From consumer society to maker society

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

20139988_1539078376130193_5453055660688507791_nThere was a time when people made and grew almost all of the things they needed; the majority of them at least. They did not – and could not – simply go to the stores or order on-line for home delivery. The latter option did not exist until even a few years ago and the other was not an option because there were no stores (in the very old days) or they could not afford to buy what they wanted.

Money was tight for many, especially the working class, farm laborers and such. So the only option they had was to make what they needed and wanted from materials that were available for free or cheap.

The raw materials for many of the things people needed and wanted was wood, but also other natural and man-made materials, such as scrap and trash. Children used their imagination to fashion all manner of toys from natural materials and from trash, and this is, on all counts, still true today in many a Third World country but also in what some would call backwards areas in the Western world.

The majority today, however, cannot even think how to get something that they need or want aside from checking their wallets or bank accounts and the nearest store or website. The very thought of making something seems alien to many today.

We have been brainwashed into the consumer mentality believing that whatever we need and want has to be coming from some shop of sorts, whether in bricks and mortar or in the virtual realm, and that making things that we need and want to ourselves from natural materials or, God forbid, waste materials, is something only for the very poor in other countries.

And also to use things that are more that a year or so old is also something that is only for the very poor. We must have new manufactured goods all the time, preferably cheap from some offshore manufacturing site.

Sometimes I wonder how this kind of brainwashing was ever possible to happen to the majority but happen it did and it is scary.

We have to find back to reality and that pronto. The time is going to come, and it is not all that far away, for sure, that those products that the majority run after today will no longer be dirt cheap and therefore we must change our ways and do things differently again. I say purposely again as it once was the way things were done and they must be done that way again.

We must return from a consumer and consumption orientated society return to, or transition and develop, however one may wish to put it, into a maker society where, once again, people are prepared to make things and enjoy making things rather than just consuming things. But it is a learning curve and I will not deny that, especially for those that never did such things before. Many young people today, as children, never made their own toys and entertainment the way some of the somewhat older generation did. They often were not allowed to do that as they could get hurt using a knife for whittling of such and as a knife, in the hands of a child or young person (and not just in the hands of a young person), in places such as the UK, is immediately considered an offensive weapon.

Not only is it just a question of being prepared to make our own things – and to repair the things that we have – but a society where everyone makes things or grows things, and is involved in making and growing things or maintaining those things.

In the main, however, all people are doing today is to consumer, bar the few that produce and grow things, and after the things are used they get thrown away. That is the mentality that is prevalent today and it is that mentality that also is causing other ills in society for a consumer, a user, society also uses people and animals in the same way as things and discards them when they are no longer productive.

The entire world needs to change to a new society but it will only do so if we, the people, actually change. The consumer is but a passive user of products and living things and often has no idea as to the true cost of his or her mentality to the Planet.

While it is true that the consumer him- or herself does not do the actual exploitation of environment, of people and of animals, and that is being done by the capitalists, the corporations and such, it is he or she who, by the act of consuming in the way he or she does, being not prepared to turn to being a maker, participates, passively in this exploitation, whether they want this to be true or not.

Edward Abbey is quoted to have said, with reference to the United States of America: “If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor rule. That was the American dream.” And this also applies to all other nations as well.

The move from a consumer society to a maker society – even if the making part is but a small one with each and every one, to start with – already would go a long way towards this, such as removing the power from the corporations, and thus the rich and “powerful” to dominate others, as in us as the people.

However, a maker society does not just mean making just things for oneself from scratch and even scrap but a society of people who make things rather than having things made for them in some factory in some far way third world country.

On the other hand making things ourselves, for ourselves and for others, and even for sale, liberates. It sets us free from the constant consumption and consumerism and allows us to think what we really need and want (out of life). And it not just liberates the individual, but the entire society.

As far as society goes, we cannot just be consumers, as the majority seems to be today, permanently buying something and tossing out the things – often the very same things we have just bought new, but which are newer than the old ones – that we only bought a couple of months ago. We all must become makers again, on a small and on a larger scale, but always on a human scale.

