We have always been big ‘bird’ fans (no, not BIGBird, as in the Sesame Street character, although that has always quite amused…) – As a child we fed the birds in the garden at home, with various bird houses, structures and fat and seed balls, watching to see if the naughty squirrels had somehow managed to nab the grub before the bluetits could get to it!
So we wanted to share this easy birdfeeder with you –
you will need:
half an orange
some peanut butter
some bird seed…
string – (we love the baker’s twine!)
Scoop out the content of the orange (we have a smoothie every day, so we added the orange to that).
Spread some peanut butter into the orange skin, and add the seeds.
Pierce holes in the side of the orange skin ‘cup’ – actually do this BEFORE you add the peanut butter and seeds!
Making a Dream Catcher using natural, found objects and at the same time ticking the boxes of three STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and the Arts) practices:
The Science (making dough with salt, water and flour for the beads)
The Arts (designing and sculpting the salt dough leaves, and assembling your dream catcher)
The Maths (geometry of weaving a pattern with a single length of twine)
This is such a fun project. And one that you could do either indoors or outside in the warmer weather – we really love a craft that all ages can enjoy – and this three sides dream catcher can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to the weaving, so we will link some YouTube tutorials at the foot of this article so that you can get acquainted with the dream catcher weaving geometry at your leisure.
Before you get started, make sure you have everything you need for your beautiful natural dream catcher – go on a nature hunt, look for feathers, acorns, pine cones, and lots of sticks!
You’ll need some cotton string, or strong yarn, and we also made some colourful salt dough beads and ‘leaves’ so that everything is biodegradable – this means you can eventually hang your dream catchers outside in the garden or the woods, for them to let nature decay them – hey, that may even be a bit of a science lesson right there too!
Salt dough leaves and beads recipe
1 part salt
2 parts plain flour
half to one part water
optional – some natural food colouring (if you are feeling ambitious – you could go as far as making your own dough dye with beetroot! hey – experiment, have some fun)
We mixed the dough into three bowls, and added three colours – subtle so that they would blend well with nature – and rolled small balls, pushing a skewer through to make a bead, we dried the beads by ‘stringing’ them onto metal skewers and propping up off the baking tray to harden in the oven on a very low 100 degrees temperature, checking on the beads after about fifteen minutes, and turning them on the skewers so that they didn’t stick.
The leaves we made by rolling the dough out to about 5mm thick, and used a leaf shaped cookie cutter and a knife to score the marks on the ‘leaves’ and push a hole at the top of the leaf to allow it to be attached to the dreamcatcher. Again, we allowed these leaves to harden, baking them at the bottom of the oven, for about half an hour to an hour, using a cooling rack from the kitchen. We made these beads and salt dough leaves in advance of our dream catcher construction to allow them to harden – word of warning – don’t let them get damp, they will go soggy!
The assembly of your dream catcher
Now you have everything you need, start to pull it all together. Make a triangle from three sticks of the same length, tying them tight in each of the three corners.
Make a ‘bobbin’ with one short stick, about 4cm long, wrap the yarn around and around until it’s full of yarn – (you’ll have to experiment, but you’ll need enough yarn to create the geometrical pattern on the dream catcher ‘web’).
Using the yarn on this bobbin, start by tying a knot next to one of the three corners of the triangle frame.
Get weaving that web
As you start to ‘weave’ your web the first row can be quite loose. Evenly spaced, start to work the yarn around the triangle:
Pass the end of your yarn around a stick.
Bring the end under the straight part of the yarn.
Bring the end up and pass it through the eye of the loop you just made.
Pull it tighter to complete a half hitch.
Tie the hitch the same at each intersection of the yarn.
Continue around the triangle, to ‘row two’ in the same way, see diagram (and the video links below)
The next hitch is made at the midpoint of the first loop in the first row.
As you tie these hitches you start to pull each stitch in the web a little tighter. Continue around the web tying a hitch and pulling tighter on each row until you are down to a small centre hole in your web. Tie it off in a knot.
Now tie three strands of yarn from the ‘bottom’ of the triangle and attach the beads, feathers, leaves – And tie a hanging loop at the top of the triangle and you are ready to decorate the trees by hanging your wonderful dream catchers in the forest – or, if you REALLY want to catch those dreams in your web, hang your natural dream catcher up in your bedroom for a real conversation starter!
The one thing I really struggle to put into the recycling bin, is the toilet roll tubes, I can always think there is SOMETHING we can make with them, whether it’s planting seedlings in them, or making these lovely bird seed feeders. They are so easy to make, and the kids are tickled to be using peanut butter, to spread onto the loo roll tubes, cra-azy eh?!
