A few of my favourite things

I have been taking stock of the past and wanted to gather together a few  of my favourite images to summarise my costuming journey.It probably started making medieval fair costumes to wear at my daughters schools  fundraising stall at a medieval market

blue dress

But it was costumes I made for our wedding anniversary fancy dress party  and dresses I had made for a planned (though never achieved) trip to Carnevale in Venice

polonaise gown



Originally the idea had been to make and sell costumes and we took a wide range of photos of an assortment of gowns and accessories.In order to have the outfits to photograph I had to make a huge range of outfits ,none of which could of course be sold as they had been used to take the photos ,so the need to use the same fabric and bodices over and over again remade into different styles was the inspiration for the cheats guides.

This 18thc gown


became this bustle dress

back heb

We used as many different locations as possible because each outfit had a themed shoot  and we tried to use mostly  magic hour for the photos.I also tried to avoid being photographed full face

webshot purple victorian dress SHAWL

I usually wore either a big hat,a veiled hat or a mask

back mask

So a brief gallery of my favourite images

victorian chemise

Taken Holy Island Anglesy to illustrate the nightdress page of the costume website ,it was taken  in January during morning magic hour ,,the sea was really ,really cold!

The photo below was not part of the website shoot ,it was taken after our second show booking ,we went up to Penistone to get photos and I lost my balance and ended up slipping down the hill  ,John got photos of me skittering forward trying to stay upright


Another photo shoot out take,I was trying to decide if jumping onto the stone below for a photo was feasible

blue dress b,oomers

Photos taken in Halifaxs people park are my favourite 18thc photo shoot images


rose sacqe back

sacq back back

The Scarborough “Agnes Grey” shoot  ,The photos below are two of my favourite costume shots ,while the two “off the record” photos of me and becky remind me how much fun we had during most of the shoots

1830s dress scarbough

me scarb

me becks sea

scarb me becks

I love the shot below because the outfit was one of my favourites,the view is beautiful and you cant see my face

back kath


Whitby the first goth weekend we attended

baskc wgw

I really like this ,its me and john took the photo but I did the edite


Another of my edites


whitby greyscale

One of our first ever photos ,this is a friend Leah posing as Ophelia

leah river med gown


Another favourite from a photo shoot,though this was a more public shoot  with some local papers for the tour de France ,its two brave friends on the bikes while the snow clearing JCB is slowing down to get a look .

bronte bikes

My first Etsy gown shot

me snow white dress

We seemed to do a lot of snow photo shoots,I guess because January /Feb was my quiet time for speaking bookings and it was when I made new costumes and sold off old ones so I needed photos for both,


I love the one below because it captured what happened dozens of times on shoots in the snow ,for all the serene and pretty shots there was usually a lot of slipping and sliding around to get photos from a good viewpoint ,,,the photo above I was not entirely sure there was solid  ground under the snow

medieval gown snow

me snow


just a random few to end with from our favourite locations

St Ives

bluebells woods

midsummer night

st ives green drwes


red dms dress


The Moors

purple taffeta tudor gown

polonaise gown

moor top2

Bingley market cross

bingley lynn

The Coast

back villet

me laura whitby


And Haworth





1830s bronte gown







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The city garden Spring ,gardening on a budget

This is the first full year  I have had to plan and plant the garden and the new plantings and wildlife friendly features such as frog niches and new trees will have  a chance to take effect .I am also starting to see the aesthetic results of much of my plantings ,last year I sacrificed flowers and height to prune shrubs and hedges into a bushy shape and cut back some to allow others space to fill in gaps .This has made the dividing hedges and back wildlife  patch much bushier  and deeper with many more birds using both.

bacl artbour spring.png

I  lost a huge number of plants to slugs and snails which has meant I had to adjust my planting schemes to plants less attractive to slugs .I also added a lot more trees this year which should fill out in the next few weeks and improve the views and privacy.

back woodland garden towards house.png

I have spent overall very little to make the changes and mostly using cheap budget options so I thought reviewing the usually frowned on plastic planters, supermarket and bargain store plants and trees would be useful but first a quick garden update.

We have no longer got the wide range of winter visitors to the bird feeders the siskins have left for their summer feeding grounds and all the continental blackbirds left for home ,though we have two pairs which visit the front and back gardens  and the bullfinches may also have left ,though they usually visited the feeders at dawn ,which has the days lengthen I no longer see.We still had the goldfinches and they have increased to a small flock from just a pair ,the greenfiches  occasionally visit ,the gold crests are nesting and the assorted sparrows ,robins blue tits ,coal tits ,great tits etc all still visit while the woodpecker visits with its new mate.

The hedgehogs have all woken from hibernation.and for the first time we are seeing frogs in both the back and front garden.


unfortunately thus far they have only appeared at night so I am using a photo from wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_frog photo credit

Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak Image:MFB.jpgOwn work

The foxes have cubs this year and are just starting to let them stray out of the den and romp about in the back small patch of woodland behind out house.

The woodpecker has acquired a mate and the goldfinches are still regular visitors in much greater numbers than last year,all the bird clearly enjoy the new trees and shrubs hoping from one to the other our back hedge is usually full of sparrows and the gold crest is still in the conifer .

Bees are starting to appear as are the first butterflies ,the first to appear was a peacock butterfly several weeks back ,then the small whites and most recently the speckled wood butterfly

speckeld wood

Photo mine though from our last house as thus far this year I havent managed a photo of any butterflies.As far as garden design goes ,we were lucky enough to have the large shed taken down ,this has left a fairly decent sized flat patch at the top of the garden which I am planning to use for a hidden patio ,though it’s currently rather bedraggled looking .

top patioo from wodoland garden.png

I also planted  up a new hedge and made a curved bed which will eventually be a birch arbour,though it’s looking pretty grotty at present ,the back “soil” is odd ,I think its made of a several year old pile neat grass clipping and ideally I would have dug it all out but the elder tree and roses from the back field are growing into it and the ground is several feet higher at the back than in our garden so I scooped out as much as possible added decent soil and compost to a narrow little bed for indestructable plants such as the pink gernium and some periwinkle and put gravel and stones on the base I will add a plain planks bench and train the two sapling birches to make a curved arch which will cover it without growing anything into the dodgy dry mess at the back ,once I have some free chas I will add further layers of stone to cover the “soil”

future birch arbour.png

Our front garden is finally starting to fill out

front garden front wall spring.png

For more or less all these changes I have had to compromise and do things which I know are far from ideal.

For several reasons ,one probably common to most gardeners lack of spare money and for other reasons ,several of which are likely to be shared by some of my readers;

Lack of any transport other than public transport ,lack of  close by ,reasonably priced garden centres ,most importantly I don’t own either the house or its garden,though I plan to stay some time,I am conscious that anything spent on plantings is money that wont be retrieved and which I may never see the results of and as a rented property whatever is left behind must not need regular maintenance but still provide food and shelter for as much wildlife as possible.

