Tag Archive: play


A Tree Troll by Kim Beaton, inspired by her father from Montana!

A Tree Troll by Kim Beaton, inspired by her father from Montana!

What Children Can Learn from a Cardboard Box

Source: What Children Can Learn from a Cardboard Box

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Old School Garden – 29th September 2015

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I’ve looked back at what I wrote to you at this time last year and it began ‘I’m feeling very guilty’.  Once more I find myself confessing to not much happening in the garden, well until the last few days at any rate.

As you know we went on a two week trip to the Hebrides (Mull and Arran) and Northumberland in late August-early September and this, coupled with an earlier spell away in Portugal has meant that the garden has been sorely neglected; but for the harvesting and watering efforts of our daughter, Lindsey and friends Steve and Joan, that is.

My other excuse, and you’ll be bored at me banging on about this, has been decorating, decorating, decorating…and still one more room to go plus some finishing details.

Enough of the excuses, what have I been up to in the garden? Well of late hedge cutting, including an overdue trim of the neighbours’ side of a mixed hedge that forms one of our boundaries. And today I am going to do drastic work on that laurel hedge that backs the main lawn (or should I say ‘Mole patch’). You might recall my plans to create a wildlife pond on the northern side of this and how my plans for the hedge are to:

  • let more sunlight into the pond area

  • reduce the height of the hedge to make it easier to maintain

  • create a sweeping curved profile to add visual interest.

Well, I’ve made a start with hedgecutter and loppers and today I will try to tackle the thicker stems using the wonderful battery-powered chainsaw I was given to trial by it’s makers Ego. And I mustn’t forget to mention Deborah’s efforts in weeding paths and beds, which has certainly made things look a lot tidier.

Despite the neglect nature seems to find a way of surviving and so there’s still plenty of ornamental interest in the garden at present, including a lovely Hydrangea paniculata, Sedums, and of course the various grasses which are now starting to put out their feathery flowers.

There seems to be a good crop of apples on the way to add to those already picked. It’s also been a good year for figs and we are just about coming to the end of the cucumbers, peppers (which were decimated by an attack of caterpillars) and tomatoes (the shortening days and contrasting night time and daytime temperatures are having their effect on what remain on the plants). I’m also rather pleased with the crop of squashes this year, largely planted to provide ground cover while we were away, and they seem to have done this and rewarded us with a winter’s supply!

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Returning to the house renovation side of things, I finally bit the bullet and chopped off the stems of the ivy growing up the front of the house, which had been encouraged to cover up some rather unsightly painting over flintwork (sacrilege). I now plan to remove the dead stems with crow bars etc and then get the builders in to sandblast the front and repoint the stones. Quite an undertaking, but I think it will be worth it in improved appearance alone.

The front of the house with its, now dead, ivy- removing this, sandblasting and repointing the flintwork will be a major undertaking, possibly before winter really sets in

The front of the house with its, now dead, ivy- removing this, sandblasting and repointing the flintwork will be a major undertaking, possibly before winter really sets in

I’ve also been splashing out on some bulbs and spring bedding in the form of violas and pansies, which I’ve started to use in some of the containers that were beginning to look a bit sad. They will hopefully provide a good splash of colour during the dark winter months. Oh, and I came across a plant on a visit to Wallington Hall in Northumberland (more on this visit in due course) which I couldn’t resist; a Crocosmia called ‘Norwich Canary’- as a season ticket holder at Carrow Road it just had to come home with me!

It’s also that time of year when I put out the bird feeders and I was immediately rewarded with the usual crowd of Blue and Great Tits plus a few other species. It is lovely watching them have their breakfast while we have ours.

WP_20150929_10_33_19_ProOn the wider gardening front I’ve re-engaged with my voluntary input at Gressenhall and Blickling. I’ll be posting about the latter in the next few days, and for the former I’m pleasantly surprised at how well my areas of responsibility have come through the summer and into autumn. I went in last week and felt that not much tidying was required so I turned my hand to mowing the grass and edging this. The front entrance border with its mix of grasses, lavenders and shrubs was looking great.

Oh, and I may well be running my garden design course once more. you might remember that the Reepham Learning Community is no longer functioning so my venue at the High School is no longer available. So I’m making enquiries about running a day time course in the New Year using accommodation at Blickling. This looks promising, and it might be especially helpful to use the gardens here as a way of illustrating elements of the course. I’ve also been invited by a former student to give a talk on the basics of garden design to her gardening group near Fakenham soon, so that will help me to keep my hand in on the teaching front.

