Mr Digwell’s podcast: making your garden work for you

Click on my podcast (above) to hear all about the changes happening in my garden.

We had a compost box made of plastic, where I saw a hole in it some months ago – RATS! So we moved it. But now the other compost heap is covered in rat droppings, and although I personally don’t mind rats it’s time to cut off their food supply, so that compost heap is going too.

Generally speaking, compost that just has plant material in it is not much of a problem but these rodents like to sleep in it – it’s warm, its safe and it’s dry. So you can’t blame them really.

Rats do carry diseases such as leptospirosis, or Lyme’s disease but by far the worst thing about rats is they cause the neighbours to go squiffy!

Actually it’s a good thing. I cant dig that much these days, and so the area where the heaps were will become more raised beds. I am sealing the ground beneath with a couple of layers of very expensive but super strong woven plastic and then the beds will go on this, giving me the opportunity to sit on the beds if needed and garden away. The plastic will cover the soil and good quality bark will cover the plastic. So it will all look good as well as remain productive.

When I was a young gardener I would have turned away from raised beds, choosing instead to have as much of the ground in cultivation as possible but you change the way you garden as you get older, and rightly so – there is nothing wrong with this.

This is why I love being Mr Digwell. The cartoons drawn in the 1940s, perfect for its time, isn’t always right for now. One thing is clear though, you should always get the best gardening material you can afford. Take my black plastic. If I bought the cheap rolls of what looks like black wallpaper it would be no use after a really short time. I need something that will allow water through but nothing else – tough woven ground cover is the only thing. It’s not cheap, but it will last.

The same goes for seeds, tools, almost anything in the garden. If you aim to buy something only once in your gardening lifetime, you won’t go far wrong, and it will force you to care for your kit.

In our garden, a mile out of town, we get so many birds and mammals, from rabbits to foxes, nuthatches to woodpeckers. It really is wonderful to sit in the greenhouse and simply leave them to feed in the garden. I know I have said it before but if you could grow a flower that does the same things as a robin, you will be sitting on a goldmine!

Rhubarb is flowering all over the UK. This I think is down to the wettish spring and warm Easter. It can also indicate soil that needs feeding, so cut out the flowering spike, and feed your rhubarb, making sure you give it a really good mulch next spring with some well rotted manure.

Catch up with all my other Podcasts

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Sautéed Salmon + Grainy Mustard-Beer Sauce

Serves 4

4 skin-on salmon fillets (4–6 oz. each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup organic wheat beer
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
Chopped chervil, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom. Add salmon, flesh side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cover pan. Cook to desired temperature, about 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Transfer salmon to plates and keep warm in oven.

2. Pour off excess oil, leaving just enough to coat the pan, and return pan to heat. Add beer, orange juice, honey, and mustards, and stir. Boil until reduced to ⅓ cup, 3–5 minutes. Add butter, and swirl pan to incorporate. Remove pan from heat, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over salmon and garnish with chervil.

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Sautéed Salmon + Grainy Mustard-Beer Sauce

Serves 4

4 skin-on salmon fillets (4–6 oz. each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup organic wheat beer
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
Chopped chervil, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom. Add salmon, flesh side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cover pan. Cook to desired temperature, about 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Transfer salmon to plates and keep warm in oven.

2. Pour off excess oil, leaving just enough to coat the pan, and return pan to heat. Add beer, orange juice, honey, and mustards, and stir. Boil until reduced to ⅓ cup, 3–5 minutes. Add butter, and swirl pan to incorporate. Remove pan from heat, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over salmon and garnish with chervil.

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Sesame-Crusted Salmon

Serves 4

4 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds
4 skin-on salmon fillets (4–6 oz. each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and quartered lengthwise
½ Holland chile, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place sesame seeds on a baking sheet. Season salmon with salt and pepper, and press both sides into sesame seeds to coat evenly.

2. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Place salmon skin side down and cook 3–5 minutes. Turn fish over and cook 3–5 minutes more. Remove from heat; transfer salmon to plates and keep warm in oven. Wipe skillet clean.

3. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, lime juice, and honey; set aside. Heat garlic, ginger, and remaining oil in skillet. Add bok choy, and chile if using, and toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon of soy mixture and cover pan with lid. Steam until tender, 2–3 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.

4. Pour remaining soy mixture into skillet. Increase heat and boil until slightly reduced, 2–3 minutes. Serve salmon and bok choy with sauce.

