Another Flower in the Wind?

This time last year I posted a note on the increased numbers of plants spotted flowering in the UK on New Year’s Day. Today the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland released the results of this year’s plant survey.

Just to keep things in context…

Average expected number of species flowering – 20-30.

2015 number of species flowering – 358

2016 number of species flowering – 612!

 

I also spotted a report on the BBC News website this morning on how Britain’s birds have been coping with our weirdly warm, wet winter. What the dickens are swifts doing in the UK in December? They should be in Africa! Apparently summer migrants are still here (or back early?) and winter migrants haven’t arrived in their usual numbers (presumably because it’s mild enough in their summering grounds they don’t feel the need to head for gentler British climes?)

It’s nice to see more birds sticking around rather than leaving, perhaps, but the milder weather has also increased disease rates amongst wild birds, which isn’t so good. Garden pests also haven’t had enough of a frosting to keep their numbers down – let’s hope that the increased bird numbers helps to predate the slugs and snails to reasonable levels!

Storm Jonas is currently giving the west of the UK a hammering but, so far (touch wood!) up in the north-east corner here it’s merely windy and warm, not yet sodden. I expect local river levels to rise soon all the same, as it’s raining over the snowpack in the Cairngorms – bad news for the snowsports industry, as they’d barely got the slopes open before this thaw and wet weather hit them, forcing them to close again.

Another Referendum

And I’m not referring to the mutterings about Indyref 2 that the SNP are, inevitably, making. They’re as much a one-trick-pony as UKIP and one of these days I’ll do a post about the screw-up they are as a government. Scottish NHS barely getting by, police quitting in droves, education standards plummetting, teacher numbers falling, universities losing staff, GP practices closing…. but that’s another post, another day.

This time it’s the EU referendum, if Cameron ever puts his money (sorry, that should read ‘our’ money) where his mouth is and if the EU doesn’t implode (or explode) first under the current stresses of migration and Eurozone crisis. In a way, I’d be quite pleased if it fell apart by itself since that would save us all the trouble of arguing the issues and falling out amongst ourselves. As a survivor of the Indyref, I know from experience that a referendum is a bitterly divisive process when it involves something that ordinary people care about. The AV referendum back in 2011 was dry technical stuff that only constitutional anoraks got heated about – the rest of us didn’t really see the point of getting worked up about which way to mark a ballot paper.

I will say straight out that I don’t like the EU. I never voted to enter it (I wasn’t old enough) and I would dearly love, for many reasons, to be able to vote to get out of it. Like the Indyref last year, however, there are reasons being advanced both to stay in the EU and to leave it. Some may be specious works of fantasy, as were many arguments last year. Rather than put my brain on the shelf and let my emotions mark the ballot paper, I intend to work through all the reasons on both sides that I can find and come to a reasoned, balanced decision, rather than being blackmailed or brainwashed into things by someone else’s blarney. Or even my own heart.

I think each of the many issues deserves its own post (or, indeed, several) and, in any case, writing about each one will help me get (or keep) my own head straight.

Without further ado, then – the issues as I’ve come across them and thought of them so far (and I may add others if, as and when I come across them):

Sovereignty – the right of a nation or state to govern itself without outside imposition or interference. Leading on from sovereignty, ever-tighter Union and the Euro monetary policy, the woes of the PIIGS and the nature of a federal state.

Business arguments – both for and against. The balance of trade with the EU and outside it, free markets and the common market. The role of Business As Usual in exacerbating climate change, globalism and whether we should abandon current economic/fiscal theories in order to survive.

Immigration, Migration and Border Controls. The right to travel freely, Schengen, etc. A contentious subject that needs discussion on many levels. Involved in this are not just racism, human rights, religion, infrastructure and the Welfare State, but also health, law and order, global overpopulation/overshoot, planetary limits, resources, climate change and a great deal of futurology.

I will try to be objective about each subject but no promises. I am, after all, already biassed and know it, and I’m also a survivalist and an environmentalist so I’ll be approaching each topic from those directions, not from the the normal sheeple perspective.

Not Lazarus; just me, back again…

It’s been a while. I offer no excuses, since there’s no earthly reason why I *must* scribble my random ideas down regularly – nor for anyone to read them, come to that…

Despite the title, I haven’t been dead or even mildly indisposed, merely getting on with life. There was a family holiday in Argyll, during which I ticked seeing the Corryvreckan whirlpool off my bucket list and my sister and brother-in-law decided to chuck living in the south-east and move to Mull instead. It’ll be interesting to watch them adapt to living on a pretty small rural island after decades in Essex and working in the City, but they’ll probably cope, they’re both intelligent and adaptable adults with plenty of life-experience.

