Thursday 27 November 2014

Young animals at Gorgie Farm

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I popped over to Gorgie Farm today and were delighted to see the young piglets

they're very active at the minute and have such lovely curly tails

The farm also has some tiny new pedigree Dorset Poll lambs, which are carefully being looked after by the adult sheep

The farm is looking for names for these new arrivals and you can nominate names on their Facebook page.

Wednesday 26 November 2014


I recently discovered Chichewa 101, the online course for learning Chichewa, the main language of Malawi. I've no intention of actually trying to develop fluency in the language given I would have very rare opportunity to ever use it and I struggled to learn it to any useful level while I lived in Malawi (particularly given that I taught solely in English and there was another native language spoken in the area I lived in).

However, it is a lovely language and I'm enjoying the regular Chichewa word with definition tweets. Yesterday, I learned what must be my favourite ever Chichewa word.


This translates as village chieftain.

I wish I'd known that while our adorable bunny Anya was alive. It would have been a perfect nickname for her.

She was after all very much our village chieftain.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

new bracelets in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I made these bracelets recently. using upcycled beads and charms (from old jewellery that has come unstrung) which I've threaded onto brand new jewellery elastic.

 this bracelet is in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

this bracelet is in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Monday 24 November 2014

Tree Following and a Late ladybird

The larch tree (in Colinton Dell by the Water of Leith) which I'm studying for Tree Following is now looking very yellow indeed and has lost many of its needles (for those who don't know much about larches, this isn't cause for concern, the larch is the only deciduous conifer).

this year's cones are looking very mature though they've not yet opened as far as I can tell.

Meanwhile this seven spot ladybird was still scuttling around

I would have thought it should be hibernating by now as its orange ladybird cousins are starting to do in the fence posts near Colinton village, as they do most years.

Lots of birds around today, there seemed to be flocks of long tailed tits everywhere, such adorable birds.

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

Saturday 22 November 2014

Late Autumn by the Water of Leith

Beautiful day today for an autumnal walk along the Water of Leith between Roseburn and Dean Village.

vivid green moss on the wall

candle snuff fungi on rotting wood

velvet shank (?) fungi on rotting wood (above and below)

autumnal reflections

a river of leaves

a young grey heron

Friday 21 November 2014

Between Dog and Wolf - New Model Army

Between Dog and Wolf is an excellent documentary about New Model Army, following the band from their early days in Bradford to the current day and with many of their best tracks packed into the soundtrack.

I'm always struck by the band's refusal to compromise their artistic or political integrity and their ability to channel their anger about social and environmental issues into powerful, engaging music that keeps winning them new fans 30 years on. Their sound, which started off as post-punk rage in the 1980s has mellowed over the years, though the political engagement is as strong as ever.

After seeing the film the other day at The Filmhouse, we bought the CD album Between Dog and Wolf, which proves very clearly that this is a band that is not content to rest on their laurels but who are continuing to produce brilliant music, most notably the title track and the powerful protest against environmental destruction Tomorrow Came 

As we slashed and we burned and laid waste to it all
to the glory and the vanity of rock and roll
Saying I want it all, give me more and more
As our children stood in silence and watched us
And now pray God they'll forgive us

And given that I'm reading a lot about wolves at the moment, I just love the whole concept that is summed up in the phrase Between Dog and Wolf - the space between domestication and wildness, between our best friend and our greatest enemy.

Excellent film and a great album from one of the best bands around. 

The film is showing tonight at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle. For future screenings, check out the New Model Army website and scroll down.

New Model Army are also a great band to see live (we saw them a couple of years ago) and if you want to see where they're appearing next check out this page.

Worth also mentioning the band's close collaboration with Joolz Denby, poet, tattoist and artist, who creates all the wonderful artwork for the band's CD sleeves.

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

Thursday 20 November 2014

Teal on the lagoons

A small group of male teal circle each other on the lagoon. In turn, each raises his front body and flicks his head forward then flicks his tail upwards, showing off the beautiful teal green flash that normally is hidden under the wing. All the time they're making a melodious squeaking sound.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Passenger Pigeons - haiku and links

feral pigeons flock -
shadow passenger pigeons
darkening skies


I like the idea of Fold the Flock, an origami project to remember the passenger pigeon.

You may be interested in my previous posts that relate to the passenger pigeon:

Yesterday, I reviewed 'A Message from Martha'Mark Avery's remarkable book about what we can learn from the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

On 1 September 2014, the centenary of the death of Martha, the last ever passenger pigeon, I reviewed  'Pigeon' a wonderful book by Barbara Allen.

You can read my poem Passenger Pigeon here.

