Thursday 31 October 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson by the Water of Leith

A handsome new statue commemorating Robert Louis Stevenson was recently unveiled outside Colinton Parish Church (where Stevenson's grandfather was a church minister), very close to the Water of Leith.

There's an inscription on the statue taken from his essay collection, Memories and Portraits, which reads: “All through my boyhood and youth, I was known and pointed out for the pattern of an idler; and yet I was always busy on my own private end, which was to learn to write. I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

 On the churchyard wall behind the statue there's a map showing a Robert Louis Stevenson trail that you can follow round Colinton Village.

Meanwhile inside the churchyard there is a yew tree, where Stevenson had a swing when he was young.

You can read more about the statue on the Water of Leith Conservation trust website.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Autumn in Colinton Dell

 I love the effect of the sun on this sycamore leaf
 grey heron fishing
more beautiful colours, this time cherry trees

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Woodland Burial

Crafty Green Boyfriend's father died at the weekend, he'd been ill for many years but had survived several medical emergencies and in between enjoyed gentle walks, computer games, reading about consipracy theories and arguing with his doctors. We'll all miss him.

We're currently deep in the process of trying to organise a funeral and yesterday visited the woodland burial site at Corstorphine Cemetery.

The woodland burial site is a small part of the whole cemetery and when anyone is buried there a silver birch tree is planted over their grave. In time the area will become a mature birch woodland.

It's a lovely peaceful area and very close to where Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother and brother live.

Monday 28 October 2013

New Arrivals Volume 5

I love music but rarely blog about it, but New Arrivals Volume 5 gives me a perfect opportunity!

NAV 5 is the latest in MPress Records' compilation series, which showcases established and indie artists while raising funds and awareness for worthy causes. 100% of all funds collected from the sale of NAV5 benefit three NYC-based charities that are still continuing to provide Hurricane Sandy Relief: The Red Hook Initiative (Brooklyn), Project Hospitality Staten Island Hurricane Relief Fund (Staten Island), and Graybeards (The Rockaways).

Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in US history, killing at least 286 people seven countries. Devastating storms like this are likely to become more common across the world as climate change continues to disrupt the world's weather systems. 

Of course, musical compilations can't stop climate change, but they can raise awareness and they can help to support people whose lives have been devastated by extreme weather events.

NAV5 features a variety of tracks from international indie talent including: UK folk-pop artists Polly Paulusma and Stephen Langstaff; NYC singer-songwriters Lucy Wainwright Roche and Ari Hest  and a bonus track by Grammy® Winner Paula Cole. I didn't recognise any of the artists, but that doesn't matter as I always enjoy discovering new music, particularly when it's for a good cause and this is a very listenable album. 

You can buy NAV5 or any of the New Arrivals compilations here. NAV5 is available digitally from tomorrow (29 October) and physically on 14 January 2014. Alternatively you can pre-order a physical copy of NAV5.

Cross-posted to my website

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, Mpress Records contacted me via Blogdash

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

Saturday 26 October 2013

Autumnal Colour, Union Canal

Here are some photos from along Edinburgh's Union Canal. Specially for Rabbits' Guy and anyone else who wanted to see some of the colour I'd written about in this post.

Tawny owl

I've already shared a photo of this wonderful tawny owl that has come back to its roost in Colinton Dell, Water of Leith after being chased off a couple of years ago by the local jackdaws.

I took the photo above last week, it's a clearer photo and you can also (if you compare it with this photo) see how much the leaves have started to turn.

The owl seems to spend a lot of time at the entrance to its roost hole like this, giving keen-eyed passers-by a rare opportunity to see this nocturnal bird.

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

Friday 25 October 2013

To NaNoWriMo or Not to NaNoWriMo

It's almost time for NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month encourages people to write a novel in November and offers support and encouragement and tools to check your progress. What you will hopefully end up with is a first draft that you can then craft into a novel that people might actually want to read.

As some of you may remember, I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2011 (and still have the badge in my sidebar to prove it!). I produced a first draft that was full of bad dialogue and half sketched out scenes and am still working on it to make it into something readable. I've given up on it totally twice but am currently about half way through a proper first draft. I feel quite confident now that I will one day complete this novel and even that some people might want to read it, if I can find an agent and a publisher.

