Monday 30 November 2009

Engine Shed

On the Bank of Reason walk on Saturday we stopped off for a much needed lunch of hot soup and hot main courses (it was a very cold day!) at The Engine Shed. This is a wonderful vegetarian cafe and conference centre. It was established in 1989 as a training project for people with learning disabilities to help them improve their confidence, learn transferable skills in a real work environment and move into paid employment within mainstream workplaces.
The Engine Shed is a social enterprise offering a vegetarian café, organic bakery, organic tofu production and conference/catering facilities. These offer training and contribute financially to ensure the sustainability of the enterprise. The centre runs on the principles of Rudolf Steiner whose approach to human psychology and development highlights the uniqueness of each individual, whatever their situation.

The building dates back to the 1830s and was originally owned by British Rail. It was linked to the railway line that is now a green walkway and cyclepath known as the Innocent Railway.
You can read more about the Bank of Reason Walk here and here.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Dunbar Close Walled Garden

Dunbar's Close Garden, looking toward Calton Hill

We visited Dunbar's Close Garden, off Edinburgh's Canongate, yesterday as part of the Bank of Reason walk. This walled garden is laid out in a 17th-century design, with yew hedges, clipped hollies and fruit trees. In those days, all the rich people lived on the Canongate. They had land and created formal gardens.

The garden is named after the Edinburgh writer, David Dunbar, who owned buildings on either side of the close in the 18th century. These days, Dunbar's Close Garden is looked after by Edinburgh Council's Park Service and is open to the public.

Green Yonder Tours is a company that specialises in tours around the hidden green areas of Edinburgh, including a tour devoted to the Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile (including the Dunbar's Close Garden). You can visit their website here.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Greyfriars Kirk Herb garden revisited

While I was working with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, I had a meeting with Greyfriars Kirk about a year ago (you can read about it here) to discuss the future of their herb garden. The garden was established many years ago but had fallen into disuse. We visited the garden today as part of the Bank of Reason walk round Edinburgh. It was lovely to see that the Kirk has established a number of herb beds, like the one above. There are beds of culinary herbs and medicinal herbs, plants include camomile, mullein and liquorice. Some of the beds are being edged with sandstone blocks which were otherwise going to be taken to landfill by a local builder.

The walk was very enjoyable and interesting and I'll post more about it over the next week or so (we visited some very interesting gardens!). The weather was very misty for part of the day (see my new banner) and we were accompanied by a banner and two 'trees' (see below).

Thursday 26 November 2009

Waving not Drowning

The Wave is Scotland’s biggest ever demonstration in support of action on climate change On Saturday 5 December 2009, ahead of the crucial UN climate summit in Copenhagen, thousands of people from across Scotland, from all walks of life, will flow through the streets of Glasgow to demonstrate their support for a safe climate future for all. The Wave is organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. Join The Wave if you can - however probably not a good idea to fly or drive to get there. You can find public transport options for getting to Glasgow from elsewhere in Scotland on Travel Line Scotland . You can find out about Wave events elsewhere in the UK here.

If you can’t be at the Wave you can make a Copenhagen Pledge at the Christian Aid website. Or you can join the 10:10 campaign – visit its comprehensive website and sign up here.

Thinking Green - you can find out more about how to participate in this weekly meme of Green Thinking here.

I'm delighted too that Michelle of Rambling Woods has awarded me the Green Thinker Award

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Urban Bird Haiku

dustcarts clatter
down the narrow street -
pigeons scatter

privet hedge -
invisible sparrows

and Dave at Via Negativa sums up why those of us who love birds don't always love wind turbines.... you can read his post here.

for Nature Notes. You can find out how to join in here!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart

This is a wonderful novel, set on an island in Lake Ontario, Canada. It follows the story of Sylvia (a woman with what is described as a 'condition' but either is a form of autism or just a personality trait that has been labelled by others to control her) as she aims to find out what happened to her lover, Andrew, who was found dead in the Lake. Sylvia meets with Jerome the young man who found Andrew and together they delve into the past.

Jane Urquhart beautifully evokes the landscape of the area round the lake and the tragic loss of the once vast woodlands that fuelled a huge timber trade until the trees disappeared and barley was planted until the land was robbed of its fertility.

The novel also beautifully studies artistic practice, Jerome's own work as an earth artist, his partner Mira, who is a performance artist and the tactile maps Sylvia makes for Julia, her friend who is blind.

