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calendar-dec-2016

We have all heard of time capsules being found in old buildings that have been left there for future generations, they are a great way to capture a moment in time and very interesting. Making your own time capsule is a great family activity and as we approach the end of 2016 now is the perfect time to do it. You could make your time capsule for future generations or you might want to leave it for yourself/your family in 5, 10 or 20 years time, it may be an idea to record where you have put your time capsule just in case you forget, according to the International Time Capsule Society most time capsules are ‘lost due to thievery, secrecy or poor planning’.

What container should I use?

This depends on where you are going to put your capsule, how much you want to include in it and how long it will be left for.

Indoors:     A Shoe Box, large cardboard box or even a suitcase

Outdoors:    The container needs to be waterproof and non perishable,

What should I put include?

  • A letter to the finder, you may want to include your contact details.
  • Photographs of you, your family, pets, your garden, house, car, fashionable outfits.
  • Photographs of this year’s holidays or memorable places
  • A newspaper for the day that you seal your capsule or perhaps newspapers/magazines of the previous week.
  • Coins and notes – include this years new £5 note and an old one too.
  • Food labels or packaging (if possible those with prices on) – this could be a general selection or your favourites, you could even describe the flavour, smaller food items can be includes in your capsule.
  • An old mobile phone
  • A music CD or a DVD
  • Packets of seeds

Where should I put it?

  • Bury it in the garden
  • Put it in the attic
  • Under the floor boards
  • Under your bed
  • In a cupboard

If you are leaving it for yourself/your family put a note on it ‘Do not open before ****’, make sure it is sealed well so that you are not tempted to have a peak earlier than planned.

I hope that you all have a Happy New Year

Gill

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Mud pie

When I was young we lived in a new build house, unlike todays new houses the back garden was still a building site when we moved in but it was great we had so much fun playing there covered in mud with our buckets, spades and watering cans, such happy memories.

As well as being lots of fun playing with mud has lots of health benefits too:

Mud makes you happy

Mud contains friendly soil bacteria which stimulate the body’s immune system and triggers the brain to release serotonin the endorphin which regulates our moods and makes us feel happy, regular mud play can reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression.

Mud reduces childhood illnesses

There is much research and evidence that living in a ‘clean’ environment is a contributor to increased levels of childhood illnesses, including immune disorders and allergies, early exposure to mud which contains bacteria and organisms boosts the immune system, reduces allergies and improves a child’s resistance to disease.

Mud aids creativity and development

There is no limit to the things you can make and do with mud, through play children develop fine and gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination.

Mud connects you with nature

Mud play connects a child with nature and the environment which can lead to a lifelong passion and appreciation of the outdoors.

Here are some wonderful activities with mud:

Mud foot and hand prints

Fill a bucket with soil and water to a lovely squidgy consistency, first get your hands in and then your feet and make mud prints on the paving.

Mud painting

Put some water in a small pot/bucket and add some soil keep it thin and watery, dip in an old paintbrush and paint pictures, patterns or write words on the paving.

Mud Pies

Mix mud and water in a bucket so that it is really thick and can be scooped up, use to fill old foil pie tins or food containers, decorate with flowers or stones and then leave to ‘bake’ in the sun.

Mud creatures

Using a really thick mud mixture with very little water, grab a handful or a spade full and mould into a creature then add eyes/teeth or decorate with stones, twigs, flowers and leaves why not try a hedgehog, butterfly, beetle, snake or a fish.

Make a construction Site

More for boys and a perfect way to put their diggers and dumper trucks to good use.

Build a Mud castle

Apply the same construction techniques as with sand castles using a very thick mud mixture build it in the sun and allow it to dry/set and then see how long it will remain intact when it rains.

This week, before School starts, get in the garden and make some of your own happy mud memories.

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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Are you a Primary School who would like to get the children involved in growing potatoes?

If you have answered yes to this question, then have a look at the Grow Your Own Potatoes website and register before Friday, January 29th 2016, for a potato growing pack containing all you need to grow potatoes at your School including: seed potatoes, grow bags, instructions, stickers and a weather chart, Schools can register up to 4 classes to take part!

Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) was launched in 2005 and is now one of the largest growing projects of its kind with over 2 million children taking part and learning where potatoes come from, how they grow and how healthy they actually are.

If you tend and care for your potatoes and they grow well you can win prizes for:

  1. The heaviest crop of Rocket Potatoes
  2. The heaviest crop of the regional potato variety
  3. The heaviest individual potato grown
  4. The largest number of tubers (potatoes) produced from three seed potatoes

If you are entering the competition you will need to use the seed potatoes and the grow bags supplied in your Potato Growing Pack.

