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Archive for the ‘Seasonal Celebrations’ Category

There are lots of wonderful gifts and flowers in the shops for Mother’s Day but you can’t beat a home-made present that is made with love and especially one which is as delicious as this …

Lemon Curd Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 225g Caster Sugar
  • 225g Self-Raising Flour
  • 225g Margarine/Butter
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • Finely grated zest of one Lemon

To decorate

  • Lemon Curd
  • 50g Icing Sugar
  • Lemon Juice to combine

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly grease and line with greaseproof paper two 20cm round or square cake tins.
  3. Beat the Margarine/Butter in a bowl with the Caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Gradually add the eggs with the sifted Self Raising Flour/Baking Powder and mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and springly to the touch.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To finish spread a layer of Lemon Curd over one of the cakes and the lemon icing on the top of the other then sandwich both together.

Delicious!

Happy Mother’s Day

Gill

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garden-blueberries

Blueberries are dark, sweet, delicious and often quite expensive; they are a cousin to our native Winberry, (also known as the blaeberrie, bilberrie, whortleberrie or huckleberrie) which can be found growing on moors amongst the heather and are ready to pick July-September. I think Winberries have a better flavour and are sweeter but not everyone is fortunate to have them growing nearby, if this is the case why not try growing your own Blueberries, which are now regarded as a ‘super fruit’ as they are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamins (especially Vitamin C) so have many health benefits.

Blueberry pants can be bought from Garden Centres, Nurseries or by Mail Order either to grow in pots or to plant in the garden.

Blueberries prefer an acid soil with a pH level of 5.5 or below this can be measured with a pH meter or a Soil pH testing kit, if your soil conditions are suitable add plenty of acidic organic matter such as pine needles, composted conifer clippings or ericaceous compost when planting. They prefer a sunny sheltered position and are best watered with rainwater whenever possible. If your garden soil is not acidic Blueberries will happily grow in pots in ericaceous compost, for young plants choose one that is at least 30cm (12in) in diameter, then move into a 45-50cm (18-20in) container when it is outgrows the first one, place some crocks/pieces of polystyrene in the bottom of the containers to help retain moisture.

Plant two different varieties of Blueberries to ensure cross-pollination, a single plant will produce fruit but yields will be higher and fruits bigger if more than one plant is grown. Use netting to protect ripening fruit from birds, not all the fruit ripens at the same time the berries are ready to pick when they are deep blue and can easily be pulled off.

Blueberries produce fruit on previous years branches, young plants will not need pruning for the first two or three years, after this prune between November and March take out any dead, dying and diseased branches first then one or two of the oldest branches at the base especially any low branches to create an upright bush.

My three container grown Blueberry plants are now in their third year and I am hopeful that I will have a good crop this year.

Why not make this a half term holiday project with each child having their own Blueberry plant, they could even give it a name!

Have a fun half term

Gill

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primrose

Although it may seem slow Spring is on its way, in our garden the frogs have been croaking, the buds on the early Clematis are nearly ready to open, the snowdrops are up and the Primroses are in flower.

Primroses have to be one of my favourite flowers; they bring back happy childhood memories of walks up the fields gathering small bunches for my mum – although picking them nowadays isn’t the done thing.

Primula Vulgaris is the British native Primrose that can be found growing in hedgerows or on banks in the wild, but it will also grow happily in gardens.

They prefer a well-drained soil and will thrive in clay, chalk, loam and sand; they will grow quite happily in semi-shade making them perfect to plant under hedges, trees and in a woodland setting as well as in a wildflower meadow.

Primroses can be grown from seed, these are sown in Autumn and remain dormant during the Winter months they will begin to grow when the weather warms up, alternatively you can buy them bare root to plant in Autumn or as pot grown plants which are available now to plant straight away. When primroses have become established they will form thick clumps that can be divided and replanted, ideally during September, they will also self seed naturally. Primroses thrive on leaf mould which can be incorporated when planting or used as a mulch around the plants.

Primroses provide an early source of nectar for Bees, Brimstone Butterflies and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies they are also the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy Butterfly.

Did you know?

  • The Primrose is the county flower of Devon.
  • Its name derives from the Latin ‘Prima Rosa’ meaning ‘first rose’ of the year although it is not a member of the rose family.
  • Since Victorian times, April 19 has been known as ‘Primrose Day’ it is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the Primrose was his favourite flower and on this day every year they are placed at his statue in Westminster Abbey.

Primroses do not take up much space in your garden their pale lemon flowers are a glorious sight and their sweet delicate fragrance is a delight, they are well worth growing and a sign that Spring is on the way.

Gill

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Square Ground Bird Table

This year the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over three days for the first time, running from Saturday 28 January to Monday 30 January, this means that if you are busy over the weekend or the weather is bad you still have the option to take part on the Monday – you could even do it at work in your dinner hour!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has now been going over 35 years, it originally started in 1979 as a Winter activity that junior RSPB members could get involved in, Biddy Baxter who was then the editor of Blue Peter liked the idea and featured it on one the programmes, the response was amazing with over 34,000 people sending in their forms, it wasn’t until 2001 that adults were invited to join in the fun too.

Big Schools Birdwatch

Schools can take part in the Big Schools Birdwatch anytime before 17 February 2017, either as a whole school or in classes; the Birdwatch is suitable for all ages and abilities and an invaluable educational activity which allows pupils to get closer to nature and become aware of their environment and its wildlife.

CJ Wildlife Giant Fat Ball Bird Feeder

Getting started

Visit the RSPBs website and register for your free pack which is full of fascinating facts, tips and advice.

