Monday 31 January 2011


This is the robin that so delighted us on Saturday in the Botanic gardens. He sat close to us and sang for us.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Slow Slow internet

Our internet connection is painfully slow at the moment so I've decided to do as little as possible online until its up and running properly again (which should be before this time next week).

Today we were doing the Big Garden Birdwatch at the Edinburgh Botanics. We didn't see an amazing variety of birds, but we did see some long tailed tits (one of my favourites) and met a very friendly robin, who landed right in front of us and sang softly for five minutes. It also took some food from my hand. Crafty Green Boyfriend took some wonderful photos which I hope to share later (not now, it would take far too long to upload the photos with the current slow internet!).

So I won't be posting here or visiting other blogs for about a week, but after that things should be back to normal.

Friday 28 January 2011

The Cruelty Free Bun Blog pledge

Annette from Dragon House of Yuen recently posted about a petition from the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection). Along with the petition there is a pretty pink rabbit, whose mission is to travel the world collecting petitions against cruel cosmetics. Annette promised to send Miss Rabbit to the first blogger who signed up to host her on her journey. I was lucky enough to be that first blogger and as Annette and I both live in Edinburgh, we met up for a cup of tea while Miss Rabbit was handed over. It was lovely to meet Annette and Miss Rabbit is now happily making friends with our toy rabbits (here she is pictured with Minigaff, who comes from the village of that name in the west of Scotland and a rabbit themed cushion I bought in a local second hand shop). I have written a rabbit themed haiku on Miss Rabbit's ears and signed her too!

summer storm
the sweet smell between
my rabbit's ears

Miss Rabbit looked through my toiletries bag and noted that I have very few cosmetics at all, but she particularly likes the following cruelty-free items:

Yaoh shampoo and conditioner - these are British made from organic, vegan ingredients with the minimum of artificial ingredients and not tested on animals

organic beeswax lipbalm handmade by Edinburgh-based medical herbalist Karen Ballantyne (who doesn't seem to have a website)

Miss Rabbit is currently having a rest, but is probably then going to visit another blogging friend of Annette's. If you would like to host her in the future, please let me know in the comments below and we'll see what we can do! If you do host her, it would be great if you could take a photo of her with other rabbits (whether pets, soft toys or rabbit themed soft furnishings!), let her pick out a couple of cruelty free items from your toiletries bag and then pass her on to the next person.
As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks to other websites where you can find out more.

Thursday 27 January 2011

From the Train

red and white lighthouse on a stone jetty - rain smears the sky above endless sea

Crafty Green Radio

I had an interesting and productive day in a recording studio yesterday, being interviewed by radio presenters from local radio stations across the UK as part of winning the Whole Earth competition to find a green spokesperson. Some of the interviews went out live sone were pre-recorded but have probably aired by now. To my slight embarressment I was described by some presenters as the UK's most sustainable and self sufficient resident, this is not something I have ever claimed though I am delighted to have had such an excellent opportunity to act as a spokesperson for all the sustainable and self sufficient people in this country! It was also very interesting to have the experience of talking to so many radio presenters, I found the whole process a lot less daunting than part of me had thought it might be in advance! There should be a podcast available from the sessions, so if that does become available I'll link to it from this blog.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Off to London!

I'm off to London today to do some radio interviews for Whole Earth Foods as part of my prize in their recent Good Life competition.

I took the photo yesterday along the Water of Leith. I was impressed by the beautiful rich autumnal colours in the fungi and the birch bark, which contrast so nicely with the delicate fresh green ferns!

Back soon!

Monday 24 January 2011

Trees along the Water of Leith

I have started to study one of the hornbeams along the Water of Leith as part of the Tree Year project. I can see there may be a problem with this already. I mentioned in a recent post that this hornbeam had been damaged in the winter storms and now it has been trimmed back and tidied and has no low hanging branches for me to take photos of or even make sketches from. It also seems that the other hornbeam along 'my' part of the Water of Leith was blown down in the storms. So I won't be able to do such a detailed study of this tree as I thought, but I'll see what I can do. At the top of this post is a photo I took of the hornbeam today. Its buds are just starting to swell though you can't see that in the photo.

Below is a photo of a rather handsome holly tree also along the Water of Leith. It has such a magnificent gnarled trunk. I thought I would also include this in my Tree Year. And as there are some lovely hawthorn trees along the river, maybe I'll include them in to my Tree Year too!
I saw a lot of birdlife along the river today and for the River of Stones:
Blue tits were chasing each other through the branches, the dippers were paired up and singing
A great spotted flycatcher flew into a tree, crept around the trunk then flew off again
Long tailed tits everywhere, their most endearing habit is that they come towards me
when I stop.

