Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Home fires are burning again

With wood stove sales and use up in UK logs having to be imported from as far as Eastern Europe in order to satisfy demand

by Michael Smith

Considering the global recession and, more recently, conflict over natural gas flowing into Europe from Russia, this was probably something that should have been expected.

Sales of wood-burning stoves in the UK, as well as the use of existing wood-burning stoves, have risen recently, which in turn is causing shortages of firewood. This is forcing some suppliers to go so far as Eastern Europe to find good seasoned wood.

In medieval England, peasants were allowed to collect as much deadwood as they wanted from the royal forests - just so long as they could reach it "by hook or by crook". But the rapidly rising number of households now turning back to the forest for fuel, to protect the environment, or to simply make a lifestyle statement are finding a supply chain of this renewable, carbon-neutral fuel far more complex. Others may not try to make a lifestyle statement at all but are returning to wood out of bare necessity as heating fuels had become rather expensive and many rural households reply on heating oil rather than gas for hating home and farm.

Gas supplies have become a little – now this is an understatement – uncertain with Russia every now and again throwing a wobbly and a tantrum and oil seems to be going on a high every few minutes and when the prices do fall again to quite a low, as happened recently, the oil companies are in no hurry whatsoever to pass the reductions on to the consumer.

Sales of wood burning stoves in the UK are up 50% in the last three months of 2008 compared to 2007 and, according to forestry consultant Vince Thurkettle, demand for wood is currently increasing 25-30% a year. This on an island that is a bit more than 10% wooded and produces about 1 million tonnes of firewood a year, according to the Forestry Commission.

This proves, yet again, that we must bring the old coppice woodlands back into production – this has to happen anyway if we do not want the coppice stools to fall apart – for the production of small lumber and especially the production also of firewood. About time too.

This rising demand is causing a shortage of good logs, which combined with prices as high as £95 ($139) per load of wood in the north and west of the Britain is causing some wood sellers to import wood from hundreds of miles away; from inside the UK from countries as far away as Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Those are listed as “favorite hunting grounds” for wood sellers but they even (have to) go as far as Eastern Europe in order to get wood for resale.

So, some people are apparently driving wood, presumably in diesel-powered trucks, across all of Europe, to be burned in wood stoves and fireplaces in Britain.

Is importing logs from the other side, the far side, of Europe really a good idea? Personally I do not think so. And would it really be necessary? It would not if Britain had kept up with the demand that was coming – and it was obvious that it was coming – for wood.

Even though the information officer at the Forestry Commission’s Biomass Energy Centre described the effects on the environment of burning wood, compared to oil or natural gas, as “negligible”, even if that wood has been transported by road or sea, that is really something that I do not buy – as yet – and would have to see the numbers for that first. I have a very hard time believing that trucking in wood from Poland or even further afield to the British Isles to burn for heat makes environmental sense.

The good thing about burning wood for hear though is that it is – theoretically – carbon neutral, in comparison to so-called fossil fuel, which includes the likes of coal, oil and even natural gas, as wood only releases that much carbon as it has taken up during it lifetime as a tree. Nice one there. Just something that some environmentalists have problems understanding because of the fact that wood releases visible smoke and, depending in how well the wood has been seasoned, or not, as the case may be, the smoke can be quite dense.

There are two woods, however, that are best burned unseasoned on a base of other wood that has started the fire and that is beech and birch. Those two initially release a gas when burned in their green state that makes for a very hot fire.

"The dramatic upturn in demand for firewood is fantastic news in many senses because, in theory, we have so much of this resource that it is hard to see it ever running out," Thurkettle says. "Yet after so many years of relying on coal and gas to provide most of our energy needs, we have lost the art of effective woodland management. Until we relearn how to assess, manage, cut, store and burn exclusively local wood, we will continue to squander the potential of our woodlands."

The problem is that he is so very correct with that statement and speaks about just the issue that I keep mentioning as well.

We must get back to proper woodland and forest management, also as regards to firewood, and get away from the wasteful practice of the habitat pile. The habitat does very nicely without them things too, thank you. It has done so in the times of the use of the Estovers rights and will do so still today.

I have seen well managed woodlands where little if any debris was left where there was more wildlife – including invertebrates and fungi – than in many of those places that are full of those habitat piles. On the other hand those places that have clean forest floors have fewer diseased trees, especially as to fungal and pathogen problems.

On the other hand all that wood that is used – misguidedly too often – in habitat piles (while some are a good idea to leave all wood lying about or that purposes causes problems) could find a much better use to heat homes or even power turbines. The wood that is left too rot also releases the came carbon that the one that is being burned releases; so why waste the material and allow it to rot away.

Bringing in firewood from as far afield as Poland and elsewhere should not be necessary and certainly is not a practice that should be encouraged. It should be discouraged, in fact, for this can lead to destruction of woodlands and forests in Poland and other such countries to fill the UK demand.

While it is said to be still better for the environment to burn wood that has been trucked or otherwise shipped to the UK it is not ethically the right thing to do.

Time we got back to proper woodland management and relearned the old skills of how to manage woods and forests, aside from all the other reasons, for firewood. The trees that need to be removed every now and then, and presently, because of the bleeding canker infections of Horse Chestnut and similar diseases in other species of trees, those are quite a few, have to be removed from municipal parks and especially the country parks and such like, should also be entering this “food chain” of firewood instead of being allowed to be left on site to rot away.

