Monthly Archives: August 2020

New Family Member – Mali

(Not sure how this happened but this was originally posted on my old site July 30, 2020.)

When I was a little girl, Siamese cats were rare and really expensive. Variants like Himalayans did not exist. Today they are unfortunately almost as common as your basic barn cat. Spay and neuter campaigns have not been as successful for cats as they have been for dogs. However inroads are being made. Gone are the days when a sign by the side of the road said “Free Kittens”. It is impossible to just pick up a free kitten though you can get them for $50 to $123 from various local rescues. Among them is a Siamese cat rescue.

I decided it was time for a new kitten a few months ago. Klinger is 14 almost 15 and he’s really slowed down. He sleeps most of the time. He was a fellow feline hater, always prepared to beat the tar out of any cat who comes near him. He has mellowed on that score this summer, often seeking company with cats across the street from us or with a young cat who comes to visit from three doors down. Misty has been acting rather lonesome and blue. It’s a little sigh or a longing look, hard to pinpoint but it says lonesome to me. I did not want another dog. After the strokes I have had to face the fact that we may end up in a housing situation where a dog won’t work so I suspect Misty will be our last dog. She most certainly will be our last full sized dog. There are simply are no senior housing situations where big dogs are allowed.

When an opportunity to adopt a little kitten came up, I decided to jump at it. And now we have little Mali (MAH-lee). According to what I read on line, Mali is a classic name for a Siamese cat. Her name is Thai for jasmine flower. Molly is the English term for a female cat I recall from my childhood around my English grandfather. We also call her Maleeka and that means “Queen”. I met both parents and they were friendly and charming cats though Dad was still recovering from his surgery. Dad was a classic oriental look Siamese, probably purebred. Mom is assumed to be a torte point Himalayan by her looks. There were four kittens in the litter. Two looked much like Mali but one had a tail that had a Z shape and both had much longer hair. One kitten was a short haired lilac point and had white paws and a white bib like Klinger, indicating things are likely not as purebred as one might think. Mali looks very much like a pure applehead type Siamese and I wanted short hair. Both her parents have pretty blue eyes so she will likely keep her pretty blue eyes.

Misty did a total whole dog melt down and almost wagged herself into exhaustion. Mali’s foster home had four dogs. Dogs have always been part of her life. She has since decided Misty is her new Mom. She is now sleeping on Misty’s bed, much to Misty’s delight. They play a favourite game of tag where Misty nuzzles her. Mali rolls on her back and swats her will all four feet and then runs off. Misty tries to follow but Mali goes under something small and then Mali dashes out and runs off. If Misty doesn’t notice, Mali meows to catch her attention before continuing their little game.

Klinger was initially horrified. His first encounter, he had a tail puffed out like a bottle brush and hissed and spat like he was going to kill her. The next day he did the whole spit and hiss thing but without the tail fluff and hackles up. Yesterday afternoon, he approached her and hissed at her. Mali pulled herself up to her full just over one pound size and hissed right back. Her message was clear.

“Oh be quiet you big bully!”

Klinger was clearly taken aback. That was not the reaction he expected. However his expression softened and he let her be.

Mali was playing with the cat toy he hasn’t touched in ages and he sat above her on his perch, watching her every move. There was no hostility in his gaze. He was just watching like he was trying to figure her out. Later that evening, he was in bed with us getting his usual evening neck and ear rub and Mali climbed up and joined us. She stayed about a metre away and curled up into a little ball and fell sleep. Klinger went and sniffed her and then came back for more neck rubs. I won’t say he’s happy about Mali, but I think he’s adjusting. This morning he growled at her. Mali just ignored him and kept playing with his toy. This time Misty let out a low growl. Klinger again was taken aback. Misty’s growl was a clear warning. Mali has a protecter and if he tries anything with Mali, he has to go through Misty. Klinger decided to go eat his breakfast rather than make more trouble.

