Jellied Eel Tub Reuse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Jellied_eel_tub1This is probably the most often used item in my kitchen armory and I have only just realized – honest – that it is. Yes, it is plastic but it is total reuse.

This is a tub that once held jellied eel (no, I can't stand the stuff) which I got, the tub not the eels, from a roadside stand, the owners of which I knew, sometime around 20 years ago, and it has been in use ever since. I also got a big brother of this one, and the matching lids.

The bigger one is not as much used as this slightly smaller one and it is in use for tossing salads, coating vegetables for roasting with oils and spices, and mixing sauces, etc.

This must be one of the best reuse “projects” I have ever undertaken considering the time this tub has now been living and it will go on living and doing its duty, so at least I hope, for many, many more years to come. Had I not taken pity on those tubs they would have gone into landfill as this was before we ever really got going with “proper” plastic recycling.

NB: I put the word proper in quotation marks because, in all honestly, much of our plastic recycling is not really doing much of it.

© 2017

US Administration seems to have lost control

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

central-intelligence-agency-seal-floorIt would appear that the US Administration has lost control of the intelligence services as well as the military. In other words – and now please everyone put on the tinfoil hat – there may have been a coup in the US that no one has, as yet, really noticed, especially not in Washington DC.

In March 2017 Wikileaks suggested – I will call it that for the moment – that the CIA was operating a hacking station from a location in Frankfurt/Main, in Germany and that they had systems in place that could make the hacks operated by them appear to be coming from foreign countries and their governments, especially Russia, in order to put the blame there.

Why blame Russia? Because the hawks in the intelligence community of the US and the military want to start a war.

We therefore have to assume that, if the US administration of whichever President, in the present case Trump, and before that Obama, either knows about all of this and gives itself as not knowing or, the other scenario, that the intelligence and military apparatus has, behind the scenes, actually taken the reigns of important areas.

It is either a case of the administration knowing exactly what is going on but pretending to be dumb and that nothing is happening or the alternative scenario that there are powers no behind the throne that work against the interest of peace and even the interest of the United States to further their own agenda. There is no third option.

If the second scenario is the case, not that the first would be any better, then the world is in very grave danger of a war, a global war, instigated by powers behind the throne of the President of the United States, people and powers of which said President appears to be completely unaware.

It would appear that the departments and agencies say one thing to the President's face and that of the people while behind the scenes they are laying the groundwork for something very sinister indeed.

We appear to live in dangerous times indeed and much of the danger does not come from terrorists or foreign powers but from our own governments and that of our “allies” and supposed “friends”.

© 2017



Recycling is an excellent way to conserve resources, reuse materials and decrease the amount of raw materials being mined, logged or produced from scratch. It’s one of the environmental movement’s most successful enterprises in terms of raising awareness, soliciting public cooperation, and making it part of daily life with recycling depots and curbside recycling pickups.

It’s also why we at Earth911 exist.

In its early days, Earth911 was a simple recycling search engine designed to help you find the appropriate place to recycle virtually anything. By typing in the material you wanted to recycle along with your city or town, you’d be able to see a full list of recycling locations that would accept the product. And while our easy-to-use recycling search continues to help eager recyclers everywhere, today we’re going to go one step further and discuss what happens when you can’t recycle something.

Let’s say you use the recycling search for something you’re not quite sure about — beverage caps without a recycling code, for instance, or those strange plastic mesh produce bags that hold oranges or sweet potatoes. You discover that there aren’t any facilities nearby that recycle the item in question — now what?

Trust us, you still have options! Read on for three fab alternatives to tossing things you can’t recycle into the trash.

Read more here.

5 packaging materials you didn’t know are difficult to recycle

Recycling bin

Recycling is confusing, even for the most well-intentioned and informed conscious consumers. Capabilities of municipal recycling facilities vary from region to region, and items that are difficult-to-recycle sometimes get looped in with regularly accepted items.

Not all paper, metal, glass and plastic packaging is created equal, and many common items that seem to fall in the “recyclable” category are far from it. Knowing to “watch out” for these common household waste items will help you prevent contamination at your local municipal recycling facility (MRF) and ensure that the items you do recycle are kept at their highest value at all times:

1. Black plastic
Plastic is plastic, right? With regards to the types of plastic accepted curbside in general, we know this to be vastly untrue, but black plastic is a big recycling “watch out” that many people are unaware of. The optical scanners used to identify types of plastic at municipal recycling facilities using the reflection of light deem black plastic unrecyclable in the current infrastructure. Why? Black plastic does not reflect light. Thus, the rigid plastic of black microwave food trays, takeout containers and other items are not accepted by most MRFs, even if the resin number on the bottom is accepted in your bin.

2. Gradient glass
Glass is one of the most highly recyclable materials accepted by MRFs, but depending on where you live, some curbside programs require residents to sort colored glass from clear glass, or only accept clear and brown (both of which generally have high market demand). Once colored, glass cannot be turned into another color, so when it comes to gradient or multi-colored glass, the material is not recyclable because these colors cannot be separated.

When contaminants (i.e. different color glass or other materials) are mixed in with glass, it decreases the value of the recovered glass, increases costs and slows production. Gradient and multi-colored glass, then, is basically a contaminant to itself in the current recycling infrastructure. But on the up side, this discarded glass, if captured, is often milled and ground for use in concrete.

Read more here.

Ed.: While the original article states with regards to the PlantBottle, a durable bioplastic alternative to traditional PET bottles made by Coca-Cola, that it can be recycled with traditional PET containers and bottles, I have expressly told by several waste management companies, and not just in the UK, that this is NOT the case.

Recycled containers for seed starting and gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bucket_garden1Spring is the time of year when gardeners everywhere look to getting their seeds started and to get going with gardening. And every year the same question as to the cost for such container creeps into the minds of all of us gardeners. How much will the seed trays and seed starting pots cost us, etc.

More and more people who have little real space for gardening also want to get into growing their own and for them the question of costs for containers in which to do their growing. Buying containers for container gardening does not come cheap.

Recycled containers come into the game here, whether for seed starting or general gardening, and most of them, if not indeed all, can be has for free.

Seed starting

You do not have to to get special seed starting pots, containers and kits. You can use many items of waste, especially plastic waste, for the purpose, from yoghurt pots and such like to the bottoms of plastic (milk) bottles/jugs. Use the bottoms of the latter for seed starting “trays” and the top as cloches.

Do not bother with using the cardboard tubes from toilet- or kitchen rolls – or bother making newspaper pots. While many say that it works I have found that in most cases it leads to dampening off of seedlings and/or to fungal growth.

For small pots for more or less single seedlings empty yoghurts pots are ideal. Just don't forget to put a hole or two for drainage and the same goes for any container that you recycle. The bottom half of small plastic bottles also will make useful seed starting pots. In the same way you can use the tubs that contained fresh cream, sour cream, and such like. While they are, in general, bigger and deeper than yoghurt pots, they work just the same and may be best used for any seedling that required a lot of room for their roots to grow.

You can, obviously, also use the bottoms of other plastic bottles that you may be using in the home, such as those that may have contained cleaning fluids – as long as they have been cleaned out properly – as many of them are a relatively hard plastic though not as hard as those of yoghurt and cream pots.

