For This Veteran-Turned-Urban Farmer, It All Started With A Lemon Tree

A discovery of fresh, backyard-grown fruits led Kelly Carlisle to take her newfound garden knowledge to the streets of Oakland.

When Kelly Carlisle was stationed on the USS Essex as an operations specialist with the United States Navy, the food she ate in the mess halls came from cans and boxes, not farms.

Carlisle was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. During that time, her focus was on ensuring safe navigation of the ship through the waters off the coast of Japan; the California native didn’t give a second thought to where her food came from.

“Growing up, my parents had a garden and I thought they were weirdoes,” she recalls. “I had never thought of growing my own food.”

In 2008, Carlisle changed her mind when she saw a lemon tree in a garden center and discovered the fruit clinging to the branch was real. Until that moment, the California native had no idea lemons grew on trees.

“I had never noticed them before,” she explains. “The idea that you could grow your own lemons in your own space was mind-boggling. I bought the tree, planted it [in a stainless steel garbage pail on the patio] and dared it to grow another lemon. It did and I was in love.”

Read more here.

Couple Build A Raised Garden On Their Front Lawn To Grow Food For Themselves & Their Neighbors…


It turns out the best spot for this couples garden was on their front parking strip, so they built a raised garden bed on their front lawn to grow food for themselves & their neighbors. Here’s a short photo journey of their project…

The sunniest spot in our yard is actually the front parking strip in front of our house. We wanted to do something a little more visually interesting than square garden beds, so we planned it out with some string and lawn pins…

Read more here.

Uproot front yard garden bans: 15 reasons to grow front yard vegetable gardens

Uproot front yard garden ban: 15 reasons to grow front yard vegetable gardens

Flowers in a front yard garden grow smiles, but a veggies in front yard garden sow seeds of doubt at least with Florida lawmakers. A south Florida couple, Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, of Miami Shores, were made to uproot their front yard garden in 2013. They finally got the chance to air their grievances on the front yard garden bans on June 13, 2016, reported the Courthouse News Report. The case is similar to that of an Oak Park, Michigan mother. In 2011, the city of Oak Park charged Julie Bass with misdemeanor front yard vegetable garden growing. Here are 15 reasons to uproot front yard garden bans and grow front yard vegetable gardens.

* Front yard vegetable gardens are food. Vegetables grow resources while flowers (what Oak Park and Miami Shores want in a front yard garden) waste them. Flowers are expensive, purely ornamental luxuries. They require lots of water, use toxic chemicals and pesticides to make them grow big. Organic front yard vegetable gardeners like Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carrol and Julie Bass give back to nature rather than take from it. They are help the earth instead of hurting it.

* Organic food is healthier, but it's also expensive. Farm markets like Detroit Eastern Market vend awesome organic produce, but it's costly. And don't even get started on the price of organic produce at Whole Foods! So, farmers like Julie Bass, Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts figured why not grow your own. So they grew front yard vegetable gardens.

Read more here.

Making things (yourself)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

DSCF1800-webI find it extremely satisfying to make things myself, for myself and for others, whether it is upcycling things from what others consider trash or whether it is making things from other source materials such as wood or leather.

Admittedly, in most instance, the leather is being recycled from some bag or such that others have tossed out. “New” leather is rather an expensive commodity, or so it seems, especially in Britain.

Not only does it, in most cases, save money and you get something that you do really want, doing what you want it to do, but it also saves resources and is more sustainable. OK, I admit that you do need the tools and supplies for making your own things rather than buying but the investment in those tools will pay off in the long run, in monetary terms as well as in terms of satisfaction.

On top of that the satisfaction, and even pride, to be able to say “I made that myself” cannot be measured in any monetary terms. And on top of it you, generally, get exactly what you want and, if skilled enough, exactly in the way that you want it.

Often you cannot even buy what you may want or need and then making things yourself, by whatever way, is the only option. Unless, that is, you are willing to pay a lot of money for something custom made by a craftsperson. The neck holster for an Opinel (in this case a No. 6) pocket knife in the photo is an example for such a case, pardon the pun. There are none of those that you can buy off the shelf and thus the only option is to make it yourself.

Not only is that the only case that one could illustrate. There are others. And as regards to living a more self-reliant – notice that I do not say self-sufficient, as true self-sufficiency is not attainable – life making things yourself is and will often be the only way, and not just because the finances may be lacking.

All too often I just cannot find what I need anywhere – next up I need to make a belt pouch that suits my needs – the way I need it and then, as said, there is but one of two options and the second, a bespoke maker, I just cannot afford. So the only option left is number one which is to make what I need and want myself. One then has to consider the source material and get down to business.

At times making the things that I want means simply adapting and improving something that can be gotten cheaply at a charity shop or car boot sale (thrift store of flea market for those in other parts of the world) or using items that have been thrown away, that is to say trash, or that have come from other sources. It is all a case of horses for courses, as the saying goes.

© 2016

Growing Cucumbers Vertically - How to Grow Cucumbers in Small Garden

Learn how to grow cucumbers vertically to get the most productive plant. Growing cucumbers vertically also save lot of space, which is suitable for small gardens.

growing cucumbers vertically

Cucumber is a refreshing vegetable, especially if picked up fresh. It is eaten in variety of ways: raw in salad, cooked or pickled. It is easy to grow and only requires a warm, sunny exposure and deep and regular watering.

*What if you want to grow cucumbers but you have a small garden. Definitely, it will take a lot of space. In that case growing cucumbers vertically is an space savvy option.

Benefits of Growing Cucumbers Vertically

One advantage of Growing Cucumbers Vertically is that by this you can avoid a common problem of fruit rot associated with cucumber cultivation, which happens when fruit sitting in moist soil for long period of time. When you allow cucumber vines to grow up vertically, it improves the air circulation around the plant that prevents fungal diseases. Cucumber plants have sprawling habit and growing cucumbers vertically allow their leaves to absorb more sun, which result in healthy plant and large cucumbers. One more key benefit is that you can harvest the fruits more easily and in time.

Read more here.

Can Humanity Survive Without the Commons?

640px-Pannage_in_the_New_ForestOne of the most insidious things about enclosures is how they eradicate the culture of the commons and our memory of it. The old ways of doing things; the social practices that once bound a people together; the cultural traditions that anchored people to a landscape; the ethical norms that provided a stable identity — all are swept aside to make room for a totalizing market culture. Collective habits give way to individualism. Cherished traditions fall victim to whatever works now or saves money today. The colorful personalities and idiosyncratic lore of a community start to fade away.

Karl Marx memorably described the commoditizing logic of capitalism, saying, “All that is solid melts into air.” Enclosures eclipse the history and memory of the commons, rendering them invisible. The impersonal, individualistic, transaction-based ethic of the market economy becomes the new normal.

If we are to understand the commons, then, it is useful to learn more about its rich, neglected history. Capitalist culture likes to think that all of history leads inexorably to greater progress, if not perfection, as society climbs towards the present moment, the best of all possible worlds. The complex, overlooked history of the commons tells a different story. It is an account of how human beings have learned new and ingenious ways to cooperate. It is a story of building new types of social institutions for shared purposes despite systems of power (feudalism, authoritarianism, capitalism) with very different priorities.

Read more here.

I am beginning to believe that the Left is right

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

640px-Charles_Moore,_former_editor_of_the_Daily_Telegraph,_at_Edmund_Burke_Philosopher,_Politician,_ProphetAlready in 2011 the authorized biographer of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore, wrote: I am coming to the conclusion that the Left is correct.