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Salmon Tartare

Serves 4

12 ounces salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (use a rasp grater)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 small avocado, diced
1 whole scallion, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 dozen lavash or other crackers, for serving

1. Cut salmon into ¼ inch cubes and place in a bowl with oil, ginger, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, avocado, and scallion. In a small bowl, mix lime juice and wasabi paste until paste dissolves; add to salmon mixture. Stir gently to combine.

2. Season with salt and serve immediately with lavash.

Garden Furniture Ranges, Brands, and Materials

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Official: North Korea would use nukes if ‘forced’

Story highlights

  • CNN was granted extremely rare access to a senior North Korean official
  • He spoke candidly about rights abuses, North Korea’s nuclear program and its economy
  • Said North Korea would strike United States if provoked

Senior figures in Pyongyang don’t do interviews, especially not with the international press.

“I do not like talking to foreign media,” Park Yong Chol said frankly as we shook hands ahead of our meeting. He said that we report rumor and fabrication about his country.

Park is the deputy director of the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification — a think tank with links to the highest levels of North Korea’s government.

CNN's Will Ripley sits down with Park Yong CholCNN's Will Ripley sits down with Park Yong CholCNN’s Will Ripley sits down with Park Yong Chol


In spite of his misgivings, he sat down to talk with us beneath the ubiquitous portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Our conversation lasted nearly two hours and no topic was off limits.

The only instruction we were given was to break from our traditional CNN interview format of two chairs facing each other, so that we could sit across a large conference table, and so that the two portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il could be seen directly over Park. We agreed to do this, as our government guides explained the symbolism of the Great Leaders appearing overhead was very important to their country.

READ: Invited back to North Korea: The mystery is why

We quickly got onto a touchy subject: the recent reports from South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency that Kim Jong Un had personally ordered the execution of about 15 officials so far this year.

“Malicious slander!” he replied. “Especially as they try to link the allegations against to the august name of our Supreme Leader Marshall Kim Jong Un.”

But he did not deny that executions take place here of those who try to overthrow the government or subvert the system. “It is very normal for any country to go after hostile elements and punish them and execute them.”

Rights abuses

And even though a recent United Nations report has alleged large-scale human rights abuses — murder, starvation and torture of inmates in a network of brutal prison camps — Park denied that such camps exist. He said although there were correction reform centers for ordinary criminals, political prison camps simply did not exist. “Our society is a society without political strife or factions or political divisions — as a result we don’t have the term ‘political prisoner,’” he added.

According to Park, these allegations come from defectors who are enticed or forced into defecting by the U.S. and South Korea. “Some of the so-called defectors are criminals who ran away from their homes. They committed crimes against the state here. Because of that they ran away.

“And now they are in South Korea denouncing our government because they have no other choice.”

In his view, there is no single yardstick for human rights applicable to every country.

“If you talk about human rights in my country, I will talk about human rights in the United States,” he said. “You have racial riots taking place in the wake of the killing of so many black people by the police. You have prisons full of inmates and new techniques of torture being used.

“The U.S. President and other high-ranking administration officials have acknowledged really severe forms of punishment on inmates in detention. If you talk about human rights in the DPRK, we will talk about human rights in the U.S.”

Nuclear option

In spite of all the sanctions, the DPRK sees no option but to pursue its nuclear weapons program. Park maintained that his country does indeed have the missile capability to strike mainland United States and would do so if the U.S. “forced their hand.”

It has been a costly strategy, but a necessary one, he admitted. “We invested a lot of money in our nuclear defense to counter the U.S. threat — huge sums that could have been spent in other sectors to improve our national economy. But this strategic decision was the right one.”

READ: A rare look from North Korea’s perspective

The next goal is economic.

“We’re a major power politically, ideologically and militarily,” he said. “The last remaining objective is to make the DPRK a strong economic power.”

But to do that North Korea would have to improve ties with the international community.

With mutual distrust and Pyongyang’s refusal to disarm its nuclear arsenal, there seems to be no clear path to moving forward.


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Bill Clinton: I’m partly to blame for too many people in prison

Clinton signed into law an omnibus crime bill in 1994 that included the federal “three strikes” provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. On Wednesday, Clinton acknowledged that policy’s role in over-incarceration in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison,” Clinton said Wednesday. “And we wound up…putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives.”

Clinton’s comments come on the heels of protests in Baltimore over policing and the death of a young black man there and a week after Hillary Clinton delivered one of the first policy addressees of her presidential campaign on criminal justice reform, saying that the system focuses too much on incarceration.

“Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime, but it does a lot to tear apart families,” Hillary Clinton said last week. “Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions.”

RELATED: Hillary Clinton calls for mandatory police body cameras, end ‘era of mass incarceration’

As first lady, Clinton helped push the omnibus crime bill in public, calling it a “well-thought out crime bill that is both smart and tough” in a 1994 interview.

She said that the crime bill would keep violent offenders locked up “so they could never get out again” and touted the “three strikes” provision specifically.

“We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders: three strikes and you’re out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door,” Clinton said in 1994.

On the heels of nationwide protests in Baltimore, Clinton and other politicians are now turning their attention away from “tough on crime” policies to those focused on lowering prison populations and providing more opportunities for low-income areas, where tensions with police have boiled over in Baltimore and other cities.

In the interview Wednesday, the former president didn’t completely take the blame for those crime policies, though, pointing to Republicans who strongly pushed the “three strikes” provision.

“But I wanted to pass a bill and so I did go along with it,” Clinton said, referencing the legislation that put more police officers on the streets, increased prison funding and banned assault weapons and large ammunition magazines.

RELATED: How 2016 race could boost criminal justice reform

Clinton’s administration did attempt to reform the Republican proposal of that policy, but he and his administration touted the benefits of the “three strikes” provision included in the legislation he signed.

Clinton said he agreed with his wife’s new bent on criminal justice reform and called bipartisan support for those types of reforms “one of the most hopeful things.”

“I mean, going from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats and the people in between saying there’s too many people in jail and we’re not doing enough to rehabilitate the ones you could rehabilitate,” Clinton said. “We’re wasting too much money locking people up who don’t need to be there.”


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Police: College RB punched out same-sex couple

Story highlights

  • Marshall University running back Steward Butler faces two counts of battery
  • Butler was kicked off team after being accused of assaulting a same-sex couple in West Virginia

On Wednesday, Butler was dismissed from the team after being arrested on accusations he assaulted a same-sex couple in Huntington, West Virginia, the home of Marshall.

The 23-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, was booked on two counts of battery. According to a Huntington, West Virginia, police report, Butler punched two men who exchanged a kiss on a downtown Huntington street on April 5.

The victims, Casey Williams and Zackery Johnson, told police Butler stepped out of a car after seeing the men kiss.

Butler “approached the two (men) shouting derogatory words” before punching each of the men in the face, the police report said. The victims captured part of the assault on camera and photographed the vehicle.

Butler, who was released on $10,000 bond, declined to comment to reporters after his release.

“The type of violent, bigoted behavior reported to have been perpetrated by this student is not tolerated at Marshall University. Period,” university interim President Gary White said in a statement. “This is an extremely serious matter.”

Athletic Director Mike Hamrick initially said in a statement that Butler had been “suspended indefinitely from all team-related activities” but later added that he had been dismissed.

“We take all accusations against our student-athletes seriously, especially those of such a sensitive nature,” Hamrick said in a statement. “We hold all of our 350+ student-athletes to a high standard, on and off the playing surface, as ambassadors of Marshall University.”

Huntington Police have turned over the case to the local FBI office to investigate whether any federal charges should be sought, according to police Detective Chris Sperry.

CNN’s Jill Martin and Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.


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Boy, 5, cuffed, put in cop car

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CNN affiliate WWNY reports that a 5-year-old boy was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a police car after an incident at school.


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‘I STAND FOR FREEDOM’ 3-D-printed gun designer faces showdown with feds


Cody Wilson claims the federal government violated his rights under the First, Second and Fifth amendments when it prosecuted him for publishing plans for 3D printed guns. (Courtesy: Cody Wilson)

Cody Wilson had a vision to forward the digital revolution by creating the nation’s first firearm on a 3-D printer, and, taking a page from WikiLeaks, share the blueprints with the world via the Internet in what he called the “Wiki Weapons project.” Now he is suing the federal government in hopes of keeping his dream on target – and staying out of prison.

Wilson was so taken with the idea, he dropped out of law school and designed “The Liberator,” the nation’s first pistol built exclusively on a 3-D printer, consisting of 12 separate parts made from plastic and a single metal firing pin.

“The technology will break gun control. I stand for freedom.”

– Cody Wilson

Within two days of publishing the blueprints on the Internet, on May 5, 2013, 100,000 people around the world had downloaded them. The goal, Wilson said, was to invalidate the government’s “unconstitutional” hold on gun technology.

“The technology will break gun control,” said Wilson, who formed the non-profit organization, Defense Distributed, with his partner, Ben Denio, in Little Rock, Ark., in the summer of 2012. “I stand for freedom.”