Container gardening

For gardening in small spaces or for those that are reliant on using patios or balconies, or those that have mostly hard standing in the yard, containers are the way to go. Also for those of us who do not want to do the digging. OK, you can go no dig gardening, which is the best anyway, but you will still first of all have to create the beds, which you lather do not dig again, thus using containers is a good alternative.

I know of one market gardener, in the USA, who grows all his produce for sale (and for his family's needs) in those one to five gallon buckets. But you can use smaller ones as well and also many other different kinds of containers, most of which can be had for free.

Gallon buckets: The buckets I am referring to here are those in which catering establishments, for instance, get their mayonnaise, cooking oils, etc. they are great for container gardening and especially as you can, generally, get as many as you want for the price of asking from places that use them.

When it comes to using recycled containers for seed starting and gardening per se, especially food growing, many people are concerned that there could be harmful chemicals leaching from the plastic through the soil into the food plants. However, plastic plants pots and other planters that are bought in the stores are, well, also plastic. Whether they are food grade, as many of those containers that you would be using when recycling in this way is rather questionable. Thus the question is as to whether we really should be worried?

If, however, the containers may have had some chemicals, pesticides, oils, or whatever else, then using them for growing food crops and produce should be a definite no. The other thing never to use for growing food crops are car tires and that despite the fact that many advocate just doing that, such as for growing potatoes. While in years gone by those tires would have been fine as they would have been natural rubber and not have been containing anything iffy modern tires are first of all more often than not no longer natural rubber but other substances and secondly most, nowadays, are steel radial belted tubeless which are known top leach cadmium into the soil. You certainly do not want that, being a heavy metal, in your potatoes or other vegetables. In general, however, recycling all manner of plastic (and other) containers in the garden should be fine.

© 2017


Last week I wrote about the Edinburgh Remakery, and how they are trying to foster a culture of repair. It’s one of the most shared posts I’ve ever written, and there’s clearly a real interest in this whole idea. Lots of you have been in touch to share similar projects, including this one from Sweden.

ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is a mall dedicated entirely to repaired and upcycled goods. It combines a traditional municipal recycling centre with a shopping centre, so that people can drop off goods that they no longer need, and then browse for something new – perhaps stopping off at the cafe in between. It’s the first mall of its kind in Sweden, and as far as they know, the first in the world.

Staff at the recycling depot intercept and sort incoming goods as they are dropped off, putting aside those that can be repaired or refurbished. They are then passed on to workshops to be renovated and sold on in one of the 14 shops in the shopping centre. There are specialist outlets for furniture, computers and audio equipment, clothes, toys, bikes, gardening tools, and building materials. Everything for sale in these stores is secondhand.

The centre also includes a cafe/restaurant with lots of organic options, an exhibition area, conference facilities and a training college for studying recycling. And if you’re wondering about the name, the ‘tuna’ is short for Eskilstuna, the town where you will find this intriguing place.

Read more here.

The Billionaire on a Mission to Save the Planet From Trump

TOM STEYER ISN’T your average California tree hugger. The former hedge fund manager—number 1,121 on Forbes’ wealthiest people list, with $1.61 billion—was once best known for turning $15 million into $30 billion in about two decades.

But then he went hiking. Steyer and environmental activist and author Bill McKibben spent a day trudging through the Adirondacks. Not long after, Steyer parted ways with the leadership of his company and his oil and gas investments, began to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, and then reinvented himself as a one-man superfund for climate causes. His organization, NextGen Climate, has spent $170 million over the past four years advocating for policies and politicians that help the environment and advance renewable energy.

It’s an uphill battle. Steyer was the largest single donor on either side of the 2016 election—$86 million of his own money. Yet climate change skeptics rule the federal government and many statehouses. Somehow, though, Steyer isn’t acting like a loser. Since November he’s become an even more vocal representative of the nearly two-thirds of Americans who do think human-caused climate change is a real problem. He talked to WIRED about California’s role in science, his own po­litical ambitions (“governor” has a better ring to it than “former hedge fund manager,” right?), and whether Donald Trump could ever possibly, conceivably help save the planet.

Read more here.

Fiskars PowerGearX bypass pruners PX92 – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

powergear-x-pruner-m-bypass-px92-1023630_productimageThe PowerGear™ mechanism is not new to Fiskars. In fact some years ago it was launched but this is a new version of it.

I then had the opportunity to test the P92 bypass secateurs and found them very good indeed. In fact it is the pair that travels with me to my garden – well, it is not a long travel but – each and every time. The P92 also has a very nice little plastic holster that came with it. Alas, that is the one thing that I am sorely missing with the PX92.

The Fiskars PowerGearX bypass pruners PX92 is intended For cutting of fresh branches up to Ø 20 mm, that is just someone under one inch for those that work in old money. Bypass pruners are not – theoretically – meant to be used for dry dead wood.

Unique PowerGear™ mechanism makes cutting up to 3.5 times easier vs standard mechanisms, says Fiskars, and that is certainly does.

Light-weight and durable FiberComp constuction and blades from extra hard, corrosion resistant steel (CrMoV) with PTFE coated upper blade for ultimate performance. Conformed SoftGrip™ handles for optimum comfort and balance. Optimized for small and medium hand sizes.

To some extent the PX92 is, more or less, a slight upgrade to the older P92 (shame they left the holster away), though with somewhat more oomph, as the cutting seems to be easier still. The PX92 is also significantly larger than the P92, which, in turn, also increases the cutting action and power.

A very powerful pair of pruners in small package.

© 2017


A new pop up takeaway serving award-winning plant-based foods from ethical food firm VBites has opened in Vienna, Austria.

Located in the busy Mariahilferstraße 101 shopping area, the ‘vegan to go’ takeaway is open six days a week and offers a selection of vegan foods along with vegan beers and iced tea.

Visitors to the pop-up can choose from the delicious VBites meat-free pizzas, burgers, fries and wraps along with Thai curry soup and salad.

Stand out options include the vegan doner kebab featuring VBites’ meat-free ‘lamb’ as well as hoisin ‘duck’ wrap.

The first of VBites’ expansion into Europe, the potential franchise is initially set to run for two months and could become a permanent fixture if it proves a success, according to Paul-Josef Colloredo-Mannsfeld, a potential franchisee and promoter of the vegan takeaway.

“Vegan food is really booming worldwide,” he said. “With VBites we have a strong and established partner. If the pop up is successful, we plan to establish a year-round business. Feedback so far has been extremely positive.”

All VBites foods are made from 100% natural plant-based ingredients and free from animal products/derivatives, cholesterol, lactose, hydrogenated fats, artificial colours and GMOs, so suitable for vegetarians, vegans, people who are lactose or casein intolerant, meat reducers and those looking for healthier and more ethical lifestyles. Many VBites foods are also kosher and halal approved and pareve.

The VBites ‘vegan to go’ takeaway is open from 10am till 8pm, Monday to Saturday. There is also a small pub garden for those who want to 'eat in'.

For more information about VBites Foods, please visit
For information on VBites cafes, visit

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

5 Reasons You Should Start Your Own Seeds Instead Of Buying Seedlings

It's a little extra work upfront, but the benefits are pretty astounding.

seedlings in biodegradable pots

Sure, it’s easy to pick up a few “six packs” of tomatoes and marigolds at the garden center. But why do that when you can have a greater selection of veggies (and fruits), huge yields for way less money, and plants that have never been treated with chemical fertilizers or herbicides? Seems like a no-brainer to us.

