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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

A lot of children will be enjoying half term this week whilst many others will have to wait until next week, I love half term as it usually includes Halloween and Bonfire Night, every year I try out new treats and decorations here are this year’s ideas:

 

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Mummified Sausages

Ingredients

  • 8 Sausages (long and thinnish if possible)
  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Tomato Sauce or dips of your choice

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut it into 1cm strips.
  3. Starting at the bottom , wrap a pastry ‘bandage’ around each sausage in one direction, then repeat and wrap another strip of pastry in the other direction overlapping to look like a mummy, leave a space for the eyes, dip a cocktail stick in the tomato puree and dot on two eyes.
  4. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sausages are cooked through.

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Witches Fingers

Ingredients

  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Dried grated hard cheese
  • 1 or 2 Peperami Sausages

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut into approx. 20 pieces.
  3. Roll out each piece to the length of a finger, gently round one end and press in the tip of a knife for the fingernail, using the knife score two lots of 3 lines across the finger to resemble the knuckles.
  4. Cut the Peperami into 1.5cm slices and then cut each slice in half, dab some tomato puree at the end of the finger and press on your peperami finger nail.
  5. Place on a baking tray, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the cheese.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve both with your favourite dips and watch them disappear

 

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Spooky Twig Spiders Webs

What you need

3 twigs of similar length and thickness (per web)

Light coloured string or wool

Plastic/rubber spiders

What you need to do

Lay your 3 twigs on the floor then tie and knot the string/wool around the middle to secure, then carefully loop the string tightly around each branch working in a circle until you reach the end of the twigs, cut and knot the string leaving a long length to hang your web up. Thread your spiders on to the web between the string or tie them on. I have hung my web on the front door.

 

spider-light

Spider Lights

What you need to do

Simply fill jam jars/glass bowls/vases or containers with shop bought ‘spiders webs’ or cotton wool (stretched and pulled), place a safe LED tea light (white or coloured) in the middle and your scary spiders in between the web and the glass, place on your windowsill or by the front door.

 

Have fun

Gill

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Last Saturday we went to our friend’s wedding, it was at a beautiful old hotel in the Forest of Bowland surrounded by glorious countryside, the weather couldn’t have been better it was calm, sunny and mild, the surrounding trees were looking at their best in stunning shades of gold, amber and red – it was perfect.

The groom is an Arboriculturalist, and trees played a part at their wedding, they were on the invitations, order of service and the menus, at the wedding breakfast each table had been named after a tree and at each place setting was a favour for each guest, it was a tree sapling beautifully presented in its own woven pouch. We were sat on the ‘Rowan’ table so received a Rowan tree, other tables included Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Hawthorn, Wild Cherry, Field Maple Oak, Crab Apple, Birch what a fantastic idea and a gift that will last a lifetime (ours, our children’s and grandchildren’s) it went down well with all the guests and everyone took their trees home.

Trees make a lovely and unusual gift they can be planted to mark a special occasion, the birth of a child, a wedding, birthday, retirement, mothers/fathers day, an anniversary, and also to remember someone by they are a powerful symbol representing eternity and life.

Growing your own trees

Now is the ideal time to grow your own trees, this year there is a bumper crop of tree seeds/fruits such as acorns, conkers, beech seeds and sycamore/maple/ash keys, most are now on the ground and ready to be collected. Choose seeds that are firm, undamaged and mould/disease free, place in a plastic back to retain their moisture before planting. Sow your seeds in trays, modules or pots depending on their size, in a mixture of 50% multi-purpose compost and 50% perlite or coarse grit, water the compost and allow to drain, sow your seeds to a depth of roughly the height of the seed, small seeds will only need covering lightly with compost, label with the variety and date.

To prevent the compost from drying out cover with an inflated plastic bags, cloche, plastic lid or sheet of clear Perspex, place on a cool windowsill, in a cold frame, greenhouse or polytunnel, keep the compost moist but not soggy. When your seedlings start to emerge remove the cover and when large enough (a good indicator is when you see roots growing through the bottom of the container) transplant into individual pots to grow on. In Spring harden them off and grow on outdoors, if they are large enough in Autumn plant out in their final growing position, this can be delayed a year or two to allow your trees to grow to a larger size, you will need to repot each year into a larger container to allow their roots to grow, container grown trees will need regular watering and feeding once a month with a liquid fertilizer.

If the weather is good this weekend get outdoors, collect and sow some tree seeds.

Gill

red-tomato-chutney

This morning there is a faint smell of vinegar in our house, yesterday I made Red Tomato Chutney using the crops that I had grown, Tomatoes (Large fleshy beef variety that contain very little juice or seeds), Onions and Bramley Apples, I made a large batch which produced 13 jars of this wonderful chestnut brown preserve, it cannot be eaten straight away as most chutneys take time to mature and should be left for at least a month before opening, I like to leave mine a little longer and will be eating this at Christmas with the Turkey. There are so many variations of Chutneys I think it is a case of anything goes whether its fruit, vegetables or a combination of both, it’s a great way to use up the last of your crops or alternatively to make good use of a glut. The word ‘Chutney’ is derived from the Hindu word ‘chatni’ which means strongly spiced if you like lightly spiced chutney then this recipe is perfect for you.

