Even though I spent the first two hours of my Twinkle Toes-free time stalling with chores like sweeping and vacuuming, I did make one item today — after cleaning off my sewing table, that is (not a task to be underestimated).

Tada!

Fall Rose Dress

The dress is a little blurry because it was windy, and I promise, those wrinkles will come out!

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It seems like just yesterday I was sweltering in 30 degree heat and wishing for a reprieve, but today it feels like fall has set in. The nights are cool, we’re using our duvet again, and while the afternoon sun is still quite hot, the air in the shade is not. The season of sweaters and “hot again, cool again” has returned. Windows which get opened during the day suddenly need to be closed at night, the wood stove has seemed mighty tempting a couple of times, and our thoughts are turning to getting all those last things accomplished before the cold weather (and snow) sets in. Things like eaves troughs and soffits, insulating the trap door, draft proofing the front and back doors. Yesterday, for the first time in a few months, I made a roast chicken, and my mind wandered to making soup. Not yet, but soon. The kids returned to school this week, and that also makes me feel old, and happy, and sad.

I can’t say I don’t welcome the cooler weather, but summer sure flew by fast, and that makes me feel old and sad. The weeds in my garden are doing better than the plants I wanted there, which also makes me sad, but soon I won’t need to feel guilty for not weeding the garden because it will be too cold for anything to survive. So it won’t be my fault that the garden is dead and unproductive.

Things we’ve done this summer:

  • Planted 180 cedars. (Dug 180 holes!)
  • Went camping for a week with Twinkle Toes for the first time as a family. Really, have you ever gone camping with a one-year-old? It is more of a challenge than it sounds, and it sounds daunting. One of the lessons learned that week: When you suspect your child has a full, poopy diaper, do not continue to roll around in the tent playing “tickle”. I’ll spare you the details.
  • Acquired a new motorcycle, sold one, and fixed several bits on several motorcycles.
  • Successfully (just about) finished a room! I put down, stained and varnished the pine flooring. Now I’m thinking of another career. (Not really, but that pneumatic floor nailer was a lot of fun.)
  • Rupert built a two-storey deck with a friend of his. Quite the accomplishment given he is afraid of heights and that even only 5 years ago, he wouldn’t have known how to hammer in a nail. (I exaggerate, but only a little.)
  • Got over the dread of returning to work after maternity leave, had my position abolished, dealt with that stress, and came out the other side thinking that the world is full of possibilities. Today I ran into one of those possibilities. I’m going to start a production blitz in time for the International Plowing Match which will be taking place in my area in a couple of weeks. I also found out that I may be eligible to take some entrepreneurship courses, which would be dandy!

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.

🙂 Happy pickling!

Casa Cat Creek has been home to a number of critters over the years. Not all of them have been welcome guests, but every year I am thrilled to see the robins return to nest. We find evidence of them all around the property: nests blown down by the wind, fragile remnants of the eggs, and, of course, we hear and see the birds. Two of the nests are very close to the house and see repeat business. Does anyone know the mating and nesting habits of robins? Is it likely to be the same couple returning every year? squatters? the babies? This is something I will investigate.

One of the nests is in the carport, just above where I park my motorcycle. Right now, it looks like this:

The other is right next to the front door. I don’t see any babies in it, but over the past few weeks there has been lots of action with mommy and daddy coming and going. Every time I’d open the door, the parents would fly out of the nest, perch on a branch of the tree in front, and loudly proclaim their displeasure. It was very clear to me that they were warning me to stay away from their babies.

Yesterday, I found one of the younger birds — I think from the carport nest — on the window ledge of our mudroom entrance. It kept trying to fly out through the window, and kept landing back on the ledge as it hit glass. So, (city girl that I am) I donned my gardening gloves, and attempted to scoop the bird up and orient it towards where there actually is an opening. Rupert does this very well with his bare hands, but I am still irrationally worried about things like rabies and bites. I know, I know… not rational.

I was too chicken to properly scoop the bird, but I managed to usher it in the right direction as it made these little attempts at flying, and eventually got itself to the open driveway, where not far off mommy and daddy squawked at me angrily.

Here he is:

 

Cat Creek is all about the little fixes and improvements I can make by using what is already on hand, building on what already exists, and making low cost and low impact choices.

We are undergoing a major renovation to our home (some might say “major” is an understatement); expense and consuming can’t be avoided. We are certainly producing more than our fair share of garbage, and buying a lot of material with all that entails: packaging, carbon footprint, gas spent on trips to the store. When we started this endeavor three years ago, we had an idea of how it would unfold. That didn’t happen, and we have had to re-assess repeatedly, adjust for what we could afford, change plans, revise the timeline.

For three years, we have been living in a gutted house. Rupert and I have certainly had our disagreements about the situation, but for the most part, we keep the long term goal in perspective and keep reminding ourselves (or each other as one or the other of us falls into despair about the situation) that we are doing this so that we can have a wonderful, beautiful family home without going into excessive debt. We choose to go slowly and do the work ourselves so that it remains affordable. Important, too, is the pride and accomplishment we feel, the new skills learned, the success and triumph over challenges like hanging drywall on hopelessly crooked framing. By living in this bombed-out looking space, we’ve learned more about the house and become rather intimate with its peculiarities: the way air flows, where the natural lighting is best, where the floors creak, how we move through the space, and how we would prefer to move through it.

Our plans have grown and changed as we’ve settled in. I’m glad we didn’t have it all finished before moving in. If we had, we’d have a bar where I now have my desk, and I’d have my desk in an upstairs room, which would mean less interaction (or more likely, less time spent at my desk); we’d have a smaller kitchen with an L-shaped counter separating it from the dining area. We wouldn’t have a wood stove on the main floor. Many little things and some big would be different, and not as convenient. There is definitely something to be said about taking your time. Oh, spontaneity is good, too. Spontaneity is Rupert’s domain. Mine is slow and thoughtful. I let ideas brew. I may not look like I’m planning anything, but the ideas are working themselves out in the back of my brain. 😛

So here is the real reason for this post: the floor of the main level of the house.

