5-hour Energy creator to roll out pedal-powered energy solution in India

Free Electric hybrid bike generator

Pedaling for an hour on Manoj Bhargava's 'Free Electric' hybrid bike can supply 24 hours of electricity for a rural household.

In a world where up to half of the population either has no access to electricity whatsoever, or only severely limited access, a home energy device powered by humans could have a big impact in the developing world, and one philanthropist is willing to put his money where his mouth is in order to potentially change the lives of billions.

Manoj Bhargava, founder of the company that makes the popular energy-boosting supplement 5-hour Energy, is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and instead of spending that money on luxury items or a lavish lifestyle, he's focused on making a difference in the world, in part by tackling some of the pressing issues of our time, most notably energy and water. Bhargava has pledged 90% of his wealth to charity and research via the Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett-led Giving Pledge, saying:

Read more here.

Why Mulching Is Important

Before you plant your spring crops, prepare your garden soil with a healthy dose of mulch.

By now, you’ve probably heard that mulch is an essential component of a successful farm or garden. Garden mulch is a layer of organic material that is spread on the ground to protect or improve soil. Mulch materials can range from “brown” mulch (carbon)— shredded leaves, newspaper, straw, or wood chips—to “green” mulch (nitrogen)—grass clippings, cut weeds or herbs or manure. It can also contain compost soil and living mulches. While it’s common practice to put mulch down in the garden at the end of the growing season, mulches also help in the spring garden and throughout the growing season.

Here’s what you need to know in order to integrate mulching into your gardening schedule.

Why Mulch?

Mulching is a simple act that can cause big benefits to your growing season. As you’re waiting for yourspring seeds to germinate so you can transplant them into the garden, refresh the beds with a layer of mulch to create a welcoming habitat for your new crops.

  • Mulch Insulates and Protects: It insulates soil to protect soil organisms and plant roots from extreme weather, as well as insulate them from sudden fluctuations, such as freezing temperatures, drying sun or compaction from heavy rains.
  • Mulch Improves Diversity and Soil Health: It protects soil organisms, like worms, insects, and soil microbes, which will help protect against pests. These soil critters work double-duty: As the soil organisms break down the mulch, it will enrich the soil. Mulch also helps to prevent soil erosion, allowing you to keep more of your healthy soil right where you want it: in your garden.
  • Mulch Regulates Moisture: Because mulch will reduce evaporation, it helps maintain even moisture level, protecting soil organisms and plant roots from shock and cutting down on the need to water.
  • Mulch Reduces Weeds: This works in two ways: first, reducing the amount of sunlight weed seeds are exposed to so fewer germinate, and second, by preventing weed seeds from settling on soil and germinating. Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that the brown leaf mulch’s suppression of weeds increased when paired with a green mulch source, such as grass clippings.

Read more here.

When Houston ended glass recycling this 8-year-old saw a healthy business opportunity

Eight-year-old Tristan “Pan” Berlanga never dreamed of starting his own business. “I’ve always wanted to be a basketball player,” he says as he and his business partner, 28-year-old David Krohn, drive through a neighborhood in Houston’s Old Sixth Ward.

Krohn slows the truck down, reading the house numbers out loud. The bed of his new pickup truck is already littered with empty beer and wine bottles loosely packed in boxes and bags. They stop in front of a gray house with a big double driveway and leave the truck running as they walk around the back. Moments later Pan returns wrestling a paper bag almost as big as he is. It’s filled with glass bottles. You can hear them clinking against each other as he hauls his load to the truck. “There is a lot more back there,” he says a little out of breath. “We could use your help.”

“We didn’t even know what we were going to do with the glass when we started.”

Pan and Krohn started their company, Hauling Glass, in April after the city of Houston decided to cut glass recycling from its curbside pickup program. Krohn, a friend of Pan’s family, came over one night talking about how the city was going to stop picking up glass. “I told David, why don’t we pick it up ourselves,” the third grader said. “And that’s how it started.”

With help from friends and family, the team goes door to door in Krohn’s pickup, collecting glass, and bringing it to an empty lot owned by Pan’s father. “Things just grew organically,” Krohn said. “We didn’t even know what we were going to do with the glass when we started.”

Read more here.

Fiskars Xtract Garden Saw SW75 – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

fiskars-xtract-garden-saw-l-sw75-1000614Fiskars XtractTM Garden Saw SW75 is a highly efficient tree saw designed to cut fresh wood. This is the largest of Fiskar Xtract saws and has a blade length of 255 mm with a large sawing capacity up to 120mm. The design features a handy belt clip which retracts when in use while the SoftGripTM handle ensures a safe grip. There is also a finger guard which protects fingers from sliding to the blade part during sawing. Its highly sharp blade cuts on the pull stroke as, I would have to add, do all those kind of pruning saws which are based on a Japanese design.

As far as the handy belt clip is concerned I am not all that sure about the handy part as, when attaching it to the belt loops of my jeans, it rather sticks out a little from the side and thus creating a hanger into which the clip can be hooked for one's belt might be a better choice.

Overall length is about 56cm with a blade of of 25.5cm.

A very fast cutting saw with lots of potential for pruning and small tree work, even as far as the use in small coppice operations.

The price depends very much where you are intending to buy it but it is somewhere in the region of £35 but for that you get a very good and very fast saw, as said, for pruning and which is even suitable for coppice operations.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 and the reason of the loss of half a point is the fact that the belt clip is not as practical as it is made out to be. Sorry about that but I like to tell things as they are.

© 2016

Children spend less time outside than prison inmates

child plays at lake

Prisoners at a maximum security facility in the U.S. are guaranteed 2 hours of outdoor time daily, whereas 1 out of 2 kids worldwide spends less than an hour outside.

Children spend less time outside each day than prison inmates do in the United States. Inmates are guaranteed two hours of outdoor time daily, whereas one in two children is outside for less than an hour. A recent survey of 12,000 parents in 10 countries, who have children aged five to 12, found that one-third of kids spend under 30 minutes outside each day.

A new short film reveals how important it is for inmates to have their outdoor time on a daily basis and how surprised they are to learn that kids get even less. The inmates, who live at the Wabash Valley Correctional Institute, a maximum security facility in Indiana, describe daily outdoors time as “probably the most important part of my day.” It’s an opportunity to “take all the frustration and all your problems and just leave them out there. It keeps my mind right, keeps my body strong.”

Read more here.

Scientists Puzzled by Slowing of Atlantic Conveyor Belt, Warn of Abrupt Climate Change

Scientists are increasingly warning of the potential that a shutdown, or even significant slowdown, of the Atlantic conveyor belt could lead to abrupt climate change, a shift in Earth’s climate that can occur within as short a timeframe as a decade but persist for decades or centuries.


This map shows the pattern of thermohaline circulation also known as “meridional overturning circulation”. This collection of currents is responsible for the large-scale exchange of water masses in the ocean, including providing oxygen to the deep ocean. The entire circulation pattern takes ~2000 years. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists in the Labrador Sea recently made the first retrieval of data from one of 53 lines moored to the sea floor and studded with instruments that have been monitoring the ocean’s circulatory system since 2014.

Held taut by submerged buoys, these moorings are arrayed from Labrador to Greenland and Scotland. In total, five research cruises are planned for this spring and summer to fetch the data the moorings are busy collecting.

The instrument array, known as the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP), measures salinity, temperature, and current velocity of the surrounding water, data that is vital to understanding a set of powerful currents with far-reaching effects on the global climate. These currents are known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) — or, more popularly, “the Atlantic conveyor belt” — and they have “mysteriously” slowed down over the past decade, according to Eric Hand, author of a Science article published this month.

