Biodegradability greenwash

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Biodegradable does not – necessarily – mean what people think it does.

BiodegradabilityWe are told that this plastic and that plastic, because it is made from or with plant-based polymers, is biodegradable. But what does biodegradability for plastic, including the vegetable-based plastic, mean? In short all – yes, all – plastic will biodegrade, but that does not mean that it will, miraculously, turn into harmless soil; it will not. And that includes the plant-based ones. They biodegrade, at least in Nature, in a similar way to ordinary plastic, namely into small, smaller and ever smaller plastic particles. Some of the plant-based ones may, in commercial hot composting plants be composted but not in the normal environment, not even in that that of a compost heap or even compost bin. The same also goes for compostable. It does not – necessarily – mean it will work in your compost heap. More than likely it will not.

It does not even work for the so-called compostable plastic liners for the food waste caddy. After two years they were still not composted in the home composter. Again they only work, if at all. in a commercial hot composting plant and not at home.

Another great villain in this department are the wet wipes of all kinds that are causing havoc in the sewers and sewer systems and waste water treatment plants. While it may says “flushable” and even biodegradable on the packs they are neither, regardless of what the manufacturers may claim to the contrary.

Today's tea bags also are – no longer – compostable as they are either entirely made of nylon, as in the case of at least one manufacturer in the UK, or partly. They still can, like the “compostable” waste food caddy liners, be found years after almost entirely whole in the compost heap. So they are not compostable either.

We encounter greenwash, it would seem, at almost every corner along the street, so to speak, and the companies even use this to push products on us at a higher price compared to the “ordinary” products because they have been greenwashed.

Plastics today are so ubiquitous that we almost cannot get away from them. A large, if not indeed the largest, percentage of all packaging is, well, plastic of some kind or the other. And, if and when we cannot avoid it we should – at least afterward – stop and think as to whether there is a way that we can use, reuse, repurpose or upcycle the packaging, be that a plastic jar, bottle or whatever, for something for our use or for someone else to use. Well before we even think of tossing the thing into the plastic recycling.

The other problem with so-called biodegradable plastics, the plant-based ones, is that they cannot be recycled into other plastic products, or at least with some difficulty, and that the that kind of polymer cannot be mixed successfully with oil-based polymers to make new products. Looks like we have shot ourselves in the foot here.

It would appear that probably the only way out of this dilemma would be to return to the ways of our grandparents and their parents, such as shopping loose products (not all that easy), taking our own shopping bags to the stores (very easy and simple), and so on and so forth. We certainly cannot rely on industry and not even government to tell us the truth, it would appear, nor it would seem, to make and bring about any positive changes.

© 2017

Scottish potato enthusiasts go for Gold Medal hat trick at Chelsea Flower Show


Morrice and Ann Innes of Newmachar, north of Aberdeen, have won a prestigious RHS Chelsea Gold Medal at the renowned annual Flower Show for the past two years. They are returning to the Great Pavilion this year in the hope of making it three in a row. What is unusual is that there are no flowers blooming on the Innes’ exhibit. Their stand, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, is a showcase of potatoes; a homage to the tuber.

The potato display aims to highlight the diversity and versatility of the nation’s favourite vegetable, whilst tracing the origins of some of the potatoes in Morrice’s extensive collection of some 500 varieties.

CHELSEA16 Potato Stand_TM use only copyright Thompson & Morgan_web

In 2015, Morrice and Ann won the first ever Chelsea Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history.

CHELSEA16 Innes photo_TM use only copyright Thompson & Morgan_webFrom l to r: John Marshall, Rhona Marshall, Ann Innes, Morrice Innes

Displayed on the stand this year will be a selection of Wild Solanum potato plants, grown by Morrice and Ann, and by Thompson & Morgan’s potato expert, Colin Randel, as well as around 150 potato varieties in all shapes and colours. According to Ann, there will also be some ‘weird and wonderful’ tubers of Solanum Tuberosum, cultivated from wild species of the group Stenotomum, as well as a selection of mini tubers which are in the early stages of new variety production.

The display will feature a new variety, Vizelle, which will be launched in September 2017 ready for the 2018 growing season. Vizelle will be available exclusively from Thompson & Morgan.

Based in Ipswich, Suffolk since 1855, Thompson & Morgan is the UK’s most successful horticultural mail order company.

It is the only mail order seed and plant specialist to develop its own plant lines in the UK. Due to the continued success of its breeding programme, the company has introduced more species and varieties to the British gardening public than any other mail order company in the industry.

Its product range includes an award-winning choice of seeds, young plants, bulbs, seed potatoes, onion and garlic sets, soft fruit and fruit trees, as well as an extensive range of gardening equipment and supplies. See the full range at

Source: Thompson & Morgan

Thriftiness in the garden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Top: Mushroom tray repurposed as a riddle. Bottom: Chopstick dibblet 

There are many methods to gardening on a fixed income and being thrifty has always been the way of the allotment gardeners, whether in Britain or in continental Europe such as Denmark and Germany. Often you had, and have, to be.

I have somewhat the tendency – well, more than somewhat really – to pick up all manner of things for reuse and repurposing in the garden (and elsewhere) and those even include abandoned shopping carts. I know that, theoretically, those carts are the property of the stores but when they are found and the stores in fact refuse to come and pick them up then what is one to do? So, lined with a variety of materials, but more often than not old builder's bags (ton bags), they become high planters and I found them especially good for growing carrots as the height is above the vector of the carrot root fly.

A small old stepladder found – no longer useable really as a ladder – is employed as a plant stand, and part of an old folding bed is currently awaiting the arrival, once they have come up and are ready to go out, of cucumber plants, in a planter, to act as a trellis for them.

Five liter and smaller PET water and soda bottles become, with their bottoms cut off, cloches for use outdoors to cover young plants when frost threatens, and indoors they become propagators for raising seedlings.

Although I generally do have many plastic plant pots in which to start my seedlings due to my work as a groundsman at a municipal park nevertheless pots from yoghurt, cream and sour cream, etc., all become, by drilling a drainage hole in the bottom, seed starting pots. Waste not, want not.

In a way, I can't help myself. I have always been a thrift-loving person for as long as I can remember. In fact, I guess I could say I was raised that way, which also is true. And, as far as I am concerned there is a certain thrill (unlike any other) that I get when I save money by utilizing something I found for free or make use of some kind of packaging waste or such. I also the excitement I get, the buzz, when my mind employs its ingenuity for to “design” some use for this or that.

Talking of designing (and making) I have also made a harvesting pot – belt-worn – from a plastic milk jug and am now looking at employing that selfsame, or similar plastic material, from other kinds of strong(er) plastic bottles (non-PET), from which to design and make tool holsters for secateurs, folding pruning saws and such like. We shall see how it goes. Shall report on that, no doubt, in due course.

I know I am strange but I prefer making things from waste materials – if possible – rather than buying something like this or other things.

As far as tools go I am a lucky guy that in being a garden writer I get quite a lot of them for review (or in press packs at events). If I have to buy tools, on the other hand, which is rather rare, then I prefer to go to flea-markets and look for good old tools that can be refurbished and thus rescued and put back to use for another generation or so.

For pricking out seedlings I have adapted a wooden chopstick – one of those that come with takeout Oriental meals, including sushi, and are often found discarded after picnics and such. But, in all honesty, you could just use a twig to do this job or a pencil or ballpoint pen. I just loved the idea of reusing, repurposing and to a degree upcycling that thrown-away chopstick.

And don't forget to pocket any bailing twine that you may find. That stuff comes very handy indeed for many jobs in the garden and the tool shed. Oh, and don't get me started on pallets and their many uses in the garden.

