Thursday 30 May 2013

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

The programme has just been announced for the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival. There are lots of excellent films showing, between 19-30 June. I'm really looking forward to seeing a good number of them!

See the programme here.

Meanwhile I'll not be blogging for a few days!

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Butterdean Woods and Alba Trees Nursery

As a Woodland Trust campaigns volunteer, I was delighted to be invited along to a trip to Alba Trees Nursery and Butterdean Woods in East Lothian.

This morning we visited Alba Trees, which is a huge nursery that sources British seeds for native British trees and plants to be used by British clients such as the Woodland Trust. This is very important, given the fact that the recent (and continuing) outbreak of ash dieback disease can be attributed to imported trees. I was impressed also that the nursery seems to be cutting down as much as it can on its use of peat based growing mediums and recycles a lot of its planting containers. It's also an impressive nursery to look at. Those young trees in the photos below will grow up to become important parts of woodlands across Scotland.

I was delighted by the number of house martins flying about that seemed to be nesting around the nursery. 

In the afternoon, we travelled to the nearby Butterdean Woods and walked through this lovely area of mixed woodland, discussing management options and campaigns.

One small area has been made into a sort of memorial woodland for a local girl who died of leukemia, with some very pretty birdhouses hung up in the trees.

There are areas of potential danger in the woods, in the form of old mineshafts, which have become flooded. These have all been fenced off to prevent accidents, but seem to offer interesting habitats for wildlife.

For Nature Notes

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

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Blooming Dells

Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith is a wonderful mass of flowers and blossom at the moment. Here are just a few:

apple blossoms in the Hidden Meadow

wild garlic

red campion and bluebells

a buttercup lawn

ivy leaved toadflax

water avens 

wych elm

The Dells were full of birdsong today too, just such a wonderful sound. I was excited to see a roe deer running alongside the path, but then saddened when I realised it was being chased by a dog.

Monday 27 May 2013

Beaded pencil case

I'm more than keeping up with my New Year's Resolution to do more crafty projects. In my recent post about cloth napkins, I said I was working on beaded versions of the purse I featured in that post. Well here's the first. I've lined it with a pretty floral fabric, but the brown fabric is thick and quite difficult to work with, plus I designed the top wrong so it isn't perfect and the top looks a little odd. Nevertheless it makes a nice pencil case to put into my rucksack or my conference case. The little gold beads fit nicely in with the fabric design and add a bit of texture and glitter!

I've got fabric enough to make another of these (though better of course and with a different floral design on the lining). If good enough I'll put it in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. As well as being a pencil case, it's the ideal size to be a glasses case (in which case I'd make it with a button fastener, rather than a press-stud fastener hidden behind a button as in this case).

Meanwhile, I'm delighted to have one of my items featured in this Etsy treasury.

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

Sunday 26 May 2013

Calton Hill

Yesterday, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had a wee wander round Calton Hill which is in the middle of Edinburgh, just at the East End of Princes Street. It was very busy with lots of people out enjoying the sunshine! Here are some of the photos I took.

It was so sunny yesterday that it felt like summer, which reminded me of summer holidays by the sea, so I put together an Etsy Treasury of beach inspired crafts. And for those of you not familiar with Etsy, a treasury is a collection of crafts I like made by other Etsy sellers.

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

Saturday 25 May 2013

Seeking Shade in the Dells

As regular readers of this blog know, I volunteer for the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I patrol the Colinton Dell area of the river every week, picking litter and recording wildlife. It's a beautiful place, I love watching how it changes through the seasons.

I took this photo on Tuesday. It looks like summer!

For those of you who were disappointed that I had to cancel my guided walk of Colinton Dell, which had been scheduled to happen on Monday 27 May, you may be interested to know about a guided tour of the Dell on Sunday 26 May (tomorrow!), run by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. Booking is essential for this one!

For Shadow Shot Sunday

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

Friday 24 May 2013

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun

This novel is inspired by the experiences of a youg soldier who was imprisoned for taking part in a failed coup to oust King Hassan II of Morocco. With sixty others he was imprisoned in a secret prison in the desert and remained there for nearly twenty years.

