Spōn by Barn the Spoon – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Spon coverSpon: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture
by Barn the Spoon
224 pages, Hardcover, 16.5 x 2.2 x 23 cm
Published by Virgin Books (25 May 2017)
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0753545973
Price: £20.00

I was send this book by the publishers upon my request having just learned of the publication of it. Knowing of Barnaby Carder, better known as Barn the Spoon, I was most interested to have a look at it and I was in no way disappointed.

The book itself is a spoon carving guide but also introduces the reader to the new wood culture, or wood renaissance, and that being right up my street being a forester by original trade, and a carver of wooden things, including spoons as well.

Spōn is not really a technical manual like, for example, Willie Sundqvist's 'Swedish Carving Techniques', but instead takes the reader through a personal journey that Barn himself has taken, though it does give the reader many instructions, hints, and tips.

In his book Barn the Spoon explains to the reader the how and why as regards  to certain woods, tools, and techniques that he has found best suited for carving usable spoons and he then explains it all in more detail and shows the reader some of his favorite spoon designs to try.

Aside from that he walks the reader through every aspect, from choice to tools and how to keep them sharp and well maintained. Personally, though, I have different ways of sharpening knives, including hook knives and I believe that too much emphasis is placed on certain ideas, such as the supposed Scandi grind not having a secondary bevel. But I have only been a professional knife grinder for almost my entire life and have never encountered such a grind, not even on Scandinavian knives.

Spōn is a lovingly written book, with many color illustrations, that is full of the passion of someone who really appreciated wood and its properties and what can be made from it, though Barn mostly touches on wooden spoons only.

As a Romani-Gypsy by birth I very much enjoyed and appreciated the fact that the “Roma Spoon”, as Barn calls it, the traditional one of the Roma of Romania, in included. It is more a serving spoon that for any other purpose; the eating spoons are often different.

But that spoon, however, is only one of many different Romani spoon designs that used to be and are still carved by Gypsies in Eastern Europe (and beyond), such as by those in Poland where the bowl is the egg shape, reversed, and not as pronounced in the reverse.

In Russia the Romani carve spoons that are akin to those of the Doukhobors which are similar to the Welsh Cawl Spoon though without the pronounced crank in the handle and a handle that is almost round. But I digressed.

As I said before, Spōn is not really a technical manual but a book that, while teaching the reader about spoon carving, leads you more on a personal journey of the way the author does things and why and also introduces the reader at the same time to the new wood culture, or wood renaissance. I hope that readers will discover the joy of carving spoons and other treen objects from reading this book but also be encouraged to connect without our woods and trees and to value the handmade wooden kitchen utensils and such like. Handmade goods are so much different to factory and machine produced and thus are also higher priced. A good wooden spoon is not tuned out in five minutes flat. It often takes hours and the price does then often not even reflect an hourly minimum wage. Let that sink in.

A very good book that I can most certainly recommend.

© 2017

Alexei Navalny & the Anti-Corruption Movement in Russia

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Alexey_NavalnyIf we remember that the Maidan “demonstrations”, which led to the problems, which is still expressing it mildly, in the Ukraine also started claiming to be an anti-corruption movement. Where it led to we have all seen.

Also what is being attempted in the Russian Federation has the same aim, namely to destabilize Russia and create there also one of those “colored” revolution, just like in the Ukraine and other places.

The players behind the scenes are definitely the same, and Navalny is nothing but a puppet in their hands. We can almost guarantee that one major player behind the scenes, and the main source of funds for Navalny and his “movement”, is the very same who has been behind the Ukraine issue and those color revolutions in many other countries. It certainly does not require a degree in intelligence work to figure that one out.

Thus regime change in the Russian Federation is the name of the game in which Navalny and his movement are a pawn, in the same was as regime change was the plan in the Ukraine and still is in other countries. The US even are being used, whether they know it or not, in this operation run by this particular person and his organizations. On the other hand it could be the US using that person and his organizations. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

© 2017

The latest model is not the greenest

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

14570597_1317930151553422_1404047324989227567_oPlease note that I have not even inserted the word “always” in the headline as it is a fact that the latest model is not the greenest, period.

The latest model is not the greenest even if it is being promoted and touted as having greener credentials than the one you already have got. Stick with what you have got (as long as it still works, obviously) for that is the greenest, and you know what, that even applies to your car.

I know that we have visited this issue before but let us, nevertheless, do so again.

