Thursday, 29 September 2011

Aside #6: All our children ...

September 2011

You knew it was coming.  I wouldn't be me if I didn't do it.  Do what? What all writers eventually do.  And they all apologize.  But they do it anyway.  Christie Blatchford does it... occasionally.  Janice Kennedy did it.  Others too.  And I read every word.  Do what?  Write a heart-warming or heart-breaking column about their beloved pets.  

So, yes, it's my turn.  Not that I'm in the league of the 'Blatch and other columnists, but I do share their love of children, pet children that is.  And I've had many and I have photos so it's time for reflection, stories, and photos.  

Ah, yes the memories... 

Schroeder Dog

For my entire life, I've always had a dog and/or cat(s) (... or a rabbit, guinea pigs, turtle, fish).  Pets were an adored part of family growing up.  It was mom, dad, 4 kids AND either dog or cat.  We dragged the poor things on holidays where they hyperventilated or got car sick in the car (or both).  We broke their hearts when we went off to university and left them behind.  But, oh, the greeting on a visit home when I'd walk in the front door.  They made teen years bearable.  

So I can't believe that the only picture I have of Schroeder Dog is the one on the right.  He's with my father and they adored each other.  My father was a real animal lover right up until he died at age 85.  Dogs and cats relaxed him and made him feel safe in his senior years.  

So, no surprise that throughout my Ottawa life, I continued the tradition of animal family.  Husband and I have always had a pet of one kind or another.  Our last decade has been all about the Ragdolls.  Ragdoll Cats that is.  But first let me rewind a bit...

Mortimer the Cat ..... 

Mortimer Cat (left) arrived during my university years courtesy of the Humane Society.  He somehow survived living in a co-op, three or four moves, an attempted cat-napping ... yup, car driver trying to coax cute kitten into car... I yell, grab kitty back into house, and then try to chase the car down the street, yelling like a banshee (me, not the car) to get a licence number.  Neighbours paid no attention.  I failed to get any info.  Jeez.     

We called Mortimer the cat "Mort" or "Morton".  Husband even made up a song he used to sing to him all the time:  "Morton is a bad cat.  He's as bad as he can be. I never knew a little cat could act so terribly.  He always thinks that he's so good; it really is so sad.  He never will be good at all because he is so bad...."  He was kidding of course.  He'd sing this to Mortimer as the cat was cuddled up beside him.   I used to tell Mort not to listen to him.  

Morton found his nirvana went we moved to the country, with a wooded acre.  He became Country Mouser.  He's hunt his territory for hours and bring home his little treasures and lay them out on the doorstep for us to admire in the morning.  Some mornings there'd be 3 or 4 or more dead bodies.  Sometimes it was just half a mouse or just the tail (yuck).  Husband would get the Bucket of Death, scoop, and take the mouse bits across the road to the empty field we called the Mouse-oleum.  Meanwhile, MortCat would be unrepentant.  Once I even caught him torturing the little mice-things in the garage, making them run back and forth between his paws while I played Rescuer.  

Mort stopped mousing when he was hit by a car one rainy evening; $3K later post-surgery, I decided his outdoor days were over.  To keep himself amused, he took up Race-Boxing.  He'd put his front paws in a box (pictured right) and push the box in a circuit from living room, foyer, kitchen, dining room and back to the living room.  It was hysterical to watch.

He really was a remarkable animal child.  I easily trained him to walk on a leash, much to the amusement of the neighbours.  He'd strut along the road (no sidewalks), tail held high, and turn back only when he was ready (not me).  Sometimes, I'd roller blade and he'd walk next to me.  When we got a dog (that's coming) I'd walk both of them on two leashes .... I actually did this.  No pix unfortunately but those were indeed the days.... 

But, alas, one day Mortimer got old.  He refused to walk more than one house and I'd have to carry him back indoors.  Eventually he became an indoor kitty, with health problems, limping, almost diabetic, and with me having to give him saline by intravenous under his skin to rehydrate him.  One morning when I was sitting on the couch, he climbed up, looked me squarely in the eyes, and cried, "Enough"!  I got the message.  I knew it was time..

Goldie the Wonder Dog..

