Save the Stag Beetle

Today, we were lucky enough to find a female Stag Beetle in our garden! Living in a very Urban environment, with a small, nature unfriendly garden, this was a very exciting discovery for us. The kids at first thought it was a Stink Beetle, which do have some similarities, but generally are much much smaller. So it was great for us to look at it and discuss.. as well as discuss that the Stag Beetle is endangered here in the UK and that we must do everything to protect it. (See our video below, too cute!).

Female Stag Beetle - exploring nature and wildlife with kids

Mike Strick recently posted THIS on Facebook and I shared it with my children and my friends (please visit this link and share with your friends and family):

Every year in early summer, the stag beetles emerge to find mates. They have spent the first five to seven years of their life underground as larvae and now have just a few short weeks to live as adults.

Every year I’m shocked by how many people fail to recognise these icons of British wildlife, and am saddened by how many beetles end their lives crushed underfoot. Stag beetles have been around virtually unchanged for millions of years, and are not equipped to survive in an urban environment. Their numbers have declined drastically over the past few decades and the species is seriously endangered.

If you see one on a pavement, please move it out of harm’s way. Despite being large (the male can be up to three inches long), they are placid and harmless provided you don’t stick a finger between the male’s large ‘antlers’, which can inflict quite a strong pinch. Pick them up gently with finger and thumb on either side of the thorax (the middle part of the body, behind the head) and move them into a garden or similar.

Please keep an eye open for them. In flight in the early evening they are phenomenal, flying in an upright and rather ungainly style, making a noise like a small fighter plane. They tend to make a pretty uncontrolled landing, often ending up on pavements, which is where you’re most likely to see them and where they need your help to get to safety. The recent high winds are probably giving them trouble, meaning that they could end up in particularly tricky situations.

If you have children, it would be a big help if you could make sure they know about stag beetles too. Kids probably come across them more frequently than their parents. If they know what they are and what to do, the beetles are more likely to survive the encounter!

These are spectacular animals. We really have nothing else like them. It would be a shame if we lost them forever.

And then… we were lucky enough to discover……

Easy Elderflower Cordial Recipe

Elderflower Cordial fills me of memories of Summer Country Fairs and lazy Summer afternoons, sipping cooled bubbly water with a dash of Elderflower Cordial. When we made our own Elderflower Cordial, my son said “Oh Mummy, it smells like Grandpa’s garden”.. I love how smell and memories go together hand in hand. And if you are enjoying a “classic British Summer”, Eldercordial is a must. It is so incredibly easy to make and tastes so good..

Elderflower Recipe

The only thing to remember, is that you need to make the Elderflower Cordial pretty much the same day as picking your Elderflowers -as they are a delicate flower and don’t keep well. Be ready!

Elderflower Cordial Recipe:

  • 1kg of sugar
  • 1.5 liters of boiling water
  • 25-30 Elderflower heads
  • 4 lemons
  • 50g Citric Acid (I bought ours online – US Readers, you can get it here)
  • Have enough screw top bottles ready for storage – make sure they are sterilised. *

*we ended up having to improvise and added a milk bottle with clingfilm to the mix. Ha! To be honest, the cordial will be drunk in no time, so it isn’t really a problem. You just don’t want to store all your cordial like this!

To  be honest the above are approximates.. you can scour the web for other Elderflower recipes and you will come up with variations of the above. The above worked for us very well and was delicious.

Elderflower Cordial How:

Easy Elderflower Recipes

1) Gently rinse your Elderflowers and put them to one side.

2) Put the sugar into a large pan (a bowl SHOULD be ok, but you MAY need to heat it).

3) Add the boiling water. In our instance the sugar disolved immediately. But you MAY need to heat it a little to make sure it is all disolved.

4) Let cool – we let it cool until it was warm (rather than cold). And the proceeded (we are impatient to make our Elderflower Cordial!!)

5) Grate your lemons and add.

6) Slice your lemons and add.

7) Add your rinsed Elderflowers

8) Add your Citric acid.

9) Cover with a cloth and leave for 48hours (or so).

10) Strain through a CLEARN muslin to get all the little bits out and fill into sterilised bottles.

We enjoy Edlerflower cordial diluted with cold bubbly water. You can also use it for cooking and puddings.

Looking for foraging ideas? Check out:

Foraging-Ideas

Weather Science At Home

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Welcome back to another “Science at Home” video session – today we decided to explore the Science of Weather! Weather is all around us and we simply LOVE to talk about it ALL the time. It is too cold. It is too windy. It is too hot. Never are we happy. But. Let’s EXPLORE the weather and make the weather fun! Weather Measurement and exploration are a GREAT activity for the Summer months, as generally families have a little more time to do bits and pieces.

