Getting to know Garden Bees

I have to admit that most of my life I have not taken too much notice of bees. I have not been afraid of them because I believed they wouldn’t want to sting me and only do so as a last resort, unlike wasps. My ignorance was so bad that I didn’t realise that there were bumblebees and honey bees. I thought that all bees were black and yellow striped and fluffy looking. When I heard about bee decline and how important they were for pollinating and therefore our survival, I started to take more notice. I was amazed to discover there are several hundred different species of bee in the UK alone and that not all bees make honey, but all I believe collect pollen.

Tree Bumblebee on the cotoneaster

There is so much information today on the internet that anyone who wants to find out more has no excuse. Sites such as the different Wildlife Trusts , Countryfile , Blooms for Bees , and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust , to name just a few. It can be rather daunting however as within one species of bee the Queen, the Workers and the Male bees can be different sizes and have colour variations. As to really get to grips with bees would take a lifetime, I decided that with the lovely weather and restrictions on movement during lockdown, I would try to discover what bees visit my garden and learn to recognise them. 

Just received this by post, published this month May 2020

I have also been reading some really useful books on the subject such as The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon, hot off the press this spring. It is a most beautifully produced book with fantastic photographs, perfect for anyone of any age who would like to get to know a bit more about the world of bees. There is a book review here, Kids of the Wild.

I have also listened on Audible to the book by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, Dancing with Bees, a journey back to nature. Brigit writes about her love of the natural world and how important it can be for our mental health. She gives us a lot of very interesting information about bees and other garden wildlife. This book was published in Summer 2019. More information can be found here on Brigit’s Blog. I can thoroughly recommend both of these books for a beginner who would like to know more about the world of bees.

Anyway to get back to my garden bees. So far I have discovered four different species which I now hope I would be able to recognise again. The first and probably the one I have seen most of is a new comer to our UK gardens, the Tree Bumblebee. This bee has been very obliging and I have managed to take a few photographs.

I have designed a knitted bee that has a resemblance to the Tree bumblebee. I will add this pattern to my next blog post for anyone who would like to try knitting one. The Tree Bumblebee has only been here since about the year 2000 but does seem to like the flowers we have in our garden. More information can be found HERE

The second species I have noticed in the garden is the Buff-tailed bumblebee. This one is a bit confusing as apparently it is the Queen whose tail is buff coloured but the workers have white tails. They have two yellow stripes not three like the Garden bumblebee. I noticed one of these bees on the cotoneaster but it would not stay very still for me to photograph consequently my picture is very blurred.

Buff Tailed bumblebee

I found a bee lying on its back in our dining room, thinking it was dead I got a piece of kitchen roll to pick it up. When I put my hand near the bee it moved and clung onto the paper towel. I quickly took it outside and placed on some weigela flowers, the bee immediately moved into one of them. It spent about thirty minutes eating and resting before flying off. I believe this was a solitary bee called a mason bee. I have now bought a home for mason Bees and really hope someone moves in https://www.masonbees.co.uk

We also have some bees nesting under our shed but to be honest I am not sure what species they are but could be the Buff tailed. I have noticed a bee on our walks which seemed to like to burrow into hard ground and I think this may have been a Mining Bee.

A small selection of UK bees.

My next blog will have details of knitting your own Tree bumblebee or possibly bee species of your choice.

Learning to Forage

I have been fascinated for some years with the idea of foraging and being able to eat free food from the countryside. Some of the obvious items such as blackberries we have eaten for years and almost don’t think of these as wild. In the last couple of years I have made Elderflower Cordial from the flowers and last Autumn Elderflower Jelly from the berries.

