Tuesday 31 January 2017

Monday 30 January 2017

A Basic Goodness

Every week I spend a morning recording wildlife and picking litter around Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith. It's always sad to see how many people throw rubbish in the Dells, though there's less of a litter problem here than along other stretches of the river.

Every so often though I find things that make me smile. Today I found an envelope in one of the Ladies Grottos*, when I opened it up I found this

The letter is a quote from Pablo Casals, cellist and conductor:

''Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. 
If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. 
It is not complicated but it takes courage.
It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.' 

* The Ladies Grottos were built in the 18th Century as part of the Redhall estate which then owned this area. Each grotto was designed as place for women to sit while the men went hunting.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Water Rail and Lively Squirrels

It's been a dull and damp day today but that didn't stop us going out! We started in Inverleith Park where we hoped to see the water rail and luckily it did finally appear, though it was limping. We hope it wasn't badly injured. Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo

We then crossed the road and into the Botanic Gardens. There were plenty of birds to see including this male mallard

But the stars of the show were the grey squirrels - this one looks a little the worse for wear somehow

but the rest all seem in top condition, with glossy coats, fluffy tails and lots of energy

Friday 27 January 2017

First honey bee of the year!

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend on his lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill today. It was chilly but very sunny today. There's always so much to see up there! We were delighted to see the first honey bees of the year feasting on the gorse, which is in flower most of the year so offers a lovely snack for the early bee

This route round the hill gives you great views of the kudu in the zoo

The kudu share their enclosure with the zebras and we enjoyed watching one of the zebras as it watched a beautiful wild red fox as it rushed round the enclosure at top speed! It was glowing in the sun and was a delight to watch (though moving far too quickly to capture on camera!).

As is often the case, the bunnies were happily grazing the grass outside the hotel on the main Corstorphine Road

Thursday 26 January 2017

Censorship and the Environment

President Trump has banned federal employees from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks from using social media to spread their messages. In response many of these agencies have set up rogue Twitter accounts, which cannot be controlled by the state to continue getting their message out there. If you're on Twitter, click here to find the list and to follow the rogue accounts of those agencies you are most interested in.

Potentially even more worrying (though apparently it may be only a temporary step) is that the new administration will be directly vetting the reports written by the EPA - you can read more about this here

Now more than ever we need people to speak out for the environment and on climate change. It is appalling that organisations should be censored in this way but very heartening that so many are showing that they won't be defeated on this.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Seeds of Blood and Beauty by Ann Lindsay

Subtitled Scottish Plant Explorers this book outlines the lives, achievements and discoveries of the main Scottish botanists from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of them were pitifully paid (even for the standards of the day), many died young from tropical diseases or were caught up in war zones or suffered fatal accidents (David Douglas whose name was given to the Douglas Fir, died when he apparently fell down a trap for wild cattle in Hawaii though there are suspicions he may have been murdered). Only Robert Fortune seemed to make a real living out of his botanical adventures, thanks in part to finding a commercial publisher for his books. (Fortune's life story is fictionalised in Sara Sheridan's excellent novel The Secret Mandarin which I reviewed here).

The book is obviously well researched and includes details of the botanists' families and the voyages they made, many of them as surgeons to the Royal Navy. However the book could really have benefited from better editing. It's littered with grammatical errors, misused words, overly convoluted sentences and badly organised paragraphs.

If this book had been around when I had been a young botany student I would have found it both an inspiration and a cautionary tale!

Seeds of Blood and Beauty by Ann Lindsay, published by Birlinn

Disclaimer: I won this book in a Facebook competition run by Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Monday 23 January 2017

Winter's Light on the River

It was a chilly morning today but the light was beautiful on the Water of Leith in Colinton Dell

But how is the river itself? Last week I bumped into Ruth from the Water of Leith Conservation Trust as she was setting off to survey the river invertebrates. She said then that she felt that there weren't many invertebrates in the river and she wanted to check. I bumped into her again today and she confirmed that her survey had shown that levels of invertebrates were well down on usual for the time of year. Even more oddly, this result comes after last year being a real high for river invertebrates! Ruth had been finding loads of mayflies, caddis flies and other species in all her surveys and general observations last year and I noticed a lot of mayflies and other species flying above the river whenever I was in the Dells. The other odd thing is that this part of the river is upstream from the flood prevention works, which might be expected to impact on invertebrate life downstream.

