Archive for October, 2012

If you have grown your own pumpkins this year now is the time to put them to good use and turn them into fantastic Halloween Lanterns, don’t throw away the lovely orange flesh, use it to make some delicious Mini Halloween Pumpkin Cakes.

Mini Halloween Pumpkin Cakes

  • 250g Pumpkin Flesh (peeled weight)
  • 150g Self-Raising Flour
  • 150g Light Brown Sugar
  • 100g Butter/Margarine
  • 90g Sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon Orange Juice
  • zest of ½ Orange
  • 2 Eggs beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Mixed Spice
  • 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Line a 12 hole cake tin with paper cases.
  3. Grate the pumpkin flesh.
  4. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
  5. Melt the butter/margarine in the microwave and then beat in the eggs.
  6. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together.
  7. Add the orange juice, orange zest, sultanas and the grated pumpkin and stir well.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the bun cases.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and springy. 

The Topping

  • 75g (3oz) Butter/Margarine, softened
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 225g (8oz) Icing Sugar, sifted
  • Few drops of food colouring red/green

Beat together the butter, milk, food colouring and half the sugar to combine, then add the remaining sugar and beat until fluffy.

  1. When the cakes are cool, generously spread them with the topping.
  2. For ‘Snake Stew Cakes’ keep the topping messy and press jelly snakes into it or for
  3. ‘Spooky Spider Cakes’ smooth the topping and add 2 round sweets for eyes and Liquorice Strips or Strawberry Laces for legs.

These cakes make an unusual alternative to sweets for your visiting trick or treaters.

Let’s hope that we have a moonlit, dry and crisp Halloween night, as being a soggy ghost, witch or skeleton isn’t much fun.

Happy Halloween.


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Halloween is nearly here and the shops are full of scarey and wonderful Halloween costumes, masks and decorations, I am sure that there are lots of excited children all over the country, Thomas is very excited and so am I!

Every Halloween we trim up the front of our house, each year adding new decorations; these are either home-made or bought in the post Halloween sales the previous year. Making your own decorations is great fun and a great way to spend a cold afternoon, here is a crafty idea for this year.

Egg Box Spiders and Bats

You will need:

  • Egg Boxes
  • String
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Paper
  • Felt tips/Crayons
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Glitter
  • Scissors
  1. To make the Spiders cut up the egg box into its six cups, paint or decorate the outside as you wish and allow to dry.
  2. Ask a grown up to make 8 small holes around the bottom edges of the cups and one at the top.
  3. Carefully thread each pipe cleaner (4 per spider) through a hole at one side and out of the hole at the other side.
  4. Thread a piece of string through the top hole and tie a knot.
  5. Draw some eyes onto a piece of paper, cut them out and stick them on.

  1. To make the Bats cut your egg box into 2 strips of three cups.
  2. Cut out the front of the left and right cups slightly, and on their backs cut them out to leave a ‘V’ shape (as shown above).
  3. Paint or decorate the outside as you wish and allow to dry.
  4. Make a hole in the top of the middle cup and thread a piece of string through and tie a knot.
  5. Draw some eyes and teeth onto a piece of paper, cut them out and stick them on.

Have fun.


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This year many of the village Horse Chestnut Trees are lacking something – Conkers.

Thomas and I went out on our annual pilgrimage to find those special little Autumn Nuggets but we came back empty handed and disappointed, last year they were plentiful, the only thing I can put it down to is the hard frosts that we had in spring when the blossoms were out. Not to be outdone I searched further afield whilst Thomas was at school and thankfully found a couple of trees that had some on and collected about 10, which had been blown off.

Beautiful Autumn Nuggets

Conkers are little wonders of nature with their glorious rich chestnut colour, glossy coating and beautiful marbling, they grow inside thick and very prickly shells that split open when the conkers are ripe.

Thomas was thrilled as he would now be able to play conkers with his friends.

The Game of Conkers

What you will need 

  • Conkers
  • String or Shoelaces
  • A grown-up (to drill a hole in the conker)
  • An opponent

How to play 

  1. Each player needs to have a conker drilled and threaded with string or a shoelace.
  2. One player wraps the string around their hand and lets the conker hang down, keeping their arm outstretched.
  3. The opponent then needs to wrap their string around one of their hands and with the other hand hold their conker, aim and release it to try and hit your conker.
  4. Each player then takes it in turns to hit each other’s conker to try and smash it into pieces.
  5. The winning conker becomes a ‘one-er’ if this conker wins again it then becomes a ‘two-er’ and so on.