© 2017

Grab a great read AND support Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October 2017


x-defaultFormer football club Chair, actor and author Michael Bearcroft has announced an exciting new partnership with the charity HopeforJustice, whereby £1 from every sale of his re-released novel Dangerous Score (£9.99, New Generation Publishing) will go directly to helping combat modern slavery.

Estimates suggest that over 21 million people are living in modern slavery today, with over 10,000 of those living in the UK. It is also the third largest source of illegal income, only exceeded by drugs and arms trafficking. As Anti-Slavery Day approaches on the 18th October, author Michael Bearcroft has re-released his successful novel Dangerous Score which explores the world of corruption, organised crime and human trafficking, pledging that £1 from every book sale will go directly to Hope for Justice.

Following an early career as a junior footballer for Sheffield United, Michael continued to be involved in the football industry for many years, as the Chairman of Corby Town F.C and sponsor of both Rothwell Town F.C and Kettering F.C. It therefore seemed logical that the sport he knows so much about would feature as the backdrop for Dangerous Score.

In the book, Michael brings together the worlds of football and organised crime as they collide and become entwined in a bloodthirsty, bitter tale of love, lust and murder. When successful footballer Jason Clooney’s wife unexpectedly leaves him in Australia, he returns home to the UK to start a new life in Sheffield. A winning goal catapults his home team- Kettering Town Football Club- into the national spotlight. However, a brief encounter with a mysterious woman called Jess, propels him into the underworld of international organised crime and human trafficking, changing his life forever.

Michael began researching human trafficking whilst writing his novel and was astounded at the sheer scale of the problem. He decided that he wanted to do whatever he could to help support those forced into modern slavery which led to his new partnership with Hope For Justice, a global charity founded in the UK in 2008 with the aim of working to end modern slavery and human trafficking.

In the past three years, Hope for Justice has rescued 350 people from human trafficking in the UK and is actively working to help many more.

‘Human trafficking is a hidden crime and it’s happening all around us. The main character in Dangerous Score stumbles into this secret world and finds himself submerged in the underbelly of organised crime. I’ve partnered with Hope for Justice because I want to support and bring more light to the desperate plight of people around the world and in the UK. This charity is doing truly amazing things that are transforming people’s lives and I want to help let more people know about them so that collectively, we can do more to eradicate this truly heinous crime,” explains Michael.

Dangerous Score (£9.99, New Generation Publishing) is available from Amazon and all good bookshops. £1 from every sale goes to Hope For Justice.
For more information visit:

Brits fall short of smiles

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

800px-A_Smiling_boy_from_BangladeshAccording to some research only about 28% of Brits attempt to smile at someone at least once a day, despite 63% admitting that being smiled at brightens their day.

Further still, over half (52%) smile most when they make others smile, with nearly 20% (18.75%) worrying that they don’t smile enough.

Personally, knowing the way the majority of Brits – at least today – act whatever they told researchers appears to be what they thought the researchers would want to hear.

A great many in the UK look away when someone smiles at them, often embarrassed which, in turn, makes those that do smile when they meet another person's eyes become reluctant to do so.

A smile cannot only brighten someone's life; it could actually save someone's life. No, I am not exaggerating. A number of years ago me smiling at a complete stranger on a tube train in London did just that.

There was this young man sitting opposite me on an Underground train with a very sad face and every time that our eyes met I smiled. It took some time before he reciprocated and his face brightened up.

Reaching my destination I got up and he also was leaving the train. On the platform he shook my hand and said “I would like to thank you” to which I said, “for what?”

His reply was that really hit the message home which was “for acknowledging my existence”. Cutting a long story short he was very depressed and had been heading to the stop that I also too in order to take his own life by jumping of a bridge that was near there.

Instead of heading to the HQ I was meant to head for at that time I took the young man for a drink and a chat, duty at the HQ could wait a couple of hours. This was more important.

