Thursday 25 January 2018

Show the Love

On Valentine's Day, the Climate Coalition run their now annual Show the Love campaign. We all have the power to show the love for the places, people, and life that we want to protect from climate change.

There are many ways to do this of course but part of this campaign is the symbolism of the Green Heart. People across the UK and no doubt elsewhere craft green hearts to wear, share and display! These are the green hearts I've made for this year's campaign

The wooden heart in the middle is attached to a clothes peg and came in a birthday gift bag of craft supplies, the two cardboard hearts I bought recently from a second hand shop. The beads and thread are from my stash of upcyclable craft supplies. I painted all the hearts with poster paint, which is water soluble.

World Wildlife Fund sent me a green heart as part of this campaign a couple of years ago. It's now permanently pinned to one of my coats and is a little faded but this is what it looked like originally!

As part of the Show the Love campaign, the Woodland Trust are asking people to record signs of spring that they notice in the first couple of weeks of February. This is so that the trust can get an idea of the degree to which climate change is changing the seasons. You can read more about this here.

So what do you want to Show the Love for? Comment below for the chance to win one of the cardboard hearts shown in the top photo! 

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Big Garden Birdwatch 27/29 January

 robin, one of the most familiar of British garden birds

I grew up in suburban Manchester and loved watching the birds in our garden. There were blackbirds, song thrushes, robins, blue tits, great tits and lots and lots of house sparrows and starlings. My Dad still lives in the same house and the garden is still full of birds. The species have changed though, there are now lots of goldfinches (attracted by the nyger seeds Dad puts out for them) and a lot more crows, including the occasional jay (my best ever view of a jay was in this garden a fewyears ago) and lots of magpies. House sparrows have declined in the garden (as they have across most of the UK). While Mum was alive, my parents always took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, but often complained that the most interesting species didn't turn up that day!

As an adult, I have mostly lived without a proper garden. When I lived in Malawi we had bougainvillea growing over our verandah and a small vegetable patch outside under a papaya tree. A fish eagle lived in a tree behind our garden and several birds visited, including a beautiful kingfisher who must have lost its way from the nearby Lake Malawi (though it wasn't a pied kingfisher, which was the prevelant lake species, in fact I never found out what species it was though suspect it was a malachite kingfisher). Also in Malawi, though in someone else's garden, I saw the only hoopoe I've ever seen (though there was a rumour when I was a student that a hoopoe visited Edinburgh every summer).

Where we live in Edinburgh there's a pretty bush in front of the garden where a dunnock skulks, sometimes joined by blackbirds (who sing beautifully in the spring and summer) and a robin. Behind our building there's a shared backgreen with a vegetable plot, surrounded by some well looked after gardens and some bramble patches. Some of the neighbours put out bird feeders. I've seen several species out there, robins, blue tits, song thrushes and dunnocks. One Christmas Day 50 fieldfares appeared from nowhere and took over the whole backgreen then next day had disappeared again. In summer, swifts constantly fly about over the nearby roofs and nest in nearby buildings.

Unfortunately we can't see our backgreen from our flat and there are no comfortable sitting places there so it's not ideal for a winter birdwatch. But if  you don't have a garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch, you can still join in. Just go along to your local park and record the birds you see there. It's fun, good exercise and you'll be helping the RSPB to keep up to date records of birds in the UK.

The Big Garden Birdwatch offers the chance to get to know your garden birds better and also to feed your observations into the national survey. Over half a million people now regularly take part, which combined with over 30 years worth of data, means that Big Garden Birdwatch enables the RSPB to monitor trends and to understand how birds are doing in the UK.

So make yourself a cup of tea, pull your chair up to the window, get your binoculars out and start counting! 

And if you are interested in recording your bird sightings all year round, then you can enter them onto Birdtrack

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

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Defined by Seas I Never Knew

I dreamt an ocean swell
descended silently from the sky
forcing me to crouch then lie
flat on the ground, staring up
into the heart of a watery hell.

