Some Reflections on Home Security…..

…Largely inspired by the fact that I’ve just had to break into my own home.

We’ve done a fair bit of work on upgrading our home security over the past few years. All the double-glazing has those (allegedly) high-security locks, the door locks are good enough that when one jammed last year it took a locksmith nearly four hours to get it open again (he came back two days later and replaced the entire locking mechanism to prevent it happening again). We had a six-foot-tall wooden gate fitted at the side of the house (a) to prevent the whippets sailing merrily over the previous three-foot-high gate and (b) to discourage anyone idly ambling round the house to see what’s about in the garden and sheds. The garden is walled or fenced (or has the sheds) all round, mostly to keep the chickens and dogs in but also as a deterrent to random strollers on the property.

Anyway, I came home from a nice night at the cinema with an old friend tonight (the Equaliser, incidentally – we enjoyed it!) and put my key into the front door lock. It wouldn’t turn. I realised almost instantly that my mother must have done as she usually does when locking up at night and left the key in the lock, half-turned. All the same, I checked I had the right key and tried again, because humans always do seem to try the same thing again in the hope that even though it failed miserably last time, magically it’ll work this time.

It didn’t.

Well, how about the back door? I climbed onto the wheelie bin to reach over the gate and pull the top bolt, then lay on the ground and reached underneath to unbolt the bottom bolt. (We need to move the bins further from the gate and find a way to prevent the bolts being shot from the outside, clearly….)

That got me into the back garden. The back door was locked. Now, locking the back door is always my job after I’ve had the dogs out for their last sniff-and-widdle before bed. I admire my mother’s memory for detail but shucks, that was inconvenient….

I paused at this stage to go into the shed and do the last check-and-water of the bunnies, topped up the youngsters’ feed bowl, which was empty (though the rabbits all look very smug and round) and then tried the conservatory, though without much hope since it’s almost always locked even by day. It was locked by night, too.

I tried phoning the house phone, but it’s not that loud and it’s through two shut doors from my mother, who always removes her hearing aids before bed.

I tried yelling through the letterbox, and all I achieved was to stop the dogs barking and start them whining eagerly instead. Not an improvement, though I don’t think Mum would have heard them anyway.

My hand won’t go through the letterbox, we made sure we got one with a fairly narrow slot to prevent burglars trying that. I appreciate the irony.

Tools in the shed? Most of the tools are in the house. What tools I did see, looking around the sheds, weren’t going to help me break into the house, unless I actually broke something.

Finally, I remembered that the kitchen window often isn’t fully latched. To reach it we have to lean over the sink – I can just reach it, but my mother’s an inch or two shorter than she used to be and not quite as fond of climbing on the worktops these days either, so sometimes it doesn’t get latched properly. I checked. The handle was half-up, meaning it was neither willing to open properly at the bottom nor at the side (it’s one of those clever two-settings designs that open both ways) but I was able to prise one corner open about half an inch.

I made a quick trip back to the shed to grab some wire that was on a shelf, twisted a sturdy loop in one end and manouvred the wire through the gap in the corner of the window. After a few trial-and-error moments (snagged the washing up brush, nearly got stuck on the tap….) I managed to lasso the latch, pulled it all the way up and was able to hoick the window open at the bottom. A jump, a hoist and a swivel later, I was being swarmed by a pair of frantic whippets, unable to understand what had taken me so long.

I need to make sure that kitchen window is properly shut in future. I did shut it behind me tonight!

I also need to make a notice to tape to the back of the front door for next time I go out at night: “Take the key out of the door, Mum!”

If I can break in, others can break in and probably more easily, if they’ve had practice (tonight was my debut as a house-breaker). Ideally I should have ended up spending the night kipping in the car on the drive, not climbing in through a ground-floor window after just a couple of minutes with some light-weight wire! Tomorrow by daylight, we need to do some serious security revision…..

28 rabbits and counting!

