Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Children and Nature

I've been reading a lot recently about the importance of children spending time in nature so that they become interested in conservation when they're older.

(It seems to me that a lot of teenagers are interested in the carbon footprint reduction aspect of environmentalism but perhaps fewer are interested in conservation of wildlife and wild places, which would fit with my overall perception of the general public's attitude to the environment these days).

People's arguments are that how can children grow up to protect nature if they don't learn to love it? And how can children learn to love nature if they don't spend lots of time outdoors getting muddy and looking for bugs, plants and animal tracks?

I totally agree with all of that. I think it's more vital than ever that children are out there, experiencing nature.

However, it's interesting that when I was growing up, I almost never played outside except in the back garden of the house where my parents still live (which is nice and big and has a wild patch at the bottom but it's still a domesticated garden). Although we had regular day trips and holidays to relatively rural places, I wasn't encouraged to actually explore the great outdoors and certainly never ran wild. My knowledge of wildlife was for a long time based largely on what I read in books.

And look what happened to me!

I'm taking a wee blog break - back early next week!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Oaken Wood public inquiry

Oaken Wood is a wildlife-rich area of ancient woodland (it has been continuously wooded since at least 1600) in Kent in the south of England. It is threatened by the expansion of a nearby quarry. The quarry would destroy around 32 hectares of Oaken Wood and would have a devastating effect on the remaining wood.

These days when so much of our woodland has been lost, every hectare is precious and deserves to be protected for the wildlife, for our recreation and for future generations. 

The Oaken Wood public inquiry, which has just started, is the biggest test for the future of ancient woodland since the National Planning Policy Framework was established. The result could set a precedent for the way planning applications for mineral extraction are decided upon in relation to loss of ancient woodland.

You can keep up to date with the campaign on theWoodland Trust blog Woodland Matters and you can read more on the background to the case on the Woodland Trust website.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Words about Birds

Wild waves on the sea. I can just about see some black ducks sitting in the troughs of the waves, bobbing up and down. Are they velvet scoters? Probably (I often see these birds here) but I can't be sure enough to record them this time as a sighting on Birdtrack!

Meanwhile, a long line of mallards sails out from the river into the sea. There's something comical about this seeming bravery, touching too. Though it's off that it should seem like that as mallards are much more robust than most sea going ducks!

A flurry of meadow pipits over the long grass.

A kestrel hunting over the same grassy area.

One of the Lagoons black with oystercatchers, and the sudden red of a beak as one turns to preen itself. The other lagoons are spotted with lapwings, teal and wigeon.

The wind so wild that my coffee flask wobbles in the bird hide.

today at Musselburgh

If you are going birding in Edinburgh or the Lothians, how about checking out the Lothian Birds Recent Sightings page before you go? This page tells you what unusual species have been seen recently.

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

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Festive Robins and Etsy update

A reminder that Crafty Green Boyfriend's robin photo is now gracing one of the Friends of the Earth Christmas card designs. You can see it (and buy it!) here. It's a great photo of possibly one of the fattest robins ever.

Thinking about robins, I was inspired to put together this festive robin treasury on Etsy. (For anyone who isn't on Etsy, a treasury is a selection of favourite items made by other people. I didn't make any of the items in the treasury!). I'm constantly inspired by the range of amazing crafts and vintage items on Etsy and if money weren't an issue I could be tempted to spend a lot of money there.

I've been steadily adding things to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, Today I added this interesting piece of sea glass to the sea glass and sea pottery section of the shop. I'm hoping to add more to the beaded bookmark section too and also am putting together another mini collage kit for the supplies section of the shop

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

Friday, 23 November 2012

Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen

Crafty Green Boyfriend recommended this book to me. We rarely read the same books, even when we choose science fiction, we read different types of science fiction. But he thought that I would be interested in the alternative technologies in this book. He was right too.

Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen is set in Australia about two millenia into the future. The continent is ruled by war-like librarians. Nuclear winter is long in the past and the world has developed new technologies since then, but without fossil fuels and with electricity and steam engines being banned by all major religions, the technology has developed in interesting, labour intensive ways. Messages are sent long distances using beam-flash towers, trains are driven by wind power or by galleys of slaves and passenger volunteers, who have to put in a lot of hard work to get to their destination. Computers aren't even a memory in this culture and instead complicated mathematical calculations are performed by slaves in the Calculor - a huge hall full of rows of abacuses. There are smaller, mobile calculors that can be used on the battlefield.

