Our 2015 One Year Nature Study Plans

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:

And proceeded to put on a magnificent show for us

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:

Our pond on a glorious summer's day

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.

First he made a fence around a small area of our garden, to partition some space off for picnics and the such.  An area the children will not be allowed to play in.

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.

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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.

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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!’.

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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.

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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.

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  1. You couldn’t be more right – this is a fantastic idea. I just love it, and wish I had the discipline to emulate! I can’t wait to read all about it, maybe it will motivate me to do more in our garden.

    1. Our garden should be one of the highlights of living where we do, because considering we are just outside London we have a really nice sized one. It’s in such poor condition because of neglect on our behalf and too much imaginative play on the children’s part! I’m looking forward to restoring it to its former glory …and then some!

  2. Claire, I can’t wait to see how this evolves – we’re making changes in our “back yard” as well, so the differences/similarities between houses across the pond from one another should be really fun to compare!

    1. You’re right, it will definitely be fun to compare. I think you are further out in the countryside than us, although we like to pretend we are out in the stix and keep chickens!

  3. ‘Sounds wonderful. We live in an apartment, so this isn’t an option for us, but would love to do it. Our last apartment, we used this deck late spring, summer, and fall, for garden goodies. The kids got really excited watching things grow, and experiencing the visitors that come with gardening. I miss that.

    1. Gary and I lived in a flat for the first six years of our marriage, and I was desperate to have a garden. So I brought one inside! We grew window sill herbs which we fertilised with the fertiliser from our wormery under the kitchen sink; we grew tomatoes on a very sunny windowsill and I cheated and bought a very inexpensive bunch of roses which we would enjoy the first couple of weeks in a vase and then hang up side down from our dresser to dry and then we would enjoy the home made pot pourri. Where there’s a will….
      Of course we now have a large space and are seemingly incapable of taking any kind of care of it! But this will change this year and next. It will be beautiful, a sight to behold!!

  4. What a wonderful idea! We don’t have options like that here because we live in one of those subdivisions with manicured yards and restrictions on what can be grown. I’ll live vicariously through you guys!

    1. We are really blessed here because apart from not being able to keep pigs (!) there are no restrictions! I’m looking forward to experimenting and learning more.

  5. Okay, Claire, this is one post I have been WAITING to read. You know, I absolutely LOVED your pond study and frankly, I wasn’t happy to see it end! 🙂 Just sayin’. Then, imagine my excitement when I read – RIVER STUDY! WOW!!! How great would that be…only to read you changed your mind. CHANGED YOUR MIND? How could you do that to me???
    Okay, after I recovered from my terrible disappointment, I went ahead and MADE myself read the rest of the post. I am GLAD I did!

    Your plans sound so wonderful that I am trying to figure out how we can do something similar. We have a very small backyard, and I think chickens are out of the question, although if I could, I would.

    I am going to be rereading this post, looking up books to buy (don’t tell anyone, please,) and thinking hard this winter to try to come up with a good plan for spring. THANKS for the great ideas.

    I hope you are having the most wonderful day!!! Hugs and hugs to you, my friend.:)

    1. You’re so funny! I’m glad you approved (eventually!)!! Maybe we could do a sort of comparison study? After all, your weather and mine couldn’t be more different!

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