Evangelical Church says that men who cook can become gay

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Evangelical Pentecostal Revival Church, based in Chile, made a rather radical, and may I add stupid, announcement claiming that men who cook are "sick" and are in danger of developing homosexuality.

This position and stance of the church was posted on Facebook, where it was clearly stated that “homosexuality is a disease that men can develop by engaging in practices that were once considered the sole responsibility of women.”

The statement on social media said further that “a man cooking, caring for children or performing any other own work of women puts himself at serious risk of becoming ill with homosexuality.”

These controversial claims, part of an invitation from a member of the “church” to followers to participate in an educational Christian seminary entitled "Learning about homosexuality" in which he detailed how engaging in activities that once were considered the sole domain of women can make men ill until they become gay.

After receiving a barrage of criticism, the message was unpublished by the account managers, who also issued an apology. However, the removal of the post and the “apology” does not alter the fact that that is what they, and not only they, believe and actually teach.

According to those reckonings every cook (chef) through the ages – for cooking on a grand scale was once solely the domain of men, every tailor, and others, must have been gay then. Just saying, for even if they were what does it matter.

Sometimes I have to say I do not know from what planet those so-called Christians have dropped and what they are smoking.

To be perfectly honest I don't really care what planet it is they have come from just could they please take the next flight back to there and stay there and take the stuff that they are smoking with them, please, for it seems a rather harmful substance.

Those people have the gall to call other people from other religions fundamentalists while believing that they themselves have gobbled up the truth and knowledge with shovels.

The Evangelical Pentecostal Revival Church in Chile, and its members, are not, however, the only ones who are in this same boat. It is a rather large cruise liner, to stay with the shipping analogy, and not just a small boat for there appear to be thousands upon thousands who have similar views in the USA and elsewhere. Those people are capable to read things between the lines of the Bible and thus seem to come up with things entirely different to the rest of us when reading the same texts that they read. Amazing, isn't it?

In addition to that many of the “elders” of such “churches” will also claim that in order to understand the Bible one has to study it in Bible Groups of the “church” where one gets the texts explained. Sheeple control at its best. Apparently only those that have the right spirit can interpret the scriptures and thus indoctrinate the sheep.

© 2015

Low-income Woodland farming families go solar


Like many Americans, Alex Hernandez lost his home and his job in the aftermath of the recession. The former contractor, now truck driver, has four kids, and his paycheck goes to them.

Hernandez lives in a four-bedroom apartment with his family in a Woodland complex, but it's not like the other apartment buildings -- this one is 100 percent solar powered.

That means big savings for Hernandez and everyone else who lives here.

"I went from 257 bucks a month to $7," Hernandez said. "And, I have my A/C on all day!"

Sounds too good to be true, but it's not. It's called Mutual Housing at Spring Lake. It's a community built specifically for low-income farm workers and their families. Their rent is reduced, and so is the utility bill thanks to solar panels built on the rooftops.

Read more here.

Study shows that experiences, not things, will make you happier

little boys on a beach in Brazil

Many people know that experiences will make them happier, and yet they continue to spend money on material objects because of their perceived greater value.

There is an ongoing debate between my husband and me about how we’d like to spend any extra money that comes in. He likes to acquire, slowly but surely, high quality items that will last for many years, such as cookware, chef’s knives, and winter coats.

While I can’t argue with his ongoing quest for quality, I would prefer to spend money on travel, to skip buying that gorgeous pot by Le Creuset and put that money toward a destination, an experience, and a lasting memory. We do a good job of striking a balance between our two preferences, but now I’ve come across some interesting research that I’ll have to show him as a way of boosting my side of the argument!

It has been shown by a recent study from San Francisco State University that greater happiness comes from seeking experiences, rather than material objects. Although this may seem like common sense to many readers, reality paints another picture – one in which people most often spend their money on material items because they mistakenly believe that they have greater value.

Read more here.

90 percent of US could live on food grown entirely within 100 miles

Eating locally

New farmland-mapping research shows the country’s surprising potential when it comes to eating more locally.

In all the years that I’ve been writing about choosing food grown nearby, the irony that persists is this: I can easily find and purchase food that was grown within 100 miles of my New York City address, but people who live in the middle of farming country cannot. If you ask me, that speaks of a screwy food system in need of help. We grow so much food in this country, yet the average food item travels, by one oft-quoted statistic, some 1,500 miles to reach our plates. Food miles aren't the only important thing when it comes to eating sustainably, but if we could make some shifts toward opting for things that were produced more closely, it would clearly be helpful.

But would it be possible for everyone to eat locally? According to a new study by Elliott Campbell, a professor at the University of California, Merced, it is. In his research, he found that in fact, 90 percent of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes. It's hypothetical of course, but the potential is intriguing. And hopeful.

Read more here.

Missouri Food Pantries Help Clients Grow Their Own Produce

Bill McKelvey created Grow Well Missouri with a five-year grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to help create more access to produce — and the health benefits that come with growing it yourself.

In the U.S., 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger. Food pantries across the country pass out food to help these people put meals on the table. But what if they could help teach the pantry visitors how to grow their own food, too?

Grow Well Missouri, a program that travels to food pantries around central Missouri, is one of several food-aid groups trying to do just that, passing out seeds and starter plants to low-income locals.

On a recent wet spring morning, the group set up in Columbia, Mo. Four volunteers for Grow Well Missouri worked under a blue popup tent outside of Central Pantry, repotting about 50 starter tomato plants into larger containers. They had a steady stream of visitors stopping by, curious about what's going on.

Volunteer Marie Paisley packaged a tomato plant, a trowel and literature on how to successfully grow the plant all into a tote bag. Then she passed it to food pantry customers with some helpful tips on how to care for the plant.

"When you get it home, you need to water it through thoroughly, 'til the water runs out the bottom of the container," she says.

Read more here.

Climate change should be top foreign policy priority, G7 study says

Global warming ‘ultimate threat multiplier’ posing serious risk to world security, says report urging governments not to see it simply as a climate issue

Tackling climate change risks must become a top foreign policy priority if the world is to combat the global security threat it poses in the 21st century, according to a new study commissioned by the G7 countries.

Multiple conflicts have taken the government systems for dealing with them “to their limits”, according to one of the authors of the report, which was launched at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Tuesday.

Written by an international consortium including peacebuilding NGO International Alert and the European Union Institute for Security Studies, it calls climate change “the ultimate threat multiplier” in fragile situations.

Read more here.

Citing conflicts in Syria and Mali and land grabs in Ethiopia, it warns that problems exacerbated by climate change – such as food insecurity, competition for water and land, migration and displacement – could leave fragile states unable to provide for their citizens.

Speaking at the launch, Baroness Anelay, the UK’s minister of state for the FCO, agreed that climate change should become a top foreign policy priority.

