Nature Connections 39 – Day 1 of getting wild

I am hoping that you have managed to get out and enjoy the incredible weather and nature that we have been experiencing this past week. It really is extremely welcome as lockdown eases and yet continues.

This month I will be posting one ‘Random Act of Wildness’ taken from the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s ’30 Days Wild’ programme. This is the fifth year that they have been running it and at forest school the children and I always enjoy exploring the different ideas.I hope you do to.

Nature Connections 38 – 30 Days Wild!

Sussex Wildlife  Trust’s ’30 Days Wild’ is an exciting annual event. It is free to join up and once you have, you can download free resources of 30 nature based activity ideas for the month of June. Cut and paste the link below to sign up – 

Nature Connections 37 – Excellent Elderflowers!

Today’s activities are all based around the wonderful elderflower. Elder is an ancient native hedgerow plant and has many fascinating uses: the flowers, berries, bark and wood can all be used in different ways. It is often seen as a weed tree as it thrives in hedgerows and on rough/ waste ground. Elderflowers have been used for years in medicines around the world. They contain a variety of antioxidants (including vitamin C).

Did you know? In folklore, Elder was thought of as a protective tree – it was believed to keep evil spirits from entering the house if grown outside the door. Elders were also said to protect people from lightening when they sheltered under them from a storm. And as folklore has it, if you want to see fairies, all you need to do is stand under an elder tree on Midsummer’s Eve.

 

Out and About – Foraging for elderflowers

As with any foraging, it is essential you go with an adult and someone who is confident at identifying elder. The plant has masses of creamy white flowers which appear in late-May and June. They have a sweet smell.

The leaves consist of 5-7 leaflets, in pairs with a single end leaflet. Each leaflet has regular teeth and a pointed tip. The top of the leaflet is dark green and matt. The underside is paler.

The bark is greyish-brown. The young bark contains a lot of speckled ‘warts’. As the bark becomes older, it develops deep creases.

When you are foraging for the flowers, use a pair of secateurs or sharp scissors and cut the flower heads just below stem. Gather only a few flowers from each tree to leave as many as possible to develop into berries. You will only need 12 flower heads for the cordial. Try to avoid taking any flowers from a plant near a road or polluted areas.

 

In the garden – Elderflower Cordial

See the recipe and instructions below for how to make the cordial. However all of this can be done in the garden, using a campfire to boil the water. We make this every year at forest school and there is something very satisfying about the entire process of foraging, preparing and then drinking the cordial outside. 

Staying at home – Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial is a delicious and refreshing drink. It is particularly nice with sparkling water and ice. 

You will need: an adult, 12 heads of elderflowers, a colander, sieve, muslin or t-towel, 2 lemons, 400g of caster sugar, 1 litre of water, saucepan, jug, recycled glass or plastic bottle and a wooden spoon.

Try it: 

  1. Pick the flowers off the stalks (12 bunches/ heads).
  2. Rinse the flowers in the colander to remove any insects.
  3. Cut up 2 lemons into slices.
  4. Put the lemons and elderflowers into a saucepan.
  5. Add 1 litre of boiling water.
  6. Add 400g of caster sugar. Stir well.
  7. Leave for an hour or so to infuse.
  8. Strain the liquid into a jug (using a sieve with a muslin over the top to catch all the smallest particles, a funnel) and then pour into a recycled glass or plastic bottle. Use with a 3 days or free in an ices cube tray. Dilute as a cordial to taste.

Nature Connections 36 – Be a Night Explorer, Build a Wormery, Origami Birds

Now we are moving towards summer, the days are a lot longer. If you are wanting to experience nature in a completely new way, why not try a night walk. Even the most familiar walk can appear an adventure and you really don’t need to go far.

Out and About – Be a Night Walk Explorer

Taking a walk at night will awaken the senses in a completely different way. Not only will you need to rely more on your hearing and sense of touch but things will even smell differently. So even a familiar walk will feel like a totally new region to discover.

Top tips – take an adult with you but leave your torch at home. Your night vision gets ruined with the use of any torch light. Wait for a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the new low light levels and then moving more slowly than normal to allow your feet to feel for any trip hazards. Keep your ears open to all the nocturnal animals and birds that will be busy at night.

 

In the garden – Make a Wormery

Did you know? Worms are 1000 times stronger than a human (relatively speaking), they can reproduce all on their own without a mate and even if you accidentally cut them in half they can go on living! You don’t get two worms but the part with the saddle (the fatter pink part) is the only half to survive.

