Friday 31 January 2014

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Fungi and signs of spring

It was damp and muddy along the Water of Leith today. Ideal conditions for fungi and there were plenty of them around:

Auricularia auricula-judae (currently usually known as Jelly Ear)

Stereum hirsutum (Hairy Stereum)

 not sure about this one, I thought it was some sort of earthball fungus, but on a closer look I think it might be some sort of earthstar, though one of the species that doesn't have a collar. Does anyone have any idea what this might be?

The air was full of birdsong, specially song thrushes, which always start singing early and though they're sadly in decline across the UK, they continue to thrive in the Dells, by the Water of Leith. The hazel trees are a mass of catkins, I tried to take a photo, but the camera refused to focus on both the dangling male catkins and the tiny, red female flowers, so I'll need to wait until next time I see a hazel tree!

Meanwhile I'm delighted to now have a page of poetry on Verse Wrights

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

Tuesday 28 January 2014

shabby chic patchwork repair

Last year I'd been helping a friend sort out her mother's house and she gave me quite a lot of crafting supplies. Plus this lovely table cloth that had become stained while kept in storage. The stains were very stubborn and remained there after two washes so I decided to use patchwork to cover up the stains and give the tablecloth a shabby chic look. Above is a close look at the patches while the tablecloth was on the ironing board and below is the cloth on a small side table. (And no ironing isn't one of my best skills).

Monday 27 January 2014

Better Bokashi...better earth by Todd Veri

'B o k a s h i (pronounced bo-KAW-she) is a Japanese term meaning ‘fermented organic matter’. It usually refers to a method of indoor composting that uses beneficial micro-organisms (MyCrobz) to quickly ferment any type of food waste. This includes fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, small bones, bread, dairy, soiled paper, cooked foods, and more.'

With a bit of practice, indoor Bokashi composting is a simple way to make quality compost for your garden without producing gas, heat, or rtten smells. It doesn't attract vermin either. It's the best way of recycling your food wastes for the benefit of your garden.

This book gives a detailed history of bokashi, outlining its benefits over both conventional garden composting and municipal food waste collections (though these are probably the best option if you don't have a garden where you can use the compost you would produce).

Next comes the detailed outline of how to bokashi and how to store and use the resulting compost, complete with plenty of quirky diagrams! Veri deals with all the problems you might come across while starting out with bokashi and following his instructions, with a bit of practice you should be an expert in a relatively short period of time.

Even if you have nowhere to use the compost, this is a fascinating book.

Thanks Story Cartel for my free download of this book.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Animal Portraits

It was cold and wet for most of yesterday, but we did pop along to Gorgie City Farm in between the showers and caught up with some of the animals:

No rabbits were around for photos and we cound't find Dexter the farm cat anywhere!

Saturday 25 January 2014

Friday 24 January 2014

A Fist Full of Bees

 The bumble bees were furry
like your favourite cat

You caught them one by one
stroked  them gently
and held them in your tiny fist.

Their wings
tickled your skin
as they buzzed.

When your mother opened your hand
the bees escaped
and you cried

though you had not been stung.

A slightly different version of this poem was previously published on Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Based on Crafty Green Boyfriend's childhood memory....

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

Thursday 23 January 2014

Invasive Non-native species

Earlier this week, I went along to the patrollers team meeting at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre. The patrollers are people who walk their designated length of the river every week, picking litter, recording wildlife (including non-native invasive species) and looking out for pollution incidents.

This week's meeting focussed on invasive non-native species of plants and animals that affect the river. A speaker from the River Forth Fisheries Trust spoke about identifying and managing the major species of concern.

Giant Hogweed, which was originally introduced as an ornamental is of major concern because each plant can produce many thousands of seeds and they can lie in the soil for 17 years so it can take many years to eradicate. In addition it's sap burns the skin on contact. It can only be controlled by spraying it with glyphosphate that is considered safe for other plants, waterways and bees.

