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Tag Archives: nature
  • Posted on April 12, 2017

    Planted Enamel Ladles

    With the sun shining and the Easter bank holiday coming up, we thought it was time to get our fingers green! This lovely little display uses simple enamel ladles planted with pretty succulents to create a really charming result and is a perfect project no matter how big or small your garden is! Choose ladles with a large cup so that the roots of the plants will have enough room to grow and spread. Break off pieces from the larger succulents—these are generally quite tough plants and can take a bit of rough handling—and firm them into the potting mix well so they can take root and thrive.

    Planted ladles with succulents and moss

    Planted Enamel Ladles


    Enamel ladles

    Potting mix

    Handful of gravel


    Left ladle: Moss (available from garden centers and florists)

    Middle ladle: Echeveria ‘Perle von Nürnberg,’ Sedum album (white stonecrop), S. burrito (burro’s tail), S. ✕ rubrotinctum (banana cactus), and Sempervivum ‘Ohio Burgundy’ (houseleek)

    Right ladle: Anacampseros telephiastrum, Crassula ovate (friendship tree), and Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ (stonecrop)

    Planted ladles, what you need


    1. Soak the rootballs of the plants for 10 minutes or so until the potting mix is wet. Put a handful of potting mix in the bottom of the ladle and add a little gravel to improve drainage.

    2. Carefully take one of the larger succulents from its pot and remove some of the excess potting mix to reduce the size of the rootball. Plant it on one side of the ladle.

    3. Take another of the larger succulents from its pot and again remove some of the potting mix. Plant at the back of the ladle, firming it in place.

    4. Add the smaller succulents to the ladle, breaking smaller bits off the larger plants if necessary, and plant them around the larger ones. Press down the potting mix.

    5. Fill in any holes with more potting mix and firm it in place so that the plants will not move.

    6. Add a sprinkling of gravel to the surface of the potting mix, pushing it around the plants with your fingers. This will help keep moisture in and looks nice, too. Plant up the other ladles and then water carefully, allowing excess water to drain off.

    Planting succulents in enamel ladles


    Succulents can withstand dry conditions, but remember to check the potting mix regularly and water the ladles when they are very dry.

    This project is from Tiny Tabletop Gardens by Emma Hardy, available here.

    Tiny Tabletop Gardens by Emma Hardy

    Photography by Debbie Patterson © CICO Books






    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with handmade, easter, bank holiday, project, nature, gardening

  • Posted on July 19, 2016

    The Wiccan Guide to the Full Moon

    As even an amateur Wiccan knows, the moon is very important when it comes to spells and magic. With the full moon tonight, we thought we’d share some wisdom from our new book The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja, as well as a simple spell to make the most of this important phase of the moon.  So, over to Silja…

    The moon is central in magic, and thus also in the growing of magical herbs. Sure, if you have green thumbs, your herbs will probably grow during any lunar phase, but if you plant and harvest your herbs during the correct lunar phase, you are likely to have more success and healthier, bigger plants—and that means more potent magic!

    For us witches, the spiritual aspect of the moon is paramount, but there is also a  physical reason why you should pay attention to the moon phases when planting and harvesting—the gravity of the moon affects not only the tides, but also the water levels in soil. During a waning moon and especially just before the new moon, the earth’s water level is at its lowest, so planting and harvesting herbs at these times makes sense in that you avoid having to work with waterlogged soil.


    The full moon is the best time to harvest plants and herbs above ground because magically, it is the time of completion, of things being perfected. Take note that flowering herbs should generally be harvested during the day, preferably in sunlight if at all possible. If you have to harvest your magical herbs at other times due to your work schedule, because they are getting too big, or it’s getting cold outside, consider waiting until the next full moon to “make them magical”, i.e., place them on your altar, transfer them into a magical oil, or put them into a charm bag.


