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Preview: Crafty Green Poet

Crafty Green Poet

creative thinking ~ greener living

Updated: 2018-01-16T14:38:33.822+00:00


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

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).

Lauriston Castle Gardens


Lauriston Castle is more of a stately home than a castleThe 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 IslandRecently a bee hive has been added to the gardensthough 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 groundsand the witch hazel is already in bloom You can see photos from our previous visits to Lauriston Castle here. [...]

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.

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. 

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.

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

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

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 riverIt'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 hiddenOn the way home in the bus we were happy to see a skein of geese (probably pink footed geese)[...]

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.

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

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

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 displayThese 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 fatherwhich gradually brought more youngsters flocking to their father's help   who eventually saw off the rival maleThe 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[...]

Happy New Year!


It's an Edinburgh tradition to visit Arthur's Seat on New Year's Day which is what we did today.We don't go to the top of the hill, as it is one of those horribly steep peaks that gives me really bad vertigo, plus at this time of year there are too many people up there so we kept to the valley where there were far fewer people.One of our own New year's day traditions is to make a list of all the birds we see, as a start to the year list we keep. We're not competitive about this and just shrug our shoulders when extremely serious birders laugh at  how relatively few birds we see over the course of the year. We did have a good start, seeing 28 species today including in our own street, during our walk across Edinburgh and round Arthur's Seat. Crafty Green Boyfriend took these lovely photos goosander on the Union Canal - female above, male below treecreeper in the Meadows areamale tufted duck, on one of the lochs on Arthur's Seat  [...]

Feed the Birds!


We had a lovely walk this morning at Cammo, walking through the fields by the old water towerwhere we saw a roe deerSadly Edinburgh City Council is planning on building houses on some of these fields (you can see my previous posts about that here).We then walked into Cammo Country Park. We had some bird food with us and scattered most of it round some fallen trunks where several birds had already gathered. We then stood and watched for a few minutes while the birds came in to feed, the blue titsthe great titsthe robins (posing beautifully for next year's Christmas card!)and the nuthatches (can you see how many seeds its got in its beak?)Here's advice on feeding birds on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website. [...]

It's Cold at Cramond


 It's cold out at Cramond today!
But plenty of birds around, including this carrion crow

this grey heron

several turnstones

and a few ringed plovers

Mountain the Movie


Mountain is an exploration of the human relationship with mountains, with beautiful cinematography set to a soundtrack of orchestral music played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The text is written by well known naturewriter Robert MacFarlane and narrated by Willem Defoe.

I loved the beautiful scenery in the film but felt that it was flawed in a number of ways. The narrative was very simplistic, there were too many scenes of vertigo inducing extreme mountain sports (rock climbing, paragliding, extrme ski-ing) and not enough wildlife.

It looked like a film to extol the beauty of nature so why so few shots of wildlife and so much of an obsession with extreme mountaineering? And, if at it purports to be, it's supposed a film about the human relationship with mountains why, when showing scenes of people queueing to ascend Everest was there not even a mention of the mountains of rubbish left on the mountain every year?

It's a film to watch and enjoy and not analyse too deeply and certainly don't expect anything of great insight.

Mountain is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Sunday 31 December.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland


 a winter's day in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith.  snow caught in umbellifer inflorescencesteasels in the snow    wintry mosses  roe deer on the hill  [...]

Winter on Calton Hill


Calton Hill is more or less in the middle of Edinburgh and so is an ideal place for a nice walk before doing some last minute Christmas shopping. It's famous for its various follies

 and for it's views of Arthur's Seat

(You can browse my other posts about Calton Hill here).

Jane - a film review


Film director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and changed our ways of thinking about primates. The film draws from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage from the National Geographic archives, mostly shot by Goodall's then husband Hugo van Lawick.

The film follows Goodall in her early career, when she set out to study chimpanzees in Gombe without any scientific training. She had been taken on byLouis Leakey who specifically wanted someone who didn't have academic preconceptions about primates. 

We see how patience and diligence helped Goodall to become accepted by the chimpanzees which allowed her to study aspects of their lives never seen before - such as their ability to make simple tools, their caring relationships with their families and their warfare when provoked. There are some wonderful clips of chimps stealing food, playing together and grooming each other.

It's a fascinating film for anyone interested in Goodall and her ground breaking research with chimpanzees. 

Jane is showing at Edinburgh Filmhouse until Sunday 24 December.

Oh Christmas Tree!


We took delivery of our Christmas tree today. You may remember a few weeks ago that we chose this tree from several options in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden

So now it's in the corner of our living room and has been decorated

The decorations are an eclectic mix of gifts, ornaments I've had since I was a teenager and broken jewellery! Odd or slightly damaged earrings make wonderful baubles and unwanted shiny necklaces make wonderful alternatives to tinsel!
After Christmas we'll give the tree back to Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum and we may well get the same tree back for next year!

