During 2013 and the beginning of 2014 we spent a whole 12 months carrying out a pond study. It was a huge success and we found it so useful to be able to compare our pond from month to month; we also got to know the bird life so well they became like friends:
We have watched the pond renovations take place and were able to compare before and after; we phoned for help when one of the ducks had been in a nasty fight; we watched the birds molt their feathers post mating and had the pleasure of watching two sets of moorhen chicks grow to adulthood and fly the nest. It was all really rather special:
Over the past six months we have taken a break from formal nature study but still periodically visit the pond to visit with our old friends.
I had been wondering what to do for our next nature study. I knew we all wanted to do something over the course of the year again, but where? Near to our leisure centre is the most gorgeous river, which again has much bird life including a family of swans and five cygnet chicks. We discussed it and decided the river it was….after which I completely changed my mind! My family are used to my fickleness when it comes to making decisions. My mind is so busy that it is inevitably onto the next thing before it has thought the first thing out to its proper conclusion. In this case, I had simply come up with a better idea.
We live in what is essentially a two bedroomed cottage, a large one, but nevertheless it probably wasn’t built to house seven of us with our three indoor pets. We love our house and I rather like the challenge of looking for better ways to use the small amount of space we do have. However, there is one area which is not space-challenged – our garden. This is a garden which has so much potential. Potential to play in, eat in, grow things in and so much more. Thing is, it has been neglected these past few years. Gary may enjoy spending his days tending to huge expanses of grass but once he gets home he quite understandably loses his enthusiasm for all things green and growing. And our garden reflects that. Even T, who really does love growing things, feels a little overwhelmed.
My idea was simple and just plain good (even if I do say so myself!). We would do a one year nature study in our back garden. We would plan and plant up our garden with insect and nature loving plants. We would create log piles, wormeries, bird tables, nesting boxes, butterfly gardens, edible gardens…..the ideas are endless. We have so many books about this subject, and about organic gardening and the like, and a fabulous space to try out our ideas. We already have a resident hedgehog family, as well as regular nightly visits from foxes (well, we do have chickens!) and lots and lots of bats.
When I mentioned it to the children they were quite excited. T rejoiced at having some support out there and maybe, possibly getting his freebie green house erected. C was thrilled because it meant redesigning her hen area and getting some more hens. L is kind of easy-going and I suspect if I suggested a nature study pertaining to the Tundra’s in outer Mongolia she would reply with a grin, a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘Sure, when do we leave!’.
We spent one of Gary’s days off last week in the garden just clearing it. Everybody groaned before I dragged them out (!), yet everyone, without exception commented how much they had enjoyed all seven of us being out there together and how much fun they were having. Even I helped (I’m not known for my green fingered-ness) and I agreed – it was fun. Hard work but it felt really, really good. Best of all we got SO much done because we were working together as a team. Since then we’ve begun to make our plans.
We will be swapping our Monday afternoon foray to the leisure centre (one of their busiest times and therefore there are less activities available for the children to do) with a few hours in the garden, in addition to working most of Thursday after lunch, when Gary will be off work in lieu of working each weekend. This really will be a proper family nature study, with the added benefits of being able to design our garden almost from scratch and beautify it in the process. I just know this will be a time of building relationships, swapping ideas, giggling together and working hard towards a common goal which will benefit not only us directly, but neighbours, friends and of course the wildlife who will come to share our beautiful spot in the world.