    Called Esbats, full moon rituals are the traditional meeting day for covens. The moon's energy is at its strongest when it is full, favoring spells and magical rituals. In days gone by, there was also a more practical consideration— covens used to meet in forest clearings or on top of hills at night, and when there was not electrical light, the full moon helped to guide the way. The light of the full moon also helped the witches of old to see and harvest plants such as mistletoe. Mistletoe is traditionally gathered at night, as it is said to be more potent then, and the white berries are easy to see in the light of the moon. Also, because mistletoe is so magical, anyone seen gathering it would have been immediately suspected as a witch, Since witchcraft was considered a serious crime in the Dark Ages, it was best to harvest mistletoe at night, when other people were not likely to pass by.

    You do not have to be part of a coven to celebrate the full moon—it serves as a reminder for any Wiccan to practice their spirituality and take a monthly break from the mundane world.

    Herb and Crystal Full Moon Spell for Finding a Perfect Home

    Spell Ingredients
    ✩ Red clover flower
    ✩ Clear quartz crystal
    ✩ Bay leaf
    ✩ White thread

    On a full moon, place the red clover flower on the crystal and wrap them in the bay leaf. Secure the parcel with the white thread while chanting:

    “I ask the Moon Goddess so round

    A new home for me shall be found

    Nice rooms, and clean ground

    Happiness and comfort abound!”

    Carry the parcel with you when talking to agents or viewing houses.

    The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja is available here.




    This post was posted in Featured, News, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with nature, mind body spirit, wicca, herbs, 2016, full moon

  • Posted on June 20, 2016

    The Festival of Litha

    Despite the rather wet and dismal day, today (June 20) is the Summer Solstice, upon which the Wiccan festival of Litha is observed. Here we share some information about Litha from The Beginner’s Guide to Wicca by Kirsten Riddle, and a simple ritual you can follow to honor this point in the wheel of the year. If you would like to receive more news, advice, motivation and mantras from our Health, Mind, Body & Spirit books, make sure you subscribe to Mindful Living here. So, over to Kirsten…

    LITHA: June

    Celebrated over the longest day and the shortest night the summer solstice, Litha, marks a turning point in the wheel of the year. The goddess is pregnant and flourishing and the earth is bathed in light, but it’s all about to change: the return of the dark is imminent. The god, also known as the Oak King, is about to hand over the baton of power to his twin brother, the Holly King. This is the time of year to celebrate everything you’ve achieved so far, to embrace joy and to develop a sense of fun. The seasons are changing and winter is on its way, but this shift in balance is needed to keep the wheel turning.

    DEITY All sun goddesses, including the Norse Sunna and the Japanese Amaterasu

    ALTAR DECORATIONS Oak leaves, flowers (particularly sunflowers), bread, honey, yellow and orange candles

    HERBS All herbs

    COLORS Blue, green, orange, purple, red, yellow


    To honor the sun at the height of its power during this summer solstice celebration, rub a little sunflower oil into the wax of an orange or yellow candle. As you do this, think of all the things you’d like to manifest during the rest of the year. When you’re ready, light the candle and stand before it. Breathe in and, as you breathe out, imagine pouring your love into the flame, and see it rising up toward the sun. Say “I honor the strength and the power of the sun. I move forward giving thanks for all that is done. Upon this day, upon this hour, I embrace the might of the sun’s radiant power.” Let the candle burn down.

    The Beginner's Guide to Wicca by Kirsten Riddle is available here. You can also pre-order The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja (published 14 July 2016) here.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with 2014, quick, nature, mind body spirit, wicca, Midsummer, summer

  • Posted on June 5, 2016

    Into the woods for World Environment Day

    When access to screens and technology is so easy for adults and children alike, it’s important to encourage engagement with the world around us, and never more so than on World Environment Day. That’s where Fiona Bird’s brilliant (if we do say so ourselves…) new book comes in; Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside is jam-packed with ideas for fun activities and creative ideas for helping children discover the great outdoors. It’s very easy too – in this section, Fiona suggests some ways to enjoy time spent amongst trees and woodland. So, in honour of World Environment Day, switch off that screen, head outdoors, and have some fun outside!

