Archives for posts with tag: Nature Month-by-Month

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.

 

My sister and I used to love making ‘petal potions’ when we were younger. It was the kind of activity my grandmother encouraged because it involved a little time outside looking closely at plants and then a lot of fun and mess in the kitchen afterwards which kept us out of mischief inside while my grandmother got on with her sewing.

It’s the kind of activity you can do even on a rainy day in spring, as you don’t need to be outside for long to gather what you need. A quick race out into the garden, and you can easily gather enough petals, leaves and small flowers. Remember to ask first in case your parent or carer doesn’t like the idea of you picking flowers. It’s easiest and safest to go for things like daisies, buttercups, dandelions and other wildflowers that are around at this time of year such as the ones I mentioned in my last post. You can add grass to your potions too.

Here are some of the flowers in my garden right now. They are, from left to right: magnolia, primrose and camellia. As long as you are careful and don’t pick too many, you could add any of these into a potion. You would only need one or two of each flower and a few leaves to make three or four potions.

Once you have chosen your flowers, leaves, herbs, grasses and so on, bring everything you have gathered indoors and lay it out on a table or work surface. Then ask for some empty jam jars. If you haven’t got any then you can use drinking glasses. (It’s best to use something see-through so that you can get the best effect from your potion.)

Half-fill the jars with tap water, then put your petals and so on into the water and give everything a gentle stir.

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Abracadabra! You’ve made a potion!

The sweetest-smelling potions are made from flowers like roses or from herbs with a strong scent such as mint or rosemary. But you might be going for colour rather than perfume, so choose what you like. It’s up to you!

If you don’t have a garden, ask if you can take a few petals or herbs from any pots you might have on the windowsill or patio.

And if you don’t have any pots at home, you can make weird and wonderful potions with other things that you might be able to find in the kitchen cabinet, such as food colours, small amounts of rice and seeds. If you add bicarbonate of soda to your jars, they will bubble over and look like magic witchy potions!

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Whatever you do today, stay safe and well – and remember never to drink your potions!

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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.

 

I must admit that this week has been tough. I have not found it easy to do anything, least of all write. A lot of my fellow writers have said the same: it is hard to concentrate at the moment. And I am sure you are feeling like this too if you are trying to do schoolwork and are sick of being indoors.

And then I heard a lovely snippet on the radio of a woman encouraging us to look more closely at the small things in life. She said that it would be good for us to focus and concentrate on something as everyday as a pebble or a leaf or a petal. She went on to say that if you look carefully and make yourself notice everything about the object, you will find yourself feeling calmer. She also suggested drawing the object, spending time trying to get all the details right.

So I went for a walk and took some photos of the lovely things around me.

I spotted this beetle on a rock. I love the way the sun is catching its shell. Drawing it was fun as I focussed on trying to get that lovely shine on its back. I think it is a Bloody-Nosed Beetle, judging from my spotter’s guide, but if you think it is something else, please let me know in the comments section!

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My spirits lifted this week when I saw how many beautiful wild flowers are starting to bloom. Look at this delicate bluebell unfurling:

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If you just walked by without looking closely, you might think that a bluebell is just purple, but when I looked carefully I saw that there was actually a shade of blue in those petals as well as more than one shade of purple.

And the pretty Common Dog Violets caught my eye:

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As did these Common Stitchwort:

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So if you are starting to get bored with the same old walks and activities, why not try changing your perspective by getting up close to some objects or flowers that you would normally walk right past without noticing? And have a go at drawing them. You might feel calmer as a result.

Whatever you do this weekend, stay 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 local bookshop can take orders over the phone and post books out to you, too. Give them a call!

 

 

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.