Friday, 31 July 2015

Going Crackers - Jacobs Cracker Crisps

Uh?  What on earth could this possibly have to do with green issues or crafts?  Absolutely nothing but hey, it is my blog and why not??!  Maybe I want to shout to the rooftops how great they are, which is absolutely true.  They come in three flavors Sour Cream and Chive (my favorite), Thai Sweet Chilli and Salt and Balsamic Vinegar.  Are they a cracker or a crisp?  A bit of both and no, nobody is paying me to say this.  I got them from BzzAgent which can be joined right here so you can try out a few things and let people know what you think, just like I am doing right now.

Jacobs has been making tasty treats since 1850 and are still going strong.  It was started by baker William Jacob in Waterford, Ireland and in 1885 the cream cracker was born.  Now they are based in Aintree, Essex and still baking merrily away bringing out old and new snacks for us to enjoy if you live in the UK at least, not sure about other countries.  Visiting their website makes me want to start making out my shopping list!

I can heartily recommend Cracker Crisps anyway, available in most good supermarkets.  A good supermarket is one that sells things like this...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Fun With A Bun

That's it, fun with a bun.  Not the sort you find in a bakery and eat, but the sort you wear on your head and a pretty band to go around it once it is up.  This helps stop the pins falling out and breaking the vacuum cleaner, and also finishes if off nicely.  Updos are really in right now, and so are leathercrafts.  The beads are made from leather offcuts, and the bun ring is made from old stockings and tights.  Yes I know you can buy them in shops, but if you make your own you can choose the color to go with your hair instead of being limited by the usually three colors they are sold in.  This one is a reddish shade and matches my own hair.

How do you make these items?  You need to get the latest issue of Bead Me magazine, available at the iTunes store here.  There are lots of other projects to make as well as this, which also includes instructions on actually putting up the bun once you have made the ring. Sometimes it is not only easy being green, but fun too...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Big Butterfly Count

Have you signed up for the Big Butterfly Count yet?  If you live in the UK Butterfly Conservation wants you to log how many butterflies you see every day between 17 July and 9 August.  You don't have to have a garden to do so, you can see them out and about anywhere where you live.  Sign up here, it is not too late.

Here is one you are bound to see at some point (I hope):

Yes, it is a Small Tortoiseshell.  This one is on a buddleia growing in my garden that I didn't even have to plant, they are that profusive and now a wild plant although not a native of the British Isles.  If you don't have one and want one you can find out more about them at The Urban Butterfly Garden website here and get sent to the Thompson and Morgan website.  Be warned, most of them grow rather large but you can get dwarf ones now so there is something for everybody, including a patio or balcony.

A comma, not seen by me for several years now.  They are on the wing from spring until autumn and again, consult that useful website to find out more about them and what to grow to attract them here  Guess what, they also love buddleias!

A pearl bordered fritillary, more of a woodland specialist so not actually seen in my garden.  Adults seem to love brambles and various other woodland plants like bluebells and the caterpillars enjoy munching various violets.  One attribute is they are one of the very few butterflies to obligingly open out flat when resting so are very easy to photograph!  Find out more here

Now sign up, do your bit for conservation and see what you can spot in your area!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Having A Field Day

I know, I know.  I am not the world's best blogger but rest assured that I have been out and about and will be reporting back about it all.  Things I have done for the 30 Days' Wild since my last posting have included:

*  Noticing which flowers attract pollinators and which don't, especially in my garden.
* Photographing more wild flowers and escapes
* Smelling all the roses I can find!
* Yes I did get to dance in the rain but only once as we are having a drought
* Maintaining the more valuable (ie those attracting pollinators) plants in my garden and weeding out others
* Having a field day...

Buckfast Abbey, home to a remarkable building constructed from scratch by only six monks only one of whom was a mason!  It took 32 years starting in 1907 but was well worth the effort as you can see.  Also home to the notorious "Bucky" which if you are Scottish you will know more about than the average Devonian ('nuff said) and Brother Adam, who bred a unique type of bee known as the Buckfast bee which is resistant to disease and stings less.  You can see them everywhere here, because they have planted the right plants!  We arrived before 9.30 and the restaurant does not open until 10 so there was plenty of time for chilling out and watching the bees.
Geraniums.  Not the pelargonium type or the red ones with the addictive scent but this simpler variety.  It was everywhere and covered with bees.
Lavender of the English and French varieties.  The French was out in force being earlier but the other types were just coming out.  You can see how hot it was, a glorious "flaming June" day and again alive with bees because all varieties of lavender attract them.
Honeysuckle, another popular plant with pollinators.  So you can see that it wasn't just me that was having a field day, the bees were too!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Poppies & Pimpernel

