Using wood ash in the garden

Did you know you could be using wood ash in the garden to deter pests and disease and build your soil? You can! Learn the do's and don'ts before you start.

A few weeks ago I was walking the garden with a friend. My friend happens to be from Kenya and I’ve learned so much from her over the few years she and her family have been in the US. My large kale plant had an aphid infestation and I don’t know about you, but aphids are hard for me to get rid of. Partly because I’m not as diligent as I should be and partly because I’m scared to use anything on my plants that *might* hurt the bees. So, I usually do nothing.

I asked my friend what they do in her country for aphids and she said they sprinkle wood ash on the plants. Really??? Using wood ash in the home garden was new to me. So the next evening, I got some ash from the smoke belly of our smoker and sprinkled some on the kale and the green beans that were next to them. I noticed that the pill bugs – we have an infestation right now – didn’t like the ash and were running from it. The next day, there was a noticeable reduction in aphids on the kale and green beans. I don’t know if they just left and took up residence somewhere else or if they died but my interest has been piqued.

Read more here.

Nigerians Are Building Fireproof, Bulletproof, And Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles And Mud

These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof, and can withstand earthquakes. They also maintain a comfortable temperature, produce zero carbon emissions, and are powered by solar and methane gas from recycled waste.


Plastic is everywhere. In fact, the environment is so riddled with it, researchers predict that 99% of all birds on this planet will have plastic in their gut by the year 2050.

It is not enough to persuade people to use less, plastic needs to be repurposed and reused to be kept out of landfills. Despite informative infographics, emotional statistics, and recycling programs, many nations – especially the United States – continue to toss plastics into landfills without much care.

This unfortunate reality has spurred many to get creative with the discarded byproducts of society. Some have used plastic waste to construct marvelous sculptures and raise awareness about the issue, while others are repurposing it entirely to construct eco-friendly homes.

As reports, the housing crisis has become so bad in Nigeria, nearly 16 million units are required to address the shortage. Because crafting traditional homes would be far too expensive for most, locals adopted the idea put forth by two NGOs and are now building plastic bottle homes.

Read more here.

How To Add An Oven To A Wood Stove


A wood stove is a great item to have to keep warm in a cabin or in a small house. However, you can use the stove to do specific types of cooking if you add an oven component. This is not hard to do if you know the best way to add an oven to a wood stove.

The reason to add an oven to a wood stove is to make use of wasted energy. A lot of heat is lost when it goes up and out the chimney flue. You can harness this heat to use for cooking food. The oven to use will be super easy to install on an existing wood stove.

Read more here.

Confiscation of farms and food supplies in case of crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Under the NDAA in the US, and also under legislation (proposed?) in Germany, the government takes upon itself the right to confiscate, without recompense, farms, and food supplies (including supplies above the amount recommended by the government held by individuals) for the good of the country.

This means that whatever preparations any of us are going to make to withstand a crisis will be taken away from us in the event of such a crisis by the powers-that-be but really should not be.

“Our” regimes are aiming to confiscate, without compensation, farms and market gardens, and their produce, as well, as said, any personal provisions that any of us have made above the official recommendations of the government “for the good of the nation”. The official recommended amount in Germany is food and water for 2-3 days and no more. So, no doubt if you have more than that stored – at least where it is know and is there when they come – then you will forfeit that and have it seized.

In other words, you think that you are making provisions for yourself and your family only to find that they will take it away from you so that you and yours will be dependent on the regime. Thus, it would be advisable to do everything in that department rather clandestinely. Don't let people know what you do and where you have stored it and don't buy any supplies in bulk; buy a couple of extra items each and every time you shop.

Beware that no one knows how you garden and grow food and where. That produce that you grow in your own garden, and possible preserve for winter and such, they will come for also. That is not to say that you should not grow your own food; just make sure it is not known all over the place, maybe.

In addition to that we all did well in learning what “weeds”, or better to be called wild plants, are edible and many of them, in fact, the ones that the gardener always decries as his nemesis, namely as weeds, such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), lamb's quarters aka fat hen or goosefoot (Chenopodium album), chickweed (Stellaria media), and many others, have a higher nutritional value than any domesticated cousins.

It might also be a good idea, aside from foraging, to engage in what I call “clandestine farming and gardening”, that is to say to have plots somewhere of crops that do not need much in the way of looking after, again especially wild food, but also others, such as potatoes, in woodland areas, hedgerows and the edges of clearings.

Other provisions, and that includes additional and duplicate tools, should be cached away at secure locations that can be reached quickly though ideally via circuitous routes as to prevent snoopers following.

I think we can say for certain that government is not our friend, especially not in the event of a crisis which government may have, actually, created. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you wish but I believe that government will use any crisis to gain more and more control over our lives and that will include them telling us where we can go and where not, where we will have to live, and what foods and provisions we are allowed to have and what we are allowed to do, also by way of occupation or vocation, i.e. how to earn an income.

© 2016

How To Prune Your Fruit Trees

Now is the best time to prune your fruit trees and here is how to do it in three simple steps.

Within a few years of lovingly planting fruit trees, most folks find themselves with scraggly overgrown bushes, rather than the Garden of Eden they had envisioned. The key to keeping fruit trees attractive and productive is annual pruning.

Worry not, pruning is not the brain surgery it has been made out to be. Curmudgeonly Master Gardener types may tell you that different fruits are pruned in different ways, which is true to an extent, but there is a simple three-step process that works for the vast majority of fruit trees.

Outside of the tropics, most of us are dealing with pome fruits (apples, pears and quince) or stone fruits (peaches, cherries, apricots, plums — anything with a pit). This three-step method works for both.

Though summer pruning is not harmful to the trees, winter makes things easier. Without the tree’s foliage, you can really see what you are doing.

Read more here.

Growing Shade Garden Vegetables and Herbs

Growing Vegetables in the Shade

Some organic home gardens can do best in the shade. This is great news for those of us who don’t want to have to trim those decades-old trees in the backyard too much or live in older neighborhoods with large trees. And, those of you with balconies or porches with limited sunlight; this is great information for you, too.


Tasty vegetables or herbs that you can try in your shady or partially shady spots include:

  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Mint
  • Chervil

Read more here.

How to make a Tvare, Quirl, or Whisk

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This is somewhat of a “how to” instruction as to how to make a Tvare, Quirl, or Whisk – or whatever you may call it in your language – the old-fashioned, Northern European, way.

Whisk from Spruce_largeThis is a kind of simple whisk that is (hardly) known in Britain, or so it would appear, and is also only found, or was found, in certain parts of America. In almost all rural parts of Northern Europe, including Germany and Poland, for instance, aside from Scandinavia, this was the common way the “little” people made their whisks. Though they went out into the woods and cut the top of a spruce or similar kind of tree rather than – only – wait for the Christmas tree. In fact this whisk is, probably, much older even than the invention of the Christmas tree, per se.

