Thingamadig Hand Hoe from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Thingamadig Hand Hoe

A Multi-purpose hoe-like tool. Polished stainless steel with a rubber handle.

Based on the popularity of the scoop Thingamadig (Lakeland Ref 50555), here’s a handy hoe version which we think you’ll love too. It will slice through weeds with ease, as its offset stainless steel blade allows you to get at the weeds in closely planted borders, without damaging the plants you want to keep. With a soft-grip handle for comfort.

Lakeland Ref 51302
41cm (16") in length
Price: 7.99 GBP

The Thingamadig “multi-purpose” hand hoe is, as the manufacturer states, a unique and versatile garden tool, based on a traditional Japanese hand hoe design.

It weeds, digs, chops, furrows, cuts and hoes and is thus quite a utility tool for the gardener.

This is a tool that will be especially valued by the backyard food grower who uses raised beds, tubs and planters of all kinds in which to grow his produce.

The Thingamadig Hoe, like its cousin, the Trowel, is part of the range of tool and things of Dalson of Australia and imported into the UK by Lakeland. The Hoe has the same trademarked Dalson Comfort Grip, as has the Trowel, which is very comfortable to use and equally well suited to right- or left-handed operation.

The Thingamadig Hoe is a tool that takes the hard work out of digging and through raised beds here, in my opinion, especially.

Based on a traditional Japanese hand hoe design, it has a pointed head that makes it ideal for weeding, digging and furrowing. Its offset blade helps protect roots whilst digging around plants and allows you to get in real close too your plants without causing damage.

The Thingamadig Hoe is manufactured from quality, stainless steel for optimal strength and durability. A beauty to behold and a beauty to use.

© 2010

Lakeland Garden Catalog “grow, cook, enjoy” – Preview

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The other day the Press Preview copy of the latest Lakeland catalog, the Late Spring 2010, dropped onto my doormat and this included the Garden Catalog “grow, cook, enjoy”.

This Lakeland catalog is full of interesting products, some new to Lakeland and even new to the UK, for you to get the most out of your garden with regards to “grow, cook and enjoy”, from growing produce and also flowers to al fresco living.

Once again this catalog comes with a little packet of leaf salad seeds, like last year, and those that used them last year will, now doubt, agree with me that those leaves were great.

Some of my great loves of “gadgets”, for lack of a better word, that convert empty plastic drinks bottles into useful things, such as small watering cans, plant waterers, bird feeders, etc., have also arrived in that catalog and many of them new to Lakeland and to the UK even.

The Bird Feeder that I have reviewed already, that turns a soda bottle into a feeder for garden birds could, possibly, also be used to feed and water (required then two, obviously) for chickens.

When i was doing the review on the Bird Feeder I was wondering as to other “gadgets” that convert plastic bottles and Lakeland now is bring many of those to us in this catalog.

The Lakeland Garden Buyers have really outdone themselves this year, for sure, for this catalog, and this with regards to tools, seeds and other specials things for the “grow your own food” sector.

Amongst the great products in the Lakeland Garden Catalog for this Spring there is a great Thingamadig Trowel that is the best trowel that I have ever used. It works like an extension of you hand, as, theoretically, it would be used the way the way you would dig with your hand, pulling it towards you.

In addition to the trowel Lakeland now brings us its cousin, the Thingamadig Hand Hoe, based on a traditional Japanese hand hoe design.

Then there are the cold frames, including one wooden framed one at a very good price, and cloches and similar of a variety of designs.

In short, nigh on everything garden is covered in this catalog bar your larger greenhouses, for instance.

While I have only looked at the Lakeland Garden Catalog the general Late Spring 2010 catalog is choc-a-bloc with great products as well for your kitchen and your home and is definitely worth a very good and thorough perusal.

© 2010

Reversible Box Launched By Salazar Packaging

New Corrugated Box Design Is Dramatic Step Forward in Reusable Packaging

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plainfield, IL – The idea of reusing shipping boxes is nothing new, but Salazar Packaging has launched a line of shipping boxes that are made to be easily reversed and reused.

While it is easy for companies and consumers to reuse shipping boxes – one company,, exclusively reuses others' boxes – they end up accumulating extra shipping labels and marks to cross out previous logos or labels.

The Globe Guard reusable box, made of 100 percent recycled content and available in various sizes and thicknesses, was created with reuse in mind.

The patent-pending Globe Guard ® Reusable Box is a corrugated shipping container that can be quickly inverted after use to form a clean, like-new shipper. The breakthrough design, developed by sustainable packaging innovator Salazar Packaging, Inc., supports the multiple reuse of corrugated containers - while reducing overall cost in packaging and shipping operations.

The box is reversed by slicing the tape holding the bottom together and laying the box flat. One of the edges is perforated, which tears easily when holding down one side of it and pulling the other side up.

The underside of one edge has an adhesive strip, and after flipping the box around, the user pulls of the strip's covering and attaches it to the other side, resulting in a brand new box.

“Shipping boxes are typically still structurally solid after their first use,” said company president, Dennis Salazar, “but they are thrown away or recycled because of how they look. Our design enables the clean inside of the box to quickly and easily become the new outside, at least doubling the box’s life cycle. Essentially, the Reusable Box does the job of two boxes, possibly more.”

The Reusable Box is ideal for warranty claim and replacement shipments, repair and return operations, e-commerce returns, parts exchanges, product loaners, intra company and intra-office shipments, and other applications where more than one shipping container are used for shipping products back and forth.

Salazar Packaging's design enables the clean inside of the box to quickly and easily become the new outside, at least doubling the box’s life cycle. In addition, firms committed to supporting the environment can use the Reusable Box to communicate their sustainable values and encourage packaging reuse.

Beyond strengthening a firm’s sustainable packaging profile, the Reusable Box can produce cost saving by reducing material costs, streamlining procurement, eliminating SKUs, and conserving warehouse space. In addition the shipping boxes can be custom printed inside and out to make returns processing more efficient.

© 2010

Americans waste 40% of their food

And Brits, apparently, are as bad if not even worse.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the United States, it seems that food is everywhere we look.

Driving down the highway, one sees signs for a plethora of fast food restaurants, and food companies spend millions of dollars each year coming up with new value-added food products to attract consumer dollars.

To be honest I have never seen so many signs for diners and motels as I have when see towns and cities in the USA.

This has not only resulted in an increasingly overweight population, but a citizenry that has begun to waste food at levels never seen before – even in the middle of a recession and with hunger rising, and many people dependent on soup kitchens.

A new study has found that Americans waste 1,400 calories per person per day, or nearly 40% of the county's entire food supply. But that's not even the most disturbing statistic.

In order to produce the 1,400 calories that Americans toss into the trash everyday, we use one-fourth of the country's supply of fresh water. In addition, three hundred million barrels of oil are used each year to produce food that eventually just gets thrown away.

What the heck is wrong with us America? This is completely and utterly unacceptable.

It is not America only, however, that thus wastes food. British studies suggest that in the UK up to 50% of all food is waste.

One might like to assume that a lot of this food waste comes from more institutional culprits – restaurants, hotels, corporate offices – but that does not mean that we are not responsible as individuals or that we should not all strive to reduce the waste in our lives.

A great deal of the food waste in Britain is often due to the fact that people in households do not understand the difference between “best before” date and “use by” date.

The “best before” means just that; the food is at its best before that date but does not mean that immediately on reaching that date or a day after it is no longer safe to eat – it is.

The “use by” date is a slightly different story and food that has gone more than a couple of days beyond that could be unsafe but not necessarily so.

The there is the “sell by” date on some products that is meant for the stores and not the consumer and also causes lots of confusion to the consumer.

Hence lot of food perfectly safe to eat is thrown into the trash bins – it is not even composted – and thus wasted.

There are many easy ways to do this, including donating excess food, composting and most importantly (this really seems like common sense, but I guess it's not) only buying what you or your family can eat.

Recovering just a fraction of the food we waste in the USA, the UK and other developed countries, for I am sure our two countries are not alone here, would feed millions of hungry people.

In addition to the standard waste in Britain, per example, it is illegal for stores to give away, say, sandwiches at the end of the day to people who could very well do with them, or fruit and vegetables that have blemishes or slight soft spots. All of this has to be thrown and, in fact, rendered unsuitable for human consumption. The latter is being done by throwing bleach over the food when it is thrown into the dumpsters of many store groups.

What a waste!

© 2010

Hey New York, Are You Ready For The “Green Wave”?

The Building Green Expo and Workshops is back in its 3rd year to promote, “Green Union: Building Partnerships for the Green Wave.”