It's a beautiful, rich book and as its that time of the year it may well be one of my books of the year!

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart, published by Bloomsbury

Monday 23 November 2009

Silvery recycled Gift Wrap

Two examples of silvery reused gift wraps. These are gifts wrapped in previous years. This year I've so far got no further than buying a couple of gifts. No wrapping until December, I'm posting these now to share ideas!

The first one is a re-used piece of silver gift wrap with a tag made by drawing a silver star onto a piece of reused black card. The second uses two different reused wrapping papers, a contrasting ribbon to cover the join and a gift tag made using wrapping paper glued onto recycled card.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Almondell Country Park

We had a lovely walk this morning in Calder Wood, an ancient woodland which is part of the Almondell Country Park in West Lothian. There is a convenient bus that goes almost directly from our front door to the start of the walk (though we got off the bus a couple of stops early!). The bus passes through quite a lot of farmland and we saw a large gathering of geese, two or three skeins merging together as they landed in a field.

The woodland is one of the few areas of ancient woodland in West Lothian and covers an area that was previously used as a shale mine (or so we were told by a cyclist who stopped to chat with us for a while). Large parts of the area are covered in very old birch trees like the one below.

The paths through the woodland were very muddy! We saw lots of birds, including a group of redwings flying about, a couple of bullfinches, a crow mobbing a buzzard then later four buzzards circling overhead with a possible fifth calling off to the side. Also a flock of around 30 lesser redpolls flying from birch tree to birch tree to hang in the branches to feed. On the way back into Edinburgh we saw a young swan sitting on a grass verge by the main road, with a police officer making notes by its side. That would have made a fun photo..... (Crafty Green Boyfriend took the photos in this post as my camera batteries ran out!)

Friday 20 November 2009

Reflections on Floodwater

Many areas of the UK have seen huge amounts of rain over the past day or so. It has reached an emergency situation in some areas of the north of England. In central Scotland we've got away pretty lightly. The train line between Glasgow and Edinburgh was flooded yesterday and trains were moving very slowly and there was a lot of flooding in the fields (which is where I saw the ducks!). I took the photo above at Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, back in September. You can see some more of my photos of Caerlaverock here. It seems to fit though! for Weekend Reflections.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Greening your Footprint

I noticed these unwanted shoes, now filled with seedlings, at Gorgie City Farm.

Talking of green shoes, my everyday winter boots, which I've had for many years, resoled them and re-heeled them many times, now are reaching the end of their useful life. I am looking for lace up ankle boots with a medium height sturdy heel. As a vegetarian, I am keen to at least try to find an alternative to leather but I can't find hemp boots in the style I want and am reluctant to replace leather with fake leather derived from petrochemicals so what are my options? Any advice welcome! Preferably that I could source from within Europe, even better within the UK.....

Shield Bug

autumn pruning -
stopped by the shining colours
of a shield bug.

as seen on Monday, by the Water of Leith. Click on the photo to see the full beauty of its colours!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Awards all round!

I was delighted to be awarded the Kreativ Blogger award from Freckles and Deb. I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to seven bloggers. Well as I did a similar list recently, I thought for something different, here are 7 things about me that have nothing to do with the environment!

1. I'm left handed but only with writing, with most other things I'm ambidextrous or right handed.
2. I can't knit.
3. I've never had a pet cat, though I grew up with the neighbour's cats preferring me to their own family.
4. I speak German, Italian and some French
5. I appeared in a production of Lorca's Blood Wedding when I was 17.
6. I used to be a charity fundraiser.
7. My favourite colour is green.
Rather than choose 7 bloggers to pass this award to, I'll pass it on to all of you!
I'm also delighted that Simon Kewin at Spellmaking awarded the Superior Scribbler Award to Bolts of Silk, the poetry journal I edit. I'd like to pass this award on to everyone whose work has appeared in Bolts of Silk. You can find links to these writers blogs in the sidebar of Bolts of Silk.

Monday 16 November 2009

Monday Bunday at Gorgie Farm

We visited Gorgie City Farm on Saturday. Ebony the newest bunny there was the only one we could see, though we suspect the others were working at the children's party that was going on in the Education Centre. The farm are doing a lot of work with the rabbits at the moment to properly integrate them all. The rabbits form two rival gangs - Daisy and her daughter Sugar team up with Driftwood against Louie and Lily. Ebony came along and wasn't accepted by either of the groups. Staff have already spent six months trying to integrate them all into one group, but its not happening so far..... Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo of Ebony preparing for take off....