And oh there are a lot of battles. Far too many for my taste. The opposing sides seem to take to the battlefield for no apparent reason and apart from the first extended battlefield scene that outlined the use of the battle calculor, I found these scenes tedious. Instead of all the constant fighting I wanted a bit more character development - John Glasken the maverick, serial seducer and unlikely hero is entertaining and feels like a real person, whereas I didn't get a feel for a lot of the other characters beyond their roles. That may be deliberate of course, but it didn't help in engaging me with certain parts of the story.

The comments above are about my tastes rather than about the quality of the book. It's totally fascinating if you're interested in technological solutions to possible futures, but really it's written for people with more of a taste for lots of battles.

Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen published by TOR Science Fiction

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can learn more. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Shop Less, Live More!

Buy Nothing Day is tomorrow in the USA and on Saturday in the UK.

Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism.As the website says, it’s not shopping in itself that’s harmful, it’s what we buy. The idea is to help people to think about what and how much they buy and how their purchases affect the environment,  developing countries and their local community.

Many large companies for example use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap - but these countries don't have the systems to protect workers that there are in the west.

Any product that contains palm oil (unless it is certified sustainable palm oil) plays a role in destroying rainforests and reducing the habitat available for orang utans and other endangered species.  (This is a difficult one to avoid, almost all processed foods seem to contain palm oil as do many brands of toiletries and cosmetics.)

Many people prefer to shop in out of centre shopping malls, but these drain life out of the city centre, which can create unappealing areas in these cities.

There is always the temptation to buy buy buy, even when we don't actually need to. So, many of us rush out to buy the latest style of shoes or mobile phone, even if the one we already had is still in perfect condition. The current economic climate is probably pushing more people into considering alternatives to buying more - in terms of fixing things or wearing clothing until it wears out rather than replacing it as soon as it goes out of style.

But as I said earlier, it's not about shopping being in itself a bad thing. So a few ideas of better ways to buy:

* buying locally made products and reduces the distance your products need to travel, thus reducing the carbon footprint of your purchases;
* buying in local shops helps to support your local economy and to maintain a vibrant community; 
* buying products that are made to last reduces waste;
* buying second hand promotes recycling and often supports charities;
* fair trade guarantees a fair wage for the producers;
* organic agriculture reduces the amount of pesticides and other artificial chemicals used in farming.

Also remember, that if you are feeling down, a walk in the countryside is more likely to cheer you up than buying the latest fad! (Though for many people that of course depend on the weather!).

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Mute Swans on Blackford Pond

I took these photos the weekend before last at Blackford Pond

I don't tend to photograph birds, preferring to enjoy the moment than obsess over focus. However, big waterbirds like swans are easy to photo!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Water of Leith Walkway

I recently posted some photos of autumn leaves along the Water of Leith. Rabbits' Guy left a comment asking: is there a regular foot path with easy visibility of the river? Or what is it like? 

The answer is that yes, there is a regular footpath all along the river, which mostly has good views of the river. The area of the river that I help to look after has a lot of paths in fact, some of which are right next to the river, some of which are further away. Some areas of the river upstream from 'my' area have the path quite a distance from the river and it can be difficult to get to or even see the water from the path. Downstream, the path tends to be mostly very close to the river, though some parts of the path are closed at the moment because of the flood prevention works, which are running behind time and costing a lot of money. (For all that I would, in an ideal world, prefer to see natural flood prevention measures, in very built up areas this is impossible and you need to use less natural methods. Having said that the work needs to be done as speedily as possible to avoid long term damage to the river. You can read more of my thoughts on the flood prevention works here).

The walkway was first though of in the 1940s, the first section was built 1973 and it was completed 2002. The Water of Leith Walkway Trust campaigned for and developed the first walkways.

The charity that I volunteer for, Water of Leith Conservation Trust (WOLCT) was set up in 1988 by residents concerned about the river. It was the first river charity in Scotland (now there is also Friends ofthe River Kelvin (FORK)). 

Colinton and Craiglockart Dells, which is the area I help to look after, will not have flood prevention works, as the area is not residential. In fact it's a lovely wooded area, which is perfect for a birdwatching walk!