The novel is harrowing in its details of illness, deprivation and the hardships of prison life.

What leapt out to me though was the relationship the prisoners had with nature. Sometimes this was negative as in when their cells were infested with cockroaches and scorpions. Sometimes though nature became a symbol of hope and a connection with the outside world. Particularly in the form of birds, such as the striolated bunting that the narrator named Tebebt:

For a while I had confused it with the chaffinch because their songs are so much alike. At the time however, I amused myself by trying to guess its name in French and the colour of its plumage. This bird alighted in the hole that served as the air vent for the cell and sang for a good fifteen minutes. Naturally I fed him some bread crumbs moistened with water. After eating, he sang again then flew away. He must have had his nest in a tree nearby. When he returned he landed on the main vent and sang; acting as a lookout , he changed his tune whenever he observed any movement outside the prison, so the arrival of the guards was always announced by Tebebt.

I can still remember his different songs, which I soon learned to distinguish. One day when he twittered in a quick staccato manner, I didn't realise what that rhythm meant....Tebebt was welcoming the rain! We'd had no way of knowing what the sky was like, but thanks to this bunting, we were getting a weather report!

Tebebt had become my companion, my friend. When he landed on the edge of the air vent, I fancied that I spied the sparkle in his eyes, and in spite of the darkness, Iwould talk to him in a low voice.

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun published by Penguin

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

Wednesday 22 May 2013

A Sunny Day in Liberton and the Braids

I had to go all over town today doing various things and luckily passed close enough to Liberton to pop over to the fields for a wee wander.

At least five skylarks were singing above the fields, while I just caught sight of a grey partridge's head above the plants. Several small tortoiseshell butterflies and one peacock butterfly were basking on the path.

The hedges in the photo below were full of blackcaps singing. In the background you can see Arthur's Seat, quite yellow with all the gorse that's currently in bloom up there.

I carried on up the hill to Braid Hills Community Woods. 
This is an attractive wooded bridle path alongside the Braid Hills golf course. As the path is mostly used by horses, it tends to be quite muddy and you've always got to keep an eye out for horse riders! Today, several willow warblers were singing in these trees, but there was no sign of the yellowhammers that I've seen here recently.

For Nature Notes

As ever, click on the photos to get a bigger view and red text contaains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Amazing Amber - the exhibition

While my parents were visiting this weekend, we went to the Amazing Amber exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. It's a fascinating exhibition which packs a huge amount into a small space.

On display were examples of all sorts of amber from around the world, some in their natural form and others which had been made into jewellery and other decorative items. Personally I'm not a huge fan of amber jewellery, though I'm intrigued by amber itself.

Most interesting were the pieces of amber with insects and plants embedded in them. Most astonishing to me, was the plant fruiting body that had been preserved at the moment of bursting and releasing its seeds!

If you're in Edinburgh over the summer, it's worth checking out this exhibition!

Amazing Amber is on at the National Museum of Scotland until 8 September

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

Monday 20 May 2013

Upcycled Purse for Cloth napkins

I'm always disappointed when I go to a cafe or restaurant and they offer paper napkins, rather than fabric. I often try to go without a napkin at all, but sometimes it's essential to use one (specially when eating something like fajitas or spaghetti!).

I've sometimes thought about carrying a cloth napkin round with me and was pleased to find one in the stash of crafting supplies a friend recently gave me. I didn't want to carry a napkin loose in my handbag though, so I made this little bag for it. It was very easy to make. it fastens with press-studs, the button is only for decoration.
You may recognise the fabric - I used a length of it to decorate this upcycled gift bag. I'll be making a couple of beaded versions of this bag too and may put one in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop!

I know of course that in many restaurants and cafes unused paper napkins just end up in the bin anyway and there's also the issue of the amount of water and electricity used in washing and ironing cloth napkins......

Sunday 19 May 2013

Geese and goslings

Today we went took my parents to Figgate Park for the first time. We had a lovely time and enjoyed seeing all the birds, including this Canada Goose on its nest.

Then we hopped on a bus into Musselburgh for lunch, where we also enjoyed watching the birds along the River Esk. There were lots of swallows, house martins and swifts (and the occasional sand martin) flying low above the river and also higher up, all hunting flies. There were also these adorable goslings.