NEW YORK, NY, February 2010 : On April 20, 2010, The Building Green Expo and Workshops returns to New York City and will take place at 7 World Trade Center. Building Green has added two new elements to this year’s event: A Green Contest which is open to the public, and a children’s educational component geared towards elementary students explaining what sustainability means and providing steps to help keep the world green.

Building Green provides an opportunity for Architects, Construction Managers, Developers, Engineers, General Contractors, Government Agencies, Manufacturers, Suppliers and Trade Contractors to network, showcase their products and educate the general public about new innovations that compliment the NYS Green Building Initiatives. This year’s focus will be about establishing and maintaining relations throughout the construction industry to continue on the path of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

The workshop topics include: “Making green ($$) from green,” “Green Building Initiative/Green Globes rating system” and finally a “Green job Training Panel.” Afterwards, an open forum discussion will feature industry experts to answer any questions or concerns regarding the Green Wave.

This year, Building Green is promoting a new green contest entitled, “How Green is your Building?” where entrants can explain how their building and/or staff contributes to the reduction of its carbon footprint which includes reducing water and energy usage. The winner will be announced at the Building Green VIP reception which follows the Expo and Workshops. For more details about this event, the green contest or the companies involved in Building Green 2010, visit

For the children’s educational component, Building Green has invited classes from the NYC Public school system to attend. Elementary students will take part in an interactive workshop which will provide a hands-on approach to green initiatives they can utilize now to become future green leaders. The children are encouraged to share what they learn with family members to continue the cycle of green awareness. For more information regarding the workshop, email:

About Building Green

Since the launch of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the growth and interest in green building projects has spread rapidly. Recognizing this growth in the construction industry and the strong need to get companies that provide green products/services to unite with construction industry leaders as well as teaching new trends within the Green industry, Building Green was created.

About 7 World Trade Center

7 World Trade Center (WTC) is a pioneer in terms of environmental responsibility, energy efficiency and quality of life. The building has already been recognized with awards from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Municipal Arts Society of New York and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter. 7 WTC is a model of the kind of collaborative efforts that will define the development of the other buildings at the World Trade Center site. Silverstein Properties worked with contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, as well as government agencies and leading environmental organizations to develop and implement a variety of environmental innovations. The building was one of the first projects accepted to be part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Pilot Program for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Core and Shell Development (LEED-CS.)


NESEA Announces Spring Sustainability Workshop Series

Serving Professionals, Building Knowledge

GREENFIELD, MA, February 2010: The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) is pleased to announce its Spring 2010 Sustainability Workshop Series scheduled to run in March, April, May and June.

An exciting new element to the workshops this year is NESEA’s affiliation with the Affordable Comfort, Inc. (ACI) Conference. The two full-day workshops scheduled on March 3 in Atlantic City, NJ, will be held the day before the ACI New Jersey Home Performance Conference.

NESEA's sustainability workshop series serves professionals by broadening their knowledge on a wide range of critical topics that focus on three core elements: sustainable solutions, proven results and cutting-edge development in the field. Each workshop is accredited by AIA, BOMI, InterNACHI, NAHB, and NARI. Attendees receive seven continuing education units for each full day workshop. New this year is the addition of the BPI accreditation. These continuing education credits will be applied to select workshops. Visit for details.

Northwest Sustainable Energy Association

Pamela Lester, Program Manager for the Workshop Series said, “Each instructor of the series is an active NESEA member and has played an important role in advancing the mission of NESEA in offering real solutions to critical building questions. Collectively, the instructors have many years of experience designing, building and retrofitting energy efficient homes and buildings.” The Workshop Series dates, locations, and topics include:

March 3, Atlantic City, NJ

• Introduction to Photovoltaics, Stephen M. Kurkoski, Instructor

• Residential Retrofits for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Larry Harmon, Instructor

March 31, Concord, NH

• Residential Retrofits for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Larry Harmon, Instructor

April 15, Brockton, MA

• Residential Retrofits for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Larry Harmon, Instructor

April 22, Manchester, NH

• Introduction to Building Science Thermography, Michael Browne, Instructor

May 13, Berlin, CT

• Introduction to Passive House (Passivhaus), Mike Duclos and Paul Eldrenkamp, Instructors

May 15, Providence, RI

• Introduction to Passive House (Passivhaus), Mike Duclos and Paul Eldrenkamp, Instructors

June 9, Manchester, NH

• Scorekeeping: Benchmarking and Monitoring Energy Performance, Mike Duclos and Paul Eldrenkamp, Instructors

Each workshop fee is $295 and runs from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The fee for NESEA members is $270. For more information and to register, visit Registration is limited and taken on a first come first serve basis.

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association is the nation's leading regional membership organization promoting efficient and sustainable energy solutions for all sizes of buildings from single residential family homes to industrial facilities. NESEA is committed to advancing the adoption of sustainable energy practices in the 10 Northeast states, from Maine through Delaware. For thirty-six years, NESEA has supported and inspired a growing network of sustainable energy professionals and advocates committed to responsible energy practices. NESEA does this by hosting a variety of events which include the Sustainable Workshop Series, Building Energy Conference and Trade Show, K-12 Education programs for teachers, and Green Buildings Open House.


Karzai seizes control of election watchdog

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has created a “law” that give him and him alone the total power to appoint all the five members of the Electoral Complaints Commission.

Brilliant! He can now rule supreme and create a total “yes, President” cabinet. What makes him now different from a dictator? Absolutely nothing. Karzai is a Pashtoon warlord and wants to run the country for his tribe, period, and he is now holding all the strings and keys to the electoral process.

The USA, and Britain especially, in the person of Gordon Brown, are talking that we must allow the Afganization of the process in Afghanistan and this seems the way it is going to go.

But what is Afghanization?

In the eyes of the powers that talk thus it is a process of letting the Afghans run their affairs though, I guess, hopes in a democratic way as the West understands it. The problem is that Afghanistan is totally different and western democratic systems are alien to their ways.

If Afghanization in the Afghan way is the aim then it is time we went home and left the Afghans to get on with it, in whichever way.

Either the job in Afghanistan is to bring peace, stability and democracy to the country or it is not.

So, what are we really doing in Afghanistan?

The truth is a different one from the one to liberating the country from the Taliban and hunting Al Queda; one that few ordinary people in the West would think about, it seems.

The USA and others needed a “pliable” leader in that country and hence they put in Karzai to start with, and allowed the farce of that election in 2009 to continue and Karzai's “victory”.

Hamid Karzai is a stooge, put in by the Americans to do their bidding and he is also someone who will want to stay on, and do so at all costs.

He is and was a warlord and runs the country as Afghanistan has always been run; by a system of family and clan dependencies and allegiances and by outright bribery and corruption (as we would understand it).

Karzai wold not want true democracy in Afghanistan as that would not get him to do the things that he wants and that his puppet masters want him to do.

NATO soldiers, American, British, German, and others die for a cause only a few will benefit from and those are not the poor Afghans.

They are used to fight the Taliban for it is the Taliban, however much one might despise them for their treatment of girls and women and non-believers, who wold stand against such corrupt practices by the likes of Karzai.

In fact Karzai had fled Afghanistan when the Taliban came power and, while others tried to rid themselves of the Taliban and Al Queda and suffered all manner of things he sat abroad, getting buy very nicely, thank you.

Do we, the people, really want to allow our leaders to continue waste lives there in that country in order to prop up a junta that does not represent the people proper and will never permit proper representation of the people by the people?

I do not think so! And we should make that crystal clear to our elected representatives. Whether that will do any good or not is another question and will also show as to how democratic and representative our own countries and governments are.

I love my country but I fear its government.

© 2010

Cut meat, cut carbon? Agri-environment debate more complex, say experts

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The environmental arguments for eating less meat are pretty clear-cut – less livestock means less deforestation, less water use and less greenhouse gas emissions – so claim those that would want us to get rid of livestock farming or at least reduce it.

But, according to the executive director of the Food Ethics Council, it's a more complex problem than the soundbites suggest.

Speaking at a Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum seminar in December 2009, Dr Tom MacMillan outlined how the practicalities of cutting our environmental impact by cutting down on meat are far from straightforward.

"When people have floated the idea that we should eat less meat, they have met a very hostile response," he said.

It's a sensitive issue, he said, and even those politicians who can see a need to curb consumption feel hamstrung and question whether they have a mandate from their constituents to drive down meat eating.

"The idea that eating less meat and dairy might be more sustainable has been on DEFRA's radar since at least 2005 but I think it's fair to say it's languished there a bit," said Dr MacMillan.

"There's concern about the public reaction...and nobody's comfortable talking about food consumption."

Stopping eating meat tomorrow as a nation would also cause ripples around the world, he said, and may simply displace the problems.

"In a world where we eat less meat it would be a lot easier to meet our commitments to the environment, animal welfare and social justice," he said.

"But if we simply cut back we might end up causing as much harm as good."

