Reuse and Repair

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Half a century ago, we were a thriving culture of reuse and repair. What happened?

What happened? Simple. Industry decided that it was too expensive for it to develop new products that people really wanted and needed and rather made products that broke rather quickly and were made in such a way that they can no longer be repaired and thus people have to buy the same (kind of) product again and again.

It, more or less, began at the time of Osram taking on the manufacture of light bulbs, or so it is said, when they started to make them with a built-in obsolescence of lasting but x-number of turn on and off cycles, as the way the bulbs were then they would last almost forever.

But it really went from bad to worse, at least as far as Western Europe is concerned, from around the beginning of the 1980, may be even a little earlier, when first the deposit schemes for bottles, including beer, was abandoned and bottles became buy and throw, and then products were being made in such a way that they could no longer be opened to be repaired, thus making it impossible to extend their life.

Then came the outsourcing of manufacture to countries such as China and products became so cheap to buy and repair, if at all possible, to expensive that buying new is often many times cheaper than repair. And everyone is surprised, strangely enough, that we have a waste problem.

Yes, it is true that most of our countries, with the exception, but then it was not a Western nation during that time, the German Democratic Republic, often, falsely, referred to as East Germany, did not have a recycling culture but then that is also not entirely true for the rag and bone man was the collector of items for recycling, often doing some of that work himself.

In the German Democratic Republic what we can recyclables today were referred to as secondary raw materials and they were sorely needed as the country itself was very short of raw materials of any sort bar some iron ore. Every tin can was made back into steel, every bottles and even glass jar was reused and not broken up and downcycled, as is all too often the case nowadays – or does anyone really believe that when all glass is tossed together (broken) into the recycler they are able to make bottles and other glass products out of that mass of glass shards again – and industry in the country heavily relied on such secondary raw materials. Waste paper, newspapers and other paper, also was seen as such secondary raw material and most newspapers, books, school books, exercise books, etc. were made from truly recycled paper. The quality of this paper was not always the best but the German Democratic Republic did this well before any one in the West even thought it necessary.

Reuse and repair also was – out of necessity – the order of the day in the GDR and most products were made in such a way that they lasted and that they could be repaired, by the user often even in more or less simple DIY, and it was also the same case still in the West until about the 1980s or so.
Thereafter products in the West were either made in such a way that often even a repairman could not open an item that needed repair due to so-called proprietary screws to which only the manufacturer had the drivers. Thus access to the internal workings of a device was no longer given and repair not possible, much like today with many products, such as the i-Phone where things are glues rather than screwed and any attempt to access the interior for repair may result in compete destruction of case and device.

In other cases it has just simply become too expensive to even consider repair. When the repair for a brand-name (I won't mention the name though) computer printer, which itself has cost £30, is being quoted as, including parts and labor, more than 4x the purchase price, then repair is definitely not something anyone with sense would consider. Hence, waste. How can, however, a manufacturer justify the cost of a small spare part to be £75 in a printer that has cost less than half that amount, in all honesty, beats me. The labor costs was quoted at the same rate, and in addition shipping to and from manufacturer. It would have had to be sent in as no access to the area in the printer where the broken part resided.

A switch on a coffee machine cannot be repaired, as also encountered by this author, simply because the manufacturer has used screws that cannot be removed, thus rendering the machine obsolete and thus waste. Has everyone gone absolutely stupid; us, as consumers as well for accepting this?

The same goes for shoes and boots. Even if one can find good ones, where, for instance, there is actually a midsole that has been sewn to the upper, for instance, as in a pair of boots that I had. The seem had split a little and needed sewing but, alas, I did not have the correct needles and was unable to find them in the UK. So I took it to a shoe repair shop and first of all it took me several time of explaining what I wanted doing and all the operator understood was that I wanted new soles put on. When the finally grasped it the reply was: “I do not have a machine to do that”. It didn't need a machine but two bent needles and waxed thread; that was all. But those repair shops, today, are but machine operators and if there is not a machine for it it can't be done.

Forty years ago there would have been the men and even women who could have, in their little shops, been able to do such a repair within minutes with needles and thread, as the above one, and the same was true for radios, TVs, and other electrical appliances. To repair a car you did not need a degree in computer science and the right kinds test computers and such, but just some wrenches, screwdrivers, or what have you, and many people did a lot of tinkering on their cars themselves. Spare parts often came from the scrapyard because you just unbolted something from a scrap car and bolted it onto yours. Today that cannot be done. When the “glass” (plastic nowadays) of one of your indicators, for instance, is broken you have to replace, nowadays, the entire thing. No more going to just buying the “glass” or salvaging it from a scrap yard. Nope. An expensive new entire light has to be bought and fitted.

How did we ever become that stupid? Well, it was not so much us, the consumers, but the manufacturers. But then again, we have to share some of the blame for allowing it to happen.

© 2019

Holidaymakers encouraged to save their lilos from landfill by turning them into designer bags

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Holidaymakers can see their unwanted lilos transformed into designer bags and pouches thanks to a holiday company that’s pledging to reduce the number of inflatables sent to landfill.

Holiday Hypermarket has teamed up with sustainable designer Wyatt and Jack to encourage customers to turn their holiday inflatables into one-of-a-kind bags, with the package-holiday specialist picking up the postage costs for sending the plastic products. The pre-paid labels can be downloaded here:

https://www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk/hype/love-your-lilo/

Whether transforming a blow-up unicorn, a giant rubber doughnut, a classic lilo or any other weird-and-wonderful inflatable, the designers at Wyatt and Jack will work their magic. They'll create a new pouch or tote bag and generate little, if any, waste.

