Recyclables vs. Secondary Raw Materials

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I believe that the term “Secondary Raw Materials” far better would get the message of how important recycling and recyclables are but hand in hand with it needs to go a change in strategy, namely that recycling and the use of those secondary raw materials, has to happen “at home” and the stuff not to be sent abroad to Third World countries or China. Well, then again China, and now India, have banned all imports of such materials into their respective countries.

Recyclables does not have the same weight, I believe, as does the terms “secondary raw materials”, a term that was used, probably coined even, in the German Democratic Republic, referred to, unfortunately, as East Germany.

Instead of penalties for not putting the recyclables out what should be done it to incentivize it so that the people learn the value of those secondary raw materials though not, necessarily, putting a deposit on the items, but by paying those bringing the secondary raw materials in to local (very local please, so that everyone, including children, can get to them without the need for a car) collecting centers. It is not rocket science and if it worked in the GDR it can work anywhere and everywhere. However, the reuse of these materials has to happen “at home”, so to speak, and industry to pay the collectors for the materials brought in. Alcan did just that for aluminium cans not all that long ago.

When the debate was hot about China having banned all imports of plastic waste into the country a recycling specialist in the UK stated that he was at a total loss that we would send such valuable resource as waste plastic abroad for recycling instead of actually doing it “at home”. Well, I am with him on that, and not only with regards to plastic.

But, instead of creating ways to do this in our countries, we rather send the stuff to countries where the environmental standards are lower or non existent to those in our own countries. Cheaper that way, you see. The problem is simple, it is called capitalism. Creating jobs in this sector “at home” and doing the work under our stricter conditions for the capitalists is simply too expensive.

We really must look at recyclables in a different light and see the them for what they are, namely secondary raw materials, and trest them as such, and we must rework them “at home” to, one, make the operations cleaner and, two, to create jobs in this branch, and many jobs can be created in this. It would be a win-win situation for our respective countries and for the Planet. And it is not just plastic, but glass, steel, aluminium, wood, paper and card, and whatever else.

True, many of the items that end up needing to be recycled should not be made in the first place. Do we really need those plastic bottles, those single-use cups, those plastic straws and those plastic carrier bags? And then there is the amount of packaging, plastic and other, which more often that not is totally unnecessary. Also, if they are made then should be made in such a way that they are not fused materials which are almost impossible to get apart for recycling. Cardboard packaging also needs to stop being laminated with, albeit a thin layer of, plastic, which makes it again almost impossible to deal with.

Those items, however, that still, after proper changes, would end up as what are called recyclables today should be treated as secondary raw materials rather and be collected and reprocessed right there in the country where they have been collected and used.

Considering that today open source technology is even available, albeit still at a price, even if it is DIY, creating machines that are capable, in a private garage even, to turn waste plastic into new products, it simply cannot be that difficult for a country to get to grips with hings such as this. What is preventing it, I am well aware, is capitalism as it stands, where profits account for more than the Planet and people.

© 2019

ARS-300L Needle Nose Fruit Snip – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The 300L is a Japanese manufactured fruit pruner which has become an instant industry favorite due to its lightweight design and extremely impressive cutting power.

I received this sample as a press gift from Sorbus, who are the representative of ARZ tools in the UK, at the Garden Press Event 2019 on February 27, 2019 at the Business Design Center in Islington (London, UK) and really like it. And I am not saying it because it was a gift/free sample; I really do mean it.

It comes out of the box extremely sharp, but then, for some reason, I would have expected that from Japanese-made tools, the tips wrapped in oiled wax paper, for protection of the blades and one's fingers. In fact the blades are so sharp and precise that they cut paper, for instance, better than many a pair of scissors (at least in this household/office).

The blades are made from high quality carbon steel (stainless steel version appears to be available at extra cost) and the entire construction is drop-forged steel with just a “rubber” coating on the handles and a broad silicone(?) band that is used as a lock for the handles.

The needle nose design especially, combined with the sharpness of the blades allows for precise cuts, be it for trimming plants or for harvesting leaves or fruit, or for floristry. More precision than with any pair of secateurs and more strength, when needed, than a pair of (garden or florist) scissors. All that at a price that will not break the bank either for a high-quality Japanese tool.

Price: £8.09 … £9.71 incl. Tax.

© 2019

Burgon & Ball container weeder – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This container weeder, with a compact head and inwards-facing blade to protect plant stems from accidental damage, is ideal for scraping off moss, weeding and turning over the soil.

Though, as far as most moss in containers, and even raised beds, is concerned using gloved hands is much more efficient and you can actually get the stuff properly removed.

In fact this is a hand-held draw hoe though of a design that is rather new, as far as they head itself is concerned. The blade is rather sharp, from the factory, which is quite unusual in may respects today. The handle is of FSC-certified wood and the tool comes with a ten-year guarantee.

The blade and other metal parts are forged and made from high-quality high-carbon steel and while that means that they are not stainless are will rust easier than stainless steel carbon steel is much more durable in that it often is harder than stainless.

It is a well-balanced little hoe that should be an extremely useful addition to the armory of the container gardener or the one who grows produce in raised beds, also in the square-foot method. Raised beds also present the same problems as do pots and other containers of working with tight spaces and the requirement to weed, remove moss, and separate out individual plants.