Some of the most climate-friendly forms of farming, he said, require the input of livestock in the form of fertilizing dung, grazing and other less-intensive land management techniques.

The equation that is often made, and was cited earlier, namely that less livestock means less deforestation, less water use and less greenhouse gas emissions, does not add up, especially not if the farming is done sensibly.

Livestock farming should and must be done only where it is suitable for it, such in the grasslands, when it comes to cattle and other grazers/browsers and not by creating more and more grazing land where there is naturally none.

The Food Ethics Council has been working with policy makers and the food production sector to look at the best way to actually address the problem, and move from entrenched positions to a dialogue that could make progress towards more sustainable levels of meat consumption without causing too many knock-on effects.

The council's report Livestock Consumption and Climate Change: A Framework for Dialogue, produced with the WWF, puts forward 27 potential interventions that could tackle the problem, from publicity campaigns seeking to shift consumer behavior to fiscal measures that take into account the emissions associated with animal products.

If the world would stop eating meat tomorrow what do those advocating the reduction or even the termination of livestock farming for food think would happen to the animals.

Some misguided people has suggested that they would all be nicely looked after and they would have a great life. This is not so for their only reason for existence is to become food.

The real truth is that, should the world go vegetarian tomorrow, all those animals would be destroyed for they no longer would have a reason to exist and they also would take up valuable land required for the production of vegetables.

The problem is that too many people who advocate the vegetarian way do live in cloud cuckoo land and not in reality. If livestock is not required for food, whether we are talking cattle, sheep, goats, etc., they have no reason of being, with the exception of sheep for wool and goats for some shrub clearing, and such, and would simply not exist. Period!

Time people woke up to reality.

Even our closest cousins in the non-human field, the Chimpanzees, are not vegetarians but are, in fact, omnivores who also hunt and kill prey for food. Reality is not all that cuddly.

© 2010

When to start seeds for a vegetable garden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As winter begins to wind down and slowly draws to a close, in many places, gardeners anxiously await the arrival of spring and the gardening season.

Even though we are headed for spring, and the days are getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, winter may still have a few tricks up its sleeve.

Therefore vegetable gardeners can begin to prepare for the gardening season and get a head start on spring by starting some crops early indoors.

But if seeds are started indoors too soon, the little plants may outgrow their indoor growing space and become too leggy. This makes them not to have enough strength to grow on later.

If they're planted too late, the seedlings will not be large enough for transplanting in the garden when planting time comes round.

For the best results and the least amount of frustration, it's important to know the right time to plant seeds.

Broccoli and cabbage can be started early indoors or direct seeded. The proper time for planting seeds for broccoli or cabbage indoors would be four to six weeks before transplanting to the garden.

The timing for planting cauliflower seeds is similar to the timing for broccoli. Sow the seeds in flats starting in early March. For successive crops, continue sowing seeds through June, and plant out the seedlings 4-5 weeks after sowing the seeds.

Cucumbers can be started early indoors or direct seeded in the garden. For an earlier crop, sow cucumber seeds indoors 4-5 weeks before they can be planted outdoors.

Melon plants grow best in warm weather. Melon seeds can be sown indoors one month before they can be transplanted into the garden. Handle seedlings carefully as they do not like to have their roots disturbed.

Onions are often grown from tiny bulbs called sets, but onions can also be grown from seed. Plant onion seeds indoors in flats 6-8 weeks before they seedlings are to be planted out. Or plant onion seeds directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.

Peppers grow rather slowly and in most climates the plants should be started indoors. Sow pepper seeds indoors eight weeks before planting out the little seedlings, and do not plant them outdoors until the soil has warmed and summer weather has settled in.

Pumpkins and winter squash are vigorous plants that grow well when the seeds are planted directly in the garden. If you have a short growing season, you may start pumpkin winter squash seeds indoors no more than 3-4 weeks before planting out the seedlings.

Tomato plants cannot handle cool temperatures or frost, so the seedlings must not be planted outdoors until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sow tomato seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the seedlings can be planted out.

Depending, obviously, where you happen to live, and I am talking here only about the Northern Hemisphere, the times as to when you can safely put a lot of those seedlings or plugs, for I always suggest you grow the seedlings on to plug stage, into the ground, whether into the soil directly, into raised beds or planters.

Vegetables need not be grown in the soil directly only. Even a small backyard can produce food for the home and family and container grown vegetables can be as good as those grown in the soil, sometime better even as fewer pests get to them.

© 2010

'Farming's the solution to climate change, not the problem'

Agriculture is part of the solution to climate change, say farming leaders

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Farmers and industry leaders have been to the Copenhagen environment summit to promote farming as a green industry and rebuff criticisms linking meat-eating with climate change.

As many as 300 farming delegates from all over the world took part in a Agriculture and Rural Development Day, a fringe meeting, on Saturday, December 12, 2009.

Ian Backhouse, chairman of the NFU's combinable crops board, said that he was going to attend because he was concerned that recent calls to cut carbon emission by reducing meat consumption had unfairly branded farmers as big polluters.

"Our involvement in any of these conferences is to ensure that we don't unfairly get lumbered with the blame and secondly, any policies that come out of it are consequently common sense policies.

"We are one of the biggest possible solutions to the causes because we produce plants and plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," he said.

Grazing animals are not a danger to the planet as long as they fed on what they are meant to be fed on, which is to say the green stuff that grows in meadows and such, called, yes, grass. Cattle, sheep, goats and others are not meat to eat grain. That's for chickens. When will we understand that.

Pigs, on the other hand, are great omnivores and, as the recycling system of the Zabbaleen shows, are great digesters of food waste. Unfortunately, that practice of feeding them so-called swill was outlawed in Britain after a Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak, calimed to be the result of something that was in the swill.

Ian Backhouse of the NFU also planned to promote using anaerobic digesters to cut emissions and create cleaner energy.

But he said he was concerned that farming was not higher up the Copenhagen summit agenda, and rightly so, I would hasten to add.

"It does not recognise that agriculture could be one of the big solutions to the whole climate change subject," Mr Backhouse said.

Then again, agriculture, especially livestock, has been targeted as something to be gotten rid off because of the pressure by the vegetarian and vegan groups and the animal liberation people. None of the understand that none of those animals would live were it not for the fact that they are farmed for food.

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, slammed world leaders for once again leaving agriculture off the main Copenhagen climate change agenda.

"Agriculture should be something central, not peripheral to Copenhagen," said Mr Holden.

He said farmers could lock up carbon by tilling soil less and improving the fertility of the land, for instance, by using organic farming methods.

"We would offset 23% of total farming emissions from agriculture by harnessing the capacity of soil," he said.

"If all farmers switched to systems based on crop retention to build fertility, that would represent the biggest change in agricultural practices for 60 years," said Mr Holden.

Manure and compost is the way to go, as is leaving land fallow every four years and the use of crop rotation. This is being treated though as if it is entirely new an rocket science, which it is not. The way the Amish in the USA farm should be the best example as to soil health and productivity by using natural methods.

The fact that ever since the Second World War the CO2 load in the atmosphere began to increase is due to the fact also that we then began to use chemical “fertilizers” rather than manure, crop rotation, and leaving land fallow every four years.

The old system locked up carbon in the soil and also absorbed CO2 into the soil, as healthy soil does. However, the chemical fertilizers do not improve the soil and soil health. They do in fact the opposite. They destroy soil fertility and -health as they are a plant food only.

Time we got back to sense and to the older proper methods of farming and to small family farms and away from the huge multi-national agri-industry that is destroying land and everything else.

© 2010

Ancient Pathways

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When, at times, it is being suggested that we should look at some old ways, technologies and methods in order to live more symbiotic with Mother Nature this is being countered with “do you want us all to go back and live in caves?”

No such thing is ever being suggested when the use of old ways and technologies is being talked about, however, there are times when a nice quiet cave with high-speed Internet sounds rather very nice. Getting away from some of the people I have to deal with day in day out in such a manner would be heaven but...

When we talk about revisiting some of the old ways of doing things this is not Luddite-ism. On the contrary. The past is the past. It is gone and we cannot go back to live in the past and neither is that something that we intend to suggest or promote.

While there are always some folks that would like to go back into the past to live there and live like our ancestors did or have us all go back to the life and times of Grizzly Adams, so to speak, it is not feasible nor even desirable.

While the Amish do live a little “in the past”, when it comes to working the land their way actually is the one that produces fantastic results and the soil on their lands is healthy, due to the old methods used, they also employ modern materials such as stainless steel and modern technologies such as solar panel and wind turbines.

A similar merger can be done, for the benefit of humankind and Mother Earth, with indigenous knowledges, paths and technologies and modern technology and such. It can be a symbiotic relationship for the benefit of all.

