Sunday 17 December 2023

Christmas Tree

Here's this year's Christmas tree. 

It's in a pot and after the Christmas season is over it will go back to Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden, where it will stay. It may come back next year, or we may get a different tree in a pot from the garden, or we may not have a tree at all! I've decorated it with a mix of handmade decorations, and odd earrings and old necklaces from 'bags of unsellable jewellery' that I've bought in second hand shops.

Saturday 16 December 2023

Portrait of a Carrion Crow

 It was very windy when we walked around Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat today. This Carrion Crow struggled to keep still for my photos!

On the way home, we saw this beautiful rose, still in bloom!

Thursday 14 December 2023

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

I visited Hollis' blog "In the Company of Plants and Rocks" today and was struck with this quote from Khalil Gibran: “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” Khalil Gibran, It seems particularly apt at this time of year when we get to see the complex patterns of the winter bare branches. Especially on a clear day like today. So here are some of the trees I saw writing poems today: 

All the above trees are in the Dells alongside Edinburgh's Water of Leith. The holly tree below is in North Merchiston Cemetery:

Sunday 10 December 2023

Weekend Landscapes


I had a lovely lunchtime walk with a friend on Friday, walking round Harrison Park, which sits next to the Union Canal which passes through Edinburgh. The weather was mild, and the skeleton trees looked lovely. Several Redwings were running around on the grass and three Goosanders were floating in the canal.

Yesterday it was pouring for most of the day. Crafty Green Boyfriend and I braved the rain for a walk along the Water of Leith. We were rewarded with the lovely sight of a mother otter with her two cubs, running along the riverbank and swimming upstream. No photos or videos, but it was a wonderful thing to watch! 

I also went along with a friend to see the lovely Scottish Landscape Awards exhibition at the City Art Centre. It's a lovely exhibition of paintings, prints and other landscape inspired artworks. My favourite was the coral reef made from felt and beads and other assorted materials. The exhibition runs until March 2024. 

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks which will take you to other websites where you can find out more

Thursday 7 December 2023

My Etsy shops

As many of you know, I've had two Etsy shops for many years now. I started out with the Crafty Green Poet shop, but after a few years decided to separate out the vintage and supplies area from the handmade and set up Crafty Green Magpie. This worked really well for several years, but over the past 18 months, sales have been well down in the Crafty Green Poet shop. Then, recently, Etsy introduced an extra layer of account security (which is obviously in many ways a good thing). However, having to 'choose the boxes with motorcycles' or similar up to twenty times to move between shops was just too annoying and time-consuming. 

So I have shut the Crafty Green Poet shop and will soon be adding a handmade section to the Crafty Green Magpie Shop. Etsy does allow for the possibility that I might one day reopen the original Crafty Green Poet shop, but for now, everything will be in the one place, at Crafty Green Magpie.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Tree Following

This year for Tree Following, I've chosen the beautiful cooking apple tree in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden. You can read the post where I introduced the tree here

The tree is around fifty years old and produces a lot of apples (last year was a bumper year and I gave apples to colleagues, neighbours, students in my writing classes as well as friends!). The apples are excellent in apple crumble or just stewed and eaten with custard or added to porridge. 

The tree has now lost most of its leaves.

A few apples are still hanging on 

The tree hasn't produced as many apples as last year, but there's still been a fairly decent harvest and several apples left over for the Fieldfares and Redwings to enjoy. Last year, a Fieldfare became quite aggressive, defending 'his' apples from all the other birds in the garden! 


Talking of apple trees, the Neighbouring Orchard is a wonderful project in the east of Edinburgh (the other side of town from my chosen apple tree!) connecting people through apple trees planted in private gardens and public green spaces. The project is now moving into new areas of town. You can read more about the project here


I'm happy to say that Green Ink have just published my poem Raspberry Picking in the Forage edition of their online journal.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Time to Sign up for Twelve Days Wild

 The Wildlife Trusts have launched their 12 Days Wild campaign! 

Thousands of people across the UK will be brightening up their winters by signing up for 12 Days Wild and doing something wild on every one of the twelve days of Christmas. 