At the farm we were sad to learn that Red, the horse, has been very ill and cannot be fed by members of the public.

All the animals at Gorgie City Farm are available for sponsorship. You can pay a set amount every year to go towards the animals' upkeep and in return you get a certificate and photo and news of your sponsored animal. You can found out more here.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Green Christmas Cards

I made these Christmas cards from reused waste card from the office, reused wrapping paper and reused wrappers from fair trade chocolate bars.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Friday 13 November 2009

Autumnal trees, Princes Street Gardens

Perfect blue skies, a chill in the air, the last leaves on the trees. Twenty chaffinches feeding on the grass and bathing in puddles.
Top photo silver birch; bottom photo one of the several beautiful ash trees in Princes Street Gardens.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Bank of Reason

Yesterday I was at the open event to launch the Bank of Reason, a project of 1 mile square. 1mile² is a three year global arts programme by Visiting Arts. The project invites communities to map the biodiversity and cultural diversity of their neighbourhood, working with artists and ecologists. Communities are linked across the world through an internet platform that shares and challenges their perceptions, ideas, experiences and creativity and encourages new connections between people. 1mile² provides opportunities for contemporary artists to undertake a collaborative investigation of arts, biodiversity and community.

For 1mile² Edinburgh, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich and the Collective Gallery invite you to join them in forming The Bank of Reason. Working with an ecologist and an economist Zoe and Neil will lead tailored walks to explore the diversity of Edinburgh’s city centre. The walks will be followed by discussions that will feed into The Bank of Reason – a repository of ideas for a sustainable future.

The walks will take place on Saturday 28th November and Saturday 5 December. There will also be activities on the Sundays of these weekends too. You can find out more and sign up here.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Human Genre project

I have a haiku/senryu up at the Human Genre project, you can read it here.

The Human Genre project is looking for very short fiction and poetry about genetics. You can find out more here.

Monday 9 November 2009

First Frost

The trees, mostly bare branched now, reach up to perfect blue skies. Melting frost falls like rain with a flurry of last leaves. Coal tits chatter.

A dog walker stops me. 'You've not got a dog!' he says surprised. I nod and smile. 'But everyone who walks here has a dog!'. He walks on shaking his head, his dog trotting along after him.

Frost white grass -
a thin mist rises
from the river.

A dipper calls loudly and flies quickly upstream.

along the Water of Leith

Saturday 7 November 2009

Re-Used Gift Wrapping

For those who celebrate Christmas, its time to start Christmas shopping! So over the next month I will be posting ideas for Christmas cards and gift wrap that not only use recycled materials, but also look great! My family has always reused Christmas wrapping paper when giving gifts within the close family. However people outside the close family, unless they're keen recyclists themselves, may be less than impressed by obviously reused paper. So how about some more imaginative ways to reuse paper in eye-catching ways? For this first one, I had reused green and white tissue paper, covered the join with green ribbon and then added a gift tag (recycled from a greetings card!) in matching colours.

Friday 6 November 2009

Tree Reflections

above - trees from Princes St Gardens reflected in the Royal Scottish Academy building of the National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound, Edinburgh
below - rowan and its reflection in an office on Fountainbridge, Edinburgh

for Weekend Reflections

Thursday 5 November 2009


sparks rise
from the bonfire -
star filled sky

previously published in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society

Tuesday 3 November 2009


blackbird alarm calls -
grey squirrels chase each other
round the oak tree

for Nature Notes

Monday 2 November 2009

Artlink Orchard

After yesterday's endless rain I was very glad to see today dawn bright and sunny! Not only did I walk along the Water of Leith (very high water! Two female goosanders!) but I then went over to the Artlink Orchard in the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I had heard of this project through Abundance Edinburgh and had casually said how it would be nice to have a poetry element to the orchard. So as a result I was invited to visit the Orchard. It's a lovely area, with approximately 70 trees of five or six varieties of cooking apples and lots of nettles which are harvested for soups. I wandered round the orchard with a member of Artlink staff and we picked apples and discussed how to incorporate poetry into Artlink's work at the hospital. Next to the orchard they have set up a new growing area which from next year will allow staff and patients to grow vegetables and fruit. The orchard had been pretty much abandoned for several years before Artlink starting working on it but there are exciting plans for the future, including community gardens, oh and poetry too of course....