Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fat Tuesday Hastings

Hastings really loves a celebration and we had lots of fun for Fat Tuesday. On Preservation Sunday there was a procession through the town with a jazz band and drummers. A big crowd turned out with umbrellas they had decorated at one of the many workshops by Radiator Arts that took place during half term. My husband hosted a couple of the workshops. His umbrella is the one with the tiger face on it. Everyone partied at The Printworks where gumbo and hot dogs were served. My son went out in the world as a storm trooper, quite a cute storm trooper. On Fat Tuesday there were bands playing in locations all over Hastings for free including jazz singer Leanne Carol and the charismatic James Hunter. Donations on the doors are going to the Seaview Project which offers services for the most marginalised and vulnerable people in Hastings and St. Leonards. Love my town.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mini bug houses using recycled materials.

From freezing conditions to a little taste of spring, my bug house workshop at a Children's Centre in Eastbourne was lots of fun. The centre is in the middle of a housing estate, a long way from town, a long way from the sea, cut off by the railway line. Lots of streets that all look the same and are easy to get lost in. "Hazelwood Avenue" giving an indication of what was once there. Centres like these provide playgroups with free snacks, advice, support and information for families and carers with babies and toddlers. During the school holidays older children often come along too. I arrived with a big bundle of bamboo canes, straw and dry cow parsley stems, a bag full of plastic bottles cut in half, some tin cans (ring pull ones only as the edges aren't sharp), wool, string, wire, some homemade playdough and permanent markers. I set up a couple of small vices on the tables.

We made homes for solitary bees. The female bee lays an egg on top of  a mass of pollen at the end of a hollow tube, she then seals the entrance with a plug of mud. Hollow stems such as old bamboo canes make good nest sites.  Playdough was put in the bottom of the can or bottle then it was packed with bamboo canes and dry cow parsley stems. The older children drew bug designs on the outside using permanent markers. All the children, except the very young ones, enjoyed cutting the bamboo to size using the little hacksaws. Wire or wool was wrapped around the outside and a loop made for hanging. Best placed in a sunny spot or hung on a south-facing wall or fence as solitary bees like warmth.

The children also packed bottles with a mixture of rolled cardboard, straw and canes. They took them home to see if any bugs would move in for them to investigate. An average garden could hold over 2,000 different species of mini bugs or invertebrates. Very few creatures cause significant damage to our flowers, fruit and veg and are the 'pests'. Many more creatures help us to control the pests. By creating homes for them we can encourage a diverse range of beneficial bugs in our gardens by giving the places to hide and hibernate. Lacewings and ladybirds and their larvae eat aphids which damage plants. Woodlice and millipedes help to break down woody material. They are essential parts of the gardening recycling system. Dead wood is an increasingly rare habitat as we tidy our gardens, parks and amenity woodlands. Even just a bundle of stems and sticks left in a corner will encourage mini bugs to move in.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ice lanterns

A lovely idea from the Woodland Trust:

You will need:
Two small, empty plastic tubs (they need to be different sizes so one fits in the other)
Some cold water
A few pebbles or stones
A very cold night (or a freezer)
A candle or a tea light

How to make:

1. Half-fill the larger tub with water.

2. Put some pebbles into the smaller tub, then place it inside the larger one. (The smaller tub should float without touching the bottom of the bigger one, so you might need to experiment with the number of pebbles you use to weigh it down).

3. If it's a really cold night below zero degrees centigrade (the temperature water freezes), place the tubs outside to freeze the water overnight. If it's not quite cold enough you can put them in the freezer for a few hours instead.

