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Archive for March, 2016

The RSPB has launched the results of their 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch, during which a staggering 8,262,662 birds were counted, the top ten birds were:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Chaffinch
  8. Great Tit
  9. Robin
  10. Long-Tailed Tit

The House Sparrow remained at number one, around 4 House Sparrows were spotted in each garden, the Blackbird was the most widespread garden bird appearing in 88% of gardens, the Long-Tailed Tit was a new entry in tenth place, the RSPB commented that ‘January’s mild weather meant more smaller birds had survived the winter, and although natural food sources were plentiful, it’s clear these birds still rely on the food we put out in our gardens’.

We were fortunate to spend the Easter Weekend at Silverdale, whenever we go on holiday we always do our own Bird Species Count, the Silverdale area is ideal for birds with mixed habitats including, woodland, meadows, reedbeds, freshwater pools and on the coast saltwater lagoons and mud flats, we counted 67 different species in total which was amazing despite the mixed weather.

One of the highlights was seeing the first Sand Martin of the year, Sand Martins are just one of over 50 species of Summer migrants that come to our shores every year to breed, others include Swallows, House Martins, Swifts, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo and Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, they are lured back by the warm spring weather, longer days and our insects! Millions of birds visit each year usually arriving on the south coast first, then moving northwards, they have flown thousands of miles from as far away as Africa where they spent the Winter, and will return there in Autumn with their young.

During the Easter holidays if you want to help the birds in your garden why not:

Put out some bird feeders and a bird bath/water dish – different types of feeders and food will attract a wider range of species, birds need a source of fresh water to drink and to bathe in to keep their feathers in tip top condition.

Square Ground Bird Table

Square Ground Bird Table

Wildlife World Coniston Bird Bath

Coniston Bird Bath

Put up some nest boxes around your garden – nest boxes come in varying sizes and styles to suit different species of birds, put up a selection of boxes to encourage birds to nest in your garden.

CJ Wildlife Robin & Wren Nest Box

Robin & Wren Nest Box

CJ Wildlife House Martin Nest Box - Double Chamber

Double House Martin Nest Box

Finally, relax, watch and record the different species of birds that you see in your garden, on the park, during a walk, day out or on holiday – keep an eye out for our Summer migrants.

Have fun.

Gill

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Simnel Buns

Bake Simnel Cupcakes for Easter

Simnel Cake is an Easter time fruit cake that is made from white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel, Marzipan is used to decorate the top and often included in the middle of the cake.

The top is traditionally covered with a flat layer of Marzipan with eleven Marzipan balls placed in a circle to represent the true eleven disciples, Judas is omitted, a ball is sometimes added in the centre to represent Jesus or even Judas.

I often make Simnel Cake although I don’t include the Marzipan as not all of my family enjoys it; here is a recipe for Simnel Cupcakes without Marzipan which are perfect for Easter Parties or to take with you on a walk.

Ingredients

  • 150g Butter
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 4 Medium Eggs beaten
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Mixed Spice
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 200g Mixed dried fruit
  • 12 whole glace cherries
  • Zest and juice of a medium orange
  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • Silver Ball cake decorations

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170F/Gas Mark 5 and line a Cupcake tray with 12 cases.
  2. Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy then gradually beat in the eggs.
  3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and the mixed spice, add gradually and gently stir into the butter mixture until fully combined then fold in the mixed fruit and the orange zest.
  4. Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cases, then push a whole cherry into the middle of each one.
  5. Bake for approx. 25 minutes until risen, golden and firm to the touch, leave to cool.
  6. Mix together the icing sugar with just enough orange juice so that the icing is spreadable.
  7. Ice the top of your Simnel Cupcakes and then place 11 silver balls around the edge in a circle.
  8. Leave the icing to set and then enjoy.

