Friday, 19 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 19, Bug Hunting

Hedgehog care has taken over somewhat here.  William is still with us and is having treatment for capillaria (roundworm).  I'm hoping his weight loss will slow down now he's on meds.  Also the little hog with the strimmer injury is now here.  He is called Arnold and despite being pretty skinny has a good appetite, so I am hopeful for his recovery.


Yesterday's wild activity involved me doing a very thorough spring clean of the garden hedgehog shed, hoping that William and Arnold will be able to go out there soon.  They are currently inside our house where it is a bit warmer, but once they are a bit better than present they will go in the shed for the final stage of treatment.

Today I wanted the boys to be a bit more involved again, so we printed off some lovely Minibeast Hunt sheets, courtesy of Twinkl - and the boys had a good search around the front and back gardens. There was a lack of ladybirds and butterflies - maybe because it wasn't very sunny - but we found quite a few other wee beasties.  Initially the boys tried to claim there was nothing out there but ants but they knew I wouldn't fall for that, so I had them turning over stones and bits of wood, and having a closer look at the shrubs.  It always amazes me how much life is out there that we miss seeing because we don't pay attention - definitely enhances our sense of perspective!

After the garden hunt it was time for bedrooms to be tidied, and then the boys were exhibiting signs of being cooped up for too long, so I sent them back outside for a run around.  I love the way that physical exercise in the fresh air, even for a short while, is so restoring to their sanity (and therefore mine).  They are all back in now, but the clouds have cleared, so I think I'm going to go out and enjoy the sunshine some more!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 16, Helping Hedgehogs

Wow, that was a manic few days!  Lots of distractions going on, although we did still manage to fit in a few good doses of "wildness", even if I did fail to blog about it!  So a belated hooray for appreciating the smell of summer rain (a smell so good there's even a name for it: "petrichor"), for long bike rides with Daddy, and for making chalk pavement art.

Today's Random Act of Wildness was chosen for me last night when I had a phone call about a hedgehog that had been found out in daylight.  I am a hedgehog rehabilitator (I have a Facebook page here), and the finder had seen a video on my page that showed a foraging pregnant/ nursing female hog - the only time that a hedgehog out in daylight needs to be left alone.  The finder watched the hog and said that hers was definitely slower and not looking anywhere near as purposeful, so I advised her to bring it over.  The hedgehog turned out to be male (I'm pretty sure, although it didn't let me get a very good look) and was a bit weak and dehydrated, so I popped him onto a heat pad in a box with some food (tinned cat food and dried hedgehog biscuits) and oral rehydration fluids.  If a hedgehog is very poorly/ dehydrated I will give them a sub-cutaneous injection of fluids, but this hedgehog (named "William" by the finders) looked strong enough to not require that, so after his initial check-over I just shut him in the box in a dark, quiet room for the night, hoping that he would produce a poo sample for me to get tested for parasites - that being the most likely reason for him being poorly enough to be out during the day.

With hedgehogs now on the brain more than usual, I decided to put my camera trap out near the hedgehog food bowl in my garden to see who we could spot eating the food we leave out.  We just leave out dried hedgehog food as a supplement for our wild prickly friends, though dry cat biscuits would also work if any readers wanted to do the same - but PLEASE NO BREAD OR MILK - it can make them very ill!

Anyway, I went to check on William this morning, and he had done well through the night, completely trashing his box, which is a really good sign.  He had eaten all of his food and produced a LOT of poo!  He had lost a little weight over-night but that's not unusual for the first night in captivity.  Once the sample was safely in a container and I had cleaned out his box, I even managed to get a photo of him - you can see he has a couple of patches of a clay-type mud on his spines.  This seems to be fairly common in this area and doesn't cause problems.

(William under his blanket)

Next, over breakfast the children and I had a good look at all the footage on the camera trap.  There were lots of clips of hedgehogs moving immediately in fromt on the camera, or eating the food with their back to the camera, but our favourite was the clip of a hedgehog pulling a juicy worm out of the lawn and chomping happily on it.  We also caught the neighbour's cat on camera later on, tucking into the hedgehog's leftovers... and later still, after dawn we saw some footage of squirrels and rooks who came to see if there was anything left.  The squirrels don't usually eat the hedgehog food, but rooks, crows, and especially magpies all love it!

We went to the Post Office this morning to send William's poo sample off for testing.  We send it to Vale Wildlife Hospital in Tewkesbury, who did my hedgehog first aid training, and who offer tessting for a small charge.  They are so experienced, it's great to have them on hand for advice etc!