Any changes that the landlord doesn’t like or which will be high maintenance must be easily removed by us when we leave ,hence flower beds in the front garden need to be removable so they are built over the top of a thick plastic membrane and could be scooped up and placed in planters then the spaces filled with gravel.Likewise back shrubs or trees need to be removable  and beds easily grassed over where needed.In the front this meant working with mostly gravel ,slate and tiny beds

front garden front wall spring

Lastly despite plans to stay  its possible that I wont see the results of any plantings even from winter to spring so even when we do have funds major spending has to be restricted to plants for pots .

Making  a flower or veg bed

In an ideal world this involves lots of hard work to create nice deep rich fairly wide beds lots of digging especially ,plus improving and enriching your soil, in our easy to remove front garden this is impossible.Even had we owned the house the front garden would be a problem ,its crisscrossed by assorted pipes are very close to the surface ,while the main water pipe runs along the top,deep digging ,beds that cover the pipes heavy paving slabs or anything too big ,anything deep rooting or permanent fixtures are all out .When we arrived it was just gravel.I figoured anything was better than nothing .

front garden


I got permission to make some narrow flower beds as long as they could be undone completely if needed .The new beds are certainly an improvement but follow none of the rules

front garden front wall spring

The beds are almost grow bags shallow plastic bottomed and narrow,they were made using some soil added with compost and bone meal ,fish and blood meal and coffee grinds which seems to produce quite good results but does mean that most plants cant put down deep roots and they need a lot of watering as theres only 18 inches of soil at most and in some parts less than a foot ,theres are some shrubs and roses that hug the hedge and will be allowed to stay and for which I cut holes into the plastic membrane but everything else had to rest in this shallow soil .The front side garden above  was created and planted up for less than £1oo which includes the slate chips compost and planter ,I used barerooted shrubs and bulbs and plants from bargain stores and took cuttings from the hydrangea ,fuchsia and flowering currant to use in other parts of the garden ,while using pink geraniums from the back for the front .The gardens now a regular spot for blackbirds ,gold finches sparrows ,hedgehogs and frogs ,its also the only part of the garden we havent restricted the foxes from .

Cheap bulbs and plants in bags

Most of my garden plants and bulbs and some shrubs are from discount stores or supermarkets often from their reduced corners.This is without doubt the less politically correct way to buy your garden bulbs plants and shrubs .All the books and gardening magazines ,gardening shows and radio programs advise against it and admitting to buying plants from poundland is probably akin to admitting you buy porn on the scale of moral decadance.I love to shop at a family owned garden centre with a huge range of excellent plants which are also very reasonably priced ,but its an hours drive when we don’t own a car ,its half a day and a hugely expensive trip  on public transport involving three trains and it would be impossible to bring home anything large and despite its very reasonable prices I could never afford to fill the new beds from it.

What we do have walking distance away are supermarkets and bargain  stores  which by contrast let me fill a new flower bed with 4 seasons of plantings  for under £10 Eg the front garden beds wich iincludes queen of the night tulips ,hyacinths ,dwarf and large  daffodiles  scented narcissus ,some dutch  iris ,gladioli and crocosimia plus 2 hostas and two hardy fuchsias  these were all not just from a bargain store but most came from its clearance section .I have rarely had bad results from bargain store bulbs usually most come up and look just as good as those I buy from garden centres .I bought snowdrops for the back  and side gardens for 5o p and didn’t really expect any to grow as snowdrops can be picky even when bought in the green but 3/4 came up and looked brilliant while the bargain tulips from our front drive side bed have come up twice looking great both times .The exceptions were some lily of the valley which never appeared and some Nerine bowendi which also never appeared ,,though it possible in both cases they were eaten buy snails or slugs before I noticed them as both were under shrubs in quite parts of the garden and often plants only get a couple of days before they are munched (I had a crown imperial fritillary in the Front garden which had put up a decent sized shoot before I checked one morning and it had been all but destroyed with just a tiny chewed up stump remaining )

The bagged up barefooted plants are more of a gamble with around 1/3 not doing anything or looking sorry for themselves .I had no coneflower or poppy come up and only one of the three phlox and lupins .However unlike potted plants they are easy to carry back from even the most distant store and very cheap from £30 of bagged bargain store plants I did get a clump of lupins healthy as any bought potted ones ,a very perky clump of phlox ,a green hosta which despite poor soil ,slug attacks and deep shade does fairly well 3 variegated  hostas which are forming decent sized clumps already in the woodland bed  and 7 peonies  all except one which gets dog trampled fairly often are doing well ,though none of which have flowered yet  as most peonies don’t like being moved its not unlikely that any potted peonies would have flowered in their first year .And some spiky purple plants the name of which escapes me .I have bought several bare rooted barins store roses ,all but one are doing very well and look no different to potted ones ,though they did need some cosseting ,In our last house one poundland Zerpherine Dourhin rose lasted 17 years and spread the whole length of our back fence which was in deep shade.The store bought pair £4 bargin corner apples are meanwhile doing fine though thy are are rather odd shape as I am training them as espalliers that doesnt really matter .

I tend to see all the bagged up store plants as the plant equivilent of battery hens ,they  have been abused ,are likely to be in poor condition and it make take time to get the same results you would get straight away from potted up garden centre plants.

Planters and the joys of plastic

As for bagged supermarket plants buying plastic planters seems to be frowned on from what amounts to pure snobbery.I buy a lot and they are great .I would like to have a collection of spansih and potruges pots ,hand thrown terractotta plant pots ,huge leaded planters ,half barrels,but then I would also love a Stoves gas range,a bean to cup coffee machine and an antique oak  kitchen dresser but I am not getting any of those any time soon so just as I put up with my electric cooker and use a caffetier instead of de longi coffee machine I look for the best planters in my price range and theres a lot to choose from many of which look as good as metal ,terracotta or stone for a tiny fraction of the cost .





Plastic fake terracotta pots are cheaper ,easier to move and need less watering ,I was very lukcy to find a number of hand thrown terracotta plant pots which look brilliant but do without a shadow of a doubt need more watering than my plastic ones and I have laready had losses ,while the dogs,squiresl and birds  can knock over a plastic pot with just some spilled soil ,the small terractotta ones often get cracked or broken .I am increasing my stock of terracotta plant pots because my main seedling area is at the front of the house so I wanted something more attractive but its at the cost of both more money and more time spent watering.

Plastic lead style and metal planters are even better much much cheaper ,much lighter and without the assorted problems of having plants baked by metal heated in the hot summer sun ,or frozen by chilled metal in winter.

I recently also found some amazing very cheap fake cast iron wall baskets and hanging baskets ,needing less heavy and intrusive wall mountings and again avoiding the metal heating up and drying out the compost problem.

Most useful of all are the cheap poundland or bargin stores planters in fake ceramic or terracotta or in assorted colours ,I use green ones which are easy to hide in grass or foliage to create changing plantings and buy the huge plastic ones for vegetables ,trees and the more slug vulnerable plants ,while the terracotta ones I mix with genuine terracotta planters.Probably my favourites where some shiny black deco style ones which I used ast our old house to make a patio on our garage roof

iona garage

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How to kill with Kindness

I very quick post on organic gardening plant food.