Science Bloggers came together to share their ideas. Watch the video, and like us, be INSPIRED!! We are SO going to have to make a weather station these holidays!

Weather Science Activities

In Chronological order

1) I kick off the session with the humble Pinwheel and it’s ability to “demonstrate” wind – making it “visual”. We have a Pinwheel craft over on Red Ted Art and used it here, to open discussion about wind and also how we harness wind power (lucky for us, we have a windmill near us that you can visit!).

2) Inspiration Laboratories shows a fantastic science activity: making clouds. A real “ooh and aah” for kids and explains how clouds are formed. I will see if I can take this science experiment into my son’s class.

3) Blue Bear Wood explores barometers (3 different ones no less) as well as measuring wind direction. As they live by the sea side – they have a clear indicator of how wind from one direction usually then also brings rains. She wants to measure this with her kids and show the correlation (we are in a very urban environment and I suspect we would not have that correlation, but it would be interesting to explore!)

4) Finally, we have Rainy Day Mum, making science fun and accessible to tots. I love her little weather man and that she got her son to add the markers with a ruler. A great maths activity at the same time.  Rainy Day Mum also demonstrates how pine cones are a humidity indicator. Fantastic observation for little ones.

 

 

 

Our Pets

I am a great fan of family pets! Personally I grew up with both dogs and a cat. We loved the dogs and we ignored the cat (bad us, I know).

P5280350Our current cat as a kitten

I even had a brief stint with a goldfish. I remember getting the aquarium for the first time and being sooo excited about it. Then we went to pick some fish. It was my job to feed them daily (an easy task) and clean the tank weekly (a boring task). I do remember the first few days, sitting on a chair in the kitchen and watching my fish as if they were a TV screen. Literally, for hours. Or maybe it was about 10 minutes, but it felt like hours.

But it was a great way for me to learn about responsibilities – as well as I guess consequences…. I had asked for fish. I was lucky enough to get them and now I had to look after them. I also learnt, that if I cleaned the fish tank badly…. the fish died. Yep. I killed at least 3 fish this way (I reckon there was too much soap left after my enthusiastic cleaning – I bet I wasn’t even supposed to use soap- and we should have checked out fish tank cleaning materials beforehand).

We also had gerbils for a while. We were assured that they were two boy gerbils. Ahem. No. Soon we had about a 30 of them. This time I remember let them have a run “around” the kitchen table… and them falling off the end. Ouch. My father in the end, ahem, took them to the park and let them go (I think). Is that illegal?

CHickens

Now as an adult, we briefly dabbled in chickens (My long suffering husband indulged my wishes and MADE the coop for me, how fantastic is this). Oooh they were so cool. I loved them. Espcially collecting 2 fresh eggs every morning. Cleaning up the poo was less fun. Persuading the neighbours to clean up the poo whilst we were on holiday even harder. But the fresh eggs sure were fabulous. I miss them. Then one hen died mysteriously. We got a replacement hen. A few weeks later that one died too. With baby number two on the way and winter approaching I decided to give up. The remaining chicken and cage went to a good home via freecycle!

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And now we have two cute cats. They are lovely. So great with the children. And very cuddly and affectionate. We have had them for 6 years now. And now… for the first time EVER, they are starting to both wee and poo (yes, not very nice) in our house. All the time. There is a meanie ginger cat terrorising them. I am not sure what we can do, save for use the cat litter. Sigh. I do hope that they sort themselves out again. It has been 6 months of it now! Funny how when all is well, they are “our” cats.. and as soon as trouble starts they are “my” cats.

But with all our mishaps and issues along the way, I think family pets are wonderful. They enrich our lives and the children learn about animals and the environment around us.

I highly recommend getting some!

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Foraging with Kids Part 2

How come, you find the most wonderful things, when you are not actually looking for them? We were off to the park today with Opapa and on the way (to fair, where the blackberries grow), we then spotted 100s of damon (small plums)- there were about 6-8 damson trees all in one row. The plums are small, but good and surprisingly worm free!

foraging plums

They need a tad longer to ripen, but they are edible already, perfect for cakes and will most definitely ripen at home! (i.e. they are no different if not better, than some “supermarket ripen at home plums).

plums foraging

Aren’t they gorgeous?

(PS the bowl is made from Fabric Mache and features in my Kids Craft Book out in March 2013.)

So.. Foraging part 2:

  • Always keep your eyes open for something you may not expect
  • Teach your children about the dangers of trying or eating things you do NOT know or recognise. We drum it into ours, to ONLY pick and eat, what Mummy & Daddy say they can
  • Go back to areas you have been before and look again (we have actually spotted an apple tree too and are waiting for the apples to ripen)
  • Check our Foraging with Kids post to read more about why we love foraging!

Come back for our traditional Austrian Cake that we will be baking with these!