When MortCat was 10 years old, Goldie the Wonder Dog entered his (and our) lives.  Goldie arrived on our doorstep late one evening, a 10-year-old blonde bombshell with the sweetest personality imaginable.  

As she eagerly pranced into the kitchen, she failed to notice MortCat sitting on a kitchen chair staring at this blonde fur thing with a mixture of amazement and horror.  Goldie made the fatal mistake of passing under Mort's chair.  Down came a paw and a "whack" squarely on the behind.  Now it was Goldie's turn to look amazed but, never a quick learner, she walked back under the Cat's chair a second time.  "Whack" "WHACK" went the cat paw on the dog's behind.  

They gave each other a lot of space after Encounter Number 1.  There was never open warfare that we witnessed but MortCat made darn sure Goldie the Wonder Dog knew who ruled the house.  So, Goldie adopted ME and became my shadow.  Her favourite activity was a car ride with me.  She'd sit in the front passenger seat practically in my lap and rest her head on my shoulder as she stared adoringly at me.  It was cuteness beyond belief ... until I was pulled over by an Aylmer Mr. Policeman one day who failed to appreciate the cuteness.  I got a ticket, a lecture and a warning.  Ahem.  Oh well.. I trained her to the back seat.  

Eventually Goldie the Wonder Dog and MortCat became the closest of friends.  We'd come home and find them curled up sleeping together in the foyer.   I started walking both of them on two leashes.  I think the neighbours took pix of the eccentric weird lady at this point.  But I didn't care.  They didn't care.  Our collective pride in ourselves was intact.  We got our Walks.  

But, alas, health problems set in for Goldie too.  Shortly after we moved from the country into a CentreTown rental, she took a turn for the worst rather quickly.  We lost both of them in the space of year and we, tragically, were suddenly without animal children.  

After their deaths, both Scoop and I practically needed a grief counsellor.  We vowed we'd never get another pet.  All the usual reasons -- they tie you down, they are a responsibility, they get too attached to us ... oops I mean we get too attached to THEM, they cost a fortune when they are ill and most importantly, they totally break your heart when they are sick and dying.

We tried a rescue animal or two and passed them along to friends and an aging father.  We moved again ... another rented place .... still no animals. 

The RagDoll Decade 

And, then .... a friend of my husband's daughter told us about Ragdolls -- indoor lap cats, perfect, California special breed, show cats, no aggression, almost like puppies etc....  Internet research was not as easy then as it is now but we soon turned up a breeder outside of Montreal and off we went. Apparently they are called Ragdolls because they are floppy cats ... you can throw them against a wall and they just flop.  We did NOT do such a thing ever but that was the mythology.  

Delft and Spice Girl 

We ended up with two perfect specimens -- Spice Girl and Delft (Dell for short).  Both had pedigreed papers, were retired Queen breeders, 5 and 7 years old and in need of a good home.  The drive home from Montreal was tough.  It rained, we got lost outside Montreal, there was a terrible highway accident and I spied body parts as a policeman grimly directed us around the mangled metal machines in the pouring rain, we had to consult maps (no GPS!), we were both stressed ..... and the cats (Spice in particular) cried absolutely non-stop.... for the three plus hours it took us to get to Ottawa.

Both cats freaked for a week, hid under a sofa, only came out at night when we were in bed to eat and use the litter boxes.  We began to feel we'd made a mistake.  I don't remember how we managed to convince them we were good people but eventually they emerged and two absolutely different, but engaging personalities emerged.  The picture at right is the first time they actually emerged from hiding and stayed with us for a few hours.  I snapped it fast.  

Of course, they soon adopted us.  I ended up spending a lot of time at home the first year we had them and the Animal Family was very cozy.  Delft Blue was an off-white princess and stand-offish most of the time until play or cuddle time.  Like the picture left, I found she always had a slightly sad personality.  She did not seem that happy.  But she liked us.  She could jump higher for string than any cat I've had before or since.  She died a few years ago of major kidney problems.  

Spice Girl

Spice, on the other hand, was like a puppy.  She'd walk with us, talk to us, sleep with us.  She looks at you and her soul speaks back.  Spice and Husband are incredibly close.  She follows him downstairs every single morning and they 'chat'.  He'll say "Hi Spice Girl, you beautiful thing" and I hear her reply "Hi.  Hi.  Hi."  They dialogue like this for awhile.  

