Friday 27 September 2019

Fungi Love the Rainy Weather

It has been raining most of the day, but really started to pour just as Crafty Green Boyfriend and I set out on our lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill.

Here are just some of the wonderful fungi we saw around the hill

Dead Men's Fingers- I think these are the first of this species I've seen, they are well named and have a gruesome resemblance to their namesakes.

Stinkhorn - I've never seen such a fine specimen of a stinkhorn, another well named species as it stinks like an open sewer and the smell seems to pervade the whole area around the stinkhorn. Flies are drawn to the smell and then eat the spore bearing mucus on top of the fungus.

Another aptly named fungus is this coral fungus

giant polypore - this isn't a particularly good photo of the fungus as it's mostly hidden by the surrounding vegetation, but the fungi covers a lot of ground around the tree and these particular fruiting bodies have grown up very recently, there are older fruiting bodies on the other side of the tree.

I think these are amethyst deceivers, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. (Edited to add, I've just been told they are in fact lilac bell caps).

If you're in Edinburgh on Sunday, you may be interested in going along to the Fungus Foray on Corstorphine Hill, which will be lead by David Adamson of Edinburgh Natural History Society, starting at 2pm (see the Facebook event for more details).


Meanwhile I have another 50 word story on the 50 Word Story website. You can read it here. If you enjoy the story, please consider clicking on the Like button on the website! Thanks. 

Thursday 26 September 2019

A Keeper of Sheep by William Carpenter

A Keeper Of Sheep

Militant feminist, Penelope Solstice, known as Penguin, is expelled from college after setting fire to a fraternity house which was the site of a gang rape. She retreats to her father's summer house at Cape Cod, which he now shared with his new wife, Dorothy, only a few years older than Penguin. Here Penguin reconsiders her relationships and her political views as she joins the fight to save a local wetland area. She also befriends and cares for Arnold, a composer who is dying of AIDS and is desperate to complete his final work, which is inspired by Fernando Pessoa's Keeper of Sheep.

This is a wonderful book, beautifully crafted with a poet's eye and ear for the right metaphor and a great understanding of music and the human heart.

'Arnold told me he was no longer choosing from an infinite source of musical ideas, but that his mind felt like a room that was being moved out of, with only a few pieces of furniture remaining'. 

The narrative is compelling, and the social and environmental issues are dealt with in a way that is both serious but subtle, so that the whole is never bogged down by issues. It's a very moving and thoughtful book with moments of humour. Penguin's journey into a more adult understanding of the world is beautifully done.

A Keeper of Sheep by William Carpenter published by Abacus (1994)

Wednesday 25 September 2019

The Big Climate FightBack - Every Tree Matters


Trees are warriors in the battle against climate change.They absorb carbon, reduce flooding and pollution, nurture wildlife and make landscapes more resilient. Urban trees offer shade on hot days and can help people feel better about where they live.

The Woodland Trust are looking for a million people to pledge to plant a tree this planting season, ideally on Tree Charter Day (30 November). 

Before planting your tree though, make sure:

* the tree is suited to the site  - if planting a tree in your garden you don't want it to grow too big 

* the site is suitable for trees - some places offer wonderful wildlife refuges which are damaged if trees are planted there - see my recent blogpost about Kirkconnel Flow in Dumfries and Galloway where lack of management means that trees are encroaching on the peat bog, which is one of the most valuable habitats in the country (and one that also fights against climate change by sequestering carbon).  

So if your site is appropriate for tree planting and your tree is appropriate for the site, then you can make your pledge here.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Porcelain fungi

Although there are fungi around at all times of year, many appear during autumn and we think of them as a typical aspect of autumn. One of the most beautiful fungi out at the moment is the porcelain fungi. I took these photos yesterday in Craiglockart Dell, alongside the Water of Leith.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Walking round Arthur's Seat and Marching for the European Union

It was another beautifully sunny and unseasonably hot day yesterday so Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went for a walk round Arthur's Seat, where there were some very welcome cooling breezes. There was a haze in the air

and the water of Duddingston Loch was sparkling in the sun

There was excitment in the skies as two jackdaws and two kestrels engaged in battle (though the photo only shows one of the kestrels)

This battle went on for several minutes and was fascinating to watch. It was lovely to see the daytime moon too

and the first autumnal colours in the trees

These Canada Geese posed obligingly at the Dunsapie Loch

We took a different route than we normally do when coming off Arthur's Seat and wandered up onto a lovely green trail

with lovely views over Edinburgh

We admired the swans at St Margaret's Loch

We had lunch in a cafe on the Royal Mile and then joined the nti-Brexit march as it passed

As on the Climate Strike (which you can read about on this blog here) there were lots of dogs marching along with their owners, including Chewie, who apparently loves meeting lots of new people but isn't too happy with the loud noises of a political march

The march ended up at the Scottish Parliament where the Shebang drummers played

and the police presence was very muted and good natured

When the Brexit referendum was held I voted to stay in the European Union. The EU has it's faults and problems but it offers many benefits, particularly, for those interested in nature, it's environmental protections (which I blogged about here). There are those that argue that the referendum result (slightly more people voted to leave the EU than voted to remain) should be respected, but that are those that argue that we had been misinformed before the referendum and we were required to vote on something we didn't know enough about. The march yesterday also called on politician's to avoid a No Deal Brexit (which would see us crash out of the EU with no trade deals on the 31 October) and to call for a People's Vote on any future relationship with the EU. Whichever way you voted in the referendum, it surely is only fair that we get a vote on our future relationship with our nearest neighbours.