It is the application old knowledges and technologies with new is what we are talking about.

Combining ancient knowledge and technologies and skills with modern technology and information flow could just be something that could change things.

Already, as regards to agriculture, the talk is that the old ways of farming, the same that the Amish, for instance, employ, such as the use of farmyard manure and crop rotation could be a weapon against climate change.

Yikes! Government and scientific rocket science strikes again, for they talk, yet again, as if they have just discovered this. Much like the was it cost them $8 Million too “discover” that waste wood from building sites can be burned. Oh my G-d! Who would have thought that?

They also “discovered”, so the press statement said, at the cost of around $17 Million that canals and inland waterways can be used for the transportation of freight. Now what do they think that the canals were built for in Britain? It sure was not for pleasure boating; no one had time for that then. It was a means of carrying freight across the country, from production center to place where it was wanted.

There are many old ways that, combined with modern technologies, could just work out as something that could sort out this environmental mess that we find ourselves in.

© 2010

Soda Bottle Bird Feeder from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Soda Bottle Bird Feeder
Made in the USA by McNaughton Inc. Minneapolis, MN
into the UK by Lakeland Ltd, Cumbria
Lakeland Ref 51368

I must say that I do love those little devices of one kind or other that then turn those otherwise horrible plastic (Soda) bottles into something useful and usable and the Soda Bottle Bird Feeder is no exception here.

The Soda Bottle Bird Feeder turns soda bottles and bottled water containers easily into effective all-year-round (if you so desire) bird feeder.

Assembly is straightforward and the removable “plug” in the bottom of the device makes refilling of the feeder as easy as pie.

The Soda Bottle Bird Feeder is made with a recycled and reused material contents, the full percentage amount of which, however, has not been given.

The packaging is simple card and no plastic blister, which is ever so nice to see.

This is a real nice way of reusing those pesky plastic bottles rather than sending them to landfill or for recycling to China,

I just wish there would be more products on the market for the conversion of plastic bottles, of all kinds and sizes, into useful things.

My thanks to Lakeland for bringing this product into the UK.

© 2010

Sowing New Seeds

Sharing resources for growing exotic food in the Midlands

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sowing New Seeds is a three year project, led by Garden Organic, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund's Local Food scheme.

Its aim is to directly enable and support gardeners, allotment holders, schools and community enterprises in the East and West Midlands to access, manage and grow exotic crops that are not traditionally grown in Britain.

Global and local changes are turning public interest to”grow your own” for food and the impacts of Climate Change and the growing public awareness of cultural diversity is turning public interest to growing exotic crop.

With this, the demand is increasing for exotic seeds and information on their cultivation and usage, yet relatively few varieties are commercially available.

Britain's population as well as its eating habits have changed dramatically over the past forty and more years.

During this time people from all over the world have settled in the United Kingdom and have grown their own vegetables in gardens and allotments throughout the Midlands (and not just the Midlands).

Those people who have settled here have grown vegetables from their native homes such as callaloo, white maize, Hamburg parsley, dudi, black-eye beans and water chestnuts. Many of these plants originate from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America or the Caribbean, and may eventually become adapted successfully to local conditions here in the UK. It is those seeds that we need to save for future generations.

These, often ethnic growers, have imported or saved the seeds and adapted these varieties, yet, these growers are frequently isolated from traditional gardening networks.

As they grow older, they are less able to work in their gardens and there is the real risk that they and with it the wider gardening community also are losing both the special non-traditional crop seeds and the knowledge of how to grow them.

Through the Midlands networks of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardeners, Groundwork, Black Environment Network, Soil Association CSA network, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Women's Environmental Network and Garden Organic, BME “Seed Stewards” will be invited to share their locally-adapted varieties and knowledge.

These varieties will be evaluated and demonstrated to growers groups through sharing and training on 'best practice' management.

An Exotic Seed Collection and inspirational Exotic Urban Garden will maintain and make these resources available for long term usage throughout England.

© 2010


More Than 26,000 Animals Were Seized From Texas-Based Supplier of UK Companies

London – In the wake of the seizure of more than 26,000 lemurs, wallabies, sloths, hamsters, gerbils, hedgehogs, snakes, lizards, spiders and other animals from US Global Exotics (USGE) – a massive international exotic-animal operation based in Arlington, Texas – the PETA Foundation is calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ban the sale of exotic species in the UK and prohibit their importation into the country. USGE deals in hundreds of thousands of animals each year and counts at least three UK companies among its customers.

The raid came after a PETA US undercover investigator who spent seven months working inside the facility showed that tens of thousands of animals – including dozens of lizards, turtles, hamsters, prairie dogs and hedgehogs – were crammed for weeks into cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and bins. The animals often went without water or food and were piled on top of each other, causing widespread disease and cannibalism. Every day, dozens and sometimes hundreds of animals died of starvation, dehydration and untreated illnesses and injuries. USGE employees threw live squirrels, lizards, a chinchilla and snakes into a freezer to die, and they also dumped dying animals into the facility's rubbish bins amidst rotting remains.

At least three UK companies – Darlington-based Coast to Coast Exotics Inc, Essex-based Peregrine Livefoods Ltd and Manchester-based PM Aquatic Imports – are USGE customers. These UK companies would have sold the animals to other buyers or shops.

"This case reveals the appalling but routine abuse and neglect found in the exotic-pet trade", says PETA's Poorva Joshipura. "Animals were snatched out of their natural habitats and shipped thousands of miles to the US , only to be repacked for gruelling journeys to the UK and other countries. Anyone who gives their business to pet shops that sell exotic animals may be unwittingly supporting this cruelty."


Something Found and Something Made

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Reusable finds and recycling DIY (with those items found or others)

Ever since childhood this has been a part of me; the taking home with me of things found (that have been lost or even discarded by others) that might be useful in themselves as they are or if broken that could be repaired or that could be made into something else. I just hate seeing things go to waste and into the waste stream that do not have to.

If one but has one's eyes open without even specifically looking for items in dumpsters, for instance, one will be amazed how much useful stuff is being lost or thrown out.

I certainly am amazed at a more or less daily basis, even though, by now, I should have really gotten used to it and it should no longer really surprise me at my age, I guess, but it still does.

Time and again I still am being surprised as to what the ordinary punter will throw into a park's litter bin, for instance.

Only the other day I found two brand new Duracell AAA batteries, still in their package of originally four, thrown away. Whoever dumped them obviously only needed two batteries at the time but bought a 4-pack, as that is often the only way to purchase them, and then could not be bothered to take the other two with him. Why, one can only ask in amazement.

I do not really complain as this gave me two more batteries and two new ones that I do not have to pay for. Just the fact of them having been tossed is what got to me.

In my experience keeping the eyes wide open is definitely advantageous at times for people are careless with their stuff and even money and they also often throw stuff simply away because it was cheap or because they go t a new one.

As a society, but then who am I telling that, we are, in the developed world, wasteful in the extreme.

To me, I have to say, finding stuff and reusing, repurposing, repairing and converting it, has a great thrill attached and that thrill has never gone ever since childhood.

When I was growing up money was at a premium and toys were not something that there was ever much money for. The toys that we had when I was a boy were either homemade by ourselves or one of our Elders or “rescued” from found items or from the dump.

I guess that that childhood of mine is responsible for still looking at waste in the same way as then; a resource from which to make things and this also applies to things that are left lying about the streets and countryside.

A great number of my tolls such as spanners and such came to me as finds from the side of the roads, including some expensive Snap-On wrenches and sockets. Thus, I have found, that open eyes can save money.

Often items tossed into litter bins can either be upcycled, repurposed or repaired be be of use (again) and I have found new radios that were thrown away simply for the fact that the batteries had run out, and the same with flashlights and such.

Other things get thrown because people simply cannot see other uses for them such as, for instance, the plastic dishes, with lids on them, from Chinese or Indian take-out places. Nowadays those have replaced, in most cases, the tin foil dishes of before.

Apparently folks do not realize that they could use those plastic boxes at home for storing leftovers or other things.

While, once they have been in a little bin, I will not use them for food they are great in drawers of desks and such to keep things neat and tidy. Even if the lid is damaged or missing the container still can find uses.

Other finds can be use to make decorative art, of various kinds, or used in other ways to make things, such as found nails and screws, for instance, or bits of (fence) wire.

The frugal person with an eye for things and an imagination can find uses for many of the things that get lost or thrown into litter bins or just tossed tot he side of the road, into roadside ditches and such.

If we do not pick those things up for reuse in one way or the other they will, invariably, end up in the municipal landfill.

So save the Earth and your money buy reusing found items.

