Zip ties and their many uses

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Zip ties and their many uses on the farm, homestead, the garden and elsewherezip-tiesZip ties, or as they are called in England, cable ties, are, even though they are plastic and some people do have a problem with plastic, are often a godsend when it comes to temporarily or even, more or less, permanently fixing something, be this in the home, on the farm, the homestead, the garden or elsewhere. The uses literally are legion.

While, as said, those little (and not so little) ties are plastic and thus (probably) not all that green but they are so very useful for so many things, be it for temporary or even permanent fixing of things.

These simple strips, typically made of plastic, come in many lengths and feature a special ratcheting design, some even can be reused in that they have a “reversible” catch. When you insert the pointed end into a slot at the opposite end, it latches firmly in place and creates a loop that can be tightened (but not loosened – unless the special kind) to whatever size you need. You can combine multiple zip ties to create much longer zip ties.

The potential uses for zip ties are almost limitless and all I can give you here are a few example of their uses around the farm, the garden, the homestead and the home. As far as I am concerned zip ties are so useful that I even pick up any unused ones that people, who have been using them somewhere, have dropped. Weird, I know, but then that's what I am like; waste not want not.

The uses for those – predominately – plastic strips, those cable- or zip ties are legion and, more or less, I should guess, endless, on the farm, in the garden, in the home, and elsewhere.

Installing wire mesh fencing: When installing mesh wire fencing, it doesn't get much easier than securing the wire in place with large zip ties. The evenly spaced gaps in the mesh wire ensures that you can slide the ties through wherever necessary, securing them around metal stakes to hold the wire upright. They work equally well for installing deer netting.

Guiding grape vines and other climbers: Simply attach the vines to the trellis of wires or fence on which you want them to grow up on with zip ties. It could not be easier. Eventually, the vines will curl their tendrils around the wires and be able to support themselves, but in the meantime, the ties effectively hold the vines in place.

The same applies to all kinds of vines, not just grape vines, and delicate plants that need support can also be helped with zip ties.

Repairing fruit tree branches: Unfortunately, it's fairly common for fruit trees to overestimate how much fruit their branches can support and branches can crack under the weight of a heavy crop. However, as long as the branch is not fully broken, it is possible to support it with a stake and allow the tree to heal the crack. Zip ties are an important part of the process, perfect for holding everything in position. This may even work, though I have not tried it, with tree saplings that have been accidentally broken though not completely off.

Securing tarps: Need to tie down a tarp to keep something dry? Loop some zip ties through the grommets on the tarp and secure it in place. It does not get easier than that now, does it.

Pole bean teepee (pole beans = runner beans in Britain): When installing bean poles and turning them into the teepee shape there is no easier way than using some cable ties and, voila, ready is the thing. While it is possible to do it with string, or wire, doing it on one's own with the latter two can be a little bit of a problem, time-consuming and fiddly. Not so with cable ties.

Bicycles: Here they have their first uses, obviously, to hold cables and such in place, but there are also things on the bike that can be temporarily or permanently tied down with cable ties.

Shower curtains: Want to put up a shower curtain (think tarp but hanging down) onto a pole and there are no hooks or rings. Zip ties through the grommets and over the pole and voila, there it hangs ready for use.

This is but a very small list of the uses for zip ties around farm, homestead, home, etc., and one could, I should guess, fill a small book with them at least and after publication of such book another hundred uses would come up. So, maybe, a book I won't write about it.

© 2018

Sycamore tree and Sycamore wood

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Acer-Pseudoplatanus-2When we are talking here about the Sycamore we are talking about Acer pseudoplantanus, the “European” Sycamore and not the American one, which is Platanus occidentalis.

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) (in the USA called Sycamore maple) is a very underrated and undervalued tree and wood in Britain where it is continuously referred to as a non-native species and some call for its eradication.