Georgia Wyatt-Lovell, founder of Wyatt and Jack, says: 'Holiday inflatables are great fun for a week or two, but when the holiday’s over, most people have no further use for them. By taking part in our inflatable amnesty, you can turn your lilo into something that’s unique and practical and literally carry around the memories of a wonderful holiday and cut down on plastic waste.'

For this partnership with Holiday Hypermarket, Wyatt and Jack is offering a 15% discount on all purchases, with prices for A5 pouches starting from just £8.

The initiative follows research of 2,000 British holidaymakers by Holiday Hypermarket that found:
- 25% leave their lilo at the hotel at the end of their holiday
- 9% throw their lilo into the bin before heading home
- 57% of holidaymakers won’t reuse a lilo left behind by someone else
With Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) figures suggesting there will be more than eight million package holidays taken by Brits in 2019*, these figures imply that:
- More than two million people will leave their lilo behind
- More than 700,000 holidaymakers will throw their inflatable into the bin

Craig Duncan of Holiday Hypermarket says: "We were astounded by how many British holidaymakers say they abandon their lilos after their holidays. Plastic pollution is a real problem and we all have to think about the decisions we take and the impact they have on the destinations we visit.
"During our research, we spoke to hotels and they described lilos as an awful problem that is getting worse. When a holidaymaker leaves a lilo behind, hotels have little choice but to store them or send them to the local landfill.

"We asked holidaymakers if they would use free lilos and inflatables provided by their hotel, but more than half said no. This means that even if people think their left-behind-lilo will be used by someone else, the chances are it won’t, as most holidaymakers prefer to buy their own.
"This plastic problem needs smart solutions, and we are delighted to team up with Wyatt and Jack to give holidaymakers the opportunity to do something useful with their lilo after their holiday.'

To find out more about upcycling your lilo and to download the free Holiday Hypermarket postage label for sending inflatables to Wyatt and Jack, visit https://www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk/hype/love-your-lilo/.

*ABTA’s Holiday Habits Report 2018 says that 49% of British people took a package holiday in the past 12 months. According to the latest census information, the UK population is 66.7m, so 49% is 33m. Based on four people per booking, there were 8.25m package holidays taken over the past 12 months.

About Holiday Hypermarket: Holiday Hypermarket is a member of the TUI AG group of companies, selling package holidays from a variety of operators in countries across the world. Holiday Hypermarket is fully ABTA bonded and ATOL protected.

About Wyatt & Jack: Wyatt and Jack is a sustainable British brand that has been making bags and accessories from up cycled vintage deckchair canvas and broken bouncy castles since 2010. Follow then on social media @wyattandjack and #inflatableamnesty.

The great thing about Wyatt & Jack is, aside from what they do, is that all the products are made in Britain, in their workshop in Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, and not in China or some other low-wage country.

© 2019

ARS-UVR-32PRO – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ARS-UVR-32PRO from Sorbus International

Pro pruning saw with sheath, curved blade 4mm pitch, rubber grip. Blade high-Carbon Steel with hard-chrome plating. Curvature ground teeth (SUPER TURBOCUT®) and impulse hardened. 4mm tooth pitch with 1.5 mm tooth thickness. Blade length 320 mm and overall length 480 mm with a weight of 430 grams.

Having used Silky saws, including the Zubat, before I was really wondering how this one compared to everyone's favorites, namely Silky. Personally I am not, necessarily, balled over by Silky, I hasten to add. I must say the performance that I have had from the ARS-UVR-32PRO so far, in green standing and dead standing wood is far above that of the Silky flagship, the Zubat, probably due to the fact that the blade of the ARS-UVR-32PRO has 4 cut-outs, for lack of a better word, to remove the swath rather than just one, as in the case of the Zubat, at least the one that I have.

The cutting action if very smooth (OK, the saw is new) and there is none of the, what I call, “hooking”, when the saw bites itself somewhat tight. The latter is often due to an accumulation of swath in the cut which the four “cut-outs” in the curved blade eliminate, and four “cut-outs” are definitely better than one.

At just over £72 the ARS-UVR-32PRO is a little more expensive than the Silky Zubat but its performance is by better than that of the latter, so the few quid extra are well worth it, I would say.


© 2019

The pencil; a most reliable writing tool

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The question as to how “green” it is as far as manufacture and such is concerned is one thing but as far as reliability goes it trumps all. But I should think that it is a great deal greener, in manufacture as well as in disposal, as is the ballpoint pen, especially the one that is encased in plastic and which, more often than not, is tossed out after it has run out of ink.

The pencil also writes under low gravity or zero gravity conditions, upside down, etc. and that is while the USA spent millions upon millions developing a pen for their spaceflights (enter the Fisher Space Pen) the USSR took what was about, the (indelible) pencil, just as they did during the war.

The pencil writes well also in sub-zero temperatures without any problems and all it needs is a (pen)knife with which to sharpen it. It is, for that reason, also the ideal choice as a writing instrument in a survival kit. Unlike an ink pen, whether fountain or ballpoint, it will not dry up either during long storage, which is a great advantage if one has a large stock or keeps one in a survival kit where it may not be looked at, so to speak, and used in anger for a very long time.

While the fountain pen and the more common ballpoint pen, whether the disposable or not, write, generally, well enough under normal conditions when it comes to cold weather and others then they let you down. Also, regardless of whether the ballpoint pen is a disposable there is always the aspect of waste, be this as the entire pen or just the refill. The pencil, on the other hand, writer in almost all conditions and the only waste there is are the shaving (biodegradable) and the stub that may no longer be usable. It also rots down in the compost nicely, leaving just the graphite, which is no problem either.

