Chelsea plants without designer price tags

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Chelsea plants without designer price tags

The famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show may have finished by now and plant sell-off has taken place.

However, fear not, if you haven't had a ticket (and they were a little like gold dust in this centenary year), at Plantify they have just the same plant selection for you; easy to order, safely packaged and delivered right to your doorstep and, I am sure, cheaper too.

In addition to that Plantify have thousands of other great plants and I happily vouch for the quality of their plants and their service, having recently (well a couple of months ago) reviewed some of their plants and their service. And I would like to say that all three review plants are doing well, very well in fact.

The Rosemary is doing so well in fact that it is in need of a serious haircut and the Silverbush is blooming like mad and I just love it. The somewhat taller shrub of a Bottlebrush is doing well too and soon will have to be re-potted into yet another larger tub, methinks.

© 2013

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.


CIWEM’s Annual Dinner celebrates and rewards environmental excellence, addresses the challenges ahead, and supports the next generation of water and environmental professionals.

We are participants in a web of life, responsible as stewards ‘to till and keep the earth’ – to develop and husband its resources for all the people of the world and also other life forms. Instead of the self serving way of being which has scarred the earth and polluted the waters, we need a greater awareness and a genuine enlightenment that happiness does not come from accumulating more and more but in sharing ‘enough’ with our neighbour.”

This was the powerful message given by The Bishop of London, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. Richard Chartres, at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s (CIWEM) Annual Dinner, delivered to the 300 strong audience of politicians, senior environmental professionals, environmental artists, consultants and contractors and regulators on 29th May, 2013 at the Draper’s Hall in the historic city area of London. Hosted by CIWEM President, Paul Hillman, and kindly supported by AECOM, Mott MacDonald, Jackson Hyder, HWH & Associates and Grontmij, this is the premier social event to celebrate excellence in the water and environment sector.

Guests responded to the call to support the next generation of professionals by donating nearly £3,000 for CIWEM's youth water prize, Tomorrow's Water. Tomorrow’s Water is the Institution’s charitable initiative aimed at improving environmental education in schools. It provides an opportunity for young people to develop practical and innovative projects aimed at solving water-related and environmental problems for the public benefit.

CIWEM’s prestigious environmental awards were bestowed on the evening to those who have demonstrated innovation and excellence in their work. The 2013 winners were presented with their awards by the CIWEM President and The Bishop of London. The awards were:

The AWEinspiring! (Art, Water & Environment) Award, given in association with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World was awarded to Platform, a London-based, innovative arts collective.

The Living Wetlands Award went to Upstream Thinking, South West Water’s innovative initiative that has helped restore thousands of acres of wetlands.

The CIWEM Young Members Award, sponsored by Jacobs, was awarded to Pippa Lawton, Senior Scientist and Project Manager with Royal HaskoningDHV.

The Outstanding Water and Environmental Journal Paper went to Mike Gardner of Atkins, for his paper, Improving the interpretation of ‘less than’ values in environmental monitoring.

The Outstanding Journal of Flood Risk Management Paper was received by Anthony Hurford of HR Wallingford, for Validating the return period of rainfall thresholds used for Extreme Rainfall Alerts by linking rainfall intensities with observed surface water flood events.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves, OBE said: “The Bishop of London’s message lies at the heart of the quest for a sustainable and resilient future and should inform our thinking about the way we live, work and conduct our business day-to-day. It fits well with CIWEM’s public-benefit ethos and the values of our members.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world.

Tomorrow’s Water is CIWEM’s annual scientific water competition aimed at pre-university students that encourages educational projects focused on improving quality of life and/or the environment through topical water issues. The winning project in the United Kingdom goes on to compete in the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize, one of the world's most prestigious student competitions for water related research. More information can be found online at

More information on CIWEM’s Living Wetlands, Young Member and AWEinspiring! awards and 2013 winners can be found at

The Outstanding Water and Environmental Journal Paper, Improving the interpretation of ‘less than’ values in environmental monitoring by Mike Gardner was published in the June 2012 issue, (Volume 26, Issue 2) and is available online at

The Outstanding Journal of Flood Risk Management Paper, Validating the return period of rainfall thresholds used for Extreme Rainfall Alerts by linking rainfall intensities with observed surface water flood events, by A.P. Hurford, D.J. Parker, S.J. Priest and D.M. Lumbroso, was published in the June 2012 issue (Volume 5, Issue 2), and is available online at

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Ecocide or Murder of Mother Earth

Earth's ecosystems are collapsing and dying as all life and the biosphere are murdered for industrial economic growth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ecocide-earth1For decades, probably several centuries, our obsession with economic growth, but more so even in the last decades, has led to a wholesale destruction of habitats and the ecosystems of our Planet in general.

The latest stupid idea is so-called sustainable economic growth and the talk is full of it, at times. However, the words “sustainable” and “growth” just do not compute together in a world with finite non-renewable resources.

We need to come to understand that economic growth is not sustainable and in order to be sustainable we have to develop a new model and system. If we do not we are going to kill ourselves and the Planet, and that in that order.

The capitalist system, and we must include here also state capitalism, which was referred to as communism/socialism, that was prevalent in the countries of the Com-Bloc, those once upon a time behind the so-called Iron Curtain. That was not true communism or socialism but state regulated capitalism. In both instances the system was geared towards ever increasing growth, to the detriment of Mother Earth.

“When the Earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colors, creeds and classes, and who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They shall be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.” Hopi Prophesy

Our organized religions, especially the three Abrahamic Faiths, are detrimental to the Planet as they teach, basically, or, let's better say are misinterpreted to teach, that man is the lord over all creation and over the Earth and some even teach that all lithe non-renewable resources and not, actually, non-renewable but that G-d will replenish them at infinitum and that, therefore, we do not have to stop using oil and such. Much like Jesus turning water to wine at the wedding at a wedding G-d will create more oil, gas, and other resources. The sad thing that those people actually firmly believe this and cannot and will not be convinced of the opposite.

The truth is, obviously, an entirely different one and one that is not so rosy as painted by those of those religions and especially those of certain brands of the Christian one.

The Bible does not say that G-d gave us everything to abuse; it says that it was given to us to use. And use here means use for our needs and not for our greed.

Neither, say the proponents of this belief, is the Earth experiencing any climate change. It is made up by those that want to control everyone and that there has always been freak weather throughout the thousands of years the Earth has been in existence. Yes, they do not believe either that the Earth is millions of years old, despite the fossil evidence and all the rest. Some even believe – and teach children (in school) – that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together, despite evidence to the contrary.

While one would like to believe that this belief only exists among a few sad characters the unfortunate fact is that it seems to be gaining momentum, especially in the Christian right (and not very right they are) in the USA and other countries.

The facts are that we are running out of resources of the non-renewable kind, and that we cannot maintain a growth-based economy. It was a bad idea for starters but is an even worse one now, and even calling for sustainable economic growth is something that just does not work. Instead we need to develop a resource-based economy and one that is not dedicated to growth.

We must do that, and we must do that now, in order to halt the damage to the Earth and in the hope that we can reverse and repair the damage already caused.

© 2013

Two Sides Targets U.S. Consumers With New Ad Campaign

No Wonder You Love Paper Ads Promote the Attractiveness and Sustainability of Magazines and Newspapers

4340_TWO_SIDES_US_RIGHT_RGB_NEWCHICAGO, IL, May 29, 2013 – As part of its expanding efforts to promote the sustainability of print and paper, Two Sides this month will begin working with U.S. magazine and newspaper publishers to reach consumers with the No Wonder You Love Paper ad campaign. One of the first ads to appear is in the June issue of National Geographic magazine. The campaign, which promotes the sustainability, visual appeal and versatility of magazines and newspapers, follows a similar, highly successful campaign in Europe that anticipates $10 million worth of in-kind ad placements in leading magazines and newspapers.

