Coming home to roost

“I believe that all children should be surrounded by books and animals.”
― Gerald Durrell

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Once upon a time, when a different generation lived here in the farmhouse, the farm upon the hill would have been one that ‘old MacDonald’ would have been proud to live on. Pigs, ducks, turkeys, sheep, cart horses and chickens were kept alongside the cows. Not only did the animals feed the family, they filled the larder, worked the land and paid the bills.  Nowadays, raising cows for dairy or beef production is the mainstay of the farm.

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My hope is to restore some of the diversity of the old farming system, whilst still managing to leave plenty of room for the ‘real farming’ to carry on.  The goats are still here, although due to my wonky turns milking them has taken a back seat. Recently we have added a chicken coop to the farm. It stands on the remains of the old chicken shed, alongside my greenhouse and the log pile. The birds came from a commercial flock, via Fresh Start For Hens.   It seemed like an awfully long time between being approved as rehomers and the chickens arriving.

The night before the chickens arrived we watched a short video which showed the flock being checked to make sure they were fit and healthy for the journey to their new homes. The clip explained that  due to the avian flu restrictions, the chickens had spent more time indoors than the farmer would have liked. The flock did look a little bedraggled, but nevertheless were bright and alert, with one even laying an egg on camera!

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The flock then journeyed across the country to various collection points. All we had to do was make sure their coop was ready and turn up to fetch them on time. Ironically our ‘collection point’ was a terraced house in a nearby village, and it was a bit surreal to see 20 or so chickens calmly milling about in the concrete back yard. We chose the four that would be coming to stay with us, gently transferred them to the chicken crate ( an ‘ancient relic’. No farmer chucks out anything that might come in handy one day. Just as well!) which was appreciated by the volunteer re-homer for not being a cardboard box or ‘new fangled crate’ . Five minutes later and the chickens were home, fed, watered and left to settle in in peace. In fact they were so remarkably settled that we had 3 eggs within the first 24 hours of them arriving on the farm!

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Since then they have grown stronger and brighter. The different ‘personalities’ are becoming more obvious – the bossy one, the quiet one, the inquisitive one, the troublemaker. New feathers are emerging and we have had a consistent supply of fresh and tasty eggs.  The supply of eggs was never the most important factor for me in rehoming these chickens. In fact, Fresh start for hens makes it quite clear that eggs from ex commercial chickens are a bonus. Commercial chickens are generally sent to slaughter at 72 weeks of age. I knew we could offer them a chance for a longer happier life. On top of us being able to offer them a home, they are able to give us something in return.

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Both mini farmers have taken an active interest in caring for the new arrivals. C enjoys checking for eggs and shepherding the birds back into the coop after a day of free ranging. JoJo likes feeding them, painstakingly distributing feed evenly between all four chickens! The chickens seem to respond to the children too running towards rather than away from them – I think it is a height thing…well that and the treat foods they sneak them!img_8044Animals have been my passion for as long as I can remember, although I haven’t always been surrounded by them. As a child I grew up in a world far removed from green fields, hedgerows and cow herds. For almost 10 years we lived in a red brick terraced house in West London, with giant ‘winged birds’ flying overhead, on their flight path to Heathrow. We played out on the streets, in parks or in our tiny garden that would fit into this farm a thousand times over. Summer holidays were different – we visited Ireland and its 40 shades of green. We stayed in a whitewashed cottage on a dairy farm, with views down over the Slieve Mish mountains. We were allowed to help milk the cows, got up at the crack of dawn to watch calves being born, built dens behind the tractor shed and climbed amongst the straw bales. These hazy memories of childhood have shaped the way I want my children to grow up, with a love and understanding of both city and country life.

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My children are luckier than I was in so far as they are surrounded by animals, and we have the space, time and knowledge to enable this. I am an enabler! I don’t want to force my passion for life other than human onto anyone, least of all my children. Feeling forced or pushed to do something is a definite reason for turning your back on it. Instead I want to provide them with opportunities and experiences that will help them grow. If they share my passion fantastic, if not they will hopefully still learn valuable lessons by looking after the animals here on the farm. They will learn kindness, compassion, responsibility, pride, respect, how to be gentle and to do no harm. They will learn where their food comes from, about animal husbandry and behaviour, evolution , ecosystems and their place in the landscape that surrounds them. These four chickens are not just the sum total of the eggs they produce, they are so much more.

