The unemployed to be forced to do unpaid work

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

People in the UK who are receiving benefit whilst being unemployed will be forced to do full-time unpaid work according to recent leaks to the media.

ArbeitsdienstThe unemployed will have to do unpaid full time work or lose their benefits, in a bid to reduce the amount spent on the jobless.

Under proposals especially people who have been out of work for a long time will be expected to earn their benefits by working for firms unpaid or in the community.

While it has been suggested adopting a new US-style ‘work for the dole’ scheme will help to reduce Britain’s large benefits bill this appears to be more “Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassnamen” as in Germany before World War Two for the unemployed which were repeated in Germany after the German Democratic Republic had been annexed in the last decade of the last century.

It is expected that those who fail to find jobs through the Government’s main back to work scheme – the Work Program – will have to work for their payments, sources have said.

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is reported to have said: “It’s not acceptable for people to expect to live a life on benefits if they’re able to work.” But people in the Department for Work and Pensions described the reports as "pure speculation". However, they did not deny that the plans are being considered by ministers.

Mr Duncan Smith added: “The welfare state rightly provides a safety net for those out of work. But in return, jobseekers must do everything they can to get into work, that’s only fair.”

A report published by Policy Exchange, a think tank, suggests the Government should pilot the scheme for specific jobseekers, particularly those who fail to find a job through the Work Program after two years of support.

Policy Exchange also suggested older jobseekers, who have not had a job for six months should be included, as should those under 25 with little or no work experience.

The Government has already carried out pilot schemes which suggest some claimants would choose losing their benefits over doing unpaid work.

This workfare scheme, as operated in the USA, could be very serious also for those that are in work as companies and especially hard-pressed local authorities could use this to do away with permanent staff, replacing them with free workers from the lines of the unemployed.

The problem is, the way I see it, as to what work they are going to do? Either we are going to end up with people losing jobs so that the unpaid workers (slaves) can be used or they have to invent work for them. The unemployed will also not get any minimum wage; they will only receive the benefits that they have been getting until now. I can see this being used to undermine workers' rights and wages. In addition to this it will be much like what was done in Germany under Hitler to get the unemployed into work, building roads and digging ditches by hand.

The Tories have always had, at least ever since Thatcher, wanted to get Britain back to “Victorian values”. Thatcher did not complete succeed in this venture so Cameron & Co. are trying to make sure it happens. In fact, the aim seems to be to go back further than the Victorian era even. Almost to the Middle Ages seem to be their target with debtors' prisons and workhouses.

© 2013

'Reduce waste, buy packaged' crusade looks to bust food waste myths

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A campaign to educate consumers about the role that packaging can play in reducing food waste has been launched to counter negative public perception on the issue.

Packaged foodINCPEN, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, has launched 'The Good, The Bad and The Spudly' initiative in response to growing awareness of wasteful food habits, both in the home and throughout the supply chain.

INCPEN director Jane Bickerstaffe argues that used wisely, packaging kept food fresher for longer and that over the past 20 years, material innovations had come of age.

"Packaging has got cleverer and cleverer at doing more with less," she asserted. "There's always room for improvement, there is some not very good packaging out there but we think it's in the minority. I believe that all parts of the (packaging) supply chain are trying (to be better)."

She also pointed to the fact that in terms of overall resource inputs, packaging accounted for a fraction of the overall food supply chain.

"More than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the few grams of packaging that's used to protect it," she said.

"The packaging is a sensible investment in resources and if manufacturers can use it well, it will keep their costs down as well as their environmental impacts - it's a win-win situation."

Bickerstaffe said one key challenge was to communicate these benefits to the consumer in a way that was meaningful enough to influence their purchasing habits.

"It's very difficult, people aren't interested in packaging," she acknowledged. "What they want is their food in good condition so that's the message we need to promote - if you want fresh peas, then buy the packaged option, especially frozen."

She added: "People have been fed a diet of 'packaging is bad' - they will avoid packaging and buy unpackaged and wonder why it's gone off."

Questioned about the rising complexity of material use in packaging and the challenges this creates for reprocessing, Bickerstaffe admitted that far more collaboration was needed across the entire supply chain.

"To understand the environmental impact of packaging you have to have to engage with not only the raw material suppliers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands and the retailers - but re-processors, councils and the waste management sector too."

However she maintained that compared to more recyclable materials, complex packaging such as foil laminate packs was just as environmentally beneficial as they used far less material at the design stage.

I must say that I have never heard so much garbage – pardon the pun – for a long time and this is nothing but an attempt by the packaging industry to greenwash the industry and to keep themselves in business.

Fruit and vegetables, for example, do not keep longer if left in the packaging. The opposite rather is the case.

However, various green media outlets fell all over themselves with regards to this as to how positive news this was not realizing, it would appear, that it is nothing but greenwash.

The greatest problem with buying packaged is that often the packages contain much more than can be used up by those buying the produce and thus waste also occurs.

The truth is that buying loose, ideally from independent stores, such as greengrocers or on the market, and then storing the produce in the proper places at home.

Do not store produce in the plastic bags that they are purchased in, even if bought loose but either open, in the correct compartment in the refrigerator or, as in the case of potatoes, in a burlap bag in a cool and dark place in the pantry.

Packaged will not reduce food waste whatever the packaging industry may wish us all to believe simply because they have conducted a study. That's like putting the fox in charge of security at the hen house.

© 2013

World Exclusive TomTato


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Harvest potatoes AND tomatoes from the same plant

TomTato World Exclusive_page1_image9Michael Perry, Thompson & Morgan's new product development manager, with TomTatoTM

Thompson & Morgan announces another major horticultural breakthrough. Specially hand-grafted plants producing potatoes AND tomatoes will soon be available to UK home gardeners for the first time.

Above the ground – gardeners can pick more than 500 cherry tomatoes with a Brix level of 10.2 – that's sweeter than supermarket varieties. The fruits also have just the right level of acidity that only the very tastiest tomatoes can boast. They really are delicious.

And that's not all!

Below the ground – gardeners will find a nice big crop of delicious white potatoes which are incredibly versatile. They can be boiled, mashed, roasted or made into chips.

It sounds incredible, but it's true. Home gardeners really can grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant. This concept has been worked on for over 15 years, but this is the first time that plants have been successfully produced commercially. Tomatoes are members of the potato family (Solanaceae) and are therefore naturally compatible with potatoes. Each plant is hand-grafted to create this unique double-cropping feature. There's no genetic modification - it's an all-natural and completely safe process.

As is the case with all of Thompson & Morgan's plants, TomTatoTM is dispatched with full growing instructions. However the company says that these are hardly necessary as the plants are so easy to grow. TomTatoTM can be grown inside or outside, in a large patio pot or 40 litre bag, on the allotment or in the vegetable patch. Thompson & Morgan is expecting huge interest in its innovative new 'veg plot in a pot' and customers are being urged to order early to be sure to get their hands on these unique plants.

Paul Hansord, T&M's horticultural director, is understandably excited about bringing TomTatoTM to UK gardeners: “When I first saw this plant, I was amazed! Potatoes and tomatoes on the same plant? You really have to grow TomTatoTM to believe it”.

We have, obviously, seen tomatoes and potatoes been grown in the same pot before but that was never from one plant. It was always two plants with two different sets of leaves. TomTatoTM, on the other hand, is a hand-grafted plant and thus has only the leaves of the tomato from which both grow.

As this is hand-grafted stock saving the seeds from either the tomato or the potato will not bring back the TomTatoTM next year. It will not work.