One of the big arguments of the Left is, so Moore, that that what the Right calls the Free Market, a very large scam is.

The rich operate a global system which permits them to accumulate capital by paying the lowest possible price for labor. The poor have to work harder and ever harder under conditions that daily become more insecure to make the rich ever richer.

The democracy, which should have brought financial security for most, is in the hands of the bankers, the media barons and other moguls, who own everything.

The neo-liberal myth that success and wealth at the top of society will lead to the effect that a great deal of it will filter down to those at the bottom has so far been proven to be humbug and a fallacy. On the contrary the rich are getting ever richer and the poor ever poorer and the so-called middle class is working towards total burnout in the hamster wheel.

But we must also see this as the aim of neo-liberalism, of the new fascism under capitalism, which is that if the people have to work harder and harder in the hamster wheel to make ends meet, often not only both partners in a family having to work but needing two jobs each to achieve this, keeps them from thinking too much, or not at all, about how things are and thus keeps them from revolting and from rising up against their oppressors. People who are too tired from trying to make a living are also too tired to rise up and man the barricades.

In addition the neo-liberals feed the people bullshit via the media that they control and keep them entirely dumbed down as to matters of politics. Bread a circuses was the Roman way and today things are not much different.

The media tends to present – in the main – only that what the governments and the neo-liberal elite tells them to present, and much of that is garbage. All intended to keep the masses dumb and subservient.

And on top of that they make people believe that they are free, with the help of the controlled media, as they, the people, are allowed to vote every four or five years, for a new team that oppresses them. If voting would make a difference, said Mark Twain, a communist, they would make it illegal. Think about that one.

We, the people, are told that we are free because we are allowed to elect the people that rule us, that is to say our oppressors. We, the people, are not free. It is an illusion created to keep us from revolting. True democracy means that the people govern themselves. Where precisely is that the case? In which country?

We do not need a new government, we need a new system. A system where there people govern themselves and where the means of productions are in the hands of those that labor. Period!

© 2016

8 Easy maintenance tips for front load washers

front load washing machine

Many people love their front-loading washing machines, thanks to their efficient use of water and energy, ergonomics and their gentler cleaning action on clothes. Indeed, many homes have traded in their old water-guzzling, top-loading machines for updated, high-efficiency models.

But these modern-looking domestic workhorses aren't perfect. A recent lawsuit alleges that some front-load models from the late 2000's were known by manufacturers to be "defective," as their design allowed for the rapid growth of mold and mildew, and yet, still sold to consumers.

Repairs and parts can be expensive too, meaning that in some cases, people are finding that it's more cost-effective to buy another machine altogether.

Read more here.

Growing Shade Garden Vegetables and Herbs

Growing Vegetables in the Shade

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

Read more here.

The end of metals?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world is fast running out of metals, it would seem. So, after peak oil now peak metal? Haven't we done damage to the Planet and its resources?

Metals have been used by humankind for millennia and in today's modern technology they are essential and indispensable.

The world is fast running out of metals of all kinds and that at a very alarming rate and especially rare earth could soon become even rarer to the point of non-existence. Bauxite, the ore from which aluminium (aluminum for our American cousins) is made is almost coming to an end, or so we have been told already some years ago those experts often quibble as to whether or not this is the case, and for copper, zinc, and others things are also beginning to look quite bleak.

While some excuses are made as to those metals becoming rare, such as conflict zones, etc., fact is and remains that we are coming to the point that those are non renewable resources and that we are using them up at a rate of knots, in the same way that we have done it with everything, including fish stocks and the like.

Iron, copper, zinc, but also other lesser known metals, such as Europium, Neodymium and Lanthanum, so-called rare earth, are an important part of modern civilization. They are required for common alloys all the way up to electronics. Cars, computers, televisions, cellphones, but also washing machines and dishwashers – all those appliances cannot get by without all those different kinds of metals.

Time to mine the landfills

So-called “rare earths”, which are also metals/ores actually are diminishing at such an alarming rate that cellphones, computers, and other such devices must be recycled to reclaim those and industry has been calling for people to get old cellphone that they may have laying around and which they no longer use to the recycling centers.

--- So, this fact alone makes a mockery out of the claim that instead of the ICE motor car we will all be driving electric vehicles in the near future. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I have said before and will say again.

Another problem is, however, also that those very same rare earth are a major necessity for the production of solar panels …

Scientists around Thomas Graedel in a recent study have examined, aside from source and reserves of individual raw materials, also bottlenecks due to uneven distribution of deposits, social-political aspects, environmental risks in mining then as well as the possible substitution of those elements. The group does not see any shortages forthcoming in metals such as iron, zinc, copper and aluminium. However, unless things have very much changed in the last couple of years the reserves of bauxite have already been running very scarce some decades ago and this was one of the reasons for the drive of recycling of aluminium drinks cans.

So why suddenly the change in saying that we have enough aluminium, which in itself is not even an ore but is created from an ore, and other, including gold where it is said that the only reason of possible shortfalls is the reason that it has to be extracted using environmentally unsafe methods and dangerous chemicals such as cyanide. I, for one, vote for another reason for the change of the pendulum and that is that one does not want to put the cat among the pigeons. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but when we go from announcements of some years ago saying that reserves of, for instance, bauxite are running out to now it being said that aluminium, as if it were an ore itself, is fine then something smells rather fishy.

Thus we need to recycle all metals that can be recycled and to that end we will have to mine our landfills in order to get at all of those that were, in previous decades, tossed thoughtlessly into those holes in the ground in the believe, apparently, that the Planet would be providing those at infinitum. In the same way as some of the Christian Right (even though they are wrong) in the US claim that oil will never run out as “the good Lord put it there for our use and he will replenish it for our use forever”.

© 2016

Can Human Urine Replace Chemical Fertilizers?


The Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, is likely the only organization measuring success in gallons of urine.

In 2012, Kim Nace, Rich Earth’s administrative director and partner Abe Noe-Hays collected 600 gallons of urine from friends and neighbors. The next year, the organization brought in about 3,000 gallons from 170 human volunteers. Rebecca Rueter, a board member for Rich Earth, invited members of the local women’s chorus to donate their pee.

Rich Earth hopes to double that amount this year to a round 6,000 gallons — enough to fill a third of an average American swimming pool. “We’ve given volunteers a few things to make it easier — some funnel devices and things like that,” says Nace.

The project aims to test human urine as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. Urine contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — essential plant nutrients that are usually mined from the earth or the air for agricultural use. In collecting human urine, Rich Earth is diverting the same chemicals from waterways to farms, making a potentially harmful substance a boon to crop production.

The urine collection scheme has had some unintended consequences for Nace’s home in Brattleboro, which hosts the so-called “urine depot.” There is a buzz of conversation as volunteers drop off 5-gallon jugs to be loaded into larger holding tanks. “When people realize that they produce something every day that can be helpful to the environment and the earth, it’s a very wonderful feeling,” says Nace.

Read more here.

Impact Journalism Day: Global Indigenous youth taking the planet in their hands

Sick of waiting: Indigenous youth leaders and climate change advocates Amelia Telford and Joseph White-Eyes are fighting ...

t was 2009 and a severe storm had battered Kingscliff, her home on the east coast of Australia. Several metres of beach and dune disappeared, while cranes were needed to shift whole buildings back to save them from the water's edge.