Here, we cover the 5 most compelling reasons to start your own seeds this growing season.

Bigger Yields For Less Money

Even after you figure the cost of seed-starting supplies, growing your own transplants is still cheap. At the garden center, a flat of 36 petunias, for instance, will cost you about $12, but a packet of 100 seeds costs only about $2.

Read more here.



Fiskars, one the UK’s leading gardening tool suppliers, is proud to unveil its exciting new PowerGear™ X range. The innovative cutting tools are a true evolution of engineering and ergonomics, making pruning and lopping easier than ever before.

This brand new generation of gardening tools is surprisingly powerful, with the pioneering PowerGear™ mechanism creating 3x the power in each and every cut, significantly reducing the physical effort needed to prune.

With super sharp PFTE coated precision blades, designed to slice effortlessly through the toughest wood, the PowerGear™ X range is weather resistant, virtually unbreakable and feature a brand new structural 3D soft grip for increased grip and optimal comfort. For the more intensive tasks, a robust aluminium shaft to reduce weight and increase control, complements the lightweight loppers.

Every aspect of design, performance and usability has been considered. Vibrant orange handles increase visibility, making tools easy to locate in even the most overgrown setting. With rivets replaced by bolts, maintenance is easy, increasing tool performance and longevity.

The new Fiskars PowerGear™ X range gives power to all gardeners - whether novice or seasoned.

PowerGear™ X Pruners

With 3x the cutting power of traditionally designed pruners, the new Fiskars PowerGear™ X pruners are easy to use. The patented gear mechanism and impressive power means that bigger, more efficient cuts can be made with a fraction of the effort.

The ergonomic rotating handle follows your hand’s natural clenching motion, reducing stress and fatigue. With a textured soft grip providing optimal comfort, the PowerGear™ X is the perfect pruner for those with large scale pruning tasks, as well as those who suffer from arthritis, rheumatism or carpal tunnel syndrome.

With increased visibility and a new locking mechanism, the pruners are easier to locate and safer to use. The advanced FiberComp™ construction results in a lighter, weather resistant tool, perfect for serious gardeners.

The new PowerGear™ X pruner range is available in Bypass pruner M, Bypass pruner L and Anvil pruner L.

Fiskars PowerGear™ X Hedge Shears

The innovative design for the new Fiskars PowerGear™ X Hedge Shears incorporates ergonomic principles with advanced technology, resulting in a lightweight hedge shear with more balance and control than ever before.

It is hard to believe that the patented gear mechanism can improve productivity so dramatically, but with 3x the power to every cut, this hedge shear cuts effortlessly through growth.

The new soft 3D contoured orange handle provides optimal grip and comfort, reducing fatigue and improving visibility in the garden. Fiskars hedge shears cut along the full length of the blade and the new construction makes it easy for tool maintenance.

The Fiskars PowerGear™ X Hedge Shears are the tool of choice for gardeners that need to take control.

Fiskars PowerGear™ X Lopper

Cutting through tough woody branches should be hard work, but with the new Fiskars PowerGear™ X Lopper, it’s surprisingly easy. The ingenious PowerGear™ mechanism creates 3x the cutting power in every cut, without increasing effort for the gardener. When you take the precision ground stainless steel blades with friction reducing coating into account, and the robust lightweight aluminium handles, it is easy to see why the Fiskars PowerGear™ X Lopper has the best in class cutting power.

The new handle design utilises the soft grip material and with its 3D contour surface increases control and reduces the need for excessive grip, reducing the strain often associated with lopping. The lightweight aluminium shaft results in a tool that can be comfortably used for extended periods. Like every tool in the new Fiskars PowerGear™ X range, the new loppers can be dismantled and maintained with ease, providing gardeners with powerful tools, designed to last.

For more information on Fiskars gardening tools and the brand new PowerGear™ X range visit

Fiskars is a leading global supplier of branded consumer products for the home, garden and outdoors. Products are renowned worldwide for their functionality and cutting-edge design, and the group boasts a strong portfolio of trusted international brands such as Fiskars, Iittala, and Gerber. Our most iconic product, the orange-handled scissors, was born in 1967 and is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary this year. The orange scissors revolutionized the everyday cutting experience, being the first plastic-handled scissors in the world. Fiskars is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki. The group recorded net sales of 768 million euros in 2014, and employs some 4,800 people in over 20 countries. Founded in 1649, Fiskars is Finland's oldest company.

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

8 cooking liquids you shouldn't toss

How to turn these 'waste' liquids into culinary gold.

Liquid from canned chickpeas can be used in many recipes as a substitute for egg whites.

Think of all the leftover food-related liquid you pour down the drain — everything from that briny water in canned artichokes and jarred pickles to the cooking water from boiled potatoes. Even thrifty types may have trouble seeing a way to reuse them, but tossing these fluids is like throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, a real kitchen crime.

That’s because many juicy throwaways — fluids you either already paid for or created from scratch — are often worth their weight in gastronomic gold. They add not just vitamins and minerals to dishes you whip up, but also deliver flavor, depth, creaminess and thickness (similar to store-bought spices, marinades and other expensive recipe-enhancers).

Here’s how to turn eight common kitchen "waste" liquids into liquid gold. These ideas are sure to please your inner penny-pincher, as well as your family’s taste buds (including pets and plants).

Read more here.

From Trash To Treads: Turning Tomato Peels and Eggshells Into Tires

Scientists at Ohio State University are replacing the petroleum-based filler in tires with food waste


Back when she lived in California, Katrina Cornish found herself wondering about those open trucks she saw carrying big loads of ripe tomatoes. Why, she thought, weren’t the tomatoes on the bottom crushed into big red puddles.

The reason, she would later learn, is that the tomatoes were bred to have tough skins that allowed them to withstand all that weight from above.

That bit of knowledge would come to serve Cornish well after she moved to Ohio State University, where she is a biomaterials researcher. Recently, she and her research team discovered that not only those tough tomato peels, but also crushed eggshells, can be effective replacements for the petroleum-based filler used in car tires.

“What you want in a filler is something really tough and strong,” she says. “That was why we looked at the tomato peels.”

The filler of choice in tires and other rubber products has long been something called carbon black, a powdery carbon product that comprises 30 percent of most tires. In fact, it’s the reason many rubber products are black. Carbon black helps makes the rubber in tires more durable.

But it is in increasingly short supply as demand for cars is rising rapidly in developing countries. At the same time, carbon black production in the U.S. has dropped in recent years as the EPA cracked down on plants emitting excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

That has made U.S. rubber manufacturers more dependent on overseas companies for a product that has always been susceptible to fluctuations in world oil prices.

The potential of food waste

So, being able to use food wastes to reduce the amount of carbon black needed could lower costs. It also could bring environmental benefits. “One reason these are such an asset is the whole sustainability issue,” says Cornish. “Carbon black is produced with petroleum. If you could start replacing some of this non-sustainable material with sustainable material, then you’re helping to wean us off petroleum.”