I woke up this morning with Jezebel’s little bunnies on my mind. The cage I moved them into yesterday wasn’t really big enough, though it was the only one free. So, this morning I’ve tidied the 9 NZWs from Delilah’s last litter into the freezer. They varied between 4 and 6 lbs liveweight, and we’ve frozen 17lbs of jointed meat, there’s a gallon and a half of stock, 2lbs of liver (pate-making tomorrow!), 1lb of kidneys and hearts (we plan a fry-up extravaganza tomorrow as well) and the dogs feasted on all the lungs along with their normal mince tonight. Jezebel’s bunch are now gallivanting around in a big cage happily and I can sleep easy again. The skins are in the freezer until I buy more alum to tan them with.

Tomorrow will also be our first venture into canning – we’re going to can some of the stock and freeze the rest. The canner was in use today purely as a pressure cooker (and only just fits on the biggest ring of the cooker!) and tomorrow will be a learning experience as well as a culinary pleasure.

So, today there’s only 28 rabbits in the shed. Hopefully that’ll come down to 24 before Trudy produces her next litter and bumps it up again!

After the layoff….

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for the past month or so but everyone’s entitled to go dormant from time to time. There’s been plenty going on at home, I just haven’t been talking about it!

For a start, the rabbit population is fluctuating nicely. I’ve just traded two of my Rex does up to Orkney in exchange for some money and a chinchilla rex buck (a new bloodline and a lovely colour!), and some investigation into rabbit colour genetics suggests that if I cross him with Trudy, my ermine doe, I should get entirely chinchilla youngsters. I’m keeping one of my own black does and I’ll cross her back to her dad, Tigger, (rabbits don’t give a hoot about incest) to tap back into the harliequin genes.

I have four rabbits running about the shed floor at the moment waiting to go over to the west coast, I’m taking them up to Inverness to hand them over at Halloween. There’s something vaguely wrong about Halloween bunnies, somehow…..

Delilah’s nursing 6 fat babies by Tigger, 3 of whom are albino and 3 are agouti with patchy-coloured tummies, which is interesting but largely irrelevant as they’ll still be perfectly edible. I’ve just weaned Jezebel’s latest 9 and they’re looking good; Delilah’s previous litter need to start heading into the freezer in the next couple of days as we’ve nearly eaten the last litter. They were delicious. In any case, having 37 rabbits is ridiculous and heavy on the feed front, so the scales will be coming out and anyone up to weight will be exiting their brief but happy, well-fed lives shortly thereafter.

We’ve decided to give up the allotment for various reasons; it’s 5 miles away (time and diesel) and the gates are left open too often, the committee are too keen to invite Joe Public in to look around and explore and they’ve even managed to get the place onto the TV. It’s practically a tourist attraction. This is not secure.

We’ve been rearranging the garden at home to free up more space for growing veg here, where it’s behind walls and gates and right outside the back door for convenience. I shall feel happier having the food under my eye and being able to nip out between rain-showers (or sleet, or snow, or whatever) to grab whatever’s wanted for dinner.

The courgettes have finally come to the end of their season, having been astoundingly prolific, and I’ve added them to the compost, as with the runner beans, which were pretty useless on the allotment but have been good at home. Strawberries are now over and any remaining fruit that forms probably won’t ripen anyway. The brassicas on the allotment are gradually disappearing down the hungry rabbit and chicken gullets, but the parsnips, swedes and carrots are keeping us fed like kings. The root parsley is something of a disappointment as it’s not formed decent big roots, just little bland-flavoured knobs the size of my thumb. We’re eating them anyway, of course.

The jerusalem artichokes on the plot are the size of triffids but now largely horizontal, thanks to the last couple of gales. Still, they’re green and growing so we’re leaving them alone – it’ll all go down into the roots and we’ll dig ’em up in due course.

The shooting is progressing nicely – the members of the club are very generous, friendly, knowledgable and willing to teach an ignorant newcomer so I go along on Sundays and people invite me to have 5 or 10 shots with their rifles, don’t charge me for the ammo and offer advice and tips! I’m thoroughly enjoying the company and the new sport, and learning new skills is always good.