Why not sign up to join in and do one wild thing every day from 25th December to 5th January? You’ll receive daily inspirational emails jam-packed with fun ideas to help you connect with nature and lift your mood.

Spending time in nature can help you feel happier and healthier. You can join in by walking in the park, watching a starling murmuration or making a piece of art inspired by nature.

Or you could choose to take action to help nature, for example, you could go plastic-free for 2024, recycle your Christmas cards, feed the birds or volunteer at a local nature reserve.

Find out more about 12 Days Wild and sign up here

Monday 27 November 2023

Heaven's Coast by Mark Doty

In 1989 Mark Doty is a successful poet and college professor and he is deeply in love with his long term partner, Wally Roberts. Their harmonious existence, however, is shattered when Wally tests positive for HIV. 
This memoir is an unflinching look at the process of grief and how to come to terms with it.Doty writes movingly about grief, religious attitudes to death and bereavement, and how he comes to terms with losing his partner so early in life. 

Roberts and Doty find solace in their pets (two dogs and two cats) and in nature. Roberts spends much of his last few months in bed surrounded by the pets, looking happily out of the window, seeming most of the time to be peacefully accepting of his impending death. 
Doty particularly likes seals as they somehow remind him of Roberts 'something about playfulness and a freedom of spirit'. There is a lovely scene, after Roberts' ashes have been scattered to become one with the life of the marsh, in which Doty's dog Beau plays with a group of seals 'swimming for half an hour with a tribe he recognises, though it tumbles in an alien medium.'

The book ends with a meeting between Doty and his dogs and a coyote that stops in front of them briefly, prompting Doty to meditate on the meaning of seeming random events and the possibility that the coyote is in some way a message from Roberts. 

This is a beautifully written, moving book which meditates on loss and grief, while shining a light on the things that make it well worth living in the world after the death of a loved one. 

Heaven's Coast by Mark Doty, published (1997) by Vintage
At around the same time as writing this memoir, Doty wrote the beautiful  poetry collection My Alexandria, which I reviewed here


Sunday 26 November 2023

Wood Mouse on Calton Hill

 Yesterday we had a lovely walk around Calton Hill in Edinburgh. The hill is famous for its assortment of monumental buildings and this unfinished folly 

There are lovely views across Edinburgh. I particularly like this view which shows a controversial new building in the background, framed by the traditional architecture of the buildings on Calton Hill

There are also some lovely trees on the hill

but the highlight of yesterday's walk was meeting this lovely little Wood Mouse! We were able to watch this adorable little creature for several minutes and Crafty Green Boyfriend got a photo

Friday 24 November 2023

Buy Nothing Day - it's free!

Today is Buy Nothing Day, which offers a chance to think about the impact our shopping habits have on the environment.

We are all consumers, and of course, we need to buy things such as food, clothes and books. However, we need to become more thoughtful consumers and to question the products we buy. Overconsumption already has negative effects on the environment, through for example destruction of forests and pollution.

Everyone can join in Buy Nothing Day, it's easy and it's free.

Recycling is great, but reducing how much you consume is better! If we all reduce the amount we consume, then we will change our attitude towards our throwaway culture. 

Disclaimer: I probably need to buy a pint of milk today, but otherwise I'm entirely on board with this.  

More Information on the Buy Nothing Day website.


Monday 20 November 2023

Autumn Colours in the Dells

 Today I did my regular patrol of Edinburgh's Colinton and Craiglockart Dells alongside the Water of Leith. The autumn colours are still magnificent, though many trees have lost a lot of leaves. 