Scientists are increasingly warning of the potential that a shutdown, or even significant slowdown, of the Atlantic conveyor belt could lead to abrupt climate change, a shift in Earth’s climate that can occur within as short a timeframe as a decade but persist for decades or centuries.

North Atlantic waters, such as the Greenland, Irminger, and Labrador Seas, are especially salty when compared with water in other parts of the world’s oceans. When AMOC currents, like the Gulf Stream, bring warmer waters from the south to the North Atlantic, the water cools down, releases its heat to the atmosphere, becomes colder, and sinks, since saltier water is denser than fresher water and cold water is denser than warm water.

In a process called “thermohaline circulation” (“thermos” is the Greek word for heat, while “halos” is the word for salt), this cold, salty water then slowly flows back down into the South Atlantic and eventually makes its way throughout the world’s oceans. At the same time, warm, salty tropical surface waters are drawn northward, where they replace the sinking cold water.

Read more here.

‘Agrihoods’ Provide Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms – Not Golf Courses

California’s first farm-to-table new home community just opened. Called “The Cannery,” it’s a residential project designed and put together by The New Home Company. Designed with a seven acre urban farm near the center of downtown Davis, this 100 acre project is considered to be the very first agrihood built on what used to be industrial land.

The community is also home to 547 houses, all of which are energy efficient; each one is solar-powered and comes equipped with electrical car power outlets.

This is great, initiatives like these need to start happening all over the world, and the fact that somebody has now done it shows the rest of the developed world that it’s possible. Instead of building normal residential communities, why not create something sustainable?

Earthships, tiny homes, weatherproof greenhouses, organic farming and more all seem to be part of a larger trend that more and more people are investing in. We are waking up to what’s needed to ensure the prosperity of future generations and the health of the planet. Indeed, this community is focused on organic farming, which is a proven sustainable practice which can only be good for everyone involved.

When it comes to global food sustainability, it’s important to note that various scientists have concluded and demonstrated that organic farming can be sustainable across the globe. The Union of Concerned Scientists reminds us that GM crops are not guaranteed, as promised by company advertising. They still fail to produce promised yields, and farmers are not permitted to save seeds due to the company’s patent. As a result, entire communities can be pushed to the brink of starvation.

Read more here.

Small is Beautiful: We Don't Need to Go Big To Create New Energy Sources

PERI's Robert Pollin, author of Greening the Global Economy, says community-owned renewable energy sources are the path to the future

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay coming today from the PERI Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts.

In the new book Greening the Global Economy Rob Pollin says we don’t need to go big to create new energy sources; in fact, small is beautiful. One of the central ideas in his book. And he now joins us here at the PERI Institute, thanks for joining us.

ROBERT POLLIN: Thanks for having me.

JAY: So the book is Greening the Global Economy and here it is. So let’s explore this a little bit. So what do you mean? Usually I think when people think, building a new green infrastructure creating thousands of jobs, its usually on some big scale. People imagine like thousands of windmills and such but you’re saying there’s other alternatives.

POLLIN: Well, there will, should be thousands of windmills but if we look for example at the experiences and of a few Western European countries Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the UK. They do have wind turbine projects that are community owned, that are placed right in the middle of the community, for example like right in the middle of Copenhagen. And they are community owned and because they are community owned they operate at lower levels of profitability, the people are willing to except lower levels of profitability. They have lower transmission costs because the wind turbine is right there in the community so you don’t have to have these long transmission infrastructure projects. And the community is supportive of it cause they own it.

JAY: So instead of a massive wind farm somewhere out here. One in the town.

POLLIN: And corporate owned. And so you can have small scaled projects. Look, the smallest scale project is putting a solar panel on your roof. And you know, that may not work every single place but for the most part that is a completely viable strategy for communities throughout the country, as we’ve discussed where we’re sitting at our PERI institute we’re putting a new building right across the way. In cold, not so sunny western Massachusetts that is going to over the course of the year, require it doesn’t have no emissions over the course of the year. It’s going to depend on being heavily insulated, high efficiency building, with solar energy and geothermal energy.

Read more here.

Trees make our lives better in unquantifiable ways

There are a few colors that I adore. I love the first dark flashes of Baltic blue-black on the horizon when I’m driving toward the Gulf of Mexico. I love the glaring green of a “go” traffic light against a bruise-colored, stormy summer sky.

More than anything, though, I love the bright yellow-green spatters of the first pecan leaves every spring. Like globs of paint flung straight from Monet’s palette, they are to me the surest sign that winter has left the building and that long days and hot weather are on the way.

Scientists say that that when human beings see the color green and interact with nature, our bodies manifest chemical and psychological signs of reduced stress.According to an article published on Thursday by CityLab, one Texas company is trying to quantify for cities the dollar amounts that trees are worth in their combined capacities as air-scrubbers, noise-pollution reducers, neighborhood beautifiers and natural stress relievers.

“Lower cortisol is given off when you see green,” said i-Tree founder David Nowak. “We want to develop an index of how much green you can see from any given point in a city, how your body reacts to it, and what the economic value is.”

Satellite imaging shows that cities with more trees are cooler on average, have less air pollution and – as a result – fewer instances of respiratory-related illnesses. Cooler temperatures mean less energy used in the summer and more trees means higher property values.

All of that aside, and as well-intentioned as Nowak may be, there is something absolutely unquantifiable about the benefits of living near trees.

Read more here.

Soon Humans Will Rent Patches Of Land In A Public San Francisco Park

This detail would even feel heavy-handed in a novel about a dystopian future ruled by the libertarian tech elite, but here you go: in San Francisco’s Dolores Park, people will be able to reserve chunks of the park as part of a two-month pilot program by the Recreation and Parks Department. You can make the reservations online (or on the phone, as they clarified), and it costs money—$33-$260 depending on group size, plus a $200 security deposit. Staffers will be around to uphold reservations and ensure cleanliness on the weekends.

Many parks allow you to reserve eating areas or playing fields for organized sports, but, as SFist notes, the areas in question are “straight up sections of grass.” This program has some SF residents, like Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim, pretty uncomfortable:

Read more here.

Burning Question: How Do You Balance Farming and Ecology?

When it comes to protecting your land’s natural resources, is it really about balance or more about tipping the scales?

An inspiring conversation with one of my 7th grade students went something like this:

“Ms. Lanier! I know what I want my science project to be!”

“Oh, really?”

“I’m going to create a riparian buffer and restore the stream ecology on my grandmother’s farm. She raises cattle on about 500 acres, and they are polluting the stream and eroding the bank.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, and I’m going to create a floating wetland, too, so our pond will filter out the excess nutrients.”

“OK, wow. Let me know how I can help.”

How many of you reading this even know what “riparian” means (hint: it’s along a stream bank), or know what a floating wetland is (hint: it’s basically a man-made island that provides wildlife habitat and improves water quality)?

Thanks to a land-based school curriculum, along with outreach programs from universities, extension offices and environmental education organizations, 13-year-olds like this one can speak the language of restorative ecology. He is applying for grants and has already calculated the cost of moving fences farther from streams and stabilizing the soil by planting a food forest. He comes to me daily, sharing his progress and asking for more literature to take home. Now his grandmother is learning about impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff, too. Generational gaps are narrowing, and ancestral wisdom of the land is collaborating with scientific understanding on how to manage farms for long-term ecological stability. This gives me hope for the future.