My guided walk of Colinton Dell on Monday 27 May has now been CANCELLED. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to come along.


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

Friday 17 May 2013

Windowsill garden update

Our windowsill garden is doing well. the mixed salad leaves and coriander are doing better than ever on our living room windowsill. Our tomatoes are doing well as well, most of them are on the spare room windowsill, but one is on the living room windowsill. Creating nice shadows on the wall!

For Shadow Shot Sunday, early I know, but my parents are visiting this weekend and I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do!

Thursday 16 May 2013

Reef by Romesh Gunesekera

This is a beautifully told novel.

Triton is houseboy to Mister Salgado, who is a marine biologist working slowly on a project related to the disappearing coral reefs round the island where they live. The story really focuses on Triton and his relationship to Salgado and his friends and business associates. It's a fascinating, insightful view into the life of someone working in service. It's also a novel full of beautifully observed moments, including this wonderful observation of an oriole:

The oriole came back. it had never come so close to the house before. I could see it behind Mr Salgaldo: tangerine yellow, a bold black head, bright red-ringed eyes, a red beak. It was small and yet its voice could fill the whole garden; its yellow plumage like a lick of paint. It sang deadpan. No anguish. No fear of the eagle that would swoop down on it one day and rip its yellow feathers. 

Reef by Romesh Gunesekera. published by Granta

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Birding Update

Musselburgh is renowned as a place where rare birds often stop over near Edinburgh. There seem always to be some notable species somewhere along the River Esk or at the Lagoons. I didn't see any of them today, but really that doesn't matter because there were large numbers of swallows, house martins and the occasional sand martin swooping low over the River Esk. It's just amazing to see these lovely birds all so busy catching insects above the water. Lots of swallows over the Boating Pond too and here they were swooping round over the nearby grass, sometimes circling round me. Just wonderful!

Yesterday I took my birdwatching class up Corstorphine Hill. I had arrived early, as I usually do, to check out what was around, and came across two jays, being chased by magpies. Jays aren't uncommon birds but they are surprisingly elusive. They're large pinkish birds with vivid blue streaks in the wings, you'd think they'd be easy to spot, but they're not. This was my best ever sighting. Sadly, they weren't still around when the group arrived for the guided walk. But we did have an excellent view of a sparrowhawk and the birdsong was amazing.

I've seen very few swifts around where we live so far this year. (Anywhere in fact). It's a species in decline, so I'm always worried that we're losing them here, but I really hope we're not.

As ever, red text includes hyperlins that take you to other weblages where you can find out more.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Upcycled gift bags

I recently made two of these gift bags from old sleeves that were in the stash of fabric that a friend gave to me a while ago. This is something where it would be useful to post the before and after photos but Blogger is taking almost five minutes to upload a single photo so I'm sure you'll understand why I'm only sharing one photo here!.

The bags were very simple to make, as the side seams and the top patterned edging were already sewn. I just sewed up the bottom seam, opened up the edging and put in the yellow cord and then fastened the edging up again.

The fabric is quite thin so they're ideal for lightweight gifts! 

Monday 13 May 2013

foraging few flowered leek

I've blogged about few flowered leek before. This is a rather distinctive looking plant as seen from the photo below,

though from a distance it can be confused with wild garlic (which you can see in this post - that year wild garlic had flowered mid April, this year it's barely yet starting to flower!).

I've noticed few flowered leek much more over the last few years and realised it wasn't a native plant. But it was only on reading this article from Plantlife that I realised it is classed as an invasive plant, and is gradually taking over from the wild garlic, bluebells and other flowers of the woodland floor.

But you can be part of the solution! Few flowered leek (and its near cousin three cornered leek) are edible and because they're invasive plants you can pull up the whole plant! (But if you're picking wild garlic just pick the leaves, wild garlic is native to our woodlands and it's illegal to uproot it!). There's a good video here about how to recognise few flowered leek (Thanks to Howard for sharing this link on Facebook).

You can chop up either of these invasive leeks and use in potato salad or to make pesto. 

Of course, as when foraging for any plants, choose areas that aren't used by dogs.

