Bed edging in parks, gardens and other green spaces

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Groundscare TurfTeq edgingIsn't it about time bed edging was back on the agenda? Neat edges make such a difference to parks, gardens and other green spaces, and it’s economical to maintain them if you have the right machinery. The TurfTeq is a versatile and productive edger.

But it can also be done without such machines – or with using them (on hire) – only every now and then to re-cut such edges. It is not necessary to own them outright these days.

Well made and well maintained edges add an instant appeal to beds, whether flower or shrubs, and even a bed in transition – that is to say between plantings – if free of weeds and well edged looks acceptable and more than that to the eye of the beholder.

Besides the use of such machines – or manually remaking and maintaining such edges – keeping them well trimmed manually by use of sharp edging shears is as important, if not even more so. The grass clippings can either be removed or incorporated into the soil. Visibly, however, they should not remain as that will detract from the good looks.

© 2017

Groundscare TurfTeq edging

Wake up! Fascism disguised as liberalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

truth-hate-speechThe first thing I have to say here is that this liberalism, as it appears to us, is actually what is referred to as neoliberalism and what, in the US is often called neoconservatism or short neocon. In truth this is neither liberalism nor conservatism, as in old money, but it is fascism in disguise. Neoliberalism and neoconservatism are same side of the same coin; the reverse side being fascism.

People are – by those very neoliberals – led to fear the rise of neo-Nazis and so-called right-wing parties, and those in power, which in general are the neoliberals, are trying to pretend that those groupings are the danger of fascism reemerging. They are far too visible for that. So do not be deceived.

The true danger and fascists are the neoliberals that have,m by now, infiltrated almost every political party, especially those on the center to left of the spectrum, the trade unions, and other such organizations and bodies, and are, as in the case of the Labour Party in Britain, leading the working class organization ever more towards an alignment with capital. Or how else is one to interpret the comments at a gathering of business leaders in a speech by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party, shortly after he was elected as leader, when he said that the Labour Party is the natural ally of (big) business? And that, by the way, came out of the mouth of a person who confesses to be a socialist.

Working class parties and groups are becoming revisionist in so many places in Europe and elsewhere in that they distance themselves from so many of the teachings of the old leaders of the socialist and communist world, and of the affiliations they once had to parties such as the SED and the CPSU. They are pandering to people that are not and never have been their supporters ever, namely the bourgeoisie and the capitalists. They have abandoned or are abandoning the working class or are even trying to pretend that class today is dead and a thing of the past.

Fascism does not come openly via so-called neo-Nazi groups. I believe we have been conditioned by the powers-that-be, aka the elite, to see the danger of fascism as coming (only) from that corner. This maybe just so that we do not expect it from another direction. But from another direction it is coming and a fascist dictatorship, a more-or-less global one, is in the offing unless we manage to stem the tide. But to that end we, and others, will have to wake up and become awake and aware first.

To clarify things a little. I am not saying the Labour Party is leading us towards a fascist dictatorship, though if we allow the right-wing neoliberals, the Blairites, the New Labour gang, and others free reign then it invariably will do so as truly as will the Tories, the Lib-Dems and/or the Green Party. It is the neoliberal elements within them – and some of those groups are nothing but neoliberals, such as the Green Party. Don't be deceived by their eco-label or the social-democrat/socialist one they are trying to pin onto themselves.

The true Nazis and fascists have returned to us, that is to say their offspring have, often from South America to Germany, though some never left, in the guise of neoliberals, and have infiltrated (almost) all parties and movements, and especially those on the left. Be it the Greens, and not just in Germany, the Social-Democrats in Europe, other left parties, and also the Democratic Party in the US. Of those in the “center” and on the right we shall not even talk.

The specter of groups such as the skinheads and others is being held up in front of us so as to not look elsewhere. But elsewhere we must look. I am no Bible thumper – not even a Christian by a very long shot – but I will quote a passage here anyway because it fits and that one is “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).