The Kingscliff coastline was "barely recognisable".

"The swells picked up, we had high tides. It was washing away the banks and the sand dunes ... the erosion was incredible."

Ms Telford, a young Indigenous Australian from Bunjalan country, said it was the first time she realised she had a lifelong responsibility as an Aboriginal woman.

"We are the ones that have looked after the land sustainably for generations, over 60,000 years and we know best how to manage our land," she said.

"So I feel a real sense of responsibility, as so many of our young people do, to stand up and protect what we fought for, for so long."

Ms Telford is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and was the 2015 Australian Geographic Society Young Conservationist of the Year.

The 22-year-old is the founder and director of Seed, a "young, black and powerful" network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people fighting for "a just and sustainable future ... powered by renewable energy."

"We look at climate change with a focus on energy," Ms Telford said, "looking at coal and gas, how we need to transition our energy systems and our economies from a reliance on fossil fuels to systems that can be powered by the sun and the rain."

Seed has connected Indigenous youth from around Australia, working to campaign against coal seam gas, mining, and calling on the Australian government to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

"For myself in Australia, I often look to different stories from overseas, particularly around the US and Canada where indigenous communities are sick of waiting around, sick of promises made by governments and are standing up and building solutions themselves."

It was Ms Telford's interest in First Nations people around the world that led her to Joseph White-Eyes of South Dakota, more than 13,500 kilometres from her home of Kingscliff.

Read more here.

The Green Party – Neo-liberalism masquerading as socialism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Instead, as it once did, the Green Party masquerading as an ecology party it now tries to pretend to be the alternative left party to the Labour Party and presents itself as such. It is not an alternative to the Labour Party, which itself, when it was re-branded under Blair & Co into New Labour, turned from a party of the working class into a neo-liberal establishment party and it is still the same now under Corbyn.

The Green Party of the UK may have, once upon a time, started honestly as a party that had ecology and the biosphere at heart but more and more it drifted onto a neo-liberal course until it became a farce (and the same goes for the Green Parties in other EU regions as well) and is now using different guises to further its neo-liberal agenda.

The “liberal” part of this term sounds good, doesn't it? It sounds progressive, for the people, and for a fairer system a bit like the Liberals of old. But do not be blinded by that or by those parties, and the Labour Party of today is on the same aircraft carrier, for neo-liberalism is the new fascism, standing for an oligarchic system, rather than a democratic one. Not, let me hasten to add, that we have a democratic system anywhere. Democracy is a good thing; it would be nice if we would give it a try some time.

Neo-liberalism is diametrically opposed to democracy and especially to socialism. It is the antithesis to both. Only it is difficult to recognize as their exponents spout all that liberal verbiage, and the Green Party definitely makes all the right noises at present to confuse people.

The Green Party is not a “left” party and definitely no party of and for the working class. It has left (pardon the pun) its original course, which was supposedly a concern for the biosphere, and has turned into a neo-liberal outfit that is following the same course as all neo-liberal parties and organization.

The working class at the present moment in Britain does not have a real proper party, unless we count the CPGB, which I don't really do, but neither Labour, in its current form and under the leadership of a turncoat and a traitor, can be see as one. The Green Party definitely is not and never can be a party of the working class as it has, aside from the neo-liberal outlook today, an entirely different line. The same goes also for the Greens in Germany and, alas, in many other countries. They are not of the working class and also not for the working class and that, as said, aside from the neo-liberal agenda that they are pursuing now.

Don't be fooled, Green does not equal Red, does not equal Left and Socialist.

© 2016

VOSS Water

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

VossWater1Well, first we had bottled water, still and sparkling, then more bottled water, followed by Smart Water (and please don't ask me what's smart about it), Vitamin Water (oh sh*t) and now, when we might have thought it could not get more stupid, along come Voss Water, in other words, designer water. Oh, sorry, I forgot, they demand it be spelled VOSS. Help!!! I don't even want to ask or think what might be the next.

This is water, period, however much you wish to wrap it up in a designer bottle.

The Voss water (or VOSS, if they had their way) is named after an unrelated Norwegian town and the water in the bottle is said to come from Iveland, in Southern Norway, and is supposed to be very special. Oh, really? Gimme a break!

Fair enough it may be Norwegian spring water but then again it may well have sprung from the mains supply in Iveland but at almost £3 (that is almost $4.50) per 800ml this is taking the biscuit.

OK, they do have rather fancy glass bottles for their water but I cannot see that such a bottle warrants the price and after all the stuff in it is water, even if it claims to be spring water. And the fact that it comes from a source far away for many consumers makes it not very sustainable at all. It a bullshit, and that's all.

© 2016

22. Juni 1941 – Überfall Hitlerdeutschlands auf UdSSR

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1974-099-19,_Russland,_Angriff_auf_ein_DorfIn den frühen Morgenstunden des 22. Juni 1941, einem Sonntag, begann der hinterhältige Überfall Nazideutschlands auf UdSSR und dieser Tag jährt sich heute zum 75. Mal.

Heute, am 75. Jahrestag dieses schicksalsschweren Tages stehen deutsche Soldaten wieder einmal an der Grenze zu Russland (welches zwar nicht mehr die UdSSR ist aber das ist ja egal hier) bereit und die Angriffsspitze eines NATO Angriffs auf das Land zu sein.

Die USA, die ja eigentlich die NATO beherrschen, haben es ganz klar gemacht das sie vorhaben die Russische Föderation anzugreiefen um dort einen Regierungswechsel zu erzwingen da Wladimir Wladimirovich Putin, the Präsident des Landes, nicht nach der Pfeife Amerikas tanzt, und die Vasallenstaaten mit Deutschald und Grossbritannien in vorderster Reihe, rufen Heil Dir grosser Führer in Washington.

US Präsident Obama hat ganz offen gesagt das er weiss das ein Krieg mit Russland – den er gerne beginnen möchte – zur Zerstörung von einem Grossteils Europas führen wird aber, so sagte er, “dieses Opfer bin ich bereit zu bringen.”

Ist das nicht gütig und grosszügig von ihm das er bereits ist ein solches Opfer zu bringen? Er denkt sich sicher das es ja nur Europa und die USA unversehrt davon kommen würden. Mit Freunden wie diesen braucht man keine Feinde.

© 2016

June 22, 1941 – Nazi-Germany's cowardly attack on the Soviet Union

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1974-099-19,_Russland,_Angriff_auf_ein_DorfIn the early hours of Sunday, June 22, 1941, the cowardly attack of the forces of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union began and today marks the 75th anniversary of this act.

Today, on this 75th anniversary of this fateful day German soldiers once again stand at the border with Russia (no longer the Soviet Union, but that is irrelevant) poised to be the spearhead of any NATO attack on that country.

The US, who basically rule NATO, have made it very clear that they intend to attack the Russian Federation in order to cause a regime change as Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the President of that country, is not dancing according to America's tune, and the vassal states of the United States, with Germany and Britain very much in the forefront, seem to hail the great chief in Washington.

US President Obama has openly stated that he is aware that a war with Russia – which he intends to start – will lead to the destruction of most of Europe but, he said, “that is a sacrifice that he is willing to make.”

Now, is that not gracious of him that he is willing to make such a sacrifice? Well, it is only Europe, I am sure he thinks, and the US will remain (almost) unscathed. With friends like that who needs enemies.

