Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Dachas1_webIf we want to double world food production and be able to feed a growing population we will have to return the land to small farmers and also establish more small farms.

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture and it is being justified by the need to 'feed the world'.

But it is the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The agricultural industry, the huge farms with large heavy machines are not the answer and neither are genetically-modified (engineered) seeds and such. In the same way that the so-called “green revolution” is and was a disaster so is this playing with genetics.

The large farms with the heavy machines also do serious damage to the environment in that they compact the soil, destroy in this compacted soil mycelia, and other organisms, vital to soil and plant health, and then we wonder why our soil washes away, gets blown away, and why it is getting more and more infertile.

The same goes for forestry operations. Here the powers-that-be also seem to be entirely ignorant as to why we are short of all that important small wildlife and fungi in the soil that it once used to teem with. The answer is the use of heavy machinery, including and especially the so-called timber harversters that run to ten tonnes or more in weight and with their wheels, which often have large cleats on them, which compact the soil to a depth of a foot. No fungi or invertebrate can live in soil of that kind.

As far as farming for food production, especially as regards to vegetables and fruit, the small farm is more efficient than the huge industrial farms. While the former may be somewhat more labor intensive the latter are polluting the environment from machinery exhaust fumes to chemicals used for all manner of things, often massively overused.

Many of the “officials” in the farming industry, in the the ministries, especially in the industrialized countries, claim that only large farms have a future and can feed the nation and the world. This is utter baloney as most of those farms can only exist by means of massive subsidies from the tax payer.

The system of the small farms that have returned to Russia, the former USSR, and the fact that those small farms, the Dachas (and no, the dachas are not – in the main – holiday homes) produce the majority of all fruit and vegetables sold and consumed in Russia.

In most industrialized countries we are dealing with Nature, in our factory farming and -forestry operations, as if She were a factory floor. But She is not. She is a living organism that requires a completely different approach and handling than the one that we have, over the years, been using.

We throw chemicals at the soil trying to have it yield more and more and still more, without ever properly caring for the soil. In addition to that we spray this pesticide and that against this or that pest and against weeds, which are now also classified as pests, it would seem, and many of those chemicals in turn appear to be killing our bees in a direct or indirect way. It really does not matter in which way it happens; without bees we will have no crops, with a few exceptions.

All those chemicals, aside from damaging the soil and our pollinators also leach into the water courses and into the air causing still further damage. And that is aside from the pollution from the heavy machines that drink diesel like sponges take up water.

Most smallholdings and small farms, on the other hand, whether in the Third World or elsewhere, such as in Russia, and other places, often are from the start working the organic method, which we could also call “the way farming was done before agrochemicals”, and thus have a much smaller environmental footprint and are far less polluting (if at all), and it is that that we need.

© 2017

Why upcycling must become an economic sector

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sinnlos sammeln und sortieren - recycling bins1Upcycling is, in general, the process where (at least) some of the shape and properties of the original waste product are retained – though not always, and we will come to that later – and where another useful product is produced from it. Though at times it might also (just) be a decorative item or a piece of art.

Ideally, however, upcycling should be about turning an item of waste into a useful item and product rather than a work of “art”. Although there are times when making artworks out of such waste is the only answer to throwing it and that is still better then than not doing that.

So why should upcycling become an economic sector then, you may ask, and part, the first part, probably, of the waste management economy.

Because recycling, as it is being done at this the present time, simply does not cut it. So-called recycling, and I am talking here about commercial recycling, mostly recycles nothing really but only downcycles. The problem with our current way of recycling is that it, actually, destroys the “waste” product and more often than not this product is not recycled but downcycled.

Glass is a prime example here where in the majority of instances, aside from being broken into fragments anyway in the first case, it is ground down to make road aggregate, a glass sand, rather than new glass. In other words they are turning it almost into the material that glass is made from in the first place, namely sand. But, as all the colors are being mixed together it is not possible to make new glass products from them, or so they say. Why not make multicolored glass tumblers and such?