There’s clearly no shortage of food waste in America. Americans consume more than 30 pounds of tomatoes per person per year, according to the Department of Agriculture most of them canned or processed in some way, such as sauce on pizzas. Food companies peel and discard the tough skin. And, every American consumes, on average, close to 270 eggs a year, bringing the total in the country to about 86 billion. Roughly 40 percent of those eggs are used by food companies, which end up shipping tons of cracked shells to landfills. There they sit for a long time because they don’t break down very easily.

“We thought that using eggshells as filler would be a better fate than ending up in the landfill,” says Cornish. “And I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out that they are a very effective reinforcing filler, and not a diluent filler.”

Read more here.

Bicycle Highways: Clear road and green light all the way for cyclists

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cycle highwaysGermany has just begun bicycle highways in several of the federal states with Northrhine-Westphalia being the staring point, so to speak. Others are due to follow, including in the state of Saxony in the East of Germany (territory of the GDR).

The fist one has now been opened, though only the first three-mile stretch, that will eventually span over 62 miles, connecting 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm, as well as four universities.

Saxony is geared to create four of those but the building of those won't get started until 2021. The first route will be between Halle and Markkleeberg via Leipzig, and others are between Radeberg and Dippoldiswalde, Pirna and Meissen, as well as from Markkleeberg to the White Magpie (Weisse Elster), a river.

Those bicycle highways are entirely separate roadway that will remain completely car-free. Like a traditional highway, those bicycle highways have passing lanes, overpasses and underpasses for crossroads, and even streetlights. However, cyclists won't have to worry about trucks zooming by or bus lanes. It's just a clear path for miles and miles.

It is hoped that those highways will encourage more commuters onto their bicycles rather than using the car and it is certainly something that other regions and countries, including the UK, should copy.

The idea of those Velo Routes comes from the Netherlands where such highways have been in existence for quite some time already.

A study in the Ruhr area suggests that the route there will have the potential to take an estimated 50,000 cars off the road each day. Not a bad number for sure.

© 2017

Greenpeace Energy erreicht Durchbruch für Balkon-Solarkraftwerke

simon solar balkon

Im Streit um die Nutzung kleiner Solarmodule für Balkone und Terrassen gibt Deutschlands größter Verteilnetzbetreiber Westnetz auf Druck von Greenpeace Energy seinen Widerstand auf.

Ab sofort ermöglicht Westnetz den Anschluss der Module auf unbürokratische Weise: In ihrem Versorgungsgebiet genügt es für Nutzer jetzt, Namen und Adresse, Leistung und Fabrikat der Module zu melden, dann können diese dort bis zu einer Leistungsgrenze von 300 Watt de facto ohne sonstige Auflagen in die Steckdose gesteckt werden. „Das Einlenken von Westnetz ist ein Durchbruch für die städtische Energiewende in Bürgerhand“, sagt Sönke Tangermann, Vorstand bei Greenpeace Energy. „Damit bekommen Millionen von Mietern die Chance, sauberen Strom zu erzeugen und selbst zu verbrauchen.“

„Der Anschluss und der Betrieb einer Eigenanlage Photovoltaiksystem ‚simon‘ ist möglich“

Möglich wurde dieser Erfolg durch ein von Greenpeace Energy unterstütztes Verfahren vor der Bundesnetzagentur. Westnetz, die Netztochter von Innogy (früher RWE), hatte den Anschluss eines Solarmoduls des Typs simon mit 150 Watt Spitzenleistung blockiert und in Briefen an die Greenpeace-Energy-Kundin auf angebliche Gefahren verwiesen. Dabei schlossen Gutachten unabhängiger Institute solche Risiken aus.

In dem Verfahren räumte Westnetz abschließend ein, dass es nach Prüfung der vorgelegten Unterlagen an seiner bisherigen Einschätzung nicht weiter festhalte: „Der Anschluss und der Betrieb einer Eigenanlage Photovoltaiksystem ‚simon‘ ist möglich“. Schädliche oder störende Rückwirkungen auf das Elektrizitätsversorgungsnetz seien nicht erkennbar. Unterhalb der 300-Watt-Grenze verzichtet der westdeutsche Netzbetreiber zudem auf den Einbau von Stromzählern mit Rücklaufsperre.„Die anderen deutschen Netzbetreiber müssen dem Vorbild von Westnetz nun folgen“, sagt Tangermann. „Noch aber schüchtern viele Betreiber Mini-Solar-Interessenten massiv ein.

Hier weiterlesen.

I Trust Cows More Than I Trust Chemists: A Conversation With Joan Gussow

Joan Gussow

This interview appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the Slow Money Journal.

Joan Dye Gussow, Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita and former chair of the Program in Nutrition at Columbia University Teachers College, Nutrition Education Program, lives, writes, and grows organic vegetables on the west bank of the Hudson River. Long retired, she is still co-teaching her course in nutritional ecology at TC every fall. She is author, co-author or editor of five books including The Feeding Web: Issues in Nutritional Ecology, This Organic Life and Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables.

Q. Michael Pollan has referred to you as his guru. You were talking about “nutritional ecology” way back in the 1970s. How did you originally develop this concept?

A. Yes, the term first went public in the subtitle of my book: The Feeding Web: Issues In Nutritional Ecology, which was published in 1978. This for me was an attempt to address the whole ball of wax. I might not have picked the right term for it. But I didn’t know how else to describe what I was after.

Some time earlier, I had seen an exchange in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Someone had written the editor asking why the journal had no coverage of the world hunger crisis, and the editor wrote back and said the world food crisis was the field of agricultural economists, demographers, and agronomists, but that it was not part of the field of clinical nutrition. Too often, the field of nutrition was this narrow.

Another example: I once asked a classroom of nutrition students to pick from a selection of journals about food, nutrition, and medicine one journal they thought their fellow students should read. I myself was fascinated by the food journals where you saw ads for what was coming next. Once I saw an ad for ”powdered cloud #9” that “gives your juice drinks eye-appealing opacity.” But not a single student in that class picked a “food” journal. One of them actually said to me later, “I don’t think that being interested in nutrition means you have to be interested in food.” So, on the one hand you had a nutrition editor who didn’t think his field had to do with hunger and on the other hand you had a nutrition student who didn’t see why she needed to be interested in food. Clearly, a broader view of things was needed. ‘Nutritional Ecology’ was my attempt at such a broader framework.

Read more here.

BALL® home preserving starter kit – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

New to preserving? Here’s everything you need to get started, all in one package!

starterkit2As the reader may know from the other article about Ball® having just entered the UK market they have got this lovely little starter kit, suitable especially for the beginner but, obviously, not just the beginner.

I recently received this kit in the mail for review and this will just be – more or less – an initial review because in order to try it out with preserving something I will need to have the garden produce something and presently it is a little early in the season.

The kit came, as said, by post, actually by UK Parcel Force (not known for their gentle handling of parcels, similar to DHL) but, despite the fact that the package was just the carton in which the kit is sold all arrived without the least of a problem. No damage at all. More than can be said for well packaged grow table that came via DHL from the Netherlands and that suffered some damage. OK, the stuff arrived in good order and that is important.