I love the fountain pen but, alas, today's paper (no, not the media) is of such a standard that the ink from any such kind of pen bleeds through and thus is not suitable. That leaves only then the ballpoint pen or the pencil then. The former has some issues, especially when it comes to certain conditions and to the fact that the ink may – and more often than not does – dry up when “in storage” or not used and even when it has been used but has not for some time. This is not a problem with the latter, that is to say the pencil. It works in most, if not even all, conditions, and also on surfaces where the pen might not, upside down, on a wall, in zero gravity; none of that a problem for the pencil.

© 2019

Sprout Lands – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sprout Lands
by William Bryant Logan
Published by W W Norton, April 2019
Hardcover 165 x 244 mm / 384 pages
ISBN 9780393609417
Price: £19.99

Arborist William Bryant Logan recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.

Farmers once knew how to make a living fence and fed their flocks on tree-branch hay. Rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls and baskets. Townspeople cut beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks.

Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. In order to prosper communities cut their trees so they would sprout again. Pruning the trees didn't destroy them. Rather, it created healthy, sustainable and diverse woodlands. From these woods came the poetic landscapes of Shakespeare's England and of ancient Japan. The trees lived longer.

William Bryant Logan traveled from the English fens to Spain, California and Japan to rediscover and celebrate what was once a common and practical ecology – finding hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach, and the reader can travel with him on that journey through the book.

I found this book very easy to read and times it felt like reading a novel in that one did not want to put the book down. Even as a professional forester and someone who has worked with coppice a great I learned more than I would have thought possible. It is definitely a vividly insightful exploration of tree regeneration and I enjoyed every minute.

We all, foresters, woodland workers and everyone else really, should, if we not already do, share the vision of the author of a world in which humans and trees work together to mutual benefit; a world that has existed in the past and can exist again in the future.

© 2019

Chemicals from sunscreen products do seep into bloodstream

Sunscreen chemicals seep into bloodstream a new study by the FDA confirms

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Summer is on the way (well, at least according to the seasons) and soon everyone will be lathering on sunscreen and more of it onto their children to protect them from the possible impact of the light of the sun. But beware, the stuff is not as harmless as claimed. Maybe gently adjusting to the sun and its effects would be better than chemicals.

Sunscreen companies have long claimed the chemicals in their products are not absorbed into the body. Turns out the companies were rather economical with the truth and they are.
Today's sunscreens contains more chemicals at higher concentrations than they did 50 years ago and sunscreens are also applied much more frequently.

It is these two facts have prompted the FDA to re-evaluate the safety of sunscreen.

First the agency conducted a study to determine whether the chemicals used as active ingredients in the products are absorbed into the bloodstream, which the industry has denied.

“Because sunscreens are formulated to work on the surface of the skin, some have argued that sunscreens would not be absorbed in appreciable quantities and therefore that studies are unnecessary,” the agency said in a press release. (https://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-voices-perspectives-fda-experts/shedding-new-light-sunscreen-absorption)

The study, published May 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the opposite to be true. The chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream at concerning levels.

The 24 participants in the study were instructed to apply sunscreen four times per day for four days on all areas that wouldn't be covered by a swimsuit, an amount one might realistically apply on a beach vacation.

Researchers then measured the concentration of four different active ingredients in their blood: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

After just one day, all four chemicals were found in levels that far exceed the level at which the FDA requires safety testing (anything higher than .5 nanograms per milliliter).

For oxybenzone, which has been found along with other sunscreen ingredients in breast milk, blood concentrations reached the threshold after a single application and exceeded 20 nanograms per milliliter on day 7 of the study.

Oxybenzone is also toxic to coral reefs, which has led Hawaii to ban sunscreens that contain it.
Three of the chemicals remained in the bloodstream seven days later.

Now the FDA must conduct further studies on all four ingredients before they can be considered generally safe and effective.

Specifically the agency needs to determine whether the chemicals the risk for cancer, birth defects, or other adverse effects.

“With sunscreens now being used with greater frequency, in larger amounts, it is more important than ever to ensure that sunscreens are safe and effective for daily, life-long use,” the press release says.

“Creation of sunscreen products with SPFs greater than 15 and greater broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays have led to currently marketed products with more active ingredients combined together in higher concentrations than were previously used.”

The FDA recommends continuing to use sunscreen while the chemicals are being studied, claiming the risks of sunburn outweigh the risks of sunscreen, but considering they haven't weighed those risks yet, it may be wise to take their advice with a grain of salt.

While too much exposure to the rays of the sun can cause damage the biggest problem that, when vising the beach, people tend to immediately plonk down in the sun to be frizzled. Proper and gentle acclimatization, over a couple of days is called for and also avoiding actually going for a roasting. How is our body to respond when generally we are all covered up and then, suddenly, we, including the kids, bare (if not all then most of it) and sit or lie out in the hot sun when at other times we rarely expose out skin to the elements and the rays of the sun?

It would appear that we need to apply not sunscreen but proper common sense and not immediately be out in the hot sun and especially not going for a roasting.

© 2019

In the past – not that long ago – people were happy with less

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the past – not so long ago – people were happy and content with less. Today people are not even happy if they have everything; they still want more. And then? Well, they are still not happy and need more, and then more still. But happiness never comes.

For some reason – the brainwashing of government, industry and their advertising has probably worked – people do seem to believe that by buying and consuming more they can attain happiness. There is even the talk of “retail therapy”, of shopping to drive away the blues and such. Normally the depression comes back again when the credit card bill arrives, though, if not already well before.