So simple to do… basically, spread the peanut butter on the toilet roll tube, and sprinkle the bird seeds over the tube, pushing the seeds onto the peanut butter ‘glue’.
We do find some peanut butter a little dry, so – do as you do with toast! – paste a little layer of butter on to the tube before you spread the peanut butter onto the tube.
Then, slip the tube onto a thin branch, preferably in view of the window. We love eating our breakfast and watching the birds eat theirs – we have a favourite chubby blackbird in the garden, will try to get a photo of the bird seed feeder in action!
Community gardener and founder of yourspace.sutton Kevin Plicio runs local community garden nursery Seears Park Nursery in Sutton. This nursery runs on pure volunteer manpower and community spirit, running training courses and therapeutic activities in a calming and peaceful environment. He has been running the beautiful non-profit nursery for almost six years, transforming it from a run-down nursery to a social and stunning community hub which has just recently been opened to the public.
As his daughter, Hannah, I’ve grown up around the transformation of the park, seeing it go from overgrown and slightly wild, to open space and inviting. Perfect for family days out and picnics, the nursery offers scenic and photogenic open areas, free for the public to utilise.
Q- So, tell us about what made you want to run a community project? Well, the idea originally stemmed from me working at other projects, but these projects were all tailored to one specific group of people, or had one specific service, and I wanted to do something more socially integrating and open to all users, regardless of their background, age, or ability.
Q- What is there to see? Honestly, there’s so much! We have this really great pond that’s just teeming with life, frogs, fish, newts, and even in the evening we get the occasional duck family coming to stay – it’s such a sight! We also have vegetable patches, some art display inside the main classroom from a local artist Santiago Plicio, the polytunnels have a great plant selection, including a great cactus area. We’re also in the process of making smaller gardens as part of the garden nursery, where 6 out of the 16 planned are complete. We also have this really stunning willow circle, which is just beautiful.
Q- Tell us about your volunteers, and who helps run the nursery. We have quite a large group of volunteers here at the nursery, and without them, there would be no way that the place could be running. Some people volunteer for a month, and some have been volunteering for years, and we appreciate every bit of help we get. Their generosity and time is something I’m always going to be so grateful for.
Q- You’ve just opened to the public for the first time in almost six years, how does that feel? It feels amazing, we’ve been getting this place ready for the public for so long and now it feels as if our work is finally paid off, and we can do what we’ve always set out to do, create a community project that everyone can benefit for. We’ve been running training courses and school placements for years which is so amazing, but now we can finally make it open to everyone, which was always the plan. We now run a plant sale every Saturday from 10:00am until 4:00pm, and the nursery is otherwise open Monday-Thursday from 9:30 until 5:30.
Q- Got any last words or comments that you want everyone to know? I’d just love to see you there! Bring your friends, family, dogs, come and experience and enjoy the nursery, see what’s here, and if you want to contribute in any way then we’d love to hear from you too!
Seears Park Nursery is open to the public from 9:30am-5:30pm Monday to Thursday, and 10:am-4:00pm on a Saturday for the plant sale and general public use. Follow them on Facebook for events and updates here
Note from Ali – Thank you so much, Hannah, for introducing me to your dad’s amazing community project. Here’s a picture of a pond that my 13-year-old son made, with the addition of the Junctus that he bought from the Nursery!
We made a Birdhouse from a Juice Carton! We do have a lot of Tetra Pak Milk Cartons and Juice Cartons in our house. I drink soya milk, and we often buy orange juice as a special breakfast treat for the kids, and to try to reach our FIVE A DAY, or is it SEVEN a day these days?! You may have seen the video on Instagram, so now here’s the ‘how to’….
Anyway, we don’t throw the juice cartons away…These naturally weather proof cartons stack up on the kitchen shelf waiting patiently to be made into something via the kids’ love of junk modelling, and had a big old milk carton crafting session this weekend with Red Ted Art and family – 11yo made a Blue Narwhal night light (more on that later) 9yo made a vase, and some seedling boxes (again, more on them later) and we all had a hand in making this Juice Carton Birdhouse!
We started by cutting off the pouring spout, and using it as a circular template on the front of the juice box, to make the hole for the birds to enter the juice carton birdhouse box.
Then started wrapping string around the juice box, adding a blob of glue occasionally. We wound the string all the way to the top of the box.