While it is true that in the UK, Sycamore frequently suffers from sooty bark disease (further citation) to all intents and purposes, however, is – fingers tightly crossed it remains that way – otherwise very resilient. Sooty bark is, however, fatal for the tree once it has been affected. Having said that, however, it would appear that Britain has just managed, probably, to import a plant disease, Xylella fastidiosa, from the European Union that, unfortunately, does attack Sycamore, along with Oak and Bird Cherry.

In my opinion Sycamore if one of the best woods for treen, and that not only because of its high antibacterial and antiviral properties, though it may be rather plain and lack interesting grain feature rater, in comparison to other hardwoods.

On the European mainland, especially in Germany, where it is called “Mountain Maple”, Sycamore is regarded as a noble timer tree and highly valued.

With Ash Dieback (ADB) making itself rather felt in woodlands across Britain UK forestry bodies are looking abroad for foreign replacement completely disregarding the Sycamore and, still more often than not, rejecting any suggestion of looking at that tree, which does so well, bar for sooty bark, in the UK where it tends to grow like a weed, with the comment that it is not a native tree. But Southern Beech, and other suggested replacements, also from the USA, obviously are. I rest my case here, as it is getting rather heavy (the case that is).

Personally, but then this is me, and I love Sycamore, I cannot see why the Forestry Commission and the Royal Forestry Society, and others, are looking at American maples, for instance, as a possible replacement for Ash, when we already have a, more or less, perfect specimen of the maple family in our midst that also likes living and multiplying here. Anyone who has seen how that tree multiplies will know what I mean.

German forestry sources refer, as said earlier, to Acer pseudoplantanus as a noble timer tree, or even as Edelholz, meaning precious wood, and there, apparently, it tends to only grow in mountainous regions and not so well in the lower areas. Maybe they need some British Sycamore seed... just jesting. So why the permanent rejection of Sycamore in Britain as a “non-native” tree, especially considering that it once, before the last ice age, apparently, was native here but did not return on its own steam.

© 2018

Recycling helps us avoid tackling Climate Change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Climate change and environmental destruction are contentious and disputed topics.

Recycling helps us avoid tackling Climate ChangeIn the US, for instance, there is a powerful faction of Republican politicians who flat-out deny that climate change even exists. In Britain, the former Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson, under David Cameron, is also a climate change skeptic, oddly enough. The current one, under Theresa May, does not appear to be much better in that department either. And it has become worse in the USA under Donald Trump. That is not to say that it was good under Obama.

These denials go against science: carbon emissions have increased by 35 per cent since 1990, and climate change is responsible for over 300,000 deaths a year, a figure that could rise to half a million people by 2030.Or so, at least, we are being told. It is blindingly obvious that we are heading towards environmental destruction and any failure to admit this is negligent and dangerous.

The climate is changing though – and I am swaying that rather carefully – whether all is down to CO2 emissions is another thing altogether. I would actually say that the entire thing of focusing on “carbon emissions” is also making us fail to look at other culprits, for which we, as humans, are also responsible, such as pollution, exploitations of soil and forests, etc., ad infinitum. Ever since they but the word carbon in front of emissions we have failed to look at the other contributing factors that used to go by the name of pollution, from air pollution, to pollution of soil, water and land. But that kind of pollution cannot be traded in the form of carbon certificates, those modern day indulgences.

The international system has set numerous targets to resolve the crisis, such as the UN Millennium Development Goals on the environment, but they are rarely, if ever, met. The many environment summits which regularly take place also fail to produce tangible results, with the big powers failing to agree on terms. On top of that they emit more pollution than almost anything else as those leaders keep jetting around the globe, together with entourage and journalists in tow. And let's not even talk of all those eco-organizations whose people also do this.

On the micro level, people tend to make quite an effort. We are often told to monitor our carbon footprint and in many countries, recycling has become normalized, a part of people's daily routine. These micro-level changes are theoretically somewhat reducing our environmental crisis. Or so we are led to believe.

