Tuesday 31 March 2009

Gorgie Farm Picnic Area

Just before I left Gorgie Farm, a small transformation took place! The farm picnic area has been brightened up! Farm staff and volunteers spent a lot of time doing all this and it has made a real difference! It's an even nicer place to have lunch now!

The mosaics were made using crockery rejected by local second hand shops, with the help of Alchemy Arts, an Edinburgh organisation for socially inclusive, environmentally friendly arts and crafts.
I'm starting my new job today and will tell you more in the next couple of days. But I'll be back at the farm quite a lot and will certainly still be posting photos here!

Monday 30 March 2009

Easter Card 2

shiny rabbit made from foil from tea packaging, card from a reused business folder.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Lights Off in Edinburgh

Earth Hour came and went yesterday. We switched off all our lights and electricals, but instead of doing something by candlelight, we went for a walk round Edinburgh to see how dark it was. Although it did seem darker, there were a lot of shops that were still fully lit, which lead to us discussing how much lighting do shops need to have overnight? The streetlights adequately light up the fronts of the shops that don't keep their lights on, so why do some businesses feel the need to be lit up like Christmas trees all through the night? It was very disappointing to see the large council offices still with lots of lights on (the city had signed up to join in Earth Hour), though there was a lot less floodlighting on around the city, when we were walking home, via the same route, we saw the floodlighting back on, which did give us a fairly good contrast between Earth Hour and normal lighting. The most dramatic difference was that the Castle disappeared for Earth hour:

above the dark castle -
crescent moon.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Earth Hour

Pointless gesture or powerful symbol?

Hundreds of millions of people around the world will turn their lights off for one hour to show global leaders that they want strong action to tackle climate change.

Will you join them? Turn off the lights (and other electricals, yes including the computer!) at 8.30pm. We will be switching off, as will public buildings in Edinburgh.

Find out more at the Earth Hour website.

Friday 27 March 2009

Spring is Sprung on Read Write Poem

The latest prompt over on read Write Poem is one of mine. If you want you can hop over and join in here.

Leaving the Farm

Yesterday was my last day working at Gorgie City Farm, which is really sad. I'll miss the farm, the staff and volunteers and the animals. However my job which was with the natioanal organisation Federation of City Farms was really not for me. It involved managing a partnership made up of three different organisations in five different geographical locations and I myself was line managed from Bristol (that's in the south of England for non UK readers!). This lead to all sorts of communications issues and meant we got totally bogged down in minutiae when we should have been getting on with my work. Plus the best bit of my job (visiting farms and gardens) had been taken off me and given to someone else!

I had a nice supper with colleagues from Newcastle, Bristol and Perth on Wednesday and last night there was a barbeque at the farm. Sam the lamb was there and chewed everyone's shoe laces but was otherwise well behaved. I also got to say goodbye to the bunnies.

Gorgie Farm is just down the road from where I live so in a sense I haven't really left and will continue to blog about it. I also hope to do some writing workshops there in the near future.

I start a new job next Tuesday and will blog about that briefly next week!

Thursday 26 March 2009

Sam the Gorgie Farm Lamb debuts at Lyceum Theatre

There's much excitement at Gorgie City Farm at the moment as one of the lambs has a starring role in the Royal Lyceum's production of Sam Shephard's Curse of the Starving Class. Sam (the lamb) is apparently a true professional, taking the whole thing in his stride.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Blackford Pond, Edinburgh

Tufted ducks and swans swim
smoothly over serene water

under the surface, riots
of toads fight and mate

females gleam
like warty jewels

carrying the smaller males
on their backs

Seasonal change for Totally Optional Prompts

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Age of Stupid

Yes its the climate change film that everyone's talking about and its being shown several times a day at the Edinburgh Filmhouse and other cinemas across the UK. It's an excellent (though admittedly flawed in places) film, using an engaging mix of personal stories (including an 80 something mountaineer in the Alps, an entrepeneur setting up a new airline in India and women in Nigeria whose lives have been blighted by the effects of oil exploration), animation, interviews, dramatic monologue and excerpts from news programmes to bring a range of climate related issues to the viewer's attention. The Filmhouse is also holding a series of talks after selected showings of the films to engage audiences further in some of the issues around climate change. The talk we attended was disappointing, it was ostensibly about biodiversity but ended up being about wind turbines and was too short to allow any meaningful discussion. There was also the usual feeling of being asked to do small things to address a huge problem.

I was disappointed by the adverts before the film, the sound was muted like some sort of pathetic attempt at subversion or apology, but it was still 15 minutes encouraging us to buy cars and stuff (though at least there was an ad for the Co-operative Bank in there).

