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  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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February 23 2012 5 23 /02 /February /2012 11:34




You may have a back yard or a patio, but you want a garden. no problem. Use containers. But there are some simple rules for a container garden.


The first is that containers should be large enough to take the plants that you want to grow in them, and you must leave enough room for growth. You will have to "pot on" certain plants as they grow. When you judge  that they are becoming too big for the plant pot, gently take them out, and pot them in something larger. When you do this, fluff the roots out a little, because otherwise they tend to cirlce round the pot and trap themselves.


Always leave a bit of drainage space at the bottom of the pot, because in a severe rainstorm pots can become flooded, drowning the roots. That is why it is always a good idea to have containers with some holes in the bottom to allow water to escape. You never need to over-water any plan. Some containers for indoor use have no drainage holes, so do not use them out doors.Some crocks [broken pots] or shards of brick placed at the bottom will allow drainage space and prevent the roots from becoming flooded.


Ensure that the container is placed in sunlight according to the needs of the plant in it. Not all plants enjoy full sun, so research the plant that you are potting  and decide where to out it.In addition to this ensure that you place tender and half hardy plants out only after the last frost date in your area. Be aware, in Britain gardening manuals seem to be based on the south, so their dates are for that reason. We in the north have to wait a little and use out judgment.


The big problem with containers is that they dry out easily, as the plants have no access to soil water, so you need to ensure that the soil does not dry out.


In addition you will need to ensure that the nutritional content of the soil is refreshed annually. A little ferrtiliser every few weeks will work nicely, but it is a good idea to refresh the soil yearly, potting on the plant.


Veegtables can be growin containers as well as flowers. Potatoes grow in sacks or converted bins. On my allotment I use one ton rubble sacks. The reason for this is that one end of my plot is alongside a road which is lined with large trees, which drain the soil and make that bit useless for growing. I have my compost heaps on part of this space and grow potatoes in containers in part of  the rest of it. I can get good early potatoes ahead of the rest of the allotment, as the soil in the sacks warms up quicker than the ground soil





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February 19 2012 1 19 /02 /February /2012 12:35



We are reliably told by weather forecasters that the summer of 2012 will be droughty, unless we receive massive rains to fill up the depleted reservoirs across south east Britain A hosepipe ban is almost certain, but what else can drought struck garden enthusiasts do? Unfortunately, the prospect of a series of droughty summers in the South East is looming as climate changes over the century, so this article is about the future for several years to come


You must seriously consider whether to keep your lawn. Lawns require a large amount of water, so it may be that  you will need to adopt a different garden lay out. Note that lawns are not common in Mediterranean regions, where patios with potted plants are the norm. In parts of south east Britain lawns may become unsustainable over the next century, unless the climate radically changes to the wetter, which is unlikely .Potted plants enable water to be focused more narrowly where it is needed.


Flower beds and pots may need to be mulched. A mulch is a covering for the ground. It may be a plastic sheet with holes cut for plants. It might be compost, woodchip or stone etc. Whatever it is, a mulch will preserve water in the ground, however a stone mulch will prevent you getting compost and manure into your soil, resulting in loss of essential humus. Woodchip or bark make fine mulches,as they allow rainwater to trickle through and will decompose to allow the soil to be refreshed. A moist mulch, such as seaweed or manure, will not only retain water in the soil but provide water to it. Compost is good for water retention, so apply it liberally as a mulch across your soil. Leaf mould also serves a similar function, as it improves soil structure, which enables the soil to retain water more effectively. Potted plants can be easily mulched with woodchip or bark.


More careful watering will be the norm. Forget the hose or sprinkler, which will be banned and become a thing of the past in certain areas. Water your plants at cooler times of the day to prevent evaporation from the surface and allow the water time to be absorbed into the soil. When using a watering can, do not spray water all around, but target it at the base of the plant. Doing this waters the plant and deprives weeds of water, so it is an effective means of weed control as well as a means of watering. .