Save Our Woods

This year has been designated International Year of Forests. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.

Celebrations and awareness raising campaigns are happening across the world and in the blogosphere (including The Tree Year project, which I'm taking part in).

It is ironic and depressing therefore that the UK Government has chosen this year to sell off England's public forests. Only England's forests, forestry is a devolved area so Scotland and Wales forests are not included in the sale (though you can read here of some of the issues that have faced Scottish forests recently). However, everyone in the UK (and beyond) should be concerned about the sell off, different governments borrow each others' ideas, and what happens in England can happen in Scotland and Wales in the future, and we are still one country. In Scotland for example there may well be jobs lost at the Scottish branch of the Forestry Commission if the sales go ahead.

The Scottish land rights activist Andy Wightman wrote in the Observer last weekend with some excellent ideas about the future of forestry in the UK. It would be wonderful to see a future where forests are owned by communities and conservation organisations (and being generous, some people claim that is what the Government wants). However there are two problems with this 1) money, most communities and conservation organisations cannot afford to buy forests on a large enough scale 2) capacity, most conservation organisations and community groups need to make cuts in these financially difficult times and do not have the managerial capacity to take on more forests.

Save Our Woods is a new website, complete with a discussion forum and campaigning advice.

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

Sunday 23 January 2011


a male blackbird hops energetically round the branches of the cherry tree, wiping its beak on a twig every so often

For A River of Stones

for Tree Year

Friday 21 January 2011

Above the Weir

a flash of kingfisher across the river disappears in the bushes

I took the photo just above one of the weirs along the Water of Leith. We saw the kingfisher further along the river in Stockbridge and it certainly wasn't going to stop for a photo! Always a wonderful bird to see!
I took lots of photos of the historic buildings along the Water of Leith in Dean Village and I'll be posting those in the next few weeks on my Over Forty Shades blog. Currently over there is a photo of a building in Colinton Village, also along the Water of Leith.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks to other websites where you can find out more!

Thursday 20 January 2011

Studying the Stones

smooth black mudstone, crystals embedded in it sparkle as I turn the stone in my hand

for A River of Stones

One of the perks of teaching evening classes with the Office of Lifelong Learning at the University of Edinburgh is having the opportunity to study evening classes myself for free! This year I have chosen to study The Geology of Scotland's Hills, which is a totally fascinating course. Scotland is one of the most geologically diverse places in the world and our tutor is both very knowledgeable and an excellent communicator (and brings boxes of rocks to the classes!).

And in other news

I had a ten minute reading slot last night at The Golden Hour at the Forest Cafe in Edinburgh. I read alongside Kirsty Logan, JL Williams, Lipsynch for a Lullaby and Zebra Eye. It was a very entertaining evening and I enjoyed my reading - the audience seemed to do so too!

Whole Earth Foods recently held a 'Good Life' competition and they have just announced their winner on their website here. I'm delighted and honoured to have been chosen! (For readers based outside the UK, The Good Life was a 1970s sitcom in which the characters Tom and Barbara Good tried to live a back to nature lifestyle. it was in the 1970s that Whole Earth Foods launched their peanut butter).

Wednesday 19 January 2011

The Personality of Wind

for a windy city, this is a strangely calm day, the air perfectly still, clouds floating lazily high in the sky

for A River of Stones

I've just discovered Windsite - a lovely new site that combines personal observations of the wind alongside the meterological data for the time and place of the observations. Have a read of it, and share your own observations!

As ever, the red text includes hyperlinks that take you to other websites to find out more!

Tuesday 18 January 2011

a cloud 'rainbow' circles the moon

for A River of Stones

chopstick bag

I've made a couple of chopstick bags from reused materials recently. One I gave to my sister for her birthday, you can see that one over on Flickr here. Then I've made the one in this photo and I have enough of the same fabric to make another two. If you have signed up for my handmade giveaway 2011 and you would like one of these chopstick bags, please let me know. If you are in the UK and would like one, even if you aren't in the giveaway, let me know and you might be lucky! The bags are all made from the same fabric but the ties and details will vary.