© 2016

Britain is screwed whatever happens, unless…

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Regardless of whether the United Kingdom on Thursday, June 23, votes to leave the European Union or not, or whether a pro-Brexit vote is overturned by parliament, as Members of Parliament have threatened, Britain is screwed.

While this referendum is the last chance ever for Britain to take back its sovereignty from the EU the fact remains that as far as the people of Britain are concerned it will make little or no difference, unless they are going to do something about it. Neo-liberalism rules in our parliament as much as elsewhere in the EU including and especially the farce that is called the EU Parliament, and is deep entrenched everywhere.

Neo-liberalism, with its US counterpart neo-conservatism, is the new fascism pure and simple and its aim is to usurp all forms of democracy – not that we have true democracy anywhere – and replace it with the oligarchy of the multinational corporations. Trade agreements like TTP, TTIP and CETA are the tools for this corporate takeover of all countries, lead by the United States and the European Union.

A vote to leave the EU on Thursday, however, and thus a Brexit, if parliament agrees, would give to the people of Britain at least the possibility to change the system here, if they would be so minded and could actually be bothered to do something rather than just rant and rave. Remaining in the EU, on the other hand, would seal that fate once and for all because once the EU changes from members states – with some degree of sovereignty – to regions with none (and this is already being readied to be rolled out in the very near future) then there is no way possible for the people of any region to influence things, short of an outright revolution, possibly with the use of violence.

A Brexit could, on the other hand, cause this neo-liberal behemoth that is the European Union to collapse from the inside and end this stupidity of a United States of Europe once and for all. As a trade bloc the EEC was fine and good, but as soon as it began creating the structures for a superstate it became a dangerous construct and should have been strangled at birth.

On the other hand, if the British people do not take their destiny into their own hands they are screwed anyway as the current political structure, and that includes almost all political parties in the country, is but neo-liberalism and thus fascism. When elected politicians believe that they are above the people who have elected them into office then what you have is state fascism and it is thus almost everywhere in the member states of the EU, as they are still at this moment. The real legislating body of the EU does not have elected members, as the so-called EU Parliament is a farce only and a pretense to blind the masses into believing that this becoming state called, EU, or Europe, is democratic.

Fascism is not necessarily wearing brown and screaming “Sieg Heil”. In fact today's fascists do not wear paramilitary uniforms and insignia but Armani suits and RayBan shades. It is those real fascists, the old and new Nazis, that we need to worry about and not the cannon-fodder in the form of the various idiotic, though dangerous, outfits.

© 2016

Garden out front

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

8922899906590In many places, especially in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, growing vegetables in your front yard (front garden as we would say in Britain) is, I know, illegal and also, it has to be said, in some council areas in the UK it is frowned upon but there are a number of vegetables and perennials that could come to the rescue here.

maxresdefaultAside from being pretty in a way that no one would really notice that they are vegetables they are also good to eat, and would you believe it that one is actually the fruit of a flowering shrub, the fuchsia. I must say that even I was ignorant until the other day that the fruit of the fuchsia is edible and in fact good to eat fresh or to make into preserves.

In Britain, and other parts of Europe, and even better in the East of the Continent, we are lucky that there are no such regulations preventing food growing, whether in the back or the front yard. But that does not mean that one should not aim for a garden in the front that is edible as well as pretty and an asset to the place.

Even peas and beans have pretty flowers and can look extremely good in a front yard display and we must remember that peas were first planted in Britain, for instance, not as a food crop but for their flowers.

Other vegetables provide an interesting foliage, such as Swiss Chard, and here especially the colored stemmed varieties, as well as various members of the cabbage family.

In addition to that there are edible and medicinal flowers that can go into this mix and some also can act as companion plants for the vegetables planted in the front garden bringing pest “control” and color.

And then there are herbs such as lavender, rosemary and the like. Aside from lavender most of them don't have any showy flowers but what they lack in that department they make up for in scent. On top of that most of those are very drought resistant as they originate in warm climes.

Using every available space for our gardens to have at least some sort of food security should be our right and not a privilege or worse still forbidden and if and where such restrictions apply they should and must be fought, if need be by simple defiance. Gardening is an act of defiance anyway as you try, to some extent at least, to free yourself from the stores and government control.

© 2016

New e-commerce site is a one-stop-shop for humanitarian aid products

The Level MarketThe Level Market wants to make the procurement of humanitarian aid and development products as easy as shopping on Amazon.

By streamlining the research and pricing process for lifesaving and life-changing humanitarian aid products, The Level Market aims to not only make it easier for organizations to find the right products they need to support their missions, but to also speed up the procurement of these items.

Even as the developed world breathlessly awaits the release of the latest iWhatsit, many of those in the developing world get out of breath just supplying clean water or food for their families, and the harsh reality is that simply having a basic shelter or the bare necessities of life is a daily challenge for many humanitarian aid recipients. And while there is no shortage of organizations and charitable endeavors that aim to alleviate human suffering by trying to deliver items such as tents, lighting, remote power sources, water filters, and clean cook stoves, the research and procurement process can move at glacial speeds.

But a team of committed individuals with experience in the aid sector has come together to create the Amazon of humanitarian aid products, with a focus on making it easier to find and compare quality products and get multiple quotes from suppliers, and to then order them for their programs. The Level Market's mission is "to provide a one-stop-shop for aid and development products," and as of the platform's launch this week, it is off to a great start, with a listing of more than 100 products across 8 categories, with plans to add many more in the near future.

Read more here.

Sheet Mulching: How to Smother Weeds, Build Soil & Conserve Water the Easy Way


Sheet mulching is a fancy phrase for building a massive compost pile across the surface of a field or garden. Rather than pile up your manure, leaves, crop residue, and other organic materials in a squat pile, you spread it all out where the compost is needed, skipping the effort to build the pile, turn it, water it, and otherwise coerce it to break down into rich, brown earth—a process that goes on for months.

But sheet mulching does even more than that.

Beneath the layers of compost materials, sheet mulches typically include a layer of cardboard to keep grass and weeds from growing through—a great way to smother unwanted vegetation or convert a sod lawn into a garden. Before long, both weeds and cardboard decompose and feed the soil with organic matter, while you pat yourself on the back for finding such a clever way to recycle and relieve yourself of the constant chore of weeding.

Sheet mulching also traps moisture in the soil. Every farmer and gardener knows that mulching is a must to cut down on irrigation, but the cardboard used in sheet mulching is much more effective at trapping moisture than typical wood chips or straw. When I used the sheet mulching technique in the parched landscape of California, I found the moisture in the soil lasted at least five to 10 times longer than a thick layer of mulch on its own.

Read more here.

The Ecological Land Co-op has purchased more land to create ecological smallholdings


Here’s a quick overview of what the Ecological Land Co-op does, before going on to their latest news. The problem that they were formed to solve is that many people who would like to build a home made from local, sustainable materials, harvest their own renewable energy and work the land to produce food, fuel and other organic products for their family and for local markets find it impossible because a) if the land is affordable – i.e. in open countryside – the planning system ensures that they’re not allowed to build a home on it, and b) if the planning system allows them to build a home – i.e. in or around existing settlements – the land is too expensive, and has probably already been snapped up by developers. They are kept off the land, and society continues to be fed largely via a system of non-organic, monoculture agribusiness that is extremely damaging to ecology and to communities.