Many other “waste” products in commercial recycling also are downcycled rather than properly recycled into what they originally were, hence recycling should always be the very last resort to turn to when everything else has failed. But, for some unexplainable reason, there is no infrastructure there for a proper reuse and upcycling economy, so to speak, and everyone concentrates in commercial recycling on what actually is downcycling.

Post-consumer waste paper, in most cases, is not made into new paper for writing, printing and books, but rather into packaging materials, and also paper insulation for buildings. Unlike in the German Democratic Republic where post-consumer waste paper became new paper for school exercise books, for books and for newspapers, elsewhere it is generally not post-consumer waste paper, or only between thirty to fifty percent. The rest is made up of pre-consumer waste, that is to say waste from the paper manufacturing industry and even virgin pulp. True 100% recycled paper from post-consumer waste paper is very rare and then only used for printing books, predominately paperbacks.

100% recycled sounds very good but in many cases it just is not true. This also goes for many “100% recycled” plastic products. Some beverage brands claim to have 100% recycled plastic (or 100% plant-based plastic) but when one reads the small print then one finds that the contents of the recycled (or the plant-based) is less that 40%. That does not equate 100%.

The problem is that post-consumer plastic, when remade, is not of a good enough quality for many new products, with the exception of the likes of garden furniture, and products such as benches, and others, that are made from so-called “plastic wood”. But that is a different story.

That is why upcycling has to become a main part of the equation also and especially on a commercial level, from small independent craftspeople to SMEs as recycling does recycle very little and mostly downcycles the materials. This may be good, to some extent, for the large operators and their shareholders but not for the Planet.

Some of us may have already seen the little gadget and “trick” about turning PET bottles into string that makes for an extremely strong rope. There is potential in small and larger scale recycling or upcycling of such bottles (yes, in this instance the original shape is not retained) and using the material thus garnered to make ropes, but also woven products such as mats, and others. And that is just via one simple method.

Making furniture and other things from pallet and pallet wood, as well as other “waste” wood, one could call recycling but, even this, as with the PET bottle being turned into a string, is more of an upcycling process as a product of a higher use value is being made. We are cycling the product up rather than re or down. Each and every time that we are making something better out of an item of waste rather than the same or a lower product we are upcycling.

While recycling, if it were done “properly”, is, no doubt, important upcycling is by far better and reuse, and the rest of the Rs that were discussed in a precious piece, also. That is because recycling simply, on a commercial level at least, is not done the right way, and only leads to products of a lower value and grade. It is for that reason that upcycling must become an economic activity and sector. There is a great deal of scope for it and as those products, in the main, will be made by hand they will also be made to last – or so, at least, one should hope, so as to break the cycle.

An example for an upcycling company is US-based TerraCycle, though the making of the products is outsourced to places such as Mexico, China, etc. TerraCycle “makes” a large range of different products from pre- and post-consumer waste. Another example would be Feuerwear, based in Germany, who upcycle old fire hoses into a variety of bags and such. Aside from those two there are others from very small to larger businesses in other countries, including (and especially) Third World countries, that are upcyclers, who upcycle things like bicycle inner-tubes, etc., but even combined all of those together they are but a drop in the ocean. That is to say we need more of them, many more, and upcycling must become a serious economic activity.

© 2017

Regrowing vegetables from kitchen scraps

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Leaf cabbage regrown from root_webYes, it does work. At least with some vegetables. Potatoes are the most prolific ones in that department and they seem to be able to grow from even the smallest parts left, for instance, in compost. That is how I end up with potatoes growing in many of the containers in which I grow other vegetables – I only garden in containers, at home, basically – where I never planted them. Even after two to three years in the composter those scraps are still viable.

Other vegetables, however, can (also) be grown from scraps in different ways. Though I have to add a caveat and that is that some will regrow and others won't and that of the same type even.

Celery: The bottoms of stalk celery often will regrow and will then keep producing new celery stalks. I have done it more than once but also managed to kill them more than once. How I killed them? I have no idea.

Cabbage: I have tried this successfully with the bottom of a shop-bought leaf cabbage (a savoy kind of cabbage) and while it took some while (a couple of weeks) it works to regrow new leaves in head formation though they will never set proper heads again, and even multiple “heads” may appear.