We cannot buy our way to happiness; it is a delusion. It is also not good for our wallets, our bank balance, and especially not good for the Planet.

The capitalist economic systems of industry and commerce, however, is designed in this way that it needs people to buy more, more and then still more, of the same products even, in order to keep growing and generating profits for the capitalists and the shareholders of the companies.

Today, if you are thrifty and happy with little you are looked upon as poor, as not being able to afford all those new shiny toys every six months or so – even if you are not – and in the eyes of our governments those of us who do not wish to buy – pardon the pun – into consumerism are even considered “domestic terrorists” because we do not support the growth of the economy and thus the nation's GDP.

Peer pressure, government pressure, advertising and the way industry produces things nowadays with built-in obsolescence push people into this consumer madness but it still does not explain why in their mind they believe that happiness can come from an accumulation material things and monetary wealth.

The story begins in childhood already when parents are not prepared to use the two-letter word “no” when the child wants this and that and that and that. Oh, but little Johnny will be unhappy when we don't get him what he wants. And that happens when he has got this new toy or the new toys even. They are used for five minutes and then he wants some more new toys and the cycle continues. And this is where and how, already in the children, this all happens that we are not happy with little and small things.

From all sides we are being conditioned to believe that we have more money, more shiny toys, a bigger house, a bigger and faster car, etc., we will be happy.

I grew up with little, I have to admit, and maybe that is why I can make do with little and do not base my happiness or lack of it, which ever may be the case, on things or the lack of them, or on money or lack of same.

Having grown up that way taught me also to make things and I get great pleasure from doing just that; making things I want and need – as far as possible – myself and, if at all possible, from things that are considered waste or from natural materials such as wood.

There is a saying that is apt in so many instances and in this one here too which goes something like: “The rich are rich because they live like the poor and the poor are poor because they live like they are rich”.

While it is, generally, understandable that those who grew up dirt poor want to “better” themselves they have to understand though – only no one is prepared to tell them that because it does not sell products and services – that they cannot buy themselves happiness and neither love.

Not only do I, personally, find it very strange that today people can no longer appreciate the little things and be happy with what they have but I find it also rather disconcerting and believe it shows the failure of our society today. Neoliberalism has brought us this strange attitude of what is called “entitlement culture” where everyone seems to believe that he or she is entitled to get everything that they want when they want it.

Our culture has bred consumers and addicts. We eat too much, we buy too much, and we want too much. We set ourselves on the fruitless mission of filling the gaping hole within us with material things. Blindly, we consumer more and more, believing we are hungry for more food, status, or money, yet really we are hungry for connection.

Anyone who does not and cannot appreciate the little things also will never be able to appreciate the big and expensive things and the same goes for being happy with less or more. They will not and anyway things won't make one happy, at least not in the long run.

When it comes to “entitlement” all people should be entitled to work that pays a decent salary, a home that is fit for human habitation and of a good size, leisure time, clothing, food and electricity and heating for the home, and the first two and the last two, should be where the state should provide, if need, but sadly does not in most places.

So, but now I shall go and rest my case; it is getting heavy.

© 2019

Off the boil: Mayor’s cashback scheme fails

The Mayor has pulled the plug on a £10 million boiler cashback scheme as only two projects ever got off the ground – Caroline Russell AM discovered the money has been ‘diverted’ to business projects instead.

The commercial boiler cashback scheme, which was designed to help small businesses replace old, inefficient boilers, has been left with £500,000, and 30 more projects still stuck in the application process.

Yesterday Caroline questioned the Mayor’s LEAP team (London Economic Action Partnership) about the £9 million underspend.

Caroline Russell said: “We are in a climate emergency – and the Mayor knows this. He keeps blaming central Government for a lack of action on climate change but in areas where he can make a real difference he is failing.

“This scheme was supposed to help small businesses replace polluting and inefficient boilers, but it has barely made a dent in the carbon emissions it was supposed to reduce.

“This seriously undermines the Mayor’s credibility on tackling climate change. It’s totally unacceptable that only two projects are in delivery, when there are over a million small and medium sized enterprises in London.”
 
[1] The Mayor’s set up a £10 million Cleaner Heat Cashback commercial boiler scheme for small and medium sized enterprises to “rapidly boost” to rapidly replace inefficient heating systems with cleaner replacements to cut NOx and carbon emissions. The delivery period April 2018 – March 2020. https://www.london.gov.uk/moderngovmb/documents/s63520/11 LEAP Quarterly Reporting.pdf

[2] According to the LEAP Quarterly report for January 2019 – April 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/moderngovmb/documents/s63520/11

LEAP Quarterly Reporting.pdf there are only two projects in delivery and 30 are ‘stuck in the application process as unable to meet all requirements’

[3] London Assembly Economy Committee report, Helping SMEs to thrive: “SMEs make up over 99 per cent of all businesses in London. Their number have increased by almost one third in the last six years (+29per cent), and now account for over one million (1,010,100) businesses.” https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/helping_smes_to_thrivefinal.pdf

Caroline Russell was elected as a Green member of the London Assembly in May 2016. She has been an Islington councillor since 2014.

Dumping garden waste in woods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many people believe that dumping their garden waste in woods, parks and the countryside is a good idea as it goes back into soil but far from it. This practice actually spreads diseases as well as invasive species. In Germany, for instance, it is a felony that can get the offender, if caught, into very hot water.

While garden waste, grass clippings, tree prunings, old plants and whatever else organic does, in the end, rot down and become compost, soil pests, diseases and the rhizomes of invasive species more often than not have escaped well before that process has taken place. Some also remain active after, as I see time and again in the case of compost in the garden that had some potato peelings in it and even after three years the potato “seed” is still viable.