"Two Sides research shows that 70 percent of polled U.S. consumers, including 69 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, say they prefer to read print and paper communications rather than reading off a screen," says Two Sides President Phil Riebel. "But Americans also have many misconceptions about the effects of paper-based communications on the environment. In fact, print and paper have a great environmental story to tell, and the No Wonder You Love Paper Ad campaign is designed to help set the record straight."

The No Wonder You Love Paper ads feature people enjoying magazines and newspapers in their everyday lives and offer facts about the sustainability of print and paper. "We know people will easily relate to the situations portrayed in the ads and may be surprised by some of the facts presented," Riebel says. "For example, a lot of people don't know that 65 percent of paper produced in the United States each year is collected and recycled or that there are now 49 percent more trees growing in U.S. forests than 50 years ago. When people are aware of the facts, they can not only enjoy the many types of printed media they encounter every day, but also can feel good knowing that by choosing ink on paper they are supporting one of the most sustainable products on the planet," he says.

The No Wonder You Love Paper ad campaign is supported by a consumer website,, that includes additional facts about the sustainability of print and paper, a short video on paper and forests, a fun quiz and the opportunity to win a prize for creating a short "fun with paper" video.

"We're excited that Two Sides is launching a campaign to help highlight how paper is sustainable and powerful," said Paige Goff, Vice President of Sustainability and Business Communications for Domtar Corporation. "Paper remains purposeful and personal, and from the forest floor to all types of printed media, there's a way consumers can be sure their paper comes from well-managed forests. We're grateful that Two Sides is helping spread the word."

Publishers interested in participating in the ad campaign may contact Phil Riebel at 1-855-896-7433 (toll-free) or

About Two Sides:

Two Sides is an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper. Started in Europe in 2008, Two Sides is now active worldwide. The organization has more than 1,000 members that span the entire print and paper supply chain, including pulp and paper producers, paper distributors, ink and chemical manufacturers, printers, envelope manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and publishers. For more information about Two Sides visit the Two Sides website at

This press release is presented for your information only.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

The long-handled spade: saving the gardener's back

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Standwell Long Pattern Spade1[6]The long-handled spade, not really seen in (ordinary) gardening for decades, is coming back into use, or so one should hope.

In the USA the common digging tool in the garden, especially the vegetable garden, is the long-handled “Irish” shovel, also known as “West Country” shovel, with a “face” similar to that of the sign for Spades on a deck of cards, and having a long handle.

Using a long-handled tool such as this shovel or a long-handled spade gives much better leverage and makes for a better standing position during digging then does the use of the kind of spade that we are used to, especially in Europe.

Now a number of makers have begun to bring out long-handled spade which are, well, ordinary digging spades (or shrubbery/border spades) with long “Irish” shovel handles, and they (that is the spades not the makers) do rather work a treat.

With the correct technique applied those spades lessen the strain on the gardener's back. However, this kind of spade is not to be used for the breaking of new virgin ground as the leverage applied could cause the handle to break (and lead to injury).

Obviously, like in America, you can use an “Irish” shovel for digging long-handled though a spade of this kind is better though especially if you want to have more or less straight edges. Long-handled garden forks are also in the coming and shrubbery/border ones are already available from at least one manufacturer.

In the UK the only long-handled spades that I have seen available on the market thus far are the “StandWell Long Pattern Spade” (a real beauty) and the “48”-long-handled garden spade” from Rollins-Bulldog. The latter also do the border fork and spade in long-handled version.

When it comes to serious digging in vegetable beds there's nothing better than a long-handled spade, especially for double-digging.

If you cannot get a long-handled spade in your location or do not want to buy one there is always the DIY option of converting an ordinary spade to long-handled, and it should not be difficult at all.

© 2013

The true aims of the European Union

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

249012_521523051240094_1869895087_nThe outfit that today is called the European Union has had a few names before this one and started right after World War Two with some – shall we call them by their true color – fascist from France and Germany with the aim to create a European superstate controlled by powers in those two countries.

There is also in the minds of many people a confusion as to the various bodies that are linked to the EU, such as the Council of Europe (the real power house behind the scenes, to a degree), the European Parliament (a farce), the European Commission (the illegal legislature), which are always claimed, by those trying to keep the people in the dark as to the reality of things, as being entirely separate, which they are not.

The Council of Europe, the European Commission, and the EU and the European Parliament, are not separate entities despite of the EU's claim to the contrary.

The Council is as much an integral part of the EU as is the Commission even though the Council has more countries as members than does the EU.

As far as the Commission is concerned they are an unelected body who make the laws and thus are illegal. A legislature that is unelected is but a dictatorship and that is exactly what this outfit, which runs the EU, is.

Its true aims are the destruction of the nation states and the creation of a European state (forget the federal model) that is run from wherever the HQ is based) with a Europe-wise police and a European Army.

Being in the pay of big business in the same way as the NSDAP of Adolf Hitler was the EU and the Commission do the bidding of their masters, such as in the seed regulation affair which will make it illegal – in fact it has done so – to collect and share, even for free, any seeds, and this also applies to hobby gardeners, for they just have made a U-turn in secret, from any plant without the license of the EU to do so. This could spell the very end of out old varieties of flowers and especially vegetables and trees.

And who were the lobbying parties whose bidding the EU and the Commission are doing in this respect? The answer is obvious. The usual suspects, namely Monsanto, AstraZeneca, Bayer and a couple of others.

Despite the fact that the EU law makers in the Commission are unelected the laws are binding and enforceable, as is the seed law. How they are going to enforce the latter is another question but they will try.

This law follows hot on the heels of the so-called Monsanto Protection Act that is in one the legislation that was not so long ago passed in both the Houses of the US government.

The aims of the EU are becoming more self-evident almost daily and in this seed law alone we see that they are very much aiming to control the kind of food that people can have, even as far as growing their own is concerned. Food control is the ultimate people control and the wheels seem to be put very much in motion for that.

Someone somewhere some time ago coined the phrase “Germany lost the war but won the peace” and this is becoming very evident in the power that Germany (together with France) exerts over the rest of the European Union, and even outside of it through the Council.

The power lies in Berlin (and Paris), the rest are just pawns in the game, and any pretense of democracy is just that, a pretense, a smokescreen. The European Union is about as democratic as Stalin's USSR; probably less so even.

As a free trading block the EEC may have been a good idea but then again a free trading block alone never was the idea. It has always been to create a federal Europe, by hook or by crook. Thus the European Union is not good for any of the countries that are current members, bar the powerhouses of Germany and France, but also there not for the people, just the elite.

1984 is a cautionary tale and not policy guidance and still, it would appear, that the EU is trying to implement it, but by extreme stealth and by subversion. The aim is a European fascist superstate by any means possible.

© 2013

Growing Edible Weeds

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

For some time now already I have been deliberately growing edible weeds in my garden and aside from those that popped up all by themselves, such as dandelion and chickweed, both of which are very good eating indeed, I have also brought in other purposely, as plants, such as sorrel (Rumex acetosa).


Sorrel (left) and Goosefoot (right)

Why grow edible weeds?

  1. Edible weeds, like all weeds, need little to no input and basically look very much after themselves. They only need harvesting. Some do not like feeding or such at all and thrive best when left to do their own thing.

  2. Many edible weeds are better for us than are cultivar (leaf) vegetables, including the cultivated varieties of those weeds. Dandelion is a great salad vegetable, akin to rocket (arugula) though not a relation, and sorrel, basically, is a cut-and-come-again spinach though, once again, not a relation to the other plant.