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

Monday, 19 November 2012

World Toilet Day

 Pit latrines, Malindi Primary School, Malawi

I imagine that most people reading this blog take your toilet for granted. In the richer countries of the world, we expect to have a toilet. Most of us have a water flushing toilet, though perhaps some people reading this have a water saving composting toilet.

However, one in three people in the world (that's 2.5 billion people) do not have access to a clean, private toilet.

Sanitation is a basic human right.

Toilets can help prevent the spread of disease.

Good school toilets can help girls continue their education.

Sanitation is an environmental issue too. If you're appalled by dog dirt along your favourite countryside walk, just think about how much worse it would be if it were human waste.

Well today is World Toilet Day. World Toilet Day was created to raise global awareness of the daily struggle for proper sanitation that a staggering 2.5 billion people face. World Toilet Day brings together different groups, such as media, the private sector, development organisations and civil society in a global movement to advocate for safe toilets. Since its inception in 2001, World Toilet Day has become an important platform to demand action from governments and to reach out to wider audiences by showing that toilets can be fun and sexy as well as vital to life.

Find out more on the World Toilet Day website

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

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Wildlife Information Centre conference

Yesterday I went along to the Wildlife Information Centre conference, which this year focussed on the wildlife and management of grasslands. There were some excellent speakers on a range of topics.

Ali Murfitt from Plantlife Scotland talked about grassland fungi, which are indicators of unimproved grassland (ie grassland that has not been farmed). She talked about the most common families of grassland fungi (Clavariaceae - the coral fungi; Hygrophoraceae - waxcaps; Entolomatacea - pink gills; Geoglossacea - earth tongues and Dermoloma - crazed caps). Waxcaps are a relatively easy group to identify but the others often can only be identified to species level through microscopic examination of the spores. If you're interested in learning more about identifying and recording fungi in Scotland you can find out more on the Scottish Fungi website.

Duncan Davidson of Butterfly Conservation talked about grassland butterflies and moths. Scotland has significantly fewer species of butterflies and moths than does England, but whereas most species are declining in England, many are remaining stable or even increasing in Scotland. Some species are starting to move north into Scotland due to climate change. I was fascinated to discover that in one species of moth - the ghost moth - the males gather and display to the females. I was also fascinated to learn that in the UK birds eat a total of 35 billion moths a year!

Andrew Jarman of Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society talked about recording this interesting group of insects, concentrating on the solitary species. If you think of bees you probably think of honey bees that live in hives with a colony structure that includes a queen and a lot of sterile worker bees. Solitary species don't have this colony structure, though often they are more sociable than their name suggests, they often nest close together. Many species are difficult to identify. I was fascinated to learn about the parasitic species that invade the nests of other bee species, kill the eggs and steal the food supplies!

Stuart MacPherson from East Lothian Council talked about how the council manages its grasslands and the balance that needs to be struck between protecting the grasslands habitat (which is rare in the area) and protecting scrubland (which can encroach on grassland and is a good habitat in its own right but common in the area). There are also sometimes potential conflicts with golf courses. The expense of good management was discussed, including the potential of grazing by livestock. At one point rabbits were discussed as a good management strategy, apparently there aren't enough of them in the area!

Heather McHaffie from the Royal Botanic Gardens talked about the work the gardens do in conserving and reintroducing native species. The garden has an extensive seed and DNA collection for Scottish plants and is involved in several projects including helping to sustain the population of the unique species of rowan trees found on the Scottish island of Arran.

The Wildlife Information Centre itself plays a vital role in collating records of all sorts of wildlife in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders. They are currently running a special 'Spots and Stripes' survey focussing on badgers and leopard slugs. So if you can help them with that survey or with general wildlife sightings do get in touch with them via their website. If you're in another area of Scotland, you can find out your local records centre from Biological Recording in Scotland Campaign and if you're outside Scotland, you probably have a wildlife recording centre or similar close by.

Wildlife recording is a great way to learn more about nature and it helps conservationists to know how well (or badly) species are doing in the wild. 

As ever, red text takes you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Feel Good Factory on Creative Thinking

The Feel Good Factory on Creative Thinking explores the techniques used to spark ideas that free our minds. It is an inspiring read, full of ideas for tapping into and making the most of your creativity.