The Ecological Land Co-op is a small organisation swimming against this current, and we’d like to see them get bigger. They purchase land in the open countryside and apply for planning permission for homes, with the proviso that they will oversee the smallholdings so that they operate sustainably in perpetuity. Plots will never be sold to commuters or second-homers, and smallholders will continue to live sustainably and work the land organically. They currently have one settlement of three smallholdings at Greenham Reach in Devon, and have recently purchased land in Sussex for a second group of smallholdings. Here is a video, and below is the latest news from the ELC.

Read more here.

Use wood mulch ... save the planet?


New research shows that using wood mulch has a notable effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What if there was a way to reduce water consumption, boost soil health, deter pests and scare away weeds – and at the same time cut reduce greenhouse gas emissions? You know where I’m going with this, given the spoiler in the title. There is a way! Hello, wood mulch.

People who grow things already know of the benefits of using mulch. TreeHugger’s self-proclaimed “lazivore gardener" writer, Sami, says that if you do one thing for your vegetable garden, make it mulching.

But now researchers from the University of British Columbia have conducted a study in apple orchards and vineyards, concluding that using mulch in agriculture can cut nitrous oxide emissions up to 28 percent.

"In addition to saving water, improving soil, combatting pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide," says Craig Nichol, senior instructor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UBC's Okanagan campus. "Provided you are not driving great distances to obtain the mulch, it would appear that mulch could be a powerful tool in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly if used in these agricultural systems."

Nitrous oxide emitted from soil accounts for at least half of agriculture emissions that contribute to global warming.

Read more here.

Eco-therapy: The Walking and Talking Cure

Urbanisation and today’s “digital” lifestyle promotes stress and a sense of alienation. Does nature hold the key to our inner peace and development?

Jasper wondered what was happening to him. It had been quite some time since he felt like his usual self. Ever since he had been promoted from managing director of a small-town bank branch, to a role in Treasury at its London head office, his mental state hadn’t been the same. He was anxious and restless. He missed his old country house, his daily walks with his dog in the woods, and being surrounded by nature. In London he was lucky if he managed a short walk in the nearest park, a subway’s stop away. And even then this only served to make his nostalgia for the woods more poignant.

His current state of mind was affecting his motivation and quality of work. He found it a challenge to maintain focus; he made mistakes and was often in a foul mood. In fact, Jasper was seriously questioning whether he would be able to hold onto his job.

Nature deficit disorder

According to the American author Richard Louv (as developed in his book The Nature Principle), people living in today’s world often suffer from what he called “nature deficit disorder”, the negative, behavioural consequences of the divorce of humans from their natural habitat. He is not alone in this observation. A substantial body of research reflects on the restorative benefits of being connected to nature. According to studies, our mood improves dramatically when we spend time outside. Being in nature appears to decrease the presence of stress hormones in our blood, our respiration rate, and our brain activity. And, as we saw in the case of Jasper, it can even affect our psychological mood.

Read more here.

Democratizing Our Food System: Frances Moore Lappé on Agroecology

In a recent essay, Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and co-founder of Food First, the Institute for Food and Development Policy, and the Small Planet Institute, argues that the primary obstacle to sustainable food security is an economic model and thought system that views life in disassociated parts. This system, which is embodied in industrial agriculture, obscures the destructive impact it has on humans, natural resources, and the environment.

She points out that the market logic of bringing the highest return to existing wealth leads to a concentration of wealth and power which makes hunger and ecosystem disruption inevitable. In essence, an industrial food system cannot, and does not meet our needs.

Lappé presents agroecology, which she defines as a model of farming based on the assumption that within any dimension of life, the organization of relationships within the whole system determines the outcomes, as a viable alternative to industrial agriculture, and one that has already shown “promising success.”

The shift toward a more democratized food system distributes power throughout communities and utilizes the unique knowledge and wisdom of individual farmers. As Lappé writes:

Read more here.

This eco-village in Panama will be constructed from recycled plastic bottles


Plastic Bottle Village demonstrates another approach to repurposing single-use bottles.

In a world where billions of disposable recyclable plastic bottles are used each year, finding innovative ways to reuse them in the area where they are collected is a noble challenge. Earlier this year, I wrote about a company using a relatively low-tech method of turning plastic waste into solid panels to build homes out of in Mexico, which is one way to approach the issue, but there's another way to use plastic bottles to build with, which a project in Panama hopes to use to construct an eco-village.

The Plastic Bottle Village, located on Isla Colón in Panama's Bocas del Toro province, is a planned 83-acre eco-community that will eventually include some 120 homes, all of which will be built with used plastic bottles as the main insulation, which not only repurposes the bottles, but which also keeps the interiors of the buildings about 17°C cooler than the outside, without requiring any other energy inputs.

Read more here.

Rethink disposables

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“Compostables” are disposable, there is no getting around it. The answer is to use less in the first place and choose durable items that you can use again and again not one-way, so-called disposables, even if they are claimed to be compostable.

The compostable bit is also a rather misleading term as those “compostables” do not compost in the domestic composting environment but require superheated commercial composting facilities to actually “compost”. Which also means that those disposable products, in spite of being able, to some degree, being disposed off and composted in such facilities those selfsame facilities do not exist everywhere and they do require a great deal of energy.

Thus, where those facilities do not exist, and in many cases anyway, as they would require special separation from other disposables thrown into the trash, they end up in landfill sites and, while they may decompose in said landfill sites they are still a problem, and in addition to that a great many so-called “compostable” plastic items are not truly compostable.

The only answer to this problem is to go reusable in everything, your travel mug, your water bottle, your cutlery. Use reusable napkins also and everything else in between. And please, if you have a picnic in a park or in the woods please take your reusable cutlery, etc., home with you and do not simply leave it laying about the place, not even in the litter bin, as that really defeats the object.

However, in my line of work as a park ranger I find this almost every time after there has been a picnic. There is a kitchen knife, a good and expensive one even, that has been left behind, apparently on purpose, because the owners just could not be bothered to take it back home, or some Tupperware, plastic picnic plates (of the reusable kind), real cutlery, etc. In some instances they seem to have just been bought at IKEA or such and then discarded on site. And, as said, this can be encountered at an almost daily basis when there have been picnics. The mind boggles. Either those people have too much money or they just do not care or both.

What most people appear not to understand when they use the term “throwing something away” that there is no such place as “away” as far as waste and refuse are concerned. And, let us return to “compostables” once again, there is no such thing as “compostable plastic”, regardless of what manufacturers, advertisers and PR people may wish to tell us; at least not in the way that most people on the street understand composting and compostable. Those items are, and remain, disposables and we must turn our back to them for the sake of the Planet and our wallets.

© 2016

Norway becomes first country to ban deforestation

Norway has become the first country to stop clear-cutting of trees, a huge step toward curbing global deforestation.

At the rate we are going, the world's rain forests could completely vanish in 100 years.

In their pledge last week, Norwegian lawmakers also committed to find a way to source essential products such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber so that they leave little to no impact on their ecosystems. It's a pledge Norway made at the U.N. Climate Summit in 2014, alongside Germany and the United Kingdom.

This move could be potentially transformative.

According to the United Nations, the production of palm oil, soy, beef and wood products contributed to a little less than half of total tropical deforestation.

Read more here.

White Roofs Cut Energy Consumption In Cool Climates Too

One of the easiest ways to fight global warming is more widely applicable than previously thought, and has the added bonus of saving money. All it takes is a pot of white paint and a bare roof.

