Scythe sharpening stone carrier – Reuse Recipe

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

2PtMilkJugtoScytheSharpening1The Austrian scythe, unlike the old English scythe and the standard German and American ones, is sharpened wet with a “flat” stone and water and, as resharpening is done every five or ten minutes during work, and the stone or stones should be kept wet, thus a means of carrying stone or stones in water is required.

While it is possible to purchase a variety of different kinds of holders for stones (with a water reservoir) upcyling a two pint plastic milk jug is still a better and cheaper and at the same time keeps at least one of those things out of the waste stream.

If you leave the handle section in place, as shown in the photos, then, theoretically, you could attach the entire thing with water and stone(s) inside it on to your belt or, alternatively, use a sash for carrying it across the shoulder.

© 2015

Could Broccoli Leaves Be the Next Kale?

The story of how yesterday’s compost could become the juice of tomorrow.

You may not even know that broccoli has leaves, but it does, and they boast health benefits that could rival the current dark leafy green getting all the attention: kale.

Fast Company reports the leaves that surround the broccoli crown are usually composted as fertilizer, but farmers for Foxy Organic Brand are hoping the product they’re calling BroccoLeaf will be just as popular as kale.

Despite claims to the contrary in the Fast Company story, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by weight, broccoli leaves are not as nutritionally rich as kale. Kale has more calcium, iron, and potassium—and even a little more protein. Broccoli leaves do win when it comes to vitamin A, which is important to vision and skin health. Even if they don’t beat kale in every category, broccoli leaves are still a terrifically healthy food—and with the country’s obesity problem, Americans could stand to eat more leafy greens.

Besides, we’re already expending precious resources to grow broccoli leaves—namely, water. Eating the whole vegetable means less water waste in a time of historic drought on the West Coast—and BroccoLeaf hails from Salinas, California. If broccoli leaves don’t get all the price markups that come with being a premium vegetable, they might be a great way to get a new leafy green vegetable onto the table and help farmers cope with higher water prices.

Read more here.

Gardening Is Good For Your Health

Gardening Is Good For Your Health – It Can Fight Stress, Keep You Limber, And Improve Your Mood!

ardening is one of the most pleasurable experiences for Gillian Aldrich, 42, who started growing vegetables in her backyard some time ago!

Gillian is now working on planting a bed of hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, rose Campion, and—her favorite—pale-pink hardy geraniums. As she digs in the garden, her kids often play around her, sometimes taking a break to pick fresh strawberries.

Instead of just watching them, Aldrich is playing along. She says: “When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful. There’s something about just being out there that feels kind of elemental.”

Aldrich isn’t the only one who feels this way. Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world, a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things we’ve lost in our “dirt-free” existence.

The sensory experience of gardening “allows people to connect to this primal state,” says James Jiler, the founder and executive director of Urban GreenWorks. “A lot of people understand that experience. They may not be able to put it into words, but they understand what’s happening.

Read more here.

Food Forests Could Bring Free Healthy Organic Food To Everyone For The Same Cost As Roadside Grass

Food forests or Forest gardening have been around for a long time with many of the native cultures practicing this form of sustainable agriculture. It is a form of low-maintenance plant-based food production which replicates natural ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, running vines and perennial vegetables. Beneficial plants and companion planting is a big part of the food forest system.

Unlike much of the modern industrial agricultural system which relies heavily of inputs such as fossil fuels and artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, a food forest once established is self-regulating and highly abundant in yield.

Why Food Forests?

  • Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
  • Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species -over 50% of species on the planet.
  • Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its land mass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.

It is evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate. If forests are where most of the life on the planet is, then anything less than a forest is most likely less suited to supporting life. Life supports life, yet we have forgotten that we are in fact part of the web of life itself, and depend on other life to sustain ours.(1)

Read more here.

Council bans gardeners from selling fruit and veg grown on allotments

Jobsworth council bans gardeners from selling fruit and veg grown on their allotments - because just ONE person complained

  • Gardeners started selling produce to raise funds to improve allotments

  • Spent weeks supplying fruit and vegetables to their friends and neighbours

  • But they were ordered to stop after one resident complained to the council

Homegrown: The gardeners had hoped to raise money to improve the allotment site in Bolton, pictured

A group of gardeners were banned from selling fresh fruit and vegetables grown on their allotments after the council received a single complaint about the enterprise.

The group, who call themselves The Plotties, started selling their produce to raise funds to help improve the site in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

They had hoped to buy a year-round composting toilet, and to build a community room where they could teach others about growing and gardening.

But after weeks of selling their greens to friends and neighbours, The Plotties received a notice from the local council ordering them to stop.

Read more here.

How America’s Most Useless Crop Also Became Its Most Commonly Grown One

How America’s Most Useless Crop Also Became Its Most Commonly Grown One

Contrary to what you may think (and what your food labels may suggest) corn is not the most grown crop in America. The most grown crop is something no one is eating, no one is asking for, and no one is quite sure what to do with. It’s your lawn.

Top image: Satellite imagery of crops growing in Kansas / NASA Earth Observatory.

The U.S. devotes a full one-fifth of its land to agriculture (408 million acres, or 637,500 square miles) for farmers to grow on, of which corn is the largest food crop. However, there are almost 50,000 square miles of lawn growing in the U.S.—almost three times as much as corn.

So how does the country with the most farmland on the planet end up with a number one crop that’s purely decorative? It’s down to two things: Scale and a strange twist of technological history.

The History of the Lawn

Today, lawns are merely what you use to fill up an empty patch of dirt. They are the thing so common, so known, that the eye doesn’t even bother to stop and take them in, except in their absence. But that wasn’t always the case.

The very first lawn care instruction manual dates back to the 13th century written by Italian horticultural enthusiast, Pietro de Crescenzi. Just like lawn enthusiasts today, de Crescenzi had his own unique ideas of how to properly care for a lawn, though his favorite two practices—of first preparing the ground by dumping boiling water all over it and then limiting mowing to twice a year—failed to make it into the wider favor.

It wasn’t until about 400 years later, though, that lawns as we know them began to be seen commonly, and even then they were largely the province of the super-rich. The lawn was a symbol of that wealth, of course—of the kind of household that could afford to turn large tracts of land over to the cultivation of something essentially useless. But it was also considered something of a technological, perhaps even artistic, marvel. To understand just how much of one those early lawns were, you have to put yourself, briefly, in a pair of 17th-century shoes.