A greener approach is encouraged by the governments, for both businesses and ordinary citizens. Despite this, the environment is not really improving. When we take our small green steps, we tend to assume that we are solving the problem, and that we do not have to worry about it anymore. This veneer of “action” misleads us and essentially pulls the wool over our eyes, stopping us from asking deeper questions about the environment and what truly contributes to climate change and wider environmental degradation.

We recycle our waste, but do not link it to the consumer society we live in. The media and advertising industries are constantly telling us to buy things we don't need, yet we rarely, if ever, link this to climate change. Our efforts to recycle nullify us and prevent deeper thought. In addition to that there is “greensumption”, the believe that we make a change when we buy “green” products. Hello!! We are still consuming and in that department often things that are greenwashed rather than anything else.

Debates surrounding the environment seldom link the problem to capitalism, and they are too often seen as separate issues. Capitalism is the elephant in the room.

Our capitalist world encourages and ingrains a consumerist mentality that is driving us to environmental ruin. It has been estimated that if everyone consumed at the same rate as your average American, then the world would only be able to support 1.4 billion people.

Capitalism, however, needs that kind of mentality to exist in order for corporations to thrive, and doing the recycling is not going to change our consumerist habits. Therefore what is really needed is a change of system not a change of habits. That, though, the powers-that-be (but really shouldn't be) are hardly going to tell us now, are they.

It is precisely this ideology that is behind the extraction of resources meant to facilitate our lifestyles. The environmental damage done by extractive industries far outweighs what we can achieve as individuals on a micro-level.

The United Nations Environment Program a while ago released a report highlighting how environmental damage caused by Shell in Ogoniland, Nigeria, could take more than 30 years to be reversed. Still, we don't make the link between what happens in places like Ogoniland and our consumer lifestyles at home. There is a huge disconnect there and environmental NGOs are often closely linked to big business, so they can't act as whistleblowers anymore. In other words, very few can do so, nowadays and it is up to us, the people, to make a noise.

Extractive industries have a huge influence in the policy making sphere, particularly in the US. It has been estimated that 94% of US Chamber of Commerce contributions went to climate denier candidates, with the oil and gas industries' lobby worth almost $1.5 billion per year.

It is, therefore, not difficult to see who is shaping policy and why our environmental crisis has only worsened in recent decades. As long as there are powerful interest groups influencing the EU and the US governments, it is unrealistic to expect international conventions to ever make a difference.

Big business has more say than local groups, such as indigenous people, who often have a powerful environmental message to share, but who are persistently ignored. It is beyond irony that the richest most powerful countries in the world are racing towards disaster while the so-called primitive societies are the ones at the forefront of trying to avert it.

There is definitely merit in reducing our individual environmental footprints, but in the grand scheme of things, it is unlikely to make any difference to the Planet's environmental outlook; at least, not as long as capitalism reigns supreme.

Encouraging micro-level changes and giving money to green NGOs merely serves as a smokescreen to prevent real in-depth analysis. It almost facilitates a system whereby corporate-made environmental degradation can continue, while we keep on recycling and forget about the problem.

In order to truly make a change we must begin to ask deeper questions about the society in which we live in and start trying to operate outside of the status quo capitalist framework. Thus we must change the system and no, social democracy will not make one iota of a difference here either the politicians in this often refer to themselves as democratic socialists.

But, as long as we are going to be lulled to sleep by the recycling message, and to believe that we can make a great and significant difference if we but separate our waste properly, etc., we will never get the idea to call for a change of system. Unless, however, the system is changed we – and our children and children's children – are not going to have a Planet on which to live. It is as simple but also as crass as that.

See for this also my article “Fighting climate change and poverty in the Third World at the same time?

© 2018

Child slaves working for the cobalt in your batteries

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cobaltSome just might like to refer to them as child laborers but when four, eight and eleven year old children being beaten and whipped if they don't produce enough, spill some of the ore, and such like, then they are not laborers but slaves.