If this means training municipal park gardeners, foresters, wardens and rangers in the appropriate chainsaw skills and allocating one or two members of staff to the logging up of any such trees into firewood then so be it. This could be a way for such places to create a little source of income. And while this may not be a very regular income of the same amount year in year out it nevertheless should be something that should be pursued.

Now let's hear it for local firewood.

I rest my case...

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Lakeland Potato Bag – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith

Potato Bag
Lakeland ref. 12377
Price: £5.86 (and it would appear that it might be worth every penny and more in time to come)

As readers will know from an earlier article I received a sample of the Potato Bag together with some “Stay Fresh Longer” bags earlier in January 2009 and I have begun using the Potato Bag in order to test it.

As far as I can ascertain the bags are made of polycotton – a mix of 75% polyester and 25% cotton – in a canvas weave. They are a real nice design and a nice earth brown color. I love earth colors hence my liking for the way those bags look.

I have now had potatoes in this bag, finally, for about more or less fortnight and the fact has to be considered that it was not until a few days later – when I put the taters into the Potato Bag – that I actually removed them from their plastic bag. I know, I really should buy potatoes loose and not pre-packed as that also means that they are washed.

Well, OK, having that out of the way what I am saying is that even after such a treatment they are still as good as the day they came out of the plastic bag and bar one very tiny sprout, or eye, to be precise, that was showing on one potato that I used out of this bags all are firm, including the one with the eye. In my previous “open” box storage in the larger cupboard that I previously used the potatoes would by now have definite shoots and would have started to become soft. So, it definitely appear that the Potato Bag is doing the job it is designed for.

The truth be told, I am impressed in the way it keeps the potatoes fresh and, may I hasten to add, I do not impress easily.

To sum up I would say as far as potatoes and the Potato Bag from Lakeland are concerned the bag is well worth its price just to protect the potatoes from going off too fast and to waste. I love taters and, although there is still really nothing wrong them even if they are a little soft and having sprouts, as far as I understand their nutritional value is diminished then. They also peel so much easier when then they are not full of sprouts and wrinkled.

So, therefore, let's hear it for the Lakeland Potato Bag. (And no, I am not getting paid for this review – chance would be a fine thing).

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Virus Warning Emails

Unsubstantiated rumors that are being passed on

by Michael Smith

Time and again we see the Internet being swamped with people passing around “virus warnings” by email, as well as on the non-tech forums of various kinds, that state that they have had this information from this or that anti-virus software company or that one of their associated got that from there and that this report also is Snopes verified, and then always claiming that, if one clicks on a link in this or that titled email a virus is released that wipes all the contents of the computer.

Those are then headed as “Computer Danger – Please Read!” or other such like and, as mentioned above, make those claims, and claims that the information, as said, came from this or that company and that it is verified on “Snopes”.

Such emails are like the chain letters the the “Bill Gates wants to share his billions with you” and clog us the systems like all spam mail does.

The truth is that while it is very possible indeed to release a virus, Trojan, worm, or other kind of malware by clicking at links in emails, or even simply by opening an email that comes with a payload, the virus that is designed to destroy hard drive contents is hardly ever seen nowadays– in fact there has not been one of those for years now.

The aim of today's virus and malware creators is not to show what they can do by destroying a PC and its contents but their aim is to extract data from personal computers and especially company networks for financial gain, such as passwords, and complete identities.

Thus the malware creator of today is not interested in destroying the contents of your computer; far from it. The primary thing that he is interested in is that his little program can remain on a PC or a network undetected for as long as possible in order too phone home with the information it is programed to gather. It is this information that the writers, or those that the writers sell the virus kit to, are interested to gather to sell on too other criminals to exploit.

The virus writer of old often had only one intention and that was to get his virus noticed, after it had gotten through onto the computer(s), by the program destroying information or holding information captive, as in some cases, and for those that wanted the information back to pay a ransom. This is no longer the case today. Hence anyone talking about viruses being in the wild that are out to destroy your PC are talking a lot of bull dust, as the Australians would say.

Most infections today also no longer – though some people still try – on emails but on “drive by shootings” where the infection is downloaded automatically by simply visiting a website, genuine or spoof.

Even one or two anti-virus software companies' own sites had been injected with malware that would download to computers in such a manner when people visited their, totally legitimate, sites.

So, the adage must remain to “be careful out there” on the Net and to have adequate protection software and, and this is most important, such software that is updated on a daily basis.

Anti-virus software, firewalls and other such programs are a must.

While some people keep on about the need to keep the Windows system always patched with the latest patches from Microsoft I have found that many of those downloads have caused havoc to my system and rather keep ports secure and run all the protection software that I can run (and all of it is free), updated as regularly as possible.

Both BitDefender and ThreatFire, for instance, check for updates at two-hourly intervals, and while this can be annoying as, while such checking and updates are applied the system may run a little sluggish, it ensures that the system is protected.

If one would want to avoid the possibilities, to a 99% chance, of virus and malware attacks to a computer one best run an operating system that is not Microsoft.

