Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve

Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.

Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.

‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.

‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.

On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.

Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.

The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.

We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.

Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 3

o0OhgWNNWell week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.

With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.

Day Fifteen: Thursday.

Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!

So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!

potatoes

I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.

  1. The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
  2. There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
  3. The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
  4. Probable potato scab which is a bacterium.

I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?

Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.

Day sixteen: Friday.

All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.

The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!

If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.

Day Seventeen: Saturday. 

Two of random acts of wildness are: 1. grow borage for bees and 2. take a picture of something blue.

borage

Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!

Day Eighteen: Sunday.

Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!

Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.

Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?

Day Nineteen: Monday.

Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.

Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.

Some pollinator friendly plants are:

  • Hellebore
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Honeysuckle
  • Sunflower
  • Michaelmas Daisies

Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?

Day Twenty: Tuesday.

I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.

Leaf-cutter bee:

  • One of the solitary bees.
  • Nests in cavities.
  • So named due to cutting out leaves to make their ‘cells’ for larvae.
  • On the wing April to August.
  • Feeds on nectar and pollen which they carry on their abdomen.

Honey bee:

  • Are hive bees and live in colonies.
  • A colony can be between 35,000 to 60,000 bees.
  • The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
  • Prefer simple, open flowers.
  • Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.

Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.

The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.

Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.

Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.

WikiHow suggests doing some sky observations.

I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.

rosemary tea

Rosemary Tea

Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.

Ingredients (makes one small mug):

  • I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
  • One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
  • Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain and drink.

My thoughts:

I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.

The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.

What is your favorite herbal drink?

Summary:

What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015: Bees and growing borage.

2016: Wild swimming and birds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Wild October – Week Three

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Virginia Creeper

This week I have been out and about a little bit more than in previous weeks. While going for a coffee with mum, doing some temporary note-taking work and meeting up with a friend for lunch, I kept one eye looking for signs of autumn.

Slowly but surely Liverpool is becoming enveloped by autumnal colours. I took a leisurely walk around the University of Liverpool campus and visited Abercromby Square. Though still looking verdant, the tree tops are slowly turning golden. I also came across a Barbara Hepworth sculpture and one by Hubert Dalwood.

Since I have been getting up before the sunrise this week, I have seen some lovely skies.

Though the days (and especially the mornings) have that bitter chill to the air, there are still plenty of honey bees visiting the salvia.

On Thursday I met a friend in town. As I was standing waiting for the bus, a robin sat atop a gravestone in the nearby cemetery and sang to me sweetly. I just wish I had taken a photo of him, his presence filled my heart with gladness.

My friend and I took in a visit of the World Museum, which boasts a planetarium among its many assets. This got me thinking of the northern hemisphere’s night sky in autumn.

On a clear night looking north most people can identify the Plough, (Ursa Major), which points to the pole star, Polaris.

Looking south, the square of Pegasus is deemed the main autumn constellation. However, for me, the most autumn constellation is Orion to the east.

October is also the time of year for the Orionids, the remnants of Halley’s Comet. This meteor shower ranges between 16th – 26th of the month, peaking on the 21st.

And finally, I have found some informative resources on the Forestry Commission website. Follow the link for activity packs, mindfulness poems and an interactive map, showing the changing colours of various forests in the UK.

I’ll end this week with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Autumn Song. Have you been following the changing seasons? What, if anything do you like about this time of year?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #16

No sooner had I published Sunday Sevens #15, when more pet news occurred.

It was a lovely start to the week, with bright warm sunshine (much needed if you ask me!) When it is warm I like to sit out in the yarden, I take Artie with me. Being outside gives him more stimulation than being stuck inside the house. However I have created a nature yarden, meaning I have lots of visiting bees and butterflies, lots of stalking opportunities for Artie! While I was digging up my second crop of maris bard potatoes for my vegetarian roast dinner that evening, Artie was sitting amongst the flowers watching the bees.

I acted too slowly. I was busy marvelling at all the potatoes I had grown! From the corner of my eye I saw Artie lunge at a bee who had entered a foxglove. He must have knocked the poor bee down into the foliage as I couldn’t see her. I left Artie sniffing in the undergrowth while gathering my harvest.