© 2010

Food Inc. hits British cinemas

British agricultural business is up in arms against this movie

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The agricultural business lobby, including the National Farmer's Union, say that this brilliant and eyeopening film is irrelevant to Britain as British farming is different, they say, and therefore should not have been shown in the UK at all.

If there is nothing to worry about for the British farming industry, as, so we are told, practices in the UK are so different to those portrayed in “Food Inc.” and from the USA, and they claim that their ways are “whiter than snow” then why the furore?

The quote from Hamlet, “The lady protesteth too much, methinks”, comes to mind here. All the protest seems to be hiding fear that customers might ask questions as to the British (and European) practices and demand want answers.

The truth is that, while agricultural practices in Britain may not, as yet, be like they are in the USA and portrayed in “Food Inc.” it could go that way if we, the people, are not at all careful.

Therefore “Food Inc.” is a rather timely movie and one can but advise that all of the people have a look at it.

However, a word of warning: it will really be an eyeopener and will make you really think as to how safe the food is that you buy in stores.

Grow your own looks better every day.

© 2010

ASDA screws customers just in time for Christmas 2009

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ASDA, the former dairy farmer co-operative with ethics, known as Associated Dairies, originally, now part of the Walmart which has none, has had a great was of giving value for money to its customers just before Christmas.

The price of batteries, for instance, essential for the toys that were going to be bought and other gadgets, rose to double the cost to before. And this, so it would appear, is only one of the many things that the prices of which – in their wisdom – they put up the prices. This is the most cynical attitude that I have so far, I must say, encountered from a supermarket chain.

The store chain, which always claims to save you, the customer, money – and if you believe that then I have got some ocean front property to sell you in Arizona and New Mexico – really knowns how to look after they bottom line, it seems. That is their bottom line, not yours.

Tesco, it can be added here, also have used the same kind of tactics just before 2009 Christmas and then, just recently, they went to put pressure on farmers, only a couple of days before the new legislation came in in Britain that makes it illegal to deal unethically with suppliers, to renegotiate the contracts and settle for lower prices.

Not very ethical, neither of those two, and maybe we, the people, need to tell them and show them what we think of such actions. Our wallets are what can speak here rather loudly.

© 2010

Oban to Ballachulish path reaches half-way mark

Sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, has appointed Ennstone Thistle as its principal contractor to build Phase 3 of the walking and cycling path from Oban to Ballachulish.

Construction work is now underway on Phase 3 and is scheduled for completion in spring of this year. The section will feature three miles of path linking Portnacroish to Inverfolla and creating a circular route to Port Appin.

Part of National Cycle Network Route 78, Phase 3 will take the total mileage of completed path to 17. Sustrans Scotland aims to complete the works linking Oban to Ballachulish by 2013.

The project is a joint partnership between Sustrans, the Scottish Government, local landowners, Transport Scotland , Highland and Argyll and Bute councils, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, which is funding the installation artworks along the path.

Welcoming the appointment of Ennstone Thistle, Clary Elliott , Engineering Manager at Sustrans, said: “Sustrans is delighted to welcome Ennstone onboard to progress the construction of the path following the company’s success in completing Phase 2 in 2009.

“Phase 3 is an important milestone in the development of this project as it brings the route to its halfway point between Oban and Ballachulish.”

Malcolm Cullen, Site Engineer from Ennstone Thistle said: “The whole team at Ennstone is proud to be delivering this project which, when completed, will provide a mostly traffic-free route which is an excellent facility for the benefit of walkers and cyclists in the area.”


Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet

Jay Conrad Levinson, Shel Horowitz

Published by John Wiley & Sons; Original edition (28 Jan 2010)

ISBN: 978-0-470-40951-0

236 pages Paperback 22.6 x 15 x 2 cm

£14.99 / €18.30 (UK Price Only)

Forget greed; green is good. Today's cutting-edge businesses understand that making the world a better place can also be a great way to make money–in fact, it′s an essential aspect of a sustainable business model. Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green gives the tools to make that sustainable model work.

Catching the wave of this new trend in true guerrilla marketing fashion, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green presents unbeatable insurgent tactics for increasing your profits while improving the planet. This up-to-the-minute sourcebook gives you the theory and the roadmap to get your sustainability marketing plan up and running, including

  • Proof that ethical, Green businesses work better
  • Solid marketing tools ethical business owners can harness to grow their businesses
  • Strategies for using blogs, social networking websites (not just Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, but lesser–known ones such as Plaxo), podcasts, and teleseminars

Whether you are just starting your business, or are well-established but seek a greener direction, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green will help you market your business as one your customers can embrace on all levels.

Learn to:

  • Slash marketing costs and boost profits by making your business as green and ethical as possible
  • Easily turn your customers, suppliers, and even competitors into your unofficial sales force

  • Understand how to turn business acquaintances into powerful joint-venture partners

  • Cut your advertising budget and build revenues using social media, traditional media, and the power of your own brain—even get paid to do your marketing

  • Harness the Magic Triangle and the Abundance Principle to skyrocket to success

Find all this and much more within the covers of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green—your road map to thrive and prosper as a green, ethical business in tough times and good times.

Joel Makower, Executive Editor,, and author, Strategies for the Green Economy, said about this book: "A playbook for companies that want to succeed in a world where integrity and transparency trump slick slogans. This is a gem that should be required reading—not just for so-called green marketers, but for any marketer who wants to succeed in today's economy, and tomorrow's."

Would brilliant be a term too great with which to describe this book? Ii do not think so.

One can but hope that the lessons contained therein will be taken up by businesses the world over. This could start a real revolution.

While I have only read, so far some five or so chapters of this book, I can certainly recommend it and, as said above, hope that businesses the world over will take up the lessons from this book and this book should, in my opinion, become a standard text at business schools.

Jay Conrad Levinson released the first of more than sixty Guerrilla Marketing books in 1984, after a long corporate marketing career. A household name in the marketing world, he's sold more than twenty million books. For more information, go to

Shel Horowitz has been both an environmental activist/organizer and a marketer since 1972 (as a fifteen-year-old high school student). A world-renowned copywriter, marketing consultant, and award-winning author, he has participated actively in several major environmental and social change movements. This is his eighth book. For more information, go to

© 2010

Prime Minister's agenda for a new politics

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has on Tuesday, Feb 2, 2010, delivered a speech setting out the next steps in the Government’s program of constitutional and parliamentary reform in the UK.

Mr. Brown said he believes there is an urgent need for politicians on all sides to reconnect with people, and to make significant changes to both national and local government.

Gordon Brown said a new politics should involve ending the hereditary principle in parliament; ensuring each MP has the support of the majority of their voters; giving people a right to recall MPs who break the rules where parliament fails to act; and backing the progress being made towards local democracy and improved scrutiny.

The PM said the agenda for a new politics would revolve around two fundamental debates about change:

  • How the Government distributes power between individuals, neighborhoods, regions and the center; and

  • How the Government restores the legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of parliament, through reform of the unelected House of Lords, a new electoral system for the House of Commons, and a public life that starts to reflect the dynamism and diversity of Britain

Having said all that it is obvious that the Prime Minister has no real intention of changing the system to a real democratic one, namely of the systems that are in use in most democratic countries and institutions, that is to say “proportional representation”.

It would appear that that system is an anathema to the British political establishment and one can but wonder what they are afraid of. The voters, I guess.

Another interesting point is again and again the mention of the British constitutional system and changes to the same. What constitutional system, Prime Minister?

Britain does NOT have a constitution and he has admitted as much in his statement wondering as to whether the people would like a written one. Even an unwritten one would be nice but even that does not exist.

When will the politicians be prepared to admit that Britain is a Parliamentary Monarchy and nothing else and the “citizens” are, as it stated until recently – and I have to admit I have not seen a recent one – on British passports, “subjects of Her Britannic Majesty”.

Let's cut the pretense. There is no such thing as a “British citizen” under the British law but “subjects of Her Majesty” (no that I have a problem with that and I think we might actually be better of if Her Majesty would actually rule), and Britain has no constitution.

Let's all wake up finally, my fellow Brits, and realize what's what.

© 2010

Biogas must play bigger role in meeting energy needs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of waste could be meeting 10% of the UK's energy needs within the next ten years.

This is the claim of the trade body representing the industry, which argues its potential is being massively underused in the UK at the moment.

Anaerobic digestion is a mature technology, with thousands of facilities up and running in European countries with a better track record at dealing with waste, but currently there are only 30 or so plants operating in the UK.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) is arguing that the UK must catch up with its European cousins and that the technology will play an important role in the future of Britain's gas, electricity and heat supply.

Lord Redesdale, Executive Chairman of ADBA, will claim "Britain will fail to meet its renewable energy targets without rapid building of a nationwide anaerobic digestion infrastructure."

