Archives for posts with tag: nature almanac

All of a sudden I am noticing a lot more butterflies while I am out taking my daily exercise. Yesterday I saw orange tips, a large white, two speckled woods (who seemed to want to follow me!) and a common blue. We are also noticing caterpillars on the nettles. They are most probably the caterpillar of the red admiral or the tortoiseshell as those are the butterflies that like to lay their eggs on nettles.

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I have written about nettles before on this blog and also in my nature almanac – so many people hate them because they sting and also because they grow fast and clog up flower beds. But if you can leave a patch of your garden or allotment for nettles, you’ll be helping the butterflies, which has to be a good thing. (And don’t forget that in early spring you can make delicious nettle soup and pesto from the early shoots too!)

Why not take your nature notebook out on a walk and note down how many different types of butterfly you see – and where you see them too? If you go to the Butterfly Conservation website you can find out how to send them the information you have gathered. You’ll be doing a fantastically helpful job!

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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.

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.

At last! We can all go for longer walks and even meet a friend with whom to share the beautiful spring weather. Now that we are allowed to drive further to go for walks, there will be many of us who have been shut up in towns and cities who are desperate to visit the countryside. Most people in this country now live in urban settings, so even before the coronavirus kept us in our homes, a trip to the countryside was a treat rather than a normal part of daily life. This means that a lot of us don’t perhaps know that there are some helpful things we can do while we are walking to make sure that we don’t make life difficult for farmers and the animals and crops that they are taking care of.

When I was at school (a long time ago…) more people lived in or near the open countryside, so as well as learning about how to be safe in the town, we also learnt something called The Countryside Code. When I was researching things to put in the next Nature Month-by-Month book for 2021, I was surprised to find that this code still exists in exactly the same way that it did fifty years ago. When I mentioned it to my children, I discovered that they had not heard of it, so I thought it would be a good idea to put it in my next book. So here is a sneak peek of that page which will appear in next year’s book:

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I hope that you do manage to get out into the countryside this week and that you enjoy birdwatching and looking at all the beautiful wildflowers and the new leaves on the trees. If you do, remember to follow the simple code above as it will make your walk more enjoyable and you’ll be helping the wildlife and farmers too.

Stay safe and keep 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.

 

When I went out into the garden with my dog this morning, I saw two goldfinches on the grass! I very rarely see them so close up, so I stopped and made the dog sit quietly so that I could watch them.

It’s a good time of year to spot goldfinches, because they love the seeds that are around right now. They particularly love dandelions.

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Thinking of the goldfinches’ favourite food got me thinking about the sort of plants people call “weeds”. I am actually a big fan of weeds! My grandmother always used to say that “A weed is simply the name for a plant in the wrong place.” In other words, a plant is only a weed if you are a gardener who prefers a tidy garden – and I am certainly not that! My favourite places are wild patches of land where “weeds” come and go, depending on the season. And it seems that the birds agree.

Not only the birds, in fact. I read last week of a woman called Sophie Leguil who is going around London chalking the names of weeds on to the pavement next to where they are sprouting! She is taking photos of them and putting them on Instagram, too. Her idea is to teach people to look more closely at pavements, walls and building sites to appreciate the little bursts of beauty that Nature offers us in the most unexpected places. You can follow her at @more_than_weeds. Here is one of her recent posts:

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Wherever you go today on your walk, I hope that you spot something beautiful like a goldfinch or an unexpected “weed” to lift your spirits – a little flash of gold in the gloom.

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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.

 

“…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.

You’re probably having to do some lessons at home now. Baking is a great way to learn about weights and measurements while also being a fun and tasty activity that you can share with all the family!

These Ostara buns (also known as hot-cross buns, eaten at Easter) are traditionally made to celebrate the pagan festival of spring. They are delicious and comforting when eaten warm and with a bit of butter or non-dairy spread. They also freeze really well, so you could make a big batch and stick some in the freezer to enjoy later if you can’t get out to buy bread.

Why not make a few extra and take them round to a neighbour who hasn’t been able to get to the shops? You’ll be sure to raise a smile.

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If you haven’t heard of Ostara before, here’s a little bit of information. See how many other springtime festivals you can find out about! The news might be grim, but spring promises new life and growth, more daylight and the hope of better days to come – so it’s worth celebrating!

 

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Whatever you do today, stay well and keep 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.

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