A new, better world is possible ... but we have to create it

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A new, better and fairer society and world is possible but we have to create it and give it life. No one can do it for us, and capitalism and the power-that-be certainly have no interest in doing such a thing. In fact they will do their darnedest to prevent us from doing so.

socialism_explained-newOnly we, ourselves, together, in small steps, can create and make this new, better and fairer world and society by getting, to start with, off the perpetual growth economy bandwagon and the pursuit of more, and ever more; more money, more possessions, the latter which often means more debt, which means more work and less time for ourselves, our families and our friends.

The perpetual growth economy and the race for more, more, and then still more, never being satisfied with what we have, is not sustainable and does not make for happiness either.

People who are lucky enough to have employment work more and more and ever longer hours – or two jobs – to satisfy the constant cravings for ever more and “keeping up with the Joneses”; in fact has become a race to always be one better than the Joneses. This must change for the sake of our sanity and for the sake of the Planet.

Capitalism is geared to the exploitation of man by man and of Nature by man and it cannot be reformed. Therefore it must be consigned to the dustbin of history, and the sooner the better, and a new system applied. The so-called communism that we have seen under Stalin, et al, also was but a different form of capitalism where the state was the owner and slave master. Thus something different still is needed; true communism.

This brings me to the point of the state (we will come back to the replacement for capitalism later).

The very state itself must be abolished and replaced, though not with another kind of state. The people must govern themselves; true democracy, out of the village, the demos.

The state is not of benefit and neither it is needed. If fact, the state is one of the problems, if not indeed the problem, for the new society and world that we must create to be created.

People often like to say that the state is a necessary evil. But that would also mean that evil is necessary and that really is an oxymoron. The fact is that the state is evil and thus must be abolished.

The replacement for this is the village. Yes, we have had that one once before, the village, I mean, and to the village we must return and so must democracy for from the village it came.

We have to imagine it to make it happen.

Imagine that there truly was equality for all? It can be made to happen but it is up to us to make it so.

Imagine that the corrupt minority did not exist and were actually genuinely interested seeing true equality for all! Well, the problem is, presently, that they still do exist but we can make a change and we must imagine a new way.

Imagine a world not based on money and the exchange of money? It is possible and it is being done already. While, presently, it may not be global and maybe global is something we also must get away from and look entirely at the local, the village, level. However, new ways, and some are actually old ways, of exchange are already in existence and local currencies have been in use in many places for years already and they are, by no means, new. Thus, it can be done.

Imagine a life where everyone is taught to work together and in return receive a life where they are always well fed, cared for, free to study and learn and develop right through their life from cradle to grave! This was the way it was intended in true socialism though, alas, that system got corrupted by power crazy individuals. The idea was for work to be a duty as well as an honor and that all work was equal in value. Can it become reality? Yes, it can, if we can but imagine it and create it.

Imagine there was no such thing as the elite? All we have to do is take away their pedestal upon which they have placed themselves. They are no better than us. There are no “betters” despite the fact that still some people – a great many of them – seem to believe that because they have been indoctrinated almost from birth that this is so. That there are some that are better than the majority of the people.

Imagine that not one single soul had to suffer or worry, ever! It is possible.

And while there may be some, quite a few, in fact, no doubt, who will dismiss this as utopian who says that utopia cannot be imagined and created. This utopia is, in fact, called true socialism and it is possible.

© 2014

Poverty Is Not Inevitable: What We Can Do Now to Turn Things Around

Having poor people in the richest country in the world is a choice. We have the money to solve this. But do we have the will?

Pearl Street photo by Eric MagnusonInequality and poverty are suddenly hot topics, not only in the United States but also across the globe. Since the early 1980s, there has been a growing underclass in America. At the same time a much smaller class, now called the superrich, built its wealth to levels of opulence not seen since France’s Louis XVI. Despite this, the resulting inequality went mostly unnoticed. When the Great Recession of 2008 hit, and the division between the very wealthy and the rest of us came starkly into focus, various people and groups, including the Occupy movement, began insisting more publicly that we tax wealth. But still, helping the poor has been mostly a discussion on the fringes. At last, the terms of public debate have changed, because inequality and poverty now are debated regularly in the mainstream media and across the political spectrum, not solely by labor, by the left, and by others imagining a new economy.

Inserting such a controversial topic into mainstream discourse is French economist Thomas Piketty. His 700-page tome, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, shocked everyone this year when it made The New York Timesbestseller list and bookstores found themselves backordering an economicsbook for legions of eager readers. Piketty did exhaustive searches of tax records from Great Britain, France, and the United States, going as far back as the late 18th century in France. Using sophisticated computer modeling and analyses, the professor from the Paris School of Economics debunks a long-held assumption—that income from wages will tend to grow at roughly the same rate as wealth—and instead makes a compelling case that, over time, the apparatus of capitalism grows wealth faster than wages. Result: Inequality between the wealthy and everyone else will widen faster and faster; and, without progressive taxation, his data show we’ll return to levels of inequality not seen since America’s Gilded Age.

Piketty, no Marxist, says a solution lies in a “confiscatory” tax on wealth: Tax salaries over $500,000 at 80 percent worldwide, and tax wealth at 15 percent worldwide. Every year.

Read more: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-end-of-poverty/why-poverty-is-not-inevitable

4 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden in the Front Yard

One of the first landscaping changes we made upon moving into our new house last year was getting rid of several sprawling, weed-ridden mounds of winter jasmine that were choking the life out of all the plants in our front yard. We covered the dirt with mulch and then turned our attention to planning a vegetable and herb garden for the backyard.

As we were getting ready to break ground for the new beds, inspiration struck. Why not put the garden out front, in the area we had just cleared?

My husband, who is not known for his sense of adventure, balked. What would people think? Cornstalks and watermelon vines in the front yard aren’t exactly de rigueur in our new neighborhood. I’m no rebel myself but had come to realize that our new backyard was not ideal for the mini-farm of our dreams. All those gorgeous trees we fell in love with at the open house provide excellent shade and privacy, but would compete with vegetables for water and sunlight. Then there is the matter of the slope, which makes for excellent sledding but not such great plant growing. Our front yard, on the other hand, is flat and wide open. There is no ordinance where we live that prohibits growing food in front yards, so why let all that glorious sunshine go to waste? And well, that front bed is fully irrigated.

Six months later, our front yard garden is a blooming success, and we’re planning another for next year. Here’s why you may want to try one, too.

1. Aesthetics

While traditionalists may give you the stink-eye for deviating from the standard front yard fare of boxwoods and azaleas, there’s no denying that a thoughtfully arranged array of blooming squash plants, tasselling corn and purple basil are a feast for the eyes. And then there are all those gorgeous smells. In our garden, the basil, thyme and cilantro are situated right next to where I park my car. I don’t encourage my children to trample the plants while wrestling backpacks and skateboards out of the back seat, but the tumult often releases a heavenly fragrance.

2. No more “out of sight, out of mind” mentality

With the vegetables physically located in your daily line of sight, garden chores are less likely to accumulate into overwhelming, weekend-killers. On the way to and from the mailbox, it’s a simple matter of yanking a few weeds or straightening out those seedlings that the neighbor’s free-range cat knocked over.

Read more: http://modernfarmer.com/2014/08/4-reasons-plant-vegetable-garden-front-yard/

The 10 Quickest Ways to Boost Your Happiness

Kids_jump_for_joy_happiness-Flickr-Lighttruth-ccArticles with titles like this usually offer up simple platitudes for being happy, such as “accept everyone,” or “live a balanced life.” While those ideas are true, such platitudes are so general that they don’t really give you anything that impacts your daily life. This article offers what scientific research found to be the top 10 things you can quickly do to boost your level of happiness. By doing any one of the 10 items below, you will almost surely feel dramatically better in under three minutes. In addition, by combining items from the list below, you can increase their effectiveness even more…

10. Look at pictures of people and animals you love on your smartphone or computer. As you look at each picture, remember an enjoyable time you had with them, and send them a silent wish that they live a happy and productive life.

