Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dens, fires, bird tables, hills and views

What is it about dens that kids love so much? There are expensive courses you can send your kids on to build dens. There are also training courses for Teachers and preschool workers to enable them to enable children to make dens. What is it all about? Just stick a bunch of kids in the woods and 'bobs your uncle' they will most likely go and make a den. Or maybe that's just my kids...

But you have to admit, this is a pretty good den, made by my kids and their friends this week. It was very nearly sabotaged by Jack the dog and his best mate, a large lurcher-type who decided to that running over the roof might be an interesting thing to do. Dogs have a strange concept of 'interesting'.

So what else have we been doing this past week? Well, true to my non-resolution, on Monday we went out for a trip to somewhere we hadn't been for ages. And it was very muddy and uphill and cold. BUT...there was a good view at the top.

So, there I was, having gone all the way up this hill in the cold - have I already mentioned the UPHILL and COLD bit? - pointing out the fabulous view...and what do my kids say?

'I'm hungry, where are the biscuits?'

Perhaps I would have done the same at their age and perhaps my parents would have given me the same withering look that I gave my kids.

What do you mean 'where are the biscuits??!! Look at the view!!!'

I must be getting old. Turning into an 'old gimmer' as one of my friends would say.

The view at the top of the muddy hill. (The view that the kids didn't notice)

dd sat in front of the other view that the kids didn't notice

At the top of the hill the kids explored the woods for a while...

Ds2 chilling out on a branch (not looking at a view)

and we had a sliding down the hill race (though as you can see I was very skilful not to have my attempts filmed!)

The following day - i.e. after we walked at toddler pace back down the muddy hill and put everyone through the washing machine and got some sleep - the kids did some woodwork and made a bird table. It's just a plank with some edging and some cup hooks screwed in the side, but it'll be fab when we get it up in the apple tree in our garden. Ds2 and dd have volunteered to come up with a pulley system to get the bird table up in the tree and down again to restock it. Here's the progress so far:

Nailing in the edging (after the kids had sawed it into pieces). And no, we didn't even have to get the first aid kit out.

Putting in the cup hooks (the chain will be fastened to these, so the table can be hoisted up into the tree)

Painting the table with bird-safe preservative

And today, in between den-building, we had a go with a Kelly Kettle (we had a go last week, but um the fire kept going out)

These storm kettles (also known as Kelly kettles or Aussie Kettles or Irish Kettles or Volcano Kettles) work as follows:

'Made from aluminium it is essentially a double-walled chimney with the water contained in the chimney wall. Once the campkettle is filled with water, simply start a very small fire in the base, set the kettle on the base and drop additional fuel (twigs, leaves, grass, paper, etc.) down the chimney. The large internal surface area of the chimney heats the water very quickly.' (as you can tell I nicked this explanation from someone else, cos I couldn't explain it myself)

And it really works! We tried it today, lit a little fire in the bottom with some birch bark and a few twigs, and the water boiled in hardly any time at all. Not quite the 4 minutes that was advertised, but that's probably because getting damp twigs to light takes a certain amount of experience and quite a few matches and a bit of puffing...

This kettle belongs to a friend. I've now ordered one for our family cause I thought it would be fab for when I'm out with the kids in the woods or at the allotment. And its a good excuse to play with fire.

Don't tut tut me, it's playing with matches that you're not meant to do; playing with fire is fine. And playing with your food is ok too in some circumstances, but not when dining with royalty (apparently though I'm yet to test it). [I have met a duchess, but I didn't have dinner with her. And I once met Jimmy Saville, but I don't suppose I'd play with my food either if he invited me round for cucumber sandwiches. And he's a bit like royalty]

Where were we? Oh yes, playing with fire. Well, we've been having a bit of a fire week. Not only did we have a go with the kelly kettle today, but we also managed to light a really good fire too. A proper one with proper branches and all red and glowy (and rather alot of smoke too). All those years in the girl guides have obviously stood me in good stead. Move over Ray Mears...

A proper camp fire

Our next plan for a day out is to visit a local Roman Villa. It's in a field somewhere up a lane and it doesn't cost anything to go and visit it. through that again...a Roman villa in a field and it's free.

Hmm...if I put on my pessimistic head this probably means that it wont be the most spectacular thing my children and I have ever looked at. Being free doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be a pile of rubbish (it might be a pile of roman tiles), but from experience these things are never quite as exciting as Time Team might make them out to be. 'Ah yes, here we have a small Roman buckle and we can learn a lot from this' [cut to fancy tv graphics creating whole Roman from a single roman buckle, including details about what he had for breakfast and whether he likes his eggs sunny side up and what size feet he has... you get my drift].

But, hey, perhaps I should put on my optimistic head instead. Yes, do a worzel gummage and screw on that optimistic head.

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