I certainly think NaNoWriMo is worth it. It pushed me into getting the words down. I could easily otherwise have spent a month perfecting the first paragraph..... It also made me produce a skeleton first draft much quicker than I otherwise would have done, which meant I didn't have the chance to get bored of the whole thing before that stage.

And now I'm really enjoying the process of researching, plotting and writing, though even now I still sometimes come to a full stop and wonder what to write next. Also as a poet whose favourite poetic form is the haiku, writing a novel just needs too many words..... 75000 words at least, 95000 if I'm thinking of marketing it as science fiction.

But enough blogging for today, I've a novel to write....

(This blogpost was inspired partly by a Facebook discussion initiated by Martin Hodges and partly by a discussion in the writing class I facilitated yesterday)

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

Thursday 24 October 2013

Golden Autumn

This morning's sunrise was amazing, the clear sky lit up an unusual and beautiful glowing yellow, which became quite eerie until the sun fully rose.

The trees this year are astonishing. Most have been late to start turning and the relative lack of high winds means that even now, most trees still have their leaves. Leaves of gold, yellow, orange and red, which glow beautifully in the low sunlight.

These turning leaves contrast beautifully with the leaves that are still ochre or green on many trees and the amazing abundance of berries of all types that we're seeing this year.

A wonderfully golden autumn.

Inspired by yesterday's prompt at One Minute Writer

Wednesday 23 October 2013


double rainbow -
two collared doves settle
on the chimney pot

Tuesday 22 October 2013


My Mum asked me to make her a fabric purse for her powder compact for Christmas. Unfortunately the first piece of fabric I used turned out to be just slightly too small. However, I thought for a while and decided to turn it into the first ever craftygreenpoet mini-monster. (I've been planning for a while to make some sort of stuffed animal from socks and this was a practice run).

I made it from a fabric sample and buttons from my stash.

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. 

Monday 21 October 2013

The Conundrum by David Owen

Subtitled 'How Trying to Save the Planet is making our Climate Problems worse' this has to be one of the most depressing books I've ever read. Chapter by Chapter Owen dismantles the optimism behind green technologies and lifestyle approaches including solar power, energy efficiencies, wind power, 'back to the land rural living' and electric cars and shows that all of them in fact encourage consumerism and therefore increase the amount of resources we use, therefore making our environmental problems worse.

His conclusion is that only by vastly cutting down on the amount we travel and the amount we consume can we even remotely hope to prevent rampant climate change from destroying life as we know it.

I have always believed that consumerism is the main problem but just because I can see the truth in what Owen writes in this book doesn't make it any less depressing.

Owen concludes the book by saying:

'What's proven impossible, at least so far, is to commit to taking steps that would actually make a large, permanent difference on a global scale. Do we honestly care? That's the conundrum.'

And this book offers no answers (apart from the implied answer that everyone in the world needs to immediately commit to frugalism and voluntary simplicity).

Personally I'd like to think that towns such as G├╝ssing in Austria could be showing us the way forward. I also would have liked the book to have taken a more holistic approach taking biodiversity into account much more than it does.

The Conundrum by David Owen published by Shortbooks.

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

Saturday 19 October 2013


It's a good autumn for berries of all types!
Whitebeam berries at Musselburgh (not edible as far as I know)

elderberries near Corstorphine Road (can be used to make jam or wine or tea)

Friday 18 October 2013

EU Natura 2000 network

Many people in the UK are unaware of the 1992 Habitats directive & the 1979 Birds directive or Natura 2000, which is a great shame, it is at one and the same time the most important legislation protecting sites important for wildlife conservation in the UK and, arguably, the best thing about the European Union (EU).

Without Natura 2000, our wild places would be more likely to be lost, yet somehow it is largely overlooked by everyone outside those working for nature conservation bodies or planning. Recently I came across a discussion via Twitter (though the source article was on another website) where people were bemoaning the fact that Levenhall Links (also known as Musselburgh Lagoons, my favourite birdwatching site) isn't a local nature reserve when obviously it should be. I was then discussing this with Crafty Green Boyfriend (who works for a conservation organisation and knows everything there is to know about conservation policy) and he pointed out that Levenhall Links is part of the Firth of Forth Special Protection Area (SPA). The SPA is part of Natura 2000 and is the highest level of nature conservation status in Europe. Try to push forward any development on an SPA and the wrath of Europe falls on you. Which is much better protection for the local wildlife than just being a local nature reserve, which in legislative terms is much less meaningful.So Levenhall Links don't need to be a local nature reserve to protect them, though obviously it would be a nice status for them to have.