“Climate change is not only a threat to the environment but to global security and economic prosperity. That therefore makes it a top priority not only for environment ministers but foreign ministers too. It’s a cross government issue – and if it’s not, it should be,” she said.

Exploring Italy, the 'Bioculture' Way

The often forgotten Italian region of Le Marche offers rolling green hills of organic wine, olives and vegetables as well as passionate artists, agrotourisms and historic tales.


The Le Marche region in central Italy is deeply connected to its land and locality, with small-scale organic and biodynamic vineyards, agrotourisms, passionate communities and a focus on local and sustainable food. The region sits between the Adriatic Sea and the Appenine mountains that extend along the length of peninsular Italy.

I was recently given the opportunity to visit this stunning region, with the main aim of testing out a new App: Bioculture, aimed at people visiting in Le Marche. I have to admit, I was a bit dubious at first. My idea of a holiday is somewhere I can turn my phone off and immerse myself in the culture and countryside of my localities. But the Bioculture App surprised me.

Read more here.

Bioculture is the baby of Federico Bomba, a theatre director and advocate of local business. Federico was fed up with artists in Italy not being able to find paid work. Since the economic crash, more and more Italians are either moving abroad to find work or are leaving their city careers for the ‘slower pace’ of life in the countryside – growing grapes, olives and food – which although may be ‘slower’ is actually a lot of hard work.

Federico wanted to bring artists back into the economic sector and saw the best way for this was to connect them up with tourism. This is how Art Walks with Bioculture was born. This project and app joins up agrotourism, local food, businesses and artists who are passionate about the health and tourism of their region.

No punches pulled in Climate Change Encyclical

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pope Francis pulls no punches in Climate Change Encyclical

The care of the Planet is at the heart of The Holy Father's attention in this Encyclical

1533868_838329846249672_1185197550952132137_n“Praised be You, my Lord, for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, for Brother Wind and Sister Water, for Brother Fire; praised be You, my Lord, for our Sister Mother Earth, our common home, which sustains and governs us.” (Adapted from the Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi.)

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question that is at the heart of Laudato si’ (May You be praised), the Encyclical on the care of the common home by Pope Francis.

“This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal”. This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values at the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues – says the Pope – I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results”.


“The economic powers shall continue to justify the current world system, in which speculation and and the aim for financial returns to prevail that tend to ignore each context and the effects on the environment and on human dignity. So clearly it reveals that environmental, human and ethical degradation are intimately connected,” the Holy Father also wrote in this letter to the faithful.

“Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity. We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.”

This Encyclical takes its name from the invocation of Saint Francis, “Praise be to you, my Lord”, in his Canticle of the Creatures. It reminds us that the earth, our common home “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. We have forgotten that “we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”, according to the expression of Saint John Paul II. We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At the same time, Pope Francis recognizes that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet”. A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home”. “Men and women are still capable of intervening positively”. “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”.

Pope Francis certainly addresses the Catholic faithful, quoting Saint John Paul II: “Christians in their turn “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith”“. Pope Francis proposes specially “to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home”. The dialogue runs throughout the text and in ch. 5 it becomes the instrument for addressing and solving problems. From the beginning, Pope Francis recalls that “other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have also expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections” on the theme of ecology. Indeed, such contributions expressly come in, starting with that of “the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew”, extensively cited in numbers 8-9. On several occasions, then, the Pope thanks the protagonists of this effort – individuals as well as associations and institutions. He acknowledges that “the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all […] have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions”. He invites everyone to recognize “the rich contribution which the religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity”.

While the Holy Father is, in this Encyclical, primarily, obviously, addressing the Catholic faithful, and those of other Christian traditions also, the message is for all of us, whether of a faith or none, and also and especially for those who think themselves in power to lord it over us.

In the light of the message of his Encyclical the Holy Father has already been declared the most dangerous person on Earth by a great many of American politicians, especially in the Republican Party. No surprise there that they do not like the Pope's message as (1) they are climate change deniers to the hilt and (2) they see the Holy Father as the Antichrist (and I kid you not there).

Several main themes run through the text that are addressed from a variety of different perspectives, traversing and unifying the text:

*the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet,

*the conviction that everything in the world is connected,

*the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology,

*the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress,

*the value proper to each creature,

*the human meaning of ecology,

*the need for forthright and honest debate,

*the serious responsibility of international and local policies,

*the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.

"Laudato si' – Pope Francis' Encyclical on care for our common home can be downloaded as a PDF file here...

© 2015

Interest in 'community supported agriculture' grows

August Creek Farm owner Andrea Corzine harvests snow peas in the one-acre vegetable plot on the farm on Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

ASSUMPTION — A Christian County farm best known for corn and soybeans — including marketing ties to Brazil — has added a backyard garden.

August Creek Farm joins the growing list of "community supported agriculture" operations across Illinois targeted to consumer demand for locally grown produce. The concept — consumers buy memberships, and the CSAs plant, tend and harvest the crops — has been around for more than a quarter century.

The popularity of the local and organic food movement, according to CSA groups, has begun to attract larger, traditional farms to the niche market.

"I do all the work, and I bring the produce to them," said Andrea Corzine of August Creek Farm. "We try to pay them back dollar for dollar in vegetables.

"With the local food movement, they've become a lot more popular."

She said August Creek Farm, in many ways, grew out of the recession. After graduating from college in 2009 with a degree in natural resources and land management, Corzine bounced around in various part-time jobs in Florida before finding full-time work.

"It was an interesting period in my life," she said.

Read more here.

Foraging for wild food and medicinal plants - Chickweed Plant Profile

While much greenery dies back in winter, there is plenty of food to forage from hedgerows and even unexpected parts of your garden. Christopher helps you to identify and use Chickweed


Winter is a challenging time when it comes to food growing, so why not take advantage of what nature provides for free? More often than not, our hardy wild plants will offer us nutritionally-high greens for the salad bowl or cooking pot (often far higher than from plants generally grown or bought), and provide us with safe, effective medicine!

Hardy winter greens

When in the garden or plot at this time of year, the otherwise-ignored wild plants will grab our attention, and naturally so, because there is precious little other growth about. The simple aim of this article is for people to think thrice about ripping these gifts out of the ground and plonking them on the compost heap. For that would be a waste of the food and medicine on offer, as well your valuable time and energy. Not very permaculture!

One plant that you will almost certainly come across, is that most tenacious of cultivated weeds, little old chickweed. Yet not too many years ago, it would have been one of the plants that we turned to for food during the darker months.

Getting to know... Chickweed

Read more here.

