Honey and bee facts

I have recently been road testing some local products to stock in the shop.

  
Hanna keeps bees, and as well as tasting the lovely stuff ( it is sweeter than supermarket mass produced honey) she told me a little bit about making honey:

Bees make honey by eating and regurgitating the nectar they collect from flowers several  times. This mixes it with preservative enzymes in their stomach. It’s then packed into hexagonal wax cells which are then sealed. The consistency and taste of honey varies depending on where the bees have been gathering nectar, and whether it is set or not depends on whether the sugars are higher in glucose or fructose.

  
Hanna’s honey is not filtered, a process that that gives a more clear transparent product and delays crystallisation, this makes it, I believe, a more authentic product. Hanna heats up the honey but not to the very high temperatures mass produced honey is which destroys some of it’s natural properties

  
There is only one queen in a hive and she is much bigger than the other bees. Her main job is to lay eggs. She is fed by her workers and can live up to two years while her workers live for about 6 weeks.

Well I learnt quite a bit about bees, they are very interesting, but I not sure whether I want to keep any myself, I think I’ll stick to more cute and furry animals, and mainly ones that don’t sting!

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Photography and farming

  
I don’t have a particular talent for photography, I haven’t had any training and don’t own a fancy camera, but I love the instant joy a good photo gives you. Particularly nowadays when cameras can crop, filter and improve almost any photo you take.

  
Getting the cows up at sunrise I can be struck by a beautiful view and I just whip out my camera in the form of my phone, and take a photo. It makes the job a little more interesting!

  

  
Cows are relatively easy to photograph as they generally move quite slowly, however I did try and get a photo once of a cow with a piece of clover in its mouth and failed dismally! Never work with animals or children!

  
Wildlife photography is by far the hardest . I saw some beautiful deer last week and by the time I whipped my phone out they were gone. I tried to catch this hare that raced across the field, but I don’t think that it will be featuring in national geographic any time soon!

  
Fauna doesn’t move so this mushroom in the fairy wood was easy to take. The most tricky aspect of this photo was explaining to my husband why I was so long checking the solar chandelier in the wood!

  
The new challenge will be photographing people and camping. Hopefully they won’t be quite as tricky as the deer to capture!

What makes us happy?

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I am always intrigued by why some people (often living in an African tribe with no possessions) are classified as being the ‘happiest’ people on the planet, yet others are desperately unhappy and don’t know why.

In a survey of British people commissioned by BUPA this year, when asked what made them ‘feel great’ a staggering 62% listed sleeping in a freshly made bed. Second (57%) was feeling the sun on your face, whilst third was simply being thanked, or kindness from a stranger. In another survey in America, 1 was walking in sunshine, 2 getting into fresh bed sheets, and 3 Going on a walk in the countryside. (Number 7 was someone pulling out of a space in a busy car park just as you arrive – a particular favourite of mine!)

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Happiness is certainly infectious, but probably a little more complicated to achieve than a clean bed. Gyles Brandreth in his book the 7 secrets of happiness points out the importance of being ‘a leaf on a tree’ = being connected to other people, and cultivating a passion – to be happy you need to find something you enjoy doing.

For me Canvas & Clover is my passion, although it takes up so much of my time the house looks like a bomb has hit it as I no longer have time to clean and tidy, I do enjoy every minute, and I am looking forward to providing freshly made beds, walks in the countryside, and (hopefully) a bit of sun so other people can feel happy too.

Blogging on a mobile phone

I thought, as a scientific experiment, I would attempt to post a blog using an app on my mobile phone rather than sitting on the laptop. I am doing this because:

A. The internet is now finally working after both me and my husband tearing our hair out with the bt call centre people ( NOT a fan!) 

B. I am in bed snuggling my son so i could be working whilst snuggling

C. I have never done it on the phone before- technology moves at such a pace nearly every month I seem to be doing something that I have never done before. Last week I tweeted for the first time (@canvasandclover) and I like it more than I thought I would!

  

Well I have just inserted a photo and that seemed to go well! Photo is from our first bell tent erected for the photo shoot for the website.

  
That went so well I inserted another! Each tent has it’s own shed with cooking area, cool box, and space for wellies bikes etc , families always have so much ‘stuff’ to put somewhere!

Well, my son is asleep now so all that remains is to post it. I guess if you are reading it the experiment has worked! No doubt the next technological step forward won’t be quite so easy!

