Wednesday 30 September 2015

Travelling Seeds by Rebecca Bielawski


Travelling Seeds is just one book from the Mummy Nature series of beautifully illustrated books that introduce children to nature.

This short book shows a child observing a pear on a tree, which then gets eaten by a cute brown-eyed cow who then wanders off leaving the seeds of the pear in its poo!

The story of how animals help to spread fruit seeds is told in rhyme to help the story become memorable with lots of questions thrown in to encourage the child to interact with the story.

It's a simple, delightfully engaging tale that introduces children to the idea of how animals can help spread fruit seeds.

Hopefully after reading this, children will be keen to look out for animals eating fruit in the wild!

Travelling Seeds by Rebecca Bielawski.  

Also see Rebecca's Amazon page.

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook to review.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Indian Summer at Musselburgh

This year our summer was very disappointing, but early autumn is giving us the best weather of the year! Today was wonderfully warm and sunny at Musselburgh. Even the plants seem a bit confused by the seasons, like these sow thistles which are starting to seed, looking lovely with the various flower heads at different stages from flower to seed

There are spiders' webs everywhere, plenty like this one, which caught my eye

Lots of birds around too, but the highlight of the day was a hummingbird hawk moth, only the 2nd I've ever seen! Unfortunately it didn't want to be photographed.

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

Monday 28 September 2015

Sunday 27 September 2015

Supermoon and lunar eclipse

It's sa superb supermoon tonight, though this photo doesn't do it justice

Tonight this supermoon will go through a full lunar eclipse! You can read more about it here.

For once we're hoping Treacle our cat does wake us up at 2 in the morning so we can see the eclipse (also hoping that the moon at that time will still be visible from our windows, plus of course hoping for clear skies, which actually doesn't look likely!)!

I watched a lunar eclipse a few years ago from the comfort of our living room (and that one happened around 10pm I think) it's a beautiful sight, definitely worth watching if you get a chance!

Saturday 26 September 2015

Autumn in the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

It definitely felt like autumn in the Botanics and the nearby Inverleith Park today!

Plenty of fungi around

 We were very impressed by this bromelliad

It was warm enough to have coffee and cake in the open air outside the Botanics cafe, where we made friends with this robin

and this (rather scruffy) magpie

In the Inverleith Pond, this moorhen allowed me to take its photo

Friday 25 September 2015

Anyone who likes reading, loves a good bookmark

Of course it's not so true these days of e-readers, but those of us who still read real books certainly like bookmarks. I know, you can use a scrap of paper, or a bus ticket but there's something nice about a real bookmark.... Here are three I made just recently

The blue one is made from an off-cut of felt from a felt chopstick bag that I'm currently slowly working on. I sewed some beads of a matching colour onto each end.

The other bookmark in the photo above was made from a necklace that I found in one of the bargain bags of 'broken jewellery' that I bought from a local second hand shop. I just cut the necklace to a bookmark length and will use the rest of the beads in other beading projects. I had thought about adding this one to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, but Treacle showed his approval of it by playing with it and chewing on it, so I'm keeping it for myself!

The bookmark below is now in my Etsy shop. You can see it here.

And here's the latest photo of Treacle with his pal Janosch the hot water bottle

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Birdbrain by Virginia Arthur

Ellie falls into birdwatching by accident when she gets the date of a church picnic wrong and finds herself surrounded by birdwatchers. Seeing the care and attention that a pair of bluebirds pay to each other, she finally relaises she needs to work up the courage to finally leave her no-good husband. So she packs her belongings into her truck and takes her dog off to her best friend Patty's place.

The two of them become more and more interested in birds and sign up as volunteers at a local nature reserve, Ellie with considerably more enthusiasm than Patty. As Ellie returns to college to study biology and realises that life doesn't need to be the consumerist normality sold us by the media while Patty follows her new carrer in the business world, the two friends grow apart.