As the morning progressed, Klinger walked around and pretended both Mali and Misty did not exist. I think it will work. I suspect Klinger might even decide he likes her eventually. As I wrote this, he walked up to her and they exchanged polite cat nose touches and he walked off. And, of course, she has hubby and I wrapped around her cute little kitty paws as you can see from her climbing on my keyboard to get my attention, the little scamp. There is nothing shy or quiet about this little girl. She is supremely self confident, bossy and inquisitive. This one is indeed a Queen.

(In spite of the apparent success with getting the dog and cat used to the new kitten I do intend to make certain they are not interacting without me supervising until Mali is bigger. Misty is so enchanted and excited I am worried about her enthusiasm getting way with her and Klinger may act differently when I’m not around.)

Learning to Smoke Meat

We started on this road to smoking our own beef by buying a whole side from a local rancher. We had been thinking of it for a while because the price of a side of beef works out to be much cheaper than buying meat cuts individually. Generally speaking you can buy a whole side of beef for about the same price per pound or a little more than the price of hamburger. Yes, you do get a lot of hamburger but you also get a lot of other meat including some very fine cuts like sirloin and T-Bone. If you consider the price that would cost, you save a whole lot of money buying an entire side of beef.

The second reason we decided to buy a side was the animal care issue. The location place we buy from is a ranch that raises their own beef, slaughters and processes it in a little local butcher and then cuts and wraps it right there as well. So you get locally grown, locally produced, locally processed meat that I know it is the highest possible quality and my money is staying right in my community. It comes from good solid honest hard working Christians who share much the same life philosophy we do. I know it is grass fed and humanely treated because I can actually go check on those animals myself. It’s not kosher, as in supervised and approved by a rabbi, but for us, it is close enough to do quite nicely, especially since the nearest Kosher butcher is in Toronto.

But what really convinced us it was time was the COVID-19 pandemic. Beef in our local stores skyrocketed in price. We were soon looking at $40/kg for some cuts. Plus there were lots of limits and shortages. Now that things have settled a bit the prices have started back down and the shelves are almost as full by rearrangement and replacement, but still missing a lot of things. However, if we get a second wave that might change. So buying a whole side of beef meant a stable supply.

Once we made our decision, we went out and found a medium sized freezer suitable to a hold a whole side of beef. We made a trip to the butcher to put in our order. We got to select how the meat was cut. For us, that meant a lot more steaks and ground beef and a lot less roasts and stew meat. We went and picked up our order a few days later. We transported it home and shoved it all in the freezer.

It wasn’t long before we realized something. We have all this fabulous meat but we’re really not big beef eaters. Sure we like a good steak but honestly we only ever ate beef once or twice a week. It wasn’t long before steak got boring. I recall looking at all that beef and wondering how we would ever eat it all. Plus one of the specialists advised my husband to severely limit red meat to about three times a week and avoid processed stuff due to his stroke.

Around the same time my husband lamented how hard it was to get really nice smoked meat and beef salami. Folks here grow and eat pork as much as they do beef. It’s actually really hard to find all beef salami or Montreal Smoked style beef. To get that kind of meat in a beef only variety, you pretty much have to special order it in and it never is great quality stuff. And Kosher? Forget that. It is simply not happening.

This got me looking about for some DIY “other” kind of meat to make with our beef. I started with an old fashioned Irish corned beef. It is ridiculously easy to make old fashioned corned beef from scratch. There are many recipes on line. Basically you soak a cut of beef in brine with pickling spices for 5-7 days and then boil the meat with cabbage and potatoes. My very first batch of home corned beef had my husband positively raving. Home made corned beef from scratch was far better tasting than the ready made stuff in a pouch we had been buying in the USA. There was nothing hard about it either. If you can make a loaf of bread or a stew you can make corned beef. The only thing hard was having to think seven days ahead from when I wanted to eat it.