Have a water butt. This can be linked to a gutter so that rain water can be used. On an allotment a water butt is essential. I have small containers [old plastic pots that contained chicken manure pellets] next to each bed so that rain water can be collected all over the allotment, but ensure that you use this water quickly, as small containers can easily lose all their water by evaporation. Be more careful with your watering. It is possible to over water plants, wasting water in the process. You can also save waste tea and coffee, etc in a bottle to use on your soil. Tea contains potassium and the milk in it contains calcium, so it is a useful soil nutrient in small doses.


Choose drought resistant varieties of plants. Shrubs with waxy leaves are naturaly drought resistant, as they retain water effectively.  Deep rooting plants can draw water from deeper layers in the soil than shallow rooting plants can.



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February 18 2012 7 18 /02 /February /2012 11:30



We often hear the claim made that religion has been the cause of all wars, and it is something repeated habitually without sufficient evidence and without much thought. But is it true?


Let us look at the origins of this claim. Until the eighteenth century no one had heard of it, but during the French Revolution it was originally made by Le Metrier, an atheist. He was a revolutionary, and at that time the revolutionaries, who were all atheists,  had unleashed an appalling reign of terror against anyone who disagreed with them. Scores were going to the guillotine. Religiious believers were pointing out that the perpetrators of this terror were atheists, and it was not doing much for the reputation of atheism [not that all atheists are murderous savages, in fact few are.] Le Metrier hit back with the claim that religion causes all wars, and it has been repeated uncritically ever since.


Yet Le Metrier did not have an unsullied reptuation for kindness. He launched atheist gangs known as infernal columns, which descended on Catholic villages and ravaged them, destroying churches and engaging in violence against the inhabitants.We have the spectacle here of a seriously violent politican trying to shift the blame onto others by engaging in dishonest propaganda.


So does religion cause all wars?  It has had a hand in a few, but not all. The clash between Islam with its jehad and the Christan response, the crusades, is one such, as are the wars of religion in the seventeenth century. But lots of other wars had no religious input whatsoever. What religious input went into the Second World War, or the Falklands war for that matter?The fact that some religious believers were participants does not a cause make. There were atheist participants as well.


We sometimes hear the claim that Hitler was a Christian. He did claim that atheism had been abolished, but he also abolished Christian festivals and replaced them with a  potted version of ancient pagan rites. He had long lapsed from Catholicism, but like all dictators he could use religious language when it suited him. A significant number of catholic priests went to concentration camps and death for opposing him, hardly the mark of a Christian. Hitler was backed by the Thule Society, a dark-pagan racist organisation which hated Christianity. These people have nothing to do with modern pagans, who on the whole are very pleasant and cause harm to no one. The Thule Society would not have backed a Christian. Hitler was basically a gangster who spun a web of lies to back up his project. Just as it is wrong to call him a Christian, it is also wrong to call him an atheist.


Wars are caused primarily by greed for wealth and power. Those who wage them look for pretexts, which are really excuses. I suggest that much of the motivation for religious wars was basically a facade, which covered up greed for wealth and power.


Religion can also become mixed up in race and economic issues. Northern Ireland was divided between Catholic and Protestant, but the Protestants were primarily of British origin and the Catholics of Gaelic descent. It was a war about economic inequalitiesand discrimination against the Gaelic  Irish community, mainly Catholic, more than religion.


The psychologist Gordon Allport identified two modes of belief that run through all belief systems. These are extrinsic and instrinsic belief. Intrinsic believers value a belief system because they think it true and good, and Allport thinks that in general such people show evidence of positive attitudes. Extrinsic believers value a belief system as a support for a system of wealth and power. An example of this aberration would be those churches who searched the Bible to find justification for mistreating black people and twisted the texts to do it. This aberration was found in certain protestant groups in the Southern USA. Allport finds evidence of negative attitudes, such as prejudice and intolerance among extrinsic believers. It seems that the difference is not primarily between belief and unbelief, but between sincere belief and insincere belief.


So religion does not cause all wars, it merely has an input into some of them; but I suggest that the religious input is in many cases a pretext to justify false claims.