The Earth Worm’s most important job is their ability to make compost. They eat their body weight in dead organic matter everyday and then poop out beautiful soil! You might see these worm poos or casts in your garden.

You need –  a clean jar, soil, sawdust, leaves, veggie peelings or over ripe fruit, worms from your garden.

How to do it – The important thing is to create clear layers of each of the above so you can observe the worm’s work. Keep these layers moist. Worms breath through their skin and need to be kept damp.

Once you filled the jar with layers, you need to make a tube of black paper to slide over the jar. This is to trick the worms into thinking they are deep underground. Don’t attach the tube to the jar as you will need to move it up and down to look inside.

You will also need a lid to stop the worms escaping. Cover the top of the jar with a piece of foil and pierce some holes in it, secure with an elastic band.

Finally you will need some worms! Sending vibrations into the ground to try and raise the worms imitates rainfall and brings the worms to the surface. This could be done by dancing or drumming on the ground.  Alternatively, water the grass with a watering can.

Carefully place the worms into the Wormary so they can get to work. Keep checking the jar each day to see what they are up to and don’t forgot to release them after a week or so.

 

Staying at Home – Make an Origami bird

Step 1

Step 1: Start with a square piece of origami paper. If you only have regular 8.5×11 paper, follow these instructions to make a square sheet.
Step 2 Step 2: Fold the paper in half by folding the top corner to the bottom corner. You should have an upside down triangle.
Step 3 Step 3: Fold part of the top down so that the edge is about halfway down. Don’t make this flap too thin because this will become the wings.
Step 4 Step 4: Turn the paper over.
Step 5 Step 5: Take the bottom corner of the top layer and fold it up like this.
Step 6 Step 6: Fold the figure in half by folding the left side over to the right.
Step 7 Step 7: Now fold that same flap back like this to make one of the wings.
Step 8 Step 8: Fold the other wing back also.
Step 9Step 9-2 Step 9: Push the center of the head in and flatten. This is called an inside reverse fold.
Step 10 Step 10: And tada! You have yourself a bird. Now set it free!

Nature Connections 35 – Explore Nature by Bike, Camp Outside, Plant Labels

Today the forecast is hot and sunny. It’s the perfect weather to get out on your bike or scooter, as well as go camping in your garden. You don’t need a tent, why not be a brave explorer and sleep under the stars!

Out and About – Exploring by bike

One very positive result from lockdown has been that roads are quieter and therefore safer. This in turn have meant that people have been using their bicycles more confidently to get around. Cycling is not only a greener way to travel as it produces no pollution but it has the added benefits of being free and good for our physical health. This week, why not try exploring your town or city by bike? You can travel further and see more than if you are walking. 

In the Garden – Camping outside

Camping outdoors is no.3 on the National Trust’s list of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

While you are outdoors, why not watch the sunset (no.49) then go stargazing (no. 27)? Or you could set your alarm to get up for the sunrise (no.23).

What can you hear?

As you go to sleep, make the most of this quiet moment when your eyes are closed, your body is relaxed and you can focus on what you can hear. Are there rustlings? That could be a hedgehog. Is an owl waking up and hooting a ‘good evening’? 

As the sun rises, you’ll be greeted with the sounds of bird song and the dawn chorus. The birds (probably thrushes, blackbirds, robins and chaffinches) will start their cheery dawn chorus, as early as 3am in summer!

Staying at Home – Make plants labels

If you have been growing plants from seed it can be difficult to remember what you’ve planted and where – especially when all the action is happening underground! Recycled plant labels are a fun and easy solution. They’re also useful for naming existing plants. You can add pictures or even facts about the plants you are growing. Can you fins their Latin name?

Equipment 

• Felt tip pens 

• Cardboard and sticky tape 

• Plastic bottle strips or similar 

• Scissors 

Activity 

1) Cut cardboard into your desired shape for a plant label. This could be a fun shape like a butterfly or flower or a simple rectangle – just remember it needs to be big enough to write on. 

2) Write on your plant name in felt-tip. You could give the plant a mythical name, a new nickname, find out its latin name (or make up a new one!) 

3) Make the cardboard label waterproof by covering it with sticky tape or a layer of PVA glue. 

4) Carefully, cut your recycled plastic into strips to make pointy stakes to go in the soil. 

5) Attach your label to the stake and place in a visible place that everyone can see. 