© 2017

#fascism #neoliberalism #neoconservatism #politics

A move back to our roots: more wood and clay and less plastic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

23213129_1845303528843664_4872651655123413633_oBefore plastic became ubiquitous, many kitchen items were made from wood or pottery, that is to say clay, and also from metal. Predominately the material was wood and pottery; metal in the form of copper, lead, bronze and then finally iron, from whence came steel, including stainless steel, came into the equation much later.

The anti-plastic movement is gaining strength as more people realize the folly of using a material that not only leaches chemicals into our bodies, food, and environment, but also does not biodegrade. The movement has taken many shapes and forms, from no-straw campaigns to the zero waste lifestyle to more natural-fiber clothing.

But there is plastic and there is plastic in this context and while, yes, predominately, though not entirely anymore, plastic is made from oil and thus not very sustainable and all that, some plastic is better than other. The main concern, in the general context of getting away from plastic, is the disposable kind, the stuff that really no one needs and that ends up in our countryside, rivers and the seas.

Children are the key to the future so it is the children, therefore, first and foremost that we must educate about the “back to our roots” way of using natural materials. Once kids’ habits change (through education), they will influence their parents to change, while holding them accountable.

To this end teaching children the making of things from natural materials, such as making a wooden spatula or even a spoon, and in that case an eating spoon just right for them, and making a piece of pottery, would be the order of the day.

There was, once, a time when all schools were teaching handcrafts, especially woodwork and pottery but today that is all but gone.

When a child makes something him- or herself, for personal use especially, this product will have a special value for them – and thus we should teach them to aim for the best they can do.

But it should not stop at wood and clay (pottery) but include also the making of products from other, ideally natural materials, by hand and schools – and other places – must be at the forefront again for children – and not just children – to learn again the skills and the joys of making. Textiles, leather, and also metals, should be included.

While in regards to wood, pottery, and even textiles, the entire process can become part of the learning process with leather and metals it is somewhat of as different story. Working with wood and clay for pottery the process goes from natural to made product easy. With textiles it is a little more complicated. Wool needs to be shorn off the sheep, then made into yarn and then worked either by knitting, weaving or otherwise. Even more work is involved in the making of cotton, canvas and linen. And metals are getting even more complicated.

Having said that, however, does not mean that the skills of working those materials should not be taught; they should, as they once were. They should also be taught to both genders, as far as schools are concerned. Boys and men should know how to sew as well, not just girls and women, and the same goes for mending. We must remember that traditionally in the past the tailor was male. Also the cooks – chefs – in inns and hotels were (and often still are) predominately male, so both cooking and sewing is not (just) something that girls and women do. But I digressed somewhat.

We must become makers again instead of being (just) consumers (and learning again to appreciate the handmade efforts of ourselves and our children – proficiency comes with time) and this making can take many forms.

And making “by hand” may not always mean absolutely without any machines. As long as your hands are still involved in the work, and your skills, and it is not an automated process you are still making whatever you are making “by hand”. The potter who uses a powered wheel rather than a kick wheel still shapes the clay by hand into the object that he or she is making. The wood-turner who is using a powered lathe rather than a foot-operated pole lathe or such, still, like the potter, shapes the object, using his hands. I am just saying.

© 2017

Pruning your trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pruning your treesOnce the leaves have fallen in late autumn/early winter, take the opportunity to get in there to remove any congested growth. For some fruit trees, however, the time to do any real pruning and cutting back is not that time of year but much earlier or somewhat later.

Trees of the prunus species, cherries, plums, damsons, and related, should be pruned – pardon the almost pun – while the sap is rising, after they have flowered. While that may reduce any fruit production for that year it is r4eckoned to reduce the risk of any infection entering the tree.

Apple trees have a very narrow window, so to speak, in which pruning should take place and that is about from mid to late January to the end of February (in Europe at least). Others can be pruned more or less immediately after the leaves have all fallen off and this also goes for the majority of ornamental shrubs and trees.

© 2017

The most important school subjects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Handwerk1The most important school subjects are not reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. even though they are important, especially for self-directed learning, as I can ascertain. However, “viewed scientifically the most import school subjects would be music, sports, dramatics, art and handicrafts, the latter is what the Scandinavians would call sloyd”. This is what the brain researcher Manfred Spitzer says and, as far as child development, especially in elementary school children, is concerned that is exactly what is needed.