Read more here.

Making local woods work

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Making local woods work for community enterprises

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Fifty communities across the UK will receive support to transform unmanaged woodland into opportunities for jobs, leisure, education and services and to improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

The Big Lottery Fund is awarding £1,151,111 to the Plunkett Foundation for its Making Local Woods Work project. The pilot project, due to launch later this year, will help people to create social enterprises in local unmanaged woodlands so they can grow into sustainable businesses, creating new areas of employment and training to benefit their communities. The opening up of much-needed access to the natural environment will not only provide opportunities for economic growth, but better engagement with the outdoors will result in better health and wellbeing for those involved.

According to the Forestry Commission, 47 per cent of woodland are unmanaged or under-managed* which can threaten the variety of plant and animal life. Many bird and plant species have been in decline in recent years**. Active woodland management could preserve and increase the biodiversity of these habitats and increase wood fuel production.

Woodland social enterprises are beginning to emerge as a way of tackling a wide range of issues and there is growing evidence of local people successfully using their skills and ideas to set up businesses which have been effective in improving communities.

One example is Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire which provides training for young people who have been referred by agencies because they are excluded from school or are unemployed. The woodland also attracts more lone visitors, particularly women, due to the presence of volunteers performing activities including coppicing, woodcraft and charcoal manufacturing. Revenue is also achieved through its cafe and green burials. A further example is Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise in Argyll which has provided residents of the Bute long stay hospital, access to the adjacent woodland, activities such as arts and crafts, wildlife walks, training and employment opportunities.

Making Local Woods Work will provide training, volunteering and employment opportunities to 500 people tackling unemployment, social isolation and poverty. It will support, advise and train 50 groups across the UK to become woodland social enterprises involving study visits, training in asset transfers, financing, asset acquisition, land brokerage, woodland management and business planning. It will also deliver training and knowledge sharing events to 200 groups looking at setting up their own woodland social enterprises.

The project will be delivered in partnership with the Forestry Commission, The Woodland Trust, Grown in Britain and other partners.

Improving the availability and quality of knowledge to such a large body of people will help to bring about wide-scale improvements in the ability of groups to set-up local woodland social enterprises. Evidence of the project’s impact and sharing of the learning will be used to influence future practice of woodland social enterprises and also woodland management in general.

Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce that, thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, we will be able to support 50 woodland social enterprise pilot projects across the UK over the next three years. This important work will help to support a range of social enterprises to bring woodlands into active management, increase their use and ultimately help more people to enjoy and benefit from woodlands. We’re excited to be working with both new and familiar partners on this project.”

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK Chair, said: “There aren’t many woodland social enterprises around yet, but where they do exist they have a great record of promoting skills and employability. It’s exciting to be able to support this initiative which aims to improve the quality of life of those directly involved and also make woodlands more accessible and better looked after for the benefit of all.”

*Forestry Commission Sustainable Forest Management spatial data.

**The population of willow tits in the British Isles declined by 91 per cent between 1967 and 2010, the pearl bordered fritillary butterfly recently declined 42 per cent over ten years, and 56 of 72 woodland ground flora species declined between 1971 and 2001. RSPB.

Making Local Woods Work is a project led by the Plunkett Foundation involving partners the Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission, Hill Holt Wood, the Community Woodland Association, Llan y Goedwig, the National Association of AONBs, Locality and Shared Assets. The partnership has a range of skills and experience including social enterprise development, community ownership and management of assets and woodland management.

The term “about time” does very much come to my mind with regards to things like this finally happening but we need more of this. In fact we need all unmanaged and under-managed woods in this country (and not just this country alone, that is for sure) to be brought (back) into proper management and wherever possible this should be coppice management.

So far we are seeing way too little of this happening and often this is due to the opposition from certain people in the environmental movement who suffer from cognitive dissonance when it comes to woods and trees and the management of woods. They believe that cutting any tree, for whatever reason, harms the trees and the environment, which is not the case, especially not as far as coppicing is concerned. In fact coppice management benefits all sides.

Further reading:

© 2015

For more on woodland management and especially 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.

Management of council woodlands

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Wood-bluebellsThe management of such woodlands, whether in town, in parks, open spaces, cemeteries, etc., or in the countryside, whatever the size, should be handed over to groups of citizen foresters and coppice worker cooperatives.

Let's face it, most councils, whatever the size, do not have the financial means, nor the wherewithal, as to managing such woods and trees and thus generally just leave them to get on with it.

The cooperative movement in the UK in early 2015 basically asked government to have all those unmanaged and undermanaged council woods (and others) to be given over to cooperative management by groups of coppice workers and such.

The great majority of all woods that are owned by the municipalities and the counties in Britain are either not managed at all, at least not in any proper manner, or are undermanaged. This is neither beneficial for the environment and wildlife nor for the local economy.

Generally council woods seem to just have tree surgeons and such contractors sent in on an ad hoc basis to fell trees that may be dangerous or such and then they are either chipped and sliced and then the chips and wood is taken to landfill or, on other occasions, the contractors are told to just leave the wood laying there. Neither is a good choice; not for the woods, nor for the local economy, and also not for the environment.

Allowing the woods to me managed by a variety of groups of citizen foresters and coppice worker cooperatives and such will bring many benefit to the woods, the local economy, and the environment even further afield than the pockets of woodlands that will be then under proper management.

All too often any attempts of woodland management in council woodlands and woods, whether owned by the county councils or the local ones, are hampered by vociferous members of the environmental movement who have a case of cognitive dissonance when it comes to trees and woods and the management of woods. The other issue, as far as the councils themselves are concerned, is the lack of funds to do it themselves. Thus those woodlands, or at least the management of them, should be handed over to people willing to manage them to the high standards that are required to bring them back to health while at the same time being able to create an income for themselves and even employment opportunities for local people.

The woods and woodlands in question are found in a variety of different settings, as already mentioned, and they all should be brought into management for the good of the wood, the environment and the local economy and it can be done.

Obviously standing mature trees should not be cut unless they are a problem in one way or another but overstood coppice must be tackled and sycamores that all too often would be regarded as useless should be cut and copses created from them and they should be managed in the appropriate rotation to harvest timber from them for a variety of wood products that they are suitable for. Those are just ideas and examples, for sure, and each and every area will have its own management requirements and to theorize about them would be a waste of time and effort here.