ADBA predicts farmers, commercial operators and local authorities will build a thousand AD plants in the next five years at a cost of £5 billion, mostly funded by the private sector, with the aim to generate gas worth £1.7 billion per year.

These new plants could meet two thirds of Britain's renewable energy targets by 2020.

Anaerobic digestion, which is already widely implemented in EU countries such as Germany and in the water industry in the UK, uses micro-organisms to break down agricultural and household waste to produce methane gas, which can then be converted into electricity or heat or injected directly into the gas or electricity grids.

ABDA believes the industry will employ 20,000 - 40,000 people producing up to 20% of Britain's domestic gas supply.

Lord Redesdale, chairman of ADBA said: "At a time when the cost and security of our gas supply is in jeopardy, when there is so much public support for renewable technologies, and when we do not look like we are going to hit our renewable and recycling targets, it is surprising that anaerobic digestion is not one of our top priorities.

"AD will convert waste into power, with the added benefit that the residue is a fertiliser that can be put back on the land."

Most farms could be entirely energy self-sufficient with this method, at least as far as heating and such is concerned, but could also use the gas, no doubt, to fire some small CHP systems that, at the same time, could also generate electricity for said farms.

The same is true for smallholdings and we must not forget that those farms that have animals can also make great use of the manure heaps as a heat source for hot water. This method was played with years ago in that heat exchangers were put into muck heaps and also heaps of wood chips and it works, apparently extremely well.

In fact we underuse so many of such resources in comparison of other countries that it is actually hard to believe that we are doing that.

Another source of biogas produced in the same way but not in controlled settings is that that is produced by the decay of materials in landfills and presently this gas is either flared off or simply vented.

Considering that most of that gas is, in fact, CH4 (methane), considered a greenhouse gas at least ten times more dangerous than CO2 it is simply beyond comprehensions that it is just vented off on many of the sites and not used in any way.

The same is true for sewage works where methane also is – in the great majority of cases – just flared off.

Already in the beginning of electricity the first power stations were run, in fact, on sewer gas and please someone tell me why it seems to be rocket science today and it is not done much, at least not in the UK and the USA, for instance.

© 2010

UK Foreign Office invites Israeli Ambassador

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Why all the pussyfooting?

The British Foreign Office on Wednesday, February 17, 2009 invited the Israeli Ambassador to London to come in and answer some questions arising from the forged UK passports used by a team of assassins.

While the ambassador of most other a country suspected of doing what, apparently, Israel's MOSSAD has done, would have been summoned rather than invited to the Foreign Office for a dressing down Israel is treated with kid gloves instead.

I guess that one could not possibly upset those friends of ours the action of whose security service have put the safety and security of British subjects at risk.

With friends such as the Zionist entity in the Middle East one certainly needs no enemies.

It would appear that Israel has free reign from the USA and the UK to, basically, more or less, do as it pleases and that is it. Period.

The abduction of a person, Mordecai Vanunu, who sought refuge in this country, by the Israeli intelligence service snatch squad from a British street also was let go without much of a protest (had this been the Russians things would have looked different) and other acts by MOSSAD also seem to have been overlooked.

Was it not the same people that we are n ow so pally with that murdered British soldiers of the protectorate authority that had the mandate from the League of Nations/United Nations of protecting Palestine in the run up to the British running away from Palestine? It was indeed.

All this was swept under the carpet when pressure from the US forced the hand of the UN to permit the establishment of the Zionist State, the one called Israel.

It is this country that uses the same methods as the Nazis that once persecuted and murdered Ashkenazim in the camps, as well as and especially Gypsies, against the Palestinians.

The Palestinians were there before the arrival of the Zionists regardless of what Golda Meir and others may have claimed and claim. No, Palestine was not empty and the first settlers who happily worked with the Arabs knew that well.

The story of how the Palestinians, and not just Muslims, have been driven out of their homes, farms and villages by the Irgun, the Hagganah, and later the “official” army of Israel, is well documented, including by a Meronite priest who experienced it as a child but who is ready and willing to forgive for the sake of peace.

The Israeli authorities must have studied well the annals of the Gestapo and the SS for they have learned well from whatever they have read and no doubt the dealings with the then Apartheid regime in South Africa also have taught them many a lesson in how to suppress and also murder people. BOSS was good that that too.

Why, and this is what all of us should be asking, is it that Israel and its agencies seems to be able to do as they please and the British government seemingly letting it happen without saying much.

© 2010

Mossad steals identity of innocent people

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself”

When you have friends like the illegal (Jewish) state of Israel then you certainly do not need enemies and if that was not clear to begin with it shoujld be very clear now.

The Israeli Intelligence Service MOSSAD, for its team of assassins sent to Dubai to eliminate a Hamas leader, the identity of six British subjects, some of which are resident in Israel and are Jewish, no less, it would appear, as well as some Irish citizens and that of a German and of a French citizen, to use for their false passports.

MOSSAD has, thereby, endangered the lives of British subjects, some of which are living in Israel, and one could say it is their fault for living there, as well as, to a degree all of the British people.

Although it is becoming quite obvious, despite of what the Israeli foreign minister may or may not say, that this was a MOSSAD operation and that that entity cares nothing at all about people and the danger they may put those into through having used the identities of them.

The British people could also, in general, become a target for Hamas, even though Hamas knows well enough that not all the people in the UK support Israel – even though our successive governments seem to do, much like the US governments – and that many are on the side of the Palestinian people.

The British Foreign Office is rather quiet and makes but a few low level noises and similar noises come from No.10.

Had this identity theft and cloning of passports be done by say the Russians or some other country or agency the ambassador of that country would have been summoned already and would have been read the riot act.

Not so, however, when it comes to Israel. Much in the same way when the former commander of the terrorist organization that blew up the King David Hotel came to the UK as Israeli PM and the warrant that still existed for him was not permitted to be served.

With friends like Israel the British state does not need any enemies.

© 2010

Parasene Longrow Super Cloche from Lakeland – Product Review,

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Longrow Super Cloche

Lakeland Ref: 51152

UV-protected, corrugated plastic protection for your plants. Galvanised steel frame.

Protect your precious plants from the elements and give them a head start with the Super Cloche. Featuring a tall roof system and generous depth, your dwarf beans, strawberries and salads, will thank you for their uv-protected, corrugated plastic shelter. Circular panels at either end turn easily for adjustable ventilation.

Dimensions are 1.11m x 47 x 38cm high or 43¾" x 18½" x 15" for those who think Imperial.
Price: £33.99

Please note: the workable height of this product is 25cm. The height stated above is before the legs are planted into the ground.

The assembly of the cloche as per instructions are not as straightforward as would would assume, unfortunately.

The corrugated PVC panels are extremely tight fitting into the frame and in the process I, in fact, managed to break the corner of one of the panels.

Because of this extreme tight fit it is nigh impossible to fit the two ventilated end pieces which, per instructions, are supposed to be fitted after the corrugated PVC panels have been put in.

I would, therefore, strongly advise to put in the end pieces prior to the corrugated panels – as I did in the end. Once the procedure is thus reversed I found fitting to be a lot easier.

This is not he first self-assembly product where I have found that I have had to reinvent the instructions.

Once assembled, which, I must say, took me a while and a helper could come in most handy, putting the cloche upon a raised bed into the soil was very easy. All that is required is a gentle downward push on both metal hoops – DO NOT push down on the central bar.

Hoops and central bar of the cloche are of galvanized steel; much better than the aluminium frames so often used in similar products such as mini cold frames.

Tools required for the assembly of the cloche are a cross-head (Phillips) screwdriver and an 8mm spanner or better still a socket with driver. A pair of additional hands could come is useful too.

© 2010

An Economy of Scale

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world needs to rethink of business, government and finance needs to rethink economy and bring it back to scale.

We need to establish an economy as if people mattered as Fritz Schumacher called it, and we must do this rather faster than some would think.

Governments and industry talk about economic growth continually as something top be aspired to. But how far can an economy really grow?

The economic growth that is all the time being talked about is being brought about by products that do not last and on the back of blatant consumerism and overconsumption.

Manufactured products nowadays have economic growth factored in in that they have a lifespan of no more than a couple of years, if that, such as computers, for instance who have obsolescence built in and are already “out of date” by the time the consumer has purchased one.

Talking about computers much of the obsolescence is not due to the hardware but to the fact that the likes of Microsoft produces programs that need ever more and more memory and speed. Using alternative operating systems and programs often do away with that such as Linux and when one sees that Windows Vista requires four DVDs from which to install the operating system while Ubuntu Linux come on a 700MB CD with not just the operating system but also most of the applications that a user may every need and want. But, I digressed.

