Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Glass Ball and Wire Cane Tops

Our garden backs onto the countryside with a small river running past, every summer beautiful dragonflies and damselflies fill every available space and when the seasons change we start to miss them. So we came up with the idea of making a small piece of sculpture to brighten the garden during the cold winter months using some of the parts from a broken mobile.

This is the broken mobile... I kept the parts as we have a passion for recycling and reusing things but the cane tops can just as easily be made with garden wire and glass balls or marbles if you fancy making some yourself.

The first thing we did was make the body of the dragonfly, my husband used a bar with a hole in to hold the wire still, but a cane works just as well. Put the end of the wire into the hole and keep winding the wire round until it starts to resemble a large spring and could fit the required amount of marbles in. We have used six marbles in total.

With the marbles pushed into the spring it automatically starts to look like the body of a dragonfly, you can then use pliers to spiral the wire at the end to finish it off nicely, leaving a little excess wire at the head end to attach to the cane. We have used a larger marble for the head.

We have made the wings with a slightly thinner garden wire because it is so much easier to shape and can be bought very cheaply. Once you have your wing shape twist the wire together to hold it in place remembering to leave enough spare wire on the underside of the wings to fix onto the body of your dragonfly.

A little detail was added using very thin wire and beads, this was wound around the edges of the wings to fix them in place and create a representation of the veining on the dragonflies wings.

Then all that's left to do is fix the wings to the body by wrapping the long piece of wire around the body. A glass bead can be fixed to the insects thorax to cover the knotted wire using hot glue or resin. In the photograph above you can see some of the other things we have made using the glass balls and wire from the broken mobile.

These garden cane tops have been made in a similar way to the dragonfly using a simple spiral to hold the glass balls and adding a few beads as a finishing touch. I have left the bottom end of the wire straight to slide into the end of a bamboo cane but they can also be spiralled to slip over the top of the cane.

Here is the finished dragonfly in the garden, the wire at the front of it's head was straightened and slid into the top of a bamboo cane, which is hidden by the bush. As the body has been made using a spring shape and it is only fixed to the cane at the front it has given the sculpture a subtle movement which has enchanted the children.

These are some of the cane tops which remind us of little moons orbiting planets and definitely liven up a dull looking cane. A small magical touch to add a little cheer to the gardens in the winter.

As there have been a few reports of fires caused by people having glass on sunny window ledges we will be using these to brighten pots in shady corners.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Rock pooling

We recently went on an educational adventure to one of our local beaches to explore the rock pools. The beach we chose has an interesting chalky foreshore and lots of flints leading to a range of good rock pools and even some fossils.

The children started searching the pools as soon as the tide started to recede, with the hope of finding something new. They were very soon rewarded with something we hadn't seen in a rock pool before... a moon jellyfish... in fact we found several different kinds of jelly fish by the time the day was over.

The jellyfish was quite large, it was approximately the size of an adult hand and you can see the exposed chalk foreshore behind it. Another new sighting for us occurred not long after when we spotted a shedding or moulting shore crab, it was a chance which was too good to miss so we have taken a short video for you to see.

We waited for the crab to move away and hide in the weed and decided to look at the now empty crab shell, it had stayed together and from a distance still looked like an actual crab.

This was a lovely experience for the children and after this we found many crabs that had also moulted and quite a few cast off shells.

There were hundreds of tiny baby crabs all over the pools most of them much smaller than my daughters little finger nail. We also found a few hermit crabs and managed to take a really short video of one for you to see.

As the day went on we had found many of the usual rock pooling finds like anemones, winkles, prawns and even some tiny fish. Although we never seem to find starfish at this beach.

There are a few of our finds in this bucket, although we did have to empty it often to stop it getting too full. Below is a close up of one of the small crabs caught in our net.

As I mentioned before this place is very good for finding fossils, even in the chalk foreshore belemnites are a common find and often get washed out of the chalk after the high tide.

These are some of our fossil finds today, previously we have found sea urchins and sea sponges. This beach is a place of scientific interest because of the exposed fossil beds in the cliffs and we intend to revisit in the Autumn to examine the geology in more detail and see if any fossils have been exposed at high tide. A steppe Mammoth was found in the freshwater fossil beds at the base of these cliffs a few years ago and the children are quite excited to see where it was found.

You can read more about West Runton here, this site also directs you to good sites to explore for fossils in your area.

The photographs and videos on this post were taken by my wonderful husband.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Berry Cordial

Following on from my last post, we are still inundated with various berries, our currants have had especially large crops this year. As I hate things to go to waste we have decided to make a berry cordial for the children to enjoy in the late summer sunshine.

We have used 500g of mixed berries, make sure these are clean but there is no need to remove the stalks or pips as we will be putting the mixture through a straining bag to remove them later.

Place the berries in a pan, add a litre of water and bring to the boil. I have used a potato masher whilst the mixture is cooking to help release the juice from the berries.

Turn of the heat after about 10 minutes as the berries should have broken down and leave the mixture to infuse and cool slightly. As you can see in the photographs the juice is a beautiful, rich jewel colour.

After it has cooled slightly pour the mixture through a straining bag or some muslin to get rid of all stalks and pips and leave you with a lovely clear liquid.

Measure your liquid once strained as you need to add approximately half the amount of sugar to liquid when you return it to the heat. I had 700g of liquid once the straining had finished so I intended to add 350g of sugar but as the berries I used were very sharp tasting we found we needed to add a little more to suit the children's taste buds. Once your liquid is returned to the heat and the sugar has dissolved your cordial should look quite syrupy and can now be bottled up into a sterilised bottle.

This is a cordial so it needs to be diluted in water like a squash when it comes to drink it. This smells amazing and very strongly of the berries added and the children loved their drink. We also used some of this diluted cordial to make our ice lollies for warm summer days.