    Into the Woods

    Woods are among the finest natural places to play or find a secret thinking spot. On sunny days, the light flickers and dances through the trees and the leaf canopy is there to protect you if it rains. Sometimes you may not even notice that it’s raining. You can explore or play hide-and-seek or tree tag. If you look up, you can spy on squirrels scampering through the trees, while if you look down you can see carpets of winter snowdrops or spring bluebells and white wood sorrel. If you’re hungry, you can search for tiny snacks that change with the season—summer brings bilberries and woodland strawberries, while with careful I.D. in the fall (autumn), you can go on a mushroom foray. You might also like to build a woodland den, create a miniature house or garden, go on a woodland bug hunt, or simply play a game of conkers.

    What Is A Tree?

    Stand beneath a tree and look up. You’ll see an amazing spreading crown of branches and leaves that provides shade for the roots. The branches support the leaves and give the tree its distinctive shape. Tree trunks have evolved to allow trees to tower high above smaller plants so that their leaves can harness energy from the sun to make food, a process known as photosynthesis. The underground root system is big because it has to support the tree and also collect water and nutrients from the soil. Root and trunk sizes vary between tree species. As a tree grows, so does its trunk, and this causes the bark to expand. This expansion cracks the bark and helps us to identify different species, as well as young and old trees.

    Go on a Leaf Hunt

    When exploring the woods, see how many different leaves you can spot. Here are some tips for identifying the leaves you’ve found:

    Touch a leaf and feel its texture—is it glossy, rough, smooth, hairy, or downy?

    In season, the flowers and fruits (or nuts, which are fruits in a hard case) will also help you to name the tree.

    Have a go at BioBlitzing; perhaps you could count the number of tree species in a given area. Blitzing sounds a little destructive—which naturalists aren’t. Remember to only leave behind your own footprints.

    A pocket tree guide or phone app will help confirm a tree’s I.D.

    Finding needles in the woods

    Telling pines, firs, and spruces apart is all about I.D., which takes practice. Here are some helpful needle facts:

    Pine trees have bundles of needles in twos to fives. The size may vary, but if a tree has a pack of needles (more than one needle), then it is a pine tree. Spruce and fir needles don’t grow in bundles.

    Check out the needle—if it has sides, rather than being round or flat, then it’s a spruce. A fir needle is flat and won’t roll.

    Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside by Fiona Bird is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with school holidays, cico kidz, kids, nature, activities for kids, 2016

  • Posted on April 20, 2016

    Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

    Author Fiona Bird was on BBC Radio 4 Midweek today talking to Libby Purves about her latest book Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside, life on South Uist and seaweed, and it was a fascinating chat; you can catch up here. Fiona is hugely knowledgeable about seaweed and the many things you can use it for (she even dropped off some seaweed shortbread at the office!) so we thought we’d share some of the seaweed-y wisdom to be found in this amazing book, along with a super easy craft project. Over to Fiona…

    Seaweed and its amazing uses

    Macroalgae is a really useful weed. You can pop seaweed in the bath, cook with it, or use it in craftwork. Plan a visit to a herbarium, where you will be able to see beautifully preserved plants and seaweeds—our ocean flowers—and find out the best ways to preserve a seaweed’s shape and color.

    Collecting, Drying, And Storing

    If you are not planning to use your seaweed fresh from the seashore, then it can easily be dried and stored for using in recipes or other projects later on.

    Collecting Seaweed

    There are a few rules to bear in mind when collecting seaweed from the seashore for use at home:

    Don’t pick storm-cast seaweed for cooking; only use seaweed that is growing.

    Do use a pair of scissors to cut seaweeds from their holdfasts at low tide on a clean beach. (Remember to take scissors with you when you visit the beach.)

    Don’t cook with floating seaweed or seaweed that grows at the top of the shore near drains. Sea lettuce and sea grass like growing here—instead, pick these seaweeds from rock pools at low tide.

    Do wash the seaweed in the sea so that any hidden “visitors” can find a new home locally. You should also rinse the seaweed in cold water when you get home.

    Do use a separate bag for each type collected, as this will make it easier to sort out your seaweeds when you get home.

    Drying Seaweed When you get home, wash the seaweed thoroughly. Rinse it in   cold water and squeeze out as much of the water as possible. A salad spinner is helpful here—spin the seaweed around, just as you would if preparing salad leaves.