Not to sound like a raving mad doting mother, but the personality of Spice Girl cat is unlike any cat I or we have ever had.  Some cats live in a fugue state (Dell did), while others are present in every way, understand you, know what you are doing and why.  Every time we say her name, she wags her tail.  Every single time.  That's Spice.  

She's had her share of medical troubles and we've shelled out many thousands for her.  She almost died once at an animal hospital but luckily we got her out of there and nursed her back to health ourselves.  Spice is now old and creaky, with terrible asthma, breathing problems, runny nose, a puffer and steroids but she is still Spice Girl.  Her personality remains firmly intact.  She walks sedately out onto the back deck, will walk with you down the driveway and escort you back to the house.  She chats nonstop.  She is never angry or bad-tempered even when the vet is drawing blood or some other procedure.  

Everyone who meets Spice adores her.  And it's mutual.  She loves everyone.  When we walk into the vets with her, the front desk staff say "Spice is here.  Can we hold her?".  Spice then holds paws with everyone.  She purrs so loudly that the vet can't get a heart rate.  She is pampered unrestrainedly.  We buy special food so she can lick the gravy (teeth are bad and can't do dental).  When she has trouble putting her head down to eat or drink, we hold it up the bowls so she can do both.  We spoil her completely.  But whatever we give to her, she gives back even more to us.  She adores us, trusts us, is happy with us.... I dread the inevitable day of reckoning.  

Will and Grace  

Rewinding a bit ... after Dell died, Spice became very lonely.  She wandered the house looking for her.  After a few months, we decided to replace her with another off-white coloured ragdoll, older etc. 

One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves driving to Navan, Ontario, to see a new litter of Ragdolls 'Kittens' ... not cats yet but we were willing to 'just have a look'.  Sure, just a look.... right.

We fell madly in love.  One kitten was off-white like Dell; the other brown coloured one like Spice.  We couldn't get just one kitten... the white one came with a brother.  The breeder knew a sale as soon as she saw us, and turned the screw by saying the brown was likely destined to be shipped to Germany unless of course we would take him.  She charged us $100 less if we took two.  To my credit, we at least debated kitten number 2 for a few days but in the end you guessed it, Easter in our house a few years ago saw the addition of TWO kittens.  But are they not adorable!!! 

I of course forgot the realities of having kitten kids in our lives.  They take a lot of vigilance and work.  We have to keep the frightened little things in the kitchen with the door shut for a few weeks because they were so tiny.  I plugged many little holes that small to us but LARGE to them as hiding places.  We had to watch them on the couch or they'd tumble off.  

First order of business was choosing a name so over came all the various friends and relatives for a Naming Session.  As the wine flowed, so too did the suggestions:  Tooth and Nail; Fang and Claw; Fred and Fredericka; Hansel and Grettel; ...... and then it happened 'Will and Grace'... our favourite show.  We asked the kitten kids what they thought and they yawned and said:  "Whatever.  We'll respond if we feel like it anyway."  Got it.  So it stuck.  Everyone always smiles when they hear their names.  

Will Kitten:  I am Lion King.  Here me roar:  "meeowp".  Actually, he almost died before 6 months of age.  He had a umm delicate male medical condition and I won't elaborate other than to say infection set in a day after snip-snip surgery and the other unmentionable operation.  He collapsed with a heart rate of 30 at one point.  The Animal Hospital wrote him off (same one that almost did Spice in), saying he likely had a heart murmur, needed a cardiologist, grave situation ... $3K minimum.  My friend who went with me to take him there told me bluntly:  "The cat is toast".  I couldn't do it.  I hung in, took him out of there soon and bathed and nursed the infection and him back to health.  He is now MY Boy... My Big Boy as I call him or Sir BB.  Total suck.  Throws himself at me for scritches, knocks on doors to say let him in for a belly rub and is generally thriving.  