I highly recommend opening minds and seeing beyond the normal use for things before casting them aside or those that others have cast aside. Warning, however! Once you start you will see more and more things that you could reuse and repurpose and even upcycle, and not just in the garden, and you may not be able to stop that easily.

I could – probably – write a book on the subject on thriftiness and reuse, whether in the garden or elsewhere; maybe I really should.

© 2017

Comment on “villainous” recycling products

Simon - B&W_webSimon Ward, Head of Environment at Prova PR, gives his views on the current recycling debate, and in particular today’s Recycling Association list of troublesome packaging: “It’s clear the recycling debate needs impetus and fresh thinking. Whether naming ‘villains’ is the right way to go about it, I’m not so sure. But it certainly puts a spotlight on the challenges the industry faces and on the question about what good recycling really is.

“I would argue that the notion of ‘good recycling’ has yet to really filter into public consciousness. We know vaguely that we need to do something (put stuff in different coloured bins, right?). But if I asked you what to do with last night’s messy takeaway pizza box? Most people would put it in recycling, which is wrong. The food and the oils have ruined the potential for that item to be recycled. But how many consumers know this and, more importantly, how do we get them to know this?

“Education is key. We need a public awareness campaign, explaining what good recycling is and how and why to do it. Otherwise the dreams of a circular economy will remain just that.

“We also need a collaborative approach, working together with commercial bodies and councils to create a unified approach across quality, consistency and collection.

“The issue isn’t just Lucozade bottle tops or Pringles tubes. It’s a lack of consistency that’s permeating across the whole of the recycling industry. Brands and councils need to work with households and reprocessors to ensure a consistent approach.

“We would like to see a system which separates fibres and food, uniformly applied across all councils and communicated with clarity. Only then will householders be able to confidently and accurately place out for collection a common set of materials and food waste for recycling.”

Source: Prova PR

Keith Taylor MEP: Tory manifesto scraps 'greenest government' pledge for 'energy extremist government'


fracking_2Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, has slammed the Conservative Party's manifesto pledge to weaken oil and gas drilling regulations in a bid to fast-track fracking across the UK [1].

Mr Taylor, a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, said: "Theresa May has previously committed to putting the UK up for shale but it's not happening quickly enough for our wannabe supreme leader or the oil and gas firms she's in hock to."

"It is little wonder then that the Conservative manifesto is desperate to strip away all those irksome barriers to extreme oil and gas extraction, like local democracy and environmental regulations."

"That the processes are extremely dangerous and overwhelmingly opposed by local communities, that avoiding the exploitation any new fossil fuel resources is essential if we're to avert the very worst effects of climate change, that our countryside needs protection, not industrialisation counts for very little when you have oil and gas barons to keep happy.

"Rather than address the weaknesses in the current regulations - defiantly flouted by oil and gas firms like Angus Energy in Surrey without sanction - Theresa May has decided that the easiest way to stop firms abusing the rules is to scrap the rules."

"It's one of many retrograde steps in a manifesto full of backwards-looking policies. Theresa May is abandoning the Tory promise to be the 'greenest government' and instead pledging to be an 'energy extremist government'. The Conservatives have given up even pretending to care about the environment or climate change."


Keith is the Green MEP for the South East of England and is one of 50 Greens/EFA MEPs in the European Parliament. He sits on the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He is a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council which works to forge greater links between MEPs and parliamentarians in Palestine. Keith is also Vice Chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on animal welfare and a member of the parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.

41 is the age Britons officially get into gardening


41 is the age we officially get in to gardening, a new survey has revealed.

14517581_1436859639688223_7420774459892560744_nResearchers took an in depth look into the precise time in our lives that we turn our attention to our outdoor spaces – and found that it is not until we reach 41 that we become green fingered.

Up until this point, nearly three in ten adults continue to rely on elderly parents to sort out their outdoor space – with one in twenty even calling on grandparents to tend to their gardens.

A further one in ten resort to watching clips on YouTube to help remedy their horticultural issues.

The poll by garden tool supplier Fiskars revealed a third of clueless adults have NEVER trimmed a hedge and nearly a quarter haven’t ever potted a plant.

A further 23 percent of the 1,500 adults polled claim to have NEVER mown a lawn or raked leaves in the garden.

Botanist and broadcaster, James Wong, comments: “The study shows there is a lack of engagement between the younger generation and gardening, but it’s so important we don’t lose that passion for our outdoor spaces.

“A lack of enjoyment or interest in maintaining a garden usually stems from people not knowing where to start. That’s why developing an interest in gardening and showing the rewards that outdoor spaces can bring is essential, such as growing plants in small spaces, which can be fun and productive – you just need a little sunshine and some imagination.”

A spokesman for Fiskars commented: “Getting in to gardening at the age of 41 may seem late, but with many adults not getting on the property ladder or living in flats until their late thirties, it’s becoming the norm.

“Gardening can seem daunting at first and it’s only natural to want to call upon parents or grandparents who tend to be much more knowledgeable. Our innovative range of products makes gardening easy and hassle free, helping you to reconnect with your outside space, no matter your level of skill.”

The survey showed more than a third of respondents describe their garden as a place to escape it all and one in ten said they were immensely proud of the way their outdoor space looked.

James Wong added: “Despite these findings, there is still some hope that Brits get into gardening at an earlier age. Nowadays there are plenty of cutting-edge gardening tools at hand which are ideal for all types of gardeners – amateur to novice – making light work of transforming outdoor spaces. Gardening is a great hobby for people of all ages and is particularly beneficial. It’s a fun, healthy activity plus the sense of satisfaction you feel when you watch something you’ve had a hand in growing is immeasurable.”

A quarter of Brits see themselves as a keen gardener – with more than half of adults itching for summer to arrive so they can get back out in to their gardens.

However, half of the adults that took part in the poll said they wouldn’t be able to identify a fuchsia, 40 percent would struggle to spot a pansy and more than half wouldn’t know a germanium when they saw one.

Getting stung by stinging nettles, pulling up a flower, mistaking it for a weed and trapping fingers in deckchairs are just some of the calamities Brits have faced when trying to tackle the garden.

Cutting the grass with no blade in the mower, putting your hand in cat mess and treading on an upturned rake were other common faux pas.

Despite spending on average five hours per week in their gardens, Brits say they are ashamed of the state of their outdoor areas, yet in a typical year they will invest just £119 in maintaining and improving the space.

Kid’s toys strewn everywhere, the grass growing too quickly and not having the right tools for the job are among the things that annoy us about our gardens.

Source: Ginger Comms on behalf of FISKARS

Parents Learn School Choice Options at Virginia Homeschool Convention

HSLDA President Michael Smith Addresses Homeschoolers at One of the Nation's Largest Homeschool Conventions


shutterstock_251872234RICHMOND, May 17, 2017 – School choice remains a hot debate across the country and the conversation shows no signs of cooling down. Just recently, Congress considered a new tax program that includes a school choice tax credit. Depending on the outcome, school choice options could broaden for many families. Regardless, homeschooling remains a viable option.

Michael Smith, president of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), will discuss this freedom as a keynote speaker during this year's Virginia Homeschool Convention in Richmond. The annual convention, scheduled for June 8 - June 10, takes place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. In addition, Smith will address the need for homeschooling families to continue to push back on Common Core curriculum.

"Homeschooling continues to grow in popularity because it gives parents the opportunity to provide an individualized education for their child," says HEAV president Anne Miller. "Coming to the convention gives parents three days of unparalleled support, resources, encouragement and instruction."

Taking the step to educate children at home can be intimidating. That is why HEAV offers FREE "How-to-Begin Homeschooling" sessions at the annual Virginia Homeschool Convention on Thursday, June 8. These sessions include information on the homeschool law, curriculum choices, high school requirements, how to begin, and more.