I know that people will now look as say “but Apple Mac is too expensive”, to which I say (1) you are right and (2) those that know me will know I am not talking Apple Mac. I am talking Linux and all Linux distributions, whether Ubuntu, Fedora, or whichever, are free to obtain. In the case of Ubuntu the distributor, Canonical Ltd., will even send you a CD free of charge, if you do not wish to download the ISO and burn it yourself.

Yes, Linux does not – as yet – work with every bit of hardware and software but we are getting there, slowly but surely.

In conclusion let me stress once again that while we must be careful on the Net and especially not to open any emails that we are not sure about, if they are downloaded onto the PC via an email client, viruses that destroy your hard drives are nowadays about as rare as gold dust on the streets of London.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Children waving white flags were shot by IDF in Gaza

by Michael Smith

In one incident, according to information, three young girls we shot and then left to bleed for over two hours by IDF personnel. The shots were fired from the turret of a tank about fifteen meters away from the children coming out by an IDF soldier using a rifle.

Then again, from what we have seen over the years of the actions of many of the IDF soldiers and officers as to when it comes to dealing with Palestinian civilians it can only be said that some of the Wehrmacht may have been better behaved than they are.

Any soldiers that have done those acts should be facing a war crime tribunal in the same way that the likes of the rebel leaders of Rwanda and other areas are sent to face trial. However, as could only have been expected, the leaders of the Zionist entity have said that they will block any attempt to put any of its soldiers on trial for war crimes.

If such actions as shooting children who we visibly unarmed and under a white flag and the use of white phosphorus against the people of Gaza are not war crimes then, I must say, I do not know what is.

No doubt that Israel will also be still finding its backers amongst the right-wing so-called Christians in the USA and obviously amongst most of the Jewish community in the USA and elsewhere, Britain, no doubt, included.

It would appear that there are different international rules for, for instance, the leaders of the Serb forces in Bosnia and for the soldiers of the illegal Zionist state in Palestine. Not that that surprises me and I am sure will not surprise anyone who has watched this entire issue over the years and decades.

The lobby that there is will not allow anything said against Israel and those that are of the Zionist persuasion, even allowing them to claim that no one ever lived in Palestine before they, the Zionist Ashkenazim came to Palestine, and yes, I am referring to comments from Golda Meir. Rather amazing considering that Jews, Arabs and Christians used to live together in peace and as friends for centuries in Palestine until the days when the Zionists began to try to take the country by force.

We have been fielded a lie for decades about how things were in Palestine as regards the Jews that were living there before 1945 and this can be best seen in books like “Blood Brothers” by Fr. Elias Chacour, a Maronite priest from that region, or other accounts. Only when the Zionists were bringing in some of those Jews that survived the Holocaust things were becoming a problem and the likes of the Irgun and Haganah were definitely not helping in friendly relations.

When you take over other people's farms and lands by force and chase them out it is no surprise that you reap a whirlwind. But, I digressed.

The world must make representation that it insists that those members of the IDF that are guilty of war crimes are held responsible for the deeds in an international tribunal. If it was good enough for the likes of Waffen SS men then it is also so for those that behave in the same manner in the modern world. Period!

Time the world stood up against the lobby that is always making itself to out to be the victim in everything. Same as they claim that they are the only one that have a right to the Holocaust and the Gypsies, the Romani People, defile the memory of the Holocaust by “wishing”, as some said, “to be associated with it” and because of this, in the media, Gypsies are always mentioned under the “also ran” as victims of Nazi atrocities. The Romani People were not just victims of the Nazi atrocities but they were victims of the Nazi genocidal racial policies. But no one can be allowed to say that now, can they. The Holocaust must be a uniquely Jewish event. Well, folks, it was not.

Gypsies were the first used as Guinea pigs to test the carbon monoxide trucks, as well as later it was 250 Gypsy children from Czechoslovakia that were to test the Zyklon B gas. But, according to the world, on Jews were persecuted in that way for reasons of race by the Nazis. The truth cannot be told for fear of being called anti-Semitic. However, the truth must be told and someone has to do it and someone has to hold those killers to account as well. Do we have the guts to do so?

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Director-General of Security Service speaks on recession threat

by Michael Smith

Britain faces a new security threat as a result of the global economic crisis, the head of the Security Service, MI5, Jonathan Evans, has warned, in the first ever interview by a director general of the Security Service.

He said the international recession could be a "watershed moment" which will shift the balance of power away from the West and the way things are going he might well be right. If that is the case we are in trouble, on more than one level.

Despite MI5 achieving notable success against al-Qaeda in Britain, Mr Evans warned that with the decline in economic power of the UK, US and Europe, new threats to national security are likely to emerge.

"Where there have been watershed moments, there have often been national security implications from that, a new alignment," he said. "We have to maintain flexibility and respond to threats. The world will not stay the same."

MI5 has scored, so its Chief explained, significant successes against al-Qaeda in Britain in the last two years which was forcing terrorists to "keep their heads down." But he warned that not all potential extremists could be monitored by the security services.

But, scores of British Muslims are still traveling to terror training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan every year. Others are traveling to lawless areas of Somalia.
We also must not forget that the USA has “lost” a lot of young Somalis. They have all turned up in those lawless areas and are, apparently, going through some kind of training and fighting there.

