Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children
ln their geography lesson this week, Bill and Bob were learning about deserts and they were keen to tell me all about what they had learnt.
Telling people about what you learnt in your lessons at school is a good way of helping you to remember everything in case you will need to know it for a test. ln fact, in a strange way, sometimes explaining things out loud to someone can actually help you understand things better.
Anyway, this is what they told me…
The definition of a desert is that it is a place where there is very little rainfall – less than 250 millimetres (10 inches) of rain a year. So deserts can be hot or cold.
The biggest hot desert in the world is the Sahara Desert. lt is bigger than the next four largest deserts put together. lt is about as big as the whole of the United States of America – and is still growing!
But it was not always a desert. Thousands of years ago it was green with trees and plants. There were animals like elephants and giraffes roaming through it. Even a hundred years ago there was dense jungle where there is now only desert. ln just the last few years, Lake Chad in the south of the region has dried up to a small percentage of what it used to be.
Apart from the dangers of heat and running out of water, one of the greatest hazards of the desert is the sand storm. Sand is blown into huge dunes even higher than The Shard (the tallest building in London) and winds deposit enormous quantities of sand into the Atlantic as far away as the Caribbean.
The driest desert in the world is the Atacama Desert in Chile where it might not rain for hundreds of years – we know that it didn’t rain in all the time from 1570 to 1971.
But in spite of the heat and the cold and the lack of water, there is life in deserts.
Desert plants often have long roots to reach down to water found deep beneath the ground – maybe many metres.
The most famous desert plant is the cactus and these survive by having the ability to store water inside their stems like a sponge. The biggest are the giant saguaros which can grow up to 18m tall.
Baobab trees become fatter after a rain shower as they store water in their trunks, and thinner after a dry period when they have been using their store of water up.
All the animals that live in the desert adapt themselves for these harsh living conditions too. Gerbils have hairs to protect their feet from the hot sand and camels can go for days without food or water, carrying a fat supply in their hump. lf the fat was distributed around their bodies, it would keep them warmer and that isn’t what they want. And camels have really thick coats to insulate them from the heat too – this reduces the need to sweat and, therefore, lose more water.
There are places in the desert where you will find water and these are called oases. You can see them from a distance because of the vegetation growing around them. Sometimes travellers think that they can see water in the distance but it turns out to be only a heat haze shimmering up off the sand; this is called a mirage.
You can see a similar effect here, when a heat haze shimmers up from a road on a hot summer’s day.
But deserts can be very cold at night and even foggy. Funnily enough, extreme cold at night can also be a hazard in the desert.
The Namib Desert in Namibia (southern Africa) where the temperature gets up to 50°C in the day can fall to -2°C at night. There is very little rainfall but the desert is covered in sea mist rolling in from the Atlantic. This fog condenses when the morning comes leaving moisture for the animals to drink.
The Namib Desert is thought to be the oldest in the world.
Very few animals live here but animals like beetles, snakes, scorpions and geckos (which are a type of lizard) have adapted to their living conditions. They often bury themselves into the sand away from the glare of the Sun.
Very occasionally there can be thunderstorms in some deserts, and when soaked in rain, the earth bursts into life with colourful flowers blooming as far as the eye can see.
Have you ever been to a desert?
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Love and kisses
Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Week
Bill: Why can’t you starve in a desert?
Bob: l don’t know. Why can’t you starve in a desert?
Bill: Because of all the sand which is in it!
Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015
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Sahara Desert sand dunes
An oasis in Libya
How a desert can come to life where there is water
Creatures adapt themselves to living in the desert
They have to cope with heat, cold and lack of water
The Shard in London
You can see desert plants in green house collections like this one in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
at Kew Gardens
Cacti from the American deserts
The top of this cactus looks like a hand
Desert plants are good at storing water
A barrel cactus from the American deserts
THE SALTY SAM NEWS DESK
If you don’t understand Bill and Bob’s joke, read it as ‘because of all the sandwiches in it’.
And this is one of Bill and Bob’s favourite dessert recipes – Eton Mess.
If you make it, don’t leave the kitchen in a mess!
It is quick and easy to make, and disappears quickly as well.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
A large punnet of strawberries
400ml (14fl oz) extra thick cream
3-4 small meringue nests crushed
Some sugar for sprinkling on top
Break the meringues into large chunks while they are still in the packet (don’t smash them into dust)
Mix them gently into the cream with about three quarters of the strawberries
Divide into serving glasses
Decorate the top of the pudding with the rest of the strawberries
Sprinkle with a little sugar
*You may need permission to use a kitchen knife.
Of course you can use raspberries instead if you like, or even a mixture of berries.
Or two large bananas peeled and sliced.
TO ADVERTISE ON THIS BLOG
Pet Care lnstructions
lf you would like a pet gerbil, they are quite easy for children to look after. They are one of the best little pets for children because of their easy care.
They are clean and friendly and don’t tend to bite. They have very cute faces and they don’t smell.
There are a few things for you to remember.
Gerbils don’t like to live alone. They like to have at least one friend living with them. The gerbils should be of the same sex.
They are active day and night and like to be kept warm.
Gerbils need a special gerbil tank to live in, not a hamster cage. This tank should be kept out of direct sunlight and draughts.