That got us thinking about other kinds of processed meats we love to eat. One of our absolute favourites is smoked all beef salami. We were introduced to that while traveling in the USA. It is simply not available where we live. With a little bit of digging I found a recipe so that I could make it starting from scratch. I watched some youtube videos. I found out there are a whole lot of ways to make your own salami. Some require smoking. Some you can do yourself in an oven. Some require casings. Some types can be made by simply rolling the meat into a log shape. After some searching I found a recipe that kind of looked like the sort of smoked salami we enjoy. I purchased a different casing because I wanted the larger size and I don’t want pork casing. I purchased the ingredients. I ordered a small electric smoker. My neighbour has had plenty of experience living with hunters and she gave me some tips. Lots of people out here in this rural area smoke their own game meats, fish and beef. I found out an electric smoker is as easy to use as an electric fry pan. Because so many folks around here smoke their meat, the supplies like wood chips, casing and curing salt are easy to find in almost all the local hardware stores.

My first batch of smoked beef salami came out far better than I expected. Like the corned beef, the taste was just beyond description compared to store bought stuff. I also tried to make Montreal smoked beef and it too came out far better than we expected. In fact I had to remind Hubby Dearest that he’s not suppose to eat more than three or four servings of beef a week and he’s supposed to avoid the processed stuff. He laughed and told me if the end of the world as we know it ever comes, we’re practically homesteaders now. And I can always barter my smoked meat. I cut the smoked meat and the salami up into small amounts and put it in the freezer for future consumption. (I can’t use the smoker in the winter.) Today I made a second batch and I am trying to smoke a whole steelhead trout. If you have never tried making your own corned beef or smoking something I urge to try it. It’s easy. It’s fun. The results come out far better than anything you buy in the store. Plus it is another skill you can acquire while staying at home hiding from the damned virus that might just come in handy if we get a second wave and the supply chains get messed up again.

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Container Garden Experiment – My Results

This cheerful bit of optimistic propaganda compliments of the Chinese Communists is an interesting video about Venezuelans becoming urban gardeners to solve the food crisis they face. When I first heard of this business of encouraging people to grow their own food on their balconies I was horrified. Having been a gardener for many many years I know it is impossible to grow enough food in containers on a balcony to do more than get some fresh treats.

Since I was building myself a greenhouse I thought it would be fun to try some mixed container gardening. My long term goal was more food from my garden in spring and fall. The plan is to move the containers into the greenhouse. I made five such containers. One I put in a single seed potato and a bunch of onions sets and some dill. One container I filled with a mix of green and yellow beans. One container I planted in snow peas and another regular peas. And in the final container I tried some mixed seeding. It was a row lengthwise of mixed radish and carrot seeds. I then had a row of spinach, lettuce, peas and beet seeds.

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The containers required more watering than my regular garden. They also needed a lot less weeding and fussing. They did produce. The mixed container gave me about a dozen nice radishes first. I have not yet harvested the carrots and beets. There are five lovely looking beets and about a dozen carrots of decent size.

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The same container previously yielded two dinners worth of cooked spinach, lettuce that produced enough for about six big bowls of salad and lots of leaves for sandwiches.

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The peas in the mixed container unfortunately only gave me 10 nice pods. The other full container of peas gave us enough for one dinner but we ended up eating them raw as a snack instead. The snow peas have just begun and, so far, we have enough to add a splash of taste and color to a couple of stir fries.

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The bean container have given us six bowls of beans. They produced very well and though they are nearly at an end. I consider them as worth the trouble.

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The biggest producer was the single seed potato. I also had put in a bunch of dill seed and there dozen onion sets. I pulled the onions to eat as green shallots. The potato plant grew to a huge height, choked out the dill, and then died off. The container was full of medium sized potatoes. For us that is enough potatoes for several dinners.

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The conclusion of my little experiment is the following. Only potatoes and beans produce enough to justify their own container. as a prepper style container, with potatoes being far out in front. The mixed container gives the best over all results with it providing us with a small amount of yummy veggies over a number of weeks. Salads and greens were certainly a welcome addition to our diet.

However it is very clear to me that one simply cannot grow enough produce on your balcony to feed yourself and your family in the summer to last you over winter. Okay, so maybe Venezuela doesn’t have the same harsh winter we do in Manitoba. Even without counting winter, such containers cannot produce enough food. Prepper and everyone else who think you can somehow survive on a garden balcony need to re evaluate this plan. And if I ever do find myself in a position to try to grow food to survive using containers, I’m planting mostly potatoes, maybe some beans and maybe a mixed container or two.