Take your eye off the predators…..

And you lose livestock.

It’s been lousy weather up here for a few days; rain and wind non-stop for day. Normal autumn weather, in fact. All the same, my mother (who does the chickens) decided last night that she wouldn’t go out in the rain and mud to shut up the chickens. They go to bed in their house by themselves, we just shut the door of their inner run, attached to the house, and let them out again in the morning.

We’ve been phasing this particular bunch of chickens out anyway – they’re older, they’re not laying so well, so I killed the two who like to escape the run and stalk about the garden the other day (they’re in the freezer at the moment, they’ll keep the ferrets fed very nicely for part of the winter) and we were considering when to kill the rest. All the same, it’s beyond annoying to find one of them beheaded and partially eaten at the far end of the run this morning.

My mother’s feeling guilty because, of course, she left the henhouse door open for once.

The ferrets are feeling happy because they’ve got the rest of the corpse.

I’ve shut the lower windows on the rabbitry – they don’t need the extra ventilation any more and I don’t want anything jumping in and trying to steal the bunnies. We’re down to 16 at the moment – next year’s 6 breeding stock and 10 youngsters from Ebony’s second litter who’ll be due for the freezer in December.

I went and poked around the chicken run looking for evidence of what killed the marran who routinely slept in the nestbox – the others sleep on the perch in the run by preference. There were feathers here and there, but then the hens are moulting at the moment anyway. It’s been raining like stink and then there were Mum’s wellies tramping about, plus various live chickens padding around, so finding any other tracks was difficult. I did manage to spot one mammalian paw-print, tucked away in a less-travelled bit of the run under the shelter of an overhanging bush; a long straight imprint from a back leg below the hock, where the creature had shifted its weight back before hauling a dead hen up a slight rise, and at the front end of that, a relatively small, rounded paw-print with four toes and no claws.

Felis catus, the common or garden house cat. It’s uncommon to find a nice clear paw-print from a house-cat since they usually put their back feet exactly the prints from their front-paws, but given this one was wrestling a chicken (presumably dead by then) up a slight incline and round a corner, he (I’m guessing – but we have more wandering toms pass through our garden than queens) didn’t quite manage it this time.

I went back into the house for a camera but by the time I’d come back the chickens had wandered all over the prints and destroyed them. They were possibly attracted there to see what I’d been up to (might have been food….) but hey-ho, that’s life.

Nothing to be done about it but make sure the door of the inner run is always shut in future, whatever the weather!

What Do You Do When The Taps Don’t Work?

This post is inspired by some reports from the States, not anything amiss in the state of our supplies here – yet, anyway!

I came across an article on the current problems in water supply in Baltimore and Detroit that sparked a bit of thinking on my part. Unlike California, the problem isn’t lack of water, per se. Both Baltimore and Detroit have plenty of water available. The problem here is that maintaining the infrastructure to collect, purify and supply water to a city is an expensive job – maintenance costs, wages, etc – that needs to be paid for, and both Detroit and Baltimore choose to pay for this process via billing customers for their water (Don’t get excited about “free” water in the UK – it’s not free, we just pay for our supply via our taxes). If you can’t pay your water bill, the water supply gets shut off.

It’s in the nature of cities in economically depressed areas to have a fair proportion of long-term unemployed, jobless and generally poor people who can’t afford to pay for much. In the case of both Baltimore and Detroit, they’re seriously economically depressed (part of America’s “rustbucket” belt where the death of heavy industry and off-shoring to the Far East has stripped jobs away from the area) and as a result, a certain number of people default on their water bills. There are, by the looks of things, some schemes for assisting those in financial difficulties, but at the end of the day those water pipes still cost money to keep in one piece with clean water flowing through them, so the water companies have to find the money somewhere to keep operating. If people aren’t paying the bills, where does the money come from to pay the workers to fix leaks or operate the treatment plants?

I’m not that interested in the whys and wherefores or the philosophy of paying directly for water or having it tucked into the tax bills. What exercised my mind was scenario planning. Take this a little further (as I suspect will happen to all major cities at some point in the future) and play the mind-games: suppose this happened where I live? Suppose there wasn’t the money to pay for clean water to fall out of taps in endless quantities? As a survivalist, what would I do if the water supply failed, long-term?