Friday 20 September 2019

Edinburgh Climate Strike in Photos

The Edinburgh Climate Strike gathered at Middle Meadow Walk from 11am and set off about 12 noon.

Thousands of people and some dogs too. like this lovely border terrier, we found out her name is Mabel

Here are some photos from the march itself

we passed the Scottish Parliament and assembled behind Holyrood Palace for a rally 

 You can find out more about what's happening for the Climate Strikes around the world here.

With so many people protesting across the world, will our governments start to take notice?

If you're in Scotland, please consider emailing your MSP to make the best possible Climate Change Bill! More details on the Friends of the Earth website.

Thursday 19 September 2019

The lesbian Donkey - review of an ecofriendly olive oil

Back in July, I blogged about how shocked I was that olive oil production is responsible for millions of birds dying every year (you can read more in my blog post here).

I love olive oil, but I love birds more so I started to search for a bird friendly olive oil.

The one I chose was the Lesbian Donkey which is produced by organic methods on the hillsides of the Greek Island of Lesbos, with olives picked without machinery - the trees are shaken to bring the olives down. Locally available in Edinburgh (from Real Foods).

It's a beautifully packaged product, the bottle design is very elegant and the label is beautifully done. But does the product itself live up to the labelling and ethical standards? 

I've been using Lesbian Donkey for about a month now and I'm very impressed with it. It's a lovely smooth oil and very easy to cook with. I'd definitely recommend it as a quality product, but just as importantly one you can use with no sense of guilt about birds being killed during its production. I certainly wouldn't go back to any other olive oil now.

As ever, red text in this post links to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Wednesday 18 September 2019

The Lives of Trees and Flowers by Fiona Stafford

The Long Long Life of Trees is a beautifully produced book that focuses on a selection of tree species and looks at how we have used them and represented them in art through the years.

The trees are: yew, cherry, rowan, olive, cypress, oak, ash, poplar, holly, sycamore, birch, horse chestnut, elm, willow, hawthorn, pine, apple.

The long introduction to the volume gives an overview of the human relationship with trees, with this very timely and relevant paragraph catching my eye:

'It is often only when local trees are on the verge of disappearance that people begin to realise just how much them mean.....The sense of loss prompted by treee felling has been echoing through British culture for centuries. Plans for new building projects that are known to put green sites at risk provoke passionate protests. Whether the threat comes from new roads, High Speed rail, supermarkets or plant pathogens, the urge to defend the environment, to stand up for ancient rights and save the trees for future generations is widely felt.'

The chapters on individual species are full of interesting stories and ideas including:

a suggestion for a better way of extracting taxanes (an anti cancer drug) from yew trees;

the practice of uprooting ancient olive trees from their natural habitat to decorate gardens - cultural vandalism or legitimate source of income for struggling farmers?

the value of willow trees as defence against flooding incidents;

the different types of hedgerows needed for different types of farms.

It also explores the cultural impact of the mass loss of trees to disease, including describing a notable feature of Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens:

'Elms have now become incontrovertible figures of loss.... The Aeolian Pavilion (in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) is a memorial to the species, but instead of relying on a small plaque.....this contains a more tangible monument, a large Celtic harp crafted from the old wych elm that finally yielded to Dutch Elm disease in 2003. The tree is gone and the garden emptier, as the wind plays over the Ossianic harp strings, creating a plaintive requiem.'


A more recent, companion book is The Brief Life of Flowers, a copy of which I won in a giveaway on Gabriel Hemery's blog. This is a shorter book, with shorter chapters but follows the same basic idea. A few select flowers are profiled and described, in short chapters that are ordered more or less in seasonal order, starting with snowdrops and ending with poppies with a very short final chapter on ghost orchids and including a chapter on lime (linden) flowers, whose scent is one of my favourite smells of the countryside . There is also a chapter on 'gillyflowers' which considers just what the gillyflower - popular in literature but actually non-existent in floral identification books. The flowers are examined in terms of their contribution to landscape and culture. It's a fascinating book, well worth reading if you're interested in British flowers.

The two books are excellent companion pieces.