And apparently the terrorists who launched the Mumbai attacks in November had indirect links to the UK. But what does he mean with “links to the UK?”

In addition to that, he said, the growth in the use of Internet telephone services may pose a "significant detriment to national security" as terrorists can communicate more freely.

Oh dear! The growth in the use of Internet telephone services may pose a "significant detriment to national security" as terrorists can communicate more freely, said the MI5 chief. Do I hear here the encoded call to limit the access of Brits to the likes of Skype?
Yes, Skype. That free Internet telephone service whose calls are end-to-end encrypted and cannot be intercepted very well. So, I guess, beside the new legislation that Internet Service providers in the UK have to have all email to be stored (and I do not believe for one moment that no contents of those emails are going to be held) for a year, they will now try to make the use of Skype illegal or limited or make it illegal for Skype to encrypt calls from UK IPs. You do not stop terrorists and terrorism that way.

But it is the economic turbulence that is gripping the world that is likely to present the security services with their latest challenge, Mr Evans said.

"Our focus in the next few years will be international terrorism, al-Qaeda and its associates, but we are also looking at the global economic crisis," he said at his Whitehall office.

Although Mr Evans declined to go into details, Britain has already experienced a surge in spying by the re-emerging economic powers of Russia and China.

This should be quite obvious to all bu the very blind seeing the recent and not-so-recent cyber attacks by Russia and China against British (and American) assets, which the MI5 chief, however, forgot to mention, it seems.

Countries which face economic and political meltdown, such as Pakistan and Somalia, are also emerging as bases for terrorism. And as global alliances are re-drawn there could also be threats from of state-sponsored terrorism, particularly in the Middle East.

"As the world develops there is a knock-on effect in terms of domestic extremism, global power and the relationship between states," Mr Evans added. "National security tends to be a spin-off issue from wider changes."

He said there was no direct relationship between economic fortunes and extremism but added that it was important to consider what would happen if the "West becomes less economically dominant."

"There is no single path that leads people to violent extremism," he said. "Social, foreign policy, economic and personal factors all lead people to throw their lot in with extremists."

Economic factors do not make people terrorists, at least not in the main. However, the kind of actions of countries with which this country is supposedly befriended and fact the actions that this country are not being condemned by the government of the UK is what breeds terrorists in this country. And yes, I am referring to the current murderous actions of the Zionist state against the Palestinian people.

If Britain wants to stop the growth of homegrown fundamentalism then its government will have to stop sponsoring the likes of regimes like that of the Zionist entity in Palestine and following the United States blindly into any action against anyone who just remotely might be interfering with US interests.

Mr Evans said that MI5 has succeeded in targeting homegrown fundamentalism, securing 86 successful prosecutions in the last two years and he described developments as "very encouraging" but warned "the networks have not gone away."

"There could easily be activities that we are not aware of," he added. "We don't have anything approaching comprehensive coverage."

No, MI5 does not have – as yet – anything approaching a comprehensive coverage but we can be sure that they are working on that. Why else are we headed for a total archiving of emails sent from and to Internet users in Britain.

Does that all make us safer in this country? It certainly does not but then again, it has nothing to do with safety of the people and the country but everything with people control, and control of the subjects of Her Majesty, for there is no such thing as a British citizen, whatever they may claim.

Back to the “Recession Threat”, however.

When it comes to the nation the threat is not from supposed Islamic terrorists or such but from other nations, such as Russia and China. I think we can safely forget about countries such as Pakistan and Somalia in this equation.

However, we must, on no account, not forget our supposed friends either. Someone once said “God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself” and this is very true especially as regards to the “friend” across the big pond and also that one next to the big dessert.

Or does anyone really believe that they do not (1) spy on Britain and (2) would not act against our county should they feel threatened, economically or otherwise.

I am sure we remember Benjamin Nethanyahu who was abducted from Britain and then imprisoned in his country. Remember the one who told the world that Israel has nuclear weapons?

It is OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons, WNDs, but when some other Middle-Eastern country wants to develop civilian nuclear programs they are being threatened by both the USA and also Britain. How can this be?

When it comes to this nation's security we should be careful who we go to bed with and what bugs they may carry.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Russia, it's gas and the West

by Michael Smith

What Russia is doing with regards to the issue over the gas transiting via the Ukraine is too let Western Europe and the West as a whole know that unless we in the West play ball they way Russia wants as regards the former Soviet Republics and such like issues then they may turn off the gas.

This is the second time that this has happened with regards to Russian gas on its way to Western Europe via the gas pipeline that goes through the now independent former Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

I do sincerely doubt, however, that it would be any different would the gas be going a different route, direct to the West through, say, Poland or the still Moscow line following Belarus.

This issue over the gas for heating and industry coming from Russia shows that we are all, all our countries, people and infrastructure, in problems as we can be held to ransom that easily.

Holding the West to ransom over the issue of the gas is exactly what Russia is doing and this will not be the last time that that is going to happen, of that we can be sure.

This is no way to run a railroad and certainly no way to run a country. We must have self-sufficiency, as far as possible at least, in matters of energy, whether this be gas, oil or what-have-you. We cannot be allowed to be held to ransom by then like of the oligarchs and the FSB of Russia nor by others.