Following my bunny population explosion in April, Ebony went on to rear 5 kits, Trudy and Ivory all of theirs and Jezebel 7 of her original 10 kits. Jezebel also suddenly gave me the first case of mastitis I’ve seen in a rabbit in 40 years of being around bunnies, so once the kits were old enough to wean I culled her – rabbits are fiendishly difficult to cure of mastitis and while I did get antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for her from the vet to keep her going until the kits were old enough, it was obvious the infection wasn’t clearing up so I put her down rather than extend her suffering.

Jezebel’s kits did fine and are now variously in the freezer, the dogs and the ferrets. I’ve sold a few of the rex kits and the others are growing nicely and will be heading freezer-wards in September, except for one harlequin doe kit I’m keeping back from Ivory’s litter as future breeding stock.

Silver’s had three chances to prove himself a fertile stud buck and struck out every time, so he’ll shortly be going into the freezer, too. I picked up a couple of unrelated buck kits from a breeder down south on Tuesday so I’m not relying only on Jet as a stud buck, anyway.

Ebony, who made such an incredible mess of her first litter, has had another litter and pulled herself together very nicely. She has 10 kits in the nest – two black, three ermines and 5 harlies, though one’s a runt. Harlies seem to be the ones that sell so that’s excellent. Ivory’s refusing to mate again and I will probably cull her out and keep one of Ebony’s doe kits to replace her.

Delilah (the sole remaining NZW doe) had a litter of 6, which is pathetic by NZW standards, then lost one but the remaining 5 are now just about old enough to wean and very well grown, so they’ll be separated from her in the next week or so. They should be ready to kill in about 6 more weeks.

Apart from that, the garden is flourishing, the country’s still heading gently to the dogs and I’ve sold both my air-rifles. The air-rifle licensing bill is merely waiting for Royal Assent and then everyone in Scotland with an air-rifle will be expected to produce fire-arm cabinet, proof of “need” to own, insurance, and a cheque-book before they can pick up a tin of pellets….

What kind of government doesn’t even trust its citizens to own an air-rifle safely?  Surely not the one that shouted so loudly about trusting Scots to run their own country…..?

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.

Where Did All The Snow Get To?

Here we are, in April, officially now in Spring rather than Winter, and thinking back over the past season, I find myself wondering…. where was the snow? What happened to winter?

There are years without snow in the UK, as well as years with loads of snow (by UK standards – I can certainly remember snowdrifts over 5 foot in Cheshire as a child and we’ve been snowed in from time to time in Scotland, as well as having years when snowtyres are overkill and the salt doesn’t come out of the shed at all.) That’s just normal seasonal variation – “weather” rather than “climate”.

This has been one of the less snowy years. We have had a couple of days when we’ve watched snow blow past the windows, though nothing has stuck on the roads round here and certainly a drift hasn’t even been a possibility. It’s a mixed blessing – less snow, less frost, less powercuts and storms, less inconvenience…. but also less die-off of garden pests. We had slug problems last year because they weren’t frozen down to a smaller population in the 2013/14 winter, and this year undoubtedly we’ll have slug problems again, since they won’t have been frozen this year either.

But it always makes me wonder. If the snow wasn’t here, where was it?

Apparently it hasn’t been in the Arctic, where NSIDC has just reported the lowest ever sea-ice record for winter – and not only the lowest extent but the earliest-ever winter maximum as the ice stopped growing and started melting again earlier than usual.

It hasn’t been in Alaska, either. This year’s Iditarod sled-dog race had to be moved to a more northerly route to find enough snow and ice for the sleds – and at the “official” start in Anchorage, 350 truck-fuls of snow were spread around the city to make it suitably white and scenic! I associate many things with Alaska; until now, a need to stockpile snow for winter sporting events has not been one of them.

It hasn’t been in the Rockies in California, either. California’s water utility checked the depth of the snowpack at 6,800 feet of altitude in the Sierra Nevada recently and found….. no snow at all. This is the first time in 75 years that they’ve had no snow at this altitude on the 1st April, it appears, and doesn’t bode well for California’s continuing drought conditions. Nor does the newly-confirmed El Nino event hold out much hope for restoring California’s water balance – despite taking nearly a year to go from the first indications to officially declared status, this looks like being a very weak, late El Nino that won’t have much effect on US weather patterns, but may nudge global temperatures upwards a little more.