It starts with a useful quiz to explore your attitude to procrastination and balancing your tasks. It then goes on to offer:

* Advice on time management, making 'to-do' lists, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, how to identify your optimal thinking environment

* The importance of lifelong learning, research and creative problem solving and the value of being silly and allowing yourself to make mistakes

* Advice on finding and capturing creative ideas, how to improve your innovation skills and how to avoid information overload

* The importance of storytelling

* The value of networking

Some quotes from the book

'A big part of being creative is not simply about being inspired; it's about simply getting things done'

'It's much better to greet the new day with a messy desk and a clear head rather than the other way round' (though the book does emphasise that de-cluttering your space can de-clutter your mind too!)

'Deadlines help you to be decisive'

'Think of your brain as being a bit like a computer - a lot of processing goes on in the background and that needs downtime'

'It's important to develop a sense of curiosity about everything'

'Pay attention to your intuition'

'Most creative ideas are just.... two or more elements connected in a new or novel fashion'

'You only ever learned to walk after a lot of falling over'

'Many of the greatest inventions were accidental'

The Feel Good Factory on Creative Thinking is published by Infideasbooks.

The book also recommends Pinterest as a useful social networking site and a place for collating visual images to inspire your work, so for better or worse I've now joined Pinterest.  

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

Cross posted here

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was delighted when Marianne Wheelaghan asked me to take part in The Next Big Thing

It works like this: a writer answers ten questions about an upcoming publication and they tag five more writers. Each of these writers answers the ten questions by the following week and they recommend five more writers. It grows, week by week.

Before I start,  a few words about Marianne: I was delighted to win a copy of Marianne's first novel The Blue Suitcase in a competition on her blog and I reviewed it on Over Forty Shades here. I recently attended the launch of her second novel Food of Ghosts which I look forward to reviewing soon! I'm particularly interested in it as it is set on a low lying Pacific Island which fits in with one of the themes of my novel in progress.

Which leads us on to my answers to the Next Big Thing questions about my novel in progress:

What is the title of your new book?

Tidal (this is a working title and may change)
Where did the idea come from for the book?

I've always wanted to write a novel but not just for the sake of it, I wanted a story to find me and demand to be written. Then I was thinking about how Scotland might look post-Independence and post extreme climate change. Add in the fact that Tuvalu, one of the island nations most threatened by climate change has a surprising amount in common with the Western Isles off the coast of Scotland. (Though Tuvalu won't actually be named in the novel it is the model for the island where the climate change refugees originally come from) Oh and Donald Trump makes an appearance with his descendants doing their best to disrupt Scotland in good Trump style! I've written part of the novel as a short story and am currently working on the main storyline and weaving the short story back in. 

What genre does your book fall under?

Speculative fiction. It's not tech-y enough to be really science fiction....

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There are lots of characters, too many to cast, but the cast could include:

The Western Islanders

Malcolm MacDonald - Peter Mullan
Catriona Tilda Swinton 

New Lanark

Sheena - Kelly MacDonald (or maybe she'd be better playing Aggie?)

The Climate Change refugees

Noa - Jessica Mauboy

I'd like the rest of the refugees to be played by unknown Pacific islanders but if not then for example:

Rachel - Thandie Newton 
Amos - Morgan Freeman

Forest Whitaker might also have a cameo role as Idi Amin in a historic flashback

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Climate change refugees make a new start in a future independent Scotland

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to get an agent. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote a very rough draft of the book for NaNoWriMo in November 2011. Since then I've been working on producing something more readable. I'm currently happy with bits of it and working hard on the rest!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The only other two novels about climate change in Scotland that I'm aware of are: But n ben a Go-Go by Matthew Fitt and Writing in the Sand by Angus Dunn.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The urgency of the issue of climate change. Though for an urgent novel it's taking a long time to write!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The many bunny bloggers who read this blog will be hopefully captivated by the bunnies in the novel. 

The Writers I’m Tagging

Alison at Diamond Cut Life whose novel Revelle is just out.

Caroline at Coastcard whose poetry pamphlet The Holy Place (co-authored with John Dotson) is just out.

Michelle from Tales of the Raspberry Rabbits who has just launched Briarside Lane - a book of folk art fusion

Diana from The Qi Papers who has two writing projects on the go (and two bunnies starring in the novel).

And given that a couple of people who I asked aren't able to take part, then I'm still looking for a fifth person to tag! So if you're a regular reader of this blog and would like to blog about your new book or your next writing project just let me know!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Seeing things in a new light

These days we all know that the old fashioned incandescent light bulbs are not a good idea, because they're inefficient.