How to make a rustic house number out of a bucket

Well the countdown for the photo-shoot for the website continues, two weeks to go and time for finishing touches – how was I going to identify which tent belonged to which person, I didn’t want to spray paint a number on the side of the tent! Anyway, after much thinking (whist ironing the family’s clothes!) this is what I came up with:

start with a galvanised bucket

start with a galvanised bucket

stage 2

stage 2

Firstly use some tape to mask off an area on the bucket for painting. I then used a primer because I wasn’t sure how well blackboard paint would stick to the galvanised steel, then I painted the bucket with Rust-oleum chalkboard Paint. I used a paintbrush and it went on really well, but you can use a roller to eliminate brush marks.

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After leaving it for a few days to ‘cure’ (not sure if that’s necessary but I had read it should be done and didn’t want to risk not doing it) I hand drew a pretty border with a white gel pen. If you google ‘chalkboard borders’ a number of different designs come up. For the number, I printed off a number on the computer the size and style that i wanted, then used carbon paper to trace over it and it left a visible mark on the paint. I then used a chalkboard pen (as opposed to actual chalk) to fill in between the lines to make the number. Finally I sealed it with a clear rustoleum protective seal, and job done!

There is a million more things to do, but for now I am going to sit back and admire my handiwork!

Creating Canvas & Clover – one year on!

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Well, it is about a year ago that I was walking along the Worcestershire country lanes and thought it would be a good idea to have a caravan and camping site on the farm to help us diversify away from dairy farming which is incredibly hard work, and currently not providing much income. A year on we are still not open, but getting there, and although it has been a really busy year, I have learnt an awful lot.

First, identify a field

First, identify a field

We first chose a field, not too near to the road to be noticeable, and not too near to the milking parlour for it to be noisy when milking. We decided not to do caravans, as although we like caravans (we have one ourselves!) our country lane is narrow, and the farm track is narrow, and we didn’t think caravans going up and down would be practical. We first went for planning permission which took some time, but with some professional help (thanks Moule&Co) we got it, then started to plan.

After!

After!

I started crafting, I wanted an eco friendly, upcycling, vintage, shabby chic theme, so I went on a paint course and started upcycling furniture for the tents, I also made some coasters from old tiles, and have recently completed two solar chandeliers.

I went on a business course and wrote a business plan and a financial projection for two years, certainly a challenge, but Worcestershire County Council do provide business help for new start up companies, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

I have painted a toilet and shower block, carried numerous heavy paving slabs until my arms hurt, squeezed mattresses into my car for the beds, designed a fairy door trail in the woods, and learnt about websites, logo design, and social media.

Currently I am looking into how we can make Canvas & Clover accessible to people with disabilities, designing a washing up area, and painting and planting up some galvanised steel buckets. Canvas & Clover is a labour of love, a challenge, a huge commitment, and more than anything, hopefully a place people can visit and love!

A few cow facts!

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The glamping site is coming along slowly, and I will do an update on that next time, but this week I have been thinking about cows because my daughters friend came over to visit, and they wanted to walk over the fields to the village but they couldn’t as there were cows in the field and my daughters friend was scared. Coincidently the same week a friend posted on Facebook her pride of conquering her cow phobia and completing a long hike.

Cows in the field with 'Tinky Winky' the Guinea Fowl

Cows in the field with ‘Tinky Winky’ the Guinea Fowl

Fear of cows (Bovinophobia or Taurophobia) is understandable. They are big creatures, and if you are not familiar with them (as I wasn’t when I first moved here from the concrete jungle of Liverpool) they can be scary, so I thought I’d give you a few cow facts to help.

1. Cows spend 10 to 12 hours a day lying down.

2. The average sleep time is 4 hours.

3. There are about 350 udder squirts in a gallon of milk.

4. A young female cow is called a heifer until she has her first calf.

5. The oldest cow ever recorded was ‘Big Bertha’ who died 3 months before her 49th birthday.

6. Dairy cows can produce up to 200 pounds of flatus (burps and farts) a day!

7. A ‘dry cow’ is a cow that is pregnant and has been taken out of the milking herd as they are in the final stage of the pregnancy.

8. Like us, cows are pregnant for 9 months.

9. A female twin of a bull is usually infertile as it has been exposed to masculinizing hormones, and is termed a freemartin.

10. You can lead a cow upstairs but not downstairs due to their knee anatomy.

A calf born yesterday, 1 day old

A calf born yesterday, 1 day old

Cows are generally safe, docile creatures, but just like humans, the teenagers are a bit lively, the new mothers a bit twitchy, and they can be unpredictable if they feel scared or threatened. If you want to learn more about cows, come and stay, and try out our dairy farmer taster session, it could be the start of a whole new career!

Five things kids can do for free whilst camping/glamping

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I was talking to a friend at work last week who lived in Birmingham. I was telling her about Canvas & Clover, and enthusiastically describing the fun of glamping. She was really keen to come and stay, but looked a little worried. When I asked what was wrong, she said, ” It sounds fab, but what can you actually do in a field ?”