Japanese Knotweed, which was also introduced as an ornamental, shades out all competitors and can grow through concrete, causing chaos on building sites. It is generally controlled by injecting glyphosphate directly into the stems near the base of the plant. This is most effective if carried out at the end of the season, by which time the plants energies are being directed towards the roots and so the poison will be carried directly to the roots and kill the plant most speedily.Japamese Knotweed is edible, it's a bit like rhubarb, apparently, but as in Scotland you can't remove it from site, so unless you want to spend endless days making knotweed crumbles over a camping stove, then it's not a realistic method of control.

I was most interested to find out more about Himalayan Balsam. As we noticed on our last trip to Dumfries and Galloway, areas that are thick in Himalayan Balsam in the summer were a mass of attractive spring flowers earlier in the year and I had been lulled into a false sense of Himalayan Balsam perhaps not being so bad after all, despite its revolting smell. After all the flowers are pretty and the bees like it. However at this meeting we learned that the real problem with Himalayan Balsam is when it grows on riverbanks and crowds out all the summer vegetation. Not only is this bad for the summer plants but it means that in the winter, when Himalayan Balsam dies right back (unlike most other summer flowers which would be persistant) and then the riverbanks are left bare from autumn to late spring and become very prone to erosion. Himalayan Balsam can be uprooted very easily and must then be destroyed, because it re-roots very easily.

Invasive plants need to be controlled starting from the source of a river, as the seeds or, in the case of Japanese knotweed rooting segments of stem, are carried downstream.

The Water of Leith also is home to a number of mink, which originally got into the wild when over enthusiastic animal rights activists released them from fur farms. Mink have been a huge problem on British waterways, they are very aggressive and eat anything. However, as our rivers have got cleaner and otters have returned then they outcompete mink (otters are much bigger than mink and will fight them). Since mink have been exterminated from the Trossachs, the endangered water vole has returned. The River Forth Fisheries Trust and the Water of Leith Conservation Trust are working together to set up some mink rafts along the river. Despite sounding like some sort of luxury boating experience for the mink, these are recording devices - the mink will run onto the rafts and leave their footprints there so we can get some idea of how active they are along the river. We can then assess whether the mink need to be controlled or whether the two or three resident otters are dominant enough to keep the mink under control.

If you see any invasive species in Scotland, you can record them on the RAFTS Invasive Species Recording Site. You can learn more about which species to look out for on the RAFTS Invasive Species Site. (RAFTS is the River and Fisheries Trust of Scotland, which represents all the rivers and fisheries trusts in Scotland).

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

Wednesday 22 January 2014

more chopstick bags

I've made a few chopstick bags already from this wonderful floral satin fabric, from an old Chinese robe that has worn through in parts and was no longer wearable.  This one is finished off with a lovely black and silver vintage button and some nice black ribbon as the drawstring.

Meanwhile I had just enough of this pretty floral fabric to make a chopstick bag

These bags offer an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid having to use the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry). There's a slightly odd article here about how taking your own chopsticks can help save the environment, which gives you some idea of the scale of the problesm caused by disposable chopsticks.

Both these items are now available in the drawstring bag section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Four Seasons of Creative Writing by Bryan Cohen

Four Seasons of Creative Writing is a follow on book to Creative Writing Prompts: Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, which I reviewed here.

Like its predecessor, this gem of a book is packed full of creative prompts to make you think and create blog posts, articles or stories, to explore issues, stimulate conversations or to share in creative writing classes. The prompts are arranged seasonally and designed to explore ideas rather than technique. Most of the prompts are specifically designed for younger people, but can be adapted to suit all ages and are ideal for schools and writers groups. There are plenty of ideas for nature writing, citizen science and for exploring environmental issues, in non-threatening ways, such as the examples below:


Sometimes it gets so hot in an area that people have to conserve their water because of
drought conditions. Imagine that there was a drought in your area so you couldn't play
in the pool or run through the sprinkler. How would this change your typical summer day
and why?

Imagine that you are a tiny hummingbird drinking from a feeder in a beautiful garden.
What would it be like to fly around so fast? What might be some dangers you would
face on a daily basis? Where would you live and why?

