Bamble Butter or Cheese! (by )

Bramble Cheese

Autumn is here as is harvest time and so when ever possible I have been out foraging! I have already made two batches of chutney, crumbles and cakes and sauces with the various fruit and veg so I thought I would try something different this year before heading down the jam and wine making path again.

I found some old recipes for butters/cheeses and thought I'd give it a go - there is no dairy in these but they either spread like a curd or you can cut them like cheeses and the names pre-date the modern terms which have a narrower meaning.

Basically it is just a butt load of blackberries and crab apples cooked until mushy, pushed through a sieve, the puree is then put in a pan with lots of sugar and reheated and stirred like making fudge - I was aiming for a cheese but my arm started to spasm so I had to give up but I'd already gone paste the butter consistency. I was really pleased it kept it's shape when removed from the mould!

Interestingly I discovered that depending on the age of the book there is a huge variance on how long such a thing will keep - 2 or 3 months in the newest book, 2 years in ones from before 1985 and indefinatly but will become more crystalline the older it gets in my older early last century and victorian cook books. We plan to just see what happens with it as it is going to take some time to get through!

Next step with this stuff I think is going to be a) seeing if adding some condenced milk turns it into a lovely fruit fudge and b) if I get even more fruit to reduce down can I make it without adding sugar? Lastly c) make it with lots of other fruits 🙂

Arty Cobweb Shots (by )

The cobweb gate

I just love dew and frost and rain drops on spider webs 🙂 These are the pots I have the blueberry

Dewy spider webs

One Week of Freedom! (by )

Chickens in the damp garden

The chickens have been with us a week now and have so far delivered unto us 14 good eggs and one soft shelled mess. The kids are grumpy with us for imposing an egg limit in their diet of 2 eggs each plus what ever is baked into cakes, pastries and other sundries they might get down their gullets in a week. They both love collecting eggs and then eating them 🙂

Rescue Chickens

Mary gets incensed if I go out to the chickens without her - to the point that when I was bedding them down for the night on Friday she got her welly's and coat on whilst I was out and cried when I came in and said I'd already dealt with them - I then had to explain that I had tucked them in as it was their sleepy tired time!

One of our rescue hens

I also found her in the garden naked bar welly's talking to them - it was no nappy time. We can distinguish Doggy and Felix but Mario and Lilly are still interchangable unless we watch their behaviour for a while first! They are starting to grow feathers back and I have spent even more money on them getting supplements as I was concerned about the soft shell. Alaric is now writing a fun little application that we can use to track money spent verses eggs for academic interest as it were!

Yep I've taken to videoing them now 🙂

I found it interesting that they are perfectly happy to put themselves back in the run! Though we are still planning on building the bigger encloser as I just don't think this one is really big enough to be honest but should be ok for now - they seem happy and winter is coming so they will need each others warmth etc..

So far looking after them has not been that hard as though the cold is starting to hurt my joints and stuff again I can do the morning egg check quiet quickly and have the kettle boiling ready for tea when I come in. It is all on one level with the kitchen so no stairs or anything involved (something that used to do me in were we lived before for the veg plots). I do the proper inspection and food later on with the girls helping with carrying water, food and grit! I have to say they are a lot tamer and passive compared to other chickens I have known - I would say they are smaller too but I think that is just because I have grown!

So one week in and we are really chuffed 🙂 We are taking egg presents around to the neighbours today as they can be nosey etc.. some cake baking may also lurk in the future 🙂

Is information security good? (by )

One of the interesting things to have come from Edward Snowden's leaks of classified documents is that the American National Security Agency has been working to introduce flaws into the design and implementation of security technologies, in order to make it easier for them to break said security for their own ends.

There's been a lot of outrage about that. The argument for it is that the ready availability of strong security technology makes it easier for bad folks to conceal their crimes (and, worse, conceal the fact that they are planning such crimes, so they cannot be stopped in advance), so the NSA is right in acting to make sure people don't have strong security technology. However, even if we can trust the NSA (and that is far from certain) such vulnerabilities can be found by people we certainly can't trust: "cyber-criminals" intent on stealing our credit card details in order to rob us of our money, commercial competitors looking for strategic advantage, and so on.

