Sustainable forest management benefits people and the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

sustainable-forestry-cycleWhile it’s true that collecting used paper and recycling it into new products is good for the environment, there’s a catch. The wood fibers in paper can be recycled only about five times before they get too weak and break down.

That’s why we need fresh fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests, too. Using fresh fiber creates a sustainable cycle of high-quality recyclable material to continually replenish recycled fiber.

Paper could, yes that is true, also be made from Hemp and from old clothes made from natural materials but the way we make it at present is from wood fiber mostly and thus we must understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using wood fiber for paper when the wood for this is being grown and harvested in a sustainable manner, which it is, in most cases.

Would it not be for the paper industry many thousands – tens of thousands – of hectares of forest land would not exists and those forests could they not be used for the production of paper would end up being built upon and thus giving us even more urban and suburban developments and less green spaces.

While the predominate monoculture of trees planted for paper production may not be ideal those forests are better than not having them at all and thus people must think before making statements to the effect that paper produced from wood pulp is bad for the environment because trees are being felled for the making of the paper.

However, it is true that the production of pristine white paper can be polluting and this is where many paper mills and paper manufacturers have a long way to go still towards sustainability and reduced environmental footprint and still need to do a great deal of cleaning up of the industry.

When it comes to the management of forests for paper pulp production or for other purposes such as wood products of all kinds, as well as woodland management, sustainability is the key and the finest way, as far as woodlands for the production of wood for wood products is concerned coppice management cannot be beaten. This method, alas, does not work with coniferous woods needed for paper pulp production, as they do not grow back when cut at the base unlike many of the deciduous trees on our Planet.

A fair amount of people in the green movement believe that cutting trees is bad for the environment and that woodlands and forests do not need management. That is a fallacy, however, and especially forests that are planted by man will need continuous management in order to produce a harvest that is beneficial.

Sustainability in forestry was “invented” before the word ever made it into the vocabulary per se, and the first book on sustainable forest practices was written and published way back in the 18th century by a German forester and much of the management today, until the arrival of the mechanized timer harvesters, is still based on those basic rules and guidelines.

Saying that woods and forests do not need to be managed is like saying that one does not need farms and garden for the growing of food. Forest and woodland management is just farming on a different scale and for a different outcome, namely forest products instead of foodstuffs.

Woodlands and forests are “farmed” for all kinds of products, from firewood, over wooden kitchen utensils and furniture to the timber used in building, not forgetting paper pulp and much in between.

© 2014

Meisenbach COMPACT Fountain/Roller Ball Pen – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This pen, the Compact, is available as a Roller Ball pen or with a fountain pen nib. In fact, they are interchangeable, and it is powered, so to speak, not by a refill as Roller Ball pens normally are but by a standard cheap fountain pen cartridge, available for little money per box of five or ten.

Meisenbach-Compact-mit-Gummigriffmanschette_b2Not only are those ink cartridges cheaper compared to, say, a Parker or Shaeffer pen refill, they are also greener as they are fully recyclable being made entirely and purely of polyethylene.

Today you do not even have the little “pearl” in the cartridge anymore as you did in my childhood and thus it is all polyethylene and this can be made into polyethylene again.

Yes, it is probably true that several cartridges will run out in this pen before a Parker or Shaeffer refill will but it still is going to be cheaper and definitely greener as, so far, none of those other pen refills are recycled anywhere.

Now a little to the pen itself. The Meisenbach COMPACT comes as a Fountain Pen with steel nib, a Fountain Pen with iridium point nib or as an Ink Liner (Roller Ball Pen) with tungsten carbide tip. All have a plastic body and a metal clip.

There is one drawback with this pen as with all wet ink pens and that is that much of the paper we find today, even in most notebooks, is not suitable for this kind of ink and will bleed through.

One slight disadvantage of the Compact to the cartridge fountain pens many may remember from their schooldays, if they are old enough to have used a fountain pen, is the fact that the size of this pen does not allow for a spare cartridge to be carried in the barrel. But that is only a minor inconvenience as one can always have one or two spare cartridges in one's pocket.

The pen is best used with the cap placed at the non-working end of the pen's barrel as it gives a better balance this way.

The best part, aside from writing well, is the fact that the cartridges (refills) are very cheap indeed and fully recyclable unlike, as already indicated, general ballpoint and Roller Ball pen refills.

The Meisenbach fountain pen/Roller Ball pen is not just a new concept but also a fairly green one at that.

OK, someone may say: “It's a pen. What's special about it and green as it is made of plastic, etc.?” What is special and green on this pen is the fact that, as mentioned more than once, it has a fully recyclable refill cartridge and thus is a very sustainable writing instrument, despite the fact that it is made of plastic, with some metal for the clip.

It is true that there are many other pens, ballpoint pens and ink liners, aka Roller Balls, that have refills but – one – most of them are rather expensive and – two – the great majority of those refills, if any, are not being recycled and may not even be recyclable as they are at present.

The only other kind of pen that has probably better green credentials is the true fountain pan, refillable from an ink bottle, or the dip pen.

Karl Meisenbach GmbH & Co. KG has been producing writing utensils since 1880 at their factory in Fischbachtal, an idyllic village of 2700 souls in the Odenwald, ca. 50km south of Frankfurt/Main and thus has a long tradition in making pens.

All plastic components are manufactured in the Meisenbach factory in Germany. Metal components and accessories are bought in addition. However, each piece is „made in Germany“ or „made in Europe“.

© 2014

London buses to stop accepting cash payments from July 2014

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A sign of things to come?

Cash fares will no longer be accepted on London buses from July 6, 2014 Transport for London (TfL) has announced.

LondonBusTfL said a ‘considerable drop’ in the number of people paying their bus fare in cash was behind the decision expected to bring £130m savings over the next nine years. Thus London commuters and anyone else using the buses in London will need an Oyster card, pre-paid ticket or contactless payment cards to travel on the capital's buses.

Leon Daniels, managing director for TfL Surface Transport, said: “As Londoners and visitors change the way they pay for goods and services in the capital I am proud that we at the forefront of that change.

“Customers will not only benefit from a quicker, cheaper and more convenient method of paying their bus fare; it will also enable us to save millions of pounds each year – which will be reinvested in further improvements to the capital’s transport network.”

oystercardAlmost 1,800 commuters have been given refunds totaling £11,000 after Oyster readers charged the wrong card when the machines deducted the money from their credit or debit cards kept in the same wallet with the Oyster card while, it would appear, in many cases also debiting the Oyster card. Therefore TfL now advises people to carry the two cards in different wallets.

TfL said around 25 per cent of journeys were paid for using cash in 2000, compared with around one per cent today.

What we are seeing here, I believe, is a slow way of getting people used to not using cash at all anymore and then, sooner or later, outlawing the use of cash altogether and this move has, incrementally, been happening for some time already in several fields.

Already now, if a person wants to tender over £1,000 in cash for any kind of transaction the police are immediately called and questions are being asked as to why this person is using cash and not some other means.

Most stores now refuse to use (personal) checks and it will not be far now before stores will refuse to accept cash and all cash transactions above a small amount will either be illegal or will be subject to police investigation.

So, we may be seeing here the first steps towards getting the population to accept total cash-free and check-free operations, at least in the “official” economy.