The Virginia Homeschool Convention is the second largest homeschool convention in the nation with nearly 14,000 participants last year. The convention offers support to thousands of families through more than 140 workshops on teaching high school at home, special needs, healthy living, preschool, home management, college, finance, and more.

For more information and to register, please visit or call 804-278-9200.
Home Educators Association of Virginia equips and encourages homeschooling parents, and protects homeschooling freedoms in Virginia. HEAV, a statewide, member-supported, nonprofit association, has served Virginia homeschool families through information, legislation, and resources for more than 30 years. Teaching children today. Bringing hope for tomorrow.

Poundland Charlie Dimmock In the Garden Hand Hoe – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Poundland hoeThis hand hoe – which is a like a small mattock – is part of the new and exclusive Charlie Dimmock range assortment of wooden handled hand tools at Poundland and yes, it costs just one British Pound. The assortment, according to the website, includes, aside from this hoe, a trowel (already reviewed), a “rake”, which actually is a three-pronged weeder more than a rake, a fork, and a scoop.

OK, but we shall, in this review, be talking about the hand hoe; a review of the trowel you can find here.

Like in the case of the trowel the steel of the blades of the how appear to be stamped steel rather than hammer forged steel but I have found it to be, in initial tests, quite robust, and I even attempted to dig out some bramble roots out of rather hard, compacted, soil. Anyone who has ever attempted to dig out bramble roots knows what fun that is (not) and that they don't actually come out, at least not all if the root, and that was also the case in this test. The hoe stood up fine to it, however, without any bending or what have you. Then again, I really would not want to overdo it but then neither would one want to do that with any small hand tool, regardless of who the maker might be. I have had a Bulldog trowel fail on me before due to bad spot welding between the blade and the shaft that goes into the handle.

The quality of those tools is good for the price but you cannot expect Rollins Bulldog or Burgon & Ball quality for a Pound now, nor should you expect a ten or even twenty-five year warranty.

Considering the price of just one Pound, including VAT, I cannot fault the tool and if you have to count your pennies but still want a dual-purpose hand hoe that you can afford – and the cheapest you will find elsewhere if metal blade and wooden handle is desired will set you back around seven to ten times that much – then this is a good choice.

The trowel-shaped blade of the hoe can be useful for a number of things, aside from hoeing, and that includes the making of furrows for sowing and also in lieu of a trowel for planting.

This hand hoe from Poundland may just become yet another tool that will regularly travel with me – not that it is a long distance – into my (vegetable) garden with me, together with some other favorite ones.

As I said before for less than a tenner you can, at Poundland, get all the hand tools you will need for your gardening endeavors, as long as you do not expect battle tank strength.

© 2017

How can anyone working class vote Conservatives?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

2012-05-12 polling station 580I am sorry to say this but to me any worker voting for the Conservative Party, the Tories, is the same as turkeys voting for Christmas; or for Thanksgiving if in the US, and treachery.

Personally I must say that I even have problems voting for the social-democrat model of Labour, as we have it today. The Labour Party, founded, originally, as a socialist party, has become social-democrat, and even, as far as so-called “New Labour” and its outcrops are concerned, neo-liberal, and thus an enemy of the working class themselves.

Social-democrats are dealing in socialism-lite, trying to create capitalism with a social face and -conscience, rather than abolishing capitalism and its structures and working towards true socialism.

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher “romped” to victory in the general election. That election was was to be the first of three consecutive election triumphs for Thatcher and the Tories and they immediately set about unleashing unfettered, laissez faire capitalism on the British public, the disastrous consequences of which are still being felt today. And a very crucial element in those Tory victories was the working class vote.

Working class Tories. What a contradiction in terms. That is like turkeys voting for Christmas (or Thanksgiving if they'd be in the USA). But it is nothing new. Ever since working class people won the right to vote a large number of workers have voted for the Conservatives. It beggars belief, I know.

And the question is, simply, why? Why do working class people vote for a party that so clearly and consistently attacks their interests and that of the class? What does someone eking out a living on the minimum wage or collecting benefits have in common with an over-privileged, multimillionaire Tory politician? Absolutely nothing as far as I can see. But, somehow, the Tories manage to persuade gullible sections of the working class to help put them – and keep them – in power. The lack of class consciousness may also have something to do with it, I hazard to guess, and it is this lack of class consciousness that gets those workers time and again to vote for the class enemy.

And Tories are still at it. Cameron, Osbourne, Lansley et al. Mostly Old Etonians, Oxbridge, filthy rich. That is about as elite as it gets. Yet, again, working class people, tugging at their collective forelocks, have voted for those toffs. Turkeys voting for Christmas. And the tragic (and this really is a tragedy) irony is that the present government is presiding over the dismantling of the welfare state whose whole premise was to provide a decent life for working class people.

It all is ominously, and depressingly, reminiscent of some of the characters in Robert Tressell's classic book: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Completed in 1910, the book was a detailed and scathing analysis of the relationship between working class people and their “betters”. The “philanthropists” of the book's title are the workers who, in Tressell's view, acquiesce in their own exploitation in the interests of their bosses. Some things, it seems, never change. They also blamed foreigners, such as French onion sellers, and others, for their ills rather than the capitalists and the politicians in their pay.

Robert Tressel's “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” should be mandatory reading for every member of the working class and maybe, just maybe, we need to get some working class education established again in several ways.

For any working class person to vote Tory is nothing short of a betrayal. In fact, at least to me, it is treachery of the highest order. A betrayal of the workers who fought and died to create a better world for their class. It is also a betrayal of future generations of workers who will have to start all over again.

Those people are the enemies of the working class and even more so that that they are of the that class themselves.

© 2017

The basket full of garbage

basket-of-flowers1One day a rich man gave a poor man a basket filled with garbage. The poor man smiled at the rich man and went away. He then emptied and cleaned the basket and filled it with beautiful flowers.

Thereafter he went back to the rich man and presented him with the basket with the flowers. The rich man was very surprised and asked: “Why have you given men this basket full of all those beautiful flowers while I gave you a basket full of garbage?”

The poor man replied: “Because everyone gives that which he has in his heart!”

Author unknown


Ein Korb voll Müll

Eines Tages gab ein reicher Mann einem Armen einen Korb voll Müll.

Der arme Mann lächelte ihn an und ging mit dem Korb fort.

Er leerte und reinigte ihn, und füllte ihn mit wundervollen Blumen.

Dann ging er zum Reichen und überreichte ihm den Korb mit Blumen. Der Reiche staunte sehr und fragte ihn: “Warum hast du mir diesen Korb voller wunderschöner Blumen gegeben, wo ich dir doch einen Korb voll Müll gegeben habe??”

Der Arme antwortete: “Weil jeder das gibt, was er im Herzen hat!”

Verfasser unbekannt

Space exploration; who does it benefit?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

spaceflightWe search for life on other planets and in other regions of our galaxy and we search for Earth-like planets. In the meantime we destroy and ignore and destroy the other life on this Planet and the very Planet, on which our very survival depends, as well.

Billions of dollars are wasted – yes, wasted – on flights to Mars, to Pluto, and to other areas of this galaxy (and beyond, if it would be just possible) while the same resources would be much better employed to deal with the problems on this Planet, our Earth, the only Earth that we will ever have, and on which we depend for our survival. This survival, however, is only possible through clean air, clean water and healthy soil.