Eurasia also had below-average snowfall in February, though not below average for the year.

So where did the snow go? Apparently it all landed on the USA, mostly in the north-east but some even in such places as Virginia and Texas – not areas I immediately think of when it comes to snow storms!

Apart from the unusually heavy  snow and low temperatures in the north-eastern USA, this winter has also thrown up an unusually chilly patch of ocean off the north-eastern US coast. This is potentially not good news for Europe, as it seems to indicate a slow-down in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Currant (better known as the North Atlantic Drift and the Gulf Stream) which may chill northern Europe. On the other hand, it might help damp out the likelihood of heat waves, which the changing Arctic climate may be encouraging in Europe via fluctations in the Jet Stream….

That probably boils down to, if you’re in the UK, expect variable weather. It’s just a shame about all those non-frozen slugs and insects. They’re probably already anticipating a good nosh on the veg we’re starting to sow….

Drought in the Amazon

I’ve been keeping an eye on a long-running story in the Amazon basin over the past several months; an intense drought which has brought water-rationing to large areas of Brasil and just a few days ago threatened to depopulate Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America and home to 20 million people.

It’s not the first time drought has hit the Amazon basin. In 2010, the Amazon was hit by a devastating drought which caused major rivers to run dry, trees to die and led to extensive fires as the dry, dead wood was set alight by lightning strikes. There were astounding pictures of the Brazilian government flying water supplies to villages normally on the banks of the world’s biggest river, because there was nothing but sand in the riverbed. There was a lot of discussion at the time about climate change in the Amazon basin and what it could mean for the rest of the planet if we allowed the Amazon rainforest to disappear.

As we can now see, the net result of all that worry was….. nothing happened. No new reservoirs, no restrictions on logging, illegal or legal, and as a consequence, here’s another drought and it’s nearly brought Brazil’s biggest city to the point of rationing water to just 2 days a week to all its 20 million residents.

2 days a week. Think about that. How would you cope if you turned the taps on and nothing came out? You’d be okay for a day, perhaps, maybe go buy some bottled water? (Except there are other people with the same idea). Every human needs 2L of clean, potable water a day to survive – more in hot climates or if you’re working hard and losing fluids through sweat. You need more to cook food, wash clothes, clean your teeth, flush the toilet…. the average UK household uses 150L of water a day.

Do you have 150L of water stored in your home? It weighs 150kg, plus packaging, so be careful where you stack those bottles! Upstairs is not a good idea. Ideally you want it in a dark, cool place (to restrict the growth of algae) and on a solid floor, not the loft. You need to rotate your water stash – about every 18 months or so – otherwise when you crack open the bottle, you’re might find a complex ecosystem flourishing in there. A couple of drops of thin unscented household bleach per litre helps prevent it all going green, but over time the chlorine wears off and you need to empty the bottles, scrub them out and refill them.

That’s a fair bit of work, though you can spread the load over time by doing a few bottles a month rather than all at once. You can lessen the load by conserving water! 50L a day to flush the loo with clean drinking water? Do you really need a long hot shower every day? And don’t even think about watering the garden or washing the car….

Back in the mid-70s, we had a severe drought in the UK – the first I was aware of.  I remember my parents taking us for a picnic at one of the reservoirs for Manchester, up in the Peak District. I remember the cracked mud that stretched for such a long way (I was only small!) from the grass at the top to the not-very-much water at the bottom. Cars had bumper stickers reading ‘Save Water – Have a Dirty Weekend’ to remind everyone only to bathe when necessary. We shared bathwater – eldest brother had first dip, then next brother used the same (cooling) water for his bath, then my sister and I shared the (tepid and somewhat grimy) water for our quick splash around. We put a brick in the toilet cistern to reduce the capacity, so less water was used in flushing the toilet (you can get the same effect with a plastic bag of water – or anything else that displaes water and don’t bung the works up). As things continued, we had a rule that you only flushed for excrement, not urine. Then we went on to saving the washing-up water in a bucket to pour down the loo so we weren’t using drinking water for flushing at all. I’ve retained the habit of having a daily wash rather than a daily shower ever since. You can get just as clean from a basin of hot water, a bar of soap and a flannel as you can from a shower or a bath, and it saves an immense amount of water and heating energy!

Most people in the UK don’t store water. You turn the taps and it falls out, no problem. But the people of Sao Paulo thought that, too, a few months ago. Now they’re facing reservoirs with only 8.9% of their water and the taps don’t work. Restaurants can’t wash plates, people can’t wash clothes, schools can’t cook dinners. People are reduced to trudging to whatever water sources they can locate and filling up every container they can carry. The Brazilian government were getting close to telling people to leave the city and flee, apparently.

