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…..?

False Dichotomies

Today’s post is a bit of a diversion from the normal run of things, but bear with me. The ability to think clearly, recognise false arguments and counter bad logic is valuable for anyone, in any circumstances.

My father, when we were kids, used to drive us nuts on a regular basis. A simple yes/no question invariably drew difficult answers.

Tea or coffee?   Yes.

Cake or ice-cream?   Yes.

Do you want badgers or hedgehogs?

I don’t believe we ever asked Dad that last one, but it’s the same principle and I’ve put it in for a reason.

I’m getting fed-up of the hysteria over badgers. The UK has badgers. Lots of badgers. 288,000 at least, probably more since that’s a 2011 figure and the badger population is rising all the time, despite 45,000 a year squashed on the roads. Dairy farmers aren’t that happy about the badger population density because badgers, like cows, can catch, carry and transmit tuberculosis. Whether cows give it to badgers or badgers give it to cows is probably irrelevant – though TB has long been known to be a cattle disease, arriving in the human population when we started keeping cattle as livestock, thousands of years ago, even though now most TB in humans (in the UK, at least) is caught from other humans.

Whichever way it goes, a farmer whose cows test positive for TB has to destroy the affected animal(s). So a farmer with TB infected badgers roaming about his farm runs the risk of losing his livelihood as his cows may pick up TB from the badgers. The argument there goes, there’s lots of cows and badgers are cute, so the cows (and farmers) should be sacrificed for the badgers.

I’ve had first-hand experience of badgers and livestock – some years ago we lost our small duck flock in the back garden overnight, together with some chickens. The culprit? We found the cheeky beggar sleeping in the henhouse, curled up in the nestbox with his dinner (one of the ducks) snuggled under his chin, ready for a late snack. It was a badger.

(Newsflash – real badgers are not “cute”, no matter what they look like on TV. They are amazingly smelly and can bite your leg to the bone when cornered.)

They’re strictly protected. You can’t disturb their setts (burrows) nor shoot, trap, snare, drive ’em out with terriers or otherwise persecute them. But there’s no law that says you have to give them board and lodging in your henhouse so young brock went down the drive at high speed with the prickly end of a brush chasing after his tail and we no longer keep ground-nesting birds like ducks. He was probably a young male on the roam for a new sett to move into – young males get moved on to fresh territories by their elders.

Now, I don’t particularly hold it against badgers that they act like the predators they are. They may mostly eat earthworms and beetles but they’re members of the weasel family and they’re carnivores. Show a carnivore a sitting duck (pun intended) and he’ll head in teeth-first. I don’t expect a badger (or a fox) to consider my property rights or the ethics of scoffing the livestock I’ve carefully nourished and cared for without due recompense for my loss. I expect a badger to eat unguarded poultry, just as I expect any predator to be a predator. That why we lock the hens up at night (foxes), that’s why the rabbit shed door isn’t left open (cats) and why I’m careful not to discuss the full extent of my prepping activities with anyone (humans).

Not all predators go on four legs.

Let’s get back to hedgehogs. The UK used to have lots of hedgepigs, or urchins. It was estimated there were upwards of 30 million in the 1950s, when badger numbers were lower, cities were smaller, there were less people and more hedges. Now there’s probably less than 1.5 million. Tiger populations are decreasing more slowly than this! Causes of the decline? Certainly habitat loss, to some extent – less hedges, bigger fields, more intensive agriculture, more pesticides (means less slugs/beetles for hedgepigs to eat). Urbanisation is probably irrelevant – back gardens and parks, provided they’re reasonably untidy, are superb hedgehog habitat. More people…. probably mostly irrelevant too, except more people means more road-traffic and hedgehogs famously have road-crossing problems. But badgers? Badgers eat hedgehogs. They’re the only animal in the UK (except people) which can get past the spiky wrapper to the meat on the inside.

Kew Gardens used to have lots of hedgehogs, apparently. Then in the 1980s, badgers moved in and now Kew, 300 acres of superb hedgehog habitat, has 60+ badgers and zero hedgehogs.

Obviously badgers and hedgehogs have both co-existed in the UK since the end of the Ice Age so it’s possible, under the right circumstances, for them to continue co-existing now. But with blanket protection for brock and an exploding badger population, maybe the time has come to ask, are we over-protecting badgers and what will we sacrifice to keep the badger-huggers happy? Hedgehogs? Farmers’ livelihoods? Poultry?

Are hedgehogs “cuter” than badgers?

Now, I called this post false dichotomies for a reason. Remember that question?

Do you want badgers or hedgehogs?

This is a false dichotomy because, as my father so delighted in pointing out with his frustrating one-word answer, it’s not an either/or choice. I’d like badgers AND hedgehogs, please. In a reasonable balance and, while we’re at it, I don’t mind foxes but only in moderation. I’d like ground-nesting birds not to be wiped out by exploding pine-marten numbers. I don’t see why anglers playing catch-and-release games with innocent fish complain when a hungry otter (shock horror) catches and doesn’t release some fish (and I’ve no time for anyone who spends their time ranting about social inequality and anti-austerity while taking home more money for less work than any other politician in the UK when there’s ex-servicemen living rough. When was the last time a politician showed willing to put their life on the line for the country?)