TomTatoTM is available from Thompson & Morgan via its website or by phoning 0844 573 1818

T47176 (1 x 9cm potted plants) £14.99

T47177 (2 x 9cm potted plants + 1 FREE) £29.98

Thompson & Morgan, based in Ipswich, Suffolk since 1855, is the UK's most successful horticultural mail order company. Its product range includes an award-winning choice of seeds, young plants, bulbs, seed potatoes, onion and garlic sets, soft fruit and fruit trees, as well as an extensive range of gardening supplies.

© 2013

Wake up before it is too late

Take ‘mosaic’ approach to agriculture, boost support for small farmers, UNCTAD Report urges

Trade and Environment Report says small-scale farming needs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

unctadGeneva, Switzerland, September 2013 : Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food, a new UNCTAD report recommends.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 “Wake up before it is too late” warns that continuing rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns must be treated as a collective crisis. It says that urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries.

The report, subtitled Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate, was released today. More than 60 international experts contributed to the report’s analysis of the topic. The study notes that the sheer scale at which production methods would have to be modified under these proposals would pose considerable challenges. In addition, it would be necessary to correct existing imbalances between where food is produced and where it is needed, to reduce the power asymmetries that exist in agricultural input and food-processing markets, and to adjust current trade rules for agriculture.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 recommends a rapid and significant shift away from “conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production” of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Instead, it says that the goal should be “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development”. The report stresses that governments must find ways to factor in and reward farmers for currently unpaid public goods they provide – such as clean water, soil and landscape preservation, protection of biodiversity, and recreation.

Climate change will drastically impact on agriculture, the report forecasts, primarily in the developing regions with the highest future population growth, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Much slower agricultural productivity growth in the future and fast-rising populations in the most vulnerable regions will almost certainly worsen current problems with hunger, drought, rising food prices, and access to land. These pressures may easily lead to massive migrations, and to international tensions and conflicts over food and resources such as soil and water.

The report cites a number of trends that collectively suggest a mounting crisis:
• Food prices from 2011 to mid-2013 were almost 80 per cent higher than for the period 2003–2008;
• Global fertilizer use has increased by eight times over the past 40 years, although global cereal production has only doubled during that period;
• Growth rates in agricultural productivity have recently declined from 2 per cent per year to below 1 cent;
• Two types of irreparable environmental damage have already been caused by agriculture: nitrogen contamination of soil and water, and loss of biodiversity;
• Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are the single biggest source of global warming in the South. They also the fastest growing (along with emissions from transport);
• Foreign land acquisition in developing countries (often termed “land grabbing”) in recent years has amounted, in value, to between five and ten times the level of official development assistance.

But most important of all are the persistent problems with hunger, malnutrition, and access to food. Almost 1 billion people currently suffer from hunger, and another 1 billion are malnourished, the report notes, even though current global agricultural production already provides sufficient calories to feed a population of 12 to 14 billion. Some 70 per cent of the hungry or malnourished are themselves small-scale farmers or agricultural laborers, indicating that poverty and access to food are the most critical challenges.

Monoculture and industrial farming methods are not providing sufficient affordable food where it is needed, the report says, while the environmental damage caused by this approach is mounting and is unsustainable. It says that the highest priority must be given to enabling the rural poor to become self-sufficient in food or to earn sufficient income through agriculture so that they can buy food.

The report emphasizes that a shift is necessary towards diverse production patterns that reflect the “multi-functionality” of agriculture and enhance closed nutrient cycles. Moreover, as the environmental costs of industrial agriculture are largely not accounted for, governments should act to ensure that more food is grown where it is needed. It recommends adjusting trade rules to encourage “as much regionalized/localized food production as possible; as much traded food as necessary.”

The past strategy of relying on international markets to meet staple food demand, while specializing in the production and export of “lucrative” cash crops, has recently failed to deliver its desired results, because it has relied on low staple food prices and no shortage of supply in international markets, conditions that have drastically changed since the turn of the century, the report notes. Also, globalization has encouraged high levels of specialization. This has resulted in an increasing scale of production of a smaller variety of crops, and has created enormous cost pressures, the report states. All this has aggravated the environmental crisis of agriculture and has reduced agricultural resilience.

I really hate to say this again but it always amazes me that those people need a great study and conference and all that jazz to come up with something that, in reality, the old farmers have known for millenniums already and which so many in the environmental movement have been talking about for ever and a day also.

And this applies equally to forestry as it does to farming. Monocultures have no place in Nature and we must work with Nature and not against her, whether in farming or forestry.

Cash crops, as the report also indicates, are the wrong way to go and first and foremost food and food security of the people need to be considered and not what the world market wants to buy from around the world.

In addition to this we must stop the stupidity of growing crops for the production of so-called bio-fuels. Bio-fuels, first of all, will do nothing as regards to the reduction of the problem with pollution. It is reckoned that, in fact, the particle emissions from bio-diesel are worse than from oil derived diesel and as regards to bio-ethanol it is still being burned in the same way as gasoline and if we look close enough we would, more than likely, discover that the problems still are there in the same way as with gasoline per se. Methane, that is to say natural gas, for that is what methane is, might be an answer but the truth is that we need to rethink (personal) transportation.

The world also and especially does not need genetically modified and genetically engineered crops. They will not feed the world and they also have never been intended to do so. Ordinary crops planted in the proper climate and farmed the old traditional way, together with a reduction in food waste by using all vegetables, even the misshapen ones, on the other hand can and will feed the population of the Planet and will continue to do so.

The soils have been depleted of nutrients and it is for that reason that more and more fertilizer is being used. Only a return to old fashioned ways of farming, such as rotation cropping and application of manure and other organic matter to the soil, such as leaf mold, will bring fertility back to the soil and will bring about a sustainable production of food.

It is not rocket science. In fact, it has been used for millenniums already before the invention of all the chemicals and science. Let's go back to those ways and we will reap the benefits for sure.

© 2013

Laptop losers: Tech actually hindering kids in classrooms

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

pupils using laptops1Laptops may actually hinder students ability to learn, providing a distraction and even affecting students sitting near their owners, according to a stunning new Canadian report. With laptops and tablet computers pervading the modern classroom, the report suggests that paper and pencil might be less distracting overall.

"We really didn't think the effects would be this huge," explained McMaster University researcher Faria Sana, who co-authored the study with fellow doctoral student Tina Weston. "It can change your grade from a B+ to a B-.'

For their study, published earlier this year in the journal Computers & Education, Sana and Weston gave some students laptops to take notes, and asked them to complete a few unrelated tasks in their spare time. Other students were told given No. 2 pencils and the same tasks.

The test scenario was meant to ape a real classroom, Sana told the Canadian Press Association.

"We really tried to make it pretty close to what actually happens in the lectures,” she said.

Those students who multitasked on their laptops performed significantly worse than the pencil pushers – and surprisingly, the effect even reached to students sitting near the laptop users.

“Those who were seated around peers who were multitasking also performed much worse on the final test," Sana said.

With the pervasiveness of tech in today’s classrooms, students have known to grow distracted, surfing the Internet, playing games, or updating Facebook profiles rather than paying attention. And that’s the problem, the researchers said.

"A lot of students spend quite a big chunk of time in class doing things that are not related to the academic environment or aren't directly related to the course or the lecture," Sana said.

The same, it has to be said, is true for reading “on screen”. It is tiring for youngsters as much as for adults and a printed book is much easier to deal with. The same goes for forms and other materials.