The draw hoe design is also much better suited for containers and raised beds than is the so-called Dutch hoe design, which works with a pushing motion rather than drawing across, and in that case it can happen that, rather unintended, a plant will bite the dust.

This little hoe is from the new RHS-endorsed collection of specialist container gardening tools from Burgon & Ball. The other tools are listed in the article “Passionate about Pots” and, hopefully, in due course, we shall be able to have a closer look at those as well by means of a review and test.

The review sample was received as media gift at the Burgon & Ball stand at the Garden Press Event 2019 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London (UK).

© 2019

RED TRACTOR CEO RESPONDS TO US AMBASSADOR “MUSEUM OF AGRICULTURE”

Jim Moseley, CEO, Red Tractor Assurance, said: “Categorically, the UK’s food standards are now under threat from the commercial appetites of the United States food lobby. We urge the government not to sacrifice legislation which prevents these sort of products from being sold in the UK.”

“British people deserve better than having their world-leading food standards sold out from underneath them.”

“Our research shows that shoppers look for food that has been produced to the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and traceability. A deal that allows illegal products to be brought into the UK, lets down the British public and undermines all the investment and efforts of British farmers. This cannot be the right thing to do.”

Source: Green Row Communications

Is your garden buzzing?

Hozelock’s bee friendly Plant A Pot campaign is set to take you by ‘swarm’!

With more than 18,000 pledges to plant bee-friendly plants in 2018 Hozelock’s Plant A Pot campaign has been a huge success so far and wants to help keep gardens buzzing this year!

Recognizing that having no bees would mean virtually no flowers, no gardens and very little food, Hozelock’s mission is to help to save Britain’s bees and to make it easy for you to play your part. By planting a container with bee-friendly plants, bulbs or seeds, and keeping it watered and healthy throughout the foraging season, you can have a huge impact on the availability of bee food throughout the year. The plight of bees is something that anyone with a garden, patio or even a window box can identify with and the Plant A Pot campaign is a rewarding and affordable way to help.

What’s more, from March 20, 2019 if you visit www.plantapot.info and pledge to #plantapot you’ll be in with a chance of winning over £5,000 worth of great gardening and bee-related prizes in Hozelock’s free prize draw – including a cottage holiday in Devon. Plus, there are dozens of £10 Horticultural Trade Association National Garden Gift Vouchers (which can be spent at most garden centers) to be won every month!

Driven by the knowledge that bees are disappearing at an alarming rate and a third of all the food we eat depends on them – Hozelock’s campaign is a call to action for gardeners nationwide to play their part.

With everything from automatic watering systems and a wide range of hoses to the Green Power Thermal Weeder and the Pure Range – which make natural gardening easy – Hozelock has everything you’ll need to look after your garden and help nurture the bees and other wildlife who visit it.

Hozelock’s top 5 watering tips for your plant pots:

1. Start off right. Water your plants even before you pot them to ensure they get off to a good start. Make sure your pots can drain easily – a hole in the base of the pot is essential!
2. Water consistently and carefully. Avoid a ‘feast or famine’ approach to watering which can affect plants’ health and result in less pollen and poor nectar quality for bees.
3. Set up an automatic watering system. An area planted with lavender and other bee-friendly plants which enjoy a dry spell, can be watered sparingly. Automatic watering systems make it really easy to tailor the right amount of water to each zone of your garden and allow you to go away on worry-free holidays!
4. Water accurately – at the base and roots of a plant. Overhead sprays can result in water being wasted as it drips off leaves beyond the roots. Good spray guns allow you to direct water more accurately.
5. Be prepared. Keep a neat hose handy so you can water as soon as you see the pot drying out.

Hozelock’s top 3 tips for planting for bees:

1. Plant a diverse garden. The more diverse your choice, the more wildlife you’re likely to attract. If you have a wildlife pond be sure to add bee friendly aquatic plants too.
2. Check the structure. Choose plants with flower structures that allow their nectar to be easily accessed by bees including Foxgloves, Lavender and Comfrey – your local garden-center can help you discover many more.
3. Plant your five a day. From a pot of strawberries, peas and beans to rosemary or thyme – there are loads of fruit, veg and herbs that are pollinated by bees so you can provide a nutritious treat for yourself whilst helping bees.

Source: Hozelock

Garden Press Event 2019

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 saw the Garden Press Event held at the Business Design Center in Islington, London (UK) and the event was well attended as far as exhibitors and press visitors are concerned.

This is is the first year when the event was entirely organized by GIMA rather than via the Garden Media Guild but, as usual, visitors were made very welcome indeed and the venue is much better than the previous one at Barbican 2.

It was good to meet old acquaintances from companies and see new stuff from the “old” companies as well as make new ones and to see products from newcomers to the show as well as the field.

Some of the new products and those from companies that have not been at the event before that caught my attention were Makita's new cordless chainsaw with a cutting power equal to that of a 35cc gasoline engine, the ARS tools that Sorbus was showcasing, as well and especially the Rotating Handle System from Itip (review to follow) that will make using, and especially emptying, a wheelbarrow so much easier for everyone, but especially people who are older, suffering from arthritis, back problems, etc.

There was also the range of light gardening tools from Fiskars, some of which are of nylon while others of a lighter metal (alloy). All to make gardening easier.

