Feeds:
Posts
Comments

October 21st is Apple Day, it is an annual celebration of apples and orchards, there are lots of organized events being held around the country, at many of these events you can: taste locally grown apples, have a look at apple orchards, talk to the growers, bring with you one of your unknown varieties of apple for the experts to identify, watch cookery demonstrations using apples and taste the results, learn about growing, pruning and grafting apple trees, buy apple produce (jams, jellies, chutneys, cakes, pies etc.), cooking equipment, apple crushers, apple presses, harvesting equipment such as ladders, apple pickersapple wizardsfruit stores and storage boxes not to mention apple trees to start off your own ‘orchard’ and much, much more, they make a great day out for all the family.

Last week Sylvia arrived in the office with a large bag of her own freshly picked apples to share amongst the staff. Thomas is not a great fan of apples so I started thinking of ways to try and tempt him, this idea made me ‘smile’ and would be great for a children’s party – especially a Halloween Party.

Scary apple smile

Scary Apple Smiles

What you will need

  • Red skinned apples
  • Lemon Juice
  • Caramel/Toffee/Chocolate/Peanut Butter Spread
  • White mini Marshmallows

What you need to do

  1. Wash you apples and cut them into quarters.
  2. Trim off the core and seeds and cut out a wedge from the skin side of each quarter.
  3. Brush the flesh with lemon juice to stop it from turning brown.
  4. Fill the ‘gap’ with a spoonful of stiff Caramel/Toffee/Chocolate/Peanut Butter Spread.
  5. For the ‘teeth’ place your mini marshmallows in rows, one at the top and one along the bottom.

Scary apple smiles

Was Thomas tempted?  Yes, but I think the Toffee Spread had a lot to do with it!!

Why not give it a try?

This week we also celebrate Bramley Apple Pie Week 20th – 26th October for recipes and ideas on how to enjoy and store your apples click here.

Gill

If you have been reading my previous blogs you will know that I love Autumn especially getting out for a walk and collecting leaves, seeds, nuts and fruits I simply can’t resist it. The fruits such as Blackberries and Apples can be cooked to enjoy now in Pies and Crumbles or made into jams, chutneys and preserves to savour over the next few months, the seeds and nuts can be planted and will produce new flowers/wildflowers for your garden or a new generation of trees, all that remains are the stunning colourful leaves and the seed/nut cases.

You can have lots of fun with leaves and when you have finished they can be turned into valuable leaf mould for your garden, for lots of ideas for your wonderful leaves click here. This year the Beech has produced a bumper crop of seeds (which are often called Beechnuts or Beechmasts) and as I have quite a lot of the Beech seed cases I got thinking … they are very dry, hard and often spikey just like the prickles of a Hedgehog, so why not ….

Beech Seed Case Hedgehog

Make a Hedgehog from Beech Seed Cases

What you will need

  • Dry Beech Seed Cases
  • Potatoes
  • A Cocktail Stick
  • Sticky Tack or Glue
  • Conkers
  • Black felt tip pen

What you need to do

  1. Choose a potato preferably with a flat side (to stop it rolling around) this will be the bottom.
  2. Leave one end of the potato bare for the face then make holes with your cocktail stick in rows along the back and sides inserting beech seed cases by their stalks until you have covered your potato.
  3. Draw or stick on some eyes then add the conker nose securing it in place with Sticky Tack or Glue

If you have plenty of materials why not make a Hedgehog family and arrange them on a tray/lid with some of your leaves.

Hedgehogs are busy at the moment looking for a safe place to hibernate and eating plenty of food to build them up for the winter months, why not have a go at the new free Gardening with Children Family Competition or School Competition for a chance to win a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Field guide to Hedgehogs and some Hedgehog Food for the Hedgehogs in your garden.

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House – a perfect winter retreat for your prickly garden friends

Have fun

Gill

I love Autumn; the crisp, frosty mornings when spiders webs appear to have been decorated with crystals, the misty mornings when the fields are cloaked in white and the rich, damp, earthy smells as you walk through the woods. At this time of year most of the plants in the garden have started to die back, the stars of Autumn to my mind are the trees, many of which are dazzling in their ‘coats’ of many colours and heavily laden with masses of fruits and seeds of varying colours, shapes and sizes just waiting for the perfect time and opportunity to break free and become the next generation of trees.