Short term, say a few days or weeks, is no challenge at all. We have a big water-butt in the garden and the climate here is soggy enough it stays full, or near-full, all the time, even through we’re using it for gardening and for the bunnies and chooks. We could easily fill up a bucket and pour it into the Berky filter in the kitchen and we’d have pure, clean, safe water for ourselves. If we lived in a city and had some warning (like knowing we’d just had a shut-off notice!) we could fill up containers and store water to tide us over a short break in supply.

But if the supply’s out for months? Or forever? What then?

The usual recommendations are that a human needs 2 litres of water to drink per say, plus washing and cooking water, say about 4 litres a day, per person. 4kg of water. In a week, that’s 28L of water per person. 126L per month. 1,512L per year. Multiply by however many are in your household and then think about the weight-bearing capability of your floors. You really can’t store that much water upstairs!

What if you live in a flat?

And then there’s that perennial problem, the neighbours. If the water’s out for a couple of hours, you can bet someone will pop round to ask if you could let them fill the kettle, because they didn’t have any water stored! All very well when you know they’ll fix the problem in a couple of hours, but what do you do when you’re the only one in the area with a water butt and a filter and the neighbours haven’t had any water for a few days? You can’t go without water for very long – even in a fairly damp, cool climate like the UK, people get thirsty after a few hours and dehydrated after a few more. Bottled water and soft drinks will only last so long and then the local shops will be stripped bare.

After a day or two your neighbours will be losing the plot. Dehydration affects brain function and irrationality will set in. If it’s a choice between drink untreated water or die of thirst, people will drink the dirty water, and since there won’t be water spare for washing, it’ll encourage the outbreak of the diseases of poor hygiene – cholera, typhoid, typhus, E coli and salmonella.

I’ll admit to a big advantage here (and it’s not accidental!); I live in a smallish village in a rural area, not in the middle of a city. We have natural water sources available by way of a small river, various springs and some old wells. I’m not planning on sharing my filter with the village but I can teach people how to build their own, using sand, gravel, charcoal and a bucket, so if (when) our taps run dry in the aftermath of civilisation, hopefully I can reduce the risk of being mobbed by neighbours desperate for a drink.

But what do you do if you live in a flat in a city? How do you supply your water needs without the infrastructure and utilities we all take for granted?

In other news: the bunnies all seem fine and the kits are opening their eyes and beginning to stagger around their cages, beginning the process of driving their mothers slightly demented. I had to pick Jezebel up to get her back in her cage this morning, she wasn’t going back in with those ‘orrible little monsters willingly! In the garden we’re pricking out brassicas and netting them at the moment – both butterflies and birds liking brassica leaves! – and the peas and beans are sprouting nicely. The parsnips haven’t put their shoots up yet but parsnips are often slow so we’re not worrying about it. They’ll turn up in their own good time! We’ve also ordered this year’s tomatoes – last year we were disappointed in our crop from plants bought locally, so we’ve gone back to the mail-order company which supplied our plants the year before, when we had bumper harvests from grafted plants. They should arrive mid-June and we’re looking forward to more big, delicious harvests!

Last August I put some eggs into waterglass as an experiment: my grandmother used to preserve eggs this way during WWII and I’m always interested in food storage methods that don’t rely on a constant supply of electricity so I put 4 dozen away to see how it works. I fished them out a couple of days ago to see the results of the experiment and I’m very pleased: they all looked like eggs, smelled like good eggs, and although when broken the white is very runny and the yolk breaks rather easily (it’d be difficult to get good fried eggs out of them), they taste normal and delicious.

All very good – but then I had 4 dozen eggs to use up! An orgy of cooking and baking ensued and we now have over 9lbs of cakes and another 9lbs of quiche in the freezer.

Some Rabbit Ruminations.

I killed four of the young NZWs today. They’re just 9 weeks, barely big enough, but all the same, those 4 bunnies put nearly 8kg of meat in the freezer, plus 4 ferret meals and some tasty tidbits to add to the dogs’ dinner.