Disposing illegally of garden waste in woods, parks, and open spaces, is a crime and falls, in the same way as any other waste, under fly tipping, and that rightly so, and that despite the fact that the material will rot down.

Aside from it looking bad and untidy, and that for quite a time, the material can and will spread invasive species and also soil and plant diseases far and wide. This is very detrimental to the environment as a whole and dumping garden waste therefore is not an innocent thing to do, aside from being illegal fly tipping, in the same way as dumping any other waste.

© 2019

Burgon & Ball Container Root and Transplanting Knife – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Burgon & Ball Container Root and Transplanting Knife - RHS-Endorsed
RHS Container Gardening

£16.99

Like all the tools in our container gardening collection, this container root and transplanting knife is endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society, perhaps the ultimate accolade in the world of gardening.

This specialist container root and transplanting knife is invaluable for planting, weeding and maintaining beautiful container displays. Slide it around the inside of a pot to release a plant before transplanting. Slice through tangled roots with the serrated blade. Dig tight holes for adding new plants, either by scooping or by plunging in the blade and pulling it towards you. You’ll find your own ways of using this indispensable tool, but one thing is certain; you’ll wonder how you managed without it.

Crafted in high-carbon steel for strength and durability, this root and transplanting knife has a tough powder coating for rust resistance, and the blade features depth markings for accurate planting. Like all the tools in the container gardening collection, the knife comes with a ten-year guarantee.

You may also be interested in our RHS-endorsed container weeder and RHS-endorsed container scoop.

Handle: 100% FSC certified hardwood
Tool head: high-carbon steel with powder coating
Hanging cord: leather

This tool is akin to, and, and I hazard a guess now, based on the Japanese Hori-Hori though the cutting edge is not as sharp as it would be on a Hori-Hori of Japaneses manufacture. Then again such an edge, if the blade repeatedly goes into the soil, won't stay sharp for long.

In this tool you, basically, have a multi-tasking tool for the garden which includes a trowel, suitable for tight spaces, as well as cutting edges that allow you to do other things, such as, as mentioned above, cutting through tangled roots, or to open bags, and much more.

A very useful little tool at about half or less of that of a Japanese Hori-Hori with almost the same capabilities. A belt sheath for it to make it possible to carry it around the garden with leaving the hands free would have been nice but there are other ways to achieve that, such as by a little DIY and recycling (see my article here). Different story though.

© 2019

Three in ten children can't tie their shoelaces when leaving primary school

And 62% of parents admit they have no time to teach them

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

3 in 10 children are still unable to tie their shoe laces on leaving primary school according to findings from a survey commissioned by OSGO* to coincide with National Feet Week (13th – 20th May).

Of the 500 surveyed, 46% of parents thought that being able to tie your own laces was an important life skill yet 62% of parents admitted to tying their children’s laces for them to save time and stress every morning. One mum said: ‘Its far easier for me to tie my children’s laces before we leave the house on the school run or we would be really late.’

As well as time constraints, 57% of those questioned said that their children also had no interest in tying their shoelaces and were not bothered about learning how.

Advances in footwear design and fashion trends have meant that many children don’t wear shoes with laces until much later than in previous generations, who were expected to learn by the age of around seven. Velcro and pull-on designs are the most popular amongst parents because of ease of use and time-saving.

76% of parents said they taught their children to tie laces at home with only 14% relying on school to teach their child. During National Feet Week, OSGO are urging parents to help their children begin to learn this essential life skill which helps to support feet as they continue to grow and develop.

Tony Gavin, CEO at OSGO believes that children should be taught to tie their laces from an early age and said: ‘It’s a worrying statistic that children are progressing to high school without having learned a crucial life skill. Children’s fine motor skills should be developed enough by aged six to begin learning to tie their shoe laces and parents should dedicate time to teaching their kids to perfect this. Not only is it a key life skill, being able to tie laces properly supports young feet that are still growing and developing.’

The problem is that children's fine motor skills are not developed for many kids by the age the read primary school. Some are not even strong enough in their fingers to hold a pencil due to having spent far too much time playing with touchscreens. If there would be an app to tie laces they could do it but without an app... no.

Shockingly one mum claimed: ‘My 11 year old son plays football on a Saturday and the matches are regularly stopped so the referee can tie a players laces!’

I find this, I must say, rather shocking but not surprising I must say considering that parents are so busy nowadays, mostly with themselves and their cellphones.

OSGO is a podiatry membership organisation, created for private podiatry practitioners. OSGO provides, support and information for podiatry practices nationwide.

- National Feet Week (13th May – 20th May) encourages people of all ages to prioritise foot health in the same way they would dental and eye health with regular podiatry appointments.
- National Feet Week is raising money for Forgotten Feet www.forgottenfeet.uk – a charity that provides chiropody and podiatry services for those most in need. Purchase your National Feet Week laces for GBP £1.00 donation from podiatry practices across the UK.

© 2019

Futurekind – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Futurekind
Design for and by the People
by Dr. Rob Phillips
Published by Thames & Hudson, May (16) 2019
240 pages 900 illustrations Hardback 25.5 x 21.0 cm
ISBN: 978 0 500 519790
Price: 39.95 Hardback

Manual and manifesto, an inspiration and a call to arms; this rich and timely survey is all in one and presents over sixty innovative, socially and environmentally conscious design projects changing the world for the better.