And before anyone screams that I am advocating dead trees and the destruction of the rainforests through paper companies neither of this is true.

First and foremost no tropical rainforest timber can even remotely be made into pulp for the production of paper; it is far too hard. And secondly were it not for the responsible paper companies millions of acres of forests – though alas predominately softwoods – would not even exist.

In addition to everything we forget the environmental footprint generated by all those e-Readers and other devices for us to use, instead of paper. And the fact that so many institutions and governments are going “paperless” as far as forms and such are concerned has nothing to do with their concern for the environment but everything to do with the cost of printing, and that even goes for printing “in house”, which is every so easy, however, with a PC and a printer.

And, if it came to it there are other sources from which to make paper as well instead of trees. There is hemp, straw, and other materials too but sustainably managed forests from which paper is taken for pulp is still the best option of all. Why? Because those trees are replaced by the companies – or the forest owners other that the paper mills – by at least a ration of 3 to 1, often even a greater one. Thus there will young trees growing and absorbing carbon and that to a much greater degree than a mature tree.

Trust me, I am a forester...

© 2013

Rethinking personal transportation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

draisineBio-fuel nor electric vehicles can help us continue the way things are today. The car, whether gasoline, diesel, or even electric, does not have a future.

Britain would be, in theory, well and ideally placed as regards to the production and use of bio-diesel with public transport, that is to say buses, and delivery and public service vehicles considering the number of Fish and Chips Shops throughout the country that have masses of waste cooking oil to dispose off on a daily basis which could be easily converted.

One can but wonder how many gallons or even tons per day are actually discarded around the country.

However, bio-fuel, be this kind of diesel or ethanol cannot sustain the amount of personal motoring in Britain and in the rest of the world and neither can electric vehicles.

It will, therefore, be necessary that we reconsidered our ways and that we ALL woke up to this fact including and especially those greenies that keep advocating bio-fuels and electric vehicles instead of a real change; a change from the car, of whatever kind, to a real sustainable alternative.

Personal motoring is very much yesterday and has had its day. Like one of the people said in the movie documentary “The Power of Community”, the car was but a blip in the history of mankind and we need to go back to the ways and methods we used to use before motoring became cheap and was regarded as a right for all, a human right almost.

We still have one of the best means of personal transportation that does not rely on either an engine or animal power – aside from walking but it is equally human-powered – and that is the humble bicycle, it burns calories instead of fossil fuel and keeps you fit.

The electric car has be touted, even by many greenies, as the answer to the internal combustion engine motorcar but it is doubtful as to whether, as far as purchase cost, it will ever be truly affordable by the masses. The production of such high-tech vehicles and their batteries also use up valuable resources, much better employed elsewhere, and that entirely aside from the pollution the mining for those rare earths and metals causes.

The mining for and production of gold in many places is almost as destructive as the Canadian tar sands and the same is true as regards to the extraction of rare earths and other components required to make electric cars. This make electric vehicles as unsustainable as ordinary motorcars, maybe even more so.

The humble bicycle is a proven technology, uses steel or aluminium for frames and wheel rims, etc., the metal for which can come from recycled sources and can be recycled again at the end of life almost ad infinitum.

A cared for bicycle, however, has a fairly long lifespan and some bikes of 60 or more years ago are still with us today and still perform as well as they day they were made.

We must stop and think and reconsider our options for personal transportation which, admittedly, are not great without the personal motorcar and leave but a few, most of them powered by self.

Looking at the electric car, aside from not being carbon neutral at all, it will also be costly. Costly to buy in the first place and costly to run as we all know that the batteries have a limited recharge cycle and thus lifespan and will need replacing every couple of years and that to the tune of about two-thirds of the price of a new car.

When industry, governments and environmentalists sing the praises of electric vehicles in how they will reduce CO2 emissions the CO2 and other pollutants emitted in the production of the cars and their batteries almost never enter the equation.

Industry is interested in the continuation of motoring and if people can be made to believe that electric vehicles will make for a clean Planet they are prepared to perpetuate this myth.

Governments are not prepared to tell the people the truth for fear of a backlash as people have come to believe that owning and driving a car or even three is their G-d-given and even human right.

And many environmentalists themselves – the very same that keep jetting off to all those many UN and other conferences in far flung countries – also want to keep the status quo of personal motoring and thus are on the bandwagon unquestioning.

However, the fact of the matter is that electric cars are as bad for the environment as are their ICE counterparts only that the emissions and environmental destruction happens elsewhere.

To say that the motorcar has served us well one definitely can not. The horse and the bicycle on the other hand have and will do so again.

Regardless of what the powers-that-be, the oil- and the car industry are trying to tell us and our governments cheap oil is coming to an end – in fact, it has done so already – and motoring for everyone is about to rung into a very solid rock face.

And this crash is going to be very much a shock to the system of people who believe that the current way of life of motoring will go on for ever.

The ever escalating – and doesn't it just – cost of fuel in Britain has already led to an increase in cycling including and especially for commuting but it is still nowhere close to where it is in other European countries and still miles away from the Netherlands and Denmark.

In the movie documentary “The Power of Community”, which is about Cuba's enforced peak oil after the “collapse” of the Soviet Union and how this Caribbean island dealt with the aftermath, one scientist expressed the truth plainly when he said that the motorcar has just been a blip in the history of mankind and that we have to return to other ways of doing things. And that indeed we must, and not only because we are running out of (cheap) oil, but also and especially for the sake of the Planet (and not just in regards to climate change).

We have to find an alternative to motoring as far as personal transportation (for the masses) is concerned and neither the electric car not ICE cars on bio-fuel will cut it here. But there is no need to reinvent the wheel. That alternative already exists. It is cheap and reliable, can be maintained with a little skill and tools by the user, and it is none other than the humble bicycle and the simpler the better.

Believing that we can carry on motoring ad infinitum is but an illusion and the sooner we woke up from this dream the better.

The future of personal transportation (for the masses) is human-powered and the very same that our grandparents and their parents used and not electric or bio-fuel and has been a reliable technology ever since Forestry Superintendent Karl Dreis invented it and Pierre Michaux improved upon it by adding pedals (and then the chain drive) and the rest, as they say, is history.

While the horse (and carriage) is also an alternative, and the Hanson Cab may make a comeback in the cities, it is not a practical alternative for everyone and, in addition, the bicycle is much cheaper to buy and does not require feeding, watering, vets bills, etc.

© 2013

The Constitution does not grant you your rights, it protects them

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Photo of the Constitution of the United States of America. A feather quill is included in the photo.The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America and is the oldest codified written national constitution still in force. It was completed on September 17, 1787. The Constitution does not grant you your rights, it protects them, for they are not privileges but they are rights. Privileges are given or granted while rights are inalienable, as the Constitution states, and thus are what are rightfully ours. That includes the right to life and liberty, the right to be able to defend ourselves against assailants and tyrannical governments, and much more.

While you are asking the government to limit or take away the right to bare arms, that is to say the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, you would do well to remember that once they do it will be that much easier for them to take away the rest of your rights without your consent.

In the UK the Freedom of Speech is not a right, according to our current Home Secretary, but simply a privilege extended to the general public. Originally the Freedom of Speech only applied to Members of Parliament and only in the House. She, the Home Secretary, stated that in 2012 with the addition that this privilege could be withdrawn from the people at any time if government would be thus inclined and the more we see nowadays the more it becomes apparent that this move is under way.