9. Exercise-even if only for 3 minutes. Take a quick brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, whatever gets your heart going and your lungs breathing more deeply. In even a minute you’ll start to feel better. Hallelujah for such a simple thing.

8. Give someone money. Research shows that when we give to a needy person money, we immediately feel better about ourselves. It helps another person too, so it’s a win-win.

7. Get cooler. By going from a hot or warm environment to a cooler one, our mood and sense of happiness tends to go up. Hooray for air conditioning!

6. Work towards an important goal. Whether it be cleaning your desk or selling more widgets, when you feel like you’re making progress towards a specific and important goal, you invariably feel better. Just by reading all the way through this article, you’ll have achieved something-so you’ll feel good.

Read more: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/10-quickest-ways-boost-happiness/

What’s More Important… Economic Growth or Sustainability?

“The world has physical limits that we are already encountering, but our economy operates as if no physical limits exist.” -Christopher Martenson

What will the earth look like in 50 to 100 years from now? To some of us that may sound like a long time, but in reality it will be here before we know it and even if we are gone, the children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren of billions of people living now will still be here.

Think of today, think about the lack of opportunities available to people trying to live free, happy and healthy lives and how many are struggling in various ways to achieve this basic standard of living, leaving millions homeless and begging for decent paying jobs or assistance. Think about the challenges the planet earth and all of its inhabitants have faced since the growth of modern human civilization. Entire species have been eliminated or are currently endangered, entire ecosystems are being destroyed, 75% of our rainforests have been cut down, oil prices are rising as fossil fuels become more dangerous and cost more to extract, and fresh wateraquifers lose more and more water everyday.

Now think for a moment what life will be like for future generations as this continues to get worse. Have you ever thought about the change you have seen since your childhood? Think of the places where you grew up that were still vacant and natural areas, now turned into shopping malls, highways and office buildings. I believe most of us can easily say A LOT has CHANGED and is still changing every year. In some ways we can say these changes have been positive, in other ways not so much.

With economic growth comes destruction of one world and the development of another. But is this development sustainable; meaning will it last? Will the future be left with collapsing buildings, crumbled roads and massive landfills? Will the shelves still be stocked in our stores, will businesses even be able to stay in business under a system entirely based on economic growth and profit margins? What’s more important… Economic Growth or Sustainability?

Read more: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/whats-more-important-economic-growth-or-sustainability/

Why Vandana Shiva is so right and yet so wrong

Romantic environmentalists tend to get the big-picture problems right, while fudging the details. Rationalists nail the details, but sometimes become so immersed in the minutiae that they lose sight of the big picture.

Michael Specter’s New Yorker profile of Vandana Shiva, the environmentalist and crusader against globalization and Big Agriculture, is a portrait of someone who understands the big-picture concerns of green-inclined young people with great clarity. Specter quotes a few key lines from a speech she gave in Florence, in which she describes two great trends sweeping the world.

“One: a trend of diversity, democracy, freedom, joy, culture — people celebrating their lives.” She paused to let silence fill the square. “And the other: monocultures, deadness. Everyone depressed. Everyone on Prozac. More and more young people unemployed. We don’t want that world of death.”

This, to me, seems like a perfect framing of the ultimate preoccupations of many greens, myself included. Even larger than the threat of climate change (or the thing that makes climate change a threat) is the threat of deadening uniformity and the loss of diversity, beauty, and enchantment. These are the same problems of modernity that Allen Ginsberg was grappling with in Howl.

The problem is that, when Shiva gets to the details (what’s really driving these trends? What are the best solutions?), she frequently gets her facts very wrong. Then she repeats these myths, over and over again. Here are a few that Specter calls out:

Shiva said last year that Bt-[genetically engineered] cotton-seed costs had risen by eight thousand per cent in India since 2002. In fact, the prices of modified seeds, which are regulated by the government, have fallen steadily.

Shiva has accused the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of “attempting to impose ‘food totalitarianism’ on the world.” That’s certainly not the case in the foundation’s current incarnation — I looked closely at this issue here.

Shiva also says that Monsanto’s patents prevent poor people from saving seeds. That is not the case in India. The Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 guarantees every person the right to “save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share, or sell’’ his seeds.

And then, of course, there’s Shiva’s most widespread claim: That farmers are killing themselves because GMO seeds mire them in debt. If this were the case, we’d expect to see an increase in the number of suicides as GMOs were introduced and became widespread. But the suicide rate among farmers in India remained level (here’s where I looked at this before). Check out this graph from Nature:

Read more: http://grist.org/food/vandana-shiva-so-right-and-yet-so-wrong/

Pets Aplenty – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pets Aplenty
by Malcolm D. Welshman
Published by Austin Macauley Publishers
310 pages Paperback
ISBN: 9781849639965
Price: £7.99

Pets_Aplenty-CoverJoin novice vet, Paul Mitchell, in a further six months of hilarious escapades he experiences while working at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital. He's confronted by a ravenous pig while sunbathing naked in a cornfield. He locks jaws with a caiman with scale rot and battles with Doug, a vicious miniature donkey that's always sinking his teeth into him. It ends with a Christmas pet blessing which erupts into pandemonium as frightened pets and owners scatter through the pews. Throughout his adventures, Paul is loyally supported by the team at the hospital - in particular Beryl, the elderly one-eyed receptionist, and, Lucy the junior nurse - together with whom he shares this merry-go-round of mayhem. It's a gripping, fast page-turner that's guaranteed to keep animal lovers entranced.

The author has an uncanny ability to paint human as well as animal characters in his books and this will enable anyone with a little imagination to actually visualize the people and animals he is writing about.

Pets Aplenty should carry a health warning such as “You could die laughing”. For me it was already in the first chapter and it was the hens that did it. Being a keeper of hens – well keeper is really not the right word with hens – I know just what they can be like.

However, this is but one chapter. The reader will be laughing all the way through and let me issue another serious warning; do not read this book on public transport of any kind unless you don't mind laughing out real loud and long on a bus or train and have people question your sanity.

I laughed a great deal with the first book that I reviewed by this author, namely “Pets in a Pickle” but this one has topped it. The problem is that I love puns and there are puns aplenty, as much, if not more, than pets aplenty in this book that will make you fall about laughing.

Any animal lover will adore this book, of that I am certain.

Malcolm Welshman is a retired vet who was a consultant dealing with exotics. He has written for The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and magazines such as The Lady. He was the My Weekly vet for fifteen years. He is a BBC Radio panelist and a guest speaker worldwide on cruise ships.

© 2014

1/2 Of Our Food Is Going To Feed Our Food. Wait. What?

FoodAnimalsYea, And That´s Not All: Food Conundrums of the 21st Century

One half of all the non-animal foods produced in the United States today is used to feed the animals we eat. In other words, the animals we feed upon eat half of the crops we produce in this country. As if that´s not surprising enough, people do not consume the entire other half of the food crops we produce. That is because -- as a result of the petroleum shortage -- a large portion goes to bio-fuels.

How large a portion? Well, consider this: in 2000, 90% of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock. 45% is used to feed livestock, 40% is used to produce ethanol and only 15% is produced for human consumption (1).

But it gets better!

Crop and Food Production: Two Different Animals... Er, Plants

In its simplest form, crop production requires little more than photosynthesis and human cultivation. Organic foods can almost net a 100% energy return. Processed foods, on the other hand, require a great deal of energy to manufacture.

