Greening our lives

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

No paint required but action, commitment and small acts have great impact.

greening-our-lives1It is about greening your life and not about you on your own changing the world. But in doing what you can do in your small corner and others doing their bit, in their own small ways, like you yourself, we, together, can and will change the world. We can do it! Yes, we can!

Each and every revolution and especially evolution, for this is what it must be, has started and starts with small beginnings. Small acts, combined by millions, can and will bring about a change. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Do not wait for others to start or lead.

Creating a better world by looking after our Planet and Earth's children, all of them, can be done if we all, especially the 99%, those that need this change to benefit from it, work in small ways to make this happen, even on one's own in one's own small corner and ways.

So, now let us look a some of those small ways and acts that, combined with others doing the same, can have a great impact. If you do not believe that small things can have a great impact try spending a night with a mosquito in the room.

Reuse, repurpose and upcycle

Yes, I know, I keep harping on about reuse but that is one of the most important aspects of managing waste. Not reduction or recycling. The former we, as individuals, have very little to no control over and the latter is the last resort for when you have to toss things into the recycling bin you have already lost and so has the Planet.

Waste, and especially packaging waste, is something that we come across at a daily basis by the tonne, well almost, and many things that we often toss without a second thought into the trash or the recycling bin – and is this really being recycled or are the powers-that-be on a local and national level just creating an impression that this is so, as often seems to be the case – can be reused, repurposed and upcycled saving us money and doing good also for the Planet by keeping those items out of the waste stream.


Yes, this is another one of those things that can have a profound impact, especially when you incorporate reuse and such for “raw materials” from which to make your own things.

Making your own rather than going to the stores – I know the latter is easier than the former – is much more rewarding, I think, and also you get want you want and not just something that is sort of what you want.

Reusing, and especially repurposing and upcycling, is already DIYof sorts though there are time where other materials must be gotten. Still better (and cheaper often) than buying in the store and then, maybe, not really getting what you want.

Don't be a follower of fashion

And I do not here just mean here in this context being a follower, or not being one, of fashion in the textile and clothing sense but also of fashion of other kinds. I here include not to be desiring the latest cellphone or whatever else.

After all it's a phone, stupid, and you don't have to carry all of your life, so to speak, around with you on and in that device.

Fashion, as far as clothes go, is also not a very good idea to follow. Why would anyone? Woman or man? Clothes, and especially fashion, does not make you.

Reduction of energy consumption

Winter: In order to save heating costs reduce your thermostat setting to 18 deg C (just under 65F). That is warm enough for everyone as long as they do not insist going about in the nude.

Summer: Forgo the air-conditioning and open some windows instead, even as far as creating a through draft. In addition wear as few clothes as possible and even go sans clothes indoors.

Laundry: Dry your laundry on a line outdoors. If your area is prone to rain then consider building a drying porch where the clotheslines are entirely under cover, allowing for wind drying and during sunny times hang clothes on another set of lines in the sun. In winter do as our ancestors did and dry by the stove (or on the radiators).

A great deal is often made about so-called phantom energy hogs and thus it is always recommended to unplug chargers for devices and such like. However, in tests I have found that the energy that they consume is miniscule if at all measurable, and that even with a number of them plugged in. Today's chargers, more often than not, are so-called intelligent chargers which means that they turn themselves off when the battery of a device is fully charged or when an appliance is not in use. Thus clambering around under the desk and such to unplug it is not really necessary. There are many other things you can do to reduce your energy consumption by a far greater amount that are much better.

As regards to loose summer clothing learn from the Mexicans and the native people of the hot countries. The sarong, for instance, as worn in Malaysia or Bangladesh would be an answer for those who do not like the idea of going entirely sans clothes, and yes, even for the male of the species.

Drive less or not at all

Cycle and walk instead

Change of diet

A predominately plant-based diet with some animal products such as milk, butter, cheese and eggs.

