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Casa Cat Creek has been experiencing quite the heat wave. I’ve only just now regained enough energy for anything other than moving to the basement where 28 degrees feels cool, and sitting there in a puddle of sweat to moan.

The sun has been unrelenting and the temperature has been up around — or above — 30 degrees for what feels like ages, but is probably only two weeks or so. I’m happy I’m not 9 months pregnant like I was during last year’s heat wave, but I’m not enjoying it!

However, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and the heat and unrelenting sun, as much as it is making the lawn brown and crunchy, the cedars wilt and me sweat, is fantastic for making cucumbers into pickles.

(It’s also great for bleaching and airing cloth diapers, so get your fluff out on the line!)

Here are my first forays into pickle making:

 

 

I’m following my mother-in-law’s recipe (as I remember it). For the pickles, add fresh dill, garlic and salt, and fill with water above the cucumbers. Add a piece of bread for the yeast which will start the fermentation process. Cover with saran wrap and the lid. Leave the jar in the sun for three days and then refrigerate.

The process is the same for the green tomatoes, only this recipe is a little spicier: Use peppercorns, red pepper flakes and bay leaves.

The jar on the right has been out for two days already. Tomorrow I’ll bring it in. The other two I just set out today.

ūüôā Happy pickling!

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We really cultivate a lot of weeds here at Casa Cat Creek. Those, there, I think are lavender and chamomile as well as some lilies and irises. There’s also a lot of dry grass clippings. One day this will be properly edged the whole way around the outbuildings.

This wall of the garage is already that much better because I dug it out last year when I planted those lilies. Last year I got only one measly little flower, but this big bunch looks promising!

I added some irises next to the lilies, and something else from mom. To the right is the Great Expanding Snowball Bush. It will probably have to be tamed every year.

More irises among the snowballs (and weeds. No shortage of weeds.)

 Yay! The weather is finally dry enough to hang the clothes out!

 The front of the house with some irises and some ground cover. The left has many weeds but also something else mom gave me last year, which also seems to have taken root and spread quite well.

¬†This is another weed we’ve been having a lot of difficulty eradicating. ūüėõ She won’t stop growing or getting into things she shouldn’t! (Really, Twinkle Toes is quite happy after a good long morning nap, and because we were headed out to two of our favorite thrift stores.)

This is the split rail fence that runs along under our big tree. Terrible terrible weed situation here. The burdock is taking over. I planted mint. I’m very aware how mint will spread, and that is exactly what I want. This is a shady area that also gets trampled when The Young Jedi and Miss Teen climb the tree, so it needs a hardy plant. I’d prefer it be overrun with mint than burdock!

The end of the fence. I had potatoes planted here last year and they did a wonderful job of loosening up the soil. I’ve enlarged the semi circle a little more this year, and put in some chicken and hens, some peonies, and other nameless plants. This is also the location of the poppy plant’s demise.

The bean teepee which houses the asparagus! I’m still planning on planting beans, but I figured this is a good way to shelter the asparagus from inadvertently getting mowed.

Right next to the bean teepee is the new cucumber patch. The Young Jedi is a cucumber fanatic, and Rupert is a pickle connoisseur, so here we have English and pickling cukes, in the spot where I had tomatoes last year.

The garden. It’s shaggy and messy and full of weeds, but there is a lot of good stuff in there! Perhaps next year we’ll fix up that fence and create a second raised bed.

…you’re only a few hours away!

And have I got plans for the day!

Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. the Vankleek Hill Farmer’s Market is open and bustling. They’ve recently moved from indoors at a local high school to their outdoor location, so I’m hoping this rain we’ve been getting lets up. It’s so much more pleasant to meander through the stands when you’re not up to your ankles in mud! Just the same, I am a fervent market-goer, so I will be there — I’m especially hoping for some produce! Enough with the baked goods and frozen meat, already. Give me some fresh new sprouts of something green… (not that I mind meat — I love it — but it isn’t as exciting to buy).

I’m especially hoping “my” veggie man, Alan is back. He’s charming and grows good veggies.

I also have another reason to look forward to the morning: I’ve got clearance from Rupert to head off to the market on my new motorcycle — not that I need permission, but I won’t be taking children with me, so he has agreed to supervise them so I can leave the house on. my. own. (Those of you breastfeeding or with young children know this is momentous.) And in case you were wondering, Oh yes!¬†one can do the groceries on a motorcycle, especially one that is equipped with side luggage and top case. I don’t have a pretty picture of my new blue lady to show you, but perhaps tomorrow will bring sun and I can snap a pic in the parking lot at the market. Promise!

Also as promised, if the sun comes out I will get some pictures of my little garden projects. If the plants haven’t all drowned yet, that is. ūüėõ

Now I’m off to bed with visions of peas and lettuce dancing in my head. Good night, all!

How does your garden grow?

Here at Casa Cat Creek, our garden grows despite my lack of effort–sometimes. With a job, three kids, the Cat Creek project and regular household chores to attend to, gardening ends up low on the list of priorities. Unfortunately, I know this means I produce less and waste more, as I neglect to weed and water and tie up my poor veggies. But then I think that this garden is supposed to be working for me, and if I have to spend too much time caring for it, it becomes more expensive than it’s worth. So I muddle along doing what I can when I get the chance and settling for good enough.

