Friday, 30 January 2015

The Truth Tells Twice by Charlie Allan

Subtitled The Life of a North East Farm, this is the story of six generations of the author's family and their farm in Little Ardo of Methlich in the north east of Scotland.

The book concentrates on the author's own lifetime and particularly his childhood reminiscences. It is fascinating to read how much farming techniques have changed over the years, specially the change from labour intensive to mechanised, which happened pretty speedily on this farm. Although most farm workers benefitted in many ways from mechanisation, what struck me as a negative was that men who had had a close working relationship with a horse and who got a lot of exercise working that horse, such that in winter it kept them warm, really felt the cold (and the lack of exercise) when they found themselves on the seat of an open tractor!

As well as telling his family's history with an affectionate eye and close attention to detail, the author has a real ability to capture individual voices and to tell amusing anecdotes.

This is an informative and entertaining book for anyone with an interest in rural life in Scotland.

The Truth Tells Twice by Charlie Allan published by Ardo

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Snowdrops and robins at Cammo

It snowed for much of yesterday and then froze in the evening. Today however has been cold but clear and still and we went to Cammo Estate to enjoy the snow.

We didn't expect many snowdrops to be out, but we were delighted to see the walled garden in bloom.

Many of the snowdrops were under snow

It's always wonderful to see these delicate flowers, the first sign that spring is really on its way again, even though more cold weather and snow is forecast!

There were lots of birds around today, including a small flock of fieldfares; a very large mixed flock of birds including blue tits, treecreepers, goldfinches and blackbirds. We had a brilliant view of a kestrel as it flew around us and saw a couple of buzzards. We also made friends with a couple of tame robins, so tame even I could get a photo!

Also interesting to see an oak tree with lots of oak apples (gall-like growthstriggered by the larvae of wasps that lay their eggs in the tree) in the photo below you can even see the hole where the wasp emerged from the oak apple.

As many readers of this blog may know, some of the fields around Cammo Estate are threatened with housing development. This would cause traffic chaos and would destroy the habitat for several uncommon species of birds. You can read more in my earlier blogposts here and you may want to sign this petition against this destruction of our green belt

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Update on the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

Since finishing my novel I've upcycled a couple of damaged necklaces. Including a couple of items I'd already made, these two necklaces (which were admittedly long necklaces with multiple chains!) have become:

two bookmarks

This bookmark is now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

This bookmark is also in my Etsy shop here.

two bracelets,

this bracelet (ideal as a Valentines Gift?) is also in my Etsy shop here.

two pairs of earrings
 These earrings are now also in my Etsy shop you can see them here.
these earrings plus the matching necklace will be in my Etsy shop soon!

 and a beaded lanyard

This lanyard is now in my Etsy shop, you can see it here

All these items were made by taking apart the various sections of the chains, putting them together in different ways and moving the charms around.

Plus there are 4 hoops which I'm using to make two beaded curtain tie-backs! I'm in the middle of making these and they will also be in my Etsy shop soon.


Like many other Etsy sellers, I was pleased that Etsy has taken on dealing with VAT on the sale of digital items, since the new EU rules came in (which requires sellers to register for VAT in the country of purchase).

This means that my poetry e-book Bougainvillea Dancing is once again available in pdf format in my Etsy shop. Given the recent devastating floods in Malawi, all the profits of this book will now go to Voluntary Service Overseas for their work in Malawi.

VSO’s programme in Malawi concentrates on HIV and AIDS, health and social wellbeing, secure livelihoods (food security) and education in seven rural and remote districts. The districts were chosen due to their excessive poverty levels, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and low involvement of other international charities.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Snowdrops and other signs of Spring

The first snowdrops have appeared in Colinton Dell, along the Water of Leith.

The wild garlic is starting to show.

and the hazel catkins are dangling in the breeze!

Birds are starting to chase each other and some of them are singing already. A magpie flew past, carrying twigs!

I was interested to capture these earth stars, looking in pretty good condition, though not what I would normally think of as a sign of spring!

 Last night I went to a very interesting talk about the mosses and liverworts of the Water of Leith. I'll blog about that in the next day or so!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Update on my novel

I sort of made a New Year's Resolution that I would get my novel to a stage of being ready to be sent out by June at the latest. In fact I'm well ahead of schedule! I finished the final edit last week and will write the synopsis this week and then send it out into the world.

As a poet whose favourite form is the haiku, I was fascinated to find out that I actually could write (and enjoy writing) something that might resemble a novel, though admittedly it is on the short size (personally I prefer short novels anyway). I started the novel in NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and it was pretty poor at the end of that month, but I have worked hard on it since and hopefully it may have a chance of getting somewhere.

A brief outline of the novel:

Noa and her mother are part of a community that has been refugees since their Pacific Island disappeared under the seas at the end of the Age of Technology. The newly independent Hebrides have offered the refugees an island to live on. After their long voyage across the world, the refugees have to learn to live alongside the Hebridean islanders. Meanwhile Sheena, a Hebridean woman is studying in New Lanark where the University's high tech campus hides some unpalatable truths. Sheena works with Noa and others to create a field studies centre on the island to conserve what is left of nature and to help bring jobs to the refugees. 

I've no intention of writing another novel unless this one is successful or I get an idea that just needs to be another novel.

I'll keep everyone up to date with the novel's successes, though I'll be quiet about its failures.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dunsapie Loch

Another cold and bright day today! Dunsapie Loch on the side of Arthur's Seat was half frozen over!

Overall, there weren't many birds around on Arthur's Seat. Hopefully they'd all flown to local gardens to be counted for the Big Garden Birdwatch! The birdwatch continues tomorrow, so if you didn't get round to it today, there's a whol other day ahead!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Rubbish jewellery

I went to a jewellery making workshop last night. It was rubbish, literally! Held in the downstairs workshop space at the SHRUB Swap and Reuse Co-op and run by Changeworks, the workshop showed us how to make jewellery from inner tubes, which are apparently very difficult to recycle and often end up in landfill sites.

We were shown how to cut the inner tubes (they cut beautifully, specially if you use scissors, slightly more tricky if you use a crafting knife) and were then shown some designs for inspiration. Then we were invited to make our own items!

It was a very sociable event and it was great to have two hours to just play around with ideas and make things. I tried to make two pairs of earrings. The first pair, which you can see in the photo, worked (though they're far from perfect)

and the second pair were a total failure!

It was very nice to work with a new material that I've never used before. Specially finding that it's such a lovely material to work with. However I can't ride a bike (shameful admission for an environmentalist I know!) so I won't have a supply of inner tubes of my own.

If you're in (or close to) Edinburgh and want to try making things from inner tubes, Changeworks have a supply, and if you ask nicely they will probably give you some!

You can read about the previous jewellery making workshop I attended here.