Create a conversation between two leaves that are about to fall from a tree. One is scared
and the other is excited about the long trip to the ground. What do they talk about and
You have placed a tracker on an acorn in an effort to find out exactly where your backyard
squirrels go during the day. After a squirrel takes the bait, where does it go and why? Are
you surprised to find out where the squirrel stashes its goods? Why or why not?

What do you think it would be like to be the following animals during the winter and why:
horse, gorilla, deer, and Chihuahua?
Many ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice by constructing monuments or
holding wild celebrations. How would you have chosen to celebrate the solstice thousands
of years ago? What would your family today think about your celebration idea and why?


How do the smells of spring differ from the other three seasons? How do spring smells
make you feel? What makes spring smell the way it does?
Why did the bee fall in love with the flower and start the process of pollination? Create
a mythical origin story about when bees realized that flowers should be a part of their lives.

 Each prompt can probably be used to good effect many times over, so this book is a great resource for any writer.

Thanks Story Cartel for my free download of this book.

Monday 20 January 2014

Protect the UK's ancient woodland

The Woodland Trust recently launched a campaign calling for better protection for ancient woodland.

Ancient woodland is woodland that has been continuously wooded since 1600 (1750 in Scotland) and is one of the richest wildlife habitats in the UK. It's scarce, covering less than 2 per cent of the UK, and irreplaceable - if an area of ancient woodland is destroyed to make way for a high speed rail link then planting a few trees elsewhere does not even begin to compensate for the loss. 

Anyone who walks in the ancient woodlands cannot fail to be touched by their magic. Yet the UK's ancient woodland is repeatedly put at risk, sold out and betrayed – by failings in the planning system, infrastructure plans like the HS2 (high speed railway link) and misguided schemes like Biodiversity Offsetting
But what’s left of the UK's ancient woodland can be saved! The Woodland Trust are calling for an open, constructive discussion with the Government on the options for action, before it’s too late. 

You can find out more and add your voice to the campaign here:

Friday 17 January 2014

Some thoughts on Birds and Photography

Yesterday, I was particularly keen to go birdwatching at Musselburgh. I had hoped to see this bird, which if it is really a Stejnegers Scoter, would be the first ever to be sighted in British waters.

I didn't see it, or if it was there, it was too far out for me to recognise it as different from the velvet scoters.

If I had seen the rare scoter, I had hoped to take a photo for id purposes and to prove that I had really seen it. However I forgot my camera, which made me think about the pros and cons of photographing birds.

I tend only to take photos of large slow moving birds, like herons, swans or geese or other water birds that will come quite close. They make easier subjects!

I also feel I miss out on enjoying the birds, if I'm struggling to get the perfect shot. The quality of my photo of a small, quick moving bird wouldn't be good enough to justify losing that moment of enjoyment.

Yesterday's main moment of enjoyment was seeing the teals on Musselburgh Lagoons. These little ducks are beautiful, but yesterday's sighting was doubly special. Firstly the light was amazing and the drakes' colours were glowing in the sun. Secondly, the drakes were doing their courtship display, which was quite comical, they throw their heads back, then pause briefly then lift up their hind quarters and shimmy so that their teal green and yellow colouration is shown off to full advantage, specially in the perfect light.

It was also lovely to see lots of lapwings, oystercatchers and other waders on the Musselburgh Lagoons and a group of around 20 long tailed ducks on the Firth of Forth, the largest group I've ever seen of these ducks. I saw three birds for the first time this year, dunlin, grey plover and rock pipit, and I updated my 2014 bird list! I also saw the famous Musselburgh hooded crow / carrion crow cross.

So there are no photos of the day but lots of lovely memories!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Last day to object to the plans for the development of Craighouse

I have blogged before about the inappropriate developments planned for Craighouse, an important site in Edinburgh that consists of historical buildings, open greenspaces and woodland.

The site needs to be developed in some way to conserve the buildings, but the recent amended proposal consists of more buildings and requires more trees to be chopped down than did the old proposal that was thrown out!