It takes me, on average, about an hour a day all told to look after the rabbits – now at a population of 20, but earlier today 24. So, working backwards, that would mean it takes about an hour of my time every 24 days per bunny, so at 9 weeks, which is 63 days, each rabbit has cost me less than 3 hours of my time, and about £6 in food.

I don’t actually know what the price of meat is in the shops at the moment, we haven’t bought any for months, but how long do you have to work in a job, allowing for your expenses and a whack heading to the tax man, to take home enough money to buy 2kg of fresh meat?

And it’s superb meat, too – we haven’t found anything we can’t do with it yet, whether roasting, stewing, stir-frying, casseroling, sweet-and-sours, pan-frying, mince, pies, jerky, pemmican….

The slow-cooker is bubbling away nicely with tonight’s dinner. No prizes for guessing what meat is involved.

In other news, we’re down to our last stored onion and we’ve just finished the garlic, so we need to grow twice as much to last the full year! It’s always worth knowing. This year’s garlic (about twice as much as last year….heheh) is looking good in the garden and we’ll be putting in the onions and shallots soon.

Back to Prepping

A major part of food security is being able to store what you grow or buy for the future. It’s fine while you can pop down to the shops if you run short of something, but what if you can’t? It’s easy enough to disrupt the remarkable supply chain that ensures food is on the supermarket shelf when you walk in – floods or heavy snow blocking roads and preventing deliveries can happen any time, and more serious problems might ensue from crop failures, fuel crises, war, disease and other geopolitical and climatic events.

One of my criteria for “ideal” storage foods is that you shouldn’t have to do anything to preserve them – they shouldn’t need freezing or chilling. They should just sit in a dark cupboard or a box and not change. If I need to use them in an emergency, the less cooking they need, the better – I might not have the means to cook them, or might not want to advertise “get your grub here!!” with the smell of hot food, if others in the area are likely to be hungry. Tinned foods are one of the “traditional” prepper foods, either shop-bought or home-canned (bottled, in the UK, usually), but dried foods are also good.

The other day, we decided we had a backlog of eggs. There’s only the two of us in the house and despite it being winter, the chickens are still laying quietly away to themselves, although somewhat less determinedly than during the summer! All the same, 20 eggs a week does get a bit beyond us from time to time, so the other day I scrambled a dozen eggs in a very little butter, then put them in the dehydrator. The following day, I ground them to a coarse powder and vacuum-packed six portions of dried egg, which just need a dob of hot water and a stir to reconstitute as scrambled eggs again – or could be eaten as they are, or mixed with cold water. Sealed up as it is and stored in a cool, dry, dark place, it should have a shelf-life of 5 years or so.

Today I’ve started on a new batch of pemmican, which involved boning and mincing 1kg of rabbit meat (from our own bunnies, of course!) and putting that in the dehydrator. Once it’s dried thoroughly, probably tomorrow night, I’ll grind it to a powder and mix with an equal weight of melted beef dripping (doesn’t matter what sort of fat you use, but I like beef dripping) and then seal it up in 300g portions. Each 300g of pemmican will be within a whisker of 2,000 calories, shelf-stable in storage for years, doesn’t need refrigeration and contains everything a human needs to power a very active lifestyle. Pemmican’s not to everyone’s taste but it’s probably the oldest method of preserving meat known. It was the mainstay of the diet of the voyageurs, the canoe-paddling fur-traders of Canada, who burned through 5,000 calories a day (1.5lbs of pemmican) on their journeys. I don’t usually add anything to my pemmican but you can add dried fruit, chopped nuts or honey for variety, or marinade the meat before drying to change the flavour of that ingredient.

So, that’s two good sources of home-grown shelf-stable long-term stored foods for the future.

Seasonal Weather….not.

You just can’t rely on the weather these days. Here we are, only a week from the whole consumerist overdose called Christmas, and we’ve had exactly one tiny snowshower (less than half an inch), two lots of hailstones and a lot of rain that turns into frost in the mornings.

My skis haven’t been out of the shed in years. The snow shovel hasn’t been out yet, the sacks of salt are untouched from last year, and we’re wearing out the winter tyres on bare tarmac.