Burgon & Ball presented the new range of tools for container gardening (review/s to follow), as well as showcasing the range of Corona cutting tools from the USA, which they are now representing in the UK. I had seen the latter ones before often on US media but actually handling them had not been possible before. Having done so I must say that I very much like them. Hopefully I will be in a position, at a later date, to actually test and review some of them.

I would like to use this also to thank the organizers for another great event and for allowing me to be part of it.

© 2019

PASSIONATE ABOUT POTS: A NEW RHS-ENDORSED COLLECTION OF CONTAINER GARDENING TOOLS FROM BURGON & BALL

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Containers are an easy and hugely popular way to bring a splash of color to any space, however large or small the garden – and this season sees a new RHS-endorsed collection of specialist container gardening tools from Burgon & Ball, offering the perfect way to plant, weed and maintain container displays quickly and easily.

Gardening in containers, however, is not just a way of bringing a splash of color into even the tiniest of garden. It also makes it possible to grow at least some fresh vegetables and fruit for yourself and your family. And if you cannot got horizontally then think vertically.

The trend for container gardening is universal and growing; today’s smaller homes and busy lifestyles mean there’s often not the time or space for a large garden, while more extensive gardens also make the most of container gardening’s flexibility, simplicity and style. This new RHS-endorsed collection has been created in response to gardeners’ requirement for tools specially designed for use with containers.

The fact is, really, with modern homes today, that there is almost no garden there and often that which there is is only suited for lawn as, more often than not, as I have found some years back when doing the garden for some people, just below the top soil a great amount of builders' rubble has been buried. So the only way to grow flowers and vegetables is the use of containers or raised beds.

The range includes a container weeder, with a compact head and inwards-facing blade to protect plant stems from accidental damage, which is ideal for scraping off moss, weeding and turning over the soil. There’s a container scoop, with an innovative scoop collar to prevent spills and mess, and its generous size makes it a faster filler! Completing the line-up there’s a container root and transplanting knife. A dished, double-edge blade which is serrated on one side makes this multi-purpose knife ideal for sliding round pots to release the plants within, making holes for planting and making tight holes to add plants to add to existing displays.

The translating knife is very much akin to the Japanese Hori hori though without the extremely sharp edge that Hori hori has and minus the dagger tip.

Of course, the collection is equally suitable for use in raised beds – in essence, containers on a grand scale! Here too these new tools are ideal, as raised beds also present the problems of working with tight spaces and the requirement to weed, remove moss, and separate out individual plants.

All tools in the new RHS-endorsed container gardening collection are crafted in steel with FSC-certified wooden handles, and come with a ten-year guarantee for peace of mind.

Founded in Sheffield in 1730, Burgon & Ball is the UK’s oldest manufacturer of garden tools and accessories, with hundreds of years of expertise in steel manufacturing. A manufacturer of the world’s finest sheep shears since its earliest years, today Burgon & Ball is respected as a leading name in garden tools and enjoys an enviable reputation for quality and innovation. Notable product ranges are its Royal Horticultural Society-endorsed garden tools, and the popular range of hand tools and giftware developed in collaboration with designer Sophie Conran.

In 2018 Burgon & Ball joined the Venanpri Group, a global collective of the finest hand tool brands for agriculturists, horticulturists, gardeners, landscape and construction professionals. The cumulative experience of the Bellota, Burgon & Ball and Corona brands represents nearly 500 years of advancement in developing superior hand tools. With a global footprint spanning more than 125 countries across 6 continents, these brands have been the leading choice for generations of professionals who rely on quality and lasting performance.

© 2019

40 MEPs support campaign asking people to eat vegan for Lent

The parliamentarians have signed a statement of support for the Million Dollar Vegan campaign, which encourages people to fight climate change with diet change

LONDON, UK, Wednesday 27 February 2019: As a result of recent research which details the devastating effects of animal agriculture on our planet and the environment, 40 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) have declared their support for the Million Dollar Vegan campaign – including UK MEPs Catherine Bearder and John Flack. The campaign is asking members of the public to try a vegan diet for Lent, in an effort to raise awareness and take action against climate change. Coordinated by German MEP Stefan Eck, the statement has been signed buy MEPs from 17 countries across the EU, and from seven of the eight European parliamentary groups.

Million Dollar Vegan has recently made headlines all over the world with their offer of $1 million to a charity of Pope Francis’s choice, if he decides to try vegan for Lent. The face of the campaign is 12-year-old Genesis Butler, who contacted the Pope in an open letter backed by scientists and celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Woody Harrelson, Moby and Chris Packham, and also visited the Vatican last week. The campaign is encouraging people all over the world to take the pledge and reduce their CO2 emissions by choosing a plant-based diet for the period of Lent.

Removing animal products from our diets is the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to reduce our impact on the planet. Each person that choses to participate in the Million Dollar Vegan pledge will save emissions equivalent to that of a flight from London to Berlin, according to Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore.

MEP Stefan Eck, who has been coordinating this joint statement together with Million Dollar Vegan, states: "In order to at least somewhat mitigate the climate catastrophe ahead of us, we must use every opportunity to reduce emissions that are harmful to the climate. This also means that we must change our diet. Million Dollar Vegan is doing a fantastic job of raising awareness about this important issue. I sincerely hope that hundreds of thousands of people will join this campaign and chose a vegan diet, not just for the protection of our planet, but also for the animals, and for a more just and safe food system."

