June has arrived, how are you all getting on? My family and I have pretty much moved our whole lives out into the garden. We are spending all daylight hours outside, sometimes camping out in the tent too. We are loving bringing our school and work projects outside and spending time on them in a slow way.

I am finding that so much learning happens naturally, just from living life. The kids have so many questions (many of which I can’t answer) We can all learn so much from each other by just following our interests. Some days this flows well, other days it’s a stressful scramble to try to make it through the day in one piece! I’m sure you can all relate. I’ve found a lot of solace in just letting things go!

It feels like June is going to be a time of big transitions in the journey with the virus. Some of you will have children due to start back to school this month. None of my children fall into the years returning, so I’m grateful not to have to make the decision whether to send them or not. I’m hiding out in my bubble when possible and pretending it’s the summer holidays already. The world can often seem like such a cruel and crazy place right now. I’m taking as much time as possible just being in nature, finding peace in the beauty of the earth and its gentle, predictable changes.

I hope you are all coping OK whatever your circumstances. I’m thinking of you all and missing our time learning and playing outdoors together.


This month’s post suggests ideas to do on the lovely soft sunny days of June. Included is; making elderflower cordial, collecting a ‘mini bunch’ of flowers, trying hapa zoma, growing salad leaves and exploring a permaculture principle about responding to change.

Please do keep sharing your activities with me via Facebook, instagram or email. I always love hearing from you.

Flowers in my garden blooming in late May and early June. (From left to right on each line)
Rock rose, mustard, aquiligia, rose, geranium, rose, aquiligia, daisy, elderflower.

Go on a nature walk – Collect Elderflowers to make cordial.

The elder tree is said to hold magical powers. If you believe in fairies, then you should know that elder is a fairy’s favourite tree. Fairies make musical instruments with elder wood because the stems are hollow, making them ideal to whistle through to make a tune! Before you pick elderflowers or cut or prune any elder wood, you should always ask permission from the tree and it’s fairy first!

Elder flowers are ready to pick from late May to late June. Harvest them early on a still and dry morning for the best flavour. You will need about 20 big flower heads for this recipe. You can often find elder in hedgerows and around the edges of woodlands. Make sure you don’t collect elderflowers from the side of the road or by a farmers field that may have been sprayed.

For this recipe, you will need to colect around 20 elderflower heads and buy 2 unwaxed lemons, 2kg white sugar and some citric acid (the chemist and larger supermarkets will have this or try Amazon)

Bring your elderflowers home and carefully remove any bugs that may be hiding in them. Trim the stalks, leaving the flower head attached together but with just a small bit of green stalk.

Elderflowers picked, trimmed and cleared of bugs.

Put 1.5 litres of water and the sugar into a big saucepan. I thought the 2kg my recipe book suggested was far too much sugar, so I halved the amount and used 1kg. Play with this and see what suits your taste buds. Remember this is a cordial so will be diluted when you drink it!

Gently heat the water and stir to disolve the sugar completely. Zest and slice the lemons (we used oranges instead) and add these to the pan then turn off the heat. Add your elderflowers and 85g citric acid. Stir, cover, leave to cool and to infuse for 24 hours.

The water, sugar, oranges, citric acid and elderflowers infusing.

The next day, sterilise your bottles by washing well with soapy water. Rinse, then leave to dry in a low oven. Line a colander with a clean tea towel, then sit it over a large bowl. Pour the syrup in and let it drip through. Put the elderflower bits left in the towel into your compost. Use a funnel and a ladle to fill the bottles.

The cordial is ready to drink straight away and will keep in the fridge for about 6 weeks. I like it mixed with fizzy water and lots of ice for a refreshing summer drink.

Extension ideas

  1. Maybe try adding some edible flowers or herbs to your glass, borage and mint or lemon balm is really lovely.
  2. We tried oranges instead of lemons in our recipe, maybe try this too or use limes or grapefruits or try a combination of citrus fruits?
  3. Make a bottle as a gift for a friend or neighbour. Decorate a pretty lable for your bottle, maybe draw some elderflowers?
  4. What do you think an elderflower fairy would look like? Can you draw a picture of one?
Aim to collect flower heads from flowers that have just opened, like the bunch on the right in the image. Collect early in the morning if you can for best flavour.

Try a forest school activity – Collect a tiny bunch of flowers

This is a fun, easy activity and a nice one to share with your children.  Take a walk to your local park or woodland. As you walk, simply pick a few flowers, leaves, weeds or grasses to make a mini bunch of flowers.

I encourage you to focus on ‘weeds.’ Look for dandelions, dead-nettles, buttercups and daisies. Weeds are simply a plant in the wrong place or a plant growing unaffected by the hand of a person. These wild plants are often most useful to the natural world. Their simple, open flower structures are rich in nectar, supporting our vital pollinators.

Be thoughtful and considerate about what you pick. Use the rule of 20. If you can see 20 of a flower, then it is ok to pick one. Leave the other 19 for nature to use and other people to appreciate.

Steer away from any flowers you know to be rare, protected or dangerous. Remember native bluebells are protected by law, so never pick these, however tempting it may be.