I was really thrilled to receive some nettles from an organic garden to use to make nettle plant food,after  a while festering soaked in water ,I diluted them to make feed for my seedlings and the shrubs I had planted in winter,all seemed well and I have to admit to feeling very pleased with myself,I had made organic ,environmentally  friendly plant food for all my little plants,,that night a few looked a bit unhappy ,but I figured I must have damaged them carrying them in and out of the garden or by using the watering can rather than the little seed watering can,the next day the rest seemed fine I water a few that were dry and put them outside,suddenly late afternoon a few more had started to wilt ,figured they needed watering so gave them a drink ,came back from walking the dogs and started to bring the plants in for the night (still hardening them off )plant after plant was clearly dying ,,wilted leaves ,stems flopped over sideways ,I had already lost around 30/40 plants,I got help from a more experienced gardener who recognised the effects of weedkiller ,I  never use weed killers,I was assuming I had over watered or under watered or killed them off not using the seed watering can  or put them in too much sun .

we hosed them down for ages and then brought them inside ,most looked pretty sodden and miserable but the next morning around two thirds had perked up ,I had lost another third and I lost around another dozen during that day and half a dozen today ,but the rest seem fine.

I have dug up and moved the plants that got the biggest dose of the killer plant food and all the shrubs seem fine .

What seems to have happened is that the field  next to the organic garden was sprayed with weed killer of some kind which either via the soil or leaves has seeped into the nettles ,not in big enough quantities to kill them but certainly enough that once concentrated in the syrupy nettle “tea ” was enough to kill small plants  .

I just wanted to share my experience so that other gardeners can learn from my mistake,also as its clearly not in large enough concentrations to have any effect on big plants ,I thought despite the heartbreak its just as well I lost the seedlings as otherwise I would have been pouring contaminated feed onto the garden all summer.

I will also think twice about growing vegetable crops against dividing hedges or fences in any future gardens that we live in




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Plants that kill ,what not to plant in your garden

I recently bought some seeds of an amazing looking plant VERATRUM CALIFORNICUM,it had interesting leaves and seemed a great cottage garden plant however when I looked up its cultivation I was absolutely horrified ,its not only extremely toxic to humans and animals ,so much so that even breathing the pollen can cause serious problems ,its also deadly to Bees and other insects .




(this is quite a useful database but some entries are a little bit over cautious ,in this case it is pretty accurate).

I therefore thought a short list of plants toxic to wildlife  ,pets and humans  or plants likely to cause problems in other ways such as skin blistering ,would be handy .It would be more or less impossible to grow nothing toxic in your garden and most “poisonous ” plants are pretty hard to hurt yourself with so I haven’t included  the traditional ones such as foxgloves which would require a fair bit of carelessness to cause harm to humans and are excellent bee plants .I also havent included plants so rare as to be unlikely to cause problems ,only  commonly grown plants that are a major problem for bees ,butterflies and other animals or an easily caused health  risk that has frequent cases eg plants that cause similar problems to stinging nettles.


Rhododendrons and Azaleas  ,almost all  the common species are toxic to many bee species and all rhododendrons can cause Honey to be mildly toxic to humans.Native Irish  honey bees die within hours of visiting bushes  it also kills miner bees.Most bumble bee species seem to be safe from death but may be having other problems that are not as easily observed .Where bee species are not poisoned the honey produced from too much foraging on Rhodendrons can cause problems to the hive or humans .Their leaves can also cause poisoning to pets and livestock who might ingest them ,but mostly they are included in the list because they are widely grown ,popular in garden centres and because of their catastrophic effect on Bees.

Lupins ,cause problems for bees that are still being researched ,they seem to cause a reduction in the birth rate and also cause few malkes to be produced ,a few garden lupins are probably not going to cause problems but growing  them as green manures and allowing them to flower may be a problem .


Daphne ,all Daphne plants are extremely poisonous to humans and animals  and many also contain skin irritants ,they are all brilliant bee plants and most have beautiful scents,I use them to the back of flower beds where their berries or contact with leaves or sap  wont be a hazard  

Oleander toxic to animals  and humans but also to  butterflies and bees ,usually causing complete hive death.

All  true lilies and almost anything with lily in its name are potential poison hazards , day lilies ,turks cap lilies are a major hazard  to pets just tiny amounts of Lily can harm animals and  it takes very little to cause death especially  for small dogs and cats,Lily of the Valley is poisonous to humans and pets, Its probably good to avoid low growing lilies if you have pets or have cats or other similar sized animals coming into your garden.Some lilies are also useless bee plants as they have been bred to be pollen free to avoid the problems associated with staining fro, lily pollen.Plants with Lily in their name,these are almost always poisonous,Lily of the valley ,Nile lilies etc ,but you tend to have to eat quite a bit to cause human poisoning but if you have small children or pets growing them somewhere hard to reach is probably safest ,I grow lily of the valley in a high  narrow flower bed set into a wall

Anything with Hellebore in its name is likely to be toxic and several are skin irritants but likewise many make excellent bee plants ,I grow Hellebores in wall set beds and leave them alone ,Monkshood a really beautiful tall plant is an excellent bee plant but also extremely poisonous ,one of the few garden plants to have fairly regular reports of death attached to it ,though few are from accidental eating of parts of the plant,,all parts are toxic ,many  cases are deliberate poisoning .

Aconites ,,again anything with aconite in its name is likely to be toxic and a skin irritant ,another group of plants with regular reported cases of poisoning .

Angles trumpets can cause brood death in bees .

Amaryllis ,toxic to bees and pets, also a skin irritant.

Plants that cause skin problems

Almost every plant can cause a problem for some one or other but there are a few which are a likely to cause problems to most people and these are the only ones included below


Rue,I love Rue ,its got pretty leaves and is a good bee plant ,but it has an unfortunate downside,it produces a fairly nasty  skin irritant ,contact with the plant will cause a reaction with sunlight causing at the very least itchiness but also blisters.

Giant Hogweed

deep painful and long lasting blisters and sensitivity to sunlight ,this is a very common reaction to even tiny amounts of sap



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Devon butterflies ,a little shop of horrors

As my regular blog readers  know I have been making my city garden more wildlife friendly ,I had toyed with releasing butterfly larvae of the comma butterfly ,once common here but now absent .It was at this point my paths crossed with that of Devon butterflies.



They seemed reputable and I assumed wrongly they must have links to two more reputable and respected Devon butterfly organisations .I  first started to be concerned when I heard of how unpleasant they were to clients,answering even simple enquiries with sarcastic and abusive emails  ,that would have been enough to deter me  from buying from them but  after doing a little research worse was to come . I had not realised that there were such unethical ,cruel and ignorant people still running businesses.

The owner has clearly and enthusiastically   advocated killing song birds and protected species,by laying mouse traps or catching them and wringing their necks .He explained on his business site how best to do this using mousetraps.

dead blue tit

(photo is not related to the incident but is part of an excellent post advising against using the same traps were they can be a danger to birds http://earthfriendlygardener.net/2012/02/24/garden-bird-winter-peanut-caught-trapped-feeder-friendly-making-mousetrap-wildlife-killed/).

heres a few quotes from the companies site.