Hubby thinks Will dumb as a post but I emphatically deny it. I say he's got his priorities right-sized.  Sleepy 'ole boy with bedroom come-hither eyes, manana is fine by him.  Just make sure to top the food dish on your way out and, oh yeah, keep the tap dripping.  He doesn't pay the bills.  I'm betting he's going to be a 25 lb-er by time he is eight or nine.  And I'm betting he keeps using the same scratching post he used as a kitten.  It's a riot to see him get on it (backwards) and do his nails.  He's wayyyy too big for it but, hey, it''s not the couch.  


Anyone who tries to tell you cats are all the same and don't have a personality, I say 'get with it.'  This one has personality in spades.  Where Will is laid back, Grace is ADD.  Attention Deficit Disorder.  She never sleeps.  One eye is always open to do more, more, more.  She wants out... incessantly.  She tells you so too.... meowing and meowing till you put her out of the kitchen and shut the door.  When she does get out into the KittyWalk Gazebo with extra condo attachment it is hell to get her out of it.  She wants to play, romp, fight, whatever.... anything but relax and be a kitty.   

The only time she approaches normal kitty is when she wants a little affection and then, watch out... she throws herself at husband and curls up at his hip aggressively and for long periods of time.  We call her 'Hip Girl".  She wouldn't admit it but she is incredibly attached to Husband and sleeps daily in his letter try while he is working on the computer.  See top photo.  

Husband walks her in the KittyStroller.  I kid you not.  It's a double decker build to accommodate either Will or Spice but they aren't as keen on walks near busy streets as Grace.  She fights for the opportunity to get it in and will try and hide rather than get out of it. 

Anyway, they're thriving as you can see from the picture.  3 and half years old.  

Will and Grace and Spice

And, of course, there was Beloved Spice Cat to deal with.  Our stated goal was to find a companion for Spice Girl but we didn't directly ask HER for her views.  She wasn't impressed.  It took her a week to go through her stages of denial, anger, ignore them, and finally acceptance.  She .MOANED the entire week... she'd sit halfway up the stairs and moan through the railing, a cry that kindof sounded like "oooohhhh, what are you doing to me? ooohhhh, why are they here? ooooohhhh I'm not happy."  

Then, suddenly, one day .... she decided.  She marched over to the couch, got up to where the two kittens were playing, firmly put her paw around the neck of Will and gave him a bath for more than 15 minutes. His fur was sopping wet.  She then did the same with Grace, who was more leery.  I captured the moment with Grace above.   

Will became a slave to Spice ... followed her around, became her shadow, flopped down in front of her for a bath and even slept with her as you can see from this rather rude photograph on the right.  They sleep together in front of the fireplace in the winter time every single morning.  

The presence of the two kittens helped with Spice.  She got more life back into her and even though she is sometimes wary of them (especially if Grace tries to chase her), I think it has helped with longevity. 

Spice even supervised their play activity when they were kittens and sometimes she deigned to participate.   

Nowadays she tends to let them be.

So the household is thriving... 

Surely, I have this out of my system for a bit............. will update as they grow.  

Monday, 26 September 2011

SmartCooks Recipes Index

September 2011

SmartCooks here.  

This posting is going to be my recipe index of dishes. Good way to keep track of what I like .... and how it went as I cooked the various dishes.  I've only but a few of what I have collected over the past few years.  

I can see a huge limitation with this blog template I've chosen i.e., dumb girl's first trial version for me.  Basically, I want to be able to have the Index come up first on the blog.  Ideally, a viewer could select a recipe and, by clicking on it, get to the page with the recipe and/or story.

Featured recipes would be on the main splash page with a picture and maybe 100 words of text and then a jump to the sub page with the full recipe.  My "Asides" would be in a separate series of postings maybe a separate box on the main page.  I'd re-arrange this blog which I see is basically a long running commentary with no order to it...... so a limitation.  

I can practically visualize what I want but is that a blog? or a website? and how do I design either?  Next challenge....  I see that mac has a feature called iWeb, design your own website with photos, video and even widgets.  I might play around with that over the next few days and see what I can get.  It also turns out there are templates for everything these days, including one pictured right.  Of course, they cost.  I'm not there yet, so I will carry on....   

So, back to the Index..... I've kept a typed up list of recipes and a stack of pages from recipe books and pages off the internet all paper clipped together and organized with index tabs.  I add in new ones by hand ... and NOW I can keep track this way...