In the photo eight-year-old Dorsen is pictured cowering beneath the raised hand of an overseer who warns him not to spill a rock.

And what are they slaving for? So that you can drive an electric car, have a new smartphone every six months, and so forth. They are working for the western world's green energy crusade.

I have said more than once but will say it again and that is that the electric car, and especially its batteries, is not sustainable and it certainly is not ethical, and that includes the Tesla storage batteries for solar and wind home use.

Also with the demand and the cost of cobalt rising astronomically the price of the batteries is not going to come down making for electric cars as cheap as ICE-powered cars; the opposite rather and at what cost other than just the price.

But it is not only cobalt that child slaves are extracting from the earth. Other elements too, and in addition to that child slaves are also involved in large numbers in the “recycling” of E-waste to extract materials for use in smartphones and other electronic devices. The latter is also a very dirty and unhealthy business. But, hey, it's cheaper to use child slaves in foreign countries than to have the recycling, for instance, done at home under stricter conditions.

An army of children, some just four years old, working in the vast polluted mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where toxic red dust burns their eyes, and they run the risk of skin disease and a deadly lung condition. Here, for a wage of just 8p a day, the children are made to check the rocks for the tell-tale chocolate- brown streaks of cobalt – the prized ingredient essential for the batteries that power electric cars.

It is feared that thousands more children could be about to be dragged into this hellish daily existence after the historic pledge made by Britain – and other countries – to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 (or even before, as in the case of some other nations) and switch to electric vehicles.

Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world's biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the Planet's reserves.

The cobalt is mined by unregulated labor and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.

The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).

While the race to change from ICE-powered vehicles to electric ones may herald a future of clean energy, free from pollution but such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to a life of hellish misery in the race to achieve his target.

We need to rethink how we drive and so on and also how we use energy and in which form.

© 2018

Make toys with and for your kids instead of buying toys

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cup&ball_game1-1In order to present your child with a toy they will be excited about, you do not necessarily need to rush to a toy store and spend hours wandering between the shelves and a great deal of money. It is quite easy to make wonderful toys at home from available materials. Even better still if you and your child make those toys together.

Make toys with and for your kids instead of buying toys for them. There are toys, simple and not so simple ones, that you can make together and there are also the ones that you may have to or wish to make – on your own – for them.

Slingshot (catapult): While in some people's mind this might be rather controversial I will still mention it. I have yet to come across a child, especially a boy, who would not relish having one of those beanflippers and, as long as he is taught not to do the wrong things with it, a catapult (slingshot) is a fine toy and gift. It is also one of those that you and the child can make together.

Wooden blocks: Offcuts from carpenter workshops and such can be made, with little work, into a set of wooden (building) blocks for children to play with. No need to spend money buying those things at often great cost. It is also possible from such offcuts to make “Lincoln Logs”, for instance. Such toys will give years of happiness in play and construction as they are ageless – in more than one way – and the play is only limited by imagination.

Wooden cars, etc.: Can also be – with some skills – quite easily made from such wood offcuts and can be very simple or quite elaborate. The skill level here has to be somewhat higher than for wooden blocks and it may also require a little more in the way of tools.

Tip cat: Very simple to make and will give hours and hours of fun (and exercise). Mostly intended for use outdoors. Pakistan this toy and game is called Gulli-Danda (elsewhere it goes under different names but is the same) and there it is played a little like cricket with teams. Very easy to make and lots of fun. Tipcat can also be played alone and is still great fun.

When we were children a carved tipcat was always in the pocket to play the game as, generally, a suitable stick was always to be be found and, as we always carried a pocketknife, cut to size. However, a special one could be made and used instead.

Stick gun: “Oh, what is he on about now?”, I can now hear some readers ask. Which child has not, wandering in a park of wood, picked up a stick that resembled a gun in some way and played with it? Most will, I am sure. This, though, is a deliberately chosen piece of wood (stick) and fashioned to create a stick gun he will keep to play with and may even cherish. They can now be found on sale – yes, you wouldn't believe it – at stores such as Habitat at around $15 each for a “pistol”. Yes, the world has apparently gone stupid.