Take care when playing conkers as missed shots could hurt.

Happy hunting and have fun.


P.S. Thomas didn’t want to drill all of his conkers, he wants to plant some to grow into new trees.

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In the Family Zone our August Competition was to ‘Send in a photograph of your favourite crop, which you have grown this year’, we had some lovely photographs sent in from lots of enthusiastic young gardeners, but the overall winner was Ben Hamilton from Dronfield, Derbyshire, ‘Well Done Ben’ we hope that you enjoy using you prizes of a Gardener’s Apprentice Digging Fork and Hand Fork, a Wooden Trug and a pair of Gardening Gloves.

Ben enjoying his delicious tomatoes

We loved the photograph showing Ben sat next to his prized tomato plant eating his delicious crop, he looks thrilled. Ben’s tomato plant is amazing and looks very healthy, it has obviously been well looked after, and there are lots more flowers and tomatoes to come.


Have a go at our current competitions for a chance to win some great Wildlife prizes:

In the School Zone you could win a Hedgehog Kit which includes

a Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

a Hedgehog Guide

 Field Guide to Hedgehogs

a Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

 Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

and some Hedgehog Food

by completing the Hedgehog Wordsearch.


In the Family/Kids Zone you could win

a Mini Bug Bug Box

Mini Bug Bug Box

a Mini Bug Ladybird Tower

 Minibug Ladybird Tower

and a Minibeast Guide to help you to identify the bugs in your garden

 The Minibeast Guide

by completing our Who am I? Wildlife Quiz.

The closing date for both competitions is 31st October, 2012 so don’t delay enter today.

Good Luck


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Hopefully by now, if the weather has been kind where you live, your Sunflowers will have flowered and developed into rings of nice fat seeds.

As you can see mine have grown well but some of them are yet to flower, I hope that this spell of sunny weather will encourage them to flower and set their seeds.

The varieties I have grown this year are Titan and Russian Giant as they have large heads and hopefully plenty of seeds for the birds.

I love Sunflowers, I grow them for their stunning flowers, which benefit the bees and insects, and their seeds, which I save for the birds, if you want to save some of your seeds for the birds or to grow next year here’s what you need to do.

  1. When the backs of the Sunflower heads turn yellow cut them off leaving about 30cm of stem attached and hang them upside down somewhere warm, dry and well ventilated (to prevent them going mouldy).
  2. Tie a brown paper bag around the Sunflower heads to catch any seeds that drop out.
  3. Once the backs of the Sunflower heads have turned brown and dry your Sunflower seeds are ready to harvest, they should pop out when you run your hands over the heads.
  4. Lay the seeds out on newspaper to completely dry out and to remove any flower heads/leaves then store the seeds in a cool dry place in an airtight container.

A Sunflower head that has finished flowering

Make a Bug House with your Sunflower stems

After you have cut the heads off the plants, the remaining stems can go into the Compost Bin or instead if they are hollow why not use them to make an Bug House. Cut the stems into 10 – 15cm lengths and squeeze them into a washed large pop bottle which has had the top cut off (ask an adult to do this), apply tape around the rough cut edge for safety, place at an angle with the open end slightly pointing downwards in a sheltered, dry and shady spot in your garden, this will make an great Bug House for over wintering insects.

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We have had a great response to our Wildflower Seed Project 2012/2013 from schools, and community associations that support children, if you want to get involved, start collecting your seeds now before the plants have dropped them all and register your group before 31st October 2012.