Using a section from a plastic milk carton, we covered the pouring spout hole. And glued pieces of broken twigs to the ‘roof’ of the juice carton to make an organic natural looking roof for the Birdhouse. Carefully cutting the string around the bird’s doorway, and gluing back the string inside to make a smooth entrance, and adding a lolly stick below finishes the juice carton Birdhouse off quite nicely! All we need now is one of Red Ted Art‘s juice carton bird feeders and we’re away!
This is a really fun recycling craft to do with the kids at the weekend, and my sister has started collecting the Tetra pak’s and will be making these at Forest School next week too!
Tasty leeks with chickpeas recipe with grilled halloumi cheese
This was a quick ‘rustle’ last night, as we had a big bag of leeks, and all I could think of was Leeks in Cheese Sauce… not very original, 11yo doesn’t like cheese (unless it’s grilled halloumi!), and he wanted to make something that looked ‘restauranty’!
Ingredients for 4 people:
6 large leeks 500ml low salt vegetable stock 2 tins 400g tin chickpeas, drained Packet of Halloumi cheese, sliced
For the dressing
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 tsp runny honey Juice and zest of 2 lemons 2 garlic cloves, crushed A pinch of salt flakes
1) Chop the leeks in half, and then slice into quarters length ways, to create ribbons.
2) Break up a stock cube into a large deep frying pan, and pour in the 500ml boiling water, add the leeks and simmer for five minutes.
3) Mix up the dressing of olive oil, honey, and the juice and zest of the lemons with the crushed garlic and salt flakes
4) As the leeks soften add the chickpeas to the pan and stir through to heat them.
5) Meanwhile using a ridged frying pan, grill the halloumi (we like the grill stripes!) and start plating up the leeks and chickpeas, spoon over the dressing, and then top with the halloumi cheese – very ‘restauranty’ don’t you think?!
Serve with honey and garlic roasted carrots and parsnips – delicious!
Another favourite for 11yo is his Salmon with mushrooms and pak choi, click here to read more.
It’s time for some Daffodil biscuits – well, Spring is practically here, so we thought we’d have some fun and celebrate the glimmers of spring that are popping up in the gardens and vases of England… with cookies!
The daffodil biscuit, or cookie, recipe is pretty straightforward – and taste good on their own without any decorating, however, in true spring-craft honour, we went a bit to town, and made up some royal icing too… recipes here:
Heat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 F, Gas mark 2)
Cream the sugar and butter together, slowly add the flour, mixing together to form a dough, if you need to, add a couple of drops of water, knead together to form a ball.
Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, to about 4mm thick.
Using a star shaped cutter, cut the dough, and place your stars on a lightly floured baking tray, and bake for about 20minutes, until golden brown.
As they cool down, you can make your royal icing.
Royal icing ingredients:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
330g icing sugar, sifted
Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. Adding more icing sugar if it’s too runny, or if the icing is too thick, add a little water. The icing needs to be used immediately or popped in an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. I added a tiny amount of yellow food colouring, stirring with a cocktail stick to mix the colour in thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Now, I DIDN’T have an icing bag, but, I came up with a cunning plan:
Take a plastic sandwich bag, and fold a couple of pieces of sellotape over one corner.
Open the bag so that that rigid, sellotaped corner triangle is pointing down, pop the plastic bag into a glass or cup, so that you drop the bag over the edges of the of the cup, and you can spoon in your royal icing. Twist the bag to tighten it, and take a sharp pair of scissors, you snip a tiny bit off the sellotaped corner to make a piping bag! Simple, yet very effective. Now you can pipe your icing onto your cooled star-shaped daffodil biscuits.
(I am experimenting with FREEZING the leftover icing, so I’ll let you know how that goes)
The orange Icing is a ready-roll block from Hobbycraft, roll small sections out to about 2mm thickness, and use a smaller cookie cutter to make the frilly daffodil trumpets. I have very short fingernails, so I could shape the orange icing into a cup/trumpet shape on the end of my finger, you could use the end of a wooden spoon to do this too.
I then used the royal icing as ‘glue’ to stick the trumpets to the daffodil cookie biscuit, at the same time as I stuck the coffee stirrer sticks (painted with green food colouring) to the back of the flowers.
They look so lovely in a vase or jug, (tip – I placed a glass upside down in the jug, and filled it with cheap rice, so that the sticks stay still and in position in the jug – genius my 9yo thinks!) Great for this time of year, St David’s Day, for Easter or Mother’s Day.
Who would have thought we would be making a fairy tale craft tonight – Fridays are usually our ‘film night’ after a full-on week at school.
HOWEVER, I was taken to one side by my son’s teacher on Thursday to discuss his behaviour – and we between us to set a reward system in place… sigh, just when I thought we were getting somewhere!