Further reading


The Twilight of Atheism: the rise and fall of disbelief in the modern world Alistair McGrath, Random house 2006


The Religious Context of Prejudice, Gordon Allport, cited in Personality and Religion, edited by Sadler, Forum Books, London 1970



















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February 15 2012 4 15 /02 /February /2012 14:32


York Minster


The recent controversy about the court action to ban prayers at council meetings has brought to light an important issue, whether or not secularists are trying to force religion out of the public arena by using the equality laws. The secularist case seems to be that religion is a purely private matter, and so should be restricted to private life. The consequence of this must be that public matters, such as political affairs, would be conducted in terms of secular [non-religious] values. The rationale for this position is that secularism is a common denominator for all participants in society and that religious ideas are extras grafted onto a common secular basis, and so can be dispensed with.


A stronger version of this view is to believe that religion is divisive and that it should therefore be kept out of the public arena. If we all abided by a common set of secular values, religious squabbles and disputes would fade away and we would have social peace. Of course, this argument would work if we all were Muslims, Christians, Jews or Buddhists, etc, so what a secularist is really saying is that society should have a common set of values, which are obviously his own. This leads us to postulate that this is really secularist proselytisaton dressed up in egalitarian terms.


The religious case is that in using the equality laws secularists are engaging in what is tantamount to persecution of views which they dislike by trying to prevent them from accessing the public arena and are therefore using equality laws for a purpose for which they were not intended and for which they should not be intended.


Religions also point out that religious views are not merely extras grafted onto secularist ideas, as the two sets of beliefs are fundamentally at odds with each other. They derive their views from different sources and they aim for different goals. They live by different values. While there is some overlap, the two systems do not share a common basis, so they cannot agree to work on anything other than a limited set of shared values, so the secularist case is quite weak.


The claim that religion is divisive  and that we can esape quarrels by having a common secularists approach is an intellectual sleight of hand, as the secularists are quite wrongly excluding themselves from the clash of ideas. They cannot sit out of the clash of ideas  in godlike superiority. They are as much part of it as religions are.


Societies can be divided into ideological societies and liberal democracies. The former privilege one system of belief, be it religious or otherwise. Examples would be the Soviet Union and all communist states, Saudi Arabia, Nazi Germany, whereas the latter would be any society that gave equal scope for all religious and philosophical views to flourish. These societies would follow the general teaching of John Stuart Mill, who argued for minimum interference in the liberty of others to live according to their lights. Paradoxically, Mill was an atheist, but was so tolerant that he has little or nothing in common with the modern secularists who are at the heart of the clash with Christianity.


The problem with the secularist case is that it fails to distinguish between secularism and pluralism. A secularist society privileges non-religious and/r anti-religious beliefs. By pressing for religions beliefs and practices to be excluded from public life they are privileging the secularist belief system and are therefore attempting to create an ideological society in which their views and therefore they themselves are privileged over those whith whom they disagree.Their approach, which purports to be egalitarian, is therefore anti-egalitarian and discriminatory.


Secularists fail to distinguish between a secular society and a secularist society. A Secular society does not privilege religion and allows no religious orgabisations to exercise control over the state, whereas a secularist society orivileges the philosophy of secularism by insisting that the state be run on secularist lines and no religious input into politics should be  permitted. Whereas religous beliefs can flourish in a secular society, the secularist society is designed to prevent them from flourishing. It therefore is an affront to equality as it favours one group of citizens and their beliefs over others.


J.S. Mill would have wanted a pluralist society, in which all beliefs, religious or otherwise, are allowed an expression in the public arena and in which all individuals and groups are fully at liberty to express themselves and promote their way of life by peaceful and non-coercive means. The advantage of the a pluralist society is that it allows everyone to be happy  and fulfilled, whereas an ideological society, in which one philosophy is privileged,  results in someone being happier and more fulfilled than others are. In an ideal society no beliefs should be excluded from the public arena. Strangely, John Stuart Mill, an atheist, is a great help to modern religious thinkers trying to assert their rights. The pluralist society is a society that promotes the happiness and equality of all. It is the one for which we must all strive.

