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Here is a simple, free activity that can be done practically anywhere (as long as there is grass) and will keep the kids amused for a while, it is something that I did when I was younger and that I have done with Thomas.

What you need to do

Select your blade of grass; thin flat ones work the best, you may want to give it a wash first and make sure that the grass hasn’t been sprayed.

Whistling grass 1

Pinch the top of the blade of grass between your thumb and first finger and bring the bottom of the grass down to the base of your thumb.

Whistling grass 2

Put both of your hands together so that your thumbs and their bases are together trapping the piece of grass.

Make sure that the blade of grass is taut.

Whistling grass 3

Purse your lips together and blow between your thumbs and over the blade of grass.

You should hear a high pitched whistle noise.

It may take some practice to get a ‘whistle’, try making the grass more or less taut and have a go with different types of grass.

Have fun

Gill

Lavender Flowers

Lavender is simply divine and one of my favourite flowers, it was included in the bouquets and button holes for my wedding, this summer I am going to make some Lavender Shortbread with Lavender picked from the garden. I have been looking for an easy recipe and found this one from Mary Berry, whom I admire for her simple yet delicious recipes, and thought that I would share it with you so that you can make them too.

Mary Berry Lavender Shortbread Biscuits

Ingredients 
175g softened unsalted butter
2 tbsp fresh, unsprayed, finely chopped lavender flowers (pick them off the stems to measure)
100g caster sugar
225g plain flour
25g demerara sugar

Method

  1. Lightly grease three large baking trays.
  2. Put the softened butter and the lavender into a mixing bowl and beat together (this will obtain the maximum flavour from the lavender).
  3. Beat the caster sugar into the butter and lavender and then stir in the flour, bringing the mixture together with your hands and kneading lightly until smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture in half and roll out to form two sausage shapes 15cm (6in) long.
  5. Roll the biscuit “sausages” in the demerara sugar until evenly coated.
  6. Wrap in baking parchment or foil and chill until firm.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 160C/Fan 140C/325F/Fan 275F/Gas 3.
  8. Cut each “sausage” into about 10 slices and put them on the prepared baking trays, allowing a little room for them to spread.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the biscuits are pale golden brown at the edges.
  10. Lift them off the trays with a fish slice or palette knife and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

These biscuits would make a lovely gift tied up in cellophane with ribbon and a sprig of lavender!

Let me know how you get on, happy baking

Gill

 

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The one that didn’t get away!

It’s National Fishing month so grab your rods and get fishing – if you don’t have a fishing rod or have never been fishing before then that’s no problem, National Fishing month runs from 18th July until 31st August and is aimed at encouraging everyone, young or old, new or experienced, able bodied or disabled to have a go at fishing. There are lots of organised events where rods and equipment are provided for those that are new to fishing as well as lessons, demonstrations, talks and matches.

Have a look at their website and put in your postcode to see what’s happening near where you live or if you are on holiday put in your resort postcode.

I don’t need to give Thomas any encouragement to go fishing he would be off at every opportunity, he always takes his binoculars so can bird watch while he is waiting for a bite and when he wants to stretch his legs he goes searching for wildlife, sounds good? Then why not give it a go – you may be ‘hooked’ for life!

Have fun

Gill

ManWide

Next week is National Allotment Week (10th – 16th August), it is organised by The National Allotment Society (NSALG) which is the leading national organisation upholding the interests and rights of the allotment community across the UK. They work with the government at national and local levels, other organisations and landlords to provide, promote and preserve allotments for all and offer support, guidance and advice to members and those with an interest in allotment gardening.

There are lots of events being organised on Allotments throughout the country including talks, cookery demonstrations, BBQs, children’s activities and raffles with tea, cakes and home grown produce for sale, click here to find out what is happening near you.

The National Allotment Week theme this year is designed to emphasize the benefits that allotments bring to everyone regardless of age or gender and to also highlight the fact that we all need to value our remaining plots and preserve them for future generations to enjoy, allotment sites are vulnerable to pressures from development and steps need to be taken to prevent further depletion of our allotments.

The demand is high for allotments often with long waiting lists, if you are interested in obtaining an allotment click here for more information.

Allotments are not just places to grow fruit and vegetables they are mini communities containing a wide range of people who have different lives, personalities, cultures and jobs but who all share the same passion for gardening.

As well as growing fruit and vegetables, there is so much more you can do on an allotment:

  • Relax and recuperate
  • Have a BBQ or Picnic
  • Watch and make homes/habitats for wildlife
  • Experiment with new crops
  • Teach children how to grow food
  • Keep chickens and livestock
  • Have Bee hives and produce your own honey
  • Share your gardening knowledge and learn new skills from your allotment neighbours
  • Hold seasonal fruit and vegetable shows
  • Have fun growing competitions
  • Arrange visits from schools and community groups to educate them about growing crops
  • Hold open days to encourage others

picture 1

I feel extremely privileged to have an allotment, sometimes they can be hard work and you do need to have a certain amount of free time to look after them but the rewards far outweigh the effort, there is nothing more satisfying than eating home grown produce that has been freshly picked, my allotment is my retreat where I can switch off, unwind and can be in harmony with nature – I love it!