Oh, the space industry says, but it creates jobs here on Earth. Yes, and many more jobs would be created if this ingenuity and other skills be employed to actually heal this Planet and all life on it. Instead money – well, money is not really a problem as they create it out of thin air anyway – resources and human endeavor are squandered – yes, squandered – on trying to “explore” the universe. For what and whose benefit? Definitely not for the benefit of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Satellites and such are one thing which do have a benefit but going beyond this is really not very clever at all. And yes, the space industry has given us some new materials in the process of overcoming certain hurdles but in general it is doing more harm than good and instead of looking to the stars in an attempt to go there it would be much better if looked at the earth beneath our feet, at the water in the rivers, lakes and oceans, the forests and other areas, and find ways of how man can live in harmony with Nature.

We have, at least so they claim, gone to the Moon a number of time, with unmanned and manned space vehicles and, so it is being claimed, man actually set foot on the surface of the Moon a couple of times. So? What does it benefit mankind?

At the same time we have destroyed, and are destroying, and have raped and are raping the Earth for minerals and other materials needed for such space explorations, and not just for that.

We are looking to the stars but cannot see – or refuse to – see Nature around us and we do not see that our future is not in the stars. No, Professor Hawkins, there is no other Planet that can support human life and thus we must ensure that the Earth, our home, remains a home fit for all its inhabitants.

The Earth is our home, where is where things are happening and where things need fixing if we want to have a chance to live and thrive. The planets just happen to be there and it does not benefit us one iota to go clambering about on them. We can't go and settle on them when we have destroyed the Earth, and we are doing the very best to do just that. They are uninhabitable and cannot sustain life.

Therefore, instead of wasting our efforts at exploring space and the other planets we should spend this time, energy and money on keeping this Planet healthy so that we, and those that come after us, can live here.

© 2017

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood

washing-on-lineA lesson in not judging or remove first the beam in your own eye before you try to remove the splinter in your neighbor's one.

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean; she doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap."

Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: "Look, she's finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?"

The husband replies, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life... What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

New wood culture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

woodlands12A new term is making the rounds, so to speak, and it is called “wood culture”, “new wood culture”, or “wood culture renaissance”, and we can but hope that it is catching on.

The new wood culture and use of local coppiced wood is also entering mainstream, so to speak, in the fist decade of the twenty-first century, with wooden kitchen ware of all kinds, made by local craftsmen and -women appearing in stores such as the Conran shops in London and also B&Q supporting locally grown wood and wood products from such wood.

Wood was once the most important raw material and most of that timber came from coppiced woods, at least in Europe. Wood is the product derived from the structure of trees and the various products that are made from this wood, are often referred to as treen goods, unless they happen to be products that do not fall into this category, such as furniture, fences, houses and other structures, wagons, and such. Without trees wood would not be possible and without well managed woodlands and forests the supply of good wood is not feasible.

In some people's minds – presently – this “wood culture renaissance”, “new wood culture”, or “wood culture”, is represented by the resurgence in green woodworking, that is to say making spoons and other products from wood that is either freshly cut or eighteen month or less laid up to semi-season.

Wood was king not so long ago in every home, and almost everywhere else as well. That was before the advent of plastic. Kitchen utensils, whether spoons, even for eating, or spatulas, chopping and cutting boards, salt containers, and much more, were all made from wood. So were baskets of all kinds, from small ones for holding bread (rolls), over those used to collect eggs from the hen house and for going to the grocery store, to those for the laundry, to, in fact, baskets that were, much like rucksacks, worn on the back that were used for all manner of things. Walking sticks, hiking staffs and the handles of tools were all made from wood. So were most bowls in use, whether troughs for the making of bread or those for fruit to be placed on the table, etc. as were the tables themselves (and in the main the later are still today).

Trees have been the backbone of terrestrial ecology across the planet since before humans evolved. Throughout history, they have been central to our cultures and to our economies, and in many cultures trees were revered the the extent of worship even, especially certain types of trees.

Trees were critical in the making of fire, to the building houses for homes and other uses, including churches, for food, and a myriad of other necessities.

With the advent of petroleum based fuels and polymers, trees have been relegated to far fewer human uses than in than they and wood were in the past, perhaps to the detriment of human culture and economy, and definitely to the detriment of the woods themselves, as the reduction in use of wood products caused the woods to fall into disrepair, especially coppice woods and small woods in Britain (and probably also elsewhere).

Now wood, and with it trees, are coming back into vogue, so to speak. Whether it directly started with the use of wood for fire fuel again, as a more environmentally friendly one to fossil fuels, as it is carbon neutral, in that wood being burned (not counting any particle emissions) only releases as much carbon (dioxide) than what the tree absorbed during its life. And any wood product, other than firewood or charcoal, retains this carbon for as long as the product exists. Therefore, when you buy and use a wooden spoon, bowl, or other kitchen implement, or wooden products in any other way and maintain it, for as long as that product exists. This goes, obviously, for all wood products, regardless where they are made and how, in the regard of carbon retention. However, when you buy a product that is made from local, ideally coppiced, wood and ideally made by hand you buy a much more sustainable product than a wooden object that is made by machines in some far away country or made from wood that has been imported from abroad.

This new wood culture or wood renaissance includes much more than the wooden objects that are still common place, such as furniture, cabinetry, and various architectural additions. It includes green wood stick chairs, spoon carving and other household treen... but with a certain ethos and this ethos is, basically, that things are made by hand. This is the heart of The New Wood Culture or Renaissance.

Most people own a wooden spoon and you probably have one, or more, in your kitchen, and maybe even other wooden utensils. Your wooden spoon may not be handmade, but you probably turn to it often since it serves such a fundamental role, stirring food to prevent it from burning. Most cooks have their well-loved and hard worn wooden spoon. A wooden spoon does not scratch pans, it feels soft in the hand, and has a sense to it that no metal or plastic spoon can achieve. And, what is more even, you can safely leave it in the pot or pan without causing it to heat up making it hot to the touch or without the danger of the plastic melting or infusing some nasty chemical into the dish that you are cooking.

Your cherished wooden spoon has a story, however, whether this story is obvious or not. The main problem with this spoon's story, as with so many other wooden kitchen utensils, and other wooden products for that matter, is the manner of how it was produced. It more than likely was manufactured, as the word made does not really fit here, in a far away land, likely in a factory, and today most of those spoons, spatulas and what have you are, indeed, “Made in China” or “Made in Vietnam”. That is to say they were made by machines, more often than not, in those countries or other countries.

The problem is that the spoon was manufactured and not “made”. A nameless tree, felled in a factory way, shaped by machines on a production line operated by what could be described as human machines. The shape and size of the spoon having been more than likely engineered to use the least amount of material and be produced as uniformly as possible at the lowest possible cost. Often this also means that no consideration is given to the grain of the wood and thus strength is compromised also.

This model of production may have “created” an end product that is useful enough, should the end user think nothing of an alternative, let alone the conditions which created it, but sustainable it is not, even though it is produced from wood. But then, those conditions are unanimous with other economic conditions of modern industrial capitalism, which is to produce a lot of something as cheaply as possible for the benefit of a small number of individuals, and all that at the expense of all other parties, including the Planet.

A spoon, spatula, or other treen object, that has come out of the New Wood Culture or Renaissance has a much different story to tell. And for that matter it is also the offspring of a much different economy and method of “production”.

The worker of greenwood uses a very traditional process that has changed little through the centuries and even millennia and mostly the tools are all hand tools, often only handsaw, hand axe, and an assortment of knives. Maybe added to that a few rasps and maybe a plane or two (no, those ones don't fly). The only power tool that is used in this process is usually a chainsaw used to fell and cut up the tree into manageable pieces.

In most cases the woodworker also works with the world around him or her, be those the forests, woods, orchards or other such places where wood for the products can be obtained. And in many cases the woodworker him- or herself is also a coppice worker, maintaining the wood to ensure a continuing supply of raw material, while at the same time enhancing the woods for wildlife. Others sources for raw material may be local tree surgeons, tree prunings from gardens, parks, and cemeteries, etc.