Which is not to say that it’s been easy going on foot recently! The yaktrax are worth their weight in gold on the pavements – rain during the night followed by a brief sharp frost before dawn add up to some quite amazing sheets of black ice on the ground and having decent grip underfoot is priceless.

Now up til this year, we’ve always had the local council out gritting pavements here the moment anyone in the met office says “frost”, because at the end of our road is a semi-sheltered housing area and there are a fair number of older though still active people there who do, normally, walk to the shop or to meet their friends. This year the council hasn’t shown its face in the village and even the main bus-route through the nearby town hadn’t been gritted – which makes me wonder if they’ve run out of money or just declared war on the ‘grey vote’!

The bunnies have all accepted their litter trays now and cleaning out is accomplished in 25 minutes daily instead of an hour, plus I’m only replacing a trayful of shavings a day instead of a cageful, so it’s saving money into the bargain. The youngsters are growing like weeds again, which is reassuring, and Delilah’s gang of 6 will shortly be heading into the freezer – they’re getting big and feisty! The two young rex bucks are nearing the end of their moult so they won’t be long, either – and they’re going to be quite big!

My daughter’s home from uni on Sunday – it’ll be interesting to see how she’s changed! I just hope I still recognise her.

Been a Busy Couple of Weeks…

Since my last post here, that is.

The mouse problem is getting sorted, steadily. Chocolate hazelnut spread is proving the best bait on the little nipper traps and most days I’ve moved a couple of mouse corpses from the bunny shed to the ferret cage (the ferrets adore eating fresh mouse – far better than boring old ferret kibble!), starting with definitely adult mice and now coming down to half-grown mice, so we’re making progress.

The bunny population is down to 22, Jezebel’s last litter having been culled out and butchered. I wasn’t happy with the livers and some consultation with my vets has confirmed I have a hepatic coccidiosis outbreak on my hands – enough that the youngsters have spotty livers and some haven’t grown as well as they should, but not so bad they were dropping dead on me. Still, that’s bad enough so I’m going to have to go through the cages and scrub each one out with 10% ammonia solution to kill the parasites (Eimeria steidae, a sporazoan) and up my cage-cleaning and hygiene routines somewhat.

Coccidiosis is one of these things that no bunny keeper can ever turn their backs on. Practically every bunny in the world carries one or more of the various species of coccidia that can live in rabbits; most are gut parasites and this one causes liver damage. It doesn’t affect the meat for culinary purposes, although the livers are unusable in this litter. The babies are usually safe enough from sickness while they’re suckling because they get immune protection from their mother’s milk. The older ones develop immunity as they live with the parasites. The ones who suffer and sometimes die are the ones between about 4-5 weeks and 4-5 months, after they’re weaned but before their own immunity develops fully. So, since I can’t eliminate the bugs (my vet has confirmed that she can’t find any drug that will kill coccidia without killing the rabbit as well) I just have to try and keep them in cleaner conditions, so they’re not picking up too many of the parasites, and scrub cages as and when I can with the 10% ammonia solution, which is the only thing that will kill the spores that the parasite leaves around the environment.

I normally clean cages every couple of days, but since that’s clearly not good enough, I’ve pushed that up to daily cleaning. I’m also introducing litter-trays for the bunnies; rabbits usually litter-train quite well and Trudy, Silver, Jet, Tigger and Delilah are happily using their trays properly (as are Trudy’s litter, copying mum) while Samson and Jezebel think I’ve given them chew toys and the two Rex boys like to use them as building blocks and stack them up instead of sitting in them. They’ll get the idea in a few more days when the novelty wears off, I expect.

Turning to herbal remedies, one I found that offers some promise was garlic – there have been lab trials using garlic in rabbits against coccidiosis that show definite helpful effects both as a treatment and, even more, as a prophylactic. I don’t know how they were administering garlic to their rabbits but none of mine will eat it minced or chopped, so that’s a non-starter. To be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful since most rabbits loathe all alliums. Trudy, Delilah and one of the Rex boys tried a small piece each before hopping away, the others didn’t even sniff too closely.

I have managed to track down a supplier of rabbit pellets containing a coccidiostat, a drug that reduces the parasite’s ability to reproduce itself, but the nearest stockist is 60 miles away, so I’ll have to go down and fill the car full to make it worthwhile. I’ll get to that next week!

