7 Winter Projects You’ll Thank Yourself For This Spring

Use your winter downtime to do things around the farm that were neglected during the growing season to make spring planting a breeze.

Winter is a hard time to farm. The ground is often too wet or frozen to work, the days are short and cloudy, and the temperatures are hardly inviting. But then spring comes and suddenly you find yourself overwhelmed with projects. However, there are plenty of helpful things you can do during the colder months to prepare for spring planting, many of which don’t require getting into the soil at all. They’re easy enough to do in nearly any weather, and when the spring comes, you’ll want to send yourself a thank-you card.

1. Soil Mix

If you don’t already make your own soil mix for seed-starting, winter is a great time to start. Homemade soil mix helps improve germination but also allows you to add important nutrients to your garden every time you plant. Soil mix is typically one part soil, two parts compost, two parts sand and three parts peat moss with a handful of amendments, such as lime, greensand, fish or crab meal, and rock phosphate—all finely sifted, of course. Follow one of these recipes or look to gardening books like Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2nd edition, 1995) for tips and ideas on how to make a soil mix that best suits your practices.

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Scott Pruitt's EPA: a dream for oil and gas firms is nightmare for environment

Trump’s pick to lead Environmental Protection Agency has supported fossil fuel firms and sought to hobble public health regulations he will be responsible for

If environmentalists were to sketch out the government official of their nightmares, it would likely look much like Scott Pruitt. The Oklahoma attorney general has been a raucous supporter of fossil fuel companies and repeatedly sought to hobble the public health regulations he will soon be responsible for as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pruitt, 48, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and found his niche in constitutional and employment law. A Republican, he was elected attorney general of Oklahoma in 2010 after a spell as a state senator. Since 2002, Pruitt has received more than $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry and in 2014 even allowed Devon Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas firm, to write a three-page complaint to the EPA on his letterhead.

Pruitt has sued the EPA, the agency he is now set to lead, multiple times over what he considers to be unwarranted meddling by the federal government. He has targeted regulations that limit air pollution haze in national parks, methane leaks from drilling, and mercury and arsenic seeping from power plants.

The attorney general even tried to strip protections from the lesser prairie chicken, a threatened bird, because it presented a feathered barrier to oil and gas drilling. Oklahoma has experienced a huge increase in earthquakes due to a boom in drilling over the past decade.

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Create an Edible Landscape

So much good, productive agricultural land is wasted these days on the cultivation of lawns and shrubs. Beauty and bounty can thrive together if you take the time to design a multifunctional edible landscape.

arbor with grape vines

The edible landscape concept strikes a deep chord with me; I've been exploring its many options and variations for more than 40 years. Americans cover millions of acres of valuable agricultural land around their homes with lawn, marigold and azalea beds, wisteria, and an occasional privet or maple. Yet as a landscape designer, I know most edible plants are beautiful and that homeowners could grow a meaningful amount of food in their yards — a much more noble use of the soil.

Instead of the typical landscape, we could minimize lawn areas and put in decorative borders of herbs, rainbow chard, and striking paprika peppers. Instead of the fleeting color of spring azaleas, we could grow blueberries that are decorative year-round — or pear and plum trees that put on a spring show of flowers, have decorative fruits, and yellow fall foliage. These plants aren’t just pretty, they provide scrumptious fruit and can save you money.

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Climate change will stir 'unimaginable' refugee crisis, says military

Unchecked global warming is greatest threat to 21st-century security where mass migration could be ‘new normal’, say senior military

Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.

The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.

Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.

“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. He said one metre of sea level rise will flood 20% of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”

Previously, Bangladesh’s finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, called on Britain and other wealthy countries to accept millions of displaced people.

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EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'

New renewable energy plan undercuts itself by boosting dangerous wood-burning industries

EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'

The European Commission has announced its new blueprint to phase out coal and energy inefficiencies, while supporting clean energy — but a coalition of civil society groups warns that the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive is fatally flawed.

And guess why? Because certain industries are not going to let go of their profits.