The deadline for objecting to the development is TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT. As far as I'm aware you need to live in Edinburgh or to have a definite connection with the site, to be able to object.

You can read more on the Friends of Craighouse blog or on their Facebook Page.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch

It will soon be time for the UK's Big Garden Birdwatch run by the RSPB.

Bird populations give conservationists a good idea of the health of the countryside. That's why it's so important to take part in surveys like the Big Garden Birdwatch so we can all keep an eye on our local wildlife.

All you need to do for the Big Garden Birdwatch is spend an hour over the weekend of 25-26 January counting the birds in your garden or local park. It's that simple!

The more people involved, the more the RSPB can learn. So, sign up here, learn more about the wildlife likely to visit your garden and get ready to record your observations! 

Not only will you be helping conservationists learn more about bird populations, but you'll have great fun watching our feathered friends and finding out out what lives in your garden!

If after taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, you want to learn more about birds, if you're in Edinburgh you can sign up for my next five week series of bird walks.

You may also be interested to read my reviews of Books about Birders - (more will be added over the next few weeks):

Birders by Mark Cocker

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Books about Birders 2: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

As someone who, at some times of the year, leads Monday morning bird walks, I was immediately drawn to this novel about a Tuesday morning bird walk in Kenya.

Two members of the group are a little bit in love with the class leader, Rose Mbikwa, and the story centres on their attempts to win her affections through competitive birdwatching.

The story is amusing and engaging (and occasionally very silly) and along the way has a lot to say about the best places to birdwatch, non-birding people's knowledge about birds and the birds of Kenya themselves with a few sly comments about politics and social conventions thrown in for good measure.

Each chapter is headed with an adorable sketch of a Kenyan bird, beautifully drawn by Yeti McCaldin.

A lovely book for anyone who enjoys Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency books or anyone interested in birds and birdwatching. And no, there has never been so much intrigue in my Monday morning bird walks!

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson, illustrated by Yeti McCaldin and published by Penguin.

My next five week series of Monday morning bird walks starts on 24 February.

You can read the rest of my reviews of Books about Birders by following the links below:

Birders by Mark Cocker.

Monday 13 January 2014

latest chopstick bag

Chopstick bags are proving to be by far the most popular things in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. So, I'm making a few more over the next few weeks.

I just added this green floral chopstick bag to my Etsy shop.

These bags offer an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid using the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry).

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

Saturday 11 January 2014

Shadows on the Trees

 Lovely shadow of tree on tree in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens today.

For Shadow Shot Sunday

Meanwhile, I'm delighted to have one of my beaded bookmarks featured in this Russian Doll themed treasury over on Etsy.

And I put together this Etsy treasury in advance of the forthcoming Chinese New Year. Each item in the treasury contains at least one Chinese coin, a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

Friday 10 January 2014


don't use bug spray! 
the ants kiss each other 
as they pass.

Malindi, Malawi

Thursday 9 January 2014

Bird Lists

Over the past few years I've ended the blogging year with an overview of the birds I've seen that year. This year I decided it might be nice to actually list all the birds I see in a year on a separate page on the blog. So you can see all the birds I've seen so far this year here. I'll keep updating this through the year and will probably add the lists for future years to the same page. I'll try to find the time to add hyperlinks to the list so if you're not familiar with the birds you can find out about them on the RSPB website.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Red Moss, Balerno

Red Moss is the only lowland raised bog in the City of Edinburgh and is a Scottish Wildlife Nature Reserve. The reserve is composed of deep peat that has accumulated over thousands of years since the end of the last ice age. It is quite a dramatic landscape, specially in today's moody weather (though it luckily didn't rain!).

wonderful lichens on this tree! 

