In case you've been in hibernation and missed the shops turning from school clothes to costumes, sweets and all things orange – Halloween is here!

Carving capers

The activity that never fails to get our house excited in the build-up to Halloween is pumpkin carving. Whether you’re a kid who loves spooky faces or an adult who loves to rise to the sculpting challenge, it’s a must-do activity. We’ve tried quite a few designs over the years but this year we decided to take a different tack – pumpkin heads. The idea’s not new (quickly proved by a quick ‘Googling’ of the phrase) but it was new territory for us and as a Dad, the thought of making my kids look ghoulishly hilarious was just too tempting!

The ‘how to’ is pretty obvious: buy a pumpkin bigger than the wearer’s head (go bigger than you think!), hollow it out, carefully carve a face to your taste and pop it on the wearer’s bonce! Here's one of our creations (before and after it fell to the floor... many times!):


A tip courtesy of my three year old: an old swimming hat is a great way to protect hair from pumpkin slime!

Waste not want not!

This year we combined our pumpkin adventures with feeding our garden wildlife the pumpkin's seeds. Simply wipe off any excess gloop and moisture from your extracted seeds and leave them on kitchen towel to dry out over night before popping them on a garden wall, patio or bird table. Ours haven’t had an awful lot of takers yet – possibly given their large size comparative to small garden birds – but I’m going to persist and maybe some of the larger garden visitors will eventually find them (just keep an eye on them and throw them away when they become damp). Give it a go and let me know if you have any takers.

More than costumes and candy

For those who have read my blog posts before, you’ll recognise here the approaching potted ‘history’ courtesy of the Worldwide Web (one particularly thorough and informative source being The American Folklife Center).

The tradition goes back around 2,000 years with its roots in a Celtic festival to celebrate the end of the harvest, the end of the calendar year and the start of winter. At the time, the festival was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) and was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. Not sounding very spooky so far is it? Well, the spooky part we know well today comes from the fact that the Celts believed the ghosts of those who died during the year would mingle with the living at Samhain before travelling to the other-world – wooooooo!

Get outdoors this Halloween

Pumpkins and general ghoulish behavior might be the main attractions at this time of year but don’t forget to make the most of the whole half term and your time together by getting out and embracing the wilder side of life. The season's colours are well and truly on the turn and it's a brilliant time to get out and hunt for conkers, admire the fairytale fungi on display and kick through the carpets of crispy leaves. We love to head out and take in the fiery colours (my kids also find it very amusing to bury Mum and Dad in leaf litter!) and another favourite is going on an autumnal scavenger hunt and then using our bounty to make wild art at home.

I couldn’t write a Halloween-themed post without a mention for our friend the bat. Only a handful of the 1,000+ types of bat across the world are vampire bats (sadly none of which live in the UK or Transylvania!) but all of them are fascinating and in need of a helping hand. Why not give bats a home where you live by building and/or erecting a bat box? Involve the whole family and find all the instructions you need on the Giving Nature a Home website.

However you choose to spend this Halloween, have fun, be safe and have a WOOOOOOOnderful time!