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

Monday 17 November 2014

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery

On 1 September 1914, Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon died in Concinnati Zoo.

In this remarkable book,  A Message from Martha, Mark Avery, former conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) explores how the passenger pigeon, once the most numerous bird in the world, was pushed into extinction.

Europeans hunted the passenger pigeon remorselessly, destroyed the forests that it lived in and didn't understand its breeding biology well enough to be able to recognise the signs that the species was in steep decline until it was too late.

Avery travels throughout the former range of the Passenger Pigeon to try to understand more of its biology and to try to imagine what these lands would have looked like if the huge flocks of pigeons were still there, darkening the sky as they flew over and breaking trees with the weight of their breeding colonies. He pieces together what he can of the breeding biology of this bird, giving a picture of a bird so numerous it didn't bother to protect itself from predators (which meant that when it's number declined, predators started having proportionately a much greater effect on the populations) and one that travelled from place to place to take advantage of the year's best food sources rather than being loyal to particular places (meaning that people were much less aware when the species started to decline).

He also outlines key facts from American history (and the life of Martha Grier, a resident of Ohio, who died on the same day as Martha the Passenger Pigeon) so that we can see that the story of this species is just part of the overall story of how 'Progress' was responsible for a diminuition in US wildlife in the time period during which the passenger pigeon plummeted from being hugely numerous to being made extinct.

The later chapters ask what relevance does the extinction of this one species have for us today? Parallels are drawn with the rapidly declining turtle dove in the UK.

The book ends with an imagined message from Martha:

'I forgive you for wiping out my species - you didn't really mean to do it, and maybe you knew no better. .... However...You can now choose ... the level of future ecological devastation, and the excuse of ignorance no longer holds. Whether you do better in the future is a test of your worth as a species. You have the knowledge and ability to live sustainably on this planet but it's a hard road from where you are now. It's no longer a matter of what you know - you know enough. From here on, it's a test of whether you care - do you care enough? Please care. Please do better. Please start now.'

It's a message we need to listen to and act on, now, before it's too late for the wildlife that still remains.

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery, published by Bloomsbury.

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

Saturday 15 November 2014

Woven thermos Flask cosy

I recently asked on Facebook if anyone had ideas for small scale practocal based weaving projects to use up the rest of my scrap wool.

Thanks Melissa (of Art in the Wind) for suggesting cosies for bottles and cups which reminded me that I had thought about making a cosy for my thermos flask. So that's exactly what I did and here's the result.

Now my coffee will be even warmer when I'm sitting in the bird hides at Musselburgh!

I next may make some little woven bags (another idea from Melissa!)....

Thursday 13 November 2014

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Yellowing larch tree

the larch tree I'm studying for Tree Following is distinctly yellowing now. (Larch is unusual in being a deciduous conifer).

I think this year's cones might open soon....

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A Mouse in the House!

Yesterday there was a quiet knock at the door and a parcel arrived.

Inside was a very large matchbox

I opened up the matchbox and found, quietly sleeping, a lovely mouse, all wrapped up warmly for the Scottish winter

she stretched and yawned and got out of bed

Thank you Charlotte of Cottontails Baby for sending me this adorable mouse that I won in a competition on the Cottontails Baby Facebook Page. We've named her Martha (I'm currently reading Mark Avery's A Message from Martha (review to follow soon!), and though the Martha in the book is a passenger pigeon, it struck me as a lovely name for a mouse!

Cottontails Baby has a lovely range of toys and games and is notable for having a rabbit Rudolph as floor manager. Their previous floor manager Humphrey was one of the rabbits who won a part in my novel (which is still an ongoing work in progress, but the end at last almost seems to be in sight!)

Charlotte has made some brilliant video spoofs of British TV shows starring some of the animals available in her shop. Follow the links below to view:

The Great Bunny Bake Off.

Springwatch at Cottontails.

Monday 10 November 2014

Nature Cure by Richard Mabey

I recently started leading a series of birdwatching walks for City of Edinburgh Council's Outlook Project, which works with adults with mental health problems. I felt that Richard Mabey's Nature Cure would be a great book to read alongside these walks, dealing as it does with the author's recovery from depression and his reaquaintance with the natural world.

When Mabey became depressed, he was already a well-known nature writer and his main argument  is that getting out into nature in itself isn't necessarily a cure for depression, but rather that it is the building (or in his case re-building) a personal relationship with nature.

The book is less of a practical guide to nature therapy and more of a personal memoir about moving to a different part of the country and learning the different landscape and wildlife, alongside musings on the historical human relationships with the natural world.