Seed storage tins

What you need to do 
If you are not already a member join our FREE Gardening with Children Club, which gives schools and community associations supporting children of all ages access to lots of information to encourage children to learn about gardening, grow their own fruit and vegetables and to care for their environment as well as member’s special offers and discounts.
Once you have received your welcome email with your exclusive Membership Number register your school/group FREE for our ‘Wildflower Seed Project 2012/2013’ before 31st October 2012 via email to sylvia@recycleworks.co.uk quoting your Membership Number, School/Group Name, Address, Contact Name, Telephone Number and email address.
We will then send you 5 FREE seed collecting tins to store your valuable seed in until the spring, when we will then contact you via email with details of our ‘Wildflower Seed Propagating Kit’ perfect for schools and groups and containing everything you need to sow and grow your wildflower seeds as well as sowing and cultivation instructions.
Collecting Seed
Collecting seeds is a wonderful thing to do with children and they will learn where seeds come from. Not only will they be rewarded with free seeds but also lots of free plants too in spring and with the satisfaction that they have grown them themselves from ‘their’ seed.
Some of the most rewarding and valuable seeds to collect are from Wildflowers and Nectar Rich plants which provide food for our bees, butterflies and pollinating insects, by growing these you will be giving back to nature and enriching your environment.
Here are some of the many plants that are beneficial to insects: Buddleia, Ox Eye Daisy, Borage, Verbena Bonariensis, Evening Primrose, Calendula, French Marigold, Teasel, Thistles, Foxglove, Cornflower.

Ox Eye Daisy

Where to look for seeds
The best places to find wildflowers are in uncultivated areas such as on grass verges, under hedges, on the edges of parks/playing fields (where the grass cutters can’t reach), church yards and farmland that is grazed. Nectar rich flowers can usually be found in gardens. You may need to ask the landowners permission before entering their land to collect seed.
How to collect seed
You will need paper bags or envelopes, scissors and a pencil.
Some seed heads will shed their seeds very easily, simply empty their contents into your bag, or cut off the ripe seed head/pod and place in your bag then write the plant name on the bag and also where it was growing in sun/shade or in dry/wet soil this will help you when you grow your new plants next year. If some of the seed heads/pods are damp, lay them out on paper to dry before removing the seeds. If you are not sure of the name of the plant cut off the seed head/pods and a leaf or take a photograph so that you can identify it later.

Evening Primrose

Storing your seed
Some of the seeds will need to be cleaned by removing the husk and extracting the seeds from their pods/seed heads as these may contain small insects too. Place your dry seeds in a cold, dry and dark place until February/March. This can be in a container in the fridge so that they go through the natural cold winter conditions. It can be in a sealed tin (which will protect them from insects and animals) in the shed, but dry, cold and dark is important. If they get wet or warm they may start germinating and if it is too early for spring they will not survive.
Some seeds can be toxic, take care when collecting seed and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
So make the most of this lovely weather and collect some wildflower seeds.

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Thomas is not only very passionate about birds but also about wild animals too, he has seen lots of grey squirrels, but had never seen a Red Squirrel until this summer.

In July we had a Grey Squirrel in the back garden on the bird feeders it was young and naive and was soon encouraged to go as it developed a fascination for our bird boxes much to the horror of the resident house sparrows.

Red Squirrels are not widespread throughout Britain, their strongholds are Scotland, the Lake District, Northumberland, Anglesey, Formby in Lancashire, Brownsea Island in Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Last year we went to Dumfries on holiday and were thrilled that our caravan site had resident red squirrels, we only saw two during our stay and unfortunately Thomas didn’t spot either of them, this year we went to Anglesey and spent a long afternoon in one of the coniferous woods known to have Red Squirrels, we didn’t see any although we did find some nibbled pine cones, so on a sunny, September Sunday afternoon we went to Formby determined to see the elusive Red Squirrel, it was busy and we thought we had no chance of seeing any but we were proved wrong and actually saw 8 they were high up in the tops of the conifer trees on the edges of the reserve, Thomas was thrilled, I did take some photographs but unfortunately you need a magnifying glass to find the Squirrels.

Scottish Red Squirrels !

Red Squirrels, smaller than grey squirrels, are about 20cm in length plus their tail, they have reddish brown fur and tufts on the end of their ears, they eat hazelnuts, pine cones/seeds, acorns and berries and in the Autumn they bury any surplus food or hide it in gaps in tree trunks. Each year they can have two litters of 3 or 4 babies called ‘kittens’ they live in round nests built high up in trees made of twigs, leaves and bark strips and lined with moss and grass called ‘dreys’. Red Squirrels have four fingers and five toes, can be right or left-handed when eating pine cones and can swim.

This week 2-9 October is Red Squirrel Week and there are various projects up and down the country where you can get involved and help these exquisite and endangered creatures, you can even adopt one.

Love your enviroment


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