Sunday, 29 June 2008

nature's children

Do you remember bicycle trips in the school summer holidays, making dens in your local woodland and playing for hours and hours without a care in the world? I do, but our children will not have the same childhood as we did, I have been reading a lot of material about our children and how out of touch they will be with the world around them.

"Nature Deficit Disorder", a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen.

Ministers have recently admited (March 2008) that one in four, eight-to 10-year-olds have never played outside without an adult and one in three parents will not even allow older children, aged eight to 15, to play outside the house or garden.

Just why is the decline in children’s outdoor experiences happening? The root causes of the dramatic loss of children’s freedoms lie in changes to the very fabric of their lives over the last 30 years or so. An exponential growth in road traffic, alongside poor town planning and shifts in the make-up and daily rhythms of families and communities, have left children with fewer outdoor places to go and fewer friendly faces looking out for them if they needed a bit of help, a cuddle or simply a pee and a glass of water. These changes coincided with – some would say fed into – the growth of what sociologist Frank Furedi calls the ‘culture of fear’: a generalised anxiety about all manner of threats that found fertile ground in turn-of-the-millennium families, even though children are statistically safer from harm now than at any point in human history.
In a textbook demonstration of the mechanisms of the market, these physical, economic and social changes and fears have been exploited by manufacturers and advertisers, whose products and messages both reinforce the logic of keeping children virtual prisoners, and compel us to compensate them in the only way our cash-rich, time-poor society seems to know: by spending money on them.

What childhood memories do you have of playing outdoors?

material sourced from...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

elderflower champagne

harvesting elderflower heads from hedgerows to make elderflower champagne...

recipe : : makes 20 bottles

About 24-30 elderflower heads, in full bloom
2kg sugar
4 litres hot water
Juice and zest of four lemons
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)

Method: How to make elderflower champagne

1. Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water to 6 litres.
2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it’s not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.
4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised glass bottles.
5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for a further eight days before serving, chilled.

Make your own bubbly with this elderflower champagne recipe based on the one from River Cottage Spring

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

first crop of the summer

digging up the first few plants to see if the potatoes are ready!

our two raised beds in the front garden, full of potato plants, ready to pull. the beds are in a very shady place and it is difficult to grow here. we planted potatoes first so their roots could help break up the soil ready for the next crop {gourds} to be planted.

we have also learnt that there is a 'Small Holders & Allotment Act 1908' that if six or more people within a local parish ask for an allotment, then the parish must investigate and try to make provision. I know others who would like to grow their own veg and like us they have very small gardens, so we are going to exercise our rights!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Morris Dancing on Midsummer's Day!

We celebrated the 40th anniversary of Daneway Banks Nature Reserve in style! Taking over the marquee in the garden of the Daneway Pub we had 'the ragged & old' Morris dancers, face painters, loads of children's activities from making butterfly wings to owl pellet analysis, folk music from Minchinhampton folk group and our very own beer brewed for the Wildlife Trust by Nailsworth Brewery - needless to say that despite a very poor weather forecast we celebrated midsummer's day in style! drank all of the 140 pints and even had a go at Morris dancing (pictured above), which looks surprisingly easy - but I cannot begin to tell you how hard it is to follow and how much I ache today!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

it's time to say enough

I have been reading a lot recently about the food industry, organic, free range, children's obesity and it's time to say enough. We are heading down a path of blissful ignorance of where our food comes from. I have for too long been aware of the issues that I have and almost pushed them to the back of my head but I am going to list them here...

Free range meat
I truly believe in buying local (preferably organic) free range meat. But keep being tempted in the supermarket by all the cheap deals - an organic chicken costs about £16 ($32) but in a supermarket a non organic chicken costs as little as £3.99. I also believe that if you eat meat you should know where it comes from, how it was butchered, and eat as much of it as possible making use of the whole animal. Not buying it pre-packed on a plastic tray. This is the hardest change for me due to the cost - but I am going to have a month of buying only organic meat and reponsible shopping and add in a few vegetarian meals and see how my monthly food shop compares. It is unacceptable for chickens to be kept in cages or sheds where they can't even stand up just for our convenience.