However energy saving flourescent bulbs aren't exactly perfect - given that they contain mercury (which is a serious issue when it comes to disposal, and although they last longer than conventional light bulbs, they don't last forever and do need to be disposed of at some point). The quality of the light emitted by these light bulbs is thought to also be behind some health problems so again not ideal. Unfortunately though we're being pushed into buying fluorescent bulbs to save energy. Many countries are phasing out the use and sale of incandescent light bulbs.

So I've always been interested in trying out the LED lights (Light Emitting Diodes). These don't contain mercury and are more efficient and longer lasting than incandescent light-bulbs. The main problems with these so far have been a) high prices, b) incompatibility with conventional light fittings.Both these problems are likely to be addressed in the near future.

So I was delighted when digital media agency Spread It Fast sent me a couple of LED bulbs to review. As I noted above, LED bulbs aren't always compatible with conventional light fittings and I was disappointed that of the range of  LED bulbs available, only one was compatible with any of the light fittings in our flat and most of our light fittings can't take any of the bulbs I was offered.

 First impressions though are very positive. The bulb is expected to last for 15 years and is guaranteed for two.

  It is obviously very energy efficient, being rated A.
  It looks nice too, much more discreet than your average compact fluorescent.
As soon as you switch it on, it reaches full power, which is a great advantage over the compact fluorescents which take a while to get to full power. It gives a directional light, which is very noticeable, this is a great advantage for example in a reading lamp but could be a disadvantage in a more general purpose light.The quality of light is quite nice too, even if that isn't captured perfectly in my photo!

So if you're looking for new light bulbs, I would definitely recommend looking at LEDs at least to start with, They are coming down in price and there seems to be a greater variety of designs all the time, so that hopefully soon it will become easier to find an LED bulb for any light fitting.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Brilliant birds!

It was lovely weather for ducks today at Musselburgh! Not only were there wigeon and teal on the Lagoons and goldeneye and red breasted mergansers on the Forth and at the mouth of the River Esk but also I saw my first ever long tailed ducks! Two very handsome males with such elegant long tails! All these are beautiful species of ducks - follow the links to find out just how beautiful!

I also saw a buzzard and a female kestrel flying around between Musselburgh Boating Pond and the Lagoons nature reserve.

On the Lagoons as well as the ducks there were a lot of bar tailed godwits, a few lapwings, a few knot and three grey herons. It's a while in fact since I've seen such a variety of birds on the lagoons, but I thought to myself, as I was sipping the last of my coffee, a short eared owl would just be perfect now! These owls hunt in the daytime and are quite frequently reported from the Lagoons, just that I've never seen one here.

Well I thought to myself after putting my flask away, I can't sit here any longer, I've seen plenty of birds. So I walked down the path and stopped to watch an adorable wee goldcrest that appeared in front of me and carefully showed me its yellow head markings. Then suddenly, a commotion in the trees, lots of blue tits making a lot of noise. Then wow! Right in front of me a short eared owl! Close enough that it almost stroked my face with its wings! Wow! I couldn't believe it!

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

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sylvain gets crafty!

Sylvain, the travelling French rabbit from Cottontails Baby today discovered this picture.

He loved the fact that it's made from shed rabbit fur, which I collected from our rabbit Anya, while she was alive (plus the fabric from an old skirt and the silver foil from a jar of coffee).

Sylvain also liked my round rabbit drawing and the felt Christmas star I made from shed rabbit fur.

You can read more about Sylvain's visit to Edinburgh by following the links below:

Un lapin francais visite a Edimbourg.

Sylvain searches for rabbits along the Water of Leith.

Sylvain meets a wise old rabbit.

We've been delighted to have Sylvain to stay for the past few days, but it's now time for him to move on and spend time with another blogger! I'll let you know where he goes next so you can follow his adventures.

If you'd like to host the travelling Sylvain, just pop over to this post on the Cottontails baby blog and add your name.

Alternatively if you'd like a Sylvain all of your own to keep or to give as a gift to a loved one, then you can buy various versions from the Moulin Roty Grand Family Range.

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

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Wonderful Woodlands and Waxwings!

We wandered round the Hermitage of Braid today, which is looking beautiful with all the autumn leaves.