Sleepless in my desert bed
I remember stories I have read
of how my homeland slowly
disappeared beneath the tides
under which it still now hides.

The world, of course, rushed to save
our grandparents from the waves
and brought them here -
a sun-parched desolate expanse
where long ago, another people danced.

Our shamans walk the song-lines
but, coastal dwellers still at heart,
we cannot understand the signs
carved in this arid landscape
our thirsty souls long to escape.

At night sometimes I make a wish
and try to touch the parallel world
where another me
swims with multicoloured fish
round a coral atoll in turquoise seas. 

Previously published by Indigo Dreams Publishing 

and over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, I've just posted another poem with certain similarities to this one, you can read it here.  

Saturday 20 January 2018

The Future of Cammo Estate

Cammo Estate is a lovely green area of Edinburgh that was recently made into a Local Nature Reserve. The council sold a property near the estate and tthe funds from that sale along with matched funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund are to go to the restoration of  the estate. Three design options have been put forward, with varying elements of utilisation of the ruined historical buildings and improvement of the local biodiversity. All options include establishing a much needed cafe and having toilets that are open all the time. The options aren't set in stone and elements of each option can be combined.

The option I voted for is the one that preserves the estate much as it currently is and uses the Lodge House (the building at the entrance that is used for exhibitions, and has toilets, but is only currently open two days a week) as the cafe. Though I also chose the idea from oneof the other options of setting up a wetland area at the edge of the estate. The other options I feel include too many infrastructure developments that risk the estate becoming over-run with people to the detriment of the wildlife and the current air of tranquility of the estate.

If you're in Edinburgh and care about the future of Cammo Estate, then you can drop into the Lodge House today or tomorrow and comment on the proposals (you can read the outline proposals here). Meanwhile, here are some photos of the estate

Thursday 18 January 2018

It's Wintry Out There!

It was beautiful at Musselburgh today. This is the view towards the Mouth of the River Esk where it meets the Firth of Forth

The goldeneyes were already performing their courtship dances (the males throwing their heads onto their backs) but they didn't let me photograph that.

 Despite the cold and remains of the recent snow, all the paths were free from ice except the paths round the hides at the Lagoons. The views from the hides across the lagoons were very wintry

There were a lot of teal on the lagoon behind the grass in the first photo. Like the goldeneye they were performing their courtship dances but too far away for me to hope to get a photo so I just enjoyed watching them through my binoculars. The male teal is a beautiful bird and shows off his colours most magnificently during his courtship display.

The only wader I saw from the hides  was a curlew though there were impressive numbers of oystercatchers and a few other waders near the mouth of the Esk on the shores of the Forth. If you're interested in knowing more about British wading birds then it's worth checking out the WaderTales blog, which is full of interesting articles.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

A Crafty Experiment - Decorated Photo Frame

Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother recently gave me some modelling clay and I  thought it might be nice to combine it with some of the sea pottery I have to decorate photo frames and mirrors. So I bought some cheap frames from second hand shops and started to experiment. This is the first frame

Once the clay dried I painted the whole thing with glitter nail varnish (which Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother had bought from a jumble sale for me to use in craft projects).

Not bad for a first attempt! I think though that it would be better with slightly less clay and perhaps more pieces of sea pottery. I also know that the clay may not be strong enough to hold the pottery in place long term so I'll need to look into that. The frame would look better if I painted the clay, but that would make it difficult - the clay would need to dry before I paint it, which would mean I then wouldn't be able to put the sea pottery in very easily, and if I painted the frame after putting the sea pottery into it, then I'd end up painting over the pottery shards!

A word about the glitter too. Regular glitter has recently been identified as an environmental problem as it is made from plastics and can end up in watercourses where it is eaten by fish and other water creatures. (Read for example this article). However the glitter is unlikely to wash off (or even flake off) the frame and I reckoned better to use it up than to throw it away. It's often difficult to know what to do in that kind of situation.....