It’s now started raining there, apparently, so they’re breathing sighs of relief, but what odds they don’t learn from this lesson either? In which case, in a few years, it’ll happen again, when the next drought arrives.

I wonder if anyone in Sao Paulo will think to start storing clean drinking water?

And before everyone outside Brazil starts feeling smug, remember those drought predictions for the US? Here’s a good site to start doing some research, too. Pay attention to that throwaway comment on the fifth line about the Brazilian coffee crop not happening this year! (Hint: price of coffee likely to rise so stock up now, coffee drinkers!)

IPCC AR5 indicated that the dry areas would get drier, so a good guess as to future conditions can be made by looking at current drought areas and simply enlarging them over time. If (when?) the Amazon rainforest succumbs to drought, fire and logging, we can probably expect tropical and subtropical droughts to get much more severe and prolonged – the Amazon, like other large rainforests, creates its own climate and without it, rainfall is going to drop.

Think it can’t happen here? Think again. Think hard, particularly if you live in an area already prone to droughts, like the south-east of England. London already gets less rain than Istanbul!

There’s another question here that I’m mulling over, and that’s…. how long will people cling to their homes, jobs, businesses, when they know they face not having any water? (three days without water and your body starts to die!) And why? Did anyone look at the reservoir levels and think, blow this for a game of soldiers, I’m offski? Or do humans have this irrational attachment to place, even over survival? How bad does it have to get before you give up your belongings in favour of safeguarding your life?

More importantly yet, when dire circumstances do finally get people on the move….. how desperate are they and what will they do if you’re in the way?

TANSTAFFL

This stands for There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Particularly when a politician or a political party starts offering “free” anything, remember the money has to come from somewhere. If you’re not paying for it up front, then where are they skinning the money from out of sight?

A few “free” things that get my goat.

“Free” university tuition. Here‘s a hint that not all Scotland’s universities are happy with this. I’m particularly suspicious when it comes to comments like

“opposing government policy isn’t always welcomed”

Is this a hint that free speech is being stifled?

You can’t have something for nothing. I’m not against the state shouldering tuition fees – I did my degree back in the old days when every local authority in the UK paid tuition fees, and my daughter’s away in Glasgow at the moment, fee-less. If you want a top-class education system, however, then you have to pay for it somehow. If students aren’t paying for it, then you have to fund it to the same level via public funds…. in other words, every tax payer takes a share. I’m perfectly happy, as a tax payer, knowing that I’m paying a few quid towards the education of the next generation, including Michelle. But when you see that tuition fees aren’t being paid by students and you discover that the government isn’t paying enough either…. well, then there’s only one outcome. The quality of the university education is going to suffer. As a parent, that’s not good enough.

Here’s another nice “free” offer from the Scottish Government. “Free” childcare for every child between 3 and 4 for 16 hours a week. Except it appears a lot of parents have to pay for their childcare because the council-funded places aren’t opening the right hours, or simply can’t handle that many children. Next year it’s going to include 27% of all 2 year olds, as well – at least in theory. Yet Scotland has less provision for nursery places under the “free” childcare that the Nats are bleating about, than England does without it. And where’s the money coming from? Local authorities raise their money from the Council Tax and the Scottish Government hasn’t allowed a rise in that for 8 years now. Holyrood’s providing £329 million to fund the expansion…. hang on a minute, there’s only 5.3 million people in Scotland and not all of them are taxpayers! Say we assume that it’s falling equally on all tax payers, and there’s a national average of 72.5% employment for those between 16 and 64, which is 63% of the population, then we’re looking at…. (bear with me, maths isn’t my favourite subject….) 2.43 million taxpayers, so each tax payer will be paying an extra  £135.39 for the “free” childcare that these children aren’t adequately receiving, on top of whatever we’re already paying, which I haven’t been able to track down yet.

“Free”. Yeah, right.

So, as all the politicians get revved up to offer bread-and-circus in one hand and smoke-and-mirrors in the other to fool the mugs into voting for them in May, just remember, if they’re busy saying “it’s free!”…. they’re lying.

TANSTAAFL!

In other news, no wonder the Russians are feeling their oats and flying bombers around our coasts with increasing frequency, just look at the way the EU’s busy arguing amongst itself! Brussels says Greece’s loan application is a positive move, and a couple of hours later Germany tells Greece where to go, with hints that it’s because the German finance minister has taken a huff at the Greek finance minister’s negotiation style.