There are many varieties of trees where I live, I just cannot resist the temptation to collect their seeds, my favourites are conkers from the Horse Chestnut Tree and the Spinning Jennies from the Maples, Sycamores and Ashes it is lovely to watch children picking them up and throwing them into the air so that they spin round and round on their way back down, this will only work with a single seed, throw a double one up and it just comes straight down.

SYCAMORE KEYS

A Spinning Jenny is actually a winged ‘fruit’, its wing is made from fibrous papery tissue and contains the with seed at one end, they often grow in pairs but when mature they are often released singly, the correct name for them is a ‘Samara’  their shape enables the wind to carry their seed farther away from the parent tree ideally in an area where trees are not already present and where they can germinate and grow, they have many names depending on where you live they are often referred to as keys as well as wingnuts, helicopters and whirlibirds, in the North of England they are referred to as Spinning Jennies.

I have got quite a collection already if you find them in bunches they make a lovely Autumn decoration or if you are a gardener like me you can plant them and watch them grow in the spring.

The environmental Charity The Tree Council, which was founded over 40 years ago, works in partnership with schools, communities, organisations and the government to make trees matter to everyone, on the 23rd September they launched the start of the new Tree Year with Seed Gathering Season which runs until 23rd October, its aim is to encourage and inspire school children, families and groups to take part in activities to collect, sow and grow trees together to ensure the future of their green landscape for more information and events in your area have a look at their website.

If you have collected conkers and have some spare to grow click here for a guide to growing your own Horse Chestnut Tree.

Green Horse Chestnut Leaves

So get out, have fun and enjoy all that Autumn has to offer.

Love your environment

Gill

As I sat at my computer on Tuesday I was greeted by a lovely illustration on the Google page of a group of trees, their leaves turned golden brown and dropped to the ground this was to mark the first day of Autumn (23 September), it is funny that after all the beautiful, warm, sunny and dry weather we have had the weather changed on Tuesday it was definitely Autumnal the temperatures had dropped and it rained needless to say the central heating went on that evening for the first time in many months.

Autumn Leaf Mix

Spectacular Autumn Leaves

What is the Autumn Equinox and who/what decides when it is going to happen?

The Equinox occurs twice a year The Spring Equinox around 20th March and the Autumn Equinox around 22nd September the exact dates and times change every year. The word Equinox comes from the Latin words ‘aequus’ meaning equal and ‘nox’ meaning night, as they occur on the days when the days/nights are approximately equal in length, for us in the Northern hemisphere the sun will continue to rise later and set earlier giving us the shorter days and longer nights of Autumn whilst in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g. Australia) Spring is on its way.

The Autumn and Spring Equinoxes are actually Astrological events, Autumn occurs when the sun passes the equator moving from the northern to the southern hemisphere and the North Pole begins to tilt away from the Sun, Spring occurs when the sun passes the equator moving from the southern to the northern hemisphere and the North Pole begins to lean towards the sun again, anyone that lives in the South Pole will now be seeing the sun for the first time in half a year, whilst those that live in the North Pole will be preparing for six months of darkness.

How does the Autumn Equinox affect people, animals and plants?

Harvest time and the Harvest Festival traditionally falls around the Autumn Equinox when we celebrate, gather and store our crops; the shortening days prompt our wildlife too to store food and to fatten up on Autumn’s abundant fruit, nuts and seeds to see them through the winter months. As the weather turns cooler we put the heating on, wear warmer clothing and extra layers, animals prepare for the cold by growing thick winter coats, many species of birds migrate to warmer climates, the ones that remain grow extra feathers during late Autumn to give them more protection during Winter. Much of our wildlife will be looking for a warm and safe place to shelter or hibernate, now is an ideal time to install some homes for the creatures in your garden, such as Bee, Butterfly and Insect houses, Bird boxes, Hedgehog houses, Bat boxes and Frog and Toad houses.