The Long Long Life of Trees by Fiona Stafford published by Yale University Press (2016)

The Brief Life of Flowers by Fiona Stafford published by John Murray Press (2019)

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Crafting Update

I picked up a lovely bracelet very cheaply in one of the local second hand shops. It was damaged but too pretty not to buy. Most segments of the bracelet had missing diamantes (rhinestones) and the segments weren't connected to each other properly. I mended the connections and wore it for a couple of years. But then I became annoyed with how damaged it all was and took off the remaining part that wasn't damaged and attached it to a chain and now it's quite a pleasing necklace

The segments of the bracelet that are missing diamantes are now in an envelope along with some other items to send to the Alzheimers Society who will recycle them to raise money for their work. (You can find out more about recycling items for Alzheimer's here.)

I have recently added two more ID badge lanyards to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy store. You can see them here and here.

Meanwhile I've been helping the Friends of Saughton Park prepare for their Hallowe'en themed teddy bear hunt which will take place (if I'm not mistaken) at an event to be held in the park on Saturday 28 October (more details hopefully to follow). So I'm making ghost costumes for the teddy bears, here are just some of them. Basically I just cut pieces out of an old (and very ragged) sheet and then cut holes for eyes and to allow the bear's name tag to show through. Sometimes also allowing ears or hats to show through as well.

Thirty bears will all be hidden around the park at the event with children being encouraged to find them all.

Monday 16 September 2019

Late Summer Insects

Such a beautiful sunny day today, ideal for my volunteer litter-picking and wildlife recording patrol of the Dells along the Water of Leith. Plenty of birds about including sparrowhawks shouting everywhere and trees full of small birds including nuthatch and treecreeper.

But I was most impressed with the range of insects that were flying so late in the season including this beautiful comma butterfly

and nearby was this lovely Leucozonia glaucia hoverfly

The pictorial meadow (a planted meadow of flowers which provide colour through most of the year) in Spylaw Park was full of bees and hoverflies including Syrphus sp hoverflies

I couldn't take many photos as my camera battery ran out.....

Sunday 15 September 2019

Honeyland - film review

The documentary, Honeyland is the story of Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild bee keepers in Europe, who lives in the mountains of Macedonia, with her ailing mother, a dog and three cats, the only inhabitants of an otherwise deserted village. Hatidze regularly climbs right up a rockface to collect bees from one of her wild hives, others of which are scattered around the landscape and she also keeps homemade hives.When she harvests the honeycombs, she always leaves half in the hives, to keep the colony flourishing. She takes her honey into Skopje to seel it for 10 Euros a jar. 

Then suddenly during shooting Hussein Sam, his wife, Ljutvie, seven fractious kids and their cattle move into the valley, which adds an extra layer of story for the film-makers and creates a different film than was initially intended. Hatidze is very uncertain about these invaders but she makes friends with the children and offers advice on beekeeping to Hussein. However, this fragile harmony is broken when Hussein decides he wants to start beekeeing seriously himself. 

This is a beautiful film about living in harmony with nature and how easily that harmony can be broken. It's also a story of community and the respect that needs to be shown to others around you.

Honeyland is screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Thursday 19 September.

Friday 13 September 2019

Earth Stars and Yew Trees

There seem to be lots of earth star fungi around at the moment! Here are just a few of those I saw at lunchtime around Corstorphine Hill

The yew trees are looking at their best at the moment too

for Nature Notes.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Crafty Accessories for my Keep Cup

I was given this keep cup at an event organised by Gorgie Collective to decorate a keep cup.

This cup couldn't be decorated, as it doesn't take paint (you can read about the cup I did decorate here). But this is the cup I use when I need a keep cup.

It annoys me to see that some venues, which you would think would be proper cafes, are now moving to using so-called eco-friendly disposable cups even for sit-in customers(they may be made from more eco-friendly materials than plastics, but it's still disposable, which in itself is a problem) so I need to have a keep cup with me more often than I would expect (I almost never get take away coffees).

There are two issues with this particular keep cup. One is that it gets very hot and is uncomfortable to hold. To combat that issue I cut the foot off a thick sock that was beyond repair and used the rest of the sock to make a little cover

This is great, but then I discovered that the lid falls off very easily, which means that the lid and cup get separated and things from my handbag might end up in the cup and if I've not been able to wash and dry the cup after use, then things in my handbag might get damp. So the next thing I did was to make a carry bag for the cup.

I used part of a sleeve that I had cut from a long sleeved t-shirt.

The cuffs were damaged and there were holes in the elbow so I cut off the lower sleeves to make a short sleeved t-shirt. I used one of the sleeves to make a bag for the keep cup, using an old shoe lace in the top

The closure keeps the lid firmly on the cup so I don't need to worry about the cup and lid getting separated or the contents of my handbag getting damp.

With the Climate Strike coming up, craftivism is being promoted as a good way of getting involved if street protest isn't your thing. It's a great way to use your arts and crafts skills to campaign for things you feel strongly about. There's a nice article about craftivism from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) here.