Thinking about my own education regarding farmland restoration, I witnessed and documented the difference that one reforestation project in Brazil is making, at Instituto Terra. A decade of replanting the Atlantic tropical forest on what was a degraded and barren ranch has stimulated the economy and refreshed the environment. Streams that had dried up now flow again, wildlife returned, tourism is increasing, and environmental education programs attract school children and train new conservation technicians in field ecology.

Considering the balance of income and ecological restoration, profitability can support the work, but it doesn’t necessarily make us better stewards of the land. Most of the truly land-conscious farmers I know have spent time in third world countries, where they learned how to live within their means. They returned from the Peace Corps, mission trips, studying abroad or WWOOFing. Overwhelmed and perplexed when facing the vast aisles in the average American supermarket, one thought rises to the surface: What a waste of resources.

The new generation of agroecologists refuses to accrue debt and buy massive machinery to grow commodities. They are downsizing the industrial ideas of farming and choosing to grow subsistence crops in urban farms and community gardens. They welcome families into their CSAs, share tools and host potlucks—not so different than the way their great-grandparents did things.

Read more here.

Gardeners work to rescue Ivan, a tomato that is now returning the favor

Ivan_TomatoASHLAND — Jerry Schuerenberg went to Vietnam in 1968 and came back broken.

He didn't talk much about his year as a helicopter pilot during the war. Although his family could tell something was wrong, he never admitted he was hurting until he had a stroke. As he healed, Schuerenberg found peace in the humid space of his greenhouses.

There, he took particular care with a rare heirloom tomato known as Ivan, which had been cultivated for generations by his family.

Tending plants like this meaty tomato, the rare Schuerenberg family breed, became a way for him to heal. When he died in 2013, the tomato nearly died with him.

It wasn't until a group calling themselves Victory Gardeners picked up the pieces and Schuerenberg's hardy little tomato was plucked from almost-certain obscurity. The group's three members call themselves the Ivan Tomato Rescue Project.

With their project, the Victory Gardeners hope to sell Ivan tomato seeds and plants, rescue other dying varieties and inspire a little hope and healing. Collaborating with Schuerenberg's family, the project donates 10 percent of sales to programs that rehabilitate veterans by using agricultural therapy.

Schuerenberg's family lives in a white two-story house on a scenic piece of land in the rolling hills outside of Ashland. Four greenhouses, built at the edge of the front yard, were Jerry Schuerenberg's domain.

According to Becky Whitworth, one of his daughters, every morning the broad-shouldered field farmer would methodically pour a thermos of coffee, put on his faded tan overalls, pull a hat over his curly gray hair and lumber out the door.

Every day he watered and weeded his plants, transplanted them into larger containers, or just sat at his favorite picnic table with the family's German shepherd, Duchess.

Read more here.

Travel fears sparks boom in UK holidays

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

staycationFears over flying, terrorist attacks and unease about security at many of the popular overseas holiday hot spots, has sparked a dramatic increase in demand for a UK holiday this year.

Thousands of families are changing their upcoming holiday plans to avoid flying, or visiting riskier destinations like Egypt or Tunisia.

Instead, according to data, self catering, camping and outdoor type holidays are booming in response to heightened fears. With the most popular UK holiday destinations being the Lake District, the Highlands and Cornwall.

We have seen already a change from vacationing abroad, whether in Europe, such as the Costa del Sol, and such location, or further afield, in the last couple of years, to the so-called staycations, which is to say either holidaying at destinations in the UK or, actually, holidaying at home.

The Easter school holidays of 2015 also showed this with the amount of people who were visiting local parks, for instance, and this was further proof, if proof was needed, that people are staying at home over the holidays rather than going abroad.

In previous years, before the credit crunch, Easter holidays meant that many families would take a vacation, especially those where one parent does not work, either at some resort or on caravan site in the UK or in France or such. Now this trend appears to be all but gone.

It may be that families are genuinely worried about taking holidays that involve flying or visiting risky destinations but it may also be that they either have decided for sake of the environment or whatever to no fly and travel far afield or that the finances and thus the economy is not as rosy as it is being painted by the politicians in the UK.

Whilst fears over travel safety persist for many holidaymakers, home grown holidays are becoming very popular for those that still have funds available for going on holiday.

Flying nowadays also – and also travel by train to destinations in Europe – entails lengthy security checks at airports and ports, etc., and it would appear that that also may have turned many people away from flying or otherwise traveling outside the country.

The staycation trend began almost immediately after the credit crunch and has continued, it would appear, ever since. People appear to be rather improving their homes and gardens and vacationing there then spend a stressful time at the airport outbound as well as inbound and who can blame them.

Spending the holidays at home is good for the local economy too, whether it is at some resort or other destination within the country or at home proper, so to speak. The latter also saves money on a great number of fronts and there is always something to explore for both children and adults around the home towns or within a couple of hours travel by car, train or bicycle.

Many children and adults have seen sites abroad, unless they just spent their time in places such as the Costas, the Balearic Islands, or such, while they have no idea of what is in their immediate neighborhood, and that is rather a shame.

Britain has a great history, great museums, and the countryside is never far from any of us, even if we happen to live in the cities, and many fantastic events all around the country for young and old alike that are all worth a visit. The only thing that can never be guaranteed is the weather, as in sunshine all the way. But then at least you never get bored with the weather and we all know that the British moan when it is raining, cold or windy, in the same way as when it is hot and dry. The weather department in the sky can never please those islanders.

During the Great Recession, which has by no means ended, just a little abated to resume normal and abnormal operation shortly, staycations became the “in thing” and why not.

Why would anyone want to travel three hours ahead of a flight to the airport, go through all the rigmarole of security checks and all that jazz, sit in a flying sardine can, arrive at the other end and go through the same stuff again and then, possibly, discover that one's luggage has gone the different direction? Much better to start one's holiday relaxed at home, in comfortable and known surroundings and then, from there as a base, do some exploring.

It is good for the Planet, the wallet and the local economy.

© 2016

How to Deprogram a Materialistic Kid


Okay. You admit you have a materialistic little critter on your hands. Take comfort. There are proven ways to deprogram a materialistic kid. It will take time and commitment, but the benefits are profound for your child and your family. Kids who are less materialistic are more “we” oriented, than “me.” They are more concerned about others, and less worried about how they look and what they own. Their self-esteem is more authentic. But perhaps most important, research clearly shows that these children are more empathetic, caring, collaborate, compassionate and morally courageous.

Here are a few of the best parenting solutions from my latest book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World (June 2016, Simon and Schuster) to help you succeed:

1. Watch those TV commercials!

Research shows that the fewer commercials kids see, the less materialistic they become. When kids’ TV viewing was cut by one-third; they were 70 percent less likely than their peers to ask parents for a toy the previous week.

Solution: Hit the mute button on your television remote and talk whenever those commercials are on. Turn your child toward more commercial-free television shows or even TVO his “have-to-see” favorite so he can cut out the commercials all together.

2. Spend more time than money on your kids

Materialistic kids go on far more shopping outings with their parents. So be honest: How many outings stress non-material values?

Make a conscious effort to spend time together doing things that don’t cost a dime: Go to the park and the museum, talk, take bike rides, build forts, bake cookies, watch the clouds, and play Monopoly. Show your kid the “other” side of life.

Read more here.

Vegetable gardens can be pretty as well as functional

Gardening-Pretty-Vegetable-A sense of order, a welcoming gate and a well-defined path are among the elements that make this vegetable garden both pretty and functional.