  3. Weeds will grow in your garden anyway and thus it is better to harvest those that are good to eat, you save yourself a lot of work that way and get great stuff to eat to boot.

But why not simply forage for them in the wild?

  1. Some of them you can no longer get once the tree canopy has closed and the light conditions on the forest floor are too low. In your garden, even in the shade, they will, however, more often than not, keep going and growing.

  2. Growing those wild edibles yourself in your yard means that you know – more or less – what has come in contact with them, especially as regards to animal waste matter, such as dog or fox urine and such. You also know that they have not been exposed to chemicals or car exhaust fumes, and other nasties.

  3. All you have to do when you want some of those vegetables for your meal is to pop out the door and pick some fresh from the plant. No need to go out looking for them in the wild.

Ground elder is another, very invasive weed that many gardeners get plagues with. If you would want to eradicate you will end up spending hours or you will have to resort to chemicals. The positive side, however, it is a very valuable food and it was, in fact, introduced to the British Isles by the Romans as a food crop, and it is great eating. Therefore why bother eradicating it. Just eat it.

If you would wish to grow this plant on purpose my word of caution is to retain it in some sort of planter so that it cannot escape into the wild, or has little chance to do so.

If you have it popping up in your garden for the first time then grab it as it just develop and plant it into a container as a wild veg. Should the patch have gone beyond being able to be relocated then contain it, if possible, by sinking paving slabs into the ground to a good depth all around. Thus you may be able to contain the plants and their enormous root system and make use of it as a veg in perpetuity.

All edible weeds that you grow should, ideally, be grown in containers to prevent them spreading to where you may not want them. In generally weeds, because they grow fast, may interfere with the growth of other vegetables that you may wish to grow, and that in a number of ways.

On the other hand, some weeds make good companion plants and one especially and this is, yet again, and edible one, namely goosefoot, also known as fat hen or lamb's quarter. It acts as a sacrificial plant for the leaf miner. The bug will rather burrow around in the leaves of the goosefoot than those of your veg and therefore goosefoot, and also for the fact that it is good to eat, should not be eradicated.

Goosefoot, in the same family as quinoa, is an annual, that is to say it reproduces from seed only and not from any rootstock unlike dandelion which spreads by seed but also stays as a plant in the ground, or sorrel, or ground elder. I tried to introduce goosefoot into a container in my garden last summer but I did not get the plants to produce the needed seed to perpetuate themselves. In fact something ate them and it was not me.

Just some food for thought here as to why not just forage your yard and encouraging the wild things you like to eat to your home.

© 2013

Ryanair exploits staff

Join Ryanair! See the world! But you'll only get paid for nine months a year

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ryanair and their contractors Crewlink Ltd, are ripping of air crew and are treating them like dirt.

Ryanair_planeAccording to one air hostess of that airline she had to purchase the airline's uniform for £360 out of her own money and was forced to spend another £1,800 of her own money on a safety course.
In addition to that, according to the same source, air hosts get only paid for the hours they spent "in the air" but not the time on the ground because of delays and cancellations, time between flights, meetings or staff briefings.
Luciana Berger, MP, accused chief executive Michael O'Leary of treating his staff badly and called this “exploitation by Ryanair – pure and simple”. There is nothing to add to that, I think, is there.

In order to beat any possible competition O'Leary and Ryanair use every possible trick in the book and while their fares look cheap we have to consider the other costs, and that is just aside from the fact that passengers get charged for each and every item of luggage, for food and drink on board, etc. But it can get you from London to some obscure airport in Germany for around £40 each way or such. A lot cheaper than any other airline and a great deal – a very great deal – cheaper than going by train.

© 2013

US Congress in pockets of arms industry

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The US Army says “no thanks to new tanks” but Congress says that the army is going to get the new tanks whether they want them or not. In fact, Congress has, apparently, said that the army WILL take and use those new tanks, period!

So, despite the fact that the guy who know tell the Congress critters that they are more than happy with the MBT in current service, the Abrahams MBT, Congress tells the army that they have to have those new tanks army does not want, regardless. Someone at Capitol Hill, and probably more than just someone, seems to have been unable to resist the lobbying and the fat brown envelopes.

When the arms industry and the oil, gas, and coal industry is in bed with government it is a very bad combination. Another proof that government is not a good idea at all.

© 2013


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In a world that has become increasingly dependent on technology, too much one might say, artisans and everyday crafters are finding a renewed satisfaction in making something with their own hands.

Leagues of people are also finding physical and mental health benefits in handwork, and are beginning to frame it as a spiritual practice.

Some people believe, and I think that this can be true also, that you can literally "craft the crazy away" through beading and crocheting, candle-making, and other crafts.

I find working with wood, especially spoon carving, extremely relaxing and there are times where I definitely need the fix of carving yet another spoon. I also make walking sticks from coppided wood and other things.

Another craft that I like to engage in, and it always brings out good ideas, is repurposing and upcycling items of waste into something useful.

While writing, of which I do a great deal, as a writer, obviously, is also seen by many as a craft and as a way of relaxing, I need to get away from that at times and, being a forester by original trade, working with wood, especially does that for me, but also making anything else, including, as said, upcycling.

And, while I may be a crafts-person on more than one level I would not call myself and artist and that what art. In fact, I prefer to make useful things, whether in working with wood or in upcycling, rather than something that one put on a shelf or hangs on a wall to collect dust. That does not mean, however, that I do not like objects to also be beautiful, especially when it comes to the wooden articles. The upcycled ones I do like to leave “plain” so that it can be see what they are made from, though I have, at times, “dress up” some tin cans that I have made into pencil bins, but that is a rare occasion.

We all can be creative and make things with our own hands and with the right mindset this will also be beneficial for the Planet and our wallet. And it is also most beneficial for our mind as it will detach us, if even for a while, from the hustle and bustle of life in general.

Go and get crafting...

© 2013

Use and reuse what you have got

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the 1960s and the 1970s this was the norm for almost all of us, bar the rich, and we had all, in general, a mixture of furniture in our homes that were handed down from parents, grandparents, and such like. And why not?

Kitchens were “free standing” in those days, as they were before then also, and even there almost everything was “mix and match” and often it did not match at all but no one really cared. All had a purpose and that's what counted.

Students and hippies furnished their digs and squats with things found and many carried this over to their first home.

Clothes too, at least as far as children were concerned, were hand-me-downs more often than not and again, as there was no running after the brand in those days no one bothered.

Then came the 1980s and the 1990s and we, well not all of us but most, tossed out all the “old” and more sustainable ways of use and reuse and began to buy new every year or so, and that on most levels.

Industry really cottoned on then and products became non-repairable at around this time too. A little later they started the built-in obsolescence that we have today.

In the 1960s and the 1970s radios, for instance, were repairable even if they were transistorized though most that were used in the home were still the old kind with tubes.

Every now and then a tube would burn out but all you had to do was to go to the store, buy a new tube, pull the old one out and plug the new one in. not much more difficult than changing a light bulb.

And like radios and TVs everything else could be repaired also and that often by means of D.I.Y. Now, today, in Britain, theoretically, you are not even permitted, legally, to change an electric plug on an appliance. You are supposed to call a certified – I would have to be if I did – electrician to do that for you, which would cost you around $50 each and every time. The alternative would be to take it to an electrical shop, if you can find one, to have it done there. That would be somewhat cheaper.

A lot of electrical appliances now also have plugs that are “welded” (moulded) onto the lead which means that a plug cannot just be unscrewed and replaced.

I do not think that we have improved and advanced at all in our so-called modern ways over those of our parents and grandparents; at least not in the sustainability department as far as using what we have got, reusing and repairing, until such a time that it really no longer can be fixed.

