Tuesday 30 April 2013

Norway Maple (now with added photos!)

At this time of year, Norway maple is probably my favourite tree, with its wonderful vivid light green leaves. Now that Blogger is finally letting me upload photos again (though painfully slowly), I'm reposting this post with the photos!

Monday 29 April 2013

Birds, birds, birds

Wonderful birds today in Colinton Dell, along the Water of Leith! Loud birdsong from blackcaps, wrens, robins, chaffinches, blackbirds, mistle thrushes and a song thrush. (Not to mention a very loud discordent song from a grey squirrel!). Quieter song from the willow warblers, whose beautiful descending warble can be lost when so many other birds are singing. Also the calls of chiffchaffs, long tailed tits and blue tits.

Three chaffinches flew across my path at one point then I saw one of the males had stopped on a branch and had his head tilted right to one side as though he was watching something very carefully. And indeed he was, for after a couple of seconds a female appeared, but hopped right past the hopeful male and ignored him!

Swallows flying just above the trees, dippers collecting nest material from around the river. A wonderful view of a kingfisher, which flew, a streak of electric blue downriver then stopped. I watched it on its perch as it showed me first its orange front then its blue and turquoise back then dived into the water twice before disappearing into the bushes overhanging the water.

Lovely also to see celandines in bloom everywhere alongside the few flowered leek. The ramsons aren't in bloom yet but their leaves are wide and glossy and scenting the air with garlic!They are excellent to eat, but I always feel a bit concerned due to the number of dogs that run around in Colinton Dell!

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

Friday 26 April 2013

What really is Upcycling?

According to Wikipedia, upcycling is 'the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value'. I probably agree with this. The photo shows a wee belt I've just made by wrapping toghether two scarves that were both becoming quite raggedy. Together though they make a nice wearable belt, with a bohemian, shabby chic look to it. Most of the crafts I make use scrap materials, which otherwise might have ended up in landfill or in the city recycling. (recycling of course is a good thing, but re-use is better!).

I find myself puzzled though by some so called upcycling products. I recently saw a tutorial to make a mirror frame from plastic spoons. The tutorial starts by saying 'buy several bags of plastic spoons'. There's nothing environmentally friendly about buying plastic spoons and by buying several bags for crafting purposes, you'd only be increasing the demand for more plastic spoons! Which isn't part of the real ethos of upcycling. Of course if the mirror frame is made from used plastic spoons it would really be upcycling, though even better not to use the plastic spoons in the first place.

I'm even more puzzled by art projects that claim to 'upcycle food' into art. In a world where people still go hungry, despite the best efforts of aid agencies and governments, the best and most appropriate use of food is for eating.

A great upcycling project I recently found out about is run by Lush Cosmetics. They collect the plastic lids from milk bottles, juice bottles and cartons (the tops that can't be recycled otherwise). They then make these tops into new containers for their cosmetics. You can find your nearest Lush shop here.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any examples of best (or worst) upcycled crafts?

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Crafty Cats

Two cats around Edinburgh 

 (this adorable cat with it's tabby ears and tail also has different coloured eyes, but wouldn't let me take a photo of them! Below is Purdey, a cat that lives near Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents).

and two craft projects 

 not sure how long-lasting this tassel key fob will be, but it looks quite pretty and below is the beaded bookmark I made for Crafty Green Boyfriend for Christmas (which of course I should have posted already, but totally forgot!) This bookmark extra long to fit the large hardbacks he prefers to read. Though it works just as well with paperbacks as you can see! 

Meanwhile I'm delighted that one of my sea pottery shards was included in this Recycle Party Team Treasury on Etsy.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Wood anemones

It was a beautiful and sunny for most of my walk along the Water of Leith this morning. There were lesser celandines everywhere and this lovely blanket of wood anemones that seems to be expanding from previous years.

Meanwhile I saw and heard the first blackcaps of the year, such a lovely song this little warbler has! There were chiffchaffs everywhere, swooping around from branch to branch looking for insects.