This is an entertaining story about friendship, very perceptive about human relationships and our relationship with nature both on the personal level:

"Her new habit of self interrupting whatever she was doing 'just to look at a bird' was in the eyes of her friends and family..... an endearing if not odd affectation. This irritated her, the idea that anyone who notices anything outside the selfish human world is immediately considered a bit odd. "

and also in detailing the unscrupulous destruction of biodiverse, ecologically valuable wild land to build strip malls, including a heartbreakingly detailed description of Ellie's involvement in trying to save an area of Californian wild land slated for development.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Ellie's growing awareness of nature, with all the descriptions of the birds she sees, the knowledge she gains about them and her growing impatience and dislike of the way the human world encroaches on nature. These descriptions feel totally integral to the story, rather than added on as afterthoughts and erven where Ellie's feelings about over-development verge on becoming rants, they're Ellie's rants rather than the author's and so are convincing.

This book reminded me to some extent of Barabara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour (which I review here), but though not as well written as that (and in places needing a finer editing), it is ultimately a more engaging and more passionately felt story.

It's a moving and thoughtful story of family, friendship and our failed relationship with the natural world that surrounds us.

Birdbrain by Virginia Arthur,  print copies can be ordered here on the author's website. The e-book is available from several outlets, the same page on the website will tell you which. 

If you're on Good Reads you may want to enter the giveaway for a copy of this book

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the e-book to review.

Monday 21 September 2015

More Upcycled Jewellery

I've been making quite a lot of jewellery recently! I made three pairs of these earrings, one pair for a friend, another for her girlfriend and another for the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop (you can see it here).

I've also made a couple of these bracelets, one of which is now in my Etsy shop here.

More to come, including bookmarks too.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Hermitage of Braid

Beautiful weather today for a wander round Blackford Pond and the Hermitage of Braid.

Lovely to see the swan family (with a total of six cygnets) on the Pond.

Lovely also to see the autumn colours coming in against the wonderfully blue sky

We were delighted to see these beautiful porcelain fungi on a fallen log over the river

 Still plenty of hoverflies around, including this (what I think is a Meliscaeva cinctella) on the Michelmas daises

Luckily we got our walk in this morning as this afternoon is cloudy and much cooler!

Friday 18 September 2015

Tangerines - a film review

The story takes place during the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia in a rural village in Abkhazia (Georgia). Ivo and Margus are Estonians living in Georgia in an otherwise abandoned Estonian village (there have been Estonian villages in this area for 100 years). They want to stay long enough to harvest their latest tangerine crop. Meanwhile the war moves ever closer and they find themselves looking after two solders, a Georgian and a Chechen, who are sworn enemies.

This is a sensitive exploration of what war means and how it affects people's lives and their relationship with the land they live on. The developing relationship between the soldiers is believable and treated with a gentle humour that offsets the tragedy of the overall situation.

As the credits roll, the camera pans across the regions beautiful scenery with a most haunting musical track playing, why does war incade even such seemingly perfect places?

This is a film with a subtly profound message,which will haunt the viewer long after the film is over.

Tangerines is currently showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thesday 22 September.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Mute swans on the Union canal

It's always lovely to see the resident mute swans on Edinburgh's Union Canal. Here's the male

and here's the rest of the family - good to see the four cygnets got to such an advanced stage!

Wednesday 16 September 2015

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

How would the world change if human beings vanished from the earth right now, for good? This is the question posed by this excellent, well researched and wide ranging book.

Weisman explores issues ranging from the long term effects of plastic pollution, climate change and radiation, whether populations of wild animals recover from overhunting, how nature would reclaim human settlements and how the landscape would change once it is no longer farmed.

He visits places as varied as the Korean demilitarised zone, Chernobyl and the Pacific Garbage Patch to examine in detail the signs that are around us of how things might look once we are no longer around.

It's a fascinating book, sometimes depressing to think of the ways in which humans have damaged the planet so much and sometimes hopeful to think that nature will probably recover pretty well once we're gone.