And why this move? Easy. When we use our cards each and every purchase, each and every trip that we take, etc., is recorded and accessible by government. Much like our cell phone records telling them where we (may) have been at any particular time of the day; or at least where our phone has been. The aim is total surveillance of the population, including visitors, and this is yet another means to this end.

© 2014

US authorities have right to access customer data worldwide – court judgment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

serverAmerican Internet Service Providers must divulge information about their customers to the US authorities even when the respective data and information is held on servers overseas. This according to a recent ruling by the Federal Court of New York. The US company Microsoft had apparently, but without success, to protect the e-mails and credit card information of its users from access by the State.

With this verdict Judge James Francis created a precedence in law which will reflect on any subsequent cases and this means that American Internet Service Providers cannot refuse to hand over any and all data to the requesting authorities even if the majority or even all of the data requested by those authorities is stored on servers abroad.

Microsoft and its lawyers had argued, in order to prevent such a disclosure, before the New York court that the requested information was being physically held on servers in Ireland and thus American search warrants did not apply there. They stated that a US investigator cannot simply enter a house in a foreign country and conduct a search and that would also be applicable to the on-line world.

However such arguments fell on deaf ears with the judiciary in the US. The judgment states categorically that the disclosure of private data has to happen upon request by the authorities. And it further says that the work and the effectiveness of such work of the NSA and the CIA would be seriously hampered should they have to work together with the authorities of other countries in order to obtain information from servers.

While the State refused to disclose what kind of data they were after in this case Microsoft said that an agency had requested all sent and received emails as well as credit card details and bank account details connected to that account.

Microsoft has announced that it will appeal against the decision of the court but the chances of success are very slim indeed if they exist at all.

This ruling may have bearing on all of us who use computers and especially Microsoft servers and services and the Internet in general as this ruling is a precedence which will impact on all other requests by US alphabet agencies appertaining to our data, emails and all that is in those emails.

From this judgment it would appear that any of us who make use of email services and other Internet services that are operated by US based companies, whether Microsoft, Google, or other, are basically screwed as far as due process of law is concerned if the US authorities want to get our information.

It very much looks as if the World Government has arrived and it is called Big Brother USA.

The Russian Security Services are more than right in their decision to return to the typewriter for sensitive communications and other materials and the dispatch of those via means other than electronic forms and maybe we all need to take a leaf out of their book on this matter.

© 2014

Germany and the TTIP

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

German government admits that it does not know US documents

Stop_TTIP_webThe German government has stated responded to a request by Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (a union between the green party and another group in the German parliament) that the negotiations about the Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) between the USA and the European Union will be finalized possibly in 2015.

It was, however, also stated in this answer that the German government has not been permitted to see the US documents and has no knowledge of what they contain.

Apparently the German government, and possible the German one is not the only one here, has not been permitted to view those documents and Germany has made presentation to the EU complaining about this as it is contrary to the EU agreements about trade.

Too all intents and purposes the TTIP documents are so secret and the negotiations that even the governments of the EU member states are not permitted to see them and to understand what it really is all about.

With the German government admitting that it has been refused access and insight into the US documents appertaining to the TTIP one can but wonder what other countries also are not party, so to speak, properly to the negotiations.

How on earth can the unelected officials in Brussels negotiate on things that affect the citizens of all members states without the relevant governments being permitted insight into the documents presented by the US, for instance?

This, we can safely assume, shows that this agreement is not going to be an open and transparent one and one that is, in reality and not just in theory, being negotiated for the capitalist corporations only with the European Commission but rubber-stamping what the US government and its corporate masters demand.

It also shows the true nature of the United States which since World War Two had but one aim namely that of taking over the world and every government of any country that stands in its way will have democracy enforced upon it, by regime change and force of arms, in order to liberate the people in those countries and in order to bring about total corporation fascism and the TTIP is yet another way to achieve this.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the United States said that “fascism comes about when private interests become more powerful than a democratic government”. And for private interests we must also read “interests of the corporations”. And this is the true nature of fascism, that of the power and will of the capital over that of the people.

It has once been said that the US government is in bed with the oil industry (and other industry) but it would appear more that first of all the US government is the oil industry, especially with the Bush family being involved in several stages still, hence the wish of the family for John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, former Governor of Florida to run for the office of President.

At every stage in the US government, legislature and also the judicature we meet people who have too close a link with the large corporations and too great an influence on their behalf on the government. The fact that the head of the FDA is a “former” executive of Monsanto should tell us already why that company gets its way each and every time as regards to GMO crops in the USA and why they are also so heavily involved in the TTIP.

I rest my case (it is getting heavy).

© 2014

The old system is dying

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The old system is dying and it knows that its days are numbered but it is not going quietly, it is fighting tooth and nail to stay alive regardless of how many people will die in the process.

This fight against death by the old system also becomes more or less self evident in the many repressive laws being enacted against the people, the supposed and so-called “war on terror”, the mass surveillance of everyone and also the fluoridation of drinking water and the forced introduction in so many things of Aspartame (or its derivatives), both of the latter which are neural pathway agents and poisons.

oldsystemdying1The powers-that-be are more than aware that the power of the people, should the people decide to use it, is a threat to them and the system and in order to perpetuate their hold on power they are prepared to go to any lengths.

The old system is dying but it is fighting tooth and nail, like a cornered rat, to stay alive by all means possible, and like a cornered rat it is thus more dangerous than ever.

For this reason – under the guise of fighting crime and terror, though they themselves are the one creating terror – the powers-that-be want more and more control, to the point of total control, over the people and everything the people do, say and even think. Hence the proliferation of CCTV everywhere, the attempted control of the Internet, for this being free is an anathema to them, and wanting to know what we buy and where and when also.

It also demonstrates itself in the curbs on the freedoms of the press and the freedom of expression and to peacefully assemble and demonstrate.

The recent laws enacted in Britain that can turn any how ever peaceful demonstration in the eyes of the law and law enfarcement (no, this is not a spelling mistake) into acts of domestic terrorism is yet another facet of this.

We, who are working towards a new world, have to understand what is happening and why so that we know the enemy and know what to do.

The masses do not understand, however, what is going on and also many believe – God help us – that our governments are benign and go even so far as to say that, even if we do not like some or even all of the policies of those “in power” we must support the government which is in power.

I liken the government to them then to a company in which we are all shareholders and the government the board of directors who make a mess of things and then say that, in that case, we, the shareholders would immediately replace the board. And still they don't get it.

The true fact is that we must not just replace the board of this “company” called the state but we must abolish the state itself in the way that it exists at the moment.

Can we make the people understand? We must at least try to make them understand this truth as to what is happening and why. It is our task. It is the duty of those of us who have understood what is going on, what is happening, to awaken the masses. And, we must also be prepared to lead the awakened masses when the awakening has happened.

© 2014

When Technology Fails – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When Technology Fails, Revised and Expanded
A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency
by Matthew Stein
Foreword by Richard Heinberg
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing 2008
516 pages paperback with black and white illustrations throughout
8 1/2” x 11”
ISBN: 9781933392455

WTF book_webThere’s never been a better time to “be prepared.” Matthew Stein’s comprehensive primer on sustainable living skills—from food and water to shelter and energy to first-aid and crisis-management skills—prepares you to embark on the path toward sustainability. But unlike any other book, Stein not only shows you how to live “green” in seemingly stable times, but to live in the face of potential disasters, lasting days or years, coming in the form of social upheaval, economic meltdown, or environmental catastrophe.