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

Monday 22 April 2013

Recycled Crafts for Earth Day

It's Earth Day today! A time to think about how we can improve our relationship with the planet that is our home. One of the ways we can reduce our impact (and have fun and be creative at the same time) is to make crafts out of recycled materials. My New Year's resolution this year was to make more crafts and I've been doing just that (as you may have noticed from the greatly increased number of blog posts about crafts over the past few months). This is my latest craft project, made from a stash of beads given to me by a friend and some old fishing wire.

I've added this bookmark to the beaded bookmark section of my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. I've also given my Etsy shop a bit of a spring clean - I started this last week by rearranging the shop sections a wee bit and have been adding better photos.

Also on Etsy, I just now put together a treasury of recycled crafts with a green colour theme to celebrate Earth Day.

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

Sunday 21 April 2013

In the shade of the trees

 These photos come from my walk along the Water of Leith on Tuesday this week. The lovely yellow flower above is the lesser celandine, one of my favourite spring flowers, it comes out so early and is so lovely and bright! I like the way the ivy leaves form an arch above the celandine! Below is a wonderful shape in the trunk of a tree, I'd never noticed this before, in all of my walks along this part of the river (and I'm there every week as part of my voluntary work with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust).

For Shadow Shot Sunday

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

Saturday 20 April 2013

Riverside walks in Penicuik

We woke up this morning intending to go to Peebles and walk either along the river or in the woods. However we spent so long waiting for a bus connection in Penicuik (and when the bus arrived it was full to overflowing!) that we gave up and decided to walk along the River Esk as it flows through Penicuik.

The first two paths we tried were very pretty in parts but came up against obstacles (an impoasable landslide in one case and a total lack of signage in the middle of muddy fields in the other case). The third path we tried was the path that runs from Penicuik to Dalkeith along the River Esk. This seems to be a much more professionally maintained path, but by this time we didn't feel we had the time to do the whole walk, so we just did a short part of it and will go back to do the complete walk.

Lots of lovely birds and plants along the various paths. At one point we stopped in front of a copse of birch trees and conifers and just watched as siskins, blue tits, chaffinches, long tailed tits and coal tits all wandered by. All to the soundtrack of willow warblers, whose melancholy downward trilling warble is one of my favourite sounds of springtime. Up in the fields we saw the first wheatear of the year alongside a flock of meadow pipits.

Part of the path runs along an old railway line, the walls of which are wonderfully covered in parts in mosses, liverworts and other plants.

 There was coltsfoot everywhere too!

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

Friday 19 April 2013

Reflections on Environmental Art

This is part of Charles Jenks' artwork Landform Ueda that is found in front of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, which we visited last weekend, after a walk along the Water of Leith.

It's a lovely, gentle piece of landscaped art that seems to arise naturally from its setting, as the best environmental art does. It changes with the seasons too, you can see my photo of it in the winter here.

For Weekend Reflections 

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

Thursday 18 April 2013

Oven Gloves repurposed into pot stand

I originally bought these oven gloves in a second hand shop and used them for years but recently the gloves themselves become quite raggedy. So I cut off the gloves and sewed wide black bias binding all round the edge. I think this would make a nice pot stand for the centre of a table. Crafty Green Boyfriend suggested it might be a nice mat for a bunny or cat to rest on. It would need to be a pretty small bunny though!

I've not yet decided whether this is going into the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.What do you think?

I know that I had said that in craft projects like this I would start to share the before and after photos, but really it may be best in the instance if we don't see the before picture.

I've since bought another pair of oven gloves, again second hand.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Brilliant birds at Musselburgh

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know I enjoy birdwatching near Musselburgh. I walk from the centre of Musselburgh along the River Esk to its Estuary with the Firth of Forth and then along the John Muir Walkway to the Musselburgh Lagoons. It's the best place for birdwatching near Edinburgh (certainly that's accessible by public transport) and unusual birds often turn up there.