I have made many of those kinds of whisks ever since childhood and there was a time that we were even able to sell those on markets, even in the UK. Despite the fact that they were rarely made here by the people or woodworkers.

What you need:

The top of the Christmas tree when you take it out after Christmas. Fir and spruce can be used. You will also, most certainly, need a knife and a pair of secateurs (pruners) could also come in handy for this. Alternatively find the top of such a tree in the woods after felling or thinning operations.

Depending on how long and thick the top is one or two decent branch whorls should be able to be obtained.

This is how to make it:

  1. Cut or snip off the part you will use.

  2. Remove the needles and bark.

  3. Whittle end roundish or whatever and cut small branches to an equal length

  4. If the small branches go a bit into all manner of directions leave them long and tie them up so that they dry at an even level, and only afterward cut them to the desired lengths

  5. When the whisks is dry you smooth it down with sharp knife and different grades of sandpaper.

I find this a great way to use up at least some of the parts of discarded Christmas trees after the holiday period when people tend to toss them out. Thus, during that time when those trees are put out by the kerbside for municipal collection, I can be found with a pair of secateurs on me so as to rescue the useful bits so as to have material for the making of such whisks.

© 2016

Build a More Resilient Homestead

A longtime energy and resilience expert offers advice on how to make your home and land disaster-resistant.

The only certainty about the future is that we can’t predict it. We don’t know when there will be another major storm, earthquake, drought, or terrorist event. With the effects of a changing climate becoming more apparent, interest in resilience is growing rapidly — particularly in coastal areas that will be affected most by sea level changes and storm surges. Homesteaders who value independence and self-sufficiency are making their homes and properties more resilient. So what is resilience? The Resilient Design Institute defines resilience as “the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.” In part, this means that resilience is about being prepared for climate change, though the goal of resilience should appeal even to those who don’t share that growing concern. Resilience is about keeping your family safe and secure, no matter what happens.

Flood Resilience

When you’re working toward a resilient homestead, the placement of buildings and gardens relative to flood risk should be a major consideration. My wife and I purchased our farm in southern Vermont shortly after Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on buildings, infrastructure, and farmland throughout the state. The property we found has about 10 acres of agricultural fields, all perched more than 150 feet above the West River. In an extreme rainfall event, we will get some soggy areas, but our sandy soil should do far better than the river-bottom land that was so affected by Irene.

To achieve flood resilience, we trenched on the uphill side of an old outbuilding that we’d just restored against a hillside. This trench captures moisture coming downhill during an intense storm or spring runoff when the ground is still frozen. Free-draining stone and drainage tile below should keep the building dry. We also put in similar drainage on our 1812 barn, which had suffered moisture damage in the past.

Read more here. (Quite long article)

DIY Rocket Stove Designs

Learn how to build woodburning cookstoves for your campsite, homestead, or backyard with these DIY rocket stove plans.

I fashioned my first rocket stove out of three cinder blocks, a couple of chunks of paving slab, a rusty can, and a brick that I dug out of an industrial dump beside the Kalamazoo River. It was free, DIY, and as ugly as could be. My second rocket stove was made from the same materials, and wasn’t much prettier. But when it came time to feed a hungry crew of guerrilla gardeners, both stoves lit easily, burned hot, and used only a few sticks of wood apiece!

My experience isn’t surprising because rocket stove designers aim for nothing less than radical efficiency — the best of these stoves burn minimal wood and produce little ash, smoke, and excess heat. Rocket stoves achieve their efficiency with do-it-yourself simplicity rather than intricate engineering or expensive fabrication. This, too, is by intention: Ianto Evans and Larry Winiarski designed the first rocket stove in the 1980s for woodstove cooks across the developing world, where inefficient use of fuel wood often contributes to massive deforestation and pollution.

Read more here.

Some winter savings tips

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BubbleWraponWindow-temporary-douple-glazingAs the temperature drops across the country, thermostats everywhere are being turned up a few notches, costing homeowners and tenants more money and doing more damage to the environment.

But there are some easy ways to reduce bills while keeping warm and cozy in winter. Here are a a coups of tips on keeping energy bills and usage to minimum while still staying cozy and warm in the home:

Turn it down: Most new build properties are now well insulated so having the heating on full blast 24/7 is unnecessary. Just by turning down the thermostat to 18 degrees Celsius can equal great savings. But, when it comes to the UK many buildings are not well insulated and, unless you own the property, you can do little about glazing and other drafts.

Snuggle up: It’s important to dress for the season. Expecting to feel comfortable even indoors in winter while wearing shorts and a t-shirt is unrealistic. While it is clearly impractical to wear a snowsuit in the house, dressing appropriately helps to keep those heating bills in check.

I have been known to wear a light wooly hat indoors when the temperatures get low and it does not want to get warm in the house. Our ancestors wore housecoats and caps in the house because of this too, and also the large armchairs with the “ears”

Weather-proof for winter: Investing in double glazing is an absolute must. However, especially for renters, this might not be an immediate option. An effective short term fix is to purchase brush door seals and easy to fit self-adhesive weather strips to add to all door and window frames. These are available at most DIY stores. Secondary double-glazing by means of plastic sheeting is also a possibility to winter-proofing windows. The good old draft excluder home-made too by the front door, and other doors, is certainly a good idea.

The homeowner, certainly, if the funds are available, has much greater options to weather and winter proofing his home than does the renter. Even many housing associations and local authorities have not, so far, in the UK, weather and winter proofed the properties well enough to help tenants reduce heating bills while, at the same time, help the fight against climate change.

Keep water warm: Insulating your hot water tank will give it greater efficiency and will save on the bills. Make sure the tank ‘jacket’ that is at least 75mm thick and, as far as the UK is concerned, adheres to British standards.

Heating with wood: When I speak here of heating with wood I would like to specifically exclude wood pellets and other s-called biomass but of those stick things that come directly from trees. However, while the homeowner can install such stoves without a second thought, almost, the renter rarely has that option, and in the same was as with regards to winterizing his or her home the tenant of a rented property loses out (again).

© 2016

Arctic ice melt 'already affecting weather patterns where you live right now'

Soaring Arctic temperatures ‘strongly linked’ to recent extreme weather events, say scientists at cutting edge of climate change research

The dramatic melting of Arctic ice is already driving extreme weather that affects hundreds of millions of people across North America, Europe and Asia, leading climate scientists have told the Guardian.

Severe “snowmageddon” winters are now strongly linked to soaring polar temperatures, say researchers, with deadly summer heatwaves and torrential floods also probably linked. The scientists now fear the Arctic meltdown has kickstarted abrupt changes in the planet’s swirling atmosphere, bringing extreme weather in heavily populated areas to the boil.

The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places.

In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s.

Read more here.

Indoor Herbs: Better Than Houseplants

The Eight Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

Herbs work harder than your ordinary houseplants. Not content at just being decorative, they bring fragrance to the room and flavor to the food. As a bonus, they often repel insects. There are plenty reasons for growing herbs inside.