Children who spend much of their childhood playing (for play is an important aspect of learning), drawing, painting, doing sports, dramatics, and such, are in a much better position later to be taught, to study and to be trained in order to be able to follow a useful profession and calling. Much more useful than learning in Kindergarten already Chinese or having to be worried in elementary school about tests and passing them in order to progress up the ladder, so to speak.

Some may say that this does not do the economy any good and that it is only that which counts, in other words productivity and growth, and training obedient wage slaves.

But today's economy no longer needs untrained docile workers at production lines but highly flexible, stress resistant multi-taskers who are prepared to learn new things to the end of their life. No one needs what the schools of today churn out in the way of unripe non-adults. Nor will the children, as children and later as adults, ever need most of what they have been “taught” in school – generally only in order to pass the tests and exams – in later life.

Yes, reading, writing and some other things are important, as I have already said in the beginning, but you do not have to go to the brainwashing institution called “school” to learn those.

As far as handicrafts, aka sloyd in Scandinavia, and such like are concerned getting hands dirty and learning about traditional trades is what it is all about – kids will be having a ball as long as they are not just be shown how to but are actually allowed and helped to make things.

Also teach them gardening and the growing of food and involve them in this, to the extent of letting them have their own plots where to experiment with growing this or that.

Maybe the best thing would be for children to be taught at home (or other similar setting) rather than in the formal setting of the brainwashing facilities that we call schools where children are but trained to pass tests and regurgitate information in order to pass them.

Many kids are measured on their intelligence base solely on regurgitation of information. Many grow up thinking they are worthless and stupid because they do poorly. This is one of the many factors that contribute to social burden and decay. No matter what anyone says you are not stupid, just a different kind of smart. Also and especially children develop and mature in different stages regardless of age so any standardized tests actually prove nothing and all they do is make some believe that they are failures and will never amount to anything.

That is why self-directed learning, as often is the case with homeschooling, where the kids decide what they want to learn, research, etc., rather than following a set of guidelines, is so much better than any other way.

© 2017

Thank You for voting Tory

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

500534084Thanks for voting Tory. Everyone who did has really done well.

Due to the actions of the Conservative government of the “United Kingdom” it has been estimated that 120,000 children will wake up homeless this Christmas and many, many more in dire poverty. Hope you are proud of yourself. But, I guess, as long as it is not you and your children why should you care.

The Tories have been talking about getting Britain back to Victorian values but what they really aim to do is turning back the clock and bringing us all back into the Victorian era and if we are not careful back further still.

10446715_10205374118698472_1392947066675936283_nVictorian values were not, necessarily, the greatest thing either but the era definitely was no good for the common man, woman or child. Homelessness was rampant and dire poverty and we are on the best way to that kind of situation again.

It won't be long, if we allow the Tories to remain in power, that we will have workhouses and child labor again, but, no doubt, that is also something that the Tories would not mind, as long as it is not their children but only those of the working class.

The most worrying part is that such a great number of working class people actually vote Tory (or even further right-wing) and thus are causing misery for their class and the children of their class. But it seems to be the attitude of “I am alright, Jack” in the same way as Gypsies in the West are not prepared to do anything to help those of the same race persecuted in Eastern Europe, for instance. But, when the shoe is on the other foot they are the first to complain.

I do not even want to start to talk about the other things that are being destroyed, dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder for private gain, by the Tories, such as the NHS and other aspects of the welfare state. You really have done well keeping those parasites in power.

© 2017

Which cutting board is best, wood or plastic?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

wooden cutting boardWhen it comes to cutting boards which is the more sustainable and healthy choice; plastic or wood?

The good old cutting board is one of our most durable household goods and it has proven its worth through times and ages, especially when made from good wood. Properly cared for it will go through generations without complaining of breaking.

As a refresher, it is generally considered advisable to have at least two cutting boards, kept separate, so to speak, in your kitchen. One of those should should be designated for raw meat, seafood, and poultry, and kept for that purpose only and the other board(s) for everything else. This helps avoid cross-contamination for purposes of health (keeping bacteria from sneaking into our produce, bread, and other non-fleshy items) and for purposes of hospitality (vegetarians and vegans will thank you).