Theoretically, more than likely, all cabbages will regrow from such scraps though I cannot entirely vouch for that not having tried and done it. Proper heads, however, even if it was a “head” cabbage will not form again. Or so the theory goes.

Spring Onion: Put the bottoms of those, the bulbs, for you really, theoretically and practically only use the green bits (just like large chives), into a pot and they will regrow. Keep cutting and using the green regrowth.

I have also been running a trial to regrow radishes, for the leaves though as they can be eaten, for new radishes will not happen, by having planted the tops in pots. A couple, unfortunately, died but while others did grow and that quite well. The leaves can be used in stews and such, though they also could be used in salads but they are quite peppery in taste.

Lettuces, of all different kinds, apparently, can also be regrown from the bottom bits but I have not, as yet, experimented in that department as I am not the greatest lettuce fan, even though being vegetarian.

Apparently there are also several others that can be regrown, such as turnips (from their bottoms), as well fennel (also from the base), as well as onions (from root base, though it more often than not does not work), garlic, and apparently even mushrooms can be regrown from the stalk. Will have to give that a try some day.

Maybe it is just a case of experimenting with what can be regrown from scraps (not seeds) – or from cuttings, such as in the case of basil. There may be more there than we are aware of. Most herbs can be regrown from cuttings, but then again those cuttings are not really kitchen scraps.

Then there are others that can be regrown from the seeds that we discard as scraps in the kitchen, such as bell peppers, and as well as others. Getting bell peppers to grow properly in the British or similar climes is not too easy though.

Come on, give it a try. I sure will try more.

© 2017

Plastic packaging – the bane of the modern world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Platic_Tub_Waste1_webAlmost everything that we buy today is packaged in plastic and sometimes double and treble. And the greatest bane, at least in my opinion, is the plastic that is hollow formed into different shapes, whether as dishes, trays, or the shape of an apple or orange and then they are stuck into them individually. Aside from the fact that many of those packages have no secondary use in any way they also take up a lot of space in the bin.

There are some of those though that can be reused and repurposed but very few seem to see the potential. I am thinking here specifically of the bowls and such for prepacked ready-made salads, the apple and other fruit snacks, and such like. Those are bowls that could easily be given a second life by being reused. The plastic often enough is not a bad strength at all and food grade and thus those items could serve in the kitchen and/or elsewhere. (The one in the picture has now got a second life).

While it would be good if we could get away from plastic packaging altogether – which is not all that likely to happen – making use of as much of it as possible is the way to go, I think. Packaging designers too could help here somewhat more in that they could create plastic packaging (and packaging in general, including glass) that would automatically and obviously have a second use. This was the case once, for glass, and should be again and also for such plastic containers. It is not rocket science. But, I assume, that even then the majority would still treat it in the same way as they do now, as disposables. But then they even treat plastic products that they have bought as disposables when they take them on picnics. Somewhere along the line some people definitely have lost the plot, and they didn’t even have an allotment.

© 2017

A warmer world may bring more local, less global, temperature variability

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

20424118_10209854490866312_555979097128336310_oMany tropical or subtropical regions could see sharp increases in natural temperature variability as Earth’s climate warms over coming decades, a new Duke University-led study suggests.

These local changes could occur even though Earth’s global mean surface air temperature (GMST) is likely to become less variable, the study shows.

“This new finding runs counter to the popular notion that as the climate warms, temperature variability will increase and weather will get more volatile everywhere,” said Patrick T. Brown, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who led the study while he was a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“Our research suggests a different scenario: Global unforced temperature variability will actually decrease, not increase, as Earth warms, but local decade-to-decade variability could increase by as much as 50 percent in some places,” Brown said.

Unforced, or natural, temperature variability can be caused by interactions between the atmosphere, ocean currents and sea ice. These fluctuations can either mask or exacerbate human-caused climate change for a decade or two at a time, he noted.

Because billions of people live in tropical or subtropical regions that may experience increased temperature variability, and because these regions are critical for biodiversity, food production and climate regulation, “it’s vital that we understand the magnitude of unforced decade-to-decade variability that could occur there, and the mechanisms that drive it,” he said.

