Friday, 16 March 2018

Easter Cards

I always like making greetings cards and these are a few of the Easter cards I made this year.

I used coloured card stock that I recently bought from a 2nd hand shop and added pre-cut shapes and floral papers that I had also bought from 2nd hand shops. Even the rubber stamp I used to complete the design of the first two cards was 2nd hand!

Landlove magazine has a lovely template for lino-print Easter cards which you can find here.

Meanwhile I've added several pairs of new earrings to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, which you can see here

Thursday, 15 March 2018


There’s something of life in the picture –
dull, dreich mist over storm-dark hills, the lift
of the water as it leaves the canvas,
the peek of light through the foreground
break in the clouds.

I feel wet sand between my toes,
watch eddying rain watering down
shy sunlight, hear the splash of sea
on rocks, the pull of currents.

Wind fresh in my face, drawn into
the scene, I drown in the lake
of a painter’s imagination.

Reposted from May 2006 and previously published on the Sound and Image issue of Online Poetry Journal.  

Meanwhile over on Shapeshifting Green I've reposted another poem from 2006, you can read it here

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Wild Garlic and Birds Building Nests

In the Dells along the Water of Leith, wild garlic is the signature scent of Spring. Even before it flowers it fills the woodland with the scent of garlic

You can forage wild garlic to make a delicious pesto, but I wouldn't forage anything from the ground in a place so popular with dog walkers! If you're really keen on foraging, it's better anyway to leave the wild garlic and instead forage the wild leeks which are invasive and taking over from the garlic in places. The two species of leeks can both be recognised from the garlic by their thinner leaves (the flowers blooming in the photo below are snowdrops which as far as I'm aware are not edible)

It's a very pretty time of year, with the undergrowth looking so green

even though most of the trees think it's still winter

 The birds aren't fooled by this year's strange weather - I saw a magpie carrying a twig that was longer than itself, a jackdaw flying back and forth with twigs and a pair of dippers gathering moss.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Help Ensure Our Woodlands are Looked After

Every part of Britain has its own distinct woodlands and cultural heritage associated with trees and woods. They are a valuable and much loved part of our natural heritage. Our woodlands and trees have shaped history, and continue to enrich local culture as well as to support rare wildlife species. Edinburgh has several beautiful woodlands, including Corstorphine Hill, Hermitage of Braid and the Dells alongside the Water of Leith, which are valuable wildlife sites and popular for recreation (and frequently appear in my blogposts!).
 Since 1994 the Woodland Trust has been awarded £30 million from the National Lottery, mostly via the ‘Heritage Lottery Fund’ (HLF).
HLF currently funds the trust's work on 50,000 hectares of ancient woodland urgently in need of restoration – from the Glens of Scotland to Exmoor at the foot of England.
However HLF are currently reviewing their funding priorities and the trust fears ths could mean that in the future they will receive less money for their vital woodland conservation work. 
It's vital that the lottery continues to fund 'natural heritage'. I certainly think of nature as an essential part of our heritage. And all of us, whether we play the lottery or not, love our natural heritage, and we need to ensure that this is reflected in the amount of funding awarded to conservation projects. 
You can join the Woodland Trust's campaign here and respond to the lottery consultation on their future funding priorities. 

Monday, 12 March 2018

The Lost Heifetz and other stories by Michael Tabor

'Full of quirks and intrigue, the stories in The Lost Heifetz and Other Stories are sometimes humorous, occasionally bleak and always smart, with flawed characters trying their best to carve out a life for themselves and find the balance between how people see them and how they would like to be seen.'

That was how this book of short stories was described to me when I was asked to review it. I entirely agree with that description and would add that many of these twelve stories would rank among the best short stories I've read. I love the cleverness of  the stories, the inventiveness, the humour and the insight. I also love the variety of setting and theme.

Many of the stories focus on creativity, for example the title story follows an amateur musician who meets an old man in a record shop and becomes  convinced that he is a violinist believed to have died during the second world war. The story within a story approach can be tricky to pull off but here is handled deftly and works beautifully to create a storyabout the power of music.

Meanwhile, The Show Never Stops reflects on life in the theatre from the varying perspectives of people who work in the theatre and some of the inanimate parts of the theatre including the stage and the mirror behind the bar. It's particularly entertaining to read the opinions that the characters have about each other.

