Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Lives of Trees and Flowers by Fiona Stafford

The Long Long Life of Trees is a beautifully produced book that focuses on a selection of tree species and looks at how we have used them and represented them in art through the years.

The trees are: yew, cherry, rowan, olive, cypress, oak, ash, poplar, holly, sycamore, birch, horse chestnut, elm, willow, hawthorn, pine, apple.

The long introduction to the volume gives an overview of the human relationship with trees, with this very timely and relevant paragraph catching my eye:

'It is often only when local trees are on the verge of disappearance that people begin to realise just how much them mean.....The sense of loss prompted by treee felling has been echoing through British culture for centuries. Plans for new building projects that are known to put green sites at risk provoke passionate protests. Whether the threat comes from new roads, High Speed rail, supermarkets or plant pathogens, the urge to defend the environment, to stand up for ancient rights and save the trees for future generations is widely felt.'

The chapters on individual species are full of interesting stories and ideas including:

a suggestion for a better way of extracting taxanes (an anti cancer drug) from yew trees;

the practice of uprooting ancient olive trees from their natural habitat to decorate gardens - cultural vandalism or legitimate source of income for struggling farmers?

the value of willow trees as defence against flooding incidents;

the different types of hedgerows needed for different types of farms.

It also explores the cultural impact of the mass loss of trees to disease, including describing a notable feature of Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens:

'Elms have now become incontrovertible figures of loss.... The Aeolian Pavilion (in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) is a memorial to the species, but instead of relying on a small plaque.....this contains a more tangible monument, a large Celtic harp crafted from the old wych elm that finally yielded to Dutch Elm disease in 2003. The tree is gone and the garden emptier, as the wind plays over the Ossianic harp strings, creating a plaintive requiem.'


A more recent, companion book is The Brief Life of Flowers, a copy of which I won in a giveaway on Gabriel Hemery's blog. This is a shorter book, with shorter chapters but follows the same basic idea. A few select flowers are profiled and described, in short chapters that are ordered more or less in seasonal order, starting with snowdrops and ending with poppies with a very short final chapter on ghost orchids and including a chapter on lime (linden) flowers, whose scent is one of my favourite smells of the countryside . There is also a chapter on 'gillyflowers' which considers just what the gillyflower - popular in literature but actually non-existent in floral identification books. The flowers are examined in terms of their contribution to landscape and culture. It's a fascinating book, well worth reading if you're interested in British flowers.

The two books are excellent companion pieces.

The Long Long Life of Trees by Fiona Stafford published by Yale University Press (2016)

The Brief Life of Flowers by Fiona Stafford published by John Murray Press (2019)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Crafting Update

I picked up a lovely bracelet very cheaply in one of the local second hand shops. It was damaged but too pretty not to buy. Most segments of the bracelet had missing diamantes (rhinestones) and the segments weren't connected to each other properly. I mended the connections and wore it for a couple of years. But then I became annoyed with how damaged it all was and took off the remaining part that wasn't damaged and attached it to a chain and now it's quite a pleasing necklace

The segments of the bracelet that are missing diamantes are now in an envelope along with some other items to send to the Alzheimers Society who will recycle them to raise money for their work. (You can find out more about recycling items for Alzheimer's here.)

I have recently added two more ID badge lanyards to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy store. You can see them here and here.

Meanwhile I've been helping the Friends of Saughton Park prepare for their Hallowe'en themed teddy bear hunt which will take place (if I'm not mistaken) at an event to be held in the park on Saturday 28 October (more details hopefully to follow). So I'm making ghost costumes for the teddy bears, here are just some of them. Basically I just cut pieces out of an old (and very ragged) sheet and then cut holes for eyes and to allow the bear's name tag to show through. Sometimes also allowing ears or hats to show through as well.

Thirty bears will all be hidden around the park at the event with children being encouraged to find them all.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Late Summer Insects

Such a beautiful sunny day today, ideal for my volunteer litter-picking and wildlife recording patrol of the Dells along the Water of Leith. Plenty of birds about including sparrowhawks shouting everywhere and trees full of small birds including nuthatch and treecreeper.

But I was most impressed with the range of insects that were flying so late in the season including this beautiful comma butterfly

and nearby was this lovely Leucozonia glaucia hoverfly

The pictorial meadow (a planted meadow of flowers which provide colour through most of the year) in Spylaw Park was full of bees and hoverflies including Syrphus sp hoverflies

I couldn't take many photos as my camera battery ran out.....