    Next dry the seaweed. Lay the pieces of seaweed on a tray lined with newspaper or some paper towel—making sure that they aren’t touching—and leave to dry on a sunny windowsill. You could also pop the tray in a warm airing cupboard. On a sunny day, you can dry larger seaweeds such as sugar kelp by pegging them on a washing line. You can also dry seaweed on trays in a low oven or even in a food dehydrator if you have one. Some people dry seaweed in a hot oven, but you must be eagle-eyed if you do this and make sure that the seaweed does not burn.

    Storing Seaweed When you have dried the seaweed, cut it into manageable lengths or grind it in a food-blender. It is easier to grind a little at a time, pop it in an airtight container, and then repeat the process until you have used up all of the seaweed. Shake the containers when you remember and use the dried seaweed as a flavoring, just as you would herbs or spices.

    No-sew Seaweed Bath Sacks

    These easy-to-make bags make a lovely seaside vacation memory or gift. Younger children can practice knots as they tie the sacks. Soak the bath sack in your bath water for 5 minutes before you use it, unless, of course, you want to spend a long time in the bath. As the seaweed rehydrates, it releases a gel that has skin-softening properties.


    4 Dried seaweed, cut or broken by hand into short lengths

    4 Jelly bag, pop sock, or a leg of pantyhose (tights), cut below the knee

    4 Ribbon, for tying (optional)


    Stuff the dried seaweed into the jelly bag, pop sock, or section of pantyhose and then tie a knot (and a ribbon, if using) tightly at the top to make a sack. You can use colored or patterned pop socks or pantyhose if you wish to make your bath sacks look really pretty.

    Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside by Fiona Bird is available here.

    This post was posted in Book Reviews, Craft Projects, Featured, Interviews, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with homemade, school holidays, kids, photos, nature, activities for kids, 2016

  • Posted on April 14, 2016

    Get in the garden for National Gardening Week

    One of the things we love about gardening is how everyone can get involved, no matter how big or small; tiny fingers are very useful for planting seeds in our experience. So, in honour of the Royal Horticultural Society’s #NationalGardeningWeek we decided to share a project from our children’s book My First Gardening Book that’s perfect for any budding green-fingered enthusiast! Best of all, in the spirit of getting everyone gardening, you don’t even need a garden!

    Eggshell Gardens

    The next time your family has boiled eggs for breakfast, ask everyone to eat their egg very carefully so that they do not break the shells—then you can fill them with miniature flowers and moss to make a tiny garden.

    You will need




    Potting mix (compost)

    Garden sieve (optional)

    Egg cups or egg carton



    Moss (available from florists)

    Plants with small roots: Forget-me-nots, Krauss’ spikemoss, Violets ‘Moonlight’, Sweet violets

    You can either eat boiled eggs and keep the shells or ask an adult to help you cut the tops off raw eggs using a knife. Do this over a bowl so you can tip the raw egg out—you can use it to make an omelet later!

    Rinse the empty eggshells carefully in warm water.

    Check that your potting mix (compost) isn’t lumpy. If it is, you can push a little of the mix through a garden sieve, if you have one, or use your fingers to break up any lumps.

    Place the each eggshell upside down in an egg cup or carton and very carefully make a few small holes in the bottom of each egg with the pin. This is so that the water can drain away.

    Put the eggshells the right way round in the egg cups or carton. Spoon a little potting mix (compost) into each egg, making sure that there will be enough room for the plants.

    Put one plant in each egg and add a little more potting mix. Gently push a small piece of moss onto the top of the potting mix if you wish.

    Hints and tips

    • The potting mix will dry out quickly, so water the eggshells every day with just a little water.

    • Flowers like violets will carry on flowering for a few weeks so “deadhead” them by pinching off any faded flowers. This will encourage new ones to grow.

    My First Gardening Book is available here.

    This post was posted in Craft Projects, Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with homemade, school holidays, my first series, nature, activities for kids, gardening, 2016

  • Posted on March 29, 2016

    Springtime at Walnuts Farm...