The larch trees are the only conifers that lose their needles in the winter, before that happens they turn a beautiful yellow 

I love the yellow colour of this small Sycamore, contrasting with the Holly behind it 

 The beeches are stunning in their shades of copper and yellow

Some of the bramble bushes have turned beautiful shades of red

While in the Dells, I had lovely views of a Dipper, a Grey Heron and large numbers of Long Tailed Tits. I also heard loud calls from high in the sky and, looking up, saw a flock of five swans, judging from the sound they were making, I'm pretty sure they were Whooper Swans, which it's unusual to see around Edinburgh.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Ravens on Arthur's Seat

 Unfortunately, there are no photos of the Ravens! There are plenty of photos of the landscape though, here is the road around Arthur's Seat

Dunsapie Loch
Duddingston Loch

 a view across Edinburgh to the Pentland Hills

Ravens nest on Arthur's Seat, but can be notoriously difficulty to see, so we were delighted to watch a pair soaring around. Soon, a flock of over fifty Jackdaws gathered to mob the larger birds. While this was happening, we realised that a Red Fox was also watching the birds! Here are two of the Jackdaws

There are plenty of mosses growing around the area, they're looking particularly green at the moment, having benefited from the ample rain we've had over the past month or so. The photo below shows Grey Cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) and Anomolous Bristle Moss (Orthotrichum anomalum). This bristle moss is called 'Anomalous', because it is the only bristle moss that grows on rocks rather than on tree trunks.

On the way home, we saw our first flock of Waxwings for the season! Always a lovely sight (and sound!)

 If you love Arthur's Seat and the surrounding Holyrood Park, you might be interested in this consultation from Historic Environment Scotland on the future of the park

Friday 17 November 2023

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony


 South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of 'rogue' elephants for his Thula Thula game reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal. This moving book is the story of what happened, when, against what he thought was his better judgement, he said yes. 

When Anthony and his wife Francoise took over the game reserve, they banned hunting and worked with the local communities to create an eco-friendly lodge set within a reserve dedicated to conserving the beautiful wildlife of the area. They had to overcome problems with poaching, much of it small scale, but at times large scale poaching threatened the larger animals such as rhinos and elephants.

When the elephants first arrived at the reserve, they were destructive and unpredictable. Anthony decided that he would live with the herd for a while to let them get used to him, so they would learn to trust humans. Eventually, the herd did learn to trust him - the females would even bring their newborn calves to be introduced to him. One particularly elephant, Mnumzane, a young male, became particularly friendly with Anthony and his story is a particularly moving one and poses the question of what do you do with an elephant with extreme toothache?

The book highlights the amazing intelligence of elephants including an occasion when one of the older females opened the gate to a compound where a herd of antelope were being gathered, prior to being sold to another game reserve. All the antelopes escaped. 

Anthony always geared his planning to the needs of the wildlife and included local people in his project, employing many of them as rangers or within the eco-lodge. I particularly noted this insight: 

"Every wild thing is in tune with its surroundings.... and in absolute harmony with the planet. Their attention is focussed totally outwards. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives too often, brooding and magnifying problems that the animal kingdom would not waste a millisecond of energy upon. To most people, the magnificent order of the natural world where life and death actually mean something has become unrecognizable."

Anthony made friends with the original herd so that they could become used to humans, as they had been mistreated in the past. However, he was determined that future members of the herd would be truly wild and interacted less and less with each following generation of elephants. 


This book was published in 2009. Anthony died in 2012 and the elephants travelled many miles to gather round his body, without there having been any way that they could have known he had died. Francoise has continued to run Thula Thula.

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony published (2009) by Pan Macmillan.

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Water Voles

 Last night I attended an online event about Water Voles organised by People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Wild Drawing. Emily, the PTES Water Vole Officer, talked about Water Voles, their behaviour and ecology and Laura from Wild Drawing guided us through drawing these lovely animals. It was a very enjoyable event! Here are my attempts at drawing a Water Vole, based on the reference photo we were shown.

I couldn't get the hands right, but other than that, I'm quite pleased with the results! 

Wild Drawing run both online and in -person classes and donates 10% of the profits of each event to relevant animal charities. You can browse their events here.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Autumn Colours in Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens

 We had a lovely walk around Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens yesterday. The trees were beautiful, their autumn colours lit up wonderfully by the sun. 

Crafty Green Boyfriend captured the beauty of these teasel heads 

and he also took this lovely photo of a Blue Tit who was busy looking for food

for Nature Notes.