The entire process from working with and amongst the trees, chopping carefully at the wood with my axe, and shaping it finely with my knives, and finishing it whether just by knife or by sanding and oiling, are all thoughtful and informed by craft and a greater awareness.

The end product of this is a spoon, or other treen object, that not only supported an entire system of reverence and work with trees, but one that lives on to bring life and culture to those who cherish and use them. And the management that stands behind it, the management of our woods, by coppicing, enhances the ecological balance in our woods no end.

A wood culture, and even more so this new wood culture, links economic activity to a working landscape that underpins both the stewardship of the commons and of local economic vitality and resilience. Economically speaking, the woodworker of the new wood culture takes something which is often considered low-grade material by foresters, loggers, and the wood industry at large, or something that tree surgeons have to pay for to get rid off, and turns this material into something both very functional, full of beauty and life, and of significant value.

In this way some seemingly unprofitable trees, or bits of trees, become a viable source of economic production, allowing the woodworker to manifest profitable activity, as well as incentives for his or her connection and ongoing work with the trees. The simple process of carving, whether it be a spoon or other treen object (and there are many besides spoons) then starts to foster a greater and greater reverence for trees, all of which supports the larger cultural and economic landscapes of a wood culture renaissance.

Many people are involved in maintaining and propagating this wood culture and its renaissance, myself as forester, writer and woodworker included, and many of those are true masters of their crafts and who are committed to working with the trees, with the traditional tools and skills, and to passing on and reviving a world enchanted by the presence and daily connection to trees.

Trees are central to any human ecology and have been since time immemorial and they are essential to any human ecology that wishes to exist indefinitely into the future. Thus, the wood culture renaissance must take place and we must do everything to encourage it and bring it about.

This new wood culture supports, stimulates and incentivizes a connection and work centered around skills, craft, and of working with wood and trees and of tending trees, woodlands, forests, orchards, and more, and at the same time it empowers local economic activity on more than just one level.

Yes, a handmade spoon, or other treen object, may show some flaws that do not seem to exist (or have been hidden) in factory produced wooden goods and do not have a uniform shape. They also may still retain, in some instances on purpose, the marks of the tools used, as in the case of “knife finished”. That, in my opinion, is, however, the beauty of the handmade ones as they allow the wood to be what it wants to be, to some extent at least. Such treen products are also more expensive, it is true, than the factory produced ones that nowadays mostly come from China and other parts of the Far East.

Do your part to bring about this wood culture renaissance by supporting your local artisans by purchasing tableware and other treen objects from them. I can guarantee that the quality, in general, and the beauty of such wooden objects, will make you want to take up carving as well and join in the crafting of this wood culture renaissance.

What is most important about this new wood culture is that it could and will, if we let it, all of us, including those who believe that a tree should never be cut, bring about a healthy woodland and forest ecology and a world enhanced by trees and by wood, whether in the form of food production, building materials, firewood and charcoal, beanpoles and pea sticks, or as sources of material from which to produce an almost unimaginable list of useful and necessary items that will enhance our lives.

© 2017

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.

Big Pharma's Pollution Is Creating Deadly Superbugs While the World Looks the Other Way

Environmental standards do not feature in international regulations governing drug production

Big Pharma's Pollution Is Creating Deadly Superbugs While the World Looks the Other Way

Industrial pollution from Indian pharmaceutical companies making medicines for nearly all the world’s major drug companies is fuelling the creation of deadly superbugs, suggests new research. Global health authorities have no regulations in place to stop this happening.

A major study published today in the prestigious scientific journal Infection found “excessively high” levels of antibiotic and antifungal drug residue in water sources in and around a major drug production hub in the Indian city of Hyderabad, as well as high levels of bacteria and fungi resistant to those drugs. Scientists told the Bureau the quantities found meant the drug residues must have originated from pharmaceutical factories.

The presence of drug residues in the natural environment allows the microbes living there to build up resistance to the ingredients in the medicines that are supposed to kill them, turning them into what we call superbugs. The resistant microbes travel easily and have multiplied in huge numbers all over the world, creating a grave public health emergency that is already thought to kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.

When antimicrobial drugs stop working common infections can become fatal, and scientists and public health leaders say the worsening problem of antibiotic resistance (also known as AMR) could reverse half a century of medical progress if the world does not act fast. Yet while policies are being put into place to counter the overuse and misuse of drugs which has propelled the crisis, international regulators are allowing dirty drug production methods to continue unchecked.

Global authorities like the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency strictly regulate drug supply chains in terms of drug safety - but environmental standards do not feature in their rulebook. Drug producers must adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) guidelines - but those guidelines do not cover pollution.

Read more here.

Green Party Animals Spokesperson: 'Greens will fight tooth and nail to ensure this barbaric practice remains illegal'

fox-huntingKeith Taylor MEP, the Green Party's Animals Spokesperson, has today condemned a secret Tory plot to bring back fox hunting [1].

The vocal animal welfare campaigner and South East MEP said: "That the bloodthirsty plot to repeal the foxhunting ban can only be discussed behind closed doors reflects the fact that the Tories know 84% of the public [2] oppose this barbaric pursuit, which is enjoyed by only a tiny privileged few."

"Not being open with the public about this plot is a subversion of our democracy and, on foxhunting, the Tories have a history: a vote to repeal the ban was quietly abandoned in 2015 when it became clear the Government didn't have the numbers to push it through [3]."

"Foxhunting is an abomination dressed up as a tradition, enjoyed only by a monied few. It is entirely needless and causes tremendous suffering. Yet our wannabe Prime Minister Theresa May remains a staunch advocate [4]."

"Today's leak should set alarm bells ringing for animal welfare advocates across Britain. As Greens, we will continue to protect our British wildlife by fighting tooth and nail to ensure this barbaric practice remains illegal."






Keith is theGreenMEP for the South East of England and is one of 50Greens/EFA MEPs in the European Parliament. He sits on the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He is a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council which works to forge greater links between MEPs and parliamentarians in Palestine. Keith is also Vice Chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on animal welfare and amember of the parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.

Theresa May's Christian values

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

331272e9d5d88ff297a4e962dc1e0d80If those are Christian values then please give me an atheist any day. Each and every time that she talks about it or it is being mentioned I would like to barf, pardon me.

We all know that the Tories would like to introduce Victorian values to the country by which they actually mean to get Britain back to the Victorian age (or maybe even further back to serious feudal times) and maybe it is those kind of “Christian values” that she is talking about where the workers doff their caps to their, by G-d appointed (and anointed), betters.

A most valid statement was made by Father James Martin (SJ) on this subject when he said: “I will never understand how politicians who call themselves Christian can read the Gospels and treat the poor and sick like dirt.” And I, for one, cannot understand that either.

Theresa May always makes such an issue of the fact that she is the daughter of a vicar but, alas, the teachings that she received (as a child) seem to be somewhat – and the somewhat is something of an understatement – at odds with those of the Gospels.

So far I have not encountered a single Tory politician who had any true Christian values for no one who believes in the teachings of the Gospels could ever treat the poor, the sick, the disabled, the children and old people, in the way that they do.

I have seen more Christian values among atheists and communists, who do not believe in (a) G-d, than in all of the Tory politicians combined. They would not know what Christian values are even if those should bite them in the proverbial and Theresa May definitely would not recognize them.

She has no more Christian values than does a stone. Then again that could be unkind towards a stone. Instead of a heart it would appear she and her colleagues have a lump of Krupp steel, made of heavy armor gauge. It can't be British steel as the Tories have made sure that out factories got closed as the country was going to be a financial and service sector “center” only.