In the days of old, so to speak, things were made to last and still people operated good and profitable businesses and the economy worked nicely, thank you. Then came the banking style greed of ever more and ever bigger and finally it was discovered that if you make things no to last and built obsolescence in and also the fact that after the guarantee time of a year or three (depending on the given) the product will cease to work you have a steady stream of orders.

Then came the advertising industry telling people that they need this new product and that new product and when the recession-cum-depression of 2008/2009 was upon us governments even told people to go out and spend, spend, spend their way out of the recession. This never has worked and will not work now.

At the same time people who were or decided, because of the economic conditions, to go, frugal and not spend but save, were likened to terrorist and told that they were wrong and endangering the country.

We cannot continue to carry on in this way. We must change and we must do that now and that equally for the good of Mother Earth as for its children, human and non-human alike.

© 2010

Kraft being crafty (and deceitful?)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On the one hand the likes of KRAFT want to be seen – and the operative term is just that: wanting to be seen – as a company with good ethics and green credentials. That is the very reason the go into partnerships with green businesses such as TerraCycle and also by sponsoring this or that green and ethical organization. Then, on the other hand, they can be seen for that they really are and how they operate in the case of Cadbury's in Britain.

During Kraft's negotiations to buy Cadbury's they promised the workers, the Trade Unions and the country as a whole that they would keep all the factories in Britain working and it was on that promise that the Trade Unions agreed to the takeover.

A week after having gotten the company Kraft then went back on their word and closed the Cadbury's factory near Bristol with the loss of hundreds of workers.

The production from the Bristol plant, so Kraft, is going to be moved abroad. To Poland, no doubt, where Kraft already have a factory to where the Terry's Chocolate business was moved to lock, stock and barrel, not long after Kraft bought Terry's.

During the buyout of Terry's Kraft faithfully promised to keep all of Terry's operations in Britain but not long after the takeover of the company the entire production was moved to Poland.

Seeing the record of this multi-national food giant that Kraft is there is nothing ethical there how ever much they try to clothe themselves in such a mantle. A wolf does not become a sheep by wearing a fleece. I do not give Cadbury's for much longer in Britain as far as production goes.

The closure of Cadbury's Bristol plant is, of that I am nigh on certain, is but the beginning of the end for Cadbury's in Britain.

All that Kraft ever wanted was Cadbury's name. They care little about ethics; Cadvury's or theirs. I doubt that Kraft actually has any ethics.

© 2010

Aqua Drip Water Spike by EcoCharlie – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is always good to see devices that can turn a plastic soda bottle into something useful, be this a plant watering device, such as by means of the Aqua Drip Water Spike, a bird feeder (we'll come to that one in another article) or whatever else.

While the PET bottle is with us we may as well make use of the empties, whether from our own household or other source(s), in useful ways rather than to send them to recycling immediately.

The Aqua Drip Water Spike by EcoCharlie is a rather ingenious device that is simple and great. Simplicity is all too often much better than anything complicated anyway and far too often misunderstood and works much better in this field as in many others.

The Aqua Drip Water Spike is, at the end of its life, 100% recyclable, just like plastic bottles. I must say, though, that the material from which it is made to me appears to be polypropylene rather than PET, the material from which plastic bottles, primarily, are made.

Aqua Drip Water Spike can be used with plants indoors and outdoors and is especially good for container gardening, whether for flowers or vegetables.

The Aqua Drip Water Spike comes in packs of six at a price, in the UK, of 5.99GBP, with a donation of 20pence going to Oxfam.

The Aqua Drip Water Spike is made in Taiwan, though from my conversation with someone from EcoCharlie at the Garden Press Event 2010 I understood it to be a British product.

For more information check out

© 2010

New Carbon Market Rules for Destroying Ozone-Depleting Chemicals Open the Door for Major Climate Benefits

Washington, DC, February 2010 – Billions of tons of ozone-destroying and climate-warming chemicals currently contained in unwanted stockpiles and discarded equipment will leak into the atmosphere if not recovered and destroyed. But new rules on ozone-depleting substance destruction adopted by a carbon market offset registry, the Climate Action Reserve, could jumpstart new projects in both the U.S. and developing countries to destroy these chemicals and significantly contribute to the protection of the ozone layer and climate system.

“The Montreal Protocol’s technical experts estimate that recovery and destruction of these substances could result in climate mitigation of up to 6 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2015,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “If we allow these chemicals to leak into the atmosphere they will do serious damage to both the ozone layer and climate system: bringing ODS destruction projects into carbon markets is one way to help solve this problem.”

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is already phasing out the production of many of these ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), and in the case of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a global phase-out was reached at the end of 2009. However, because the ozone treaty deals with production and consumption, rather than emissions of ODSs, there is a regulation gap for these “banks” of environmentally-destructive chemicals. Many ODSs, like CFCs and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), have thousands of times the warming potential of CO2.

With the world increasingly focused on preventing climate change, the climate mitigation potential of the Montreal Protocol has received significant attention in recent years. In 2008 and 2009, island nations Micronesia and Mauritius submitted proposals calling for financing under the Montreal Protocol to initiate ODS bank destruction pilot projects in developing countries. Although the Parties agreed to start the process of recovering and destroying banks, the efforts need to be expanded in order to maximize the ozone and climate benefits. Carbon markets are another potentially significant source of financing to prevent the emission of these powerful greenhouse gases. While recovering and destroying ODSs in banks is comparable to previous ozone protection measures, when compared to most other climate mitigation measures, preventing these emissions is extremely cost effective.

“The window of opportunity is small – the longer we wait, the more we’re contributing to climate change and undoing the progress we’ve made on healing the ozone layer,” added Zaelke.

In addition to going after banks of ozone-depleting substances, the Montreal Protocol has another major opportunity to contribute to climate mitigation: phasing down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a group of ozone-friendly, super greenhouse gases that are in line to replace the ozone-depleting CFCs and HCFCs. A phase-down under the Montreal Protocol could lead to the mitigation of more than 100 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2050. Without aggressive action, studies show that HFCs, used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, could equal more than a third of global climate emissions by 2050. The Montreal Protocol Parties will continue discussions on both ODS banks and HFCs this year.

Source: IGSD

Bagm8 – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Bagm8 (pronounced “Bagmate”) is another new product that was shown at The Garden Press Event 2010 and is also yet another one that shines with ingenuity through its simplicity.

While there are a number of other devices on the market designed to hold open refuse sacks for litter picking and such most are requiring ideally three hands to get the bag fitted in. The Bagm8, on the other hand, does not.

I did see a similar product, with incorporated handle grip, as the Bagm8 has, some years back in use with the US Forest Service, for holding open bags containing saplings during planting as well as for use in litter picking operations at car parks, picnic areas, etc. The Rim was metal, though, and this ones seems to have fallen out of use for other devices which, though lighter than the old metal rim ones, are more difficult in use as regards to putting the bag in.

The Bagm8 works with, basically, all types of refuse sacks all the way up to garden waste- and builder's rubble sacks.

The brilliance of the Bagm8 lies in its simplicity and I especially like the fact that, unlike other devices to hold open a rubbish bag, the Bagm8 has a handle, a solid grip, on the outside. This is very good when used with regards to litter collecting bag and tongs as one's hands do not come into contact (too much) with the litter that is going into the bag.

Made entirely in the UK from recyclable plastic the Bagm8 is, in my opinion, a great new product for gardeners, whether at home, on the allotment or for the professional gardener and park warden, and could become the choice of municipalities for the litter pickers.

The producers of the Bagm8 are currently looking into the possibility of having the product made from recycled plastic in the UK and I know of at least one such company that could, probably, fit the bill here.

© 2010

Renewed interest in gold by the world's central banks

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world-wide banking crisis and recession-cum-depression of 2008/2009 has renewed the world's central banks interest in gold as something to back their currencies with, it would appear.

A number of those banks have, in recent month, been buying tons of gold, literally, and the price on the market has gone from swinging between $500-$700 in recent years to well over $1100 a fine ounce.

While I am no banker and financial wizard this interest in gold could also, once again, lead to a renewed interest in silver as a currency foundation and, if they be clever, even as a metal from which to strike their currency.

Paper currencies are a waste of time, unless they are just tokens and backed with gold and/or silver, or are alternative money, such as the various ones that exist. Even then striking such alternative currencies in metal would be better such as silver, but even copper for the smaller denominations is something better than paper.

The world needs to get back to something that means something and it would appear that in some places that is happening. It is pushing the price of gold sky high though and could do a similar thing to silver.

In the main, it would be good, however, to return to some means of barter trade again for doing business, like some of those alternative currencies that are in use in many localities, in Britain and elsewhere. That way trade also stays local and may just also be affordable.

We must return to an economy where people matter in line with the “small is beautiful” concept put forward by E F Schumacher in his book by the title “Small is Beautiful”.