What did I do over the weekend?  I went shopping on Saturday and didn't manage to spot anything of interest apart from in the shops!  On Sunday I spent some time in the garden...signed up for The Big Butterfly Count which runs from 17 July to 9 August.  You can do this here if you live in the UK.  I did it last year and managed to see a few, but sadly I see fewer every year.  I remember as a child "cabbage whites" munching their way through the brassicas but now these are getting scarcer.  I can even remember being very young and seeing my last Large Tortoiseshell whose population crash was linked to their food plant the elm.

On a brighter note I spotted a red poppy (going over so I didn't photograph it) and one of my very favorite wild flowers, cow parsley:

Rather a blurry image due to the wind, and it doesn't even look much like cow parsley!  It is however, and this plant (aka Queen Anne's Lace) conjures up images of going on vacation as a child and stopping in laybys for a snack.  It is also getting more common due to it not getting eaten by farm animals as verges used to be or cut for hay but being trimmed by councils and the trimmings left in place.  These enrich the soil too much for most wild plants which prefer poor soil, and so a few robust large species flourish like this one which likes richer soil and is a member of the carrot family.  Do not grow it in your garden or it will take over, do not eat it as it is poisonous.  Another similar-looking plant (though not of the same family) is giant cow parsley aka giant hogweed which is a lot more poisonous even to the touch and looks like a huge version, growing up to at least 16'.  Another plant that looks attractive but not in your back yard!

Smaller and less obvious is scarlet pimpernel.  Another blurry photo due to the sea breezes:
I must try and get a better one but I keep getting very funny looks from people as I take my flower photos.  I could understand it if I was taking shots of manhole covers or bins but then it might look as if I worked for the council...oh well.  The flowers only open when the sun shines hence its old name "poor man's weatherglass".  There is also a rarer blue form which I have never seen, despite it being associated with south west England where I live.  It is not native to this country but very widespread these days and I cannot find out any creatures that pollinate it but it grows well on poor, light limey soils.  You can buy it to put in your own backyard wildflower meadow right here.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Periwinkles & Pokers

On my walk along the seafront today I could see that the red hot pokers were in full bloom.  These always grow on the cliffs every year in some profusion, and are yet another garden escape that has become naturalized.  It is rather depressing to see how few native wild plants there are around here, maybe they have been crowded out by these brash, robust incomers.  This plant origiinated in South Africa and is hardy - after all, it has come from a place chilly enough to have penguins!  There are many cultivated varieties and you can find out more about growing them in your garden here and buy them from Mr Digwell here if you live in the UK.  In their native country they are pollinated by birds, here by bees.  When I was a child just about every garden was full of them including ours.  Now you don't see them so often.
Note the slightly bigger photo.

Growing on the edge of the beach and in clumps in various other spots I also spotted periwinkle.  This is lesser periwinkle vinca minor, and you can buy this pretty plant here which is pollinated by bees and is poisonous so no tasting!  It is a hardy, tough plant that grows just about anywhere and can be invasive, but makes a good ground cover.
I had no idea how much I was going to learn doing this! 

Thursday, 4 June 2015


It is Day Four of the 30 Days Wild challenge and don't think I didn't do anything yesterday because I did!  I went into my own garden and had a look around - more about that another time.  Today it was fine and bright so I went for the same walk and took this picture:
This was on the very edge of the beach near the mallow and growing in clumps.  Looking it up back home I could see that it was a type of ragwort, but I was not sure which variety.  It most resembles Oxford Ragwort, which is not a native plant to the UK unlike several other ragworts but which is often seen growing on waste ground.  If you are concerned about ragwort being poisonous or a nuisance there is a whole website devoted to myth busting here which is useful.  Common Ragwort is a more useful plant which is important to the existence of many insects, some of them rare and vital to the cinnabar moth which is in decline.  Oxford Ragwort arrived in the UK in the early years of the 18th century where is was put in the Oxford Botanical Gardens as an ornamental plant.  It escaped and spread, spreading further with the advent of the railways until it was a common sight everywhere.  I used to live in Oxford and know the Botanical Gardens well.  It is the oldest botanical garden in the UK and has a website here so you can see how lovely it is.