In fact, the production of one calorie of processed food requires five calories of energy. This is so because of the energy required to fuel agricultural and processing plant machinery. In other words, food that grows naturally from the sun´s energy and nutrients in the ground gross only a 1:5 return when processed.

But wait, there is more.

Wait a Second; Organic Foods Can Feed the World?

While it is true that in industrial areas, organic foods only produce 92% of the yield produced by industrial foods. However, in developing countries, organic foods produce 182% of the yield produced by industrial foods -- those produced using chemical fertilizers, hydroponics and artificial light. Simply stated, organic foods yield far more than industrial foods.

And it gets better.

Read more: http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/13390-1-2-of-our-food-is-going-to-feed-our-food-wait-what.html

Just How "Legal" Are Seed Libraries?

After the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture cracked down on a community seed library, hundreds of seed libraries in the U.S. are suddenly wondering if they are breaking the law. According to PA regulators, in order to give out member-donated seeds, the Simpson Seed Library in Cumberland County would have to put around 400 seeds of each variety through prohibitively impractical seed testing procedures in order to determine quality, rate of germinability, and so on. The result of the PA crackdown is that the library can no longer give out seeds other than those which are commercially packaged.

Quite ironically, this is in the name of “protecting and maintaining the food sources of America.” In this news article that went viral, regulators cited, among other things, that “agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario.” In reality, seed libraries have emerged in an effort to protect our food sources and to ensure access to locally adapted and heirloom varieties. The public’s access to seeds has been narrowing ever since 1980, when the Supreme Court ruled that a life-form could be patented. Since then, large seed companies have shifted away from open-pollinated seeds to patented hybridized and genetically-engineered varieties. The companies generally prohibit farmers from saving and replanting the seeds, requiring that farmers buy new seed each year. In response to this trend, seed libraries give members free seeds and request that members later harvest seed and give back to the library in the future, thereby growing the pool of seeds available to everyone.

Seed Law Basics

It’s important to set the record straight about the legalities of seed libraries. Let’s begin with the basics: In every state, there are laws requiring seed companies to be licensed, test seeds, and properly label them. At the federal level, there is a comparable law governing seed companies that sell seeds in interstate commerce. All of these laws exist for good reason: If a tomato grower buys 10,000 tomato seeds, the grower’s livelihood is on the line if the seeds turn out to be of poor quality or the wrong variety. Seed laws, like other truth-in-labeling laws, keep seed companies accountable, prevent unfair competition in the seed industry, and protect farmers whose livelihoods depend on access to quality seeds. The testing and labeling of the seeds also helps to prevent noxious weeds and invasive species from getting into the mix.

In some states, the licensing, labeling, and testing laws only apply if you sell seed. In other states, such as California, the laws apply if you even offer seeds forbarter, exchange, or trade. How do you define words like sell, barter, exchange, and trade? And how do they apply to seed libraries? Read on if you are ready to venture into interesting legal grey areas.

In at least one state (yup, Pennsylvania), even supplying seeds make you subject to at least some regulation. But the Pennsylvania seed law is about to be put to the test, and we think that regulators should have read their law more carefully.

Read more: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-08-12/just-how-legal-are-seed-libraries

Move over, landfills — food scraps give Massachusetts biogas

The state of Massachusetts is cracking down on food waste in a big way. Come Oct 1, any institution producing more than a ton of leftovers a week — think grocery stores, hotels, universities, nursing homes, and the like — won’t be able to send their discarded food to the landfill anymore. Their only options: donate any usable food, ship the remaining scraps to a composting facility or as farm animal feed, or turn the food waste into clean energy at an anaerobic digestion facility, where microbes in enclosed chambers break it down. The resulting biogas can then be used to create heat and electricity, or converted to compressed natural gas to fuel buses and trucks.

Some 1,700 business are set to be affected by the ban — part of the state’s ultimate plan to reduce its waste stream 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. NPR reports:

Read more: http://grist.org/news/move-over-landfills-food-scraps-give-massachusetts-biogas/

99-year-old Woman Sews a Dress for an African Child Every Single Day

Lillian-Weber-senior-seamstress-sewing-WQADvidIn a senior living community in Davenport, Iowa, a group of residents meet weekly to sew dresses for a charitable organization. But for Lillian Weber the hobby has turned into a mission: In her Bettendorf farm house she makes a dress for a small girl in Africa every single day.

By next May 6, when she celebrates her 100th birthday, her tally will reach 1,000 handmade dresses donated. In the past two years she’s finished more than 840 of them.

She may use just a single pattern but adorns each one with special decoration, ribbon or ruffle that make the dress one-of-a-kind.

“When I get to that thousand, if I’m able to, I won’t quit,” she told WQAD-TV. “I’ll go at it again.”

She simply loves what she does. She also said she needs to stay busy.

Read more: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/99-year-old-lady-sews-dress-african-child-every-single-day/

David Jenkins celebrates 43 years at IOG SALTEX as the show leaves Windsor

DAVID JENKINS, managing director of DJ Turfcare, will celebrate 43 years of attending IOG SALTEX with the last show at Windsor Racecourse before it moves to the NEC.

DJ Turfcare press conference at Saltex 2012 DSC_0013His first SALTEX was at Motspur Park in 1971 and he has attended almost every show since, many of them with Charterhouse Turf Machinery Ltd - the company which he founded in 1981.

David began his career in publishing working with The Groundsman, the IOG's flagship magazine, and Parks and Sportsgrounds magazine.

This experience provided a springboard into the machinery side of the industry and he joined Marshalls Concessionaires, importing Jacobsen machinery into the UK.

Then came the founding of Charterhouse Turf Machinery Ltd and the dramatic introduction of the Verti-Drain into the UK - a machine which revolutionised pitch aeration.

Since founding DJ Turfcare Equipment Ltd in 2002 David has introduced Plugger Aerators from the US, Bushranger Edgers from Australia and Viano fertilisers from Belgium.

"It is sad to see SALTEX moving indoors," says David, "but I have seen a lot of changes in this industry and wish the IOG every success.

"SALTEX has always been a place for colleagues to meet and it is very much a social event where old friends catch up.

"I look forward to meeting many of my colleagues at Windsor this year and they will get a warm welcome to the stand."

David will be on stand K55 with wife Liz and office manager Barbara Jarman.

AT SALTEX this year DJ Turfcare will have Viano organic lawn fertilisers, including the award-winning MO BACTER.

Machines on show will include the PLUGGER PL855 Pro HD aerator, the highly-rated BUSHRANGER EDGER, and second-generation ATOM EDGERS, both professional and domestic, with new Mitsubishi engines,

Also on the stand for golf greenkeepers will be the proven ATOM BUNKER EDGER.

DJ TURFCARE: Stand K55. Contact: 01483 200976 www.djturfcare.co.uk

Urban Gardening – Thoughts from a Soil Scientist

Along with the trends of buying local food, buying organic, etc., there seems to be an increase in (or perhaps more accurately, a return to) gardening – especially in urban areas. Urban gardening is a great way to save money on food, a great source for fresh vegetables, and an easy way to introduce kids to where the food on their plate comes from. In fact, working with the soil has been proven to make you happier! However, there are a couple potential obstacles you should consider first before starting your urban garden.

"Graze the Roof" by Sergio Ruiz

First, in urban environments the possibility that soil could have been contaminated with heavy metals, petrochemicals, etc. is pretty high. Lead (which was once a common additive to gasoline and paint) is common in urban soils and can be adsorbed by the roots of the vegetables you grow. Because of this, that lead can eventually end up in the food on your plate. Most lead poisoning comes from ingesting lead (like eating lead paint chips…), so it’s important to know that the soil you’re using for your garden is safe. You should take some soil samples and send them to a lab in your state that can test for heavy metals like lead. Usually the “land grant” university in your state (in the US) will have a soil testing lab where these tests can be performed for a nominal cost. Other forms of contamination are possible as well, such as chemicals from cars, asphalt , laundry-mats, etc. These chemicals are more difficult to test for, so your best bet is to find out the history of your garden plot. These records should be available from your local city government, perhaps even online.