“When Technology Fails” covers the gamut. You’ll learn how to start a fire and keep warm if you’ve been left temporarily homeless, as well as the basics of installing a renewable energy system for your home or business. You’ll learn how to find and sterilize water in the face of utility failure, as well as practical information for dealing with water-quality issues even when the public tap water is still flowing. You’ll learn alternative techniques for healing equally suited to an era of profit-driven malpractice as to situations of social calamity. Each chapter (a survey of the risks to the status quo; supplies and preparation for short- and long-term emergencies; emergency measures for survival; water; food; shelter; clothing; first aid, low-tech medicine, and healing; energy, heat, and power; metalworking; utensils and storage; low-tech chemistry; and engineering, machines, and materials) offers the same approach, describing skills for self-reliance in good times and bad.

Fully revised and expanded—the first edition was written pre-9/11 and pre-Katrina, when few Americans took the risk of social disruption seriously— “When Technology Fails” ends on a positive, proactive note with a new chapter on "Making the Shift to Sustainability," which offers practical suggestions for changing our world on personal, community and global levels.

Mat Stein is an environmentalist, bestselling author, MIT trained engineer, and green builder. As an inspiring speaker and visionary thinker, he is dedicated to helping people wake up and unite to shift our collective course from collapse to global renaissance. On the practical side of things, as an expert at self-reliance, emergency prep, and survival, his writings and work help people prepare to weather the storms we are facing due to continuing climate change and ecological decline, coupled with a fossil fuel based economy that has recently passed the peak in world oil production and is struggling to cope with …

On Amazon it says: Provides information that will help the average person prepare for the uncontrollable forces and events that will affects everyone on the planet within the next 20 years. A user friendly 'bible' in the tradition of the Whole Earth Catalogue, this book is the first to offer basic instructions and recommended resources for the wide range of skills and technologies necessary for self-reliant living and achieving mastery of all kinds of emergency conditions. A directory of resources and an instructional guide to sustainable technology required in an increasingly unstable world, it outlines survival strategies for dealing with changes that affect food, water, shelter, energy, health, communications, and essential goods and services.

Well, so far for the material from the publishers and the author, now allow me to make my comments and give you my take on this book.

I really hate to be negative any book knowing how much effort and heartache even goes into writing but there are times when it is absolute necessary, and this is one of those. That is what reviewers and critics are, after all, for.

This book is a bit – actually more than just a bit and very much – like the pre-2000 survival manuals and, as many scenarios envisaged then are more or less history and are never going to happen one should not waste time and effort on them. The modern threats are different and require a different response and mindset.

When it comes to technology, as in our modern infrastructure, failing which it inevitably will at some time, we do not just need to prepare for such an even and its aftermath but to take steps to make ourselves as independent as possible from it, that is to say from technology and the system.

We must not just prep for the event of a failure of technology and the infrastructure that is so very much dependent on it. We must actively, as individuals, families and countries, reduce our dependence and over-dependence on technology.

Our technology failing and mayhem resulting is more or less inevitable seeing our reliance and dependence on it in every part of our daily life, from energy supply, water supply, to keeping our shops stocked and everything in between, including our communications.

“Technology will fail, you can count on it”, it says in the foreword of the book and there is little that one can add to that and argue with, as, alas, it is very true indeed and, as we rely on it for almost anything and everything it is then when the proverbial hits the fan – and that will leave the unprepared in the lurch or up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The first edition of this book was written and came out before the year 2000 and hence the Millennium Bug idea – so to speak – and also much of the style and contents of this book being in the style of most of the so-called survival manuals of that time and era.

The title of the book led me to believe that this book would be different from other pre- and post-Y2K survival books and would seriously look at life after a breakdown on technology but, in the maim, this book is but a rehash of those gone before with very little difference.

To a great extent this book is very much like those “standard” American survival books we have seen with a little bit though being in the vein of John Seymour's book, but only with just a little bit. The information that is presented in the books by John Seymour and also in “The Survival Handbook” by Michael Allaby, which was co-authored by John Seymour, is what really will be needed in the aftermath of and preparation before the failure of technology and not Stone Age skills. The wheel has already been invented.

There are some very important points in the book, and they are the same that I have made and am making in my writings time and again, about how everything today is linked to and by technology powered by electricity and any breakdown of this grid will cause serious trouble for our day-to-day lives.

However, when technology fails, as it will, we will need the skills and tools of the nineteenth and early twentieth century and maybe, in some cases even those of the 1700s but no Stone Age skills. Learning those would be reinventing the wheel and a total waste of time.

When our technology and everything connected to it and by it fails – as it inevitably is going to do some day, “permanently” even – and even when most of society as a whole fails we will not be returning to the Stone Age but we will start again with an 18th/19th century technology. We know how to do it and enough scrap will be around to do it. Much will be more modern technology even than those eras mentioned and that should have been the starting point for this book.

While this book, most certainly, has many good points and chapters in it and the author correctly perceives and communicates that one of the, if not indeed the, main threat and greatest of all to our future is the eco-catastrophe the continual return, in a way, to almost prehistorical skills spoils it to a great degree.

The other day I came across a book in German and from Germany – self-published as a PDF – on the same matter of continuing life after the failure of technology and infrastructure (and collapse of society) that is fairly short, precise and to the point without assuming the need for reinventing the wheel.

Because of those listed shortcomings I cannot really recommend this book and can only give it 2 out of 5, and this especially as the title is, in actual fact, very misleading, leading any potential reader to believe that he will be served something different to the old survival manuals that most of us have seen already, but this is not the case, and also to actually deal with the reality after an event of failure of our modern technology and that is that we will not start from Stone Age level as we have already got the knowledge and such to hand though today we lack many of the manual skills that will, after such an event, be required again.

Stone Age skills and those of the American Indians and others are all good and fine when what is stranded in the wilderness – far off any possibility of any search party reaching one – be this after a shipwreck, a plane crash or whatever, and anyone trekking out into the wilderness should certainly know some of them but in the modern scenario of technology and therefore infrastructure failing other skills are needed and thus any that have no reason for being in a book purporting to be on that matter should have never been included nor mentioned.

While Mat Stein's book “When Technology Fails” does have some good parts the fact that it is – basically – a rehash of the hundreds, literally, of TEOTWAKI manuals that we have seen since around the late 1980s makes it one that I can give but a very low rating. I must say that from the title I had, as said before, expected something more relevant and properly tuned to reality than this.

Rating: 1 of 5 (and that is being generous)

© 2014

Reboot your mind, not your device…how to unplug and unwind in a 24/7 world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

smarphone1If you are finding yourself at the relentless beck and call of technology; permanently checking-in to emails; taking work calls out of hours, and updating your social media status, chances are you’re experiencing ‘smartphone overload’.

Whilst there is no denying there are many positive aspects to cell phones, smartphones and other portable devices, this way of ‘living in a state of constant alert’ goes some way to explaining why so many of us find it hard to switch off in the evening and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

According to a survey from autumn 2013 almost half (46%) of women questioned surf the net or check their emails whilst in bed and more than 1 in 4 (26%) check social networks just before bed. Little wonder we need to restore the balance!

It is vitally important for our health and wellbeing that we reconnect with our mental on-off switch.

The way to do this is to disconnect from our devices in favor of time to relax and unwind. In the same way a child needs ‘quiet time’ before bed, so do adults and it’s important we realize that unless we look after ourselves properly or else we are ill-equipped to look after anyone else.