The relevant word in my answer is balance. Badgers presumably had some kind of natural check on their population during the millennia when they and hedgehogs lived in balance in Britain – maybe bears eat badgers, or lynx, or maybe wolves, or perhaps there were enough aurochs roaming the forests to squash 45,000 badgers a year. Something must have kept badger numbers down enough for hedgehogs to thrive alongside them, but it’s not here now. Whatever it was, it’s a fair bet that humans removed it (or them) because we’ve had such a massive impact on this island of ours since then. We wiped out all the big predators, we cut down a lot of the forests, we built towns and cities (there are urban badgers, if not so many as urban foxes!) and, admittedly, we also hunted badgers and tortured them in baiting rings. I’ve no time for anyone who’s deliberately cruel to any creature, whether it’s pulling the wings off flies or setting dogs on badgers, rats, each other or whatever. If you’re going to kill, it should be for a good reason (“fun” isn’t a good reason) and it should be quick and clean. Kill to eat, kill to protect yourself (I wonder how many of the ardent “animal-lovers” would willingly allow a tiger or a bear to bite them?), kill to prevent suffering, or kill to keep the balance, but I don’t kill for fun – and do, please, note there’s a distinction between killing for fun and taking a pride in killing something well. If you don’t take a pride in killing well, that means you don’t mind killing incompetently. (While we’re on the subject, please do stop and finish off your roadkill, don’t leave it lying in agony for hours while the crows take it apart piecemeal. Animals feel pain and fear just as humans do so show some decency and kill the poor beggars properly. Quickly.)

After all, if people didn’t kill wild rabbits, we’d have no cereal crops. If we didn’t shoot foxes that raid henhouses, we’d have no chickens or eggs. Pigeons and rooks damage cereal crops, badgers take poultry (and hedgehogs) and deer can devastate crops and young trees alike. We took away the things that kept their populations in balance before, so it’s up to us to provide that balance now – by culling the populations that are too strong, and encouraging the populations that are struggling.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirzig addresses this problem of false dichotomy though the metaphor of the horns of a bull. It’s a very appropriate metaphor, since another word for ‘dichotomy’ is ‘dilemma’, which means ‘two horns’. It’s been a while since I last read the book and I don’t remember exactly how many options he came up with for avoiding having to choose “left horn” or “right horn” of his dilemma, but it was about 13 or thereabouts, I think.

Hedgehogs on the left, versus badgers on the right. Now…. we could refuse to enter the arena. Give them both exactly the same treatment and refuse to face the problem. Unfortunately this will continue the current course and it’ll be curtains, urchins.

We could establish hedgehog reserves where badgers can’t go. Offshore islands, perhaps? Oh, wait, offshore islands are ideal ground-nesting-bird territory and Mrs Tiggywinkle, if you didn’t know, loves eggs. That’s why there’s hedgehog-removal schemes in the Western Isles.

We could re-introduce the big predators that used to keep badger numbers down. Oops, no, remember why we wiped them to begin with? Lynx and wolves take livestock and bears have been known to kill people. Probably not a starter for ten, that one!

We could fall back on culling badger numbers to protect farmers, cows and hedgehogs – we just need to find a reliable, humane and effective method, which was the major problem in the trial culls over the past couple of years. Live trap and then shoot at close range? Go back to gassing setts?

Any more suggestions?

False dichotomies like this show up all the time in real life. In climate change, one of the most common false dichotomies is “natural or man-made” causes. It’s not an either-or question because there are both natural and man-made causes – but the natural ones don’t cause such rapid change that we risk being unable to adapt.

Politics is another area where false dilemmas breed – do you vote Labour, or Tory? Though this, looking at the recent election, seems less of a dilemma now we also have UKIP and the SNP getting major support in some areas! In the States it’s even worse, since they only seem to have Republican and Democrat as flavours.

It’s worth learning how to spot these false dichotomies and find ways around them in any context – anything that helps with thinking in colour instead of black and white is good, as my father used to say!

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!

The Tidying of Loose Ends

I like tidying up projects, finishing them and putting them aside. I dislike things dragging on and bothering me for ages. I tend to wave visitors off briskly, wish them well and shut the door briskly.

Anyway. The allotment is now cleared, sorted, email sent to the committee saying goodbye, so that’s that. Loose thread duly snipped.

My young chinchilla rex buck, Silver, decided today was a good day to pull a muscle in a back leg, so he’s now on cage-rest until the weekend, along with an anti-inflammatory painkiller from the vet, and I’ve warned him (sternly) that if he’s not better by then, he’ll be a mitten in the near future. So there. I gave him a carrot as well and, I have to admit, he doesn’t look particularly impressed by the threats.

The other bunnies are all fine, though Jezebel is getting fairly fed up with only getting the scraps of carrot she can steal from her 10 ravening babies, who can form a feeding frenzy  that would scare a school of sharks. It’s quite unnerving to watch this mass of writhing white fluff engulf an innocent carrot and only a few shreds emerge, later….They’ll be weaned at the beginning of next week, however, so she only has to put up with things a few more days.

On other fronts, I’ve now achieved the ticking-off of all the little boxes on the gun club probationer skills-to-learn list and passed the written exam, so by the end of the month I should be a full member of the club and can start on the next phase of the project – the FAC and SGC paperwork.

It’s a curious quirk (one of oh-so-many in UK gun law) that for the Shotgun Certificate I have to provide one referee who is a respectable, clean-living professional type, and yet for the Firearms Certificate, I just need two random people of no particular qualifications (though ‘of good character’) who’ve known me more than 2 years. Applying for both certificates together, I need the respectable professional and one random other. Bizarre.

I’m off to the city tomorrow for an outing with an old friend. We happen to have birthdays only a few days apart, share the same twisted sense of humour and met at uni many years ago, so we’re going to admire the special effects (and maybe the odd male torso) in Of Gods and Men, have a nice lunch, set the world to rights and I’ll ask her to be one of my FAC references. Why not? She’s of good standing in the community, etc, and has known me nearly eighteen years – and if the SHTF and she has to bug out of the city, I know which doorstep she’ll land on, so it’s in her interests to make sure I’m pleased to see her.

As she herself remarked when I asked her to be my referee for the gun club membership application!