The right to peaceful assembly is also be curtailed as, once again, it appears not to be a right but a privilege that was extended to the people, and once again was intended for the aristocracy only in Britain.

The Magna Carta and the British Bill of Right also have to be seen in this context for they never were meant to be extended, except as a privilege, to the villains, the plebs, that is to say the ordinary citizens which, in the UK, still are referred to – even though government tries not to let the people know that – as “subjects of Her Britannic Majesty”.

Britain, unlike the USA, does not have a (written) Constitution. In fact, it does not have a Constitution, written or otherwise, and the talk of government that this or that would bring about a constitutional crisis or that this or that is unconstitutional is a smokescreen to hide the fact that there is no Constitution of any kind in the UK.

The United States, on the other hand, does have a written Constitution that protects the rights of the citizens, and is not a document granting privileges. Be careful, therefore, what you wish for as to having rights curbed for they, if you reach them the little finger, will grab the entire hand and chain you.

Remember what the Constitution is and what it is for and do not surrender one iota of it to government.

© 2013

How to forage for fresh food this autumn

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

autumn_foragingAutumn, or Fall as our American cousins call it mostly, is the season for fruits, nuts and fungi on the foraging list.

However, when it comes to fungi, that is to say, mushrooms and the foraging of them for food make sure that you really know what you are looking at and what you intend to pick. If not sure leave well alone. Even with a book or app for you smartphone still does not guarantee that you will be able to safely identify if you have not been taught well.
As one of the latest foodie trends, foraging has become a popular way to find delicious plants, berries and nuts growing wild.
Foraging not only gives access to fresh and seasonal healthy foods, it's also a great way to get outdoors to where our food really comes from – as opposed to the supermarket aisles and plastic packaging where it eventually ends up.

Berries, mushrooms and nuts are amongst the best foods to forage at this time of year, but make sure that you know, with everything, that what you pick is safe to eat. Blackberries and hazelnuts are quite obvious; other things may not be so obvious, such as mushrooms, as already mentioned.

Remember to get permission before foraging on private land and don’t over-forage: birds and animals rely on wild foods on their survival, so leave some for them too.

Please remember that Parks and Open Spaces also are private property and you theoretically need the owner's permission. There is no such thing as “public land” in the UK. The owner in this instance would be the local authority or similar.

Having said this in a large countryside park or open space the rangers or wardens will, more likely, no be concerned if you do a little foraging but remember the code as mentioned above. Only take for yourself and only as much as you need. Do not start commercial foraging as that will be regarded as theft and treated and prosecuted as such.

Ministry of Defense land is another kettle of fish and you do well to inquire first as to whether you may actually enter it and then as to whether foraging is permitted in any way.

When picking any wild food it has to be considered that it may have come into contact with animal feces and urine, such as fox, rats and others and thus everything needs to be thoroughly washed, aside from nuts and berries that are well above the level of reach of those animals.

In many old publicly-owned woods and along roadsides you may also find fruit trees, the ones along the roads often are so-called common trees, which were intended for use by the commoners, and amongst those there will be many old varieties of apples and pears and, even though, due too the age of trees, the fruit often is smaller than those of younger trees they often are much tastier.

When I was a child scrumping the common trees which in those days still were – pardon the pun – common along the roads of the countryside and it was everything old variety apples over pears to plums, including my favorite, the Damson. More than once I overate from those fruits and I suffered for it but, nevertheless, I would repeat that about every year.

The countryside is full of free foods for the taking and foraging was a common occupation for all that lived in the countryside or near it. And not just in autumn, though autumn appears to have been the time when more people would go out and gather wild foods than at any other time of the year.

Those that know what is edible out there for the taking – but we must remember to take not all of it – will always have to eat and it was for that reason that the country people lived better – aside from the fact that most had their gardens too – than did the people in the towns and cities during the Second World War in Britain, for instance.

© 2013

We need less of more and more of less

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I need less of more and more of less if I am to be free…at last. ~ K.B. Brown

lessThe prevailing attitude is, however, and that even in the green movement, it would appear, that more is still king and it is being suggested to us that we need more of this and more of that, but it has to be green and ethically produced.

We need, we are told, this green gadget and that in order to live a green life on this Earth. The truth is that we don't. This is just exchanging one kind of consumption for another, the latter which I have termed “greensumption”.

We do not need more. We need less and we need to learn to make do with what we have and with what we can make for ourselves, and here as much as possible out of the waste that is produced by us and by others.

There is a saying that says and which some have attributed to the old Romani philosophy and that goes: “Possessions possess the possessor” and this can be very true indeed. And envy and greed is another contributing factor. Because the neighbors have a new car or a new TV we must get an even better car or better TV. We have forgotten how to make do with what we have and how to make things for ourselves as and where possible. All the majority can think of, and that includes all too many greenies is going to the store and buying. We are swapping one form of consumption for another and the latter just is as unsustainable as the former, regardless of whether the products are made from recycled materials or ethically produced. Consumption remains consumption and leads to problems.

When I buy pickles in g lass jars, or jam or what-have-you, I get a ready storage jar with it. All it takes it to wash this jar out and retain it for future use. No need to go to the stores and buy recycled glass storage jars. I already got them, thanks.

The same goes for tin cans that become, as and when needed, a pencil bin or other container. And other glass jars can be used as drinking vessels for water, whiskey, or whatever, and the same goes for bottles of the Snapple kind that are ready-made reusable water bottles. But, all to many, even among those in the green movement, cannot think that way anymore, if ever they could.

Our parents and grand-parents and their parents reused almost everything and glass jars and such like where always reused, including for drinking glasses for every day use. If there were real glasses in the house they were for special occasions, especially if there were visitors. Otherwise the drinking glasses were jars; period.

Every scrap of paper and envelope was reused and newspapers were used as wrapping paper, and so forth. I remember many a home where the walls were papered with the pages old newspapers that were then painted over. The walls of the old farmhouses and cottages needed, generally an underlay paper of sorts in order for the interior walls to be painted and instead of buying the special stuff many people simply used old news sheets.

While this may be seen as serious scrimping it is and was a way of saving resources and money. However, our governments nowadays equate thriftiness and such ways as – wait for it – “acts of terrorism” as one is not helping the economy to grow by not going out spending like it is gling out of fashion.

You cannot spend yourself out of a recession and the constant growth economy is not sustainable. The very attempt of continuing with the economy as it is and trying to grow it more and more is an act of terrorism, on all of humanity, on the Planet and all on all living things.

We need less of more and more of less and we need a new system, economic as well as political.

© 2013

Campaign against food waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         A “Bread Happy Hour” against food waste? While this may sound rather funny at first is being offered by a Berlin commercial bakery during the “Wertwochen Lebensmittel” (food value weeks) in the German capital.

An hour before close of business bread will be sold at reduced prices before it has to be thrown out. From September 25 to October 6 will the department for consumer protection of the Berlin Senate mobilize against food waste. The twelve-day long campaign is headed under the banner of “Into the saucepan rather than into the trashcan”.

“We want to create consciousness and education,” said Senator Thomas Heilmann (CDU) at the launch of the initiative in which more than 40 institutions, associations and companies will participate with over 60 events. Some restaurants are, for instance, offering “rest menus” at reduced prices. Lectures shall also raise further awareness as regards to the issue.

Based is this initiative on the countrywide campaign “Zu gut für die Tonne” (“too good for the trashcan). However, it is not the aim to raise a finger but to show how many good things one can make from food, said Sabine Toepfer-Kataw, Secretary of State of the Protection of the Consumer.