4. When the water has frozen, carefully remove the ice from the tubs - it should look a bit like a candle holder.

5. Put a candle in your ice lantern and use it to turn your garden into a winter wonderland in the dark, gloomy evening.

6. More ideas - experiment with different sized containers; use glitter or food colouring in the water to make your ice lantern stand out; collect natural materials to freeze in the water and decorate your lantern.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snow and ice

It's half term holiday week and a very busy week for my husband and I. He is doing umbrella decorating workshops in Hastings for the Preservation Sunday Parade; a New Orleans style jazz and umbrella procession through the old town to the town centre for an afternoon of music and dancing on Sunday19th Feb. He's also doing a kite making workshop in Rye. I am doing two willow dome planting workshops and a bug house workshop in Eastbourne. The freezing conditions aren't ideal for planting but the temperature is supposed to be rising quite a bit tomorrow. There is membrane on the ground and the snow on top of that will have insulated the earth. The workshops are in children's centres and a school and are free. I also have two pages of art to create for Moshi Monsters Magazine for Friday. I've been doing this in the evenings.

On Tuesday I went to see my Polish friend who gave me a reiki massage. (I pulled a muscle in my back last Saturday). She told me I would feel better in a couple of days. I didn't believe her. I wasn't able to get out of bed without strong painkillers and was taking them throughout the day. The day after the massage I was still in some pain but mentally I felt much more able to cope with it. Two days after the massage I got up without pain killers. She gave me another massage on Friday. I'm fine now. I'm very grateful to her.  She healed herself from serious illness in her twenties and also her daughter's twisted spine condition. A very strong-minded person she researched alternative therapies and natural treatments at a time when there was not a lot of information of this kind available in Poland.   

I hope you are all in good health, or are receiving the best care if you're not so well. Hello to new followers, how's the weather? Of course now I feel like I'm getting a cold....onwards and upwards....

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Everything is rosy

I woke up this morning unable to move because I pulled a muscle in my back playing with the boy yesterday. I was lying face down, barely able to breathe with the pain wondering if I was going to be stuck in that position for a fortnight. Six inches of snow lying for the first time this year. After a good dose of pain relief I was able to get up and move around. No sledging for me; so I went off with my camera instead. I've never been so grateful for being able to walk around but I've probably overdone it and am seizing up again. Time for more pain killers and I will try to remember to take it easy tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Introducing Miss V. Sackville-West

I've had enough of January which is fortunate since we're now into February. However,  I'm fed up with February already and it's only just started. If any garden bloggers have been struggling with their blogs, you are not alone. Today I have a guest writer to help me out: the lovely Miss Sackville-West.

"January 18th, 1953
Not for the first time I find myself at a loss to know what to write about. January is a dead season, when one cannot get out to do anything active in the garden, so one is reduced to studying catalogues under the lamp and thereby being induced to order far more plants or seeds than one ought to."

I love her book In Your Garden Again, which was her second gardening book. I have to admit that she scares the living daylights out of me. I imagine her marching around with her secateurs ready to chop the heads off any flowers that aren't quite up to standard. She doesn't hold back with her views, "I hate, hate, hate American Pillar and her sweetly pink companion Perkins." She's talking about roses. Often irritated by one thing or another this makes for very entertaining reading. The following entry, about children in the garden, is hilarious:

 "February 17, 1952

So humble is the Humble Plant, so bashful, that a mere touch of the finger or a puff of breath blown across it will cause it to collapse instantly into a woebegone heap, like the once popular Ally Sloper. One grows it purely for the purpose of amusing the children. The normal child, if not an insufferable prig, thoroughly enjoys being unkind to something; so here is a harmless outlet for this instinct in the human young. Shrieks of delight are evoked, enhanced by the sadistic pleasure of doing it over and over again. 'Let's go back and see if it has sat up yet.' It probably has, for it seems to be endowed with endless patience under such mischievous persecution."

There are richly painted illustrations by the botanical illustrator Frederick W. Smith, from his book The Florists Museum: A register of the Newest and Most Beautiful Varieties of Flowers, published 1837. Miss Sackville-West has a wealth of knowledge to share. She writes at length about my favourite flower, roses. As well as making me laugh her book has lots of gardening tips, often delivered in a way that makes me feel I've been told off and should go and sit in the corner.

"January 25th, 1953

May I add, to correct what seems to be a misapprehension on the part of many people, that roses can still safely be planted up to the beginning or middle of March."

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