Indoor-HerbsIf you live in an apartment, small house or have room-mates, access to a traditional outdoor garden space might be limited. Growing a few multi-functional plants is easy and makes life more enjoyable.

Late fall, winter and early spring often puts a damper on fresh herbs as they go dormant or die off in all but the warmest parts of the country. Our taste for delicious foods seasoned with fresh herbs doesn’t go dormant, however! Growing a few choice herbs in a container that is moved inside during the cold seasons makes those flavors available year-round.

Kitchen Garden Goals

One of the cardinal goals for any gardening cook is fresh herbs for winter salads, stir fries, sauces, soups and stews, right at your fingertips. Absolutely nothing is quite as impressive and satisfying as the flavor fresh herbs bring to the winter dinner table!

I always recommend starting small in any new gardening endeavor – partly to make it easy to do and monitor, but also to avoid overwhelm and the feeling of being chained to the garden.

Read more here.

Vegetarians and Vegans are furious about new British £5 banknotes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Vegetarians and Vegans are furious that new British banknotes contain traces of animal fat

new British £5 NoteThe introduction of polymer cash hasn't gone as smoothly as the Bank of England had hoped.

On November 28, the Bank of England admitted on Twitter that its new polymer banknotes are made with trace amounts of tallow, which is sourced from animal fat, usually cow, but sometimes pig.

This has upset many people who are uncomfortable using items that contain animal byproducts. A petition has circulated in recent days, asking the Bank to fix the problem as soon as possible: “The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK. We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use.”

Within four days that petition received more than 122,000 signatures.

According to Innovia Films, the company that manufactures the polymer used for banknotes in 23 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, and Canada, there are minute traces of tallow added to make the notes more “anti-static.” Despite that fact, though, they still stick together and one has to be rather careful as to not give one instead of two notes stuck together.

As a vegetarian myself – and no one try to lecture – I cannot completely follow the entire thing behind this for there are many other products that we all (and we shall come to those further one), more or less, have to use in daily life that also contain animal byproducts, and even vegetarians and vegans touch those materials daily; only they don’t know that they do.

At least one vegetarian restaurant, The Rainbow Vegetarian Café in Cambridge, England has announced that it is refusing to accept those new £5 polymer banknotes which have now come to be referred to as “corpse cash” and this, I am afraid to say, is also not directly an answer. Makes for great publicity though, I guess.

And now I have some very bad news for the concerned communities:

Just about everything made of polypropylene or polyethylene contains larger trace amounts of tallow than you'll find in the new £5 note. This includes keyboards and mobile phones. The sentiment behind not accepting them is admirable, but slightly hypocritical if you're going to carry on living a normal existence using modern technology and facilities. Even tires (including bicycle ones) contain animal products.

It could even be the case that the material of many vegan shoes contains such byproducts, as much of the leather substitute is a plastic material of one kind or another.

9 everyday products you didn't know had animal ingredients

Even though animal products might not be in as many places as some think (for instance, most "catgut" tennis rackets are made with synthetic materials now, they spread far beyond just those hidden in food: everywhere from your car to the bathroom and the sky on the 4th of July.

On average, 98% of an animal is used. From that 98%, about 55% (on average) of the animal is used for edible products and the remaining 45% for inedible by-products.

Plastic bags: Many plastics, including shopping bags, contain "slip agents," which reduce the friction in the material. And what do you think those are made of? Yes, animal fats, such as tallow.

Although polymers are manufactured from petroleum feedstock, plastics manufacturers often use additives of animal origin to improve material properties and/or to aid in processing of raw polymers. Furthermore new plastics are coming out soon that may be made chicken feathers or other animal “byproducts”, or from insects.

Companies like Tyson Foods are experimenting with keratin protein found in chicken feathers to produce plastics, adhesives and non-woven materials and someday disposable diapers or hospital gowns could be made from those materials.

Car and bike tires: Even when food can have hidden animal ingredients, you can still take the time to look at the label to see it. With your car or bike tires, it is a little more difficult. But you could check with the manufacturer if they use animal-based stearic acid, which helps the rubber in tires hold shape under steady surface friction.

Glue in wood work and musical instruments: Animal glue (made from the boiling of animal tissue and bone) is apparently the best adhesive for fixing musical instruments made from wood such as violins and pianos. Even though other synthetic glues are used too, hide glue is also readily available and widely used for furniture fixes and wood work: You can even catch a guide on how to use it online.

Fabric softeners: Downy fabric softener contains Dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride, which comes from the cattle, sheep and horse industry. They sure won't put that in the usual 'all-so-soft' advertising. And that may be just one of many manufacturers.

Shampoo and conditioner: According to PETA, there are more than 20 components from animals that could be in your shampoo and conditioner. The tricky part is when you read "Panthenol", "Amino acids", or "Vitamin B" in a bottle (just to name a few), it can be either from animal or plant source -- making it hard to tell. Companies have even removed the word 'animal' from some ingredients to avoid putting off consumers.

Toothpaste: Glycerin is found in animal and vegetable fats, which have a chemical composition containing from 7% to 13% glycerine. When separated from it, it is used in a wide variety of products, including toothpaste. As with other ingredients, when you read 'glycerin' on shampoo and conditioner, it can be either animal or plant based, which is a pain. But many products from commercial brands like Colgate claim to be animal-free and suited for vegetarians.

White and brown sugar: What about hidden products in the manufacture process? Among vegetarians and vegans, it is known that purified ash from animal bones is used in filters to refine sugar by some brands, though there are other companies that use filters with granular carbon or ion exchange systems. What not all may know is that brown sugar is also refined, only to have molasses added after.

So, we are a little in a conundrum here as regards of so many things in our daily life that may – or may not – contain animal byproducts. What are we going to do. Refuse to handle anything?

Now just one more thing, and while it may, or may not be related to the matter of animal byproducts in products, and that is Vegan leather. The great majority of this material in, in one way or other, at least still at this very moment in time, petroleum-based and while it may not harm an animal directly it harms the Planet and thus all animals and us.

New products are being tried and developed at this moment that feel and handle, at least so it is claimed, like leather but are made from mushrooms or other non-animal and non-petroleum sources. But, before we get to saddle and harness thickness and quality we still seem to have a way to go.

© 2016

Anne Stobart – medicinal forest gardens – a new quality in permaculture

Medicinal Forest Garden

Anne_Holt_WoodAnne and Kay created and nurture the Holt Wood – a 2.5 acre piece of woodland, which they transformed from a commercial conifer timber planting to a diverse forest garden. The focus of their work is the medicinal nature of everything in their project. Although you will find edible species there, the idea was to, literally take growing medicinal plants in the UK to the next level. Most gardens only keeps medicinal herbs, whilst they have built a multi-story forest assembly. They have also looked outside the UK, and brought trees from other climate analogues, mainly in North America. This gives them the unique position of security in case of trouble of supply from abroad.