I'd heard yesterday that swallows and martins had started arriving back from migration in the last couple of days and hoped today to see a few in Musselburgh. I was almost put off by the weather, it was dull and wet, the rain sometimes very heavy. However I'm so glad I persevered!

I took a bus from Edinburgh to Musselburgh. As soon as I got to Musselburgh I was greeted by good numbers of swallows and house martins flying high above the river. Visibililty was bad due to the rain, but along the John Muir Walkway I saw plenty of birds including velvet scoters and a summer plumage Slavonian grebe on the water, a grey plover on the shore and skylarks singing up in the sky  above the grassy banks.

The whole area around Musselburgh Boating Pond was alive with swallows and house martins (and the occasional sand martin) flying around just above the water and high up in the air. The swallows at one point all lined up along the fences! Willow warblers (also just back from migration) were singing from the willow trees, one came really close to me!  I could only tell it was a willow warbler and not a chiffchaff, because it was singing. There are small differences in the appearance of these two warblers, but really, they're more or less identical in appearance.

I was enjoying this magical atmosphere of spring just sprung, when a birdwatcher approached me and said I might be interested in what had just arrived on the Lagoons. So I went along and was totally delighted to find three avocets! These wonderfully elegant waders were once incredibly rare in the UK but are a conservation success and are much less rare than they were. This was my first time to ever see an avocet, but what beautiful birds! (And sorry no photos, they were too far away for my camera and I just wanted to enjoy the moment, but the Scottish Ornithologists Club shared a photo on their Facebook page, taken by David Allan of the same three avocets.

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

Tuesday 16 April 2013

a new pathway

new green pathway -
the scent of crushed pine-needles


It was a lovely spring day today. The green footpath round the 'Hidden Meadow' by Redhall Gardens by the Water of Leith has just been remade with wood shavings, twigs and pine needles. It really does smell wonderful!

Further up the river, I stopped on the wooden bridge by Colinton weir. the trees were full of chiffchaffs, small warblers just back from Africa. (They had in fact started to arrive here last week). I've never seen so many in one place before, they were fluttering round the trees and then flying out almost like flycatchers to chase insects.

Meanwhile, I've just added another beaded bookmark to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, this one is black and silver. And it's already been included in a Treasury of bookmarks! Thanks Libriala!

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

Monday 15 April 2013

Picnic for Earth

Throughout April, and culminating around Earth Day 2013 (22 April), people in the USA and across the world will enjoy good food, sustainably sourced in the company of friends and family to celebrate Picnic for Earth.

You can take part by attending a Picnic for Earth event in your area, hosting your own Picnic event, or by simply going outside with friends or family to enjoy a private picnic.

Picnic for Earth honours the planet on which we live, the food it provides and the people we with whom we share it. By 2050, we’ll have 2 billion more people on the planet and it will take twice as much food to feed us all! Picnic for Earth aims to generate awareness of the need for sustainable food systems and the importance of protecting the natural sources of our food.

And with the weather getting warmer, it's a great time to enjoy eating in the open air!

Picnic for Earth is a part of The Nature Conservancy’s global All Hands on Earth campaign that asks people all over the world “What will you do for Earth?” 

Delighted to have three poems published on the Nature Writing website


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

Saturday 13 April 2013

Ferns by the Water of Leith

It really felt like Spring today, mild weather at last! We walked along the Water of Leith, from Roseburn to the Modern Art Galleries. The birds were in full song, mallards were chasing each other as were the dippers. We also saw a tiny wren climbing around on one of the river walls, it would disappear into one hole and reappear from another, maybe it's got a cosy little nest cave in there (after all the wren's Latin name is Troglodytes troglodytes - which means cave dweller). We also had a very good view of a goldcrest, even smaller than the wren.