The supporting Members of the European Parliament come from different parliamentary parties and countries, but are united in their mission to speak out against climate change.

The statement reads as follows: "We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, express our concern about the danger of climate change and environmental destruction. We therefore support Million Dollar Vegan and Genesis Butler’s attempts to raise awareness for this issue and fight climate change with diet change."

The parliamentarians support the idea of choosing Lent, which starts on March 6th, as a timely period to give a plant-based diet a chance:

The statement continues: "Abstaining from animal products for the 40-day-period of Lent, or for any other occasion, makes a difference for the planet and the footprint we each leave on the Earth."
See the full statement here.

Million Dollar Vegan has produced a Vegan Starter Kit – written in multiple languages and with country-specific content – which is available to download for free at www.MillionDollarVegan.com. It contains helpful information about following a vegan diet, including nutrition advice, recipe sites, vegan products, inspiring books and films, and the best places to eat out. Since the campaign launched on February 6th, thousands of people have already downloaded the Starter Kit to learn more about a plant-based diet.

A major report published by the UN in 2018 warned there are just 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, with drastic measures needed urgently to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C. Research from Oxford University has shown that a plant based diet is the single biggest way to minimise our environmental impact.

Joint Statement signed by Members of the European Parliament
The full statement undersigned by 40 members of the European Parliament can be found here.

Interviews with Million Dollar Vegan spokespeople available on request.
Full version of the letter from Genesis Butler, images and videos are available to download here.

Million Dollar Vegan is a non-profit campaign, launched by Veganuary founders Matthew Glover and Jane Land. Its mission is: to fight climate change with diet change; to draw attention to the suffering of farmed animals; to demonstrate the relationship between animal agriculture and world hunger, deforestation and species loss; and to show how our health can be impacted by the foods we choose to eat. We are asking influential world leaders and those that look up to them to acknowledge the far-ranging effects of eating animal products and to consider the billions of people and animals who suffer consequentially. We aim to inspire people to make more conscious, sustainable and benevolent choices, to turn their attention to the abundance of plant-based foods available to them, and to adopt a plant-based diet.

Further details about the impact of animal agriculture on global warming and climate change can be found at the Million Dollar Vegan website. Research from Oxford University that shows being vegan is the ‘single biggest thing’ we can do to reduce our environmental impact is published here.

Genesis Butler went vegan at the age of six and convinced her whole family to go vegan. She has taken part in hundreds of demos and marches against industries that exploit animals, such as circuses, rodeos, and amusement parks. She became the youngest TEDx speaker when she delivered her speech entitled, "A 10 Year Old's Vision for Healing the Planet", where she discusses animal agriculture and the negative impact it has on the planet.

Genesis recently founded her non-profit organisation, Genesis for Animals, which raises funds for animal sanctuaries around the world. She is featured in several documentaries including The Invisible Vegan, Vegan: Everyday Stories, and Corky. She is also featured in the documentary Cesar Chavez: Respect for All, where she learns about the activism of her great uncle, Cesar Chavez.

Genesis has won several awards for her activism, including the 2018 Lisa Shapiro Youth Animal Activist of the Year, PETA's Young Hero to Animals award, and was recently recognised by Social Compassion in Legislation for her work lobbying for animals at the California State Capitol. Genesis speaks regularly at both vegan and non-vegan events about the benefits of veganism and the importance of having compassion for all species.

Paul McCartney, Moby, Woody Harrelson, Mena Suvari, Chris Packham, Joaquin Phoenix, George Monbiot, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jay & Katya Wilde, Evanna Lynch, Peter Egan, Oli Sykes, Derek Sarno, Earthling Ed, Captain Paul Watson, Joseph Poore (Oxford University), Dr Neal Barnard MD, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn MD, and many more.

DOFF provides new weapon for gardeners to defend themselves against slugs and snails

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Doff has announced the launch of its brand new and exciting organic slug and snail killer based on Ferric Phosphate, replacing previously popular pellets containing the now banned chemical, Metaldehyde.

"With 85% of all slug pellets previously sold containing the banned Metaldehyde, there will be a huge demand from gardeners needing to buy an effective alternative solution. Our new organic Ferric Phosphate product will meet that demand, so look out slugs!" said Ben Shapiro of B7 Ventures which acquired Doff in 2012.

It is thought that the average British garden contains over 20,000 slugs and snails. Many gardeners don't know that 95% of slugs are actually underground. They nibble on seeds and roots and lay 20-100 eggs multiple times every year', which results in huge problems in the garden.

Doff is the longest established manufacturer of Slug and Snail killer, and has acted very promptly to ensure that gardeners will still have a solution to prevent their gardens from being overrun with slugs - once metaldehyde is discontinued at the end of June.

"We have made our New Range of Ferric Phosphate Slug & Snail Killer available in less than a month since DEFRA banned the use of Metaldehyde: said Shapiro.

"We were very aware that the army of slugs, which appear to be always on the march across all of our gardens, would take full advantage of the lack of an effective deterrent!"

Like Doff. an increasing number of gardeners are very conscious of the need to use insecticides which do the least possible damage to the environment.

"Our new Ferric Phosphate product, endorsed by the Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) Organic Certification, has greener, more environmental credentials and demonstrates our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) profile within the marketplace”, added Shapiro.