Thsi afternoon I was chatting to William's finder and saying how funny it was that he is my only patient, as this time last year was really busy.  A very short while later I had a phone call from my local vets asking if I had space for any more!  I have agreed to take one off their hands tomorrow - a hedgehog who they have been treating for a strimmer injury and who just needs a little more nursing - and then they also have a litter of six week-old hoglets who need hand-rearing.  This was briefly tempting but I know would be far too much work for me to even try while also having my own children to educate etc, so I sadly said no.  They said they would keep hand-rearing them at the vets and could I take them once they are weaned?  I'm more than happy to do that, so in a few weeks I think the hog shed in the garden will be very full!

So today has been all about doing our bit for our wild neighbours who need extra help.  The boys love it and are very proud of what we do.  Sometimes they get a bit attached to the hedgehogs, especally the ones who come in as babies, or the ones who end up staying for a long time, but they are never sad for long when it comes to releasing them as we are very clear that these are wild animals who belong back in the wild.  They are not pets - just animals who we are privileged to be able to help!

Friday, 12 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 12, Gardening in Miniature and Wild Poetry

Today we had creative writing down as part of our HE loose plan - so to tie in with our 30 Days Wild challenge we decided to write poems along a wild theme.

Youngest was first, dictating his for me to type and print...

There were two kids named Bob and Bill.
Those Bob and Bill were excited.
They were going on holiday wild camping.
They had wild camping things like
wood knives, wood, flint and fire starters.
They also bought some pork belly and some bacon.
Their wood knives were good for cutting meat too.
Their Mum and Dad were experts with the wood knives
so they taught them to use the knives.
That wood was to make a wooden house in case
the tent gets blown away.
There were gale force winds that night 
so they had to use the wooden house they built.
They each were very strong and pegged the house down.
They had a fire inside the wooden house 
because the wooden house was fireproof.
They cooked their tea and had meat for food.
The littlest was great at cooking marshmallows 
but the others weren’t.
The End.

Middle started typing but then also chose to dictate.  He was determined to do an acrostic - I think he finds it easier to have a framework to provide prompts as he goes along.  It took a while as he was particularly keen to get the rhythm and rhymes right, 
just the way he wanted them...

Summer is brilliant, I love it so much.  I can see squirrels digging for nuts.
Under the ground badgers sleep with their young until dusk falls when they go out to hunt.
Mr. Robin is flying around, and then he comes down to pull worms from the ground.
Meadows are filled with rabbits and hares, and poppies and daisies amongst the warm air.
Early each morning a deer or two comes out to munch on tender shoots.
Red kites soar above the trees; summer is the season for me.

Eldest didn't take long at all.  As usual the hardest bit seems to be getting inspiration (which never takes him very long) and then he just rattles off a lovely piece of work...

Badger scurrying across a path
Not even stopping for a bath
Badger with a worm in jaw
coming home to a house filled with straw
Badger digging a bigger hole
Passing by a greedy mole
Badger filling a house with straw
Coming back to fill it more
Badger giving birth to baby cubs
Sitting next to nervous grubs
Badger going out to eat
Coming back with worm meat
Badger returning to the bigger hole
Ignoring the little greedy mole
Badger cumbs all in bed
Resting down their little heads
Good night badgers, sleep tight

I think they all did really well with their writing.  Three very different styles, each delightful in their own way - but then it is easy to please me when it comes to wildlife related things, and I am more than slightly biased when it comes to my boys regardless!  Writing isn't something that they all love to do (although it was made easier by being on a favourite theme of wildlife etc), but I really enjoy the way that when they have finished they all request an audience to listen to their spoken art, so even if it's not their first choice of activity they feel a sense of acheivement, which is lovely.

After writing we popped to the local garden centre to buy a few alpine plants for our afternoon Random Act of Wildness, which we did after a bit of first aid theory, courtesy of St John's Ambulance BigFirstAidLesson.  The boys had really enjoyed making our bee/ butterfly watering hole the other day, so we picked up a few alpine plants and some gravel, and the boys potted up a miniature gnome garden each.  They all intend to make little gnome homes to go in them, or maybe even the actual gnomes, but it won't be today as the rest of our afternoon was spent tidying up!

Youngest's garden with picket fence

Middle's garden with fishing bridge over the pond

Eldest's garden with extra flower patch

How did our wild exploits make us feel today?  Well, I think we were all proud of the poems and enjoed being able to expound upon a favourite theme.  Youngest particularly was enthused remembering one of his favourite activities, and Middle enjoyed feeling like he was in the poem.  The gnome gardens were "really exciting", "wonderful" and "cool", and provoked a nice conversation about wanting our own garden to plant lots of wildlife-friendly things in (we rent our house, so it is just a dream for us at present).  All in all, another lovely day!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 11, Eating outdoors

With such a lovely forecast for today, there really was no question about it today - we had to spend as long as possible outside.  So after the boys' mid-morning swimming lessons we headed straight to our local playpark and had a picnic lunch there and spent at least three hours just enjoying the sunshine and running around (well, not much running here, but the boys definitely got plenty of exercise!)