Second, urban soils are often compacted from foot, car, or perhaps machinery traffic. Compacted soils make it difficult for plants to grow, mainly because the plant roots are not strong enough to penetrate the compacted soil, and thus cannot gather enough water or nutrients for the plant to survive, let alone grow and produce vegetables. Compacted soils are especially common in newer housing developments where entire blocks of houses were built around the same time. The construction companies often remove all of the topsoil prior to building the houses. The soils are then driven over by construction machinery and compacted. Then sod is laid directly on top of the subsoil. This makes for soils with very poor growing conditions for both lawns and gardens.

Read more: http://colbydigssoil.com/2014/08/16/urban-gardening-thoughts-from-a-soil-scientist/

'Elixir of Long Life' Recreated From 1800s Bottle Unearthed on Bowery

Archaeologists have dug up a 19th-century recipe for fending off death.

During a recent excavation beneath a hotel site at 50 Bowery, Chrysalis Archaeology discovered a tiny, greenish glass bottle that once contained the "Elixir of Long Life."

The bottle found amid a cache of 150-year-old liquor bottles beneath what was once a German beer garden sparked the archaeologists' curiosity, and they decided to hunt down the original recipe so they could try the elixir themselves.

“We decided to engage in our own brand of experimental archaeology,” said Alyssa Loorya, the president of Chrysalis, a company regularly hired by the city to oversee excavation projects. “We wanted to know what this stuff actually tasted like.”

Loorya enlisted colleagues in Germany to help her track down the recipe in a 19th-century medical guide. After they translated it for her, she discovered it contained ingredients still used by modern-day herbalists: aloe, which is anti-inflammatory, and gentian root, which aids digestion. Mostly, though, the elixir was made of alcohol.

“These types of cure-alls were pretty ubiquitous in the 19th century, and always available at bars,” Loorya said. “Similar bitters and ingredients are still used today, in cocktails, and in health stores, but I guess we don’t know if it was the copious amounts of alcohol or the herbs that perhaps made people feel better.”

Loorya and her team are gathering the ingredients for the elixir and plan to try making it within the next couple of weeks.

They also plan to recreate Dr. Hostetters Stomach Bitters, a once-popular 19th-century medicine, after finding two of those bottles at the 50 Bowery site and seeking out that recipe as well.

The Hostetters recipe is a bit more complex, containing Peruvian bark, also known as cinchona, which is used for its malaria-fighting properties and is still used to make bitters for cocktails, and gum kino, a kind of tree sap that is antibacterial. It also contains more common ingredients, including cinnamon and cardamom seeds, which are known to help prevent gas.

When DNAinfo New York showed the recipes to herbalist Lata Kennedy, who's owned the East Village herb shop Flower Power for 19 years, she said many are still used to naturally treat ailments.

“All those ingredients are about your digestive health, and that’s really a key to good health in general,” Kennedy said of both the Elixir of Life and Hostetters recipes. “Those ingredients make a liver tonic, one that soothes your stomach, and also helps you poop — get out the toxins.”

Using alcohol to extract the beneficial properties of herbs and roots is still a common practice used by herbalists today, Kennedy said. She sells many of the ingredients used in the recipes, both in raw form and alcohol-based tinctures, and she believes they improve people's health — and could even prolong their life.

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140616/lower-east-side/archaeologists-recreate-elixir-of-long-life-after-unearthing-1800s-bottle/

Pope’s Top 10 Happiness Tips: Focus on Leisure, Family and Being Positive

In the July 27 issue of “Viva”, an Argentinian weekly publication, Pope Francis revealed his Top 10 guidelines for achieving happiness. He advocated for playing more, especially with others and children, and toning down the negativity. He placed importance on caring for our environment and working for peace. Most surprising was #9, an admonishment against religious proselytizing.

His advice to Argentinians for finding happiness was translated into English by the Catholic News Service.

1. Live and let live. As they say in Rome, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. Be giving of yourself to others. If you withdraw into yourself the ego may isolate you. “Stagnant water becomes putrid,” he said.

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. Strive for the ability to move with kindness and humility, along with that calmness.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. 40 percent of Americans don’t take vacations because they don’t want to get behind in their work. The same fear goads us into checking our phones constantly. Studies show that taking real vacations and leisurely weekends prepare you better for problem-solving and creativity. It leads to happiness too. The pope said parents must set aside time to play with their children, even if schedules are full, and turn off the TV during dinner so you can talk to one another.

5. Sundays should be holidays. “Sunday is for family,” said the Pontiff, who wants a day-off for all workers.

6. Young people should be able to work. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs,” he said. “It’s not enough to give them food.” Dignity becomes a bonus whenever they get rewarded for their own labor.

Read more: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/popes-top-10-happiness-tips-focus-leisure-family-peace/

From Garbage To Garden: Regrow These 5 Food Scraps You’d Just Throw Away

grow food

I’ve been a gardener almost my entire life, and I love the idea of regrowing your food scraps. It’s free, frugal, environmentally wise and a lot of fun! Instead of sending your scraps to the trash can, try planting them and reaping the rewards! Plus, did you know that we throw away over 133 billion pounds of food every year, and still people go hungry? That’s insane!

Here are 5 foods that are easy to grow. As always, source from organic, non-GMO plants if you can.

1. Green onions are one of the easiest vegetables to regrow. Instead of throwing out their root ends, plant them in some soil and give plenty of water and sunshine. In no time at all, you’ll have your own delicious homegrown green onions. Sounds delicious!

2. Celery is another incredibly easy vegetable to grow from its base. Simply stick the base you’d usually discard in some soil, give plenty of water and sun, and in a few weeks, you’ll be harvesting fresh celery. If you have the space for enough celery plants, you’ll never have to buy the vegetable again! Better for you and more delicious to boot. Awesome!

3. Carrot tops are another easy one to regrow. By simply placing the tops in soil and covering lightly, you’ll get your carrots regrowing over and over and over again. In a matter of days you’ll start seeing the carrot greens poking up through the soil, growing a new plant. And be sure to buy whole carrots. Baby carrots are like the fast food burgers of the vegetable world. Beets and turnips can be grown in the same way.

Read more: http://higherperspective.com/2014/05/regrow-food-scraps.html

These folks feed their family with a garden in their swimming pool — and you can, too

When Dennis and Danielle McClung bought a foreclosed home in Mesa, Ariz., in 2009, their new yard featured a broken, empty swimming pool. Instead of spending a small fortune to repair and fill it, Dennis had a far more prescient idea: He built a plastic cap over it and started growing things inside.

Thus, with help from family and friends and a ton of internet research, Garden Pool was born. What was once a yawning cement hole was transformed into an incredibly prolific closed-loop ecosystem, growing everything from broccoli and sweet potatoes to sorghum and wheat, with chickens, tilapia, algae, and duckweed all interacting symbiotically to provide enough food to feed a family of five.

Within a year, Garden Pool had slashed up to three-quarters of the McClungs’ monthly grocery bill (they still buy things like cooking oil and coffee and, well, one can’t eat tilapia every day). Within five years, it’d spawned an active community of Garden Pool advocates – and Garden Pools – across the country and the world.