” if you have trouble with birds pecking holes into the sleeves usually blue tits or great tits,these birds must be killed or they will keep returning and teach their young the same practice ,just catch them and wring their necks ”


Robins ,wrens  and blackbirds which despite being some of our most beautiful songbirds  he called “pest species “They are in fact legally protected species but also far from being in any way pests they are  hugely beneficial to gardeners by eating pests  and their beautiful song brightens up even the most urban areas .He suggests laying mousetraps to kill Wrens


Blackbirds and robins



They company’s response when told that this was illegal was not an apology or even a retraction of the advice”


“A company spokesman said the information “should have been labelled a tip” rather than as advice.

Devon butterflies also tell  customers not to listen to conservation groups or local butterfly recording groups and to ignore the law

This site states

All species listed on this site are suitable for release into the wild to increase numbers and to introduce new genes into existing populations, except those not on the British List marked*. Take no notice of Butterfly Conservation and Moth recording groups who say this is wrong or against the law, which it is not.

Yet again and rather shockingly for someone who is in business breeding animals Devon butterflies are wrong

It is illegal to release into the wild any non uk native species or any species that is not a UK visitant ,the fine is  £1000 (or more) and possible prison sentence

( http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1377)

Its also incredibly cruel as the site sells several rare species who would ordinarily live specialised niche environments such as the rainforest and which will clearly die if released .

He calls the UK butterfly conservation organisations idiots and liars

Butterfly Conservation have just released a publication, The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 and the verdict again is more lies and propaganda from a bunch of idiots who don’t know what they are talking about.

Despite the evidence of every other organisation ,group or government body Devon butterflies claims that butterfly species are not declining.

“don’t know what they are talking about claiming most species are in decline when they are clearly not.

The truth is most species are increasing but they do not want to admit it.”

I was at a loss to understand why someone who makes a great deal of money from selling butterflies at least a third of which is to people who want to release them into the wild ,would want to claim that theres no need to help boost butterflies numbers,,but then it occurred to me that unless you have a huge breeding stock of all the British butterflies and can control when they are laying eggs ,turning into pupae ,emerging then you will need to “import” stock from the wild or at the very least provide outside areas which you can persuade wild butterflies to lay eggs in so you can then harvest those eggs

Again from the devon butterflies sites guidelines to buyers .

“The following species are protected from sale, this means you cannot capture a wild specimen to sell alive or dead but you can legally capture it for yourself as a set specimen or to breed from. Any resulting specimens or livestock from breeding is then classed as Captive Bred

Adonis Blue, Black Hairstreak, Brown Hairstreak, Chalkhill Blue, Duke of Burgundy, Glanville Fritillary, Large Heath,  Lulworth Skipper, Mountain Ringlet, Northern Brown Argus, Purple Emperor, Silver Studded Blue, Small Blue, White Letter Hairstreak, Wood White, Chequered Skipper, Pearl Bordered Fritillary and Silver Spotted Skipper. The Large Tortoiseshell is extinct and cannot be added to this list.

By coincidence Devon butterflies sells several of these species and judging by his diatribe against butterfly conservationists  it seems at least possible that there has been to have a disagreement about collecting eggs or capturing wild butterflies,,

Again from the Devon butterflies site

“Have you ever read such a load of rubbish and bullshit as stated by Dr.Martin Warren of Butterfly Conservation.

His Statement is below and is the words of a total prat who knows nothing at all.

Collection and release weakens wild populations. Collecting eggs, larvae and adults from the wild may reduce natural populations. Captive-bred stock lacks genetic diversity and is weakened through adaptation to an indoor environment. Release of captive-bred stock can introduce disease and may reduce the vigour of natural populations.

The above statement is just a load of bullshit issued by a parasitic charity consisting of a bunch of know nothing scumbags.

 Lets all release more and more butterflies and moths and to hell with the Butterfly Conservation idiots.”


I now deeply regret considering releasing butterflies as despite providing the correct food stuffs and despite the area having previously had colonies and other colonies existing close by  ,it clear that this supplier has no regard for wildlife or for any animals so I cant imagine that he is kind to his own stock and I cant escape the impression that buying butterflies from Devon butterflies will be “robbing Peter to pay Paul ”  and Yorkshires gain would be Devons loss . I do not want to fund directly or indirectly  the capture of wild butterflies or the depletion of local numbers because butterflies are trapped or eggs are collected to sell to me .

Likewise neither could I bare the thought  that I had given money to someone who can cheerfully advocate trapping wrens in mousetraps or wringing blackbirds ,robins and blue tits necks  .

The Devon butterflies site claims that  they supply  schools, universities and re introduction programs ,assuming that this is indeed true perhaps blog readers who are involved in any of these organisations would  spread the word and  find other more reputable suppliers .


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The cheats guide to making a high waisted Medieval gown .

This is the simplest complete gown to make.It also uses less fabric than the lower waisted dresses and even less if you make a narrow sleeved version.

henins front tippet

You will need

some fabric ,old curtains or bought fabric

(I will mention the fabric choices futher down the post)

A bodice /top

Something boned ,one that might have been used  for clubbing ,evening ,prom,it doesnt matter if its long as  the bodice will be cut off to the correct size,the fabric is not  important ,though its less messy and easier to sew  if you avoid pvc /fake leather ones.If your going to wash the dress then using pale colours is probably safest so the bodice colours dont run into the dress

wit and wisdom denim bodice

Some lacing cord ,cord or ribbon

this is to fasten the dress with ,as the bodice is not very long you wont need very much maybe two metres ,you can use ribbon but its not very effective and can be impossible to untie.Gold braid or cord looks excellent if your using a front lacing style if not then try to get as close a match to the dress fabric as possible

Something to make holes in fabric with

,,a bradel,kebab skewer  etc

cellotape or masking tape ,,only a tiny piece

a needle and cotton


a fake or real fur collar,,a modern fur scarf works well

white queen gown

a belt  any sturdy leather belt works  as below or a piece of trim fastened with a safety pin

blue dress

Fabric notes

Old curtains will work well and mean you dont need to bother hemming your gown or you can buy fabric in which case you will need between 4 and 6 metres depending on the fabric width and your height.To decide on how much fabric or the curtain length you need hold fabric below your bust and then work out how long it will need to be to touch the floor in the shoes you will have one.If your going to make a wide sleeved gown you will need up to two metres extra fabric depending on how wide you want the sleeves.

bluebells woods

Fabrics to choose

This is the most important part of the costume making ,many entirely accurately made  gowns look bad because the wrong fabrics been chosen.