Extension ideas

  1. When you get home, place your mini bunch in your best vase. Treat it with love and gratitude and place it where you will see it.
  2. Try doing a colour themed mini bunch, collect yellow flowers only for example and see how that looks.
  3. Find out the names of the weeds that you collected. Use the internet, a plant I.D app like Candide or a book to find out.
  4. Have a chat about why some plants are considered weeds and others are not.
  5. I’d love to see some photos of your mini bunches. Share on Instagram by tagging emilymuddyboots or post it to the mymuddyboots Facebook page.
Collect a tiny bunch of flowers, focus on picking ‘weeds’

Get creative – Hapa zoma

Hapa Zoma is the Japanese art of leaf bashing. It’s is a lovely way of making prints from leaves, flowers and berries by placing them between pieces of calico or cotton and bashing them with a hammer.

Collect various leaves and flowers from your garden or on your walk. Look for juicy looking ones, dried out leaves and flowers don’t work so well, so June is a great time to try this while everything is bright and vibrant.

Lay your finds out onto one side of your white cloth and fold the other side over to sandwich the objects inside. Using a hammer or stone, gently bash all over the cloth. You will quickly see the shape and colour from the flowers and leaves seep out onto your cloth. carry on bashing gently until you are happy with your creation.

Extension ideas

  1. Use watercolour paints to add extra colour to your image or to colour in the background.
  2. Add definition, shapes or words to your image using felt tip pens.
  3. Try making a butterfly hapa zoma and really explore the potential of mirror images created in hapa zoma. (See the third photo below for some examples)
Laying out flowers for hapa zoma. remember to lay them out on one side only of your cloth and fold the other side over to sandwich the objects inside.
Adding detail in felt tip pen and watercolour to your images.
Hapa zoma butterfly images, have a go at making your own.

Gardening activity- Salad crops

You may remember that last month I was planting seeds in loo roll tubes. The mixed lettuces worked really well and are growing strongly now. I thinned them out to one seedling per roll and have been growing them on in the greenhouse. They do dry out quickly when grown in this way, so need watering about everyday.

About 2 weeks ago, frosts were reliably over and the plants strong, so planted them out into the prepared garden beds. Planting is easy, as with peas last month, the whole loo roll tube gets popped into a hole and the lettuce seedling’s roots will push through the cardboard as it rots. My plants are ready for their first harvest anyday now.

I’ll keep on sowing more seeds every few weeks so that I have a good supply of lettuce to cut as we need it. Bags of lettuce are one of the most wasted foods and can be quite expensive. Packets of seed are cheap and lettuce is super easy to grow, so this is a good crop to try if you are transitioning to growing some of your own food.

Spicy lettuce seedlings started in loo roll tubes

Ideas for books to read

I have two books to recommend this month. Firstly a classic by Shirley Hughes The big Alfie out of doors storybook. This much loved compilation of stories and poems about Alfie and Annie Rose is one that I’ve read to all my groups and my own children over the years. This is a great book for the summer, you can follow Alfie’s adventures with imaginative play in his garden and his summer camping and beach trips. This is likely to provide lots of ideas for free-play prompts and games to play with own children.

Alfie out of doors storybook.

Secondly is a relatively new book, only published a few years ago. Nature words such as acorn, bramble and newt have disappeared from the Oxford children’s dictionary, prompting Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris to write and illustrate this beautiful book based on these Lost words. This is a truly beautiful book of moving poetry and gorgeous paintings. A copy was given to every library and school, so hopefully you can borrow a copy when libraries re-open. It is also available to buy.

The lost words

A Permaculture principle to reflect on for June- Creatively use and respond to change

‘Creatively use and respond to change’ This feels like a very relevant permaculture principle to be looking at during these times when our everyday lives feel so different to the norm and full of change.

The Permaculture association has this to say about this principle;

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

The butterfly is a positive symbol of transformative change in nature, from its previous life as a caterpillar. The proverb “vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” reminds us that understanding change is much more than a linear projection.

https://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/_12/

Our lives have changed so much over the past months, 2020 is not turning out at all as I’d planned. I am a big planner and I had the whole year mapped out with work prepped in advance, work events planned all year, holidays scheduled, festivals booked to work at, and all that has fallen flat on its face. Not being able to run my business has been really hard, both financially and emotionally.

I’ve had some hard times over these last few months, but I am finally feeling more positive and am now taking this time to rest and be with my family. I’m starting to consider the changes and tweaks I’d like to make to my business when we can start meeting in groups again. But I’m not rushing into any decision making or pushing myself to make plans until the time is right. I could easily have re-done my business plan ten times in as many weeks as the virus unfolded. But by waiting, I feel I’ve saved myself a lot of unnecessary work and heartache. I’m sorry that I’ve not been very active on social media but I’ve made a consious decision to step back and wait until the picture for the future is clearer.

How could you use this principle to help you in your life? Maybe consider the changes you need to consider or make in your life? Are you happy with your career, home, relationships, education, health and wellbeing? What changes do you need and want to make? Where could you be doing more, learning more, or being more effective? Where in your life do you need to stop pushing, move into acceptance and put more focus on self care?

Have a good June everyone, I hope you get to enjoy the good weather and time with your loved ones.