12 Months of Nature :: April 2016

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It’s been a very unusual month – from brilliant sunshine, warmth and sunbathing one week, to snow, hail and thunderstorms the next.  Of course I remember there being snow in April before and last frost dates are in May for this part of the country, but even so, as someone who generally has to walk daily from this village to the next to take my youngest daughter to nursery, I’ve been a tad miffed at snow in the last days of April (plus I never know what to put on – I leave the house in sunshine  and sunglasses and return in a torrent of sleet – and as a prescription glasses weather, I imagine I look rather odd, my sunglasses still in situ under glowering, swirling grey clouds).

As we walk to nursery, we pause along the way to notice the changes in nature that are happening all around us. Sometimes I’ll give her the camera and she’ll take some photos of her own (the dandelion and blossom), giving a child’s-eye view of the world.  She picks red and white dead nettle and we talk about the differences between them and the various stinging nettles we see growing.  We note the heart-shaped seed pods on shepherd’s purse, the differing speedwells, the celandines under the trees and she picks flowers to take into nursery to tell them what she has seen on her way.  We talk about the daffodils fading and passing, making way for the first poppies (just hatching from their hairy cases a couple of days ago) and how the blossom that is scattering across the trees will become fruit (and the anticipation of cherries to come, although there is other blossom to be seen).

Sometimes there are particular surprises.  She always thought that ladybirds are red, but by chance we found a yellow one, its markings more merged than spots and we talked about how there are many other kinds of ladybirds and that, by chance, she will come across more, in time.

We’ve seen the first swallows of the year and even a deer, breaking from cover as we approached the bridge between the villages.  It was a little way off and I doubt bothered by us as it galloped from cover across shorter grass and towards the trees beyond.  I’d have loved to get a photo of it, but I’m just not fast enough!

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pheasant

There are a lot of pheasants about – this one close by the side of the road (and the brick wall in the background is the wall of a house, its drive just out of shot to the right).  Being so close, even Arty noticed it and hung out of the side of his pushchair to get a better look.

sparrowhawk

I also see a couple of regular sparrowhawks, one a frequent visitor to my garden (where it sits on the back fence or on our, currently empty, coop) and another usually sitting on the telephone lines over the fields and river between villages at the time I’m walking home from dropping Minnie off at nursery.  I often pause a little while and it generally flies off after a few moments.  I suppose it has its daily rhythm and this is a stopping off point as it patrols its territory that just happens to coincide with my usual returning time (as I will sometimes see it every day at about the same time – I guess that when I don’t see it it’s  maybe because I’m running a little later or earlier and have missed it).

There’s always so much to see on this daily walk and we always leave a little earlier to give time for us to pause along the way and investigate anything that might take our interest.  Minnie loves noticing new flowers and insects and learning their names and little Arty just loves being outside, wind in his hair, enjoying the fresh air (but always watching, watching, watching as we explore, learning that we love and value the nature that surrounds us).

Last year we took part in 30 Days Wild with The Wildlife Trusts and this year, the event will be running again in June.  Please consider getting involved and, if you don’t already, making some room for nature in your life.  You can sign up HERE.

52 Weeks of Nature :: February 2016

Left: Mallard duck (female)/Right: Canada geese looking shifty

Left: Tufted ducks (female)/Right: unsure save for it’s a duck.

Left: Coot/Right: Moorhen

Left: Great Crested Grebe/Right: Little Grebe (winter plumage)

It’s been quite some time since I wrote a post about being out and about and observing the beautiful nature that surrounds us here.  Partly due to lack of mobility due to an injury to my knee and then my back (both much better now), but also due to shoddy weather (and without a decent rainproof coat that fits over my larger post-baby frame, I didn’t fancy getting very cold and very wet!)  I’ve also been without a mobile phone – that oft used and very easy way to snap a pic wherever you are – so have to remember to bring a camera (and then remember how to use said camera).

In a bid to shift the additional weight that has crept on, we made a decision to have a weekend “family walk” somewhere a little further afield than the immediate surroundings (as I’m a non-driver, any walking I do tends to be in and around the village) and so, steadily, we are getting out (unless it’s absolutely throwing it down).

The birds are all from a chilly walk around Lakeside, Doncaster.  We also saw cormorants, but I couldn’t get a decent picture from such a distance.  Throughout the year there’s always something to spot there, even though it is an urban location, surrounded by flats, a football stadium and offices.

Moo has also been busy with the camera, getting very low to the ground at Hatfield Moors (Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum).  We still need to identify most of these, although the dried flower head is Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris).

Hopefully as the weather (and my strength) steadily improve I’ll be able to get back to being out more and more (roll on warmth and sunshine!)

Boozy planning

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J has been planning.  He picked up some demijohns from Freecycle (when it existed, it now appears to have morphed and we have a local Freegle) and is planning to embark on making wine, or more specifically ‘country’ wine, as although we have vines, they aren’t producing grapes (or are even in the ground yet…)  So I ordered him “Booze”, by John Wright, the twelfth book in the River Cottage Handbook Series.

Of course I had to have a read of it myself.  I’ve made various infusions/liqueurs/ratafias in the past, but not anything ‘from scratch’, so it’s an interesting read (and has given me a giggle in a few places so far).  Lots of inspiration to be had and I’m rather excited that potentially in about a year’s time we may have some of our own home-made wine.

Also on the table is “The Story of Plants” by John Hutchinson and Ronald Melville.  It dates back to 1948 and in the back is the library card from when it was part of the San Mateo Junior College Library.  I first saw this book when 5 Orange Potatoes shared a photo of it online and in a herbal group I’m a member of and it looked so interesting I thought I’d try and find a copy for us as well.  I was lucky and managed to find one for a few pounds and was really pleased when it arrived.  It’s a lovely old book.  Originally written for children, so very approachable, without ‘dumbing down’ the information and Moo and I have been steadily working through it.  It has some wonderful fold out ‘family trees’ of plants:

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We we will be using it for inspiration for further learning in the weeks to come.

The swirl ball is finished.  The actual knitting part of it, a little while ago, but it took longer to get around to stuffing and sewing it up (I’m not a great fan of having to sew a seam).  It was a quick and simple knit and interesting in how it knitted up with the short rows  (not that short rows are inherently interesting, rather how they worked together to make the swirl effect).  I am now on to baby knitting for friends’ babies, as there’s been a few born all around Arty’s age (and all boys, with one still to come in the next couple of weeks). I was struggling to get basic things done for a while after Arty was born, let alone manage to knit anything for friends, so I’m now catching up (albeit slowly).

Joining in with Keep Calm and Craft On and Yarn Along.

12 Months of Nature :: July 2015

A record of what we have spotted during July. You can mouseover for ID captions.  If you can help with any unidentified, it would be most appreciated!