Well worth a read if you're interested in human impact and possible futures that our descendents might inherit.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, published 2007 by Virgin Books on Greenpeace approved FSC certified paper.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Indian Summer

Although the weather is very changeable at the moment (yesterday we had torrential rain and today we have glorious, warm sunshine) we are having better weather on the whole now than we had through the whole of the summer months.

Today at Musselburgh, I had a wonderful view of a kingfisher at the Mouth of the River Esk. One of the most reliable places to see these birds these days. It was too far to be able to catch it on camera but i watched it for several minutes through my binovulars as it flew up-river, then sat on a branch overlooking the water then dived for a fish. It was shining beautifully in the sun.

The nearby starlings were happier to be photographed and they were also shining in the sun

I was delighted to find this harvestman in the sea wall, if you look carefully you can see it's fitted itself into a small hollow in the wall, harvestmen are closely related to spiders so arachnaphobes may wish to look away now

The pathside verges are losing colour now

but there are still bright splashes like this sow thistle

and this red clover

There were good numbers of velvet scoters on the Firth of Forth and several ruffs on the Lagoons. Plenty of other birds too of course. So a great morning out all round.


There are still a few places on my creative writing workshop that I'm teaching at Tynecastle High School, starting next Tuesday evening. You can find out more and book here.

Monday 14 September 2015

Upcycled earrings

I always find lots of inspiration in the bargain bags of broken jewellery I buy from second hand shops. These two pairs of earrings are my latest creations made from charms from broken bracelets and brand new silver earring hooks, bought from the local jewellery making shop. .

Both designs are now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, the hearts are here and the butterflies (three pairs available!) are here.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Late wildflowers and a nature mural

It's been a while since we've visited Figgate Park and it seemed like a perfect destination for a short walk before the predicted rain started. .

We were interested to see the recently painted mural under the bridge, which highlights some of the wildlife seen in the park

We were also delighted to see that the new wildflower meadow is still beautifully in bloom. It's actually a pictorial meadow, one which is planted with seeds from flowers that bloom at different times of year, to guarantee colour throughout most of the year.

It's definitely autumn though with the first coloured leaves falling

Swallows were flying low around the pond, they'll be leaving for Africa soon. The rain which had been drizzling on and off during our walk, started to fall much more heavily just as we got on the bus home.

Friday 11 September 2015

Corstorphine Hill and Moth Night

Beautiful sunny weather today for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill.

The ragworts look wonderfully bright in the sunshine and I was quite pleased with how this photo turned out. I think the hoverfly is an Eristalis pertinax (going by the yellow legs), though it's not the best angle to show the other features (so you'll just need to take my word that the rest of it looked like an E pertinax!). There were lots of hoverflies round this one clump of ragwort, including the other species of Eristalis that looks identical to pertinax but has brown legs. Unfortunately only this photo really came out.

Also we spotted a few of these lovely looking shield bugs, which are final instar nymphs of the gorse shield bug. It's quite well camoflaged, can you spot it in there?

The thistles are really in seed now, the air is full of thistledown, as are the spiders' webs.

We didn't see any moths, but tonight (until 12 September) is Moth Night - an annual celebration of moths across the UK.

To celebrate this, I've just added these moth (or butterfly!) earrings to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

The butterflies are upcycled from an item of 'broken jewellery' from a bargain bag from a 2nd hand shop. The earring hooks are brand new, bought from the local bead shop. I've made 4 pairs of these earrings, three of which are in the Etsy shop here, I'm wearing the other pair myself!

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

Thursday 10 September 2015

Ghost Orchid by D K Christi

Inspired by the author's own experience of seeing the ghost orchid blooming, Ghost Orchid is the story of a rare plant and it's ability to bring people together.

Mel likes to take a lunchtime break from work by  finding God in Nature in the local swamp and enjoying her encounters with the animals

Laughter ran out of her soul as the squirrel leaped from the rail to a tree, just barely catching the limb. It looked back at her and chattered loudly as if to tell her she had interfered with plans.  