What began as a family experiment and blog is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a small staff. Garden Pool has been voted the Best Backyard Farm in Phoenix, gotten press fromNational Geographic TV and Wired and Make, and formed a Phoenix-area Meetup group that has nearly a thousand members. It’s attracted hundreds of local volunteers, students, and gardeners who’ve helped build a dozen more Garden Pool systems in and around Phoenix.

Read more: http://grist.org/food/these-folks-feed-their-family-with-a-garden-in-their-swimming-pool-and-you-can-too/

Sugru lets you fix, improve and avoid clutter

A few weeks ago I wrote to Erin and said, “I’d like to review Sugru for Unclutterer.” She was intrigued, so I ordered a set, and after weeks of using the product I wanted to share the results of my test-drive with you.

Sugru is a “self-setting rubber” invented by Ireland’s Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh. It feels like Play-Doh when initially removed from its package and then hardens, yet remains flexible, after being exposed to air for about a day. People are doing all sorts of creative and useful things with it, and that’s why I wanted to review it.

For me, part of being an unclutterer means a commitment to frugality, and I use the New England definition of frugal: nothing is wasted. Since Sugru lets you repair or improve on a huge number of devices in and around your home, it prevents those things from becoming clutter.


The Sugru packaging includes a list you can populate with future projects, instructions, many photos, use ideas, and a super handy color chart. I received four colors (other combinations are available), and the chart explains how to combine them to produce a variety of hues, so that you can match whatever you’re trying to fix or improve. The Sugru itself comes in sliver, 0.17-ounce packages that resemble the condiment packs you might find at a fast food restaurant.

Read more: http://unclutterer.com/2014/08/26/sugru-lets-you-fix-improve-and-avoid-clutter/


SALTEX 2014 artcile picThe inaugural IOG Young Groundsmen’s Conference being held at this year’s SALTEX (Sports, Amenities, Landscaping Trade Exhibition) is being sponsored by Rigby Taylor in association with its seed breeding partner, Top Green.

The two companies are at the forefront of supplying innovative products for the successful management and maintenance of turf surfaces, and are committed to promoting excellence across all aspect of sports grounds management.

The ‘Our Career, Your Future’ Conference – on Tuesday September 2 at Windsor Racecourse – is a major educational initiative designed to enlighten young people about the benefits of a career in groundscare. The event will also bring head groundsmen up to date with advice on how to attract youngsters into the industry by offering expert advice on apprenticeships.

Young people will gain invaluable career-shaping advice from head groundsmen at high profile, international sports venues. They will also learn about the benefits of working in the industry from young groundsmen who are currently progressing their careers across a wide range of sports facilities.

Commenting on the sponsorship announcement, Rigby Taylor’s marketing director Richard Fry, stated: “It’s not often that an opportunity arises to promote education and development to the next generation of groundsmen, and we are very excited about becoming involved with the IOG Young Groundsmen’s Conference.

“Rigby Taylor has a long history of supporting industry association initiatives, particularly in the area of education and development. We are a long-term sponsor of the IOG Young Groundsman of the Year Award and were a founder Golden Key member of the BIGGA Education and Development Fund.

“Most recently, the company has also sponsored a full set of ‘technology tools’ for each of the 10 newly appointed IOG regional pitch advisors to advance the development of grassroots playing surface groundsmanship.”

Geoff Webb, IOG chief executive, added: “Developing opportunities for young people in grounds management is a key aim of the IOG and I am very pleased that such significant industry names have stepped up to sponsor this inaugural event. Rigby Taylor and Top Green must be applauded for their proactive support.”

Chaired by 28-year-old John Ledwidge, head groundsman at Leicester City FC, the Conference will include a question and answer session with Keith Kent from Twickenham Stadium and England & Wales Cricket Board pitches consultant Chris Wood, as well as Neil Stubley from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

IOG representatives will take questions and discuss the numerous training pathways available before 27-year-old Ryan Golding from Leeds Rugby, takes to the stage to provide first-hand advice on how he has travelled the industry career path to become head groundsman at one of the country’s leading rugby stadia.

In addition, there will also be a question and answer session with the IOG Young Board of Directors (who programmed the event), a group of young groundsmen who are continually ‘spreading the industry word’ in schools and colleges, as well as to young people at public events up and down the country.

Visit www.iogsaltex.com for full details.

SALTEX (www.iogsaltex.com), the Sports Amenities Landscaping Trade Exhibition organised by the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) and managed by Brintex Events, will be held on 2-4 September 2014 at Windsor Racecourse, Berks. Founded in 1938, the exhibition is attended by open space professionals and volunteers who design, construct, manage and maintain the UK's outdoor facilities - from sports grounds of every type to motorway service stations, and from stately homes to local council parks and schools.

They visit SALTEX to meet suppliers of the machinery, tools, vehicles, turf, soils, seeds, aggregates, artificial or natural surfaces, playgrounds, landscaping equipment, street furniture, arboriculture, horticulture, safety, security, training and education services designed to help them do their jobs as effectively as possible.

Organised by the Institute of Groundsmanship – and managed by Brintex Events - the first IOG exhibition was staged in 1938, the forerunner to today’s SALTEX Sports, Amenities Landscaping Trade Exhibition. Held annually at Windsor Racecourse, SALTEX is the annual extravaganza for everyone who cares for and/or manages open spaces – including groundsmen, greenkeepers, contractors, local authority and leisure facility managers. The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) is the leading membership organisation representing grounds managers, groundsmen, grounds maintenance managers, greenkeepers and all others involved in the management of sports pitches, landscape and amenity facilities in the UK. As well as maintaining the IOG Performance Quality Standards and providing a consultancy service for sports grounds, lawn maintenance and amenity horticulture, the IOG’s extensive Training and Education programme includes cricket, football, tennis, horseracing, bowls, artificial surfaces, turf science and many other specialist subjects. For more information visit www.iog.org

Good news doesn’t just cheer us up

IMG_4028Studies have shown how we are more likely to remember negative events than good ones, which may be a factor in the media’s focus on bad news. But good news does more than simply cheer us up; new research shows how it also affects behaviour and benefits society

While reciting the epitaph of Julius Caesar in an intense moment of the Shakespearean play, Anthony says: “…the evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones”. This statement could be just a brilliant theatrical example of Roman public speaking, however, what Anthony says seems to be true for a lot of us.

In fact, several studies show that the majority of people are more likely to remember being hurt or unfairly treated by others rather than remember when they have experienced kindness and generosity.

This could be one of the explanations behind a bias in much news reporting. The status quo in journalism is to consider bad news such as terrorism, murder or natural disasters more newsworthy and attractive to readers than positive stories. Although it may be true that negative stories have a greater power in human memories than the good ones, there is no scientific evidence showing that people prefer bad news.

On the contrary, several studies show that good news has a strong positive psychological and social impact on people. According to research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when people are experiencing acts of extraordinary moral goodness they can experience ‘moral elevation’, a psychological condition that contributes to the development of positive thoughts and emotions such as admiration, affection, and love. It can even cause physical reactions that cause a lasting influence on people’s future actions.

Read more: http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/culture/media/16041/good-news-doesnt-cheer-2/

Meet Vladimir Putin, a new convert to the locavore movement

Russian supermarketWho needs Italian wine, English cheddar, and German sausages? Obviously not Russia.

Vladimir Putin is forcing Russians to become locavores, whether they like it or not. Last Thursday, his government issued a list of imported foods that will be banned for one year. This is an act of retaliation against those countries that placed sanctions on Russia following the attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. This includes the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway, Poland, Latvia, and the European Union.

It is an odd decision to make on behalf of a northern country that imports 40 percent of its food and is unable to boast about being “the breadbasket of Europe,” as it once was. That agricultural infrastructure is gone now, and it would take a long time and a rocky transition before local growers could fill that void.