In fact, this question of bacteria helps answer your question about plastic vs. wood. Plastic gained favor for a while because it is non-porous and dishwasher-safe, two qualities that made it seem like a healthier, cleaner choice. But it seems this was just another PR coup by the plastics industry.

According to research, including a study at the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory, wood wins the bacteria battle hands down. While bacteria such as salmonella and listeria are easy to clean off brand-new plastic boards, these boards become, so say the researchers, “impossible to clean and disinfect manually” once damaged by knives. In other words, the sneaky little bacteria hide out in the cracks and crevices. Wood cutting boards provide a home for bacteria too, but only for a very short time, and the little critters actually scoot down under the surface and die.

Many woods, in fact, have very high antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as the much maligned Sycamore, for example, which has one of the if not indeed the highest. Maligned, in Britain, for the fact that it is not a “native” tree and that is spreads somewhat like a weed. It has been in Britain for almost 2000 years, having brought here by the Romans and thus, I should think, we really should give it citizenship.

This makes wood more or less magical and if you buy a cutting board made from sustainably harvested sources – sorry, but forget the bamboo notion – it is definitely a greener choice than oil-based old plastic.

Once there are too many cuts showing on the surface of your wooden cutting boards or they have become excessively worn or have developed hard-to-clean grooves there still is no need to throw them away, even though the food safety people may say so. All you have to do is sand them smooth again or, if need be, planed down a bit, and they are ready to roll and entirely safe again.

So, if you have old wooden cutting boards rejuvenate them with some sanding and giving them a coat of vegetable (or mineral oil) and they will be yours to use, safely, and will last for many generations to come. The reason I put mineral oil in brackets is for the fact that – personally – I do not like using it simply because it is oil-based, as in the black stuff coming out of the ground. Some people claim that vegetable oil goes rancid but I have not found this to be a problem.

© 2017

Zero Waste – is it possible?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sinnlos sammeln und sortieren - recycling bins1Zero Waste is a concept that is very much like the idea of sustainable consumption in that it is not feasible regardless of what some people preach.

While it is possible to reduce waste, all waste, including food waste, to a minimum, zero waste, in that we do not produce any waste at all, just is not possible, regardless of what some people may think or claim, in the same way as there can be no sustainable consumption.

Whatever we do we are going to produce waste in some way, shape or form, though ideally, and that is the operative word and challenge, that waste should be recycled by whichever way. In addition to that we must change the way that we produce things and also produce food and use all the food grown, not just those vegetables, for instance, that have the right shape, size, etc.

As far as products are concerned they must be made so as to keep waste in production to the minimum and made in such a way that they can be kept going ad infinitum, almost, by being repairable, ideally user-repairable. But that is not a model that industry (and, it would appear, government) does not want.

Going further, however, we all must find ways, aside from just reducing waste, to make use of the waste that is still there especially the kind that can, in some ways, be reused, reworked, repurposed and upcycled, and that before we even think whether or not it can be (commercially) recycled.

This is also where upcycling as an economic activity, especially by small workers, comes in. Far too much of commercial recycling destroys the product and does not actually recycle anything but downcycles rather. But I am beginning to digress.

Zero Waste is a nice idea but it just will, I am afraid to say, never really work because there will always be some waste that is being produced though a more-or-less circular process might just reduce it is a very small percentage.

However, the latter process will only work if everyone, from government to every individual person, pulls on the same rope, so to speak. The problem is that already now in the case of ordinary recycling things are not always the way they appear and are made to appear.

While recyclables may be collected by the municipalities they may not actually always end up being recycled even if that means that they are downcycled. Quite frequently, for a variety of reason, one of them though being that at some time the price for the recyclables may be too low, they are sent to landfill.

The problem is that all our individual efforts come often to nothing because there where we can do nothing about things are not on the same level. It is therefore much more important that we see that we can reuse more of the stuff that runs under “waste”, from composting to reworking and upcycling, even in a semi-commercial enterprise, than believing the, let me call them, powers-that-be that they will take care of it.