Suitably Despairing was at a different showing of the same film in the same cinema and you can read his post here. (I edited this post after commenting on his!).

To find out more and get involved visit The Age of Stupid campaign website.

Monday 23 March 2009

Gorgie City Farm - a new bunny

Ebony is a lovely black lop who had been a regular visitor to the bunny boarding facilities at Gorgie City Farm. His owner now is no longer able to look after him so Ebony has come to join the resident bunnies here. It seems to be taking a long time for the integration to take place, even now after a couple of weeks, Ebony is in his own small cage and the other bunnies have to be kept in small cages (in their two groups) as well. Ebony seems to be a bit of a trouble maker, he has attacked all the other bunnies and its not at all sure to me which group he will be able to integrate with. I can't show you a photo either as all the layers of wire in the shed and cage mean that you would hardly be able to see him... I hope he does integrate eventually....

I have a couple of haiku up on Spring Haiku, you can read them here.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Easter Card 1

I've made several of these cards. The card is re-used office card, the sheep's 'wool' is made from felted shed rabbit fur (from a stash donated by Anya) and the marker pen I used is an environmentally friendly marker pen, made largely from recycled paper and its also refillable.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Frogs and Toads

We went for a lovely walk today, round Blackford Pond and along the Braid Burn. Blackford Pond had a good number of tufted ducks, mallards with a couple of swans, two greylag geese, a coot and a moorhen. Under the water there were a load of common toads, some mating, some fighting, others just sitting. A lot of the females were different colours. The nearby marshy wildlife garden had a muddy pond with a few common frogs and a lot of frogspawn. Then in the field behind the nearby allotments we found a marshy patch, which was alive with frogs croaking, mating, fighting and chasing each other. The area was full of frogspawn. Such a wonderful sight given the perilous situation many amphibians find themselves in these days.

The wooded area along the Braid Burn was covered in wild garlic, growing like a particularly luxuriant grass, plenty of ferns in good leaf. The trees were full of birdsong and there were loads of jackdaws calling and flying around. We saw a dipper rushing along the river and two grey wagtails feeding and fluttering over the water.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Darwin's Microscope by Kelley Swain

2009 is the year of Darwin so it was fitting that Kelley Swain managed to find a publisher this year for Darwin's Microscope her first collection of poetry. She read from it last night at the Poetry Association of Scotland meeting at the Scottish Poetry Library. There are poems here of whales, biological experiments, the life and travels of Darwin and death. Kelley has a lovely reading voice and has plenty of stories to tell in amongst the poetry.

Also reading was Angela McSeveney. Slaughtering Beetroot the title poem of her new collection is a very entertaining poem, a must read for all vegetarians. Best served with a glass of fine red wine as it was.

Darwin's Microscope by Kelley Swain, Flambard Press 2009
Slaughtering Beetroot by Angela McSeveney, Mariscat Press 2008

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Bird haiku

sunlight through bare trees -
the dappled pink breast
of a bullfinch.

early blooming gorse -
a heron buffetted
by the wind.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Gorgie Farm Produce Stall

When its open, the produce stall at Gorgie Farm is one of the best places in this area of Edinburgh to buy fruit, vegetables and eggs. The stall sells produce from the farm and other items supplied through Edinburgh Community Food Initiative. (For a full list of what is on sale at the farm please see this page.) Recently the stall hasn't been open very often, partly because there is less fresh produce to sell in the winter, but also because there is a shortage of volunteers!

The farm is looking for people who would like to to help out on the stall itself, but also people who can help to improve the link between the stall and the farm gardens, learning about what's growing, picking produce and selling it to the public.

So, if you live in Edinburgh and either would like to volunteer with the stall or know anyone who might want to or could pass the word around people you know, then please contact the Gorgie Farm Garden Project directly on 0131 337 4202 or email gardenATgorgiefarmDOTorgDOTuk.

Sunday 15 March 2009


Ice retreats

leaving green meadows shy
of flowers and sunshine

exposed rocks

floods flashing to fading rivers

a knock on the door
if anyone listens

glaciers are retreating across the world at an alarming rate -
read more over at The Guardian

Ice for Weekend Wordsmith

Friday 13 March 2009

Second Nature by Michael Pollan

Subtitled A Gardener's Education, this book really deserves to be considered a modern classic in the field of gardening and environmental thinking. It's a beautifully written and engaging look at gardening, taking in the definition of gardens, their history and culture, the importance of the lawn to the North American identity, gardening philosophy and the social insights given by seed catalogues. It is also thought provoking about the relationship of the gardener with the wider natural world and the place of humankind within nature.