Background to this initiative are figures according to statistically ever consumer in Germany per years throws away 82 kilograms of food in the value of 235 Euros. Senator Heilmann estimates that the entire project will cost around 50,000 to 100,000 Euro. “Rather an economical action: a small budget and hopefully a big result”, he said.

“We are very happy with the response”, said Heilmann, and he does not exclude a repetition of this event next year.

The problem with food waste that is so often not addressed and also not in this case is the food waste that does not even reach the shops. That is to say food that is discarded because it is misshapen and thus does not fit into the buying criteria of the stores, especially the big supermarkets who do not seem to be prepared to educate consumers to the fact that misshapen vegetables are natural and are as good for us as are the perfectly shaped ones.

On the other hand the waste from the stores at the end of the day is a tragedy that could be addressed as it used to be in the old days in that stores would either sell stuff off cheap or give it away to people who wanted it.

Today in most cases the food is chuckled into dumpsters and anyone taking from there, theoretically, is committing an act of theft. In addition to that in most cases, and it is thus in Britain in most places, the food thrown into the trash has bleach or other nasty chemicals thrown over it so as to render it definitely inedible to anyone even considering taking it out of the bins.

If we really want to reduce food waste we must allow people to take what is being thrown away or for shops to be allowed to either sell it off at a very low price or simple stick it outside on a “Help Yourself” display. It is not rocket science.

© 2013

The Anvil Pruner is 90 years old

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Anvil Pruner is 90 years old and the world's first was the Original Löwe 1 made, as it is still today, in Kiel, Germany, by what is now Gebr. Schröder GmbH. Happy Birthday Löwe and the Anvil Pruner.

Loewe1It is now 90 years ago that Walther Schröder invented, produced and patented the first ever anvil pruning shears in Kiel, in Northern Germany and his grandson, Randolph Schröder, who is now the managing director of Gebr. Schröder, continues this tradition of high quality products for the horticultural, viticultural and aboricultural trade.

Many professionals appear to advise the use for anvil pruners only for dry wood and bypass pruners for green but I have found that anvil pruners can do both equally well. It is a myth that anvil secateurs cannot deal with thin green materials and that their cut is not good enough for green wood. The opposite rather. But only if the pruners are made to the highest standards and many anvil pruners of the budget range simply are not.

Anvil pruners will cut green wood perfectly, as they will dry, and the thicker the branch will be, the easier the cut with an anvil pruner is. But, if the blades are well sharpened and the tip is being used even the smallest plant materials can be cleanly cut with ease.

It is a popular misconception that anvil pruners will squeeze the branch, that is to say good anvil pruners will not squeeze, and especially not those of the company that invented the anvil pruner, namely Gebr. Schröder, under the Original LÖWE brand, because the secret is the quality of the blade and general construction.

Many cheap anvil pruners from Asia or of medium quality will lose their sharpness immediately after several cuts, and from this point on they may squeeze more than provide a clean cut. And that fact, the medium quality of other brands, discredit the standard of our products and how an anvil pruners has to be. In general it has to be said that anvil pruners offer much more advantages in comparison to bypass pruners. Having a good pair of anvil pruning shears mean the user can cut both dry and green wood without the need for changing tools.

For many years, Löwe anvil pruners – first invented by Walther Schröder in 1923 – were manufactured and sold under license in the UK as 'Rolcut Secateurs'.

In fact, they were manufactured in the UK under license in the time when, after World War One and later World War Two, German products were not permitted to be imported to Britain. “Made in Germany” certainly was not welcome in Britain as too many “Made in Germany” products had been dropped onto the country in a destructive way.

Although Rolcut was a well known brand in the UK the tool design was from a German company using the “Original LÖWE” brand who had patented the first anvil pruner in 1923. The all metal design and anvil blade made them the toughest pruner available and they were the choice of many professionals and enthusiasts.

In 1928 came the “invention” of the Original LÖWE pruning shear under the "Rolcut" brand in England by Colonel B.J. Walker. In 1933 Foundation of the company "Fritz Howaldt Ltd." in London where in 1945 Rolcut took over the manufacture in London. In 1994 Rolcut was taken over, so I understand, by Fiskars and deliberately destroyed. Guess they were just too much of a competition.

Mind you, we have seen this same action in Germany when the German Democratic Republic was annexed after the fall of the wall and great companies such as Zeiss Jena and other were deliberately destroyed; in the former case because the original owners of Zeiss Jena are now Zeiss Wetzlar and did not wan the competition from the Jena factory.

I still have a very old small pair or Rolcut pruning shears, much smaller than the Original LÖWE 2 or the Rolcut 7 that I found in a park and have refurbished myself (spare parts are not available for those old Rolcut ones anymore unfortunately). It is probably some 50-60 years old and, aside from some rust on the chrome and the blade, being carbon steel, showing some tarnishing, the secateurs still perform well indeed.

On the occasion of the 90 years anniversary LÖWE have designed pruning shears that are visually representative of their first shears – the Original LÖWE 1 anniversary shears, the LÖWE 1.102.

OL1102__1This Anniversary Edition of the well-known LÖWE 1 combines the most modern technology with nostalgic design:
- Typeface an logo reflect the first shears from the 20s
- Engravings of plant shoots embellish the metal grips and offer a higher resistance to slipping
- Simple, clean cutting of branches up to 25 mm, 1''
- Suitable for the most versatile of applications with almost any species of trees and shrubs
- Nostalgic packaging design

The design is exactly the same as the original LÖWE 1 with the same designs on the handle but made with modern materials and a better lock than those of the ones of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

All parts are replaceable which means should any part ever get damaged in a way that it needs replacing it can and thus the shears can live almost for ever.

Today there are anvil pruners made by and for many different companies and most are now made in the Far East, and in addition to that there are even ratchet secateurs of this Nature. However, none equal, in quality of materials and workmanship the originals made by Gebr. Schröder under the Original LÖWE brand.

When it comes to the using of anvil pruning shears, as with pruning shears in general, the size of the branch to be cut should always be considered and anything that is too big is a job for loppers and not for pruning shears, period. And if that fails then it is a job for the pruning saw. When you have to apply herculean force then you are using the branch is too large and you need to change the tool.

© 2013

Workers and craftsmen co-ops vs. corporations

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

CoOpWorker-owned companies function better than those owned by a single owner who employs people, and outperform any corporation owned company.

We can see this with the John Lewis Partnership in the UK and with the Florida-based company Publix, the latter which is outperforming Walmart on every count in that state.

Co-ops have shown on every level that, because they are owned by the people that work there, and who have an interest in retaining customers as their bonuses in the form of dividends depend on this, to outperform other kind of businesses and are on the same level as simple owner-operated and family businesses.

Where co-ops were permitted in the so-called Com-Bloc of the Cold War era, whether in the USSR, the GDR, or elsewhere, they also outperformed the state-owned (they never were worker-owned despite the claims) businesses hands down.

The reason for this is, as above mentioned, the obvious one of the workers all, in a co-op, having a vested interest in getting and retaining customers on all levels.

A business who gives the customer great service with workers who are happy because they own a part in the business rather than just being wage slaves will always get more customers and will retain those they already have and the new ones.

Quality and not quantity is the measure in co-operative businesses and that as regards to products in the same way as to customer care. A company that provides quality products, great customer service and has ethics, because everyone cares as it is their company will always outperform those where the workers are but seen as human resources.

