Sunday, 28 July 2013

Great White Egret - Ardea alba

So yesterday as I was driving down the track next to the drain I spied a Great White Egret. It was actually in about the same place as I recently saw the grey heron so I suppose the hunting is especially good just there. According to the RSPB you're most likely to see the Great White Egret in Spring or Winter in the UK so I   consider myself lucky to have seen one so late into summer.

I'd love to say the this photograph of the egret was taken by me but it wasn't (image Paul Kehrer licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic). In fact it wasn't even taken in England but in the Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica!
And I might as well confess that the image of the drain wasn't taken by myself either but by one of my son's, however it was taken in England.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Orchard piglets enjoying the muddy puddles

 Yesterday's thunder storms resulted in a lot of fun for the orchard piglets, muddy puddles are a pigs delight on a hot sunny day though they thoroughly dislike them in the winter.

 Some of you may know that pigs don't sweat so to enable them to cool themselves they like to take mud baths and should be provided with a "wallow" in hot weather.

Well this is a natural wallow as a result of the thunder storms and I believe it was much enjoyed by all.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Chickens in the Orchard

Lots of folk keep a few chickens in their orchards here are a few enjoying their breakfast!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Bee Body Parts

Fun video brought to you by The Bug Chicks Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker who tell us about the structure and function of bee body parts.
Interesting use of a toilet brush here!
It's educational and it's fun for children:

Bee Bodies: Structure and (Fun)ction from Bug Chicks on Vimeo.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Record the Day ~ 18th July 2013

The Discovery apples are coming along nicely, an early English variety that is usually ready for picking in August.

 Wild plums, they tend to be ready before the cultivated varieties.

Bramley apples swelling nicely and look what else we've got

Which means that we can look forward to blackberry and apple pie.
Nice to see the bee gathering pollen there as we all know they have been having a tough time of it these past few years.

Other Record the Day posts:

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How to make strawberry jam using gooseberries to help it set

It's strawberry season and it's gooseberry season too, soo...

How to make strawberry jam using gooseberries to help it set

Strawberries are low in pectin, the agent required for setting jam, gooseberries are high in pectin. This recipe, given to us by the lady who makes jams and pickles for our local farm shop, uses gooseberries to aid setting, and it's delicious.

  • 2 1/2 lbs Strawberries
  • 1/2 lb Gooseberries
  • 2 lbs Granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Cook Gooseberries until soft. Put Strawberries in pan and slowly bring to boil. Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir until sugar disolves. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes or until setting point * is reached. Allow to stand for 30mins then stir to disperse fruit evenly. Jar.
*The easiest way to know if you have reached setting point is to use a thermometer, setting point is 220f.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Favourite Elderflower recipes ~ Elderflower Cordial & Elderflower Champagne

There are elders growing in the neglected orchard, there shouldn't be but there are so what better way to use nature's unexpected bounty than making a few delicious beverages:

Elderflower Champagne
Pick 6 full Elderflower heads, preferably on a sunny day in the morning, I'm told they smell better then.
In a clean bucket dissolve 1kilo of sugar into 10 litres of cold water.
Give the Elderflowers a shake to remove any dust or insects and immerse in the water.
Add the juice of 2 freshly sqeezed lemons along with the lemon skins.
Add 4 table spoons of white wine vinegar and stir gently.
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 24hours stirring occasionally.
After 24 hours strain the liquor through a sieve or muslin and bottle into sterilised 1 litre plastic pop type bottles. Plastic is best as during the fermentation a lot of fizz is produced which can cause a bottle to explode so don't over fill!
The naturally occuring yeast on the Elderflowers will ferment with the sugar and after a couple of weeks you will have Elderflower Champagne with a very slight alcoholic content. It will be ready to drink but the flavour improves with keeping and it will keep for a year or so in a cool place.

Elderflower Cordial
 Elderflower cordial makes a lovely refreshing drink and it's easy to make your self, you'll need:
20 heads of elderflower flowers,
1.8kg granulated sugar, or caster sugar ,
1.2 litres water ,
2 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid (available from chemists)
To make:
1. Shake the elderflowers to remove insects, and then place in a large bowl.
2. Put the sugar in a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
3. While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons in wide strips and add to the bowl of elderflowers. Slice the lemonsand add these to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup, and  stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
4. Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin  and  bottle.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Death in the Sun

The extreme temperatures of the last few days seem to be taking their toll on the wildlife.

Yesterday I found the body of a baby rabbit, it must literally have dropped dead within minutes of my passing, and today I found the body of a tiny shrew. Both perfect in death but I hadn't the heart to photograph them hence the photograph of a live shrew courtesy of © Copyright Donald Bain and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some say "everything comes in threes" so I'm rather dreading what I might find tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Grey Heron ~ Ardea cinerea

Not the greatest of photographs, it was snapped from a moving vehicle as I drove down a track next to the main drain. The grey heron stood watching but of course decided to take flight as soon as I was anywhere near and off he flapped like a great old pterodactyl.

They are magnificent birds, grey herons, and for me it's always a pleasure to see one. He was propably hunting for voles on the banks of the newly cut banks of the main drain.