But it is not only before bed that we need to put the stop button in. There are also other times and places where being constantly “on” is not a good idea. Someone please tell me why someone goes for a walk in the park or the woods but is jabbering on his cell phone, checking his emails on a device, or is listening to his MP3 player on the smartphone. Time to switch off and plug into Nature.

Also is it really necessary to keep answering emails on the commute to the office. It would be much better instead to use this time, on public transport especially, as I would not suggest it driving a car, to read a book (not on a device but in paper) and to relax before work while doing this. It is much better for you and your mind and also those around you.

While there are, unfortunately, some of us who are on call 24/7 and thus have to have their cell phone on all the time to fiddle with it and checking your Facebook or emails every few minutes is not necessary, I am sure.

In addition, when talking with someone the earplugs come out and the cell phone goes into the pocket. It is bad form to do otherwise. Let's bring some sense back into our lives and step back from the digital obsession. It will do us all good.

© 2014

Be creative and reduce waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Make things for yourself and for others and reduce the need to go an buy everything that you want (and need).

Upcycling_examples1There are many things that are considered waste and waste products by the majority and the powers-that-be that, in fact, can become the resources for making things we want and need ourselves, or as gifts for family and friends. And, with the right mindset, ideas and a little skill those can also and even become salable products.

Even, unfortunately, people who consider themselves “green” and “ecologically minded” do not seem to have the mindset that our ancestors have and cannot see items of waste as a resource, aside from being recyclables to be used by the recycling industry.

They will go out and buy a recycled steel pencil bin while, at the same time, throwing away a clean tin can into the recycling which can – for nothing – serve the same purpose and can make for a great conversation piece when placed on the desk.

Or they will go and throw some large glass jars into the recycling bin and then go out and spend lots of money of recycled glass storage jars where the produce jars would have been able to to the same job for zero costs and removing some glass jars from the waste stream.

Those are but two examples and I have seen this happening myself and the people were so programed to recycling that they could not see that they could have been using those “recyclables” instead of buying new products, even though made from recycled materials.

When I was a child drinking glasses in daily use where not proper, if you like, glasses but glass jars of different sizes and I strongly believe that the reason for the predominately working class term of “having a jar” of something means just that, namely that a jar was used as a drinking vessel. And why not?

I have not bought a notebook for ages. I make my own from single-sided printed press releases and other printed matter. The same goes for the index cards that I use which I make from card material from packaging and I also make my own business card from such materials.

When we look back at the way our ancestors made use of waste for their everyday needs (and wants), from backs of envelopes, over cigar boxes, glass jars and so much more we can, and in deed must, take a leaf out of their books to make our money go further and, at the same time, reduce the amount that we put into the waste stream.

Starve your recycling bins and not just the trash can, I say, and make use of as much of the waste materials that you can. There is so much that you can make from waste for your own use, as gifts and, even, for sale. Just use your mind and some of the ideas that can be found in books and all over the Internet. Especially, however, take a look at what our ancestors did and how the reused and recycled well before it was a fashionable thing. And I mean they did reuse, repurpose and upcycle out of necessity often and for us it may just be a way to save money and to reduce our impact on the Planet.

© 2014

Sugru: Fixing the future

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Well, that may be a little overstated but it can fix a great deal...

sugru-applications1_smlNot so long ago I wrote about how I used Gorilla Glue and sugru® to fix the handle of an old garden trowel that was destined, prior to that, not by me but by previous owner, to be thrown away.

I had always wanted – after rescuing it – to somehow resurrect this lovely old trowel but there just was no material around bar, eventually, making a new handle and with the kind of trowel that it is, where the tool sits in the handle and not the handle in the tool, so to speak, this is always a difficult task.

So the poor trowel sat around moping until sugru arrived and I attempted a repair only with sugru. However, as there was a large deep crack in the top of the handle that went for quite a way it did not directly work and also not because the handle had a deep patina from use and the fact that with some wood it is best to roughen it up a little with sandpaper.

That still left the crack and sugru, together with Gorilla Glue, sorted that and the trowel has become now useful and usable again.

sugru® is a new self-setting rubber that bonds to most other materials. You form it by hand into any shape, apply it and make it into what you want it to be, and overnight it turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber.

Only a generation or two ago, it was natural and obvious to repair something when it broke and to adapt something if it wasn’t quite right. It just made sense! The illusion of a never-ending supply of new things in recent decades has caused us to forget how to mend things.

sugru® was invented to get the world fixing and making again. From patching up hiking boots, to protecting iPhones with rubber bumpers, to customising the grips on sports equipment, it provides a versatile and easy-to-use solution for even those who’ve never fixed things before. Its flexibility and adhesiveness to all kinds of materials - from leather to wood to plastics - means that it can be used to make all kinds of products better.

The idea is catching on and sugru is now used by nearly 500,000 people from 151 countries around the world, whilst call sugru ‘21st Century Duct Tape’, and TIME magazine listed it as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010.

An 8 x 5g multi-colour pack of sugru retails at £11/$18/€15 at

sugru® was invented by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh who is also the CEO of sugru, the exciting new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying, and improving your stuff. Originally from Ireland, Jane studied at the Royal College of Art in London, where she had an idea that led to the first version of sugru in 2003. While there, she imagined a world where this magic material existed and set out to make it a reality.

Six years and 8,000 lab hours later, the formula for sugru was complete. Made in London, sugru launched in December 2009 and its community of users has continued to grow, reaching over 500,000 customers worldwide.

Jane is passionate about promoting a culture of creativity and resourcefulness, and sees it as an antidote to the throwaway mindset. Her mission is hitting a chord with the growing number of people looking to live more sustainably whilst doing what they love.

© 2014

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

Old Tools: Recondition and use

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

OldToolsWe often forget today, in this modern age, that the old tools, seen as obsolete by many today may, one day, have to come back into use and the more of them that we can rescue and then refurbish and recondition the better for those of us who still can use them. And this day may not be all that far off either.

Only early in 2013 the government of the Russian Federation announced that the FSB, the successor of the Soviet Union's KGB, in light of the Wikileaks affair, is going back to typewriters and paper for sensitive information and messages and this brings typewriters back into the limelight really. How many of us even remember what those are and were?

However, while the FSB is going to use electric typewriters the old manual ones, whether desk or portable (portable is a little far stretched with the weight of some of them), should be reconsidered by those of us looking ourselves for a safer way to communicate and to be able to write letters that are more readable than written in handwriting and newsletters and such should we ever lose the things we have today.

I have recently – more or less because of the hint from the FSB – dug up my old “portable” Remington Rand “Quiet Riter” typewriter that was built in the 1950s and was a common military field typewriter and, as long as I can find still color ribbons for them and a way to re-ink them, should the need arise, I should be fine in that department. Must remember though to give it a thorough clean and maybe even overhaul.

Old tools still have a role in today's world, and in some trades and jobs more than in others, for sure, and knowing how the work and how to use and maintain them is important and that even more so should we have to reduce our dependence on powered tools because of lack of gasoline and such like, for instance.