© 2017

How weeds heal bare soil

Let weeds do their job. They will heal and nourish our bare soil this autumn and winter

Bare, exposed soil isn’t part of nature’s master plan. How many examples can you think of where soil is naturally found bare and with no plants at all growing in it? Good examples are beneath freshly uprooted trees, landslips, or where the ground has been charred following a heathland fire. In these situations bare soil isn’t bare for long; within days seedlings begin to appear and cover the ground with a miniature green forest. In a few months’ time the scar is barely noticeable. A year later you would never know it had been there at all.

Contrast these natural examples of bare soil with those created by man: ploughed fields and freshly dug gardens and allotments are obvious examples. But, left to nature, even these vast expanses of bare soil soon turn green with a multitude of tiny seedlings. Think of those wild, overgrown allotments or that jungle-like abandoned garden – these too were once bare earth. In fields, gardens and allotments, on lawns, roadside verges and sports fields, along streets and on paths and pavements, we are constantly battling to stop weeds from growing. All we are doing is keeping the healing powers of nature at bay.

Weeds act like a kind of living “plaster” whenever soil is exposed, either by natural or artificial causes. As far as nature goes, bare soil is out. When soil is exposed to sunlight it’s not only the earthworms that quickly burrow back into the darkness. Millions of microscopic soil organisms are also exposed to the potentially harmful rays of the sun, so the sooner plant growth covers the soil over again, the better. Once you appreciate this perfectly natural reaction by nature, you start to see that weeds aren’t there to deliberately frustrate our gardening efforts; they are simply doing their job. Just as new skin forms after we’ve caught ourselves on a rose thorn, weeds help heal wounds in the earth. Look at it another way: it’s us who are causing the problem by insisting on bare, neat-looking soil – open wounds, if you like.

Left to their own devices, weeds also help to improve the fertility of the soil. They do this in several ways. Their roots bind the soil together, helping to improve its structure and create a more stable environment in which soil life can flourish. Those weeds with a deep taproot, such as curled dock, draw up plant nutrients from deeper in the ground, making them available to plants growing near the soil surface. Above ground, the stems of weeds help trap fallen leaves and other organic matter, which break down into the soil or are dragged underground by earthworms. And when the weeds themselves finally die – after weeks, months or years depending on the type of weed and its life cycle – both the leafy tops and the roots decompose into valuable humus.

Read more here.


Press release on behalf of: The Institute of Groundsmanship

southendProspect, the union that represents grounds staff, football officials, cricket umpires and other sports professionals, has reached a mutually acceptable agreement for Southend United’s groundsman, Ken Hare, whose employment was terminated in January.

Ken was dismissed on 21 January after Southend’s home match against Bolton was postponed because the pitch was frozen.

He contacted his professional body, the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) – the leading membership organisation for everyone involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities in the UK - which provided support and advice, as well as his trade union, Prospect.

Prospect national secretary, Alan Leighton, represented Ken in the negotiations with Southend United’s chairman, Ron Martin.

Alan Leighton said: “The negotiations were tough, but conducted in a good and fair spirit with each side acknowledging the other’s position in order to reach a mutually-satisfactory agreement.

“The nature of the negotiations was typified by the kind offer of two season tickets for Ken as part of the arrangement. Ken gratefully accepted the offer and hopes to see Southend promoted in 2017/18.”

The terms of the agreement are confidential, but Ken Hare commented: “I am delighted with the outcome and would like to express my thanks to Prospect, the IOG and also the club chairman, Ron Martin, for helping reach a mutually-satisfactory agreement.

“Without the support of my union, I would have had difficulty resolving this without incurring the cost and stress of it potentially being determined at an employment tribunal. I would encourage all my grounds staff colleagues to join Prospect and the IOG.”

Alan Leighton added: “This was a hugely important issue for Ken and for grounds staff generally. Employees in football clubs need the support of an independent friend in the workplace because problems can arise at any time.

“Prospect was able to provide crucial professional advice and representation.”

Alan also paid tribute to Ron Martin for being proactive and prepared to compromise and reach a mutually-satisfactory agreement.

IOG director of business and membership, Tim Gray, said: “Ken’s case was a classic example of why the partnership between IOG and Prospect is so important. It shows why grounds staff should be members of both the IOG – for professional advice and development – and of Prospect, for employment advice and representation.”

About The Institute of Groundsmanship

The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) is the leading membership organisation representing grounds managers, groundsmen, grounds maintenance managers, greenkeepers and all others involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities in the UK. As well as maintaining the IOG Performance Quality Standards and providing a consultancy service for sports grounds, lawn maintenance and amenity horticulture, the IOG’s extensive Training and Education programme includes cricket, football, tennis, horseracing, bowls, artificial surfaces, turf science and many other specialist subjects. It also stages the annual IOG SALTEX exhibition, Europe’s leading show for the open space profession. For more information visit

The Tories and the British People

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

18301185_457003687969748_1515353862462350840_nNever ever has a Tory government in Britain benefited the people with, possibly, one single exception and that was the victory in the Second World War but even that is questionable. Churchill certainly was not the benevolent Daddy he is often made out to have been.

The only ones that always and ever benefit from a Tory government in Britain were and are the rich and the aristocracy. The working class and the poor have always been the victims and still are. The Tories will never, whatever say may claim, have the working class at heart.

The majority of the British people will never benefit from a Tory government in the country, and that is regardless of the fact that some, even working class, could become homeowners due to the fact that Thatcher ordered the councils to sell off their housing stock, and here especially, originally, to sitting tenants.

This sell off of council housing is what led us to the problem that we have today with the so-called housing crisis in Britain, though, in fact, we don't really have a housing crisis but an empty homes crisis. And an empty property crisis, in the latter case of properties that could become homes.

Under Thatcher the wholesale sell off of all state assets began, and not just housing stock. Utilities, railways and public transport, telecommunications and everything else, bar, at that time, the Royal Mail, was “privatized”, that is to say the assets that we created by taxpayer money, and thus are owned by the people, were sold off to capitalists, mostly Tory backers and/or foreign entities, as in the case of the utilities.

The buzzword was “creating competition” which would benefit the consumer. Yes, sure, we saw how it benefited the consumer through every increasing prices and fares. Now, under Theresa May, they have almost succeeded to sell off the National Health Service (NHS), which even Thatcher shied away from.

Even those of the middle class are headed toward the precariat, in many cases, but still they, and even many, far too many, of the working class, back the Tories and vote for them believing – why beats me – that they may have a change of heart and really will do what they say and work for all the people, especially the poor. Yes, sure they will; the day that pigs fly and the one particular place freezes over. But certainly not before that time.

© 2017

Podcast: The Call for a New Economy

Bellowing out in the songs of eco-village choirs and reverberating down city streets through the chants of the 99 percent, the call for a new economy echoes out over the dying gasps of late capitalism.

From energy co-operatives in Spain that are literally bringing power to the local level, to a small school hidden deep in the English moors that is redesigning the study of economics, to a vast coalition in North America that is challenging domination by the one percent, this episode of Upstream explores the movement for a new economy.

Our story begins in 1984, just outside of the G7 World Economic Summit in London, where a small group convened a counter summit to challenge the ideas and theories that dominated mainstream economics. We follow the ripples of this seminal event as they radiate out through the world and on into our current era of Trump & Brexit.

Read more and listen or download the podcast here.

The “Smart-Meter” may not be able to count right

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Smart-MeterA great majority of so-called “Smart-Meters” that have been tested in Germany and elsewhere show that those intelligent meters miscount very often, and that not to the consumer's benefit.