The fabric needs to be non shiny and though synthetic fabrics are great as they dont crease and are usually washable ,the fabric shouldnt look too modern.modern. Crushed velvet,crinkle taffeta ,satin,anything printed and any design thats floral  or striped even damask or brocade.Brocade is a nice fabric if your buying fabric as it looks luxurious but inst as expensive as velvet ,it can be bought for around £6 or even less a  per metre if you buy off ebay from china .

brocade gown alone

Best choices are velvet ,Taffetta(which gives a good alternative to modern rather lightweight silks  )I dont have a taffeta medieval gown but I didn make a taffeta  tudor gown and a high waisted regency gown and the fabric looked quite good

golden gown cross


regency golden gown

You can also use damask ,brocade or wool,you might find other fabrics fake linen or jacquard fabrics .The  main thing is for the fabric needs to hang nicely ,floaty fabric wont hang properly.For a handy guide I have added some photos of medieval women ,if the fabric you find drapes like their gowns it will be fine.




cleves amberger portrait

medieval women head dresses


There is only one colour which its best to avoid at all costs which is yellow ,during both the middle ages and Renaissance yellow was the colour outcasts were made to wear,those that society marginalised such as lepers ,those who were socially outsiders   Jews and Muslims and those it condemned such as prostitutes, Brown is best avoided as is grey  as these tended to the the colours worn by peasants and the lower classes They are also hard colours to match to head dresses or to trim with fur as the fur wont contrast properly .Purple was a colour which was reserved for royalty and gold or silver for the upper aristocracy but this might not be an issue at most events .A  gold  medieval gown from the middle ages actually exists  at Uppsalla cathedral so we know of at least one gold fabric which is authentic.


The dress if from the 1400 and gold fabric does look amazing.

queen margreat golden gown 1400


As can be seen in the paintings theres quite a range of colours ,By far the most popular for almost all classes seems to be blues,reds and greens and these all work well with most shades of fur .Quite bright colours were worn but as bright blue isnt a colour most people associate with the middle ages its probably best to avoid it and use deeper shades.I personally like to use red and gold damasks as these wash ,dont need ironing and dont show marks .If your buying new fabric faux silk damask is a really good choice as thought its quite light ,its looks a much heavier luxurious fabric once its been worn.


Velvet is also excellent if you can find vintage curtains .Both the gowns below used old velvet curtains

leah blue gown

blue dress

Unfortunately  buying new velvet is very expensive ,the fabric is usually narrower than other fabrics such as damask or taffeta so you need much more , using fake velvet/velour  isnt very effective for these styles of gown  as its too shiny and hangs more loosely ,it does make a good fabric for low waisted medieval gowns)

med black gown

.Taffeta is a  much cheaper choice if you have to buy fabric  but it needs to be a crisp dress taffeta not  lining fabric.Taffeta wont work if you want to me a wide sleeves gown as the sleeves wont be stiff enough

brown borgia gown

I am sorry I am no longer able to sew so I dont have photos of  one dress being made from start to finish but the photos used are from past garments


One chop off the bodice to the right length ,it should rest at about the same height as your bra bottom ,or slightly  lower if you are quite a large cup size.Luckily this is a v shaped bodice which is an ideal shape for medieval gowns .

spencer 1

Decide if your dress is going to be front or back lacing ,front lacing is much easier to get in and out of but does mean you have to sew the back opening of your bought bodice together and cut a line down the front instead.If you do this, try the bodice on before covering it to make sure the back isnt too narrow,if it is un tack it add a narrow strip of fabric and sew it back together

Cover the bodice by taking fabric onto it ,decide if your dress will be front or back lacing then add the first panel to the centre of the bodice front and tack each extra panel onto these.

spencer guide 2

Stitch the edges down over the top and bodice bottoms,dont worry if it looks untidy ,only you will see this part of the dress.

spencer neck13

add the next panels by placing them good side to good side on top of your first panel  with a decent amount of overlap so that  if part of this seam comes undone you will only see the same fabric so it wont be as noticeable. sew the wrong sides together to the bodice ,flip it

spencer 12

and do the next piece carry on until you reach the edges of either the  front or back of your bodice

spncer body done

.Make the sleeves.

For narrow sleeves

Cut two long rectangles of fabric wide enough to go around your arm at the top with a little spare and long enough to entirely cover your hands.

Stitch one into a tube and put it on your arm pull it up until it meets the bodice arm hole  and check the length of the sleeve ,if its ok then you can work on narrowing the arm to fit snugly ,if not chop off more of the sleeves length,,if you decide to have pointed cuffs bare this in mind when cutting the sleeve to length.

Shape your sleeve by pulling the fabric tube snug against your arm ,,starting at the top pinch the fabric together ,keep hold of it pull the tube off and tack the sleeve to the pinched in width ,put the sleeve back on and do this with your elbow and then your lower arm.

Dont cut the fabric ,turn the sleeve inside put if it fits ok then turn it back the right side and cut it where the tack lines are ,turn it inside out and sew it together.use this sleeve to cut your second sleeve to shape ,,leave a little spare fabric  width  even when cutting this sleeve just in case you make a mistake.

Sew both sleeves onto the bodice.

Wide sleeves

drape the fabric around your wrist and arm  tuck it into either the dress bodice ir your bra strap to work out how long it needs to be and then decide how wide you want the cuff snip a small nick in the fabric to mark the width you need to cut.

If you have enough fabric its safest if you cut two rectangles  of the right length and width utilising  the curtain hem for your cuff hem if your using curtains.To work out the sleeves shape drape one cut rectangle on your arm and pinch it together under your arms ,cut the under arm piece  and tack it to make the right size for attaching the sleeve to the bodice.

The remaining step depends on what shape you want the sleeve ,you can leave it very wide down its entire length  ,these would look like a houpland


You might find it more comfortable though to make the top part of the arm slightly more fitted than is strictly accurate as it makes the sleeves less awkward and also much less draughty if your outside.

These wide sleeves need lining to look their best but you can get around this by sewing fur around their ends or a trim around the ends .

bluebells woods



Make the skirt.

This is the easiest part especially if you bought curtains as they wont need to be hemmed .

hold the fabric or curtains against you and leaving a few inches spare cut them to the length you need for the skirt to meet the floor,wear the shoes you will be wearing for your event so you can get this as close as possible,if in doubt err towards the too long ,medieval gowns tended to be slightly longer than floor length ,but they were never short enough to show ankles.Though in the late middle ages narrow skirted gowns were briefly popular most medieval gowns ,most of the time had generous skirts,even the pale blue velvet one I made while it seems narrower skirted had quite full ones.

bleu velvet gown seated

To make the skirt ,sew  the fabric into a tube leavings a small gap about as big as that a modern zip would need ,,you wont need a zip but this hole is to allow the dress over your head.

pleat the fabric until its the right size to stitch onto the bottom of the bodice,make the front pleats slightly less full than the sides and if its back lacing add  deep ones at either side of  the back where the bodice laces to cover the  gap in the skirt.If the dress is front lacing then pleat the front so the gaps covered  ,its not as big a problem at the front as more if it will be covered by the fur collar and belt.

Stitch the skirt to the bodice ,you can make a waistband for the skirt first by sewing it onto a ribbon but as the waistline of this dress is quite high its better to use as little as possible at the bodice bottom to avoid bulk that might dig in when the gowns laced up.