But Wilson’s invention also caught the attention of the State Department, which came after him with both barrels blazing. The feds claimed Wilson violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which “requires advance government authorization to export technical data,” and as a result, could spend up to 20 years in prison and be fined as much as $1 million per violation.

Wilson was ordered to remove the blueprints for The Liberator from his web site. The government also told him they were claiming ownership of his intellectual property.

“Defense Distributed is being penalized for trying to educate the public about 3-D guns,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation, whose organization is backing Defense Distributed in a court action.

Gottlieb said his Second Amendment group, made up of 650,000 members nationwide, wants to publish theinformation about three-dimensional printing of firearms on its web site as educational material for its members, supporters and general public.

On Wednesday, the Second Amendment Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on in Texas, where Defense Distributed is now based, alleging the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry and four other State Department officials and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, are among the defendants who violated Wilson’s First Amendment rights by restraining him from publishing information about three-dimensional printing of arms, as well as his Second and Fifth Amendment Rights.

Josh Blackman, an attorney in Texas who is one of the attorneys representing Wilson, said 3-D printers may lead to a “renaissance of innovation” and noted “the government should tread carefully in restricting this technology to protect intellectual property.”

“Let technology and our constitutional rights be free,” Blackman said.

The Liberator unleashed a panic about the threat of 3-D guns, Blackman said, pointing as an example to statements made by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has proposed legislation that would ban 3-D guns.

“We’re facing a situation where anyone—a felon, a terrorist—can open a gun factory in their garage and the weapons they make will be undetectable. It’s stomach-churning,” Schumer said at a news conference in May 2013.

However, the threat of the 3-D guns, and the need for regulating them, has been greatly overstated, Blackman said.

“Contrary to Schumer’s suggestion, a working gun does not pop out of the 3-D printer ready to fire, like a pop-tart from the toaster,” Blackman said. “Using a 3-D printer to create the parts, and assemble them, is a time-intensive process that requires advanced knowledge of machining and gunsmithing.”

Defense Distributed, which had released its blueprints at no charge until being ordered by the State Department to remove them, began in 2013 to sell a $1,500 milling machine called the “Ghost Gunner.”

With Defense Distributed software, the milling machine allows the user to build the plastic lower receiver for an AR-15 rifle, one of America’s most popular sporting rifles, and because it is self built, allows the owner to avoid registering the firearms with a government database.

“Specifically within the AR15 community, gun owners can now make the capacity magazines for themselves and there is no need to serialize them,” Wilson said. “People don’t like to register their firearms any more. They don’t trust the government.”

Wilson submitted various published files related to the “Ghost Gunner” to the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, and while the federal agency said the machine does not fall under International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the software and files are subject to State Department jurisdiction.

“Defense Distributed appears caught in what appears to be a bureaucratic game of merry-go-round,” Gottlieb said. “The right to keep and bear arms includes the ability to acquire or create arms. The government is engaging in behavior that denies this company’s due process under the Fifth Amendment. We’re compelled to file this action because the bureaucracy is evidently playing games and it’s time for these agencies to behave.”

The possibilities of 3-D technology are mind blowing for Americans who in many states live under strict firearms regulations that require them to register firearms they purchase or sell. As long as the 3-D firearm or magazine is not being sold, traded or shared, there is no license required.

“3-D printers mean an end to any gun control,” said John Lott, an economist, leading expert on guns, author of eight books and columnist “The government is not going to be able to ban magazines for guns, or ban guns themselves, and the notions of background checks would be even more impossible to do. Anyone with access to a 3-D printer can make guns functionally and indistinguishable from a gun that can be bought in a store. I don’t know how the government will stop people from obtaining a printer.”

While he understands why the government wants to regulate 3-D firearms, Lott called it a “pretty futile effort.”

“Just look at the illegal download of television shows and movies,” Lott said. “Millions of copies have been downloaded and the government has been unable to stop it. Why would the government be successful in stopping other information like these files from being downloaded?”

A metal printer that can build a firearm costs about $10,000 and the price continues to drop. Meanwhile some government agencies have proposed forcing those who purchase printers to register them as they would firearms.

“The government does not know how to even begin to deal with these problems,” Lott said. “I understand what government wants to regulate this, but it is too late. Technology moves faster than government.”

The State Department does not comment on ongoing litigation, according to a spokeswoman, who referred Fox News to the U.S. Department of Justice. No one there could immediately be reached for comment.