In forestry and woodland management, for instance, hand tools, as in horticulture, and even agriculture, and also and especially the old kind of tools, still have their place and often are more efficient than using power tools, and that includes chainsaws. Axes, billhooks, sickles and handsaws, more often than not, are more efficient, especially in small woodland management operations and in coppicing, where smaller trees are being felled and where things such as brambles and other encroaching vegetation needs to be tackled and the sickle is the best tool for removing grass and other vegetation around tree saplings. A strimmer (grass trimmer) more often than not, as people do not seem to understand that on approaching a sapling the revs should be reduced to as low as possible so as to avoid damage.

There are also many other old tools that deserve rescuing and refurbishing for use when it becomes necessary. In fact, it is a shame that so many old, well made, hand tools have and are still being consigned to the rubbish tips all over the place when they should be rescued and refurbished rather.

We are talking here also about specialty tools that were developed for a variety of tasks and many of which will be lost for ever if we don't look at the ones that are still about, refurbish them, learn their designs and find ways to reproduce them for as and when they may be required again. The latter, however, will also require the skills (and tools) to do so and while advances in CAD (computer-aided design) and 3D Printing may, at some time in the future, make it possible to just reproduce such tools it may also be possible that in that time in the future when we need to reproduce those tools again such technology is no longer possibility for one reason or the other. Thus is is better to rescue tools (and skills) now and refurbish and retain old tools of all kinds for such a future use and need.

I, for one, am putting together a kit of manual tools of various kinds, but especially those needed for working the soil and the forest, and others besides, such as old knives and others.

Every now and then another old tools falls into my lap, sometimes free, sometimes acquired on e-bay and sometimes in secondhand, thrift or junk stores or at flea markets and they often are in need of some TLC and many of the ones that come for free definitely do.

Even tools that require some restoration and new handles and such are worth obtaining when they come for free or almost free and are not traded by someone as antiques, and that goes for any and all that may fall within the range of tools that you have an interest in in not just restoring but also, at some later date, using.

In my case, as indicated, those tools are the kind that are used in particular trades and thus they include billhooks, sickles, scythes, hatchets and axes, crosscut saws and also a variety of gardening and farming tools, plus the likes of an old manual typewriter (or two – still looking for the second one), farming, forestry and similar knives and tools used in wood working and such. Though I do look also at getting and refurbishing anything worth doing up.

The great majority of those old tools and “appliances” were made to last and thus are worth the time spent on refurbishing and caring for as they will be able to provide another generation or two of faithful service if handled the way they should, with love and care.

Tools were not made to be thrown away in those days when a handle would break but were, and still are, capable of being fitted with new ones that could be bought but that can also be, with some knowledge and skill, be made by the user. Thus old axe and hatchet heads, for instance, are always worth saving and re-handling. And the same goes for old garden spades and forks, pitch forks, hoes that still have lots of life in them, and others.

In my estimation, many of those old tools will be needed again and we will also have to acquire the skills to make them again as we will need them again and in the same quality as they were made way back when.

We can see from the fact that many in countryside management and grounds maintenance are returning to the old tools and their use that this is going to be the case and carbon reduction and rising fuel costs are but two of the reasons.

Not only, however, are skills of using and of making those tools are being lost, the maintenance skills for those are too. There are very few people today who know how to correctly sharpen a knife, a billhook, hatchet or an axe, saying nothing about sharpening and setting of a crosscut saw. Even so-called professional grinding services often have little or no clue as to how to do the jobs properly.

A high-speed bench-grinder is not the tool for sharpening a knife or other edged tool but all too many people make that fatal – fatal for the tool – mistake including and especially the professionals, though many hobbyists also. The course grit and the speed of the grinder heat up the metal to such an extent that the temper will be removed and the edge becomes soft and loses its edge-holding ability. In other words the blade becomes (almost) useless.

Mistakes of similar nature are also made in the maintenance of other old tools and machinery as people today are no longer familiar with them and their use and especially their maintenance, whether bladed or other hand tools, hand-operated machinery for the garden, the farm, the kitchen or elsewhere, or typewriters or whatever.

Today many people do not even know how a manual typewriter is used, how to change the ribbon, let alone how to maintain it and the same goes for the sharpening of garden, forestry and farming tools and even kitchen knives. And let's not even talk about sharpening and setting a crosscut saw of the forestry kind, and many other things that ones was the repertoire of almost everyone who used such tools.

I must say that there are many times when I think that we have not advanced much at all if at all despite the fact that we now have and use computers and all that jazz. Our tools are made so cheaply and are of such inferior quality often that all one can do is to throw them away when a handle breaks or such. It is for that reason also, and not just for the sake of rescuing them for their own sakes, that I advocate rescuing and refurbishing old tools.

And axe, a hatchet, a hammer, etc. with a wooden handle can, should the handle break or otherwise become unusable, have the handle replaced while with many modern counterparts, including the new-fangled billhooks, this is not possible as the handles are either plastic or, in the case of many hammers today, thin metal tubes with rubber grips that I have found more that once to fail.

The very reason why many of the old hand tools are still about today, sometimes well after more than fifty or even a hundred years, is the fact that they were made to last and to be repaired and given some regular TLC they will last for many more decades to come once you have rescued and, where need be, refurbished them.

© 2014

Survival Kits

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Most are absolutely useless...

pocket-survival-kit_sml_noRegardless as to whether they are the commercially assembled and sold ones or the instructions that are given to assemble your own “survival kit” most of them are totally and utterly useless and a waste of time and money, and in addition to that most of the kits that are cheap contain items that are of inferior quality and thus make the kit more useless still.

The great majority of those kits, whatever name they go by, contain first of all many items you never ever will have to use, and thus are but a burden to carry and secondly for a knife they often have a cheap, single edge razor blade included which is not just useless but dangerous. Most, if not indeed, all of the so-called SAS survival kits the SAS troops would not be seen dead with.

The so-called wire saw also is a waste of time and money, even though they are cheap. As is the fishing kit, the wire snares and such like. For, when you are lost in the wilderness you don't what to stay there, you want to get out.

I have seen so much garbage included in so-called pocket kits that made the mind boggle but people cannot – it would seem – understand and do not want to believe that those kits are all but useless because, they say, this or that survival expert recommends doing it this way. You do not get a decent kit for under $10 or even under $20. A really good small kit even costs you a great deal more and it will be but a few, but quality and really useful items. However, that is not what the vendors want to tell you or sell you. There is not profit in it for them.

On the other hand you should not, in my opinion, unless you really want to, buy a ready-made kit but compile one for yourself that really will fulfill your needs.

pocket-survival-kit2In most cases you will but need a small number of items and how you store them is entirely up to you and I really mean but a small number of items.

  1. A good sturdy single bladed folding pocketknife – ideally with a lock that will not break – and the only one that I really would ever recommend for this purpose is the Opinel #6

  2. Emergency whistle of some kind

  3. A good small fluid filled compass with base plate (about the size of a large postage stamp) from Suunto or Silva

  4. A folding bit can opener – P-38 would be the most common one

  5. About 10 assorted safety pins, with the smaller ones threaded onto the pin of the largest one

  6. A BIC butane cigarette lighter

  7. A pencil (stub if you want to have a really small kit) and a small notepad

  8. A small flashlight, such as a Mini Maglite might also be good to have in your kit.

And that is about it...

Fishing kit, wire snare, wire saw, and other gimmicks are not something that you will need, though a small heliograph (signal mirror with aiming hole) could be useful should you have to attract search aircraft or such like.