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Dung beetles

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Day 22 of #30DaysWild coincided with a talk from Farming Connect, a government scheme that aims to ‘safeguard and enhance the rural environment’, whilst revitalising rural economy.

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Dr Beynon from The Bug Farm presented a fascinating talk on the economic and inherent value of dung beetles.

Last year I wrote a post about my (poor ) attempt at a dung beetle hunt on our farm.  At that point I didn’t spot any dung beetles, but thought I might resume the hunt at a later date. I didn’t think it would be an entire year later!

What do you think of when you here the words ‘Dung beetle’ ? If you are anything like me your first thoughts may be dredged up memories from primary school projects on the ancient Egyptians worship of these creatures.  Or perhaps you think of wildlife TV documentaries, with African Dung Beetles rolling massive balls of Elephant poo about.  Neither  thought  accurately represents the dung beetles that we have here in the UK.

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Dung beetles are a ‘superfamily’ of insects that practice coprophagy – the delightful habit of munching other animals faeces. Some live exclusively off dung, whilst it only forms part of the diets of other species. Members of the dung beetle family can be found all over the world, in habitat as diverse as deserts, forests, savannah and even UK farmland. The only continent free of these insects is Antarctica.

Entomologists have grouped dung beetles according to the way they use dung;

‘Rollers’create balls of dung, roll them away and bury them, either to use as food or somewhere to lay eggs.  None of our native  species fit into this group.

Instead, the 40 or so  dung beetles found within the UK fit into one of 2 other categories. Either they are ‘ Tunnelers’,  creating vertical and horizontal mazes of  chambers beneath a pat, or they  are ‘Dwellers’,breeding and tunnelling within it.

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The presentation took place on a dairy farm not too far from us. We listened to Dr Beynons talk before setting out to check pitfall traps that had been set by the farmer the night before.

The first few traps brought forth several ground beetles but no dung beetle species. In the next field Dr Beynon turned over a cow pat and immediately spotted several Dung Beetles. They were tiny – perhaps a third of the length of my little finger nail. Although they looked pretty similar to my untrained eye, Dr Beynon immediately began identifying which species they were. Another, larger beetle appeared in the sludgey remains of the pat. This, apparently, was Aphodius fossus. Bigger than the others, this beetle moved quite slowly and tentatively. Every so often it froze, tucking its legs up under its carapace in case danger was imminent. Whilst we were standing listening to each species being identified, the air around the dung was gradually beginning to come alive with beetles, flying in attracted by the malodorous faeces. At first I thought they were flies, but their flight pattern eluded to their true identity. It had an almost clockwork or mechanical aspect to it, and I half expected the air to be full of whirring and clicking mechanical noises as they alighted on the cow pat.

Once home again, I was itching to go and see if I could find any beetles of our own. The cows had been in the Quarry field the previous day, so it seemed a logical place to start my search.

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Within a few feet of entering the field gate my path was crossed by a rather large and shiny ground beetle.

A few more steps and I reached my first dung pile. Flipping the crust off, I waited patiently to see if I could spot anything. I was in luck.

Maybe it was beginners luck – I moved onto another pat close by – sure enough 4 beetles appeared, tunnelling through the pat, along with other ‘creepy crawlies’, flies and a few larvae.

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One more pat – I scrapped the pat close to the ground. Iould make out beetles disappearing down into tunnels. One larger beetle caught my eye – slower than the rest and sitting amongst the grass that had been directly underneath the dung. I scooped it up for a closer look. Aphodius Fossor. Jackpot!

My search wasn’t very scientific in methodology, but at least I know we do have some dung beetles present. This is encouraging. Dung beetles play a vital role in our ecosystem. If they disappeared entirely we would quite literally be up to our necks in dung . These beetles play a role in making soil more fertile and help to redistribute the nutrients in dung back into the soil. They contribute to improving water quality, undo ‘damage’ caused by grazing horses,help reduce green house gas released by farm animals and can even help to prevent livestock getting ill due to parasites. All this is quite a feat, considering they are only a few millimetres long!