Corporations, especially the multinationals, have caused us more grief that we can even imagine and the best proof for that are the likes of Monsanto. It appears to be the aim of the latter to take control of the entire food supply of the world and to have a patent on every food imaginable so that we can but grow and eat what they prescribe, with the governments being in the pay of such corporations.

Corporate greed has depleted the Earth's resources to such an extent that we have run out of many of them or are on the brink of doing so, it has destroyed the very ecosystems that everything, including humans, depend on for the very life on this Planet, and still they want more, more and more.

This greed is also the underlying cause of most wars and conflicts on a global scale and causes the erosion of liberties all over the world. For, if wars are not fought for land resources, as the case used to be, and that more often than not also in conjunction with corporate greed, they are fought for resources in the form of oil, gas, gold, iron ore and others. All so that more and more can be produced to create more and more waste and the corporates then suggest to people that they need all those new (advanced) products to be happy and the spiral moves on and on.

Worker-owned businesses, on the other hand, can and do offer ethical alternatives to doing business and can provide customers with products that are well made and that last and that can be repaired if anything goes wrong. The big corporations, in comparison, are only interested to produce more goods cheaply that will not endure and that cannot be repaired so that they can make more to sell more and make more profit.

While it would appear that the tides are beginning to change there are still too many people that want everything on the cheap and cannot see the consequences that this has, for them, for the workers producing those cheap goods, and for the Planet on which we all depend.

The fact that worker-owned businesses, however, are becoming more and more popular is proof, to some extent, that people are beginning, hopefully, to understand how the proverbial cookie crumbles and that we all must change our ways. We cannot sustain the current way of doing things as it will, in the end, destroy the very Planet on which we, and every other living thing, depend.

The worker-owned business model does not have to end with artisans and shops. It can work with every business and that includes the provision of municipal services and others.

As far as banking and the financial sector are concerned mutuals have always existed and for many decades and more have led the way, and those are also co-ops but on another level.

Community agriculture too is another way as far as market gardening and growing food for all can be covered. The list could be endless and we but need to get our heads around the fact that the corporate model is not the answer and that there is another answer that will benefit all.

Into this equation also enter the so-called alternative or local currencies, often based on hours, such as Ithaca Hours and Mountain Hours, with many others in the fray as well.

The system of exchange of the early New England colonies was on chits, that is to say paper money issued in the various colonies and territories and not, as many wish to believe, on gold and silver rounds. The American Revolution was as much about Kind George wanting to abolish this system as on the taxes being imposed from London without the colonists having any say in the matter.

For sustainability to work a change of government is not what is needed but a change of system and of the way we live and work.

© 2013

How a good garden too should be

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A good garden tool should be simple, strong, effective and easy to maintain. This also goes for forestry tools.

garden-toolsWorking with good-quality, well-crafted implements in the tranquil setting of the garden (or a woodland) can give a real sense of contentment – a pleasure enhanced by the knowledge that you are handling something whose design has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.

While there are many more modern designs of gardening and woodland management tools about nowadays the old ones that are centuries old in design, more often than not are still the best, as they have proven their worth over those times.

A good tool should be simple, strong, effective and easy to maintain. If well cared for it should last a lifetime or longer still, so always get the best you can. Cheap, more often than not, equals poor-quality materials and workmanship, equals spades that bend like cutlery having been rubbed by Uri Geller.

Some tools you can actually make yourself even, whether from natural wood, reclaimed wood, waste wire or other waste materials. In general, however, buying will remain the only option and then it is definitely you get what you pay for – at least in most instances.

When it comes to the proper tool kit for the garden what should it include, as a basic?

Many people suggest as first a wheel barrow but this very much, in my opinion, depends on the size of your garden and also as to how you garden. Personally I would concentrate on other tools first.

Your tool kit and what's going to be in it depends on how big your garden is and on how you (intend to) garden, and also on what you (intend to) grow.

The most basic tool kit should be:

  1. Trowel: I personally doubt you can do much without one – or better still a couple of them – and the trowel is one of the most versatile and most used garden tools. Check for quality though as many modern ones have rather bad spot welds.

  2. Secateurs (aka pruning shears): Good sturdy secateurs are also, like a good sturdy trowel, essential for working in the garden. My recommendation here would be those made by Loewe in Kiel, Germany, who are the mother, so to speak, of the secateurs once made and marketed under the “Rolcut” brand in Britain.

  3. Loppers: For bigger branches where secateurs, aka pruning shears, will not do a pair of sturdy loppers will be required and such tool should also definitely be included in your tool kit. Once again at Loewe you will find what you need. Loewe still makes their tools in their own factory in Germany from German (Solingen) steel.

  4. Pruning saw: For even larger branches and the best kind that you can get is the Silky range.

  5. Digging spade: When it comes to spades – the large digging spades or the smaller border spades – quality is, as always, what counts and in this case I recommend one brand specially, as the digging tools are still made at their forge in Wigan, and that is Bulldog Tools.

  6. Digging fork: For digging forks and their smaller cousins, the border forks, the same as above applies.

  7. Hoe: Depending on how you garden you may require a large – that is to say an ordinary – hoe or a hand-held one. When it comes to the standard size hoe you also have options but the most common one that is being used is the so-called Dutch hoe. But there are also many others and it is all horses for courses. If you want the ultimate hoe, however, then I can but suggest the Cobrahead Hoe from the USA and the same goes for the hand-held version. Nothing will beat this one.

  8. Rake: For creating a good tilth nothing is as good as a proper metal tine rake and the choice is, again, legion. I suggest you look for a good one the head of which should be fixed via a “shoe” to the handle rather than, as seems very common nowadays, pushed into the wood of the handle.

  9. Weeding tool (Wire Weeder): When it comes too weeding by hand, as there is very little chance of doing it any other way, a wire weeder is probably one of the best tools that you can use. You can, obviously, purchase a so-called Wonder Weeder but you can also easily make one yourself (see here) or employ a hoof pick for the same task.

  10. Pruning knife: Here I recommend a good all-purpose single blade pocket knife rather than a dedicated pruning knife and the best choice, in my view, is the humble Opinel #6.

  11. Wooden dibber: A dibber is essential for accurate placement of seeds, seedlings and small plugs and you can buy a turned wooden one, a hand carved one, or you could as easily, with a little time on your hand, whittle one yourself.

This is but a very basic tool kit for working the small garden, especially for vegetable growing.

People often believe that, in order to work a garden, they need an armory of tools but this is not the case, really. It all depends on what you grow and how and how big your garden is as to what kind of tools you require to accomplish the tasks.

I grow vegetables in “grow bags”, as the Americans would call it, which are repurposed builders bags (ton bags) and thus I do not need a large hoe or rake and I generally recommend this way of growing veg as it is a “no dig” method and you never step on the “beds”. Thus, as I do not dig and just fork over the “beds” before planting with a border fork, and then rake it with a rake specially adapted to the task, I also do not, per se and in general, require a digging spade or digging fork (though I have got one or two).

I grow everything in containers and found it a much better solution than digging compacted soil every spring and every autumn or whenever and it also makes it possible to move some stuff about (not the ton bags though). Growing stuff in this way reduces labor and need for (large) tools.

But whichever way you garden the tools should be sturdy and right for the job.

You can find good quality tools frequently secondhand at flea-markets and such like and it is always a good idea to have a good look at what is there when you happen to be in the vicinity when such markets are on.

Knowing a good quality tool from the opposite is important when buying secondhand as much as when new. However, most old tools were much better made than those today and that is the very reason that they are able to end up for sale.