Now make holes for the lacing cord ,use the pointy object ,bradel etc ,to thread the cord in cellotape the ends flush so they dont fray as you try to thread them into the holes.Thread the cord in so it makes a herringbone design not the x shape normally seen on modern dresses as not only is the x shape inaccurate it also doesnt close as neatly or lace up as easily.

Keep a panel of the fabric to put under the lacing cord make it long enough to go under the gap left in the skirt ,if its going at the back tack this on at the front you could just place it under the dress and lace the dress over it.For front lacing gowns you could also use a contrasting colour ,this is seen in a lot of medieval paintings and is probably another dress thats under the top gown.You could try getting the same effect by adding a contrasting panel to the centre of a front lacing gown but its much harder to get right.

red gown

This will give you a dress like this

medieval gown 3


Make or buy a fur collar

you can use a modern bought fur scarf which gives a good shape  but might not be long enough to go all the way around in which case cut it in half and sew each half to the gown at shoulder level.

You could use a collar cut from a vintage or modern fake fur coat or jacket if you use a coat you could also cut off the cuffs from the coat to put on your gown.

white queen gown

and use yet more of the fur to make a muff using a spare piece of the dress fabric

tudor muff

If you have neither you can buy a new or second hand fur hat cut the brim off cut the top into strips of a matching length and sew them together to make a collar ,this was how I made the original pale blue gowns collar,though it doesnt look as effective its much nice than having no collar.

blue med gown

If you have not stitched the collar to the gown then add loops or a piece of ribbon or cord to each end of the collar so you can pin it on using these or thread them under a belt.


to put the finishing touch to the outfit its good to have a belt ,a modern leather one is authentic and pulls the gown in nicely while giving something to attach the collar to  ,but you could use a length of jewelled trim ,a length of thick peals,braid or very wide cord.


A head dress usually the head dress worn is a Henin


I will give instructions on making these in another post and add a link shortly.


gloves front

You can make an impressive pair of fake medieval gloves by using a pair of modern leather ,suede or fake leather gloves ,sew a piece of rich looking fabric or trim or fur to the top and add some pearl or gold trim to the edges .

If you dont have trims you could add more or the fur taken from a scrafe or fake fur coat.

ermine gloves

Prayer book ,book of hours

purple book full

Find a small book ,it doesnt matter what the book is about as long as its hard backed ,though its often easy to find  old prayer books cheaply online or in charity or second hand book shops .

Use a piece of velvet ,silk or similar and cover it ,turning in the fabric inside the covers as though you were making a new dust jacket  but  with fabric and securing it using cotton and stitching it instead of using tape.

Then decorate it will something that looks lavish ,the book above I used braid on .The one below used dress trim around the edges and a modern cheap costume brooch in the centre

red prayer book

The one below used just a brooch bought from china for a few pence

prayer bok i


As mentioned above you could use any spare fake fur to make a muff ,I am not sure what medieval muffs looked like but a richly decorated one looks good and is almost essential if your going to be outside in winter

The one below used around a metre of gold braid stitched together for its centre

gold muff detailing

This used a small panel of embroidered silk.A piece of fabric this small could be taken from a cushion or bought as a sample

ivory and gold muff small det

To make any muff is very easy.

If your cutting off a fur coat sleeve its very easy ,just cut a long enough length so you can fold the ends in .tuck each end in until it meets the opposite end ,no sewing needed ,you now have a fur lined fur muff.

If your making one from scratch  then cut a long rectangle of the outer fabric sew it to make a tube ,cut a rectangle of the fake fur thats double the length of the outer fabric ,sew this into a tube push it inside the tube of our outer fabric and fold the fur back over the edges ,now sew the fur down .

or use two lengths of embroidered trim sewn together for your centre

blackwored white muff

Optional extras

You could make a cloak,I have instructions on how to make a cloak in my Victorian accessories cheats guide and its essential the same to make a medieval one .


or mantle style cloak

This is very easy its just a length of fabric or a curtain pleated to fit loosely across your shoulders then a wide band of fake fur added,if you use a curtain you can use the hem and curtain edges for the front edges of your cloak so theres very little sewing .If you have a fake fur coat cut a wide band of fur from its hem and sew this onto the top of the cloak.


l hope this has been useful ,if you prefer a different style of medieval gown I have instructions on making other styles.

An Italian style gown ,this is made in more or less the same way as this gown but with a longer bodice and tie on sleeves.

borgia med gown

It needs a chemise under it

ever after gown chemise

Or at least fake chemise sleeves sewn into the dress

under gown borgia

These gowns need more decoration to look authentic

white borgia gown

A very similar style is the over gown with and under gown

This is two dresses  made as for the high waisted gown and a chemise ,

leah and peter

Or a low waisted dress

leah river med gown

arwyn gown train


cloak and green eowyn gown

medieval gown snow



I will add a link to instructions on how to make these shortly but the instructions on making a Tudor gown can be used if the waistline is shaped differently and sleeves added.

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Cats ,garden birds best friend or worst enemy

As a cat owner and wildlife gardener ,I often see posts on birds sites about cats ,usually reviling them as killers and despoilers of our wild birds ,the decline of song birds ,house sparrows ,finches and virtually every english bird is blamed on them .There are calls for feral cat culls,calls to keep cats indoors at night ,make wearing collars compulsery.I would suggest that cats are often scapegoats and indeed possibly the gardeners and garden birders best friend .Cats are preditors with an inbred urge to hunt and there clearly are birds killed by cats but few compared to other sources and perhaps the very  few birds some cats kill should be seen as a sacrifice made to allow hundreds of thousands of other free use of the bird feeders aiding the survival  of species and individual birds  now dependent on garden feeders and ourselves rodent free homes because it makes no major difference to bird numbers.We have two cats and a huge number of birds visiting our feeders but never have any birds killed

green bird middle

We are merely using cats as the scapegoat for our own short falling .The main reason for the decline of British birds of all kinds is man ,,our farming practices ,our countryside management ,the motor car and as gardeners we probably kill many many more birds and indeed other wildlife such as the endangered hedgehog  by our widespread use of slug pellets,pest poisons and pesticides ,these are responsible on average for more wildlife deaths than all the cats in the country ,they kill song birds and hedgehogs ,yet are easily and cheaply bought ,to protect birds we ought to be campaigning for the withdrawal of slug pellets from UK sale .Likewise the use of antifreeze in fountains or spilling from cars kills not only cats but any wildlife that comes to your fountain or water feature to drink .Laying poison to control rats ,mice ,ants ,,all kills wildlife often horribly.

I have first hand experience of a cat cull ,in one area where we lived the local potato farmers decided one day to shoot all the farm and feral cats and kittens  (our kitten was probably collateral damage as it disappeared around that time).Within weeks they were over run with rats ,the rats caused huge damage and cost them a lot of money.