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From this….

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to this…

Unfortunately, as with so many of our other native species, dung beetles have suffered massive declines. This is largely due to the overuse of and overreliance on products used to worm horses, cattle and sheep.

Dr Beynon, along with a host of other scientists, is hopeful that this trend can be reversed. In fact, they state that not only will it benefit the species of beetles themselves , but it will also benefit the UK farming industry financially, something which seems blatantly obvious when you look at the list of their ‘helpful qualities’.

If you want to have a go at looking for dung beetles (and you have land owners permission!) check out DUMP – a uk based mapping project. You can also see how to build a pitfall trap here. Happy beetling!

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Day 17 – The little things…

This month hasn’t been what I planned. Ok, so I know it isn’t over yet, but recently  I have been worried that , if the first half has been anything to go by, the next half isn’t going to live up to my expectations either.

Since last years #30DaysWild , which pretty much marked the real beginning of my blogging experience, I have been looking forward to June 2017. What new things would I discover? Would there be new wildlife spotted on the farm? Will I meet more wildlife enthusiasts? But, like all of the best laid plans…it hasn’t quite gone the way I had hoped. My ‘weird turns’ are still occurring, and I still don’t know what they are. Despite being on antiepileptic medication, and I am struggling to enjoy normal everyday life the way I should. When I’ve had a weird turn, I am in pain and exhausted for hours if not days after. My memory is affected- I forget words, names and everyday data- like phone numbers and passwords. Its really annoying! Worst of all is not being able to write or read. I can’t concentrate, cant find the energy to find the words.From the outside looking in, people can’t tell how much it affects me. Much like my battles with mental health.

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Today I spent a lot of the morning asleep, and the afternoon looking after the mini farmers. By 6.30pm I remembered #30DaysWild….but I hadn’t got the energy to think up a ‘random act’, or the inclination to tap the random act app on my phone. Instead I just took the girls outside, let them play in the sunshine whilst I sat and watched.

My chosen spot was on the patio next to my herb patch. The garden in general is looking pretty wild and neglected at the minute, and the herb patch is no exception. The fennel stands at about 2ft high, its liquorice scented fronds covered with aphids.The lavender shoots are not far behind, and the lemonbalm has spread out horizontally.  The nasturtiums I have grown from seed are also sending their tendrils out sideways, and bursting into flower.  The bees adore them, and I sat watching as one fat white tailed bumble bee laconically gathered nectar from the gold and orange trumpet shaped flowers.

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Next to the herb patch is my washing up bowl pond. It didn’t start out as a pond, just a water butt to collect rain from a broken down pipe, saving me having to go far to fetch water for the plants. Now it is home to 4 tiny, still legless,  voraciously hungry tadpoles. From my vantage point I can see one flicking about on the surface, gulping air, before disappearing under a shard of terracotta i added for cover. They have cleared the copious amounts of fly larvae from the pond, and I cant wait until they grow up and start making a dent on the slugs that have decapitated my lupin, shredded my centaurea and are now waging war on my strawberry plants.

After five minutes of sitting here, and snapping a few shots of passing wild things with my iPhone I realised that actually, this is what ’30 days’ is really about. There is no set curriculum, no need for grandiose schemes. Interactions with nature can be small and simple – just taking a minute to watch a bee fly from flower to flower in search of nectar, or following a butterfly around the garden… and tick…task completed for the day.  You don’t need fancy equipment- my big regret last year was not getting good enough photos. This year the majority of wild photos are on my iphone. You don’t even need to be able to get outside, with webcams and wildlife books, journals or online courses. Of course you can go further afield, spend whole days immersing yourself in the wild or creating grander and more elaborate ways to complete your random act of wildness for the day. But you don’t have to.