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February 10 2012 6 10 /02 /February /2012 10:45



The church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site of Jesus' burial


At the centre of the Christian faith is the belief that God became incarnate in Jesus and that, when Jesus was crucified, God showed his approval of Jesus by cancelling the death sentence that he suffered and raising him from the dead to a renewed life. Thus Jesus, who died by hanging on a cross, a sentence that excluded the victim from the community of Israel, was declared God's chosen. A mighty claim!


The resurrection is central to this narrative. However, it is widely agreed that the resurrection is not an event in history. This means that it cannot be included in the academic discipline of history, which cannot cover "supernatural" [for want of a better word] events. But it is a major failing of many academics that they confuse the limits of their subject with the limits of truth. There can be events that do not fit into an academic discipline, and these can be significant. The resurrection is an event in sacred history, the long story of God's dealing with humans through the Jewish people. But this does not end all discussion. We must investigate it to determine what we might legitimately believe about it.


The resurrection either happened or it did not. Unfortunately there have been a number of intermediate explanations, none of which are impressive. Those who claim that all those who reported Jesus' appearances were lying may be discounted, as this presumes that the sceptic knows exactly what happened. Others write off the events as mass hallucination or delusion. Again, this cannot be completely disproven, but to know this the sceptic would have to identify and psychologically analsyse everyone who experienced the resurrected Christ. This is impossible, but we might note that sceptics require rigorous academic proof from everyone else.


Yet there were claims that the apostles stole the body in the night, as Matthew's gospel reports. The guards claimed that they had been sleeping on duty when the body was taken. This presumes that the body had actually disappeared. But these guards were Roman soldiers, who were always executed for sleeping on duty. So why were they not executed? Something odd had happened; and why did they not hear a heavy stone being rolled away? This beggars belief. However., some might argue that the chief priests stole the body to prevent the apostles stealing it, but then why not dig it up when the resurrection story circulated, or at least say where it had been put? 


The claim that the women went to the wrong tomb is sexist. It was based upon the assumption that women are not very bright people and liable to make silly mistakes. I do not think that we need to entertain such a claim.


On the lunatic fringe is the idea that Jesus awoke in the tomb, pushed the stone away and strolled off. Medically this is impossible. A person who is crucified undergoes suffocation when he is hanging downwards and has to raise himself by his arms to breathe. So when Jesus appeared dead on the cross he would have been in the position where he was not breathing. After a few minutes death would have happened. Furthermore he was speared  to ensure that he was dead. Such a  blow would have seriously wounded him had he lived. Survival in these circumstances would have been miraculous, even with modern medicine.


Maurice Casey makes a more credible case that Jesus' apostles genuinely experienced bereavement  visions, which are not unknown among bereaved people [Jesus of Nazareth, Casey, t and t Clark, 2010.] This is feasible, but there are stories that do not comfortable fit into this model, such as the meeting on the Road to Emmaus [which is heavily theologized and from Luke, not a reliable historian] and the eating of boiled fish. Casey accepts that Paul's vision did not fit into this bereavement vision model, and his argument is therefore weakened. While it is possible that some of the experiences were bereavement visions, can he assert that all were; and how does this claim  fit in with the empty tomb?


It is noted that the gospels present quite garbled  accounts of the resurection experiences that have defied systemisation into one narrative. This is because, I believe, they occurred to people who were widely dispersed in a society in which communication was slow. I suggest that there were many of these experiences, many of which were unrecorded. This would make an integrated account well nigh impossible.


Yet it is sure that the defeated enthusiasts who followed Jesus did not slink away. After three days they were empowered and began to organise a community. What was the transformative experience that turned defeated and frightened men into spiritual heroes? They had in those three days undergone a profound religious experience that founded the largest religion in the world and has empowered it over two thousand years. Something happened.