Also forget the multi-tools, even good ones like Leatherman and such in any small personal daily carry survival kits as you will tend to leave the entire thing at home because it is getting too big and heavy. And, I am sure, you do not wish to walk around town in a load bearing vest with all the pockets full of kit, especially not when you happen to be going to the office and neither do you want to carry it in your rucksack or briefcase.

© 2014


  • Forget the iPad and games console. Knitting is the latest craze amongst school children.

  • Traditional craft that dates back to the Middle Ages is the latest form of playground ‘ravelry’

  • Knitting clubs common place in schools

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kids_knittingTwo joysticks, a long cord and intense concentration are generally associated with games consoles, but now a much older technology is seeing a resurgence in school playgrounds. Knitting, more commonly associated with the middle-aged and senior citizens, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity amongst school children.

A new poll of parents for Clintons reveals that one in eight of their primary school-aged girls are learning to knit – and one in forty boys are following suit. Many are being taught by their grandmothers as the Clintons research also reveals that the skill has in many cases skipped a generation.

The research also finds that knitting clubs are becoming commonplace in many schools. The Abbey School in St Albans is one such school, offering kids an after-school knitting club that is currently over-subscribed.

teenager_knittingSophie Banks, who took part in the Clintons research said: “My daughter Asha, 10, enjoys attending the club at her primary school. I think knitting, along with other crafts, are great skills for children to master as they help with manual dexterity and numerical skills.”

Knitting is increasingly popular with celebrities: Cara Delevingne posted a photo of herself, wool in hand on Instagram. Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Sarah Jessica-Parker are also amongst the celebrities that have publicly declared their love of the craft.

Clintons are celebrating a resurgence of arts and crafts and have introduced a whole range of products in time for the Easter break. These include: Finger puppet kits, sock puppets, face art and Easter bunny painting.

Tim Fairs, marketing director said: “Today’s children are often thought to be permanently attached to electronic devises but our research and the popularity of our craft range show this to not always be the case. Perhaps what we are seeing is the new arts and craft movement.”

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization. The earliest known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colourful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries.

Clintons was founded in 1968 and is a leading retailer of greeting cards, gifts and wrap. There are currently over 400 stores all over the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as a transactional website.

The company is managed by Schurman Retail Group. Schurman Retail Group operates 400 stores in North America, under its retail brands, PAPYRUS, NIQUEA.D, American Greetings Retail, Carlton Cards Retail and Paper Thread. Schurman Retail Group has deep experience in the development of retail brands, specifically featuring personal expression, lifestyle products.

It is good to see that, at least for the time being, knitting amongst children and young people seems to be making a comeback and it would also be good to see children and young people becoming interested and taking up other traditional crafts including woodworking such as working with greenwood, as all of us did in times gone by, especially those of us with access to saplings and such, making walking-sticks and whittling all manner of other things.

Let's hope this is a true revival of people taking up handicrafts and especially children and young people learning them and spending their time doing them rather than playing X-Box and the like. We can but hope, I say.

© 2014

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

Make your own BPA-free reusable water bottle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SnappleBottleTap_webWhat do you mean? I can hear you think and ask. How can I make my own reusable water bottle? Simple, I tell you, and it will not cost you a cent.

The only true and guaranteed BPA-free reusable water bottle is made but from one substance, namely glass, and you can easily make your own. No, not glass or the bottle by blowing your own glass bottle and all that jazz. That is complicated and requires a great deal of skill. We are talking here reuse of what you would, otherwise, toss into the recycling bin.

Yes, that Snapple® bottle that you are just about to toss, washed out and label removed (if you want – I do) and then filled with tap water makes a real good reusable BPA-free (as it is glass) water bottle.

But, I hear you say, glass is breakable and therefore plastic and stainless steel bottles are much better, and lighter. Yes, it is true that glass is breakable and glass bottles will break if handled incorrectly but most plastics contain plasticizers that are hormone disruptors though some are free from it and stainless steel is the best choice when it comes to wanting an unbreakable bottle. However, if you want a BPA-free one for, well, free then reusing a glass bottle of one sort or another is a much better way to go. It is also better for the Planet as it is reuse.

There are many reusable water bottles on the market now that are but tarted up bottles similar to the ones that you can easily make yourself by reusing the likes of Snapple® bottles or other drink ones or even glass tomato ketchup ones. I have done it and so can you and with a little soft cozy made from some thick cloth they can be protected easily against breakages.

So, go for tap water with your own reused reusable water bottle. Please do not think about reusing plastic bottles (PET bottles) for this purpose as they are leaching BPA and other phthalates, and those all are hormone disrupting chemicals.

So-called BPA-free plastics also are not harmless as scientists have recently found and while some plastics are fine glass, especially if it costs you nothing, is much better for you and the Planet.

© 2014

Keir Hardie and the Labour Party of today

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

James_Keir_Hardie_by_John_Furley_Lewis,_1902Keir Hardie was a socialist of the old school and founder of the Labour Party, however not of the kind that we know today and this can be seen from address of his below.

“I shall not weary you by repeating the tale of how public opinion has changed during those twenty-one years. But, as an example, I may recall the fact that in those days, and for many years thereafter, it was tenaciously upheld by the public authorities, here and elsewhere, that it was an offense against laws of nature and ruinous to the State for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool.

These cruel, heartless dogmas, backed up by quotations from Jeremy Bentham, Malthus, and Herbert Spencer, and by a bogus interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, were accepted as part of the unalterable laws of nature, sacred and inviolable, and were maintained by statesmen, town councilors, ministers of the Gospel, and, strangest of all, by the bulk of Trade Union leaders. That was the political, social and religious element in which our Party saw the light. There was much bitter fighting in those days. Even municipal contests evoked the wildest passions. And if today there is a kindlier social atmosphere it is mainly because of twenty-one years’ work of the ILP.

Scientists are constantly revealing the hidden powers of nature. By the aid of the X-rays we can now see through rocks and stones; the discovery of radium has revealed a great force which is already healing disease and will one day drive machinery; Marconi, with his wireless system of telegraphy and now of telephony, enables us to speak and send messages for thousands of miles through space.

Another discoverer, through means of the same invisible medium, can blow up ships, arsenals, and forts at a distance of eight miles.

But though these powers and forces are only now being revealed, they have existed since before the foundation of the world. The scientists, by sympathetic study and laborious toil, have brought them within our ken. And so, in like manner, our Socialist propaganda is revealing hidden and hitherto undreamed of powers and forces in human nature.

Think of the thousands of men and women who, during the past twenty-one years, have toiled unceasingly for the good of the race. The results are already being seen on every hand, alike in legislation and administration. And who shall estimate or put a limit to the forces and powers which yet lie concealed in human nature?

Frozen and hemmed in by a cold, callous greed, the warming influence of Socialism is beginning to liberate them. We see it in the growing altruism of Trade Unionism. We see it, perhaps, most of all in the awakening of women. Who that has ever known woman as mother or wife has not felt the dormant powers which, under the emotions of life, or at the stern call of duty are even now momentarily revealed? And who is there who can even dimly forecast the powers that lie latent in the patient drudging woman, which a freer life would bring forth? Woman, even more than the working class, is the great unknown quantity of the race.

Already we see how their emergence into politics is affecting the prospects of men. Their agitation has produced a state of affairs in which even Radicals are afraid to give more votes to men, since they cannot do so without also enfranchising women. Henceforward we must march forward as comrades in the great struggle for human freedom.