DIY Raised Planter Stand


If you have enough free space in your garden it would be a pity to waste it. The ideal way to use that space is to plant something, but that would be a lot of work and maybe even some future troubles. So in order to avoid that, you can make a raised planter that will help you organize your garden in a more efficient way. To build such a planter you will need: treated lumber, 55 gallon juice drum and lots of tools (hammer, drill, screws, saw, etc.).[Read all details step by step in the link below]. First you will be making the place for the drums, by making a support for them. Create wooden legs for the support to stand on, in order to assure extra stability to your structure. Once every piece is done, connect them and assemble the planter. Install the drums and create holes for drainage. After that you can start planting, just make sure to water your plants regularly and protect them from pests.

Read more here.

Gap between rich and poor 'widening on a daily basis'

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

UnisonUNISON delegates in Glasgow on June 17, 2015 committed the union to keeping inequality at the forefront of political and economic debate.

Clare Williams of Northern region told the hall that the government’s austerity policies were affecting the most vulnerable in society – and that the UK was experiencing the biggest rise in poverty in decades.

"The gap between rich and poor is widening on a daily basis," she said.

A recent Oxfam report has stated that by 2016 the top 1% of society would possess more than 50% of the world’s wealth.

And the latest annual report by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation has highlighted that insecure, low-paid jobs are leaving record numbers of working families in poverty. Two-thirds of people who found work in the past year have taken jobs for less than the living wage.

Ms Williams said that unemployment in the north east was at 7.5%. Around a quarter of the children in the region were living in poverty.

Josie Bird of the NEC said that inequality was "impacting on our members, their families, their quality of life. It’s affecting my children and the society they are growing up in."

It was agreed that trade unions had a central role to play in tackling inequality.

Conference called on the union to:

  • engage with politicians, academics and economists to tackle growing inequality and rebalance the economy to deliver real social mobility and a fair distribution of wealth;

  • campaign for decent living standards, through measures to support the unemployed, especially the young, prevent homelessness and lift people out of poverty;

  • continue to campaign to establish the living wage as the national minimum wage;

  • continue to campaign for local authorities to sign up to the ethical care charter.

I hardly think that it comes as a great surprise to anyone who has not spent the last couple of years on the other side of the Moon that the gap between rich and poor is widening. The problem is though that even, it would appear, the trade unions in this country – and elsewhere – have lost the plot and are far too much tied into the matrix to actually be prepared to mention proper socialism.

The language used in the call by conference to the Union is that of the matrix as can be seen in terms such as “real social mobility” and it is all the same as being used by the light-blue Tory party, that once regarded itself to be the Labour Party, the party of the working class.

It is no surprise that working people are getting disillusioned with both the Labour Party and the Trade Unions when they hear such waffle all the times from those that are supposed to lead the workers in the class struggle. Oh, I forgot, that is what the unions and the Labour Party have abandoned in order to be socially acceptable and presentable in the circles in which they like to move.

The leadership of the working class, the Labour Party and the very Unions that actually created the party, have become so removed from the grassroots of the working class and from the day-to-day concerns of the working people that it is no longer funny at all. It would appear that it is time that the working class has new true leadership and was led forward to its true destiny by people who really care about the plight of the workers and not by people who most of the time sit in ivory towers or who even may have been born with a silver spoon in the mouth, with one exception and that being the late Tony Benn and Jack Crowe. The former was born with a silver spoon in the mouth but abandoned all for the working class and the latter was a true working class man and hero.

We shall have some discussions with the rich to ask them to drop a couple of more crumbs from their richly laden tables down to the workers says Unison. And that is supposed to make everyone happy and jump up and down with joy? I think not.

Only when the workers own the means of production – note, I say the workers own the means of production, the workers, not the state – and are in charge of their own communities, only then will there be an end to inequality and poverty. Only then will there be enough for everyone's need, though not for everyone's greed, as the greed will have to be nipped in the bud. Crumbs from the rich man's table is not what the workers need and want but it would appear that the Unions have gone too deep into bed with the class enemy to still be able to understand that. Some of the leaders of the Unions still do but their number is very small indeed.

Time for a real change and the change means a total change of system, not tinkering around at the edges and promising workers a few more little crumbs from the capitalist's table.

© 2015

Landfill Of Lettuce: Why Were These Greens Tossed Before Their Time?

Cesar Zuniga, operations manager at the Salinas Valley municipal dump in California, points to salad greens that still have two weeks before their sell-by date. "Some loads ... look very fresh," Zuniga says. "We question, wow, why is this being tossed?"

Here's a scenario lots of us can relate to: tossing a bag of lettuce because it sat too long in the back of the fridge.

It doesn't take a long time for greens to turn to slime.

Bag by bag, this waste adds up. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical American family throws out about $1,600 worth of food each year. And what we consumers toss out is just the last step in a long chain of waste.

Food is lost on farms, during processing and trucking. Supermarkets toss out unsold food.

We were curious about this downstream waste — the part of the food supply chain that's largely hidden from consumers.

And we wondered how the fast-growing, packaged produce and salads category — which is expected to approach $7 billion in sales by 2018 — might contribute to waste.

In the Salinas Valley of California — known as America's salad bowl — we visited the municipal dump. The fertile strip of land surrounding the town of Salinas produces an estimated 70 percent of U.S. salad greens.

Read more here.

Making A Wildlife Habitat From Recycled & Found Materials

Forget all those expensive manufactured solitary bee houses or hedgehog homes, you can make your insect habitat out of scrap materials and old pallets


Here is an idea developed by Chris Beardshaw, spotted at Hampton Court Flower Show in 2008.

Read more here.

How much is nature worth in the UK?

ONS infographic on the value of natural capital

Have you ever wondered how much nature is worth in the UK?

No, I hadn't either, but it turns out it was £1,573bn in 2011, according to research from the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS put the "natural capital" figure out as part of a set of five infographics for World Environment Day.

There's plenty of good stuff in the report, which looks at the value of natural resources such as oil and gas reserves, timber, chalk and agricultural land.

It also includes an attempt to put a value on trickier things like outdoor recreation (going for a walk in the countryside).

It's the ONS's first attempt to do this and there are lots of caveats about the figures and their limitations.

Read more here.

Fox News Pundit Calls Pope Francis 'The Most Dangerous Person On The Planet'

Fox News Pundit Calls Pope Francis 'The Most Dangerous Person On The Planet' For Suggesting Climate Change Is Real


Pope Francis's newly released papal letter on outlining the moral imperative of protecting the environment has upset some Catholics and conservatives who say the pontiff should stay out of the "political realm." But one conservative pundit went a step further by calling the pope "the most dangerous person on the planet."

Pope Francis earned such a title in Fox New pundit Greg Gutfeld's eyes for "seeking strange new respect" from his "adversaries" -- among whom, Gutfeld presumes, are liberals who might disagree with the pontiff's more conservative perspectives on gay marriage, women's ordination and contraception.

The pope opened the leaked draft of the encyclical by saying climate change is the Earth’s way of protesting “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God placed in her.”

“We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorized to loot her,” the draft read, according to a translation by The Guardian. “The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”

Read more here.