There were several mute swans on this reservoir.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Books about birders 1: Birders by Mark Cocker

I was looking at my draft book reviews on this blog and realised that there are a lot of books I've read about birders. I'm not talking about field guides to birds or books about bird behaviour, but books about the social activity of birdwatching or novels set in the world of birding. So I thought I'd post these reviews in a series and for the sake of completeness, include my old reviews about books about birders. So to start with here is the 'review' of Mark Cocker's Birders which I first posted back in 2009:  

I love birdwatching and spend a lot of time walking in woodlands and other areas in and around Edinburgh looking for birds. I've also enjoyed seeing interesting and unusual birds whenever I've travelled further afield, whether to the Scottish islands or to Malawi. I have never however, hopped into a car and driven hundreds of miles just to see a rare bird. Therefore I'm not really a birder, according to this entertaining and informative book.

Mark Cocker is a very engaging writer (and speaker too, I enjoyed his presentation at last year's Edinburgh Book Festival) but even he cannot persuade me that twitching (as racing after rarities is known) is a pastime that I want to take up. Too obsessive, too high a carbon footprint for an environmental activity, too exhausting. No, I'll stick to my local walks, birdwatching on holiday, waxwings outside the local school and my occasional 'is that really a white tailed sea eagle flying over the roof?' moments. 

But I definitely recommend this book.....

Birders by Mark Cocker published by Random House (UK) , Grove Press Books (USA and Canada)

You can read the rest of my reviews of Books about Birders by following the links below:

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson.

Monday 6 January 2014

Monday Bunday featuring Mr Mick

Ever since the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals discontinued its rabbit calendar, Jade from the Zen of Bun has kindly kept the Crafty Green Household supplied with bunny calendars. This year's calendar is entirely full of photos of Jade's wonderful bunny Mr Mick. Here he is hanging in our kitchen:

So thanks Jade and Mr Mick!

Meanwhile, I've just added this lovely vintage Alfonse Mucha postcard to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop!

Saturday 4 January 2014

Dalkeith Country Park

Just a nice wee weekend walk round Dalkeith Country park we thought. Oh look there's a riverside walk we've not tried before, we said. But it turned out to be an obstacle strewn track, falling away steeply to the river and leading to scenes of what any film classification board could only describe as 'relentless mild peril'.

Still, we can laugh about it now and we saw some interesting birds (including some unexpected wigeon in a flooded field, next to the less unexpected oystercatchers, mallards and mute swans), made some new animal friends and I got some nice photos, mostly from the road before we reached the new riverside walk.

Needless to say we won't try that path again, even if the ground is less muddy!

Linking up with Saturday Critters

Meanwhile, I'm delighted that one of my items has been included in this UK Upcycled Etsy Treasury, curated by Tanglecrafts.

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

Friday 3 January 2014

Figgate Park birds

I've blogged before about Figgate Park, which really is the best city park for birdwatching in Edinburgh.We were very lucky with the weather yesterday, it was clear and sunny, ideal for a walk round this lovely park. (Yoday is dull, rainy and very windy).

The male shoveller that is often seen on Figgate Pond was more than usually friendly yesterday and allowed Crafty Green Boyfriend to take several photos.

There were four gadwall on the pond, though they stayed quite a distance away from us. One of the males is shining in the sun in the centre of this photo, the gulls in the photo are black headed gulls and the duck at the front is a female tufted duck.

The mute swan family passed by in a most photogenic way

while three cormorants were hanging around

There were lots of other birds around including this adorable little pied wagtail, it's face a little yellow in its winter plumage.

All photos in this blog post were taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Glorious Gorse

Gorse is known for flowering all year round. I took this photo from Arthur's Seat yesterday.

Arthur's Seat is most of the year a peaceful place, ideal for enjoying the open air and dramatic scenery, and with excellent opportunities for seeing birds and mammals (most recently we saw a very large rabbit there!). On New Year's Day however it takes on a totally different atmosphere, as it is both a traditional setting for the residents of Edinburgh to take their first walk of the new year and also is the setting for the running and cycling legs of the Edinburgh New Year Triathlon.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

 tawny owl, Colinton Dell, photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend

Wishing everyone a happy new year! 
Hoping 2014 will be a good one for you all!