Make sure that you have plenty of bird feeders and bird food available in your garden; it is recommended that you feed the birds throughout the year and not just for the Big Garden Birdwatch or during Winter. If your bird feeders have been out at while it may be an idea to give them a wash before filling them up, this applies to your bird baths also as good hygiene and clean water are very important.

On the day – Find somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to view the birds, have a pen, your checklist/pad, a pair of binoculars and friends/family who can also look for birds.

What to do – For one hour count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time, this means that you are less likely to double count the same birds.

Here are some of the more common birds that you might see:

  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Coal tit
  • Collared dove
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Great tit
  • Greenfinch
  • House sparrow
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Magpie
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon

Keep watching closely there are many other species that may visit your garden especially if the weather is cold.

Send in your Birdwatch results to the RSPB by 17th February 2017.

For more information and advice on feeding the birds in your garden click here.

I shall be taking part, happy bird watching

Gill

 

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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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Have you seen our Children’s Christmas Quiz in the School Zone under ‘What to do this Term’ on the Gardening With Children website?

It is a fun trivia quiz with a mix of religious and traditional Christmas questions and would be a perfect end of term activity either individually or as a team challenge, it is a multiple choice quiz which makes it easier and suitable for children of all ages.

Click here to go to the Christmas quiz.

Here are the answers: 1b, 2c, 3c, 4a, 5b, 6b, 7c, 8a, 9c, 10b, 11c, 12b, 13b, 14a, 15b, 16c, 17b, 18a, 19c, 20b

 

Congratulations to our September-November Competition Winners.

We had lots of correct entries for our Hedgehog Word Search Competition in the School Zone, the winner was Hempshill Hall Primary School, Nottingham who wins a Hedgehog Pack containing a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

I really enjoyed looking at all the lovely Hedgehog pictures that were entered in the Family Zone Competition, it was really hard choosing a winner but overall the winning picture was by Leah Jobson with her picture of ‘Sophie’ the hedgehog who ‘loves hugs and dislikes being alone’, Leah wins a Hedgehog pack containing an Igloo Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

HEDGEHOG

Well done to both of you, I hope that you will soon have a hedgehog in your Hedgehog House.

Gill

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I hope that you all had a very enjoyable Halloween and now we look forward to Bonfire Night!

Penny for the Guy

When I was young I remember knocking on the doors of neighbours with my friends and asking them if they had any old wood that they didn’t want for our bonfire and also if they had a ‘Penny for the Guy’ who was sat in our wheelbarrow wearing our old clothes and stuffed with newspaper/leaves/straw, the money went towards fireworks, thinking about it now it does seem rather cheeky although I suppose it is not too different to trick or treating which seems to have taken over.

The ‘Guy’ represents Guy Fawkes who was a member of the conspiracy who intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605, the Gunpowder plot was thwarted when he was caught the night before guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the House of Lords.

I can’t remember the last time I saw children’s asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ it is such a shame that this tradition has died out, it is harmless fun although not for the Guy who unfortunately takes pride of place at the top of the bonfire.

Bonfire Night is all about keeping warm by the bonfire, watching fireworks, eating delicious treats and having fun here are some tasty easy to eat snacks for you to try:

popcorn

Home-made Popcorn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn Kernels/Popping Corn
  • Flavouring of your choice: Icing Sugar, Salt, Honey, Butter

What you need to do

  1. Place the popcorn kernels in one layer on the bottom of a heavy-based, deep pan with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Place on the stove on a medium heat with the lid on.
  3. Stay nearby as you need to listen to the kernels as they pop, at the beginning they will pop vigorously, when it slows down to a second or two between the pops remove from the heat.
  4. Wait a few minutes for the popcorn to cool, carefully remove the lid and place in a bowl, whilst warm sprinkle over the sugar, salt, runny honey or melted butter and stir.

Johns Red Apple plot

Spicy Apple Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 large red skinned eating apples
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • Spray Oil

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Core and thinly slice the apples ideally with a mandolin (adults only) which will give even slices.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spray lightly with oil.
  3. Lay the apple slices out on the tray so that they are not touching and sprinkle with the spices.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes turn over the slices and if required sprinkle again with the spices.
  5. Return to the oven for about 30 minutes, check regularly and remove any crisps that are golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool on a baking rack.

Edible Chocolate Sparklers

Ingredients

  • Bread Sticks
  • Chocolate
  • Syrup
  • Cake decorations (stars, edible glitter, hundreds and thousands)

What you need to do

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add some syrup so that the chocolate doesn’t set too quickly.
  2. Spread or brush (with a silicone brush) the chocolate on one half of the bread stick, then sprinkle with your favourite cake decorations, why not also try popping candy, nuts, desiccated coconut or even Rice Krispies or Coco Pops.
  3. Leave to set then enjoy.

firework

Don’t forget Garden Wildlife on Bonfire Night

With all the excitement of bonfire night don’t forget about the wildlife in your garden.  Make sure the bonfire isn’t set up too far in advance, as hedgehogs, small mammals and frogs/toads will be looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time of year, and may find a pile of leaves and wood enticing.  Why not provide hedgehogs/frogs/toads with an alternative home such as a Hogitat or a Frogitat. Click here to see a large selection of Wildlife Habitats.

Place fireworks away from trees and hedges where birds may be roosting, when bonfire night is over remember that now is an excellent time to start feeding your garden birds.  Click here to have a look at our bird feeders and accessories.

Safety is paramount on Bonfire Night click here for a reminder of the rules and tips for a safe and enjoyable Bonfire Night.

Gill

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