Protecting coppice regrowth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Protecting the regrowth of any coppice trees, be they Hazel, Ash, Sycamore (yes, that tree often so maligned for being non-native but ever so useful), or whatever else, is important if we want to see a a return for our labors.

In the British countryside there are a number of deer species roaming about; some of which are native, such as Roe and Red deer, while others, such as Sitka and Muntjac deer, have been introduced (unfortunately, one might say).

Deer pose quite a threat to a coppice system as they have a tendency to munch off the for them rather tasty new seasons regrowth, and if this is left unchecked those stools of whatever tree species will eventually die out, which would completely destroy a coppice woodland. However, deer are not the only “grazers” that pose a threat to coppice regrowth; rabbit (coney) and hare do too.

Deer may be beautiful to watch – and I do love to see them in the wild – but one of the reasons why deer are not popular amongst foresters is the amount of damage they can do to woodland. In late winter/early spring the males use trees to rub the velvet off their antlers, causing great damage to whole stands of trees. For this reason it is often necessary to control numbers of males. Though controlling of numbers – and not just of males – is also necessary, in the absence of predators, in order to preserve health and viability of the herd. Deer can also decimate, as already indicated, an unprotected area of coppice by stripping off all the new buds from the regrowth.

In a stable, fully functioning eco-system the population densities of grazing species are maintained at a sustainable level by top predators and in the past this would have been the case in the British Isles with species such as wolves, bears and lynx that would also have been roaming our countryside.

Now that we have lost those species it is important that we take measures to protect any coppice regrowth to ensure the survival of coppiced woodlands, which in some cases are also classified as ancient woodland.

There are several methods which can be used to protect coppice growth. One of them is to cover up the coppice stools with brash wood from the trees that have been coppiced (brash wood is the twiggy branches from the crown of a tree).The theory is that the brash wood would allow the re-growth the opportunity to grow woody enough so that it is unpalatable to deer. That, at least, is the theory. I have not tried it in practice (as yet). In places where it has been tried the success was not a very good one which could have been due to the brash not being high enough above the stools or the brash piles do not provide a high enough barrier.

Another method is to weave brash wood into a basket-like structure around the coppiced stool. The principle is similar to the previous method; the baskets should provide the new growth protection until they grow over the baskets. By which time they should be woody enough to be left alone.

Large scale coppicing projects often use of temporary electric fences. This is perhaps the quickest and most efficient method if a large coupe has been coppiced. The idea is that deer are completely excluded from the freshly coppiced coupe, hopefully providing complete protection to the new re-growth. Obviously this method will only be suited to certain circumstances where the presence of an electric fence is not a problem, and where there is no problem with interference by vandals.

Other kinds of temporary fences could, I am sure, also be employed, such as those plastic fences that are used often around building sides, road works, and such like and there is also a version available in black if one does not wish to use the more common orange colored fencing.

Perhaps the oldest and most traditional method of deterring deer from browsing a freshly cut coppice coupe is simply the presence of humans and this may have been one of the reasons why woodsmen would traditionally live in the wood for extended periods of time, sometimes full time even, near the woods they were working.

A method that is said to have been used on the European mainland, especially in Germany, to protect coppice regrowth or newly planted trees was a “fence” of rope into which were tied rags every foot or so that had been soaked in some evil smelling liquid. But, much like electric fencing, this will only work where there is no danger of interference by vandals or such. The idea here is that the smell will deter the deer entering the “fenced off” area.

In general forestry operation new plantations of trees are protected by so-called deer fencing, which is just a stronger and taller kind of stock fencing really, though there are also some that have added protection against hares and rabbits entering. But if Mr Bunny wants to get in he might decide to burrow under the fence. Not much that will stop him except for a fence that is dug quite a way into the ground.

As coppice regrowth, in general, does not require a long exclusion period temporary fencing of one kind or the other, and aside from the previously mentioned plastic fencing there is also the split chestnut type that is often used on woodland operations and also in agriculture for penning in or out small livestock.

While it may not look as pretty as a woven basket structure around a coppice stool both the orange or black plastic fencing and the split chestnut type are reusable and quick to erect and remove and thus might be the best option in the book. Split chestnut fencing may not require any stakes, though they do help, while the plastic fencing can be put up with road pins, for instance.

© 2015

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.

Some Urban Homesteader Is Living In A Bucolic Cabin On A Roof In Manhattan

Flying above New York City in a helicopter can be a beautiful thing, until you look down and see that someone has stolen and is living your dream life in a bucolic cabin on a rooftop in the West Village. Is there anything more enviable in the real estate racket of NYC than a house on a regular old apartment building's roof? Sonnets should be written about this shit. Ballads composed and sung... from other, lesser rooftops. The dichotomy of country and city right there, together, and yet still so close to mass transit and Starbucks. From the safety of the sidewalk you'll continue to live on in blissful ignorance, seeing only this as you pass by the building on Greenwich Street:


From up above, however, you'll discover a picturesque cabin that looks like it belongs in a horror flick, or maybe a Lifetime Christmas special. Someone comes home to this. Someone comes up from the dirty city streets, kicks their shoes off, uncorks some rosé, and drinks it straight from the bottle while walking around barefoot in that fresh grass.


Read more here.

Tiny House-Hoods

Portland, OR Apparently Has A Bad Homeless Problem. The Mayor’s Solution? Tiny House-Hoods.

About half a year ago, the mayor of Portland, OR, Charlie Hales, decided to clear out the homeless campsites on public spaces. To his surprise, he found that compassion still exists in the heart of the community, and a mob of angry protesters (literally) descended on city hall with lit torches. Apparently, this Frankenstein-worthy scene seemed to shock the mayor to his senses.

Mayor Hales changed his strategy by choosing a route that would actually help people get back on their feet. His solution? Tiny House-Hoods (which is totally our name for them, not his). It’s a project that aims to create tiny houses for people making less than $15,000 a year.

Hales teamed up with Multnomah County Chairwoman, Deborah Kafoury to get the initiative underway. As Kafoury has stated, “Before people can get back on their feet and take advantage of job training and drug and alcohol counseling, they need a place to live.”

Read more here.

The Greening of the Self

The Greening of the Self

Changing the way we can experience our self is the most important thing we can do to navigate ecological crisis.

Something important is happening in our world that you are not going to read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time, and it is one of the reasons I am so glad to be alive today. It has to do with what is occurring to the notion of the self.

The self is the metaphoric construct of identity and agency, the hypothetical piece of turf on which we construct our strategies for survival, the notion around which we focus our instincts for self-preservation, our needs for self-approval, and the boundaries of our self-interest. Something is shifting here.

Widening our self-interest

The conventional notion of the self with which we have been raised and to which we have been conditioned by mainstream culture is being undermined. What Alan Watts called “the skin-encapsulated ego” and Gregory Bateson referred to as “the epistemological error of Occidental civilization’ is being unhinged, peeled off. It is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest – by what you might call the ecological self or the eco-self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I will call “the greening of the self.”