The Ukraine, in my opinion, also has a part in this ransom business, though on a different level.

While Russia appears to be using the gas as a lever so that Europe and the West reconsider their ideas of letting the Ukraine into NATO and the EU, the Ukraine is playing the game the other ways around basically saying “you can get your gas if you make us member of NATO and the EU”. This is, at least, how I read both sides and, as far as we all should be concerned we should tell the Ukraine to go to h**l if that is their attitude and at that same time, unfortunately as it may be, give in to the more-or-less unspoken request by the Russian Federation and General Putin to not let the Ukraine join any of those western clubs.

I have to say as well, and I wonder how many other people may just wonder the same, why we, in fact, are even thinking of incorporating the likes of the Ukraine into NATO and eventually also the EU.

The orange revolution, as it is often called, certainly was not democracy the way we see it here, and the leadership of the Ukraine is not as benign as they are made out. However, as in the case of the likes of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, both regimes with difficult human rights records and such, the USA and other NATO allies call them their friends because it is possible to have bases in their countries that are very close to Iran. Oil is a catalyst here, yet again. Black gold. But I digressed.

The West, those that do not have any of that kind of Black Gold, or gas, will nevertheless have to find a way to become independent from the oil fields of the Iran and other such countries in the same way as they have to become independent from the gas fields of Russia and other such locations.

There are ways and means of doing that and there are countries that can show the way in this as well., However, oil (and gas0 still are king when it comes to heating and cooking in the western world and especially the use of the motorcar is a contributing factor.

As it, however, shows again and again, countries that depend on such raw materials from abroad can be held to ransom at the whim of a leader of a country or by other means. Russia is not the only country that has or can have the West of a barrel like this.

Therefore, in order to protect our nations' infrastructure we must look for way of becoming, if not entirely than largely, independent from such sources and imports.

Can Russia be trusted?

The answer is a no and a yes and it depends on the angle from which one views it. Russia, and that is the problem, trusts no one and never ever will. Long story and maybe one for a separate article, methinks.

Our infrastructure needs independence from sources such as Russian gas or oil from the Persian Gulf and such locations.

How to get that done? Let's get our thinking caps on.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Cold weather nothing to do with getting the cold

by Micheal Smith

We are constantly being told that colds and flus are not caused by the cold weather and/or by getting exposed to cold weather the wrong way but, strangely enough, every winter we get an severe increase in respiratory illnesses, the common cold being one of them.

If the weather then has nothing to do with it how come that those infections seem to increase during the cold periods? I could say now already that I rest my case, but...

Yes, I do know that the common cold, as well as flu and influenza, are all cause by viruses but somewhere along the lines, otherwise I doubt we would have the increases of those diseases and illness always in the cold time of the year, the cold weather must have something to do with it, regardless of what the experts try to make out.

Personally, I do still believe, to a degree, in the old people's advice that the weather can give you a cold. Not as much as that the weather is the actual cause of it but that the fact that it is cold affects the body and allows the viruses to enter easier and also, though science has not said so, it may be the weather that aids the spread of the viruses. Maybe also the fact that we go into the cold, then back into the warm and back into the cold, for instance all could be contributing factors here.

This 2008 winter in Britain we are being told, yet again, in the UK that due to the weather which has been colder than for the last 30 years – well, I am doubting that claim, but – the ambulance emergency services and the hospital are overworked as with all the people that have gotten severe colds and flus. But, obviously, according to the eggheads this could not possibly have anything with the weather. This must be a coincidence even though the health authorities seem to be blaming it on the cold weather.

While viruses are the true cause of those diseases the weather, in my opinion, is a major contributing factor here and hence we must take precautions against the cold and the wet in the winter season.

In addition to that we must make sure that we do not help spreading the infections ourselves if we happen to have the sniffles by being careless and sneezing all over the place and such like. Coughs and sneezes spread diseases was the public service message that would go out every year on the wireless in Britain and was to be seen on posters all over the place and it is certainly true.

So, let's wrap up well and stay dry and keep our germs to ourselves.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Bahco Bypass Loppers PG-20-E - Product Review

Review by Michael Smith

I must admit that I have had this pair of loppers in question for review now for the best part of a year but it does take a while, I believe, with tools to test them properly. That I have now done.

Bypass loppers of compact design to prune in difficult-to-reach places, available in two sizes. Oval steel tube handles with comfortable plastic grip and shock absorbing plastic buffers for added comfort in use. The smaller cutting head is ideal for pruning ornamental shrubs and rose bushes. Unlike for the professional range of loppers there are no spare parts available for this one.

The PG-20-E bypass loppers which I have had for review is the smaller of the two sizes and has a cutting capacity of a maximum of 30mm. This is, in my view, all academic though and depends on the hardness of the wood. I would not like to try it or any for that matter on dead prunus branches of that diameter, for instance. I have done dead branches of up to about 20mm with those loppers and I found it hard going. Not that the loppers would have broken, maybe. I just found it physically hard and would, in such cases, rather resort to a saw.

Those bypass loppers could be, and I do that at times, for they are very light and handy to carry, referred to as “secateurs on steroids”.

