Scythe sharpening stone carrier – Reuse Recipe

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

2PtMilkJugtoScytheSharpening1The Austrian scythe, unlike the old English scythe and the standard German and American ones, is sharpened wet with a “flat” stone and water and, as resharpening is done every five or ten minutes during work, and the stone or stones should be kept wet, thus a means of carrying stone or stones in water is required.

While it is possible to purchase a variety of different kinds of holders for stones (with a water reservoir) upcyling a two pint plastic milk jug is still a better and cheaper and at the same time keeps at least one of those things out of the waste stream.

If you leave the handle section in place, as shown in the photos, then, theoretically, you could attach the entire thing with water and stone(s) inside it on to your belt or, alternatively, use a sash for carrying it across the shoulder.

© 2015

Could Broccoli Leaves Be the Next Kale?

The story of how yesterday’s compost could become the juice of tomorrow.

You may not even know that broccoli has leaves, but it does, and they boast health benefits that could rival the current dark leafy green getting all the attention: kale.

Fast Company reports the leaves that surround the broccoli crown are usually composted as fertilizer, but farmers for Foxy Organic Brand are hoping the product they’re calling BroccoLeaf will be just as popular as kale.

Despite claims to the contrary in the Fast Company story, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by weight, broccoli leaves are not as nutritionally rich as kale. Kale has more calcium, iron, and potassium—and even a little more protein. Broccoli leaves do win when it comes to vitamin A, which is important to vision and skin health. Even if they don’t beat kale in every category, broccoli leaves are still a terrifically healthy food—and with the country’s obesity problem, Americans could stand to eat more leafy greens.

Besides, we’re already expending precious resources to grow broccoli leaves—namely, water. Eating the whole vegetable means less water waste in a time of historic drought on the West Coast—and BroccoLeaf hails from Salinas, California. If broccoli leaves don’t get all the price markups that come with being a premium vegetable, they might be a great way to get a new leafy green vegetable onto the table and help farmers cope with higher water prices.

Read more here.

Gardening Is Good For Your Health

Gardening Is Good For Your Health – It Can Fight Stress, Keep You Limber, And Improve Your Mood!

ardening is one of the most pleasurable experiences for Gillian Aldrich, 42, who started growing vegetables in her backyard some time ago!

Gillian is now working on planting a bed of hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, rose Campion, and—her favorite—pale-pink hardy geraniums. As she digs in the garden, her kids often play around her, sometimes taking a break to pick fresh strawberries.

Instead of just watching them, Aldrich is playing along. She says: “When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful. There’s something about just being out there that feels kind of elemental.”

Aldrich isn’t the only one who feels this way. Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world, a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things we’ve lost in our “dirt-free” existence.

The sensory experience of gardening “allows people to connect to this primal state,” says James Jiler, the founder and executive director of Urban GreenWorks. “A lot of people understand that experience. They may not be able to put it into words, but they understand what’s happening.

Read more here.

Food Forests Could Bring Free Healthy Organic Food To Everyone For The Same Cost As Roadside Grass

Food forests or Forest gardening have been around for a long time with many of the native cultures practicing this form of sustainable agriculture. It is a form of low-maintenance plant-based food production which replicates natural ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, running vines and perennial vegetables. Beneficial plants and companion planting is a big part of the food forest system.

Unlike much of the modern industrial agricultural system which relies heavily of inputs such as fossil fuels and artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, a food forest once established is self-regulating and highly abundant in yield.

Why Food Forests?

  • Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
  • Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species -over 50% of species on the planet.
  • Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its land mass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.

It is evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate. If forests are where most of the life on the planet is, then anything less than a forest is most likely less suited to supporting life. Life supports life, yet we have forgotten that we are in fact part of the web of life itself, and depend on other life to sustain ours.(1)

Read more here.

Council bans gardeners from selling fruit and veg grown on allotments

Jobsworth council bans gardeners from selling fruit and veg grown on their allotments - because just ONE person complained

  • Gardeners started selling produce to raise funds to improve allotments

  • Spent weeks supplying fruit and vegetables to their friends and neighbours

  • But they were ordered to stop after one resident complained to the council

Homegrown: The gardeners had hoped to raise money to improve the allotment site in Bolton, pictured

A group of gardeners were banned from selling fresh fruit and vegetables grown on their allotments after the council received a single complaint about the enterprise.

The group, who call themselves The Plotties, started selling their produce to raise funds to help improve the site in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

They had hoped to buy a year-round composting toilet, and to build a community room where they could teach others about growing and gardening.

But after weeks of selling their greens to friends and neighbours, The Plotties received a notice from the local council ordering them to stop.

Read more here.

How America’s Most Useless Crop Also Became Its Most Commonly Grown One

How America’s Most Useless Crop Also Became Its Most Commonly Grown One

Contrary to what you may think (and what your food labels may suggest) corn is not the most grown crop in America. The most grown crop is something no one is eating, no one is asking for, and no one is quite sure what to do with. It’s your lawn.