Considering the superior flavor of fresh-picked vegetables and the choices you get when you grow your own, it’s a wonder that more people don’t have vegetable gardens.

Even a local farm or farmers market can’t offer vegetables as fresh as those straight from the back yard.

Perhaps if vegetable gardens were more ornamental, they would be more popular, not relegated to the far corners of back yards. With a little planning, a vegetable garden can be pretty enough to set out in the front yard.


A vegetable garden that satisfies the eyes as well as the tongue must have a sense of order that is both pleasing and lasting. An expanse of dirt streaked with straight rows of vegetables – the traditional vegetable patch – does have order, but it’s more functional than attractive. And after autumn, it’s not much more than an expanse of dirt.

Instead, why not lay out the garden with permanent beds and paths in an arrangement that, while functional, also creates a design? Picture a neat arrangement of rectangular beds or beds radiating out to form a wheel.

Be deliberate in your choice of materials to cover the paths for your design. The paths, after all, will highlight the shapes of the beds. And it’s much nicer to walk on flagstones, pebbles, wood chips, sawdust or lawn grass than in mud.


Adding a third dimension – height – turns a vegetable garden into a sculpture. And this third dimension can be a year-round feature, unlike the vegetable plants themselves, most of which are annuals that dissolve into the soil in winter.

A fence is perhaps the most obvious third dimensional feature: Not wobbly chicken wire tacked onto wooden stakes all askew, but a fence of substance as well as function – perhaps something informal crafted from cedar or locust posts, or something formal created from sawn lumber. Pay attention to the gate, too, again combining function and appearance.

A bench, birdbath or gazing globe are other features that can help a vegetable garden look good through the year. Besides adding a third dimension to the lines created by beds and paths, features like these can create enclosure, or act as visual focal points – a bench at the end of a path, for instance, or a birdbath at the intersection of two wide main paths.

Plants themselves can also add sculptural mass to the scene. Hedges that are evergreen or densely twigged are best for creating a bold 3-D effect. To keep them from hogging the scene and robbing the vegetables of food and water, keep them proportional to the size of the garden. Even a small garden can have some beds or main paths bordered by such plants as dwarf boxwood or germander shrubs.


No need to exclude purely ornamental plants from your vegetable patch. Currant bushes are both small and ornamental, their lacy flowers morphing into berries that dangle like red jewels. Roses would enjoy the high fertility of a vegetable garden; how about two compact bushes flanking either side of that bench?

Weeds are mostly non-ornamental, especially the way they appear willy-nilly, so try to keep them in check.

Let’s not forget about vegetables themselves in the design of this ornamental, edible vegetable garden. Visually, they offer a range of textures and colors, and, with their rapid development, add a dynamic quality to the scene.

Peppers and eggplants, purple basil and some of the Swiss chards with colorful stalks are among the particularly ornamental vegetables. Asparagus creates a ferny backdrop from July onward; parsley could become a low, verdant hedge.

The many colors, textures and shapes of lettuce make it one of my favorite ornamental vegetables. One year, I juxtaposed blocks of red, green, frilly and smooth-leaved varieties to create a beautiful patchwork quilt. The only problem was that eating the lettuces eroded the design.

By LEE REICH, Associated Press

This New Neighborhood Will Grow Its Own Food, Power Itself, And Handle Its Own Waste

ReGen Village, outside of Amsterdam, doesn't need a grid or food systems. It's a model for a future, fully closed-loop settlement.

If you live inside one of the houses in a new neighborhood being built in an Amsterdam suburb, your dining room might be next to an indoor vegetable garden. Outside, you'll have another seasonal garden. And down the street, almost everything you eat will be grown in high-tech vertical farms.

The neighborhood will be the first ReGen Village, a new type of community designed to be fully self-sufficient, growing its own food, making its own energy, and handling its own waste in a closed loop.

Any household waste that can be composted will feed livestock or soldier flies. The soldier flies will feed fish, and fish waste will fertilize an aquaculture system that produces fruit and vegetables for the homes. Seasonal gardens will be fertilized by waste from the livestock.

By using the most advanced methods for growing food—a combination of aeroponics, aquaponics, permaculture, food forests, and high-yield organic farming—the neighborhood will grow many times more food than a traditional farm of the same size, with fewer resources. Aquaponics, for example, can produce 10 times as much produce on the same amount of land, with 90% less water.

Read more here.

Windbreaks Catch More Than Wind


Yesterday, Veteran’s Day, came in windy and cold in Kansas.  As I hurried toward the church door the wind caught me by the legs, scooting me along with my cape as a sail.  Although a bit bitter for a walk I couldn’t resist a few minutes out by the windrow to check on the birds and varmints that can always  be found there.

I have few memories of my childhood or stories that were told by a parent, but the story surrounding the planting of the windbreak trees is all mine.  The farm stands on a rise that just dares a gust to come along, and since many did, the only way to protect the barnyard and cattle was to plant a windrow.  My penny-pinching father went to the agriculture service office and bought some affordable cedar starts, I am sure no larger than a foot tall and in a hundred-bundle.  When they arrived on the bitter March winter day they had to be planted or die.  Since Dad had a job at the aircraft plant, it was left to Mom to dig a hundred holes, plant the trees in frozen ground, and water them in.

I am told I was a fussy baby and had a tendency to be croupy, so my mother nursed me for a few months after birth, thinking it would make me a little healthier.  The day the trees arrived, I was a few months old and am told I had a bad cold and cried constantly.  Any other woman would probably have told the trees to forget it, but Mom was a “get-er-done” gal so she spent the day digging two holes and then returning to the house to check on me.  Dig another two, check on me.  Every dozen holes she would pause to nurse me and try to get me to sleep, which was summarily unsuccessful.  Laughter bubbles up in me every time I think of the situation, although it had to have been a miserable memory for my mother.

Read more here.

How To Farm With Horses

If you want to eschew fossil-fuel-powered equipment, draft horses are the way to go.

Farming with draft horses is an almost inherently attractive idea. It evokes a certain nostalgia for a simpler time, it embodies bucolic life, and for those of us seeking to improve our sustainability, they are essentially tractors that create their own fertility, multiply, and run on grass not gas.

However, there may be many reasons we might not act on our interest in farming with draft horses. Draft animals generally get work done more slowly than a tractor, and without access or relation to other farmers who use draft animals, it may just seem entirely out of reach—too unfamiliar, too foreign, too big of a hill to climb. That’s why we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to draft horses for anyone who is interested, but may not know where to start. If farming with draft horses is your dream, you should be able to pursue that dream with confidence.

Choosing Breeds and Buying Draft Horses

The breed of draft horses you choose to purchase should be based on how you want to use them and on what breeds are available locally. Draft animals are a bit like plants in that they do better in the area they are adapted to, though another notable advantage to acquiring horses locally is having someone close by who can mentor you in this farming technique.

Your first horses should be experienced horses. Trying to “break a horse” before you have your “horse sense” can be difficult. Your best bet is to get some training, and then when you’re ready, find a local breeder or horseman and let them get you set up.

Read more here.

The Music Industry's Battle Against Plastic Junk

Touring artists are using their unique influence to help festival organizers move away from single-use plastic


Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard the stats: Plastic is flooding our world. Our oceans bear the burden of five continent-sized mass accumulations of plastic, and unless our ravenous consumption of it changes, scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

How much garbage does a typical music festival generate? The 2015 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, with roughly 90,000 attendees in Tennessee, produced more than 679 tons of waste over four days. That's 15 pounds of waste per festival-goer — nearly twice the average amount a U.S. consumer uses daily. The biggest component of that waste was single-use disposable plastic: water bottles, beer cups, straws, utensils, wrappers and packaging.