Even the broadcast media ignore Natura most of the time. I can't remember it ever being mentioned on Springwatch and Autumnwatch, the otherwise excellent British TV shows that enthuse people to get involved in nature and conservation.

More about Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. These areas include nature reserves and privately owned areas. The directives require member States to take measures designed to maintain or restore certain natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation status. The emphasis is on ensuring that the areas are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.
Natura 2000 aims to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. SPAs requires Member States to take sufficient measures (legal minefield) to preserve sufficient diversity of habitats for all species of wild birds naturally occurring within the territories.

Natura 2000 also fulfils a European Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for input into this blogpost! 

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

Thursday 17 October 2013

New Fabric Wrist cuff

This is my latest fabric wrist cuff, made from fabric from a stash and a button that magically is an exact match for the base fabric.

(A wrist cuff is worn just like a bracelet).

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Environmental rights are human rights

Environmental Justice believes that everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment with access to enough environmental resources (e.g. land, food, water and air) for a healthy life. The poorest and least powerful people in the world are most likely to be missing these conditions and environmental justice seeks to change that inequality. .

Friends of the Earth UK have been one of the pioneering organisations in formulating ideas around Environmental Justice. They have developed ideas coming originally from US based environmental groups that were concerned about the tendency of polluting industries to be sited near poor urban populations or indigenous peoples' reservations. Over the years the concept has been broadened to tackle issues such as the high level of pollutants found in the fish consumed by Inuit populations and others that live largely on fish. Most recently environmental rights are encompassing the rights of climate change refugees, people who are losing their homes due to rising sea levels or other changes caused or exacerbated by climate change.

It's a global issue, one where the people affected are rarely the people who are causing the problems. It is the industrial countries of the north (and increasingly the rapidly developing countries of Asia) who are burning the fossil fuel that's causing the sea level rises that threaten the very existence of some low lying island states.

Environmental rights are human rights. People's health and livelihoods depend upon their access to a healthy environment.

In September 2003, the Cartegna Declaration was developed from the International Conference of Environmental Rights and Human Rights held in Cartagena, Colombia.

This is just a brief introduction to a vast topic. For an in depth look at Environmental Justice from a UK based perspective, you can read Friends of the Earth's detailed briefing.

This post is part of Blog Action Day, which this year is focussed on Human Rights. 

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

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Mindless Vandalism

Last week I was delighted to find some beautifully crafted insect hotels in the Secret Meadow near Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith. But today I was so sad to see that they had been damaged beyond repair, the insect home that last week looked like this:

now looks like this:

Who would do this? It shows such a disregard for creativity and nature and mirrors the attitudes in the world as a whole that are leading us into probable environmental catastrophe.

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

Monday 14 October 2013

Naturalist - a memoir by Edward O Wilson

This beautifully written, fascinating scientific memior from Edward O Wilson outlines his development as a scientist, from early influences (including youthful nature studies, the church and the Boy Scouts) to his greatest works as a scientist.

Wilson is an eloquent champion of biodiversity and conservation and is the world's greatest expert on ants and a pioneer in the fields of biogeography and sociobiology. Not surprisingly therefore these memoirs are wide ranging in their scope, covering the biology of ants, conflicts between field biologists (of which Wilson is one) and molecular biologists, the importance of islands in biogeography and the evolution of the study of sociobiology in the animal kingdom from ants to primates (and the controversies that arose when those thoughts about aniaml sociobiology came up against human biology).

This is a totally fascinating (and very readable) book for anyone interested in our relationship with the natural world and in how academic science works.

Naturalist by Edward O Wilson published by Penguin.