Read more here.

Solar power becoming world's cheapest form of electricity production, analysts say

‘Renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies’


Solar power is becoming the cheapest way to generate electricity, according to leading analysts.

Data produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed the cost of solar in 58 lower-income countries – including China, Brazil and India – had fallen to about a third of levels in 2010 and was now slightly cheaper than wind energy.

In August, an auction to supply electricity in Chile achieved the record low price of $29.10 (£23.30) per megawatt-hour – a record low price and about half the price of a coal competitor.

Read more here.

The Historic Art of Trellising

Colonial Williamsburg has mastered the art of using trellises in their gardens to ease the growth and harvest of everything from beans and peas to tomatoes and cucumbers.

Trellis building

There are few items more useful to a gardener than a long, slender, supple, stick. They prop up the peppers, the peas and the beans. They trellis the cucumbers and the tomatoes, they form the wattle fences, they hold the row covers over the cabbages and they shelter the broad beans from the winter cold. In short, no garden should be without a supply of sticks.

The proper sticks for a garden cannot be simply picked up off the ground, they must be grown. Growing sticks is an ancient art and it is likely that the first buildings inhabited by man were formed with sticks. Wattle and daub construction, in which a lattice of sticks provides the structure for a mud-plaster wall, probably dates back hundreds of years.

In medieval Europe, the sticks were most commonly collected from coppiced trees. This was a pruning method in which plants such as willows, hazels, and alders were kept cut to the ground, resulting in a profusion of sucker growth from the base of the plant. These stems could be used for building material, firewood, tool handles, twig brooms or for the trellising of garden plants.

Read more here.

Forget Fences—Grow A Living Hedge

The art of hedge-laying may have gone out of style, but it’s a way to add functional beauty to your farm.

While most people have heard of planting or trimming a hedge, the art of laying a hedge is one that has been somewhat lost to time outside of rural areas in the United Kingdom and Ireland. A task for autumn and winter gardens, hedge-laying involves bending living trees between 35 and 60 degrees in order to create a dense living barrier that is somewhat weatherproof, usually livestock-proof and also a safe haven for biodiversity.

Read more here.

Confessions of a Hypocrite: Utopia in the Age of Ecocide

Shaun Chamberlin explores the difficulty of being an earth activist in a consumerist and modern world. Shaun is inspired by David Fleming's latest book, 'Lean Logic', which explores culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology.

I confess! I love Magnum ice creams!

But surely as a good, responsible eco-citizen, I must be aware that these relatively cheap, beautifully packaged nuggets of deliciousness are inescapably products of the industrial system that is destroying all that I hold dear?

That Magnums are produced by Unilever, not only the world’s biggest ice cream manufacturer but the world’s third largest multinational consumer goods company, associated with deforestation for palm oil, exploitation of workers, the promotion of unsustainable agriculture, factory farming, the use of tax havens, lobbying against GM labelling and so on…

So I should stop eating them, right? I should overcome my baser urges and live a lifestyle that accords with my values and beliefs?

Well, there is certainly an argument for that, and I know many friends who struggle and expend huge energy and willpower on resisting their deep desire for Magnums, or bacon, or jet flights or whatever… And even feel resentment at those who don’t do the same. Occasionally, of course, they give in, and then feel huge guilt, and maybe increased resentment at those who seem to consume without even feeling this inner conflict.

With this approach, it is little wonder that we environmentalists are often characterised as tedious killjoys who wouldn’t know how to enjoy ourselves in a vegan chocolate factory. Perhaps it is even fair. After all, there is nothing inspiring about the struggles of a divided and conflicted self. And there is nothing less inspiring than ‘shoulds’. With the possible exception of ‘should nots’…

But what is the alternative, if we are mindful of the consequences of our actions? How can we live lives of full joy, without sacrifice, guilt or wilful ignorance?

For me, what works is letting the two sides of my self talk to each other. The part that desires the Magnum and the part that does not desire the consequences. Rather than choosing between them, I let them talk it out. Surprisingly, perhaps, they seem to come to an agreement quickly enough.

Read more here.

Planning a Garden is a Simple Way to a Better Harvest


Have you ever had grand dreams of a beautiful garden, but it never went exactly the way you imagined?   Maybe you thought you planted lettuce, but it never came up.  You were sure it was time to harvest the carrots, but they were too tiny when you pulled them up.  There’s a simple solution to these types of problems. Plan your garden before you plant it.  Planning a garden allows you to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place, and keeps you on track for the whole year.

I’ve never been great about planning or keeping notes about the garden.  It shows too, in my haphazard way of putting seeds in the ground.  Some years I luck out.  Other years I put in a bunch of work only to have nothing to show for it at the end.   I’m sure if I were better at planning and note taking I would have better yields.  So, when I got a chance to receive a review copy of The Gardening Notebook by Angi at SchneiderPeeps I jumped at the chance to increase my knowledge.  It’s such a good resource for keeping track of my plans and notes!

Read more here.

An Awesome Urban Food Garden Where Food Miles Are Zero…

An Awesome Urban Food Garden Where Food Miles Are Zero...

On just a tenth of an acre (6000 square feet) in Berkeley, California, the owners of an average home in an average neighborhood are doing something most of us have never tried: they grow nearly all their own food. Not only do they grow vegetables like carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, as well as fruit like apples and cherries, but they raise bees and chickens, rabbits and goats, providing their dairy and meat.

While such an extensive urban farm is a rarity in this century, Mateo Rutherford sees it as simply a swing back toward the more sustainable lifestyle of two generations ago. “My grandparents generation they raised a significant portion of their own food. Then we went through this period where convenience was the name of the game and cheap petroleum. And now I think my generation we’re starting to realize the benefits of producing your own food.”

For Rutherford and Green Faerie Farm co-homeowner Jim Montgomery, their farm is not a reaction to a difficult economic situation, but rather to a food production system that is “tragic on so many levels”. “The value we have as a household is attempting to live sustainably in the world today,” explained Montgomery to the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re growing a victory garden against having to use so much oil.”

Read more here.

High + Mighty Raised Beds

By bringing the soil up to counter height, you make tasks like weeding and harvesting simpler.high-and-mighty-780

Raised beds make tasks like weeding or harvesting simpler. But Jerry Finkelstein in upstate New York too the idea to new heights by raising already raised beds 3 feet to countertop level. Each bed is 4-feet wide by 16-feet long, with the vegetables growing at a height that eliminates stooping. “From any point in the garden, I am no more than 2 feet from a vegetable." he says. "Each bed is 4 feet wide, but I can walk around it.”

Essentially, it is container gardening on a grand scale. He fills the beds, which hold about 10 inches of soil, with local topsoil and adds composted manure from nearby farms, and he continues to do so periodically.

Four double doors mean easy access to bring in compost and soil and to take out the harvest and garden debris at season’s end. “The system is tailor-made for seniors or people with disabilities—easy access with no bending—but it is great for everyone,” says Finkelstein. “I made it that way so no matter how old I get, I can still garden.”