On coming back into the yarden, Artie suddenly darted from the greenery, rubbing his paw against his nose. Jumping about like a jack in a box ‘You’ve been stung!’ I cried, scoping him up and taking him into the house. I called for David’s assistance. Then proceeded, a half hour long endurance, of trying to hold Artie down while David tweezed the bee sting from his nose. I got covered in scratches for my endeavour.

Afterwards when Artie was sting-less and enjoyed some cooked chicken, seemingly none the wiser for the upset. I stood shaking like a leaf. My nerves had been shot! ‘Pets are worse than kids!’ David exclaimed while I tried to regain my spirits.

Needless to say Artie is back to his ‘wild’ self again. He is siting in the last rays of the Sunday sunshine.

Have you had a pet who has had a too close encounter with a bee?

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Forgive me for returning to the great British obsession, the weather, but the UK saw its hottest day of the year (so far) on Tuesday! In the NW of England the temperatures soared to a very sweaty 31°c! The Spanish Plume the meteorologists had predicted had finally arrived! Though only for three days! On Tuesday evening as I wrote my post about the numerous animal sculptures that have graced the UK’s cities, David and I sat in the hottest room of the house. Outside the window I watched as the sky darkened as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon!

During this little snippet of summer, I was out counting the butterflies that visited the yarden, in the Big Butterfly Count. The count runs from 15th July to 7th August 2016! I don’t know whether it is because the alleyway between the houses has become overgrown with wild flowers/weeds but I have seen more butterflies flutter past this year, then any other! Predominantly the most common butterfly has been the small white. There has often been two (I don’t know if it’s the same couple) twirling in their dance of attraction before the male attaches himself to the female! They are a joy to watch!

One evening David and I were giving sugar water to this tired bee when in quick succession a small white and a red admiral fluttered crazily past! I quickly noted my sightings on the phone app before watching the satisfied bee fly off energised!

26842491This week saw me finish my latest book, Sam Baker‘s The Woman Who Raninspired by Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first I struggled to get into the story. It seems to me that many published novelists nowadays are or were journalists. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not! I persevered and soon the story warmed up. The narrative was atmospheric in its description of the Yorkshire Dales. The characters were a little difficult to understand but you got to like them in the end. The finale, touted as being explosive, ended more like a whimper. I didn’t understand why the main character would act like she did in the face of opposition! Anyway, it was enjoyable. I’ve not read this author before, perhaps I will in future?

Have you read this novel? Any thoughts?

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I was going to end today’s blog with an update on Troy but there hasn’t been much improvement. Then I remembered the lovely selection of bramley apples given to us by one of David’s friends. So I decided to finish with them. I have acquired all the ingredients so next week I shall be busy cooking apple pies, or variants on a theme!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew(serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx

Update on the Garden… part three!

The garden 2015

The garden 2015

The news from the garden this weekend is that we DO have Honey Bees visiting the flowers!  I saw up to seven at one time enjoying the Salvia, the Borage and the Dahlia. This year I seem to have a greater variety of plants for the visiting bees to enjoy. The Bumblebees also enjoy visiting the Dahlia and Borage as well as the Passion Flower.

Honey bee

Honey bee

The bird feeders have well and truly been ‘attacked’ this weekend! We have many species of garden bird visiting as listed below.

  • House Sparrows, have continued to visit in numbers of up to eight if not more!
  • Goldfinch charms have visited numbering over 12, most are fledglings.
  • Starlings have made a noisy return. This years fledglings are now getting their adult coats and love the fat blocks on offer.
  • Pigeons are too many to count and follow the smaller birds into the garden as they know there will be many seeds dropped.
  • The Dunnock has made a welcome return, though not the same one as visited previously. This one seems to be very bold and stands his/her ground in relation to competition from the Pigeons! A most welcome visitor to the garden!
  • I can’t say I have seen the Blue Tits this week as it’s mainly Sparrows and Goldfinches that I see, but I hope they manage to visit the feeders.

Have a pleasant week!