The kit has everything that anyone starting out in preserving (canning as it is also often called, or bottling) would and could need, bar the pot, obviously. I had thought that I still had the large aluminium pot that I had a wile back but, alas, somewhere along the line it parted company with me. So, there I was having to go out and get a new one. But ALDI had a stock pot – OK, it cost almost £18 but it will serve for many years to come, I am sure – and that's what I do. Had to pay for that, unfortunately.

OK, so what do you get in the kit?

  • Preserving Rack (made of a silicone kind of plastic material) which fits most kitchen stockpots

  • 4 Ball® 240ml Jelly Jars with Lids & Bands – specifically designed for preserving to ensure a quality seal for the pantry

  • Basic Preserving Utensils – simplifies the process for beginners – consisting of a plastic funnel that is the proper size for the mouth of the jars, a plastic spatula kind of tool, and tongs for lifting the hot jars.

  • Home Preserving Guide & Recipe Booklet – includes 3 Simple Steps to Preserving & 3 Delicious Recipes

For anyone wanting to make a start with preserving their garden produce, making jams and chutneys, etc., this starter kit is ideal, as long as they have a big enough pot to put the rack into with enough water above the jars. That's all.

This is a great kit to get you started and after that continue with preserving and canning the produce from your own garden, the hedgerows and seasonal offers at the farmers' markets, greengrocers, and the produce section in your supermarkets even.

© 2017

US and UK restrictions on electronic devices on flights

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Laptop_on_planeSome security experts are actually baffled by this move and can only explain that with the fact that a laptop (and other device) in the hold luggage can be searched without the permission of the owner, which is, more likely than not, the idea behind this rather than anything else. In other words, the laptop ban on flights may not be about security at all.

The United States and the United Kingdom have both banned electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from cabins on flights from some Middle Eastern and North African countries. This includes – those banned that is – also iPads, tablet PC and eReaders. Guess it is time for pen and notebook and real books again then on flights. Those “measures” have been enacted in response to an “unspecified security concern”, a term which covers a multitude of sins.

The US has banned large electronic devices on flights from airports in the following countries:

  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Morocco
  • Jordan
  • the United Arab Emirates

The UK's ban, on the other hand, is slightly less restrictive and only applies to flights from the following countries:

  • Turkey
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Saudi Arabia

Is this measure going to make things any safer? The answer must be a categorical no as real terrorists will find other ways of that we can be sure. All it is doing is affecting the innocent travelers, and especially those that wish and need to work while flying, including, but not only, journalists.

Aside from the worry that many have that their checked in laptop, etc., is in danger of being stolen then other concern that should be there is that it will be illegally searched during standard and not so standard baggage checks.

When the laptop or other device is in the hold luggage the authorities do not, it would appear, require the permission of the owner to search the electronic devices and the data on them.

Maybe it is time for any traveler, especially those like journalists and activists, to have an operating system and data carrier that works on any computer wherever they are going to without the need to have all the stuff on a personal laptop. It is possible to do this with a variety of devices and especially with operating systems such as Linux. Have everything on a thumb drive – and they do have quite a storage capacity nowadays – and all that is required is the use of a PC at the other end. It is true that you still cannot do any work – per computer – during the flight but there is always the option of longhand in pen and paper.

© 2017

7 Fruits And Vegetables You Can Grow In Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets aren't just for flowers. Save garden space by getting these crops off the ground.

cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket

It’s time to take your container garden off the ground. Growing vegetables and fruits in hanging baskets frees up space in your garden (and on your back porch) so that you can grow even more plants in a small space. Or even if you’re not worried about space, growing food crops in a hanging planter is still a fun way to add visual interest to your garden—who says veggies can’t be as beautiful as flowers?

(No room? No problem! See how you can grow tomatoes in the driveway, dill on the deck, and peppers on the porch with Rodale's Edible Spots & Pots—get your copy now!)

Of course, not every crop can make it in a hanging basket—watermelons are too heavy and corn is far too tall. But there are still plenty of smaller plants that won't break your basket. Maggie Saska, plant production specialist at the Rodale Institute, suggests vining crops whose fruits are light enough to handle the drooping action without breaking off, as well as smaller upright varieties.

When choosing your basket, go with one that will be able to support the weight of growing vines and produce, as well as water. A basket that hangs from a chain will be a better bet than a basket with a plastic hook, for example.

Prepare the basket just as you would for planting flowers, with a good potting mix. Saska advises applying a slow-release fertilizer or fish emulsion throughout the summer as it can be difficult for produce to get all the nutrients they need in a container. You’ll also have to be vigilant about watering, especially in the height of summer, because soil in hanging baskets dries out quickly. Consider placement of the basket too, based on what type of crop you're growing. Hanging your planter beneath your porch roof likely won't provide enough sunlight for most crops, for example, but a shepherd's hook or your garden fence will work just fine.

Otherwise, growing produce in hanging baskets isn't much different from growing it in pots on the ground! Here are a few crops that will do well way up high.

Read more here.

London 03/22/2017

Out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attack in the center of London (UK) today we shall not be broadcasting – so to speak – today. Normal operation shall be resumed tomorrow, all being well.


Ecotricity customers boost England’s national woods and forests

Customers joining Britain’s leading green energy company, Ecotricity, can support new conservation projects in England’s national woods and forests.

Ecoticitry_webA new partnership with Forest Enterprise England, the Forestry Commission agency that manages England’s national woods and forests, could lead to thousands of pounds going towards a new conservation fund.

Ecotricity will donate up to £50 for anyone who signs up to the company’s green electricity and gas using the Forestry Commission sign-up offer.

New customers will also receive a £10 discount on a Discovery Pass, the membership scheme which allows free car parking and a range of other benefits at local forests managed by Forest Enterprise England.

Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, said: “Trees and forests are really important. Sustainably managed, they can provide vital wildlife habitat, carbon sinks and a great place to visit.”

“So to team up with Forestry Enterprise England is something we’re really pleased to be doing.”

Simon Hodgson, Forest Enterprise England Chief Executive said: “Alongside the income we generate from suppling sustainably-grown timber, we look for new business partnerships that offer additional sources of revenue to invest in the nation’s forests we manage.

“The extra funding helps us make them more interesting and exciting places to visit and we can continue with our conservation work. We’ve had great successes over the years including ospreys in north England and purple emperor butterflies in the south.”

The Forestry Commission is one of the largest land-owners in England and works to maintain and preserve woodlands and forests. It also conducts scientific research and promotes recreation across the estates, including walking and cycling.

Ecotricity was founded in 1995 as the world’s first green energy company and now supplies almost 200,000 customers across Britain from a growing fleet of wind and sun parks. Ecotricity is a ‘not-for-dividend’ enterprise that, on average over the last eleven years, has invested more per customer in building new sources of green electricity than any other energy company in Britain.

England has more than 254,000 hectares of woods and forests cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission. They make sure that every year the land and forests they care for become even more special places for wildlife to live, for people to enjoy and for businesses to thrive.

Almost 69% of the land the manage is designated in some way: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Special Area for Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ancient Woodland, RAMSAR wetland site, Local Nature Reserve (LNR), National Nature Reserve (NNR), Heritage Coat or Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM).

This press release is presented for your information only.

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

Keith Taylor MEP welcomes vote to ban import of new GM maize

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, is welcoming a vote by MEPs in the European Parliament's Environment Committee today (21 March) against the import of a range of genetically modified maize varieties for use in feed and food.

