We may be cooped up but lets take the opportunity to attract and nurture some of our garden friends, learning while we do. I have written this from my own self isolation using what I can from around the house.
You will need: Some fat, bird seed string and a pine cone or fruit peel
Dry a pine cone, to help it open, tie string around the cone with enough left over to tie to a branch/hook. Mix the seed with soft lard, squash mix into the cone, pack well and hang for birds to enjoy. If you can’t find a cone, cut an orange in half, eat the fruit and dry and fill the remaining skin with the fat and seed mix.
Make your own bird feeder
You will need: A bottle, a sharp pointy tool, x2 strong long twigs, bird seed
Make 2 sets of holes on each side, near the bottom of the bottle, and push your twigs through for perches. Pierce small holes (slightly larger than the size of the seed, just above the perch for bird to feed from. Fill your bottle with seed, tie some string around the cap of the bottle and hang the bottle from a nearby branch or hook.
Make a Wormery
You will need: An old 2 litre plastic bottle, a pair of scissors, soil, sand, old leaves, veg and fruit peelings, cardboard, water and 2/3 garden worms
The starting point to healthy soil. Poke some holes in the bottom of the bottle, cut the top quarter off the bottle, layer soil and sand through your bottle, a few inches of each, spray each layer with water to dampen. When complete add the worms, dead leaves and kitchen scraps eg fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shell. Do not use any animal products and go easy on citrus fruit, onions and garlic. Torn up egg boxes will be enjoyed by your worms too. Pop the top of the bottle on for a lid. Worms like dark, warm and moist conditions so ensure you store the bottle in the dark, check it daily to see the work the worms are doing and water occasionally. Return the worms to the garden after a week.
Conduct a bird survey from your own feeders
You will need: Some bird seed to draw the birds in, patience, bird book or web page open, paper and pen
The biggest challenge here is staying quiet enough to allow the birds to come to you! Perhaps once you have made the above bird feeder and hung it in place, give it a day or two for the birds to get familiar with this new feeding site. When you are ready get comfortable and be patient, identify what you are seeing by using a bird book or web page and as an added challenge try to work out who is making what noise, learn their songs.
Birds to look out for: Blue tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Siskin, Dunnock
You will need: A clean, clear plastic food container, Bug ID book or web page
Cut your straw in half. Make a hole in each side of your plastic tub and poke each half of the straw through each hole. Colour code the straws as you will suck through one while the bugs are drawn up through the other. Put the lid on the tub and go in search of your first bug, when you find one, give a big suck on your end of the straw while the other end is close to the bug, the bug should be sucked up into the tub. Enjoy watching its movement and try to Identify what you are seeing.
Lie a sheet under a tree or shrub and shake, what comes out!
You will need: Old sheet, magnifying glass, a guide book or webpage
As simple as it sounds, lie an old sheet under a tree or a few branches, shake the tree or branch and see what appears. You could take your bug sucker from above to investigate what you are seeing.
Recycle old loo rolls by planting a few seeds in each
You will need: Old loo roll, compost, seeds, water
Fill your cardboard roll 2/3rds with compost, pop a seed in the top, fill the rest of the roll with compost, water and watch. Once the seeds are established and an inch or two high you will need to replant them in a pot or if warm enough, in the ground. Suggested seeds: Sunflower nasturtium, basil, lavender.
You will need: An old pot or cup, bamboo ideally, dead grass, sticks
Gather your sticks, bamboo and dead grass, stuff them into an old pot, mug or box. Make sure they fit snuggly and don’t fall out when held on their side. Find a sheltered spot, ideally off ground level to leave your bee hotel and within a week you will hopefully see some inhabitants. Welcome in the solitary bees, ladybirds or woodlice.
You will need: Fine play sand, water, small tray, bait
Have you got some fine play sand? Mix it with a little water and lay it on a tray, test by leaving a finger print, check it leaves a print. Smooth over with a ruler. Leave the tray on a flat surface near a hole in the fence or a gap in the hedge. Perhaps add a little saucer of bait eg. Bird seed or nuts to tempt
Create a botanical masterpiece, from your daily exercise collect some bits that catch your attention, pine cones, dandelion heads, leaves, twigs, pebbles. While you do try to identify each one. If you are alone you can begin to create a piece of art, a self portrait, a creature, a collage, or sculpture. If you are with others, choose a theme and work to that. Perhaps you can invent a new game. The only limiting factor is your imagination.
Please do take photographs of your creations and upload them onto social media with the hashtag #gwctart. Most importantly enjoy some time out getting to know your surroundings.