Yet Christians must not think that they understand the resurrection. The nature of the risen Christ eludes comprehension. We have not concluded the investigation, but have merely completed one chapter; and we have a very large volume to study.


In the end, certainty cannot be had in human affairs. The resurrection cannot be proved or disproved. It all boils down to the faith decision. Does the story of Jesus as told by the church speak to you? Does it empower you and enrich your religious thought?  Faith or lack of it involve a decision. This decision is not an arbitrary leap in the dark, but is to be made after a considered reflection.






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February 9 2012 5 09 /02 /February /2012 15:45



Permaculture is an important cultivation and design  technique and an ecologically harmonious way of living. The name suggests what it is about. It comes from permanent and culture, its ideal being to develop a sustainable and ecologically harmonious form of agriculture and horticulture that meets the needs of humans and animals within the eco-system. It is not to be confused with the organic movement, though the two are quite compatible with each other. Permaculturalists believe that the design technique is a design for living and that it should stretch into the whole of a permaculturalists life. The ideal is that the whole of a person's existence should run with the grain of nature rather than against it.


Permaculturalists attempt to cultivate in harmony with the environment, so that minimum energy will be expended in the cultivation process. Thus all permaculture begins with observation of the site  where growing will take place. The observer takes note of all environmental l conditions and reflects on what has been observed. He/she will then design a cultivation system that relies on plants that are harmonious with the growing environment. By growing with the flow of nature growers expend less energy than those who try to grow against it. This would avoid energy expensive use of heated greenhouses to grow crops that are not suitable for the environmental  conditions at a site.


Permaculturalists divide land into zones. Zone 1 is the dwelling and its immediate environs. Zone 2 is the productive gardens close to a house. Zone 3 is orchards and farm land. Zone 4 is land less amenable to humans, such as moorland and natural woodland. Zone 5 is wilderness. Few sites have all five zones, and most have only zones 1 and 2. In Britain there is little zone 5 land. Permaculture values edge, as it realizes that edges of one plot or piece of land can be quite productive and are sometimes wasted. You will also note that it is not obsessed with straight lines, and a permaculture site might  have paths and beds which are curved and sinuous, going along the lie of the land or its surface features.


The aim of Permaculture is to maximally utilise resources and energy before they leave the system. Thus the ideal permaculture system will have no waste, as waste is a sign of failure. The design will be such that all waste will be re-used. Composting is an important part of the process, but waste usage extends much wider than this. Permaculture systems will be designed for minimum energy use and maximum returns. In common with the organic movement it realises that the earth ahs top be nourished rather than exploited, and most permaculturalists follow organic methods. However, Permaculturalists believe that a bare piece of land is an error, and they like to keep land covered. This will involve either growing some crop on it, even green manure, or keeping it mulched. Mulch might be plant remains, seaweed etc.


Permaculturalists place emphasis on perennial crops rather than annuals, although annual crops are important as part of diet. Perennials are thought to be a more economic use of energy, as they regrow every year without having to be replanted. The movement is not committed to vegetarianism, though some Permaculturalists are vegetarians. Also important to the movement is the idea of forest gardens. These are gardens that blend various kinds of trees and shrubs with some vegetables and bushes. Permaculturalists like them because they utilise the vertical dimension as well as the surface.


The Permaculture Association credits courses in permaculture. The initial course is a certificate. There is a teacher's  course and a diploma for more advanced designers. Various course providers are credited to offer these. Some magazines have sprung up to promote the permaculture message. I have a certificate in permaculture, but for me it involves a lifelong growth of knowledge and personal development in the ideas of the movement.