It can be done and must be done if the world is to have a chance, and that in more than just one aspect.

© 2010

Individualism replaces conformity in gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Husqvarna and Gardena Global Garden Report 2010

The second annual Global Garden Report from Husqvarna and Gardena reveals that in 2010 and the coming years, individualism in gardening is on the rise, replacing conformity. It’s all about self-expressive gardening to create a private Eden and sharing this with new on-line neighbors through social media.

As leading producers of gardening equipment, Husqvarna and Gardena are continuously looking to learn more about the drivers, passions and expressions of gardening. In this quest, the two brands commissioned trend analyst firm Kairos Future to look closer at what some of the most passionate gardeners in the world say about their hobby - the garden bloggers.

"By continuously learning about the passions of garden enthusiasts, Husqvarna and Gardena can continue to develop innovative garden equipment that enables home owners to create their own individual idea of Eden", says Andrew Eastaugh of Husqvarna UK.

A total of over 1.4m blog posts from 13 different countries (UK, US, Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Sweden) from six continents were gathered and analyzed.

The common trend shown in the Global Garden Report is that individualism in the garden is increasing all over the world, fueled by the increased use of social media. Using blogs and microblogs to express their passions, garden enthusiasts are encouraged by their online garden friends to create their unique and individual style rather than peeking over their neighbors’ fences.

Top Themes Among British Gardening Bloggers

  • The designed and artistic garden
  • The feel-good garden
  • Kitchen gardening

Facts about British gardens:

“ In Britain gardening is more than just a hobby; the British treat their garden plants as growing family members, carefully following each step of development in the plants.”

Global Garden Report 2010 – Husqvarna & Gardena

  • Great Britain boasts a proud history of gardening which is a way of life as opposed to just a hobby British gardeners have always upheld a sense of great pride in their gardens

  • Buying garden tools for birthday gifts and wedding anniversaries is still popular

  • Synthetic chemicals are frowned upon, organic fertilizers and pesticides are preferred

  • Bloggers fiercely protect their gardens against pests by using sand, ash and soot barriers

  • Appearance is always important and a garden’s presentation is a reflection of its blogger’s identity

  • British kitchen gardens tend to be stylish and attractive with the use of fancy pots and containers

Gardening, a global affair

Traditionally perceived as being a western world pastime, the report recognizes that gardening is a global affair. The interest for gardening is high among bloggers in the new economic powers such as China, Russia and Brazil and seems to have become a status symbol in countries with a fast growing middle class like South-Africa and Poland.

The western world is shifting emphasis from more traditional gardening towards a more relaxed approach led by passions for the natural, wild, organic and edible garden produce. Kitchen gardening is in fact the hottest trend among global gardening bloggers, a trend that gained huge momentum last year when Michelle Obama turned a section of the White House lawn into an organic vegetable garden.

I must admit that, so far, I have only dipped in and out of that report, that beautifully written volume, rather than having been able to read it all in full – time is not my best friend – but must say that it makes good and interesting reading.

Top 10 global garden trends categorized in order of popularity:

1st The Kitchen Garden

2nd The Organic Garden

3rd The Feel Good Garden

4th The Artistic Garden

5th The Wilderness Garden

6th The Social Garden

7th The Urban Garden

8th The Lush Garden

9th Container Gardening

10th The Greenhouse Garden

The report was commissioned by Husqvarna and Gardena and the study was performed by the international research and consultancy agency Kairos Future.

Husqvarna is the world's largest producer of lawn mowers, chainsaws and portable petrol-powered garden equipment such as trimmers and blowers. The Group is also a world leader in diamond tools and cutting equipment for the construction and stone industries. Net sales in 2008 were SEK 32.3 billion and the average number of employees was 15,700.

Gardena is Europe’s leading manufacturer of intelligently simple, high-quality gardening equipment. The company is based in Ulm and is represented in more than 80 countries around the world. Today, the range extends from classical gardening tools to garden irrigation products and systems, from pumps and motorised devices to garden pond products. Gardena GmbH has been part of the Husqvarna Group since March 2007.

Gardena is probably best known for its simple and effective garden hose connectors that have since been copied, though not improved upon, by many manufacturers. If you look for such connectors then insist on Gardena.

© February 2010

Reigate and Banstead pupils cycle to success

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Worshipful The Mayor of Reigate and Banstead, Cllr. Richard Mantle, has presented eight schools from the area with a bronze medal from sustainable transport charity, Sustrans’ School Mark Award scheme, for their dedication to transforming the school run.

The schools are amongst the first in the country to receive a Sustrans School Mark and those have been awarded at a ceremony held at Epsom Downs Primary School. Representatives, including teachers and children from each school, have attend the ceremony to be congratulated for increasing cycling levels – an average of 30 per cent of children are now regularly cycling to Sustrans Bike It schools.

Gayle Rowson, the school’s Sustrans Bike It officer commented, “I’m delighted that each of these schools has achieved bronze status, they’ve done fantastically well; before Sustrans started working with them, many had zero levels of cycling.”

Councillor Julian Ellacott, Executive Member for Environment, added, “These schools are brilliant examples of how to maximise resources to achieve success. This award marks all the hard work put in to inspire children onto their bikes to travel in a way that benefits their health and the environment.”

Sustrans works with 18 schools in the Reigate and Banstead area. The project is supported by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, Cycling England and the Bike Hub.

The eight schools that have been awarded the bronze School Mark Award are:

  • Epsom Downs Primary School, Epsom

  • Kingswood Primary School , Kingswood

  • Warren Mead Community Junior School, Banstead

  • St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School , Banstead

  • Shawley Primary School, Epsom

  • Yattendon School, Horley

  • Wray Common Primary School, Reigate

  • Furzefield Primary School, Merstham

© 2010

H2Onya Stainless Steel Reusable Bottle – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

After the BPA disaster with Nalgene polycarbonate bottles – now made from a different polycarbonate that does not contain Bisphenol A, we has the likes of SIGG and Gaiam telling us all to buy their aluminium bottles as a better and safer option. Aluminium, however, needs a liner, in most cases this is an epoxy liner, as aluminium cannot be used without some such liner due to the heavy metal that it leached.

Both companies, that is to say, SIGG and Gaiam, basically, claimed that those bottles were free of BPA but both claims turned out to be lies, in order to make profit on the back of Nalgene's misfortune.

Despite a variety of claims from the sides of SIGG and Gaiam it was found that the liners of both leached BPA into the water in the bottles and was, therefore, not a safer option at all.

SIGG has now replaced their liner with a BPA-free one and Gaiam, one should guess, is going to do the same. Not that that, I should think, will make people consider them honest again. Most aluminium bottles from other sources, though, of that we can be basically sure still contain BPA and should, therefore, even though they work out cheaper than some other options, be avoided.

But why use aluminium for bottles at all? The claim, I know, always is that aluminium ones are lighter than stainless steel ones. But is that really the case?

I, for one, can see no significant difference in weight of a stainless steel bottle over an aluminium one. So, why then risk a liner that may container toxins?

Stainless steel is the common material used for food containers, as well as bottles for carrying water and tea in India, for instance, and I think they have the right idea. All of the Indian containers, I must say, that I have seen and handled, are not much heavier than would be their equivalent ones in aluminium, for instance. But stainless steel is much safer and much easier to clean.

This is where the H2Onya stainless steel reusable bottle comes in.

I know full well, before anyone comments to that effect, that the H2Onya stainless steel reusable bottle is by no means the first nor the only stainless steel reusable bottle out there. It is, however, the first and only one – so far – that I have been given the opportunity to review.

Stainless steel is by far the better choice for reusable bottles and such, including also cooking pots (but they are not to discussion here, presently), and manufacture of the same in the People's Republic of China also does not change that.

The great advantage is that stainless steel needs no liner to start with and is fully recyclable and more than likely, although no claim to this effect has been made and is also not made by me, made from already recycled stainless steel to start with.

The H2Onya stainless steel reusable bottle is made from food-grade stainless steel and is guaranteed 100% Bisphenol A (BPA) free, as are, in fact, all stainless steel bottles. Stainless steel does not use and does not have to use a liner of any sort. Hallelujah!

The H2Onya bottle arms you against over-priced and over-polluting bottled water on the shelves allowing you to simply and conveniently carry your own tap water to drink and that in style.

The H2Onya is tough and toxin free: Stainless steel does not leach chemicals into the water. The bottles are robust, recyclable, stylish and easy to clean and, and this is most important, Bisphenol A free.

They are available in brushed steel or colored with a choice of loop cap, sports cap, baby sipper or even Latex nipples.

One of the features that I specifically like is the relatively wide mouth opening of the bottle of about two inch diameter. This makes both drinking out of the bottle and the cleaning of it easy.

Great bottle...

More information at

© 2010