SmartCooks Recipe Index 

SmartCooks Favourite Appetizers
  • Homemade Hummus with Guacamole and Tomato served on mini rainbow coloured sweet peppers (alternative versions available) (*) 
  • Balsamic-drizzled grape tomatoes, served on water crackers
  • Smoked salmon roulades 
  • Thai Springs rolls with Rice Paper (Beef, Asparagus, Sauce, pictured, right) 
SmartCooks Favourite Beef Dishes
  • Asian Flank Steak
  • Beef Fajitas:  Skirt Steak
  • Thai Style Beef 
  • Wine-marinated Flank Steak, with carmelized onions, roasted potatoes and arugula salad
  • Rib eye steak/Asian inspired marinade
  • Pho bo beef (pictured, left) 
  • Hot sesame beef 
SmartCooks Favourite Chicken Dishes
  • Thai Lime Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Low-fast Chicken Satay, Peanut Sauce
  • Tequila Lime marinated Chicken 
  • Chicken, vegetable strings, hot bouillon
  • Stir-fried chicken with crisp vegetables
  • Orange-spiced chicken
  • Lemon chicken 
  • Lemony Roast Chicken 
  • Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken (pictured, right)
SmartCooks Favourite Fish Dishes
Salmon with Dill-Mustard Sauce Photo
  • Salmon with dill mustard sauce (pictured, left) 
  • Crisp-skinned maple salmon with fava bean, red potato and mushroom compote
  • Roasted salmon with beets and greens 
  • Cedar-planked salmon with Sea Salt 

SmartCooks Favourite Indian Dishes
  • Nihari Stew 
  • Beef or Chicken Pasandra
  • Mushroom or cauliflower Bhajis (pictured, right) 
  • Zucchini paneer
  • Curry with onions
  • Ghee (basis for dishes)
SmartCooks Favourite Pasta Dishes

-- Lemon pasta
-- Pasta with brie, tomato
-- Pistachio Lemon pasta
-- Asparagus and Zucchini ribbons in lemon pasta (pictured, left)
-- Fresh Tomato Sauce with Zucchini spaghetti
-- Fresh Tomato Sauce and Homemade Meatballs

SmartCooks Favourite Pork Dishes
    Bacon-wrapped Pork Roast
-- Bacon-wrapped Pork Tenderloin (pictured, right)
-- Cinammon Apple Pork Tenderloin
-- Chinese Pork Tenderloin
-- Pork Tenderloin with lime-beer marinade
-- Grilled Lemon Lime Thyme tenderloin
-- Pork with Leeks in Mustard Sauce 
-- Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Lime Glaze
-- Pork Tenderloin with Horseradish Crust
-- Pork Tenderloin with Carmelized Onion and Apple
-- Company Pork Tenderloin
-- Pork and Asparagus Stir Fry

SmartCooks Favourite Salads

Radish Asparagus Salad Recipe
Asparagus, with Hazelnut vinaigrette
Beet and Ginger 
Beet and Vidalia onions, toasted almonds
Beet and Fennel salad, Asian style
Insalata Caprese 
Vegetable Herb Salad 
Cucumber Radish 
Radish and Asparagus (pictured, left) 
Watermelon, feta and cucumber 
Thai-style cucumber-radish 

SmartCooks Favourite Soups

Picture of Butternut Squash and Apple Soup Recipe
-- Vegetable stock (Basic)
-- 5 types of mushrooms with lemongrass
-- Tom Yum Vegetarian soup
-- Squash and Fennel, with Cider and Apple (pictured, right) 
-- Mushroom Broth with Sherry

SmartCooks Favourite Vegetables

Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Minted Grilled Zucchini 
Grilled Sweet Peppers
Asparagus with Mixed Vegetables
Zucchini Carpaccio with Lemon, Herbs and Goat Cheese
Heirlooms carrots (pictured, left) 
Zucchini Fritters 
Garlic scapes with any stir fry
Wild Garlic in ANYTHING
Rainbow Swiss Chard with pine nuts, pan roasted garlic
One-pan braised Kale with bacon and new potatoes 
Japanese Style Grilled Eggplant 
Just Plain Ole Gazpacho
Turkish Eggplant   

SmartCooks Favourite Desserts

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Triple Sec
Homemade Cherry Garcia 
Watermelon Summer Fruit Bowl (pictured, right) 
Pear and cranberry crisp 
Apple crumble

SmartCooks Other

Lemongrass Chili Sauce 
Scones (basic) 
Fresh Tomato Sauce (basic) 
South Beach Breakfast Sasuage/Egg Muffins (make ahead)
Bento Box (recipes for lunches in Bento boxes, (pictured left)
SmartCooks Egg and Sausage McMuffin-ish

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Aside #5: Community Supported Agriculture: Update

SmartCooks here.