We have grown accustomed to two beliefs: the first, that only experts can be designers; the second, that our everyday activities are harming the world. Yet, with new platforms, digital communication and engaged online communities, the products we can now design - and truly need - can be made by anyone for social and environmental good. Social design can see that primary school children learn to code, and uses local information in off-grid locations to create global change. Open-source design is enabling us to remake our world right now.

Structured into eight areas of application, from healthcare to education, Futurekind showcases over sixty projects from across the globe and across every scale and budget to reveal how design practice is being transformed by open-source platforms, crowd-sourcing and the latest digital technologies. Each has made a genuine different to lives and communities around the world.

Rather than being client-driven, as commercial design often is, each project here is the result of designers who reach out, communities who get involved and the technologies that are helping people to realize ideas together. From a playground-powered water pump in South Africa to a DIY budget mobile phone, each of these groundbreaking projects is presented through fascinating and life-affirming stories, diagrams that reveal the mechanisms and motivations behind each design approach, and photography that celebrates the humanity of the endeavor.

Open-source and open-source design, aka open design, can make a difference on so many levels, both for the Planet and for the people, and there more that those sixty projects that are listed in the books worldwide at the moment and more coming “on stream” all the time. The most important thing with those designs is that they can be replicated in many cases in a garage at the place where whatever it is is required and wanted. The small plastic recycling “plant” of the project “Precious Plastics” on page 152 to 155 comes in full open-source, if I am not entirely mistaken, with the plans downloadable under Creative Commons and all the machines can be built, basically, from scrap parts with some welding and other tinkering skills. It is aimed to enable anyone, including in Third World countries, to build such a “plant” and to recycle plastics of all kinds into new products (for sale) thus creating a livelihood too.

This is not about the world of design, but the design of the world

Dr. Rob Phillips is an award-winning product designer and a senior tutor on the Design Products Course at the Royal College of Art. His research into open design and citizen science has resulted in internationally taught methods at MIT, Goldsmiths, Cornell, and the BBC. As a designer, his past clients have included: Puma, Samsung, Save the Children, Visa; the Victoria and Albert Museum and Google. His research seeks to 'Engage Design' processes to decrease people's impact, gaining insight into what people really do ... thinking how can we be Futurekind to Humankind.

A most interesting book and read for anyone interested in socially and environmentally conscious design and especially open-source and open design. I can wholly recommend it and also to do some further research on the subject, as there is much more out there than could have fitted into the book.

© 2019

Biodegradable and compostable plastic

First of all it is still plastic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Biodegradable is often understood by the general public almost like that is composts, and that is also the intention of the word being used, but it does no such thing. It degrades in soil, air (through the influence of UV light), and also in water but degrades into what? Well, into ever smaller particles of, guess what, yes, plastic.

Even so-called plant-based plastics, generally, with a possible few exceptions, is just another kind of plastic and in addition to that a plastic that cannot be recycled in the general recycling facilities and systems.

Compostable plastic, such as in single-use carrier bags and other products, does “compost” but generally does not in your ordinary domestic open compost bin in your garden or even the closed composters. It required heat, and quite a lot of it, and thus, generally, only composts in commercial facilities. The question I have is as to whether this kind of plastic really and truly composts or simply breaks down in that heat environment into such small components that we no longer can perceive them but still being plastic.

While there is quite a good reason for using plastic in many cases there is no good reason for using plastic, which is a valuable material, really, in the so-called single-use applications. It is true that the single-use carrier bags are actually not made from virgin oil but generally from naphthalene, a byproduct of oil refining, other single-use plastics for drinks bottles, cups, straws, cutlery, etc., do require virgin polymer and hence should be consigned to the scrap heap of history, and also those so-called paper cups, which are lined with a plastic liner, laminated to the paper, and cannot be separated and thus they cannot be recycled, at least not in the general way.

© 2019

Plastic recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

UK plastics recycling industry under investigation for fraud and corruption

The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste.

The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organized criminals and firms are abusing the system.

Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licenses suspended or canceled in the last three months, according to EA data. One firm has had 57 containers of plastic waste stopped at UK ports in the last three years due to concerns over contamination of waste.

Allegations that the agency is understood to be investigating include:
  • Exporters are falsely claiming for tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist
  • UK plastic waste is not being recycled and is being left to leak into rivers and oceans
  • Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands
  • UK firms with serial offenses of shipping contaminated waste are being allowed to continue exporting.
The picture shows mixed household waste, which had been falsely and fraudulently declared as plastic recyclables, arriving at a Brazilian port.

UK households and businesses used 11m tonnes of packaging last year, according to government figures. Two-thirds of our plastic packaging waste is exported by an export industry which was worth more than £50m last year.

In light of this several councils in the UK have now withdrawn plastic kerbside recycling schemes and are telling residents to throw their plastic waste into the ordinary bins for landfill or incineration to energy. Others are, more than likely, are going to follow with this action.

A recycling expert told the BBC that we should not even consider sending such valuable materials abroad but instead build proper recycling businesses in the UK so that the UK would produce its own recycled plastic. It would create thousands upon thousands of jobs.

Who would have thought? Well I have and said this for years and years already but, alas, no one wanted to have it. The same goes for glass in so many instances where it is ground down to “sand” as road aggregate rather than actually be turned into new glass.

Now that China is refusing to take the world's garbage for “recycling” companies are simply shipping the stuff to other. Mostly Third World countries which do not have any proper recycling infrastructure of any kind. But, out of sight out of mind and if it is out of the country what's the problem, seems to be the attitude. In many of those places the waste shipped from the UK (and other places probably) gathers unprocessed and leaks into rivers and oceans.

This was to be expected, however, as soon as the market, so to speak, in China was closed and waste exporters – which really should not even exist – were looking for other places where they could dump the waste.