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Honeyland - film review

The documentary, Honeyland is the story of Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild bee keepers in Europe, who lives in the mountains of Macedonia, with her ailing mother, a dog and three cats, the only inhabitants of an otherwise deserted village. Hatidze regularly climbs right up a rockface to collect bees from one of her wild hives, others of which are scattered around the landscape and she also keeps homemade hives.When she harvests the honeycombs, she always leaves half in the hives, to keep the colony flourishing. She takes her honey into Skopje to seel it for 10 Euros a jar. 

Then suddenly during shooting Hussein Sam, his wife, Ljutvie, seven fractious kids and their cattle move into the valley, which adds an extra layer of story for the film-makers and creates a different film than was initially intended. Hatidze is very uncertain about these invaders but she makes friends with the children and offers advice on beekeeping to Hussein. However, this fragile harmony is broken when Hussein decides he wants to start beekeeing seriously himself. 

This is a beautiful film about living in harmony with nature and how easily that harmony can be broken. It's also a story of community and the respect that needs to be shown to others around you.

Honeyland is screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thursday 19 September.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Earth Stars and Yew Trees

There seem to be lots of earth star fungi around at the moment! Here are just a few of those I saw at lunchtime around Corstorphine Hill

The yew trees are looking at their best at the moment too

for Nature Notes.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Crafty Accessories for my Keep Cup

I was given this keep cup at an event organised by Gorgie Collective to decorate a keep cup.

This cup couldn't be decorated, as it doesn't take paint (you can read about the cup I did decorate here). But this is the cup I use when I need a keep cup.

It annoys me to see that some venues, which you would think would be proper cafes, are now moving to using so-called eco-friendly disposable cups even for sit-in customers(they may be made from more eco-friendly materials than plastics, but it's still disposable, which in itself is a problem) so I need to have a keep cup with me more often than I would expect (I almost never get take away coffees).

There are two issues with this particular keep cup. One is that it gets very hot and is uncomfortable to hold. To combat that issue I cut the foot off a thick sock that was beyond repair and used the rest of the sock to make a little cover

This is great, but then I discovered that the lid falls off very easily, which means that the lid and cup get separated and things from my handbag might end up in the cup and if I've not been able to wash and dry the cup after use, then things in my handbag might get damp. So the next thing I did was to make a carry bag for the cup.

I used part of a sleeve that I had cut from a long sleeved t-shirt.

The cuffs were damaged and there were holes in the elbow so I cut off the lower sleeves to make a short sleeved t-shirt. I used one of the sleeves to make a bag for the keep cup, using an old shoe lace in the top

The closure keeps the lid firmly on the cup so I don't need to worry about the cup and lid getting separated or the contents of my handbag getting damp.

With the Climate Strike coming up, craftivism is being promoted as a good way of getting involved if street protest isn't your thing. It's a great way to use your arts and crafts skills to campaign for things you feel strongly about. There's a nice article about craftivism from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) here.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Walking in the Pentlands

Last week as part of our staycation, we made several day trips in the Edinburgh area. I blogged yesterday about our trip to North Berwick and today I'm sharing photos from our walk across the Pentlands from Flotterstone to Balerno.

We got a bus down to Flotterstone and had a cup of tea in the lovely cafe that is part of the Countryside Rangers Centre

It's a lovely cosy little cafe with a good snack menu, well worth dropping into before or after a long walk across the Pentlands.

There's a nice little carved bench just near the cafe

which marks the beginning of the trail over the hills.

Nearby is a replica of a sheep stell where sheep used to be herded for lambing, shearing or marking or to protect them from poor weather
The scenery here features gentle hills

and the picturesque Glencorse Reservoir, which is used for boating and fishing

 The routes are mostly well sign posted

We went further into the hills, though staying mostly on the lower paths to avoid vertigo

we were amazed by the numbers of house martins and swallows flying around in certain areas and delighted to see this painted lady

 along with lots of these large caterpillars, in one area there were caterpillars everywhere we looked! I don't know what they will grow up to be, if you do recognise the species let me know in the comments.

Edited to add: Steve from the very useful Wildlife Insight Caterpillars webpages tells me this is a fox moth caterpillar.

We were disappointed not to see any rabbits despite this sign

We stopped for a snack at the side of Harlaw Reservoir (which is one of the reservoirs that feeds into the Water of Leith)

and we wandered along the woodland path by the side of the reservoir. We were particularly impressed by this fly agaric toadstool (warning this is poisonous)

We finally walked along the side of Treipmuir reservoir

 to Red Moss from where it's a short walk to Balerno (past the Scottish SPCA Animal Rescue Centre where we adopted our bunny Anya all those years ago) where we caught a bus back to the centre of Edinburgh.

The Pentland Hills are a Regional Country Park and there a number of walking routes through the area. You can find out more about these routes here. It's a great place to explore and enjoy the outdoors.