Wednesday 30 November 2016

Mute swans

It was a bank holiday today (St Andrews Day) so we walked along the Union Canal in Edinburgh and met these two beautiful mute swans

Tuesday 29 November 2016

National Tree Week

Established in 1975, National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual celebration of trees, marking the start of the winter tree planting season. Organised by the Tree Council, the week offers a great opportunity to help your local trees.

You can find out about your local events here.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Latest Adventures in Jewellery Making

I was browsing my bead stash the other day and these large pink beads struck me as ideal for earrings so I made three pairs using all the large pink beads I had and matching them with some small pink beads.

This pair of earrings is available in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here. (The other items below will also be in the Etsy shop soon!)

 I also made these long earrings using chains and beads reclaimed from a vintage necklace

I also recently made this bracelet and earring set, featuring the same brown and white beads as I used in the necklace in this post. Each of the brown and white beads is different in pattern and shape!

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Frosty patterns

It's a lovely day today, freezing cold but with clear blue skies and wonderful light. The frost is amazing:

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Secondhand First Week

Secondhand First Week,  organised by fashion reuse charity TRAID, is a chance to celebrate all things secondhand and commit to re-using and appreciating what we already have rather than buying new.

Some things are much better new, such as underwear and shoes but for most other items of clothing then second hand shops have a great selection and sometimes they even sell new shoes and underwear that's never been taken out of it's packaging.

Second hand shops are where I buy most of my clothes and books as well as the bags of unsaleable jewellery that I then make into new items that I sell in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. (And I've just made several new pairs of earrings that I'll blog about here in the near future.)

If you want to make your clothes last longer then you may find there are mending workshops in your area (there certainly are in Edinburgh) or you may want to organise a clothing swap party, so you can exchange your good quality clothing that you're tired of for the good quality clothes that your friends are tired of.... If this sounds like too much to organise then parcel up your unwanted clothes and take them to your local second hand shop or thrift store.

If your clothes are worn out beyond repair then you can use them to make new items!

You can find out more on the Secondhand First website.

Monday 21 November 2016

Frosty beauty

It is very cold today, I had to wrap up very warm for my walk round Colinton and Craiglockart Dells as a volunteer for Water of Leith Conservation Trust.

I usually find spiders webs very difficult to photograph but today's frost meant this became a much easier task, here are some of my favourite webs of the day

In the wildflower meadow in Spylaw Park, the flowers are mostly dead now but they have a certain beauty in the frost

Saturday 19 November 2016

From ponds to woods - late Autumn colours everywhere

We had a lovely walk today starting at Blackford Pond where the autumn foliage is reflecting beautifully on the pond round these black headed gulls (who don't have black heads as they're in winter plumage!)

We passed Blackford Hill where we were entertained for a while by a raven that gave us a noisy display of aerobatics but did the opposite of photo bombing

We continued our walk into the Hermitage of Braid along the Braid Burn and through the woods

Thursday 17 November 2016

Eating rice to help Malawi - the Kilombero #Virtual90 Challenge

Since living in Malawi for two years I've always tried to support the country in any way I can. One of these has been to buy Kilombero fair trade rice which is produced in Malawi and imported and distributed in Scotland by JTS Fair Trade. I've been buying this rice for years from the One World Shop in Edinburgh. It's a very good rice with a great taste and texture, available in brown or white. Every bag helps Malawian farmers to improve their lives. It's a rice that is grown using environmentally sustainable methods too.

This year Kilombero rice has been expanding it's business and is now available in more stockists than ever, though I'll continue to buy it from the One World Shop as it sells big bags of the rice, unlike some of the other stockists that only sell 50g bags. (We eat a lot of rice!)

As part of this expansion, Kilombero Rice is asking people to join in their #Virtual90 challenge to spread the word about this special rice. Why #Virtual90? Because the proceeds from selling 90 bags of Kilombero rice can enable a Malawian farmer to send one of her children to high school for a year! All you need to do is take a photo of yourself with a bag of Kilombero Rice and share it on Twitter (or Facebook). You can find out more here and if you're quick enough you'll see my photo featured on that webpage or indeed on the JTS Facebook page!