As the recycling expert who has been talking to the BBC says, we should be keeping those valuable resources – all of them – at home and recycle the recyclables into new products here. It could create thousands upon thousands of jobs. But, hey, we can't possibly do that as that would mean investing to create those facilities. It is far cheaper to fill up some empty containers with waste and have that shipped across the ocean to be dumped at someone else's doorstep. Far too many rules to follow in Britain to recycle without contaminating the environment. It would be too expensive. That appears to be the attitude and government is not helping.

Every country should look after it's own waste, and recycle it at home, and not ship it out to become some other country's problem. There are only a very small number, probably less than a handful or two, of councils in Britain who do have their own recycling facilities to turn waste materials into new products of any kind. There are also but a few open market facilities in the country who do that. Those that make recycled plastic products, for instance, rely on the recycled polymer coming from China, and other places. In the UK we have the know-how, the expertize and the experts; what is missing is the (political) will to do it, unfortunately.

A lot of kerbside and similar “recycling” is no more than a farce as, in the case of glass, it is not being recycled but downcycled or in the case of paper, plastic, and other waste, it is either shipped abroad or if the market does provide enough return put into landfills. So why do councils go through this this exercise in the first place?

© 2019

Open Source and Open Design

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It all started, I guess, with computers, or better with software, from general programs, such as Open Office, The Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc., to entire operating systems such as Linux, and others. Now open source has gone further that that and will enable people not just to connect and cooperate but to help “save the Planet” but also to create businesses.

Aside from Open Source computer operating systems and general programs we now also have Open Source Design and this is what really could make a real difference, not that the computer programs don't. They too have their place in this revolution of all things.

In a book, to be published in May 2019 by Thames & Hudson, called “Futurekind”, many kinds of such Open Source Designs are being showcased.

But what does Open Source Design, also called open-design, mean?

The open-design movement involves the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. This includes the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy of the movement are identical to that of the open-source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-design_movement

The open-design movement currently unites two trends. On one hand, people apply their skills and time on projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help spread ecological or cheaper technologies. On the other hand, open design may provide a framework for developing advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any single company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not collaborate otherwise. There is now also a third trend, where these two methods come together to use high-tech open-source (e.g. 3D printing) but customized local solutions for sustainable development. Open Design holds great potential in driving future innovation as resent research has proven that stakeholder users working together produce more innovative designs than designers consulting users through more traditional means.

Design per se can and must play a new and proper role in human development and in advancing everyone everywhere. Design, good design, also holds the key to the avoidance of waste. It is not rocket science because that kind of design has been with us before, as has repairability, even by means of DIY by the user (or someone with some knowledge).

Open design, on the other hand goes a step or ten further in that open design in the design, often downloadable, which is then turned by a small enterprise. or the end user him- or herself, into the desired product with, often, the added plus that the design can, because it is open source, be modified to fit a need. No longer does a corporation or corporations hold the key to the design and end-product but the people as a whole.

Sometime the designs cost a small amount, at other times, and that quite frequently, at least the basic ones, are free. The machines to make the products are often also open-source designed in such a way that they can, more or less, easily be made from scrap, including 3D-printers. Making those machines, though, does require a small workshop set up, generally, or at least a welder and the knowledge of how to use one.

Open source and open design are a great way of reducing waste, as well as production and distribution costs and transportation footprint. We now have clothing design that is downloadable and the garments are then made more or less locally to where they will be bought and used. With the technology of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture), especially via means of 3D-printing, as well as other varieties, many things could and can, literally, be made in a domestic garage or garden shed, including the making of spares for a variety of things, or the very parts to make a product, to complete 3D-printed products themselves.

With open source software older computers can be kept alive, so to speak, for much longer and if they are also of the desktop variety rather than the laptop or even smaller kind then they can also be hardware upgraded and repaired, and thus run almost indefinitely. Though here open design can also come in additionally in that computers themselves could be designed in this pattern to that people could build, upgrade and repair their own without, necessarily, having to resort to a specialist. It doe not need (all) to be throw-away, especially considering that there is, actually, no such place as “away”.

© 2019

Paper is a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The most “futuristic” data security is a pen and pad, and also the old-fashioned typewriter.

America's most secure federal agencies were hacked by a 16-year old who obtained their internal files; a Medical Center in Los Angeles that was hit by an infection of "ransomware" which locked up all its data in encrypted form until a ransom (hence the name) was paid to the software deployers to decrypt the data again; and those are but two incidents of many.

A much more secure technology, that would serve as a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits, is a rather old-fashioned one, namely, put all important records back on paper and put them into lockable filing cabinets and safes.

Worried about your mail communications – your emails – being (able to be )read by those who maybe should not? The we must return to the humble snail mail and use the letter carrier once again. All electronic encryption can, eventually, be broken because it is electronically generated and has a weak point somewhere. The mail service, theoretically, cannot simply be intercepted and thus is far more secure than email, alas a great deal slower.

Because of the problems that have been encountered by intelligence and security services in other countries the Russian services, including the FSB, have gone, for sensitive material back to paper records, circulars, etc., written on typewriters. All such circulars have a limited circulation list and any leak can therefore, theoretically, only come from members on that list.

Handwritten records also have serious anti-fraud characteristics. Such notes capture information in terms of handwriting, ink color, etc., that make it harder to make wholesale changes without it showing. Electronic records, on the other hand, tend to look the same. Also, to make changes, within a written handwritten text your would have to erase, in some way, the original words. It shows. Not so in electronic material. Even the original of an email can, under Forward, be altered to appear to say something other than what original was written. Altering, however, handwritten or typewritten material, afterward, requires a very good forger generally.

