Saturday, 31 January 2015

Beaded Curtain tie-backs

I have a lot of beads in my stash of crafting supplies and as I mentioned in a previous post, I have some hoops left over from the two necklaces I recently upcycled.

I used these hoops and a variety of beads from various old necklaces and bracelets to make these curtain tie backs.

They are now available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Truth Tells Twice by Charlie Allan

Subtitled The Life of a North East Farm, this is the story of six generations of the author's family and their farm in Little Ardo of Methlich in the north east of Scotland.

The book concentrates on the author's own lifetime and particularly his childhood reminiscences. It is fascinating to read how much farming techniques have changed over the years, specially the change from labour intensive to mechanised, which happened pretty speedily on this farm. Although most farm workers benefitted in many ways from mechanisation, what struck me as a negative was that men who had had a close working relationship with a horse and who got a lot of exercise working that horse, such that in winter it kept them warm, really felt the cold (and the lack of exercise) when they found themselves on the seat of an open tractor!

As well as telling his family's history with an affectionate eye and close attention to detail, the author has a real ability to capture individual voices and to tell amusing anecdotes.

This is an informative and entertaining book for anyone with an interest in rural life in Scotland.

The Truth Tells Twice by Charlie Allan published by Ardo

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Snowdrops and robins at Cammo

It snowed for much of yesterday and then froze in the evening. Today however has been cold but clear and still and we went to Cammo Estate to enjoy the snow.

We didn't expect many snowdrops to be out, but we were delighted to see the walled garden in bloom.

Many of the snowdrops were under snow

It's always wonderful to see these delicate flowers, the first sign that spring is really on its way again, even though more cold weather and snow is forecast!

There were lots of birds around today, including a small flock of fieldfares; a very large mixed flock of birds including blue tits, treecreepers, goldfinches and blackbirds. We had a brilliant view of a kestrel as it flew around us and saw a couple of buzzards. We also made friends with a couple of tame robins, so tame even I could get a photo!

Also interesting to see an oak tree with lots of oak apples (gall-like growthstriggered by the larvae of wasps that lay their eggs in the tree) in the photo below you can even see the hole where the wasp emerged from the oak apple.

As many readers of this blog may know, some of the fields around Cammo Estate are threatened with housing development. This would cause traffic chaos and would destroy the habitat for several uncommon species of birds. You can read more in my earlier blogposts here and you may want to sign this petition against this destruction of our green belt

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Update on the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

Since finishing my novel I've upcycled a couple of damaged necklaces. Including a couple of items I'd already made, these two necklaces (which were admittedly long necklaces with multiple chains!) have become:

two bookmarks

This bookmark is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

This bookmark is also in my Etsy shop here.

two bracelets,

this bracelet (ideal as a Valentines Gift?) is also in my Etsy shop here.

two pairs of earrings
 These earrings are now also in my Etsy shop you can see them here.
these earrings plus the matching necklace are now in in my Etsy shop  - you can see them here.

 and a beaded lanyard

This lanyard is now in my Etsy shop, you can see it here.

All these items were made by taking apart the various sections of the chains, putting them together in different ways and moving the charms around.

Plus there are 4 hoops which I'm using to make two beaded curtain tie-backs! I'm in the middle of making these and they will also be in my Etsy shop soon.


Like many other Etsy sellers, I was pleased that Etsy has taken on dealing with VAT on the sale of digital items, since the new EU rules came in (which requires sellers to register for VAT in the country of purchase).

This means that my poetry e-book Bougainvillea Dancing is once again available in pdf format in my Etsy shop. Given the recent devastating floods in Malawi, all the profits of this book will now go to Voluntary Service Overseas for their work in Malawi.

VSO’s programme in Malawi concentrates on HIV and AIDS, health and social wellbeing, secure livelihoods (food security) and education in seven rural and remote districts. The districts were chosen due to their excessive poverty levels, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and low involvement of other international charities.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Snowdrops and other signs of Spring

The first snowdrops have appeared in Colinton Dell, along the Water of Leith.

The wild garlic is starting to show.

and the hazel catkins are dangling in the breeze!

Birds are starting to chase each other and some of them are singing already. A magpie flew past, carrying twigs!

I was interested to capture these earth stars, looking in pretty good condition, though not what I would normally think of as a sign of spring!

 Last night I went to a very interesting talk about the mosses and liverworts of the Water of Leith. I'll blog about that in the next day or so!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Update on my novel

I sort of made a New Year's Resolution that I would get my novel to a stage of being ready to be sent out by June at the latest. In fact I'm well ahead of schedule! I finished the final edit last week and will write the synopsis this week and then send it out into the world.