Read more here.

Britain playing the Magna Carta as rights for all

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Magna_charta_cum_statutis_angliae_p1Trying to claim that the 800 years of Magna Carta gave any freedoms to the British people and being the foundation to democracy is a lie, and that is no lie.

Magna Carta and the subsequent Bill of Rights were never intended to do anything for the ordinary British people but was (and still really) for and applies to the aristocracy. The fact that those rights were extended as privileges to the ordinary people makes no difference in that.

Privileges are not rights and rights are not granted by any monarch or government but are unalienable and thus can neither be given nor taken away. We are born with them, such as the right to life, and others. Theoretically anyway. On the other hand privileges can be granted but also can be taken away again just as the Home Secretary said as regards to the so-called Freedom of Speech.

This so-called Freedom of Speech everyone, almost, seems to believe to mean the freedom to say almost anything without impunity as long as it is not slander and such. However, in reality, Freedom of Speech never applied to the general public but only to the Members of the Houses of Parliament and that only in the confines of the House and was granted to them so that they could not be had for treason should they say anything against the monarch.

Time and again the British government, politicians, the media and some others, keep mentioning a British constitution – based on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights – but the truth of the matter is that Britain does not – repeat does not – have a constitution, period. It is all but smoke and mirrors to lull the British public to sleep believing that they have a democracy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The political system in Britain is also referred to as a “constitutional monarchy” but without an actual constitution this is rather a fallacy and more precise a lie. Britain is a monarchy that happens to have a parliament, but has no, repeat no, constitution.

On top of that the British people are nowadays referred to, also a fallacy, as British citizens. The truth is, regardless of what the government has declared, a British person is and remains a “subject of his or her majesty” and please check want the word subject in this context means.

So, let's all wake up and see this entire celebration of the Magna Carta and the supposed right of the British people emanating from it for what it really is, namely a face to make the people believe that they are free and that they live in a democracy. Neither of it is the case.

The British people are subjects of the crown and thus not free and Britain is not a democracy for the people do not actually rule themselves. It is as simple as that. But then again neither are the American people free and they neither govern themselves, so also no democracy, not even a true republic, even though they have a constitution. Smoke an mirrors everywhere and the people believe just because they have been given the “privilege” to vote themselves a new set of masters every five years or so they have a democracy and a free.

We need, and not only in Britain, a new system. A system where people will rule or govern themselves or, as another meaning of the Greek word “democracy” puts it, where they pull the cart themselves. And where all people are equal and have and equal share and where also the Planet is taken care of.

© 2015

Sixteen Building Blocks of a Green, Entrepreneurial, Cooperative Economy

The transition from a capitalist to a cooperative economy could be one of the defining achievements of the 21st century.


In history, everything changes. The foundations of capitalism were built by merchants and mercantilists in the 16th and 17th centuries in response to the oppressiveness of feudalism. It developed into full-fledged industrial capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, and into financial capitalism at the end of the 20th century, using global free trade, shadow banking and offshore tax havens to overpower and sidestep much government taxation, regulation and control.

During the past five centuries, powered by the phenomenal stored energy of fossil fuels, the genius of free market capitalism has enabled the most incredible transformation the world has ever seen, lifting billions out of hunger and poverty, advancing science and engineering to incredible achievements, and enabling parallel social advances in literacy, education, health care, welfare, civil rights, communications and democracy. Its human and environmental costs have been huge, but we should not deny it its achievements. We are all the beneficiaries of its success, whether through health-care advances, digital technologies or the development of global consciousness thanks to the ease of travel.

Today, capitalism may appear stronger than ever, but its strength is increasingly delusional. It almost collapsed in 2008, and was only revived by a massive infusion of public money. Its financial foundations are deeply cracked, with trillions being staked on high-risk financial derivatives few can understand, and its social license is rapidly evaporating. A popular revolt is brewing, fed by three factors:

  • Deep resentment at the accumulation of untold wealth in the hands of tax-avoiding corporations and elites while the majority of humanity struggles, and while communities and individuals all around the world suffer pollution and contamination as a result of capitalistic activity;
  • The increasing indebtedness of state and national governments due to tax evasion and corporate influence over tax regimes, resulting in painful ‘austerity’ cuts to welfare, healthcare, education and other essential services;
  • The well-referenced reality that global free market capitalism is driving global civilization towards the cliffs of climate and ecological collapse, threatening disaster to humanity and the species we share the planet with.

In response, a new green, entrepreneurial, co-operative economy is arising. Capitalism may appear to be a complex integrated system, but it was built over time, block-by-block and law-by-law by individuals and teams of people. The same is true of the new economy: it is being built block-by-block and law-by-law.

We do not have centuries to play with, however, as the founders of capitalism did. The need to prevent ecological and climate collapse is so urgent that if we are to stop the rising global temperature from blowing through the 2°C mark we need to reduce our carbon pollution by 10% a year—far faster anything being considered in global climate negotiations.

Read more here.

It's the Planet Stupid!: Capitalism and The Destruction of the Commons

There is a war going on right now between those who are working to protect the commons and the hard-core capitalists, who are working to privatize our economy, culture, ecology, environment and government.

The stakes are high. The outcome will determine whether we live in a dystopian chaos, or a civil society; whether we preserve our natural life support system, or live on life support.

At the moment, it’s a rout. The capitalists are winning, and those very few who speak for the commons are ignored, marginalized or ridiculed.

To understand this conflict, we need to understand what is meant by the commons. Here’s a typical definition:

The cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.

I would propose a slightly broader definition, one in which “cultural resources” includes the laws, regulations and norms designed to assure an equitable, just, prosperous and sustainable world. These too are under assault from the capitalists.

Growth, GDP, Wealth and Other Non-sequitors

Ask any good capitalist what an economy is for, they’ll say something like “maximizing wealth,” or “growing GDP.”

Folks have pretty much figured out that GDP isn't synonymous with wealth or welfare, but this still begs the question: what is wealth?

Most definitions offered by economists go something like this: those material things which are produced by labor, can satisfy human wants, and must have an exchange value.  And of course, the medium of exchange we all know and love is money, moola, cash, bucks – in short currency.  But as Chris Martenson points out, currency is merely a claim on wealth, not real wealth. It has no intrinsic value.

Read more here.

Paris climate summit must be start of frequent carbon reviews, says IEA

Pledges on curbing carbon emissions by countries at UN conference this December should be revised every five years, says energy watchdog

The crunch climate change conference to take place in Paris later this year must be the beginning of a new process of five-yearly meetings, rather than a one-off, the world’s energy watchdog has warned.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, and its incoming executive director, said: “The pledges in Paris need to be renewed every five years. That is because circumstances change, the costs of technology go down, and so on. We need to take account of that.”