As Mabey recovers, his powers of observation seem to intensify, allowing him to become more and more re-engaged in the natural world around him. His mental state remains fragile though as he worries about whether the usual summer migrants will return, the uncertainties of nature, specially in today' world of so much environmental turmoil, feeding into his own uncertainties.

"I hadn't heard the shrill flutings of the blackcaps that should have been abundant in the fens, or for that matter that first herald of spring, a chiffchaff. Had they been diorientated too, blown off their traditional routeways by Mediterranean storms? My nightmare, that those ancient ecological links with the south might finally be broken, wouldn't go away."

This is wonderfully beautiful meditation on the links between humans and nature and how, just as our connections with nature can help keep our minds whole, the damage we are, as a species, doing to those connections can cause dislocations in our mental health.

Nature Cure by Richard Mabey, published by Pimlico

Saturday 8 November 2014

Braid Hills

Last week the new Seven Hills Viewpoint was unveiled at the top of the Braid Hills. Crafty Green Boyfriend and i had thought about going along but agreed we prefer our walks without crowds and so we waited until today to go up.

The new information board is very comprehensive

and there are wonderful views from the Braid Hills of all the other hills in Edinburgh, including Arthur's Seat .

and the ski slope in the Pentlands

there are also a lot of bushes alongside the path (which is a bridle path and in places prone to mud and piles of horse manure!)

There were plenty of birds around, though we heard many more than we saw. We were however delighted near the end of the walk to see a group of at least five bullfinches.

The clouds were gathering,

but the rain held off until we finished walking.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Wednesday 5 November 2014

grey heron

I felt sorry for this grey heron that I saw yesterday near Colinton Weir on the Water of Leith. For quite a while it was flying around seeming to have been disturbed by some dogs that were playing in the river (though the nearby mallards seemed unpeturbed). It landed eventually in this tree, which made a nice photo opportunity.

for Nature Notes.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Wrist warmers

It's getting to the colder time of year when wrist warmers and ankle warmers are useful accessories to wear around the house before getting to the stage when you absolutely need to put the heating on.

I dug out some old worn out socks, cut off the feet and made these wrist warmers.

They fit over the cuff of a long sleeved t-shirt and then fit under the cuffs of a jumper and stop the draughts getting up my arms! I also made a pair of matching ankle warmers from a slightly larger pair of worn out socks.

Meanwhile, I've just added a new bracelet to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop..... Please feel free to pop over and have a look!

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

Monday 3 November 2014

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

In 1830, Neil MacKenzie is the new church minister to St Kilda, the most remote part of the United Kingdom. He and his wife Lizzie start a new life in the small community on the island, where they find poverty, unsanitary living conditions and an epidemic of babies dying in their first week of life.

The Mackenzies are historical figures, but this is a novel based on their time on St Kilda. it's the story of one man's battle, as he saw it, to bring a community into the modern day. MacKenzie doesn't try to understand how the local customs are designed to fit in with the local environment and his mission to give the islanders more sanitary housing ignores how the community has grown organically on the island.

Meanwhile Lizzie battles with her own loneliness (she doesn't speak Gaelic, the language of the island nor does she make any attempt to learn to do so) and the death of her first three children in their first week of life.

 People on the island relied on hunting the seabirds for their eggs, their meat and their feathers. At the same time though, they were aware of the need for sustainable harvesting of the birds, to ensure the populations continued to thrive.

St Kilda is an amazing island (no-one lives there now, since the last of the population were removed) and the book is full of wonderful descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife.

It's a beautiful book, poignant and moving (though occasionally veering into melodrama) which dramatises the challenges of living in a remote and uniquely difficult place.

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg published by Quercus

Sunday 2 November 2014

Fabulous fungi

As promised yesterday, here are some of the fabulous fungi we saw on Corstorphine Hill:

candlesnuff fungi (the white growth tucked away in the centre of the photo)

rosy bonnet

milky bell cap (sorry this photo is a bit blurry)

smooth earth ball

clouded funnel

sulphur tuft

If I've got any of those fungi wrong, please feel free to let me know in the comments. Below are two we're not at all sure of, this first one looks like a cauliflower fungus, but they're supposed to only grow on the roots of pine trees and this was growing on the branch of another type of tree (Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo)

and not sure about this one, though I think it's a lilac bell cap

and finally this, showing an unknown species of lichen on the right hand trunk of the tree and the mycelium of probably a honey fungus all over the left trunk

Saturday 1 November 2014

Autumn woodland

The woods on Corstorphine Hill are stunning in their autumn colours, specially on a sunny day like today!

We found lots of interesting fungi and took lots of photos so we could try and identify the species! We're about half way through the list now and I'll do a blog post tomorrow with photos...

For Shadow Shot Sunday