We briefly saw a group of twenty waxwings near Blackford Pond, but didn't get very close to them. Unlike yesterday, when I got caught up in a flock of fifty that were flying around the Dalry area of Edinburgh, lining up on the roofs and tv aerials and then diving down to the rowan trees to eat the berries, before wheeling off again. Quite wonderful, and some of them came very close to me! I didn't have a camera with me but this was one of those times when I was more than content just to enjoy the moment rather than lose it all in trying to focus my camera.

And for all those of you who have become Sylvain fans, he will be back tomorrow for one final blog post before he moves on to his next host.

For Shadow Shot Sunday

Friday, 9 November 2012

Sylvain helps me with my writing!

I sat down today to work on my novel. Sylvain, the travelling French rabbit who is currently visiting us, was very interested to find out more. He was particularly happy to read the short story that features his friend Humphrey from Cottontails Baby.

Sylvain was very excited to find out that this short story will be woven back into my novel.

He also enjoyed reading Anya and the Foxgloves, my first children's story, which of course, features rabbits. (I'm not sure if that link is working, sorry!). This story was of course inspired by our old pet rabbit Anya. Sylvain enjoyed browsing this blog to read more about Anya. he particularly enjoyed this story and this meme!

Despite Sylvain's interruptions, I've managed to write a fair bit of my novel in the last couple of days. For a while I was struggling with the main storyline, but I've been having a good think about it and have a lot of ideas now on how to make it more interesting and get it moving again.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sylvain meets a wise old rabbit

Peter Rabbit is one of my oldest cuddly toys. There's a lovely photo somewhere of me holding Peter Rabbit when he was new. I was fairly new at the time too. We're both ageing now though. Peter was keen to meet Sylvain, the French rabbit who is visiting from Cottontails Baby.

Peter has spent a lot of his life in a state of confusion. As soon as Sylvain met Peter, he realised the source of Peter's confusion.

Peter isn't actually a rabbit. He's a teddy bear. Why I called him Peter Rabbit I don't know. In fact I'm not sure I was even old enough to be the one to name him. Which begs the question - why would my parents call him Peter Rabbit?

Despite their many differences Peter and Sylvain seemed to get on very well. I think they talked a lot about what it means to be a rabbit. Sylvain will be moving on soon, but he's made a lot of friends here! Thanks Charlotte for letting me host Sylvain!

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

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sylvain searches for rabbits by the Water of Leith

I had promised Sylvain (our bunny guest from Cottontails Baby) that if we had good weather today, I would take him to the rabbit warren near the Water of Leith. First thing this morning it seemed sunny enough, and more importantly dry enough, so off we went.

I had told Sylvain so much about the rabbit warren that he was very disappointed that rabbits aren't featured on the information boards!

Looking up into the trees though, he was amazed by the beauty of the autumn leaves.

and got very excited when we came to the entrance to the Hidden meadow where the bunnies live.

When we got in there, he agreed that this is a very lovely place for bunnies to live.

They're very safe in there, tucked away behind the brambles.

We didn't see any bunnies, though, and Sylvain turned his attention briefly to the trees.

He was sad to see this birch tree - only a stump remaining after the branches have been ripped off to make bonfires.

He studied this ash sapling for symptoms of the ash dieback disease, but realised that it's probably too late in the year to tell from the leaves as they're beginning to turn for autumn. He was relieved that everything else about this sapling looked healthy.

Then it was time to go. Sylvain insisted on having a portrait taken but just as he posed, a big gust of wind blew his ears around.

Sylvain realised that perhaps he should have also packed a woolly jumper as Scotland is a cold country for 'un petit lapin francais!'

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

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

un lapin francais visite a Edimbourg!

C'est magnifique! On 18 September, Charlotte at Cottontails Baby announced that Sylvain the Moulin Roty bunny had itchy paws and wanted to go travelling! Yesterday I was delighted when there was a knock at the door and there was Sylvain himself, complete with his French passport!

He quickly made friends with some of our rabbits:

then demanded a guided tour of the house and was delighted to find a selection of French books!

He chose the one that looked easiest and sat down again with his new friends to read to them

However, Fudge was soon distracted by the food that Sylvain had brought in his little bag:

and Minigaff began to wonder if she could use the Moulin Roty L'Explorateur compass to find her way back to the Dumfriesshire village that she's named after.

Meanwhile Anoushka (made by Anette of Leveret's Nest), decided that the adorable bunny hairgrips from Lottie Nottie that had been added to the box would suit her and no-one else!