    Spring is very much springing here in the UK. It starts with the crocuses and snowdrops, then the bright yellow daffodils start making an appearance and suddenly there are lambs frolicking in all the fields. So to celebrate the arrival of our favourite season (sssh! Don’t tell summer!), we thought we’d share this seasonal passage from our new book The New Homesteader by Bella and Nick Ivins. Over to Bella and Nick…

    Hand-raising Orphan Lambs

    We started keeping sheep three years ago, as organic lamb is expensive to buy. When they are slaughtered in the autumn, the cuts we order from the butcher include rack of lamb, chops, ground mince, kidneys and boned shoulder and leg of lamb, and the sweetness add tenderness of the meat is indescribable. We’ve found that four small sheep can comfortably feed a family of four and our friends throughout the year.

    The cycle starts in spring, when the three-day-old orphan lambs are delivered. These are the lambs that a ewe is unable to suckle – she only has two teats, so anything more than twins is not sustainable. Bottle-feeding lambs is time-consuming, so most commercially-minded farmers are happy to give up orphans rather than see them go to waste.

    Raising these lambs is sheep-keeping in its easiest form, as there is no breeding or shearing involved. At first they are bottle-fed powdered milk, then weaned onto a compound pelleted feed (lamb creep) and grass. The nutritional value of the grass is at its highest in spring and early summer. When this starts to decline, the lambs need hay and a concentrate feed and things start to get expensive.

    For the first few weeks, the lambs are kept in our potting shed on a bed of straw and only venture outside on warm spring days into a small area of grass enclosed with wooden hurdles. We shut them back in at night, out of reach of predators like foxes and crows. Once they are big enough to fend for themselves, the sheep are turned out into the field, but having been bottle-fed they always come rushing to the gate at the sight of us.

    Sheep kept for only a few months are low maintenance. They need a regular supply of fresh water and we supplement the nutrition they get from grass with a bucket of feed mornings and evenings, but this is more as a treat than for any other reason. They are also sprayed with a chemical treatment to prevent flystrike and biting lice.

    The arrival of the orphan lambs coincides perfectly with the school Easter holidays, providing daily entertainment for the children and their friends.

    There is nothing more life-affirming than having a soft little lamb, with wrinkly, ill-fitting skin that’s too big for it, sitting on your lap, greedily feeding on its lukewarm bottle of milk. Where we live in Sussex, orphan lambs are known as sock lambs, probably because they were wrapped in socks in the farmhouse kitchen to keep them warm.

    The milk replacement powder available from our local agricultural merchant arrives in a bag with making-up instructions usefully printed on the back. Four bottles will fit into a wire rack so, if necessary, all four lambs can be fed simultaneously. Once weaned, the lambs move on to grass and concentrate ‘creep’ feed. The sock lambs are always the smallest of their siblings and need to take every  opportunity to put on weight over the summer.

    The New Homesteader by Bella and Nick Ivins is available here. All photography is by Nick Ivins.

    This post was posted in Featured, Interviews, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with photos, nature, home, 2016, spring

  • Posted on February 17, 2016

    Modern Pastoral blog tour

    Modern pastoral interiors are about embracing the pared-back lifestyle of living in the country, taking nature as the main point of inspiration…[using] colors, textures and details to create a home in which to unwind - a retreat from the rest of the world

    So begins the blurb of our new book Modern Pastoral by Niki Brantmark (blogger at My Scandinavian Home); this was certainly a sentiment celebrated in last week’s blog tour. Five beautiful blogs shared some of their favourite images from the book, and we’ve rounded up the best of the tour here in one handy post so you can revisit them again and again!

    We kicked off the tour with a lovely post over at Lobster & Swan who said “Modern Pastoral is basically my rustic dream book...filled with beautiful examples of rustic living adapted to modern life”. We love this cushion!

    Our second stop was with Emily Quinton on her new blog, Make Believe. As always, Emily had photographed the book beautifully, and we loved the pairing of the rustic colours on Niki’s book with peachy yellow tulips.

    photo by Emily Quinton

    The middle of the week saw us pay a visit to Little Green Shed where Modern Pastoral was declared an ‘interiors dream’. Lou also included one of our favourite images from the book – this gorgeous outdoors shower!