The specifications, so to speak are for the PG-20-E that of a cutting diameter 30 max, with a length of 440mm and a weight 665 grams. As I have said, they are very light.

Now if someone could design a carrying holster for it, of some sort, this would be an ideal too for any Countryside Ranger and such like to take out on a patrol, especially a foot patrol, in order to remove branches and such that may encroach on a footpath, a bridleway, or such.

This is, as all of Bahco's tools, a professional tool at a reasonable price and anyone in their right mind, especially a professional, I should think, would rather invest in quality tools than to buy cheap and find them broken in a few hours or days of use.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Security Stepped up After Attack

by Michael Smith

Jewish groups said that the invasion of Gaza had provoked a surge in anti-Semitic intimidation and violence in London and Manchester.

And can anyone really be surprised as to this?

While one cannot condone violence against anyone for reasons of race and/or religion and neither against people who are not directly involved in what is going on in Palestine it is, nevertheless, not surprising.

One Jewish charity, the Community Security Trust (CST), said that the threat had increased after comments by Hamas leaders calling for attacks on Jewish people.

The most serious incident in Britain occurred recently when three youths tried to set fire to Brondesbury Park Synagogue in northwest London. Police said that the incident was believed to be a direct result of events in the Middle East.

A police spokesman said that officers were liaising closely with Jewish groups and that “reassurance patrols” had been increased in areas with substantial Jewish populations. In North Manchester, barriers have been placed outside King David High School and entry is being restricted to passholders.

The CST, which was set up to ensure the safety of Jewish people, has reported 20 anti-Semitic incidents in the past week and is understood to be in regular contact with the police.

Jewish leaders and security services across Europe are worried that emotion over the Gaza conflict could cause anti-Semitic acts or attacks. In France, where the anti-terror alert was already at its second-highest level, the police intelligence service stepped up its monitoring of prayer groups frequented by the extremists.

British police said that they were working with Muslims to reassure them that non-violent demonstrations would be facilitated. One Muslim group has written to the Prime Minister warning that the Israeli attacks could drive young Muslims into the hands of extremists.

While it seems totally acceptable for Jews to have such self-defense organizations when the Romany Community even thinks of something like that we are told that that is totally out of the question.

When suggestions were made by Gypsy groups to have their own security teams the reply from those in power was a roaring NO. Another time when it seems that Jews have more rights than other minorities. It's the lobby, I guess.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Love Food, Hate Waste, Save Money @ Lakeland!

by Michael Smith

After the expense of Christmas, start the New Year as you mean to go on by making sure you get the most out of your weekly shop. Around a third of the food we buy in the UK gets thrown away1 but you can make some simple changes with a little help from Lakeland and make sure you get to enjoy everything you buy.

Lakeland, the home of creative kitchenware, has lots of fresh ideas to help customers keep food at its best for longer, which means you can reduce the amount you throw away, save yourself money on your food bills and make sure you’re all set for a thrifty start to 2009.

How many bananas do you throw away because they have ripened too quickly? Or potatoes because they’ve started sprouting2? These exclusive bags will keep them fresher for longer and have both been specially designed for the job.

The Potato Bag is made from breathable canvas to keep out the light and give good air circulation to keep your potatoes fresher for longer, while the Banana Bag provides insulation to stop the flesh over-ripening in the fridge, and also keeps the skin warm enough to prevent it blackening. The fruit will stay just as it should for around a fortnight – twice its normal lifespan!

Banana Bag, ref 12159, £4.88,

Potato Bag, ref 12377, £5.86

I have been sent the “Potato Bag” for review and also a number of the “Stayfresh Longer Bags” and I shall, in due course, be bringing the test result and reviews in the pages of this here journal.

While the material of the “Potato Bag” is referred to as “canvas” it is in fact a canvas weave material made from 25% cotton and 75% polyester, something what some would call “polycotton”.

Stayfresh Longer Bags: By storing fruit and vegetables in these special bags, they’ll stay lovely and fresh for weeks on end. The bags come in packs of 20. A unique formula slows down the natural ageing process and helps stop moisture and bacteria forming. They really are quite incredible and remain effective for several weeks, so can be reused.

I have to say that I do not know the unique formula that is in the bags but I should assume and hope that it does not contain anything harmful.

Three sizes available; 20x23cm ref 1092, £3.91, 25x38cm ref 1094, £4.88, 28x46cm ref 1932, £6.16.

Count On It Labels: Are you always throwing away half-used jars and leftovers because you’re not sure how long they’ve been in your fridge? Well, I do at times, I am afraid to say.

These self-adhesive memory joggers take the guesswork out of storing food safely; just stick one on your packet or jar when you open it, scratch off to mark the date and you’ll know exactly when it was opened. Ref 12902, £1.95 There are 25 of them in the pack.

The way I can see it those are a great idea and should help many of us to remember as to when we put the half-jar of this or that into the fridge. Then again, if one would think, the date could be written on the label or the lid by indelible pen. On the other hand, I guess, those labels simply are easier.

Lakeland is the UK’s leading kitchenware specialist, offering a range of over 4000 products from quality kitchen utensils and storage containers, to liquorice! Their Lakeland’s products are available from 40 stores nationwide, by mail order and online.