For those gardeners keen to understand just how much Ferric Phosphate they are using, the product is available in two different formulations: one containing 1% Ferric Phosphate, and one at the higher concentration of 3%. Both products are certified with the OF&G for organic use.

Doff has been be promoting its new Ferric Phosphate product in conjunction with the Common Sense Garden initiative, run by the Garden Group of the Crop Association, at The Garden Press Event on Wednesday 27 February 2019 at the Business Design Centre, London.

"All the major brands of garden care products are signed up to this initiative which promotes responsible use of garden products with the aim of educating gardeners as to best practice”, said Shapiro.

Doff supplies the entire industry from independent garden centres and high street retailers to Supermarkets and large national retail chains.


Founded in 1946 Doff Portland Limited (Doff) is the UK's largest independent manufacturer of insecticides, weedkillers and garden care products.

As an ISO and BRC accredited company Doff is able to provide assurance and inspire confidence in the quality of their products. Expertise in plant protection and biocidal product registration ensures fully traceable production and delivery from development through to the final stage.

It can only be hoped, and I add this caveat because I have not been able, as yet, to test this new product, that these slug pellets are better than the so-called “organic” ones that are already on the market and which have little to no effect at all.

© 2019

Early sunshine may be making us all happy, but if the weather turns there’ll be nothing to smile about

  • Unseasonably warm weather linked to climate change
  • Weather is encouraging some birds to make nesting attempts, butterflies are starting to emerge and other animals like hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation too soon
  • Swallows and house martins have been spotted arriving back in the UK – more than a month early
  • The Met Office expects the mild conditions to continue for another week with unsettled, wet and windy weather to return after that
The RSPB is warning that the unseasonably warm weather could lead to a crisis for nature – particularly if it turns cold again, as it did last year.

The charity has received a number of reports about birds attempting to nest and breed, butterflies emerging, hedgehogs, reptiles and insects coming out of hibernation and even migrant birds like swallows and house martins appearing back in the country much earlier than they should.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Global Conservation, said: “While the warm weather, bright sunshine and abundant sights and sounds of nature undoubtedly make us all feel better, they should also ring alarm bells.  The early signs of spring are likely down to climate change, which is bad news for us all.  As we expect the weather to return to temperatures more traditionally associated with this time of year – as they are forecast to – then there could be a real crisis for our birds, insects and other wildlife.”

The charity’s wildlife team has been getting calls from people reporting early nesting attempts and in some cases even early young, with ducklings being spotted across the country.

Reports that hedgehogs and other hibernating species, like some reptiles and butterflies, are waking up earlier than usual, prompted by the warm weather.

Travelling ahead of the ‘Saharan plume’ many birds usually seen in spring are starting to arrive back in the UK after spending a warm winter in Africa.  The RSPB is already receiving reports of swallows and house martins being spotted in Cornwall, Devon and south Wales weeks ahead of when they would usually be expected to be seen back in the UK.

Charlotte Ambrose from the RSPB’s Wildlife Team, said: “Birds rely on environmental cues such as temperature to know when to start making a nest and start breeding. Because of the extremely mild weather, some birds and other wildlife are starting early. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it may allow some birds to have an extra brood before the main breeding season starts, but if the weather changes back to more normal conditions, the birds may get caught out and struggle to find enough food for themselves and their young.

“If invertebrates emerge early they will be here when the early nesting birds and their chicks need them, but again a cold snap could mean they don’t survive. Any sudden bad weather can kill-off early flowering plants, which are a source of nectar for insects, meaning they will struggle to find enough food.”

While there isn’t a lot we can do to change the weather forecast, there are things we can do to help the wildlife in our gardens survive a cold snap, including putting out energy-rich foods like meal worms and fat balls, making sure there’s a supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing, providing nest boxes, and – a more long term solution - by planting pollen-rich flowers (the latter’s a more long-term solution).

Climate change is one of the biggest factors impacting nature in the UK. The average temperature in the UK during summer has increased by nearly 1°C since the 1980s – with 17 of the 18 warmest years occurring since the year 2001.


A wider look at the impacts of climate change on birds, the Nature of Climate Change, www2.rspb.org.uk/Images/natureofclimatechange_tcm9-409709.pdf

To find out more about the birds in your garden and what you can to do help, please visit: www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/

Dr Bob Ward, of the centre for climate change economics and policy at the London School of Economics, said that while warmer temperatures are often welcomed, they can be deadly. “People may find it very pleasant to be in warmer temperatures but they must also remember that it’s the same trend that saw hundreds of people die last summer as a result of overheating. Over the last five years we also had two record wet winters during which there was severe flooding. This is a sign of the fundamental and profound way that Britain’s climate is changing.”
He said the weather change could also have disastrous consequences for wildlife. “If we have a cold [snap again] now there is a danger it will kill a lot of wildlife that has emerged early due to the spring-like temperatures.”

Taken from ‘UK experiences winter temperatures above 20C for first time’ - Guardian 25 Feb 2019

Source: RSPB

The Mountfield MC48Li 48V ...a revolution in home woodcutting

– PRESS RELEASE –
With over 50 years of life at the top as the UK's lawn mower and gardening tool manufacturers, MOUNTFIELD have excelled in providing new and innovative cordless products.

