(Otter Pool Galloway Forest)
Beside my washing machine are two little piles that gradually grow as the months go by, until I sweep them up and rehome the contents. The first pile consists of small stones, some rounded, some with hints of fossils and others glisten with minerals.
(RSPB Wood of Cree)
The second pile is of little sticks, pine cones and other seeds. There is a third pile but that is swept away once the washing machine is loaded and running. No need to keep the tissues, pieces of crumpled paper and similar.
The contents of all three piles, as you have probably guessed by now, come from the pockets of clothes worn on our many walks and adventures. The children take after me. They cannot resist bringing back interesting nature finds.
But what to do with them all? I have jam jars full of stones and sea glass of all descriptions, so some are redistributed around the garden. I have baskets of acorns, walnuts and other seeds on our shelves, which are great for crafting.
It is fun to search and collect the pieces, but our house would soon feel crowded if we didn’t use them for something.
This weekend we have been reducing our collection of pine cones, and scrap brown paper, to make beautifully scented firestarters.
Years ago, before children, we went to New England around leaf peeping season. It was a fabulous holiday and I’d love to go back. One of the souvenirs I brought back was a cupcake shape firestarter, with a pine cone in the middle. The fragrance was absolutely amazing compared to the white version we use at home. I have looked high and low for something similar, but no luck so far.
In the meantime, we make our own.
an old muffin tin
an old coffee scoop
thick, brown paper bags
old birthday candles and other wax ends
bits of string
old potpourri refresher oils
pine cones, twigs and dried herb leaves from the pile
dried ends of lemons and limes (left over from squeezing) and clementine peel
Step one: cut the paper into squares to fit the muffin tray holes and line the tray with the paper.
Step two: wrap string around pine cone, pushing the string into the cone and leaving a wick at the top, ready for lighting.
Step three: divide the cone, twigs, leaves and peel between each of the paper holders.
Step four: melt candle bits in jam jar. I pop this in the Aga, but I have used the microwave before.
Step five: once it is melted, I laddle the wax over the cones carefully, using the old coffee scoop to coat them. No need to fill the hole. There will be a small puddle of wax at the bottom.
Step six: leave to set
Once set, I like to pop them in a basket, ready for use. They scent the room and add a bit of rustic charm, while they wait for their moment in the flame.
There will be more walks. There will be more finds. Already the washing machine nature piles grow again (I’m sure there is a name for them), just from dog walking over this weekend.
The children enjoyed making these. We talked about the three things you need for fire – fuel, spark/warmth and oxygen. What happens when one is missing.Why the wax didn’t burst into flames as it melted. We also talked about a very neat experiment that we want to do, which I hope to share soon.
I have a feeling they have started searching for just the right nature finds to go in our homemade firestarters. Hmm. Not exactly what I intended, but at least they have fun looking when they are out and about.
In January, we like to reassess the bird feeders in our garden. Some are looking tired, some neglected. With the drop in temperature, the birds need the extra calories, just to get through the nights. We want to help them and attract them to the garden at the same time. Birdwatching is a favourite pastime around here.
Not forgetting that it’s the Big Garden Bird Watch on 24th-25th January. Time to get the birds used to new feeders and encourage the birds to visit. All but the bravest birds, take time to get used to new additions to the garden.
Along with all the different styles of feeders in the shops, we love manufacturing our own. Especially out of recycled materials. This weekend, Eldest gathered up pine cones, peanut butter and seeds to make a feeder or two.
These are ready to go outside. I can see the sparrows queuing up already.
Can’t help thinking that this one almost looks like the head of an interesting beastie. Hope it doesn’t scare them away.
This is a feeder, she made in the Autumn. The robins love it. As I write this, I can see one sifting through the seeds, finding a choice morsel.
Although it hangs in a tree that the house sparrows favour (mobs of them), I am yet to see one of them use it. Maybe its the pink or the flavour. Discerning lot, the sparrows! The feeder has weathered amazingly well.
I hope they like the new pine cone feeders. I suspect more will be made.
Anyone else gearing up for the RSPB’s Big Garden Watch?
(Note: if you make a peanut seed feeder, be sure to hang it somewhere that dogs won’t reach. They like them too……apparently)
Linking up with Outdoor Play Party. Go look at the great tips for looking after wildlife this winter.
“What are we going to plant in the squash?”
“Where are the seeds?”
“In the squash.”
“In the squash?”
“Yes in the squash. Look.”
I bought 3 squashes last Halloween. I cut into one, with great difficulty. I baked it but it was very dry. So dry that I couldn’t serve it. I began to doubt whether it was a squash. The other two squashes, sat on the side, while I decided what to do.
Today seemed the perfect day to use them. Not for baking but for growing. I cut off the tops, to expose the seeds. The children added soil on top of the seeds and watered. The idea is that the seeds will grow. We’ll see. We’ll also see if it produces any edible squashes. A proof of concept, I hope.
Next up, a pair of old wellies. Using the points of the scissors, I made holes just above the soles. The children enjoyed filling them with soil. Then BL added a couple of verbenas that she has been nurturing in the greenhouse. While the others ran off and played football.
I brought out an old teapot from my rustic potting shed. (Second brood of robin chicks are doing well. Very cute with their fluffy black heads. Sometimes they open their mouths, hearing me and thinking a parent has returned)
BL added a stone to block the teapot spout. Just big enough to allow a trickle of water out and not leave it water logged.
Then my keen gardener, hung the wellies and the teapot up in our hawthorn tree.
Reminded me of a Christmas stocking, being hung up.
It should do well there. If we’ve got it right, this verbena is a trailing variety. This corner needs a bit of colour.
The squashes are now on a raised bed, next to my very much loved fennel plant. Good luck, little squashes.
This little chap cannot resist asking me for a nasturtium flower every time he finds me in the greenhouse. They all love the peppery taste. Some flowers even make it into our salads.
Also in the garden, we found a damsel fly. Dragonflies will be along soon. *happy dance* On our walk home from school we found a cardinal beetle, a big fat larvae and a yellowish fly. BL and TF were so excited about their finds. Be still my beating heart. Mini entomologists in the making. Photos were taken, to help us identify them.
The children enjoyed using unusual containers to plant. I must keep my eye out for some more. Have you had success using a novel recycled container? I’d love to know.
Joining up with the inspirational Fiona over at Coombe Mill. Along with all the other fun #CountryKids.
Joining in with the inventive, frugal community over at #ThriftyThursday on #ThriftyThursday ColdTeaAndSmellyNappies. *waves*