There has always been waste, with the exception, maybe, in the case of Nature, and there always will be, in some way, shape or form. What way, shape and form this waste is going to be, however, and what we do with it though, is another question in point and that is up to us. Reusing, repurposing and upcycling whatever can be treated in this way needs to be done, up to and including doing this as a business. Those three have to become an economic activity, even if only on a small scale, but in many small enterprises.

We cannot keep pretending to be able to tackle waste by claiming that we can go “zero waste” because we cannot truly and fully. To believe otherwise is conning ourselves. Only Nature knows no real waste as in Nature everything is recycled, truly recycled, in one way or the other.

© 2017

Industry and industrial production in the new age

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

design-100-resimage_v-variantSmall16x9_w-640I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here and will say that industry and industrial production will not, as it is being claimed, go over to total robotic production but will, in fact, cease and that in the not so distant future. And that regardless of what governments and industry and economists proclaim.

Why? Because it is dependent on a great deal of energy, especially of electricity and gas, and to all intents and purposes there is a very limited amount of oil and gas, upon which our energy production and on it industry depends, left to go around (despite the fact that the price of oil did fall quite significantly in the late part of 2014 and the early part of 2015 but that is a political ball game rather than oil and gas being abundant still) and renewable energies such as wind and sun just cannot provide the high voltages and wattage that are required by industrial production as we have now and the one that they are envisaging for the future.

The future of production will be small scale industry again – that is, at least, the way that I (and also others) – see it and much will be made more or less by hand again rather than by large machines, by production lines and robots. Without the power to do so it just cannot compute.

However, we keep being told that robots will take our jobs and that almost everything in the not so distant future will be performed by robots, many of them being what is referred to as “humanoid” robots. In the BBC Radio 4 program Analysis of March 2, 2015 entitled “When robots steal our jobs” this was very much being hinted at and also, it is claimed, that when this happens we all will have so much more free time to do what we want.

Hello! And what about money to live? Oh, some say, everyone will be given a basic universal income. Yes, sure, and pigs fly.

While the idea of a basic income is a great idea and one that should be supported and for which trial are now being carried out in some places, it will, probably, however, never come to pass in the capitalist system as we have it today. It will require a new system that has other ideals, a system where man and Nature are valued and stand in the center and not profit for corporations and shareholders. And one where no longer perpetual economic growth and the acquisition of wealth by business owners and others is the aim and name of the game.

This system will come about when capitalism collapses, as it must and will, and we return to a different way of production when also, as it must be, the means of production will be in the hands of the workers and not of the state. True socialism is not state capitalism and is the only system that abolishes and eliminates the distinction between the bosses and the workers.

But it has to be said here that in the post-industrial age production will be of a different kind and conducted in a different way than most of us have come to know and understand over the last century or more. The kind of production that we have known for so long ever since the “Industrial Revolution” will become a thing of the past and, like the motorcar, will be seen, later, as but a blip in human history.

Does anyone really believe that those robots, that are claimed to be taking jobs, can be made and run in a world where non-renewable resources are becoming scarce and where we need to get away from fossil fuel derived energy? I, for one, do not and that simply because of the fact that due to the restraints that will be forced upon us if we do not want the Planet to be destroyed entirely neither their manufacture nor their use will be feasible in due course. They will just remain ideas in the heads of the capitalists.

The new world will be very much like the old world before the industrial revolution and production (and other work) will be performed again in the ways of old. Sounds dreadful to many, I know, as the consumer goods will neither be abundant anymore nor cheap, cheap, cheap, as they are presently and as the consumers today demand them to be. That those products, that are so very cheap, come too us at a very high cost of exploitation of people and the Planet no one seems to want to know about. In addition to that those goods are not cheap in other ways as they are designed to break down in a very short space of time resulting in the fact that we have to buy new again, and again. But that is the way this present capitalist system has been set up, especially ever since the Second World War.