Chicken 3

Make an Easter Chicken

What you will need

  • Paper plates
  • Black, Orange, Yellow/Red Felt tip Pens
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape/Glue
  • Feathers

Chicken 1       Chicken 2

What you need to do

  1. Take a paper plate and fold in half.
  2. Cut another paper plate into 6 segments, on a segment draw the beak, comb (at the top of the head) and wattle (under the beak) and cut out.
  3. Cut a slit at one side on the crease of the folded paper plate, push the comb through it and stick down, then position and stick on the beak and the wattle, add another blob of glue where the head is and press together.
  4. Colour in its beak, comb and wattle, stick a feather on for its tail and draw on eyes and wings.
  5. You can of course paint or decorate your chicken further if you like, why not stick on the colourful foil wrapping from your Easter Eggs.

Egg faces

3 Amazing and Eggstraordinary facts about Eggs

1.   We all imagine that dinosaurs and their eggs were enormous, the largest dinosaur was the Argentinosaurus and was 37m long, yet its eggs were quite small in comparison they were only the size of a Rugby ball (30cm).

2.   Ostriches lay the largest birds’ eggs; they can be as big as a grapefruit and take 42 days to hatch.

3.   Hummingbirds lay the smallest bird’s eggs; they are the size of a pea and take 16-18 days to hatch.

Here are some silly egg yolks (jokes) to make you giggle

Q.   Why did the egg go to school?

       To get egg-u-cated!

Q.   Who tells the best egg jokes?

        Comedi-hens!

Q.   How did the egg climb the mountain?

        It scrambled up!

Q.   What do you call an egg that goes on safari?

        An eggs-plorer!

Q.   What day do eggs hate the most?

        Fry-day!

Q.    What happened to the egg when he was tickled too much?

        He cracked up!

Why not have a go at making up some more egg jokes

I hope that you all have a fun and enjoyable Easter

Gill

 

 

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Spade

This week it’s been perfect weather for digging and I have been on my allotment making the most of it, digging can be hard work but it is also very satisfying looking at a newly dug and prepared bed ready for planting. The soil has dried out from the recent floods helped by the wind and the frosts, I was pleasantly surprised how many worms there were, I wasn’t sure whether they would survive beneath the flood water.

One of the most important jobs in the garden is to improve and maintain the quality of your soil, the key way to do this is to add or dig in organic material such as rotted garden/kitchen compost from your Compost Bin or well-rotted farmyard manure which has been allowed to stand for at least six months.

Before digging clear the site of weeds and large stones, as well as any roots whilst you dig, there are different methods of digging:

No Dig Method

Weed the soil, in late Autumn spread compost/manure over the surface, the worms will work it into the soil, more compost/manure can be added during the growing season.

Simple Digging

Weed the soil, push in your spade, lift the soil, turn it and drop it back in its original position, breaking up any large lumps with the edge of your spade, a layer of organic matter can then be added to the surface which the worms will incorporate or can be forked/raked in when you prepare your bed for sowing/planting, alternatively a layer of compost can be put on the soil after weeding which will be incorporated as you dig.

Single Digging

Weed the soil, and dig a trench across your bed to a spades depth and about 30cm wide, put the soil you have removed aside this will be used at the end to fill the last trench. Fill the bottom of the trench with compost/manure, working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench, repeat this process until you get the end of your bed, fill the last trench with the soil that you set aside from the first trench.

Double Digging

With double digging the soil is worked to the depth of two spades, breaking up the sub soil, this will improve drainage and is useful on a new plot or when deep beds are being prepared. Weed and dig a trench as with single digging putting the soil removed aside, add compost/manure to the bottom of the trench and dig in to a spades depth, add another layer of compost/manure on top then working backwards dig another trench placing the soil on top of the compost/manure in the first trench repeat this process and fill in the last trench with soil removed from the first trench.

The best time to dig heavy soil is in the Autumn this will allow the frost and rain to break it down, light and sandy soils are best left until the spring, fork in a general purpose fertiliser prior to sowing/planting and break up any lumps of soil with a fork/rake.

Not everyone enjoys or is able to dig, growing crops in Raised Beds is the perfect solution, crops can be easily planted, tended, watered and harvested without standing on the soil thus eliminating the need to dig, all that is required is to weed, and lightly fork in compost or fertiliser with a Hand Fork in Spring or apply a mulch of compost/manure in Autumn which the worms will gradually work into the soil.