(I had intended to do it today but…. the boiler quit on us last night, so it was rather more important today to be on hand to let the plumber in. We’ve had fairly sharp frosts the past few nights and it’s not a good time to be without heating, so last night my mother commandeered all the hot water bottles and our one electric-powered convector heater, and I put another blanket on the bed and invited the whippets to share rather than putting them in their cages for the night. It was toasty but I did get stepped on somewhat by restless dogs. The heating is now fixed again, thank goodness!)

So, the bunnies will be an ongoing shell-game for a time as I shuffle them around, cleaning spare cages and then moving rabbits into them and cleaning the next couple of cages. I need to build some fresh cages anyway, which will help, and I think I’ll remove the two big cages I’ve been using as growing-on spaces for youngsters and build a lot of smaller cages I can put two bunnies at a time in, in the interests of improving hygiene and the ability to isolate any illness. I’ll also stop any further breeding until I’ve got this sorted out and the system rejigged to my satisfaction (and the bunnies’ improved health benefit!) so I should work down to just my breeding stock of 7 over the winter as youngsters grow up and are culled out.

Fortunately there’s plenty of rabbit in the freezer.

Assets or Resources

Last night’s post got me thinking about an important point in prepping, which is how you’re regarded by the rest of your community.

In principle, as a prepper you keep under the radar, you try not to let anyone know what you’ve got, let alone where you keep it, but….

Let’s be honest, unless you have no neighbours and can do all the DIY/repairs with your own hands, you have to let others into your property from time to time. The electrician knows I have rabbits for food because he saw them while fixing our electricity problem. The local feed merchants know we have rabbits, dogs, ferrets and chickens because they sell us the food (and gave us the ferrets, too…). Various friends and acquaintances know we have chickens because we’ve sold a few excess eggs to help cover feed costs along the way. The neighbours know we have veg because they can look over the fence and see them. Some of my BCUK friends know I have a snaring licence and can shoot because we’ve discussed it over the campfire, out in the woods.

So…. you can’t keep entirely “grey”. What’s the problem with this?

If the SHTF, the food distribution system fails and people start tussling over food, they may see us as a target. We have food, growing in the garden and hopping round the shed. It may boil down to “your bunnies or your life!”

Okay, unlikely perhaps – but not impossible. It’s one reason I’m very happy to sell rabbits as breeding stock – the more people out there are raising their own food, the less will be out foraging for anything moveable in a famine situation.

I want my local community to regard me as an asset, something to be protected in return for what I can give them, and not a resource to be exploited, looted bare and left whimpering in the ruins. If I ever have to follow the “traditional” US-based prepping model and bug out, I want to be regarded as an asset, not a liability, when I hook up with friends or family at some safe place far away from here (Not many things would make me bug out, tbh. Most things that could happen would make me bug in, lock the door and wait the sit-x out.) So, to some extent, it’s worth being a little less grey and allowing some people to know you have a few useful skills and knowledge to share.

In any case, you can’t really avoid them finding out.

Useful Contacts

Well, Trudy had her kits on time but it was a couple of days before I got to see them, as she adopted a ferocious aspect and mounted armed guard over the nest whenever I came near. After a while, however, the novelty wore off and while I was cleaning her cage out, she popped quietly out to visit the neighbours and I sneaked a quick glance into the nest.

I have to give her points for consistency (as well as protectiveness) as she’s had seven, three black and four white. Exactly the same as last time.

We had a minor blip in our power supplies to the shed the other day, discovering the power was out in the evening (naturally…. who tests the lights work in daytime?). It hadn’t been out long and the freezers were still cold, so I flipped the trip-switch thingy back to the ‘on’ position, then shut the door and was just turning the key in the lock when I heard a smug click from the other side of it. Ho-hum, be like that, we’ll just work round it til tomorrow and phone an electrician. I do undertake a certain amount of DIY but  electricity and I began our acquaintanceship when I was a toddler and stuck my fingers in a live electrical socket. I survived it (obviously!) but for some reason I have a terrible fascination for electricity and apparently have a fantastic earth connection, since any stray electron looking for a way to earth invariably heads for me. I’ve been electrocuted more times than I can count and take extreme precautions in thunderstorms.