Gill

Summer is here and there is nothing better than being outdoors and exploring.

Why not have a go at our new competition in the Family Zone for a chance to win some great wildlife products – all you need to do is to go on a Bug Hunt, this could be in your garden, a friends garden, on your allotment, on a day out or even on holiday.

There are thousands of different species of Insects, but being small and quite elusive they often go unnoticed in our day-to-day life, why not go and explore to see what is living on your doorstep.

Fritillary Butterfly

Fritillary Butterfly

What to take

An Insect Guide or Book, Camera, Magnifying Glass, Note Pad, Pencil.

Where to look

Have a look under stones, rocks, plant pots, logs, rotting wood, in compost heaps and long grass, on the underside of leaves, on flower heads, in leaf litter.

Bugs or Insects you may find

  • Dragonflies and Damselflies
  • Ladybirds
  • Grasshoppers/Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Butterflies
  • Hoverflies
  • Aphids/Greenfly
  • Moths
  • Lacewings
  • Ants
  • Wasps
  • Bees
  • Earwigs
  • Flies

Make a list of the Bugs and Insects that you find, you may want to take a photograph or draw a picture of them.

Write down which bug or insect was your favourite and why?

What you can win

A Ladybird Tower

 ladybird_house_m-01[1]

And a Butterfy Bee Nectar Feeding Station

butterfly_feeder_m[1]

How to enter

Simply tell us which bug or insect was your favourite and why?

Fill in your answers on the entry form (click here) with your details and send in to gill@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or by post to Gardening with Children Family Competition, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston PR3 3XJ by the closing date of Monday 31st August 2015.

This is a great way to get children (and adults) outdoors and interested in their environment, and it is something that everyone can do whatever their age.

Happy hunting and good luck!

Gill

 

DSC05889

Small Tortoiseshell

They say that counting sheep is relaxing and helps you to go to sleep, why not do something which is equally as relaxing that is also fun, educational and very important – why not count butterflies?

This year ‘The Big Butterfly Count’ runs from 17th July – 9th August and the organisers Butterfly Conservation are asking as many people as possible to get involved and count butterflies and moths for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather, good places to count are in gardens, meadows, parks and woods.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once . If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

To make things easier you can download a handy identification chart from their website to help you work out which butterflies you have seen.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ is a nationwide survey aimed at assessing the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 44,000 people took part in 2014, counting almost 560,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. The count also assists in identifying trends in species, this will help to plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.

You can submit separate records for different dates at the same place, and for different places. Your count is useful even if you do not see any butterflies or moths.

Once you have done your count submit your records online before the end of August.

There is a great results map showing sightings that have already been submitted, you can see which butterflies and moths other people have spotted near you and across the UK, it is fascinating.

Have a look on their website there is lots of information and wonderful pictures of butterflies and moths which you may spot during your count as well as great ideas to get more people involved such as a Barbecue for Butterflies, Picnic in the Park, Butterfly play date, Butterfly Tea Party, it is a great activity for groups such as the Brownies/Cubs etc. Summer Schools, Child Minders, the W.I., Walking Clubs, Gardening Clubs etc.

So get out there on the next sunny day and look for Butterflies and Moths.

Red Admiral Butterfly

If you want to attract butterflies into your garden you will need to provide nectar rich flowers throughout the butterfly season, as well as food plants for the butterfly caterpillars to eat, click here for advice on which nectar rich plants to grow in Spring, Summer and Autumn and tips on gardening for butterflies.
Love your environment
Gill

Oak Tree

Trees play an important part in our lives by enhancing our environment and creating wonderful wooded places to spend quality time with our families.

Trees are havens for wildlife too, providing homes and food for caterpillars (leaves), insects (flowers, leaves), beetles and larvae (trunk, rotting wood) these in turn are food for animals and birds especially newly fledged youngsters or hungry chicks still in the nest, in Autumn and Winter their fruits/berries and seeds provide a welcome meal for birds and animals, trees really are a very important part of the wild food chain.

Family pic 5

If you are interested in planting trees to help wildlife, for the environment or to enhance your local area The Woodland Trust are currently offering Schools and Community Groups the chance to apply for free trees for delivery in November 2015.

The tree packs are available in three sizes:

  • Small – containing 30 saplings.
  • Medium – containing 105 saplings.
  • Large – containing 420 sapling.

The packs come in different mixes of tree species so you can choose the best one for your project.

  • Small – Short Hedge, Small Copse
  • Medium – Wild Harvest, Wildlife, Year Round Colour, Working Wood, Wetland, Wild Wood
  • Large – Wild Harvest, Wildlife, Year Round Colour, Working Wood, Wetland, Wild Wood

Communities and Schools can apply for free tree packs twice a year which will be sent out in March and November when the trees are dormant and ready to plant.

There is always a high demand for their tree packs, currently all medium (105 sapling) packs for schools this Autumn have been claimed, limited quantities of the small (30 sapling) and large (420 sapling) packs remain, if you are interested in planting this Autumn apply early to avoid disappointment.

The closing date for Autumn applications is 3rd September or upon full subscription.

If you are a School I would strongly advise that you apply asap before the end of this term, it would make a great Autumn project which all the children could get involved in.

For more information and how to apply click here.

Gill

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