Lakeland, founded in 1963, is a family owned and run business based in Windermere. For more fresh ideas to store and preserve your food for longer and for more information visit where you can see the entire range, can order direct.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009


2There is no need to throw away potatoes that have sprouted, though many people do. Unless the potato is actually very soft then it can still be used. Using the Potato Bag from Lakeland, on the other hand, will prevent, so it is said, this happening prematurely.

Bringing forests and woodlands “back into production”

by Michael Smith

For far too long have woodlands and forests, especially many of the smaller, privately owned ones, been doing nothing and have not been bringing in the money that they, really, should be able to.

Too many small woods have been also left to their own devices, so to speak, simply because no money could be made, often for lack of understanding as to the marketing of woodland and forest products by their owners.

The problem with leaving woods and forest to their own devices, especially woods and forests in our developed countries is that they are not natural forests or ancient forests and woodlands. They have, more often than not, been planted to be used and often there are or have been coppice woodlands. Coppice that is not being worked for anything loner than but a decade or two is in danger of collapsing and disintegrating; meaning that there will, suddenly be nothing but fallen trees and root stocks that are broken apart. Our woods need to be worked and worked for profit as well, if possible. That does not mean that they have to be exploited.

This bring me to a little subject by way of digression: we will be on track again in a second... however, it is often claimed that is we use less paper we will have less trees and forests cut down. The fact is if we did not have the paper industry and the need for wood pulp many woods and forests that we have today in Europe, for instance, would not exist and many areas would not b e having trees at all.

I know that there are many amongst the environmental activists that think they know better and who claim that if woods and forests would be left to their own devices and if we did not use paper from trees our forests and woodlands would be better but this is not the case. In fact it is a lie and most of them know that too. Why they continue to perpetuate such falsehoods I cannot say but they do do that.

If it would not bee for some of the forest product industries we would have less woods and forests, of that we can be sure, and much more of the land that is currently in wood would be either used for this or that crop – today more than likely for bio-fuel crops – or even be built upon.

Wood is also a bio fuel; in fact the most natural of all bio-fuels. Wood has been used to keep us warm, cook our food, heat the metal in our forges, and so on and so on, for centuries, nay millenniums even, well before coal and oil, and it can save us yet again.

The burning of wood, for instance, releases only the amount of carbon dioxide that the tree has absorbed and converted during its lifetime and probably less even. With the right clean burning technology and all that wood can be more efficient today than coal and oil and wood could even be gasified and vehicles run on it. Then again vehicles be best run on the fuel that old Tin Lizzy Ford designed then to run on in the first place, namely methane gas. Yes, gas from sewerage, for instance. Same as the first electrical power plant was run on as well. But, alas, I once again digressed.

Wood has so many uses that it is amazing that so many woodland owners have no idea what resources they have and how to actually make them pay and enable them to increase their forests' productivity by ploughing back resources into it that came from the woods in the first place. Owning and managing a woodland or forest is a two-way affair and not just a one-way affair of taking only and not giving back and any good woodland owner is a husbandman, a steward of the land and will always plant anew and always replenish the trees.

Coppicing has been a system that has been in use in the British Isles – and other places where suitable trees are about and abound – for the managing of woodlands and forests and it is a system that keeps a woodland nigh on indefinitely productive.

Unfortunately much of the skills of proper coppicing is getting lost and in addition to that too many of the misguided environmentalists have been ranting and raving against the rotation coppice operations.

Proper professional woodland and forest management continuously improves those environments and ecosystems in a way that benefits everyone and everything, and it is such a shame that commercial forestry has such a bad image amongst the environmental lobby.

Without commercial forestry and commercially managed woodlands our planet would be far less green, regardless of what some, who, I am afraid to say, have no real knowledge of the subject b but think that they happen to know everything just because they have read this or that book, think and say, often way to vociferously.

While woodlands and forest might still exist in their ancient form had the hand of man not touched them, in most places of the world woods and forests have been worked my man for many thousand years if more more and here is virtually no forest that has not been worked.

The truth is that the management of woods and forests – and the word forests, by the way, means different things to different countries - is what has, in most cases, preserved woods and forests rather than the opposite, as is, so often, being claimed by the misguided ones in the environmental movement.

Without commercial forestry and woodland management for profit there would be none of those woods and forest in the prime condition that they are in presently. Commercial forestry, at least the true kind of commercial forestry not only extracts timer from the woods and forest; nay it also replants and that in a large scale.

Any professional forester knows that he does not work for the immediate gain and for the present or even a year or ten hence; he knows that he works for the future generations. Most foresters will never see the tree they they plant now or the ten year or so old trees they care for now to grow to maturity. This is for others in the future.

Without that kind of woodland and forest management, however, most woods and forests that there are today would not, as I said already, exist.

Urban forestry too can play a great role and here too the woods and forest could and indeed should be manageable for income. Whether or not then the income is wholly or partly used to replenish is another question but the income can be used to do so. Any forester in his or her right mind would also do just that.

Woods and forests are are source that can and must be managed for sustainable use in that the timber must be cut as when when ready – why else would such woods be managed otherwise. At the same time any such managed woods and forests, whether privately owned or publicly owned, in whichever way, need to have replanting schemes in operation at all times and also, as and where possible, should be expanded.