There are also deeper issues that have been raised; this means that the NSA is covertly working to sabotage the products of US companies. Should they be allowed to do that? Can those companies now sue them for damages?

But I think that, at the heart of the debate over this, is an even deeper issue.

We have the NSA - the part of the US government officially responsible for information security - acting to subvert the information security available to US individuals and companies, on the grounds that it is harmful to the public if they have strong security. While on the other hand, we have individuals and companies striving for better security; working to make more secure products, choosing products that claim to provide security benefits, and so on.

This shows, to me, that there's a big unresolved question that US society as a whole - government and non-government together - needs to ask themselves: Is information security good? The government's official position seems to be that information security is harmful, as it makes it harder to provide a more general notion of security that is threatened by criminals, foreign governments, and terrorists; while everyone else's position seems to be that information security is good because they don't want information criminals and foreign governments stealing their secrets (terrorists don't seem to have cottoned to this trick yet) - and, maybe, because they don't want the government knowing ("stealing" is a contentious term here, as the government gets to define what "stealing" is) their secrets, too.

So before they can really debate whether the NSA's actions are justified or not, I think the US needs to step back and look at the bigger question: Should information security be a right, or not? If not, then they should just use legislation to stop companies and people from wasting resources trying to achieve it while other resources are being spent subverting it so they only receive an illusion thereof. That's just plain inefficient. And if information security is deemed good, then the NSA should be prevented from subverting it, and refocus its efforts on ways of doing its job without being able to break encryption; traffic analysis, meta-data analysis, exploiting specific installations of security systems where a threat is suspected, and so on are all time-honoured mechanisms that work even against well-educated adversaries that use encryption systems that the NSA hasn't been able to subvert.

Chasing Allotments and Organising Sheds (by )

Mary admiring her 'house' aka the garden shed

That horrible sinking feeling when you realise you now have a kitchen full of animal feed sacks and there is no room left in the cupboard under the stairs and you've been thinking this stuff should all be in the shed for a while for ages and it needs to be sorted so the table you bought for a fiver from the school for potting up and mushroom growing can be put in said shed (sounds far more exciting and illegal than what I actually mean!).

Chairs and tools handing from hooks in the shed

So we turfed things and sorted them and took some camping bits out to put in the cupboard under the stairs which were also sorting at the same time and some animal cage bits which are going in the eves of the house with the fish tank etc... and we put hooks in the sheds beams to hang the camping chairs, strimmer and jet washer etc... Found the grate of wine bottles I''ve been looking for to bottle my nettle wine and dandiion wine up in and a couple more demijohns to go on the shelves we built for the purpose in the kitchen etc...

Dandilion wine

Mary thought it was great - it was her house apparently!

Then we headed off to the Allotments Country Show in the hope of nabbing someone about the fact that I am now not even receiving email responses from the council about how long it is going to take to get one - I go blackberrying along there I can see the empty plots! I found a lady who said she would pass my details on after a long talk about making chutney and pickled things with me and Alaric so fingers crossed.

Jean, Mary and Alaric watching the Zumba

The weather was a bit pants by this point but Jean and Mary had a great time even though they didn't get to go on any rides - Jean went in her roller blades she picked up last year in a charity shop for like £2! She only fell over once and had her shoes in her rucksack which she changed into after seeing the zumba but by then it was too late to join in!

Mary and her animal balloons

Mary was most pleased with her balloon dog - in pink as always - it is currently her favourite colour! I worry that people think I am one of those parents that makes their little girls wear pink!

Windmill Rescue Bunny

And then I resisted adopting another bunny from the Windmill rescue people - the girls spent ages stroking a lovely little grey thing - Jean was concerned it wasn't walking and was informed that it is disabled with a twisted back paw - at the collected 'awww' from me and Jean Alaric took us by the arms and lead us away!

Apart from all that I cleared out and sorted the top shelf of the 'treats' cupboard (where all the cake making etc supplies are) and placed the chutneys and jams I've been making on there - so yeah guess what everyones getting for christmas! Something home made/grown anyway 😉

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