Every new product that you buy to replace another one that is still fully functional, even though the new one may have, according to claims, “greener” credentials than the “old” one, comes at a much higher environmental cost than the one that you are already using.

Sticking with what you have got, for as long as at all possible, is far better for the Planet and much “greener” than any new product however “green” its credentials are made out to be.

First of all credentials are all but claims made by the makers which we, the ordinary consumers, can absolutely not verify in any way, as can be seen from the supposed cheating on emission standards by various car manufacturers.

How can we verify the claims that are being made without testing equipment and the technical know-how to carry out such tests? We cannot, and that is a fact. And it is also a fact that most of the accreditation industry awards itself by way of a voluntary code of practice and such jazz.

There is so much on greenwash about that all such claims must be taken with an extreme large dose of salt; the proverbial pinch does not suffice. Therefore sticking with the things that you have already got rather than believing and being taken in by the claims is by far a better and “greener” choice. It is also kinder on the wallet.

© 2017

Staycations up by a quarter this summer, research suggests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

staycation_uk1The number of British people opting to take domestic holidays this summer is up by as much as quarter over last year, research reveals.

The unfavorable exchange rate and unpredictable political landscape have attributed to the rise in staycations, it is suggested. To that we should also add that there are still many who literally cannot afford to go abroad as they have not had a pay rise for many years.

A 23.8% rise in British holidaymakers planning UK stays for summer 2017 was identified based on searches and bookings made between October 2016 and January 2017 to depart from June to August this year.

UK trips are getting shorter too, as the data indicated that more than half of domestic holidaymakers are planning a break of three days or less – up 8.8% from last year.

A notable decline of 5.2% was found in the number of UK travelers planning a staycation of 12 days or more, however this group still accounts for 16.6% of the total. The top five UK destination cities this summer are London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester.

While staycation bookings are up, Spain remains the top summer destination for UK holidaymakers, followed by with Italy, Greece and Portugal, though France has dropped out of the top five this year despite being the third most popular destination for Britons in 2016.

With Sterling plummeting 13% against the US dollar and dropping 9% against the euro since the EU referendum vote last June, we are seeing a notable uplift in UK tourists opting to holiday at locations at home. Others will be vacationing at home at home, so to speak, in that they are not going to any resort or anything of that nature.

We have seen that stay-at-home staycations have become very popular over the last couple of years ever since the Great Recession and austerity in Britain and this could be seen in the local Parks with a serious increase of visitors.

We have seen an almost a 25% year-over-year increase in people opting for staycations in the UK this summer rather than going abroad and over half the people are planning shorter trips for less than three days. That trend has seen an increase of almost 10% over the previous year.

For some, as mentioned, opting for a staycation at UK destinations (and even altogether at home) is closely tied to the unfavorable exchange rate between Sterling and Euro since the Brexit vote but, in my opinion, it has also a great deal to do with lack of cash flow, so to speak, as many workers who would have traveled to destinations on the European mainland just cannot really afford to do so.

Other concerns, no doubt, are those of security and the ever increasing restrictions of what you can and cannot take with you on an aircraft nowadays, with regards to terrorism concerns. Check-in rimes are getting longer and also the check-out, so to speak, on the other end. And on the way back you have a repeat performance creating hassle and stress which almost requires another holiday to get over it.

Personally I cannot think of any better kind of holiday, vacation, than staying at home and spending it there.

© 2017

Reusing silica gel packets

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

silica gel packetsDo not throw those packets away which come in different sizes. While they are not edible – please don't try – they can be reused in several ways.

We find those little – and sometimes not so very little – packets everywhere. They pop our of all sorts of packaging and lurk like an ugly bug or something in vitamin bottles, new shoes and many other products. The majority just toss those packets out but there are many ways in which we can actually reuse them. So, hold on to them. They can come in handy.

Silica gel is a desiccant, a substance that absorbs moisture. It is not a gel, despite its name, but actually a very porous mineral with a natural attraction to water molecules, that is to say, in simple terms, moisture.

Manufacturers utilize the “gel” to keep goods from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity. The “gel” itself is nontoxic, but can have a moisture indicator added (cobalt chloride) which is a known toxin that turns pink when hydrated and is otherwise blue in its dry form. Most silica found in our food and household purchases, however, looks like tapioca beads and is benign unless combined with certain chemicals. Even in that benign form, though, you should not eat it.