Everything is designed to be used (once) and then to be thrown away. It is wasteful and bas for our wallet and the Planet.

Even if, for instance, shoes or boots are well and properly made, with sewn uppers, mid-sole and all that, finding someone who actually can repair a seam on a boot is nigh impossible nowadays.

The lack of those old-fashioned “menders”, whether for footwear or other products, too makes making things last, by way of repairing, very difficult indeed on all levels. This is unless one has the the skills to do such repairs oneself.

However, regardless, the name of the game, so to speak, is to use and reuse what you've got and this requires a, for some new, mindset.

Using and reusing what you've got also applies to items of waste, such as glass jars, tin cans, one-side printed paper, etc. Our forebears did and so should we (again).

© 2013

Tune in, plug out

It is time we got rid of those ear plugs and headphones and listen to our surroundings again and this is also a good safety advice

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Wearing earphones of any description and listening to music or even podcasts tunes you out and you are no longer aware of your surroundings and puts you in danger in a variety of ways.

In traffic:

Whether you walk or, and this is probably worse, cycle, not being aware of things around you, and one can see this every day with pedestrians and cyclists, puts you in mortal danger, literally.

In some places, such as NYC, it is now illegal to walk across the road with earphones in your ears and you can get arrested for jaywalking even if you happen to cross on a zebra crossing and with the light being green.

As said already, the hundreds of cyclists that we see each and every day riding their bikes, in traffic, and elsewhere, with the iPods or other music players going put themselves in serious and mortal danger by going so.

zombie-cyclist-with-MP3-playerThey are entirely oblivious to what is going on around them, bar what they can see, maybe, in front of them and often also ride with an attitude as if the rules of the road do not happen to apply to them.

In general:

If you walk with earphones listening to music or whatever you make yourself vulnerable to an attack also as you will be entirely unaware of your surroundings. However, being aware of your surroundings is the best defense against muggings and worse.

For your own safety alone you should be aware of your surroundings at all time. But, being plugged in all the time you also don't see the good things going on around you and have no connection with Nature either.

People also jog or walk in parks with earplugs in and music blaring, often so loud that one can actually hear it.

Why, pray, go for a stroll in the park when you want to listen to your own music and not the that which Nature provides by way of sounds. The babbling brook, the song of birds, the humming of the bees, is much better a music that that which any device can provide for us.

So, let's tune out and plug in; plug into Nature and our surroundings.

© 2013

British MPs to get up to £20,000 pay increase, possibly

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

With the country under severe austerity measures and workers, especially those in the public sector, having their wages frozen and having to accept pay cuts, at least in real terms, the greedy Members of Parliament are prepared to vote themselves a pay increase of up to £20,000.

800px-London_Parliament_2007-1Such an increase in their pay is equal to or more than what many a worker, and especially here those in the public sector such as nurses, council workers and such, makes in a year – before tax and other deductions are made.

Those self-same parliamentarians, who tell workers that for the sake of the country they have to make sacrifices and tighten their belts, will quite happily vote themselves an increase in their own salaries equal to or above the annual before tax salary of many a worker.

“We are all in this together” was the slogan with regards to the recession and austerity and it is true; they are all in it together to take the people for a ride and bleed them dry.

It does not matter what political color they are either. Blue, yellow, red and the rest will all give themselves a nice pay raise while cutting the wages of those who really do the work on the frontline.

We must demand from our politicians that they learn to live on the same amount of money as the average skilled worker, which is a little more than that increase they wish to vote themselves, so that they learn what it is like to live in the real world.

Proof that we don't need a new government but that we need a new system.

© 2013

1984 is a cautionary tale, not policy guidance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

1984firstIf George Orwell would be able to do so we can be certain that he would be warning the powers-that-be in that way, for more and more authorities seem to have adapted the material in his book as policy guidance.

Everywhere we look we see that George Orwell's book seems to be used as policy guidance to repress the people and to invent more and more restrictions to the freedoms once enjoyed by everyone.

The European Union appears to be, together with Britain and the USA, in the forefront of applying the ideas of “1984” in the real world.

Then again, those ideas have been well tried in one of the countries of what is the European Union today already in the 1930s and 1940s and found to be working, and later, in a similar vein, under Stalinism in the countries behind the so-called Iron Curtain.

If the people are not careful we will see a repetition of the Nazi and Stalinist repressions and worse and in more countries than we could imagine. Canada and others too appear to be looking at using “1984” as some kind of policy guidance to repress the will of the people and this is more than worrying.

CCTV cameras, some with audio capability, are springing up even in the remotest corners of, for instance, Britain and that means even in small villages, and not just the centers of cities and towns.

Unfortunately it is the public, so we are told, who demand that the authorities put up more and more of those surveillance devices to make people feel safe.

However, the question must be asked as to whether the public, that the authorities are referring to, really are (1) representative and (2) know in fact what they are asking for and (3) aware of the fact that, even according to some senior police officers and ministers, CCTV and such measures do little to nothing to actually solve crime and neither do they deter crime.

The truth appears to be that the powers-that-be use suggestive methods to have people clamor for such surveillance devices because they are made to believe that those devices make them safer. And the reason for this is because the powers-that-be wish to implement “1984” ideas of people control.

It is all about people control and has little or nothing to do with crime and disorder prevention and the solving of crimes and it is time that everyone realized that and the fact that the governments, or better the powers-that-be, aim to incrementally remove all the freedoms that were so hard fought for.

Our safety and security first and foremost is down to each and every one of us ourselves and we must get that message across to the governments also and we must take responsibility for it (and be allowed to do so).

People, however, have abdicated their own responsibilities to the government, local and central, and ask for more and more liberties to be taken away from them so that they can feel safer.

Crime prevention is the job of each and every one of us and should not be farmed out to some agency. It used to be that way. The law and its enforcers should only come in as a last resort.

That means that we must deny any potential thief or burglar the opportunity to commit a crime against us and the same goes as far as attacks, such as robberies and muggings are concerned.

The same goes for “terrorism” and the clamor by the authorities to be given more and more tools to watch every one of us just in case that will prevent “terrorism”. They know themselves that that will not but it will have us all treated as potential terrorists and many legal protests and actions are now categorized as “domestic terrorism” already, including anti-war, anti-pipeline, and other such demonstrations.

We, the people, have to remind our governments that George Orwell's book “1984” was and is a cautionary tale of what could happen if we, the people, do not keep control of our governments, and not a policy guideline document.

© 2013

Cycling Britain's fastest growing mode of transport

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cycling is one of the fastest growing modes of transport in Britain. It is clean, healthy and good for the environment. But the government is still lagging behind those of other EU countries in providing a proper safe cycling infrastructure for British cyclists.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has created a “vision for cycling”, but then he is a cyclist and understands, for an unbroken network of cycle routes in London. And while there are many things that one could disagree with with Mr. Johnson this is not one of them.

However, we need more than just an unbroken network of lanes, as they are today, even though very fragmented, as they are not safe for cyclists. The lanes must be, as they are in most countries of Europe, physically separated from the motor traffic.

Mayor Johnson has also stated that he wants to “de-Lycrafy” cycling and bring it to the masses and this is indeed something that must be done if we want to have a sustainable low- to zero-carbon transportation future.

This vision in which many of us who use bicycles to get around, some as primary mode of transport even, share with the Mayor of London can only come true if we keep knocking at the right doors by demanding that proper, separated, bicycle lanes get created in the same way of those that can be found on the European mainland, whether in the Netherlands, in Germany or in Denmark.

Cycling is becoming, and it is evident in the new faces one can see on a daily basis using the bike for commuting, to go to the shops or to visit friends, more popular than it has been for many decades and many young people shun the car, in fact, in favor of the bike.