I don't know how many other lives have been saved or, at least, changed by smiling at someone, and I don't just mean by just my smiles. Also I am certainly not averse to striking up a conversation with complete strangers. Many a stranger becomes an acquaintance in such a way and, maybe, even a friend.

Smiling at others does not only benefit the recipient but also the “giver” as it releases, in the same way as some other activities, that I shall not digress to right now, do. So, let's turn our smiles on and not just on World Smile Day.

© 2017

When the oil runs out, people will need horses again

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

when-the-oil-runs-out1When the oil runs out, we will need horses again and also oxen, donkeys and other draft animals and what is often called “beasts of burden”.

“Oh, but we will have electric vehicles instead of the gas powered cars, vans and trucks, etc.” I hear almost everyone say now. Really? I do not think so as the feasibility of this is zero without the power to make them and to charge them and, in addition to that, EVs will never have the power to carry the 35 tons or more of freight on the road, not even 3.5 tons, and as to farm works, electric tractors pulling the plow is not going to happen.

And, even if we could create electric motors capable of doing such jobs there is and remains the problem of the rare earths – and there is good reason why they are called rare earths – that are required for the making of such vehicles, motors and especially the batteries. On top of that comes the problem that those batteries have a lifespan of about 3-5 years at the most, if that long, and then need replacing at costs that are almost have the cost of the vehicles themselves. Does anyone still see this to be the way? I can't. And the same goes for hydrogen fuel cells and all that jazz. Methane, from sewage and such, could work but it all depends on whether manufacturing capacity will still exist to make tractors and other vehicles.

Personally, I cannot see that with lack of fossil fuels (and we all know that nuclear is not an option) the factories will continue to be able to make those cars, trucks and tractors, etc. Either manufacture of those will be done again more or less by hand, thus pushing the prices to such heights that they will become unaffordable, or it just is no longer happening.

If the latter is the case – and even if some will still be made with high prices which will be affordable but too a large minority, if at all – then the horse for transportation and farming will be, once again, the only option. Plus some of the other animals that have, through the ages, been used as draft animals and for carrying goods (and people).

For personal transportation the horse will not be possible for a great many people, especially those that live in towns and cities, but then neither will be the car; at least not in the way that we know them today. The great majority will have to, for their personal transportation, revert back to what we used before the advent of the motor car, namely human power, in the form of walking and cycling.

Even if the electric car and truck will ever make it – though due to lack of power for manufacturing them and their batteries, as well as the rare earths mentioned earlier, I cannot see it happening – the prices will become out of the reach of the majority of those that use a car today.

Farming, as it is being carried out in the main in the so-called developed nations today with the huge machines and the large acreages will also end up being a thing of the past. There is simply no way, with the exception, maybe of using methane, that is to say poo-power, to power tractors, trucks and combines.

So, it will be a return to more people on the land working the land by hand and by use of draft animals, which will, predominately, no doubt, be the horse, who has been our loyal servant in this field (pardon the pun) for centuries and more before the advent of the machines, and this is not all that long ago.

Not so long ago our countryside was a lot more populated than it is today because people worked the land to feed the nation although the more and more mechanization came into agricultural and other rural trades the more people headed for the cities to try their luck there, though many of those were not just agricultural laborers that had lost their jobs due to mechanization but they were smallholders and small farmers who had lost their land, and land to which they had common rights, in the various land grabs of the previous centuries; land grabs by the feudal lords to enlarge their estates.

© 2017

#GreenLiving #oil #horses #endofoil

Consumerism – do we need prohibitions?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

consumerism1We are living well above our means, in more than one way. Thus the question as to whether we need prohibitions that will halt our over-consumption? Maybe we do need someone who raps us over the knuckles when we go too far? That maybe the only way that the Planet can be saved. But this is not going to happen, not from the side of those that think they are in charge as economic growth is what they are on about and growth – according to them – can only be achieved in that people consume more and then still more. Only growth on a finite Planet does not compute.