This is a fern we saw along the riverbank. I think it's a polypody of some sort, but my fern knowledge isn't what it used to be. (I did a project on ferns as part of my Botany degree, but have forgotten quite a lot of what I knew.).I should start relearning what I knew, the Ferns in Britain and Ireland website looks like a useful guide!

For Shadow Shot Sunday 

and something entirely unrelated, I recently entered the Writers Relief Literary Paws competition with a photo of me reading to our old rabbit Anya. You can vote for your favourite photo here!  

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

Friday 12 April 2013

Zebras on Corstorphine Hill

Yes there are zebras on Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh. Of course they're in the zoo, but walking past you can imagine they're wild there. In the novel that I'm slowly working on, zebras have escaped from zoos and become native in Scotland.

Further down the hill,. a green woodpecker was making a huge amount of noise (click on the link and scroll down to the audio files to hear what it sounds like!), but we couldn't see it anywhere!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Repurposed Cushion Cover

I've blogged before about reusable cotton carrier bags. The huge advantage of these bags is that they prevent the plastic waste associated with plastic carrier bags and pose far less threat to marine wildlife (which can eat plastic bags thinking they're jellyfish). However, each cotton carrier bag takes much more energy to produce than a plastic carrier bag (up to 50 times more, I've read) and so is only a genuine environmental solution if you use it more than 50 times. This should be easy, but these days everyone seems to be forcing cotton carriers onto us (at the Edinburgh Book festival, it's possible to end up with four cotton carriers, just through buying two newspapers and a couple of books). Of course it's even more difficult to refuse a cotton carrier than a plastic bag, because, as the vendor will tell you 'they're the environmental option' and admit it, they look nice.

Well I try to refuse these bags as often as I can. I already have two cotton carrier bags in my main handbag, two in my rucksack, one in my evening handbag, one on every door handle in the house, one that I use solely for the recycling and one that I use for my equipment as a volunteer for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. However, sometimes they are impossible to refuse, generally when they contain lots of goodies for a press pack or a lucky draw prize.

So, this is my solution to having a few too many of these bags. The Edinburgh International Science Festival cushion cover.

I made a cushion from a t-shirt that developed a huge and unrepairable rip right through it. I had thought of making it into a vest top but realised that wouldn't work because of the position of the rip so a cushion it was. And last year's cotton carrier from Edinburgh International Science Festival is the perfect size and shape for a cushion cover. I just sewed a few press studs into the top to fasten it all together. I've tucked the bag handles into the cushion cover so that if I suddenly need another carrier bag, I've got one.

Meanwhile, over on the Crafty Green Poet Etsy Shop, I recently listed this selection of blue patterned sea pottery and added a couple of items to the now updated crafting supplies section of the shop. I also put together this Treasury of beaded crafts. (For those not familiar with Etsy, a Treasury is a selection of favourite items made by other sellers on Etsy.) Plus, I've blogged about some of the things I've learned from Etsy on my website.

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

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Birding and an interesting find

John Muir Walkway, Musselburgh

Skylarks sing from the clouds. Pussy willow catkins, losing their fluffiness, are becoming yellow with pollen, a bright contrast to the mostly mist-subdued colours. Winter browned grass. Grey sea.

A chaffinch sings. I love the fact that chaffinches have dialects depending on where they live. This one though, seems to have a dialect all of its own. It sings quite distinctly 'Scooby Doo' at the end of every phrase.

I enjoy the quieteness here, very few people around most times. Today though in one of the hides:

discussing football
the birdwatching group waits
for a rarity.

I don't know what the rarity was. I love seeing the variety of birds here, there's always something different even on the days when I don't see a rarity.

Today the most notable find though is a large number of pellets, produced by birds of prey that have been deposited on the sea walls. I've rarely seen these pellets here, and never in such number. 

Using the RSPB's helpful guide to bird of prey pellets, I work out that these are probably from kestrels or short eared owls. Short eared owls are rare, daytime hunting owls, but are seen frequently round here. I had a very close encounter with one a few months ago.