Sylvain has now asked to meet some of the wild bunnies in Edinburgh and I've promised to take him to a warren near the Water of Leith if the weather is good in the next few days! Then after he has explored Edinburgh, he'll move on to the next host!

You can read about Sylvain's adventures at Lottie Nottie's here

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

Monday, 5 November 2012

Ferney by James Long

Gally and her husband Mike have moved to a small village in Somerset to make a new start. Gally feels strangely drawn to a run-down old farmhouse so they buy this and camp out in a caravan until the house is restored to its former condition. Soon after moving, they meet Ferney, an old man who Gally finds herself as drawn to as she is to the house.

Ferney has in fact lived many incarnations in this area and believes that Gally has accompanied him through the ages. He has vivid memories of how the place used to be and a strong sense of the losses due to so called progress.

He stretched out an arm and pointed down the hill. "The wood you painted, down there, stretching across the first part of the plain, that was nibbled away. They started eating at it about, oh shall we say 1500? A hundred years it took. It went for fuel, for ships, for building....... After that King James gave the rest to his benighted friends to hack down for their benighted purses".

Mike is a historian, but his book learned understanding is never as vivid or as clear as Ferney's lived understanding.

It's a vivid, moving story that makes the reader think about reincarnation and the nature of relationships as well as about how history affects the cultural and environmental aspects of our lives and the places we live in. The downside is that Ferney and Gally aren't exactly likeable and don't seem to care about the effect their obsessional love has on other people.

 The Lives She Left Behind, the sequel to Ferney has just been published and promises to be another excellent read! 

Ferney by James Long published by Quercus 

I was delighted to win this book in a competition over on Cornflower Books

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

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Five Broken Cameras

Emad Burnat bought a camera to record the birth of his youngest son. Living in Bil'in, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, he soon realised that his camera wouldn't just record family life and he immediately starting making documentary films of the crises around him.

Illegal Israeli settlements were encroaching on Bil'in and a huge barbed wire barrier was erected to keep the villagers from gaining access to their own olive trees on their own land. The villagers took a non-violent approach in their demonstrations against the Israeli forces, but had to face hugely violent responses from the Israeli military. The soldiers shot many civilians (including children), arrested many more (again including children) and, on at least one occasion, dressed up as Palestinians to infiltrate protesters and cause chaos.

The villagers were not cowed though and continued to demonstrate and win small victories such as negotiating limited access to their land to replant the trees that have been burned by settlers and the military. The trees, an integral part of the landscape and ecology of the area, are vital as a source of food and oil and as a symbol of hope.

This documentary was filmed on a series of five different cameras, each of which was damaged beyond repair. On at least one occasion, the camera probably saved Emad's life by catching the bullet that otherwise would probably have killed him, though he was very seriously injured and underwent a long period of medical treatment. This never stopped his determination to film.

The result is a brilliant, heart-breaking and shocking insight into life in the occupied West Bank, made all the more poignant by seeing Emad's young family growing up against the background of so much violence.

5 Broken Cameras is on at the Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh until Tuesday 6 November.

and my haiku today on Daily Haiku also features trees 

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

Friday, 2 November 2012

Progress for England's Forests

Our forests have been waiting a long time for practical action - especially on issues like tree health which is particularly urgent at the moment due to ash die-back disease (which I blogged about here).

So it's good news that the Independent Panel on Forestry has completed its final report, which has been welcomed across the sector. The 31 recommendations in the 'Forests Report' offer a framework for action, promising a safe and strong future for England's forests. 

Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, will publish the Government's official response in January - and he could decide right now to adopt the recommendations in the Report as a whole.This would allow the Government to focus its response on an action plan and will kick-start discussions about its implementation.  Please "Tell Owen" that he can take this big step forward for the future of our forests today.
We need to show the Government that we are still as passionate about our forests and woodlands as we were last year when we defeated the threat to sell off England's public forests.

We have until 30 November to influence this. You can also take part in DEFRA's public survey - it's very short and you can let them know your views on:
  • What ‘a Forest Services body’ should do and not do 
  • The future funding of the Public Forest Estate  
  • Access to woodland in your neighbourhood
  • Urban tree planting schemes
Although the Forests Report only covers England, it may impact on wider forestry issues and public forests across the UK. People in parts of the UK outside England can take part in "Tell Owen" and you can add your own comments about your region.

Read more about forestry in Scotland on the Forestry Commission Scotland website.

and I have another haiku on Daily Haiku

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