The campaign groups — Global Forest Coalition, Woodland League, Econexus, Biofuelwatch, Transnational Institute, NOAH, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-BĂ©nin — point out that in the EU energy plan, bioenergy and waste account for some two-thirds of all energy classed as ‘renewable’. Most of this ‘bioenergy’ will also come from burning wood, both in power stations and for heating.

However, scientific studies increasingly prove that big bioenergy projects produce more greenhouse gases even than traditional fossil fuels.

According to Biofuelwatch, the EU’s cavernous demand for wood to burn for energy is directly tied to the acceleration of logging, land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in countries like Brazil and Ghana, and the conversion of more forests, farmland and grasslands into monoculture tree plantations. This has endangered biodiversity and caused “added harm to forests and people.”

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The Chase Is On: Sea Shepherd Vessels Have Departed to Intercept Japanese Whaling Fleet in the Antarctic


b6c7637c45904bc4_orgAfter final preparations in Australia, two Sea Shepherd vessels are now on their way to the Southern Ocean to intercept the Japanese whaling fleet in a bid stop their slaughter of Minke whales.

The marine conservation organization's flagship vessel the Steve Irwin departed Saturday from Seaworks, Williamstown in Melbourne, followed by its fast new patrol vessel the Ocean Warrior, which departed from Hobart, Tasmania on Sunday.

They're now on their way to the vast Southern Ocean in an effort to prevent the Japanese whaling fleet, which left Japan on November 18th, from killing its self-allocated quota of 333 Minke whales.

"With all of the hectic preparations behind us, it's good to finally be on our way to the Southern Ocean," said Captain Adam Meyerson from the bridge of the Ocean Warrior. Fast enough to outrun any whaling ship and equipped with a powerful water cannon, Sea Shepherd predicts the Ocean Warrior will be a game-changer for their 11th whale defense campaign, Operation Nemesis.

This is the second time the illegal Japanese whaling fleet has returned to the scene of their crimes in the Southern Ocean since the 2014 International Court of Justice ruling. "Sea Shepherd shouldn’t have to be taking on the whalers again this summer," said Australian Senator Peter Whish-Wilson at a press conference in the port of Hobart Saturday morning. "Australia won the International Court of Justice case against Japan, but unfortunately the government put trade deals ahead of whales and removed all diplomatic pressure. The Japanese whaling fleet might be able to escape and outrun the international courts but it won’t escape Sea Shepherd."

"It's time that Japan respected the International Court of Justice, the Australian Federal Court, and the global moratorium on commercial whaling and ended their so-called scientific lethal hunting of whales off the Antarctic coast," said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia.

The Japanese typically hunt whales from December until March, so Sea Shepherd's vessels have been equipped to endure four months of harsh conditions at sea to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean.

"The crew has worked really hard to get the ship ready and everybody is super excited to be on our way," said Steve Irwin's Captain Wyanda Lublink. The two Sea Shepherd vessels are carrying a total of 50 crew members from eight different countries: Australia, Germany, France, UK, Austria, Spain, Canada and the United States. "They are very much looking forward to getting down towards the Antarctic and being able to experience firsthand the stunning beauty of this part of the world. A place where illegal whaling vessels from the other side of the world do not belong."

About Operation Nemesis

Operation Nemesis is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Antarctic whale defense campaign. In Sea Shepherd’s past ten campaigns over 6,000 whales have been spared the grenade-tipped harpoons of the illegal Japanese whaling fleet. Japan’s so-called “scientific research” program used to justify the killing of whales has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. In 2015 the Australian Federal Court fined the Japanese whalers $AU1 million for hunting within an Australian whale sanctuary, however it remains unpaid.