Frustratingly it turned out that I hadn't taken sunscreen, despite my being sure it was in my bag earlier.  Happily I was able to text some friends who were on their way and they brought some with them - even so though, I still caught the sun a bit on one arm - there was a lovely breeze there so I didn't notice until it was too late.  It's not at all bad though, and we all had such a lovely afternoon that it was easily worth it.  At the park there is a lot of play equipment, but there are also woods to walk in and a big field to run around in, with beautiful views to the Hertfordshire countryside beyond.

The boys played on the equipment with their friends, munched on tasty food (as Enid Blyton fans will know, food always tastes better when eaten outdoors!), flew a kite, blew bubbles, dug in the dirt, threw frisbees, rolled down grassy banks and generally ran around to their hearts' content... while Mummy sat and watched, relaxing with excellent company in glorious sunshine.

It was such a refreshing afternoon.  Some of our random acts of wildness have been a little hurried lately, with us doing our best to fit them in to our busy lives.  But today... well, what a luxury to be able to spend hours just basking and playing in the great, and I mean GREAT, outdoors!  Stresses melted away and everything just feels so much better after quality time with nature.  I do feel refreshed and am just so grateful for today's "wild" opportunity.

PS Sorry no photos today - I forgot my camera.  You'll just have to take my word for how lovely it was!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 10, Making a bee/ butterfly watering hole

First thing this morning, as most days, we retrieved our camera trap from the garden, where it was facing into the woods behind us, and checked to see if we had captured anything.  Having had a bad run over the last few days with the camera not quite pointing in the right direction or just not working for unknown reasons, we were really pleased to see a few nice bits of footage from last night: a badger (more than one clip of badgers, but I'll just share one here)...

a muntjac deer (walks into frame right at the end of the footage)...

and a fox who pooped in front of the camera (at about 45secs), to the younger boy' great delight!...

It's so lovely knowing that this is all going on just the other side of our fence - and hopefully I will remember the right angle to fix the camera trap tonight as it looks like our little patch is pretty active most nights, if we can only capture it!

Anyway, once we had checked the footage it was time for the usual Home Ed MathsWhizz and a little bit of handwriting, then the boys did some more work on their lapbooks - all of are nature-based, which is not surprising as the boys all love wildlife etc.  Youngest made a matching card game based on the seasons, courtesy of Twinkl...

and Middle made a card fan showing the Arctic Fox's Diet, courtesy of Homeschool Share...

while Eldest, who is not doing a lapbook, had a look at GCSE Geography (looking at rivers) courtesy of BBC Bitesize.  I was pretty confident that it would be within his grasp, and sure enough, he did mention that it seemed a bit simple.  Long may it remain so!

Finally, for our Random Act of Wildness we made a "watering hole" for bees and butterflies, using a shallow tray, some large rocks for butterflies to spread their wings on, some gravel for them to walk on so they don't drown, and some pretty glass pebbles hoping that the colour might attract the insects...

It was really quite therapeutic, especially as Middle was quite particular about where it was all placed, and anything involving water always goes down well, so it made for another nice soothing activity!  I can't say that it has been used a lot this afternoon, but it hasn't really been sunny enough for many insects to be out.  It's right next to our window though, so hopefully we will see it being used in time - we just need to keep it topped up daily and keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 9, Marshmallow-toasting

Eldest was thrilled when he drew the slip out of the jar that read "toast marshmallows over a bonfire". We decided to do it during daytime as waiting for the dark at this time of the year, although undoubtedly more atmospheric, would have meant letting them all stay up very late which is not a good idea at present.  We have a brazier in the garden, so after lunch and the boys' various HE activities, we put some hay in for kindling and half-filled the brazier with sticks before lighting. The first time we tried lighting it, the hay burned out before the sticks caught light properly, but the second time it caught properly, and boy, did it burn?!

before lighting

first attempt - that smoke was as far as it got

second attempt - yep, that's on fire!

After the initial flames had died down a bit it was time to get the skewers and marshmallows, with all the usual warnings about not getting too close, plus a brief review of the "stop, drop and roll" method of extinguishing flames should your clothes catch fire - not that we were expecting to, but it never hurts to make sure we all know!  Holding the marshmallows close to the sides of the brazier proved to be the best toasting method, althoug not everyone was patient enough to wait for the marshmallows to be toasted golden brown, and they were eaten semi-raw, while others were inevitably held too close and caught fire!

getting to grips with toasting

that's how it's done!

erm... maybe a little overdone!

The boys had some friends visiting who joined in too - one of them, Sweet P, was getting a bit hot so she fashioned an extra long skewer for herself with the help of some parcel tape...

Great fun was had by all - it was lovely hearing the excited shrieks as the flames got a bit higher or burned a bit wilder.  I think out of all our 30DW challenges, this is the first one that hasn't left the boys feeling "calm" or "peaceful" - today's adjectives were "fun", "hot", "tasty", "exciting", and "thrilling".  It certainly felt wild - and very satisfying!