Bullroarer: The bullroarer, rhombus, or turndun, is an ancient ritual musical instrument and a device historically used for communicating over great distances. It dates to the Paleolithic period, being found in Ukraine dating from 18,000 BC.

In ancient Greece it was a sacred instrument used in the Dionysian Mysteries and is still used in rituals worldwide.

Along with the didgeridoo, it was a prominent musical technology among the Australian Aborigines, used in ceremonies across the continent.

A bullroarer consists of a (weighted) airfoil (a rectangular thin slat of wood about 15 cm (6 in) to 60 cm (24 in) long and about 1.25 cm (0.5 in) to 5 cm (2 in) wide) attached to a long cord. Typically, the wood slat is trimmed down to a sharp edge around the edges, and serrations along the length of the wooden slat may or may not be used, depending on the cultural traditions of the region in question.

The cord is given a slight initial twist, and the roarer is then swung in a large circle in a horizontal plane, or in a smaller circle in a vertical plane. The aerodynamics of the roarer will keep it spinning about its axis even after the initial twist has unwound. The cord winds fully first in one direction and then the other, alternating.

Having said all that it is easy to make, does not have to be that large, and can be a fun toy for a child of (almost) any age. Scrap wood from woodworking projects or from a wood yard, often free at some places, would do nicely.

Tic Tac Toe: This game that, when played on paper often referred to as Naughts and Crosses, can, with a mat or board, made from waste materials, such as bottle caps of two different colors and, once again, cost nothing.

Whirligig: This is a very old and simple children's toy that have been around for the gods only know how long. Probably made with a wooden disc in the very distant past it was later made with a (large) button.

You can make it in ten minutes, but your children will be playing with it for hours. Used to be made from a large button, as said, and could very well be done from, say, a plastic milk jug lid.

Cup & ball toy: Here is one of those where you can make use of those ubiquitous single use cups, or it can also be made from other stuff, such as the plastic cup lids of liquid detergent bottles (as in the the case of the “model” in the picture).

There are a great many different toys and kinds of toys that you can make for and with your child, often even and especially from waste materials. The only limit is the imagination. You have to still have a child-like imagination often to see the potential of this or that in order to turn it into a toy, or several different things into the one toy. Toy cars and other toys from empty plastic bottles, those from the stronger plastic and not the PET, come to mind, for instance.

The children in many places in Africa, Asia and South America make amazing toys from waste materials and this could also be something done by us and our children.

We all know that all too often an expensive toy is being played with for a short time and then ends up in the toy box never, or rarely, to see again the light of day.

Another thing, and I am sure that someone can come up with a reuse solution, is using the bottle caps of various sizes and colors, with which to make things, as in toys (and also other things). Clip It (http://clip-it.fr/en/) is fine and good but the clips, in my opinion, are rather expensive and I am sure that parents and children, together, might come up with their own solutions.

© 2018

Learn a new skill every week

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

OK, a little late as a New Year's resolution but...

self-reliance-skillsFor anyone wanting to become more self-reliant – notice that I rarely use the word self-sufficient, as true self-sufficiency just is not possible – skills are what count and not a huge amount of supplies, even not in the event of an Apocalypse and such. It is skills that will see you through when everything else fails and has failed. And, for goodness sake, don't believe the idiots trying to sell you silver and gold coins as something that will get you buy in such events. Then again it is not – just – for those events you should learn skills and perfect your skills.

If you would try to learn one new skill per week then that would make fifty-two per year and even if it is not one every week but one every fortnight or even if only one a month, but then thoroughly. Skills – and knowledge – are what is going to get you and yours through a crisis or simply making your life better where you are by being able to do things that otherwise you may have to pay for.