Monday 17 January 2011

Introducing the Hornbeam

I'm participating in Tree Year this year, and will be concentrating on two trees, a cherry tree across the road from our flat (you can read a bit about that here) and a hornbeam on the bank of the Water of Leith.
Unfortunately this tree was badly damaged by heavy snow and storms in December last year, but it's still an impressive tree.

The European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is found across Europe but is not native to Scotland. This individual was planted along with quite a few others along the Water of Leith specifically to produce timber for the mills that once lined the river (yes its hard to believe now, as you walk along the quiet wooded river in the Dells, but this was once the industrial centre of Edinburgh). The hornbeam was used a lot in construction because its wood is particularly hard.
The hornbeam has a fluted trunk, though the bark itself is smooth. It has fairly nondescript leaves (which are just in bud at the moment, but the photos didn't come out!) but has beautiful catkins that grow in the summer and last through to early winter. They look like mini-chandeliers.
on silver birches -

photo taken along the Water of Leith

Sunday 16 January 2011

a herring gull flies
across the wispy clouds -
daytime gibbous moon

For A River of Stones

Saturday 15 January 2011

Man Watches January by Chris Crittenden

I have published a number of poems by Chris Crittenden over on Bolts of Silk (and you can read them here). I was delighted therefore to receive this copy of his poetry chapbook Man Watches January in exchange for a copy of my chapbook!

Chris is a poet who is very observant and aware of nature 'a hover of crows / over mossy horizon' (from A Fall Moment) 'spider was wearing / the slate-butter-black of the spruce' (from Taken). A poet also who is able to make great imaginative leaps, as in Philosophy on LSD

we're all that big. the universe
bent a lot of time and we don't understand
but life happened: little galaxies
in bugs and skulls that act out hidden tantrums.

He is also able to make sharp political points 'aren't we the vampires // sucking / from the good Earth,' (from Reagan's Ghost) or offer disturbing social commentary as in Killing Guilt:

there was a war but now
he works in a grocery,
avoids the meat department.

This is a small but very varied collection of poetry that is truly engaged with life, the human world and the natural, written with an eye for a startling image and guarenteed to make the reader think.

You can order copies of Man Watches January by contacting Chris here.

Friday 14 January 2011

A Snowy River of Trees

snow covered trees ripple in the water, interrupted by passing ducks
Taken last weekend along the Water of Leith near the Gallery of Modern Art.
The snow has mostly melted now, it's almost warm and I heard a blackbird singing this morning. More like practising, really, but still, a wonderful sound.

I posted more reflection photos on my Over Forty Shades blog here.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Cherry Tree

This is the usual view we have of the cherry tree across the road. There are three cherry trees outside the building in the photo, but this is the one we have the best view of. There used to be four trees but one was chopped down when the building was converted from a Day Centre to flats. The tree is on private property and in the middle of a residential street so I won't be getting as close to this one as I can to the hornbeam which is my other tree I'm observing for Tree Year. The cherry tree doesn't look much at this time of year, but in spring it is beautiful with blossom and there are often birds flying around it.

I will introduce the hornbeam once I have been able to visit it again, the path along the river is still very icy in parts, despite the general thaw we've had recently!
a blackbird flies between the perches he used to sing from last spring

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The Tree Year

three blue tits chase each other round and round the branches of the cherry tree

for A River of Stones

I've also found another blogging project to take part in! This is The Tree Year. The idea is to pick a tree (or any number of trees) and to observe them through the year and to write about your observations, take photos, sketch the tree. Notice the lichens and mosses that grow on the tree, the insects that live on it and the birds that feed on it. Also notice how the tree changes through the year.

The trees I'm going to observe are the cherry trees across the road from where we live, which I can look at every day and a hornbeam along the Water of Leith, which I pass every week (though at the moment it is out of reach because part of the pathway along that part of the river is covered in sheet ice). ”The

Monday 10 January 2011

Stones on snowy lawns

a magpie marches across the snowy lawn

as the snow melts, the grass reappears, seeming greener than it was before

for A River of Stones

Handmade Gift Giveaway

This is an idea that is doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment and I thought I'd make the same offer here.

I promise to send something I make myself to the first 5 people who leave a comment on this post. In turn, you promise to make the same offer on your blog. The rules are that you need to make the items personally and send them to your 5 folks within 2011.

I'm likely to send you one of the following: pot pourri bag; miniature book of haiku or a framed poetry collage.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Mouse carries stone

the mouse scuttles into view, runs away as I shriek, comes back again, retreats as I move, then back again to pick up the crumb of bread.

for A River of Stones

Saturday 8 January 2011

Another day, another river

an otter porpoises round a rock in the middle of the river

along the Water of Leith

(this is only the second time we've ever seen an otter! It played in front of us for several minutes!)

for A River of Stones

Tree Shadows

I posted another Shadow Shot today on Over 40 Shades, you can look at it here!