For Nature Notes

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

Tuesday 9 April 2013


repeating its name
in case we've forgotten -
first chiffchaff

Follow the link to find out more about the chiffchaff, a migrant bird just arriving back in the UK from Africa. And yes, it does repeat its name.

Monday 8 April 2013

The Chiricahuas by David Chorlton

I was delighted to receive along with his latest submission to Bolts of Silk, a copy of David Chorlton's chapbook The Chiricahuas.

This is real poetry of place, taking us vividly to the Chiricahuas mountains, to be amongst the wildlife and people of the area. It's an area that has seen a lot of human influence including abandoned homes and mines:

when the miners drilled 

into the mountain until it hurt 
and came back to a light 
too bright for them to see

the sparrows bouncing in the grass.

from Mine Trail

It's a country where an abandoned backpack may be reclaimed by nature:

a few strands will line
an oriole's nest in spring. 

from The Pack

There's humour too in these poems of the human relationship with nature. I couldn't help but smile at the image of the Texan lady 'with bouffant hair / and high-priced binoculars' who was disappointed not to see something rarer than an acorn woodpecker for her 'long awaited // breathlessly anticipated / five hundredth life / bird.'

These poems are wonderful descriptive, Turkey Vultures in a Storm, for example, is a vivid evocation of the power of the weather, while The Year After contains the beautiful phrase:

the song of one warbler
is wrapped for safekeeping 
in the silence it left behind. 

These poems prove that focussing on one small geographical area can be tremendously inspiring and result in varied poetry.

Several of David Chorlton's poems (including some from The Chiricahuas) have appeared on Bolts of Silk, you can read them here.

The Chiricahuas by David Chorlton, published by Seven CirclePress.You can read the free download here.

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

Saturday 6 April 2013

Birds at Musselburgh

I had two odd birdwatching moments yesterday at Musselburgh. First I was watching some mallards, renowned for their aggresive mating, with the male seeming to try to drown the female, often groups of males jumping on top of the one female. Yesterday though the female had obviously decided it was time to get revenge, there she was, on top of amale, biting his neck! 

The second oddity was seeing a skylark singing from a perch! I don't think I've ever seen that before, I mean they're called skylarks because they sing from the sky! One of the most evocative of summer sounds, even on a cold grey day with snow still on the distant hills. When I shared this observation on Twitter, someone replied saying that skylarks often sing from a perch. It is of course, wonderful to hear a skylark, wherever it happens to be, their populations are decreasing quite alarmingly across the UK. I know at least three areas around Edinburgh where they still nest, and hopefully they'll continue to do so. 

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

Friday 5 April 2013

Art and Science

Yesterday I attended the latest Insights and Ideas meeting, jointly run by Creative Scotland and Museums and Galleries Scotland. The topic this month was Art and Science and the meeting explored ways in which artists and scientists can work together to help communicate science to awider audience and to help bring new insights into science.

Jane Magill of the Scottish branch of the British Science Association talked about projects she has been involved in. She has worked with Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow, relating science to the artefacts and paintings in the collection. Projects have included exploring how art works are dated and how they can be conserved. She talked about the Cosmic Way Roadshow which celebrated CTR Wilson, the inventor of the cloud chamber, with an exhibition that toured Scotland from Peebles (Wilson's birthplace) to Fort William, where he did his first experiments. Cloud chambers are not only important scientifically, but the trails of the atomic particles are beautiful to look at. She also talked about the music that was composed specifically for the Cosmic Way Roadshow, which wasinspired directly by the physics involved.

Andrew Ormston of the art science collaboration ASCUS spoke next. He briefly mentioned a lot of projects where artists and scientists are collaborating together, including on an international scale. He focussed on one project that really interested me. Thisis the Grow Wild Project (still a pilot project at the minute), which will encourage people across the UK to plant wildflowers in unexpected places. Artists and creative people will be valuable in this project in helping communicate its aims and in choosing some more unusual places for planting the wildflower seeds.The project will work closely with the Kew Millenium Seed Bank to ensure that the flowers planted suit the local ecology and will offer guidelines to participants to understand enough ecology so that they know where is probably a good place for their wild flowers.