In Paris, this December, the governments of 196 countries will meet to try to forge a new global agreement on climate change, with all countries taking on targets on their future emissions. For developed countries, this will mean absolute cuts; for developing nations, curbs on their future carbon output. These commitments would kick in from 2020, when current commitments will run out.

But, currently, there are no plans for a process of future revisions of the Paris pledges, which run to 2025 in some cases and 2030 for other countries.

Read more here.

What can rule-bending alternative builders teach us about smarter shelters?

Earthship houses in New Mexico

Modern building codes and zoning regulations, while helping to set safety standards that can save lives, can also serve as big barriers to building small, sensible, and affordable dwellings with alternative materials and techniques.

The quest to build, or even just live in, a low-impact house of your own can be a challenging one, especially if you're on a budget and want to build a home with materials and techniques that are outside the norm. And if you live in an area with strict codes and zoning regulations, that challenge can be incredibly frustrating, and one which might lead you to consider moving to a less populated, and less regulated, part of the country.

Some rural areas of the U.S. still have no regulations, or very few, for building, and have attracted a number of "renegade" builders who are skirting the edges of legality while trying to build the smartest home for themselves and the environment.

In my neck of the woods here in southwestern New Mexico, I know a number of people who are living in alternative dwellings that would probably drive a city building inspector or code compliance officer absolutely nuts, but which fit their own needs perfectly. These homes range from converted school buses to adobe and cob tiny homes (casitas) to straw bale buildings and earthships and papercrete domes, most of which are not legal dwellings approved for residency. And as far as I'm concerned, that's perfectly fine, because those homes aren't meant to be rented or sold or used for anything other than the people who built them, and these houses fall under what I would call 'an acceptable risk' in the quest to build and live in your own shelter.

Read more here.

Coppicing is vital to our woods and our economy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Coppicing, the ancient woodland management practice, is vital to the woods and to the economy, especially the local economy.

In many parts of our country, if you happen to go down to the woods, you may well encounter an enthusiastic group of people from all walks of life reviving a tradition that is as ancient as the managed woodland itself, and it is a revival that is not before its time.

Coppicing, which is the cutting of hazel, and other deciduous trees, to produce usable timber products and encourage animal and plant life to thrive, is making a comeback. This is reckoned to be due to a throwaway remark from a master thatcher about the difficulty of sourcing British made thatching spars. However, there is more to that for not only thatchers are asking for local thatching spars, tool manufacturers also have commented on the lack of British ash for the making of handles for such tools, whether for garden tools or for hatchets, billhooks and axes.

For far too long have we allowed our woodlands to fall into disrepair because we have not managed them in the age-old fashion, by coppicing. Much of this is due to two reasons. One of them being that we have seen imports to be easier to obtain than actually dealing with our own woodlands but the second one, and one that has done the greatest of damage here, is the attitude that has come about by the opposition from the side of many “eco-warriors” who have read the wrong books that the cutting of trees is bad and thus must not be done.

When it comes to sustainability wood for building and for products is hard to beat and many people are well into buying wooden products (again) nowadays, including woven baskets, for the reason that wood is sustainable and carbon neutral and that, at the end of its life, it whether it is but into the ground or is burned, it only releases the amount of carbon that it absorbed during its life. However, most of the wooden products, whether it is kitchenware, baskets, tool handles, etc., do not come from indigenous woods but from woods far afield and often are made for cheap in countries such as China, Vietnam, etc., and then need to be shipped to our shores. The sustainability scale their drops off drastically.

Homegrown wood, from sustainably managed coppice woods could tick a lot of boxes here, although the products might have to cost a little more than the machined ones though wooden that come from abroad in order to be able to give the coppice worker and the producer an income from which they can live.

Thatching alone in Britain is a significant business consuming an incredible 25 to 30 million hazel spars a year which are used to hold the thatching straw, or reed, in place on the roof and at around 10p each that could generate a business worth a potential of £3 million nationally.

As with so many coppice products, though, the price for such spars, as much as for other products, be those beanpoles, walking sticks, etc., are often far too low priced to give the coppice worker an income. Those products take time to make, and the more elaborate the more time is involved, and we need to reconnect the time it takes to make a product with the price if we want local woodland industries to exist and thrive.

While coppicing is not only or even primarily about making money it does have to come into it if we want our woodlands and our woodland industries to exist, to thrive, and new ones to be established, both coppice woodlands and woodland industries.

Coppiced woodlands are part Britain's cultural heritage and thousands of years their management has provided a wide range of habitat for wildlife as a useful by-product to the original primary task which was that of providing essential raw materials for agriculture, housing, industry, and much more.

The surviving copses across many parts of the country are reminders of the local history that has moulded landscape and communities and provide yet more evidence that even what appear to be our wildest places have been managed by man for centuries. And, lest we forget, if we do not take up this management again we will lose those woods for once managed management will have to continue.

And far from compromising wildlife and the natural world, coppicing allows light and warmth into a wood, helping woodland flowers to thrive and, as time goes on, encourages sometimes endangered species to keep a foothold in the countryside, from the dormouse to the rarer kinds of butterfly, like the silver wash fritillary and several species of woodland birds.

Coppicing ticks more or less all the boxes for anyone looking for an outdoor activity that is 100% sustainable, especially if the majority of the activities are carried out in the ancient way by using human- and animal-powered tools and equipment only.

Correctly managed an area of coppice is ready to supply its next crop of rods, poles and other timber within five to 30 years of the first 'harvest', though there is also a great deal to be said for simply getting out in the woods, and creating something useful and beautiful from the natural materials.

Aside from revitalizing and reestablishing coppice woodlands and managing them properly we also must set up the appropriate “industries” and markets for those forest products. And those products must be more than just thatching spars, beanpoles, pea sticks, tent pegs, walking sticks, firewood and charcoal. And we also must take care that little to none of the wood “produced” is wasted.

© 2015

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.

Unplug your Smartphone: National Unplugging Day hits the UK

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

shutterstock_115079506-700x340Families and individuals are encouraged to take a break from technology on 28 June 2015.

In celebration of the second annual National Unplugging Day in the UK on Sunday 28 June 2015, individuals and families are being asked to put down their smartphones, tablets and computers for 24 hours to experience life unplugged.

Parenting experts warn that digital distractions are harming relationships, stopping the young from developing face-to-face communication skills and teaching children that disappearing into digital devices for hours, is a healthy and acceptable activity. It is not. And when permanently attached to those devices in public, such as with headphones in or on listening to musing or being on the cellphone, is outright dangerous, and not just when cycling or driving.

According to a study, carried out with over 6,000 parents from across the UK, the average parent with a smartphone, uses it 240 times a day on emails, texts and social media. That is equivalent to four hours a day stranded down the rabbit hole that is the internet.