The good news is that a movement is growing within the music industry to amend the harm being done by plastic pollution. Musicians and festivals are embracing change and committing to reduce their plastic and carbon footprints, on stage and behind the scenes.

Read more here.

Building with nature: cities that steal smart ideas from plants and animals

Architects, designers and urban planners are borrowing from natural phenomena as diverse as termite mounds and resilient grapefruits to design smart, sustainable cities

With soaring glass skyscrapers and swaths of concrete, modern cities often seem actively to work against nature, pushing it down and suppressing it rather than working alongside it.

Yet a growing number of progressive architects, designers, engineers, scientists and urban planners are looking to the Earth’s systems for inspiration.

Biomimicry is based on the idea that animals, plants and the Earth’s natural processes are the ultimate engineering feats. The approach looks to replicate nature’s clever ideas, whether it be designing a water collection device with inkjet-printed microdroplets imbued with binding agents, based on the Namib desert beetle’s ability to harvest vapour from fog; or a passively cooled building in the style of a termite mound. Biomimicry stems from the logical conclusion that nature’s systems function well: examples of when they fail are found only in the fossil record.

Of course, there is a big gap between marvelling at a spider’s ability to spin a web, and designing a fabric that mimics its selectively sticky properties. And the sheltering tree does not provide the solid cover of a roof to keep out rain. But the glimpses of light and moving shadow the tree casts could offer other benefits, such as negating the need for illumination at specific times of day. A smart building might exploit these.

Dr Cheryl Desha was a panellist at last month’s event Catching up with the Jetsons: Cities in 2050 at the World Science festival in Brisbane. The Queensland University of Technology lecturer in sustainable development foresees a future in which cities are more like natural environments, functional and resilient, protecting inhabitants from weather, pollution and viruses, while minimising their carbon footprint.

Read more here.


Wer weiß, was der Boden braucht, kann ihn verbessern.  (Quelle: imago/blickwinkel/F.Hecker)

Unkraut ist eigentlich der Feind des Gärtners. Doch manchmal profitiert man von den unerwünschten Pflanzen: Dann nämlich, wenn das Grün auf einen Mangel im Garten hinweist. Diese so genannten Zeigerpflanzen verraten dem Gärtner, was der Boden wirklich braucht.

Hobbygärtner sehen ihrem Gartenboden nicht an, welche Stoffe er enthält und woran es ihm mangelt. Das lässt sich über eine kostenpflichtige Bodenanalyse herausfinden. Manchmal hat man aber auch Glück, und es wachsen Pflanzen auf dem Grundstück, die einen Hinweis auf den Zustand des Bodens geben. Man spricht von Zeiger- oder Indikatorpflanzen - meist solche Pflanzen, die uns als Unkraut gelten. So deuten viele Brennnesseln darauf hin, dass die Erde reich an Stickstoff ist.

Solche Pflanzen sind nur wenig tolerant gegenüber Veränderungen und verschwinden schnell wieder, wenn sich ihre Lebensbedingungen ändern, wie der Verbraucherinformationsdienst aid in Bonn erklärt. Das hilft dem Gartenbesitzer aber nicht nur bei der Auswahl seiner Düngemittel, sondern gibt ihm auch Hinweise, welche weiteren Pflanzen sich an den Standorten besonders wohlfühlen könnten. Wichtig ist aber, dass nicht nur eine dieser Zeigerpflanzen dort wächst, sondern gleich eine Vielzahl. Auf diese Pflanzen muss man im Garten achten:

Hier weiterlesen.

Will British people soon need travel permit to exit the country?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As of April 2015 passport exit immigration checks now in force again at UK borders and ports which is claimed being due to so many people wishing to travel to Syria and such places to join the so-called Islamic State or IS, aka ISIL or ISIS, and due to the fact, we are told, that so many illegal immigrant are hiding in plain sight in Britain.

The UK never fully implemented the Schengen Agreement of a borderless Europe and has always continued entry checks of passports and has now, more or less, thrown that agreement out of the window. The little island mentality has struck, once again. Though, personally, I have no time for the EU and its rules.

Thus now a new scheme is being phased in at UK border crossings, so that UK immigration can collect data on all passengers leaving the country. The information is obtained by staff working for airlines, ferry companies, etc. who must record details of every traveler leaving on a commercial flight, or by sea or by rail. The data collected is then passed on to the Home Office, the British Interior Ministry.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the government wants the checks to identify individuals who are in the UK illegally. This means that passport and travel details will be transmitted to the Home Office.

The information will then be collated and added to Home Office data, where it can be accessed if the government needs it. All data will be processed in line with the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the common law duty of confidentiality, they say, but we all know what that means, namely little to nothing.

The government says it has launched the scheme under the 2014 Immigration Act, mainly to monitor immigration and gather data. It is also in place they say to boost national security; ministers say that it enables police and spies to track the activity of known criminals and terrorists across the world.

According to Security and UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire this is to ensure that the UK has an immigration system that is fair, tackles illegal immigration and cracks down on those who attempt to cheat the system by remaining in the country when they have no right to do so. Exit checks, so he said, will give crucial information that confirm a person's exit from the UK. Well, how else would they know when people leave, where they go, and when or if they come back into the country.

And, according to former Independent Chief Inspector of UK Borders and Immigration, John Vine, it will allow the government, for the first time in a long time, to obtain information about who is left in Britain. Up until recently, he said further, has not been possible for the government to know who has overstayed their visa and who has remained in the country.

Let us not be deceived. Anyone who believes that this is intended to make the country more secure is living in cloud cuckoo land. It is yet another way of the British government to restrict the freedoms of the “citizens” (the reason the word citizens here is in quotation marks is because there is not such thing as a British citizen) and residents by ensuring that their every move can be monitored. But they dare to to talk about the German Democratic Republic having been a repressive and describing at as an Unrechtsstaat.

The UK not so long ago enacted legislation that will prevent people who owe unpaid debt (mortgages excluded, it would appear) from leaving the country, even to go on vacation and having a return ticket. So, what is going to stop the government to restrict travel abroad of people who are considered non-conformist as to government views and such? Nothing. All it will require is a little tweaking of the legislation and bingo.

So the day may not be far off that the British people will – once again – require a permission to leave the country (and that it what a passport originally was, and it had to be obtained each and every time someone wanted to “pass port”). But, then again it is all intended to keep us safe (sarcasm off). Soon the day may come that people in the UK – and elsewhere – will require a permission to leave the place of residence, I should not be surprised.

© 2016

In praise of the washing line

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The washing line is one of those easy to use every day things that are frequently overlooked and in many places and cases it has been displaced by the electric tumble dryer.

Washing_line_wooden_propIt also has to be said that under some local ordinances in the US having a washing line, even in the backyard, is illegal, and thus people have no other option than to use an indoor electric dryer. Thus they cannot be blamed for not using a line; it is not their fault. Much like rainwater harvesting, which also is illegal in many areas of the US and even entire States. Well, guess that's why they keep referring to themselves as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Just to remind themselves how free they are not.

However, here are a number of good reasons why having and using a washing line is more than a good idea. So, if you haven't got a washing line as yet, and can legally use one, then get one set up.

  • No need for expensive equipment or costly electricity bills.

  • Kind to your fabrics so clothes last longer.

  • Minimizes ironing as most of the crinkles blow away.

  • Adds the fresh air scent to your clothes with real fresh air not costly and possibly harmful chemicals.