One of the main fact, aside from environmental consciousness and wishing to become fit or fitter, for cycling being the fastest growing mode of transportation in Britain today is the ever increasing cost of fuel and motoring per se, for insurance and road tax also pay part in this.

Motorists are always fuming about the fact that cyclists need not to pay the road fund license and neither have to have insurance but no one forces those people that moan to use their cars. They too could use a bike. In addition to that they seem to forget that the bicycle was here before the car, as were pedestrians.

Britain has been, and still is, sadly lacking behind other countries in Europe as to provisions for cyclists and if one sees the cycle lanes in places such as the Netherlands – yes, OK, more people use bikes than cars there – and in Germany, which go from about everywhere to everywhere one can but dream and hope to get something like that in the UK too (one day).

Unfortunately, presently, Britain has the worst provisions for cycling and cyclist of all the EU countries and this is, despite the increase in cycling as mode of transportation presently, still preventing many people from getting on their bike instead of into their car, especially for shorter journeys. This must change for our health and for that, especially, of the Planet.

© 2013

Top pay rises continue apace while real wages fall for ordinary families

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Commenting on a report published in early Spring 2013 by the Chartered Institute of Management which says that UK chief executives saw a 15.8 per cent increase in their salaries in the past year - mostly made up of bonuses, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Ordinary people are suffering the biggest squeeze on their incomes in almost a century, but families' financial pain is not being shared by their top bosses who have huge bonuses to cushion them against any drop in their living standards.

“While real wages continue to fall for working people, the cosy pay clubs setting salary and bonus payouts for top executives are awarding payouts that bear little relation to company performance and that only serve to widen the gap between the richest and the poorest in the UK.

“With the AGM season almost upon us, our new share owner group aims to inject a long overdue dose of reality into British boardrooms and will use the power of our pension funds to encourage a new and more responsible corporate Britain.”

But the leadership of the very Trade Unions also should take a leaf out of their book of good advice and take less pay themselves. They have a big mouth, and rightly so, when it comes to the salaries of those chief executives and bankers but their own salaries and bonuses also are not without, that is for sure.

It is also those high salaries of chief executives, including those of trade unions, councils and civil service, that distort the so-called “average” wages and salaries in Britain.

If those CEOs, and also ministers and member of parliament, were to receive but the same pay as a skilled worker than they all soon would begin to live in the real world and come down to earth rather quickly, and that salary would be around the £25,000 to £30,000 per year; the kind of salary most people have to live on, and some on a great deal less.

Parliamentarians have continuously voted themselves rather high annual pay increases why the froze the public sector workers one for three years and now give about a 1% increase – well below the rate of inflation – and which is immediately negated by increase in contributions to pensions and national insurance and taxes, such as the council tax, not to speak from the rising costs of living. This means that, in reality, the ordinary worker, especially those in the public sector have not just had a pay freeze and now a measly and miserly increase in pay but had to take a serious pay cut. At the same time CEOs and MPs get more and more money and even more so those in the private sector.

We do not need a new government; we need a new system...

© 2013

Horticulture Matters

'Urgent action needed to rescue horticulture' - RHS calls for government action

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The RHS on May 14, 2013 presented a report to the House of Commons calling for government action to urgently address the skills gap in the horticultural industry.

Horticulture-MattersA survey of 200 horticultural businesses conducted by the Society has demonstrated that more than 70% of horticultural businesses cannot fill skilled vacancies, nearly 20% are forced to recruit overseas and almost 70% claim that career entrants are inadequately prepared for work. This gloomy picture is outlined in the report, Horticulture Matters.

The report, commissioned by Britain’s leading horticultural organizations, including the Institute of Horticulture, British Growers Association, HTA (Horticultural Trades Association) and Lantra, concludes that a commitment to bridging the green skills gap is not only necessary but urgent.

The survey of 200 horticultural businesses confirmed an alarming shortage of skilled professionals in UK horticulture. The Horticulture Matters report, which will be presented to Government at the House of Commons, demonstrates exactly how this skills gap is threatening Britain’s economy, environment and food security.

Dwindling numbers of people with horticultural skills simply means that the industry cannot meet the growing demands placed on it. Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the British economy each year as an industry. It employs 300,000 people including crop growers, gardeners, scientists and turf specialists.

The survey also found that 10% of vacancies take at least one year to fill. More than 80% of the survey respondents cited a poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges as the issue, and 90% said it was because horticulture lacks career appeal.

Sue Biggs, Director General of the RHS, has stated that growing concern across the industry about the skills crisis has galvanized this unified call for Government action. "We’ve brought together Britain’s leading horticultural organizations to create this report.

"We are unanimous in the belief that there must now be urgent action to save British horticulture and it must happen now. Our report calls on the Government, employers and those in the education system to take action to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today.

"Within the report there are solutions that both the horticultural industry and Government could embrace to safeguard the critical role that horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future. We must act now to safeguard the critical role horticulture plays in Britain today and must continue to play in the future."

The report asks Government to prioritize horticulture within Research Council and other government research funding areas to equip Britain with the high level of skilled professionals the UK needs to tackle threats posed by pests and diseases and climate change.

The biggest problem does lie with the school system and that of targets for school in that, instead of allowing students their choice of careers, schools and career advisers withing them – led by targets – channel students towards more academic pursuits telling that the must go to university and discourage them to take up a path in the land-based industries.

It goes equally for horticulture as well as for silviculture, that is to say forestry where there is also a dire need for new blood in order for the industry, especially at roots (pardon the pun) level to continue.

Farming equally sufferers from this lack of new blood even though there are young people interested to take it up, in the same way as there are youngsters who want to go into horticulture and forestry. The problem, however, lies, as already indicated, with the schools and primarily with government not recognizing, despite all the great talk, vocational careers in the land-based sector.

The report can be downloaded from:

© 2013

Waste has to stop

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

All waste has to stop and we are the only ones that can do this. We can stop waste and starve the trashcan.

While it is true that we will never be able to eliminate all waste, and that aside from human waste; not even our ancestors of old managed to do that, much of it can be eliminated, especially food waste and packaging waste.

The former we can tackle by learning to cook from scratch and to make use of any leftovers and the second by reusing, repurposing and upcycling as much of it as possible, in the way that our forebears did, whether on the farm or not.

In addition to that we, as consumers, have the power to demand that the manufacturers reduce packaging and also that packaging be designed in such a way that it can have a second or even third life. The Japanese can teach us a thing or two about that.

They package goods more often than not – or at least they did – in boxes, and whatever else, that are purposely intended for reuse.

But even in the West similar things were happening not so long ago, but seem to have gone with the wind no. Nutella used to have its spread in glass jars that were designed to be used after as drinking glasses as did the makers of a number of brands of French mustard and also Kuehne, a German mustard producer, did the same. So why does it seem to be so difficult now, not more than two or three decades after?

Wen it comes to glass jars for packaging our forefathers and -mothers reused each and every one, until they no longer had a use for them. A glass jar is what? A glass and they can be used for drinking out amongst other things. So, let's not waste them. After all you pay for them when you buy the product contained therein.

It seems, however, so alien to many of our contemporaries today to do that. They rather go out and buy a pencil bin for $7 (made from recycled steel) than to use a tin can, destined for the recycling bin, for the same purpose.

And the same goes for glass storage jars. People spend $15 or more on recycled glass storage jars, thinking they do the green thing, while tossing some large glass jars, from products they bought, into the recycling bin.

Aside from the fact that this is waste of resources it is also a waste of money. As I said, you paid for that glass jar or the tin can or the cookie tin; so reuse it.