Typically parents first click on their phone between 7-8 am with 20% of parents clicking on before 6am and 22% of parents making midnight their last click at night. It is therefore no wonder that children follow the example of their parents. On the other hand it must also be asked why a child of eight or nine has to have a cellphone, other than one that can only call a few numbers, as a means of safety and security, such as some of those phones available on the German market.

Almost half of the parents surveyed are logging into Facebook or other social media before doing anything else – our eyes are glued to our phones even before we get out of bed or to attend to the kids!

The statistics also revealed that over half of parents sleep next to their smartphone and the survey concludes that parents are ever increasingly showing the signs of smartphone addiction.

As smartphones invade our daily activities, parents are increasingly less present and available for their children and mental health officials are very worried on the long term effects this may have on our children.

Children, nowadays, have access to the internet almost from birth. They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too but this is not (always) a good idea. In the same way the TV is not a pacifier neither is the Laptop, the iPad or the smartphone.

The National Day of Unplugging recognizes the value and importance of technology in today's society whilst trying to encourage people (especially families and children, the connected generations who have grown up with ever-present technology), to be more mindful of their digital usage. This day is not intended to be just a one-off, but rather a starting point to encourage people of all ages to embrace a healthy lifestyle by regularly setting aside time away from their digital devices.

I must admit that in my spare time I also spend far too much time on line, especially on Facebook, but to me, aside from being a communications tool, it is also a new gathering tool, with the information gathered being used to write articles. On the other hand there are times when I just have to walk away from it, turn Facebook, for instance, off and just do something else, be that woodcarving or reading, and in that case reading something that is not connected with my own writing again, such as reading books for review, for instance.

© 2015

Harvesting hill streams of Wales for hydropower

Thousands of untapped streams pouring off hillsides hold the promise of generating clean energy and income for local farming communities

The little stream bubbling off the Black Mountain and tumbling 300ft down to the river Towey in the Brecon Beacons has no name and is far too small to feature on most maps. But for Welsh hill farmer Howell W illiams , over whose 290 acres of steep and boggy pasture land it flows, it is an unexpected pension and a simple way to keep rural Wales populated.

Directing just some of his stream’s water down a six inch pipe and into a turbine all constructed for about £50,000 generates nearly 18 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity at peak times, and earns him £10-15,000 a year.

Williams has dubbed his stream “Try dwr” – or “electricity from water”. “You work long hours on the farm and do not earn much at all, but my small stream works 24 hours a day, even when I am sleeping. The price of lamb is down this year and the European grant has decreased so these are difficult times,” he says.

Helping to harvest Wales’s abundant rainfall should be a priority for any government, he says, because there are thousands of untapped streams like his pouring off hillsides in the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Berwyns.

“I would say micro-hydro beats farming. This is the best pension we could possibly have. Most farmers put all they earn back into the farm but have to leave when they cannot go out in all weathers ... Now I get paid to do nothing!”

Read more here.

David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are our best bet for protecting the planet

David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are our best bet for protecting the planet

Using DNA to track the movement of people in the past, scientists suggest our species evolved some 150,000 years ago on the plains of Africa. That was our habitat, but unlike most other animals, we were creative and used our brains to find ways to exploit our surroundings. We were far less impressive in numbers, size, speed, strength or sensory abilities than many others sharing our territory, but it was our brains that compensated.

Over time, our numbers increased and we moved in search of more and new resources (and probably to check out the Neanderthals with whom we crossbred before they went extinct). When we moved into new territories, we were an alien creature, just like the introduced ones that trouble us today.

George Monbiot of The Guardian makes the point that we can trace the movement of our species by a wave of extinction of the big, slow-moving, dim-witted creatures that we could outwit with even the simplest of implements like clubs, pits, and spears.

Our brains were our great evolutionary advantage, conferring massive memory, curiosity, inventiveness and observational powers. I can’t emphasize that enough. Our brains gave us a huge advantage and it did something I think is unique — it created a concept of a future, which meant we realized we could affect that future by our actions in the present. By applying our acquired knowledge and insights, we could deliberately choose a path to avoid danger or trouble, and to exploit opportunities. I believe foresight was a huge evolutionary advantage for our species. And that’s what is so tragic today when we have all the amplified foresight of scientists and supercomputers, which have been warning us for decades that we are heading down a dangerous path, but now we allow politics and economics to override this predictive power.

Read more here.

This ancient liquor popular among Vikings may be the answer to antibiotic resistance


Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter's Elixir.

Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.

"Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water, and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it," Olofsson said. "It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians, and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink."

Read more here.

Maasai women are the new solar warriors of Africa

solar revolution, solar warriors, Kenya, Green Energy Africa, WEREP, Africa, Maasai, solar energy, solar installations, green energy, alternative energy, solar Africa, solar energy in Africa, Women Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy Project

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic pastoral tribe spread across Kenya and Tanzania, and globalization has not been kind to them. Vulnerable to wildlife that steal their livestock and powerless after the sun goes down, many Maasai often have to walk many kilometers just to charge their phones. But a new project spearheaded by Green Energy Africa has brought solar energy to 2,000 homes in Naiputa county alone, and put new power into the hands of women who sell affordable solar installations.

Green Energy Africa started the 7-month Women Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy Project (WEREP) in September 2014 with a goal “promote inclusive participation of women and youth in development through solar energy” while bringing much needed energy to people living in Kenya’s Kajiado and Makueni counties.

The group reports only 23 percent of Kenyans have access to the national electricity grid, while only 5 percent of rural communities are connected. To make up for this energy shortfall, people like Jackline Naiputa, who was featured in a Reuters story about the program, have to rely on expensive kerosene or cut down trees for fuel.

Naiputa heads the Osopuko-Edonyinap group, one of the five women’s groups who purchase solar installations from Green Energy Africa at a discount and then transport them by donkey across villages and sell them for a 300 Kenyan Shillings or $3 profit. The proceeds are then stored in a fund which is used to purchase more solar panels, batteries and lights.

Read more here.

Rethinking waste: Transforming problems into solutions

Repurposed brick planter

There's an argument to be made that the only time something is actually waste is if we don't know how to put it to work, and that by making an effort to recognize so-called waste items as really being resources, we can improve our lives, our homes and communities, and perhaps our entire world.

For instance, in many places, our streets and curbs and stormwater systems are designed to remove rainwater from the streets and neighborhoods as quickly as possible, and to shunt it to downstream. But because rainwater (actually all fresh water) is a precious resource, that "free" water that falls from the sky could be used to make landscapes more sustainable, if we would just make allowance for it and slow down its passage through our neighborhoods. By integrating some commonsense adjustments to roads and sidewalks, such as curb cuts and infiltration basins, in order to slow down that runoff so that it can soak deep into the soil and support the growth of trees and other landscape plants, we could generate shade, cooling, biomass, habitat, and even food, using less municipal water and fertilizers as inputs.