With more time at home at the moment during lockdown I have been trying out other recipes. The first was wild garlic pesto. I found a recipe on line and substituted wild garlic for basil,  walnuts for pine nuts and strong cheddar for parmesan. It was delicious and I used some to flavour pasta and also spread on chunky homemade bread. The flowers of wild garlic can be eaten and these look good as a garnish to decorate salads etc.I posted my efforts on Facebook and was challenged to make a tart which included wild garlic, dandelion leaves and stinging nettles. The recipe suggested seem to use large quantities of all three so I decided to make a cheese and egg quiche and add as many leaves as I could gather. The original recipe was for Wild Garlic, Nettle and Dandelion Tart,  which does have useful information on how to prepare the wild leaves. I then made my usual shortcrust pastry, lined a flan dish, added the prepared leaves, filled with grated cheese, 4 beaten eggs mixed with half a pint of milk, cooked at 180 C until well risen and golden about half an hour. It was delicious.I have always loved dandelions as a flower, they are such a lovely bright yellow colour, the leaves have a most interesting shape and seed heads are amazing.  They are also very important in the Spring for bees and other pollinators but this year I have been even more aware of them in the fields and grass verges. I decided to have a go at making dandelion flower jelly. Altogether it took about 5 hours. One to gather the flowers, 2 to remove the petals, 2 to simmer the petals in water, so not an efficient use of time. I eventually ended up with one jar of jelly. I have since found several recipes for dandelion honey and this does seem quite popular so I may have another try. I am also going to try dying fabric with some dandelion petals.I have noticed that the elderflowers are in bud but not quite out yet so I made some cordial from hawthorn flowers. The recipe is here Hawthorn Blossom Cordial I really love this recipe and the flavour of the flowers, I would even go so far as to say I prefer it to the elderflower cordial.There are so many wild plants that can be eaten but also many that are very poisonous so I am very careful to stick to the plants I can be very sure of.

Cooking during Lockdown

Since the 23rd of March 2020 we have been told to not go out except for shopping or work, if you cannot work from home. I have never liked to go to the supermarket and load a trolley full of food to last a fortnight or even a month. I like to shop locally for things as I need them and consequently do not waste food. We are now being told to go out as little as possible even for shopping. Buying necessities has become a nightmare as you often have to queue outside and then when you do get into a shop many of the shelves are bare.

It has meant we have had to adapt and change many of the things we eat and the way we shop. It became difficult to buy bread and if we did manage to find some there was very little choice. I am not a bread maker but luckily for me it was something I had intended to do one day. I had a tin of dried yeast in the cupboard and some bread flour that was only three months out of date. Looking on the internet for a recipe, I was very pleased to find that you could make bread in a slow cooker and it worked. Here is the recipe Slow Cooker LoafThis has worked well now four times and I will continue even when bread becomes easier to buy. I have also made these bread rolls which do not need yeast. They do not look like the photo on the actual recipe but they do taste good and  seem to last up to three days. Roll Recipe.Buying fruit and vegetables has become more difficult as the local green grocers is a small shop where social distancing was not really possible. The shop decided to close and offer home delivery. We have been able to have them deliver fruit and vegetable boxes. The downside of this is you cannot choose all the items in the box. My first vegetable box contained both parsnips and a swede. Items my other half refused to eat under any circumstances. The challenge was to change his mind. I started with the parsnips and discovered a recipe for Parsnip Cake. I didn’t have all the ingredients but the cake still worked with a few changes and has now become our favourite cake. I used almonds instead of pecans, honey instead of maple syrup and lemon instead of orange.I thought the swede would be more difficult as at least parsnips are sweet and therefore lend themselves to cake. Having asked on Facebook, what to do with a swede? The recipe Spiced Swede Cakes, was suggested and once made it became another favourite. We were disappointed this week not to receive another swede.I have been foraging locally for ingredients to add to recipes and wild garlic is one of my favourite. This year for the first time I made wild garlic pesto which was added to pasta and also spread on bread. I will write more about this in my next blog.

#showthelove

Belper’s first ‘Show the Love’, Eco Event took place on Saturday February 15th in St Peter’s Church. It was a very wet and windy weekend but this did not deter people from attending which was fantastic. The idea was to have a variety of organisations for the public to talk to about the issues of our changing climate and how we can each take a few steps towards living more sustainably.We are not all going to agree on all the issues but it is important to have conversations and then decide what we feel is our personal next step forward. Maybe the biggest thing we can do is consume less and consequently waste less, working towards saving both money and our planet.
Last Saturday we were challenged by India to consider eating Edible Insects and if this was not something you could do, what about your Pets? The Guardian newspaper published an article which said that 25% of the impact of meat production comes from the pet food industry. Is it time we changed what we feed our cats and dogs? India had a selection of Edible Insects from Crunchy Critters at Ilkeston and had baked some chocolate brownies made with cricket flour.George with his Belper Beats Plastic stand had hints and tips for reducing plastic but also asked people to sign his petition. The petition hopes to persuade Amber Valley Borough Council to give better information on items that can be put in our household recycling bins. George is concerned that many people may be contaminating their recycling unintentionally  causing lorry loads to end up in landfill. He also wants the council to take food waste and turn this into compost.Marisha and Andy had information and examples of things that can now be recycled through their small business Hidden Potential Recycling.Sue from Sue’s Sustainables had lots of help and advice on changes we can make to live more sustainably. She also started the food waste initiative, Sharing not Wasting and of course runs Belper’s first almost plastic free shop.