Suffice to say, however, that, as most councils do not have the funds and often also not the wherewithal to carry out this much needed management of the woodlands that are in their portfolio it would be best that this management be given over to the right interested individuals or groups and the sooner this is being done the better.

© 2015

For more on woodland management and especially 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.

Wine bottles get a second life as chic, multifunctional furniture

Tati Guimarães

Wine bottles are easy to recycle into new, more interesting and more functional objects, be they lamps, glasses or even whole buildings. Brazilian, Spain-based designer Tati Guimarães takes the pragmatic route, repurposing wine bottles into stylish, multifunctional furniture that wouldn't look out of place in a fancy living room or gathering.

We've seen the designer recycle wine corks too; here, Divinus is Guimarães' simple but clever collection of versatile pieces made out of wood and reused wine bottles. Guimarães' design studio, Ciclus, attempts to marry eco-friendly materials with a sense of elegance and depth, says Guimarães:

When designing, I go beyond functionality, beauty and sustainability. I seek to design versatile objects which convey a message, which interact with people, move them and invite them to reflect.

Read more here.

London neighbors create 'instant' permaculture gardens for each other

Permablitz london photo

I've gotta say, I've been loving the Living with the Land video series from Permaculture Magazine.

Whether it's showing us vegan organic agriculture, mature forest gardens, no-dig market gardening or regenerative agriculture through holistic grazing, the series has introduced some wonderful ways to manage land that don't just "do less harm," but actually heal the soil and renew biodiversity too.

But most of the examples so far have been rural.

Given that more and more of us are living in the city, how can we rethink our relationship with the soil? One answer, I think, is to rethink our relationship with each other. That's the idea behind Permablitz—a concept that started out in Australia before catching on in London—and which involves neighbors getting together to carry out one-day garden makeovers using permaculture design as the guiding vision.

Read more here.

How dog-walking turned into plastic waste activism

plastic waste3

A woman from California was so distressed by the amount of plastic waste she encounters daily while walking her dogs that she started posting her pictures online to show people where plastic ends up.

When Heather Itzla goes out to walk her dogs, she takes an extra bag and some tongs – not for the purpose you might imagine, but rather to collect all the plastic waste that she encounters during her hour of walking. She brings it home, spreads it out, and takes a picture that gets posted on her unusual and totally captivating website, “There Is No Away.”

Itzla started doing this several years ago, after watching a TED talk by Captain Charles Moore called “Seas of Plastic.” She told TreeHugger:

“After picking myself up off the floor, plastic became all I could notice out in the world – the phenomenal amount of plastic that passes through our daily lives in the form of packaging and all of the ‘stuff’ we’re marketed to believe we need – and then it was all I could notice on the ground, no matter where I walked.”

Itzla’s collection of photos is eerie and discomfiting. Nearly all the pieces of plastic are recognizable – pens, straws, water bottles, cutlery, wrappers, condiment bags, bottle caps, and food containers – except they’re the dirty, used, cracked, abandoned versions that many of us leave on the ground or toss into a garbage can as quickly as possible. Itzla, on the other hand, bravely collects it all to make a powerful statement. She writes on her website:

Read more here.

We need more trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

More woodlands, properly managed – oh dear, the dreaded “m” word, as far as many misguided environmentalists are concerned, I know – is what we needed, and also more trees in other locations.

But mention the word management and those those above mentioned environmentalists will scream blue murder and dare you say that trees will be cut, even under proper coppice management, they call it slaughter.

We need trees where people live and even well managed coppice woods in towns and cities; anywhere where there is space for them, from parks to cemeteries and anywhere else between. In some places this is beginning to happen but we need more of it, much more. In fact, we need it to happen everywhere.

The problem being encountered with establishing and especially managing woods in parks and cemeteries by way of coppicing and making use of the wood time and again runs foul of interfering misguided and misinformed environmentalists who believe that cutting down a tree and that management of woods is bad for the environment. They jump up and down and make a hullabaloo and frighten the authorities to abandon such schemes quite frequently. It is almost impossible to reason with such folks who suffer from cognitive dissonance as they will not even listen to even the most learned men and women in the field, and not just “ordinary” foresters and woodsmen, if it does not conform to their beliefs.

However, regardless of their beliefs and their cognitive dissonance, we need to first of all bring all our woods, whether in the countryside or in our parks wherever they may be, including the city, and the woods and trees of cemeteries, into production through proper management, and then we need to plant more trees and woods, including and especially where people live. And we need to start it the day before yesterday, not tomorrow or even today. But as today really is the possible option today it has to be.

Let us start, before even getting into planting new woodlands, to look at properly managing our existing woods and woodlands, however large or small, private or “public”, and do that is such way that benefits the ecology and the local economy. It can be done. We have done so for many thousands of years in this country, by coppicing and pollarding trees and managing the trees and woods in a way that benefits all.

The great majority of our woods and woodlands, private and “public”, in the British Isles today have not seen any proper management for around half a century or even more because people rather bought plastic – as it was cheaper – than products made from homegrown sustainably cut wood.

*While plastic products that replaced those traditionally made from (coppiced) wood have led to the deterioration of our woods nothing has done more damage as the already mentioned misinformed and misguided self-styled and self-proclaimed “environmentalists” who vociferously insisted that the woods be left to fend for themselves and often interfered, by direct action even, with any management attempt.

The tide needs turning and the neglect of our woods and woodlands reversed by, once again, taking them in hand through proper management though, alas, this will, to some extent will look rather drastic and may cause some more complaints from certain quarters. Restarting coppice management will throw wide open areas, especially if they are of overstood coppice, which many of them will be, that previously have been full of rather large, though more often than not multi-stemmed, trees and this will look rather strange to start with.

But, in order to revitalize our woods and woodlands and make them healthy and productive again this is something that we must accept. It also does not last for very long and the prolific regrowth, general, of everything that before was in the dark on the woodland floor will soon make up for this change in scenery and especially the amount of butterflies and other insects and birds that will, suddenly, conquer those opened up areas.

Once we have done this, have restarted the proper management of our woods, then we must think about, and not just think about it but do it, planting more trees and woods wherever at all possible, and this must include parks and cemeteries, but also roads and other places in towns and cities. Agricultural land that does not grow crops well and that may thus not be is use should also be converted to woodland. In this way areas of woods should and would be created around the towns and cities and also the villages everywhere.