Making do. Necessity the mother of all invention. Thinking outside the box…

The main floor is open concept. We demolished walls and erected big wood beams to support the upper floor. The only part of this level of the house that will have walls is the bathroom (someday it will be a bathroom, but for now it’s pantry and recycling… something I will miss). Still, there are four distinct areas: The fireplace end, the living room, the dining room and the kitchen.

We spend most of our time in the living room, as this is where the comfortable seating is. The living room is where we have the nicest view outside, as there are large windows on the two walls. The floor here is bare plywood secured by a million nails. Previously, there was carpet — the carpet was the very first thing we removed. The plywood floor of the living room is the same as that in the dining area. It is not unpleasant to walk on, although some of the nails are coming up and they catch on socks or slippers. The texture and porous nature of the wood makes it very difficult to keep clean. I can vacuum up the dog hair, but dirt is ground in.

In the winter we are most often in front of the wood stove. The floor in that area was previously some kind of tile. We removed that immediately, also, but are now left with a layer of cardboard/paper stuck onto the plywood. This area is particularly heinous. I have to use the carpet setting on the vacuum, and in places where the floor has gotten wet (dog puke spots, the area where I had the birth pool for Twinkle Toes’ birth) the paper has come off. It’s really ugly and extremely difficult to clean.

I also spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen which has retro pink tile. I like that flooring. It’s funky, unusual, and most importantly, I can mop and sweep! There’s nothing quite like a freshly mopped floor to help clear a cluttered mind…

Soooooooooooo… now that we have a baby who is not content unless she is crawling or walking, the filth is painfully obvious — all over her knees and the feet of her sleepers. I’ve barricaded the living room area so that she can move around, but be contained in a mostly safe area, but she’s crawling all over dirty plywood. I got to thinking about how to solve the problem. Carpet is out of the question because the dogs will make it theirs. Same thing with those popular interlocking foam mats. Then, OMG, it dawned on me. What I really need is something like a varnish. Something to make the floor washable.

A trip to Canadian Tire made it immediately obvious that varnish is the expensive way to go, but floor paint — floor paint is the shizzle. The paint guy tried to sell me on the ugly industrial grey, saying it would hide the dirt. But, EW. I will most likely have to live with this floor for another couple of years. (And if Rupert agrees, then it probably means I need to revise that to another four years.) So while I don’t need to have perfect floors, I don’t want to hate looking at. The other colour option is white. (Tempting, in a beach house kind of way.) But then the paint man told me really I could have the white tinted any colour I like. He gestured to the wall of paint samples. “Any of those,” he said. “No extra cost.”

Suddenly a world of possibilities opened up and I was frozen by the many options facing me. It’s a nice feeling, sometimes. Options, that is. Indecision, not so much.

So what would you do?

I’m thinking — in terms of minimizing the number of paint cans required, and minimizing the work — of a simple two colour design. A base coat, with a stencil on top. But oooooooooh the colour choices! Green? Sage? washed-out white? Dark burgundy? Brick red?

I’m thinking of a green and white for the living room. I’m thinking of a deep red-purple with rust or orange or yellow for the dining area, and something dark wood, espresso… not sure for the fireplace area.

I’m all ears if anyone has suggestions!

Casa Cat Creek is at the edge of a village, in the 50 km/hr zone of what is otherwise an 80 km/hr county road. Despite the signs, despite the warning of increased fines, drivers still go through town doing 70-100 km/hr. We worry about the dogs or kids getting hit by a car and we have to deal with people who see our long side property as  a municipal park, treat it as a dumping ground, park on the grass. We rarely using our long side lot because it feels so open. What a shame! It’s a beautiful lot with trees, space for more gardens or a gazebo or badminton net… but we don’t use it.

Rupert has been suggesting since we bought the house that we should put up a cedar hedge the whole way along the property — and I’ve resisted because I don’t like cedar hedges. Most, anyway. It seems so many cedars end up neglected, sparse, ratty looking or cut too short with gaping holes in them. Yuck! But after 3 years of picking up the garbage that gets blown onto our lawn by people who dump coffee cups, chip bags, cigarette packs, and so on on the road, I acquiesced.

Rupert is very much a motivated Start-a-Project kind of man, so within a couple of weeks of deciding what we were going to do, we have this:

and this:

Luckily, the weather was just perfect for the work. The temperature hovered around 19 degrees and it rained on and off all day. Sun and warmer temperatures are predicted for tomorrow and the rest of the week, so I’ll be rigging up a watering system to keep the cedars cozy. Incidentally, I’ll be watering with the outdoor hose — the water from those taps is not softened, which is great considering how poorly cedars deal with salt!

While Rupert dug and planted, Young Jedi and Twinkle Toes did this:

 

Unfortunately, we still have all this to dig and plant!

Ah, but it will be nice to have a wall of green to provide a little privacy and a little more safety. My hope is that the dogs will be less inclined to wander out to the road, since the only exit point will be our driveway. Once the trees fill in, that is. For now one of the dogs is very happily passing between the trees and exploring the lovely bone meal smells.

The next load of trees is slated to arrive in two weeks. We’ll have out work cut out for us, that’s for sure (haha!) since we also have a birthday boy to celebrate, a load of topsoil and 20 cords of wood being delivered. Getting it delivered is the easy part. Stacking it in the wood shed, well, that takes a good week or more of work.

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. 😛 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.

My Etsy Shop

A little bird told me…

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