Although silica gel has massive potential for reuse, there do not seem to be an recyclers, commercial ones I mean, that are prepared to, well, recycle it.

I tend to keep them, whatever the size, for future reuse. The only problem I have is that I keep forgetting where I put them. Which reminds me that I must look for all of them and – finally – put them somewhere all together into a box or such and then label the box. – Update: Box with packets found. Now must put label on box and remember where it is.

There are a number of reuse possibilities for those little, and not so little, sachets, that can keep the stuff out of the landfill for a little longer.

  • Put some packs in your ammo cans and gun cases/safes to keep the ammo and guns dry. The same goes as to where you keep your knives.

  • Protect personal papers and important documents by putting some gel in a bag wherever these are stored, such as filing cabinets (oh, I know, I am old-fashioned and yes, I still use them – the filing cabinets that is).

  • Keep with photos to protect them from humidity.

  • Put and keep a little sachet of gel in your camera bag. After snapping photos in cold or wet conditions, silica gel will absorb moisture to keep your lens from fogging or streaking.

  • Leave a couple packs in your tool box to prevent rusting of tools.

  • You could also use the gel to to dry flowers or place with seeds in storage to prevent them going moldy.

  • Put some packets on your window sills to banish condensation.

  • Use in luggage while traveling.

  • Put some bags with your leather goods, such as coats and shoes, bags, belts, etc., wherever you keep them to to prevent them going moldy in storage.

While these packets may be annoying and seem like a waste of resources, they can extend the life of many items. Another reason someone needs to be collecting them to recycle: they can be reactivated repeatedly. To recharge, you just need to bake the saturated beads on a cookie sheet in the oven, though that takes a while, or gently in the microwave. They can also be air dried near a radiator or other safe heat source.

P.S. If you don't have silica gel packs handy then rice in small cotton bags will also do the trick of absorbing moisture. Our parents and grandparents used to do that to keep salt from getting lumpy.

© 2017

Sources of wood for the treen worker

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Arborist1While the coppice worker, the woodsman and underwoodsman, who carves and turns treen goods, makes furniture and walking sticks, has choice and ample supply, often others who make such goods not not have such a source and ready access to a steady supply of raw materials and have to find other ways of procuring those. It can be done, however, and that even in towns and cities.

There are the municipal and the private tree surgeons and tree contractors that more often than not have to pay to get rid off the lumps of wood they cut on an almost daily basis and the less of that they have to take to the dump or such the less they have too pay for it and the happier they will be. So make friends with them. Most, if not indeed all, will be more than happy to let you have whatever you want out of what they have cut, generally for free, unless they have an outlet for it that pays, which most of them do not seem to have.

Those contractors may even be happy enough to deliver the stuff to your door in order for you to take it off their hands for the less they have to chip and the less they have on their wagons to dump the more money is in their pockets. Generally a win-win situation for both, them and you.

So, if you see them working approach them. Most don't bite. Make acquaintance with them and ask. Showing interest in what they do and being able to engage with them about trees and such matters has them open up in no time. Those guys and gals are generally so passionate about their work that they love to find someone sharing a similar passion for trees and wood. I have yet to find a real tree surgeon who does the job and has chosen the career, if he or she is a true professional, for the sake of the money. It is a passion with most of them and not just a job. Thus if someone shares their passion they will be more than happy to part with some of the wood, especially if they have to pay to dispose of it.

In my own neighborhood there is a small farm where many of the tree surgeons, who have no other outlet for the wood, bring their stuff in order too get rid off it, against payment to the farmer who, though, turns the logs into firewood and bags the wood chips and sells both at a price, making money from two sides. In my view this is unethical but this smallholder, I guess, sees it as offering a service to the tree surgeons while at the same time creating a small business and income for himself. But that business and income could also come from not charging the tree surgeons and just charging for the wood and the wood chips when one sells them. But then again that is just the way I see it.

Back to obtaining wood for carving if you have not got access to a woodland.

Most tree surgeons and other such contractors, I am sure, will be only too happy to let you have all the wood that you want and that you can use and that for free, more than likely, and they may even be kind enough to drop it off right in your front yard. Go and talk to them and see.