For Nature Notes

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

Friday 10 May 2013

Goodies from starrybluesky

I was delighted to win a giveaway recently from Rhiannon Connelly's Edinburgh based starrybluesky Etsy shop. It was really difficult to choose my prize, there are so many lovely things in the shop! Here though are the items I chose:

Once I've framed the photos I'll be putting them on display in our kitchen.

There's a wonderful selection of jewellery and photographic prints in the shop!

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

Thursday 9 May 2013

Upcycle and save soap

There's always that moment where your soap bar breaks down into pieces too small to comfortably use. You can squash them together to make a new bar or you can put them in a wee net bag like this one:

The net bag originally contained garlic (normally I buy unpackaged garlic but recently that garlic has been deteriorating really quickly, and I've found that the garlic sold in these little bags is keeping far better, which reduces food waste, even if it does increase plastic netting waste. Eco-friendly shopping is full of such dilemmas!)

I've hung the soap bag over the hot water tap in the kitchen. To wash hands just rub damp hands over the bag then rinse. Well that's the theory anyway!

And it works though I've needed to retie the knot to make it more secure! 

Meanwhile I've added a batch of large and interesting sea pottery items to the Crafty Green Etsy shop

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Rabbit Awareness Week


Anya, our rescue bunny who lived with us until she crossed the Rainbow Bridge in June 2007

It's Rabbit Awareness Week here in the UK - a chance to raise the profile of these wonderful pets.

The RSPCA is supporting the campaign in England and Wales for the whole month of May with over 100 RSPCA branches and animal centres running events to help raise awareness of rabbits ' welfare needs. You can take your rabbit for a free health check at a vet or attend educational events about rabbit welfare. You can find out what's happening near you by visiting this page.

Rabbits are the third most popular domestic pet and make wonderful companions but they are often misunderstood so this is a great campaign to try to raise their profile a little and improve the conditions for rabbits that are kept as pets.  

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Upcycled Purse

I've just finished making this purse from fabric scraps. The shape is slightly uneven because of the shape of the original fabric scraps, but luckily it just fits a small mirror, which is what is inside it. I'm giving it to my Mum for her birthday.

Monday 6 May 2013

Walk this May! A Month of Walking

National Walking Month is a month long campaign by Living Streets, to highlight the benefits of walking, and includes Walk to Work Week (13-17 May) and Walk to School Week (20-24 May).

Walking os good for your physical and mental health and if lots of people walk in a town or city then that place feels safer and more people start to feel comfortable walking. Walking also reduces the number of cars on the roads, thus reducing the amount of pollution and reducing the carbon footprint of travelling.

There are plenty of feats you can take part in to really feel part of the campaign and lots of resources to help you spread the word.

Meanwhile the Tree Council is running Walk in the Woods to encourage more people to enjoy walking in their local woodland, which is just what I was doing this morning! The photo above shows part of Colinton Dell, along the Water of Leith. The few flowered leek is in full bloom at the moment, you can have a closer look at this invasive, non-native but striking looking plant below:

The few flowered leek has been flowering for a while now, but just out is the wood sorrel, seen below growing on top of a mossy stone wall.

It was a lovely day today, sunny and mild and with lots of birds around! Perfect for a walk in the woods!

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

Sunday 5 May 2013

International Dawn Chorus Day

Happy International Dawn Chorus Day! A day to celebrate tne natural miracle of birdsong that is most amazing (in northern temperate countries) at this time of year at dawn. I was woken by a blackbird this morning at about 4am and opened the window to listen for a while, before going back to bed. Unfortunately only blackbirds were singing (though their song is amazing and worth getting up at 4am to listen to!). Often here, even in the middle of Edinburgh as we are, our blackbirds are joined by chaffinches, dunnocks, collared doves, woodpigeons and goldfinches.

I went on a dawn chorus walk along the Water of Leith last year and it was wonderful! The woods just rang with the various songs of numerous birds.

If you can't face the thought of getting up really early and going to your local woods, then the evening chorus is often almost asimpressive as the dawn chorus. Certainly when I took my birdwatching class to Figgate Park last Tuesday evening, we were all impressed by the wonderful birdsong.