You can read a longer review of this book, written by Andrea, over on Heavy Petals, here.

Second Nature by Michael Pollan, Bloomsbury Paperbacks 1996

Wednesday 11 March 2009


organic fudge cake
dusted with icing sugar -
snow on ploughed fields

Food for Read Write Poem

I posted a senryu for this topic on Over Forty Shades here.

I've also got a haiku on a different topic over on Spring Haiku Daily, which you can read here.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Gorgie City Farm - alder tree

I said a little while ago that the alder is one of my favourite trees, especially at this time of the year. This is a beautiful alder at the edge of the herb garden at Gorgie City Farm. Click on the images to see just how beautiful!

You can raise money for Gorgie City Farm by using Everyclick as your search engine. Find out more here and you can sign up here.

Monday 9 March 2009

The Letters - Fiona Robyn's novel tours the blogs

Fiona Robyn lives in rural Hampshire with her partner, cats (Fatty and Silver) and vegetable patch. Fiona 's blog tour stops here today so that we can join her in celebrating the launch of her debut novel, The Letters.

Violet Ackerman has drifted through a career, four children and a divorce without ever knowing who she is or what she wants. After moving to the coast, she starts receiving a series of mysterious letters sent from a mother and baby home in 1959, written by a pregnant twenty-year-old Elizabeth to her best friend. Who is sending Violet these letters, and why?

One of the things I most noticed about The Letters was the attention Fiona has paid to detailed descriptions, of both the natural world and her characters. This should not surprise anyone who knows Fiona's writing from her blog A Small Stone but I thought I would ask here how the practice of noticing details every day feeds into writing a novel as well as the balance between her prose and her poetry.

1. When writing your small stone every day do you see that as separate from your novel writing, or as practice or as potential material to be included? I do see it as a way of honouring my commitment to being a writer, and so I suppose you could see it as a kind of practice - as a noun as well as a verb. I also see writing small stones as helping me to pay attention, even if I ony notice one thing properly every day. I don't think I've ever used one in a longer piece of writing - they arise as they are and I haven't tried transplanting them!

2. How do you decide the level of detailed description to include in a novel?

I don't think it's a conscious decision. When I'm writing a scene I'll 'look around' and see what I notice - the details present themselves to me most of the time rather than me having to dig around for them. Obviously too many details would get very tiring for the reader - when I'm doing my drafting hopefully I'll spot the passages that are too clotted with details and thin them out.

3. How much do you feel that detailed description adds to the vividness of a character compared to say dialogue?

Vivid is a good word. I think extremely specific detail can conjure a character better than anything else, but maybe this also includes a particular phrase or word they might use, so dialogue can contain detail too.

4. You've also had a collection of poetry published. Do you use detail differently in your prose and your poetry?

I think my background in poetry has given me a love of the SOUND of prose - the rhythms, the way the words sound when you roll them around in your mouth. I try to write 'poetically', whatever that means - especially when it comes to the details. I think poems can take more vivid language than prose, as you're concentrating much harder when you read a poem - although some prose can be chock full of poetry, like Annie Dillard's work. I love what Gretel Ehrlich once said, about sneaking poems into her book 'This Cold Heaven'. I'd aspire to that.

5. How do you decide which ideas will become poetry and which will become prose?

My fiction so far has been inspired by the main characters appearing in my head. They're a bit fuzzy to start with - I had a vague impression of Violet (from The Letters) as a wiry, prickly woman who wore long flapping cardigans - but as time goes on I get to know them better and they tell me their story. Poems are usually inspired when I notice something in the outside world which leads me to further thought. In a way, the ideas decide for themselves what they want to be. Although I haven't written poetry for a while - I don't think there's enough space for poems in my life at the moment...

Thanks Fiona for your answers! The Letters is published by Snowbooks * £7.99 * ISBN 9781906727062

Sunday 8 March 2009

Influential Writers Meme

Geoffrey Philp tagged me a while ago to name 25 writers who have influenced me, and then tag 25 people. "Influence" does not mean the same thing as "enjoy a lot" so here are some, who have had influence over how I write or how I see the art of writing, in no particular order:

1. Edwin Morgan (poetry)
2. Ruth Padel (poetry and non-fiction)
3. Haruki Murakami (novels and short stories)
4. Polly Clark (poetry)
5. Jackie Kay (poetry, novels, drama)
6. Stephen Pinker (linguistics)
7. Jared Diamond (non fiction)
8. Barbara Kingsolver (novels and essays)
9. Italo Calvino (novels and short stories)
10. Patrick White (novels)
11. Margaret Atwood (poetry)
12. Fernando Pessoa (poetry and creative prose)