© 2017 

The bane of the wooden disposable chopstick

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

disposable chopsticks1_webI might just be able to live with it – but then more than like not even then – if the majority of those disposable chopsticks that are given out with sushi and other East Asian takeout dishes were made of bamboo but they are not. The great majority are made of wood, and it would appear of some hardwood as well in most cases. Some of them may be bamboo but the majority that we encounter here seem to be more wood, hardwood, in nature.

Chopsticks have a long and storied history, dating back to 2100 BC when Da Yu, the founder of the Xia dynasty, was trying to reach a flood zone. In his haste, he didn't want to wait for his food to cool down, and adapted two twigs to help him eat his food quickly. With the popularization of Asian food all over the world, chopsticks – especially the disposable kind – are now being used the everywhere.

But “throwaway” chopsticks are an unmitigated environmental disaster. In China alone, 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away each year, requiring hundreds of acres of forest to be cut down every day just to keep up with the demand, so some reports go. From where we are sitting this is, obviously, very hard to verify. In response to this, however, the Bring Your Own Chopsticks (BYOC) movement began and is gaining ground in places like Japan, China and Taiwan.

Often I tend to find them thrown away unused, still in their packets, which means that the person eating the dish opted, more than likely, for a plastic fork or spook instead of the supplied chopsticks. In that case the chopsticks come home with me to be (re)used as tools for which they are intended for, namely eating with.

From those I have made up a couple of BYOC sets, one in a leather sleeve that can be easily tucked into a pocket, for use when out and about so as not to use disposables from a restaurant.

Those that are out of their packets and have been used or otherwise tossed are reworked into dibblets, that is to say for tools to prick out seedlings in gardening.

In North America, apparently, those single use chopsticks are more of bamboo than of hardwood. How that is to be I do not understand but so the story goes and in Canada recently a young start-up has begun recycling those into a variety of products.

In Vancouver, Canada, this young start-up called “Chopvalue” cleans them up and turns them into home accessories and furniture.

Chopvalue's founder, Felix Böck, is a doctoral student in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia. The idea for the start-up came when he realized how many chopsticks were thrown out every day.

Böck estimates that in Vancouver alone over 100,000 pairs of these utensils are sent to the landfill every day. Wanting to do something to address the problem, Böck invested in some recycling bins, and recruited restaurants to get their customers to throw their bamboo chopsticks in the recycling bin, rather than in the trash. These are then picked up by Chopvalue, and then taken to their lab, where they are cleaned, coated in resin and then hot-pressed with a machine to come up with a flat material.

The use of a fair amount of resin in the making of the products, however, makes me question the green credentials of this though as no information is given as to what kind of resin is being used. Also the heat and pressure in the production required a great deal of energy and again the green credentials are, thus, at least in my opinion, more than questionable.

Better would be if we would first of all not use them and really bring our own chopsticks or, alternatively, find ways to reuse and upcycle those sticks on a different level that does not require an amount of chemicals and energy. I am sure that it can be done in a way that is much better for the environment than making “planks” our of them by use of resins, heat and pressure.

© 2017

The invention of capitalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

diggers1_webCapitalism was invented, yes, invented, and its aim was to turn a self-sufficient peasantry into industrial wage slaves, and my oh my, has it worked.

“...everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” ~ Arthur Young,1771

Our popular economic wisdom – and what the people are told – says that capitalism equals freedom and free societies. But is the really the case? The short answer to this is a firm no. It is slavery in all but name.

Instead of the master the owner of a business is referred to in capitalism as the employer, or worse still in the German language as “giver of work”, while the slave is called “employee” or, let's quote a German translation again “taker of work” which the “giver of work” out of his kind heart (please take not: sarcasm) makes available to the worker. You still with me here?

While in the old days of slavery the slave owner had to look – more or less – after his investment, the workers, house them, clothe them, feed them, in wage slavery the owner pays the slave who then has to use the little money for such things as food, clothing and housing. Often the housing was provided by the factory even which means that the owner got money back for more often than not hovels, and many also had to buy their provisions in factory stores. But they were free. Yeah, right!

This transition to a capitalistic society did not happen naturally or smoothly. The English peasants did not want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in dirty, dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of landowning capitalists. And for good reason, too.

The peasant – the independent peasant – in his community was self-reliant if not even more or less self-sufficient. He did not need much in the way of coin, of money, to get the thing he and his family needed. While the factory slave had to toil for days to afford to buy a pair of commercially produced shoes or boots the rural peasant could make his own of an evening, often clogs with a leather upper, for instance, or had them made paying in kind.