It is true that you can and will unlike become a master every skill that you may need but at least you can become a master in a couple and proficient in a fair number more.

One of the most important skills, and so many no longer seem to be capable of it, is cooking from scratch. I know to many reader that would be obvious but for some people simply boiling an egg seems rocket science nowadays let alone cooking anything else that isn't just ready to go into the microwave. Some cookery programs not so long ago actually stated with teaching people how to – no, not a joke – boil water, followed then by how to boil an egg. When people need to be taught how to boil a saucepan with water then the world definitely has lost the plot and relearning of skill definitely is called for.

Another important skill, if I may call it that way, is, in my opinion, making do and mending, and just simply making do with what one has, and making things one may need from scratch and scrap. Into that category should also fall reusing, repurposing and upcycling of waste materials, such as glass jars, tin cans, plastic bottles, etc. While some of it should come natural, with some imagination, it would appear that many today, however, need instructions for anything in that department, though.

Obviously, there are many skills that you may want to have and learn but starting easy is the best option and the skills themselves are legion so listing all of them would fill a book, without even going into detail.

Woodworking on a number of levels, from making simple items, over carving spoons and other treen, to making furniture if a valuable skill set to have but it is not learned over night.

Textile crafts: Now this encompasses anything really from mending clothes up to and including of making your own clothes and even your own cloth. It also includes crochet and knitting.

Metal working: This could be anything from sheet metal working – a great way of converting tin cans into something new – to full blacksmithing and anything and everything in between.

Leather working: This is another one of those skills that you may, more or less, definitely want to learn as the making of leather items are not only useful for you as useful things but those items can also become an income. In the main it is akin to sewing only with a difference but if you can sew running stitch then you can also work in leather. Theoretically the stitch is a different one but, personally, I just use the running stitch, then reversed, and the process repeated.

This list could go on ad infinitum (almost) as there are so many skills that would and could be worth learning and learning to do them is one thing, mastering them an entirely different story, though. So, let's go and try to learn as many skills as possible and then go onto trying to master them as far as possible.

© 2018

Marriott Hotels to remove plastic straws from UK hotels

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plastic-strawsSome good news from one of the big hotel chains. Maybe some other places could follow suit? Chance would be a fine thing, I know.

Marriott International says it is to stop the use of plastic straws at its UK properties, amid growing concern over the levels of plastic pollution.

The group said that it is removing plastic straws from over 60 of its UK hotels, including London properties Marriott County Hall London, Le Meridien Piccadilly, W London Leicester Square and Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel.

Teams “have been requested to begin removing plastic straws from circulation with immediate effect”.

Customers requesting straws going forward will be offered biodegradable or paper straws.

Commenting on the move Michel Miserez, area vice president, United Kingdom and Ireland, Marriott International, said: “Our UK hotels used 300,000 straws last year. By removing plastic straws from our hotels in the UK we are making a small but significant step in playing our part in reducing the volume of plastic that damages our environment and wildlife.

“Marriott International has a global responsibility and unique opportunity to be a force for good in all aspects of our business. We recognise that how we do business is as important as the business that we do. Incorporating environmental and social initiatives like this one into our business is the right thing to do.”

In October last year Marriott launched a new sustainability and social impact platform, designed to foster business growth while balancing the needs of associates, customers, owners, the environment and communities. More information can be found at http://serve360.marriott.com/.

© 2018

Let them get dirty

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Let them get dirtyWarning! I am going to be controversial again...

Mud and dirt is good for your children but if you don't like washing their dirty clothes – even their play clothes – all the time then let them get dirty naked. It is good for them and boosts their immune system no end, especially both together. Nudity for children, especially boys, also ads additional metal health benefits due to the stimulation of the skin (so say some experts).

It turns out that both getting dirty and being naked as much as possible is the best way to boost the immune system of children no end. Being naked stimulates, in addition to all the other benefits, nerves and also being in that state releases various hormones that are beneficial during development but also equally good for the adult.