Far too many people seem to believe that they are called upon, when we talk about greening our lives, to change the world single-handed. Because of that being not possible they often fail, get disheartened and fall by the wayside, when they do not achieve the goals that they have set themselves.

Many, a great many in fact, also seem to believe that going green is expensive. “Don't you have to buy all those green things, recycled products, and all that, to be green”, they think and even often ask. The answer is: “No! You do not”. It is not and should not be expensive. Going green, in fact, should not cost you money but save you lots (in the long run). The idea is to buy as little as possible and reuse, repurpose, upcycle and otherwise make things yourself.

But just consider the savings, though they may not be huge, you can by reusing this or that item of what others consider waste, such as glass jars for storage or even as drinking vessels, making your own notebooks from waste office paper, using the backs of envelopes for notes rather than a bought notepad, etc.

© 2014

UK's new energy and environment ministers opposed green energy

Matthew Hancock called for cuts to wind power subsidies while Liz Truss claimed renewable power was damaging the economy

Britain's new minister for energy, nusiness and enterprise, Matthew Hancock at 10 Downing Street  on July 15, 2014.The new set of Conservative environment and energy ministers announced on Tuesday bring a track record of opposing renewable energy, having fought against wind and solar farms, enthusiastically backed fracking and argued that green subsidies damage the economy.

New energy minister, Matthew Hancock, signed a letter to David Cameron in 2012 demanding that subsidies for onshore windfarms were slashed. “I support renewable energy but we need to do it in a way that gives the most value for money and that does not destroy our natural environment,” he said at the time.

Hancock, who takes over from Michael Fallon, also opposed new turbines in his Suffolk constituency, arguing: “The visual and other impact of the proposed turbines is completely unacceptable in this attractive rural corner of Suffolk.”

New environment secretary and former Shell employee, Liz Truss, dismissed clean renewable energy as “extremely expensive” and said it was damaging the economy during an appearance on BBC Question Time last October.

“We do need to look at the green taxes because at the moment they are incentivising particular forms of energy that are extremely expensive,” she said. “I would like to see the rolling back of green taxes because it is wrong that we are implementing green taxes faster than other countries. We may be potentially exporting jobs out of the country as our energy is so expensive.”

In 2009, as deputy director of the free-market thinktank Reform, Truss said energy infrastructure in Britain was being damaged by politicians' obsession with green technology: “Vast amounts of taxpayers' money are being spent subsidising uneconomic activity," she said. Research from the London School of Economics recently concluded that green policies were not harming economic growth.

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GRÜNE JUGEND zu ARD-Dokumentation Exclusive im Ersten "Gequält, totgeschlagen und weggeworfen": Massentierhaltung stoppen

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Am 14. Juli 2014 wurde in der ARD-Sendung Exclusive im Ersten "Gequält, totgeschlagen und weggeworfen" Filmmaterial aus deutschen Ferkelställen gezeigt. Diese Bilder machen auf die aktuellen Zustände in deutschen Massentierhaltungsbetrieben aufmerksam.

Felix Banaszak, Bundessprecher der GRÜNEN JUGEND, erklärt: „Die Zustände in deutschen Schweinezuchtbetrieben sind ein Skandal. Die neuen Bilder aus der ARD-Dokumentation schockieren uns. Diese Bilder zeigen die Auswüchse eines Systems, das Tiere nicht mehr als Lebewesen anerkennt. Das gezielte Töten von Ferkeln, sowie das Stutzen von Schwänzen ohne Betäubung sind Straftaten. Die betreffenden Personen und Unternehmen müssen dafür zur Rechenschaft gezogen werden.“

Theresa Kalmer, Bundessprecherin der GRÜNEN JUGEND, weiter: „Das System der Massentierhaltung muss endlich ein Ende finden. Wir alle müssen Konsequenzen aus solchen Zuständen ziehen. Es kann nicht sein, dass hier Tiere gequält, totgeschlagen und weggeworfen werden, um die Lust nach Fleisch zu stillen. Ein Ende dieser Tierhaltung ist nur durch eine massive Reduktion von Fleischkonsum möglich. Wir fordern deswegen alle Menschen auf sich mehr vegetarisch und vegan zu ernähren.“

Und ich muss sagen, und hätte früher nie gedacht das ich das je machen würde, dem kann man sich nur anschliessen.