While such newly established coppice woods will require time to establish themselves, even with the most intensive management, and can never replace the ecosystems that are ancient woods, they will, over time, become valuable habitat and a source for raw materials for the new wood culture. Thus they are good for the (local) environment as well as local industry. At the same time they will be good for all of us for, as scientists have discovered, not that it should have taken much of an effort, living near and around trees makes us feel better and also act better.

© 2015

For more on woodland management and especially 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.

How Permaculture Can Restore Ecosystems & Communities

Maddy Harland tells the story of the Shona African community who healed their damaged ecosystems. They restored their springs, rebuilt their soil, regenerated their agriculture and alleviated poverty and malnutrition. Permaculture farming has proven effective all over the planet.


In the rural Shona African community in Zimbabwe, five villages of 7,000 people have joined together to form the Chikukwa Project, named after their local chief. Twenty years ago their land was deforested, barren, and nothing would grow there in the summer months. When the rains came, they washed down the slopes taking the soil with them. The springs had dried up and the people were poor, hungry, and suffering from malnutrition.

The Shona decided to do something about it and sought advice from permaculture pioneer, John Wilson. Slowly, a field at a time, they built water retaining landscapes: terracing the slopes and digging swales to hold the water in the soil. They added composted manure to these terrace beds to build soil and grow food. They stopped grazing animals and foraging for firewood in the gullies where the springs rose and planted native trees there to hold the moisture in the soil. They also stopped untethered grazing of goats on the hillsides, allowing trees to regenerate, and they started driving their cattle to agreed grazing areas. They learnt new skills: specifically permaculture training, conflict resolution, women’s empowerment, primary education and HIV management.

Within three years, the springs began to reactivate. They saw that the yields from the plots with swales were bigger than the plots without them. Twenty years later, where there was once eroded soil and over-grazed slopes, there are now reforested gullies with flowing water, terraces full of vegetables, grains and fruit, and high ridges lined with trees for firewood. In the villages, there are home gardens, pens for hens and goats, water tanks to catch rainfall runoff, and a culture of cooperation that values people skills as much as horticultural techniques. The landscape is verdant and biodiverse, and the gardens and farms produce crops for the families and for market, bringing an economic yield back into the region. All this in one generation.

Read more here.

Lawns are dumb. Arresting people for poor lawn care is dumber

In 2008, Joe Prudente, a 66-year-old man from Hudson, Fla., turned himself into the Pasco County jail wearing a “Grandpa Gone Wild” T-shirt. His crime? Failing to properly maintain his lawn.

Joe wasn’t a deadbeat who hated mowing or even an environmentalist who refused to water on principle — he was just a guy whose grass kept dying, even after he had it re-sodded three times, even after he hired professionals to do it for him. But, no matter. Joe’s grass would not grow, and when his homeowners association complained to local authorities, Joe was threatened with arrest. That’s when he turned himself in.

Joe was held without bail. It wasn’t money the court wanted — it was a new lawn.

Of course, re-sodding for the fourth time would have been difficult to accomplish from a county jail cell, but when the local paper did a story on the arrest of a 66-year-old man on lawn-care violations, dozens of people showed up to his house to rip out the old lawn and lay down a new one. Joe was released the next day.

The latest episode of the podcast 99% Invisible tells the story of Joe Prudente, and of other lawn violators. There was a man from Grand Prairie, Texas, who spent two days in jail for not mowing, and there was the warrant issued for a woman from Riesel, Texas, who was unable to care for her own yard. She was 75. There’s also the Ohio couple we wrote about a few weeks ago, who were threatened with a forcible mowing if they didn’t take care of their property.

Read more here.

Study finds a link between neonic pesticides and honeybee deaths

A new study, published on Thursday, August 20, 2015, shows a correlation between honeybee colony deaths and neonicotinoid pesticide usage in the United Kingdom.

Neonicotinoids generally come as a seed coating. When the seed sprouts, it takes in the pesticide, which then protects it against predators. But if that plant flowers, small amounts of the pesticide will linger in the pollen and nectar, which may hurt the beneficial insects, like bees, visiting those blooms to feed.

There’s some controversy about this: Scientists have found some indications that the neonics are hurting wild honeybees, but not domestic honeybees. As Maj Rundlöf, the lead author of one of those studies, told Nature: “This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any negative effects on honeybees, but so far I don’t see any evidence from field studies supporting that.”

Well, now there is a field study supporting that. This new study found a concerning association with just one neonic, imidacloprid, and the authors wrote that we shouldn’t extrapolate to others. But still, this is the first large-scale field study to suggest a link between domestic bee troubles and a neonic.

It’s always been clear that neonics are bad for bees in sufficient quantities. After all, they kill insects, and bees are insects. But before now, there wasn’t good evidence that the small amounts of neonics that hives were getting exposed to in real world situations were having a noticeable effect. That’s why this study matters.

Read more here.

Harvesting urban timber

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know that this sounds a little on the drastic side but fact is that there are times where urban trees have to be felled or have to have a real serious haircut, be it street trees, those in parks, or those on private properties.

Regardless whether those jobs are undertaken by council or private tree surgeons in general the wood from those trees ends up in landfill and the private tree surgeons doing work in people's gardens, and also the contractors to the local authorities, often even have to pay to dump the wood.

Having recently come across a venture from Vancouver, Canada (Vancouver Urban Timberworks) and also one from Wisconsin where in both cases bespoke wood crafts businesses work with predominately urban lumber and, in the case of the Vancouver venture also with reclaimed wood, and in the case of the Wisconsin venture with lumber from their own woods, it is becoming obvious that there is a place for those, especially if not too large, in almost all urban areas around the globe.

It is true that not all the lumber from such urban trees may be of use for the making of furniture or even treen goods but then, at least, it should become something else, even if it is just firewood or other kind of biomass or even just wood chips for use in various ways, rather than going to the landfill to decay and release the carbon dioxide that the tree locked up during its lifetime and, in addition, methane into the atmosphere. The latter a greenhouse gar reckoned to be 20 to 40 times more dangerous even than CO2.

In the wild trees are getting harder to come by, and thus lumber for the making of various things, because too many of our woodlands are not properly managed and have not been for many decades.

Much of our wood nowadays – in Britain and elsewhere – and wooden products come from abroad with – despite the so-called FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, which more often then not, I am afraid, is not worth the paper it is written upon – dubious backgrounds and origins. Often the lumber that is shipped and especially the lumber from which those products from places such as China, Vietnam and such places, are made comes from illegal logging operations.