Growth in domestic food production appears to be what the Kremlin ultimately wants and fits in well with its insistence on not needing the West to survive. Indeed, one acerbic Putinist seems to think it’s now or never for local growers. @EduardBagirov tweeted: “Our food producers now have the opportunity of a lifetime. If they screw it up now, they should stop complaining that no one buys their crap.” (Obscenities have been removed.)

Read more: http://www.treehugger.com/culture/putin-declares-hunger-strike-behalf-russians.html

12 Fruits and Vegetables That Last for Months

Sick of throwing money away on food? Change the food you buy.

Do you routinely throw $5 bills away just for kicks? Probably not. And very few of us light candles with dollar bills, no matter how much we may have loved Scrooge McDuck.

But that’s basically what you’re doing whenever you go grocery shopping. According to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of the food that’s grown and sold in the United States is wasted—if we cut food waste by just a third, we could feed every hungry person in the country. That waste comes to the staggering cost of $2,275 per year, for a family of four. The biggest loss category? Fresh produce. Just 48 percent of what’s produced is eaten. The rest heads to landfills (or the compost pile).

Another report from the United Nations pointed the finger, in developed countries at least, squarely at grocery stores and consumers, in part because the former pushes “great bargains” that encourage the latter to buy more than they need.

The solution, though, isn’t cutting back on your fresh produce purchases. It’s getting smarter about how you shop. Rather than load up on bags and bags of spinach that will wilt before you get home, for instance, buy cabbage, which will keep in your fridge for months. Instead of buying grapes and kiwis and other delicate fruits that turn brown in days, buy apples, which will last for weeks.

We’ve compiled a list of the healthiest produce that lasts virtually forever, so you can cut down on waste and yet always have fresh veggies handy for a healthy dinner.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/living/12-fruits-and-vegetables-that-last-for-months

Markets for Homegrown Produce

How to earn a financial harvest from your garden

roadside farmer's standMore customers than you might imagine are eager to buy that wonderful organic produce growing in your back yard. You don’t need to be a full-time farmer to find buyers who will pay enough to make selling worthwhile. Here are some ways for home gardeners to sell their extra harvest.

Farmers’ markets. At the Palafox Market in Pensacola, Florida, vendors range from those who sell every week to others who appear only once a year, and they are all different sizes, from the backyard gardener to commercial farmers.

Farmers’ markets vary in the fees they collect from sellers; fees may be reduced for low-volume sellers. Alternatively, markets may encourage individual gardeners to share space and costs with other sellers.

“Some farmers’ markets have community tables or tents where you don’t have to pay a booth fee to sell,” says Weston Miller, community and urban horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension. “That would be the easiest for a very small-scale gardener.” To find out if a particular market is a cost-effective venue for selling your produce, talk to the market’s manager.

Markets may require vendors to have insurance. Timothy A. Woods, Ph.D., agricultural economics extension professor at the University of Kentucky, says that some markets have an umbrella policy that covers all sellers. Smaller farmers’ markets are less likely to have insurance and fee requirements, Woods says. For those that do, homeowner insurance policies may provide the needed coverage. In some circumstances, a food handler certificate may also be required.

Roadside stands. In some communities, you can start selling as quickly as it takes to move a few baskets of vegetables to the front yard. Other cities have regulations that prohibit selling in residential neighborhoods. Rules may allow selling only on private property or in commercial zones. Churches, businesses, or shopping centers may permit individuals to sell vegetables from a vehicle at the far edge of a parking lot.

With the increasing demand for locally grown food, many communities are reconsidering their zoning laws. “Portland, Oregon, just changed its zoning to make it easier for people to sell produce at roadside stands,” Miller says. Before setting up a roadside stand, ask about pertinent ordinances in your community.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/living/markets-for-homegrown-produce

Häuser können eigene Kraftwerke zur Stromerzeugung sein

Eigene Energie vom Dach des Hauses zur Eigenversorgung

Eigenstrom Industrie ikratos

Industrie erzeugt eigenen Strom

Mit dem Anstieg der Energiepreise erhöhen sich meist auch Ihre Energie-, Strom- und Lebenshaltungskosten. Mit einer Investition in Solar und Photovoltaik haben Sie ein höheres Maß an Kontrolle über Ihre Energiekosten, da Sie Ihre eigene, saubere Energie auf Ihrem Dach erzeugen. Zusätzlich wollen Sie mit Ihrem durch Photovoltaik erzeugten Sonnenstrom speichern. Wichtig dabei: Sie möchten sich von steigenden Strompreisen unabhängig machen. Sie möchten die Stromnetze entlasten und die Energiewende Realität werden lassen. Mit einem Sonnenspeicher macht die PV-Anlage heute richtig Sinn. Sie produzieren nicht nur selber Ihren Strom, sondern können ihn auch selbst nutzen. Sie werden unabhängig von den immer mehr steigenden Stromkosten. Ohne Stromspeicher produzieren Sie schnell mehr eigenen Strom als Sie verbrauchen können. Sie müssen ihn dann verkaufen oder ins öffentliche Netz abgeben. Denn meist sind Sie tagsüber nicht zuhause und verbrauchen da natürlich auch weniger Strom.

Abends, nach der Arbeit, laufen meistens Haushaltsgeräte, Fernseher, Computer, dann müssten Sie zukaufen. Und das wird zunehmend teuer. Mit Stromspeicher können Sie Ihren selbst erzeugten Strom dann nutzen, wenn Sie ihn brauchen und minimieren den zusätzlichen Verbrauch aus dem öffentlichen Netz. Das lohnt sich nicht nur für Ihren Geldbeutel, sondern auch für die Umwelt. Es gibt bereits heute Speichersysteme mit Intelligenz, weil er den Eigenbedarf optimiert und möglichen Fremdbedarf auf das erreichbare Minimum reduziert. Er koppelt Ihr eigenes Selbstversorger-Netz komplett vom öffentlichen Netz ab und bei wirklichen Bedarf macht er die Tür wieder auf. Ein wichtiger Vorteil ist auch die einfache Installation. Er muss nur mit Photovoltaik und Stromnetz verbunden werden. Und schon ist er betriebsbereit. Dabei ist es egal ob Sie ein Einfamilienhaus, Landwirtschaft oder Gewerbebetrieb haben. Eine weitere Kombination ist auch der Anschluss einer Warmwasser- oder Heizungswärmepumpe, so kann der kostbar erzeugte Strom optimal genutzt und natürlich auch gespeichert werden.

iKratos aus Weissenohe führt derzeit in der Metropolregion Nürnberg Fürth und Erlagen eine Kennenlern Aktion durch. Die 1 KWp PV Anlage knapp unter 2000 Euro kann 900 KWh pro Jahr erzeugen, genug um 1/4 der Rechnung des Stromversorgers zu kürzen. EU-Beschluss: Gebäude müssen ab 2019 ihre Energie selbst produzieren.

Um den Klimawandel nachhaltig zu bekämpfen, will die EU bis 2020 die Treibhausgase um 20 Prozent senken, ebenso den Energieverbrauch. In der Verbesserung der Energieeffizienz von Gebäuden sieht das Europäische Parlament enormes Potential und hat deshalb am Donnerstag eine novellierte Richtlinie für Energieeffizienz in Gebäuden verabschiedet. Alle Gebäude die nach 2018 gebaut werden, sollen dabei ihre eigene Energie produzieren. Die EU-Mitgliedsstaaten müssen nach der neuen Verordnung bis zum 31. Dezember 2018 sicherstellen, dass alle neu gebauten Gebäude so viel Energie erzeugen wie sie gleichzeitig verbrauchen, etwa mittels Sonnenkollektoren oder Wärmepumpen. Schon jetzt sollten die Mitgliedsstaaten nationale Pläne entwickeln, um die Zahl der “Netto-Nullenergiegebäude” zu erhöhen. Zudem sollen die Regierungen festlegen, wie hoch der Anteil der Null-Energiehäuser bei bestehenden Gebäuden für die Jahre 2015 bis 2020 sein soll. Hierbei sollen vor allem öffentliche Einrichtungen eine Vorreiterrolle einnehmen.