Now I always bought free range eggs - but I was shocked to know how much 'egg product' was used in other foods, bread, cakes, mayonnaise the list goes on and on... you must really learn how to read the labels. There isn't a mayonnaise for sale in the UK at the moment that doesn't use battery eggs! This is shocking and shows how we think we are changing things by buying organic chicken but in a restaurant will happily have mayonnaise without thinking twice. I will start cooking from scratch more, as only then do you really know what is your food.

food costs
food is expensive especially organic and fairtrade products. It makes me really cross that a 'happy meal' is more expensive than a bowl of fruit. We have got it the wrong way round, surely tinned food should be more expensive, crisps, choclate sweets, over packaged food, frozen food, surely all of these products need more processing? Lets make them more expensive and fruit and veg cheap - maybe we will see an effect on obesity? The government wants to introduce free swimming to combat childhood obesity, we have got it so wrong, we need to address these issues at source. The reason why we have childhood obesity is that parents have to work long hours, ready meals are cheap, parents are scared to let children play outside so instead they let them have TV's in their rooms and computer games (I won't even get started on the link to autism).

grow your own
we have the smallest garden and manage to grow a small crop every year. growing veg is great and wonderful if you have children. This year we have a crop of potato's, peas, beans, courgettes, sweetcorn, cabbages and tomatoes. The key is in the rotation of the beds to maximise production and companion planting to prevent pests and disease. Even if you have a yard you can buy a bag of compost and plant some potato's in it - just cutting some holes in the bottom for drainage. This is a great way of growing and you can even top up the bag with tea bags and kitchen peelings that will compost down.

Thank you to jenifer for inspiring me today to take my convictions seriously enough to make changes.

Monday, 9 June 2008

for the love of light...

I have just ordered my copy of this book. I just love the photography of Jen Altman the creator of the book, so am waiting excitedly for my copy to be delivered. I must also remember to scan in my new polaroid photographs and upload them here and flickr now that I have rediscovered the joys of taking Polaroid shots. I am also backing the "save polaroid" campaign, as this year Polaroid announced it would no longer manufacture it's film anymore! So if any readers are wondering what to get me for my birthday (hint, hint, hint) bulk supplies of 600 film please!

We love our Polaroid camera and it is a great first camera for a child, with its photos that 'appear by magic'. A couple of my friends have bought digital cameras for their children - but this only works if you download them onto a computer and therefore takes the focus away from the child, my children need instant results and therefore love the polaroid pictures that end up on their bedside as a momento of the day!

so please polaroid - keep making film

Saturday, 7 June 2008

picnic weather

ahhh the season of the picnic is here, a trip to Giffords Circus provided the ideal opportunity to try out a new recipe for...

Treacle & Spice sponge

Put 225g unsalted butter (diced), 225g dark muscovado sugar and 225 self-raising flour in the bowl of a processor with 2 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 4 medium eggs and 100ml milk. Cream together then transfer to a buttered 20cm cake tin. Bake at 180oC (160oC fan oven) gas mark 4 for 50-55 minutes. For the icing, blend 150g sifted icing sugar with 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 tbsp sieved orange juice... we decorated with silver balls!

yum, yum...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


coffee, originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw.

I have been playing around with photoshop and picnik after being inspired by the pictures here I just love the light and texture of a polaroid shot and am thinking of finding my old one in the attic, dusting it off and investing in the very expensive film that it needs (the reason why I stopped using it). In my quest to improve my photography skills and take the 'perfect' picture - I have turned away from the non perfect and slightly blurred shots that I so admire in others and yet delete (shock horror) in mine!

The other thing I do at the moment - mainly because I am tired is 'look' for the picture in my everyday life and sometimes it becomes too forced - I find it very difficult to have inspiration or creativity when I am tired or busy at home or work. I read blogs of others who sometimes post daily and I admire them for having the eloquence to construct a paragraph every day...

I guess sometimes I just don't feel like talking...!

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