Home Again explores the life and personality of Jean, a professional house sitter. The various layers of her persona are peeled back to gradually reveal surprising facets of her identity and personal history.

Sir George and the Dragon is a very clever and entertaining account of  how pompous George Tomkins wins over the new resident of the 'big house' in the village, also called George.

It's not fair to choose a favourite story, as they are all so brilliant and all well worth re-reading. However, I was particularly interested in the ideas  in The Pawnbroker, in which Sam visits a pawnbroker to pawn a story. What follows is a fascinating insight into inspiration, authorial voice, professional jealousy and the blurred line between truth and fiction.

So if you love short fiction you need to put this book on your reading list. If you have yet to discover the great enjoyment that can be found in short stories, this is the book to start with!

The Lost Heifetz and Other Stories by Michael Tabor published by S and S Bookends

Disclaimer, I received a free review copy of this book.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Gardening for Bats

Last night Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went along to a Scottish Wildlife Trust meeting expecting to hear a talk about Urban Pollinators. However the speaker was unable to be there and at the last minute Liz Ferrel from the Bat Conservation Trust gave a talk on bats in the UK and how to garden for bats.

There are seventeen resident species of bat in the UK (only some of which are found in Scotland, due to our colder climate). Then there is the sad tale of the greater mouse eared bat, which was declared extinct in the UK in 1990, but since 2002, one lone male has flown over from France every winter to hibernate in the south of England!

Thelargest part of Liz's talk focussed on how to garden so as to encourage bats. British bats feed exclusively on insects so the best way to encourage them is to encourage the right insects to your garden, which in turn means planting the right flowering plants. In addition you may want to put up some bat boxes on your house, or on trees in your garden. You can find out more here or download the guide to Encouraging Bats here.

Bats eat a variety of insects and can help keep down the number of midges and mosquitoes! 

Edinburgh is home  to a good number of bats and we've enjoyed a number of guided bat walks in the city,  most recently this walk last September. Common and soprano pipistrelles are the city's most common bats with Daubenton's bats being quite common over the canal and our rivers.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Can Nature Save the World?

Warning - this is a long post with lots of links! 

Environmentalists tend these days to focus either on climate change and its impact on humanity or on nature and wild landscapes. Most tend to focus on climate change alone and very few tend to focus on both.

 Human activities have caused a 40 percent increase in carbon dioxide in the air since the industrial revolution. This has lead rightly to present concerns about climate change, which focus on changing the way we generate energy.  Renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean transport together receive nearly 30 times the amount of public investment than do  nature based solutions to climate change.

It is, of course, vital that we address how we generate our energy. However, human impacts not directly related to energy generation (including deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices) make a significant contribution to climate change (see this article on the Nature website).

According to a recent study published in the US based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences natural actions, such as planting trees, could prove as effective in combating climate change as immediately ceasing to burn oil. Their results (also discussed in the previously mentioned Nature article) show that if implemented within the next 15 years, investment in twenty selected natural activities could cost-effectively reduce emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. This would account for 37 percent of the emissions reductions required to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 — the benchmark outlined in the 2010 Paris Agreement.

Healthy forests and peatlands are particularly important as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forests also help prevent soil erosion and regulate the water cycle. A recent study (see this article) led by researchers from Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), shows that many of these ecosystem functions perform better in forests with a larger number of different tree species. Their research shows that trees in more biodiverse forests grow faster, store more carbon and are more resistant to pests and diseases than trees in forests with fewer species of trees.

Healthy oceans too are vital as up to 90% of earth's CO2 is stored in and cycled through the oceans (see this report).

The UK Government Environment Agency has published papers on natural flood management, which you can read about here. Natural flood management includes such processes as restoring bends in rivers, changing the way land is managed so soil can absorb more water and creating saltmarshes on the coast to absorb wave energy.

The US Nature Conservancy Global Solutions website has an interesting section on natural climate solutions which you can read here.

Many of these solutions would fall under the umbrella of natural capital as described by Tony Juniper in his book What Nature Does for Britain (which I review here). There's also the much more (to me) controversial version of natural capital which defines nature purely in terms of its financial value, which is critiqued very well here.