Read more here.

The pathology of capitalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

komunismus-640x400If we but look at how those that have become detached, so to speak, the homeless and the unemployed, which were created by this automated, money-centered market has first created and then discarded, are seen and treated as parasites and when people watch those that have nothing starve or freeze to death we are looking into the face of the pathology of capitalism.

A hegemonic, psychopathic indifferent social character establishes itself (everywhere). People are losing or have lost all empathy and it is but for them a race to the top regardless of who they destroy on the way. The are furiously running around in the hamster wheel without realizing that whatever they do and however many others the “eliminate” on the way, they too will never reach the height of wealth that they are aiming for. The goalposts are being moved continuously. Life is a journey and not a competition, whatever capitalism and its elite would like to make us believe.

We don't have to fear any global warming of the Earth. The social ice age is going to kill us all first. People have become so very cold towards their fellow men and towards all other creatures that on Earth do dwell, that this ice age is already upon us. The capitalist system today especially seems to be harsher than it was even at the time of the Russian Revolution almost a hundred years ago. At least then people still had some empathy towards others that were downtrodden by the system. Today we have, the majority at least, become so conditioned via government propaganda through the media that anyone who is poor, homeless, on any kind of welfare, etc., has only got him or herself to blame and anyone out of work is considered to be too lazy to work and thus not worthy of any help, whether from government or other sources. None ever seem to stop and think that in the capitalist system – especially the new neoliberal version of it – they could find themselves in exactly that selfsame position some day. Out of work and down on their luck. They believe, however, that it will not and cannot ever happen to them because they are running like made in said hamster wheel. Faster and ever faster without seemingly getting anywhere but believing that happiness and riches are just around the next corner.

We are captives of a civilization system that more or less compels us to go on destroying the Earth in order to live. We must break out of this system that is our jail and change the system if we, as a species, want to survive, and live as we are meant to live.

© 2016

Attorney: Facebook power deal could be “sea change” for renewables


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The green energy tariff regulators approved for the $250 million Facebook data center being built in Los Lunas could trigger a “sea change” for renewable energy in the state, according to public utilities attorney Bruce Throne.

Throne made the comments Wednesday evening at an event hosted by the Santa Fe Solar Energy Association and the Santa Fe Sustainable Everything Advocates. Throne was retained by Facebook to guide the social media giant through negotiations with Public Service Company of New Mexico and the state’s regulatory process, though he told his audience at the Santa Fe Public Library’s Southside branch that he was making his presentation as a private attorney and not on Facebook’s behalf.

At the event, Throne expanded on the argument made by environmental advocates when Facebook’s contract with PNM was facing regulatory approval: that the green energy tariff, also known as the green rider, could act as a template for other organizations to secure special rates with utilities for renewable resources. Those special rates could in turn attract new businesses to the state and add new solar and wind facilities to the power grid.

“This is an incredibly important tool for economic development,” said Throne, who referred to statistics showing the solar energy industry employed 1,899 people in New Mexico as of November 2015.

Read more here.

10 Tasks For Your Winter Garden

Winter is finally here in Utah and I was fortunate to be picking tomatoes right up to Thanksgiving! However, a blanket of snow doesn’t stop a keen gardener; there are plenty of jobs you can do in the garden and around the homestead to get your plot ready for the next growing season.  Read on to find out my main 10 tasks for winter.

1.  Keep Composting


Composting slows down as the temperature plummets in winter, however it doesn’t mean that you should stop adding kitchen scraps to the heap.  We’re very keen composters and are expanding the large compost bin to allow for a second heap to get started in winter which will be finished and ready to spread on the garden next fall.

I also make sure that my worm farm is topped up with kitchen scraps throughout winter and we keep using Bokashi composting too.  The Bokashi waste gets added to the compost heap throughout the year and helps to speed things up.

Read more here.

7 Winter Projects You’ll Thank Yourself For This Spring

Use your winter downtime to do things around the farm that were neglected during the growing season to make spring planting a breeze.

Winter is a hard time to farm. The ground is often too wet or frozen to work, the days are short and cloudy, and the temperatures are hardly inviting. But then spring comes and suddenly you find yourself overwhelmed with projects. However, there are plenty of helpful things you can do during the colder months to prepare for spring planting, many of which don’t require getting into the soil at all. They’re easy enough to do in nearly any weather, and when the spring comes, you’ll want to send yourself a thank-you card.

1. Soil Mix

If you don’t already make your own soil mix for seed-starting, winter is a great time to start. Homemade soil mix helps improve germination but also allows you to add important nutrients to your garden every time you plant. Soil mix is typically one part soil, two parts compost, two parts sand and three parts peat moss with a handful of amendments, such as lime, greensand, fish or crab meal, and rock phosphate—all finely sifted, of course. Follow one of these recipes or look to gardening books like Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2nd edition, 1995) for tips and ideas on how to make a soil mix that best suits your practices.

Read more here.

Scott Pruitt's EPA: a dream for oil and gas firms is nightmare for environment

Trump’s pick to lead Environmental Protection Agency has supported fossil fuel firms and sought to hobble public health regulations he will be responsible for

If environmentalists were to sketch out the government official of their nightmares, it would likely look much like Scott Pruitt. The Oklahoma attorney general has been a raucous supporter of fossil fuel companies and repeatedly sought to hobble the public health regulations he will soon be responsible for as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pruitt, 48, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and found his niche in constitutional and employment law. A Republican, he was elected attorney general of Oklahoma in 2010 after a spell as a state senator. Since 2002, Pruitt has received more than $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry and in 2014 even allowed Devon Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas firm, to write a three-page complaint to the EPA on his letterhead.

Pruitt has sued the EPA, the agency he is now set to lead, multiple times over what he considers to be unwarranted meddling by the federal government. He has targeted regulations that limit air pollution haze in national parks, methane leaks from drilling, and mercury and arsenic seeping from power plants.

The attorney general even tried to strip protections from the lesser prairie chicken, a threatened bird, because it presented a feathered barrier to oil and gas drilling. Oklahoma has experienced a huge increase in earthquakes due to a boom in drilling over the past decade.

Read more here.

Create an Edible Landscape

So much good, productive agricultural land is wasted these days on the cultivation of lawns and shrubs. Beauty and bounty can thrive together if you take the time to design a multifunctional edible landscape.

arbor with grape vines

The edible landscape concept strikes a deep chord with me; I've been exploring its many options and variations for more than 40 years. Americans cover millions of acres of valuable agricultural land around their homes with lawn, marigold and azalea beds, wisteria, and an occasional privet or maple. Yet as a landscape designer, I know most edible plants are beautiful and that homeowners could grow a meaningful amount of food in their yards — a much more noble use of the soil.