With the array of storms, wind and rain so far this month, many gardens are sure to need a bit of a tidy up...so why not get rid of those hanging branches in a quiet and simple manner?

With the Mountfield MC48Li 48V battery-powered chainsaw, you will experience a revolution in home woodcutting. It is so powerful, lightweight and efficient, it makes easy work of jobs around the garden.

Its class leading MC48Li 48V Lithium-Ion battery powers a highly efficient DigiTorq brushless motor and you will get energy and cost savings from this intelligent power-saving technology.

Using the saw is as simple as pushing the start button and holding the drive trigger. With the 4 amp-hour battery, you'll get up to an impressive 50 minutes run time, equal to 150 cuts through 4-inch logs.

So forget the hassle of mixing fuels, refilling the tank, fumes and starting problems of a petrol model - and enjoy a chainsaw which is simplicity itself. The reduced noise and fumes, incredible convenience, low cost and market-leading rechargeable 48V battery pack single out this as a leader in its field.

The Mountfield MC48Li is part of the Freedom48 cordless range. One powerful 48V battery, multiple garden tools! Go on ..... get cutting!

Source: Rabbitattack PR

N.B. This is just a press releases and we have not been – as yet – able to test and evaluate this saw ourselves.

Garden tool maintenance


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In January and February, aside from pruning your apple trees and such, is the quiet in the garden and for the gardener. But now it just the right time to give your tools some TLC, some tender loving care.

Clean your spades, digging forks, hoes and such like, with warm soapy water, scarping off and removing all dirt. Then resharpen the edges of the tools that have edges and need them, the same goes for your hand digging trowels and other hand tools, forks, hoes, etc. – this includes your edging iron (knife). Dry them thoroughly and then lightly oil the metal parts.

Sharpening of the tools, mentioned above, is done gently with a flat file. You do not want a knife edge on them, in other words while they are tools to cut they are meant to cut soil and a knife edge would be too thin. However to some large extent they should be sharp, the edges.

Your cutting tools, such as loppers, secateurs, should be, generally, cleaned after every use to prevent cross-contamination and also to remove buildup of sap on the blades. The latter can lead to the blades becoming inactive, that is to say no longer cutting properly or even be put out of alignment. While some recommend the use of a specific sap removing agent, such as sapex, this is not necessary at all. Baby wet wipes or simply a cloth with some WD40 will do as well. Buy now is the time to really give them some care; at least when the last pruning is done.

You do not have to take your loppers or pruning shears (secateurs) apart to clean or sharpen them. Don't forget your edging shears, hedge shears and such like and, once again, they do not have to be taken apart to have their edges resharpened. They are all, however, sharpened differently, depending to the blades and blade profiles that they have. Generally a small file or a diamond sharpener should be used for the sharpening of those tools. Unlike with the digging tools here you want sharp edges to very sharp edges, the latter especially for the secateurs and loppers.

Once you have sharpened the tools, coat the blades with oil, oil all moving parts and, in the case of secateurs (pruning shears) also and especially the little spring between the handles. The latter is very important if they are the so-called caterpillar kind.

© 2019

Urine as compost agitator

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Yes, it works, and it works extremely well...

OK, it all sounds rather strange, and maybe even icky, collecting urine in a container and then putting it onto the compost heap or into the compost bin but that is what was done not so long ago in rural households anyway. In fact men and boys were sent outside to urinate onto the compost heap in the yard. Somewhere along the line the old ones knew more, it would appear, than we know today. We rather flush this valuable resource for garden and fields down the drain with gallons of fresh water right behind. A double waste.

I have written about the theory of this in an article before and then have put it to the test, as one should. The results are in, so to speak, and they are very positive. I do not know about the nitrate content but know that what normally would take up to three years, that is to turn whatever into compost in the compost bin, aka composer (the Dalek kind), has taken about three months and a bit, and that even without much of heat from the sun. By far a better result than from any commercial compost agitator tried and tested; the kind that you can buy in a garden center. I hasten to add that some of the content of the composter was also shredded paper and card and wood shaving from wood carving (being a spoon and treen carver) and not just vegetable peelings, leaves, grass clippings, and such.

All compost agitators, the ones you can buy in the garden centers, those that I have tried, have either had none to very little effect while “fresh” urine, on the other hand, went straight to work and did its job, and did its job well, and if what our ancestors did is any explanation then it has been doing this job well for generations and generations. They have used this valuable resource that is a waste product of our bodies and not just in the garden. It was used to tan leather and in the production of gun powder.

Not only do we, as far as gardeners, smallholders, and such, are concerned a valuable resource of nitrate flushing all the stuff down the drain, followed by gallons of potable water, also does our watercourses no good at all as it contaminates them with too much nitrate. So, using urine as in the compost is a win-win situation. It is also cheaper than any other compost agitator, most of which seem not to work, or not very well.

© 2019

Back to Basics in Information Security

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Complexity heralds return of ‘back to basics’ approach in 2019 for information security professionals according to Infosecurity Europe poll and more than half (55%) of respondents say they plan to ‘go back to basics’ while 45% reveal they will invest in more technology

It appears that many organizations will begin the New Year and the new financial year by reviewing their security infrastructure and taking a ‘back to basics’ approach to information security. This is according to the latest in a series of social media polls conducted by Europe’s number one information security event, Infosecurity Europe 2019.

