Midsummer, solstice time
We’re looking out for…. The last of the wild garlic for delish DIY pesto (find it in woodland all over the UK, you’ll smell it before you see it, and the pretty white flowers are edible too).
Elderflower blossom everywhere from city parks to country lanes. Just add the flower heads to sugar and lemon zest to make a syrup, then strain for your own cordial. We like the recipe on BBC Food.
Cuckoo spit bugs. These little green bugs, called froghoppers, suck the sap of plant stems, creating lots of bubbles. Great for budding biologists to inspect under a magnifying glass.
Baby fledgling birds, downy feathered, and out on their first sorties, from wood-pigeons to starlings, blackbirds to robins (without their red breast, that comes later)…
Wild wisdom on….. camp fires
Each month, I’ll be asking an expert for the lowdown on something fun to try. For our first post, Lucy Baile, who runs Fern forest school in Somerset and leads playwalks for families shares her tips for building a brilliant and safe fire with small children. Her rules apply whether you want to light it in your back garden, or further afield (make sure you ask the local council or landowner for permission first).
‘Before you start,’ says Lucy, ‘it’s important to ensure you’ll be able to quickly and safely extinguish your fire should you need to. And always make sure you have permission to light one if you are on public or private land that is not your own. Call the council, or check with the local landowner first.’
‘Keep a small, old baking tray in your backpack – it makes a fantastic, light and dry base for a fire, and keeps it contained and small. You can also cool it down quickly by splashing it with water, ready to pack up for next time.’
‘Create a safety barrier with stones or string and explain that children can look at the flames but should stay behind the barrier. With small children, the language that works best is positive. If you say ‘don’t touch the fire,’ they may just hear ‘touch the fire.’ Instead, say ‘sit there for a good view, or ‘stay behind this stone/ sit on this log to be safe.’
‘Use wild dried nettle stalks or dried out cow parsley as kindling – it’s everywhere. Or if it’s a bit damp, a few balls of cotton wool make brilliant firelighters.’
‘Build a ‘waffle’ fire, with scrunched up newspaper, cotton wool or natural dried kindling at the bottom, criss-crossing four layers of finger-width sized twigs (ask your children to help find the sticks and do the ‘snap’ test to check they are dry enough to light).‘
‘Older children can start adding a twig or two to the fire once it has been lit, under your supervision. Teach them to move towards the fire slowly, go down on one bended knee when they get close (this ensures stability and makes a quick exit easy).
Find out more about Lucy at www.fernforestschool.co.uk
This month’s most treasured
What with this being a cold, wet, sort of summer, I’m attached to my thermos. In my mind, I’m filling it with nourishing miso, or fresh mint from the garden. Back in the real world, it’s strong coffee. Perfect for keeping sleep-addled parents going on drizzly days out. Love this one from Hello Kitty for Liberty