Brown and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed paper Sept. 4 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

To conduct the study, they first inspected a climate model run under pre-industrial conditions. The model, which was developed at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, simulates climate under perpetual atmospheric conditions similar to those experienced on Earth before the widespread emission of industrial greenhouse gasses. This allows scientists to get a clearer picture of the forces that cause variability in the absence of human drivers.

“To isolate unforced variability, we looked at the model’s output without changing any of its environment parameters, such as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, solar radiation or volcanic activity, over a theoretical 900-year timespan,” Brown explained.

On the second run, the scientists doubled the model’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to simulate projected future conditions.

“In the doubled-CO2 run, we saw a 43 percent decrease in global temperature variability, but with local increases of up to 50 percent in many land regions of the tropics and subtropics,” Brown said.

Consistent results were obtained using similar experiments on other climate models.

What’s happening, Brown said, is as Earth warms because of increasing CO2, there is less ice at high latitudes, which means less albedo – the less reflection of solar energy back into space.

“Albedo feedback is a large contributor to decade-to-decade unforced variability. When Earth’s atmosphere naturally gets a bit warmer, more of the reflective sea ice at high latitudes melts. This exposes more water, which absorbs solar energy and amplifies the initial warming, enhancing the GMST variability,” he explained. “But we found that when you double the CO2 levels in a climate model to mimic future conditions, the sea ice melts so much that this albedo feedback can no longer play a large role in amplifying natural temperature variability.”

The end result is less variability globally – especially in the high latitudes – but more variability in the tropics.

“This suggests that the pre-industrial control runs we have been using are not ideal for studying what unforced variability will look like in the future,” said Wenhong Li, associate professor of climate at Duke’s Nicholas School. “But it might inspire more modeling groups to run models under perpetual conditions that reflect what we expect in the future.”

Yi Ming of Princeton University and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Spencer A. Hill of UCLA and the California Institute of Technology co-authored the new paper with Brown and Li.

Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense the National Science Foundation.

However, there are, more than likely, also other events and happenings that can and must be blamed for what is happening. The tilt of the axis of the Earth, which occurred somewhere around two years or so ago and which also the Inuit in Alaska have observed and reported, from celestial observations, and the change in the Earth's magnetic field, also play a part here.

Furthermore the Earth has, through the ages, gone through natural changes in climate or why does anyone think that the Danes, aka Vikings, called Greenland Greenland? No, they were not colorblind. When they arrived there the place was covered in forests and meadows.

When the Romans were in the British Isles they grew grapes for wine all the way to Hadrian's Wall but when they left – finally – around the 6th century they did so not just because the Empire was falling apart but also and especially because the climate was getting rather cold and damp. But not half a century later Leif Eriksson landed in Newfoundland and was, according to Viking Sagas, presented with sweet lack grapes by the Natives there. Sweet black grapes in Newfoundland? Well, apparently so.

Whatever the reason, the climate of our Planet is in flux – not that it has not always been – and undergoing changes at the present which will, more than likely, lead to serious weather extremes the pinpointing and predicting of which will be almost impossible.

Instead of huffing and puffing we must, aside from seeing as to whether we can mitigate and even reverse it, though if at least some part of it is natural then that we won't be able to change, prepare for any event. But preparing for a possible – or even inevitable – change no one seems to want to do.

The Earth, has trough time, gone through cataclysmic climate events and changes and it could just be that the Great Flood, of which is talk in the Bible and the Scriptures of other religions, which befell the Earth more than likely is one of those.

While such events were catastrophic then it would and will be more so today with the amount of people on the Planet and our dependence of infrastructure and all. But, as said, it would appear that no one, especially no one in government, will want to admit this possibility and that we need to make preparations. Noah's Ark, more than likely, tough, is out of the question.

© 2017

Crude oil prices continue to fall drastically

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Dachas1_webCrude Oil Prices continue to fall drastically and some investment banks predict the recent stockpile drops with continue after the summer season ends. As growing US output could reverse the inventory trend later this year.