And, for a proper washing line, unless you use a pulley system, you will need some washing line props. And that brings me to my usual favorite, coppicing, though we shall not dwell on it too long.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when, unless they did have the elaborate washing line set up with pulleys, everyone wanted and needed a couple of washing line props. Some improvised them because they either could not go out into the woods and cut themselves the right sticks (legally) or they were too cheap to pay a coppice worker, a woodsman, for a couple of them, for they were part of the products made by those men of the woods.

The washing line and the washing line props go hand-in-hand, so to speak, unless, as already said, you are using a pulley system to raise and lower the line or you use one of those modern contraptions that fold up.

While there are lightweight metal poles, extendable even, around today, made mostly of aluminium and abroad, the good old wooden ones from local coppice sources are hard to beat and they are also environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Alright! So let's hear it for the humble washing line and wooden props...

© 2016

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

Think no-dig gardening is nonsense? Please watch this

no dig garden photoI am a committed Lazivore, and have been known to share (decidedly inexpert!) tips on how to avoid work in the garden. One of my favorite tips is to embrace no-dig gardening.

My mother, however, is an old-school gardener with a Finnish Lutheran work ethic, so when she helps out in my garden (yes, Lazivores like relatives to do the work for them!), she scoffs at my requests to not tread on the garden beds, and to avoid digging where possible. She seems to think that no-dig gardening is some kind of hippie nonsense.

Not so. In fact as mainstream farmers discover the benefits of giving up the plough, many gardeners are also learning that going easy on soil cultivation can promote soil biodiversity, reduce labor and improve fertility too.

Charles Dowding has been growing organic vegetables for over 30 years. And he's adamant that minimizing or avoiding digging—while top dressing with generous amounts of compost as mulch—can be a great strategy. But he also warns gardeners not to get too dogmatic. Digging can be a necessary evil from time-to-time.

Read more and watch video here.

Food forests manage themselves

On a suburban Kansas lot at the corner of 55th and Mastin streets, an experiment is underway: A food forest is growing crops, creating economic value and, most notably, doing most of the work on its own.

The 10,000-square-foot garden is not tended to daily, at least not by human beings. Insects do the job of managing pests, some plants act as natural fertilizer, releasing nitrogen into the soil, and other plants form deep taproots that mine the soil for nutrients, bringing them up to the surface for the tree roots.

The area doesn’t have to be mowed, it doesn’t get sprayed and it doesn’t just survive — it thrives.

What is this system? The trendy term is permaculture, but it’s nothing new. It has been around for thousands of years.

“This is how nature manages itself,” says P.J. Quell, the property owner who has lent the site to Cultivate Kansas City to design, install, manage and harvest food grown from guilds of trees, shrubs and plants. Volunteers come annually to prune trees and spread wood chips. That’s about the extent of work involved.

Of course, it took much effort at the beginning of the project, designing for maximum sunlight, digging swales to capture and hold water, and planting. There are 39 varieties of fruit and nut trees and 12 varieties of shrubs, several with which people are familiar — pears and plums — but also many that are relative unknowns: pawpaws, jujubes, serviceberries and aronia.

Read more here.

Lidl FLORABEST Pruning Saw – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Thurs 05-05-2016 lidl.co.uk-FLORABEST Pruning Saw_page1_image3The Lidl FLORABEST Pruning Saw is a good quality 34cm curved crosscut carbon steel saw blade with triple-ground teeth, perfect for hard or green wood, though it is best used for green wood, as in woodland management/coppicing and tree pruning.

It comes with a practical belt sheath, but only if you happen to be left-handed, and here I have already put in the major caveat and that is that it is rather unpractical for a right-handed user, though one can live with that, with some practice.

Having said the above negative, however, the saw, as a saw works well and has been tested in woodland management and coppicing operations and performs close to, if not almost equal, to Silky saws that cost more than ten times as much as this saw.

The blade is etched with a company name of Owin Gmbh & Co Kg based in Germany though it cannot be ascertained as to whether that means that this is the maker or just that this saw is made for them who then distribute to and through Lidl. I would assume it to be the latter. But then, again, that is neither here not there.

Lidl product code: 33287 (?)

Price £4.99 each

Please note that those products are “special buys” and only available now and then at this discounter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 and the loss of the one point has nothing to do with the cutting ability, price or the quality of the saw but all with the fact that the sheath draws left-handed.

© 2016

Gärtnern als Grundlage für selbstbestimmte Ernährung


Es ist noch gar nicht so lange her, da galt Gärtnern als ziemlich altmodisch. Wer sein Gemüse selbst zog, konnte nur arm sein oder exzentrisch, weil man sich dem Fortschritt des modernen Supermarkteinkaufs verweigerte. Diese Auffassung hat sich in jüngster Zeit gründlich gewandelt.

Überall auf der Welt entstehen Gärten zum Anbau von Gemüse und Obst: vielfältige Stadtgärten in urbanen Ballungsräumen, Ackerstreifen am Rande von Kommunen, die von Bauern für eine oder mehrere Saisons für die Pächter vorbereitet werden, Schulgärten, die klassischen Schrebergärten, und die Nutzgärten leidenschaftlicher Köchinnen und Köche hinter dem Haus.

Immer mehr Menschen ist es wichtig, unmittelbar zu erfahren, wie Gemüse und Obst wachsen, wie sie frisch geerntet in die Küche, auf den Teller, in den Kochtopf kommen und schmecken. Das neue Gärtnern verbindet sich mit dem Engagement für mehr Nachhaltigkeit im Leben und ist auch politisches Statement.

Gärtnerin und Gärtner leben auf ihre Weise Ernährungssouveränität: Sie pflanzen, hegen, pflegen, ernten und vermehren weiter, was ihnen wichtig ist und schmeckt. Für viele Menschen wird aus einem Gartenprojekt ein leidenschaftlich betriebenes Lernprojekt, das die Sichtweisen auf Vielfalt, auf Werte und auf Zusammenhänge in der Natur fundamental verändern kann.

Hier weiterlesen.

The Fight Over the Right to Produce Your Own Food


The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) was initially formed to protect the rights of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce, and that remains a major focus of the organization’s work. In recent years, however, FTCLDF has spent an increasing amount of time and resources fighting for the right of people to produce their own food.

Restrictive zoning ordinances have taken away a right that should be fundamental; self-sufficiency in food production for individuals and for communities, regions, and the nation as a whole should be a policy that federal, state, and local governments strongly support, but that has not been the case. Before the 20thcentury, there were few if any zoning ordinances in the U.S.; property owners were mainly just subject to nuisance law regarding the uses they made of their properties. If a neighbor could prove in court that a use of property worked to harm, unreasonably interfered, or damaged a neighbor in the enjoyment of his own property, the court could order the use to stop on the grounds of private nuisance. If the government could prove in court the property use unreasonably interfered with rights common to all members of a community in general and was a threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the court could order that the use stop on the grounds of public nuisance.

Read more here.

Italiens oberster Gerichtshof entscheidet: das Stehlen von Essen zum Überleben ist keine Straftat


'Das Recht auf Überleben wiegt stärker als das Recht auf Eigentum'. Nach diesem Grundsatz hat Italiens Oberster Gerichtshof nun entschieden, nachdem sie den Fall eines Obdachlosen neu aufrollten. In erster Instanz wurde der Mann nämlich zu einer sechsmonatigen Gefängnisstrafe und einer Geldstrafe von 100 Euro verurteilt, als er 2011 beim Stehlen von etwas Wurst und Käse erwischt wurde.