We can change all this with the choices that we make as to where and how we buy wood products. We simply need to be smarter shoppers and it is our actual purchases of stuff that drives the world economy and the politics of the Planet. Thus the choices that we make as to what we buy and where does make a difference in the end.

There is a major effort under way in many places today, and where it is not maybe we could and should start it, to promote the use of Urban Wood that is until now just wasted.

The timber industry historically would not take city trees due to the risk of metal in the logs that could damage their expensive sawmill blades and also and especially the scattered smaller trees with often poor form compared to a forest grown tree were not profitable to process.

Industrial logging in the cities of the USA has begun to peak with the spread of the emerald ash borer and other diseases but most of the billions of board feet every year that comes from such operations is chipped up, split for firewood, or thrown in the landfill. And the same is the case in Britain and in the urban and suburban areas other European countries.

We import wood from all around to globe to make products, or we import products made abroad that may have dubious origins while the lumber that is cut locally, including and especially in urban and suburban areas, is, generally, destined for the landfill.

Street trees that have to be felled for this or that reason, or those from people's yards, are seen as having no value all too often and thus are just simply treated as “green waste” and, if not used for firewood or being chipped up or mulched into compost they are simply cut up and dumped in the landfills. This should not be acceptable as many of those trees, and even their smaller pieces, can all be used and made into objects for use and for beauty.

It is time to think of urban and suburban trees, including those in parks and open spaces, when they have to be felled, and the woodlands in many parks need proper woodland management anyway, as a resource and not as waste, not even as “green waste” and make use of them in small local enterprises.

Not only is this going to keep this urban wood out of the waste stream but it will also give employment, whether self-employed individuals, so-operatives or small businesses, to local people and will result in locally-made wood products. Thus it will be possible to make good money from per 'worthless' tree, and keep the money in the local economy.

Promoting the use of locally-grown and manufactured wood products from small business is a huge economic opportunity wherever trees grow and every tree that is used in the local wood market directly lowers the demand for illegal logging in developing countries and at home. This is the one thing we can do that really has an instant effect in the timber industry.

Cheap imported wood and wood products come at a very high cost. The cheapest wood products on sale come from trees that are not paid for at a fair price, often stolen in fact. The logs were shipped to countries with cheapest labor working under the worst conditions, using the cheapest glues and finishes, with few environmental protections. Then the products are shipped back around the world and sold in big corporate stores or online by local workers getting minimum wage. The cheap product soon wears out and must be landfilled then replaced.

Well-made wood products from locally-grown timber, whether from the urban harvest or from local coppice operations, will cost a bit more but they will last for generations and thus are far better for the customer's wallet and for the Planet, and most will be handmade to boot.

© 2015

Everyday Solar Cooking

We’ll show you how to build a solar oven, so you can create savory meals while cooking without fuel.

Summer’s arrived and the heat is inescapable. You don’t want to turn on the stove to make dinner, which will heat up the house even more. If you’re like me and don’t have air conditioning — or if you’re energy conscious and keep the AC low — cooking indoors can be unbearable. Instead, why not use the source of all this heat to your advantage?

Solar radiation is the most prolific source of energy on our planet. About 84 billion kilowatt-hours of light reach Earth every day — more than four times our global energy consumption. The challenge is to efficiently harness this energy. Most people settle for gathering solar energy by eating vegetables from their gardens or catching its reflection with their cameras. Trap that energy in an insulated box with some food — then you’ll really be cookin’!

The functioning principles of a solar oven are simple: concentrate, convert, contain. Sunlight — or visible light — is concentrated by several reflective surfaces to pass through a glass lid into an insulated box. A pot of food you put inside the box will absorb the light and convert it into longer-wavelength infrared energy, or heat. The insulation will inhibit the heat from escaping, and the wavelengths will be too long to pass back through the glass lid. So, they’ll bounce around and heat up your food. Ever leave your car windows closed on a bright, warm day? Then you’ll recognize the basic principles of solar cooking.

Read more here.

Scientists confirm that the Paleo diet is nonsense


Pity the Paleo dieters. Their low-carb lifestyles are probably misguided.

The theory behind the very trendy high-protein/low-carb Paleo diet is that we should mimic the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors, eating mainly meat, fish, and a restricted list of pre-agricultural vegetables and fruit. (There is some debate within the Paleo community about which starchy vegetables and how much of them are Paleo-approved, but most recommend limiting them if not barring them entirely.) But according to a new study in The Quarterly Review of Biology, the low-carb interpretation of the paleolithic menu is probably all wrong. The researchers posit that our cavemen and cavewoman ancestors loved—and needed—carbs as much as we do, even if they gathered them instead of cultivated them.

Based on a review of archaeological, genetic and physiological evidence, the researchers found that “plant carbohydrates and meat were bothnecessary and complementary dietary components” in the evolution of humans. Examination of 3-million-year-old teeth and the plant-life in the regions where our ancestors lived also signal that they were eating tubers and other starchy vegetables.

The root vegetables many modern Paleo dieters avoid likely played a key role in the original Paleo diet for a number of reasons. Because these plants grow underground, they were likely a key source of nutrition for our gathering forebears, who could dig them up as needed, the researchers say, and probably hunted much less than once thought.

“Although meat may have been a preferred food, the energy expenditure required to obtain it may have been far greater than that used for collecting tubers from a reliable source,” the researchers write. (Worth noting: The researchers believe the tubers were collected by postmenopausal women, who shared them with the younger female relatives, which in turn, allowed them to have more babies. Men are not mentioned.)

Read more here.

The Underappreciation of Rest in Today’s Society


“What is without periods of rest will not endure.” —Ovid

Recently, I spent a few weeks on vacation. The time was filled with travel, reconnecting with family, playing golf, swimming, sleeping, and reading. As you can probably imagine, it was quite enjoyable. But more than that, it was desperately needed.

Consider the benefits that rest offers:

  • a healthier body.
  • more balance.
  • less stress.
  • deeper relationships.
  • better opportunity to evaluate life’s direction.
  • a new, fresh outlook.
  • increased productivity.

Yet, despite all the proven benefits of rest, intentionally setting aside regular time for rest is a practice that has become undervalued and underappreciated in today’s culture. We have become overworked, overstressed, and exhausted. Yet, Sabbath (setting aside one day each week for rest) remains a dying practice that less and less people practice regularly (never mind the idea of actually taking a two-week vacation).

Read more here.