Meanwhile photographer Roger has finally persuaded Neev, his best friend, sometime lover and also another photographer, to accompany him to Florida to capture the ghost orchids in their rare blooming in the Everglades. Neev is reluctant to travel to Florida, because that is where her estranged mother lives, but once she is there, she doesn't regret the journey. 

The Florida Everglades are brought to life in atmospheric detail and the far reaching effects of the mysterious flowers on those who see them is well drawn out in a story that feels quite static at times but is ultimately very moving.

This is the third in a series of books but stands alone.

Ghost Orchid by D K Christi is available here.

Disclaimer - I received a free e-book of Ghost Orchid. 

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Autumnal flowers

sow thistle turning to seed
scentless mayweed 

I also saw my first snow bunting of the season along the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh, near to where I took the two photos above. Actually it's a while since I've seen snow buntings here, hope there are more of them this autumn/winter. 

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Treacle's Carbon Pawprint

Treacle has adorably mismatched paws, one long white sock, two short white socks and one entirely grey leg. He is very quiet on his feet (in contrast to his sometimes incredibly loud meows!) but what is his carbon pawprint?

Cats (and other, specially meat-eating, pets) have a significant carbon pawprint. We already made an environmentally friendly choice by adopting Treacle from a shelter (the Edinburgh Cat Protection League) and he was already neutered, another environmentally friendly step (which avoids overpopulation of cats) We're also reducing Treacle's carbon pawprint by:

Using cat litter made from recycled paper, there are several brands of this type of cat litter, or you can make you own, though that seems very time consuming.

Making cat toys from upcycled materials, so far we've made balls from recycled foil from chocolate bars (there's an endless supply of that material!); toys from cardboard or fabric attached to sticks or string to be dragged along or dangled in front of Treacle and toys from stuffing old socks with scrunched up pieces of newspaper or recycled plastic packaging (no matter how hard we try to reduce the amount of plastic packaging, there's always some of it around). Most recently we gave Treacle a large paper bag, which he then basically spent two days ripping apart, hiding himself in and hiding the foil balls in.

Food is more problematic.

I don't believe cats can become totally vegetarians. They're carnivores by nature, more so than even dogs. So we feed Treacle meat and fish based cat foods. We need really to find a sustainable brand, though even more important is a brand that Treacle will actually eat (and he seems to be a fussy eater). He likes rice cakes and toasted oat cereal so we feed those to him as snacks. So far Treacle hasn't killed any mice, I think his very presence in the flat scared off the mice who came in to feed on our bird food stocks (that had been more accessible than we realised!). Of course, if he were an outdoor cat, then Treacle would be chasing and probably killing the local birds. Although not a carbon pawprint issue as such, this is my biggest environmental problem with cats. The longer we know Treacle though, the longer we think that, although we were told by the cat protection shelter that he would be happy as an indoor cat, he is in fact an outdoor cat, who won't really be happy without being able to get out into a garden. This would be a real problem as we don't want to let him be an outdoor cat as we live three floors up and near a busy road. But he does meow and scratch at the flat door in the middle of the night, wanting to be let out....

(We've taken lots of advice on how to calm him down overnight - we use Feliway, a pheremone which is supplsed to calm cats down and reduce behaviour such as scratching and excessive vocalisations, we make sure he has an energetic playtime just before a late supper then bedtime and we ignore him when he meows in the night. None of this seems to work, though some nights he can be fairly quiet, usually he isn't.)

Heating is also problematic. We are the type of people who will put on an extra jumper or two before we put on the heating, Cats however like to have a warm environment. We think we may have at least a partial answer to this particular issue, Treacle has met Janosch, our tiger hot water bottle and they seem to get on very well.

Monday 7 September 2015

Spiders webs

Large spiders webs are a sign of autumn. it's not that the spiders aren't around earlier in the year, but that they get bigger throughout the year and so do their webs. So the early summer webs are often overlooked while the autumn webs are much more obvious, like this beautiful one in Colinton Dell today

it was beautifully warm and sunny today. The river is very low though, this is the view from Bog's Bridge