The majority of MEPs voted against proposals to authorise several genetically modified maize varieties from Syngenta [1].

Commenting after the vote, Mr Taylor, a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, said: "It's a great Green success that the majority of MEPs have voted against the import and use of untested GM maize in the European Union. It is the sixth time in just over a year that the European Parliament has signalled it's opposition to the approval of new GM foods. The proposal voted down today would have approved 20 different varieties of GM maize of which only a handful have even been tested by the European Food Authority (EFSA) and most have not yet been produced. To give them the green light would have been completely irresponsible."

"MEPs have sent a strong signal that as long as complete and up-to-date scientific data is not available, permission must not be granted. I am urging the governments of the EU to take this message from the Environment Committee seriously and vote against importing genetically modified maize into the European Union next week."

"Worryingly, UK Ministers have suggested Brexit could be 'an opportunity' to water down GM crop regulations in Britain [2]. As Greens, we will be fighting to make sure this doesn't happen; it is vital we maintain and strengthen EU GM safeguards post-Brexit. For the health of British people, the environment and farmers, the UK must not be flooded with untested genetically modified crops."

[1]The Commission has submitted a proposal to authorise genetically modified maize varieties from Syngenta. This would allow the use of five different characteristics (Bt11 × 59122 × MIR604 × 1507 × GA21) and their combinations. This could bring more than 20 different genetically modified maize varieties to the European market. The Standing Committee of EU Member States "Plants, Animals, Food and Feed" was unable to reach an opinion on the Commission proposal on 27 January. The text will now be presented to an appeal committee on 27 March. If there is still no decision, it will be returned to the Commission.


Note: Keith is the Green MEP for the South East of England and is one of 50Greens/EFA MEPs in the European Parliament. He sits on the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and the Committee on Environment, Public Healthand Food Safety. He isa member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council which works to forge greater links between MEPs and parliamentarians in Palestine. Keith is also Vice Chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on animal welfare and a member of the parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.

This press release is presented for your information only.

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

Brockham: letters reveal oil firm warned at least twice it didn't have planning permission to drill new side-track well

Camp2Keith Taylor MEP at the Leith Hill 'protection camp'; Keith joins local residents and campaigners, from groups such as A Voice for Leith Hill, Mole Valley Green Party, Greenpeace, and Frack Free Surrey, Credit: Office of Keith Taylor MEP.

A row over unauthorised oil drilling in Brockham, Surrey [1] continues as newly obtained documents confirm the oil and gas company Angus Energy was warned by Surrey County Council as far back as September 2016 that it would need planning permission to drill a new well on site.

Angus Energy has openly admitted that it drilled a new side-track well earlier this year but claims the work was covered by existing planning permission [2]. However, a Freedom of Information request to Surrey County Council [3], seen by Green MEP for the South East Keith Taylor, reveals planners made clear this was not the case in two separate letters sent in September and December 2016.

Commenting on the revelations, Mr Taylor said: “The drilling, without permission, of a new well is an outrageous breach of an already deeply strained trust. It is little wonder why residents and campaigners simply don’t trust the oil and gas drilling industry or the Government ‘regulations’ utterly failing to protect our environment and our local communities. Regulations that are being openly flaunted by the industry.”

“The documents show Angus Energy was warned on at least two occasions that it did not have the required planning permission to drill a new side-track well. Angus has either deliberately misled its investors and the public or misunderstood clear advice from Surrey County Council. The situation suggests the regime for regulating and monitoring oil drilling isn’t fit for purpose. Had there not been a small, but dedicated group of campaigners resident at the protection camp on the site then this breach would not have even come to light.”

“I am calling on Surrey County Council to send a strong message to oil and gas companies who might be tempted to play fast and loose across the region; action and sanction against planning breaches must swift and effective. Letting Angus Energy off the hook would set an extremely concerning precedent."




Note: Keith is the Green MEP for the South East of England and is one of 50 Greens/EFA MEPs in the European Parliament. He sits on the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He is a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council which works to forge greater links between MEPs and parliamentarians in Palestine. Keith is also Vice Chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on animal welfare and a member of the parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.

This press release is presented for your information only.

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

Preserving and canning made easy thanks to Ball

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

starterkit2The well-known US company Ball, with its iconic preserving/canning jars, has now also, finally some would say, arrived in the UK. Not that Britain never had canning jars and such. We did, in the form of Kilner Jars but we have heard very little of it in recent years. To some extent home canning went out of the window with an all year round supply of fresh fruit and vegetables from all around the globe. The recent shortage of certain vegetables from Spain, where the weather did not play nicely, should, however, tell us something about being unable to reply on such supplies, regardless of some politicians saying that we do not need farmers in this country because we can import all the food we want and need from abroad.

Obviously, aside from Kilner in Britain there is/was also Mason in the USA with canning jars and other countries, such as Germany, do, or did, have their own brands and designs.

So, why do I say “preserving and canning made easy thanks to Ball” or maybe simple would have been even better still? This is because Ball has brought out a starter kit that really does make it easy, at least from what I have seen, and water bath canning does not, as often believed, require a special pot and other gadgets, such as a special thermometer, etc., etc. I have been able to obtain a sample of the starter kit and shall report back on how it works. Just need to get a big enough pot as I do not have one, but thanks to ALDI a nice stainless steel stockpot (Made in India) could be obtained for less that £20. Unfortunately that one I had to pay for.

Some people seem to believe that in order to successfully preserve their garden's harvest by canning they have to have all the equipment and ideally a pressure canner even. Nothing could be further from the truth. Water bath canning is older than the pressure cooker/canner method and has worked for generations. While some of the gadgets make life easier they are not a necessity.

The water bath canning method is probably the oldest version of canning and still as valid today as then. Pressure canning may speed up the process – sorry, I am not entirely sure about this – but that may just be about all. All you really need is a large pot, like a stock pot (see above), and the appropriate canning jars. To all intents and purposes that is about all. Anything else just makes life – and the canning process – easier.

© 2017


The Edinburgh Remakery is a social enterprise that teaches repair. The shop sells refurbished computers and furniture, and hosts workshops where people can come along and learn how to repair their own things. There’s a big vision behind it: “we want to generate a repair revolution. This means changing the way people use and dispose of resources, encouraging manufacturers to build things to last and to be fixable, and making sure the facilities are in place to allow people to repair and reuse.”

The Remakery was founded by Sophie Unwin, after spending a year in Nepal. There she saw a culture of repair and stewardship that was absent in our own throwaway society – but it used to be there. Previous generations knew how to fix things. This generation just needs some re-skilling, access to the tools to do it, and some encouragement to give it a go. It’s a similar idea to the Restart Project, with the added benefits of a permanent centre, and proceeds from the shop help to fund the community engagement work.

These projects are important right now, because those repair skills are still out there in society, and they might not be for very long. Many repair businesses have gone already. Those that remain are often struggling. Since there is little demand for repair, there’s a shortage of younger people ready to step up when older repairers retire. I’ve seen this myself in Luton. When I moved here a few years ago, the High Town area had a tailor, a lawnmower repair shop and a TV repair shop. The first two have since retired and the shops have closed. The TV place was destroyed earlier this year when a car drove into it, and the owner can’t afford to fix it. The shop is boarded up, and there’s a mobile number on the door if you want your TV repaired.