An astonishing portion of the world's energy consumption goes toward air conditioning. Painting roofs white has a double benefit on hot days: It reflects back radiation that would otherwise warm the planet, and it keeps buildings cooler, reducing air conditioning demand. In urban areas, there is a third benefit: It diminishes the “heat island effect,” whereby cities are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas.

Former United States Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu has even started a program for “cool roofs.” However, while the benefits are obvious in hot locations, most people in cooler parts of the world thought it didn't apply to them. As it turns out, that assumption was wrong.

“Our study proves that cool roofs for commercial buildings are a net saver of energy in all climates that use air conditioning during the summer,” said Professor Hashem Akbari of Concordia University in a statement.

Painting roofs sounds so simple that it is easy to dismiss as trivial, but a study last year demonstrated that during heat waves, the effect can be large enough to have a major impact on electricity consumption.

That study was done in warm cities, and might not be expected to apply in places where being too cold is a problem more often than being too hot.

Akbari and Ph.D. student Mirata Hosseini modeled the effect in the notoriously cold cities of Milwaukee, Montreal, Toronto, and even Anchorage, and found value everywhere.

Read more here.

10 Clever Student Inventions That Could Reduce Our Waste

From eating garbage with bacteria to a computer that helps you recycle, young people have some revolutionary ideas for what to do with all our garbage.

Because Styrofoam can't easily be recycled, it often ends up in the trash. But a group of middle school students from Folsom, California, designed a digester that uses bacteria to eat Styrofoam—and turns it into energy and biodegradable plastic.

"It's a big problem in the world right now," says 13-year-old Emily Miner, one of the inventors of the tool, called the Polystyrenator. "A lot of Styrofoam is getting into waterways and affecting the environment negatively. Our robotics team thought it was a big problem that needed to be addressed."

The students dug through the latest research, and combined what they found into their own process. Now, their idea is a semifinalist in the First Lego League Global Innovation Award, an X-Prize sponsored competition that asks young students to create solutions for global challenges.

"It's not the traditional science fair, where you see something on a poster board," says Sarah Stray, the innovation award manager for First, an organization founded by Dean Kamen to get kids interested in science, technology, and engineering. (Lego later cofounded the competition.) "This is the real deal." The winner of last years' competition now has a working prototype; others have patented their designs.

Read more here.

Make do and mend to cut waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Lord de Mauley, who was an environment minister of the Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government in the UK, said in early 2015 (before the last general election in the UK) that householders should repair their broken televisions, toasters, and washing machines or buy second-hand replacements as part of a national effort to cut waste.

This statement earned him criticism from many people being outraged that someone, considered a Toff by many of them, should talk down like that to the poor, and took to venting their anger on social media platforms. And, while that may be correct, Lord de Mauley does, however, have a valid point as well, and a serious one.

Families should reconsider their buying habits, he said, and resist the temptation to spend more money on the latest electronic gadgets, clothes and food that they will not eat.

Under his plans, consumers will be advised to sell their unwanted possessions on eBay and other auction websites instead of throwing re-usable items away.

The advice is aimed at helping families and businesses to save money while protecting the environment by reducing millions of tonnes of waste that is buried in landfill every year.

But repairability is very much a problem and an issue as all too many consumer products today are designed as “consumables” with built in obsolescence, designed to break down about a day or so after the warranty runs out and are not repairable.

In addition to that there are also concerns that Britain’s “throwaway culture” means that most electrical repair shops have closed and that customers will not know where to take their broken appliances to be fixed. And it is not only electrical repair shops that have closed. It is nowadays also almost impossible to get shoes and boots mended properly or other leather goods and so on and so forth.

Lord de Mauley, the waste minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, insisted that families would save money by re-using old clothes and repairing faulty equipment.

The problem, however, as already mentioned, as regards to faulty equipment is that often the built-in obsolescence does not allow for repair as (1) many appliances cannot even be opened and (2) repair quite often is several times more expensive than buying new actually. Unless those two points are solved and the third point of the lack of repair shops nothing will change.

While reducing waste is everyone’s responsibility, as the hereditary peer said, the way the system is set up at the present it often simply if not possible. Obviously, as far as clothes are concerned it is not necessary, as though often happens, to throw away a shirt, a pair of trousers, or whatever, simply because a button has come off or such.

Under the proposal businesses and families will be told to take care not to waste food, paper, plastics, and electronic and electrical equipment and to and pass on items that they would otherwise throw away.

While it has to be said such programs can be useful but treating people like imbeciles is not and that it was the UK nanny state is, once again, doing.

It is true, unfortunately, though that it would appear that many of the people today, in the UK and also in many other developed nations, sadly need to be told and taught how to make do and mend, so to speak, in order to save money and resources.

All too many today do not understand the reuse and upcycling, before the terms even became used, that our grandparents and their parents, and even in some cases our parents, employed and not only out of necessity. If they want something they immediately run to the shop or click it online. Making it themselves rarely ever enters the mind and as for repair; don't be silly. It has to be new and the latest as one has to have street cred. Couldn't possibly use an old cellphone or an old computer even though they may work perfectly well. I am sorry for being somewhat facetious here but this is how the attitude displayed by so many today comes across to me. But, there are exception to this rule and they are also becoming more, it seems at an almost daily basis.

We have to get away from that kind of attitude and learn to make our things last, if and when they are capable in that they still work fine and do what we want them to do. No one, or at least the majority, will ever use the bells and whistles on the new and newer cellphones and whatever else.

The same goes for so many other things too. Unless you are a serious road racer then there is no need for that expensive new carbon fiber road bike; the old bicycle will get you there and back as easy though you may looks as cool on it. On the other hand the old bicycle, that does the same job, will not attract the attention of would-be thieves and thus there is no need for two or three locks to try to keep you bike safe and secure.

Also, as far as bicycles, but also other things are concerned, the simpler they are the easier it is for them to be repaired if something goes wrong with them, and with many of the simple things repair can be done in DIY fashion.

Let's therefore stick with yesterday's model rather than the latest one.

© 2016

The Green Cone is a backyard solar digester that reduces 90% of food waste


This ingenious digester/composter, made in Ontario, is the simple, natural way to divert food waste from landfills.

No matter how much I think about reducing food waste while shopping and cooking, there will always be food scraps left over. My town does not have green bins or organic waste collection of any kind, which means that each household is responsible for dealing with the piles of food waste generated on a daily basis – and I always have a lot, since I cook so much.

There was a time when I tossed it in with the household garbage, but eventually I installed a regular black box-style composter. While I loved having a place to put most of the food scraps, there were still plenty of items that could not go in, ending up in the trash instead.

Then I discovered the Green Cone. More of a food digester than a composter, this ingenious device is designed and produced in Ontario, Canada since 1988. The Green Cone, which is made of plastic, has a cone-shaped top and an attached basket that gets buried underground below the cone. You dump food scraps into the top, via a hinged lid, and they fall down into the basket. There, the food waste is broken down and consumed by bacteria, fungi, microorganisms, worms, and insects. Over time, as much as 90 percent of the volume inside the Cone will get absorbed into the surrounding soil as compost water.

Read more here.

This company turns recycled plastic bags into designer furniture with a traditional Egyptian weaving process


Cairo's Reform Studio is turning trash into treasure with its Plastex material, which is woven from plastic bags using Egyptian handlooms.