Yesterday I got the chance.¬†The weather was perfect and¬†mother in law had offered to take Little Miss for a walk, so I spent a couple of hours preparing the garden for planting. It’s early yet for putting out seedlings, but my garlic was up and being crowded by grass, and I wanted to get some cool-weather seeds planted, but before I could, I needed to clear out all the weeds. I pulled the bigger weeds, discovered a volunteer onion and a volunteer garlic left over from last year,¬†and¬†sowed some seeds. I also edged around the outside of the garden frame to¬†give the morning glory a bit of a setback, and here’s how it looked when I was done:

No, this is not the most attractive garden ever built! Top right quadrant is garlic. Bottom left has a stray garlic and an onion. I added cilantro seeds¬†in there, too. Bottom right has lettuce, kale, beets, radicchio and radishes. That top left quadrant will be for Rupert’s hot peppers.

Little Miss also did a little bit of this before MIL arrived:

I started photographing my first pieces, and now have incontrovertible proof that photography is not my forte. I may hire my mother, but here is a teaser of what is to come.

Oh, the turkey soup ran out, so yesterday I made a pot of beef soup. It is dee-licious and helps my congestion and sore throat enormously. Unfortunately, Twinkle Toes has been on a sleepless bent, and no matter how much soup I consume, I don’t think I can overcome this cold at the current rate of 2 or 3 hours of broken sleep a night! Help!

Twinkle Toes, the baby who slept through the night at only a few weeks old, and was consistently good about sleeping, even putting herself to sleep, now wakes up every hour or two. Sigh.

Oh, first I thought it was the diapers were too small, and so I went up to the next size prefolds hoping more absorbency = less wetness = less wakeups. But no, then Twinkle Toes got some teeth, and teething pain kept her up and nursing. Somehow, I think she got into the very bad habit during that time of only sleeping if one of my nipples was in her mouth. Invariably, milk would let down and she would drink, but not because she was thirsty. This meant more peeing, more wet diapers and also waking up with burps… vicious cycle!

Now with this cold of hers-ours, she’s stuffy, but she also seems to have two more teeth coming in. … and¬†I am one tired mom.

I can’t fight a cold if I’m exhausted! I’m using saline spray to ease the congestion, hompeopathic throat spray, herbal teas, this fab beef soup, zinc and vitamin D supplements, coconut oil on poor chapped lips and nose… But what a world of good it would do if baby would let me sleep.

*sigh*

Any ideas on how to get Twinkle Toes to sleep longer on her own? Just plain encouragement would be good, too!

I’m opposed to crying it out, but have tried “crying in arms” with varying degrees of success. I’ve had¬†Rupert go in and rub her back or rock her back to sleep to break the milk habit, but although he often manages to get her back to sleep, it usually isn’t for long. An hour later, she’s up again. Last night was particularly rough, and still no signs of a nap on the horizon this morning .

Here at Cat Creek house, we’ve all been showing the signs of a long winter without enough vitamin D. Twinkle Toes has had Roseola and¬†an ear infection. Meanwhile, Miss Teen¬†progressed from¬†a sore throat last weekend to stuffiness¬†which she¬†passed onto Twinkle Toes who is now a snot-machine. Last night my immune system started to cave into the pressure,¬†and this morning I have the beginnings of a sore throat and sinus congestion. Yay! So far, Young Jedi and Rupert have not succumbed.

Lest I start to wallow in my problems, what’s a green, whole-foods woman to do? Turkey soup, of course! I had turkey soup for breakfast, two bowls of it. Twinkle Toes can’t feed herself soup yet, so I fried up a couple of eggs in butter with a sprinkle of sea salt, and drizzled the broth over them for her.

A good bone broth soup is my go-to remedy for colds and other ailments. Here are some of the things I do to make a rich, thick healing broth:

Be prepared. Save and frreze all bones from roasts or other dishes. When it comes time for soup, you will have a good selection to choose from. I also freeze the ends and peelings¬†of veggies that we don’t eat — carrot, parsnip¬†and celery stems and tops, etc. Add them in with the bones for more flavour.

Know your flavours. I prefer turkey soup over chicken soup, so I like to keep some turkey bones on hand to throw in with my chicken carcasses. I find the soup has more flavour that way. Pig’s feet are great for making a super thick broth, and lamb has a distinctive flavour. Another combination I like is pork, beef and lamb.

Low and slow, baby. Initially bring the water with the bones to a boil, but then turn down the heat and allow it¬†to simmer on low for 24 hours or more. Make sure your stove top does a good simmer, or you may have to keep checking the soup that it doesn’t cool down to bacteria breeding temps, and doesn’t run away and start boiling when you aren’t looking.

Be a leachy leech. Add some acid in the form of vinegar or lemon juice to to encourage the bones to let go of a little more of their mineral and gelatin goodness.

Be picky. After the bones have simmered for a good long while and cooled, strain the liquid. I use a slotted spoon to scoop out all the bones and veggie ends. These I pile into a stainless steel mixing bowl and I then sort through it, separating any bits and pieces of meat or marrow from the rest. Depending on how well cleaned off your bones were, there may be a fair amount of meat to throw back into the pot. Everything else goes into the garbage. Although I would prefer to be able to compost this waste, I am content to know that I got the maximum nutrition out of the food.

Build it up. Now that you have a wonderful rich broth, you can put some aside to freeze or just start throwing in whatever else you want in it. In our house, parsnips are an absolute must, as is cabbage. I love cabbage. It is inexpensive, usually locally grown and very nutririous. For even more bang, add sauerkraut instead–bonus points if it’s home made.¬†Try celery, some diced tomatoes or whatever is in season. I prefer to not include starchy food like potatoes, rice or noodles as they just disintegrate into mush and change the consistency of the soup. Besides, you don’t need all that starch.

Spice it up. Experiment with your favourite flavours. I like to add bay leaves, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic, sea salt and whole pepper corns.

I’m off to get another bowl … hopefully in a couple of days I’ll have this¬†spring cold licked!

What are your go-to cold remedies? Do you have any soup-making tips?

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A little bird told me…

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