So the trust are hoping that a post graduate student will take on a detailed survey of the river's invertebrates and feed these results into SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) who may be able to trace a cause and / or offer solutions.

The dippers were chasing each other excitedly today and will be building their nests soon. I hope there will be enough invertebrates in the water for them to bring up the next generation!

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

Friday 20 January 2017

Maison de Moggy

It was Crafty Green Boyfriend's birthday yesterday and for a vaguely anti-Trump Inauguration themed celebration we went to Edinburgh's cat cafe Maison de Moggy today.

Sebastian was taking his cloakroom duty very seriously

Like many of the cats, Elodie was asleep for much of the time, though she woke at one point and ran around at top speed for a while before getting back into her favourite chair

Guillame was one of three of the cats who lay in the window for most of our visit

as did Pauline

though Jacques preferred the shelf unit

and I enjoyed making friends with Alain!

Crafty Green Boyfriend as usual doesn't want to have his photo on the blog but he also enjoyed meeting all the cats!

We loved meeting the cats and also enjoyed the drinks (Chocolate Abyss tea in my case, hot chocolate for Crafty Green Boyfriend) and the cakes (raspberry cheesecake chocolate brownie for me and salted caramel mud cake for Crafty Green Boyfriend.

It was Crafty Green Boyfriend's first visit to the cafe, but my second (you can read my review of my first visit here) and we hope to go back sometime!

If we had thought about it, we would have continued the anti-Trump theme for the day with a Mexican meal, but we had already booked an Italian!

Thursday 19 January 2017

Don't Frack Sherwood Forest

The UK government has given Ineos licences to explore for shale gas across the country. Ineos wants to carry out seismic imaging surveys at various protected locations including Sherwood Forest, the iconic forest famed for its connection to Robin Hood. Seismic imaging surveys would be the first step in determining whether there is shale gas in rocks under the surface, and whether it would be possible or economical to extract it.

Ineos is quoted as saying that this surveying will not include any form of fracking and therefore people shouldn't worry about it, but why would they do the surveys if they didn't hope to find shale gas and if they did find it then why would they not extract it?

Fracking is a controversial technology to say the least and would have lasting damaging effects on the landscape, as well as potentially causing earthquakes and polluting water supplies. We should at the very least make sure that our precious wild places are not opened up even to seismic imaging surveying.

You can read more about the case here and you can join Friends of the Earth's campaign to protect Sherwood Forest from fracking here.

(The picture is a detail from the Sherwood Forest page of the Stickertopia Forest book, which I reviewed here.)

Wednesday 18 January 2017

The Neandertal Enigma by James Shreeve

This is a long and fascinating book about our best known ancient ancestors. Who were the Neandertals? How were they related to other early species of hominids (human-like primates) and how was it that modern humans succeeded where Neandertals died out? When in fact did Neandertals die out?

The early part of the book covers in detail a lot of the academic controversies and arguments in Neandertal research (as in often seemingly verbatim discussions!) and I found it a bit annoying and confusing, though it was certainly fascinating. Later on though there are fewer such discussions and the book becomes more narrative and becomes more fascinating with every page.

Did Neandertals have the capacity to develop societies like those we see in the world today? Were they held back by a lack of language? A lack of higher reasoning capacity? Were the Neandertals actually living in a state of total oneness with nature? What would the world look like today if the Neandertals had prospered and modern humans like us had died out?

This book explores all these issues and more, looking at the traces of Neandertal lives that have been left in caves in southern Europe and beyond. It's out of date (published in 1995, it was one of my recent second hand book finds!) but its still a brilliant and interesting introduction to our ancestors.

The Neandertal Enigma by James Shreeve published by William Morrow and Company

You can read a series of brief articles about Neandertals on the BBC website

a more detailed section on Neandertals on the same website

and a series of videos about Neandertals on the same site.

(The BBC uses the spelling Neanderthal which is the original German spelling, while many authors, including Shreeve, use the spelling Neandertal to avoid confusion in pronunciation - in German the 'th' is pronounced as 't'.)

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Wardrobe Rescue!

The original frills on the cuffs of this top (which were made from the same embroidered fabric as the rest of the top) fell apart and I removed them. But since then the sleeves have always felt too short.