Bei Gebäuden, die einer größeren Renovierung unterzogen werden – wenn die Renovierungskosten 20 Prozent des Gebäudewertes übersteigen -, müssen die neuen Gebäudeteile wie Fenster oder Energieversorgungssysteme mindestens den bestehenden Anforderungen der Energieeffizienzbestimmungen entsprechen. Dafür sollten auch entsprechende Fördermaßnahmen zur Verfügung stehen, beispielsweise für den Einbau Erneuerbarer-Energie-Systeme. So soll bis spätestens 2014 ein Energieeffizienz-Fonds eingerichtet werden, der private und öffentliche Investitionen zur Erhöhung der Energieeffizienz von Gebäuden unterstützt.

Zudem sollen die Beihilfen zur Förderung der Energieeffizienz aus dem Fond für regionale Entwicklung “signifikant” angehoben werden. Das EP fordert die Europäische Kommission zudem auf, eine gemeinsame Methode zur Berechnung der Gesamtenergieeffizienz von Gebäuden bis zum 31. März 2010 zu erstellen. Um einen besseren Überblick zu gewährleisten, soll eine gemeinsame europäische Website mit allen geltenden Rechtsvorschriften eingerichtet werden.

Dispatch From A Post-Carbon World: Planting The Seeds For A More Resilient Future

Whenever I buy grapes imported from Chile, fill my gas tank with fuel sourced in the Persian Gulf, or select underwear made in Thailand at a department store headquartered in Minneapolis, I can’t help but wonder how much longer we can all go on like this. That our survival hinges on the economic vitality of countless far-flung suppliers of food, energy, clothing and other essentials gives me pause. So does our reliance on cheap oil, natural gas and coal to deliver that stuff to our doorsteps and keep us warm, cool or plugged-in once it gets there. Not to mention the equilibrium of our planet’s climate, now threatened by the relentless combustion of all those fossil fuels. One of my greatest fears is that, someday, our remote-controlled, global commodity delivery system will collapse, and we’ll all have to scramble to meet our basic needs.

One of my greatest fears is that, someday, our remote-controlled, global commodity delivery system will collapse, and we’ll all have to scramble to meet our basic needs.

It turns out that I’m not alone. United by concerns about Peak Oil, a warming planet and global economic instability, some 27 groups throughout New England — part of 151 groups in the U. S. and 477 worldwide that have formed since 2006 — are taking collective action to transform their communities into walkable, locally-resilient “Transition Towns.” Such efforts empower residents to produce and consume more of life’s essentials where they live, all while minimizing their reliance on fossil fuels. By shifting their hometowns from a global to a local economy through urban farming, community-owned solar power stations, local currencies and other grassroots enterprises, these groups are advancing an alternative, post-carbon world that’s more ecologically sustainable, economically robust and socially cohesive than the one we currently inhabit.

Read more: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2014/07/31/sustainability-local-economy-mark-dwortzan

Motown to Growtown

Reforestation and urban farms could help secure Detroit's future.

Planting tree seedlings in DetroitFour years ago, Detroit businessman John Hantz received national attention when he announced his plans to create the world's largest urban farm in Detroit. His plan to buy vacant city land and convert it to orchards and tree farms was hailed as visionary by some and nefarious by others. After 4 years of negotiating with the city and meeting with neighbors, Hantz Farms was finally able purchase 1,400 vacant city-owned lots on Detroit's lower east side for half a million dollars.

"The purpose of the investment is to make neighborhoods more livable," says Hantz Farms president Mike Score. "Our intention is to take larger blocks of contiguous land and make our woodlands a permanent feature in the city."

In a bankrupt city that has lost a quarter of its population in 10 years, vacant land has become a pressing concern. The city of Detroit is drowning in the financial burden of owning nearly 200,000 vacant parcels—almost half of them residential plots.

The Hantz proposal, initially a plan to create commercial fruit orchards and cut-your-own Christmas tree farms, had been scaled back to a simpler tree-planting project by the time the city approved the land sale in December 2012. Hantz Woodlands—a subsidiary of Hantz Farms—agreed to buy 1,400 vacant parcels from the city, clean up the debris, tear down decaying buildings, plant 15,000 trees, mow the grass regularly, and pay taxes on the land. The parcels are interspersed among homes that people are caring for and living in.

A small, but loud, group of community activists allege that the transaction is a "land grab" and demand that Detroit's surplus land go into a community trust. They accuse Hantz of greed disguised as philanthropy. What if Hantz sells some of those parcels for housing, they ask, and he makes a profit off the cheap land?

Score has posed that question to the people currently living in the area. "If you go up and down the street and ask people, 'What do you really want to happen in this neighborhood?' they say they want a house on every lot," he says. At this time, there isn't a great demand for land in Detroit, but if in the future people decide this is a nice place to live and Hantz Woodlands can build houses on some of its land, Score says the neighbors would be pleased.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/living/motown-to-growtown

Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it's really bad news

honey bee face photoSo what is with all the dying bees? Scientists have been trying to discover this for years. Meanwhile, bees keep dropping like... well, you know.

Is it mites? Pesticides? Cell phone towers? What is really at the root? Turns out the real issue really scary, because it is more complex and pervasive than thought.

Quartz reports:

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

The researchers behind that study in PLOS ONE -- Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose, Dennis vanEngelsdorp -- collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.

Read more: http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/scientists-discover-another-cause-bee-deaths-and-its-really-bad-news.html

Cycle tours have to be registered with the authorities

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Symbolbild-FahrradfahrenWhen you thought you have seen it all along comes some information that will make you go “duh!” and “double face palm” and this is one of those stories.

Bicycle tours in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein will from now on have to be registered with and licensed by the authorities if they happen to travel on routes that do not have a cycle path and that includes even families, regardless of number of participants.

Oh and this registration is by no means free. Each and every “license” will cost 50 Euro (about £30) and that means that if a family wants to go by bicycle to the shops in rural and semi-rural areas or take the children to school then each and every time they have to fork out this sum and registration, obviously, has to happen during working hours and several days ahead.

Should anyone attempt to undertake a cycle tour, even a family of three or four (or even two), without a permit then they will face a penalty charge of several hundred Euro. It will also be considered an offense to deviate from the route given in the application.

Germany, once upon a time, could always, together with Denmark and The Netherlands, as cycle friendly and as an example for good practice. This has come to an end now, for sure.

© 2014

People going retro

Old-style cell phones vs smart phones

Typewriters (manual) and pen & paper, including fountain pens and real letters, paper notebooks and paper diaries

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

peoplegoingretroAll across the globe – almost – people are, apparently, going into reverse as far as the use of technology is concerned on many levels, especially in the so-called developed world.

Manual typewriters are rather “in” (again), especially with the hipsters and though not a hipster as such – more a Hippie – I am rather glad that I have held on tight to, and will be now tighter than ever, my old military Remington “Quiet-Riter”.

Old cell phone of the kind before “smart phones” are in high demand too and some of those go for as much as $1000 on the markets in Europe. Makes you wonder what will be next?

And I am glad, therefore, that I have still got one of those older NOKIA cell phones that still works, and for which I have even got a spare battery or two, even though it is already many years old. I am rather sad though that I tossed out some while back two NOKIA 3310 handsets that were still OK but were not on my current network. Oh well, such is life, I guess.