Friday 11 October 2013

Feeding Children in Malawi

As many readers know, I lived in Malawi for two years, teaching sciences in a Girls Secondary School. Ever since then, I've had a particular interest in the country. I was delighted therefore to hear about the work of PB+J Foods, a non-profit organisation that aims to reduce the problems of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Malawian children.

Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) affects almost 20 million children across the world. It is the number one cause of death for children under five and kills 3.5 million children each year -  more than HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria together.

Founded in March 2012, the PB+J Foods programs:
provide specially fortified foods for children suffering from SAM or undergoing medical treatment, offer health education to those in need and 
help to build self-sustaining local economies.

The problem of SAM is exacerbated by the exorbitant price of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Foods (RUTF), such as fortified peanut butter paste. PB+J Foods set about devising a solution.

PB+J Foods help local hospitals and clinics to set up manufacturing plants to produce fortified peanut butter paste. The plants are owned and operated by the hospitals, are financially self-sustainable and employ local people.

Once a plant has become established, the fortified peanut butter paste will be sold to agencies including World Vision, UNICEF and the Malawi Ministry of Health. Profits are then distributed to local hospitals so they can provide RUTF to their patients for free.

PB+J Foods also sets up local Co-op Farmer Programs, involving up to 1000 farmers, many of them single mothers. These programmes upport farmers to start growing peanuts and to find international markets for their crops.

In August 2012, Nkhoma Hospital PB+J Program was established and started production that month.  The RUTF is provided to all patients with nutritional needs throughout the hospital and in outlying clinics in the catchment area. In its first year, the Nkhoma Hospital PB+J Program:
  • served over 1,200 children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, with average weight gain of 2kg in a 2 week period
  • produced around 140 bottles per day - serving nearly 100 children per month
  • gives fortified peanut butter paste to adults recovering from surgery, speeding recovery and freeing up bed space for new patients
  • has 800 farmers participating in the Co-op Farmers Program
  • provides participants with knowledge and skills training in food safety and storage, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, childcare and agriculture.

This is such an impressive project! Not only does it provide the immediate nutritional support that is so desperately needed by undernourished children, but it also enables local areas to manage the problem themselves while developing their economies. 

Find out more about PB+J Foods Inc.

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post - PB+J Foods contacted me via Blogdash.

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

Thursday 10 October 2013

Not self sufficient but....

We're a long way from being self sufficient but I thought it might be interesting to list the foods we grow ourselves etc:

Grow on our windowsills

tomatoes, salad leaves, herbs (parsley, basil and coriander) - with varying degrees of success

From Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents garden

leeks, courgettes, cooking apples, eating apples


brambles, raspberries and sometimes fungi. I definitely want to experiment with foraging for edible leaves from trees next year, basically when I'm cutting down tree branches that cause problems on the Water of Leith walkway, I want to keep the leaves that are edible!

So it's a small contribution to our overall diet, but it's something and not bad for living in the city centre! Theoretically we have a share in the garden at the back of the building, but one particular family have comandeered all the growing area.

What do you grow for yourselves and what kind of space do you have for growing?

Wednesday 9 October 2013


of high wild mountains
in distant lands -
ravens circle
the town cemetery

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Insect Hotels for the Winter

I just love these insect hibernacula that have appeared over the weekend in the Hidden Meadow in Colinton Dell by the Water of Leith. I think they were made by Redhall Gardens. Hibernacula offer winter hibernating places, in this case for insects and other invertebrates, though bigger structures are often built for reptiles and amphibians.

For Nature Notes

My entry to the Pure Travel 'Worst Ever Journey' competition is now up on their website. You can read it here. There's still time to enter the competition!

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

Monday 7 October 2013

Flight of the Kingfisher by Monica Furlong

I have to admit I took a while to get into this book. For some reason, I didn't find the author's early descriptions of her travels in Australia to be particularly engaging. However once she settled into her stay in the Aboriginal community of Wirrimanu ('the flight of the kingfisher') in Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert, I was much more drawn into the book.

Once you get past those early chapters this is a wonderful book. Furlong is deeply interested in the lives and customs of the Aboriginal people. She outlines the history of the relations between the Aborigines and the white settlers, looking in detail at the history of some of the missionary groups. We are introduced to missionaries who have been able to not only respect the Aboriginal beliefs but to draw parallels with those beliefs and the missionaries' own Christian beliefs as well as with pre-Christian beliefs from western countries. I loved the insights into The Dreaming and how stories are not only part of the landscape but part of some inescapable eternal now.

