Upcoming GDPR regulation used to spam

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One cannot call it any other way.

GDPR-graphicIn the last couple of days, aside from the ones I have been/am subscribed to, there are emails arriving from organizations, PR companies, and whatever that I have never heard of and never been subscribed to any of their mailing lists.

It would appear that the upcoming GDPR law taking effect soon in the UK is being used to send mails to people in the hope that they will subscribe to mailing lists. Therefore, before clicking on any link asking you to confirm that you would want to continue to hear from them ensure that you actually ever have been subscribed to them, and want to continue to do so. So, just check before you click and (re)subscribe.

© 2018

Russian backyard agriculture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dascha russian homesteadAround 35 million backyard gardens are in private family possession in Russia and the government supports this with a legal right to a free, tax-free piece of land from 1-3 ha (in some regions even up to 6 ha).

In 1999 those backyard farms produced 50% of all the milk, 60% of all meat, 77% of all vegetables, 87% of all fruit, and 92% of all potatoes and all that organically and sustainably. The entire country can in this way be feed without any real problems.

According to information from Russia the situation has gotten better still even since that time as more and more of such small backyard farms are coming “on stream”. The surplus of what is grown and now used by the householders and their family and laid up for winter and for seed, is sold on the local markets. That is, actually, one of the obligations that comes with being given free land.

Apparently, however, neither in the EU, nor Britain, nor the USA, this system could be implemented, so the powers-that-be (but probably shouldn't be) claim. Honest now, let's face it, we can't possibly allow people to be able to grow their own food on free land with a small house that the government also pays for – more or less – as is the case in Russia, and then sell surplus on the local markets. That would way too much cut the profits of the corporations.

Just imagine what would happen if people could do that and be able to grow all the food they and their families could possibly eat and then sell surplus as well. The whole idea of neo-liberal people control by controlling their food – and what goes into it – would go out of the window and that just would not do.

© 2018

Spear & Jackson Select Stainless 3-Piece Mini Tools Set – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Spear & Jackson SELECT STAINLESS 3-PIECE MINI TOOLS SETSpear & Jackson Select Stainless 3-Piece Mini Tools Set
• Mirror-polished stainless steel heads for rust resistance, easy clean and minimal soil adhesion
• Bi-material, soft grip contoured handles for added comfort
• An ideal set for container gardening
SSP incl VAT £17.99

A small but perfectly formed set of three miniature Select Stainless hand tools: hand trowel, transplanting trowel and three-pronged cultivator, ideal for working in the confined spaces of pots, planters and baskets.

While, originally, intended for use by adults in confined spaces of pots, planters, baskets and otherwise in container gardening, the set is also ideal for the little ones to be introduced to proper gardening, whether in containers or raised bed, by being given proper tools and not plastic things.

Personally I always suggest to refrain from giving a child inferior tools when introducing them to gardening. The plastic play tools do not cut it if you really want them to take gardening serious.

I particularly like the serration on the left-hand side of the trowel as, aside from giving a cutting edge, so to speak, if and when the soil is a little compacted, it also can be used to open bags of soil, compost, etc.

A real nice handy set of tools for the adult gardener pottering around in pots or, and especially, for the young gardener.

© 2018

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencil

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencilChildren have been found to have trouble holding pencils, due to so much time on iPads and other such devices

Experts say that children lack the muscle strength required to write.

All number of things – from intricate finger movement to hand-eye coordination – have to go right before someone can actually write.

Children spend so much time swiping iPad screens that they cannot hold a pencil anymore. Senior paediatricians in the United Kingdom say that many children start school lacking the muscle strength to grip a pencil, which affects their ability to learn how to write properly.

Technology-addled children have trouble holding a pencil2Sally Payne, head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, told The Guardian: "Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago. Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills."

"To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills."

I would also say that they haven't got the faintest idea what a pencil or pen is in the first place having spent probably several years already playing around on their parents' and probably even their own iPads or such devices.

Developing finger, arm, and shoulder strength is something that happened naturally in the past, when children drew, colored, cut paper and did crafts for entertainment and participated more actively in household chores. But the spread of handheld devices has changed the nature of play.

As Payne said, "It's easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they're not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."

And the ability of proper finger skills and hand-eye-coordination is not just important for writing by hand but also and especially for so many other tasks.

While some may say that handwriting belongs to an antiquated education system and is no longer relevant to today's texting, typing generation, this problem goes beyond not being able to form words on paper. This shows that kids' actual physical development is being stunted by too much sedentary screen-swiping, and that's very alarming. If a child's hand isn't strong enough to hold a pencil, imagine how weak their entire body must be, if the child has spent that much time sitting still, rather than running around the backyard or climbing trees.