But we have come so far from the source, so to speak, that now some cookie tins, whether metal or plastic, have printed on them the fact that they can be reused and also for what purpose. Maybe, in fact, we need such instructions printed on the labels and such like in order for people to understand that the trip to the trashcan or the recycling bin is not necessary and should only be the last resort.

Packaging waste is our biggest problem, aside from food waste, and both can be overcome.

As far as packaging waste is concerned we have to reuse, repurpose and upcycle as much as possible of it, as said already, by using our mind. And, in addition, we must demand redesign of it and a reduction of it and also return to lose products, as once was the case. We, as consumers, have the power to make this happen by demanding it and the same goes for products that can be repaired. Let's do it. Let's reduce waste by all means possible.

© 2013

Keira Watering Can – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Keira watering can is of a very snazzy and funky design which is beautiful but also practical and useable.

Keira watering can apple greenDesigned by world-renowned designer Igor Juric, creator of the first Croatian electric car and owner of several international patents who is guided by the motto "Design for the Planet” under which the mentioned electric car was designed and produced.

The Keira watering can is the first and only 2 liter, 5 liter and 10 liter stackable watering can in the world and the design concept enables easy transportation, storage and positioning inside stores. This is not necessarily something that will benefit the user in the garden shed as he or she will more than likely not have several of the same size but nevertheless it will benefit the Planet as far as the environmental footprint of shipping is concerned.

Made in Croatia by Strazaplastika, a manufacturer and distributor of plastic goods with over 50 years of experience, from polypropylene. While the Kiera watering can is made from virgin plastic, as said PP, it is an easily recyclable material, does not contain BPA (generally) and being, as said, Made in Croatia instead of Made in China, as is generally the case with the great majority of plastic products, and this is already a plus point.

The second plus point is that the Kiera watering can looks great and works a treat. It is easy to fill and pours well and accurately (no spilling with watering my houseplants unlike with the can that is – or was – normally being used by a maker who shall remain nameless bar it shall be said that that maker was one THE maker of watering cans in Britain).

I received my review sample of the Kiera watering can on the Press Day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 and I chose the apple green color in the 2 liter version. It does, however, come in quite a range of colors and in three sizes, 2 liter, 5 liter and 10 liter. For indoor gardeners I would suggest the introduction of a one liter can to the range as well as this would be a great asset to the range, no doubt.

The company aims to bring other new attractive garden products onto the market that will, so it is hoped, catch the attention of consumers.

While this definitely is not your – pardon the pun – common garden watering can and does not have the traditional rose it is definitely a nice watering can that looks good, even indoors. Instead of the old common rose the Kiera watering allows water to flow from its graceful and dramatic lip, allowing the user to target the root areas of the individual rather than watering an entire planter thus also saving water in watering and evaporation. Another plus point for sure.

The design of the Kiera watering can will go well with some of the new planters that are on the market albeit by different manufacturers that, for instance, can be placed over a railing and such, and also come in many funky colors.

The handle of the Kiera watering can is contrasted in a different color, in the case of my one, maroon, which really gives it class.

What more can I say... I like it...

© 2013


The world celebrates our biological diversity on 22 May each year, but do we truly appreciate its value? In its latest report on ecosystem services, CIWEM champions the fundamental role of biodiversity and ecosystems to human survival and well-being.

Water and biodiversity, the theme of the 2013 United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated 22 May each year, speaks to the important role of biodiversity and ecosystems in providing for water security and sustainable development. With the release of its new report, From microbes to mountains: understanding and debating the role of ecosystem services in environmental management – Volume 2, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) calls attention to the essential goods and services that our biodiversity and ecosystems provide for our economic, social, mental and cultural well-being.

CIWEM’s new report asks governments worldwide to carry out an independent assessment of the moral and ethical implications of placing a monetary value on ecosystem services. Calling for a move towards the economy serving ecology rather than the ecology serving the economy, CIWEM asks for a commitment to invest in the future health of the environment for societal benefit, and a move away from unsustainable GDP-centric and perpetual economic growth models.

Justin Taberham, CIWEM’s Director of Policy, says: “Our world’s rich biodiversity is fundamental to our lives and livelihoods. A good level of understanding across society is vital when making decisions on the importance of services the natural world provides – without this, a truly representative value cannot be ascribed. That’s why we’re asking governments to get to work; at the end of the day, the economy should serve the ecology that sustains us all.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, CIWEM, is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world.

CIWEM’s latest report, From microbes to mountains: understanding and debating the role of ecosystem services in environmental management – Volume 2, is available at:

The United Nations General Assembly, by its resolution 55/201 of 20 December 2000, proclaimed 22 May as The International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The date designated for the day was chosen to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This press release is presented for your information only.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Homelessness could become a crime in UK

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, UK, May 2013: Homelessness could be turned into a crime under new British Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill a think-tank has warned.

Homelessness UKThe Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill, which was featured in the Queen's Speech earlier this month, includes powers to ban certain activities from designated areas, and it would appear that rough sleepers are one of the main targets here. Being homeless and forced to sleep rough would thus become a crime.

The Manifesto Club claims these Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are more wide-ranging than the powers they will replace while including fewer checks on their use leaving them open to exploitation.

Josie Appleton, Manifesto Club director, said that there is widespread evidence of the over-use of existing powers, which are already too broad and have been employed unjustly to interfere with law-abiding individuals and that the danger posed by these new powers is substantially greater.

“We believe”, Josie Appleton said, “that the Government has underestimated the potential for abuse of these powers and failed to introduce sufficient checks and balances.”

As currently drafted, the PSPOs could be used by councils for actions including banning spitting, banning homeless or young people from parks, banning begging or rough sleeping and even banning smoking in outdoor public places, the group warned.

It also claimed that PSPOs have fewer legal or democratic checks and require less public consultation than alcohol-control zones or dog-control zones.

The orders can also be directed at particular groups, the think-tank says, raising the possibility of discrimination.

Appleton added: “No doubt some local authorities would use these new powers proportionately, but we can be sure that others would not.

“Public Space Protection Orders urgently need to be subjected to additional checks and limitations to ensure that they are used proportionately and do not interfere with the rights of those who use public spaces.”

We must also remember that local authorities have abused regularly the powers of the RIPA 2000 regulations and it can only be assumed that the Public Space Protection Orders will be abused even more so.

Criminalizing homelessness and rough sleeping shows how this country is turning into a total police state and it would not surprise some if the country is not soon thinking of having internment camps for people who do sleep rough, much like what happened in Nazi Germany. What has Britain, who fought so bravely against Nazi Fascism in World War Two, turned into?

© 2013

Food waste kerbside recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Aside from the fact that food waste must be reduced any waste of food that does occur should, obviously, be recycled to bio-methane and compost. In an ideal world into both.

Kerbside_food_waste_recyclingLocal authorities should have their own production plants and not have to pay to dump at commercial outlets, and even if they get paid for the material it is but a pittance compared to what the rewards could be if it would be done “in house”.

While a great show is being made as regards to kerbside collections of all manner of recyclables, including food waste, the facilities to process the materials do not, however, exist in most areas and definitely not in the hands of the municipalities; definitely not in Britain.

Thus, unless a “customer” exists, or can be found, to reprocess the recyclable materials they end up where they have always did, on the dump, that is to say, the landfill.

In other instances recyclables, such as metals, plastics, etc., as well as and including food waste, are shipped all the way to the moon – sorry, China, though it might as well be the moon – for sorting and reprocessing. Food waste may not travel as far as that it is ONLY shipped to mainland Europe to be made into methane. This simply is utter madness and is not sustainable.

All recyclables, especially food waste, should be reprocessed and processed locally. It would benefit all and especially the local economy.

Bio-methane resultant from the processing of food waste could aid to a country's energy security no end and there is compost to be had also.

