they are springing up all over the place at the moment. You might think, “Ugh! Horrible things!” It’s true that the nettle is seen as an annoying weed by gardeners, and no one likes to get stung by them while out walking or playing.

However, the leaves are full of goodness and are used as food by all sorts of creatures, including us humans!

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Nettles are packed full of vitamins: you’ll get vitamins A, C and K from them, as well as several B vitamins and also the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. When cooked, the flavour nettles give is similar to spinach. (In fact, I think they are tastier than spinach as they have a slighty nutty flavour, they don’t go slimy like spinach leaves and they don’t leave that funny furry sensation in your mouth as cooked spinach does!) So, I thought I would go out into the garden and pick some to make soup.

Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 10.11.13It was delicious and creamy and the whole family gobbled it up! Here’s the recipe from my almanac, Nature Month-by-Month, in case you’d like to try it. (Although I have put this recipe in the April section of my book, I found that there were already lots of nettles sprouting in my garden. It didn’t take long for me to fill a carrier bag.)

Remember to wear gloves when picking the leaves. Also you must wash them thoroughly before you cook with them. I spun them in a salad spinner after washing to get rid of excess water.Screenshot 2020-03-23 at 10.20.35Here are a few extra facts about stinging nettles. The scientific name for them is Urtica dioica. This comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn” because the leaves can cause a temporary burning or stinging sensation when you touch them with bare skin.

The Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettles to treat arthritis and lower back pain. Roman soldiers rubbed the leaves on themselves to help stay warm!

Many common garden butterflies, such as the red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell, lay eggs on stinging nettles.

So even if you don’t like the soup, maybe you’ll change your mind about the poor old stinging nettle now – not such an annoying weed after all!

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

NB The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the content from links added to this page. Please supervise your child’s use of the internet.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” He was a very clever man who knew about so many different things that he is sometimes referred to as a “polymath“.

Why not see how much you can find out about Aristotle today? He was alive well over two thousand years ago, but so much of what he said and wrote is still very true for our lives today. He had a wonderful teacher called Plato who is also just as relevant today as he was way back before the Common Era began.

Many philosophers and writers and religious leaders around the world have written and spoken about the importance of focusing on light rather than darkness. It can be hard to do this, especially when you are anxious. Sometimes it feels as though the darkness is winning – your head can feel full of black storm clouds.

Things might seem worrying right now, but try to remember that the sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening, the planet keeps turning and the seasons roll on. Today is a great time to “focus to see the light” because it is the spring equinox. This means that there will be exactly the same hours of daylight as there will be of darkness. I find that a very soothing thought – the darkness is not winning! From now on the days will get longer as we look towards the summer with warmer weather and happier times ahead.

Whatever you do today, try to spend some time thinking about the light. Get outside if it is safe to do so, look around you at the new green shoots appearing. Stop and listen to the birdsong. And if you see a neighbour, give them a wave and a smile. Take care.

 

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Nature Month-by-Month – a children’s almanac by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Elly Jahnz is published by Nosy Crow and The National Trust and is available to order online.

Your independent bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

NB The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for the content from links added to this page. Please supervise your child’s use of the internet.