Not so long ago you had to – at least once a year – read your electricity and gas meter, or someone from the utility companies would come around to read the meters. Intelligent meters, so-called “smart” meters, no do that all by themselves and in many cases transmit the data to the companies direct. Tests have shown, however, that they often get their figures wrong, badly wrong even, and that to the disadvantage of the consumer. To prove that the meter reading is wrong, however, is for the consumer not an easy one.

While a small number of smart-meters metered an amount of up to 30% below actual use the great majority, apparently, metered up to six times the real usage. In other words, the majority of those will leave the consumer out of pocket, and that very much so.

According to the researchers the reason that the smart-meters measure so badly and often higher than actual use could be because they use electronics that cause interference to the mains circuitry. And all those meters, by the way, were EU approved ones.

Consumer protection organizations are ringing the alarm bells because in the next couple of years those smart-meters are supposed to become mandatory everywhere. Unless they can be guaranteed to work accurately which, at present, the apparently cannot and do not, then the consumer will not be the one benefiting at all but will be disadvantaged. But, hey, so what, its great technology and technology is the way forward.

© 2017

Local urban farm redefining farm to table

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -- Local farms have to deal with Colorado's ever changing weather.

Many farms, orchards and vineyards in the valley were caught off guard by the cold snap overnight earlier this week.

One urban farm, Rooted Gypsy Farms, that is trying to make it easier to shop local, lost hundreds of plants.

"I jumped the gun and planted a little too soon, the frost came and nipped them all a little bit and we lost over half of our crop," said Shauna Rhyne, with Rooted Gypsy Farms.

Business at Rooted Gypsy Farms is still just a seedling after all.

“October third was first delivery, so it’s still a new thing in the valley,” said Shauna Rhyne. “It kind of makes us feel like we are connected to the community, in a way that I feel good giving our product to a family.”

They use an aquaponics system for your lettuce, kale and other herbs.

“It’s all ran through the fish, they excrete ammonia, which turns into nitrate and nitrites, which the plants need to survive,” explained Rhyne.

They are all about community supported agriculture, meaning your produce comes from the soil to the kitchen.

Read more here.

Poundland Charlie Dimmock In the Garden Hand Trowel – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

173752-1While they may call it a hand spade on the website it is a trowel for planting – well – plants and digging in more or less soft soil. It is not a spade, not even a hand spade, and thus not a tool to dig heavy and untilled soil with, not even in a raised bed, for instance.

This trowel – no, folks, it is not a hand spade – is part of the new and exclusive Charlie Dimmock range – assortment of wooden handled hand tools at Poundland and yes, it costs just one British Pound. The assortment, according to the website, includes, aside from the trowel, a “rake”, which actually is a three-pronged weeder, a hand-hoe (which has fork tines on one side and a near heart-shaped blade on the other, so it is a bit like a mattock), a fork, and a scoop.

OK, but we shall, in this review, be talking about the trowel; a review of the hoe is to follow.

While it may not be hammer forged – at least it does not appear to me that it would be – and rather stamped steel and does not have a welded on bit that goes into the handle it is quite heavy but also quite well balanced.

The “blade” of the trowel sits snug and tight in the varnished wooden handle which has a hole for a thong and has a leather one fitted even. Not the greatest quality of leather in that thong though but, hey, where is the problem there. The blade of the trowel is coated with a hammer effect paint making it, together with wooden handle and all, look very good indeed. The edge of the blade has not been ground, though, as would be the case with more expensive makes but you cannot expect Rollins Bulldog or Burgon & Ball quality for a Pound now.

As trowels go the Charlie Dimmock one from Poundland will go the job a trowel is meant to do though, personally, I might not want to use it to dig out, say, dandelions from the lawn or even out of somewhat compacted soil elsewhere, or brambles from under shrubs or such in order not to put too much strain on it. Seeing that the edge is not beveled and ground it would also be rather hard work. Would I put a bevel and a ground edge onto the “blade”? The honest answer is no.

Considering the price of just one Pound, including VAT, I cannot fault the tool and if you have to count your pennies but still want a garden trowel that you can afford – and the cheapest you will find elsewhere if metal blade and wooden handle is desired will set you back around seven to ten times that much – then this is a good choice.

For less than a tenner you can, at Poundland, get all the hand tools you will need for your gardening endeavors, as long as you do not expect battle tank strength.

© 2017

Stop Tilling Your Vegetable Garden!

Don't Till Garden

I get why you till. There’s something in all of us gardeners that leaps with joy when we see a freshly tilled bed. That rich, dark, blank canvas beckons us to come on over and work our vegetable magic. We imagine ourselves gently planting a seedling in the fluffy soil with no straining or digging necessary.

But, garden fantasies aside, tilling the garden every year is a terrible idea in practice. Not only are you destroying the soil structure, creating a hard pan, and bringing weed seeds up to the surface – you’re also creating more work for yourself.

Inevitably, within a few days of tilling there will be a torrential downpour that completely erodes and compacts your freshly tilled garden. It’ll look like a war zone of flattened, soil splattered plants with a depressing system of rivulets running everywhere.

Read more here.

Proletariat, precariat and unnecessariat

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

solidarityFirst we had the proletariat (well, we still have it, really; it is the working class), then recently and still with us, the precariat and now the unnecessariat.

The proletariat, the working class, arrived after the peasantry and was, in fact, forcibly created by the powers-that-be but rather should not be. The working class, almost everywhere, from the very beginning, has lived much more hand-to-mouth than the peasantry ever did, and that was also the idea. The peasantry was far too self-reliant and almost self-sufficient, despite the fact that many were but tenant farmers, at least towards the end, and had to pay tribute to the landlords.

But, self-reliance and self-sufficiency, especially combined with the common and a community that looked after one another, as was the case with the peasantry was not something that the factory owner could do with; he needed a slave class that was dependent entirely on him, the work he “provided” in his factories and the paltry wages he was paying. Often the employment in those factories went hand-in-hand with housing provided by the same factory owner and loss of work did not just mean loss of income but also homelessness. Thus was born the working class, the more-or-less class of industrial workers, the proletariat.

The precariat are the “downwardly mobile” former members of the working class, what is referred to as middle class in the USA, who are always one layoff or shift-reduction away from economic ruination.

Already before the arrival of those lay-offs, shift reduction and now, in many places the so-called “zero hours contracts” many members of the working class (I will not use the US term simply because it was designed to remove the proper class consciousness from the workers in the States) were often but one weekly paycheck away from poverty and homelessness anyway, but now things are more precarious even. Hence the term precariat. Their situation is extremely precarious.

Now below the precariat is the unnecessariat. That are the humans who are superfluous to corporations, who are a liability to the modern economic consensus, whom no corporation has any use for, except as a source of revenue from predatory loans, government subsidized "training" programs, and private prisons. This is how far capitalism has fallen under the neoliberal elite.

Corporations have realized humanity's long nightmare of a race of immortal, transhuman superbeings – robots – who view us as their inconvenient gut-flora, but it is those transhuman superbeings, namely robots into the equation and are, more and more, introducing them into the field of work. The unnecessariat are an expanding class, and if you are not in it yet, there is no reason to think you would not also land there tomorrow.

If there is no economic plan for the unnecessariat, there certainly is an abundance for plans to extract value from them. No-one has the option to just make their own way and be left alone at it.

Every four years some political ingenue decides that the solution to “poverty” is “retraining”: for the information economy, except that tech companies only hire high-grade university graduates, or for health care, except that an abundance of sick people does not translate into good jobs for nurses’ aides, or nowadays for “the trades” as if the world suffered a shortage of plumbers, though to some degree the world does suffer a shortage of good trades- and craftsmen and -women.