Impotent roosters wreak havoc in an industry that's already a mess

rooster closeup

Meat consumers are worried that there won't be enough chicken to go around, but there are much more important things to worry about.

The world’s largest poultry breeding company, Aviagen Group, has encountered aproblem with its roosters. Apparently, a certain genetic tweak has created an inclination in the roosters to overeat, making them impotent. (Breeders tweak the birds’ genetics on a regular basis.) This is problematic for the factory farming industry because these roosters – the standard Ross male – are responsible for fertilizing 25 percent of chickens raised for slaughter in the United States. The hatching failure rate is up to 17 percent from the usual 15 percent.

Meat-eating consumers are up in arms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in June that this year’s poultry production forecast has been lowered by 195 million pounds. At the same time, international demand for U.S. poultry is on the rise. Slate reports that the chicken shortage comes at an inconvenient time, since “a deadly pig virus has decimated the pork supply, while the domestic cattle herd is at its lowest level in more than 60 years.”

There are so many things wrong with this story that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, are people actually surprised that this problem has occurred? We have created a system in which animals are so genetically altered that they are incapable of reproducing without assistance. Despite factory farming’s claims of being necessary for feeding the hungry billions, it is the last system anyone should support if they genuinely care about feeding people sustainably over the long term.

Second, factory-farmed poultry has destroyed genetic diversity. It’s tragic that the impotence of a single rooster variety must have such a significant impact on the American poultry supply. Once upon a time, there were dozens of different chickens once raised for consumption (Jersey Giants, Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire breeds, etc.).

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10 ways to make your garden more green

community garden in DorsetHey green fingers, how green does your garden really grow? If you suspect that your pastoral idyll is breeding more toxic chemicals than prize hybrid-tea-rose bushes, then read on, my earth-moving friend. We'll have you footloose and pesticide-free yet, whether you're an intrepid landscape designer earnestly shaping topiaries to reenact the Fall of Troy or an apartment dweller content with a couple of potted begonias. The only question you need to ask yourself: Can you dig it?

Top Green Gardening Tips

1. Keep it real
You know what they say about Mother knowing best? Well, Mother Nature never needed to steal sips from a chemical cocktail of pesticides, weed killers, and chemical fertilizers to keep her act together. Nix the poisons and layer on some all-natural compost, instead. Call in beneficial insect reinforcements to wrestle pesky garden pests to the ground. Who needs to play Command & Conquer when you have battlefield drama unfolding before you in real time?

2. Make compost from kitchen scraps
Compost like a champ by throwing in your vegetable waste, instead of allowing it to be trucked off to the landfill. Known as "gardener's gold," compost enriches soil fertility by giving it a shot of high-powered, plant-loving nutrients. Aside from stimulating healthy root development, the addition of rich and earthy compost also improves soil texture, aeration, and water retention. Why waste your hard-earned cash on commercial products when the real deal is free for the taking? Speed up the process with the help of earthworms or go wriggle-free (if you're the squeamish sort).

3. Buy recycled
If your delicate aesthetic sensibilities balk at the idea of reusing yogurt or takeout containers to house your hydrangeas, check out the myriad environmentally friendly planters and raised-garden kits now available. It takes less energy to recycle something than to mine virgin materials, so whether you choose recycled copper, plastic, or even rubber to anchor your tender shoots, it's all copacetic. Admire your handiwork and eco-smarts while lounging on recycled lawn furniture.