So I finally decided to make some new cuffs (these being easier to make than frills!) I recently found some suitable fabric, a lovely black satin from an old robe that had fallen apart. I cut the fabric from the collar of the robe, which very conveniently included two perfectly shaped pieces with the hemming all sewn and everything (I do like short cuts!).

Here's the first cuff I made and sewed on

and here's the top as it looks now (thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo!)

Saturday 14 January 2017

Arthurs Seat in the Winter

It's very cold today, but bright and clear. An ideal day to walk round Arthur's Seat (though watch out underfoot, as it is icy in places, though not much snow is lying). Actually any day is a good day to walk round Arthur's Seat but it looks particularly wonderful on a day like today

The gorse is in bloom as it is for most of the year

This bunny had the right idea, basking in the sun

though when we walked back along the path later, the bunny had disappeared, probably hiding from the hunting kestrel that we followed right round the hill! It's wonderful to get good views of a kestrel hovering, they hang in the air in a most amazing way.

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos of bunny and kestrel.

Oh and sharing this photo for Weekend Reflections

Friday 13 January 2017

Squirrel in the Snow!

Some parts of the UK have had very heavy snow in the past few days. But this is what it looks like in Edinburgh - this is the path over Corstorphine Hill

and this is the view from the hill

We saw loads of birds around the hill though only this grey squirrel wanted to pose for the camera

Thursday 12 January 2017

I've been busy making things!

I've made quite a few items recently - including several pairs of earrings, two beaded lanyards and a couple of keyrings! I've made all these from materials that I've reclaimed from old jewellery - for example necklaces that needed to be restrung, broken items of jewellery from which I've salvaged beads that are themselves in usable condition.  Here's a selection of the new items:

There's a bit of a Valentine's Day theme with the latest keyrings:

this keyring can be found in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here

 and this one can be found here. You can browse all the keyrings and lanyards here. (The new lanyards aren't in the shop yet!)

Several of the pairs of earrings are longer than I normally make

This photo includes a pair of vintage earrings that I repaired (including replacing the earring hooks) which are now for sale in the Crafty Green Magpie Etsy shop here.

The other earrings in the photo are all now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can browse all the earrings in the shop here.

I've just made some Christmas decorations out of earrings that were either odd or had lost their earring hooks. These won't be in the shop until September, but they've always been popular items so far and also they're nice and easy to make when I have a few spare minutes!

Tuesday 10 January 2017


sunrise -
carrion crows carry twigs
into the tree-tops


I also posted a senryu over on Shapeshifting Green today, if you follow me on Twitter you may have already read it! 

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

Monday 9 January 2017

Stickertopia - The Forest - a book review

I was delighted to be offered a copy of Stickertopia The Forest to review. I love the idea of a sticker based book for adults based on scenes from the natural world.

It's a beautiful book, with illustrations by Kate Sutton, Luci Evertt and Yan Yan Candy Ng. The forests illustrated include Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood, Tongass National Park and the Amazon Rainforest. There are also 'forest at night' and 'winter wonderland' and a couple of magical forests. Each forest picture has an accompanying page of stickers that you can add to it to finish off the scene - you can either follow the guidelines in the mini sample completed pictures or you can use your imagination.  (You may want to check the sample pictures to check which flower stickers go with which plants in the picture and then use your imagination for the rest!)

For my first attempt, I chose the Enchanted Glade, where Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream is set. Here is the picture as it is presented in the book

and here it is after I had added the stickers.

This is a lovely relaxing activity, an alternative to the adult colouring books that are so much the thing these days. I have to say though that the smaller stickers are very fiddly to use!

Stickertopia the Forest is published by Octopus Books

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

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book to review. 

Saturday 7 January 2017

Hairy pigs and feisty goats at Gorgie Farm

We had a lovely wee visit to Gorgie City Farm today! We enjoyed meeting the wonderfully hairy Mangalitsa pigs for the first time! Here are the females

and here are the youngsters

You can find out more about this breed, which is an ancient European breed derived from the European wild boar here.

The pygmy goats were on fine form today! This group seemed quite quiet

but things were a bit more lively on the other side of the pen, at one point fighting broke out but I wasn't able to capture that on camera!

Meanwhile the sheep were mostly just eating

while in the wildlife garden the hazel catkins are already on display! Notice the wee red female catkin, which is showing well in this photo, though often overlooked