Well I think that just about wraps up my recent gardening life. How is your garden looking just now? I bet it’s a picture with the weather helping to bring out those lovely autumn leaf colours in your wonderful collection of trees.

All the best to Ferdy Lise and we hope to see you soon, old friend,

Old School Gardener

 

 

Here’s my latest collection of outside projects using wooden pallets and other recycled materials- some inspiring designs and superb craftsmanship, courtesy of 1001 pallets.

Old School Gardener

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Old School Gardener

nature playHere’s a final extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. This piece reflects on how as adults we are in danger of losing our ability to play and that this is part of a wider disconnect between humans (especially children) and the natural world about us:

‘One of the nicest things about the human race is our abiding juvenility….We’re fun; we’re funny. There is probably no species, not even chimps or wolves, in which there is as much behavioural congruence between adults and children.

Yet how ‘unfun’ we’ve gotten! Biking has gone pro; it is to be performed seriously (exhaustingly!) and properly attired. Even taking a walk has been transformed into walking – stylishly, with striped sweats and weighted mannerisms, to the purpose of fitness- and without an eye for what might be of interest along the way. In an article I read about dismantling playgrounds and abandoning school recess, a principal was quoted on the subject of improving academic performance. ” You can’t do that”, he said, “by having kids hanging on monkey bars.”…’

Coincidentally I’ve just come an interesting review of a new book about children, learning, play and nature. Here’s a quote from that:

‘Children play, and used to play ‘in nature’, outdoors. To some extent they still do, but probably not nearly enough. We inhibit their explorations, creativity, and self-testing. And the same goes for adults.’

You might like to take a look at the review here: ‘Learning with Nature and the Nature of Play’

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series of extracts. I certainly found the book very stimulating and am currently enjoying Stein’s follow up to ‘Noah’s Garden’, all about natural plant communities and the like.

Old School Gardener

drawer garden

Old School Gardener

To start 2015 here is a selection of outdoor recycling projects involving reuse of pallets and other materials. Inspired?

Source: 1001 Pallets

Old School Gardener

Picture: Free digital photos.net

Picture: Free digital photos.net

Here’s another extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. Here she reflects on how adolescence for many is not a transition to adulthood, but an increasingly inward-looking culture of it’s own:

‘We have experienced an emphatic turning of children towards their peers. We have seen the emergence of idols not yet beyond their teens. We watch our children withdraw into other worlds along the malls and behind computer screens where we don’t – and they don’t let us – follow.

This is taking a great leap into the unprovable, but I would guess that the interminable stage of life we call adoloscence is, in fact, a halting of development in cultures where childhood endeavor is not rewarded by adulthood as children imagined it would be.’

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the wider issues raised…

Old School Gardener

community parkHere’s my sixth extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. Here she talks about the decline of communities where people (including children) feel that they belong and experience a sense of common purpose:

‘Several times I’ve run into an interesting statistic in the books I read: the people we count as friends- those with whom we comfortably share meals and other forms of visiting- number no more than 150 (and usually fewer)…we seem to be biologically limited to a smallish circle of those whom we can know in a more familiar sense and who we feel know us. The number is about the upper limit of any group that can be sustained by a hunting/gathering economy and not much less than can be sustained by a subistence farming community.

So it may be that, in addition to the fact that residents of a tract development or a block of apartment houses are not assembled in common purpose, the sheer scale of the community may stand in the way of our sense of belonging to it. We seem to realize the importance of social scale for children when we call for smaller classes and smaller schools within the neighbourhood. The trend to gated communities, neighborhood gardens, pocket parks, and local streets closed to traffic indicate our urge to safely congregate where we can consult the social mirror. But for many of us, and possibly for most, the urge is thwarted or was extinguished before it had much chance to grow.

Aware of that difficulty, many have proposed that we teach community and family values in school. The proposal is as hopeless as teaching children what an apple tree is without their experiencing the tree or instructing them on how to fish without going fishing. A sense of community is absorbed through experience of the actual community, just as family values are incorporated within the actual family. So we are left with our good nature flapping raggedly without the pole that once lifted it aloft, and we are lonely…’

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the wider issues raised…

Old School Gardener

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