Archives for posts with tag: Nature

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.

 

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!

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!

We are nearly at the end of the year. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer as midwinter creeps closer. It is easy to feel gloomy, but the good news is that from 21st December the days start to get longer! It is because of this promise of longer, lighter days that the longest night has traditionally been a time for celebration. The nights might be long this month, but they can be very beautiful if there are no clouds in the sky, as the moon is at its highest and clearest and the stars are at their brightest.

The dark can be depressing or scary, but just think: if there was no darkness, there would be no light! This is what all the festivals this month are about: finding light in the darkness.

You might think that Christmas is the oldest winter festival, but pagans have celebrated at midwinter for hundreds of years. 21st December is also known as the Winter Solstice or “Yule” which comes from a Norse word “houl” meaning “wheel” because of its place in the cycle of the seasons – or the “Wheel of the Year”.

Many of the pagan traditions of Yule have found their way into the celebration of Christmas. Perhaps you know the carol, The Holly and the Ivy – this has its roots in pagan traditions. Pagans also light candles and fires, decorate their homes with evergreen plants, feast, dance, and give gifts. All these things are now traditional at Christmas too. Pagans believe that hanging a sprig of holly near the door brings good luck and keeps away evil spirits. Mistletoe is also hung as decoration and as a blessing and symbol of new life.

Where I live in Cornwall there are lots of midwinter celebrations. In Penzance there is the Montol Festival (“montol” is an old Cornish word which means “the turning point of the year”). There is lots of dressing up, processions through the town, lanterns, singing, dancing, eating and drinking. At the end the “Mock” or yule log is marked with chalk and then burned. This log is a symbol of the light that we all yearn for in the darkness – it prevents the dark and the cold taking over.

Another good way to beat the chill is to do some winter baking! There’s nothing better on a cold, dark winter’s evening than to put on some cheery Christmas music and set to work baking some yummy warming treats. Why not have a go at making your own mince pies this year? There’s a recipe in my 2019 almanac:

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Whichever winter festival you celebrate this December, be it Solstice, Christmas or Hanukkah, I wish you a happy time and all the best for a prosperous and healthy New Year.

And look out for more treats and activities in next year’s almanac, which is available now!

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This autumn term is very long . . . the summer seems a lifetime away and we’ve all – teachers, parents, carers and children – been working hard for weeks and weeks. So it’s a relief that the holidays are here again. I am looking out at blue skies and sunshine and hoping that this weather is going to last for a while!

But even if it doesn’t, there are lots of games and activities that you can do indoors. I had great fun coming up with ideas for Nature Month-by-Month – in the 2019 edition you’ll find lots of ideas for Hallowe’en games, for example. These can be played inside or outside. I loved writing about these because it took me back to when my children were small. I didn’t used to be very happy about them going Trick or Treating as we lived in the countryside and the houses were quite a long way apart from each other down very dark lanes! But I wanted them to have fun on Hallowe’en, so we would invite all their friends to come to our house and we would have a big party. Here are some of the games we would play:

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Recently I have been researching and thinking up new ideas for an updated version of Nature Month-by-Month for 2020, which has just come out in the shops.

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I decided to write about pumpkin carving, as we always enjoyed doing this during half term, and it was a great activity to do on a rainy day or during one of the dark evenings after the clocks had gone back.

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You can make yummy things from the pumpkin flesh, so don’t throw it away! You can make delicious soup by frying up the pumpkin with onion and then adding stock, nutmeg, cream, salt and pepper. There are lots of good recipes online. You can also make scrummy pumpkin muffins like these:

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Whatever you do this holiday – whether you choose to go for blustery walks or whether you stay indoors and keep cosy – I hope you have a good rest and lots of fun!

As for me, seeing as it’s so sunny today, I think I’m going to take the dog and go for a walk through the crunchy autumn leaves this afternoon. Or maybe even go for a swim if the sea is calm enough . . .

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(Vlad says, “You could always curl up with a spooky Hallowe’en read if the weather outside is frightful ! Mwhahahahaaaaa!)

Vlad The World's Worst Vampire RGB