As a poet whose favourite form is the haiku, I was fascinated to find out that I actually could write (and enjoy writing) something that might resemble a novel, though admittedly it is on the short size (personally I prefer short novels anyway). I started the novel in NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and it was pretty poor at the end of that month, but I have worked hard on it since and hopefully it may have a chance of getting somewhere.

A brief outline of the novel:

Noa and her mother are part of a community that has been refugees since their Pacific Island disappeared under the seas at the end of the Age of Technology. The newly independent Hebrides have offered the refugees an island to live on. After their long voyage across the world, the refugees have to learn to live alongside the Hebridean islanders. Meanwhile Sheena, a Hebridean woman is studying in New Lanark where the University's high tech campus hides some unpalatable truths. Sheena works with Noa and others to create a field studies centre on the island to conserve what is left of nature and to help bring jobs to the refugees. 

I've no intention of writing another novel unless this one is successful or I get an idea that just needs to be another novel.

I'll keep everyone up to date with the novel's successes, though I'll be quiet about its failures.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dunsapie Loch

Another cold and bright day today! Dunsapie Loch on the side of Arthur's Seat was half frozen over!

Overall, there weren't many birds around on Arthur's Seat. Hopefully they'd all flown to local gardens to be counted for the Big Garden Birdwatch! The birdwatch continues tomorrow, so if you didn't get round to it today, there's a whol other day ahead!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Rubbish jewellery

I went to a jewellery making workshop last night. It was rubbish, literally! Held in the downstairs workshop space at the SHRUB Swap and Reuse Co-op and run by Changeworks, the workshop showed us how to make jewellery from inner tubes, which are apparently very difficult to recycle and often end up in landfill sites.

We were shown how to cut the inner tubes (they cut beautifully, specially if you use scissors, slightly more tricky if you use a crafting knife) and were then shown some designs for inspiration. Then we were invited to make our own items!

It was a very sociable event and it was great to have two hours to just play around with ideas and make things. I tried to make two pairs of earrings. The first pair, which you can see in the photo, worked (though they're far from perfect)

and the second pair were a total failure!

It was very nice to work with a new material that I've never used before. Specially finding that it's such a lovely material to work with. However I can't ride a bike (shameful admission for an environmentalist I know!) so I won't have a supply of inner tubes of my own.

If you're in (or close to) Edinburgh and want to try making things from inner tubes, Changeworks have a supply, and if you ask nicely they will probably give you some!

You can read about the previous jewellery making workshop I attended here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Musselburgh on a Cold Day

It was a lovely winter's day in Musselburgh yesterday - sunny and still but cold and frosty.

The Boating Pond was frozen over

and alongside the paths in the nature reserve, the frost covered everything

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Co-operative Cats

It's a funny old world online social media. I recently took part in a competition, organised by Co-operative Insurance, which involved guessing which shopping basket a cat would choose. This lead to us tweeting each other with some of the lyrics of the signature tune of TV show Top Cat, which lead to us sharing haiku about cats. I didn't win the competition, but the company liked my haiku so much they asked me to teach their cat Smudge how to write poetry.

Smudge arrived safely yesterday

and we started with a  simple lesson in rhyme:  The cat sat on the mat.... but I think Smudge was more interested in looking out of the window across to the cats in the opposite flats.

We have the new tabby cat, living in the top flat opposite us (a recent arrival and not to be confused with Tabitha, our favourite local tabby cat.)

Then there is the beautiful grey and white cat, who we suspect is a posh cat. We've only seen her outside twice, once walking sedately along with Tabitha, and once on a lead with her owners as they chatted with some friends in the street. She's usually to be seen at her window, watching the world go by. She shares my interest in birdwatching....

Talking of posh cats, the first Edinburgh cat cafe has just opened in Stockbridge. Called Maison de Moggy, it is home to a select group of pedigree cats who have run of the place. You can pay to spend an hour in their company while sipping on tea and eating cake, not forgetting to give the cats some tasty treats of their own. It 's apparently only open for a limited time (I don't know how long!) so if you want to make friends with these cats, you'll need to be quick!

A second Edinburgh Cat Cafe will be opening in Morningside later this year. This one will be home to rescue cats from the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, and these cats, will, rumour has it, be available to adopt by customers to the cafe. (I can see fights breaking out for favourite cats).

Smudge will continue his poetic education and may even visit one of the cat cafes!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Frost and Ice

It's incredibly cold out there today! I had a lovely walk through Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith, doing my weekly voluntary patrol, picking litter (not much) and recording wildlife (quite a lot).