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Which has lead me to realise. I haven’t ‘wasted’ this month. It has not been a ‘failure’ because it hasn’t lived up to the expectations I set from last year. It has been different. Small achievable goals are actually good- good for my mental health and good for my general health. Up until now, I didn’t think that my acts that I have managed on days when I haven’t blogged have been worthy of writing about. I didn’t think they were exciting enough, or even constituted a ‘random act’. I’m glad i’ve realised I was wrong in my thinking.

A different world

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Day 3 and we turned to the ‘ Random act of wildness’ app for inspiration, as Mummy was lacking any. Sometimes I love technology.

A couple of taps on the trusty iPhone later and we had our inspiration. ‘Lift up a log’ it told us…’Look under fallen logs to discover weird and wonderful creepy crawlies.

‘ Shall we go on a mini beast safari?’ I asked…

‘Yeah…boots..boots..boots…’ shout JoJo gleefully, and headed for the backdoor. C grabbed her wellies, put them on the wrong feet as per normal, and we headed off to check out the log pile.img_6911

At the back of the ‘wild patch’ lies the remains of an old chicken shed. The concrete base now houses our greenhouse, a dog kennel and a (currently empty and awaiting its owners) chicken coop, as well as a rather large log pile. We stacked the logs here a couple of years ago after some dead and dying trees were cleared around the farm. Untouched and undisturbed they have become a mini beast haven.

Turning over the first log sent several Brown centipedes scuttling off for cover. The millipedes were slower, with some not even bothering to uncurl themselves at all. Woodlice swarmed over each other, antennae twitching as they edged under neighbouring logs. The worms remained, wriggling in the leaf litter, along with two slugs that had been sheltering on the underside of the upturned log.

‘Put it back mummy, they are getting hot’ said C. Perfectly logical, as the sun was indeed blazing down over our little patch. I gingerly lowered the log, hoping I hadn’t squished any of the occupants in the process. After a quick check on the tadpoles that are living in our washing up bowl pond under the broken downpipe, we headed back inside as mummy was starting, ironically,  to burn.

Day 2 – Petrichor

TWT30DaysWild_countdown_02Torrential rain, memory loss and toddler tantrums. Not an auspicious start to the second day of our #30DaysWild, but as the saying goes, bad things come in threes. Once we had them behind us the day could only get better. With the mini farmers departing to spend time with relatives, the rain clouds rolling off into the distance and the garden beckoning I decided on a simple stroll around our ‘patch’; the wild, uncouth area that lies to the side of the farmhouse.

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Once upon a time it was a more formal affair, with carefully tended rose beds and well pruned shrubs. Nowadays, through years of benign neglect, it is a tangle of weeds. Until last June, I found it an eyesore, and started trying to tame it back into some semblance of a tidy space. But with the arrival of 30 days wild, I started to see it as something different. No longer was it a messy disgraceful space, but home to all manner of ‘mini beasts’ . It provides food for birds, bats and foxes. So this year I left it wild and let nature run its course. Today, with the scent of petrichor hanging over the patch I set off to see what creatures I could find.

I came across this Scorpion fly perched atop a bramble leaf . These curious insects earn their name from their long scorpion-like tail. They feed on dead insects, including those trapped in spiders webs. Like some spiders, the male needs to placate the female during mating with a ‘nuptial gift’, so she isn’t tempted to kill him.

Next up, some day flying moths. This male long horned, or Fairy, moth was sunning himself on a nettle leaf. This species has amazingly, bordering on ridiculously,  long ‘filiform’ antenna. In this chaps case they were at least 4 times the length of his body, with an apparent life force all of their own.

On a neighbouring clump of nettles I spotted a micro moth, which turned out to be the rather aptly named ‘Nettle Tap’ moth.img_6845

With all my crashing around in the path (even though I was desperately attempting to avoid being ungainly) I disturbed a Silver-ground carpet moth. This moth is nocturnal but easily disturbed from its daytime resting spots. The caterpillars of this species feed on Cleavers and Primroses, which are plentiful in the ‘patch’.
Not to be outdone, several species of butterfly were fluttering around the patch. Only this speckled wood alighted long enough for me to snap a quick photo.