Everyone of us gardens differently but tools, regardless, should be simple, strong and sturdy, effective and easy to maintain.

© 2013

Blackout Channel 4TV

A “review” by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“Blackout” was a feature-length 'What-If' drama exploring the effects of a devastating cyber-attack on Britain's national electricity grid that was broadcast in the beginning of September 2013 on Channel 4 TV in the UK.

BlackoutBased on expert advice and meticulous research, Blackout combined real user-generated footage, alongside fictional scenes, CCTV archive and news reports to build a terrifyingly realistic account of Britain being plunged into darkness.

The film plotted the days following a nationwide power cut, as experienced by a cast of ordinary characters struggling to feed and protect themselves and their families. These eyewitness accounts reveal the disastrous impact of a prolonged blackout on hospitals, law and order, transport, and our food and water supplies.

The program cast members of the public from user-generated footage, weaving real-life archive with scripted drama to tell the story of how Britain could descend into chaos and anarchy without power.

It is rather a wake-up call but amazing how many people, judging from Twitter and other communications in regards to this TV pilot, as to how vulnerable the electricity grid is and that their TVs are also powered by the grid. And comments like that are rather scary. Britain seems be becoming more and more Americanized, also in stupidity.

A number of interesting points were raised, so to speak, in the program and people would do well to understand and to heed them.

Number one is that there are priorities and that the government is not going to be able to protect and provide for the individual and that people will be, more or less, on their own.

The fact that everything is, basically, reliant on electricity almost nothing will work and that includes telephone, Internet, television and wireless (radio) reception only via battery-powered or wind-up radios. Gas and water also will be affected and will not work, that includes the water treatment plants and thus it is advisable to have alternative means and prepping is very important.

Supermarkets and shops in general rely on daily deliveries and in a crisis will be out of food and bottled water within an hour ow two and thus having a supply of food and water at home is important.

However, and this message was also given loud and clear, if you are making and having your own preps, including generator and such, do not broadcast it far and wide but keep it well under your hat.

While in the movie people kept using their cell phones it has to be understood that (1) in the event of any crisis, as we saw in London with 7/7 the cell phone network will be prioritized for emergency services use ONLY and thus the ordinary user will be left in the dark, and not just as far as the lights are concerned. And (2) that the batteries of such devices do not last for ever and most of them will be dead within hours if they have to be trying to lock onto a signal all the time.

Fuel will be for essential services only and the ordinary motorist better understand that he will have no chance to get the stuff. Thus driving around looking for fuel or trying to get to somewhere is not going to work, aside from the fact that, which was not shown in the program though, most places will be locked down under emergency powers. You will not be able to leave the area where you are and it has to be understood that under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 the armed forces will be deployed on the streets and a lot earlier than the movie suggests. And you can bet your bottom dollar that they will not just be there with batons to keep order. They will be authorized to use lethal force as they deem appropriate.

That means that even if you have a full tank in your car, which will not get you all that far, you may not be able to use it to leave your area. Better also consider some means of alternative transport such as and especially the humble bicycle. Not that the towns and cities will be very safe to be out and about with that either.

Even once such a crisis ends, as in this scenario the electricity grid having been reestablished food and other commodities may still be days or weeks away before they turn up again in the supermarkets, if the latter have not been looted and burned out, requiring some time to rebuild and restock.

Our electricity grid is not just vulnerable to cyber attacks and thus making it not “smart” at all but also to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which can come about as a result of enemy action as well as from natural sources such solar flares of the right magnitude or the explosion of an asteroid in the Earth's atmosphere. In the latter cases this could knock out more than just one country's electricity network and EMP will do more damage than any cyber attack possibly could.

What also does not work in any such event are ATMs and only cash will do. But when you have got all your money, as most of us have, in the bank then getting at it will be impossible. “Oh, for that reason you should hold gold and silver coins”, say many preppers. OK, and you show me a filling station, in such a crisis, where they will accept gold and silver coins as payment.

In fact, almost everything depends on electricity and computer networks and that includes your bank and even if they would be open they would not be able to open the safe. It has a time delay lock that is, guess what?, powered by electricity. The way things are when the grid fails – this “smart” grid – we are all basically screwed.

Instead of investing in an ever more sophisticate “smart grid” the government should concentrate on localized renewable power generation so that the grid would hardly matter anymore, and allowing communities to create their own power systems.

The movie also so rightly pointed out, as with the words of the “survivalist”, that people are stupid when it comes to such a situation in that the looters took plasma TVs and other such items for which they would need electricity, not that anyone would support looting, I am sure.

Hopefully this movie served as a wake-up call for many who saw it to the fact that (1) our electricity grid is extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks and, alas though this was not mentioned, EMP, (2) that we cannot rely on the authorities in such an incident (or any other for that matter) and (3) that one needs to make some preparations for such events and that means having food and water and other supplies at home (but without letting the entire neighborhood know).

As far as radio reception is concerned it will have to be battery-powered or wind-up and for person-to-person communications you will have to think of things other that cell phone or even landline. Two-way radios are useful for family short range communications but they, and that is to be remembered, are NOT secure.

As the movie also made clear, though it could have done more on it and properly, bugging out is not an option as you will be stuck for, unlike in the movie, the authorities will shut down towns and cities much faster than it showed and secondly you will not be able to rely on obtaining fuel for a motor vehicle if that is your option of travel.

How far do you think even a full tank of fuel in your car, even if there are no roadblocks, will get you, especially if you live in the big urban areas? Not very far at all and not far enough to do your own thing.

Be prepared and prepared to hunker down, to bug in, rather than to bug out.

© 2013

The US DOE has declared the “new” fuels for 2040

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

US-Department-of-EnergyThe US Department of Energy (DOE) sees coal, natural gas, and oil as the “new” fuels in 2040. Sorry, but in which parallel universe precisely do those people reside. Oil is – please note dearest governments – running out and coal and gas are not far behind and that aside from the fact that with the continued use of fossil fuels mankind may not actually see 2040.

The only answers – please note the plural here governments and people – are renewables (and no, not, necessarily biofuels) and the likes of methane gas. In addition to that we need to (1) reduce our energy consumption, and that includes and especially the use of motoring, and (2) the electricity current that we use.

Motoring, as we have known it for the past sixty or so years, is history or, as the Germans would say kaput. And electric cars and vans also will not make it possible for the status quo of motoring to continue. The powers-that-be, however, are not prepared to tell the people this fact and keep coming up with the stupid comments such as the “new” fuels for 2040 which is the old fuels.

It is clear that the USA, in the same way as the UK, want to put their bets and card on shale oil and -gas and hope that it will save the economy and allow for the continuation of business as usual. The problem is that this is at the expense of the environment. They behave, like far too many people around the Planet but especially in the developed world, as if we had another Planet to go to. We don't regardless of what Prof Steven Hawkins is prattling.

Oil, gas and coal are not the way forward into the next decades. They are the way to ecocicde and death for mankind. Time to wake up everyone.

© 2013

When peaceful protest is made impossible (illegal) violent revolution becomes inevitable

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When peaceful protest is made impossible and is even outlawed and deemed an act of terrorism then violent revolution becomes inevitable and almost a civic duty.

pillar10-history-french-revolution-delacroixMore and more we see in the USA, Britain, Germany, and other places – all of them so-called free and democratic countries – the people's even constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and -protest being curtailed and even deemed and declared unlawful under anti-terrorist laws – or should we better call them terror laws or plain terror? – with police (and military) being used to violently attack even non-violent protesters that do not offer resistance.