I hope to be able to make a few more of these!

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Papayas and Lemons

In your garden grew a beautiful lemon tree
In mine there was a papaya tree

We breakfasted on fresh papayas
sprinkled with ginger
and drizzled with lemon juice

Until one day a raging storm
blew down the papaya tree

Now we eat our breakfasts alone
and you take your lemons to market

Previously published as part of Gabrielle Bryden's Citrus Fiesta.  


I've also posted another poem about Malawi on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

Monday 15 January 2018

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

 Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

Levison Wood set out to walk the whole length of the River Nile from its beginning as a spring in the mountains of Rwanda through desert and rainforests to LakeVictoria (once thought to be the actual source of the river) and onwards to the delta at the Mediterranean Sea.

Along the way he walks through areas of Rwanda full of terrible memories of the genocide, through lush national parks, devastated forests, inhospitable deserts and through war-torn South Sudan. In some areas he is greeted with crowds singing songs in his honour, in others he is arrested, in others he has to hide from gunfire. He learns about illegal wildlife poaching and about the difficulties of balancing wildlife conservation with the needs of local farmers.

For much of the way he is accompanied by Boston, his guide who becomes a friend.

The book is very readable and offers insights in the history of the Nile and the surrounding areas and commentary on current social and environmental situations. Wood writes with an endearing honesty about his low points when endless desert and searing heat make him want to give up the trek. He is good natured about his fellow travellers and the people he meets along the way, though angry about excess bureacracy!  He is however naive, both in his insistence on walking through a war torn South Sudan and in some aspects of his expedition management.

This is a book well worth reading for anyone interested in rivers or the history of these parts of Africa.

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood published by Simon and Schuster

This journey was also made into a documentary for Channel Four TV, you can watch it here. (Some countries may not be able to view these videos).

Saturday 13 January 2018

Lauriston Castle Gardens

Lauriston Castle is more of a stately home than a castle

The house is set in lovely walled gardens that are always worth a wander round.

You can look our over the fields of Silverknowes to the Firth of Forth and Cramond Island

Recently a bee hive has been added to the gardens

though it was too early in the year for the bees to be at work yet!

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a  lovely part of the grounds

and the witch hazel is already in bloom

 You can see photos from our previous visits to Lauriston Castle here.

Friday 12 January 2018

New curtain tie backs in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I just finished making this pair of beaded curtain tie backs using various beads from my stash, some of which came from jewellery that needed to be re-threaded, some of which came from second hand shops and some which came in gift parcels of  upcycled jewellery supplies.

I enjoyed designing them and they look quite nice used with light-weight sheer curtains.

These curain tie backs are available to buy as a pair in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop - here.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Two Exhibitions at the City Art Centre

There are currently two excellent exhibitions at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh.

On the first floor is Songs for Winter, a joint exhibition between Pauline Burbridge
 and Charles Poulson, who share a studio in renovated farm buildings at Allanbank Mill Steading in the Scottish Borders. The exhibition includes vibrant drawings by Charles and a range of textile art by Pauline. These range from large scale quilts inspired by fields and plants to much smaller collages. Her cyanotype collages of ferns are particularly beautiful.

On the third floor is A Fine Line exhibiting the work of four women who explore the fine line between craft and art. I've always loved Lizzie Farey's willow sculptures and there are some beautiful ones in this exhibition. I was very impressed too by the work of Angie Lewin, who creates beautiful mixed media works inspired by the natural landscape. She uses beautiful palettes of colour and her prints are full of energy. She also creates work on driftwood and sea pottery. Frances Priest's work is represented by various vividly coloured items inspired by Indian crafts, that are both fascinating and uncategorisable. The show also featured work by Bronwen Sleigh, though I have to admit, her work was for me entirely overshadowed by the other artists.

Songs for Winter is showing at the City Art Centre until Sunday 4 March.

A Fine Line is showing at the City Art Centre until 18 February. 