Hedgehog Igloo House

The cosy Hedgehog Igloo House

Click on the links below for more information on:

Putting up Bird Boxes in your garden or Looking after garden wildlife during the winter.

Trees and plants prepare for winter, leaves change colour and drop off, plant stems die back, then they become dormant, living off the food that they have stored during the summer until the longer and warmer days of Spring return.

So put on an extra layer and see if you can spot any signs of Autumn

Gill

This year the weather has been perfect for growing and ripening, not only have we bumper crops in the garden and on our allotments but also in the surrounding countryside which is brilliant news for all the wildlife that rely on this natural harvest during the winter months.

Our hedgerows are simply overflowing with fruit just waiting to be picked.

Wild Blackberries

What can you find in a Hedgerow?

  • Blackberries
  • Sloe Berries
  • Crab Apples
  • Greengages
  • Rose Hips
  • Elderberries
  • Hawthorn Berries
  • Damsons

Crab Apples - church

What do you need to know before you go?

  1. Forage food only on public rights of way, if you are not sure or if you want to go off the beaten track ask the landowners permission first.
  2. Only take what you need, leave some for the birds and animals during the Autumn/Winter months.
  3. Respect the environment that you are collecting from and leave it as undisturbed as possible.
  4. Make sure that you are 100% certain that you know what you are picking, if you are not sure don’t pick it, some fruits can be similar in appearance to ones that are poisonous. Just because one part of a plant is edible it doesn’t mean that all parts are, some plants need cooking to destroy toxins e.g. cooking elderberries destroys toxins present in the raw berries, but leaves, barks or roots of elder should never be eaten.
  5. Don’t allow children to pick or eat wild food unsupervised.
  6. Avoid foraging on busy roadsides where vehicle pollution can contaminate the fruit, on industrial ground or on farmland where agricultural sprays may have been used.

What do you need?

  1. Containers for your delicious fruit – buckets/bags are ideal for larger and tougher fruit such as Crab Apples, Rose Hips, Hawthorn Berries and Damsons but smaller and softer fruits are better placed in shallower plastic containers such as butty boxes that will stop them from being squashed (Blackberries especially).
  2. Insect Spray and Bite Cream – be prepared, many insects especially wasps are just as attracted to the fruit as you are (Bite cream can often be used on Nettle stings too).
  3. A long stick with a ‘hook’ at one end – very useful for grabbing and pulling down those hard to reach branches, an umbrella would also do the job.
  4. Suitable clothing – a strong pair of shoes, long pants and a long sleeved top, some of the bushes are very prickly and care must be taken when picking their fruit (Blackberries, Sloe Berries, Hawthorn Berries, Rose Hips) Nettles are usually found in hedgerows too.

What do you do with your hedgerow harvest once you have got home?

  1. One of the first jobs is to sort through the fruit removing any that are damaged/rotten as well as any insects, leaves and stems.
  2. Most of the fruit will need a good wash, this is best done just before you use it.
  3. Decide what you are going to make with your bounty, have a look through your recipe books or on the internet, Jams, Curds and Jellies are one of the best ways to preserve fruit and they will keep well into next Spring, here are a few suggestions (click on the heading for the recipe):

My first memories of foraging – picking Blackberries with my Aunt and Uncle then coming home with bags of dripping Blackberries and purple stained clothes and fingers, marvelous!

Have fun, enjoy and love your environment

Gill

This year we ventured further afield for our summer holiday, our destination – Kefalonia, Greece. I can honestly say it was one of the best holidays we have had; the weather was hot and sunny every day, the locals very friendly and hospitable, the scenery was magnificent, the sandy beaches were spotlessly clean and the azure blue sea was so clear you could see the amazing sea life and the abundant brightly coloured fish (that would quite happily eat bread out of your hand).

Fish Kefalonia

Our last holiday to Greece was over 10 years ago and we were really looking forward to the Greek Cuisine, we weren’t disappointed, the first thing that we had was Tzatziki which is a traditional greek appetiser usually eaten before the main meal, its main ingredients are Greek Yoghurt, Cucumber and Garlic, it was delicious and so much nicer than the shop bought version available in the UK, so when we got home I thought I would try and make my own using cucumbers, garlic and herbs from my garden.