    We finished up the week with lovely reviews, illustrated by more of James Gardiner’s photographs over on Décor Art UK and SF Girl by Bay, who appreciated the ideas in the book for bringing a small part of nature into your home.

    Wow! What a week! It has certainly inspired us to get back to basics with our interiors, and as lots of the blogs pointed out, it’s so easy to do, whether it’s just displaying some pebbles from a favourite beach, or that wood burner you’ve always wanted! If you’re feeling similarly inspired, make sure you settle down with a nice cup of tea, and simply click the links to read all the posts.

    Modern Pastoral by Niki Brantmark is available here.

    This post was posted in Book Reviews, Featured, News, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with interiors, Book Launch, photos, nature, Scandinavian, 2016, rustic

  • Posted on September 3, 2015

    Autumn Planting

    House feeling strangely empty? After 6 long weeks (or more?!) the children are back at school this week and, if you’re not quite sure what to do with yourselves, our new book The Winter Garden by Emma Hardy is on hand to fill those long hours between 9am and 3pm. Early autumn is the perfect time to start planting bulbs for next spring, and in some cases, you can grow indoors and force the bulbs to flower in midwinter. So these lovely hyacinths are perfect for bringing a beautiful floral touch to your Christmas celebrations. What are you waiting for? Time to get green-fingered! (Although, we totally wouldn’t blame you if you fancied a sit down with a good book and a cup of tea first…)

    Hyacinths in glass jars

    I love the simplicity of these hyacinths, requiring just a bulb, glass jar, and water. They provide you with scented blooms in the middle of winter, and even before flowering they look beautiful, with their incredible roots twisting and weaving around the inside of the jar. Choose jars with narrow necks so the bulbs do not sit in water, varying the shapes and sizes of them to create an interesting display.


    A selection of glass jars with narrow necks

    Hyacinth bulbs suitable for forcing

    Newspaper or scrap paper

    1 Fill a clean glass jar with water, stopping just short of the rim. Dry around the rim to ensure that the bulb will not get wet.

    2 Place a hyacinth bulb on the rim of the jar, with the pointed end facing upward. If the roots of the bulb have already started to sprout, tuck them into the jar, being careful not to damage them. If the bottom of the bulb does touch the water, remove the bulb and pour a little water out, as the bulb may start to rot if in direct contact with water.

    3 To make a cover for the bulb, cut a piece of paper about 10 x 14 in (25 x 35cm). Fold it in half, matching up the two shorter sides.

    4 With the fold along the top of the paper, fold the top right and left corners down to meet each other in the middle, then crease along the folds.

    5 Fold the bottom edge of the top layer of paper up by about 1 in (2.5cm) and crease along the fold. Fold it over again by the same amount.

    6 Repeat step 5 on the other side of the paper.

    7 Open the hat shape up and carefully slip over the bulb and top of the jar, making sure that the bulb stays in place. Keep it in a dark, cool cupboard or shed.

    8 Check the bulb after a few weeks, by which time the roots should have grown and the bulb should have started to shoot. If it has not, simply leave it for a little longer. When the bulb has started to grow, bring it out into the light and remove the paper cover. Leave in a warm spot and within a few weeks (depending on the conditions) the hyacinth should flower.


    Check the water level in the jars and top up if necessary. If the foliage develops much faster than the flower, put the bulb back into the dark for a few days, making sure it is in a cool spot. When the hyacinths have bloomed, cut off the dead flower and leave for a few weeks with the leaves in place, then either plant out in a sheltered spot in the garden or dry the bulbs out and store in a cool shed, ready to replant the following fall.

    The Winter Garden by Emma Hardy is available here.

    This post was posted in Craft Projects, Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with Emma Hardy, flowers, nature, 2015, gardening, planting

  • Posted on August 12, 2015

    Wordless Wednesday: Texture

    Picture credits: 1. Catherine Gratwicke 2. Catherine Gratwicke 3. Hans Blomquist 4. Simon Brown 5. Debi Treloar 6. Paul Ryan

    Texture is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with interiors, Book Launch, photos, nature, texture, 2015, Wordless Wednesday, wood, stone, linen, wool

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