Archives for posts with tag: nature notebook

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.

“…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.

Screenshot 2020-03-05 at 16.38.18March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. It feels that way today! The wind and the rain seem never ending this year. So much so that I couldn’t bring myself to write much last month, which is why there is no post for February. I know I am not alone in finding this winter hard: a lot of people have found this winter tough with horrendous flooding making life awful for so many of us up and down the country. So, let’s hope that the old country saying is right and that by the end of this month we’ll be basking in “lamb-like”, sunny, spring weather!

At least signs of new life are all around. Even on the greyest days you can find daffodils and primroses in the parks and gardens, and maybe magnolia and camellias too.

My favourite tree in the woods near where I live has kept me going this winter. I have loved going to visit it to see what a wonderful array of life there is inside the old tree stump, using the rotting wood for food and shelter. At first glance, it might look like a sad old broken thing…

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But if you look more closely, you’ll find that woodlice have burrowed deep inside the soft, rotting wood to make their homes, and wasps have been chewing away at the papery wood to make their nests. And those fungi are incredible! (Just remember not to touch them.)

Once I get outside, I am reminded daily of the lessons that Nature has to teach me. It sometimes feels as though I am being gently told to stop looking down at my feet and inside at my miserable moods, and to look up and outside of myself instead at the wonderful signs of life all around me.

I think that must be why there are so many hopeful festivals being celebrated around this world at this time of year. Today in Cornwall we are celebrating St Piran’s Day. St Piran is the patron saint of Cornish tin miners who spent so much of their lives deep down in the dark mines. He is a saint who gives hope as he was thrown into the Irish Sea by the kings of Ireland but is believed to have floated to safety to Cornwall! Other festivals this month which celebrate new life and hope are the Hindu festival of Holi, the pagan celebration of Ostara and the Muslim celebration of Isra and Mi’raj.

Finally, on 29th March we get an extra hour of daylight when the clocks “spring” forward one hour! So lots to look forward to as March marches on. Enjoy the extra light each day brings by getting out and about – and looking up and out, not down and in.

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There is an old country saying: “The blackest month of the year, is the month of Janiveer”. It’s true that although the days are getting a little longer, the mornings seem darker than ever. And some days the weather is so damp and dark and foggy that you could be forgiven for thinking the sun had not bothered to get up at all. On days like that, it takes a lot of effort for us humans to get up and out of the house!

But if you can find a way to motivate yourself to get outside in January, you will always be rewarded. Even on the bleakest, darkest, wettest day, if you keep your eyes open you will see signs of life and the promise of spring. Hazel trees already have catkins hanging from their branches in January; birds are out and about, trying to eat as much as they can to survive the winter months; owls can be heard in the evenings and dark mornings and you might see a fox or a badger on your way to school if you keep your eyes peeled. In some parts of the country you might see snowdrops or even daffodils poking their green shoots up out of the earth.

Why not make a nature notebook, as shown here in my 2020 almanac, Nature Month-by-Month.

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You can make it from scraps of recycled paper and make your own cover out of an old cereal packet or part of a cardboard box. Make it small enough so that you can slip it into your pocket, then you can take it out and about with you. Your winter walks will be more interesting now, as you’ll have a reason to get out and about – you can now note down all the wildlife and plant life that you see and notice how the world around you changes as January creeps towards February. Happy walking!