Instead of the typical landscape, we could minimize lawn areas and put in decorative borders of herbs, rainbow chard, and striking paprika peppers. Instead of the fleeting color of spring azaleas, we could grow blueberries that are decorative year-round — or pear and plum trees that put on a spring show of flowers, have decorative fruits, and yellow fall foliage. These plants aren’t just pretty, they provide scrumptious fruit and can save you money.

Read more here.

Climate change will stir 'unimaginable' refugee crisis, says military

Unchecked global warming is greatest threat to 21st-century security where mass migration could be ‘new normal’, say senior military

Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.

The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.

Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.

“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. He said one metre of sea level rise will flood 20% of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”

Previously, Bangladesh’s finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, called on Britain and other wealthy countries to accept millions of displaced people.

Read more here.

EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'

New renewable energy plan undercuts itself by boosting dangerous wood-burning industries

EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'

The European Commission has announced its new blueprint to phase out coal and energy inefficiencies, while supporting clean energy — but a coalition of civil society groups warns that the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive is fatally flawed.

And guess why? Because certain industries are not going to let go of their profits.

The campaign groups — Global Forest Coalition, Woodland League, Econexus, Biofuelwatch, Transnational Institute, NOAH, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin — point out that in the EU energy plan, bioenergy and waste account for some two-thirds of all energy classed as ‘renewable’. Most of this ‘bioenergy’ will also come from burning wood, both in power stations and for heating.

However, scientific studies increasingly prove that big bioenergy projects produce more greenhouse gases even than traditional fossil fuels.

According to Biofuelwatch, the EU’s cavernous demand for wood to burn for energy is directly tied to the acceleration of logging, land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in countries like Brazil and Ghana, and the conversion of more forests, farmland and grasslands into monoculture tree plantations. This has endangered biodiversity and caused “added harm to forests and people.”

Read more here.

The Chase Is On: Sea Shepherd Vessels Have Departed to Intercept Japanese Whaling Fleet in the Antarctic


b6c7637c45904bc4_orgAfter final preparations in Australia, two Sea Shepherd vessels are now on their way to the Southern Ocean to intercept the Japanese whaling fleet in a bid stop their slaughter of Minke whales.

The marine conservation organization's flagship vessel the Steve Irwin departed Saturday from Seaworks, Williamstown in Melbourne, followed by its fast new patrol vessel the Ocean Warrior, which departed from Hobart, Tasmania on Sunday.

They're now on their way to the vast Southern Ocean in an effort to prevent the Japanese whaling fleet, which left Japan on November 18th, from killing its self-allocated quota of 333 Minke whales.

"With all of the hectic preparations behind us, it's good to finally be on our way to the Southern Ocean," said Captain Adam Meyerson from the bridge of the Ocean Warrior. Fast enough to outrun any whaling ship and equipped with a powerful water cannon, Sea Shepherd predicts the Ocean Warrior will be a game-changer for their 11th whale defense campaign, Operation Nemesis.

This is the second time the illegal Japanese whaling fleet has returned to the scene of their crimes in the Southern Ocean since the 2014 International Court of Justice ruling. "Sea Shepherd shouldn’t have to be taking on the whalers again this summer," said Australian Senator Peter Whish-Wilson at a press conference in the port of Hobart Saturday morning. "Australia won the International Court of Justice case against Japan, but unfortunately the government put trade deals ahead of whales and removed all diplomatic pressure. The Japanese whaling fleet might be able to escape and outrun the international courts but it won’t escape Sea Shepherd."

"It's time that Japan respected the International Court of Justice, the Australian Federal Court, and the global moratorium on commercial whaling and ended their so-called scientific lethal hunting of whales off the Antarctic coast," said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia.

The Japanese typically hunt whales from December until March, so Sea Shepherd's vessels have been equipped to endure four months of harsh conditions at sea to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean.

"The crew has worked really hard to get the ship ready and everybody is super excited to be on our way," said Steve Irwin's Captain Wyanda Lublink. The two Sea Shepherd vessels are carrying a total of 50 crew members from eight different countries: Australia, Germany, France, UK, Austria, Spain, Canada and the United States. "They are very much looking forward to getting down towards the Antarctic and being able to experience firsthand the stunning beauty of this part of the world. A place where illegal whaling vessels from the other side of the world do not belong."

About Operation Nemesis

Operation Nemesis is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Antarctic whale defense campaign. In Sea Shepherd’s past ten campaigns over 6,000 whales have been spared the grenade-tipped harpoons of the illegal Japanese whaling fleet. Japan’s so-called “scientific research” program used to justify the killing of whales has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. In 2015 the Australian Federal Court fined the Japanese whalers $AU1 million for hunting within an Australian whale sanctuary, however it remains unpaid.

Sea Shepherd Global

Sea Shepherd Global

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. For more information, visit:

Greenpeace: 'Recycling is not a solution' for rise in textile waste

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from Greenpeace Germany says "recycling is not a solution" for most textile waste because it's not economically feasible to process clothes into new fibers due to "technological challenges," as reported by Quartz.
  • According to the report, 95% of the clothing that is thrown away could be worn again or repaired with minor alterations. Yet mechanical recycling processes that chop up the material limit those possibilities and blended fibers, such as cotton and polyester, create additional complications. While some chemical recycling methods are in the works, none have become feasible on a large scale so far.
  • The report calls out "fast fashion" — clothing that is not meant to be durable — as a particular issue. For example, H&M offers vouchers for recycling textiles in its stores but the company isn't recycling the majority of that into new garments and uses virgin resources for its products instead. Donations are also not a perfect solution as secondhand clothing often ends up being sent to other countries in larger quantities than they can handle.

Read more here.

Exploring a beautiful, 23 year old food forest in New Zealand (Video)


I've asked this before—but having toured many permaculture gardens and food forests in my time, I've often had one big question: Can you really establish a satisfying, nutritious diet from the hodge-podge mixture of herbs, fruits, nuts and perennial vegetables that seem to make up the mainstay of such plantings?

So this latest offering from the ever fabulous Happen Films is particularly welcome. Exploring the beautiful-looking, 23-year-old, 2-acre food forest created by Robert and Robyn Guyton on the South Island of New Zealand, the video is worth watching just for the sheer beauty of what a mature food forest can look like. But I'm also struck by Robert and Robyn's insights on how to approach forest gardening—namely by letting go, letting the system evolve of its own accord, and applying a light touch in terms of management and "editing".

Robert also touches on the very topic that has always had me skeptical: to eat primarily from a forest garden, you have to learn to adapt to what nature offers you. You're not going to find six heads of perfect lettuce on any one day—but you might rustle up a unique salad of wild and unusual vegetables. According to Robyn, the couple get about 70% of their food from the land. Which is pretty damn good.

Read more here.