Despite this, however, energy companies have and are increasing their prices claiming high the wholesale price of oil and gas being the reason for the price hike. We must, therefore, come to the conclusion that either the prices for oil (and gas) are falling and the companies are lying to us or that the analysts are wrong; take your prick. Nor, I am sure, has the motorist noticed any reduction in the price at the pumps. It always amazes me that when the costs go up the prices immediately do too but when they go down, the costs that is, there is barely a downward movement, at least not a significant one in line with the drop in costs.

The Bank of England voted to keep their Interest Rates low and cut it's forecast for growth and wages as it warned that Brexit was weighing on the country and previous speculation was over-estimated. This gloomier outlook has impacted on the strength of the Pound, with Sterling hitting a nine month low against the Euro shortly after the announcement.

Prices in UK shops fell slightly faster in July, say the statisticians, though not that most shoppers would have noticed, than a month before but are likely to pick up again later this year. As a result of the increased cost of imports after Brexit, food prices were pushed up, however, contrasting to the deflationary trend of the last 4 years due to supermarket price wars, say the “experts”.

So, the food prices were pushed up with the increased costs after Brexit, even though we actually have not left the EU and the customs unions as yet. So who is trying to make a quick buck out of something that has not, as yet, happened?

While it may be true that import costs for food (and other things) have somewhat increased due to the Pound having fallen in value in comparison to the Euro there seem to be some things that do not completely add up.

On the other hand it shows, yet again, that our dependence on food imports is not a sustainable position and that we must produce more food for home consumption. But farmers seem to be, often, more concerned out exporting their produce and animals rather than with the home market. Each and every time we hear them on the radio, for instance, they are worried that Brexit will impact on their exports. What they seem to all forget is what the job of the farmer is, namely to produce food for the people in the country. Export should only be a secondary thought, as to exporting surplus that cannot be sold at home.

© 2017

Growing Self-Sufficiency – Book Review

Enjoy chicken, eggs, fruit, veg? A simple way to grow your own

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Growing Self-Sufficiency
Realize your dream and enjoy producing your own fruit, vegetables, egg and meat.
By Sally Nex
Published by Green Books September 2017
240 pages, paperback, 255mm x 205mm
ISBN: 9780857843173

Growing-Self-suffiencyGrowing Self-Sufficiency is a practical and inspirational guide for both the beginner and the experienced gardener. It explains how you can enjoy the satisfaction and pride of providing food for yourself and your family, whether you have just a small balcony or back yard, a large garden, or a homestead or smallholding.

Learn how to:

  • Enjoy fresh and tasty vegetables in season
  • Grow delicious fruit for eating all year round
  • Produce your own chicken, eggs and lamb, guaranteed free from harmful chemicals and additives
  • Preserve your produce – from freezing and drying to making jams, chutneys and pickles
  • Make your own drinks: juices, cordials, cider, wine and liqueurs
  • Grow medicinal herbs and make your own herbal remedies
  • Provide more food from your plot than you ever thought possible!

If you ever feel a pang of guilt as you look at the label on your food, realizing that it has traveled thousands of miles to get to your dinner table, then Sally Nex’s Growing Self-Sufficiency will inspire you to make the change and shrug off of the type of 'salad crisis' we had this winter when shop shelves were bare and produce was rationed.

But not only have your fruit and vegetables from abroad traveled long distances. Even the “fresh” fruit and vegetables that you buy at the greengrocers and which do come from the UK have first been heading from the farm to the large wholesale markets and then, via some other buyers, to the greengrocers in your city, town or village, even if the fruit and veg have been grown virtually next door. That is the way the market operated, unfortunately.

Then there is the thought of the additives that keep vegetables artificially fresh for so long. Now think how much healthier you will be and how much needless pollution you will prevent by eating the most local of food, namely that that you have grown yourself.