Charlotte continued to promote the Refill Belper, scheme and sell reusable water bottles. She has worked hard to persuade cafes and other businesses to fill the publics reusable bottles so that less single use plastic bottles are bought and then very quickly end up in the bin.There were stands with information about local initiatives and volunteering opportunities. These included Belper Parks Wood Volunteers, St Peter’s Community Garden, Belper Permaculture Network, The Woodland Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. We we’re encouraged to consider how we manage our own gardens and consider leaving areas to grow wild for insects, birds and small mammals. There were free wooden blue hearts and fabric blue hearts, plus packets of free seeds. The idea of the blue heart is to show that an area is being left and why, hopefully to encourage more wild areas in the town.Noah gave away Show the Love badges, made and designed by India. He also encouraged people to give donations for some Eco booklets written by four young people and the money raised was given to The Woodland Trust.Derby Greenpeace had information on electric cars among other things and we were very lucky to have two parked at the front of the church. The Derwent Valley Trust had a map of their proposed Cycleway along the valley thus making cycling a safer and more enjoyable option.Transition Belper had a very informative stand detailing their many projects in the town. Through them households can get help and advice about their energy use. They also promoted Belper Goes Green which this year will happen on the last weekend in May 2020.Its important that we help to educate young people about the effects of climate change and they need knowledge about what their personal carbon footprint is. These are issues that will effect them all but we need to be careful not to frighten.  One way of doing this is through story books such as ‘Carbon Monster’. Katherine Wheatley author of this book helped to run a children’s activity and gave us the exciting news that her second book will be published in April this year.There was an opportunity for anyone of any age to print a design of their choice with Jane a member of Derby Extinction RebellionKim and Heather had lots of information and examples of sustainable fabrics such as wool, linen and flax. Heather had examples of yarn she had spun from banana skins and mint tops and Kim had examples of how she uses sustainable fibres in her work.There was a cafe area and plenty of time for people to chat.The conversations about caring for our environment will continue in Belper and hopefully we will all work together as a community who cares.

Show the Love

Every February since 2015 the Climate Coalition have encouraged people from all walks of life to join in one of the biggest climate movements yet to Show the Love for our earth. This is what they say on their website,

‘Join us in 2020 to start new climate conversations, and in making and sharing green hearts to #ShowTheLove for all the things you want to protect from climate change. It has never been more important to make your voice heard to the people who have the power to make a world of difference.’

https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/show-the-love

In February, Belper will be holding a series of events and courses related to climate change. These are:-

Our Carbon Footprint: 1st of February at Strutts 9.30-12.30. 

Transition Belper and Belper Town Council are presenting a free course to be held at Strutts, Derby Road on the 1st of February from 9.30am – 12.30pm. The course, Our Carbon Footprint: Understanding and Managing the Impact, will be presented by Caroline Harmon of Marches Energy Agency. This is an opportunity to find out more about the threats we face from climate change, and what we can do about them. The course is free, but you will need to reserve your place through eventbrite.  Transition Belper     Belper Town CouncilShow the Love Event at St Peter’s Church – 15th of February 16.00-18.00

This is a drop in event suitable for everyone who would like more information on groups that are already active in the Belper Area. Come along to find out more about how each one of us can make a difference. We will have free Blue Hearts and Wild Flower seeds to re-wild parts of your gardens, information on the new Belper Community Orchard, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust and the Derwent Valley Cycleway. There will be a chance for the brave to sample edible insects and talk to kids from the Nature Savers Group. Ideas on living more sustainably, cutting down on single use plastic, local recycling initiatives, find out more about Extinction Rebellion and possibly print your own T-Shirt. Katherine Wheatley author of the book, Carbon Monster will lead some craft activities and have some books for sale. There will be refreshments of tea/coffee/squash, homemade cakes and biscuits. St Peter’s Church, Belper.