Friday 10 November 2023

Walrussey by Bex Hainsworth


I saw this book mentioned on social media and was immediately drawn in by the title and cover art, so bought it. I'm very glad I did because it contains beautiful poetry about sea creatures in all their wonder. 

The first poem 'An Octopus Picks Litter at the End of the World' sets the scene, a sad overview of how we have degraded the oceans. The octopus:

"...adapts. This alien debris has bewildered her
fellow sand dwellers but she is an architect, a pioneer.
A cave of can. An inverted volleyball is an ample bowl."
This is poetry that doesn't shy away from showing life under the water as it is in these days of ecological degradation, for example taking in issues such as ghost nets, discarded fishing nets that lie, forgotten in the sea and kill unknown numbers of sea creatures:
"A spinner dolphin hangs...../ fins holding up knotted chains / Marley's ghost, snared harbinger." from Ghosting.
As well as a keen ecological awareness,  Hainsworth has a real way with words, filling her poetry with vivid phrases: whale sharks are described as 'gormless Goliaths', a penguin is a 'monochromatic philosopher' while the Early Morning Manatee is an 'easy balloon animal' and Jellyfish is 'faceless, barely alive, tendrils spread / like a wedding dress. She is a bulb / of panic'

My favourite descriptions, though, come in the title poem Walrussey, about a walrus that was seen in British waters a few years ago. 
"Perhaps you are a scout from a melting world,
a tusked omen, disaster warning. Dear walrus 
of wanderlust, mustachioed philosopher,
you are all of us, floating in an ocean-universe
with no choice but to go on seeking." 
But there is hope, and it's very fitting that the collection ends with the image of a rare Blue Lobster being "returned to the sea, dropped like a coin, like a wish."

 Walrussey by Bex Hainsworth, published (2023) by Black Cat Poetry.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Autumn in the Meadows

 The Meadows is one of the most picturesque greenspaces near the centre of Edinburgh. In Spring the numerous cherry trees are in full bloom and the whole area is pretty in pink (and full of people taking photos, as I do every year). You can see some of my photos of the Meadows in Spring by following the links below: 

Cherry Blossom in the Meadows 2023

The Meadows are a Mass of Blossom (2018).

The Meadows in Blossom (2017). 

At this time of year, the Meadows are equally beautiful with all the autumn colours. Yesterday I walked through the Meadows in the afternoon, after teaching a class nearby. The sun was low in the sky and the light was beautiful. 

In previous years, Redwings and Fieldfares often spend the winter in the Meadows (though not as many or as often in recent years). There are none there yet this year, but hopefully I'll see some in the next few weeks.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Fetch! (a 100 word story)

 Laika fiddled with the controls of her spaceship, wondering what she was meant to do. Then she looked out at all the objects orbiting the earth alongside her. Misshapen, derelict spacepods, long-lost pieces from the International Space Station and occasional space gloves swirled past like an endless line of balls and sticks. A memory stirred. She barked excitedly, set the controls to CHASE and swooped from side to side, using the craft's grasping tool to grab each piece of space junk. She wagged her tail. Somewhere in her memory, a human voice said 'Fetch!' She was in heaven. 


Previously published in Drabble Harvest #7: Space Junk (published by Hiraeth Books), and winning the first prize in the Space Junk Drabble Contest. 

A Drabble is a story which is exactly 100 words in length.

Monday 6 November 2023

Autumn Colours, Fungi and Hibernating Snails!

 Today I carried out my regular patrol of the Dells alongside the Water of Leith, one of Edinburgh's rivers. The Autumn colours are wonderful at the moment, especially the birches (first photo below) and beeches (third photo)

and there are lovely fungi everywhere - those in the first photo may be Trooping Funnels, but I'm not sure and the rest I really don't know, so if you know what any of them are, let me know in the comments!

The fungi in the last photo above were forming something of a ring near the tree where there is usually a gathering of Garden Snails at this time of year, so I went to have a look and there they were! 

On the way home I popped into North Merchiston Cemetery, where the Beech trees are particularly lovely at the moment

and I was delighted to find these Snowy Waxcaps