But do we really need some higher authority to tell us. Should we not be able to restrict ourselves?

On the other hand most people, even many who think of themselves as as having a high degree of eco-consciousness, are into consuming. Fair enough, we all have to eat, need clothes, etc., and thus we consume and are consumers, obviously, but with consuming in this context I mean the many, often unnecessary, things that we buy, thus consume, just because we are lazy, we believe we need them, and because our friends have them.

Coffee to go, obviously in the one-way cup, because it is so convenient. Coffee from the pod, the most wasteful and expensive way to make and consume coffee. Another new cellphone or even smartphone though the old one that we have is still perfectly good and does what we need it for. But, hey, there is a new version out that has more bells and whistles, not that we will ever use any of those bells and whistles.

Using the car to go to the shops – even though you only live a few minutes away from them on foot or by bike – because it looks like rain. Take out pizza or whatever simple because we can't be bothered to cook. OK, there are people who are so busy and work so many hours just to sustain a lifestyle nowadays who really do not have the time to cook at home, I know, but. And so on and so forth.

But would prohibitions really make a difference. OK, with prohibitions people could not do this or that but is it really so hard for us as individuals, as people, to understand that we must change for the good of the Planet and also for the good of our own finances.

Unnecessary driving costs fuel and unnecessary purchases cost money, but at the same time both have an impact on the Planet in many ways. The prepackaged salads and all the rest generates a great deal of packaging waste, more often than not in the form of plastic, some of which is, while others is not, recyclable and it then ends up in landfill or, via the not so environmentally-minded, in the countryside and eventually in rivers and the sea.

For a change to come about industry, especially, will have to play its part and reduce the amount of packaging, and that includes food producers and supermarkets as much as online retailers like Amazon. Legislation could come into play there in that packaging could be regulated and a reduction demanded by government because we, as consumers, can do little there except shop where we do not have everything prepackaged – and that is not all that easy – and sending a message to industry and supermarkets that way.

Waste or squander is no peccadillo, no trivial offense. Nobody has the right to take more than what he/she needs.

I can hardly see, however, government legislating against consumption per se. That is definitely not going to happen. A change in that department will only come about when the mindset of people changes and you cannot do that by degree and prohibitions. Most people will rebel against any kind of prohibition and unless and until industry actually changes its manufacturing processes which are designed that products break down after a relatively short time or, in the case of PCs, for instance, that software (updates) is no longer compatible with old sets (and that also applies to smartphones, for instance) we have little choice to buy new products every year or every couple of years or so. If products would, like they used to, last for a long time and can be repaired, ideally by the user or in small shops, then we would not have this waste that is generated by having to continually buy new.

On the other front, that of packaging, we don't need to look much further back than half a century or so and we can see that things were not over-packaged in the way they are today. Fair enough, that was also the time when the so-called convenience foods were not about. There were no ready-made salads in plastic bowls and such to be found in the isles of the supermarkets. Produce was sold predominately loose, and was packed in brown paper bags, other things came in simple cardboard boxes, tin cans or glass jars, and almost nothing was double or triple packaged, as today.

There was also once a time when packaging, such as glass jars, and others, had an obvious – obvious to all but the very dense – second use and some manufacturers still do so today. Let's get back to that and maybe, just maybe, we have less of packaging waste. We can hope, can't we?

But when one sees that even people who think of themselves as green and environmentally-minded throw away glass produce jars into the recycling and then go and buy recycled glass jars, in the believe that they do good for the Planet doing that, rather than using the glass produce jars as storage jars then one has to wonder where we have gone wrong.

I think no one can deny that we have to stop this malarkey but can we be made to stop with and by government intervention and should that be done?

Most of us know that much of what we buy and consumer is not good. With that I do not mean that it makes us fat or gives us all manner of diseases. Our consumer behavior does hurt us, but mostly it hurts others. Others who also live with us on this Earth and who we do not see because the live far away, those that still would like to live on Earth after we have long gone, and also the Planet as a whole.