Sally’s unique three pot method will guarantee you a supply of tasty, inexpensive home-grown food throughout the year. Not just helping to save the planet, it will help to save money too and Sally has plenty of tips on how you can feed your family at only a fraction of the cost. She explains how you can:

  • start a vegetable plot on your balcony
  • create a herb garden on your windowsill
  • grow a mini orchard in pots

This book deals with about every aspect of growing and raising your own food, as well as preserving the harvest, collecting seeds, etc.

The 240 page are jam packed with information on every aspect of home grown and the advice about growing in containers should be of interest to all those that do not have much of garden space, by way of ground in which to grow things.

Personally I almost exclusively garden in containers though my containers are all kinds of things, from tree pots and tubs of various sizes, all the way up to shopping carts, and everything else in between, such as window boxes, hanging baskets, and any other kind of receptacle that can be repurposed into a growing container.

"Taking control of your own food is one of the easiest ways to tread lighter on the earth: as easy, in fact, as planting a seed." Sally Nex

Sally Nex has been feeding her family with home-grown fruit, vegetables and preserves for the last 20 years or so, as well as eggs from a motley gaggle of hens and more recently, lamb from her small flock of rare-breed sheep.

It all started with a few beans in a concrete handkerchief of city garden in London, but an allotment, job change, house move and several rented fields later, it's probably true to say the 'hobby' is well out of hand.

In 2006 she left 15 years as a journalist on BBC radio, television and World Service to devote her time to horticulture. She is qualified in horticulture to RHS Level 3, and has a planting design diploma from Capel Manor College. Sally now writes, teaches and gives talks about veg growing and self-sufficiency all over the country and is a regular writer and columnist for BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, the RHS journal The Garden, Grow Your Own, and The Guardian.

As far as self-sufficiency is concerned we all have to bear in mind though that, to all intents and purposes, no one can ever be truly self-sufficient in all things, and that includes growing food.

© 2017

Dead-simple pocketknife is the best

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ndeg06_carbone_web (1)A dead-simple pocketknife is the best to carry, especially on a daily basis, and the Opinel fits that bill on all levels.

Over the years I have owned and used many different pocketknives, some of them not directly cheap, single and multi-bladed, but I have found none as good and reliable than the first kind that I ever owned (or one of the first ones, for my very first was a different one, if I remember, but I was given that as a rather small boy of five), the Opinel. The next one that I was given was an Opinel #6, about two years later, and an Opinel #6 or #8, the latter though rarely, has been a constant companion ever since.

Many of us, outdoorsmen, bushcrafters, and such, seem to be gadget lovers when it comes to knives and other things and many seem to believe that the bigger the blade(s) and the more of them the better. The bigger the better belief is also there as regards to size when it comes to fixed-bladed knives. I seem to be an exception as I don't run after all those gadgets and such and neither do I like knives that are too big, unless I want to use a machete.

However, the best blade is the one that is just big enough for the job and your knife, whether belt knife or pocketknife is not a hatchet or a machete; it is a knife; simple.

The Opinel #6 is my daily-carry-knife, and has been for very many years, and that for more reasons than one. The main one, nowadays, is that carrying any knife – even a folding one – with a cutting edge longer than 3-inches can get one into very hot water with the police. Another the fact that the knife is big enough for almost all jobs that require a knife; a bigger one is not, actually, needed on a day-to-day basis. Then there is the fact that is is light and handy and I just love the lock and the wooden handle.

I do have many other pocketknives as well – I have sort of got a few over the years – but when it comes to it my first choice is always the Opinel, but never bigger than the #8 to be very honest though. As indicated, the #6 is the one that is always with me.

And to make sure that I have one definitely with me at all times I have, because there was not one available to buy – made my own sheath for it (see picture) that enables me to carry it around the neck. Well, I guess even if I could have bought a sheath of this kind I would have still made it myself, as I do love working with leather, as well as with wood. Not only do I make such and other leather goods for myself. Nay, I also make those and others to order.

Neck holster for Opinel #6As far as performance of this dead-simple pocketknife goes the Opinel is, in my opinion, though not just in mine alone, I understand, second to none. All Opinel from #6 upwards come with the rotating ring lock and I have yet to be able to break that lock. I have managed to break the handle at the lock before through misuse and abuse but not the lock itself, unlike with some, even expensive lock-back knives. And in the latter case(s) with very little abuse, so to speak.