Asked what their ‘security mantra’ is for 2019, more than half, that is to say 55%, of respondents say they plan to ‘go back to basics’ while 45% reveal they will invest in more technology. According to Gartner, worldwide spending on information security products and services is forecast to grow 8.7 per cent to $124 billion in 2019.

When it comes to complexity, two-thirds believe that securing devices and personal data will become more (rather than less) complicated over the next 12 months. With Forrester predicting that 85 per cent of businesses will implement or plan to implement IoT solutions in 2019, this level of complexity is only set to increase with more connected devices and systems coming online.

However, many organizations will be looking to reduce complexity in their security architecture this year by maximizing what they already have in place. According to Infosecurity Europe’s poll, 60 per cent of respondents say that maximizing existing technologies is more important than using fewer vendors (40%).

If they'd really be honest about this then most of it would go back to paper and the filing cabinet as has, to a great extent with highly sensitive information, the Russian FSB and other of their security agencies have done.

It is easy to steal hundreds of thousands and more of electronic data with a simple click, a USB stick, and a little transfer time, and at times, via hacks, no direct physical access to the machines is actually needed. Stealing some locked filing cabinets, on the other hand, is a different task altogether and might require a truck or two. They, generally, do not fit into the palm of the hand.

Data theft is but one issue, however. They other, as far as digital infrastructure is concerned, is unauthorized access with the aim of manipulating data, erasing data, or even disrupting whatever operations the systems run, including power distribution, air traffic control, etc.

We have become, and this is not the first time that I am stating this, far too reliant on computers and especially the IoT (Internet of things). There was a time we were concerned that our homes, especially those of us where that was a concern, might be bugged. Today we invite the bugs right into our homes and offices. Do you really know what Alexa and Siri are listening to? Who or what your web-cam may be watching? You Internet-connected monitor in your child's room may be hijacked and the images being viewed remotely. Even your remote-controlled alarm system at home and business premises is hackable.

Let's get truly “back to basics” in data security and digital security and keep a much tighter check on what information we hold on potentially hackable systems. Let's remember all digital systems are hackable, it is only a matter of time, and that time is not written in days or hours even but can be minutes to but seconds.

© 2019

Which Plants Should I Prune in January?

Check out which garden favourites will benefit from a trim this month

January is a great time to prune plants, because you can see their framework, which makes the job a lot easier. Read on to find out just a few of the varieties that will benefit from a prune in their dormant period, then, before you start snipping, make sure your tools are clean and sharp.

Circular Electronics Day aims to extend the lifespan of electronics

Press Release

Today’s extensive consumption of electronics lead to alarming amounts of waste and the release of substances hazardous to human health and the environment. Finite natural resources are extracted from the ground at a fast rate and reserves are running low. By prolonging product life, individuals and organizations can contribute to a more sustainable future.

On January 24, Circular Electronics Day takes place for the second time. More than twelve organizations internationally stand behind the initiative which aims to increase awareness of why electronic products should be given a longer life through repairs, upgrades and reuse.

50 million metric tons of electronic waste is being generated per year worldwide. E-waste contains valuable metals as well as hazardous substances that are often released into the environment s and affect human health. Even more waste is generated when the products are manufactured — to make a notebook computer, 1,200 kilograms of waste is produced, for example from the mining and metals industries. The environmental problems are a result of today’s linear economy where raw materials are extracted to manufacture products which often have a short lifespan before they are discarded.

“We need to make the transition to the circular economy where products and materials are handled in a responsible way. The aim is to maximize product lifetime and handle discarded products as valuable resources, used to manufacture new products”, says Andreas Rehn, project manager of criteria development at TCO Development, the organization behind sustainability certification for IT products, TCO Certified.

The organizers of the initiative encourage both individuals and organizations to contribute to a more sustainable use of electronics by sharing tips and inspiring others to reuse products with the hashtag #CircularElectronicsDay.

Five easy steps that can extend the lifespan of electronics
  • Buy your product second hand. By asking for used products or products that are designed for reuse, both individuals and organizations can contribute.
  • Consider if it is possible to repair or sell your product. By erasing old data, refurbishing and upgrading it, you can give it a longer life.
  • If you must buy a new product, choose one that is certified according to a sustainability certification compliant with ISO 14024. Criteria must then be comprehensive, relevant and cover the product’s full life cycle and compliance with the criteria must be verified by an independent part.
  • Purchase a high-performance product. It enables you to keep it for a longer period of time.
  • Electronics contain valuable resources and shouldn’t be treated as waste. If it’s not possible to reuse or sell your old products, hand them in to a recycling facility or another collection point where the materials are taken care of. Many retailers accept that you leave your old products with them for recycling.
About Circular Electronics Day
The aim of Circular Electronics Day is to encourage the reuse of electronics. Standing behind the initiative are Blocket, Chalmers Industriteknik, Closing the Loop, European Environmental Bureau, iFixit, Elgiganten, El-kretsen, Inrego, IVL Svenska Milj├Âinstitutet, Lenovo, Recipo, and TCO Development.

Source: press-at-tcodevelopment.com

INTRODUCING “NEW WAVE”–Press Release

INTRODUCING “NEW WAVE”:
WOOL AND THE GANG IS LAUNCHING A BRAND NEW ECO YARN MADE FROM RECYCLED PLASTIC
Wool and the Gang is excited to share it's latest fibre innovation: New Wave. Our new conscious yarn for the new wave knitter.