I also have over half a century experience of cat owning for as long as I can remember ,my grandparents owned cats ,my parents and now myself of all those cats only one ever caught birds which made up much less than one percent of his kills but all caught mice ,voles etc and many caught rats, moles and occasionally rabbits,the same would apply to friends and neighbours who owned cats .We have a local feral cat ,its kills are grey squirrels and pigeons and probably  rats and mice ,shrews and voles ,hes hangs around our garden a far bit and has never shown any interest in small birds .Feral cats need to hunt efficiently ,big prey is essential ,wasting time trying to climb trees to catch tiny amounts of protein is a luxury reserved for domestic cats .The major casualties of cat kills are almost certainly spring fledglings ,these kills would not be significantly  lessened by the removal of cats ,magpies ,jays and other carrion and birds of prey  and dogs will kill fledglings but other birds kill them both  in the nest and on the ground .These larger birds need to feed their chicks and small birds chicks are easy prey .

I also see not a few rare birds are killed by the motor car ,in Scotland  we regularly saw buzzards dead either in or by the road we once saw the horrendous  sight of bird of prey being tossed between cars on a busy road.I have seen more car killed birds ,usually birds of prey than I have seen birds killed by our cats .Until moving to our current house I saw plenty of hedgehogs ,all dead either in or at the side of the road crushed by cars .I also see the occasional dead badgers.

How cats help birds.

From observation I have come to the conclusion that cats overall help birds ,when our cats are in the garden ,pigeons stay away ,being ground feeders they wont risk being lunch .Likewise the grey squirrels who are also bird table and feeder thieves will usually stay away .

squirrel on feeder

,while during the day the bird feeders are still visited by all the small birds unhampered by pigeons and squirrels.

squirel nut

Our local feral cat has killed both a pigeon and a squirrel .

I quite like squirrels ,we live in an area that has never had and is never likely to have red squirrels and the greys provide some delightfully entertaining added wildlife .Grey squirrels another reviled pest dont make any significant difference to the number of birds visiting the garden or deter ground feeding birds.

bird bath top feeding space squirrel and blackbirds

but they do delay the small birds feeding time by hogging feeders.

squirrel stealinbg

which in winter can be a problem ,I do sometimes throw the cats out to give the birds some squirrel free feeding time .If your feeder isnt kept full I think that squirrels might easily empty a feeder before all the birds had a chance to feed ,we top our up regularly so its not an issue .The sole bird feeding problem from grey squirrels is their making off with apples and fat balls.

squirel fat ball

Cats also prevent vermin from stealing food and visiting the garden .At our last house both ourselves and our neighbours fed the birds ,our neighbours bird table was frequently emptied by a rat ,ours were left alone the rat  could be seen skirting the edge of our garden next to the fields but never came in ,our cats sat outside ,the birds fed the rat stayed away.

Rats not only steal bird food but will take fledglings ,they are very skilled climbers so I would imagine they could also quite easily empty a nest.More importantly when people see rats they reach for the rat poison ,rats do indeed die and are then scavenged by birds of prey and other wildlife ,rat poison kills more wildlife than cats .Though birds lives like any lives shouldnt be measured against each other ,the birds killed by rat poisons tend to be much rarer than the odd blue tit chick taken by a cat.


What do cats actually kill

Cats kill vermin if you feed birds ,food falls to the ground ,,it always does even feeders with trays  cause droppage .Ground feeding produces even more cereal or fat food on the ground.This will disappear in part or completely overnight ,what has eaten it? ,,occasionally hedgehogs will eat the fallen suet or fat from feeders but its pretty safe bet that it was rats or mice or both .If your feeding birds your almost certainly going to attract vermin ,the reason your not chasing them out of your house or seeing them in any large numbers is because your local cats will be out hunting and killing them.

The sole wildlife depletion I would concur is partly aided by cats is the small mammal population ,voles and shrews ,I was sad to see a couple of our cats bring shrews  back from time to time .Again though I would suggest more are killed by ourselves than by cats.

The evidence

People have always owned cats and in the past in many more numbers than they do at present ,I can remember when I was young it was much more common for people to have cats than not have them,farms have always had cats ,there have always been feral cats True numbers may have risen in the past few years but numbers had dropped significantly prior to that ,most people neuter their cats now ,in the past that wasnt the case and now there are more checks on their numbers and on the number out regularly ,many more cats are killed on roads than in the past ,many more cats are house cats and many more do have collars and bells and a lot more are kept in at night ,there’s also a lot more fat cats .

Yet bird numbers have declined ,I can remember in the cat infested days of my childhood house sparrow were so common as to almost be a pest,now they are a major concern ,song birds have declined in recent years ,.,but they declined most rapidly during the time there was a lull in cat numbers in the mid years of the last century ,,which coincided with our increased use of pesticides ,the building boom the changing or farming practices ,the loss of trees ,the increase in the use of slug pellets and pesticides in the garden.

Likewise the biggest declines are in areas were cats are not a significant influence ,pastureland,woodland,sea coasts .

The evidence from other endangered species

It’s telling that butterflies and bees are also almost universally declining ,cats cannot be claimed to be responsible ,none of our cats has ever caught a butterfly (in fact the only pet ever to catch one was our young spaniel ).We are responsible ,our paving over of gardens and lawns ,our use of pesticides in the garden and fertilisers,chopping down trees ,destroying hedges and our choice of showy sterile trees ,shrubs and flowers.Sterile flowers dont feed bees or butterflies and down feed birds.Blackbirds cant forage on decking or paved driveways.

Bird casualities are our fault.

The majority of cat kills are also our fault ,I used to feed birds before we got our bird hunting cat,I stoped ,the bird killing stopped .We once kept chickens ,at night we kept them safely locked away in a hen coop which we maintained carefuly ,they were never killed by foxes ,other people have had their hen coops raided and all their hens killed foxes dont do this from cruelty they would probably return to take and bury the killed hens for later food sources).However if our hens had been killed it would have been our fault ,the fox is doing what its been geneticaly programmed to do ,its killing because killing is how it survives,,we also kill to survive but the killings done for us far away so we dont tend to think about the slaughted animals we consume ,we also throw away almost as much meat as we eat ,yet we have no excuse.

If we are going to feed birds in opur garden then we need to take the trouble to keep them safe ,dont put bird tables near shrubs or trees ,dont ground feed if you have a lot of visiting cats ,dont place nest boxes where cats can get to them .We have a responsibilty to the birds we feed to keep them safe,,from  predators and from disease ,not keeping bird feeders clean can spread diseases that decimate whole populations of birds.

sick finch

Poor feeding such as giving white bread can cause tiny birds to die of hyperthermia in winter ,filled up by the nutritionally poor bread they don’t eat enough to survive the harsh winter weather ,or long-term feeding of white bread produces malnutrition such as angle wing.