The design of the Opinel is timeless and has changed little since its inception, with the exception of the introduction, in the mid-1950s, of the Virobloc rotating lock, and then at the beginning of the 21st century the redesign of this lock so the blade can also be locked in the closed position. Otherwise, generally, it has not change since almost day one. But then why change something that works and works well.

The KISS system is always best, especially when the tool is to be used in the great outdoors, or even not not so great one. It is because of its simplicity and reliability, I am sure, that the German forest schools use the smaller lockable Opinel knives, that is to say the No.6 and the No.7 versions, and that in the standard blade and not the child's version, and we are talking here about those blades being used by children between 4 and 6 years of age. That speaks volumes for the knives' safety.

The Opinel pocketknife embodies the KISS system in its design, reliability and simplicity, to its fullest and makes it the ideal day-to-day companion, and not just in the outdoors. I don't think that it can be beat and definitely not as far as quality and value for money is concerned, considering the relatively low price that it is being sold for. Generations of French mountain people can't be wrong to having stuck with the Opinel knife.

© 2017

The Scent of Time – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Scent of Time cover_Blog

The scent of time
A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering
By Byung-Chul Han
Published 1st September 2017 by Polity Books (Part of Wiley)
Paperback 146 pages
Price: £9.99
ISBN 9781509516056

In his philosophical reflections on the art of lingering, acclaimed cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han argues that the value we attach to ceaseless activity is producing a crisis in our sense of time. The hyperactivity which characterizes our daily routines robs human beings of the capacity to linger and the faculty of contemplation. It therefore becomes impossible to experience time as fulfilling.

Han argues that we can overcome this temporal crisis only by relearning the art of lingering. For what distinguishes humans from other animals is the capacity for reflection and contemplation, and when life regains this capacity, this art of lingering, it gains in time and space, in duration and vastness.

Drawing on a range of thinkers including Heidegger, Nietzsche and Arendt, Han argues that we can overcome this temporal crisis only by relearning the art of lingering. For what distinguishes humans from other animals is the capacity for reflection and contemplation, and when life regains this capacity, this art of lingering, it gains in time and space, in duration and vastness.

Byung-Chul Han is a Korean-born Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies who teaches at the University of the Arts in Berlin. He is the author of more than 20 books. Polity has committed to translating his work into English, and The Scent of Time will shortly be followed by Saving Beauty, which also publishes in Fall 17, and other titles in 2018.

While the notion of this book about the need for deceleration of our lives is good and true the book itself is very much a serious philosophical work that is not something for the reader looking for a how-to approach. It is also rather heavy reading so not s book for anyone thinking to get a light read for bedtime.

Many of the points made are extremely valuable and important though it would have been good if G-d would have been left out of the discussion. Alas, time and again the author harps on about G-d in the book.

Notwithstanding the above our lives have become far too hectic and fast and we seem to want to go faster and faster still. In doing so we miss the entire point. More productivity say the capitalists, more growth, more experiences. But what for? For our own sake and for that of the Planet we need to slow down life and everything that goes with it.

© 2017

Needs and wants and being frugal

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

21034533_1455313397883264_6962462607872370993_nVery often wants are mistaken for needs and on other levels a want culture is being and has already been created where even the smallest child screams that he wants that because he needs it.

Parents must start here by putting a stop to such demands but instead of doing that they just give in to each and every demand of the child believing that the child would be disadvantaged if he does not get what he wants. By allowing this to happen they are responsible, and this has been going on for some decades already, of creating, and having created, the entitlement culture that we have today.

Also to blame are, obviously, but to some extent only for the power lies elsewhere, the advertisers whose commercials create in the viewer, child and adult alike, depending who it is target towards, the belief that they need this things shown to be happy or more fulfilled, or whatever. That it costs them dearly more than likely on more than one level the person in whom this desire is aroused rarely recognizes.

The true difference between needs and wants are that needs are, to an extent, but a few, wants, on the other hand, can be and are legion.