Below is a picture of a forest garden in Africa






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January 29 2012 1 29 /01 /January /2012 12:00



This time of  year is the time to prepare your soil. Soil needs feeding just like plants do. When you grow anything in the ground you take goodness from the soil, and vegetables take quite a lot of it. Whatever you eat is taken from the soil and the goodness leaves with it. Hence you must put goodness back. Organic growers feed the soil so that the soil can feed the plants


Well rotted manure is a good idea. Manure comes in various kinds. Horse manure comes from stables and often contains weed seeds, but it is still good. Cow manure is taken from barns where cows are kept. Ideally manure should be well rotted before you apply it, as otherwise it might burn the plants as it rots down. Pig manure is very strong and not the best for gardens. Chicken and other poultry manure is fine, but it is very strong and should be applied sparingly. It is not a bad idea to add it to the compost heap, as this will enrich the soil but will be distributed throughout the compost. Manure often comes in pellets supplied in tubs and bags. This is an easy way to cart it around, but while it still contains nutrients, it does not supply much bulk to the soil and lacks the water found in unpelleted manure. Apply manure as a mulch over the ground and around the roots of trees.


Compost, which is the decayed remains of plants, comes in various kinds, and there are different kinds of compost for different tasks. For generally preparing your ground a general purpose is good. However, there are some loam based composts still  available. These contain more soil and are quite beneficial. They are derived from composted turf.Garden compost is the remains of garden plants allowed to compost down in a bin or compost heap. However kitchen compost is very useful, as it contains remains of foods, which are quite nutrient rich. I keep my kitchen compost in a large bin, but have compost heaps for the allotment compost, the plant remains. Tea bags and banana skins are good components of kitchen compost, as they are rich in potassium, which is an essential soil nutrient. Meat should never be added to a compost bin, as it attracts rats.Nettles are a useful addition to your compost heap, as they draw up minerals from the subsoil, which can then enrich the surface layers.


Worm compost is a kind of manure. It is produced in a  wormery, also known as a worm bin. It is very strong and should be applied sparingly across the plot. However, the juice form a wormery, which is drawn out by tap, is extremely nourishing for plants [foul smelling, though.] This is very strong and should be applied by diluting it in a  watering can.


Mushroom compost is left  over from mushroom production. It is a useful soil supplement and can supply much needed calcium.


Seaweed is an important source of nutrients. It can be applied directly, if you live near the sea, but the rest of us have to purchase it as seaweed meal or in liquid form. I like to apply it to all my crops, as it supplies essential trace elements. It is not unduly salty.


Well rotted leaf mould can add some goodness to the soil. This is made from piles of leaves that have been allowed to rot over a year or two. It does not add a great deal of nourishment, but it does enrich the soil structure. It is of course possible to mulch [cover] the ground with leaves and leave them to rot down. This will supply nourishment as the leaves rot and also help to suppress smaller weeds.


A recently introduced  soil enricher has been rock dust. Soils contain minerals derived from rock, and these are an essential component of  soil health. In recent years there has been a growing awareness that soils are becoming demineralised through mineral loss from agriculture and horticulture. But it is possible to find granite dust obtained from grinding granite in quarries. Other kinds of rock might also be used in future, if they are suitable. Supplies  can be found on the Internet if you type  rockdust into your search engine.Clay also helps to mineralise soil, as clay soils are extremely fertile, if hard to work. Clay can be dug in, but it is not easy to obtain.

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January 18 2012 4 18 /01 /January /2012 15:48



Integrated pest management uses a variety of techniques in such a way that they do not conflict  with each other. These techniques are chemical, cultural and biological. The skill to integrated pest management is to time the application of each technique for maximum benefit and minimum side effects.


Take an example. If you apply a chemical pesticide, you might kill harmful and helpful insects. So you are killing the friends that eat the pests. So in integrated pest management you study the life cycles of helpful and harmful insects so that you know when the harmful ones are present and apply a chemical pesticide then. In this way you kill the pests, but not the beneficient insects.


The benefit of using integrated pest management is that it prevents over-reliance on pesticides. At the moment there is a problem that pests are developing resistance to common pesticides. For example, the glasshouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporarium, has begun to become pesticide resistant in the south of Britain, and the resistance is spreading to other areas. The reason for this is that the pesticides have killed all the flies that are vulnerable to them, leaving those with some inbuilt resistance to that specific pesticide to breed and multiply. Using integrated pest management techniques minimises the use of pesticides, thus preventing the development of resistance. The other techniques will kill off pests. For example, no pest, for example, is immune to being crushed or eaten.