Providing sunflower hearts ,fat blocks ,Nyger seed etc is a much better option.

finc and sparrow at feeder garden


Personal experience

Our cats ,only two of our cats has shown any interest in birds ,one would often climb trees after them but the birds didn’t seem to care as they had learned that she had no chance of catching them ,they would stay put on the ends of fragile little branches and fly away if she started out along them,,this usually resulted in her falling out of the tree .I see the odd local cat climbing trees after birds ,none has ever got anywhere close to catching one .Our one bird killing cat was a rescue cat ,he probably killed around half a dozen during his lifetime ,,enough for us to decide to bell him ,,the bell had no significant effect on his kill rate ,but one day I heard a horrible noise and found him dangling from a tree strangling ,luckily I managed to rescue him ,,but other cat  owners have lost cats in this manner ,we dont refuse to bell our pets from indifference but because we know that it can be a danger and also because it will often make no difference.He suddenly stopped hunting birds ,I stopped feeding them and as he got older I imagine was too difficult ,bird killing cats need to be young agile and fast ,most of our cat population is middle-aged or old ,a significant proportion is overweight or has no regular exercise or don’t go out or doesn’t have access to trees.

Some cats just dont care ,our large cat is actualy scared of the magpies

izzy magpie

Likewise we are encouraged to keep our cats in at night ,we usually let ours out as we have first a farm cat ,then two rescue cats all of which would start to tear the house apart if we tried to keep them in.We once had a cat go missing and tried very hard to keep our other cat in at night totally ineffectively ,she would sneak out or go mad trying to claw her way out .Our current cats are kittens from our last cat (we had numerous rescue cats but neither ourselves or neighbours were eligible for a rehomed cat as despite backing onto countryside we had the main road through the village at the front of the house so we allowed our cat to have one litter ,,all of which we rehomed or kept) and these kittens ,now cats have been raised to stay in at night yet one still does its utmost to escape .

Cat owners are almost all animal lovers ,they are high in the numbers of people feeding birds ,they are also high in the numbers of people who garden responsibly ,,admittedly most of these wont use slug pellets and are careful with other toxins such as antifreeze because they want to safeguard their pets ,but this also saves the lives of wildlife ,in addition our cats keep your homes for the most part free of vermin and so reduce the amount of rat poison used .Overall cats do much more harm than good ,we just see the photos of the little bird in the cat’s mouth and assume its the only killer of bird life ,yet the photo in that magazine or newspaper is probably responsible for more bird deaths ,the chopping down orf trees ,toxins released from printing ,the landfill contamination ,the animals killed by cars and lorries,,lorries are significant wildlife killers as most deaths occur in the early hours ,when there’s few regular motorists .Therefore rather than blaming cats we should ask ourselves what we have done in our gardens to help ,do we have decking ,paved gardens ,sterile shrubs ,in our sheds do we have things that can be a danger to birds and get rid of the creasot ,slug pellets, rat poison ,any poison and fertilizers and pesticides and stock up on good quality bird food and safe feeders.

bullfinch pair and siskins


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Crocus a £1.00 wildlife gem

Another short post on how to help wildlife cheaply ,quickly and easily.

The most underrated plant for wildlife is probably the crocus ,It can be bought as bulbs or as plants and is seen for sale everywhere ,supermarkets, bargin stores,pound stores ,markets ,garden centres and online.Most plants  or bags of bulbs cost around £1.00.They come in a variety of colours so theres is usualy something that will go with your planting scheme.



https://www.growveg.com/guides/four-fantastic-early-blooming-bulbs-for-permaculture-gardens/ photo credit

They can be planted in lawns and die away long before your going to be using the lawn regularly and spread quickly while not becoming a problem.

The first emerging butterflies and bees will find a pathc of crocus literarly  a lifesaver ,providing easy access food when there are very few other flowers open.

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Buckthron and Brimestones help save a species for £5 and in 5 mins

A very quick post for UK readers,I thought it would be nice to do a series of  occasional very short posts that focus on quick cheap fixes for biodiversity,its often easy to get the impression from organisations and the media that biodiversity needs large areas or big gardens but this is often not the case.Almost anyone can make a huge difference in at least one or two areas.The easiest is to help provide food or host plants for buterflies.


Todays post is about Buckthorn  the only larvael foodplant of Brimestone butterflies (seen above and below),which is a posh way of saying Buckthorns are  the only things their fussy caterpillars eat and so the only things were the yellow butterflies lay their eggs .


The good news is that Buckthorns are very cheap to buy  and easy to care for ,not overly fussy about soil or location and are easy to trim and keep under control ,the Alder Buckthron is quite spiny so a good burglar or animal deterant,the bad news is they are pretty boring shrubs and berries from the Common Buckthorn are mildly poisonous ,the effect of eating them can be best judged by the plants common name of purging Buckthorn .Berries and bark from Buckthorns can cause skin irritation.However if you dont randomly eat strange berries or garden without washing your hands then your probably safe.


photo by Paul Sterry


Information on Buckthorns can be found here



Buckthorns used to be quite common in hedgerows but have fallen out of popularity for mixed hedge plantings.They are not interesting enough to be good ornamental garden plants and as they need to be left un trimmed  to be of maxium benefit they are not really much use for neat hedges.They also must not be sprayed with pesticides ,fertilisers  etc or the caterpillars will be poisoned

.You will need to plant either an Alder Buckthorn or a common Buckthorn ,I made the mistake in my first year of wildlife gadening of buying the slightly more decorative Sea Buckthorn which is no use for Brimestones.

The really good news is that Brimestone butterfly females will fly upto 5 miles to lay eggs on a buckthorn so if you plant one and theres Brimestones anywhere in a 5 mile radius theres a good chance that they will find the bush and lay their eggs and that these butterflies in turn will lay eggs on it.They may not arrive the first year if you have a small bush or theres bushes closer by but its almost certain they will arrive at some point  ,its a very easy cheap fast way to re introduce this butterfly to your area .In addition by planting buckthorn you create a stopping off point ,,your doing the enviromental equivilent of paying it forward  as the butterflies hatching in your area would also travel 5 miles to find a Buckthorn so that anywhere 5 miles away from you with a Buckthorn shrub will also find Brimestones apppearing ,your create a wildlife corridor perhaps the only link between areas were there is a signifcant area of green space or woodland.



Butterflies hatching will need food so some simple flowers such as  primroses ,primulas ,daisys or pansys planted around its base would be useful  and also act as ground cover so you dont need to weed.,avoid modern polyanthus primulas as these may have little or  no bee or butterfly food .

primulas farden

If you were to plant winter flowering and summer flowering pansys you would have year round colour and valuable food for early butterflies and bees ,you can see butterflies in your garden from spring to late autumn. I saw my first butterfliee  a painted lady in very early March  and a bee a few days later .Double flowers or complicated ones such as the bedding gerniums or fruscias are no good as butterflies and bees cant find any food in their complicated petals.Best of all a buddliea planted in another pot or in your garden would provide the perfect food plant as it has a long flowering time and will attract other butterflies and bees too.

butterly one

,Budleias are also pretty cheap and very easy to grow from cuttings ,just chop of a couple of buddliea branches from a friends bush and stick them in the ground its a pretty safe bet at least one will grow.


Buckhorns can be bought online from the following places




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A short Easter Parable,

One night shortly after Jesus birth an angel appeared to Joseph and said” take Mary  and the child from this country for  there are people seeking your life.”Joseph at once arose and wo…

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