Enviros, Tea Partiers, and the Christian Coalition all agree: Florida needs more rooftop solar

There’s an increasingly energetic fight brewing in Florida — one that has odd battle lines, bringing Tea Party activists and environmentalists together against monopoly utilities and big-money right-wing groups like Americans for Prosperity, and turning city governments against neighboring city governments.

The issue at stake? Whether state law should be amended to allow organizations other than utilities to sell electricity, which would clear the way for more rooftop solar power.

Florida is one of only five states in the country that actively bars third parties from selling electricity. (Another 20-plus states don’t explicitly bar it, but don’t allow it either — what this means for solar companies is unclear, one group that tracks the issue told PolitiFact.) So Floridian homeowners aren’t allowed to buy energy from companies that install solar panels on their roofs.

The state’s utilities, at the moment, only draw 1 percent of their electricity from solar, despite the fact that the state ranks third in the country in terms of potential to generate solar energy, and despite the fact that solar energy has become cost competitive with fossil fuels and is often a safer investment for utilities.

Read more here.

The 196th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

August 16, 2015 marks the 196th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, the cavalry attack in 1819 on a mass meeting of 60,000 in Manchester which left at least 15 people dead and up to 700 seriously injured, among them women and children. It is not known how many of the injured died later from wounds inflicted by saber-wielding cavalry.

The mass meeting was being addressed by radical speakers calling for parliamentary reform. Men, women and children had marched from communities in what is now Greater Manchester to the gathering. It took place as demands for democracy and freedom continued in the aftermath of the French revolution and amid growing poverty and unemployment.

Local magistrates in Manchester panicked and ordered in the military to arrest the speakers. The cavalry — hussars — charged and attacked the meeting, riding their horses into the crowds and slashing and stabbing with their sabers.

The attack, the deaths and the injuries provoked two reactions.

The government cracked down on all public gatherings and passed what are now known as the Six Acts — suppression of public expression of opinion, debate, gatherings and dissent. And do not think for one moment that the government would not bring in legislation like that again – in fact they are already considering some of those.

The second was an outburst of public anger and protests and a growing tide of demand for reform, leading in 1832 to the Great Reform Act, the introduction of increased, though limited, suffrage. It was the precursor to today’s still limited parliamentary democracy. In fact we, in the same way as all other so-called democratic countries, do not actually have a democracy, a true democracy, and many who talk about it would not even know true democracy and what it actually means even if it bit them in the proverbial.

Other outcomes of the massacre were the founding of the Manchester Guardian and Shelley’s mighty poem about the event “The Masque of Anarchy”, described by Paul Foot as “the greatest political poem ever written in English” and including the words, still relevant today “ye are many, they are few.”

The Mask of Anarchy

Written on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.
I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :
All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.
Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.
And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.
Last came Anarchy : he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood ;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
And he wore a kingly crown ;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone ;
On his brow this mark I saw—
With a pace stately and fast,
Over English land he passed,
Trampling to a mire of blood
The adoring multitude.
And with a mighty troop around
With their trampling shook the ground,
Waving each a bloody sword,
For the service of their Lord.
And with glorious triumph they
Rode through England proud and gay,
Drunk as with intoxication
Of the wine of desolation.
O’er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
Passed the Pageant swift and free,
Tearing up, and trampling down ;
Till they came to London town.
And each dweller, panic-stricken,
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.
For from pomp to meet him came,
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
‘Thou art God, and Law, and King.
‘We have waited weak and lone
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’
Lawyers and priests a motley crowd,
To the earth their pale brows bowed ;
Like a bad prayer not over loud,
Whispering—‘Thou art Law and God.’—
Then all cried with one accord,
‘Thou art King, and God, and Lord ;
Anarchy, to thee we bow,
Be thy name made holy now!’
And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.
For he knew the Palaces
Of our Kings were rightly his ;
His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
And the gold-inwoven robe.
So he sent his slaves before
To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
And was proceeding with intent
To meet his pensioned Parliament
When one fled past, a maniac maid,
And her name was Hope, she said :
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air :
‘My father Time is weak and gray
With waiting for a better day ;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling with his palsied hands!
‘He has had child after child,
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me—
Misery, oh, Misery!’
Then she lay down in the street,
Right before the horses feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.
When between her and her foes
A mist, a light, an image rose.
Small at first, and weak, and frail
Like the vapour of a vale :
Till as clouds grow on the blast,
Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
And glare with lightnings as they fly,
And speak in thunder to the sky.
It grew—a Shape arrayed in mail
Brighter than the viper’s scale,
And upborne on wings whose grain
Was as the light of sunny rain.
On its helm, seen far away,
A planet, like the Morning’s, lay ;
And those plumes its light rained through
Like a shower of crimson dew.
With step as soft as wind it passed
O’er the heads of men—so fast
That they knew the presence there,
And looked,—but all was empty air.
As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
As stars from Night’s loose hair are shaken,
As waves arise when loud winds call,
Thoughts sprung where’er that step did fall.
And the prostrate multitude
Looked—and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien :
And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
Lay dead earth upon the earth ;
The Horse of Death tameless as wind
Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
To dust the murderers thronged behind.
A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
A sense awakening and yet tender
Was heard and felt—and at its close
These words of joy and fear arose
As if their own indignant Earth
Which gave the sons of England birth
Had felt their blood upon her brow,
And shuddering with a mother’s throe
Had turned every drop of blood
By which her face had been bedewed
To an accent unwithstood,—
As if her heart cried out aloud :
‘Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another ;
‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.
‘What is Freedom?—ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well—
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
‘’Tis to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants’ use to dwell,
‘So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.
‘’Tis to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak,—
They are dying whilst I speak.
‘’Tis to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye ;
‘’Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More than e’er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.
‘Paper coin—that forgery
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something from the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.
‘’Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.
‘And at length when ye complain
With a murmur weak and vain
’Tis to see the Tyrant’s crew
Ride over your wives and you—
Blood is on the grass like dew.
‘Then it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood—and wrong for wrong—
Do not thus when ye are strong.
‘Birds find rest, in narrow nest
When weary of their wingèd quest ;
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.
‘Horses, oxen, have a home,
When from daily toil they come ;
Household dogs, when the wind roars,
Find a home within warm doors.’
‘Asses, swine, have litter spread
And with fitting food are fed ;
All things have a home but one—
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none !
‘This is Slavery—savage men,
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do—
But such ills they never knew.
‘What art thou, Freedom ? O ! could slaves
Answer from their living graves
This demand—tyrants would flee
Like a dream’s imagery :
‘Thou are not, as impostors say,
A shadow soon to pass away,
A superstition, and a name
Echoing from the cave of Fame.
‘For the labourer thou art bread,
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.
‘Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
For the trampled multitude—
No—in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.
‘To the rich thou art a check,
When his foot is on the neck
Of his victim, thou dost make
That he treads upon a snake.
‘Thou art Justice—ne’er for gold
May thy righteous laws be sold
As laws are in England—thou
Shield’st alike both high and low.
‘Thou art Wisdom—Freemen never
Dream that God will damn for ever
All who think those things untrue
Of which Priests make such ado.
‘Thou art Peace—never by thee
Would blood and treasure wasted be
As tyrants wasted them, when all
Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.
‘What if English toil and blood
Was poured forth, even as a flood ?
It availed, Oh, Liberty.
To dim, but not extinguish thee.
‘Thou art Love—the rich have kissed
Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
Give their substance to the free
And through the rough world follow thee,
‘Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
War for thy belovèd sake
On wealth, and war, and fraud—whence they
Drew the power which is their prey.
‘Science, Poetry, and Thought
Are thy lamps ; they make the lot
Of the dwellers in a cot
So serene, they curse it not.
‘Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou—let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.
‘Let a great Assembly be
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.
‘Let the blue sky overhead,
The green earth on which ye tread,
All that must eternal be
Witness the solemnity.
‘From the corners uttermost
Of the bounds of English coast ;
From every hut, village, and town
Where those who live and suffer moan
For others’ misery or their own,
‘From the workhouse and the prison
Where pale as corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
Groan for pain, and weep for cold—
‘From the haunts of daily life
Where is waged the daily strife
With common wants and common cares
Which sows the human heart with tares—
‘Lastly from the palaces
Where the murmur of distress
Echoes, like the distant sound
Of a wind alive around
‘Those prison halls of wealth and fashion.
Where some few feel such compassion
For those who groan, and toil, and wail
As must make their brethren pale—
‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold—
‘Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free—
‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.
‘Let the tyrants pour around
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.
‘Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.
‘Let the fixèd bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.
‘Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.
‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,
‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.
‘Let the laws of your own land,
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,
‘The old laws of England—they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day ;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo—Liberty !
‘On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.
‘And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, —
What they like, that let them do.
‘With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.’
‘Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.
‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.
‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.
‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular ;
A volcano heard afar.
‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain.
Heard again—again—again—
‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’