The retraining programs come and go, often mandated for recipients of unemployment benefit or whatever those things might be called. In the US there is also now a booming market in debtor’s prisons for unpaid bills, and , no doubt, those – privately run, more than likely – will also mushroom in other countries. It is a business opportunity after all.

There is a new – well all that new it is not – in the arsenal of the capitalism and that is hunger. More about that, however, in a separate article. Hunger, poverty and homelessness, or at least the threat of all three, are used as a weapon against the working class and unless the working class unites and fights those threats and capitalism as a whole many of the proletariat, who at present still have jobs, could find themselves amongst the precariat or even the unnecessariat.

Unite and fight; we have nothing to lose.

© 2017

Church solar project inspires solar for neighborhood

church solar install photoOne of the things that has always interested me about solar—and other clean tech—is the potential for them to become contagious. While few of us have the power, or the inclination, to build a coal plant just because the neighbors down the road have one, the distributed nature of solar means that one installation can lead to many more as neighbors get inspired by what other neighbors are doing.

There's still one impediment to this though. And that's money. Despite rapid declines in the cost of solar power, upfront costs can be prohibitive for many—even if there are long-term savings to be had.

Enter Resonant Energy. Based in Boston, this social enterprise is working on building coalitions of community partners to plan, finance and install solar projects. One of its flagship efforts—a successful Interfaith Community Solar Campaign—has already brought solar to Second Church in Dorchester, Bethel A.M.E., and the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin. Because upfront costs are covered by the project, churches start saving from day one.

Read more here.

6 most common sources of plastic pollution

plastic marine litter

The 5 Gyres Institute has published a report called “The Plastics BAN List.” Its purpose is to assess which plastics are most damaging to human health and the environment. Plastic waste was collected and analyzed to see in which form it’s most commonly found, which toxic chemicals are used to create the plastics, and what recovery systems (i.e. recycling, composting, reuse) exist, if any.

The list includes “Better Alternatives Now” (that’s where the BAN acronym comes in) – ways in which consumers, industry, and government can take voluntary action without waiting for technological fixes.

Voluntary action is key because, as the BAN list explains in its Findings and Recommendations, nearly all of these products have no economic value in today’s recycling systems. This may come as a shock to those people who think recycling is a viable green solution:

Read more here.

British Home Secretary wants to ban encryption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Encryption_Decryption_DiagramBritish Home Secretary Amber Rudd wants to ban encryption – well basically – for she demands that the security services and police be given access to the encryption WhatsApp and other secure messaging services. Calls have been made already a while ago to outlaw the use and possession of the Web- and desktop based Telegram messaging service which also end-to-end encrypts messages. Only WhatsApp is much more popular for sure as it is on so many smartphones and used by so many people daily, and not just by those with ill intent.

It has to be said that the British Home Secretary is not the only interior minister who wants to do this. In other countries similar moves are afoot such as in Germany as regards to Facebook and other social media. It was also the EU who was wanting to make the possession and use of “Telegram” illegal, in the same way that the governments want to outlaw email encryption – such as PGP – altogether. Apparently, if you are not up to anything illegal you can't have anything to hide, is their argument. In light of certain countries now giving green light to all our email data and even content being sold to advertising agencies and such like I am sure we all have something to hide or at least would like some of our more personal email exchanges and such to be kept private, as well as other details.

If the powers-that-be – which really should not be – insist that they have the right to be snooping on everything it is high time that the people turned the tables on them.

Thus, maybe, we will have to devise our own codes again, like in the days of old, such as the book cypher or phrase cypher.

Phrase cypher are “innocent” phrases and sentences that have a meaning only to the sender and the recipient and can be hidden in almost any text – as long as it makes sense – such as “Aunt Betty has a new hen”, “the post may be a little late today”, etc.

I am very well aware that this approach would be considered by the powers-that-be probably as illegal but they would have to know first what really is going on.

Also the demand to be given access to encrypted messages of apps and such like is but the first step on the ladder of being able to read all emails and ordinary letter, have no doubt about it. Already the British government and a number of other EU ones and that of the USA demand to get that right, namely to read all of our emails without the need for a warrant.

In the US the postal service has for years already been routinely copying the recipient and sender from letters and packages, and that not just from mail coming from outside the US.

In light of the above we have to question as to whether – in fact – a more or less routine general breach of the postal secrecy law is in operation and if not many letters are already being opened (or read in some other way that we do not know about).

Do you know why envelopes have, or at least used to have, a very strange pattered interior lining? That lining is intended to make it more or less impossible to read the contents, or at least part of the contents, of a letter without actually opening it. Just a little snippet of trivia here.

For the moment, at least in the majority of countries, letters sent via a postal network, that is to say “snail mail”, is still safe as, theoretically, and I do stress the word theoretically, an individual warrant is required for the authorities to intercept and read our letters. The “for the moment” will also have to be stressed very severely here.

Therefore it may really be the time that we considered devising our own codes and cyphers that can be hidden in ordinary letters, emails and even messages on whatever kind of service, without the “enemy” realizing that a cypher is being used. But all intended recipients then have to be on the same page and sing from the same hymn sheet.

© 2017

Today's throwaway and buy new society

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

walking_dogThe intro – so to speak – below was posted on a Facebook forum by a lady who was rather disgusted, as we can see from what she writes, by the attitude of the woman, or women, concerned:

Overheard while walking the dog:

'Oh, look at that, the button's just come off my coat, I'll have to get a new one now'

I turned to watch while the dog had stopped for a sniff. She had the button in her hand! Her friend was sympathizing with her about how badly things are made etc. IT'S A FLAMING BUTTON! They were making enough of a fuss that had I not been dog walking and had my usual handbag on me, I'd have offered to sew it back on there and then!!”

The problem is that that is the attitude of the great majority of people today almost everywhere we look in the so-called developed world.

So, a button, which has not even been lost but is in her hand, has come off her coat and the only thing that both women (not counting the lady who was walking the dog and who posted the original) can think of is that the coat, thus, will need replacing. They could not even think as far as needle and thread and sewing the button back on.

How did the thing go as to “for the lack of a nail a shoe was lost”? Something about the kingdom having been lost in the end. Preventative maintenance, also with clothing, is a good idea to make them last longer, and that also goes for cheap clothes. There is no need to throw a garment away because of a loose or lost button. All that is required is needle and thread (and obviously the knowledge of how to sew on a button) and also a button if the latter is lost.

Is it any wonder that tonnes of clothes are thrown on a daily basis, often clothes that would not need to be thrown if one would walk the repair path, and the great majority of those clothes thrown out end up in landfill. What we also seem to see is that people do not care much in general either. If they leave a coat or whatever behind in a park they rarely ever come back looking for it, be that children's clothes or adult ones.

That same also goes for many other things that they lose. People just no longer – a great majority of them, at least – appear to be valuing their possessions. While many of the older generation – at least those that grew up with not much disposable cash – and I include myself in this – act differently those that are somewhat younger when it comes to valuing possessions. But not just as far as losing something and then going and looking for it rather than, as the younger generations do, simply buying new; they also look to make their things last, even though today that is not that easy as repair often it not possible or several times more expensive than buying new.

But a button on a coat and then considering that a new coat must be purchased is just something that to me, at least, is difficult to fathom. Not only is it a case of waste of a garment, it is a serious waste of resources. And the resources are not just, in the case of a coat, the cloth and labor and such, but it is a very long list, depending whether it is made from man-made fibers or natural fibers. It includes oil and the resources it took to get the stuff out of the ground, if it is a polyester material, for instance, or seed, water, etc. if cotton, and that just for starters.

I don't know, but somewhere along the line many seem to have entirely lost the plot.

© 2017