While no one can deny that we have stop (with) this madness of consumption – for the sake of it and the economy, as our respective governments keep telling us – the question is how many of us, of our contemporaries, are prepared, voluntarily, to give up this mad pursuit. But, if we want to sustain ourselves and the Planet we will have to do just that for, as I have said above, our governments are not going to do all that much in that department as it would interfere, as they see it, with economic growth. However, perpetual growth – economic or otherwise – is not feasible on a finite Planet with finite non-renewable resources. And, no, the good Lord is not going to put more oil and whatever into the ground for us, as some, including some American lawmakers, believe and declare from the “pulpits”.

As I have said while legislation might be a way to go I don't see it happening. For one the powers-that-be (but really should not be) won't do it because it fuels economic growth and that is all that they seem to be able to think about and on the other hand legislation often does not work because the mind of the people per se rebels as soon as they are not allowed to do something. Persuasion towards a voluntary reduction appears to me the only way. Though disallowing the use of plastic bags or taxing the use of them might just do something.

© 2017

Macron wants EU Army and German Interior Ministers want European FBI

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

French President MacronWhile the French President has called for a European Army and a European defense budget, amongst other things, Interior Ministers of several German federal states are calling for the establishment of a EU-wide version of the FBI.

Those who could foresee all those things coming already years ago, because they have been muted for years among EU circles, have been called conspiracy theorists and worse.

It was as clear as spring-water already from the very beginning when both EUROFOR and EUROPOL were founded what the end outcome and aim was meant to be for both. The former to become a European Army and the latter a European Federal Police. Anyone who believed the story that EUROPOL was supposed to be a European version of INTERPOL also, I assume, believe that the Easter-bunny lays eggs.

At present those are both, some would say, suggestions by, in one instance the French president of the day, and in the other by a number of interior ministers of German federal states, the latter who also would like this European FBI to be run by German “experts” and under German control. Surprise, not.

When EU-officials, whether directly EU people or politicians of the member states, talk of things like this publicly, as “suggestions”, we can, almost, bet our bottom Dollar that they are ready to put those things into operation in the not too distant future.

Macron also wants a “European attorney general” and a “European asylum department”, as well as a “European civil defense authority”, in other words an EU FEMA. Anyone still doubting and wondering as to where this all is headed?

Where this is leading to is to a full-fledged neoliberal fascist European superstate, primarily led by Germany and France. Something that many have foreseen years ago, including and especially myself, and have warned against. But, hey, we were all conspiracy theorists.

When it all started, as the European Economic Community (EEC), it all looked very good on paper but even then the writing was on the wall to where this might be headed, at least for those capable to read between the lines.

When the EEC was turned into the European Union the warning bells should have gone off everywhere but they did not and everyone wanted us to believe that it was all a really great and wonderful thing. Now, slowly but surely, the covers are coming off and the true face of this monster is beginning to show.

Again those that warned against what was happening and could see what was might happen – and which appear to be happening now – were being laughed at, called stupid and worse, and were regarded as conspiracy theorists.

We see more and more cases such as this now where, it appears, those that were foul-mouthed as conspiracy theorists were right all along. Maybe it is time that we listened a little more to people who seem to be able to see the writing on the wall even if we, ourselves, do not wish this writing to be true.

© 2017

Plastic, plastic use, and plastic pollution

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plastic_waste1Plastic is pervasive nowadays and there is almost no place where you can look and plastic will not be staring you in the face in some for or the other. The computer keyboard, the case of the laptop, of the cellphone; all plastic, and that just for starters.

Since the real commercial production of plastic begun in the 1950s the world has produced more than eight billion tons of plastic which is about as much in weight as a billion elephants. Now let that sink in for a moment. That's an awful lot of the stuff. And that which has not been recycled or burned is in landfills and much of it, in fact, is floating around in the sea, causing problems to marine life, and in the end to us, who eat some of that marine life.