Read more here.

UN asks UK to suspend work on Hinkley Point

Move likely to embarrass British government as UN agency says lack of talks with Europe means it should refrain from further work

A United Nations committee has asked the UK to suspend work on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset because of the government’s failure to consult with European countries over the project.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said last year that the UK had failed to meet its obligations to discuss the possible impact of an incident at Hinkley on neighbouring countries.

The UNECE has now gone a step further and said the UK should consider refraining from further works on the site of the new reactors.

The body said the government should wait until it has heard back from countries including Germany, Norway and the Netherlands on whether it would be helpful for them to be formally notified under a treaty on transboundary environmental impacts.

The UN request is an embarrassment for the government, which has faced several delays over the UK’s first atomic power station for a generation. But it is unlikely to derail the earthworks and building of a jetty at Hinkley, which is Europe’s biggest construction site.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Opposition to Hinkley started with knowledgeable energy specialists and environmentalists. It grew to involve a wide array of businesses and media commentators. Now it includes neighbouring countries and a UN body. This letter from a UN body shows the UK still has a mindset of doing what we like without listening to the widespread concerns.”

A spokesman for EDF, the French state-owned company building Hinkley, said: “We have carried out all the environmental impact assessments (EIA) required for Hinkley Point C, including assessing any likely significant transboundary impacts. In considering the EIA the UK Planning Inspectorate concluded there was no likelihood of significant transboundary effects.

“The UK supreme court has already rejected a challenge from An Taisce which claimed that the government should have consulted other member states before making its decision on the development.”

Read more here.

New International Gardens and Lifestyle Show

New International Gardens and Lifestyle Show – IGA –opens April 13, 2017 in Berlin

clichtschwaermer_mg_6339A new international gardens and consumer lifestyle show – IGA – which stands for ‘International Garten Ausstellung’ – will open in Berlin on April 13 and run until October 15, 2017. Ideal for a weekend visit to Berlin or longer, IGA features garden designs from all over the world, including for Great Britain, ‘The Garden of Vulcan’ by British landscape designer Tom Stuart Smith . ‘IGA’ takes place in Germany only once every 10 years and is being hosted by Berlin for the first time.

Bigger than all three RHS shows combined, IGA focuses on green urban lifestyle under the motto of ‘an OCEAN of colours’ and will appeal to anyone interested not only in gardens and horticulture, but also Berlin and the surrounding regions. IGA has its own cable car, which swoops visitors into the show ground from the local underground station, providing a unique aerial view on arrival. The 104-hectare showground is divided into five large areas featuring different attractions, such as an open-air performance stage, an energy-efficient tropical hall in the Balinese Garden, art exhibitions, children’s play areas, restaurants and a visitor centre.

Sustainability has been a high priority during the planning and development process: at the IGA ‘Campus’ area, there will be hands on environmental education through more than 2,500 events to try out and discover, suitable for all ages. IGA is easy to reach from the UK and Ireland: there direct flights to Berlin from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester and efficient local public transport connections from Berlin city centre. Day tickets for adults and for families to IGA cost €20.00 and there are various prices for evening visits, schools and groups – children’s day tickets are free. Tickets can be booked online or through reputable tour operators and travel agents.

IGA is expected to provide yet another tourism draw for Destination Deutschland, which last year reached a record high for international incoming tourism to Germany. For the period January – December 2016, 80.8 million overnight stays were recorded, compared to 2015. For the UK, there was a 0.9% rise for the period January – November 2016 and overnight stays by visitors from Ireland showed an increase of 9.3%, compared to the same period in 2015.

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

Are You Killing Your Trees With Mulch?

Are you killing your trees with mulch? Mulch is fabulous for trees, but incorrect mulching techniques can stress and even kill your trees.

Benefits of Mulch

Each year, in the forest, leaves and needles fall providing a protective covering for trees. As they decompose, they nourish the soil. Mulch can provide the same nourishing protection for the trees on your property whether those trees are deciduous, coniferous, or fruit-bearing.

Mulch discourages weeds, helps to maintain a uniform soil temperature, adds nutrients, and conserves moisture. It also helps to prevent compaction and reduce soil erosion. Mulch can prevent competition from grass which robs nutrients and moisture from the soil. And when trees are mulched, keeping grass away from the base, there is no risk of damage from lawn mowers and weed-whackers. All in all, a win-win situation.

What Mulch to Use

Bark mulch is the most often used material for tree mulch and is fine. Even better are wood chips which contain entire small branches, leaves and needles. These ramial wood chips are especially useful in providing nutrients as they break down. Needles also make a good mulch under conifer trees, and shredded leaves under deciduous trees. It is best not to use black plastic since it can interfere with water and oxygen supply to the tree’s roots.

Read more here.

10 Tips for New Garden Farmers

lettuces growing on hugulkultur bed

A journal entry from my pre-gardening days reads as follows:

I just returned from the farmers’ market with two pounds of apricots, half a pound of ground cherries, a bag each of arugula, radishes, pepper cress and kale. One of the farmers gave me a peach spray, which now brightens my kitchen.

I’m grateful to these family farmers who till the land, and then bring their produce and other wonderful foods to the city. Hard work, I imagine, and not particularly lucrative. Still, I hope I’m not romanticizing their life when I dream of working the land and depending less on others to grow and raise my food.

Living in the city, I do what I can to support organic, local, biodynamic farming. I shop at the farmers’ market and food coop, have a sideline as a food educator at CSAs, prepare most of my meals from scratch. Yet, in my life, the farm-to-table cycle remains incomplete. With the exception of a few potted herbs on the windowsill, I have little chance to grow or raise what I eat. Sometimes I bring fruit and vegetable scraps to the food scrap collection site in the park. Other times I toss them in the trash. In either situation, I miss out on the pleasure of returning them to nature myself and in so doing nourishing soil and soul.

Now, four years into growing much of the produce we eat, I realize that garden farming connects me even more deeply than I had imagined to the earth, the life cycle, my body and food. It is also more difficult not only physically, but mentally as well. Had I known more from the start, no doubt it would have been easier and more effective. It is in this spirit that I am sharing some of what I’ve learned.

I make no claims to expertise. Certainly, there are professional gardeners, farmers and agricultural scientists who know much more than I do. Still, my hope is that those newer than I to growing their own food may benefit from these tips.

1. Plant Edible Woody Perennials First

Edible woody perennials include fruit trees, berry bushes and grapevines. Since these perennials take several years to mature, the sooner you plant them the sooner they bear fruit. I resisted at first. Planting fourteen fruit trees by hand is labor intensive. And since we had no source of free cultivars, buying the trees also made a dent in our wallet. Fortunately, my wife prevailed. Now, four springs later, apple, cherry, peach, plum and pear blossoms dot our trees. Our Chinese apricot tree is laden with tiny hard fruit.

The second spring we planted a variety of bushes including raspberry, gooseberry, choke cherry, goji berry, service berry, sea buckthorn berry, nero aronia, and currant. We planted elderberry, hazelnut and persimmon trees. We also planted grapes.

These botanical treasures contribute to making us feel rooted in our homestead. They also contribute to self-reliance by feeding us well. As for finances, already they’ve more than paid us back.