But in order for capitalism to work, capitalists needed a pool of cheap, surplus labor. So what to do? Call in the National Guard? Well, in a manner of speaking yes.

Faced with a peasantry that did not feel inclined to playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.

The serious brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves are very much at odd with and very far removed from the reputation of people having had free choice in this matter as often portrayed by proponents of classical political economy.

Many different policies were enacted through which peasants were forced off the land – from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots – and even that did not immediately bring the peasants flocking to the towns and cities and into the factories.

The proto-capitalist were openly complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and were trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.

Pamphleteers of that time got busy in decrying the laziness of the peasants and their indolence and those paragraphs below will show the general attitude of those capitalists and their supporters towards successful, self-sufficient peasant farmers:

“The possession of a cow or two, with a hog, and a few geese, naturally exalts the peasant. . . . In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days, are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion increases by indulgence. And at length the sale of a half-fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness.”

While another pamphleteer wrote:

“Nor can I conceive a greater curse upon a body of people, than to be thrown upon a spot of land, where the productions for subsistence and food were, in great measure, spontaneous, and the climate required or admitted little care for raiment or covering.”

John Bellers, a Quaker “philanthropist” and economic thinker saw independent peasants as a hindrance to his plan of forcing poor people into prison-factories, where they would live, work and produce a profit of 45% for aristocratic owners:

“Our Forests and great Commons (make the Poor that are upon them too much like the Indians) being a hindrance to Industry, and are Nurseries of Idleness and Insolence.”

Daniel Defoe, the novelist and trader, noted that in the Scottish Highlands “people were extremely well furnished with provisions – venison exceedingly plentiful, and at all seasons, young or old, which they kill with their guns whenever they find it.”

To Thomas Pennant, a botanist, this self-sufficiency was ruining a perfectly good peasant population:

“The manners of the native Highlanders may be expressed in these words: indolent to a high degree, unless roused to war, or any animating amusement.”

Having a full belly and productive land was in their eyes the problem, and the solution to whipping those “lazy bums” into shape was obvious: kick them off the land and let em starve. And that is exactly what was done...

Arthur Young, a popular writer and economic thinker respected by John Stuart Mill, wrote in 1771: “everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” Sir William Temple, a politician and Jonathan Swift's boss, agreed, and suggested that food be taxed as much as possible to prevent the working class from a life of “sloth and debauchery.”

Temple also advocated putting four-year-old kids to work in the factories, writing “for by these means, we hope that the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them.” Some thought that four was already too old. According to Perelmen, “John Locke, often seen as a philosopher of liberty, called for the commencement of work at the ripe age of three.” Child labor also excited Defoe, who was joyed at the prospect that “children after four or five years of age... could every one earn their own bread.”

To combat any dissent of the peasants conscripted by force to be wage slave the Reverend Joseph Townsend believed that restricting food was the way to go: “[Direct] legal constraint [to labor] . . . is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, . . . whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural motive to industry, it calls forth the most powerful exertions. . . . Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjugation to the most brutish, the most obstinate, and the most perverse.”

Patrick Colquhoun, a merchant who set up England's first private “preventative police” force to prevent dock workers from supplementing their meager wages with stolen goods, provided what may be the most lucid explanation of how hunger and poverty correlate to productivity and wealth creation: “Poverty is that state and condition in society where the individual has no surplus labor in store, or, in other words, no property or means of subsistence but what is derived from the constant exercise of industry in the various occupations of life. Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man. It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labor; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.”

So, just to let that think in a little more here I repeat the important part from the above: “Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society... It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labor; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.”

So much for the historic part, and more, so to speak.

Hunger, as advocated by the good Reverend Joseph Townsend, is still today used as a weapon against the working class and for the fear of becoming destitute and homeless the worker will even accept cuts in wages and conditions so as to keep his job (and home). The threat of loss of employment – for the worker does not have a cottage and garden to fall back on and some cottage industry skills that can make him a little money on the side, like the peasant has/had – and thus loss of home and more will keep the worker in line, so to speak, and a good ample supply of unemployed is also necessary for this.

The Irish Famine also has to be seen in this context and the same light for it had less to do with the potato harvest failing due to the blight but everything to do with the fact that the powers-that-be wanted to rid the countryside of the independent peasant.