Sending it elsewhere, and especially abroad, for processing and reprocessing is counterproductive and NOT environmentally friendly and landfilling waste while doing recyclables collections is a sham at best and a fraud at worst.

Let's all stop playing games and get real. It will benefit us, our country, and more important, the Planet.

© 2013

Bedroom tax is killing people

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Despite what the Con-Dem coalition of Cameron and Clegg may want the people to believe the so-called bedroom tax is a very serious issue to many people.

Oppose-the-Bedroom-tax-e1363101953740This levy, referred to by people in Britain as “bedroom tax”, is applied to everyone who is receiving housing benefit and who lives in a home that has a “spare” bedroom. People will either lose part of the money or they will be forced to move and that could include families who were previously housed in the home they are in regardless of the fact that it may have had an extra bedroom.

Some people, facing hardships through this action by this cowardly regime of Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats (where they are liberal beats me), have already taken their own lives and laid the blame fairly and squarely at the door of government.

The implementation of this “tax” is passed from Whitehall to the local authorities and despite what the Cameron-Clegg regime is telling the public that the local authorities have great freedom as to how to implement this the truth on the ground appears to be a totally different one in that, so it would appear the local councils do not, actually, have been given real discretionary powers in this.

Instead of having the corporations and banks pay their way they tax the ordinary people to death, literally, and try to do it in such a way even that the people might blame the local authorities for it rather than the ones sitting in their ivory towers in Whitehall.

Time for more than just the usual change. It is time for a real serious change, a change in system not government. A change to a system without a government.

© 2013

School gardens matter

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Put together kids, soil, and seeds, and you have a magical combination. Besides bringing the reality of real food, tending a school garden expands the classroom. How much more fun is it to calculate angles or the volume of soil needed when there's a direct correlation to the project? These are the types of lessons children remember. A student-tended garden gives them something to look forward to every time they work with it, as well as the satisfaction of a homegrown harvest.

Potatoes_kids_school_garden1_pixIt is such a shame, however, that Heath & Safety regulations, or at least the interpretation of them, have gone so mad that manufacturers of garden tools for children and especially for schools, and primary schools (elementary schools) at that, have to put stickers on their tools that they should not be used (no, not just not without supervision, but not at all) by children under ten. How are young children are to learn how to garden and to grow food if they are not permitted to use the appropriate tool?

Governments talk a lot about school gardens and the needs of children to learn to grow food in order for them, the children that is, to understand what real food is and where it comes from; as far as vegetables are concerned namely the soil, but when it comes down to it they block this from happening any which way they can.

Children today, but not only children, have little to no idea that a carrot comes out of the ground or a potato, and that leaf vegetables also are grown in soil and that that soil has to be fertile, has to be tilled, and the plants have to be protected from predators and that they need feeding and watering.

Let's not even talk about the origin of the hamburger that they eat or the sausage. They are totally unable to link that to a cow or a pig. As far as most of them are concerned they are made in a factory and that's it.

Then again, as far as McDonald's hamburgers and whatever else are concerned the base material has about as much to do with a cow as does cotton with polyester, if we want to set a crass example. But that is hardly the point.

Children need to learn how to grow food in order for them to understand where the food, real food, that they are meant to eat for good health, comes from and how it comes about. This can only happen if they are allowed to get their hands dirty and work the soil, literally, and that with the right tools.

Our modern children in the last couple of decades have become separated from real life and from the soil, even those who live in the countryside that the majority have no idea as to the growing of plants of any kind, whether flowers, trees or and especially food and they are totally stunned that real food has dirt on it, unlike the washed stuff they see in a supermarket.

Without children being permitted, however, at school and elsewhere, to get involved in gardening, directly and physically, including the use of the, as said, appropriate real tools. Yes, secateurs are sharp and can cut but if they are not sharp they cutting is more dangerous than if they are and the same is true for a knife. And yes, a garden spade and a garden fork can be misused as a weapon but that is no reason why children should not learn how to use them.

© 2013

Confronting the fascist threat in Europe and abroad

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

no_nazisIn Europe today, and especially in the EU member states, fascism is again rearing its ugly head and is attempting to present itself as a solution to the disorientated and the desperate – to those whose world appears to be crumbling around them in the midst of economic ruin.

In Greece, Golden Dawn, the European organization most openly reverent of its fascist and Nazi legacy, has gained international attention for its beatings of immigrants in broad daylight, its attacks on socialists and communists, its penetration of the Athens police force, its violently nationalist rhetoric and its growth in electoral support.

This phenomenon, however, is by no means limited to Greece alone. In Hungary, Marton Gyongyosi, a member of parliament for the far-right Jobbik Party, called for the government to draw up lists of Jews who pose a national security risk and for the extermination, basically, of all Gypsies.

On March 15, 2013 in Hungary gave out honors to well-know anti-Semites and anti-Gypsy politicians and other “personalities”. Among those are the TV moderator Ferenc Szaniszlo, who called the Romani People “monkeys”. Also receiving high state honors were archaeologist Kornel Bakay, who claimed that Jesus Christ has not been a Jew but a prince of the, supposedly Magyar-related, old-Iranian nation of the Parthians, and the lead singer of the rock band “Carpathia”, which is regarded as the “house band” of the neo-Nazi party “Jobbik”, was decorated with the Golden Cross of Merit.

In Latvia in 2012 a monument was erected commemorating member of the Latvian Waffen SS and annually a parade is taking place, legally, of veterans of that outfit.

All over the European Union the Romani People are being,, basically, ethnically cleansed from many areas by proxy, whether in Romania or Bulgaria or in Italy and France, with the European Commission and the European Parliament paying but lip-service to inclusion and protection of ethnic minorities.

In many other countries in Europe, populist right-wing parties have at their core former or camouflaged fascists who, cognizant of the revulsion millions feel about their politics, have sought legitimacy through "respectable" election campaigns, focusing on opposition to immigration and Islam, and appealing to those hardest hit by unemployment, declining social services and rising inequality.

The potential for the different varieties of the far right to grow, though far from inevitable, makes it increasingly essential for the left to understand the roots of fascism, how it organizes and whose interests it serves.

Gone are, mostly, the skinheads and the bovver-boots, and the new fascists and Nazis are wearing crew cut and Armani suits. It is those that are the most dangerous and many of them are descendants of Nazis that remained, aided and abetted by the Western Allies, in Germany after the War or who had fled abroad and whose offspring are now returning to Germany (and other countries in the EU).

Only members of the high echelon of the Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler were chosen to be tried at the Nuremberg Trials; others were simple reintegrated into the positions that they held before, such as in the police, in politics and elsewhere.

The forerunner of the European Union, the then so-called European Economic Community, was founded by German and French fascists and its aim was already then to work towards a European state on fascist lines. And, as it would appear, we are seeing it coming together now.

Fascism in Europe is most commonly associated with Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party. The rise of the Nazis culminated in unimaginable barbarism leading to the death of 6 millions Jews, 2.5 million Poles, at least 1.5 million Gypsies, and hundreds of thousands of others, including communists, socialists, unionists and the disabled. The Second World War exceeded the casualties of the First World War by many times, with 50 million dead and whole economies and societies ruined.

But fascism first seized power in Italy in 1922, with Benito Mussolini at its head – and the immediate backdrop was the catastrophe of the First World War. This was the first "total war" and the bloodiest in human history to that point, with millions dead and whole societies unraveling. The war produced a vast radicalization among masses of people angry and impatient for change.

Initially, fascism was thought to be uniquely Italian and simply another form of reactionary capitalist rule, without fundamental differences from bourgeois democracy. Italian communists believed that fascism represented one side of an internal debate within the ruling class and a political distraction for revolutionaries to focus on.