Let them dirty get nakedWhen I was a child we could get dirty as much as possible – and by the gods did we ever – without having to worry about our parents and elders chiding us about our dirty clothes. We, at least the boys, wore none. It was easier, so our parents' and elders' reckoning to wash us than to continuously having to wash our clothes. It was also a great deal cheaper as we needed fewer clothes.

While this was at a time when we did not have much in the way of clothes anyway, and not much of anything really, and washing them was not always as easy as it is for most folks today, the fact that both dirt and nudity were good for us made up for it all. Not that we minded being naked (and dirty) one bit; in fact we hated the very idea of wearing clothes.

I have yet to encounter a young child, especially a boy, who would not prefer being naked over being dressed, especially when that permits him to get as dirty as he likes without getting told off for it by his parents or carers. Naked he can splash in the muddy waters and roll in dirt and mud as much as he likes, and wipe his hands not on his clothes but on himself. All that is needed at the end is to hose him down (literally).

Dirty kids equal healthy kids

Emerging research points out that the backyard garden just may be the cure for what ails us. But then that is, basically, already something that our grandparents and great-grandparents knew. Many a grandmother will have said: “A little dirt does not hurt”. And right she was. In fact, it turns out it is actually good for kids (and us all).

While in today's Western culture, children with soiled feet and grass-stained knees are hurriedly rushed to the bathtub and slathered with antibacterial soap, the loss of our connection to the garden and its dirt means a loss of connection to all the good microbes that live inside it. Too much bathing, showering and such is not good for the children and their immune system either.

Our industrialized world has become squeaky clean – and chronically ill. Many children today are prevented from going outside to play, whether to keep them clean or due to an inflammatory condition, such as allergies, asthma or eczema. Many of these ailments can be traced to a lack of good dirt in our own bodies. The problem, as it seems, may actually turn out to be the solution.

Worldwide studies based on children's lifestyles are proving that early exposure to a healthy microbiome – the community of bacteria living in your body – is a key factor to a strong immune system later in life.

The so-called anti-bacterial soaps, etc., are also seen, now, finally, as a problem rather than a benefit as they destroy all bacteria, including those that we actually need, and especially the young body in order to build a strong immune system.

Grandmothers all around the world used to say: “A little dirt does not hurt” and it turns out that not only does a little dirt not hurt but actually is good for us all and exposing – literally – the whole body to it, and those bacteria that it contains, is better still. This is probably one of the reasons why nudist children are less prone to all those ailments than children who do not come from families who live a natural life in the nude, the way that we all were made.

© 2018

Plogging... or picking litter while you jog

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plogging SwedenPlogging is a new concept in and from Sweden that hopefully is going to make its way to other places as well. Plogging is the Swedish word, or better the English translation for it, for just picking up trash while you are out jogging.

It is also super easy. Just bring a plastic bag with you on your next run, walk, hike or trailrun and just pick any trash you might find a long you way, so it it not just for joggers.

If everyone going out for a walk, walking the dog (yes, and please pick up your dog's mess as well), would do this there would be a great deal less litter in our parks, countryside, towns and villages. Fair enough, if people would actually not throw their littler away outside but dispose of it properly there would be less still.

In the Summer of 2017 the 1st official plog run in Örebro and about 15 persons turned up at Naturens Hus. They split up into 3 groups and headed out in different directions. An hour later they all met up again to put all the trash they found in larger plastic bags.

All in all they collected around 10-12 kg of trash during that plog and found everything from cigarettes, napkins, plastic containers to broken bottles. And that while that is a area of Örebro that is considered one of the cleanest places in town.

In the large local park with which I am concerned a number of responsible dog walkers not only pick up their dog's waste but also pick litter on their rounds, while there are other people who simply walk in the park who do this too.

