People are trying harder to find ways of reusing their rubbish as they are concerned about manmade climate change and use of the world’s resources. The majority of us send our glass, paper and plastic to be recycled – we even reuse ice-cream tubs and glass bottles as containers around the home. But what about leftover food that we can’t eat? Is there a use for that?
Many people throw their scrap food onto a compost heap in the garden – be it apple cores, potato peeling or burnt toast! Compost heaps are a great way of reducing the rubbish a household chucks out while improving your garden at the same time.
But what can make rotten fruit and veg good for a garden? It’s simple – bacteria. They break down rotten plants and vegetables. You can watch this process happen as the food scraps appear to fall apart, turn brown and most importantly get hotter. In fact, even a small compost heap or food bin can get very hot – sometimes around 40-60 degrees Celsius. If you hold your hand over a compost heap, you can feel the temperature. This increase in temperature happens as the bacteria break down the old scraps and they create carbon dioxide and heat. This isn’t so different to us humans when we’re exercising!
When it gets hot, microorganisms take over. Insects, slugs and worms also join in, eating the food and excreting the finished compost.
After a few months, once the compost has cooled and all the food has broken down, it should be ready to put into the soil. This introduces nutrients into the earth which are much needed by plants. The microscopic organisms also help to bring air into the soil. This makes for a very healthy crop of veg – whose peelings and leaves can be thrown into the heap next year!
Stuffed with roast lamb and trimmings, we braved the cold for an Easter afternoon walk. It’s amazing what you can find outdoors when you scratch beneath the surface.
Take this stump. The tree itself was dead – perfect for firewood! – but at its base you can see the decomposition process already at work.
Once a plant or animal dies, bacteria, fungi and worms (decomposers) leap onto the remains and eat them. What they leave behind becomes part of the soil. See how already the decomposing tree resembles soil. Before long, new plants will be using this very soil to grow. And so the cycle continues!
Just centimetres away was this plant. Don’t let its demure appearance fool you. Its smell is overpowering – even ten metres away! Its name – wild garlic, also named bear leek. It’s a firm favourite of bears and boars, though no sign of those in Dorset (as far as we know).
But humans can eat them too, and we found plenty of delicious recipes, like wild garlic pasta and wild garlic mayonnaise. We’ve got a bunch of leaves waiting in the kitchen. Watch this space. But watch you don’t confuse wild garlic with its poisonous lookalikes: the Lily of the Valley, and other similar-looking plants.
There are a lot of deer in Dorset. We stumbled across this well-trodden deer track. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for antlers on the ground because it’s primetime shedding season now. Following the mating autumn months, when bucks (male deer) fought each other and competed for the roe (female deer), they have no more use for them. We’ll let you know if we see any!
Palm trees being blown by a tropical rain storm
We’ve all seen spiralling cartoon and movie hurricanes sending up animals, cars and heavy objects flying, but how do these phenomena actually start?
Hurricanes form off the coast of Africa when warm, moist air rises from the sea and meets cooler air and condenses into storm clouds. This makes room for more warm air from the sea and leads to a spiralling effect, sucking up more air and getting hotter and bigger as it starts to move across the ocean.
Right in the middle is the eye which stays relatively calm. If children want to know what the eye looks like, they can try a small experiment: at a sink, fill it half up with water, then pull the plug. The water will start to rotate around, and a hollow of air will form in the middle of the swirling water. That’s like the eye, and it’s a similar way that the hurricanes spiral round.
Storm warning sign
Some places, such as North and Central America and countries around the Pacific, are at risk from hurricanes during part of the year. Only this year, Hurricane Isaac caused severe flooding in Louisiana where thousands of residents had to evacuate their homes. For the people that live there, this means that a lot of time is spent tracking hurricanes, and if a hurricane or tropical storm is approaching, they need to board up their homes, get food and water supplies in to ride out the storm. Sometimes they may even have to evacuate to a safer area.
Britain is pretty safe from tropical weather because hurricanes normally lose their strength by the time they reach our shores. But sometimes we feel the after effects. In 1987, weather reporter Michael Fish infamously said to a caller to the BBC who reported an approaching hurricane, telling his viewers, ‘Don’t worry, there isn’t, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy.’ It was the worst storm in 300 years.