We need more woods and forests and that not only in the United Kingdom though the British Isles definitely need more woodlands. They are one of the less wooded countries in Europe.

Trees are the lungs of the planet and – while some have claimed otherwise – are what can keep the CO2 balanced to some degree.

So let's plant more trees and properly manage them, for the benefit of the planet as well as for income and, dare I mention it, profit. But then, some will say, he would say that seeing that he comes from the commercial forestry sector.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

No foreign media allowed

Israel denies foreign media access to Gaza

by Michael Smith

Gaza/Israel: The Israeli authorities refuse to allow access to Gaza by foreign, even “friendly” western, media and it is a definite no. No media person allowed in. Why, one can but ask.

The answer to the “why” is, in my opinion, rather simple, and I think everyone with just an ounce of brain will come to same conclusion.

Israel, who employs the selfsame tactic, only a modern version of it, that the Nazis used against partisans and the general population of occupied Europe does not want the world to see, through the eyes of foreign media, especially media that would have credibility amongst the people worldwide.

What is it that they, who claim to just be fighting against terrorists that threaten its nation's – which is an illegal entity, regardless of what the UN may say – security?

The answer here is about as clear as crystal as well, namely that the Israeli security forces use violence targeted at civilians and are using the same evil tactics of collective punishment which the Nazis used in the occupies territories.

The hollow excuse by South African origin Jews that are spokespeople for the Israeli government and the IDF that it is all Hamas' fault for using housing projects to store weapons and their HQs is the same that the German Nazi war machines used as an excuse when they eliminated entire villages and towns and their inhabitants without mercy.

The Zionist entity calling itself the State of Israel is using the same tactics as did the Hitler Fascists and are no better whatsoever than were the Nazis, whatever the Zionists may claim and its western sympathizers, such as the United States and the Bush regime.

The fact that they are afraid of foreign media seeing what they are doing in Gaza is, in my opinion, proof enough that the Israeli forces are targeting the population on purpose and it is also obvious, I think, what the real aim is; namely to wipe out the Palestinian government of Hamas. What we must remember is that the Hamas was elected to government fairly though it did not suit the ones that had always called for democratic elections. It is irrelevant as to whether or not the West may have declared Hamas a terrorist organization. It was allowed to stand for election and it won. Election monitors have said that this election was fairer than could be said for even some in old established democracies. But it is always the same when the results do not suit the powers that be, and the EU is a great example for that as well, but I am digressing.

I would also not put it past the powers that be in Israel and those that back it aim for more than just the removal of Hamas in Gaza and I leave it to any reader to make his or her conclusion as to what the aim may be.

If Israel's intention would really be to defend itself again missile attacks there are certainly means, I am sure. There are defensive systems that, I am sure, can shoot those missiles down rather harmlessly before they ever get to inhabited areas of Israel.

No, there is more here at play than meets the eye and I suggest that people do not get sidetracked by the rhetorics of politicians.

Jews and Arabs, including Christian Arabs – Palestinians – lived together peacefully in Palestine and worked side by side – and the book by Fr Elias Chacour “Blood Bothers” is best proof for that – until the arrival of the Zionists and especially after the Holocaust with the Jewish Agency and the special operations bringing in those survivors, most of who were Zionists – well chosen, methinks. Fr Chacour is a Meronite priest and was as a child and youngster on the receiving end of Zionist terror simply for being a Palestinian, regardless of the fact that his family were Christians.

There was no (real) friction in Palestine before the arrival of the hard-core Zionists. Only afterwards did things begin to be problematic.

What, you cannot find that in your history books and other books and in the papers? Well, think who most publishers are? I rest my case.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Wearing a hat to reduce heat loss through head myth, say scientists

by Michael Smith

Experts claim that it is a myth, an old wives tale in the same category as getting a cold from getting cold, that wearing a hat reduced heat loss from the top of the head. According to them no heat is lost that way. Doh?

It would appear then that everyone who knows that wearing a hat has helped and helps suffers from placebo effect.

One can but be amazed again and again about the garbage that those scientists come up with after spending masses of money on research projects researching silly things. Everyone knows that you lose heat through the top of the head and that wearing a hat, a woolly hat in colder weather, cuts this down to some extent and can prevent hypothermia.

I must say that I am one of those people that can swear to it working. Or why, when I feel cold and put on a hat I feel soon warm as toast. Placebo effect, I guess. To be honest, I do not think so.

Anyone who has spent, like I have done, much of his life in the outdoors, also professionally, knows what a hat does as regards to keeping you warm. So, there you have it.

Where those supposed experts and scientists get their ideas from beats the hell out of me and I guess not me alone, but they do come up with things that really can only be filed under “weird”.

Then again it is more than likely the very same scientists that would also claim that this or that folk remedy does not work, until such a time that someone, as has been done often enough by now, in the field of medical science actually proves conclusively that it DOES work.

As far as I am concerned, and I am sure that there will be many that will follow here, wearing a hat prevents loss of body heat. Something that to me is fact in the same way as it is to any survival instructor and outdoors person. That's the reason we at least carry a har if we not, actually, wear it.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009