Sea Shepherd Global

Sea Shepherd Global

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. For more information, visit: http://www.seashepherdglobal.org/

Greenpeace: 'Recycling is not a solution' for rise in textile waste

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from Greenpeace Germany says "recycling is not a solution" for most textile waste because it's not economically feasible to process clothes into new fibers due to "technological challenges," as reported by Quartz.
  • According to the report, 95% of the clothing that is thrown away could be worn again or repaired with minor alterations. Yet mechanical recycling processes that chop up the material limit those possibilities and blended fibers, such as cotton and polyester, create additional complications. While some chemical recycling methods are in the works, none have become feasible on a large scale so far.
  • The report calls out "fast fashion" — clothing that is not meant to be durable — as a particular issue. For example, H&M offers vouchers for recycling textiles in its stores but the company isn't recycling the majority of that into new garments and uses virgin resources for its products instead. Donations are also not a perfect solution as secondhand clothing often ends up being sent to other countries in larger quantities than they can handle.

Read more here.

Exploring a beautiful, 23 year old food forest in New Zealand (Video)


I've asked this before—but having toured many permaculture gardens and food forests in my time, I've often had one big question: Can you really establish a satisfying, nutritious diet from the hodge-podge mixture of herbs, fruits, nuts and perennial vegetables that seem to make up the mainstay of such plantings?

So this latest offering from the ever fabulous Happen Films is particularly welcome. Exploring the beautiful-looking, 23-year-old, 2-acre food forest created by Robert and Robyn Guyton on the South Island of New Zealand, the video is worth watching just for the sheer beauty of what a mature food forest can look like. But I'm also struck by Robert and Robyn's insights on how to approach forest gardening—namely by letting go, letting the system evolve of its own accord, and applying a light touch in terms of management and "editing".

Robert also touches on the very topic that has always had me skeptical: to eat primarily from a forest garden, you have to learn to adapt to what nature offers you. You're not going to find six heads of perfect lettuce on any one day—but you might rustle up a unique salad of wild and unusual vegetables. According to Robyn, the couple get about 70% of their food from the land. Which is pretty damn good.

Read more here.

Vegetarian and vegan diets good for kids and adults, nutritionists say

Pre-cut vegetables of a self service salad bar are displayed for sale in a shop in the northern German town of Hamburg May 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen(Reuters Health) - - Plant-based diets are tied to a lower risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers - and pretty much anyone can eat this way, according to a leading group of nutritionists.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of life, including during infancy, pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and old age, the authors write in a position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

That's because people who adopt a plant-based diet tend to consume more fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets and salty snacks, and smaller amounts of total and saturated fats, the statement, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, asserts.

The trick is to make sure these diets are well planned out and well balanced, said Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"Any diet that is not well planned and balanced can have negative side effects," Sheth said by email.

"Just because foods are plant based doesn't automatically make them healthy," Sheth added. "For instance, pastries, cookies, fried and salty foods may be vegan but don't really provide much in terms of nutritional value."

For younger vegetarians and vegans in particular, it's important to plan meals that include enough iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and for some, calcium and vitamin D, Sheth said.

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Re-discovering Perennial Vegetables

As the days lengthen and the sun grows stronger, many of us are champing at the bit to get our gardens started. Seed catalogues are being pored over, dog-eared, and circled, and some folks may have even begun to order vegetable seeds in preparation for early starts indoors. Although annual edibles like tomatoes and lettuce are favored by many, you might like to look into some perennial vegetables as well: they only require one season’s worth of time and effort to establish them, and you’ll be rewarded with delightful edibles forever.

Benefits of Perennial Vegetable Gardening

If you’ve done any sort of gardening in the past, you’re probably well familiar with the process of starting seeds indoors, prepping soil, moving seedlings outside to harden them, planting them in the soil itself, and then the eventual harvest of both the mature vegetable/fruit and any seeds that have formed. When it comes to perennial gardens, you only have to do all of that once, and the plants will just keep coming back year after year. Doesn’t that sound splendid?

Perennial crops can also help to build, or at the very least improve the quality of your soil: they don’t need to be tilled, so they keep the mycelial culture and soil structure intact, they increase aeration and water absorption, and their natural decomposition cycles as they drop leaves and die back every year creates a natural compost and topsoil.

Below are a few perennial vegetables that you might be interested in. It’s not a complete list, as there are many different permanent edible plants growing all over the world, but these are probably familiar to most people, and can be found/purchased fairly easily.

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