In 1950 the world produced around two million tons of plastic per year, while 65 years later, in 2015, it was 380 million tons in that year alone. Half of the so far produced plastic has been has been made in the last 13 years. Until 2015 only nine percent of this plastic has been recycled while twelve percent has been burned. The rest, alas, is still with us, predominately in landfills.

In some cases, let's face it, there, probably, is no real substitute for plastic and there is plastic and then there is plastic, as I keep saying. Instead of making it from petroleum there are other ways plastic materials could and can be made but even if the plastic is from a plant-based source it remains plastic and compostability is in most cases nothing more than greenwash.

On the other hand plastic can be extremely durable – aside from being light – and I say the can be because some of it is not made to be durable and that is due again to industry's design of needing things to break in order to sell more of the things to us.

It is the single use plastic that really is the greatest of problems, whether it comes in the form of the all present and all pervasive PET-bottle or the other plastic packaging such as fruit punnets, salad bowls, etc. ad infinitum.

What bugs me is that many of those things can be given an extended life if we but put our thinking cap on when we encounter them. Only recently I rescued the bases of some Sainsbury's sandwich trays (the kind you but ready-made sandwiches in for parties) which will become the trays for plant pots when raising seedlings.

I have found that the plastic that is used for those salad bowls with ready-made made salads from supermarkets, for instance, is a fairly flexible and also strong kind in that there is nothing preventing us from reusing those small and not so small bowls for a variety of uses in the kitchen, at table and otherwise in the home (and garden).

Those single-use plastic beer beakers (1pt), often made of a strong and flexible plastic, that are used at festivals and such like, instead of glasses, and then, obviously, being tossed thoughtless into the countryside, make for great propagators put upside down over a small plant pot for raising seedlings.

While, obviously, it would be good if we could get rid off all single-use plastic I, personally, doubt that that is going to happen soon and thus we ensure that we dispose of the stuff responsibly (for recycling ideally though we can but wonder how much recycling actually truly happens) or, maybe better still, must find a way of making use of those things by reusing, repurposing and upcycling them in other ways, stretching their lifespans for as far as possible.

In the case of plastic drinks bottles, be it water or other, I would advocate the introduction of a deposit, as it is done in some countries already, and the use of reverse vending machines where such bottles can be returned to and the deposit given to whoever returns them.

Bottled water is a scam anyway as most of the water is not “spring water” or “mineral water” but simply ordinary, often tap, water filled into bottles and sold at a huge profit. In most places in Europe, bar a couple of countries, the local tap water is better than any bottled water. The US still has a problem despite considering itself to be such a great advanced nation. In some places the municipal water supply there is as bad, sometimes even worse, than that in many a city in the Third World.

The problem nowadays though is also that other drinks and products that used to be packaged in glass come now in plastic bottles and jars, such as wine, spirits, peanut butter, etc. The claim is that this is being done to reduce the impact on the environment as glass is heavier than plastic and thus transportation requires more fuel. Come on, let's be honest dearest people. It is cheaper and the environmental claim is but hogwash or should we better call it greenwash. Fact is that plastic bottles and jars are cheaper than glass and that they are cheaper to transport than glass. Hence the move to more and more plastic.

As consumer we are facing a dilemma when it comes to the above, that is to say drinks and produce in plastic jars, let's not even talk about fruit and vegetables packages in unnecessary plastic (wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry the other day when I saw at ALDI apples packaged in the kind of tube in which tennis balls are sold) as in the great majority of cases we do not have an alternative. It was Sainsbury's a couple of years ago that started the trend of peanut butter in plastic jars and now almost every producer of peanut butter has followed suit.

Wines and spirits, at least those at the lower end of the price scale, now also come in plastic, rather than glass, in our supermarkets and the letters WTF very much come to mind with regards to that.

So, instead of working to reduce the problem industry and supermarkets actually perpetuate the problem by introducing more and more plastic packaging. Get rid off the plastic carrier bag, to some degree, and they just get some more plastic in that you can't avoid, more or less. Sometimes I do wonder whether they actually want to help or not, and it looks more like that they do not want to help at all. Plastic is cheaper to use than glass and much cheaper to ship as it is lighter and there are no breakages. It's all down to money yet again. But where does that leave us, as consumer, who are left without an alternative and choice often?