The child wants this or that, be it a toy, or whatever, the parent gives in and gets it for him and then, how long does the interest in whatever it was last? If it is a bicycle then, maybe, almost for ever, but when it comes to toys and such, often no more than a couple of days after which he gets “bored” with it and demands yet another one.

Oh, I was a child myself (obviously) and, although the “I want” better was not something that was said in a demanding voice or reinforced with a tantrum, and “I want” actually was better not said at all; more a “I'd like that?” or “Can I have one of those?” and it might happen. Though most of the time it didn't and I would be told to go and do some jobs and earn the money to get it. We didn't have much in the way of money coming in when I was a kid and I learned to appreciate the value of things.

I did just that in the case of roller-skates. Every kid on the block, almost, had a pair and I just needed to have a pair too. Oh yes, I needed a pair though a need it definitely was not but. Found some jobs to do for people against payment and I managed to get the money together and bought a pair. That was a bad move. Why? Because I just could not get on with them at all and after a few tries gave up, put them away, and they were never even looked at again. That also taught me a great lesson.

Over time I learned that what I really needed was different to that what I wanted and soon learned that the fancy stuff that everyone wanted to have I actually did not need – and also could not afford to have and want. That does not mean that over time I have not bought some (more) white elephants. Some of my kitchen gadgets speak for it, such as the deep fat fryer (used probably four or five times), the juicer (oh what a rigmarole cleaning it), and one or two others.

But there were those toys that I made for myself like my catapult, or that wooden tractor that an “uncle” had made for me and that got repaired so many times. How I loved that tractor and to this day I wish I had kept, just for the sake of it. Those really got used. Same as tin can stilt, wooden stilts, and so on. Well, and not to speak of the bicycle that I was given. It may have been a secondhand one but to me it might as well have been the most expensive one in the world. Those things I used day in and day out.

The catapult (slingshot) for instance was with me every day and I practiced with it every spare minute and hunted with it for the pot. We also made our own toys out of bits of wood, things from the forest and things found in the trash and we played more with those things than we ever did with store-bought toys. And I think we also looked after the things we made for ourselves or which someone had made for us much better than after those gotten from a store – with the few exception of expensive things that we bought ourselves from hard-earned money.

The same goes for fashion, aka clothing, whether the Nike (or whatever brand may be in fashion at the very moment) baseball cap. The gimme-hat from the country show, that often are given out for free, are just as good only that you are advertising a brand of tractor or something of that nature. OK, it might not have the right “street cred” but so what. It meets your need for a hat and that's what counts.

Saving money is the main part of being frugal and if you can’t make something yourself then look at getting it second-hand/used and this is the same with clothes as with other things such as a bicycle or whatever.

When I was a kid we all wore hand-me-downs that came from other peoples’ children and also many of our toys came that way too if we did not make them ourselves or got them made for us. There is absolutely nothing wrong with good second-hand clothes or other goods.

While clothes from the charity shop may not be the latest fashion they more often than not are good quality and that at a small fraction of the cost. With the exception of certain clothes, such as socks and undergarments, all my stuff comes from charity shops and my wardrobe is well stocked; overstocked in fact.

I take the greatest pleasure on the frugality front though in making things I need and want from things that otherwise might be thrown away or which have been thrown away and I do take that, probably, to the extreme. But so be it, as far as I am concerned.

Anything and everything that can be reused, reworked and upcycled is on that list. Reuse here applies to reusing an item of waste that can be used for this or that purpose, which would be more repurposing than reuse, as much as something that someone has thrown away and which still works well, such as in the case of a multi-tool that came into my possession in that way.

Reworking and upcycling is a somewhat different kettle of fish to reuse and it all depends of what comes my way here, be that items of waste at home or stuff found, but I look at everything with an eye for doing just that and see what I can make from it and out of it for my own use or even, hopefully, for sale.

So much of what the general population sees as “waste” is transformable into something useful or into art. Personally I prefer the useful side rather than that of artworks but, if all else fails, then artworks are still better than landfill, especially if it is something decorative that one might actually want to have in the home or office.

© 2017

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