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There were many, many more creatures flitting and skulking about the patch. I’m glad I bothered to let it stay wild. If we had mown the nettles, chopped all the brambles and pulled up the other assorted ‘weeds’ this little patch would be a whole lot poorer for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 – Etching and sketching

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June the first, a long awaited calendar date. The start of the new 30 days wild challenge. I couldn’t have felt less inclined to do anything ‘wild’ or ‘outdoorsy’ if I had tried. My head was reeling, buzzing with the electrical aftermath of one of my weird seizures. Any grandiose plans I had for that day had flown straight out of the window, and I resigned myself to a day of indoor R&R. With the mini farmers off visiting family, I did the only thing that helps following a seizure. Turn off all electronics apart from classic fm and reached for my pencils. A sudden light bulb moment- combine my ‘random act of wildness’ for the day with some art therapy. Pencils, paper and some inspiration gathered, I started to draw. I had an idea that perhaps, if days become too much and this is what I need to do to relax and recover, maybe I could work through sketching native British wildlife. First up, owls.

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There are five species of owls found in the Uk – Barn owl, Tawny, Little owl, Long and Short eared.

Barn owls (Tyto alba) are predominantly farmland birds.With their ghostly pale heart shaped faces and blood curdling call, it is easy to see how they earned their place in myth and folklore. They don’t hoot, rather hiss and screech, giving rise to their colloquial name of ‘Screech owl’. Small rodents form the bulk of their prey, with field voles being a favourite snack. It is easy to see how they became a ‘farmers friend’, helping to keep rodent numbers at bay.

Tawny owls (Strix aluco) are shy nocturnal birds. Their grey- buff- dappled plumage acts as perfect camouflage, blending seamlessly with tree bark.  During the summer months we frequently hear them call here on the farm; a single ‘kerwick’ acts as a contact call, followed by a ‘whooo- whoo’ if the bird is a male.

Last up for day 1- Long eared owl (Asio otus). Despite their name, these owls don’t actually have long ears. The tufts on top of their heads are merely decorative plumage, their ears being located on the side of their heads. Like all owls, one ear is placed slightly higher than the other. Combined with their round, flat faces this  helps them to accurately locate prey by sound alone.

So there we have it. My very own parliament of owls!

30 Days Wild 2017- Prologue

One day until our 30 Days Wild experience begins. Well, technically speaking there are only approximately 3 hours left of May, but I’m not planning on kicking off this years challenge with a dawn chorus walk or a spot of midnight moth trapping.

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It seems bizarre that an entire year has passed and we are planning on taking part again. Last year was my first year being involved in this month long challenge. It was a fantastic experience, spending a whole month immersing ourselves in nature. Looking back I’m not sure quite how I managed to squeeze in so many acts of wildness with the a 2 year old and a 7 month old in tow. We created a wormery to watched red kites soar above us, collected finds for a nature table, visited a bug farm, took part in a bioblitz, attempted to lure moths and even managed a beach clean with the baby ‘helping out’. The whole month passed by in a blur, and I can honestly say the experience left a lasting imprint on our lives. It helped me start along my road of recovery, away from depression ( a road with many potholes, dead ends and detours), which was one of my hopes in the run up to last years challenge. It reconnected me with writing, and my passion for the great outdoors which had somehow got lost under the everyday mantle of ‘being a mum’. As the challenge is self driven, I could dip in and out as much as I wanted. On ‘bad days’, when the ‘dementors’ were knocking on the door, we managed small nature based goals. On ‘good days’ anything goes. This year, the cloud of depression has lifted, only to be replaced by Partial Seizures. My newly acquired condition means I get tired easily and (worse still) can’t drive. I have done some ‘pre planning’, jotting down some ideas of things I would like to attempt, and I hope we can at least tick off a few.

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Participating in 30 Days wild also means you get to meet a lovely group of like minded individuals through the online 30 days wild community- on twitter and facebook. Seeing what others get up to daily, learning from each other, helping identify nature finds and sharing ideas on what to do next all adds to the fun.

I can’t wait to see what this years challenge brings. Reflecting on  the legacy left by last years experience was wonderful . It allowed me to see how much of a personal journey I had made over the month. If you feel like joining in this year there is still time to sign up here, and you can even nab yourself a free pack too (it has stickers, who doesn’t like free stickers?!).