47% Recycled Plastic Bottles
53% Cotton
100% Making Change

The global plastic problem has been widely reported and brought into consumer consciousness over the past few years, and we have started to see some industries respond.

Finding new ways to turn what could be waste into beautiful yarns has always been part of the Wool and the Gang mission. New Wave is our way of doing our bit for the planet, offering conscious crafters the opportunity to help reduce plastic waste while making their next project. The Gang cares deeply about provenance and collaborates with the best producers to source their yarns.

New Wave is made with a cotton casing which is filled with a fibre made from recycled plastic bottles. Each 100g ball contains the equivalent of 3 recycled bottles. It is a soft and squishy breathable yarn, which has excellent stitch definition, and can also be machine washed.

Launching with the yarn is a collection of 9 new kits and 2 free patterns, inspired by fisherman's tales. Now it's your turn to get creative, and our New Wave is begging for a little off-shore inspiration. Try a chunky fisherman's jumper a la Steve McQueen, a Team Zissou-style beanie or a slouchy cardigan, lightweight enough to transcend the seasons.

Jade Harwood, Founder of Wool and the Gang, was shocked by the vast amount of fast, disposable fashion and the waste that this produced during her time at Central St. Martin's. She is passionate about sustainable design and connecting communities to create change for future generations to bring back values, skills, and community.

Jade says of the New Wave launch: “Finding a way to use recycled plastic in a yarn that is both really good to knit with and doing its bit for the planet has been a mission of mine since I started Wool and the Gang. Together with our Gang, we are finding ways to use our passion for knitting with small steps to help protect our planet.”

Bring back the edge

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


The, what I call, trench edge was a standard feature around flower and shrub beds and borders in municipal formal gardens, parks and also in the formal gardens at general homes.

In the former two cases it has been largely done away with due to, it is claimed, labor time and thus labor costs but this has been to the detriment of the aesthetics of the gardens and parks.

An “unmade”, that is to say an unplanted, bed can be, theoretically, have a trench edge cut by using a machine but the already planted up bed requires manual edging by means of edging knife and spade.

With a trench edge even a bend left fallow for a season, for instance, as long as it is kept free of weeds and raked, looks attractive and not like just a bare part of ground (in a lawn).

Creating this edge “by hand” is somewhat a laborious job but it is, nevertheless, worth is for sure. The time that is takes, obviously, depends on the size of the bed.

© 2019

Sharing bar soap cannot make you sick

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A communal bar of soap will not make you sickSharing a bar soap cannot make you sick and it is way better for the environment than is liquid soap. Bar soap, contrary to current public belief, does not spread germs, is way more environmentally friendly, and way cheaper

Liquid hand soaps have replaced bar soaps largely because of unfounded fears that bar soap is “covered in germs.” Study after study, however, has shown this is not the case.

If we all switched back to bar soaps and shampoos, we could make a significant dent in plastic waste.

If you walk into the average American household and you will, most likely, find at least five plastic bottles of hand soap, body wash and shampoo.

Let's give an educated guess and say that these soaps and shampoos are replaced every three months, it seems fair to guess the average American household goes through at least 20 plastic soap and shampoo bottles a year.

Multiply that by 126 million American households and that are 2.5 billion plastic bottles per year, most of which end up in a landfill.

The only problem is, many people believe that sharing bar soap can transmit infection and we have, in the last ten or so years, been basically been indoctrinated to believe that by advertising.

There is a tendency to think that, since everyone is using the same bar of soap, and who knows where their hands might have been, the soap can somehow pass around infections. But, let's face it, that tendency did not exist a couple of decades back.

Germs do not stick to soap

A recent health column in the New York Times explains that this beoief of germs sticking to a bar of soap is simply not the case.

Study after study has shown that bar soap is not a suitable environment for germs to live.

The most famous study on the matter was published in 1965. Scientists conducted a series of experiments in which they contaminated their hands with about five billion bacteria, such as Staph and E. coli, and then washed their hands with a bar of soap.

When a second person used the bar of soap shortly after, the germs were not found on their hands.

The researchers concluded that the level of bacteria that may occur on bar soap, even under extreme usage conditions (heavy usage, poorly designed non-drainable soap dishes, etc.) does not constitute a health hazard.

A second major study in 1988 inoculated bars of soap with pathogenic bacteria to see if it could be transmitted to soap users, but test subjects had no traces of the bacteria on their hands after washing.

Subsequent studies have continued to show the same results, while proving the ability of simple bar soap to fight serious infections, such as Ebola.

Save money

Not only does bar soap spare the environment billions of plastic bottles, it saves you lots of money. You can also use it to replace shampoo and conditioner. You don't need those two. Hand soap and body wash are no different.

If you want it in liquid form then use liquid dish soap, such as Fairy or supermarket own equivalent. I have been doing so for years. In fact I used to have a serious dandruff issue and tried all shampoos and none made a difference until dish soap. Dish soap, whether Fairy or supermarket own, also removed oil and grease even when used in cool water.

So, time to counter the con and go for bar soap and, if you wish, liquid dish soap. It saves money and lots of plastic bottles. You only need a little when using liquid dish soap for shower gel or shampoo and even less when washing hands.

© 2019