Anyone would think Germany wanted Greece to turn to Russia for a bail-out. Wouldn’t that be an interesting twist? Part of the EU busy baiting the Bear over the Ukraine, part of the EU extending the begging bowl to the Bear and part of it (us) being wagged as the tail of the US dog-of-war.

Oddly enough, I actually have a high enough opinion of Putin’s nerve, guts and brinksmanship to think he’ll dance a smart line and avoid outright war (this does not imply, by the way, that I approve of him, his morals, his ethics, his methods or his ambitions…. just that I think he’s one smart, savvy, ruthless and clever son of a female dog. The West has nobody with Putin’s political skills, though plenty who can match his bad qualities.) Russia nipped the Crimea off very neatly and made the West look like a bunch of blundering buffoons on the world stage, I suspect they’ll succeed in the Ukraine as well. Particularly as the EU is busy attacking its own members.

Too bad for the Ukrainians. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania next?

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.

UK Knife Law – Locking Blades

A petition was brought to my attention the other day and I’m going to share it here in the hopes of gathering a few more signatures.

UK law states than nobody may carry a knife in public without good cause if the blade is more than 3 inches in length, or if the blade locks open. Now, this particular quirk wasn’t written into the Act of Parliament governing offensive weapons, it stems from a judge mistakenly deciding that ‘lock’ knives were dangerous, which just shows how little some judges know about knives.

A folding knife with a lock is SAFER than a folding knife without a lock! The lock stops the blade snapping shut on your fingers while you’re working with the knife.

Anyway, as it stands, we’re all forced to avoid carrying the safest folding knives and have to make do with much less safe non-locking folders, and this petition merely asks for a review of the law with regard to carrying small locking penknives. Please, if you’re a UK citizen, consider signing the petition! We’ve only got until the end of March 2015 to put 10,000 signatures on the petition and force the Civil Service to respond – 100,000 signatures and it has to be considered by a back-bench committee. It’s hard enough trying to maintain any rights against the natural tyranny of politicians – no opportunity for exercising a democratic right should be overlooked!

And that’s that for the year…

It’s officially not Christmas anymore. Phew. Back to ordinary living.

Well, not really. My daughter’s still here, my brother’s coming up at the weekend for a visit, there’s a heap of presents to work through – I love it when people give me novels I haven’t read yet! – and there’s a few activities still to unfold. I organised a clay pigeon shooting lesson for my daughter and I  – a mother/daughter activity session – so that’ll be a fun end to her holiday, just before she heads back to Glasgow and gets her nose back to the uni grindstone. I’m looking forward to it, too! There’s also the Amazon tokens to spend – and a contribution to the gun fund from my mother as a present, so that’s good too.

We’ve nearly finished clearing the allotment, with just some equipment to come home now; posts, wire, netting, hoops and so forth. I’ll see if I can pressgang my brother into helping with that – we sank the posts pretty well! Hopefully the ground won’t be too frozen – we’ve had a few sharp frosts but that’s all, to date. I was even out tonight with the dogs, just before midnight, without a coat – which shows how mild the weather is. It’s freezing, yes, but only just.

So, as one year draws to a close and another is poised to start, it’s time to review what we’ve learned, what grew well – and what flopped spectacularly, like the sprouts. We’ve harvested about three meals of sprouts, they just never grew for us this year. Last year they were the size of ping-pong balls and we scoffed them from November to March! Ah well, that’s gardening. This year the onions have been excellent, we’re still only half-way through the stored onions. The roots haven’t been bad, though I’d’ve liked them bigger. Courgettes – a show stopper. We still have jars of pickled courgettes in the cupboards, along with pickled beetroot and beet relish.

Next year we’ll be seeing how much we can grow in the garden – more deep beds to build and fill, though the bunnies are producing plenty of excellent compost material for that purpose! They, too, have been one of this year’s star projects, and hopefully next year they’ll continue to be as prolific.

I want to do more vertical gardening to maximise the available space – simple things like stacked tyres for potatoes, to get a bigger harvest in the space, and close-planting roots under the beans and peas, for example. If I get round to it, we have an old window with glass and I’d like to put together a hot bed to go under it, to lengthen the growing season.

The fruit cage needs to be assembled. It’s not doing any good lying in a stack waiting to be put together, and the blackbirds had too many of our raspberries this autumn!

It’s coming up on time to order next spring’s seeds, so I’d better go make a list.

Hope everyone had a peaceful, happy midwinter celebration!