This photo in fact:

So here I am in the Malawian corner of our living room, wearing one of my Zimbabwean t-shirts and an African necklace, holding up a bag of Kilombero rice. The bags don't come with two sticks on top, that's the TV aerial in the background. Also in the background, on the right are two paintings by Jomwa Phiri, an artist from the Mangochi area of Malawi, which was where I lived. On the left are two batiks that I bought from a shop in Blantyre in southern Malawi. (And no I don't normally wear just a t-shirt around the house at this time of year, we are great believers in putting on more layers before switching the heating on!)

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Autumnal rainbows and odd looking birds

The weather has been very changeable today but I got the best of it when I was out at Musselburgh. I was greeted by a lovely rainbow (that was much brighter in real life than it looks in the photo!).

There are still lots of wonderful colours around in the foliage and fruits too, it's been a much brighter November than usual

willow tree

rose bush on the bank of the River Esk
There were some odd looking birds around on the river today, including the goose on the left in this photo
The goose on the right is a Canada goose and the one on the left is its offspring from a mating with a greylag goose. These two species seem to interbreed quite frequently, I remember once a couple of years ago seeing a family of one proud Canadian goose parent, one proud greylag goose parent and five odd looking youngsters, sadly that was on a day I didn't have my camera with me!
This odd looking duck was also hanging around
This is, to use the very technical term, a manky mallard, which is a cross between a wild mallard and one of the domesticated breeds of mallard. Mallards are well known for interbreeding with other species of duck too, but there are so many domesticated breeds that there is a huge variation on patterns in the species as a whole already. You can see lots of different types of manky mallards in this article on the 10,000 birds website.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

What Nature does for Britain by Tony Juniper

 What Nature Does for Britain

I was sceptical of this book before I picked it up as Juniper is well known to support of 'Natural Capital' which its detractors present as being entirely and solely about putting an putting an economic value on nature so we can turn it into a commodity and effectively sell it off to the highest bidder. (You can read my blog post about a conference I went to on this theme here).

However this book isn't about putting a price on nature and natural capital isn't even mentioned until page 250 in a book that is only 256 pages long. Instead we have a very convincing demonstration of the true value of nature and how embracing natural solutions to environmental problems can reduce environmental damage and save money. So it's not about selling off nature, it's about understanding how it can help us, which in turn will make us more inclined to conserve it.

We are given numerous fascinating case studies of how nature can help us including how using sophisticated methods of recycling phosphates from sewage to be used as fertiliser but as a side benefit preventing scale building up in domestic water pipes so saving money in sewage repair works.

British peat bogs are degrading and losing 3.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year (this is why wind turnbines should never be planted on peat bogs as they degrade them further and cause more carbon dioxide to be lost). This book shows how better management of upland bogs in Exmoor can reduce people's water bills, reduce the flood risk in the local area and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, while conserving the bogs themselves - a win-win-win-win situation!

Each chapter concludes with Juniper's own political manifesto outlining how politicians can address each of the issues set out in the book, which gives it a very practical feel.

I'm still very sceptical about the form of natural capital that seeks to put financial prices on our forests and seas but if we can truly understand the value of nature then we all benefit. I think perhaps the term natural capital comes with too much baggage and maybe we should find another term and another mind set, one that sees value as being about something much more vital than the price tag you can put on something. But in this world that tends often to only see the finances and the economic arguments can we make the right choices in this?

What Nature does for Britain by Tony Juniper, published by Profile Books.

You can read my review of Juniper's earlier book Spix's Macaw here

Monday 14 November 2016

A Carpet of leaves

Although many of the leaves are still on the trees round here, the woodlands are covered in beautiful autumnal carpets, like here under the hornbeam trees in Craiglockart Dell by the Water of Leith:

and up in Colinton Dell, the puffball fungi are now well past their best. You can see from this photo that they have opened and the spores are ready to puff out of the fungi when any passing animal touches it!

This is how the puffballs looked a month ago:

Sunday 13 November 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob (the film)

Having read Jame's Bowen's wonderful book 'A Street Cat Named Bob' (which I reviewed briefly here) I was keen to see the film which was released recently.

The film tells a more dramatised version of James' life as he tried to turn his life around from being a homeless drug user through being a street busker to being a Big Issue seller to being a successful author.

Early on in the film James, who has just been moved into sheltered accommodation discovers Bob who has sneaked in through an open window. At first James doesn't want to keep Bob, but rather just to look after him until he finds the real owner. However Bob turns out not to have anyone so James keeps him. When he takes Bob out busking, crowds gather like they never did when James busked by himself and his music earns more money than it ever did before. (While this is great for James and Bob it offers an interesting commentary on the British character that we will show more concern and interest for a homeless person with a pet than we would for someone in the same situation with no pet).

Bob is definitely the star of the film and I loved the way that much of the film is shot from his point of view (chasing mice or making his way through crowded London streets). Bob is played by a series of cats, including Bob himself!

It's a lovely film, combining social commentary and cuteness in equal degree. It's more sentimental than I remember the book being, but it definitely shows the beneficial effect that caring for a pet can often have on people who are struggling in their own lives.

A Street Cat Named Bob is showing at Cineworld Edinburgh - you can find out more and book tickets here

Saturday 12 November 2016

Sunshine on Arthur's Seat

We had a lovely walk today around Arthur's Seat

This is one of our favourite places to walk. It's actually an extinct volcano but now a lovely green area, full of wildlife and plants including these gorse bushes, still in bloom (as they always are!)

There are great views over Duddlingston Loch, looking particularly pretty at the moment with all the nearby trees showing off their autumn colours

and when we were walking back, I loved the way the water was sparkling in the low sunshine, so I took this zoom photo

Friday 11 November 2016

Bunnies in Autumn

Still lots of lovely autumnal colour on Corstorphine Hill today

and plenty of fungi, these are oyster mushrooms

and this is a blewit

but of course what you're all waiting for are these

the bunnies outside the hotel near Edinburgh Zoo, busily eating as they often seem to be doing!

Thursday 10 November 2016

Crafty Update

I've always got at least one craft project whether it's something I'm designing or actually making. I'm currently working on this handbag charm which I've put together from beads and a charm from various pieces of damaged jewellery.

I want to put this on one of my own handbags and so am hoping to find a relatively small keyring fitting  (but one larger than the ring currently there) - I'm sure I've got one somewhere but I have so many craft supplies around the place that I'm not sure where everything is....

Meanwhile I've been planning a necklace like the one below for a while but haven't had fake pearls of the right size. Luckily in one of the recent bags of 'unsellable, unwanted and damaged jewelry' that I bought in a second hand shop I found these little beads, enough for two choker necklaces in fact, so here's the first, and the second, slightly different in design, should follow soon

 Both these necklaces will end up in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

(I've noticed that since being an Etsy seller I use the American spelling of jewelry as often as I use the UK spelling of jewellery, so apologies for the inconsistencies!).

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Another grey heron

Herons are the easiest of birds to photograph as they're large and have a habit of standing still for long periods of time and often will let you get very close.

So, today I captured these photos of a grumpy looking juvenile grey heron at Musselburgh Boating Pond.

Meanwhile I was delighted to for the second week in a row have a wonderfully close up view of a surf scoter. This duck, though rare, is a regular visitor to Musselburgh at this time of year, but normally, the best view you can get is when a birdwatcher with a very powerful telescope offers you a view and the scoter is still just a black dot in the distance! This year however, the surf scoter is boldly coming quite close to the sea wall and today circled on the water to give me a full view of its plumage. Too far away for my camera unfortunately but well within range of my binoculars!

Meanwhile, for those of you who have seen the film You've Been Trumped Too (see my review here) here's a link to the article about how the people in that film reacted to the news of Donald Trump being elected as president of the USA. I don't think his election is at all good news for the environment.

Monday 7 November 2016

Grey in the middle of autumn colours

The autumn colours of the horse chestnut tree were the perfect frame for this grey heron on the Water of Leith today

The colours continue to be wonderful along the river walkway particularly when the sun catches them as with this beech

 Colinton Church looks lovely at the moment with the tree in magnificent colour just by the gate

Colinton Church has interesting literary connections as Robert Louis Stevenson used to spend summers here staying with his grandfather who was the church minister. And there's now a Robert Louis Stevenson trail around Colinton Village featuring his poems and a statue (you can see my blogpost about the trail here).

The pictorial wildflower meadow in Spylaw Park is still full of colour (though no insects there today as far as I could see!) and looks wonderful against the background of the autumnal colours