Red Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 900g/2lb Tomatoes (firm but ripe)
  • 450g/1lb Onions
  • 450g/1lb Cooking Apples (weight when peeled and cored)
  • 450ml/¾ pint Malt or Wine Vinegar (I used Malt)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
  • 350g/12oz Sugar
  • 300g/10oz Sultanas
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

What you need to do

  1. Skin and chop the tomatoes, peel and finely chop the onions and the apples.
  2. Put all the ingredients into the preserving pan except for the sugar, sultanas and the seasoning, simmer gently until tender.
  3. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until dissolved then put in the sultanas and seasoning.
  4. Simmer steadily, stirring regularly until it is the consistency of a thick jam.
  5. Spoon into hot sterilized jars, add a waxed circle and tighten the lid securely.
  6. Store in a dark, cool and dry place.

Notes:

  1. I made 2.5 times the above quantities in a large stainless steel pan 17cm high x 25cm diameter, this is the maximum volume that can be made in this size of pan.
  2. Once the sultanas have been added you need to stir the mixture regularly as they sink to the bottom and can burn.
  3. If the chutney is slow to reduce down to a jam consistency, spoon off some of the watery mixture from the top of the pan and sieve out the vinegar liquid returning any pulp to the pan.

Homemade chutneys, jams and preserves make a lovely personal gift, why not plan ahead and give friends/family a home produce hamper this Christmas.

Gill

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Autumn if traditionally Fungi or Mushroom time, yet we can buy White mushrooms all year round, they may just be another item on your shopping list but take a closer look they are quite intriguing.

Their scientific name is Agaricus bisporus they can be white or brown, when immature and white they may be known as ‘common mushroom’, ‘cultivated mushroom’, ‘button mushroom’ or ‘white mushroom’, when immature and brown they may be known as ‘chestnut mushroom’, ‘brown cap mushroom’, ‘Italian brown’ or ‘brown cap mushroom’, when they are mature and the cap flatter they are known as ‘Portobello mushrooms’, they are one of the most widely eaten types of mushroom in the world.

Mushrooms, often wrongly grouped with vegetables, are very healthy, they are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol free and very low in sodium yet they contain important nutrients such as Vitamin B (niacin, riboflavin), selenium, potassium and Vitamin D.

There are three main parts to the mushroom:

  1. The Cap or Pileus, which can grow to 5-10 centimetres in diameter, when it starts to grow it is like a small ball as it gets bigger it flattens out.
  2. Underneath the cap are the gills which are initially pink, they then turn red-brown and finally a dark brown this is where the spores are.
  3. The cylindrical stalk or stripe can grow up to 6cm tall and 1-2cm wide and has a ring around it.

Mushrooms grow from microscopic spores, each mushroom can have 16 million spores, although they are microscopic there is a way that you can see them with the naked eye by making a Mushroom Print.

What you will need

  • Some mature (flat) mushrooms
  • White paper
  • Cups/Glasses
  • Newspaper

What you need to do

  1. Place the white paper on top of the newspaper making sure that the newspaper is flat, (the brown colour of the mushrooms can go through the white paper and stain the surface underneath).
  2. Remove the stalk of the mushroom carefully and place the cap with the gills down on the white paper.
  3. Place a cup or glass over the cap to stop any air currents and leave for about 24 hours.
  4. Remove the cup/glass and carefully lift off the mushroom you should have a ‘print’ made from the spores, the print should look the same as the underside of the mushroom.

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Why not discover mushrooms today?

Have fun

Gill

Hedgehogs are unique creatures that we rarely see, they are a true gardeners friend eating lots of pests including slugs and snails, unfortunately their numbers are in decline. At this time of year we can help by putting out food (not bread or milk) so they gain the weight needed to see them through the winter and by providing them with a safe home to hibernate.

We have launched two new competitions on the Gardening With Children website, giving you the opportunity to win Wildlife products for the Hedgehogs in your garden:

 

In the School Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hogitat Hedgehog House Habitat

Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter all you need to do is to find the hidden words in our Hedgehog Word Search the first correct entry drawn out of the hat will win.

For full details, The Hedgehog Word Search and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

 

In the Family Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

An Igloo Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hedgehog Igloo House Habitat Shelter

A Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter draw or paint a picture of a Hedgehog and give him/her a name and our favourite picture will win.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

garden-spider

In Autumn if I am walking in my garden or out of the front door first thing in the morning I have to tread carefully as the spiders have usually been busy making their webs which stretch between plants, gateposts and across footpaths. The culprits are Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) and although they live in the garden from May to November it is only from mid-August that they seem to appear.

Garden Spiders can vary in colour from very dark brown to pale yellowy brown but they all have a group of white spots on their abdomen in a cross shape, they spin Orb Webs to catch their food which include midges, flies, butterflies and wasps, Orb Webs look like a wheel with spokes and are the most advanced spider webs, they are built by laying spirals of silk around radial threads the spider then waits in the centre of the web for its prey to get caught on the web, it then rushes out and wraps it in sticky silk so that it cannot get away.