 

 

 

30 Days Wild- A legacy.

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I can’t remember exactly how I found out about 30Days Wild but I know that I am very glad that I did. This month has passed in a blur of nettle stings and nature trips, bird tables and bioblitzing, growing greens and feeding bees. 30days to cram in as many random acts of nature. We tried our best, and I don’t think we did too badly.

When I look back over the posts I can see how much I have gained from taking part. I’ve changed quite a bit since the first of June. The following list sums up the things this month has given to me.

  1. Happiness – Watching my children enjoy nature.
  2. Purpose– I have something to do every day that takes me out of my ‘Mummy’ role.
  3. Excitement– Checking the camera trap is like opening a Christmas stocking!
  4. Change– In my mindset and my habits (No more channel hopping thanks to Osprey Cam!). We have bird feeders, a home made bird table and a camera trap!
  5. Activity– Movement has increased! I even have a new pair of walking shoes.
  6. Connection– With wonderful like minded people that I may not have met otherwise.
  7. Wider horizons – All sorts of new websites, discussion forums, facebook groups, charities and reading matter have been discovered in the past month.
  8. Creativity – In nature art and writing. Although I have to say the dying was a bit ‘meh’!
  9. Knowledge – I now know how to identify Herb Robert ( Amongst other things).
  10. Reuse – Hello reusable water bottle.
  11. Reduce – Bye bye ‘stand by’, hello ‘off’
  12. Mindfullness – Macro photography is great for this.
  13. Greenery– My patio has a bee café. I have kept the plants alive for 30 days. This is a record.
  14. Memories– A 30 day diary. I have a 5 year diary that I got for Christmas. I failed to get past January.
  15. Art
  16. Perspectivehttps://twitter.com/thisgreyspirit/status/748433369424400384
  17. Hope – Seeing so many people unified over a love of nature has filled me with so much hope.
  18. Resolution – To keep going!
  19. Photography – I have taken so many photos I needed a new memory card.
  20. Maps– After 3 years I now know where the heck F is when he says he is going to the Ox Park!
  21. Peace– The peace of sitting in a 10 acre field watching the Solstice sunset.
  22. Healing – The Dementors have packed up and left.
  23. Birds – Before June, I didn’t know we had Dunnock living in the garden.
  24. Travel – After several years of promising, we made it to the Red Kite Centre.
  25. Houseguests – Nigel and Steve have bred. I’m not sure what to say about that. The ladybird larvae are voracious.
  26. Education– The girls have learned so much this month. C knows what a woodlouse is, can identify garden birds and is learning about the Ladybird life cycle. Not bad for a two year old.
  27. Inspiration – From other bloggers .Ideas from the Facebook group.
  28. Fun – I would probably not have let this happen if it hadn’t been for 30 Days Wild.
  29. Laughter – Watching C pretend to be a Blue tit at least once a day.
  30. Joy– At seeing my first hedgehog on the farm, ever!

What legacy has this year’s 30 days wild left you?

For July our list of wild things to do include:

  • Bat detecting
  • Glow worm hunting
  • Mammal footprint trap
  • Find an orchid
  • Make some wild decorations
  • Build a pond
  • Release my ladybird larvae
  • Camping out
  • Write a wild story.
  • Read more wildlife books
  • Volunteer with the WT
  • Get my study on with the bees.
  • Finally finish listening to ‘Fingers in the sparkle jar’ so I can start listening to the legend that is David Attenborough.

That should keep me going for a bit!

It is clear from reading other blogs and comments on social media that I am not alone in . Lots of acts fitted in around everyday life, squeezed into school runs and lunch breaks. Spending 30 days focusing on nature has had a lasting impact on a lot of people, and for most of the participants the end of the month came to soon. Many of us have pledged to stay wild throughout the year, trying to make it to 365 days wild and beyond. Care to join us?

Credit: The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild team.