Plastic shopping bags, as useful as they are for the 12 minutes when they're in use, are a curse on our planet. While it can be simple enough to avoid them by bringing our own reusable shopping bags with us, the fact that millions of them are made each day, to be used only briefly and to then spend years afterward contaminating our shared resources, is enough to make even the staunchest treehugger throw their hands up in defeat.

Of course, we're not all so easily swayed into giving up on finding alternatives and solutions for this plastic menace, and some innovative designers are coming up with ways to upcycle plastic bags into products that not only make us feel good about them, but that also look good as well.

One such initiative comes from Reform Studio, which has developed a rather ingenious solution to our plastic bag epidemic, in which the bags become the feedstock for a traditional, yet disappearing, industry in Egypt - handweaving.

Read more here.

The Sperm Whale Messenger Bag – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Whale Company 24-Messenger-GreenThis GOTS1 certified organic cotton messenger bag fits an A4 pad, iPad and whatever else you need. It has a long strap to go over your head and shoulder and the bag closes with a roll down mechanism at the top. And, when you have finished with it, it rolls up conveniently into a toggle, so that you can put it in your pocket. Popular with both girls and guys and available in five “warm” colors.

  • Rolls up into toggle

  • Reusable, foldable

  • Top rolls down to close

  • Long diagonal strap

  • Lightweight

  • Washable

  • Iron with care

  • 32cm (w) x 4cm (d) x 40cm (h)

  • Available in 5 ‘warm’ colors

The “roll down mechanism” at the top, that then is being closed by means of a wooden toggle, very much resembles the way haversacks and such were closed in times long past.

What I like especially about those bags are the wooden toggles made from (fallen) branches and this would also be a great idea for small items from coppicing woodworking operations.

That is not to say that I don't like the bags per se. I do, and the concept for this new lifestyle brand.

OK, there is little new, generally, as regards to cotton and other reusable shopping bags, messenger bags, totes and such, but it is the concept behind it that is a more or less new one and a good one to boot. A percentage of the profits of all sales goes to marine conservation and the main idea is to prevent plastic getting into the oceans.

At £8.00 for this bag the price is certainly not going to break the bank either.

For more information see:

© 2016

1The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.

Public housing residents told to tear up their gardens


Beauty and practicality don't matter to the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, which recently informed all residents that gardens have to go.

Residents of public housing units in South Pittsburg, TN are angry. The executive director of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, Lisa Bradford, recently announced that residents can no longer have gardens in their yards, despite the fact that the residents pay for plants themselves and some have tended their beautiful gardens for many years.

Last week the new Resolution 937 took effect:

The South Pittsburg Housing Authority, beginning on June 1, 2016 will impose a new Landscaping Policy for all residents of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority. The new landscaping policy states that ALL landscaping, including gardening, is to be removed from the housing authority property, unless it is planted by the South Pittsburg Housing Authority staff. This landscaping includes all plants, trees, flowers, shrubbery, and/or gardening that is located in the yards or any/all unites. All tenants will be allowed to have potted plants, including vegetables, so long as they are potted and located on the front or back porch of the units.” (via screen capture)

Bradford claims that the resolution is not new, but that the previous administration had failed to enforce the policy. The Times Free Press quotes Bradford’s written statement, which unsurprisingly uses ‘safety’ as its questionable justification for pushing through such a backward policy:

“This new landscaping policy is needed to ensure the safety of the maintenance employees, residents and guests of the housing authority. Each resident that violated the landscaping policy by placing unauthorized alteration on the residential property created greater obstacles and safety issues for maintenance employees. The presence of additional obstacles created an environment where the maintenance employee has to spend more time performing landscaping maintenance rather than other maintenance on the properties.”

It is unclear how creating gardens that take up part of the yard space, thereby lessening the total amount of square footage that an employee has to maintain, would create more work for the employee, and jeopardize the health of residents.

Read more here.

Wild things: how ditching the classroom boosts children's mental health

Getting outdoors can pay dividends in academic performance – but it also improves pupils’ concentration and confidence

Three years ago teacher Simon Poote spotted a disused strip of land on the grounds of Long Crendon school in Aylesbury. Instead of giving over the 15-metre square lawn to recreational use, or simply ignoring it, Poote saw potential for creating an outdoor learning space for the primary’s year 1 to 6 students. The only snag was how to pay for the plot’s transformation.

“We have lots of space but not much money,” says headteacher Sue Stamp. The school therefore appealed to parents, local businesses and the community to donate everything from landfill material to create small hills, to unwanted play equipment to build a trim trail and tunnels for the children to explore. Help came thick and fast, and the area now boasts a fully equipped thatched mud kitchen and a system of pipes and pulleys to transport water around the site.

Stamp insists outdoor learning has become more than just a project for the school, “it’s a way of life” she explains. The whole ethos of the school is to be outdoors as much as possible, rain or shine, so that students of all ages also take part in forest school activities in a wooded area alongside the playing field two days a week, learning skills such as fire lighting and making charcoal, as well as being allowed to climb trees, all under supervision.

Many of the outdoor activities they undertake are linked to curriculum subjects, and complement classroom lessons rather than detract from them. A factor which Stamp believes has played a part in the school’s continuing exam success. But outdoor learning is far more than an academic exercise – the head claims the impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing is undeniable.

“We have seen an amazing difference in some children,” she says. “Children who just didn’t engage in the classroom suddenly come into their own when they get outside.” Students who are less academically inclined gain in confidence and Stamp claims she has seen them step up as leaders in practical group activities for the first time.

Importantly, students are encouraged to take ownership of their own learning during outdoor learning sessions and teachers ask the children to set personal targets such as improving resilience, problem solving and working with others.

Read more here.

Parents across the UK agree that technology is damaging their children

Parents across the UK agree that technology is damaging their children and would like to go back to the ‘old days’ and pledge their support for the UK’s National Unplugging Day.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Parents across the UK agree that technology is taking over their lives and is damaging their children. Individuals are being urged to unplug on Sunday 26 June 2016 in celebration of the second annual National Unplugging Day in the UK.

National Unplugging Day is asking all individuals and families to put down their smartphones, tablets and computers for 24 hours to experience life unplugged.

Parenting experts warn that digital devices are harming relationships, stopping the young from developing face to face communication skills and teaching children that disappearing into digital devices for hours is a healthy activity.

A study with over 2000 parents from across the UK found that the average parent spends up to 5 hours per day on a smartphone. Typically their children are spending similar times using screens with 80% of children spending 4-5 hours per day on digital devices and with 15% of children spending in excess of 6 hours of screen time across various devices.

Nearly all the parents surveyed (87%) agreed that technology is damaging to their children’s childhood and nearly all the parents surveyed (94%) wanted the tech industry to help educate them and offer guidelines for safe usage. The statistics also show that more than half of parents (51%) would like to go back to the days of no technology or smartphones and a life less complicated.

The survey also discovered that 41% of parents agreed that family times are ruined from digital distractions and 42% of parents said they use technology to calm their children down or to stop family arguments.

The statistics also revealed that more than a third of parents (37%) agree that communication with their children is being harmed by today’s technology.

As smartphones and advances in technology invade our daily activities, parents are increasingly less present and available for their children and mental health officials are very worried on the long term effects this may have on our children.