The Independent Labour Party has pioneered progress in this country, is breaking down sex barriers and class barriers, is giving a lead to the great women’s movement as well as to the great working-class movement. We are here beginning the twenty-second year of our existence. The past twenty-one years have been years of continuous progress, but we are only at the beginning. The emancipation of the worker has still to be achieved and just as the ILP in the past has given a good, straight lead, so shall the ILP in the future, through good report and through ill, pursue the even tenor of its way, until the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land”.

Keir Hardie was first elected to Parliament in 1895 and was integral to the founding of the Labour Representation Committee (later the Labour Party) in 1900, becoming its first leader in 1906. On April 11th 1914 – just a little over one hundred years ago – Hardie attended the twenty-first anniversary of the formation of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford where he gave the address above.

Despite the fact that the present-day Labour Party is about as far removed from socialism and Hardie's ideas and ideals they will always claim that they are his children, basically. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

The Labour Party of today and the majority of its (leading) members would not know socialism if it bit them in the proverbial butt and those of the ordinary membership who claim that their Labour representatives do also must examine as to whether they have the lightest idea of what socialism truly is and is all about.

It is not only about free health care but a great deal more. In fact those socialists that went before understood it even better, such as Owen, and those who stood for the Co-operative Commonwealth.

While there are flaws in many of the programs of those old socialists and those that followed it is possible by combining the good from all programs and by thinking up our own ways to create true socialism where everyone gets a fair chance and where everyone is – yes – equal. Where everyone has a home, has work, or is free to pursue his or her own calling as to making a living, but where everyone works in one way or the other; where work is seen as a duty and as a honor. Where health care is first of all true health care and not a business with sickness and where everyone has a right to treatment as and when needed free. Where man and Nature are at the center and not corporation, economy and profit. Where there are no more masters and slaves. It can be done but not with the system we have at present and that includes that of political parties.

© 2014

Jimmy Carter entrusts secrets to snail mail: NSA might monitor his email

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

letter1Former American president is aware his emails could be monitored by US intelligence agencies excessively “liberalized” under President Obama so he prefers to send letters via ‘snail mail’ to ensure the privacy of correspondence.

In an interview with the NBC TV channel Jimmy Carter said he does not trust electronic communications because they could be monitored.

“When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately,” Carter said, “I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it”. And I think that we all can take a leaf out of President Carter's book here.

It has become obvious that the emails of all of us, not just elder statesmen and such, are being monitored by the NSA, the CIA, GCHQ, and others and that, therefore, out email (and cell phone) communications are far from secure.

Not that long ago, in the light of the Snowden revelations, the Russian intelligence community decided to return to the use of typewriters and paper for their confidential and secret communications and files. Each and every typewriter has a so-called “fingerprint” and thus a document that has gone into the wrong hands can be traced back to an individual machine.

While email is a great tool for speedy communications the fact that more than likely every one's emails are being scrutinized by the intelligence services of the US and the UK (and that of other countries, such as Australia), as they are all in this together, especially the Five Eyes, this medium cannot be considered safe and secure. Even encrypted emails can and will be read and as no warrant is required to do this, unlike the opening and reading of postal mail, the answer to a more secure means of communication is the old one... the letter, in an envelope and entrusted to the postie or to a personal courier. And, the old method of the spies also might be of use, that of the dead letter box.

When thinking secure communications do not think encrypted email and such but think the old methods that we have been using for many centuries, even before we had the Royal Mail and other such postal services.

When former presidents and the security services no longer trust – or never trusted in the first place – computers and email then, maybe, it is time that the mere ordinary mortals took notice. And storing data “in the cloud” really is not sensible at all.

As far as letters, in envelope with stamp, are concerned the cost factor is a consideration, and not just for overseas mail but the security factor outweighs that hundred times.

Email has its place for “ordinary” communications, personal and business, but the letter, by post, courier or other ways delivered, is the only secure way for sensitive communications.

© 2014

deliberateLIFE Magazine Issue #5 – Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

deliberateLIFE 5deliberateLIFE Magazine is now one year old – so let's say Happy Birthday – and issue #5 has just hit the iPad screens and others, so to speak, and this is yet another great issue.

The reader will, once again, find well written articles on living more deliberately, especially in the city, and how to reduce his or her environmental footprint, and much more.

My favorite pieces in this issue are “Tips to conserve water” on page 12; “The L.A. Kitchen” on page 21; the ones in the section entitle “Work” and “Venture into slow living” and “The drive to drive less” on page 39 and 42 respectively.

deliberateLIFE is the brainchild of Fay Johnson Fay Johnson. She is the Founder & Chief Deliberator at deliberateLIFE Magazine.

Fay is a social entrepreneur and has worked with influencers, businesses, governments, and non-profits to leverage their resources effectively to create change. Prior to moving back to California, Fay lived and worked in Washington, DC, where she served as the Co-Director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and as a key staff member on the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. After leaving Capitol Hill, Fay served as a Policy Advisor at Oxfam America, leading the organization's advocacy and campaigning efforts during the 2008 drought in Ethiopia.

Seeing the need for a more multi-disciplinary approach to today's pressing social issues, Fay formed a new type of consultancy, Red Balloon Ideas. Her consultancy combines behavior change communication, strategic planning and cultural anthropology to develop effective change strategies for non-profits, governments, and businesses interested in tackling social issues. Fay holds a B.A. from UCLA in International Development and a Master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.

A global citizen, Fay was born in South Africa and emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area at a young age. The daughter of two social entrepreneurs, she spent much of her childhood traveling, visiting over 26 countries before she graduated from high school. These experiences embedded the deep belief that we are all part of one large global village. Fay has lived and worked in Hungary, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, the United States and South Africa.

Prior to her work on poverty and social justice issues, Fay ran her own business as a professional organizer, helping clients create order in their homes. Her favorite projects involved organizing closets, a skill she hopes to pass along to readers. Her second company was a photo preservation and scrapbooking business which allowed her to hone her design skills. Fay currently lives in Oakland, California.

© 2014


edibleflowers1For Rachael Voaden - founder of The Edible Flower Shop - choosing beautiful flowers that were also edible became a lifestyle necessity. The idyllic thatched cottage in rural mid-Devon that she still resides in today - along with her husband and two young boys – has everything one aspires to owning in the countryside. That is, except a large garden.

For someone like Rachael, clearly passionate about self-sufficiency and cultivation, she was not going to allow limited exterior space to become an obstruction, in fact the very opposite. What started as a personal solution then grew in to an online shop success story. With national and global interest and a flurry of regular customers, The Edible Flower Shop has fast become a sustainable and flourishing internet business.

"I want everyone to know how great edible flowers are, and to look at their gardens differently, particularly if they have restricted space," explains Rachael. "Besides providing the right seeds to plant, I supply growing guides for each flower and recipe suggestions post harvest. Any sized growing space is ideal for my products. They suit window boxes, courtyard gardens, roof terraces, allotments, even large country estates."

Edible flowers can create a stunning and colourful backdrop for any exterior. But whilst looking good, they also taste great. Delicious floral salads, cake decoration, home-made food colouring, quirky ice-cubes, calming tea and scented sugars are just some of the recipes that can be made from the flowers. And it's all become possible thanks to Rachael's creative and resourceful idea.