2. Plant Edible Herbaceous Perennials Next

I wish I’d learned this tip sooner. Come early spring, it’s such a pleasure to see sorrel leaves poking through the snow. Soon after the rhubarb, lovage, dandelion, walking onions, and asparagus appear. Our perennial roots and herbs include garlic chives, culinary lavender, oregano, thyme, horseradish, hyssop, and sage. (Rosemary, which we hoped would be perennial, turned out not to be in our zone four climate, and so we plant it anew each year.)

Once planted, perennial edibles provide good food early in the season with little work. And some (including sorrel, horseradish, hyssop, oregano, and thyme) have another benefit as well: they do a wonderful job of keeping grass and other weeds at bay.

3. Grow What You Love (and What You Can)

Midwinter when it’s minus twenty and snow drifts cover the porch, we enjoy sitting by the fire planning our garden. It’s easy that time of year to get carried away. Yes, we’d enjoy a walnut tree. But we lack the climate, soil constitution, and acreage (not to mention the energy) to grow everything we’d like. Easy to rule out in our zone four climate are heat-loving trees such as avocado and lime. And as much as we’d like to have blueberries, the pH of our soil would make growing these a daunting task.

So how do we decide? First, we eliminate what we cannot grow. Then we decide what we like. We also experiment. Over the years, we’ve learned, for instance, that although we adore broccoli, it tends not to flourish in our garden. So much planting, watering and weeding all for a few buggy florets.

Potatoes, on the other hand, thrive. So do sunchokes, lettuces, arugula, radishes, chard, cress, parsnips, nasturtiums and many other species of edible plants. Our raspberry bushes produce so well and with so little effort that each summer we invite neighbors to pick from our patch.

Read more here.

Yarn scraps, twine or other such materials for nesting birds

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

yarn scraps are not for birdsWe are seeing, once again, a lot of posts online, in Blogs and (other) social media suggesting putting yarn scraps, twine or other material outside as nesting material for songbirds. While the intentions may be good, please do not do this. It is not good for the birds, much like feeding waterfowl with bread; it can kill.

Yarn and any type of string, twine and even human hair can easily become tangled around birds legs, neck etc. and cut off circulation causing serious injury or even death. Many animal rescue places get in many baby songbirds every year missing limbs due to string like materials in a nest.

If you want to have nesting materials in your yard, we suggest purchasing pre-made nesting material or use these natural alternatives.

Small Yard Debris: Pine straw, wheat straw, and tiny twigs make good bird nest building materials.

Grass Clippings: One of the most common nesting materials, grass clippings can be gathered into balls or simply left mulched into your lawn.

Animal Hair: If you brush or clip your animals, save the fur. It makes a wonderfully soft lining for bird nests. Just don’t use any hair or fur that’s been treated with flea dips or insect repellents.

Coco Fiber: Recycle worn-out linings of hanging baskets for bird nesting material.

Plants and Seeds: Fluffy seeds and plants, such as cattails, make good bird nesting materials.

Cloth Batting: Wool or cotton batting cut into 3”- 6” strips makes good nesting material.

Feathers: Providing feathers for nesting material is a great way to recycle old down pillows or the feathers from out of your chicken coop (if you have chickens).

Moss: Sphagnum or Spanish moss make great bird nesting material (make sure it's not been chemically treated).

But, let me reiterate once again, no yarn scraps, twine, human hair or any other such like stuff. It can be a death trap for small birds.

© 2017

How to Construct Houses with Plastic Bottles

Houses-with-Plastic-BottlesIt may seem unbelievable but you can build houses out of plastic bottles filled with sand. These projects are made especially by NGOs from African countries. For example, the house from the video below was made by the Samaprman Foundation. The plastic bottles were gathered from trash cans and then filled with sand. This way, volunteers managed to make 6,000 `bricks` from sand-filled plastic bottles. With the help of these bricks they succeeded to build a small house which is used as a classroom.

Read more here.

Wind energy to be created using lamp-posts

Artist's impression of the turbines on lampposts

An IT company has joined forces with a green technology firm to develop wind turbines which attach to lamp-posts.

The NVT Group's partnership with Own Energy Solutions is set to create 25 jobs over the next 12 months which it hopes will rise to about 300 within three years.

The scheme harvests wind using a small wind turbine and inverter system.

As a result, metered, clean energy could be fed directly into the National Grid.

The company said that as a result, each suitable lamp-post conversion would save half a ton of carbon being released into the atmosphere.

As part of the deal, which is worth about £3.5m over the next 15 years, Own Energy is relocating from Glasgow to NVT's headquarters in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire.

Stephen Park Brown, managing director of NVT Group, said: "We have a great record of working with winning teams and this new venture has every prospect of eclipsing our recent commissions. We believe that Own Energy can become a significant player in the renewables market both in the UK and beyond."

'Huge export potential'

David Gordon, chief executive of Own Energy, said: "We chose to partner with NVT Group based on its extraordinary performance in recent years, particularly in the delivery of the technology for world-class sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - which of course was widely regarded as the most successful in history - and The Ryder Cup.

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Nearly half Europe’s electricity could be produced by households by 2050, study shows

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

GP0STQ0U0More than a quarter of a million Europeans could be producing their own energy by the middle of the century if certain policies are pursued, a new report has found.

According to calculations by Dutch consultancy CE Delft, households and businesses could meet 45% of the continent’s power demand using their own solar panels and wind turbines.

The study, commissioned by Greenpeace, the European Renewable Energy Federation, Friends of the Earth and, sees so-called ‘energy citizens’ producing 611 TWh of electricity by 2030 – a fifth of Europe’s forecast demand.

That number could growth to 1,557TWh over the subsequent two decades, boosting energy independence and supporting countries’ renewable energy and climate change targets.

A more granular look at the data shows community projects representing 37% of this 2050 scenario, small businesses make up 39%, households produce 23% and public entities are behind that final 1%.

This same study also outlines the possible role demand-side response can play in this energy devolution, with seven in 10 Europeans able to use the smart energy technology by the middle of the decade.

graph1As for storage, individuals and small businesses could be able to utilize up to 1,494 GWh of electric storage by 2030 and nearly 10 times that by 2050.

The potential of all this independently sourced energy, however, can only be reached if European policies such as the Renewable Energy Directive are revised to support energy citizens, the environmental groups argue.

But this is all a case of could because the powers-that-be (and which really should not be) are far too deep in the pockets of the energy generating giants and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industry to ever enable this to happen and that regardless of the way things are going.

We could, and could have already for decades and decades, be using methane (sewage gas and from landfills)for cooking, heating and powering electricity generating plants but that has not happened and is not happening. While methane still gives off pollution (no, I am not going to call it carbon emissions) because it is still burned the fact that it is a renewable resource in that we can generate it from, well waste, including human waste, has a few good things going for it. The first electricity generating plants were once intended to be used with methane gas from the sewers. Enter the coal, oil and gas lobby and the rest is history, as they say.

What is missing is the political will and that because the majority of all politicians, of all persuasions, are deep in the pockets of the particular industries who would lose out when renewables enter the game in this way.

Therefore I, for one, am not about to hold my breath, regardless of the fact that such a positive outcome of this study.

© 2017