Zero Carbon Training at Fleet Arts – 22nd and 23rd of February 9.30-16.00

The course aims to further knowledge and deepen understanding of the climate crisis and inspire the change we now need, with examples of carbon neutral projects. It will include a combination of education, discussion, participation and fun! (Play the Carbon City Zero game). It will take many of us pulling in the same direction to enable change, and each of our actions can contribute to making a zero carbon future happen. http://fleet-arts.org

Climate Change is an issue that it is difficult to ignore as it is regularly  in the news showing us some of the devastating effects of Global Warming. I feel  it is important that we try to understand what is happening and then work with others to make a difference. There are things that we as individuals can do  but it is also an issue where communities can work together to make a difference. We need to be careful not to get bogged down in despair but look at all the amazing things going on worldwide and work with others to make a difference. There is hope and many amazing people rising up to lead campaigns.

Greta Thunberg https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/ a young person who has inspired many to take the issues of Climate Emergency more seriously.

Amy and Ella Meek, young people leading a campaign against single use plastic. http://www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced a global prize to tackle climate issues, pledging “a decade of action to repair the Earth”. https://earthshotprize.org

David Attenborough who tirelessly campaigns  so that we can better understand what is going on. Sir David’s facts-on-climate-change

There have been many inspiring and worrying films in the last few years including TOMORROW and A PLASTIC OCEAN both shown in Belper. There is a new film 2040  by Damon Gameau is an upbeat documentary predicting our best selves saving the planet which we hope to show later in the year. 2040 Trailer

Belper’s Woollen Advent Calendar 2019

The idea for creating Belper’s first Woollen Advent Calendar came from seeing how the Six Streets Community in Derby organised  their window Advent Calendar. A different house unveils their decorated front window each day of advent. This is something that takes place in towns and villages up and down the country and the Eden Project have written a guide as to how to organise one.

In Belper we decided to do it differently for two reasons, firstly it was difficult to think of an area where there were enough houses with windows near the pavement and secondly we have so many groups and individuals who already enjoy the idea of Yarn Bombing. The trees chosen were in the main shopping area of the town along King Street, Campbell Street, Strutt Street and the Memorial Gardens.A list of trees was made with measurements, permission granted from all the relevant authorities and then an appeal put out on Facebook. In true Advent Calendar style 24 trees were decided on and these were adopted by shops, care homes, schools, churches, social/craft/news  groups and individuals. On November 30th  woollen squares with the numbers 1-24 were attached to the trees and leaflets were placed in shops, the library, cinema and churches. The leaflet informed the reader who had made each tree, gave websites and titles where they had been chosen.The Belper Woollen Woods facebook page was updated each day with that days tree. Each tree was unique and delighted the Christmas shoppers in the town. The trees will stay in place until January 5th so that people can have the opportunity to see the completed Community Advent Calendar.

The Advent Calendar has been a fantastic Community project with some truely amazing trees. A huge THANK YOU to all who were willing to be part of this.

1 Belper Nailed editor Clare Washbrook.    https://nailed.community                                              This tree included hats & scarves for people in need.

Chronic Creatives                                                  www.facebook.com/groups/chroniccreative

3  U3A Charity Crafting Group www.u3asites.org.uk/belper/groups

4   Belper Baptist Church Unto Us a Child is Born    www.belperbaptist.org

5   Belper Methodist Church www.belpercentralmethodist.co.uk

6   Chatterbox Belper  www.facebook.com/Chatterboxbelper7   Spencer Grove Care Home                                         www.milfordcare.co.uk/spencer-grove

8  Diane Strauther, Joy Meakin & Jan Sheppard               While Shepherds watched

9   Holbrook School for Autism                                        www.holbrookautism.derbyshire.sch.uk

10   Christine and Jo   Waiting for Father Christmouse

11   Belper North Mill      www.belpernorthmill.org.uk

12   Whitemoor Day Opportunities                                    12 Drummers Drumming       www.facebook.com/whitemoordayopportunities   13   Marianne Hulse

14   Helen Pridmore    Hedgehugs   www.hedgehogstreet.org

15   Suz Hennessey & Tracey Crawford                            The 12 Days of Christmas

16  Christchurch Church         www.christchurchbelper.co.uk

17  Air Ambulance Shop   www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/shop/wndlr-belper

18  Milford Care Home              www.milfordcare.co.uk19  St Peter’s Church         We Three Kings    www.stpetersparishbelper.org.uk