As I said earlier, if everyone would do just a little of that when walking or hiking, etc., things would begin to look a great deal better and a lot less little would find its way into water courses and the sea. Better still, as mentioned, if people would actually start to learn to be responsible and take better care of their litter things would be much better still.

It is not the fault of the plastic bottle that it ends up in the river nor the fault of the plastic bag that it ends up in a tree. The fault lies with inconsiderate and lazy people who cannot be bothered to dispose off their trash in the proper manner.

© 2018

Flour sack dresses from the Flour Mills

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Flour sack dresses from the Flour MillsIn times gone by, amidst widespread poverty, the Flour Mills realized that some women were using sacks to make clothes for their children. In response, the Flour Mills started using flowered and patterned fabric.

With the introduction of this new cloth into the home, thrifty women everywhere began to reuse the cloth for a variety of home uses – dish towels, diapers, and more. The bags began to become very popular for clothing items.

This is almost 100 years ago and instead of improving the reuse things have gotten worse. But, what the Flour Mills did then every manufacturer could do for packaging. Firstly using things that can be reused and secondly to already create the idea of a secondary use of the materials. But, let's for the moment get back to the lour sacks and textiles made from them.

As the recycling trend looked like it was going to stay, the manufacturers began to print their cloth bags – or feedsacks – in an ever wider variety of patterns and colors, including those more suitable for boys and their shirts and nightshirts.

Over time, the popularity of the feedsack as clothing fabric increased beyond anyone's wildest expectations, fueled by both ingenuity and scarcity.

By the time WWII dominated the lives of Americans, and cloth for fabric was in short supply due to its use in the construction of uniforms, it was estimated that over three and a half million women and children were wearing garments created from feedsacks.

Images of the times help to remind us that large swaths of the country were once so poor that making clothes for children, out of flour sacks, was simply a part of life in those times. The manufacturers even gave instructions for how to remove the ink of their logos and such.

The family in the photo show their children wearing the Feed Sack dresses and shirts. People back then certainly knew how to try to use and reuse everything they had and not be wasteful.

Feed sacks continued to grab the attention of women during the Depression and World War II. In the 1950s, though, cheaper paper sacks became available, and thus the gradual decline for these bright, beautiful and functional fabrics began.

The start of the 1960's saw sack manufacturers trying to tempt customers back with cartoon- printed fabrics, from Buck Rogers to Cinderella. There was even a television advertising campaign intended to prick the conscience of the American housewife, but it failed to generate a significant upsurge in sales. Today it is only the Amish who still use cotton sacks for their dry goods.

The world has changed in so many ways since back then, yet having a mindset for making the best use of what you have available to you is a trait that, rightly, does and should carry on.

As I said earlier in this essay we need designers and manufacturers, of packaging especially, to design a second life into their packaging. It can be done as the flour sacks and feed sacks and other examples show.

Some of the makers of mustard, in both Germany and France, still do this in that the glasses in which the mustard comes, without even having to give it a second thought, are meant to be retained as drinking glasses. In Germany they are often small beer tankards which those of French mustard are the kind of glasses that would be used in homes for the vin de pays. It is hardly rocket science as it was done before and thus could easily be done again and, with giving people templates and ideas to go with it, encouraging them to reuse, it more than likely would work and work well.

In those days when people used the flour and feed sacks – made from cotton then – times were hard and money in short supply and they did not just use and reuse that kind of material but everything that they could reuse, including glass jars for drinking vessels – aside of other uses too. Though the poor working class did that well before the Great Depression and from that, we more than likely have the term of “having a jar” as to having a drink.

If we really want to be serious about reducing waste it requires industry and design as well as us as consumers to think and rethink our ways and we, as consumers, if there is not other way finding ways to make use of as much as the stuff that comes our way as possible. Consider also that (1) you have paid for the packaging in your purchase price thus you might as well reuse it and make something out of it if and where you can and (2) you have to pay for the disposal of it and the less you have to dispose ideally the less you have to pay.

© 2018