After a coffee break, Ninian Perry of the Paragon Ensemble talked about their project Torque. This interdisciplinary music and dance piece devised by dancers, musicians and scientists uses ideas from renewable energy, inclusive contemporary dance, and sonic arts to create a stimulating theatrical experience. The Ensemble also take ideas from this production into schools, using music and dance to encourage children to think creatively about science.

Finally, Professor Tom Stevenson of the Museum of Communication in Burntisland, Fife, talked about how their collections offer a very thought provoking insight into how communication has changed and how those changes affect our lives.

All in all a very stimulating and inspiring event!

This post also appears on my website

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

Thursday 4 April 2013

Another table mat

Some of you may remember the table mats I made recently, you cansee them again here and here. Well I've just finished making another one and here it is!

It's made from reclaimed damask fabric samples, as were the others. This one is more professionally finished off though as I used a length of brown binding that a friend recently gave me as part of a stash of crafting materials. I used this tutorial to make the mitred corners.

I've just added this item to my Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop!

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Bunnies and Candles

I was delighted to win the recent giveaway on Zen of Bun! Mr Mick himself chose me as one of the winners of a Cotton Fields scented soy candle with his photo on the jar.The scarf Mr Mick is wearing was made for him by Speedy the Cheeky House Bunny (well not by Speedy himself of course!).

Mr Mick is very involved with the House Rabbit Connection, which partnered with Charity Wicks to create these candles. A portion of the proceeds of sales of these candles benefit HRC.

So thank you very much Mr Mick and Jade, we'll enjoy using this candle!

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Mosses and birds along the Water of Leith

I normally totally fail to take good photos of mosses, so I'm quite pleased with the way these came out! I don't know the species though, my moss identification skills are non existent.

I had a lovely walk around Colinton Dell by the Water of Leith today. I was totally delighted to happen upon a pair of  long tailed tits, making their nest! They took it in turns to take small amounts of material (I couldn't see what they were carrying, but I know they use lichens, spiders webs and feathers among other things). Then when each bird had added its piece it sat in the nest and wriggled around a bit to make sure it was comfortable! I'll try to keep an eye on the progress of the nest over the next few months.

I also had a very good view of a mistle thrush singing. I had never seen mistle thrushes in this area until the last couple of weeks, so it's good that its a bird that seems to be making its new home in the area (or just making itself more obvious to observers).

Also I had my closest ever sighting of a siskin, which normally sits away up in a tree, but today was hopping around in a bush very close to me, singing a lovely sweet song.

For Nature Notes

Just follow the links to find out more, the birds names link with their pages on the RSPB website, where you'll find much better photos than I'd ever be able to take, along with illustrations and sound files.

Monday 1 April 2013

Spring in the Botanics

We had a lovely walk in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens today. The sun was shining and it was almost mild, though still colder than it would usually be for the time of year.

We particularly liked these flowers though not sure what they are:

This tree has a wonderfully twisted and textured trunk:

and this is one of the lovely views that can be had around the garden:

We had a lovely encounter with a goldcrest, such a tiny little bird and this one was much more tame than is normal, fluttering around for a good few minutes, despite lots of people wandering past. I didn't take a photo, because I wanted to enjoy the moment and my photos wouldn't be able to do justice to the bird!

We also went to the Jalan Jati (Teak Road) exhibition in the Botanics John Hope Gateway. This exhibition traces the wood used to make a 1950s teak bed right back to the area of rainforest it came from. The artwork and photography is stunning and the whole exhibition highlights the usefulness of DNA tracking of raw materials which can help to combat illegal logging. You can find out more about the DNA tracking technology on the Double Helix Tracking website. You can see some of the artworks from the Jalan Jati exhibition on the Migrant Ecologies website.

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