4. Grow your own food
Buying organic produce can admittedly get pricey, so how about growing your own food instead of painstakingly manicuring that lawn for the umpteenth time? An estimated 40 million acres of the 48 contiguous American states are covered in lawns, making turf grass the United States' largest irrigated crop. American homeowners apply a cringe-worthy tens of millions of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides to their lawns, often at many times the recommended levels. All that for little more than ornamentation. It's time to return to the use of gardens as food sources--you won't find fresher (or cheaper) eating anywhere else.

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Reuse Week

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A National Reuse Week or an International Reuse Week is what we need.

Water Carafe w-glasses on tin tray_Reuse WeekJune 16 to June 22, 2014 saw another National Recycle Week in the UK though not that the majority of the population would have known about it that silent the media was with regards to this event; it did not even rate it a single column, nay, not even a single paragraph.

However, the focus is far too much on recycling and the mantra has become recycle, recycle more and then recycle more still, without considering the reuse option even.

This is a proposal to put reuse (repurposing and upcycling) firmly on a pedestal and center stage and make it into one of the main players in, and pillars of, waste management, as it should be.

Reuse, and its derivatives, repurpose and upcycling, is the most important part, as far as we, as individuals, are concerned, of (personal) waste management (and no, I am not talking about personal waste) as we have little to no influence on the reduction front, bar in the realm of food waste, and that also, predominately, at home.

However, it is in reuse that we, as individuals, can come into our own and shine in the realm of waste management. All it requires is to rediscover the ways of reuse of our ancestors. They are not rocket science and many of the old ones that are still alive can tell us a story or two from that front.

As it would appear, though, the reuse mindset and the skills that our grandparents and their parents had and took for granted have sadly gone missing today, the aim – or one of the aims – during the proposed national or even international Reuse Week would be to teach those by means of media, workshops, road shows, and such.

Reuse has become the stepchild of waste management never to be mentioned almost while it, in truth, should be one of the beloved children rather and kept close. Thus, let's give the child a home and give it some much needed love, which it deserves.

© 2014

Making the Most of One Acre

How Does Your Garden Grow? Sizing up our land and making the most of 1 acre.

My husband is a cultivator; it’s in his veins. By the time most people begin their Spring cleaning he is out tilling the ground and planning the upcoming year’s garden. When were looking to build a home all he knew specifically is that he wanted land. After a few years of searching and asking around, a coworker mentioned to me that her father-in-law was looking to sell an acre or so of his farmland. This acre happened to be on one of the most beautiful roads in our area. We became the owners of a little parcel of land and began the process of building our home.

In 2008, we took our first go at a garden. We moved into our home in 2006 but it took us about 2 years to get all of the rocks out of our dirt, grow grass, and add two more children to our growing family.

Gardening and homesteading has to start somewhere. Having long-term plans in manageable pieces helps keep a person sane. We knew that we wanted to grow everything from broccoli to fruit trees but with just the two of us, one of which was 7 months pregnant that summer, we needed to be realistic. Our first 576 square foot garden was cute at first. Everything had a place and space but come harvest in August it was really crowded, and ugly. Our garden did so well that we just hadn’t accurately projected just how large our full-grown plants would be. In spite of our naive attempt we produced more food than we knew what to do with. We found that growing food was easy, but preserving it was actually way more work.

In 2009 a friend came over with four of his small red raspberry plants and showed us how to plant them. He also took a look at the huge bushes on our property line and was excited to tell us that they were black elderberry. We celebrated that discovery, but also devised a plan to keep the small hands of our children away from the toxic raw elderberries. Those original four red raspberry plants have expanded into a complete 250 square foot hedgerow of bushes that line the south end of our property. These ever-bearing raspberries produce throughout the growing season and make some of the best preserves I’ve ever tasted!

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Basil downy mildew

Does your basil look like this? Then I'm sorry to say your plants are likely to have downy mildew, a fungal disease that's fatal to our favorite pesto ingredient. I found it on some of the Italian basil plants in my community garden plot yesterday, and had to pull them out. (Luckily I was able to bring them home, and throw the leaves into the food processor with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a touch of lemon juice. Humans - and pasta - are not affected by downy mildew.)