Top image: Satellite imagery of crops growing in Kansas / NASA Earth Observatory.

The U.S. devotes a full one-fifth of its land to agriculture (408 million acres, or 637,500 square miles) for farmers to grow on, of which corn is the largest food crop. However, there are almost 50,000 square miles of lawn growing in the U.S.—almost three times as much as corn.

So how does the country with the most farmland on the planet end up with a number one crop that’s purely decorative? It’s down to two things: Scale and a strange twist of technological history.

The History of the Lawn

Today, lawns are merely what you use to fill up an empty patch of dirt. They are the thing so common, so known, that the eye doesn’t even bother to stop and take them in, except in their absence. But that wasn’t always the case.

The very first lawn care instruction manual dates back to the 13th century written by Italian horticultural enthusiast, Pietro de Crescenzi. Just like lawn enthusiasts today, de Crescenzi had his own unique ideas of how to properly care for a lawn, though his favorite two practices—of first preparing the ground by dumping boiling water all over it and then limiting mowing to twice a year—failed to make it into the wider favor.

It wasn’t until about 400 years later, though, that lawns as we know them began to be seen commonly, and even then they were largely the province of the super-rich. The lawn was a symbol of that wealth, of course—of the kind of household that could afford to turn large tracts of land over to the cultivation of something essentially useless. But it was also considered something of a technological, perhaps even artistic, marvel. To understand just how much of one those early lawns were, you have to put yourself, briefly, in a pair of 17th-century shoes.

Read more here.

Making local woods work

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Making local woods work for community enterprises

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Fifty communities across the UK will receive support to transform unmanaged woodland into opportunities for jobs, leisure, education and services and to improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

The Big Lottery Fund is awarding £1,151,111 to the Plunkett Foundation for its Making Local Woods Work project. The pilot project, due to launch later this year, will help people to create social enterprises in local unmanaged woodlands so they can grow into sustainable businesses, creating new areas of employment and training to benefit their communities. The opening up of much-needed access to the natural environment will not only provide opportunities for economic growth, but better engagement with the outdoors will result in better health and wellbeing for those involved.

According to the Forestry Commission, 47 per cent of woodland are unmanaged or under-managed* which can threaten the variety of plant and animal life. Many bird and plant species have been in decline in recent years**. Active woodland management could preserve and increase the biodiversity of these habitats and increase wood fuel production.

Woodland social enterprises are beginning to emerge as a way of tackling a wide range of issues and there is growing evidence of local people successfully using their skills and ideas to set up businesses which have been effective in improving communities.

One example is Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire which provides training for young people who have been referred by agencies because they are excluded from school or are unemployed. The woodland also attracts more lone visitors, particularly women, due to the presence of volunteers performing activities including coppicing, woodcraft and charcoal manufacturing. Revenue is also achieved through its cafe and green burials. A further example is Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise in Argyll which has provided residents of the Bute long stay hospital, access to the adjacent woodland, activities such as arts and crafts, wildlife walks, training and employment opportunities.

Making Local Woods Work will provide training, volunteering and employment opportunities to 500 people tackling unemployment, social isolation and poverty. It will support, advise and train 50 groups across the UK to become woodland social enterprises involving study visits, training in asset transfers, financing, asset acquisition, land brokerage, woodland management and business planning. It will also deliver training and knowledge sharing events to 200 groups looking at setting up their own woodland social enterprises.

The project will be delivered in partnership with the Forestry Commission, The Woodland Trust, Grown in Britain and other partners.

Improving the availability and quality of knowledge to such a large body of people will help to bring about wide-scale improvements in the ability of groups to set-up local woodland social enterprises. Evidence of the project’s impact and sharing of the learning will be used to influence future practice of woodland social enterprises and also woodland management in general.

Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce that, thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, we will be able to support 50 woodland social enterprise pilot projects across the UK over the next three years. This important work will help to support a range of social enterprises to bring woodlands into active management, increase their use and ultimately help more people to enjoy and benefit from woodlands. We’re excited to be working with both new and familiar partners on this project.”

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK Chair, said: “There aren’t many woodland social enterprises around yet, but where they do exist they have a great record of promoting skills and employability. It’s exciting to be able to support this initiative which aims to improve the quality of life of those directly involved and also make woodlands more accessible and better looked after for the benefit of all.”

*Forestry Commission Sustainable Forest Management spatial data.

**The population of willow tits in the British Isles declined by 91 per cent between 1967 and 2010, the pearl bordered fritillary butterfly recently declined 42 per cent over ten years, and 56 of 72 woodland ground flora species declined between 1971 and 2001. RSPB.