If I were running an intelligence agency, I would have all my important stuff done in handwriting or on mechanical typewriters (the old kind that type over the same fabric ribbon multiple times) and distributed in sealed envelopes. If I were setting up a voting system, I would use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines. And if I were running a hospital, I would seriously consider doing everything on paper.

There is a place for computers and computer records, of course. But for things that really matter and that need to be genuinely secure, maybe we should try a more advanced technology: Paper and ink. Take that, hackers.

Data on computers can and will never be perfectly safe. Thus, I propose a more secure technology that would serve as a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits: Put important records back on paper. And then lock the stuff up in lockable filing cabinets, safes, or vaults.

Writing by hand, as far as note-taking is concerned and such, is also a great deal faster than using a keyboard, and, as far as medical staff are concerned the contact with patient/client and the person taking the notes is closer.

The truth is, paper records are inherently more secure. To steal 10 million electronic user records from a government agency, all you might need is a cracked password and a thumb drive. To steal that many records on paper, you would need a fleet of trucks and an uninterrupted month.

And ransomware would not work on paper records. What would you do? Put a padlock on the filing cabinets and demand ransom for the key? Not very likely to succeed. There are things called bolt cutters and angle grinders, if you get my meaning.

And often, putting things on computers is a crock anyway. Electronic medical records, touted as saving money and streamlining care, are a major cause of physician burnout. It has gotten so bad that some hospitals actually advertise the lack of electronic medical record systems as a selling point in recruiting doctors. Nor have electronic systems paid off as promised.

A recent study of more than 1 million medication errors reported to a national database between 2003 and 2010 found that 6% were related to the computerized prescribing system. Those problems, and considerable expense, could have been prevented by sticking with pen and paper.

So, if you really want data security stick with pen, typewriter and paper. OK, or use the computer to print out the material and file it in the old-fashioned manner, in a filing cabinet.

You address book is also much better served being in a real book or on index cards and filing box for same. You can get to it be it the power is down or your computer or other device has crashed, or whatever. Yes, it is a little more on the bulky side but short of a fire your data will always be recoverable.

© 2019

No Plot? No Problem

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Grow your own salads, fruit and vegetables, even if you don't have a garden

I know that I am in danger of repeating myself again with this article but it would appear that still far too many people seem to think that in order to grow fruit and vegetables they need a large garden plot or an allotment or two.

You do not have to have acres of land for a garden where to grow at least some food for yourself and your family, not even a ¼ of an acre. If you have it that is great but if you don't you can still grow some fresh food. There are many who grow an abundance of food in containers and in other ways. Lack of land should not be an obstacle.

As I have mentioned with regards to container gardening before there are even some market gardens in existence, in the USA, where the operator grows absolutely everything in plastic buckets. OK, yes, he does have some land where to put those buckets but that is neither here nor there.

A great way, when plot is missing, is vertical gardening and Mark Ridsdill Smith of Vertical Veg and his knowledge on this subject is second to none. If you can't grow horizontally grow vertically. You are only limited by your imagination.

When it comes to containers in which to grow your plants upcycling is the order of the day. There is no need to buy special containers and all that. Make friends with your local groundspeople in the local councils who often get trees in what I refer to as tree tubs or tree buckets and more-often-than-not those they then have to dispose off as waste. Many of those buckets make great planters, as that is what they are.

Catering establishments also are good to make friends with as they get oil, mayonnaise and such, in plastic buckets often, quite often of between one and five gallon in size. All that is needed is to drill some drainage hole into the bottom and you have planters (that's what those market gardens I mentioned use).

Container gardening has been a trend for some years already and is still gaining traction and many gardening equipment suppliers are catering more and more for this. Vertical gardening, especially for growing food, has not advanced that far as yet but it too is slowly gaining some traction.

So, if you haven't got a big garden, a big enough one, or almost none, you still can join the “grow your own” movement and grow at least some food for yourself and your family. If you can't go horizontal thing about vertical.

© 2019

CORONA TOOLS: AMERICA’S LEADING NAME IN GARDEN TOOLS LAUNCHES IN THE UK

– Press Release –
There will soon be exciting new options for gardeners, as Corona Tools, America’s leading tool innovator, launches its premium gardening tools in the UK. Already a by-word for quality in North America, professionals and gardeners alike rely on Corona cutting tools, hand tools and long-handled tools for their long lasting durability and performance - and now they’ll be available to British gardeners.

These superb tools combine outstanding performance with the highest quality materials and advanced technical design, to ensure that Corona tools are more than up to the job, however tough it gets.
From its beginnings in the Southern California orange groves back in 1928, when the invention of a small shear for harvesting oranges revolutionized the citrus industry, Corona Tools this year celebrates 90 years of growth, innovation, and engineering expertise.

Since its inception, the manufacturer has excelled at combining the best of American engineering with a can-do approach to solving real problems, and today Corona’s reputation for innovation is recognised throughout North America. These premium tools offer not just superior strength, but also exceptional durability, and have been created to give lasting performance, season after season.
Corona Tools is launching selected ranges in the UK as a result of its relationship to British garden tool manufacturer Burgon & Ball. In 2018, the Sheffield-based company joined the Venanpri global family of the finest hand tool brands, already home to Corona Tools.

This natural fit between the UK’s oldest manufacturer of garden tools and accessories, founded in 1730, and an American innovator with a solid heritage of excellence, bring new choices to professional gardeners, landscapers and demanding users in 2019.

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.

Source: Burgon & Ball

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