Female Garden Spiders lay their eggs in a silken cocoon, they protect this egg sac until they die in late Autumn, the following May the spiderlings will hatch and the cycle begins again.

7 fun and interesting facts about Spider Webs

  1. The threads of spider webs are called ‘silks’.
  2. Spider silk is five times stronger than a strand of steel that is the same thickness.
  3. Many spiders make a new web every day; they eat their old web which contains protein.
  4. Abandoned Spider Webs are called ‘cobwebs’.
  5. Spiders don’t stick to their own webs because they can make parts of one thread sticky and non-sticky, they stay off the sticky spots.
  6. Young Spiders (spiderlings) float through the air on strands of silk this is called ‘ballooning’.
  7. Spiders are the only group of animals to build webs.

Spider webs look beautiful in the morning covered in dew why don’t you see if you can find some and take some photographs or draw a picture of them.

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Have fun

Gill

Autumn Rasberries

Autumn Raspberries

The Autumn Raspberries are ripening fast in the warm weather and can be picked daily they are delicious with cream or ice cream but freshly picked Raspberries have a limited shelf life of about 3 days in the fridge, if you have a glut make them into delicious jam or freeze them in a single layer on trays then bag them up for use later on either in pies, crumbles, sauces, fruit smoothies, jams/jellies or in cakes. Here is a delicious recipe for you to try:

Raspberry and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 150g raspberries

For the drizzle

  • 80g caster sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C and grease and line a 28cm x 18cm rectangular tin.
  2. Put the butter, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well combined.
  3. Gently fold in the milk and two thirds of the raspberries
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tray and level out.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries over the surface of the cake.
  6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is spongy to touch.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and sugar together, remove the cake from the oven and while still hot make holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the drizzle, leave to cool in the tin.

Eat cold or as a pudding warm with custard, ice cream or crème fraiche.

 

Raspberry Support With Extension

Raspberry Support

When you have finished picking the Autumn Raspberries (August to October harvest) cut the canes down to soil level, new canes will grow in the Spring that will bear next year’s fruit, if you have Summer fruiting raspberries (June to early August harvest) only cut back this years old fruiting canes, leave tie in and support this year’s new canes these will produce next year’s fruit.

Budget Fruit Cage

Fruit Cage

Raspberries are very easy to grow, bare root Raspberry canes can be ordered now for planting in November-March when they are dormant, they prefer a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plant the canes of Summer Fruiting Raspberries 40cm apart and Autumn fruiting Raspberries 60cm apart at a depth of 8cm, firm in, water well and reduce the canes to a height of 25cm. Each spring mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure or apply a general fertiliser and then mulch with garden compost, water during dry weather and protect with a fruit cage or netting to stop the birds eating your crop.

Right I’m off to pick some more – it is raspberries and ice cream for tea!

Gill

Is it me or are there suddenly a lot of Ladybirds, when I bring in the washing I unknowingly bring in with it a couple of these delightful insects, I also found a Ladybird larvae on the washing machine, they are grey and grub like and not very pretty to look at, they don’t resemble a Ladybird and if you didn’t know what they are you might be tempted to squash them.

Ladybird Larvae

Ladybird larvae

In Britain there are 46 species of Ladybirds, 19 species are dull in appearance and do not look at all like the familiar brightly coloured spotted ones that we all love, the 17 spotted varieties have different colour variations, orange with black spots, black with orange spots, white with black spots, yellow with black spots or brown with white spots and also different numbers of spots 2, 7, 11, 14, 18, 16, 22 and 24.

So why are there suddenly a lot of ladybirds?

They are this years newly hatched Ladybirds, during August they emerge from their pupae and then feed up on lots of aphids to build up their reserves to see them through the Winter months (October-February) when they go into a dormant state. In March-April they will emerge and search for food (aphids), the male and female then mate and the female will lay up to 40 eggs during June-July these are bright yellow and can often be found on the underside of leaves, they hatch within 4-10 days and over the following 3-6 weeks the larvae feed on aphids and grow fast shedding their skin 3 or 4 times before attaching to a stem/leaf and becoming a pupae, during the next two weeks the pupae changes dramatically and emerges as a Ladybird in August.

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybird Pupae

Ladybirds are great for the garden the Seven Spot Ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids in its year-long life span so as well as being beautiful they are a true gardener’s friend and worth looking after, unfortunately some native UK Ladybirds species are in decline. During September Ladybirds are feeding up and looking for a safe, dry place to spend the winter why not put some Ladybird and Insect Towers around your garden, each one has a hollow centre filled with straw which provides insulation and drilled holes to allow the Ladybirds access to the inner chamber, place them somewhere warm and sheltered either amongst the flowers, in a wooded area or even in a planter.

Wildlife World Ladybird and Insect Tower

Ladybird and Insect Tower

The collective name for a group of Ladybirds is a ‘loveliness’, I cannot think of anything more fitting.

Love your environment

Gill

 

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