Friday 7 January 2011

Down by the River

broken sea-shells scattered on frosty grass
gulls float on the water, which ripples beneath them in lilac and turquoise
Where the old school was demolished is now an empty field, part frozen over. Gulls and a curlew gather round the ice.
snow on the hills across the river, an oystercatcher's piping call

Thursday 6 January 2011

Once was Forest

This island used to be forest.

"When I was a girl" said my grandmother, "I used to get lost in the trees when I was visiting friends. But never when I was grown up, there just weren't enough trees to get lost in".

When I was young there were still a few groups of trees on the island. Some were big enough that if you tried very hard you could imagine trees stretching out in all directions to meet the see. You did need to try very hard though.

I made a den in one of the trees. I liked to sit there quietly and listen to the birds. Yes there were birds here when I was very young.

The other children thought I was strange, sitting in the trees, watching birds. They all just wanted to fight each other or throw stones at the goats or daydream about escaping across the sea to strange new lands.

My mother loved the trees too but "some things just pass away" she said, "and trees are just one of those things".

My father sharpened his axe as she said this and kept quiet. He rarely met my eye.

It's years since I visited the part of the island where I had my treehouse. I can't bear to see the empty plain that it has become.

The island is so dusty these days. There's always a hot dry wind that catches up the red dust and throws it into our eyes.

Today everyone is gathered round the tree at the top of the highest hill. I tried to stop my brother going out to chop down this last tree, but he pushed me aside. I'm glad my mother and grandmother are no longer around to hear the steady chopping that seems to echo across the island.

There's a huge crash then silence before what sounds like a muffled cheer. I sit motionless on my chair and watch the sun set, red as blood into the sea.
wooded hills reflected in glass offices

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Birds along the River of Stones

a peregrine flies over the allotments, dashes over our heads and disappears behind the trees


a heron flies
across the gardens
the sound of windchimes


bare branches -
jackdaws gather
in pairs

Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

Tuesday 4 January 2011

The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen

If you're a writer then what better way to start the New Year than by reading Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer?

I was delighted to win a review copy of this brilliant book! This is the best book I've read that offers general advice on writing (I've read some excellent books on how to write poetry, but most general writing advice books have left me feeling disappointed and underwhelmed.) The basic aim of this book is to help the reader (who is assumed to also be a writer!) to become more productive in their writing. It covers such topics as time management, identifying and developing your platform as a writer, thinking productive thoughts and developing your networks in real life and online. All the way through we are given practical advice and exercises to work through. I haven't done the exercises yet, I read the book straight through from cover to cover and could hardly put it down. I aim to read it again early in the New Year and work through it slowly, doing all the exercises. To help me with this I'll use the Free Productivity Power Tools that can be found in the middle column of Sage's website.

However already I feel as though my productivity has increased. In the week since starting to read this book, I've written two ghazals (both of which have been accepted for publication already!), a review (already published), half a short story and several haiku or similar short poems. I've also co-incidentally heard about a couple of successes for pieces of writing I'd already completed. Plus I've given a successful public reading! So I really do feel like a Productive Writer! I would recommend this book to any writer who feels that they could achieve more. Unless you have bad eyesight. Yes my one criticism is that the text is small, that used in the exercises and highlighted case studies is tiny. My eyesight is fine for reading but I know people who would struggle to read this book, which is a shame.

The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen, published by Writers' Digest

I have previously posted this review on Goodreads, here.

winter roses

paint peeling
from the garden wall -
faded roses

Sunday 2 January 2011


Clouds from horizon to horizon. Hundreds of shades of grey swirl across the sky.

For A River of Stones

Saturday 1 January 2011

Fungi on Arthur's Seat

(photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend)

in the pile
of rabbit droppings -
an orange toadstool.

For River of Stones

(You can see the photos I took on today's walk here on this blog and here on Over Forty Shades, where I've started my series of photos of architectural photos, seeing as it seemed to be a popular idea when I mentioned it a few days ago!)

Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk round Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat today. Here are some of the photos I took with my new camera! As you can see it soon got dark but the early evening skies are just lovely, don't you think? We also saw some wonderful fungi, which I've written a separate post about here, for today's River of Stones contribution.