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Nightdress Case Kitty

I have had this lovely kitten nightdress case since I was about 9 (when  I called her Maria Sashia - even then I liked things to rhyme!). I still use her too, though these days she stores my hankies. Anyway she'd become a bit worn

so I decided to smarten her up. I cut out pieces of dark blue and orange felt and sewed them on. Instead of trying to cut a very small piece of felt the right shape for her nose I decided to embroider her a new nose. So this is what she looks like now

She's not perfect but she looks much brighter now.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Elephant in the Room

There’s little room to breathe in here

the elephant sucks out all the air
through its massive trunk
and presses the couple to the walls.

They stare into each other,
their eyes message
what their lips cannot say:

there’s an elephant in the room.

There’s little room for elephants here
where villages expand into the plains
and poachers gun down whole herds.

Dying elephants suck air
through flattened trunks
fading eyes hold a message

there’s something we need to talk about here.

Previously published on Gnarled Oak

Monday 8 January 2018

The Beauty of Frost

It's very cold today but the Dells alongside the Water of Leith look wonderful all covered in frost

frosty rosehip

frosty ivy

Saturday 6 January 2018

Along the Almond

The River Almond is one of the two main rivers that run through Edinburgh (the other being the Water of Leith, which I help to look after in my voluntary work, then there's also the much smaller Braid Burn / Figgate Burn).

Today we enjoyed a cold walk aong the Almond from Cramond Brig to the mouth of the river.The Shetland ponies at Cramond Brig were too busy eating to pay much attention to us.

We were interested to see that the fish ladder is being improved on the river

It's a mess at the moment, but eventually the old fish ladder will be better than ever and salmon and other migratory fish will be able to get upstream to their spawning grounds more easily.

At the same time a wildflower meadow has been planted downstream from the fish ladder, which will hopefully come into bloom in a few months!

Already in fact the first signs of spring are showing, despite the cold, these are the bulbs of wild garlic, which will soon start scenting the area!

We saw several mallards on our walk, I like the way the female here hs showing the blue speculum in her wing, which is often hidden

On the way home in the bus we were happy to see a skein of geese (probably pink footed geese)

Friday 5 January 2018

Grey Heron and Redwings

A handsome grey heron happy to be photographed today in Braidburn Valley Park

Plus there were over 60 redwings flying around and wandering over the grass (how many can you count in this photo?)! Lovely to see so many of this colourful thrush that migrates from Scandanavia to spend the winter here eating berries.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Does Cammo Estate need to be 'Improved'?

I don't think it's coincidence that Edinburgh Council is looking to 'improve' Cammo Estate (recently made into a local nature reserve) just at the time that they are finalising plans to build on some of the surrounding fields. Also I'm slightly unsure whether Cammo is large enough for some of the types of infrastructure they seem to be proposing, though it does have underused buildings and derelict buildings that could be used. The wee canal has already been restored very nicely so perhaps I should stop being cynical.... 

Anyway, the next round of consultatations on improvements to the nature reserve are on 19 - 21 January. See here for more information. (These are entirely separate from any consultation on the housing). 

You can read more about our latest trip to Cammo here.  

a Cammo squirrel

Wednesday 3 January 2018

The Water's High in the Dells

The Water of Leith is running high at the moment! This is the weir up at Colinton!

 The goosanders seem to enjoy swimming the rapids

and the oyster mushrooms are thriving in the damp conditions

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Drama on the Pond!

We braved the rain today to walk round Figgate Park, which has a lovely pond which is usually full of ducks, geese and swans. Today was no exception, and the mute swans gave a great display

These two males started displaying to each other, which attracted the attention of a youngster

the youngster also joined in the displaying and the calling with his father

which gradually brought more youngsters flocking to their father's help 

 who eventually saw off the rival male

The pair of gadwall seemed unconcerned by the swan dramas 

Meanwhile we discovered a tree that is being entirely taken over by fungi (most of the fungi seemed to be oyster fungi but there may be others there too). The tree's bark cracks as the fungi grows through