This is not an uncommon viewpoint, The Wildlife Trust, RSPB, and The National Trust all do great work in encouraging people to get outside and enjoy nature, and I have just bought a fab book from the RSPB called ‘365 outdoor activities you have to try’ which is full of great ideas, but it can be a scary prospect if you haven’t tried it before.

Here is my top five list of free things to do when glamping/camping:

1. Play games – You don’t need lots of equipment, just a bit of space. There are loads of cheap cricket/badminton kits you can buy, or you can make your own – how about skittles using plastic bottles filled with water and a tennis ball, or hoopla with the same bottles and a ring. For no equipment whatsoever how about hide and seek, or ‘field Olympics’ with three legged races, wheelbarrows, and leapfrog.

2. Scavenger Hunts – Give your kids a list of things to find such as a leaf, something red, a feather etc

3. Go wildlife hunting. We have ‘spotting books’ for people to borrow, but all you need is a pad and paper, and even better try a wildlife photo journal, and see who can take the best shot.

4. Don’t forget the night time. Most camping/glamping sites are away from cities and therefore great places to see stars. There are millions of stars here on a clear night. See if you can spot the milky way. Find a cosy spot with a blanket and see if you can see a fox or hear an owl.

5. Toast marshmallows and tell stories around the campfire/fire pit. Why not try S’mores – an American invention but it can be recreated with digestives, chocolate, and melted marshmallow in the middle.

The outdoors can be really fun with a bit of good weather and a bit of planning!

Life on a dairy farm…..

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Its 6.00am on a Sunday and the day has begun. I have the luxury of remaining in the house whilst my husband goes off to milk the cows, but not the luxury of returning to bed because  – a. We have found from experience that for marital harmony it is much better if we are both up and working and therefore both tired at the same time at night, and b. There is too much to do, and efficiency is massively increased whilst the children are still asleep!

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We are very lucky in where we live, there is lots of space for the children to run around, but equally lots of space to farm and maintain which is quite a lot of work. I generally spend the early mornings doing business plans, paying bills etc., generally things that require concentration, then when the kids are awake start on washing, ironing and tidying (whilst they loaf around watching TV, playing Xbox, and on mobile phones)then launch into homework, followed swiftly by lunch preparation.

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After lunch its time for fresh air, historically this may have been a bike ride, or a walk up the Malvern’s, now there’s too much to do on the farm so its normally down to the campsite planting sunflowers, siting bee boxes, mowing the grass, etc. By about 3.30 pm its time to get the cows up for the afternoon milking session. Me and my son generally do that job, which as long as it is dry is quite good fun as we use the quad bikes!

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Once the cows are in, it is a complicated procedure of opening and closing gates so that once they are milked they go into a different set of fields, and you don’t mix the milked cows up with the none milked cows. We then go into the ‘maternity ward’ and check the dry cows to see if any have, or are due to give birth, then back home to start tea. All that is done every day in rain or shine, and, with milk prices as they are at the moment, for very little money.

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It’s all certainly a long way away from the housing estate in Warrington where I grew up, and I learn things, (and get things wrong), every day. Life on a dairy farm is not easy, but what things in life worth having are!

Top 5 reasons to go glamping/camping (or caravanning)

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I have just returned home from a week in Derbyshire with the family in the caravan.We had a great time,(despite some very wet weather at the start!), so why should people try the great outdoors?

1. There is no Xbox!  I have given in to the lure of Xbox and minecraft and my 7 year old son LOVES it, however, the fact that there is no Xbox on holiday is wonderful. We can interact with each other as a family, have conversations, and spend time together for a change.

2. Socialising is fun!  It isn’t compulsory, however meeting other families and sharing a joke over a campfire is a lovely way to spend an evening, in the process of entertaining the kids (as there is no Xbox!) we have made up songs, and the kids have made up games. The children making friends is fun for them, but also allows me some time off to sit back and relax!

3. Its good for your health! Being outdoors even on a cloudy day boosts the levels of vitamin D in the body which is great for bone health and preventing osteoporosis, and simple things like getting water, walking to the shower block, playing football, making a den, are all great forms of exercise.

4. Learning new stuff   Learning comes from new experiences whether that is how to light a fire, or how to identify the local wildlife, and the kids don’t even realise they are being educated!

5. It creates memories and traditions  Beautiful fields, fairy lights, fire pits, thick duvets and comfy pillows, campfire stories, marshmallows and den making. These are all things that create magical memories for life.

Now the weather is improving – sun for the first time yesterday, it was t-shirt weather! things are moving on in the glamping site, we have bought some great sheds to install cooking facilities in and have the wildflower seed for the meadow to plant.’ Canvas and Clover’ here we come!

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