Currently selling 54 varieties, The Edible Flower Shop aims to bring its products to the everyday person. "There is a misconception that edible flowers only suit Michelin-star type cooking or Foraging Restaurants. What is actually true is that everyone with access to outside areas has the potential to grow and eat them," says Rachael. "I have also given a lot of thought about how I can help the bees, so I decided to highlight all the flowers on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list."

Rachael concludes: "Flowers have been eaten for centuries, but fell out of favour in recent decades, so living in a society where growing space comes at a premium, isn't it time we made the most of what we've got?"

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

Edible Perennial Gardening – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Edible Perennial Gardening
Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces
by Anni Kelsey 
Published by Permanent Publications March 2014
176 pages, paperback, 240 x 170mm
Illustrated with colour photographs throughout
ISBN: 978 1 85623 149 7
Price: £14.95

edible-perennial-gardeningForeword by Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, co-author of Edible Forest Gardens.

Do you dream of a low maintenance perennial garden that is full to the brim of perennial vegetables that you don't have to keep replanting, but only have a small space? Do you want a garden that doesn't take much of your time and that needs little attention to control the pests and diseases that eat your crops? Do you want to grow unusual vegetable varieties? You can have all of this with Edible Perennial Gardening.

Anni Kelsey has meticulously researched the little known subject of edible perennials and selected her favourite, tasty varieties. She explains how to source and propagate different vegetables, which plants work well together in polycultures, and what you can plant in small, shady or semi-shady beds as well as in sunny areas. It includes:

  • Getting started and basic principles

  • Permaculture, forest gardening and natural farming

  • Growing in polycultures

  • How to chose suitable leafy greens, alliums, roots, tubers and herbs

  • Site selection and preparation

  • Building fertility

  • Low maintenance management strategies

If you long for a forest garden but simply don't have the space for tree crops, or want to grow a low maintenance edible polyculture, this book will explain everything you need to know to get started on a new gardening adventure that will provide you with beauty, food for your household and save you money.

Anni Kelsey graduated with a first class degree in geography from Aberystwyth University in 1990. She has worked as a research officer for a council's Economic Development Department and on various Urban Regeneration projects. She is passionate about permaculture, forest gardening and the Transition Movement.

There have been books on this subject, certainly, written by other authors but geared, predominately at US or Australian growing areas and conditions. Thanks to Anni Kelsey we now have a book on this matter written with the British and (Northern) European gardener in mind, finally.

Polyculture, for the uninitiated, is agriculture, or horticulture, in this case food gardening, using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. It is one of the principles of permaculture.

Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture namely that the diversity of crops avoids the susceptibility of monocultures to disease.

A study in China, for example, reported in “Nature” showed that planting several varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely because of a dramatic (94%) decrease in the incidence of disease, which made pesticides redundant.

The greater variety of crops also provides habitat for more species, increasing local biodiversity. This is one example of reconciliation ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes. It is also a function of a biological pest control program.

Written from experience rather that simply from what has been researched by means of what others have written and done this book – by way of a personal story and account – tells of the pitfalls as much as of the successes of edible perennial gardening and polyculture, this is the book for anyone of us interested in trying this kind of food gardening and I, certainly, shall have a closer look at doing it. I am already growing “edible weeds”, such as dandelion, sorrel and others and all I now need are some “nice” perennial vegetables together with annuals, left as perennials, maybe.

A real great book from once again from Permanent Publications and another one that I am happy to endorse.

© 2014

The story of Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library

4577618734_5e093c6cdc_mLong before seed catalogs were available, farmers and gardeners saved seed from one year to the next.

The commercialization of the seed trade in the 19th century unfortunately brought with it corruption amongst unscrupulous seed companies.

To prevent such abuses the European legislation was eventually introduced, making it illegal to commercially market seeds of varieties not included on either the UK National List, or in the European Common Catalog. Listed varieties had to go through rigorous two-year trials in order to establish their distinctiveness, uniformity and stability (DUS testing) and many smaller seed companies found the costs involved prohibitive amongst other pressures. In addition, synonymy tests effectively reduced the number of varieties available to both commercial and amateur growers. Hence, many were lost.

The late Lawrence Hills, founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA, now Garden Organic), realized that the new laws would limit the gardeners' choice. He wanted to do something to

conserve genetic diversity in vegetable varieties associated with the UK and Europe, to counteract this loss.

Initially, he helped to establish the national gene bank at Horticulture Research International, Wellesborne, Warwickshire; now part of Warwick University. Creation of the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) followed; born out of Lawrence's foresight and enthusiasm. It started life as the Genetic Resources Unit, a tiny collection of

varieties grown to raise public awareness and to provide seed for re-sowing. In 1992 Garden Organic formally recognized the importance of the collection and HSL was conceived.

The HSL collection holds 19th and 20th century commercial varieties that have fallen from favor and are no longer maintained by seed companies; historic cultivators that pre-date seed catalogers and cultivars; local varieties which have been grown in a specific location for many years and heirloom varieties that have been

handed down through families for generations and never been available commercially.

There are currently around 800 accessions in the HSL collection, with around 200 awaiting trial and assessment. All are open pollinated varieties, which potentially contain a wealth of genetic material, and because of this are often used in the breeding of modern hybrids. Once this has disappeared we will lose a

valuable genetic resource that may be useful for the future. Unlike F1 hybrids, seeds collected from open pollinated varieties will also produce plants that are 'true to type', providing that they have not cross-pollinated. This means that there is no need to purchase new seeds each year.

More than 100 varieties are grown at Garden Organic headquarters, near Coventry, each year. This annual harvest helps to conserve the collection, but could never meet HSL members' requirements. In excess of 40,000 packets of seeds are filled, sealed and mailed by hand, by just two full time, two part time and one temporary staff member each year, plus a team of fantastic volunteers. We are also sent a number of varieties that are new to HSL. These are trialled to assess their suitability for the collection, and characterized using a system derived from IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute) standards.

These trials occupy a certain amount of our growing area, reducing the space that we can dedicate to bulking up stock for supplying HSL members each year. This is where the volunteer Seed Guardians, HSL members who have decided to go that extra inch, really come into their own. Each Seed Guardian is responsible for growing allocated varieties specifically to return seed to HSL.

Each consignment we receive is cleaned, weighed and assigned a traceable batch number, before being stored. Guardians are expected to ensure that their allocated HSL varieties remain pure, and report on the varieties they grow, providing us with information regarding the performance of the crop during that season. New Guardians select their varieties from our 'orphans list' distributed each March. Our Seed Guardians are the stalwarts of HSL, without their dedication the diverse range of cultivars offered in the catalog would significantly diminish.

Our work is supported and funded by generous donors and HSL members who, for an annual subscription, (currently £20, £ 15 for existing Garden Organic members) receive two editions of the Garden Organic magazine, The Organic Way, and are entitled to select six packets of seed from around 150 listed in the most recent HSL catalog. Our members have access to our Seed Saving Guidelines and other resources via the Garden Organic website, and are free to contact us directly at any time with their questions and queries regarding their HSL varieties.

We believe that keeping vegetable varieties growing and saving seed each year is the best way to ensure that it is preserved.

If you would like more information regarding the work of HSL, or Seed Guardianship, we can be contacted at or by telephone on 024 7630 8232. HSL membership information can be found on the Garden Organic website at, or by contacting our membership department directly on 024 7630 8210.

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