These icicles were hanging from fallen branches by Colinton Weir

gorse usually blooms all year, but looks particularly striking in the frost

meanwhile the bramble leaves are icy

as are the cones of the larch I studied for Tree Following

and even the ivy leaves in the shade of the larch

Monday, 19 January 2015

Friday, 16 January 2015

Cold and sunny with a light breeze

It is very cold today, but sunny and the wild winds of the last few days have died down to a brisk breeze. I was fascinated by this puddle in the dirt track of the John Muir Walkway at Musselburgh. The right hand part is all icy and the breeze is creating ripples in the left hand side, I love the difference in patterns this creates!

There were lots of birds at Musselburgh Lagoons today, I was most happy to see 17 grey partridges. I hadn't seem the partridges for a few months, though there had been 17 at the beginning of the autumn. So it looks like last year's youngsters that made it through the summer have now made it halfway through the winter! This is great news, specially as the grey partridge is one of the many birds that are struggling in the UK.

I also saw several goldeneye ducks, some of which were performing their courtship dance, which you can read about in this blog post from the RSPB

Thursday, 15 January 2015


January winds -
abandoned Christmas trees
litter the streets

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Water of Leith, Winter Wonderland

I love Colinton Dell at all times of the year, but it is magical in the snow.

There were lots of birds around today, including two tree creepers who were chasing each other from tree to tree, and flying right round me!

I was impressed by this little fungus growing on a dead tree, and I know the photo is slightly out of focus, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Takeo was brought up in a peace loving community, but as he grows up he has to learn to live with the warlike skills he inherited from his warrior birth-father.

Across the Nightingale Floor follows Takeo's quest in a fictional land that resembles a long ago Japan. He is adoped by Shigeru, chief of the Otori clan and becomes part of his party, alongside Kaede who is betrothed to Shigeru but who has the unfortunate reputation of causing the death of any man who loves her.

Takeo hones his skills, including his incredibly sensitive hearing and his ability to become invisible to help Shigeru to outwit the warlord Iida Sadamu. His main obstacle is the nightingale floor, which alerts the warlord to intruders by singing like a bird at the slightest pressure.

It is herons, however, rather than nightingales, which are the birds that most inhabit this tale, appearing every so often:

The heron came to the garden every agternoon, floating like a grey ghost over the wall, folding itself improbably and standing thigh-deep in the pool, as still as a statue...The red and gold carp that Lord Otori took pleasure in feeding were too big for it, but it held its position, motionless for ling minutes at a time, until some hapless creature forgot it was there and dared to move in the water. Then the heron struck, faster than eye could follow, and, with the little wriggling thing in its beak, reassembled itself for flight. The first few wing beats were as loud as the sudden clacking of a fan, but after that it departed as silently as it came.

This is an engaging story and beautifully written. Most readers are likely to continue reading about the Otoris in the next twl books in the trilogy: Grass for His Pillow and Brilliance of the Moon.

Note to bird-lovers - there are no nightingales in a nightingale floor.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn published by BCA Macmillan

Monday, 12 January 2015

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Kingfisher and blizzard

The weather has been wild over the past few days. On Thursday night, winds got up to 90mph in Edinburgh and it's been consistently windy for the past few days.

It wasn't too bad this morning when we set off for a walk along the relatively sheltered stretch of the Water of Leith from Roseburn up to Dean Village. We were rewarded with a wonderful view of a kingfisher, though this photo

(and yes there is a kingfisher in there, you may notice the blurred patch of orange and turquoise) is only worth adding to the British Trust for Ornithology's Facebook collection of worst ever bird photos.

Once we had admired the kingfisher for several minutes as it flew from branch to branch and dived into the river the blizzard set in. As we were very close to the Gallery of Modern Art at that point we popped in for coffee and cake and by the time we'd finished the sun was out and we could finish our walk.

The blizzard has set in again now and shows no sign of stopping so quickly this time!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Sun Breaks Through

I was delighted today when a copy of The Sun Breaks Through arrived on my door mat. This is the long awaited anthology of writing from the Write On Course (based at the Ripple Project in Lochend). I currently teach the Write On Course and was delighted to edit this anthology that contains wonderful poetry and short stories from class members.

A Bit of a Breeze by Dot Stuart follows an autumn leaf as it floats above Edinburgh to finally land in the Lochend Community Garden.

In The Most Amazing Thing Happened Kathleen Byron shows us how the tar sands of Canada affect the surrounding communities

We meet an unusual and melancholy character in Louise Bankhead's The Wooden Peg

St Jane is a poem from Elaine Pomeransky about a Scottish nurse who died in Auschwitz

Margaret Bruce tells us the story of a missing person in I Was Alarmed

[at falling tide on islay] is an atmospheric poem from Louise Bankhead

Everything is not quite as it seems in Kathleen Byron's Where Did You Hide the Body?

The Trams are just the starting point for Dot Stuart's story of reminiscences

and finally Lindsay Oliver shares a story I Love Leith.