September 27, 2011 Update:

1st first basket arrived, as promised.  It was delivered to the back deck and, yes, I remembered to put out the cooler, with an ice pack in it. 

Here's the picture of all the loot.  It feels like Christmas.  14 different types of vegetables, from last of the season corn, peppers, heirloom carrots, Japanese radish, golden beets, tomatoes, micro greens, arugula, bok choy, fingerling potatoes, and a few things I have yet to identify by name.  

The corn, tomatoes, and lettuce have already been sampled and were delicious.  Tonight is heirloom carrots and bok choy.  Meat seems like an afterthought. The only thing I did wrong was buy a bit too much on the weekend ... like mushrooms .. so the fridge is full! I also added an extra lot of heirloom carrots which I definitely didn't need. 

So, neighbours, friends, colleagues may end up with food.  I'm also interested in seeing what holds up for more than a week. It still might make more sense to split a basket, even on a two-week schedule. Hmmm. 

Note to IW:  Watch out.  Zucchini bread being made tonight with Raz el Hanout.  You are getting a loaf! (if it turns out of course).  Thank you thank you.



September 25, 2011 

(((First, a Note from the SmartCooks Publisher....  as I've said... this is still a trial. I'm having issues with posting pictures from a mac, hitting publish, but they don't show on a PC.  I then have to republish via a PC.  Will have to noodle through that one.  So, for you watchers, if no pix, hung in till Monday.))) 

SmartCooks here.  

Update on all the research I did on Community Supported Agriculture.  In the end, I decided on number 2 in the original blog.  Bryson's Farms .  For now anyway.

My reasoning went like this:

---------- Service:  Bryson's has a year-round service, something many of the CSA's do not.  I wanted to get into the habit of using only local vegetables during the winter months.

---------- Flexibility:  Their service is flexible -- you can start and stop at any time.  This doesn't appear to be an option with many of the CSAs.  You order for a season, with some optional start/stop dates.

---------- Flexibility Again:  It's also flexible in terms of weekly or biweekly.  I chose biweekly as I doubt very much that one person aka me will go through the vegetables in a basket in one week's time.  It's not quantity, I'm after.... it's local, different, more interesting vegetables. 

----------- Baskets:  Contents are variable but within a defined set so I know what I'm getting.  For September-October they expect the list below:

  • Peruvian Purple Fingerlings
  • Mixed Baby Leaf Salad Greens and/or Baby Spinach 
  • Red and/or Purple Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Mixed Chioggia (hard to find!) or White Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Japanese Pumpkin
  • Cauliflower
  • Baby Parsnips
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Baby Bak Choy (a personal favourite, with garlic)
  • Oriental Cooking Greens
  • Red Turnips with fresh tops
  • Melons 

This Week's Basket (September 27, 2011)

------------ Delivery is Tuesdays to this whole area.  It's all done by e-mail (hurrah! so on my time) and I received detailed instructions about putting the picnic baskets (hard, not soft-covered etc) on back deck and it will go in there.)  

------------ A standard basket will consist of:

-------------------- Potatoes:  they don't predict which type.. depends on what's ripe on the farm.  They have dozens of varieties but I'm betting fingerling.

-------------------- Heirloom Tomatoes:  get 'em while we can (yellow, purple, striped green (personal favourite in a salad).  The tomatoes keep longer than the standard bland stuff in the supermarkets and the tomato sauces .... have I mentioned these ... well, they're superb.  I plan to post on that one soon so I don't forget what I did as keeping track of good recipes is one of the main reasons I'm doing this. 