Never forget those on whose shoulders we stand! Many of them gave their very lives for the cause.

© 2015

How buying in bulk actually wastes food

If you’re like me, you writhe in guilt-ridden anguish each time you forget to bring your canvas tote to the grocery store. But in the rare times we do remember our reusable bags, Americans tend not to think much about what we actually put inside them, according to a new survey. The takeaway: We waste a lot of extra food (and money) simply because we don’t shop often enough.

As big of a problem as it is, food waste rarely makes the news. There was some buzz a while back about France’s ban on grocery stores throwing out edible food, but the numbers show that this is only a small part of the problem. Americans vastly underestimate their own food waste, which turns out to be driven mostly by a desire to avoid getting sick — even though saving money is also a top priority. That means we end up stocking our shelves with more than we need to ensure we’ll always have something fresh when we want it.

That sort of behavior is encouraged at bulk stores like Costco and Walmart, which operate on the myth that buying in bulk helps you save money. But new evidence shows that the push for huge quantities of cheap, high-quality food has caused us to be more wasteful than ever. Simply put: We’re throwing away more in food waste than we are saving by buying in bulk.

“People almost entirely neglect the cost of the food they’re throwing away from their kitchen,” says Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona, who led the new study. “If you throw away a meal because you’ve eaten out when you weren’t planning to, the cost of that restaurant meal is higher than you think. People don’t account for that at all.”

Read more here.

Gardening While You Learn

As childhood obesity continues its upward trend nationally, schools and community organizations are partnering to find solutions. One such solution is the advent of school gardens to get students outside the classroom and into the great outdoors.

A University of Alabama psychologist, however, wanted more than anecdotal evidence of the various programs’ success. She’s seeking to determine exactly what kind of an impact these projects have on students, both from a health and educational perspective.

“Working with children in the counseling realm, I noticed how much more time they were spending inside with video games, televisions and computers,” says Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, a UA psychologist. “I noticed the same thing with children with ADHD and behavioral difficulties who especially need to move and get outside and engage in more hands-on learning.”

Boxmeyer began researching hands-on, educational models that included outdoor nature components about the time the Druid City Garden Project organization was established. It was a perfect partnership.

The Tuscaloosa nonprofit uses school gardens as a teaching tool, connecting students to their food source and teaching important nutritional information. It’s an effort to halt the rising rates of childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The organization uses a curriculum that ties into the state educational standards for math, science and reading. Weekly, students work in the garden, as well as hold farm stands after school to sell the produce grown.

Read more here.

Jeremy Corbyn: the green Britain I want to build


We need a renewable energy revolution, an end to fracking, no new nuclear power, efficient homes, and the break up of our energy cartels, writes Jeremy Corbyn, All that, and strong protection for wildlife and oceans, no TTIP trade deal with the US, clean air to breathe, and massive investment in public transport. Is there anything not to like?

The Labour movement and environmental movement are natural allies.

We are fighting for the same thing: for society to be run in our collective interests and those of our protecting our planet.

Promoting the well being of our planet, its people and ecosystems must be at the heart of the Labour Party's vision of a fairer, more prosperous future.

There is an electoral dimension. To win, we must show we have a modern vision of an innovative country that has a new idea of prosperity and success.

Our collective aspirations must lie with a greener vision of Britain. And we must reach out to those voters who care deeply about the environment if we are to build the electoral alliance we need.

Climate change is a threat to our very existence. Tackling climate change will only be effective if social justice is at the heart of the solutions we propose. Pope Francis recently said:

"We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."

Read more here.

How to Make a Solar Oven

Learn how to make a solar oven that works beautifully, is built to last, and costs less than a purchased solar cooker.

Solar ovens are simple devices that capture heat from the sun with a reflective surface that’s angled or curved towards a cooking pot. Because they can be easily made from cheap materials like scrap cardboard and tinfoil, they are widely used in areas of the world where trees and fossil fuel are scarce or expensive. Once made, they can be used to cook food and boil water in a reasonable amount of time for absolutely no cost.