20  Belper Gardening Club      www.facebook.com/groups/belpergardeningclub

21  Oxfam Shop          www.oxfam.org.uk/shop

22  Cynthia Lenham & Christine Moorcroft                        Santa’s Favourites

23  Openwoodgate Preschool www.openwoodgatepreschool.co.uk

24  Transition Belper          Hang the Stockings   www.transitionbelper.orgPhotos kindly taken by Syd Greig.

Woollen Woods 2019

This year, 2019 the Woollen Woods were slightly later than usual and this turned out to be a good decision as we were once again very lucky with the weather. As has happened in previous years some pieces were seen for a second time such as the stripy snakes.Most of the trees were decorated with new pieces however, with many trees being taken on by local groups. Transition Belper put up a Bee Kind to Nature Tree with an amazing beehive suspended high above our heads. A line of bees could be seen flying back to the hive and on close inspection a Queen Bee could be seen wearing a small handmade silver crown.  Continue reading Woollen Woods 2019

Fashion Revolution Week

Belper’s first Fashion Revolution event took place during Fashion Revolution Week 2019. The action happened in St Peter’s Church on Friday April 26th,  it was very well supported by people from Belper and beyond.The idea for the Fashion Revolution movement came from Carry Somers after the tragedy of the Rana Plaza disaster. On 24 April 2013, a factory building in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,134 people and injuring 2500 more. Carry (who has a Fair Trade shop in Ashbourne) felt this was a tipping point and something needed to be done. She phoned Orsola de Castro, founder of up-cycling fashion label ‘From Somewhere‘. Orsola immediately said, ‘Yes we have got to do this.” The first fashion Revolution Day took place in 2014. Fashion Revolution Day has now become Fashion Revolution Week and this year took place from April 22 – 28. Continue reading Fashion Revolution Week

Fashion Revolution Belper

Do you wear clothes? In that case please read the rest of this article. Our Member’s of Parliament say the Fashion Industry is a major source of the greenhouse gases that are overheating our planet. Discarded clothes are piling up in landfill sites and fibre fragments are flowing into the sea when clothes are washed. Find out more HERE.

Continue reading Fashion Revolution Belper

Reusable Gift Wrapping

At Christmas I decided to wrap all my Christmas presents with brown paper because I wasn’t sure whether normal wrapping paper was suitable for recycling.

This is the information I found on the internet.

  • Some local authorities accept wrapping paper in home recycling collections
  • Others ask for wrapping paper to be taken to the local recycling centre
  • Some do not collect wrapping paper at all because wrapping paper is not accepted by some recycled paper mills. There are a number of reasons for this.

I looked on my local Councils recycling page and wrapping paper was not mentioned so I am still not sure.

 

We didn’t manage to recycle all our brown paper as in all the mayhem of Christmas there wasn’t a huge amount of time to remove all the sticky tape. I should have probably folded the paper and then kept it in place with ribbon and not used any sticky tape.

As a family we always have a celebration on New Year’s Day and give small gifts. I decided this year to make up some fabric bags to wrap presents. This worked really well and they can all be reused next year. I didn’t buy any new fabric, just used up bits I had. The only downside will be next Christmas working out which bag is the best for each gift. I tried different ways of making and then came up with one that I could complete in 10 minutes.After Christmas I decided to make some bags by the same method to keep our reusable coffee cups in. We like to keep a couple of cups in the car as you never know when you are going to feel like a coffee and of course by using reusable cup you cut down on single use plastic. You also save money usually at least 25p a cup.The larger bag on the left has two cups in it and the smaller one on the right is big enough for one cup. This fabric I bought years ago on a trip to Estonia. I had used some of it but had a small amount left.

To make the bag for one cup I cut a piece of Fabric 36 cms by 28 cms. I like to stop the edges of the fabric fraying so I used a zig zag stitch around the whole piece. I folded the piece in half with the right sides facing each other and sewed with a straight stitch down the side seam, starting about 6 cms from the top edge and along the bottom of the bag.The next stage was to make the top with a casing for a piece of ribbon to go through. Again I like to neaten my work so I folded back each short 6 cm edge at the side and sewed it in place with a straight stitch.The last step was to turn over the top edge so that it came down about 3 cms and sew with a straight stitch right around the bag. I then used a straight stitch to sew about half a cm down from the top folded edge.The bag can now be turned out the right way and a piece of ribbon threaded through the top casing. This will close the bag and can be tied with a bow.

Continue reading Reusable Gift Wrapping