When it comes to writing instruments and the use of paper good pens, such as Parker, Shaeffer and Waterman, etc., the high end ones, are definitely in demand and in the fountain pen department we see a serious resurgence also and here especially with regards to refillable and vintage ones that are really in demand.

A return to the paper notebook of the Moleskine, Leuchtturn 1917 and others is also very much in evidence, as is the return to the paper desk- and pocket diary in favor over the electronic one.

In the main this shift, so to speak, is due, I believe, to the fact that the “always on always connected” is being recognized finally for what it is; unnecessary and also a distraction, and you are not more productive by being under this constant stress; the opposite rather.

While I have the old typewriter sort of as a “stand by” I am a lost faster in what I do using the PC and with writing for the Web the computer is needed, obviously, but notes and calendar are all done on paper and that with a pen, and a fountain pen even at times. Names and addresses and other details of contacts are held in an address book (paper) and on index cards, written with pen on paper, always available and not dependent on any power or Internet.

Not only in the aspects mentioned above people are seemingly going retro but also on other levels and in regards to other things.

Handmade goods are coming back in favor – and hopefully this is more than just a fad and fashion – be this treen goods, baskets or whatever, and it is also seen in other areas.

I believe that, aside from a few other aspects, such as fitness and cost, the reemergence and resurgence of cycling, including and especially for commuting to work and getting from A to B, at least within a certain range of miles, is also one of those “returns to retro”, and especially here the appearance of the single speed bicycle, in the fixed or freewheel version.

The latter is due to the fact, I am sure, that the bicycle with gears, especially with the dérailleur kind of gear shifts, are rather fragile and very difficult to maintain by the user if no access to special tools and equipment. This is the main reason why I, personally, have converted all my bicycles – yes, plural – to single speed, by simply removing the gear shifting “equipment” and setting the chain. I believe in the KISS system.

And, as far as I am concerned, and I am not alone in this, of that I am sure, the KISS system should apply for anything and everything. Oh, and KISS, for the uninitiated, stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. The simpler and easier the better. But industry seems to insist to make things more and more complicated because, so their excuse, people want such sophistication. Well, it would have nothing to do with the fact that they want to make and sell it, would it now?

© 2014

6 Household Items You Can Upcycle for the Garden

Got a pile of junk destined for the curb? Give it new life as a trellis or planter in the garden.

6 Household Items You Can Upcycle for the Garden - Photo courtesy Nico Cavallotto/Flickr (UrbanFarmOnline.com)Gardeners are a resourceful bunch, and there’s nothing better than creating conversation pieces for the landscape. The garden is the perfect place to repurpose materials from the home that have outlived their traditional function. It’s much more satisfying to use an old household item rather than to buy something new, particularly if it would otherwise be destined for the curb. Here are some ideas for upcycled garden features to help get your creative juices flowing.

1. Baby Crib Trellis

Discarding a well-loved baby crib can be emotional, but using it in the garden to support vining plants gives it new life. A simple and sturdy structure can easily be put together by setting the sides on end in an A-frame configuration. You can also use the end pieces, which are more narrow but typically taller, for a support system for taller plants. Fasten them on the top with twine or zip ties.

Even the springs from older cribs can be utilized when fastened to remain upright. Most cribs are roughly 30 inches wide, giving you a medium height for trellising vegetables like peas or cucumbers. Secure it by pounding two 36-inch pieces of rebar 10 inches deep at each end of the springs, then set the springs upright against them, and attach them to the rebar with wire or twine. If you’re using wire, be sure to bend it down flush so you don’t poke yourself when the vines grow over and cover the sharp ends.

2. Vertical Shower Support

If you’re looking for a functional piece of botanical art, keep your eyes open for a free-standing shower with the ring to hold a curtain attached at the top, such as one used in a claw-foot bathtub. Secure the vertical pipe to a firm post to keep it from moving or tipping over. To create a living shower curtain, grow hops or other vining plants up strings going from the ground to the top ring. And, for the shower, add a hose attachment to the bottom of the pipe in order to easily screw on the garden hose for a quick wash after working in the garden.

3. Windows for Cold Frames

It’s hard to resist interesting, old windows. With enduring character, they’re often an inexpensive choice for a unique lid on a cold frame. However, be cautious when recycling windows. Those with single panes of glass break easily and should be absolutely avoided if there are children or pets in the garden.

Tempered glass is a better option, though it can be heavy and unwieldy. It also can’t be cut to fit a frame, so you’ll need to construct your cold frame size around the dimensions of the glass. Use caution with these heavy windows, as they can be difficult to maneuver and would hurt tremendously if the lid accidently slipped and fell on an arm or head.

Be aware of lead paint on old windows, as well. If they were pulled from a home prior to 1978, there’s a distinct possibility lead paint was used on them. This is even more prevalent in homes before 1940. Unless you plan to refinish these windows you should probably steer clear.

Read more: http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/6-household-items-you-can-upcycle-for-garden.aspx

Why Are My Chickens’ Egg Shells So Thin?

If your hens give you more cracked eggs than whole ones, it's time to give them a calcium boost.

Why Are My Chickens’ Egg Shells So Thin? - Photo courtesy Helen Cassidy (HobbyFarms.com)Inside the nest boxes, four brown eggs wait to be collected. Three of the four are nestled in wood shavings, the fourth looks like a wet mass; the egg’s insides are visible along with a flimsy film of shell. Laying an egg or two with a flimsy shell might occur as days get shorter in the fall and winter and young layers reach peak production. However, if you continue to see thin-shelled eggs, you need to examine the variables affecting a hen’s health.

Understand Shell Structure
An eggshell’s main ingredients are calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate and calcium phosphate, as well as soluble and insoluble proteins. Ninety-five percent of the eggshell is calcium carbonate—the same sturdy substance that makes up coral, limestone and seashells.

It takes 2 grams of calcium carbonate for a backyard hen to form each egg. To come up with the necessary calcium each day, the hen borrows it directly from its own bones. Leg, wing and rib bones contribute the calcium without impacting its health.

An eggshell has an inner and outer membrane, a mammillary layer, a spongy layer and a cuticle layer that is finished with calcium carbonate, says Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University.

"The porous nature of the egg allows for gas transport between the interior and exterior of the egg,” he says.

The eggshell can release carbon dioxide build-up inside while absorbing atmospheric air into the interior. At hatching, the air cell inside the egg is 15 percent of the egg’s volume, providing the first air the chick will breathe.

Regenstein explains that if the hen isn’t laying a structurally sound eggshell, its hormones, physiology and nutrition might not be working efficiently to support the egg-development process. If a hen isn’t consuming enough calcium in its for eggshell production, it may need more nutritional support.

Read more: http://www.hobbyfarms.com/livestock-and-pets/why-are-my-chickens-eggshells-so-thin.aspx

Grow Brussels Sprouts from Cuttings

Brussels sprouts are a favorite in our house. Those tiny, delicious balls of cabbage will actually grow into a branch if left to themselves. Which makes them perfect for cuttings. Brussels sprouts take a long time to grow and mature, but starting with rooted cuttings speeds up the process considerably.

Brussels sprouts are a cool season crop. Once it gets too warm the sprouts will not form the tight little head. They just leaf out and grow into branches. You can leave a few sprouts on the plants for the purpose of propagating cuttings.

Wait until the new branch is at least 4 or 5 inches long, and is fairly thick and sturdy, them remove it at the base, next to the main stalk of the plant.

Remove all but the very top leaves from the cutting. Carefully nick or shave off  a portion of the stem where the leaves were growing. Be careful not to remove too much of the stem. You need it to be strong and sturdy for planting.

Read more: http://www.woodstreetsgardens.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/grow-brussels-sprouts-from-cuttings.html