Vegetarian and vegan diets good for kids and adults, nutritionists say

Pre-cut vegetables of a self service salad bar are displayed for sale in a shop in the northern German town of Hamburg May 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen(Reuters Health) - - Plant-based diets are tied to a lower risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers - and pretty much anyone can eat this way, according to a leading group of nutritionists.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of life, including during infancy, pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and old age, the authors write in a position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

That's because people who adopt a plant-based diet tend to consume more fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets and salty snacks, and smaller amounts of total and saturated fats, the statement, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, asserts.

The trick is to make sure these diets are well planned out and well balanced, said Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"Any diet that is not well planned and balanced can have negative side effects," Sheth said by email.

"Just because foods are plant based doesn't automatically make them healthy," Sheth added. "For instance, pastries, cookies, fried and salty foods may be vegan but don't really provide much in terms of nutritional value."

For younger vegetarians and vegans in particular, it's important to plan meals that include enough iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and for some, calcium and vitamin D, Sheth said.

Read more here.

Re-discovering Perennial Vegetables

As the days lengthen and the sun grows stronger, many of us are champing at the bit to get our gardens started. Seed catalogues are being pored over, dog-eared, and circled, and some folks may have even begun to order vegetable seeds in preparation for early starts indoors. Although annual edibles like tomatoes and lettuce are favored by many, you might like to look into some perennial vegetables as well: they only require one season’s worth of time and effort to establish them, and you’ll be rewarded with delightful edibles forever.

Benefits of Perennial Vegetable Gardening

If you’ve done any sort of gardening in the past, you’re probably well familiar with the process of starting seeds indoors, prepping soil, moving seedlings outside to harden them, planting them in the soil itself, and then the eventual harvest of both the mature vegetable/fruit and any seeds that have formed. When it comes to perennial gardens, you only have to do all of that once, and the plants will just keep coming back year after year. Doesn’t that sound splendid?

Perennial crops can also help to build, or at the very least improve the quality of your soil: they don’t need to be tilled, so they keep the mycelial culture and soil structure intact, they increase aeration and water absorption, and their natural decomposition cycles as they drop leaves and die back every year creates a natural compost and topsoil.

Below are a few perennial vegetables that you might be interested in. It’s not a complete list, as there are many different permanent edible plants growing all over the world, but these are probably familiar to most people, and can be found/purchased fairly easily.

Read more here.

Study links diet soda to weight gain


Researchers want people to stop obsessing over calorie counts and start considering the effects certain foods have on our bodies.

Forget diet soda. If you’re going to drink a soda, then you should drink a regular one. A new study from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, Maryland, has found that, contrary to what many people think, diet sodas are not conducive to weight loss. In fact, they make it more likely for a person to gain weight than if they were to drink ordinary soda.

The study analyzed data from 1,454 participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, collected between 1984 and 2012. After correcting for various lifestyle factors, including smoking, exercise, ethnicity, gender, diet, and diabetes, researchers found a correlation between body size measurements, obesity levels, and diet soda consumption.

Read more here.

Scotland’s First Eco-Village for the Homeless Will Offer Education Too


Scotland will begin construction of its first eco-village for the homeless in 2017 with its residents moving in by the summer.

The Edinburgh village will contain 10 tiny homes that can house up to 20 people for 12 months each. Since it costs the city council about $21,200 annually to provide one person with housing and food at shelters, the village is expected to save the government $250,000 a year.

Each house will cost roughly $35,000 to build, but their design offers a safe, transportable, and energy-efficient environment for its residents to break the vicious cycle of homelessness.

Read more here.

European Union Parliament votes for a European Army

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

EUArmyNot so long ago when this was being muted by some of us we were being defamed as conspiracy theorists and such, and even in some of the British “mainstream” media after the BREXIT vote and once again we have been proven right, it would seem.

On Thursday, November 24, 2016, the EU Parliament approved the establishment of the so-called European Defense Union. While it may, actually, not be called an EU Army, or European Army, but a European Defense Union it is nothing but an Army and not defensive but offensive – in more words than one – in the same way as NATO was never designed to be a defensive organization but one geared for attack.

An, lo and behold, even the German left party, the one that claims to have its roots in the SED which then became the PDS, Die Linke, is backing this nefarious plan for a European Army, or so it would appear. If that is the case then the Die Linke has shown that it is no longer – if it ever was – grounded in socialism and communism but that it is, like all the others, a neoliberal outfit.

One of the proponents and advocates in that party for an EU-Army appears to be a man called Stefan Liebich who claims in his Wikipedia entry that he was approached at age thirteen by the Ministry of State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit - MfS) to work for them (later) as an official operative. He is an active Member of the Atlantik-Brücke, and he is also a member of the Bundesbeauftragter für die Stasi-Unterlagen (BstU). That all should explain a lot, not just about him but of where the supposedly socialist party, Die Linke, is actually located.

The idea for an EU Army, aka Defense Union, is not new and has been stalking the corridors of Brussels for many years. Until now, however, it would appear that Britain managed to block and stifle any advancement of this idea. Those that always voted with Britain in the European Parliament against this now, after the referendum in the UK for leaving the EU seem to have gone a different route and, it would appear, they are gleefully rubbing their hands that the country that used to be throwing spanners into the works of this has now got virtually no say anymore.

Aside from the fact that this so-called European Defense Union is, more or less, a duplication of NATO, but with a couple of fewer members, it will cost the taxpayers in the EU member states, no doubt, dearly and that on top of the costs of stationing US and other NATO country forces in the various countries.

Not that the ordinary pleb in those countries had any say in the decision for the establishment of such a standing European Army. They were kept out of the loop entirely, as is the common practice of EU democracy, where the elite decides, and not the people of the member states, now, more or less, degraded to nothing more than EU regions. The serfs are just the ones allowed to pay with money, sweat and ultimately blood.

© 2016

America’s first sustainable urban agrihood is growing in Detroit

 This week, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) revealed its plans for the first Sustainable Urban Agrihood in the North End.

Wait, an agrihood? It’s an alternative neighborhood growth model, positioning agriculture as the centerpiece of a mixed-use development. There are some agrihoods around the country, but in rural areas. This is the first within a city.

MUFI’s agrihood spans three acres on Brush Street, a few blocks up from East Grand Boulevard. MUFI runs a successful two-acre garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard, and a children’s sensory garden. They provide free produce to the neighborhood, churches, food pantries, and more.

Read more here.

Two-wheel takeover: bikes outnumber cars for the first time in Copenhagen

Denmark’s capital has reached a milestone in its journey to become a cycling city – there are now more bikes than cars on the streets. Can other cities follow?

Bicycle sensors in Copenhagen clocked a new record this month: there are now more bikes than cars in the heart of the city. In the last year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared with 252,600 cars.

Copenhagen municipality has been carrying out manual traffic counts at a number of city centre locations since 1970, when there were 351,133 cars and 100,071 bikes. In 2009, the city installed its first electric bike counter by city hall, with 20 now monitoring traffic across the city.