While cursive, aka joint-up, writing might not be too important – I never got on with it myself – learning to write by hand and actually doing so is very important indeed, also for note-taking in class, as that action transfers the knowledge better than typing.

We should not be too quick to write off handwriting as a useless skill. Even if we do not write on paper as much as we used to, subjects like math and geography and art will always require the use of one's hand, particularly in early years. And who knows what schools will be like by the time today's kindergarteners reach university. Some lecture halls are banning laptops from classrooms, not only because they are distracting, but also because students are known to retain information better if it is copied down by hand. And that is because this “copying down by hand” is actually more a case of rewriting the words of lecturer into the student's own, thus already taking the material on board without even thinking about it.

We are doing our children a great disservice by handing them an electronic device (too early) before they have mastered other much more important skills than typing or swiping a finger across a screen. They also will not always be able to have a device handy later when needing to write something down, or the device may be out of power, etc. So what then?

On the other hand being unable to hold and push a pencil due to lack of muscle strength and coordination ability may also impede other activities, including the proper use of cutlery and using a knife for cutting tasks. I dread to think what kind of generation we are creating.

© 2018

Uses for chopsticks in gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How to use chopsticks in the garden and in gardening indoors and outdoors

Uses for chopsticks in gardeningEvery year, billions of disposable chopsticks are manufactured in China and shipped across the globe to Asian restaurants and take-out restaurants and with almost every tray of sushi bought in supermarkets and other places you get a set of those as well.

Those chopsticks are made out of a variety of woods, including birch, spruce, cotton wood, or bamboo.

Before even considering using them in the garden and in gardening, though that is what, mostly, we will be looking at here, the first reuse of them is as what they are, namely chopsticks.

I have a couple of sets of those sets at home in the tin cans on the windowsill in the kitchen that hold the various items of cutlery. There is a tin for spoons, for knives, etc. and one of them has also got some (wooden) chopsticks in them (for use). I also carry a small set, in a leather wallet, for on-the go.

While I in no way support deforestation in the name of stuffing our faces with dumplings and Vietnamese Crab Fried Rice, I do appreciate, however, creative ways to reuse and recycle items that are otherwise discarded into the trashcan or at the very least stuffed into a kitchen junk drawer, as is all too often the case also with those chopsticks.

In Japan (and also China now, I believe) a trend was started a while back of “bring your own chopsticks” – much like the “bring your own cutlery” that has been advocated in the West, and this is certainly something that should be encouraged.

So, before reuse of such chopsticks in the garden think of reusing them as what they are and when you want to use chopsticks at home then use those. Or when going out where there is the chance that you may indulge in some Asian food then carry your own set.

Having said that I am well aware that often getting yet another set is unavoidable as in some cases they are prepacked with the meal you purchase and you have no choice and control over this.

Right, now for the reuse of chopsticks in the garden and gardening

Dibblet: A dibblet is one of those small dibbers for separating seedlings and replanting them. Some people use a small stick, a pencil or pen, or such while others spend money, actually, buying a special dibblet. Use a chopstick instead. Works great.

Seed Flags: After you have planted your seeds, it is time to make a label so you know where you have planted what. The best marker is a good old flag: Use colored tape, cut it into a fun flag shape, wrap it around one end of a chopstick, and use a marker to note the name.

Seedling Support Stakes: When seedlings coming up, and are getting tall they may need some support. Insert a chopstick into the dirt next to the plant, and loosely tie a piece of twine or string around it to help keep the plant upright as it grows.

Row Planting Guide: Want to make sure you plant your rows straight? Cut a piece of twine or string a few inches longer than your row will be, or just have a lot more string than you will actually need to have one you can use again and again. Tie each end to the tops of two chopsticks. Stick the chopsticks into the ground at either end of the proposed row so that the twine is suspended like a bridge. If you use more twine than you might need for shorter rows just wind then remaining stuff onto one of the chopsticks. You can use your trowel to dig into the ground directly below the twine, making a perfectly straight row.

Mini “Greenhouse”: Stick three chopsticks into a pot or individual seed starting cell, and fit a plastic bag over the top and you have an instant small propagator.

The above are, obviously, only a few ways in which you can reuse and make use of those chopsticks in the garden and gardening and I am sure many readers can come – and have come up – with other ideas in addition to those presented here.

© 2018