The anthology is available from the Ripple Project and costs £3 if you buy it in person or £4 (including postage and packing) if you order it by post from an address within the UK. For overseas orders, please contact the Ripple Project for information on postage rates. The Ripple Project contact details are on their website.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Coffee, tea and the environment

I recently made a cafetiere cosy, as I became determined to start drinking shade grown coffee, which is the most environmentally friendly type of coffee, as it grows in amongst other plants and offers habitats for birds and avoids rainforest destruction. 

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find decaffinated shade grown coffee.

Reading this post by Emma Websdale, writing on Mark Avery's blog, reminded me of the environmental cost of drinking coffee.

Mostly I drink tea, green tea in fact, except for drinking a cup of black tea after every meal. I use loose tea (to avoid the paper packaging associated with tea bags) and fill up a tea ball in the morning which I can generally reuse over and over all day (I like my tea weak!). Green and black teas have their environmental impacts too though, not least the fact that they're transported from the other side of the world.

So what is the solution? In my novel, which I'm currently editing, most of the characters drink herbal teas made from herbs they grow themselves or that they pick from the surrounding countryside. The only reason they're all happy to do that is that they're living in a future world where the global economy has collapsed and the tea estates in the Highlands of Scotland (they're also living in a very climate changed world!) are so hated for their record of slavery that no self respecting person drinks the tea.

Personally, though I like some herbal teas, I think I like green and black teas too much to give them up. I'll certainly try to minimise my coffee drinking though until I can find a shade grown decaffinated coffee.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Spice Islands Voyage by Tim Severin

In 1996, Tim Severin set out to travel round the Spice Islands of equatorial Indonesia on a locally made and designed boat in the footsteps of Alfred Russell Wallace, the brilliant biologist who had come up with the ideas of natural selection and evolution at the same time as Charles Darwin.

There are places where time seems to have stood still, the birds of paradise thriving and happily playing in the trees, hunted yes but in a sustainable way with the local villagers taking responsibility for restricting the amount they hunt. There are beautiful beaches and pristine stretches of water. People are invariably friendly and helpful.

Then there are sights which Severin knows would break the heart of Wallace if he were to return to these same places again. Harbours that are full of stinking rubbish, markets that are full of meat that comes straight from endangered species of birds and animals. Beaches were all the turtle nests have been dug out and every single egg stolen and eaten. Areas where the birds of paradise are being pushed into smaller and smaller patches of trees, their future existence becoming more precarious by the day.

The irony is that Wallace himself was not only a naturalist but a collector of birds and butterflies. in fact he financed his journey largely through the selling of rare bird skins and insect specimens. He also killed not insubstantial numbers of insects and birds for his scientific studies. In those days, it was all on a smaller scale, but even so, the pressures put on wildlife by hunting go far back. 

This is a fascinating book, full of the wonder of the tropical beauty that still survives in some areas of these islands but not afraid to show the less palatable side of life in Indonesia, largely as a result of rapidly expanding human population and rampant greed.

The worst thing reading this though is the knowledge that so much must have changed in the twenty years since it was written, how much more of the paradise has been lost in that relatively short period of time?

The Spice Islands Voyage by Tim Severin published by Abacus.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Canal Cats

Cats alongside the Union Canal, this lunchtime

This cat lives on this boat, I started writing a short story about it a while ago and should finish it! Here is a close up of the cat

And here is another cat, which was eyeing the sparrows in the bushes by the side of the canal

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Corstorphine Hill

After yesterday's very mixed weather, today was beautifully clear and sunny, though fairly cold. The light was beautiful on the trees on Corstorphine Hill - this Scots pine for example.

We walked to the top of the hill to the tower, which was built in 1871 in memory of Sir Walter Scott.

Apparently the views are wonderful from the top, but I can't stand climbing long spiral staircases and the tower isn't often open ....

We saw lots of birds, including seeing a great spotted woodpecker for the third time in four days, which is impressive, since outside of Springtime, they always seem very elusive birds for me. We also saw our first nuthatches of the year in an area of the hill where we haven't seen them before (nuthatches are still exanding their range into Scotland and Corstorphine Hill is one of ony two sites where I know of that they can be found in Edinburgh). Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo (click on it for a bigger view).

Just in the same area as this nuthatch we also saw our first treecreeper of the year - again thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photo (and again you can click on it for a bigger view)

For Saturday Critters 

and I'd Rather-b-Birdin'

Friday, 2 January 2015

young swans

Today's weather has been very mixed, beautiful blue skies one minute, torrential rain the next, then blue skies again then snow. It was unfortunately very dull when we were at Figgate Pond but I think the young swans still look very lovely, almost grown up as they are...