Der Obdachlose wurde damals, noch bevor er den Laden mit dem ‘Diebesgut’ verlassen hatte, erwischt. Daraufhin gab er die Lebensmittel ohne Widerstand zurück. Aus diesem Grund sollte man doch die Straftat von “Diebstahl” auf “versuchten Diebstahl” mildern, so der Staatsanwalt.

Doch als der Oberste Gerichtshof nun von dem Fall hörte, änderten sie das Urteil noch viel drastischer. Statt das Urteil nur abzumildern, so argumentierten sie, sei der Vorfall noch nicht einmal einer Strafe wert. Anders gesagt: Lebensmittel zu entwenden, weil man stark hungert, sollte nicht als Verbrechen angesehen werden.

Die Richter begründeten, dass die Menge der Lebensmittel, die der Obachlose sich in seiner offensichtlich auswegslosen Lage genommen hatte, nur seinem unmittelbaren und absolut nötigen Nahrungsbedarf entsprachen.

Hier weiterlesen.

How To Turn An Old Ceiling Fan Into A Wind Turbine DIY…

How To Turn An Old Ceiling Fan Into A Wind Turbine DIY...

This 7 part video series shows the conversion of a old unused ceiling fan into a power generator. Part One shows the dismantling of the ceiling fan and how to wire it up. Part Two shows how to insert a metal banding used for attaching the magnets around the stator. Part Three shows how to orient/place the magnets inside the ceiling fan housing to achieve a voltage reading. Part Four shows how to mount the face plate and create your own turbine blades. Part Five shows how to build the body to support the turbine. Part Six shows how to mount the turbine unit onto the body as well as partially lighting a CFL bulb with a quick spin. Part Seven is the final part that shows how to wire up the turbine to the diode bridge rectifier and taking it for it’s first flight…

Read more here.

Neue Erde: Swon Gora – Besuch auf einem Anastasia-Landsitz (von Thomas Prausse


Swon Gora – das heißt „klingender Berg“. Bis vor wenigen Jahren war diese Gegend einsam und abgelegen. Nur eine alte Frau lebte noch in dem verlassenen Dörfchen. Dann kam eine Gruppe junger Familien, die hier den Ort fanden, den sie gesucht hatten. Sie ließen sich nieder und leben seither hier nach den Schriften der Taiga-Prinzessin Anastasia. Es gibt keinen Streß und keinen Leistungsdruck. Das Dorf lebt von und mit der Natur und im Rhythmus der Jahreszeiten. Nur Weniges muß man mit dem Auto aus dem nächstgelegenen Städtchen besorgen. Es wir gemeinsam gearbeitet, gefeiert und getanzt. Die Kinder wachsen frei und doch behütet auf. Man hält zusammen und bewältigt gemeinsam, was an Aufgaben ansteht.Unser Redakteur und Filmemacher Thomas Prausse war mit seiner Familie dort. Hier ein kurzer Bericht über ein so ganz anderes Leben, nach dem sich auch viele von uns hier sehnen.

Hier weiterlesen.

7 Signs Your Garden Isn’t Sustainable

If you’re practicing some of these bad gardening habits, now’s the time to change your ways.

Sustainable gardening isn’t just a buzz phrase. It’s a real way of life for many people. A sustainable garden is not only easier to maintain, but it’s better for our environment. Check out these warning signs your garden might not be sustainable, and learn what you can do to change that.

You Don’t Companion Plant

Companion planting gives your plants buddies to grow with. It also improves the flavor of your plants and even helps with pest problems. Growing tomatoes and basil together is said to improve the flavor of tomatoes and even helps confuse pests looking to munch on tomatoes. Nasturtium will repel a variety of pests and it’s edible—talk about a plant doing double-duty!

You Use Synthetic Fertilizers

Using man-made chemical fertilizers may not seem like a big deal, but you have to remember everything you put into your soil can be taken up by your food crops or run off into the water supply. When looking for natural fertilizer alternatives, keep in mind that natural and organic often mean two entirely different things, especially when there’s a profit for someone involved. Fortunately, you can use natural fertilizer without even leaving the comfort of your own home.

Read more here.

The abolition of cash by law

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

euro_coins_and_banknotes_3The creeping incremental and subtle abolition of cash in business transactions, purchases of all kinds, etc., is another nail in the coffin of personal freedoms of citizens across the EU (and elsewhere).

Already in 2015 London Transport abolished cash on their buses and slowly but stealthily this is advancing towards other sectors as well.

Cash and cash transactions is one part of our private sphere that government is unable to control, supervision and surveillance. But even this final part of freedom shall now be taken away from the people under the guise of reasons of security and prevention of terrorism. The aim is a cashless society.

The government arguments for this scheme is that cash is only import for criminals to keep their evil deeds secret. Other arguments are flight of capital, tax evasion and moonlighting, black labor, black economy and illegal employment, as well as terrorism.

But in all honesty all this is about is total control over money and people as using payment cards means that every transactions we make can be tracked down to the location where we purchased something, the product, the price we paid for it, and more. Some countries of the European Union have already set limits for cash transactions including the UK, where, theoretically, if you pay in cash with more than a thousand Pounds the police will be called and if you want too withdraw sums of that or above from your bank you will require a good reason, in writing.

The abolition of case use in any and all transactions, as is, obviously, part of the plan, will impact on small businesses and especially market traders, craftspeople and such like, but then again this may just be one of the reasons for this step; to destroy small independent businesses who cannot afford to use the services of the card handlers.

The abolition of cash and cash transactions will not bring more security for the people, the citizens of the countries, but will, for certain, be the death-nail for the freedom of the people and of entrepreneurs.

If one would put one's tinfoil hat on then one might think that the destruction of small independent businesses and of market traders and craftspeople who rely on cash transactions, may just be the reason for this move. I am just saying if one would use such a head covering.

© 2016

It is not possible to make peace with capitalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As the late Bob Crow said: “I didn't become a trade unionist just to tweak capitalism. I want to smash capitalism and every rotten thing it stands for.”

When parties like the Social Democrats and the British Labour Party talk about making capitalism more human, giving capitalism a social conscience, and such, this is absolute and utter baloney. It cannot be done.

Capitalism carries in itself war in the same way as the clouds the rain. That said unless capitalism is smashed once and for all the threat of war will always hang over us all much like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.

But that is but one problem with capitalism. Capitalism also carries within itself the exploitation of both man and Nature, of the entire Planet, and everyone who is not totally blinded by the smoke and mirrors of the capitalist politicians should by now have realized that.

As far as capitalism and the capitalists, including the majority of politicians in the capitalist world, are concerned the economy must keep on growing and growing. This, however, is simply not possible on a finite Planet such is the Earth.

Capitalism cannot be reformed, and neither can the British Labour Party, and we also cannot make peace with capitalism. It does not work. Nor is it possible to give capitalism a human face. Capitalism and human face just does not compute in the same way as capitalism and peace does not; they are diametrically opposed to each other.

Capitalism needs war, an almost perpetual state of war, whether cold or hot, with perceived enemies, in order to function and needs the implied threat of military force as an extension of diplomacy in order to “open up markets” and to get access to raw materials. Or does anyone really believe that the wars that we have seen, especially after 1945, and especially those in which the capitalist nations have been involved, with the USA and Britain often in the forefront, have anything to do with freedom, democracy and human rights? Even more so those that came after Vietnam and after 9/11. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and the issue over the Ukraine, are all about oil and other natural resources, primarily for the US corporations.