So, the plan is, a thumbs up from the teacher = one reward point. And so the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale craft reward chart was invented. And he is really engaged with it so far – we found an old wooden shelf I’d been hoarding since our kitchen cupboard makeovers (11yo wanted me to write that if you don’t have a piece of board, a sheet of paper or card will do), and found a wiggly stick on the way home from school – and got busy!.
To get started, cut out your leaves – If you use the FREE printable here – gently stick the sheet to another blank A4 sheet with a low tack magic tape, and cut around the leaves. This gives you a printed leaf, and a plain white leaf. Place the plain white leaves in position on the board, and using them as stencils, put a little paint on a scrunched up piece of kitchen paper, and dab around the edge of the paper leaf to reveal a leaf shape.
Glue the branch of the fairy tale craft beanstalk onto your board (oh yes, I DID use a glue gun), and pop the green leaves somewhere safe. We used a CD sleeve, which we glued to the top of the board to make a pocket to hold the leaves. And rewarded the boy with his first ‘thumbs up’ leaf at the foot of the beanstalk – here’s to a completed beanstalk for Jack to climb up by the end of the week… Also on the blog today – how to make the Snow White Mirror.
If you’d like to see the finished fairy tale craft article, click the youtube link here, I got together with Missie Lizzie who talked magic beans, Anthea with her elves’ shoes, Kelly talked Rapunzel, and Maggy at Red Ted Art (talking three little pigs) who hosted a Fairy Tale Craft google+ hangout.
We love this time of year. Sad that the arrival of the brambles is a sure sign that Summer is on its way out, and Autumn is just around the corner….
If you are like us, and have picked a LOAD of blackberries already this year, we have a non-edible way of using them this Fall!
We picked a bucket-load before a weekend away, which meant we didn’t have time to eat them…so we froze them on a tray – using half for a smoothie, and the other half went into a pot of boiling water this week, deep enough for the old hemp carrier bag we had decided to tie-dye as a pressie for Granny’s birthday later in the year.
Whilst the pan of blackberry-dye was simmering away on the stove, we got busy with elastic bands, pulling up sections of the hemp bag, (this works really well on old T-shirts or pillow cases) securing them tightly to create two ‘horns’ (as my son called them)….
We let the dye cool a little before adding the organic hemp bag, and rubber bands, which went into the pot with some chopped up rhubarb leaves – I read somewhere that this works as a fixative, helping to make the colour more ‘fast’…this bubbled away on the stove for about 45 minutes.
We then let this stand cooling for about an hour.
We then rinsed the bag and the boys were SO excited to pull the rubber bands away to reveal our spider cobwebs – we hung it up on the line to dry!
Much excitement that natural blackberries can make such a pretty colour – we plan to try some more natural dyes soon, our youngest loves brewing up nettle tea – and it also creates a lovely khaki green dye –
something to try next!
Want to see me talking about this project? Click the link and photo left, to watch now…. Maggy Woodley from Red Ted Art hosted a fabulous “Fall Craft Ideas” hangout on Google+, (and in fact was the inspiration for the tie-dye experiment!).
So much lovely lavender about, everyone seems to have some in their front garden around here… and it smells so lovely – I ‘pinched’ some from my neighbour’s garden last week (I blame CountryWives and their lavender biscuit recipe – according to them apparently Kate Middleton has been craving lavender biscuits during her pregnancy!)
So, the neighbour returned from her annual hols, to find a few sprigs missing from her lavender bush… guilt took over, and I popped over there, with a bag of flower and a baking tray and we made THESE lavender scones – so easy, and it’s all I could do to stop the kids from scoffing the lot after school… here’s the recipe >>
100g caster sugar (we used some lavender sugar Maggy made last month) 300g plain flour 25g baking powder 100g cold, diced butter 200ml soured milk (yep, we had that too, her milk had gone off in the fridge) 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) mark 6.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it into the flour until the mixture looks and feels like breadcrumbs.
Pour the soured milk into a small saucepan and warm it gently. Whisk in the egg and sugar and pour the milk into the flour, mixing it all together. Leave this dough to rest for five minutes, then pop it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it together to form a ball.
Roll out this dough into a rectangle with a thickness of about 1.5cm. Cut out roughly 12 scones and place them onto a baking sheet. Lightly dust the scones with some more flour, and then leave them to stand for 10 minutes before baking. During this time the baking powder will get the little scones rising.
Cook the scones in the preheated oven until golden brown; they will take about 11 minutes.
Another neighbour had kindly donated a tub of Rodda’s Cream (the clotted cream to die for), so we had a delicious ‘lunch’!