With the evolution of the internet and smart phones, families can now often be found in the room together but not actually spending any real time bonding or sharing experiences. With modern families comprising of two full time working parents, it can be common to find both parents glued to their laptops or phones and despite wanting to spend more time with their children they are pulled in the direction of work via technology. Work does not end when you leave your office anymore.

It is even known that in a number of families the dinner gong – well, they may not actually have had one, but whatever – has been replaced by a tweet or a Facebook message or SMS to the children who are in the same house, just upstairs, or such, in their rooms.

It is high time that people unplugged again and engaged in life without a digital connection and be present for their children.

The National Day of Unplugging recognizes the value and importance of technology in today's society whilst trying to encourage people, especially families and young children and the connected generations who have grown up with ever-present technology, to be more mindful of their digital usage. This day is not intended to be a one-off, but rather a starting point to encourage people of all ages to embrace a healthy lifestyle by regularly setting aside time away from their digital devices.

© 2016

How to Make Rooting Hormone with Willow

You probably know that willow bark was the basis for the common over-the-counter drug, Aspirin™ or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Young willow twigs contain both salicylic acid, which serves as an antifungal, and indolebutyric acid, a hormone which encourages rooting. Commercial rooting hormone contains Indole-3-butyric acid, a concentrated synthetic version of this naturally occurring rooting hormone, as well as a chemical fungicide. But if you are avoiding chemicals in your organic garden, willow is a powerful substitute. Oh, and did I mention it’s free and easy make?

Rooting hormone made from willow is free and easy to make. Use it for rooting cuttings or for easing transplant stress.

Willow rooting hormone works in two ways. You can soak cuttings that you plan to root in willow water for 24 hours and then plant them in soil. Or you can water already rooted cuttings with prepared willow water to encourage stronger roots.

Advantages of willow rooting hormone

  • Willow is free.
  • Using willow rooting hormone speeds up the rooting process.
  • The antifungal properties of willow improve the success rate of your propagation projects.
  • You can make as much rooting hormone as you need from one or two willow shrubs.
  • Cutting the willow to make rooting hormone actual stimulates new growth in the willows.
  • The willow that you have growing in your own yard has already produced defenses against the most common fungal and bacterial challenges in your environment. When you make rooting hormone from these willows, you are giving your new plants the defense they need against these pathogens, allowing them to put more energy into growth. This will improve your propagation success rate.
  • While commercial rooting hormones contain a single fungicide and a single hormone, organically grown willow will have several synergistic constituents that will help with your propagation success.

Read more here.

Ernten statt Jäten: Essbare Bodendecker zur Unkrautbekämpfung

Ernten statt Jäten: Essbare Bodendecker zur UnkrautbekämpfungWenn du einen Garten bewirtschaftest, kennst du das bestimmt. Gerade noch umgegraben und ausgesät und schon ist wieder alles grün, nur leider wachsen neben den gewünschten Pflanzen auch jede Menge ungeliebte Kräuter und Gräser. Üblicherweise bedeutet das, regelmäßig viel Zeit in die händische Entfernung ungebetener Gäste im Beet zu investieren oder mit anderen Mitteln dafür zu sorgen, dass die Bepflanzung nicht überwuchert oder sogar ganz verdrängt wird. Warum also nicht einfach das Problem in einen Vorteil umwandeln? Mit einem einfachen Trick kannst du mit weniger Aufwand mehr ernten und deinen Speiseplan um gesunde und schmackhafte Vitalstofflieferanten bereichern. Alles, was du dazu brauchst, sind so genannte Bodendecker, die auf Pflanzen, Licht- und Bodenverhältnisse in deinem Garten abgestimmt sind.

Eigenschaften von Bodendeckern

Der Sammelbegriff Bodendecker umfasst Pflanzenarten, die sich durch ein niedriges, primär horizontales Wachstum auszeichnen. Im Hinblick auf die Unkrautbekämpfung bieten sie den Vorteil, dass sie eine offene Fläche in sehr kurzer Zeit bedecken können. Der auf diese Weise entstehende Teppich aus Blättern, Blüten und Früchten bewirkt einen verminderten Lichteinfall auf den darunter liegenden Boden, wodurch das Wachstum unerwünschter Wildpflanzen zurückgedrängt wird. Gleichzeitig schützt er die Erde vor Austrocknung, schafft Lebensraum für Nützlinge und sorgt mit seinem weit verzweigten Wurzelwerk für einen natürlichen Erosionsschutz. Einer der bekanntesten Bodendecker ist Efeu, aus dessen Blättern du ein effizientes und gleichsam umweltfreundliches Wasch- und Spülmittel herstellen kannst.

Essbare Bodendecker

Bodendecker haben aber noch viel mehr zu bieten. Unter ihnen befinden sich viele Sorten mit essbaren Früchten oder Blättern. Einige gedeihen sogar in Schattenbereichen unter Bäumen, wo sich andere Pflanzen schwertun. Andere eignen sich als pflegeleichte Zwischenkultur für bereits abgeerntete Beetbereiche oder als essbarer Bodenschutz unter Tomaten- und Bohnenstauden. Dort ausgesät oder gepflanzt breiten sie sich aus und hemmen das Wachstum unerwünschter Unkräuter und Gräser, sodass das lästige Unkrautjäten mehr und mehr entfällt. Aufgrund der großen Anzahl bodenbedeckender Pflanzen gibt es eigentlich für jede Stelle im Garten die passende Sorte.

Hier weiterlesen.

Ethanol saves oil and reduces pollution

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ethanol saves oil and reduces pollution, or so we are being told. But the truth is a completely different one and no one wants to talk about that.

Ethanol, one of the so-called biofuels, the other is biodiesel, is produced, primarily, especially in the USA, from corn (maize), with biodiesel, mainly, being made from palm oil. The latter shall, however, not stand for discussion here at the moment.

So, they tell us that ethanol saves oil and reduces pollution but no one speaks about the oil-based products and the diesel required to put the corn into the ground, to spray it with pesticides, to harvest it and to process it. The fact is that the public is being sold a lie.

For every bushel of corn produced to ethanol half a gallon of oil is needed (for the metrically minded person a bushel is just a little of quarter of a metric ton and half a gallon US equals about two liters) in the form of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fuel for the drilling of the crop, etc. And then more fuel, in the form of energy, is required for the processing of the maize into ethanol, followed by yet more fuel to get the ethanol to the filling stations. That about covers the fuel, predominately in the form of oil, being used.

Now we come to reduction of the pollution, which does not exist, for the plants which process the corn into ethanol create pollution, the fertilizers and the pesticides do, and so on.

When everything, I should reckon, is calculated then the problem is rather the opposite to an improvement and it could almost be a case of higher use of fuel to create a fuel.

The only reason that the companies making ethanol make ethanol is because of the government subsidies that that attached to it. Otherwise it simply would not be profitable and they would not make it. And the same is the case as regards to biodiesel which has been shown to have far more dangerous emissions, especially of nanoparticles, than ordinary oil-based diesel and those nanoparticles are reckoned to be the causal agent for the increase of asthma, especially in children.

So, are we jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire? It very much would appear to be the case.

In addition to that bio-diesel and bio-ethanol both use valuable land. In the former case it is a variety of crops, often palm oil palm, that are grown in tropical rainforest areas and lead to the destruction of said forests while in the latter case it is corn or other crops that are grown on fields that would be much better used for the growing of food for human consumption.

Time for a serious rethink, methinks...

© 2016