Cultural technques involve hygiene. In integrated pest management the grower ensures that all plant debris is disposed of , so that pests cannot hide in it, and that pots are disinfected in winter. This means that overwintering pests have no place to hide. All nooks and crannies in glasshouses are swept out and disinfected for this reason. Pests whose larvae dwell in the soil are vulnerable to cultural techniques. Vine weevil larvae are vulnerable to a ground roller, which crushes them. Digging exposes the cells in which some pests or their larvae overwinter, and then they are exposed to birds that can eat them. Blasting off aphids with water jets in summer not only destroys the aphids, but waters the plants as well. These techniques will be used at times when helpful insects are not present, as far as possible.


IPM might mean that you become aware of the presence of hosts in your land or area.Some species of aphid prefer a specific type of plant, maybe a tree, as a host for larvae at one stage in their life  cycle. So therefore  growers will as far as possible minimise the presence of host plants on their land. Conversely, they may adjust their land to create habitat for helpful creatures. For example,a pond with frogs or toads pays off enormously if you want slug control, as these amphibians eat slugs and snails. IPM might mean that growers introduce animals that, for example, eat slugs. Keeping a few ducks not only helps slug control but provides eggs. The problem slugs come back as eggs that you can eat or sell.


Intregrated pest management relies on the introduction of selected predators or the encouragement of natural ones. For example, ladybirds [Amercian ladybugs] are great eaters of aphids, so as far as possible they should be encouraged. Integrated pest management [IPM] will encourage hedgehogs and predatory birds. In glasshouses  it will introduce, for example,  Encarsia formosa, a minute parasitic wasp, to attack the red spider mite, Tetranichus urticaria. [Encarsia does not sting humans.] But when the wasps are being introduced chemical pesticides will not be used. You might use a chemical at a time before Encarsia is introduced, or when you are sure that it has died off, but during its presence then chemicals will not be used.Nematodes can be applied in gardens or glasshouses to destoy slugs. These are very tiny creatures that burrow into a slug's nervous system and paralyse it.


Furthermore, care in the use of chemicals is necessary. There are different kinds of pesticides. Integrated pest management will be reluctant to use residual pesticides, These remain in the soil and could therefore kill useful insects. Imidicloprid is one such soil based residual pesticide. It has proved useful in attacking pests, but there are concerns that it might kill helpful insects. The only type of pesticide that can be used is one that breaks up very easily. Slug pellets, will not be used, as they poison not only the slug, but also the hedgehogs and birds that eat eat them. Besides being counter-productive in inteprated pest management terms the use of non-organic slug pellets is horribly cruel, as the hedgehogs can be heard wailing in agony after eating them. However, organic pellets can be used, as they simply gum up the slugs'  digestion. The slugs  then starve to death.


Integrated pest management only works if growers are  knowledgeable and prepared to research their crops and the pest problems specific to their area. IPM will then need a clear pest management plan. A lazy grower or one who wants to take short cuts to a fast profit will not be successful in IPM. The short cuts are the excessive use of pesticide, but they create long term problems. IPM requires that growers are aware of the full range of pest control techniques and judiciously select the ones that are relevent to their circumstances and apply them in a thoughtful, well-planned way. It is the most professional way of pest management.

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January 11 2012 4 11 /01 /January /2012 10:59



Keeping chickens is a growing hobby in Britain, and it can easily be done if you have a back garden and there are no regulations to prevent you.


Firstly, you need a secure coop. This will be  a waterproof, warm and comfortable place for your chickens to roost. Ideally it will have  a perch to roost on. The coop will need a solid floor, ideally of strong wood, so that foxes and rats cannot burrow in. This should be covered in fresh straw and or wood shavings that you renew on a  regular basis.  The coop will need an enclosed wire area, a pen,  for the chickens to peck. This area should be safe from foxes. A fox can dig under the wire of a coop, so you need to ensure that some wire is tucked under the sides of the coop to prevent the foxes burrowing in. Watch out for holes in the mesh that might allow one of these pests or a cat to sneak in.Ideally you will purchase a professionally made coop from a dealer. There are many good ones about. Ensure that it is well painted before the chickens are introduced.