Some of the group complained that they felt they would never learn all the birdsongs. Well, although part of the aim of the classis to help people learn birdsong, an equally vital part is to help them to learn to appreciate it. Recognising which bird sings which song makes a big difference if you're recording birds for Birdtrack or your local wildlife information centre, but you don't need to be able to tell the difference between the songs of a blackcap and a garden warbler to be able to enjoy the music.

What's your favourite birdsong?

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

Saturday 4 May 2013

Friday 3 May 2013

Insights and ideas - Volunteering

I've blogged before (here and here) about the excellent Insights and Ideas Cafe Events run by Creative Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland. Yesterday's meeting was on the topic of Volunteering and as ever there were several excellent speakers talking about their experiences of volunteering and volunteer management.

Jemma Neville, from Voluntary Arts Scotland (VAS) talked about the value of the voluntary arts sector and the support that VAS gives to the sector. She highlighted Voluntary Arts Week (11-19 May). This annual event celebrates voluntary arts across the UK. This year the theme is Craftbombing and arts organisations are being encouraged to decorate public spaces with crafts as a colourful celebration of public art. (Participants need to make sure that permission is sought before craftbombing any public space and crafts should be cleared away later or made into a secure exhibition to avoid littering issues). You can find out more about how to get involved on their website.

Diana Morton from Edinburgh Museums and Galleries next spoke about Museums Alive, a volunteer outreach programme that takes museum artefacts and activities into day care centres and nursing homes for reminiscence and arts activities.

Harry Giles then spoke about the 'creative chaos' that is  The Forest, Edinburgh's well known volunteer run cafe and arts space, which recently moved into new premises in the Tollcross area of town. (In it's previous venue in Bristo Place, it ran the Golden Hour cabaret night of poetry, music and cartoons, which was a highlight of Edinburgh's alternative cultural scene).

Over tea and biscuits, there was time for discussions with the people we were sitting near. At our table, Steve from Strange Town Theatre Company compared the challenge of getting young volunteers to turn up to regular rehearsals to the seeming 'turn up when you feel like it' ethos of Forest volunteering. I mentioned that Water of Leith Conservation Trust patrol volunteers commit to regular volunteering (generally once a week) but as long as we meet our commitment, we can turn up when we want. We then discussed keeping in touch with young volunteers, who often seem to ignore emails and only want to communicate via Facebook.

Then it was time to hear from Paul White from Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) who talked about the support his organisation gives to the voluntary and community sector across Scotland (including excellent training courses). He shared some statistics, including the fact that 68% of all Scottish voluntary sector organisations are grassroots groups with incomes of less than £25 000 per year.

The final speaker was Violet Dalton from National Trust Scotland, who spoke about the support networks for volunteer managers in the heritage sector (Heritage Volunteer Organisers Network and Forum for Environmental Volunteering Activity).

All in all a very insightful discussion of volunteering in the cultural and heritage sectors in Scotland.

Cross posted to my website

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

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Rabbit, brown rabbit, brown rabbit

There's a traditional saying of 'rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit' to greet the new month. But this new month of May is being greeted by the handsome and delightfully disapproving Mr Mick of Zen of Bun. Here he is in the House Rabbit Connection calendar which he sent me at the beginning of the year.

Mr Mick is becoming a bit of an international superstar, what with all his appearances on calendars and even candles. So we're honoured to have him gracing our kitchen wall for the next month.

May is a time of birdsong of course. Last night, April went out with a wonderful evening chorus from the birds at Figgate Park, where I took my birdwatching class. Today, I was in Musselburgh, delighted by the hundred or so house martins swooping above the river, the skylarks and meadow pipits singing above the fields by the John Muir Walkway, the willow warblers singing in the willow treesby the boating pond and the willow warblers and skylarks that I could hear while sitting in the bird hide.

May is a time also of bees buzzing in the flowers, or it should be. Bee numbers are declining drastically, so it was good news that the European Union recently banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which seem to be one of the several factors causing the decrease in bee numbers. Meanwhile, the online poetry journal Ink, Sweat and Tears has started a season of bee poetry and I'm delighted that my poem Fistful of Bees is featured.

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