Full employment is bad for capitalism and the capitalist and thus there has to be a pool of unemployed maintained under conditions worse than under the worst employment so that there remains always the threat from the master to the slave that the slave might be joining that pool if he or she does not do as ordered. That is how the capitalist masters maintain their hold over the workforce and nowadays even the trade unions, more often than not, help to keep the worker in chains rather than helping him to throw off those shackles, as in the case, for instance, most recently in Germany where the IG Metal, the metal workers' union, has colluded with the employers that temporary workers can be used by a company for several times greater a time span, before they have to become permanent employees, as the government has decreed.

Not only did the independent (minded) peasants had to be forced off the land and into the cities and the factories to create wage slaves for the capitalists, even the independent craftsmen had to be destroyed, as both were in the way for capitalism to develop.

It is for that very reason that the powers-that-be are making it as difficult as at all possible for anyone wishing to take up smallholding, for instance, or living and working in a wood, even if they own that land or wood. The independent peasants and woodsmen, as well as craftsmen, are a threat to them still to this very day as they do not fit in with the plans of capitalism.

© 2017

What to do with an old toothbrush

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

toothbrush-311373_960_720Over the course of your life, you will buy things that are meant to last, like a home (if you are lucky enough to have the funds to do so), and others that are frequently replaced, like the humble toothbrush.

Speaking of the toothbrush, dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months. If you adopt that schedule, four of your toothbrushes will hit landfills every year. If you are feeling resourceful, however, you can prolong your former toothbrush's landfill trip by putting it to further use after you are done using it on your teeth.

This may be seen, even by ardent reusers, as somewhat of a yuck subject but it is not and does not have to be.

You may want to give old brushes a good cleaning before taking on these projects. To do that I simply stick them in a small container with some hot water and chlorine bleach. After that, you are good to go.

I know that some people have a problem with bleach as not being environmentally friendly but as a disinfectant it is hard to beat and replace.

Get the dirt off veggies

Mushrooms often come with a bit of dirt, but they hate being cleaned with water. A soft-bristle brush will let you remove dirt easily and effectively. Don't stop at mushrooms, either. Other fruits and veggies can be cleaned just as thoroughly with a soft-bristle brush.

Cleaning pesky dishes and tile grout

The lids of sippy cups, stubborn Tupperware containers, and other hard-to-clean kitchen hardware are a perfect use for an old toothbrush. You can get right into the spots that a typical kitchen sponge or even dishwash brush cannot reach.

A toothbrush is wonderful for cleaning pesky kitchen grout and for certain cleaning jobs, including the tile grouts, in the bathroom.

In the bathroom

As already indicated an old toothbrush can serve very well as a cleaning brush for tile grout in the bathroom and is equally at home cleaning off gunk, limescale, and other stuff from around the taps at the sink and the bathtub.

Bicycle chains

A toothbrush is great for getting dirt and such out of bicycle chains and also the freewheel and crank wheel, as well as the gear cluster, if your bike has one, before it causes problems or builds up excessively.

Working with crafts

A toothbrush can be used to apply paint, glue, polish, and all manner of arts-and-crafts materials. It is a brush, after all.

Applicator brush for boot polish

As we have just established that the toothbrush is a brush, after all, it is quite natural to also consider using a retired toothbrush as an applicator brush for boot and shoe polish.

When your toothbrush is done cleaning your teeth, its life has only just begun, and with the above list we have only just about scratched the surface of all the tasks that an old toothbrush could be put to before finally putting it into the trash.

© 2017

The 81-year-old woman inspiring a nation to recycle

Zeinab Mokalled

An 81-year-old who set up an all-woman rubbish collection team in her village in Lebanon now has a stream of visitors asking how she did it. For nine months in 2015 and 2016 rubbish piled up on the streets of the capital, Beirut, and even now a lack of landfill sites means some of the city's waste is being thrown in the sea. Zeinab Mokalled has shown that when government fails, do-it-yourself local initiatives can work.

"There used to be dirt everywhere and the kids were filthy," Zeinab Mokalled tells me.

She is remembering the 1980s and 90s, when Israel occupied part of the south of the country for 15 years, and waste collection came to a halt in her village, Arabsalim.

As the years went by, it piled up, and Mokalled went to the regional governor to ask for help.

"Why do you care? We are not Paris," he told her.

"I knew that day that I had to take it upon myself," she says.

Mokalled called on the women of the village to help, not the men - partly because she wanted to empower them, and partly because she thought they would do a better job.

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