© 2017

Everybody is not a lawyer or a doctor

...and not everybody can be a lawyer or a doctor

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Handwerk1In the school system in far too many countries children are being pushed towards academic careers and towards college and university degrees. Manual trades are being discouraged, often even with derogatory statements from teaching staff that they at those schools are “better” that those who do those trades, and other manual work.

We need to, once again, teach children that it is not just OK to work with your hands but that you can learn to build some real cool stuff and make a good career out of just that.

I have come across a number of young people who had to fight with the schools to allow them to follow a chosen path, in the cases I am referring to, one of horticulture and forestry, via vocational college rather than university. The schools were refusing to allow the youngsters to make their own choice and from what I learned it was a real battle.

The kids were bright and, yes, university material, but had no intention to go to such institutions, rather wishing to pursue a career where they were working with their hands and outdoors even. It was – and is – all about the schools wanting to be looking good in the league tables and not having all those that have the “right grades” go to university apparently sets the school back the league table.

In other cases when schools have been visited and someone commented on the great pieces of woodwork, for instance, such as scale models of period furniture head teachers have been known to say that those pieces were the work of one or the other of their less able students.

It would appear that learning a useful skill and trade, in the eyes of teaching staff and whatever else of those schools just not as important as getting a liberal arts degree or media studies one; degrees that often quite will not bring about any useful employment in the first place. Already far too many young graduates a flipping burgers because there are no openings for them elsewhere.

Many years ago the West German state, more than just the universities, operated a numerus clausus (limited number) system which restricted the numbers of students for at least particular subjects such as law, medicine, and even forestry (forest officer career path), to make sure that, basically, for everyone passing out with the degree a job was available in the profession. Certain sections of the liberal (neoliberal, more like) spectrum ranted and raved against it claiming it those measures to be unfair, and a change was in the air.

We need to get vocational training back into our schools – homeschoolers are better off in that department as they can do that – where youngsters, and not just the boys, learn wood and metal work, etc. In addition to that all schools should – and it should be feasible – have a school garden where horticulture can be taught hand-on.

We really need more people working with their hands again making cool things and growing stuff, working the woods, and so on. There are too many people around today with degrees that are worth very little to nothing and not enough people with the skills that really make a difference.

In many countries of mainland Europe, where the proper system of apprenticeships still exist, the certificates of journeyman and of master craftsman (also applies to women before anyone screams and shouts) are as well regarded as university diplomas and in many places you cannot, for instance, operate a business as an electrician, carpenter, etc., without having attended trade school and done the master certificate. That, by the way, takes at least six years. No wonder the Eastern-European plumbers, carpenters, and other craftsmen are so in demand in Britain. Time we grew our own again, but properly. And this may not just apply to Britain alone.

© 2017

Forked branch boot jack

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A boot jack is a device that allows a person to pull off muddy or tight fitting boots without having to sit down and fight a wrestling match with them.

forked-branch boot pullerThere was a time when no farm yard, let alone stables, did not have at least one boot jack of sorts. Some were made simply of wood while others were of wrought or cast iron.

They also came in different designs as to the boot removal “slot”. Some where simple V-shape notches cut into a board, while others were much more cut out and such. The V-shape notch, in my view, however, is probably the best version as it allows for more than just one size of boot to be removed.

Today those handy devices are seldom seen and found, with the exception at riding equipment stores and in catalogs of Amish-type mail-order companies and the odd general hardware store in the boonies.

But if you happen to work in muddy conditions, or mucking out stables or, generally wear boots such as Wellingtons, aka rubber boots, then having one of those boot puller conveniently sited by your back door (or the door that you would generally come in via with such boots) might be one of the best things that you ever do.