Tzatziki

Home made Tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 170g Greek Yoghurt
  • ½ large cucumber  or 1 small cucumber
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Ground Black Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Finely chopped Mint or Dill

Method

Grated cucumber

  1. Peel and cut your cucumber in half and remove the seeds, grate the cucumber flesh and place it into a sieve or colander over a bowl, mix in the salt and leave to stand for approximately one hour. Cucumbers contain a lot of water most of which needs to be extracted before you add your cucumber to the yoghurt, if not you will have a thin and watery Tzatziki.
  2. Whist your grated cucumber is standing, mix into your yoghurt the olive oil, lemon juice and the crushed garlic clove to allow the flavours to infuse, be cautious when adding your garlic, raw garlic especially crushed  is very strong and pungent – the smaller you cut garlic the stronger the flavour is, it may be an idea to add ½ clove at first.
  3. After an hour press down lightly on your grated cucumber to remove any remaining water and then stir into your yoghurt mixture.
  4. Add your herbs if required, in Greece some Tzatzikis contained finely chopped dill or mint or were served without either.
  5. Season with Ground Black Pepper
  6. Serve in a shallow dish or on a small plate, garnish with mint/dill or an olive and drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Eat with crusty bread or pitta bread.
  8. Enjoy!

I have made it twice since our return, the first time I used a whole garlic clove which I found quite strong, homemade is definitely worth making and so much better than our supermarket versions but regrettably it’s just not quite as good as the Greeks, I will have to start saving up for next year!

Now that I am back there are lots of jobs to catch up on in the garden and on the allotment click here for suggestions of what to do in your garden in September.

Gill

Thank you to everyone who entered our Family Zone June/July Competition, it sounds like you all had lots of fun on your Bug Hunts, you found some wonderful creatures:

Wood Lice, Worms, Slugs, Millipedes, Bees, Painted Lady Butterflies, a big furry caterpillar, a Slow Worm, Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars, Ants, Spiders, hoverflies, Ladybirds.

It was difficult to choose a winner and unfortunately there can be only one, the winning entry was from Jake Andrews aged 5 from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire he found a Grasshopper and sent in a lovely picture of it that he had drawn himself ‘well done Jake’, Jake wins a Ladybird and Insect Tower and a Field Guide to Ladybirds.

grasshopper

Grasshopper by Jake Andrews, age 5

The School Zone Competition was won by Halstead Preparatory School for Girls, Woking, Surrey the winning entry was by Maddie Robson aged 8 who answered all the Insect Questions correctly they will receive a Solar Insect Theatre and a Minibeast Identification Guide – well done.

I hope that they enjoy their prizes and that they will attract lots of insects into their gardens which they can identify with their guides.

You never know what you will find in your garden!

A couple of weeks ago, as I was pegging out the washing, something caught my eye, I had a closer look I couldn’t believe what I saw it was a huge fat green caterpillar about 8cm long, there were actually two of them the second was slightly smaller about 6cm long.

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar July 14

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar

I quickly searched through the Books of Moths, Butterflies and Caterpillars that we have and found a perfect match it was the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk Moth. Elephant Hawk Moths are resident in the UK and commonly found throughout England, Wales and Southern Scotland the adult moths feed at night on Honeysuckle and other tubular flowers and are attracted to light. The caterpillars also feed at night their preferred food plants are Willowherb, Fuchsia and Bedstraw the ones in my garden were feeding on the Bog Bean at the edge of my pond, on fine days in the late afternoon they rest on stems. The caterpillar spends the winter as a pupa in a flimsy cocoon amongst plant debris on the ground or just below the surface this means that I will have to be very careful when I am tidying up the garden in the Autumn.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

The caterpillars were amazing, I have only seen one of them again since, we have caught the Elephant Haw Moths in our moth trap before, they are stunning you would never think they are flying around in the UK at night they look tropical.

Why not make a moth trap and find out what is flying about in your garden at night – click here for more information.

Congratulations to our winners – have fun.

Gill

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers