Saturday 31 December 2016

Grey skies and a grumpy heron

We had a lovely walk today, round Blackford Pond and through the Hermitage of Braid. Wonderfully moody skies

and equally moody waters

Crafty Green Boyfriend captured the pond's resident grey heron - we reckon it's looking so grumpy because the duck house is too small for it!

Happy Hogmanay and best wishes for 2017!

Thursday 29 December 2016

Hyperactive squirrels and a woodpecker

We had a lovely lunchtime walk in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens today. The squirrels were hyperactive

It wasn't just this one jumping on Crafty Green Boyfriend's coat, there were another two climbing up other people! We fed them lots of peanuts, some of which they buried safely to eat another day!

We also enjoyed watching this great spotted woodpecker (thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo)

the woodpecker was wandering through the branches, pecking away to find insects.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Winter in the Dells

The snails are hibernating

and so are the orange ladybirds

but the jackdaws are already pairing up

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Birds by the rushing waters

We had a lovely Bank Holiday wander along part of the Water of Leith today. The weather was calm and mild (unlike yesterday which was totally changeable and brought us blizzards and gales!). Here are photos of two of the weirs along the water. The first is the weir near the bridge that leads to the National Gallery of Modern Art

The second is the weir near Dean Village

We saw lots of birds, most delightfully this kingfisher that photo-bombed this photo that Crafty Green Boyfriend took of a chaffinch - the kingfisher is in the background, you may need to click on the photo for a better view!

Saturday 24 December 2016

Friday 23 December 2016

Animals shelter from the rain at Gorgie Farm

It's been very rainy today but we popped into Gorgie Farm to say hello to the animals, who were mostly taking shelter from the weather

The guinea pigs very rarely get to leave their playpen (though I once went to an event where a lecture about animals in art was attended by the guinea pigs who were passed from hand to hand and were adorable and very distracting!). It's nicely warm in there and they have plenty to keep them occupied!

Thursday 22 December 2016

In Pursuit of Silence - film review

This film seems very timely as our world gets louder around us and as we go through the hectic, frantic and loud days that lead up to Christmas.

In Pursuit of Silence is a wonderful, meditative and thought provoking film about the value of silence and peaceful natural places in our lives. Interviews with sound technicians, theologians, rangers in USA national parks and philosophers explore the concept of silence, its value to our mental and physical health and well- being and the damage caused by noise pollution.

There is no such thing as absolute silence on earth. In the quietest natural landscapes there is always the sound of the wind or the songs of birds, while in the quietest room in the world, one can hear the noises of ones own body, that are usually drowned out by the noises around us.

The film moves through natural landscapes, monasteries and the peacefulness of the Japanese tea ceremony and follows the journey of a man who has made a vow of silence while walking coast to coast across the USA (ironically his route includes some far from silent major roads!). John Cage's silent piece of music 4'3" is discussed.

Silence however is becoming more and more of a rarity in today's world, so the film contains sections devoted to noise - whether the argumentative exchanges of a USA news discussion programme or the sounds of the city centre or a crowded bar. There is a public school in New York that is right by the side of a railway and the noise is so loud the children often can't hear what the teacher is saying. The noise levels in hospitals is rising every year in the US (and probably elsewhere) leading to higher rates of mistakes being made in surgical procedures. Continual exposure to very loud noise has direct impacts on our health and can lead to an increased risk of heart attack.

Luckily some organisations are recognising this, there are bars in New York where no music is played and patrons are requested to whisper, there are organisations across the world dedicated to helping people explore the therapeutic value of natural silence. We need more of these initiatives and we need them more than ever!

My only complaint about the film was that although in some of the peaceful sections the natural sounds were allowed to shine through, in other peaceful sections music was drowning out the natural sounds! Nice, peaceful music but even so! In a film devoted to the value of peacefulness, why would you use music of any sort to soundtrack a section where people sitting in natural settings are talking about the value of natural sound?

That complaint aside it's well worth watching. 

In Pursuit of Silence is showing at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh today.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree......

Every year we get a living tree for Christmas from Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum. We choose the tree from her garden and bring it back in a pot to have in the flat until the end of the 12 days of Christmas* when it returns to her garden to possibly be used as a Christmas tree another year or to eventually be planted out.

This is this year's tree:

It's slightly wonky (so I had to be careful not to put too many decorations on the wrong side!) but very pretty and nicely scented. I've decorated it with decorations including vintage bird decorations from long ago, some snowflakes that I was sent by a charity that I support, a whole load of odd earrings and a slightly damaged necklace that in the right light looks a bit like a string of Christmas lights

 We also have a couple of jars of winter greenery scattered around the living room, this greenery again comes from Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum's garden. The jar below is simply a coffee jar with some reused Christmas paper wrapped round it. 

* (that is on Epiphany, the 6 January, also known as Twelfth Night (there's a clue in the name there!) I never understand why so many companies do 12 Days of Christmas promotions that start 12 days before Christmas!).

Tuesday 20 December 2016

everything glows in the low light of winter

One of my favourite things about this time of year is the beautiful light when the sun is low in the sky, which is pretty much all day just now..... Here are some photos from Musselburgh today.

This is the point where I always think the John Muir Walkway officially starts, when the tarmac runs out and you're on a dirt track. Nowadays though the route of the walkway runs all through Musselburgh and Edinburgh to the west of Scotland.

