“Where are you going to ,little brown mouse? Come for a feast in my log pile house.”- from ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson.”
The Gruffalo is probably C’s favourite book. We know it off by heart, and most walks through a wood entail reciting it whilst keeping a look out for a ‘gruffalo’. For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, a little brown mouse goes for a stroll through a deep dark wood, encountering various creatures before finally meeting a Gruffalo. One of the animals he meets is Snake, who lives in a log pile house beside a lake.
On Monday the girls and I explored our very own ‘log pile house’. We didn’t feel like straying too far from home so decided to go for a mini beast hunt in the garden. At the side of the farmhouse we have the remains of a former chicken shed. It no longer has a roof, but the concrete walls provide shelter for our rather large log pile.
It was created almost two years ago when we felled some large trees that were overhanging the main road. We intended to use the logs for firewood and they had been stacked neatly to dry. It turns out that we didn’t have to light the fire as often as we thought we would, and as a result the pile has been left virtually untouched. It now provides a perfect home for wildlife
Log piles simulate the conditions produced by fallen trees. They provide a source of food and shelter for mammals, reptiles, insects, amphibians and fungi. An alternative version of the log pile is the insect hotel.
We started our hunt by looking in some of the leaf litter and bark at the base of the pile. C was very pleased by her first insect find- woodlice. She also spotted a milipede and a worm.
Worms,slugs and woodlice under the bark.
C isn’t too keen on handling insects yet , but was happy to gently use her ‘bug collecting’ kit to scoop up some of her finds for a closer look. These little pots and scoops can be picked up really cheaply, we got ours from a high street shop. An old clean ice cream or takeaway tub works just as well.
Practising her fine motor skills!
Handy little bug ‘scoop’ (I’m sure it has a technical name too!).
I am hoping that by gently introducing the girls to ‘creepy crawlies’ at a young age will prevent them being scared or ‘disgusted’ by them. If they learn to love them, even better!
We carefully turned over some more logs , and made sure to put them back where we found them once we’d finished.Here are some of our finds:
I love Milipedes!
C was quite enamoured with the Milipede, and even held him in her palm after I showed her how harmless he was. She wasn’t so keen on the Leather jacket, but I can forgive her for that at the moment. Its one that ‘only a mother could love’ I think!!
Spot the Leatherjacket! These are the larval stage of the Crane fly.
An acrobatic ‘ Stone Centipede! Once I got him flipped back the right way up he scuttled off as fast as his legs could carry him.
After a short while C had had enough and pottered off to look at dinosaurs through her ‘noculars’. Next time i’m going to try and make this activity more engaging and toddler friendly by using an”I spy” pictorial mini beast hunt with a checklist. When the girls are a little older we can try using a key to identify our finds. I’ll be sure to blog about our next adventure to the log pile to let you know how we get on!
If you want to make your own log pile here are some handy tips (or I guess you could go for the accidentally on purpose/ ‘organic’ approach like we did!!)
- Choose a site in the shade to help the logs stay cool and dry
- If possible site it near other wildlife areas e.g hedge or pond. This will make it easier for animals to travel to and from the pile.
- Try and use a mix of tree species and sizes of logs to appeal to a variety of wildlife.
- Source logs responsibly-befriend your local tree surgeon and ask if he/she has any spare.
- Allow gaps between logs to encourage mammals and amphibians to shelter within it.
- Let nature take over-once constructed, leave the pile sort itself out. Allow it to start to decompose to further enhance its value as a habitat.
- After a year or so you may need to add in new logs to replace any that have rotted away.
Even simpler to build is a branch pile. Just ‘dump’ some branches in a quiet spot in the garden, and wait to see who moves in!
Our ‘branch pile’! Here on our farm we have a ‘laissez faire’ attitude to gardening….on the plus side, lots of different micro habitats available!