In other cases it is about Lebensraum, as the Nazis called it, that is to say expansion of country, such as in the case of the Zionist entity in Palestine where a Greater Israel is being envisaged and also many proxy-wars are being created to further that aim.

Capitalism also equals imperialism in that capitalist imperialism tries to carve out a sphere of influence – they don't like to call it empire – for its goods and services as well as from where to get raw materials on the cheap.

However, American corporatism and capitalism more or less openly is trying to achieve world domination by means of military might and that is but another reason why it is not possible to make peace with capitalism.

Capitalism is not the friend of the working people, the working class, but the enemy and all those that are wage slaves, and slaves to and of the state, must come to realize this if they really want to see and improvement of their lives and an improvement in standards of the Planet's condition.

Replacing “free-market” capitalism with state capitalism, as was done under Stalin, is not an answer either. Only when the means of production are truly in the hands of the workers (and not the state) will wage slavery and exploitation of man by man or man by state come to an end and so will wars.

© 2016

Ants avoiding Aspartame because they know it to be poison

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

lolli_ants_aspartameThis one or similar headlines are being used time and again trying to prove something as regards to Aspartame. Yes, Aspartame is not good for us at all and probably an accumulative poison but ants don't avoid because they know it to be poison. They avoid it because it is not sugar, refined or otherwise, and because therefore it has no value for them.

Aspartame – which now goes by several different names – is not a food substance and should not be consumed in any way whatsoever as it is being linked to obesity and other health problems, even though its makers would like us not to know that. As with anything that says fat free, sugar free, or similar, ask twice what it contains instead. More often than not, unless it is from the health food market when it is possibly safe, it is a chemical shitstorm.

I know that the claim that ant avoid such stuff because they recognize it as poison sounds great to many but ants would not know poison if it killed them. Let's face it, if they recognized something as poison why do they walk straight through the ant poison that is being put out to control them around homes and in gardens? Because they don't.

Not everything that is on the Internet and shared via social media is true, even though it sounds very believable, often simple because we want to believe it. While, then again, there are many other things that are true which to us do not sound believable and thus we refuse to believe them. Strange creatures we humans are.

© 2016

Key environmental figure represents Love Clean Streets

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ian Blackburn(left) Phil Barton (right)-web

Ian Blackburn(left) Phil Barton (right)

Environmental reporting business Love Clean Streets has announced a key industry figure as its first official Ambassador.

Phil Barton, who was the Chief Executive for Keep Britain Tidy until last year, was introduced to the Love Clean Streets reporting app during his seven years’ service at the charity.

His role will be to encourage everyone to use the Love Clean Streets app to help make their local streets cleaner and happier, with a particular focus on young people.

Phil said: “I have been passionate about the environment since I was a teenager and hope to use my time as a Love Clean Streets Ambassador to engage more people, particularly young people, in using the app both to learn about and take action for their local environments.

“I am honoured to be joining the Love Clean Streets team as the company increases its environmental impact across the UK and beyond.

“The app is straight forward and intuitive to use. It helps to improve and protect our streets through better and cheaper management. During my time at Keep Britain Tidy we supported and promoted the app from the beginning and it is fantastic to see how the product has expanded, recently reaching one million interactions.”

Love Clean Streets Founder, Ian Blackburn, said: “We are delighted to have Phil on board. With his background and experience, along with the passion for the environment, we know he is the right person to help us spread the Love Clean Streets message - helping everyone make their town a cleaner, happier place to live.”

Phil’s role will begin with piloting talks in secondary schools across the country, focusing on the use of Love Clean Streets technology to further the Eco-Schools agenda.

Phil said: “Eco-Schools is an international award programme that guides schools on their sustainable journey, providing a framework to help embed these principles into the heart of school life. I believe there is real potential for Love Clean Streets to help engage young people and to support them in taking action through the use of smart phone technology.”

The things is though that if people really are so concerned about clean streets and a clean environment why do they seem to abdicate their own responsibility more often than not to the local authorities with words such as “it's the council's job” or “the council really has to do something about this”. Clean streets and a clean environment begins with each and everyone of us and also ends there.

In some countries it is actually the householders or tenants' responsibility to keep the stretch of pavement up to the curb clean of litter and such and also snow, and it is part of being a citizen of those countries. In Britain, for some reason, all too many people don't seem to see that they have such responsibilities. Some even seem to go as far as to deposit excess waste from their homes, in bin sacks, in the road ditches or parks and open spaces and then call the council complaining about the litter. Clean streets and clean environment begins with us and that means not littering in the first place.

© 2016

National Vegetarian Week 2016

National Vegetarian Week 16-22 May 2016

nat_veg_week_2016National Vegetarian Week 2016 runs from 16-24 May – now in its 24th year this celebration of all things veggie is a great time to talk about food, traditions and those special dishes.

Food has a special place on everyone's table and can evoke great memories of places, people and events. National Vegetarian Week (NVW) 2016 is the ideal seven days to share your meat-free recipes, promote veggie products, showcase menus and launch new ranges.

The week is also perfect for veggie events large and small, from pop-up themed veggie dining and street food experiences to large scale foodie festivals.

Whether you're a business, educational establishment, community group of individual, there are lots of ways to join in and use National Vegetarian Week to your advantage.

The Vegetarian Society is a charity that aims to influence, inspire and support people to embrace and maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. Being a vegetarian is a choice that is kinder to animals, to people and to our living planet.

Established in 1847, The Vegetarian Society is the oldest vegetarian organisation in the world. Visit their website for more information

If you visit the official website you can find special menus, enjoy discounts and events from shops, restaurants and pubs. You can also learn more about the week. And, if you are planning a local event, why not order some of the free posters to help promote it and ensure it’s a great success!

So ... you have no excuse, creating a meat-free meal is easy and there's such an exciting array of foods out there to choose from - grains, pulses, cheese, nuts, tofu, herbs and spices along with loads and loads of fabulous fruits and vegetables. Phew, you'd better get cooking!

Dirty hands are a sign of clean money

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dirty_hands_clean_moneyDirty hands are the sign of honest, though not necessarily clean, work and labor and thus the income from such work is what we could call clean money.

A person working with his or her hands, generally, has signs of this ingrained in skin of their hands and it is those people that we should value more than those who have highly manicured hands, whether female or male, who thus, more than likely, have never done an honest day's work.

But society values the latter more than the former, unfortunately, and we can see where that has led us, I am sure. Not only does society value the clean hands, as in no physical dirt on them, but also those that make vast sums of money, which those that do an honest day's work getting their hands dirty, do not.

The worker is the backbone of society for without him or her nothing would get produced, no streets cleaned, no parks and public spaces maintained, no food produced and no wood. The majority of office staff, civil servants, bankers and such like we could well do without, but we cannot do without the worker, the farmer and the forester. Neither, I know, can we do without doctors and nurses, and the cleaners in hospitals. Nor without the carers for the elderly and the sick. But most of those would fall under the term of worker anyway and thus are covered.

The disgrace is that those who toil hard with their hands and do the real work are those that get the lowest share in remuneration from their labors while those who do not do a single stroke of work are the ones who get all the rewards, which really are not due to them.

There are schools, nowadays, and I guess they have always been, who teach the kids that they should not aspire to the “low” jobs of working with their hands with terms such as “you are better than that”, or “we”, referring in that case to the entire school, “we are better than that”. I wonder what they think would happen if there would be not refuse workers, no street cleaners, and such like. For one they would be drowning in their own garbage that they create on a daily basis, not to think about the other things that would not happen would those workers not be there.

© 2016