Nature Connections 34 – Sit Spot, Natural Body Tattoos, Flower pressing

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it is well documented that spending time in nature, physical exercise and spending time outside are all beneficial for our mental wellbeing.

Mindfulness is a way of becoming more present and mindful and is shown that over time it can help reduce feelings of stress and increase satisfaction. A Sit Spot can be a form of mindfulness and is a way of slowing down and taking time to notice nature, yourself and your place in nature.

Out and About – Sit Spot

It was way back in the first week of lockdown when I started this blog and one of the activities for being in the garden was a Sit Spot. I thought that as the lockdown rules have relaxed about being allowed to go outside for relaxation and recreation, it would be good to try another Sit Spot and perhaps somewhere more wild. The beach, woods, park or meadows will all offer completely different experiences, as will the weather and time of day.

Why not stop in a quiet place when you are out and about today and spend just 3 minutes (or more) noticing nature using any or all of your senses. My favourite way to have a Sit Spot is to lay on the ground.

In the Garden – Natural Body Tattoos

Making natural paints is always fun but using them to decorate you body a temporary tattoos instead of paper is even better! 

You will need: chalk, charcoal, berries (blackberries and raspberries are best), clay and mud, a pebble or stone (for crushing the chalk and charcoal), recycled pots to mix the paints in and a stirring stick.

Try it –

  • Crush the chalk and charcoal into a powder in separate pots with a pebble or wooden mallet. Add a little water and mix into a runny paste with a stick. You will make a black and white paint.
  • Mix a small amount of mud or clay with water and stir well. You will make a brown and grey paint.
  • Crush and mix berries with a little water. you will make a red/purple paint.
  • For paint brushes you can use feathers, thin or fat sticks or even wine corks.
  • Enjoy the sensation of the wet paints on your skin and decorate your body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying at Home – Flower pressing

This is a very pleasing nature activity that can create very satisfying results in a week! You need very few resources: small flowers or grasses, tissues, a flower press or some heavy books.

While you are out on a walk or in the garden, collect a selection of small flowers or interesting grasses. Remember to only pick a few and leave the rest for the bees and other pollinators. Place the flower gently between 2 layers of tissue and press within a heavy book or flower press and leave for a week. 

You can then use them to make cards or bookmarks as gifts or for yourself. 

 

Nature Connections 33 – Grass Music, Clay Faces, Butterfly feeders

This week there are lots of activities for you to have a go at. Some of the ‘Out and About’ activities are now able to include those which mean you can sit and relax outside. This is due to the change in lockdown information and means we can go out and just sit to enjoy the natural world, without always having to keep moving. Why not stop and sit and enjoy a more relaxed nature connection.

Out and About Blowing grass music

Play your favourite song using a blade of grass.

Hold a blade of grass tightly between your two thumbs. Blow gently into the gap between your thumbs until you hear a whistle.

Remember to choose a long, flat blade of grass away from litter and dog poo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the garden – Clay Faces

This is a wonderful and creative activity which is not only enjoyable to make but a lovely surprise if you leave them on tree or walls for others to see. You will need some air dry clay and any found natural materials. If you don’t have any clay, you could always use mud.

Staying at home – Make a Butterfly feeder

You will need:

  • 1 x small shallow recycled plastic container with a rim.
  • 4 x pieces of garden twine or string 40cm long
  • Hole punch or scissors
  • Images you like from a magazine 
  • PVA glue and a brush
  • Small tin of outdoor varnish (to make your feeder weatherproof)
  • Sugar water (2 parts water to 1part sugar, dissolve sugar in boiling water and let cool)
  • Small sponge to fit the bottom of your bowl, you can use cut up scouring sponges.

Method

1. Use the hole punch or scissors to make four holes equal distance around the rim of the bowl.

2. Cover the sides and bottom of your container in cut out images from your favourite magazines and glue them around the sides of the container.

4. Whilst the glue is drying pass the four lengths of string/twine through the four holes in the rim and secure with a small knot.

5. Tie the four lengths of string/twine together at the top making sure you leave a loop to hang the feeder.

6. Coat the sides (and bottom if needed) of the container with varnish. This will stop the rain from ruining the images.

7. Take the sponge and dip it in the sugar water, soaking it up, then place inside the bottom of the container.

8. Hang up in the garden away from the house and main paths; other insects will be attracted to the sugar water.

Once you have made your butterfly feeder you can hopefully enjoy a bit of butterfly spotting from your garden or through the window.