I find digging with a spade hard work as it is quite heavy, I use a border fork which is slightly smaller than a standard fork, although I can only dig smaller ‘spadefuls’ at a time and it may take a little longer I find it a lot easier and there is less strain on my back.

I shall be continuing my digging at the weekend as it is a good forecast, if you get chance get out in the garden and enjoy the dry weather

Happy digging

Gill

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Wooden Raised Beds are perfect for growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, they provide good drainage, can be filled with good quality compost, will easily accommodate fleece, film and netting to protect your crops and are at a height that makes sowing, planting, harvesting and watering easier.

We have launched two new competitions on the Gardening With Children website, giving you the opportunity to win Wooden Raised Beds for your garden:

In the School Zone you could win a Wooden Raised Bed Kit containing:

Twin Standard and Deep Tall Post Raised Bed

Wooden Raised Beds With Tall Posts - Deep

3 x 1.5m Cloche Hoops

12 Cloche Clips

Enviromesh Extra Fine Netting

What you have to do

Join our Club – become a member of the Gardening with Children Club its FREE, members receive special discounts and offers on gardening equipment and wildlife products as well as Seasonal Newsletters containing fun activities to make, cook and do and their own unique membership number which you will need to enter this competition.

Then answer the following questions

Why would you like to win the Wooden Raised Bed Kit for your School?

What would you grow in it?

Send in a photograph of something that you have grown at School.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Friday 27th May 2106.

In the Family Zone/Kids Zone you have the chance to win a fabulous

Kids Wooden Raised Bed Growing Table (one supplied)

Kids Wooden Standing Raised Bed Growing Table

It is the perfect size and height for younger children to have their own real vegetable and flower garden and is ideal for growing Strawberries, Herbs, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Radish, baby vegetables including Beetroot, Turnip and Round Carrots and some of your favourite flowers.

and a Selection of Seeds (Beetroot, Carrot, Sorrel, Strawberry)

What you have to do

Correctly name the Spring flowers pictured on the competition page using the following options:

Catkins          Pussy Willow          Daffodil           Bluebell           Primrose

For full details, an entry form and to view the pictures click here, the closing date is Saturday 30th April 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

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This Sunday is Mother’s Day, it’s a day when we show our mums and grandmothers just how special they are and how much we love and appreciate them often by giving them a gift, bunch of flowers and a card.

I always think that home-made is much more special, here is a quick and easy idea for a bright and colourful card that you can make at home or at school with children of all ages.

Mothers Day Card 2016

What you will need

  • White or coloured card
  • Brown wrapping paper
  • Different coloured paints
  • Paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Felt Tip

What you need to do

  1. Place each colour of paint onto a separate paper plate.
  2. Fold your card in half.
  3. Dip your hand into the green paint so that your palm and fingers are evenly covered.
  4. Press your hand onto your folded card to leave a hand print this will be the stems of your flower, then wash your hands.
  5. Dip your thumb into your chosen colour of paint and make a round thumb print at the top of your green finger prints this is the centre of your flower.
  6. Dip the tips of your fingers in a different colour of paint and make finger prints around your thumb print to form petals then wash your hands and allow the paint to dry.
  7. Using coloured card or brown paper cut out a plant pot shape and fold over the top to form the rim of the pot, write on your message and stick your pot onto your card.

If your mum or grandma love gardening and wildlife, here are my favourite ideas for the perfect Mother’s Day gift:

 

Wooden Swing Seat Bird Feeder

A Wooden Swing Seat Bird Feeder

 

Marylebone Station Clock and Thermometer

 

Hard & Soft Cheese Making Kit - Extra

Cheese Making Kit

Stewart 52cm Premium Thermostatic Electric Propagator

Stewart Electric Propagator

 

Free Standing Wooden Plant or Vegetable Manger

Free Standing Wooden Plant or Vegetable Manger

 

I would like to wish all the Mums and Grandmas who are reading this a very happy Mother’s Day

Gill

 

 

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