If you look closely you can see there are lots of birds (specially gulls of various species) at the mouth of the River Esk.
The mosses and lichens glow in the sunlight!
The water of the Firth of Forth was beautiful today

The clouds started to gather in though

although it didn't rain while I was out!

Monday 19 December 2016

Candle snuff fungus and a mysterious parakeet

Candle snuff fungus is a common fungus in the wooded areas of Edinburgh. It grows on rotting wood and is often found on fallen trees or rotten fence posts. It's an odd looking thing and until recently I was always forgetting its name.... It seems to be more common than usual this year, maybe something to do with the unseasonably warm winter we're having. These are two patches of candle snuff fungus that I found today in Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith.

Over the past few months, people have been telling me they've seen a parakeet in the Dells, the latest sighting was this weekend. I haven't seen this bird (though I may have heard it today!). Apparently it escaped from someone's house and now is hanging out with some magpies. If I ever see it I'll try to take a photo and share it here!

Saturday 17 December 2016

Figgate Park

It's been another unusually mild December day. We had a lovely walk round Figgate Park this morning - of all the urban parks in Edinburgh it often seems to be the best for birds and today was no exception! Crafty Green Boyfriend got these lovely photos of several of the smaller birds that were around today

long tailed tit

male bullfinch


There weren't any unusual birds on the pond (though this park is famous for having regular visits from a shoveller and also a mandarin stayed here for a long time recently! I was pleased however to capture this photo of two black headed gulls (in winter plumage, hence the lack of black heads!), as it shows the difference between the parent on the left and the adolescent (beak and legs are pale rather than red and there are brown markings in part of the wing) on the right.

and two different black headed gulls here

This birch tree has a lot of 'witches brooms' growing on it, these are galls, caused by a parasitic wasp or fungus that attacks trees (almost always birch trees) resulting in these characteristic growths

Friday 16 December 2016

The Black Hen - film review

Set in a remote area of Nepal during the 10 year Maoist Insurrection / civil war (1996 - 2006), this film follows the story of two friends as they try to get their hen back.

The story is simple but the film is full of telling detail that offers insight into the culture of Nepal at the time. Prakash is the son of the village headman, Kiran is an 'Untouchable' and their friendship is not always straightforward because of this difference in their social origins, which later in the film is complicated by the Maoist insurrection which comes between their families.

The star hen is actually white and the film title seems like a misnomer until quite late in the film! Kiran is very attached to his hen and hides her when the villagers are asked to sell their hens to the headman on the occasion of a royal visit. When the hen disappears though he and Prakash join together to try to get her back.

This is a beautiful film about how people try to continue living ordinary lives even in the midst of social unrest, but how sadly these ordinary lives finally reach breaking point. It sounds very worthy, but it has a light touch in dealing with all the social issues that are present in the story. It's also beautifully filmed and acted and has moments of humour.

The Black Hen is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse tonight at 6.15 (you may just have time to dash out of the door and get to the cinema in time!) and there are two showings tomorrow.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Eco friendly lip balm from Valley Mist

I was recently asked to review a lipbalm from Valley Mist - this was very good timing and my current lip balm has almost run out, and though I'm minimalist about toiletries, a good lip balm is essential!

I was delighted to receive in the post today an 8.5g tube of their Restore lipbalm. The packaging is lovely, made from cardboard and decorated with pretty, natural images.

Most impressively the tube itself is made from recycled card, which is a pleasing change from the ubiquitous plastic. It's sobering to read on their website that Valley Mist were unable to find this type of cardboard packaging in the UK and were forced to ship it in from abroad. Surely in this day and age, UK manufacturers should be producing things like this!

The lipbalm itself is made in the UK and the ingredients are all pure and natural

Cocoa Seed Butter
Organic Sunflower Seed Oil
Organic Beeswax
Mango Seed Butter

with the following essential oils:


I put some of this lip balm on this morning before going out and it is easy to apply and smells lovely!

I would be interested to know how well the packaging lasts. I have a slight suspicion that the cardboard might wear a bit before I finish the tube, though it is certainly sturdy enough at the moment. I'll just need to repost this review with an update when I've finished the tube!

For every 8.5g tube of lipbalm, Valley Mist donate 8.5% of the profits to environmental charities. So this product is good for you and is good for the environment both in terms of reducing waste and in supporting charities.

Disclaimer: I was sent a free tube of lipbalm to do this review. 

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Sunrise lasts all morning!

 At this time of year the sunrise seems to last most of the morning, these photos are from Musselburgh at about 10 o'clock.
The Lagoons were very busy with birds. Here were have greylag geese in the foreground with oystercatchers, bar tailed godwits and more greylags in the background (also teal and wigeon, but you're not likely to be able to see them in the photo).

I noticed this mussel shell covered in barnacles on the lichen covered sea wall.

I was also delighted to see, along with velvet scoters and a long tailed duck - there was a seal in the Firth of Forth!  (I don't know whether it was a grey seal or a common seal, it just poked it's head out of the water every so often then disappeared again!).

It feels far too warm for December.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

I've been busy making earrings!

These are the latest earrings I've made, which are now (or soon will be) on sale in the earrings section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop!

All my earrings are made with reclaimed beads and brand new earring hooks.

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