Some coops are movable, so that the chickens can be moved to different areas of ground, preventing build up of diseaes in one spot and the ground going stale.


Select your breeds. Most people want eggs, though some want meat. Some want both. So take advice as to the breeds that you want from a knowledgable dealer. If you just want eggs, you do not need a cock. This is because the eggs that we eat are unfertilised ovulations that the females just drop and leave. They only squat on fertilised ones. If you do get a cock for breeding, ensure that you keep cocks separate from each other, as males put together fight for supremacy. Keep different breeds in separate pens, if you want to breed from them. Cross breeds have no pedigree.


Chickens need a good diet. They are omnivores, which means that they eat anything, though they generally feed on vegetables. you are not allowed to feed kitchenscraps to them. Purchase a mash. For eggs you want a layers' mash. There is a different mash for meat. You can certainly feed them other materials. They will peck seeds and plant materials, such as fresh greens. However, chickens need to peck for food, so allow space and ground suitable for pecking behaviour. They will eat small insects, but although chickens will eat meat, cooked meat is not ideal for them.and should not be given. Any meat should come only from pecking for insects, their natural behaviour. Water should be provided fresh more than once a day in a feeder that they cannot foul or knock over. Professionally made feeders for both water and food are available from dealers.


They need a steady supply of grit to aid digestion. This should be spread in the pen and the chickens allowed to peck for it.. Chickens also need to be given an anti-worm substance at regular intervals, as pecking the ground can mean ingestion of worm eggs.


Any signs of disease should result ina vet being summoned.However, you need to be merciful. Sometimes it is kinder to kill an incurably sick animal than to leave it to suffer. You must be realistic in making decisions on this matter.


To prevent disease clear out the straw in the coop and any droppings on a  regular basis.This material makes excelllent compost. You may need to disinfect on occasion to prevent red mite, which is a nuisance for chicken keepers. When keeping animals you must never drop your vigilance against pests and diseases. It is unfair on the animal.

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Published by frankbeswick - in Farm animals
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January 3 2012 3 03 /01 /January /2012 19:49





The organic movement establishes standards for all aspects of farming and food production. It therefore has standards for eggs.All eggg, including chicken, duck, turkey, qualil and guinea fowl can be governed by organic standards


When dealing with eggs we must be aware of the different egg categories. Battery eggs are eggs produced in cages, but there are also barn eggs, in which the birds are housed in a barn. These differ from free-range eggs  in which the birds have access to the outdoors. Some terms are confusing. Cage free might mean that the eggs are still barn eggs, but not battery. Organic eggs are free-range plus extra standards. Free range in itself does not guarantee that the eggs meet organic standards, though free range eggs are produced to high standards of animal welfare.


The free range requirement holds for organic eggs. The chickens must have access to the outdoors for a significant part of the day and be able to express natural pecking behaviour. They must also be free from routine applicaton of antibiotics, which can only be administered when the birds are sick. Forced moulting is not allowed.This is the cruel practice of starving the birds for a short period to ensure that they all moult at once, which is for the famer's convenience, but not for the birds'.


The main requirement for organic eggs is that the birds are fed an organic diet. This means that they must eat food grown by certified organic farmers. To achieve certified status farmers must meet the requirements of the Soil Association or another legimate certifying body. The food must not contain genetically modified crops and crops that have been cross-fertilised by genetically modified crops are not permitted. Furthermore, the birds must not be fed animal by-products, such as meat remains.


Organic eggs must be produced by birds that are reared to standards of animal welfare that meet the requirement sof the Soil Association. Eggs can only sold as organic if they are produced by a farmer who is registed to produce eggs with the Soil Association or another legitimate certification body that meets the requirements of the state in which it is established.

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Published by frankbeswick - in Agriculture
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