This is more than a recipe for disaster and one that almost makes violent revolution and change of system by means other than peaceful and non-violent ones inevitable.

When governments trample the human rights of the people under foot it become the duty for everyone to rise up against the tyrants and those perpetrating such actions.

While change brought about through non-violent actions as Gandhi stood for should always be preferable when those become regarded as terrorism and handled as such the people are left with little other choice but to change their course of actions and the angle of attack, so to speak.

Any change must, however, not just be political. Such a revolution must be also a social one at the very same time. Political change without social change for the better is no change at all but basically a status quo.

Changing one party in government for another without changing the underlying system that enslaves the people is not change at all but a perpetuation of the exploitative system. This could be seen in Russia after the first revolution (not the October 1917 one) and also when “New Labour” under Blair & Co. The working class ended up worse even than under Thatcher and that already before the economic collapse.

Political change without socio-economic change is no change at all. However, the majority of the people in the so-called free and democratic countries seem to believe that if they just exchange one establishment party for another they will have it better. Talk about brainwashing and dreaming.

True change can only come about when we change the system, and that from the very bottom up and not (just) the government.

© 2013

Calcutta bans bicycles

Calcutta bans bicycles in an apparent attempt to check bombing terror

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Just when you think you have heard and seen it all and then along comes something like that from a city where bicycles vastly outnumber cars.

Bicycles IndiaAn Indian city, Calcutta (aka Kolkata) to be precise, has banned cyclists from major roads on the grounds that bicycles prove handy for anti-social elements intending to plant bombs. The decision is getting unwelcome reactions from many levels.

“Cycling is banned on major thoroughfares of the city for two reasons,” said K Hari Rajan, the assistant commissioner (traffic) of Calcutta police.

“To ensure that traffic flow is not disturbed by the mix of fast-moving vehicles and cycles, as Calcutta has no provision for dedicated cycling lanes. There are also security concerns as bicycles are often used to plant bombs,” he explained.

Many cities around the world have made policies which promote the switch to the more eco-friendly mode of transport provided by bicycles, hoping to help check increasing environmental pollution. Calcutta’s move in the opposite direction is not getting a positive response from commuters or environmentalists.

“Polluting auto-rickshaws and buses have a free run in the city but bicycles are banned,” said transport environment activist Debashish Bhattacharya. “If terrorists plant an explosive in a four-wheeler, will the government ban cars on arterial roads?”

Another environmentalist, S M Ghosh, said that the bicycle is eco-friendly. “Bicycles are universally encouraged to counter environmental pollution. Instead of banning cycles, the administration should make arrangements for dedicated cycling paths,” Ghosh said.

From another perspective, the vast majority of India’ population depends on bicycles for daily transport. In a nation of 1.2 million where 800,000 live in poverty, cheap, simple, reliable transportation can mean the difference between earning a living and begging for one.

“The bicycle is a poor man’s vehicle. Throughout the day I have to be on the move on a bicycle for my job and I cannot afford anything else,” Sushanta Chakrabarty said. Chakrabarty collects blood samples to earn his livelihood.

Environmentalists have urged the government to look at Bangkok and European cities, which are reaping the benefits of encouraging bicycles as a means of transport.

How any local authority or police department can actually be that stupid beats the hell out of me considering that, as it has already been said, bicycles are probably, aside from walking, the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation and that in a city where bicycles vastly outnumber cars and other modes of transport and where many people cannot afford anything else but a bicycle.

Terrorism seem to be the excuse for everything when the powers-that-be want to ban anything and in this case it is absolutely laughable.

© 2013

LÖWE 1.102 Anniversary edition anvil pruning shears – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world's first anvil pruning shears launched in 1923 by LÖWE and the LÖWE 1.102 is a very special Anniversary Edition of this popular and classic model, perfect for use in all types of gardening and horticulture, fruit growing, forestry, and viticulture.

Can be used left or right handed, for cutting any kind of wood.

It was the LÖWE 1 that made the Original LÖWE brand and the anvil principle (a drawing cut against a fixed base plate) world famous.

All Original LÖWE pruners are designed, produced and assembled in Germany to the highest standards with a unique hardening process giving the blades an unrivaled hardness and the latest CNC grinding machines, ensuring an outstanding sharp cutting edge. They are 100% “Made in Germany” throughout and this goes for all Original LÖWE pruners and not just the LÖWE 1.102. Spare parts available for all LÖWE pruners.


LÖWE 1.102 Anniversary edition anvil pruning shears

Length: 21cm
Weight: 270g
Cutting Capacity: 25mm (1")
PRICE: £34.52 (Quality Garden Tools)

Old technology still works and works best as it is simple and reliable with no frills, and most importantly, repairable. And the LÖWE 1.102 definitely falls into that category.

The packaging, for purpose of nostalgia, so to speak, has taken a step back in history too and proves that just a simple printed cardboard box could still work today and it would reduce our packaging waste.

1264151_630282137005622_1434359286_o_smlThe only concession to the modern world is the plastic back in which the shears are packed prior to wrapped in brown Kraft paper. In days gone by it would have just been the Kraft paper, often greased, before going into the cardboard box.

This proves, to me at least, that there would and should be no need for the hard plastic “bubble pack” that we see (almost) everywhere today.

What worked then would still work today but it would appear that the packaging industry is trying to tell us differently. The cardboard box and the Kraft paper both are biodegradable and will compost, even in a homer composting set up, in less than a year without trace. Alternatively it can both be be easily recycled.

Where this is only one special product of LÖWE where this old style packaging is being used it would be good, for the sake of the environment, if we could see a widespread return to this kind of more simple and sustainable packaging.

The LÖWE 1.102 Anniversary anvil pruning shears (secateurs) are a timeless 90-year-old design made with modern materials and methods and will last for generations, especially if cared for, as any good tool and product should be. The same goes, as to durability, for the other tools of Original LÖWE also. I know, I reviewed one of their modern design flagship pruners last year.

The LÖWE 1.102 anvil pruners performed extremely well in tests and accurately and precisely cut anything from Rosemary sprigs to 25mm (1inch) thick Elm branches, both green and dry. They are capable, of that I am sure, to cut to a greater thickness even but that would mean applying more pressure which might not be good for the user's hands. The blades of all LÖWE's pruners are sharp and strong and will stand up to the rigors of professional daily use.

As far as I am concerned Original LÖWE's pruning shears are superior to others on the market, even more expensive ones though mentioning no names.

As professional user I regard anvil secateurs/pruning shears to outperform bypass ones each and every time and day and I got used to them – under the Rolcut name – already as a child working in forestry nurseries. The cut onto the anvil, generally made of brass in the older days and now of aluminum, both being softer metals that the cutting blade, makes for a very precise cut where no twisting is being used, as often happens with bypass pruners, leading to a misalignment of blades.

Another great LÖWE product and if I could rate it the way I would like to it would definitely receive a 6 out of 5. But that does not really compute now does it.

My thanks to Original LÖWE in Kiel, Germany, and Dominic of Quality Garden Tools for allowing me to review this great tool and for supplying the sample.

If you are looking for pruning shears that your grandchildren will still be able and happy to use look not further than Original LÖWE. For all your garden tool needs, including LÖWE products, in the UK, contact Quality Garden Tools.

© 2013

The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no payment for this article with the exception of the sample of the product free of change. Nevertheless, because their products are second to none, we are happy to endorse both Original LÖWE and Quality Garden Tools.