Monday, 8 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 8, Whale painting

We didn't see actual whales in the flesh, sadly... though that has to be on the bucket list!  Today being a Monday, and therefore Pyjama Day in this house, our wild focus took the form of TV/ Youtube documentaries and a lovely art project.

We watched an episode from our boxed set of "Blue Planet" DVDs, and a clip from Youtube showing a humpback whale breaching, and then we made a start on our art project for the day, as chosen by Youngest a couple of weeks ago from Pinterest.  We were inspired by this pinned work, but there were no instructions for creating our own, so we just made it up as we went along - first painting sheets of paper with two tones of colour, either blue and purple or blue and green, and making sure the brush strokes were visible.  Then while those sheets dried we drew a light pencil outline of a whale and painted it with watercolour shades of grey and set that to dry.  We ripped the two-tone painted paper into strips, and layered them on a sheet of pale blue backing card, making sure the ripped edges were topmost, to look like the breaking edges of the waves.  Finally we cut out the watercolour whale, stuck it to the background to look like it was either breaching or diving, and outlined with a sharpie.  It was quite a project, what with the various stages of drying paint, cutting and sticking, but we were all pleased with the result...

Youngest's diving whale

Middle's breaching whale

Eldest's diving whale

Mummy's breaching whale

Sunday, 7 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 7, Egg-collecting

Not too far from our house is a small farm that sells free-range eggs from a roadside booth.  It's one of our favourite walks to go there and back, down winding country lanes and across fields, so even though it was almost teatime by the time we had opportunity to do our "wild challenge" for the day, it was a welcome break from all the chores etc that had filled the rest of the day, and essential to my well-being to get some time outside before it was time to start the boys' bedtime routines.

We enjoyed the walk there and back, firstly spotting shapes in the clouds (the boys were clearly still inspired their first 30DW challenge!)...

a 'squirrel'

a 'hedgehog'

'great britain' (sort of!)

It was so calming listening to the birdsong all around us as we walked, and we loved pointing out the multiple different wild flowers that grew along the wayside - took photos so we could try to identify them when we got home, but haven't done so yet as it was time to quickly get tea when we got back...

We also stopped to say hello to the sheep - not particularly "wild" but definitely entertaining...

When we got to the egg-booth we were disappointed to find the eggs were all gone, but it didn't really matter as we were just enjoying time together as a family  on a nice walk, so it was certainly not a waste of time!  In fact, it is one of the most pleasant ways I know to spend time.  On the days when we don't get out of the house I am often left feeling restless, but even just a short walk through the countryside leaves me feeling restored and peaceful again - just lovely!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 6, Park-playing

I'm not sure how wild today's activity was, although I do know the boys' behaviour would have got increasingly "wild" had we not taken them out for a play in the park!  We were visiting relatives all day, and the boys enjoyed their 2DS consoles for a while before their behaviour and interactions started to deteriorate.  Happily there is a lovely park near Nana's house, so we went there to let them run off some steam (and bounce it off, as they were thrilled to discover a bouncy castle at the park too).

There may not have been much appreciating of wildlife and nature on the boys' part - they were too busy appreciating the play equipment provided.  BUT they did all definitely benefit from being outside in the fresh air and big open spaces, and I really appreciated the opportunity to feel the refreshing breeze against my skin and the sun on my face, with the grass beneath my feet. Just the simple act of being outdoors, as so often, restores my equilibrium and restores sanity to the whole family's interaction with each other.  It makes everything feel better!

Friday, 5 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 5, Duck feeding

It was a bit miserable, weather-wise this morning, but it brightened up nicely the afternoon, and we had a long car journey ahead so I knew I needed to take the boys out for some exercise and fresh air before being stuck in the car for hours.

We grabbed our bag of duck food (bread is not good for them as it fills their tummies but provides no real nutrition) and made our way to Fairlands Valley Park, where there are always plenty of waterfowl to feed.  As usual, we used our entire bag of food before we got around the lakes - the avian parents were very demanding, as were their delightful offspring!

At one point the boys teamed up so that one boy could distract the bigger geese by ostentatiously throwing food a little distance away for them, while another quietly dropped food down to the cute little ducklings whose parents we couldn't see anywhere nearby.  We enjoyed the thought that it was a deliberate ploy to gain our sympathy - after all, doesn't every duck-feeder do their best to make sure no bird is left out of their banquet?

It was a lovely peace-restoring interlude in the middle of a very busy day - there's something about spending time with nature that forces you to slow down and just enjoy.  We loved watching all the different wildlife and laughing at their antics (although Middle wasn't keen on the Canada geese who really were very bolshy).  It really is a beautiful place to visit though - definitely one of our local favourites!