Shredded paper or hay should be provided for their bedding and sawdust or wood shavings or organic soil/compost for them to burrow about in because they love digging their own tunnels. They also like sand with a little straw mixed in it.
Then they can think that they have their own little desert in your home!
A litter tray will act as their toilet, and you will need to clean this out once or twice a week or more. Also, you will need to wash the tank out with mild pet disinfectant every other week and put back clean bedding and burrowing material.
They will also appreciate a sand bath so that they can keep their fur clean.
Put your gerbils into a little pet carrier with some of their old bedding that has their smell on it while you clean out their tank. You can put a lot of what you clean out from the tank onto your compost heap.
Gerbils will like to have a little cardboard or wooden box filled with hay as a bed.
Don’t ever use newspaper or pine shavings or builders’ sand.
Special gerbil food can be bought from a pet shop but you can also give them little pieces of fruit and vegetables. Never give them potatoes, rhubarb or tomato leaves and don’t give them too much food because they will hide it away and then the food will rot.
Scattering their food in the tank will make their life more interesting as they have to find it. Otherwise, leave food in a heavy bowl that they won’t tip over while you are at school. Take stale food out regularly. lf there is a lot of food left around, don’t give them so much in future.
They should always have fresh water available in a hanging pet bottle. Make sure that it is in a place where they can’t chew at and destroy the bottle. They should only be able to access the water outlet.
Give them fresh water every day. lt is best to use bottled water.
Keep a spare hanging bottle in case they break the one they have and the shops are shut. Wash their drinking bottle out thoroughly every week.
Peanuts and sunflower seeds can be given as treats.
Handle gerbils gently and never pick them up by their tails. Put your hand over their body and clasp them gently.
They can jump out of your hands, so don’t let them fall onto a hard surface. lf they are shy when you first take them home, put your hand into their tank and let them get used to your smell before you touch them.
Always make sure the mesh lid to their tank is fastened down otherwise they could jump out or a passing cat could get in.
Rats, hamsters and rabbits will sometimes come when you call them, but gerbils probably won’t. They don’t like being cuddled much either like a cat or dog would.
Lastly and very importantly, they like to have toys to play with. Luckily these are easy to make. They like cardboard tubes to run through and chew and little frames or branches to climb about on. These branches should be from fruit or willow trees.
They like to chew on blocks of wood as well to keep their teeth healthy.
They like playing with children so let them run about outside their tank when you have time to spend with them – but make sure you are always keeping an eye on what they are up to!
BLOW MY FOGHORN!!!
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lt’s the Weekend!
HOW TO GROW CACTl
Cacti belong to a large family of plants that can store a lot of water inside themselves through dry periods. They are very often found in deserts and most cacti grown as houseplants come from the desert.
A lot of the really spiky ones are not suitable to have in the house if you have very small children.
But cacti are easy to grow and look wonderful put into miniature gardens. If you are lucky, they can produce beautiful flowers as well.
Growing cacti from seeds is not so easy and takes a long time to do. It is better to buy plants. A lot of cacti can be smooth or hairy and these might be easier to start with than the prickly kind.
They can tolerate bright sunlight, heat and cold nights, so a south or west facing window sill or porch is an idea situation for them (north facing in Australia and New Zealand).
When you have become a successful cacti keeper, you may want to create a miniature garden with them.
Don’t touch them with your fingers. Wrap a strip of folded up newspaper around any cactus you want to transplant in order to save your fingers from getting pricked. Or you can use very thick gardening gloves.
If you do accidentally get tiny spines in your skin, you may not be able to see them but you will feel them; try taking them out with a strip of sticky tape. Stick the tape over the spines, rip it off and the spines should pull out. Then wash your hands with soap.
Use a wide shallow container at least 10cm/4 inches deep for small plants and a bigger one for larger plants.
You can use a container without drainage holes as long as you don’t overwater your garden.
If you use a pot with drainage holes, put a drainage layer of grit in the bottom (and a saucer underneath). If you use a pot without drainage holes, put a layer of charcoal in the bottom.
Next, fill up the pot to 2cm/1 inch down from the rim with a mixture of two thirds cacti compost mixed in with one third grit or coarse sand.
You can get everything you need from a plant nursery.
Plant your cacti in your pot covering no more than half the surface – they shouldn’t be crowded in together.
Design your garden by moving the cacti around while they are still in their pots. When you know where you want to put them, dig a hole for each of them (one at a time) using an old spoon or a tiny trowel. Work from the centre of the garden outwards setting the root ball in the hole so that the top is level with the compost.
Then backfill the compost and press it down around the plant carefully with your fingers. Don’t leave any air gaps. Finish the top with grit or gravel to a depth of about 6mm/¼ inch. You can put a few interesting stones on the top between the plants as well if you like.
Water regularly in the spring and summer, perhaps once a week but only dribbles of water not gushes and then only water about three times over the winter. If the plants ever look shrivelled, it means they need some water.
Cacti like fresh air so you can leave them outside in the middle of the summer. Keep them inside away from frosts in the autumn and winter.
(If you want to grow Christmas, Easter or orchid cacti, these need different growing conditions. They like to have more shade and a little more water. They are grown in bigger pots with more compost. This is because in the wild they grow in forests not deserts.)
You can mix succulents in with your cacti in your garden if you would like to.
(Blog Post 37)
Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.
It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.
Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.
©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015