Making Local Woods Work is a project led by the Plunkett Foundation involving partners the Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission, Hill Holt Wood, the Community Woodland Association, Llan y Goedwig, the National Association of AONBs, Locality and Shared Assets. The partnership has a range of skills and experience including social enterprise development, community ownership and management of assets and woodland management.

The term “about time” does very much come to my mind with regards to things like this finally happening but we need more of this. In fact we need all unmanaged and under-managed woods in this country (and not just this country alone, that is for sure) to be brought (back) into proper management and wherever possible this should be coppice management.

So far we are seeing way too little of this happening and often this is due to the opposition from certain people in the environmental movement who suffer from cognitive dissonance when it comes to woods and trees and the management of woods. They believe that cutting any tree, for whatever reason, harms the trees and the environment, which is not the case, especially not as far as coppicing is concerned. In fact coppice management benefits all sides.

Further reading:

© 2015

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

Management of council woodlands

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Wood-bluebellsThe management of such woodlands, whether in town, in parks, open spaces, cemeteries, etc., or in the countryside, whatever the size, should be handed over to groups of citizen foresters and coppice worker cooperatives.

Let's face it, most councils, whatever the size, do not have the financial means, nor the wherewithal, as to managing such woods and trees and thus generally just leave them to get on with it.

The cooperative movement in the UK in early 2015 basically asked government to have all those unmanaged and undermanaged council woods (and others) to be given over to cooperative management by groups of coppice workers and such.

The great majority of all woods that are owned by the municipalities and the counties in Britain are either not managed at all, at least not in any proper manner, or are undermanaged. This is neither beneficial for the environment and wildlife nor for the local economy.

Generally council woods seem to just have tree surgeons and such contractors sent in on an ad hoc basis to fell trees that may be dangerous or such and then they are either chipped and sliced and then the chips and wood is taken to landfill or, on other occasions, the contractors are told to just leave the wood laying there. Neither is a good choice; not for the woods, nor for the local economy, and also not for the environment.

Allowing the woods to me managed by a variety of groups of citizen foresters and coppice worker cooperatives and such will bring many benefit to the woods, the local economy, and the environment even further afield than the pockets of woodlands that will be then under proper management.

All too often any attempts of woodland management in council woodlands and woods, whether owned by the county councils or the local ones, are hampered by vociferous members of the environmental movement who have a case of cognitive dissonance when it comes to trees and woods and the management of woods. The other issue, as far as the councils themselves are concerned, is the lack of funds to do it themselves. Thus those woodlands, or at least the management of them, should be handed over to people willing to manage them to the high standards that are required to bring them back to health while at the same time being able to create an income for themselves and even employment opportunities for local people.

The woods and woodlands in question are found in a variety of different settings, as already mentioned, and they all should be brought into management for the good of the wood, the environment and the local economy and it can be done.

Obviously standing mature trees should not be cut unless they are a problem in one way or another but overstood coppice must be tackled and sycamores that all too often would be regarded as useless should be cut and copses created from them and they should be managed in the appropriate rotation to harvest timber from them for a variety of wood products that they are suitable for. Those are just ideas and examples, for sure, and each and every area will have its own management requirements and to theorize about them would be a waste of time and effort here.

Suffice to say, however, that, as most councils do not have the funds and often also not the wherewithal to carry out this much needed management of the woodlands that are in their portfolio it would be best that this management be given over to the right interested individuals or groups and the sooner this is being done the better.

© 2015

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

Wine bottles get a second life as chic, multifunctional furniture

Tati Guimarães

Wine bottles are easy to recycle into new, more interesting and more functional objects, be they lamps, glasses or even whole buildings. Brazilian, Spain-based designer Tati Guimarães takes the pragmatic route, repurposing wine bottles into stylish, multifunctional furniture that wouldn't look out of place in a fancy living room or gathering.

We've seen the designer recycle wine corks too; here, Divinus is Guimarães' simple but clever collection of versatile pieces made out of wood and reused wine bottles. Guimarães' design studio, Ciclus, attempts to marry eco-friendly materials with a sense of elegance and depth, says Guimarães:

When designing, I go beyond functionality, beauty and sustainability. I seek to design versatile objects which convey a message, which interact with people, move them and invite them to reflect.

Read more here.

London neighbors create 'instant' permaculture gardens for each other

Permablitz london photo

I've gotta say, I've been loving the Living with the Land video series from Permaculture Magazine.

Whether it's showing us vegan organic agriculture, mature forest gardens, no-dig market gardening or regenerative agriculture through holistic grazing, the series has introduced some wonderful ways to manage land that don't just "do less harm," but actually heal the soil and renew biodiversity too.

But most of the examples so far have been rural.

Given that more and more of us are living in the city, how can we rethink our relationship with the soil? One answer, I think, is to rethink our relationship with each other. That's the idea behind Permablitz—a concept that started out in Australia before catching on in London—and which involves neighbors getting together to carry out one-day garden makeovers using permaculture design as the guiding vision.

Read more here.