I'm hoping that prompt removal will mean the disease doesn't spread to my other basil plants, which are in a sunnier and airier location. Plant crowding is a big factor in susceptibility to downy mildew (along with wet weather), and my affected plants were a bit close to my peppers and my neighbor's encroaching tomatoes. We had downy mildew on basil in the demo garden a couple of years ago, and I noted the same crowding issue then. Also, it seemed that other types of basil - lemon, Thai, purple types - were less susceptible than Italian. Of course that's the kind I want most of!

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All About Growing Asian Greens

Learn how to grow Chinese cabbage, mizuna, bok choy and many other delicious Asian greens, plus get tips for harvesting, storage and seed saving

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page or check out our Food Gardening Guide app.)

From crunchy Chinese cabbage to buttery bok choy, Asian greens offer an array of flavors and textures for your fall table. Just a small plot of garden space can yield a bountiful assortment of leafy greens, crisp stems and even edible flowers. Most Asian greens prefer shorter, cooler days, so growing them is an easy way to keep producing your own food well into autumn.

Types to Try

Leafy greens of Asian ancestry include mustard cousins such as mizuna, mustard spinach and tatsoi. Red-leafed mustards and garland chrysanthemum offer more variations in flavor and texture.

Leaf ribs or crisp stems of Chinese cabbage and bok choy bring plenty of crunch to stir-fries and salads. Miniature forms of both are great for small gardens.

Tender flower buds come from special varieties of flowering brassicas, which may have a broccoli or a mustard pedigree.

See our chart of Asian greens for more information on these plants and a list of great varieties to try.

When to Plant Asian Greens

In late summer (six to 12 weeks before your first fall frost), sow seeds indoors or direct-sow them in the garden if the weather is hot and dry. Transplant seedlings when they are four weeks old. Some Asian greens can also be grown in spring, but because spring crops are prone to bolting, be sure to choose bolt-resistant varieties, which will hold in the spring garden about 10 days longer than other varieties.

How to Plant Asian Greens

All Asian greens grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Choose a sunny site, loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep, and thoroughly mix in a layer of mature compost. Sow seeds about 2 inches apart and a quarter inch deep, then water well to settle the seeds into the soil. After seeds germinate (often in less than five days), gradually thin them to proper spacing. Large Chinese cabbage, Chinese broccoli and flowering mustard should be thinned to 14 inches apart, but small bok choy plants do well with just 6 inches between plants.

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Local permaculturist creates sustainable food forest in Ypsilanti Township

To the untrained eye, Zeal Chen’s yard might look overgrown and unkempt. But ask her about any plant on her property and she’ll tell you what it is and how you can use it.

What Chen does is called permaculture, which comes from the idea of “permanent agriculture.” By working with nature, rather than manipulating it, Chen has planted a low-maintenance and sustainable forest of edible and medicinal plants throughout her property.

Chen’s plants include familiar garden fare like peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and herbs, as well as plants you won’t find in most conventional gardens: gooseberries, lovage, balloon flower, comfrey, Jerusalem artichoke and much, much more.

But when she moved into her house on Mansfield Street in Ypsilanti Township five years ago, she had a regular grass lawn. Originally, she didn’t think she could do much else because there are four very large trees on her property, shading much of the land.

“My husband and I looked into cutting one of the trees down but they told us it would be between $1,500 and $3,000 to do that,” Chen said. “And then to carry the wood out would be an extra charge.”

So she decided to look to permaculture, which is all about using what you already have.

“Instead of using a lot of energy to improve the area, we could do something else,” she said. “So I started to just observe to see what nature already does on its own.”

Chen comes from Taiwan, with a background in business. Before she had her house, she lived in apartments with little space to garden. Her interest in medicinal and edible plants grew from time she spent hiking through mountains in Taiwan- she wanted to know what plants to avoid and what she could eat, as a survival skill.

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