Here's an interesting article from the Woodland Trust about choosing an environmentally friendly tree.

Trophy Film Review


A sobering, and often difficult to watch, documentary, Trophy examines the interconnectedness of industrial scale big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa to show the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities. Interviewing animal breeders, hunt organisers, ecologists and wildlife rangers, the film asks such important questions as:

As Africa’s most iconic animals continue to disappear, can the controversial practices of hunting and breeding actually help to increase the populations?

Can assigning economic value to an animal help to conserve it?

What gives humans the right to own animals and to decide whether they live or die?

And is there any real future for a “natural” world in our rapidly developing, capitalist world? 

The film is given a 15 certificate for its release in the UK with 'strong language' being given as the reason for this certificate, overlooking the scenes of hunting and animal corpses that would surely make any caring parent want to keep their children away from the film. Scenes that make the film difficult to watch for anyone who cares about animals and the future of biodiversity on this planet.

However it is worth watching precisely because it asks difficult questions and forces the viewer to see things from an angle they may not want to consider.

One focus of the film is on large scale farming of rhinos for their horn, which can be harvested every couple of years giving the rhinos a long life, though whether a truly happy is life is as debateable as whether free range cattle or chickens lead a happy life, or more so as rhinos are still wild creatures whereas cattle and chickens are domesticated. But is it better to have plenty of rhinos living in large fenced off reserves where they are farmed and protected from poaching, or to allow their numbers to decline to zero as it looks like they otherwise will inevitably do?

Hunting is also brought in as away of conserving nature. Allowing wealthy foreigners to pay large sums of money to shoot trophy animals brings in money that can then conserve the wider populations of these animals and the habitats they live in. I can see the logic in this and according to the film there are parts of South Africa that now have larger populations of some wild animals because they are being bred for hunting. However it is horrible to think that this is what we have come to as a society and it is appalling to watch some rich American who thinks that God put animals on the earth so he could shoot them killing a lion. And it's heartbreaking to watch the slow death of a slaughtered elephant or to witness a baby rhino running around crying after it's mother has been killed.

Trophy will screen at Edinburgh Filmhouse on Thursday 21 December

ValleyMist Lipbalm


About a year ago, I was asked to review a lipbalm from Valley Mist - this was very good timing as my current lip balm had almost run out, and though I'm minimalist about toiletries, a good lip balm is essential! (You can read my original review here). A year on and Valley Mist  now have a shop on Etsy, which is where I recently bought another  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 naturalCocoa Seed ButterOrganic Sunflower Seed OilOrganic BeeswaxMango Seed ButterRosehipwith the following essential oils:FrankincenseLavenderGeraniumI've been using this lip balm for a year now, and it is easy to apply, smells lovely and is the best lipbalm I've used!In my original review, Iwondered  how well the packaging lasts. I had a slight suspicion that the cardboard might wear a bit before I finish the tube, though it is certainly sturdy enough at the moment. A year on though and the tube is still as sturdy as ever. But after use the packaging is biodegradable, you can even watch videos about the progress of a tube biodegrading - see the Valley Mist Facebook page! 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.[...]

Winter Robins


It's very wintry today! Lovely to see the snow speckled Pentland Hills from Arthur's Seat

We met a couple of friendly robins

Well they were friendly to us, but less friendly to each other, as they were shouting at each other and chasing each other, robins (both make and female) defend territories through the winter! One of the robins took time out from defending its territory to pose nicely for its portrait

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail



In a remote part of New South Wales, a farmer called Holland promises his daughter Ellen's hand in marriage to  the man who can name the hundreds of species of eucalyptus trees that he has planted on his land. What follows is a fascinating meditation on the various species of eucalyptus (and I for one had no idea there were so many!) and on Ellen's state of mind as she watches various men come along and try to win her by pursuing a test set purely by her father.

Bail's writing is reminiscent of the late, great Patrick White (Australian winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature) though without the seemingly wilful incomprehensibility that White sometimes injected into his work. So many lovely sentences and phrases here, some of which are intriguing:

'Anyway, don't you think the compliant pine is associated with numbers, geometry, the majority while the eucalypt stands apart, solitary, essentially undemocratic?'

The reader feels a great deal of sympathy for Ellen in this modern day fairy tale and hopes that somehow she will eventually have some say in her romantic future. The reader is likely to find Holland's attitude to his daughter's future inexplicable, which may undermine the enjoyment of the novel for some.

(In real life therefore, it's great to know that Australia, in a commitment to relationship equality, has just become the 25th country to recognise same sex marriage).

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, published by Penguin

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