A few other common "waste" items from homes are grass cuttings, tree prunings, and fall leaves, all of which often get hauled offsite to be disposed of, yet could be put to work increasing soil fertility, as well as reducing evaporation (which decreases the demand for some water inputs to the property) and mitigating erosion. But if we haul off these renewable, biodegradable, and free materials, we then have to pay to bring in mulch, more water, and more compost or other soil amendments, so keeping them and using them onsite makes so much more sense.

Read more here.

Practical guides for community economic change

Core Resourcing

A trio of ‘how to guides’ has been launched by the REconomy Project. Focusing on running events, starting enterprise and resourcing core activities, these booklets have been designed for use by Transition Initiatives and other groups working on local economy projects and other related activities.

The guides have been researched and written using experience from active projects and community groups around the UK. Each contains experience, advice and easy-to-follow charts and resources. As well as using the guides from front to back, people can also pick and mix the sections within that most support the work they do. With tried and tested methods as well as new ideas and experimental approaches, they will be of use to those already working in this area or those keen to start.

Read more here (and download guides)

Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work

Combine permaculture gardening techniques and edible landscaping ingenuity in your garden by growing perennial vegetables. You’ll be surprised by how little work garden perennials require when compared with the work you expend growing annuals. Plus, our list of best perennials and resources guide will get you started with this sustainable, practical gardening technique.

Suppose a new agricultural breakthrough promised higher yields, a longer growing season and much less work. These claims can become real benefits for those willing to make a change to a way of gardening that more closely mimics nature.

Nature’s ecosystems always include not only annual vegetables, but also perennials — edible roots, shoots, leaves, flowers and fruits that produce year after year. Besides fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, more than 100 species of perennial vegetables grow well in North America.

By growing perennials, you’ll create a more diverse garden that ultimately needs less from you: You’ll spend less time working and more time harvesting.

“It’s as close to zero-work gardening as you can get,” says Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables. “Our perennial vegetable beds planted 11 years ago still bear food, and all we do is add compost and mulch once a year.”

What’s more, growing perennials extends the harvest season without a greenhouse, cold frame or other device. You can harvest Jerusalem artichokes all winter as long as you mulch enough to keep the ground from freezing.

Read more here.

Belfast-based designer transforms oil barrels into bright furniture

Chair made from a recycled oil barrel

At the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City, one of the things I look for is creative re-use. The Urbanite Home, a Belfast-based interior furnishings studio, is a particularly attention-grabbing example at this year's show. The collection’s brightly colored chairs and tables are made from repurposed oil barrels.

Designer Phil Davidson said he began working with barrels after learning that they weren’t being recycled in his area from his brother, who works in an auto garage. So, Davidson began collecting the barrels from small businesses like the one where his brother works. The design studio drains and cleans out any residues, which are then made into red diesel for agricultural use. Once clean, the barrels are cut into new forms to make furniture, and any smaller leftover pieces can then be recycled.

Read more here.

A lesson in garage sales

garage sale

I never knew garage sales were such a big deal, until I moved to a small town where there's not much else happening on Saturday mornings in the summertime -- and then I, too, became addicted.

Five years ago I moved to a garage sale mecca. I’d never paid much attention to garage sales in the past, but I quickly realized that, in this little town on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, they are one of the main summer attractions.

Starting on Tuesdays, when the weekly newspaper comes out, there are new listings for all the next weekend’s upcoming sales, with tantalizing descriptions of the goodies on offer. By Thursday, bright-colored signs plaster the streetlights and telephone poles of the town, featuring “Garage Sale!!!” and boldly printed addresses. Early on Saturday mornings, particularly on the long weekends, the streets are busy with cars moving like hounds on a scent trail and excited people infected by the thrill of the treasure hunt.

I remained intrigued but clueless about how addictive garage sales can be until my friends Christine and Laura invited me out one Victoria Day weekend in May, the biggest garage sale weekend of the year, to show me how it's done.

Read more here.


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Throughout history trees have formed an intrinsic and vital part of our cultural landscape. Our woodlands, and woodlands in general, have been managed and worked by woodsmen since antiquity supplying lumber, the most noble of building materials, and firewood for heating homes and cooking food, as well as wood from which to make the majority of products that were being used, from tools and tool handles, to kitchenware, including spoons, plates, and everything else in between.

Growing trees and using their wood is increasingly recognized as one of the most environmentally sustainable land uses. Yet, in recent decades our relationship with our trees and woodlands has waned, with the UK importing an estimated 80% of its timber, whilst only 20% of the country's woods are actively managed.

The Department of Land Economy of the University of Cambridge has been running a long-term study investigating trends in the management of private woodlands on traditional estates in England and Wales. The study commenced in 1963, continued through the 80's and 90's and the findings from the latest survey in 2006, strongly suggested that there has been a deterioration of the financial performance of many estate woodlands to the point where management has been reduced or even suspended.

It is not just the deterioration of the financial performance of the estate woodlands that we must be concerned with but the deterioration of them in general due to the reduction or even suspension of management. And it is not just the private estate woodlands that are thus afflicted. The same goes, maybe even more so, for council owned woods and woodlands. They are all in dire straights.

Wystan Hugh Auden wrote in one of his works “a culture is no better than its woods” and if we look around us today I would say many of our cultures are not worth much, considering the way we treat our “native” woodlands. However, thankfully, a revival of our “woodculture” seems to be on its way and this is to be more than encouraged; it is the way forward, for the new age, the coming age, is the age of wood, or the Wood Age. We have had the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, though, theoretically we are still in that one, even though some insist to call the current age the Technology Age.

Wood, however, is the way forward, once again (we have been there once before, I know) for many of the things that today we use plastic, for instance, and what better than that wood being home-grown, coming from a woodland near you. This would benefit not only the local economy and the local woods – and the woods in this country per se – but also the environment and the Planet.

Wood from local forests and woodlands also cuts down on the so-called “woodmiles” and keeps those to the absolute minimum, and this even more so if the sawmills and other wood-using businesses and craftspeople are local and the products sold on markets as local as possible.

The majority of woods in Britain, whether privately owned or owned by local and county councils are in dire straights and lack of market is but one small reason for this lack of proper management which has caused a multitude of problems. Lack of vision and lack of finance is another big part here as is the fact that there are a multitude of misguided “environmentalists” who believe – and are very vocal about this – that cutting any tree is bad for the environment.

Coppicing, the age-old and time-honored and time-proved method of managing hardwood woodlands, in which trees are cut at a certain age and then allowed to naturally regrow from the root stock, the stool, is not harmful to the environment at all. The opposite rather. It benefits both the woodland and the wildlife. In addition to that bringing our woodlands back into production, primarily by means of coppice management, not only benefits the woods and the wildlife but also the local economy as it will create employment and products. It is a total win-win situation. Realizing it though in the right quarters is an entirely different story.

© 2015

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.