In lieu of going to the stores and spending good money on such a device or even spending some time in the workshop making some from board wood we shall be knocking up a fully serviceable boot jack from a bit of a branch.

First, find a stout green hardwood branch with a fork that's just a little bigger than one you would use to make a slingshot. Try the notch out for size by fitting it around the heel of your boot; the "V" should grab the back of the foot gear snugly.

After you have found the correct tree limb, cut the two prongs of the "wishbone", by means of a saw, to a length of about seven inches each.

Then make a diagonal cut across the other end of the stick, at a point nine or so inches from the crotch.

Now, find a scrap block of 2 X 2 hardwood (a short, sturdy piece of another branch would work, too) to use as a brace, which will be attached underneath the Y-shaped piece of tree limb.

Fasten the "step" to the tail of the limb slightly below the fork, using a screw or a nail (it's best to make a pilot hole to avoid splitting the wood) or by lashing the components securely together. The riser should elevate the device just enough so that when the boot jack is placed on the floor you can get a boot heel into it easily.

Voila, one totally serviceable boot jack for virtually no money and made in little time.

In order to use your natural boot jack, stand with one foot on the tail of the jack, insert the other foot into the fork, lean back, and ease off that boot, without getting your hands dirty.

© 2017

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Dachas1_webIf we want to double world food production and be able to feed a growing population we will have to return the land to small farmers and also establish more small farms.

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture and it is being justified by the need to 'feed the world'.

But it is the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The agricultural industry, the huge farms with large heavy machines are not the answer and neither are genetically-modified (engineered) seeds and such. In the same way that the so-called “green revolution” is and was a disaster so is this playing with genetics.

The large farms with the heavy machines also do serious damage to the environment in that they compact the soil, destroy in this compacted soil mycelia, and other organisms, vital to soil and plant health, and then we wonder why our soil washes away, gets blown away, and why it is getting more and more infertile.

The same goes for forestry operations. Here the powers-that-be also seem to be entirely ignorant as to why we are short of all that important small wildlife and fungi in the soil that it once used to teem with. The answer is the use of heavy machinery, including and especially the so-called timber harversters that run to ten tonnes or more in weight and with their wheels, which often have large cleats on them, which compact the soil to a depth of a foot. No fungi or invertebrate can live in soil of that kind.

As far as farming for food production, especially as regards to vegetables and fruit, the small farm is more efficient than the huge industrial farms. While the former may be somewhat more labor intensive the latter are polluting the environment from machinery exhaust fumes to chemicals used for all manner of things, often massively overused.

Many of the “officials” in the farming industry, in the the ministries, especially in the industrialized countries, claim that only large farms have a future and can feed the nation and the world. This is utter baloney as most of those farms can only exist by means of massive subsidies from the tax payer.

The system of the small farms that have returned to Russia, the former USSR, and the fact that those small farms, the Dachas (and no, the dachas are not – in the main – holiday homes) produce the majority of all fruit and vegetables sold and consumed in Russia.

In most industrialized countries we are dealing with Nature, in our factory farming and -forestry operations, as if She were a factory floor. But She is not. She is a living organism that requires a completely different approach and handling than the one that we have, over the years, been using.

We throw chemicals at the soil trying to have it yield more and more and still more, without ever properly caring for the soil. In addition to that we spray this pesticide and that against this or that pest and against weeds, which are now also classified as pests, it would seem, and many of those chemicals in turn appear to be killing our bees in a direct or indirect way. It really does not matter in which way it happens; without bees we will have no crops, with a few exceptions.

All those chemicals, aside from damaging the soil and our pollinators also leach into the water courses and into the air causing still further damage. And that is aside from the pollution from the heavy machines that drink diesel like sponges take up water.

Most smallholdings and small farms, on the other hand, whether in the Third World or elsewhere, such as in Russia, and other places, often are from the start working the organic method, which we could also call “the way farming was done before agrochemicals”, and thus have a much smaller environmental footprint and are far less polluting (if at all), and it is that that we need.

© 2017