 

Welsh botanical gardens

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Ok…in the interests of ‘transparency’ and ‘honesty’, this post comes with a disclaimer. Day 14 actually happened on Day 1 of 30 Days Wild (collective sharp intake of breath from readership). I know, I know, that’s cheating. But I have a gap in my posts. I don’t like gaps. I also really want to share my bioluminescence story. Therefore day 14, written on day 30, experienced on day 1, is about Fungi. And I suppose it’s not really cheating. I can put a spin on it…yes, Day 14: Reminiscing on a wild day out.

The National Botanical Gardens of Wales is a real gardeners delight. And for a cactus killing, not-green-fingered person like me it is still a treat.  It is fantastic for families (the new adventure playground has a trampoline!!!)  and those in need of easy access as most of the paths are flat.

The massive dome glasshouse (reminds me of the Eden project) at the top of the garden houses an impressive collection of Mediterranean plants. It is also home to the a touring exhibition (from Edinburgh) about Fungi.

Fungi are neither plants, nor animals. They belong to a whole separate kingdom, hence the title of the exhibit. Like plants they are stationary and have cell walls, but like animals they get energy from digesting matter.

 

The exhibition space is dark and had an earthy, damp soil smell to it. We were immediately confronted by a towering Toadstool. I felt as if we had become Alice and’gone down the rabbit hole’ to Wonderland.

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Behind the Toadstools something was giving off a faint green glow. We went in for a closer look and found tanks full of these bioluminescent fungi.

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This process occurs due to a chemical reaction (the oxidisation of Luciferin) creating energy which is converted to and emitted as light without causing any heat to be produced. It is a common phenomenon amongst marine life, but on land is restricted to Fungi and invertebrates.The resultant eerie glow may function to attract prey or warn off predators. Neat!DSC_0307

 

 

 

 

I love interactive exhibits. I can’t stand stuffy cases full of dusty objects that are virtually impossible to identify due to poor labelling or tiny writing. Boring. Fortunately this exhibit was all about putting the FUN into Fungi (yes, I really did just write that.). I enjoyed fiddling about with the light up ‘Russian roulette’ good and bad fungi exhibit, very helpful for anyone wishing to rustle up a mushroom based snack.

 

If you are thinking of doing a bit of ‘foraging’ make sure you follow this advice

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The exhibition space was not very big but the exhibitors have managed to cram in a lot of stuff. Quantity with no loss of quality, I hasten to add.Around the corner from this was a light box and stack of ‘x rays’ and CT scan images to explore. They had been taken from patients suffering from Aspergillosis, a respiratory disease caused by mould spores. The disease also affects other species, including dogs, chickens and parrots. Once I’d managed to figure out which way up the radiographs were supposed to hang (i’m a vet,not a medic…thankfully) it was interesting to see how the fungal spores affected humans.

 

I was being dragged about by my whirling dervish toddler (fortunately JoJo was having a snooze) so I didn’t manage to see everything. Some times I just grabbed a quick photo before moving on. I’m glad I did.

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I have walked past the sign for this exhibit on several previous visits,  always thinking that one day I will make it across the threshold to explore its offerings. I’m glad that participating in  30 Days Wild made me finally go in!

Day 19- A change of perspective

Age 5. It’s the early 90’s and I’m in the playground at primary school. We are looking for stones along the pavement beside the nursery. Something shiny catches my eye, caught between the cracks in the concrete slabs . I crouch down and carefully poke a stick into the crevice to retrieve my treasure. A gold bracelet. I scoop it up and run to the teacher, expecting praise for handing in my find. “Why do you spend so much time looking down?” she says, scornfully”Look up, look up at the world. Don’t you know how much you will miss if you spend all your time looking down?” Slightly ironic telling a 3 foot child to ‘look up at the world’ but never mind.

Despite her warning, looking at the ground is a habit that has stuck. Sometimes it is handy. As a very broke student I found a trail of £5 and £10 notes in the city centre that nobody else had spotted. All because I was looking down. Anyway, I digress. Todays random act of wildness challenged me to change my perspective for the day.

I decided to ‘look up’.

Up at the clouds.

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Up at a sycamore leaf

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Up at an oak leaf.

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Up at the roof.

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Up at the horizon.

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I guess that teacher had a point.