Visit the Grow your own Potatoes website for more information and to register your school.

If you are not a Primary School, but would still like to have fun growing potatoes here is what you will need:

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need to do

  1. Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong shoots, which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant.
  2. Fill your bag with compost to a depth of 10cm
  3. Place 4/5 seed potatoes, with the shoots facing upwards, on top of your compost equally spaced out so that they don’t touch each other.
  4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost and water well.
  5. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered, on cold nights cover the bag with protective Fleece to prevent frost damage.
  6. As the leaves emerge cover with more Compost and repeat until you reach the top of the bag.
  7. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy.
  • First Early varieties – plant from end of February until end of May, harvest in approx. 10 weeks
  • Second Early varieties – plant from March until late May, harvest in approx. 13 weeks
  • Early Maincrop varieties – planted from March until late May, harvest in approx. 15 weeks
  • Maincrop varieties – plant from March until mid May, harvest in approx. 20 weeks

Children love growing potatoes there is something magical about planting a potato, watering and feeding it and then when it has grown digging it up and finding lots more delicious potatoes.

So get growing and have some fun

Gill

 

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DSC06211

Christmas is a time to eat, drink and get together with family and friends, sometimes we may over indulge on delicious festive food, if this is the case why not get outdoors, stretch your legs and walk it off.

For more than 25 years The Ramblers Association have organised a two week ‘Festival of Winter Walks’, 19th December 2015 – 3rd January 2016, to encourage everyone to get outdoors and enjoy our beautiful landscapes, there are hundreds of free group walks to choose from which are open to all. Whatever your age or ability there is a walk for you; fun festive-themed walks for little ones, leisurely strolls under 5 miles or longer walks for those who want more of a challenge for further information or to find a walk near you click here to visit their website.

In Ribchester there is an organised village Christmas walk it is called ‘The Annual Winter Walk for Pudding-full People’ and is now in its 27th year, it is about six to seven miles long and open to adults, children and well behaved dogs, with a shorter route for those with aged, tired or rather young legs, the walk finishes at one of the local pubs where chip butties are served, it is usually well attended despite often poor weather and a great way to catch up with friends, family and neighbours.

Mucky Wellies

If you have over indulged this Christmas or just want to get outdoors get wrapped up against the elements, grab your wellies/walking boots and go for a walk, don’t forget to take your camera and binoculars you never know what you might see.

Finally, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year

Happy rambling

Gill

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We have been spoilt recently with the weather and it has definitely paid dividends in the fruit and vegetable garden; regular pickings of Autumn raspberries, pumpkins, squashes and marrows maturing and ripening ready for storing, apples, pears and plums still hanging on the trees, an extra spurt of growth in the vegetables extending their harvesting season, and the onions and garlic now completely dry and ready for storing.

Today the weather has changed and is back to what you could expect for October – wind and rain with frosts on the horizon, now is the time to pick and store what you can, when storing your crops choose those that are undamaged and disease free, once stored check them regularly and remove any that are going bad, these don’t necessarily have to go straight onto your compost bin, most will be perfectly edible once you have removed the bad bits. Why not use these in a Ratatouille it’s a delicious warming one pot dish perfect for a wet and windy Autumn day and a great way to use up your less than perfect crops, the ingredients can be always be varied to suit your taste and the availability of vegetables.

Autumn Ratatouille

What you will need

  • 2 large Aubergines
  • 3 medium Courgettes
  • 2 medium Onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 green or red peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 6 large tomatoes or a 440g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • Grated cheese/Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh basil to garnish

What you need to do

  1. Cut the Aubergines and Courgettes into 2.5cm/1” slices then cut each Aubergine slice into quarters and the Courgette slices into similar sized pieces.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes place them in boiling water for a minute then drain and allow to cool before peeling off the skins, cut into quarters, remove the seeds and roughly chop up.
  3. Heat the oil in a flame proof casserole dish or large saucepan, add the onions and cook for approx. 10 minutes until browned and tender.
  4. Add the Courgettes and Aubergines and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the peppers, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper then mix well.
  5. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Top with the cheese and basil and serve with crusty bread, garlic bread or pasta.

This dish is packed full of vitamins and minerals and can help towards your five a day.

If you are looking for some storage ideas for your fruit and vegetables why not consider

Wooden Stackable Storage Boxes available from £19.95

Tubby Stack Pack Wooden Storage Boxes and Crates

or if you have a larger harvest to store a Wooden Fruit and Vegetable Larder, Rack or Store available from £40.00

in 4 sizes each with 4 height options

Wooden Fruit and Vegetable Larder, Rack and Store

for more information visit the Gardening Works website by clicking here.

Gill

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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

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