Then there are books that are in themselves that are influential even if I am not particularly influenced by the writer's other books, or even if I haven't read anything else by them:

1. Kazuo Ishiguro - The Unconsoled
2. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani - Paper
3. Nuruddin Farah - Maps
4. Orhan Pamuk - My Name is Red
5. Heidi Julavits - The Effect of Living Backwards
6. Salvador Plascencia - People of Paper
7. Peter Adamson - The Tuscan Master
8. Anna Maria Ortese - The Iguana
9. Alan Lightman - Einstein's Dreams
1o. David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas

By influenced, I really mean these writers and books have really made me think about the potential of language and how it can be used, not that their influence can necessarily be traced in my poetry! Now I'm supposed to tag 25 people to choose their 25 most influential writers, well I'll give it a go:

Fiona Robyn (who I'm going to be interviewing tomorrow as part of her book blog tour)
Carole Thistlethwaite
Susan Richardson
Weaver of Grass
Dave King
Gautami Tripathy
Alison Wiley
Jacqueline Pearce
James Engelhardt
Rachel Fox
Caroline at Coastguard
Deb and/or Whirling Dervish
Colin Will
Davide Trame

No that's not 25, but feel free to add yourself to the list, if you do, be sure to let me know, so i can come and read your list!

Saturday 7 March 2009

Birding in Musselburgh

Musselburgh is a small town just outside Edinburgh, with a lovely river and beach. We were walking round there today, the weather was pleasant though very windy, and we were impressed with the birds we saw!

On the river - several wigeon, these are very beautiful ducks and though I've seen them before I've never had such a good look at them, I particularly like the males' red and yellow head and pink front. Several goldeneye, very impressive ducks, who were splashing around a lot today. Several mallards, a few swans, greylag geese and canada geese. Two grey wagtails (much prettier than their name suggests) and a pied wagtail. A cormorant. Three goosanders.

On the beach - lots of redshanks, oystercatchers, a few turnstones. A small flock of bar tailed godwits (I assume they were bar tailed, though I can't actually tell the difference between those and the black tailed godwits which are much rarer). A sizeable flock of nondescript waders that I guess were dunlin, though they may have been knots (which are very similar in their winter plumage) waders aren't really my strong point!). Four or five eider ducks on the sea.
Lovely to see all these birds, very sobering to see from the RSPB pages that I link to, how many of these species are Amber status, which means they are threatened in some way or actually declining in number.

Friday 6 March 2009

Shamrock Haiku Journal

The latest issue of Shamrock Haiku Journal is up and you can read it here. It's a great issue, well worth reading! If you scroll down, past the excellent feature on Polish haiku, you will eventually find one of my haiku!

Thursday 5 March 2009

Gorgie City Farm - Daisy and Sugar

Here are Daisy and her daughter Sugar snuggling in the sunlight in their shed at Gorgie City Farm.

You can now raise funds for Gorgie City Farm by using Everyclick as your search engine. Find out more here.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Marzipan moon

marzipan moon rises slowly
through rusting clouds
shrinking herself paler
until she sits white
high in the sky

the lights of a plane
flash on and off
below her

I also have a piece about the moon up at A Handful of Stones today, you can read it here.

For a crafty moon please see Moonlit rabbit

Moon for Inspire Me Thursday

Monday 2 March 2009

Gorgie City Farm - Sponsoring Driftwood

As many readers will know we recently sponsored Driftwood, the lop eared rabbit at Gorgie City Farm. This means that we're paying towards Driftwood's food and vet bills. As part of the sponsorship deal we each got a certificate, plus a couple of photos that are now pride of place on the door of one of our kitchen cupboards, along with photos of Anya; Cephor (Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents' much missed cat) and an albino squirrel from a newspaper article that quoted me).
We also got a lovely letter from Driftwood himself, in which he talks about his early life, abandoned on a beach and how happy he is now at Gorgie Farm and how much he likes taking part in children's parties.
You can sponsor any of the animals on Gorgie City Farm, you can find out the sponsorship form here.

You can now raise money for Gorgie City Farm on Everyclick, the search engine that raises money for charities. You use it like any other search engine, and every search you make raises funds for your favourite charity (mine now being Gorgie City Farm). You can find out more here and start fundraising for the farm here.

Sunday 1 March 2009


The island mined
by greed
to bleak desert.

Penguins build nests
from ancestral

Previously published on Sketchbook.