Before that time, and even for a while thereafter, especially in certain countries, products were made in a way that they lasted and that they could easily be repaired. However, the capitalist saw there profits disappear if they were to create new products that were better and learned from what had happened during the war where they were suppliers to the military. Products that get destroyed all the time would have to be replaced with the same products again and again and they basically put a self-destruct mechanism into the goods they made and sold. This mechanism is built-in obsolescence and non-repairability. If something breaks down after a short while, designed actually to do so, and then made in such a way that it cannot be repaired you do not have to invest all too much in research and development of new products; you can just sell your “old” ones over and over again. A total win-win situation for the capitalist and a total lose-lose situation for the consumer.

Years ago, and that will be the way again that things will be produced in the future, products, today often referred to as “durable goods” and given a lifespan of about three years, used to last for decades for they were made to last, and they were repairable and that is why they did last, for when something did break it could be fixed, often by the owner him- or herself. Those durable goods of today are not fit the name durable as they are rather the opposite. While that means that such products, like we once had, will be more expensive initially this cost, spread over the years that the product will actually last, coupled with repairability, will make them cheaper in the long run.

In the German Democratic Republic an entire repair sector existed in the economy, from small shops to industrial complexes almost that were geared to repair whatever the customer might bring along, from clothes and other textiles as well as, obviously, shoes and boots, over household appliances and such to vehicles. You could even get your knives, scissors and other cutting tools sharpened, reset and such, and all at a reasonable cost. But, to some extent, I digressed a little.

Industrial production in the new age of no-fossil fuels to power everything will, nay must, by virtue of lack of the amount of power required by the large-scale production we know today, return to much small scale and thus products will be made in a different way and must be made to last and be repairable as they will be more expensive.

But to be perfectly honest the cheap goods that come to us today more often that not are not made in a sustainable way and the fact that they are – predominantly – non-repairable makes them, in the long run, more expensive than the kind of products and goods that we had before that we, although more expensive, repairable. Personally, I don't think that such a change is a bad thing at all.

© 2017

Pavements and cycle paths are critical infrastructure, not frills

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cycle path londonIn the USA this does not seem to be understood by local, state, and federal government and the only thing that seem to count in their eyes are provisions for the motor car. But things are not much better in Britain, for instance.

Unfortunately, many pavements (sidewalks, as our American cousins would say) in Britain are in a bad state of repair as well, even though the maintenance of those is down to the local authorities, the councils. Lack of funding from central government and more cuts in the name of austerity certainly do take their toll, but some of them seem to have been lacking maintenance for a couple of decades at least and in some instance it would appear more than just a couple of decades.

As to cycle paths, their provision, in comparison to what is being done and has been done almost for ever in countries of mainland Europe, is absolutely derisory and the talk of government that it would like to encourage more people to cycle is laughable when one sees the provisions (not) made.

There is hardly, in Britain, a single cycle path that is continuous and virtually none that is actually physically separated from the motor traffic on the road, unlike a great many, if not the majority, of such paths in countries such as The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. According to the British government, an not just the current, it is not possible to do such things in this country. It can be done, the only thing lacking is the political will to do so.

If government is truly interested in getting people out of their cars and wanting them to walk and cycle to the shops, to school, and even to work, then provisions must me made so that people can feel safe and be safe to do so. What it boils down to is that the motoring lobby hands out fat donations and facilitation payments to the governments while, obviously, the lobby of cyclists and pedestrians does not and cannot do that. Hence more and more roads are being built instead of making provisions for alternative modes of transport, by creating the necessary infrastructure. But time and again there are plans for new roads, there is money found for new roads, and so on. Cycle paths and pavements, on the other hand, when it comes to them then there is no money to be found.

As I said, the majority of cycle paths would make our continental cousins, especially in Holland, Denmark and Germany, suffer a serious laughing attack. Not only are they not physically separated from the roads; nay, often they are just short strips on the road and then that is it. At other times, where there are long stretches of cycle paths that are part of the road cyclists will have to dodge the traffic anyway as the paths are full of parked cars, or cars are actually using those parts of the road that are dedicated to cycling, thus again the cyclist either has to avoid those stretches or is actually in danger of being hit. That is no way to encourage people to take to the bike instead of the car. In fact, it has rather the opposite effect. Thus it is hardly surprising that people, illegally, cycle on the pavements as no safe provisions are being made for them.

© 2017