Copenhagen’s efforts to create a cycling city have paid off: bicycle traffic has risen by 68% in the last 20 years. “What really helped was a very strong political leadership; that was mainly Ritt Bjerregaard [the former lord mayor], who had a dedicated and authentic interest in cycling,” says Klaus Bondam, who was technical and environmental mayor from 2006 to 2009 and is now head of the Danish Cycling Federation. “Plus, a new focus on urbanism and the new sustainability agenda broke the glass roof when it came to cycling.”

Read more here.

Saving Seeds: 7 Reasons Why and Dozens of Tips for How

Saving seeds can help gardeners save money, grow better crops and become more self-reliant. Learn all about saving vegetable seeds.

The Value of Saving Seeds

When you save your own seeds, you are joining a chain of farmers, gardeners and seed savers that dates back to the Stone Age. All domestic crops were once wild plants that early humans selected to feed themselves or, later, their livestock. Today, gardeners save seeds for many reasons.

1. Money Savings. Every time you buy a seed variety, you invest in your future. For example, I just bought some expensive ‘Midori Giant’ soybean seed, and I feel better about the high price tag because I know I’ll have the variety as long as I continue saving seeds from my plants. (With soybeans, you simply let the last picking dry on the plant and you have next year’s seed.)

2. Seed Security. Hundreds of excellent plant varieties have been discontinued as big corporations have consolidated the seed industry and focused on more profitable hybrids. If you save your own seed, however, you control the supply. I save seed for ‘Miragreen’ and ‘Blizzard’ peas, ‘Lutz Green Leaf’ beets, and ‘Scarlet Keeper’ carrots because these varieties all grow well here in Maine but have become difficult to find in seed catalogs.

3. Regional Adaptation. This is where saving vegetable seeds can get exciting. Most commercially available seed has been selected because it performs fairly well across the entire country if given synthetic fertilizers. (Several companies now offer seeds selected specifically to perform well in organic conditions — but this isn’t the norm.) When you save seed from the best-performing plants grown on your own land and with your unique cultural conditions, you gradually develop varieties that are better adapted to your soil, climate and growing practices.

Read more here.

Less than 5% of UK parents can spot symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning


Lara_s carbon monoxide monsterChildren brought the risks of carbon monoxide to life by drawing what they thought the deadly gas would look like if it wasn’t invisible

  • Shocking new research reveals the risks some UK families are taking when it comes to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

  • More than a third of UK homes (33.9%) aren’t fitted with a CO alarm - approximately 9 million homes

  • Only 6% of Brits can identify the most common symptoms of CO poisoning

  • One in 10 UK parents wrongly think you can smell a CO leak

  • Only half the UK (51.5%) know that a solid fuel or gas fire can be a potential cause of CO poisoning

  • One in 10 private renters (9.7%) who should legally have a CO alarm, haven’t had one fitted

For this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which ran from November 21 to November 27, npower has released findings from its annual carbon monoxide (CO) research to highlight how at risk the UK could be from CO poisoning. The results show there is a clear disparity between the UK’s awareness of CO poisoning and the UK’s actual understanding of what the symptoms are, which appliances can be a cause and also what people should do if they suspect they are suffering from CO poisoning.

The research also sheds light on how British parents could be worryingly underprepared to spot cases of CO poisoning. Despite 95 per cent of UK parents (95.3%) saying they know CO poisoning can be fatal, less than five per cent (4.3%) are actually able to correctly identify the most common symptoms.

Dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness and confusion, stomach pain, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of CO poisoning. But, one in six people (15.7%) think a metallic taste in your mouth is a symptom and one in five (17.3%) think a fever would be a symptom. Further cause for concern is that one in eight of us (11.6%) wrongly think you can smell a CO leak, and one in 10 Brits (10.2%) admit they would have absolutely no idea how to identify a CO leak.

Each year in the UK over 200 people are admitted to hospital with suspected CO poisoning and around 50 people die unnecessarily from it. This new research suggests people in the UK are unaware of what the symptoms of CO poisoning are, so the true number of people affected could potentially be much higher.

Carbon monoxide is completely invisible, it has no smell and no taste, so the only definitive way to detect a leak is with a CO alarm, but despite this only two thirds of UK homes (59.2%) have one installed. The top three reasons people gave to justify not having a CO alarm were: ‘I’ve never had one before’ (28.3%), ‘It’s on my to-do list, I just haven’t done it yet’ (28.1%) and ‘I don’t think I need one’ (22.5%).


Following the results from the research, six children brought the risks of carbon monoxide to life by drawing what they thought the deadly gas would look like if it wasn’t invisible. A group of talented designers then interpreted the children’s drawings to create a series of professionally illustrated characters to give the invisible gas an identifiable persona. npower hopes as many people as possible will share the designs to help increase the UK’s awareness of CO poisoning and reduce the number of completely preventable deaths every year. You can see a video of the children drawing their monsters here: The Invisible Carbon Monoxide Monster.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood don't burn fully, so incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances like boilers, cookers and fires – both gas and solid fuel, can all be causes of CO poisoning.

Between 1995 and 2015, only 35 per cent of deaths from CO poisoning were actually from mains gas appliances or heating. It was in fact appliances that burn solid fuel, portable gas bottles and, petrol and diesel that represented the majority of the remaining 65 per cent. However, when respondents were asked which household appliances could be a cause of CO poisoning, only half (51.5%) know that a solid fuel or gas fire can be a potential cause.

Matthew Cole, Head of Domestic Policy & Social Energy Action at npower commented: “It’s concerning to see these results from our research as they clearly show there’s a serious gap between awareness of CO poisoning and understanding what the symptoms are, which appliances can be a cause and also what people should do if they suspect they are suffering from CO poisoning. We think there’s a real need for the UK’s understanding to be increased to help reduce the numbers of completely preventable deaths from CO poisoning each year and we hope our budding designers will help to do this.”

The research also shows that almost six per cent (5.9%) of us have never had our boilers serviced, which could be around 1.5 million homes. And, one in 10 people who live in privately rented accommodation (9.7%) who legally should have had a CO alarm fitted by their landlord (because their rented home has an appliance that burns, or is capable of burning solid fuel), do not have one installed.

When respondents were asked what they would do if they thought they were suffering from CO poisoning, only two thirds (69.8%) said they would go to hospital. If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from CO poisoning, you need to turn off the fuel source and get medical treatment immediately.

For more information about carbon monoxide and to find out how to protect your family, visit:

Research surveyed 2,000 people across the UK (conducted by Census Wide), aged 16 and above. Number of UK households estimated at 27,000,000 (source ONS)

npower (Npower Group plc) is one of Britain’s leading energy companies, and is part of the innogy SE group. We serve around 5.1 million residential and business accounts with electricity and gas (As published in H1 Results 2016).

innogy SE addresses the requirements of a modern, decarbonised, decentralised and digital energy world. The focus of innogy’s activities is on offering existing and potential customers innovative and sustainable products and services which enable them to use energy more efficiently and improve their quality of life.