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Genius Autumn Hacks (and interesting random facts)

Genius Autumn Hacks (and interesting random facts)

THINGS TO DO WITH FALLEN ACORNS  

1.    Decorate them and use them as vase fillers

If you have (or are trying to develop) a talent for creating dry branch decorations as a longer-lasting alternative to flower arrangements this autumn, your acorns can be used as a seasonal finishing touch. Give them a subtle shine by giving them a light coat of metallic spray paint and give them a bit of bling by rolling them in glitter as the paint dries. Pop them at the bottom of a clear vase and place the branches of your dry display on top. Add some battery-powered lights to your display to make the acorns sparkle.

2.    Plant them!

You don’t need to be an expert horticulturalist to grow your own oak tree. My husband picked up an acorn in Phoenix Park in Dublin whilst he was waiting for me to finish my first marathon and we planted in a pot quite some time after we got home. We didn’t really expect it to do anything, but a dangerous amount of neglect and a few moves around the garden later and we now have a thriving young oak tree in the border to remind me that there are tougher endurance tests than running 26.2 miles.

3.    Eat them!

You can use young oak leaves to make tea-like infusions and acorns can be cooked and eaten (once you have removed their tannins by repeatedly boiling them, removing their skins and then crushing them). You can even roast them and turn them into a coffee substitute or grind them into a flour substitute. Read more about ways to consume acorns here.

4.    Use them as animal and bird feed

Acorns are a bit of a challenge for many backyard critters and feathered friends to eat, but that doesn’t mean they don’t find them delicious if someone does the hard work of cracking them open. Crush some with a hammer or a pestle and mortar and leave them on the bird table for the birds and squirrels to feast on.

 

BLACKBERRIES – TIPS FOR FORGING YOUR FAVOURITE AUTUMN FRUIT

 

1.    How to identify a perfectly ripe blackberry

A ripe blackberry is deep black and looks and feels plump. It will pull free from the plant with only a slight tug.  If the berry is red or purple or clings to the bramble, it's not ripe yet. If the berry you attempt to pic is mushy or the usually green centre (where it was attached to the bramble) has turned grey, discard it for seed dispersal, as its probably over-ripe.

2.    Never pick and area bare of fruit

Whilst foraging is fun, free and more rewarding than shopping in the supermarket, it is not essential for the survival of most humans. However, wild fruit and veg is an important food source for local wildlife, so make sure that you leave enough berries for the birds, butterflies, dormice, squirrels and badgers.

3.    Remember to drop a few berries for seed dispersal

Help to ensure the continued success of the blackberry plants in your favourite foraging ground by dropping a few berries here and there. The seeds may just grown into the best cropping blackberry bushes in autumns to come.

4.    Keeping your berries fresh for as long as possible

·      Avoid leaving picked berries in the sunshine.

·      Don’t wash them until you are ready to use them or freeze them.  

·      Refrigerate them as soon as possible after picking and use them or freeze them within a week.

 

PUMPKINS CARVING HACKS AND RANDOM PUMPKIN FACTS

We love pumpkins! From exploring weird and wonderful ways in which people carve them at Halloween to enjoying deliciously warming pumpkin, peanut and chilli soup made from Jack O’Lantern guts. Here are our favourite pumpkin hacks and curious facts:

1.    Big melon anyone?

The word ‘pumpkin’ comes from the Greek word, pepon, meaning “large melon.” The first use of the word pumpkin in literature was in the fairy tale Cinderella, in which a pumpkin transforms itself into a horse drawn coach to take the eponymous heroine to the ball to meet Prince Charming.

2.    Pumpkins are super nutritious

Whilst buying a pumpkin is unlikely to help you find the love of your life, devouring it in a pie, soup or fragrant curry is very good for you.

Although they are 80-90% water, pumpkins are full of good things, including vitamin C, fibre, protein, zinc, magnesium, manganese and copper. They also contain high levels of potassium which can help to lower blood pressure and protect against hearing loss associated with drops in potassium levels in the body as we age.

So don’t throw away the flesh of your pumpkin when you are carving your Halloween creations. Cook it up into a nutritious meal or two to offset the empty calories and sugary naughtiness of Halloween sweets! Here are some recipe ideas for pumpkins to inspire you.

3.    Pumpkin carving hacks

Pumpkin carving is definitely not just for children (in fact, given all the sharp implements you need to make a pumpkin lantern, it’s probably best left to grown ups). Scouring the internet for a new, fun design each year and even competing with friends or family members to see who can carve the best Halloween lantern is great fun for everyone and these pumpkin carving hacks are pure genius… 

·      Well before you put the candle in your lantern (you don’t want to cause a spice-based explosion) sprinkle cinnamon on the inside of the lid of your pumpkin lantern. Once the candle is lit and the lantern warms up, your home will start to smell like a pumpkin spice latte.

·      Keep your lantern fresh for longer by rubbing the carved areas with petroleum jelly. This seals in moisture and stops your lantern from shrivelling prematurely.

·      If the pursuit of the perfect pumpkin carving has resulted in you stabbing your hand more times than you care to remember, try employing less dangerous methods for hollowing out your lantern. Carve out the middle with an ice cream scoop rather than a spoon. The slightly sharper edge on an ice cream scoop will mean that you can remove more pumpkin flesh and create a thinner wall, which is a bit easier to carve. Where possible, use cookie cutters or a drill to create the majority of your design and only resort to a pairing knife for the finer details.

SYCAMORE SEEDS

There are more things to do with fallen sycamore seeds than throw them into the air and watch them spiral elegantly to the ground (though this is fun and should be done by children and adults alike whenever they find a sycamore tree in the autumn).

1.    Make a Dragonfly

Kids will love channelling their creativity and using the sycamore seeds to create the wings of a dragonfly. For the body of the dragonfly, use a slim twig or just draw it in with a pen or colouring pencil. For extra colour and sparkle, paint the seeds before you stick them down and sprinkle them with eco-friendly glitter as the paint dries.

2.    Create some natural wall art

Follow the example of this crafting genius on Pinterest and create a simple yet effective sycamore seed wall hanging. All you need is a twig, some string to hang it and some clear thread to link all the sycamore seeds together.

3.    Plant one!

There are forums across the internet full of people looking for easy ways to prevent their sycamore trees from creating hundreds of tiny mini-mes throughout their gardens every spring. However, if you are a black-fingered gardener looking to find a break in your ‘touch of doom’ track record, maybe planting a resilient sycamore seed is the way to do it. Start it in a tray, transfer it to a pot and then, when it’s big enough (between 2 and 4 feet), plant it in the ground at least 15 feet away from your house. Follow these detailed WikiHow instructions for growing a sycamore tree from seed to increase your chances of success.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these autumnal hacks and random facts. If you have any of your own, please share them with us on Facebook or Instagram.

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