There are dozens of possible designs; some angle the rays down into a small center area, while others focus the rays upward toward the underside of a pot, like a reversed magnifying glass. You can also buy portable solar ovens assembled from polished metal online—they’re great equipment for camping. But if you’re serious about integrating free fuel from the sun into your cooking, the plan below features a solar oven that works beautifully and is also built to last. Plus, you can build it for a fraction of the cost of a purchased solar cooker.

Depending on variables like location, ambient air temperature and the angle of the sun, a solar oven can reach temperatures above boiling (212° F). In ideal conditions, some types can reach 300° or more. This temperature range is high enough that you can safely cook any food, including meat. Cooking times are longer, but because the temperature is lower there’s little danger of overcooking, and the food is delicious.

Read more here.


plant picture

This is a really important bit. You need to dry your seed out, or it will not keep.

Seed that is air-dry is not really properly dormant - its just napping;
so it is still burning through its stored reserves of energy and will soon run flat - like a mobile phone left on.

Also, you can't put it in a sealed container as it is still breathing - it would suffocate. And without a sealed container, it will soon reabsorb water from the air on the first humid day, and start getting ready to germinate.

How can we dry the seed at home?
We'll use dry rice to suck the water out of the seed & get it really dry. Then it will hibernate completely.

You need to get:

  • a big jam-jar with a good lid,
  • an old pair of tights,
  • a rubber band,
  • and some rice

You need to use at least twice as much rice as you have seed. It doesn't matter if you have too much rice, but too little won't work.

Read more here.

Soros urges EU to give more support to Ukraine and not concentrate on Greece

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

An unelected (please insert your own choice of expletive here) of a billionaire tells the European Union what to do. Sorry, run that by me again very slowly.

While this may, in the light of the events that have been unfolding with regards to the Greek “crisis” and the Troika and the European Union vehemently refusing to budge but an inch as far as rescheduling the Greek debt is concerned, be already a little old the fact remains that this particular individual is taking upon himself far too much power to tell not just one government but an entire groups of governments what to do.

And seeing the influence that this man has over the leaders of the European Union and other nations shows the farce that our so-called democracy actually is. Unfortunately most people never get to hear about those shenanigans by such “powerful” individuals, as well as corporations, play and the influence they have over those people that are supposed to be answerable to us, the people.

Instead, however, our “representatives” do not represent us but work on behalf of those that pay them brides or otherwise put pressure on them to do as they want, and refuse to answer and be answerable to us, the electorate.

That should tell everyone who is not blind or deaf that we do not, anywhere, live in any form of democracy, not even by a long stretch, and that totally aside from the fact that being allowed to once in every so many years to cast our vote for the next captain and crew to run the ship, who then decide to just carry on as is regardless on the same course, does not a democracy make.

Democracy means, in its original, that the people govern themselves and I doubt that anyone will be able to list but one country on this Planet where this is actually the case. In the main the countries are but governed, and thus none of us are free people but slaves to the state, by more or less oligarchs.

Time to wake up people!

© 2015

Plants That Grow Better Side-By-Side

Companion planting uses one species' advantages to help another.

Garlic and a Rose

Organic gardeners know that a diverse mix of plants makes for a healthy and beautiful garden. Many believe that certain plant combinations have extraordinary (even mysterious) powers to help each other grow. Scientific study of the process, called companion planting, has confirmed that some combinations have real benefits unique to those combinations. And practical experience has demonstrated to many gardeners how to mate certain plants for their mutual benefit. Companions help each other grow—tall plants, for example, provide shade for sun-sensitive shorter plants. And the technique uses garden space efficiently. Vining plants cover the ground, upright plants grow up, allowing for two plants in the same patch. Companions also prevent pest problems. Plants like onions repel pests and other plants can lure pests away from more delicate plants. Or one plant may attract the predators of another plant's pests.

Roses And Garlic
Gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for eons. since garlic can help to repel rose pests. Garlic chives probably are just as repellent, and their small purple or white flowers in late spring looks great with rose flowers and foliage.

Tomatoes And Cabbage
Tomatoes are repellent to diamondback moth larvae, which are caterpillars that chew large holes in cabbage leaves.

Read more here.

How To Grow Onions

onion collage

It is summer. It is hot. Why, oh why, would anyone be planting a crop that grows during "cool" weather? Because, Grasshopper, fall will be here soon and we need to get the fall crops in the ground now. There are lettuce seeds, spinach seeds, beets, peas, cabbage, kale and onions that must be planted. Yea! Gardening!

I grow onions every year. Usually twice a year. Spring and fall.

Onions are a "cool season crop." This means they will grow and thrive when the weather is cool. Some other plants that like cool weather include: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes, asparagus, kale and many herbs. All of these will enjoy cool days and frosty nights.

Read more here.

Food production shocks 'will happen more often because of extreme weather'

Poorer countries will be hit most by falls in production for major crops but UK and and US will also be exposed to resulting instability, says taskforce

Major “shocks” to global food production will be three times more likely within 25 years because of an increase in extreme weather brought about by global warming, warns a new report.

The likelihood of such a shock, where production of the world’s four major commodity crops – maize, soybean, wheat and rice – falls by 5-7%, is currently once-in-a-century. But such an event will occur every 30 years or more by 2040, according to the study by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience.

Such a shortfall in production could leave people in developing countries in “an almost untenable position”, with the US and the UK “very much exposed” to the resulting instability and conflict, said co-author Rob Bailey, research director for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House.

Read more here.

How To Store Fresh Vegetables For Months … Without A Refrigerator

If gardeners find spring and summer to be about growing food, they find fall and winter to be more about storing food. The fall season brings bountiful harvest from your own garden as well as inexpensive prices from local farmers’ markets. In winter months, prices on produce inevitably rise. So it makes sense to store as much as you can while fresh produce is bountiful and cheap.

One of the oldest – and easiest — ways to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables through the winter months is with cold storage, also known as root cellaring. In fact, historical records indicate that the aboriginal people of Australia were using the technique of burying food in the ground to preserve it more than 40,000 years ago, and walk-in root cellars started to become popular in England in the 17th century.

What is a root cellar? A root cellar is simply an underground room used for preserving fruits and vegetables for several weeks or months. Many homes have them built into the basement, but they can also be structures separate from the home. The main features of these cellars is that they are cool in temperature, have an appropriate level of humidity and are well-ventilated.

Read more here.