So, trying to trace a fault in a mains electrical circuit in the dark, in the rain…. no. Not on your nelly! Daylight and a man who knows what he’s doing, thanks. I dug out the headtorch and did the evening bunny rounds, then went to bed.

When I got up, my mother was in the process of running an extension cable from the nearest house socket to the big freezer. Great minds clearly think alike since that had been my plan, too! We also looked up the nearest sparky and phoned for help. It didn’t take him long to diagnose the problem – leaky roof in the end shed allowing water to seep into one of the light sockets and create a short circuit – and fix it (he unplugged the shed in question, number 4, which is powered off one of the sockets in shed number 3). Hey presto, we had power and light again.

It was at that point, now we had lights on again instead of merely torches, that the electrician noticed the 31 rabbits in shed number 2. Gosh, what a lot of rabbits! We got the daughter a guinea pig last week…. What do you do with them?

We eat them.

There was a short pause and a few thoughtful “oh” sounds, then he successfully reprogrammed his brain from ‘rabbit = pet” to “rabbit = meat” and we got talking about how big rabbits get, how fast you can get them to killing weight, the advantages of aiming for self-sufficiency, the Highland cow he has due back from the abattoir for their freezer and the insanity of relying on the government to save our behinds if things get sticky.

This is good. Now, I know where he lives and he knows where we live, and we both know the other has meat on the hoof/paw and no problems about eating it. If, as and when TSHTF, I know a bloke who might trade beef for veg/rabbits/pest control…. and vice versa.

Allies are good, barter is great, and the more people in your community you know and can get into a friendly, allied, barter-oriented relationship with, the better. I’d much rather the neighbours looked on me as a potential asset than a waste of space….

….. though I still won’t be giving them too much info in case they decide to rely on me to feed everyone in a crisis.

Yet Another Boring Catch-up Post….

One of the things that does amuse me about being a survivalist is that you spend your time thinking about and mitigating risks that would make life exciting, as a result of which life largely just ticks quietly along. Nothing earthshattering has occurred, mutant zombies have failed to overrun the country, Ebola hasn’t quite managed to make it out of Africa (yet) and the economy is largely staggering from quiet crisis to quieter whimpering crisis in the usual manner. We have winter tyres on the cars so there isn’t even the minor excitement of a bit of wheel-spin on a frosty road to give us an adrenalin rush.

If I was feeling tin-foily, I might try to connect some dots with the revelations that the US infrastructure’s computing systems has been infiltrated by some nasty malware of suspected Russian origin, a comment made last year (I think) about the US regarding an attack on their computing systems as an act of war, the simmering civil war (with alleged Russian stirring) in the Ukraine, the price of oil, the fact that the US mid-term elections have left them with a Democrat president and a solidly Republican Houses of Congress and the odd snippet I once heard somewhere that the US president has almost no power except during times of war, when he gets a lot of powers handed to him.

If I’m going to go down that line of speculation, however, I shall end up with a spade in my hand marking out the spot to put in a bomb shelter in the garden, so instead I’ve spent the day, rather more usefully, mucking out the bunnies, sexing Jezebel’s 9 youngsters and splitting them up into boys and girls in different cages, weaning Delilah’s 6 fat fluffy kits, making sure Trudy has everything she needs for her litter (due tonight) and putting Jezebel back in with Samson to ensure we get another litter along in due course.

We’re still quietly pulling produce off the allotment and stashing it in the freezer; this week we’ve lifted most of the leeks and frozen them in batches ready to use, as we have with several more pounds of carrots and parsnips. There’s lots more carrots and parsnips to come yet, though I may declare a war on slugs soon if I find many more neatly hollowed-out swedes. The jerusalem artichokes, for reasons they haven’t chosen to share with the world, have decided to flower just as they’re dying back for the winter. Something to do with the unusually mild, warm weather, perhaps? Who knows. Once they’ve finished, I’ll dig ’em up and store them, anyway.

The allotment committee have decided that they’re going to put the rents up for the plots next year, so adding another increment to our incentive to bring vegetable production back home and out of anyone else’s control or (hopefully!) reach.

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.