The book looks in detail at the Aboriginal relationship with the land, how they can find sustenance in a desert that the the first white settlers seemed totally barren. Furlong also looks in detail at the art of the Aborigines, how they originally used natural pigments to paint almost solely sacred art which strictly speaking they felt couldn't be shared to how the introduction of acrylics freed artists up to paint more commercial paintings that weren't so sacred (though of course the introduction of payment for paintings probably had something to do with this). We are also introduced to some of the words from Kukatja, one of the Aboriginal languages. Furlong analyses some of the words to give interesting insights into the community's concerns and priorities - there are a lot of words relating to ill health and pain, and the natural world is very carefully described in the vocabulary.

Overall this is a fascinating book, for anyone interested in spirituality and our relationship with the natural world.

Flight of the Kingfisher by Monica Furlong published by Flamingo, an imprint of Harper Collins.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Rowan berries

I've long wanted to try and photograph all the various colours of berries on the rowan (mountain ash) trees. While I was taking my birdwatching group round Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens on Monday, I realised that my best option for getting as many colours as possible was to visit the Botanics with a camera. So today Crafty Green Boyfriend and I did just that and here are the rowans:

On the way to the Botanics we noticed this tree outside St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral (above and below) - probably a Vilmoran's rowan (Sorbus vilmorinii), a relatively unusual ornamental rowan, notable for its beautiful pink berries.
Many of the rowans inside the Botanics are labelled with their species which makes identification so much easier. Here are:

Sorbus pseudovilmorini (above and below)

Sorbus macrantha

 Sorbus apiculata 

Sorbus eburnea

Sorbus discolor

Sorbus himalaica

Sorbus monbeigii

this orange berried rowan is in a private garden beside the Botanics and so isn't labelled. 

this lovely yellow berries rowan may or may not be the same species as the one overhanging the wall of the Botanics, but it looks particularly beautiful against the wonderful blue sky of a few days ago. 

This white berried rowan is a fairly common ornamental species in Edinburgh.

 and here's two photos (above and below) of our native rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

Rowan berries shouldn't be eaten raw as they can cause indigestion and lead to kidney damage but they can be cooked and made into jelly or used as a coffee substitute.

Birds love rowan berries. I've already heard reports of the first waxwings being seen in Scotland this year, and I'm hoping that in the next month or so these rowan trees will all be covered in waxwings.....

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

Friday 4 October 2013

Thursday 3 October 2013

Hanging pockets for storage

I've been working on this craft project for a while now, I'm not sure why it took so long but here it is!

It's a hanging pocket organiser that will hang on the front of one of our wardrobes. (I hung it by the window for the photo because the light is quite dull today). It's made from a large napkin and fabric scraps and eventually I may decide to change the way I hang it as the clothes hanger isn't quite wide enough for it to hang perfectly, but it will do for now.

I also haven't quite decided what I'm going to keep in it! The photo shows one pocket contains a lovely pair of fingerless gloves that I bought from HandmadebyMariAnne on Etsy (one of whose items I also featured in my latest, music themed Etsy treasury).

I'm a slow crafter so it's probably time to start focussing on Christmas crafts now.....

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

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Getting musical on Etsy!

I've just added two new items to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop:

a descant recorder and a vintage handmade wooden Polish flute.

To complement these I just put together a musical themed Etsy treasury of music related items made by other Etsy sellers.

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

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Back in the Dells

One of my old friends is back in Colinton Dell after an absence of a few years.

Can you see him (or her!)

Maybe now:

Yes the tawny owl is back!

I first blogged about this owl in December 2010. Since then for a few months I saw it regularly then it was chased away from its roost by jackdaws. I've watched out for it ever since but the jackdaws used the old owl roost as a nest site so the owl kept away.

Today I looked up into the tree, as I always do, just in case. And there was the owl, looking quite settled. The jackdaws were flying arround chacking loudly so I suspect the drama isn't quite over yet! 

For World Bird Wednesday and Nature Notes