While fascism initially originated in Italy, with Mussolini at its head, the National Socialist German Workers Party under Adolf Hitler turned it into a science, so to speak, making use of the German psyche, which still seems to have this ingrained in the majority of the minds of the German people. And this mindset comes through quite frequently and that especially when it concerns the Gypsy People.

But, as already discussed, fascism is not limited to Germany, as far as the European Union is concerned, but is active in many countries and seems to have found a real fertile ground in Hungary. And in that country the excesses perpetrated against the Romani population is a very serious and worrying sign of this. The right-wing parties of that country, with Jobbik in the forefront, have called for the culling of the Romani and are now also have the Jews in their sights. Still the silence from Brussels and Strasbourg is deafening.

And, it is not just the minority of the right-wing extremists that are involved; a great majority of the people in Hungary – and elsewhere – seem to be drawn to those parties and their rhetoric.

Now, with the economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere and the European Union being at the very brink of collapse those parties are gaining more and more support from all sectors and classes, including and especially the working class.

Time and again Nazis are allowed to march in towns and cities of Germany, under police protection, while any counter-demonstration by Antifascists is being treated almost as an act of terrorism and the entire power of the police is used against such demonstrations and its participants.

And, despite many people not wishing to see it, fascists and similar groups and parties are gaining more and more support from the all sections of society, but especially, unfortunately, the working class.

Once upon a time it was the working class and its organizations who was the bulwark against fascism but today, alas, it is the working class that seems to be flocking to those parties and groupings.

Workers, understand, that the fascist is not your friend and he never will be. The fascist and the capitalist are the enemy and always will be. Learn from the lessons of history and look at what fascism did in and to Europe.

Only the working class movements can truly create, once again, a bulwark against fascism in all its forms, for the European Union for sure cannot and will not do it.

Workers of the world unite and stand against the new tide of the fascist monster.

© 2013

Growing carrots in containers – yes, it can be done!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Most people believe that carrots, potatoes and other root crops (as well as cabbages) cannot be grown in containers and need large beds of one kind or another. That, however, it not true.

carrots_in_containersIt is easy to grow carrots (and other vegetables) in containers, be those large “flower” pots or other tubs. In fact, as far as container types are concerned the sky – or better your imagination – is the limit. Do NOT, however, plant any vegetables whatsoever in tires unless they did have inner tubes. The steel radial belted tires are not suitable as they leach cadmium into the soil which is taken up by the plants and is harmful to health. In fact, my advice is to leave tires well alone and use only, if you want to, for the growing of flowers, cut or other, but not for food. That means also no nasturtiums in tires as you may want to use the leaves and flowers as they are edible.

In order to grow carrots – and other veg – in containers all you have to do is get the container you want, and this can even be an old bathtub, fill with compost and this can be compost you have bought in or made yourself (or use the lasagna gardening method (and no, you won't be harvesting lasagna, however nice this would be), and then sow the carrots, or other veg. Or you can use plugs you have grown yourself from seed or bought. Do not, however, do this with carrots or their relations as they do not like to be moved.

If you use a round tub you can sow, I tend to do, in a circular fashion and don't fall for the instructions that you have to thin them out. You don't have to.

As I have said, the containers that you use are basically irrelevant. Just ensure there is enough depths of soil.

I have very successfully grown carrots in shopping carts converted to planters and, in fact, this year has me using a cart for this again where last year there had been pole beans growing in them.

Container vegetable growing with carrots has a lot going for it as the environment is so easy to manage, and this goes for about every kind of vegetable imaginable. It is the easiest way I know for how to grow carrots and any other vegetables. I also grow successfully potatoes in containers of various kinds and sizes and,, another word of wisdom from myself: You do not have to use seed potatoes either. Just use any that have sprouted, even supermarket bought ones.

Carrots in containers are target for the dreaded carrot (root) fly in the same way as those that are grown in beds. However, when the planters are about waist height off the ground the problem seems to be reduced to averted, as I found with the ones grown previously in a shopping cart.

If any roots of the carrots begin to show above soil level earth them up to cover the them in order to lessen the chances of a carrot fly attack. The fly is apparently attracted by the carrot smell and also you do not want the tops to green off.

Talking about greens. The greens of the carrots are also edible and make good soup so do not discard the leaves but use them instead. Waste not want not was the old adage of my grandparents and has seen them well through the lean years.

Sowing your carrot seed

Sown over the months from mid-February to July you can be eating carrots from early June to October. Storing this vegetable correctly can increase that period even longer. Below is a list of the average sowing and harvesting dates that will act as a rough guide on how to grow carrots at the correct times in the British Isles. They will vary in other areas, such as the USA, mainland Europe, and especially Down Under.

  • Sow mid February and protect with a cloche. Grow an early variety which you can harvest in early June.

  • Sow March and protect with a cloche. Grow an early variety which you can harvest in June/July.

  • Sow April - no protection necessary. If you grow an early variety expect to harvest July/August. A main crop variety will be ready August.

  • Sow May. Grow a main crop variety and harvest in August.

  • Sow June. Grow a main crop variety and harvest in September.

  • Sow July. Grow a main crop variety and harvest in October.

Remember that for container the spacing does not apply and, as said already, do not worry, necessarily, about thinning them. All too often you end up pulling those that you do not want to pull out with those you aim for.

Caring for your carrot plants

As you are growing them in a container using a hoe, with the exception of a small wire hoe, such as the Agralan Threadhoe, is not possible and thus you will have to remove any weeds by hand.

Water enough to keep the ground damp as splitting of the root can occur if the watering is too irregular. Also water with a liquid feed on a regular basis. They respond well to this.

Carrot pest control

The carrot fly is the carrots' worst enemy. It is a small black fly which lays its eggs in the soil at the base of the plant and it is the small maggot that hatches from those egg that causes the damage. The tell-tale signs of carrot fly infestation are reddish leaves which droop in sunny weather.

As the maggot eats out the carrot root the foliage turns yellow and the root is liable to rot. Needless to say seedlings are shown no mercy and are soon killed. The fly tends to be most common in May.

There is no known treatment against the carrot fly, even if one of the other chemical claims so and thus preventive measures are the only safeguard that you can undertake. It is essential to learning how to grow carrots and indeed any vegetable that you get to know your enemy.

  • Cover seedlings with a plant fleece in spring.

  • Destroy thinnigs immediately - bury, burn or trash can.

  • If carrot fly infestation is bad in your area then harvest early varieties no later than August and do not sow main crop varieties until June.

  • Infestation seems worst on dry soils so keep the ground damp at all times. This also prevents root splitting.

One thing to remember in learning how to grow carrots is that the carrot root fly's 'flight path' is low and in a straight line. It is for that reason that I said about placing the containers above ground at about waist height. Also makes it easier for your back in dealing with the plants.

If you grow at ground level then try erecting a low 'fence' around your carrot growing rows – about 30 cm (12") high. It could be made from fleece, fine netting or similar.

Harvesting your carrots

You can start harvesting the earlier varieties sown from about June onwards. Careful, even if grown in tubs, loosen the soil around the plants – you won't be able to use a garden fork, not even a border one, but a hand one will work – if necessary.

If you intend to store some of your crop of carrots for over winter then October is the best month for doing this. Lift the main crop varieties, clean off any soil – use only undamaged carrot roots – and cut the foliage back to about 12 mm (1/2") above the crown of the root.

Using a stout box place the roots on layers of sand – ensuring that the carrots do not touch each other and then store this box with the carrots in the sand in a dry place and inspect regularly to remove any that may have started to rot. This way they should keep until March.

Canning your carrots in a variety of ways is another great option and thus learning the skills of canning is also a good idea.

© 2013