-------------------- Greens:  From their pix, looks to be a combo of about a dozen types of spinach, salad greens, mache, kale, beet tops etc.  Their chef has posted a recipe for Beet Tops that looks intriguing.   (And, yes, I picked a red 'Green' to show).  Red beet tops.  

-------------------- Micro Greens:  purple radish, cabbage tops, arugula.... all the salad toppings. This one is white Kohlrabi, which tastes a bit like cabbage and has a slight crunch.  It is refreshing in a salad.  

-------------------- Squash:  variety. I tried the itty bitty Sweet Dumpling striped squash this week with chicken and found it a bit seedy. Website says supposed to be able to eat it skin and all... I didn't.  But, hey... I'm betting the box has a slightly bigger acorn or butternut.  Squash season is upon us.  

I added in a $5 bunch of heirloom carrots.  I julienne them, eat them raw, cook them in EVOO and thyme ... all yumm... 


--------- Added goodies:  Bryson's also has a few added features that I like -- frozen local tomato sauce that I can add to my weekly order.  I've been making my own exclusively the past few months (postings to follow) and doubt I will ever again use a jar from a store.  The taste is incomparable.  No salt, no preservatives... yummy heirloom tomato sauce.  Hubby and I both agree on this one!  Makes a Pasta Perfect dinner.  

---------- Future goodies:  Plus, they've recently added breads that are available at the Fieldhouse (Parkdale Market) and offer Bryson organic beef from time to time (will watch for their newsletter.  I do NOT want half a cow... bleech).

--------- Technology:  They do it all by email (think I already said yeah but, if not, YEAH!).  Changes go in automatically.  Can start/stop same way.  They send a confirmation on Sundays so can make changes by 6 p.m. for Tuesday deliveries.  I like that.  I can access from whenever/wherever.  Fits my lifestyle.  They reply promptly, even with computer generated acknowledgements.  I like that.  I emailed a couple of the smaller CSAs Qs about what's in a standard basket etc. and no replies from the smallies in over a two-week period.  Their websites say patience... they are out in the fields but you have to balance that with being left out standing in the field by the competition too.  Anyway, haven't written anyone off for next summer.  

---------- Price:  $50 biweekly, comes off credit card.  Comparable with other services I checked out.  I easily spend $25 a week on vegetables at Herb and Spice or Parkdale so no issue there.... It's an added bargain when I take into consideration what I am NOT spending.  I take my lunch every day (salad made night before) and I spend nothing at lunches anymore.  Bonus.  I only have to figure out meat for dinner ... I tend to take out the cornucopia of vegey choices, spread them on the island and decide the night's selection, if I haven't decided in advance.  In theory, I should be saving on overall grocery bills too.  

------------ Research:  For clients, they have a web page (with pix) devoted to each type of vegetable and the varieties grown in their fields.  I find it all fascinating and appreciate their efforts to share their research and information with us, the consumer.  You don't find that in a supermarket.  

------------ Options R Me:  This does not prevent me from supporting a CSA.  In fact, I'm betting I do Bryson's in the winter, then stop in the spring and do one of the upstart CSAs for the summer months, like Rainbow Heritage, whose heirloom vegetables have been in my salad lunches every day the past two weeks.  


Monday, 19 September 2011

Aside #4: New Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge

September 2011

Meet Lady Goat. She likes her bathtub.

This is a story of how my Husband and I ended up meeting Lady Goat this past weekend and discovered a whole new world of a refuge for wildlife creatures ... goats, deer, racoons, rabbits......

Actually, I need to rewind back a few months and talk about Roxanne. No, not the old Police song. Roxanne the person is a neighbour living 4-5 doors down the street from us who owned a run-down house, not unusual in our inner city-residential area.

In June, Roxanne did the ultimate fix-er-up.  She tore down the house and is rebuilding a brand new infill.  We only knew this when the ground shook one morning and we looked outside to find a small crowd standing on the corner drinking champagne and toasting the $50K backhoe demolishing the property.

Husband decided to check it out and over the next few weeks made almost daily strolls to see how the construction was progressing .....

.... which brings me to one morning in June -- garbage day, in fact, and this is significant -- when, as per usual, Husband was talking to the owner and along comes the manager with a cardboard box.  In it are three small, scared raccoon tykes, their little faces pointed defiantly upward at the folks peering in.  The builder explains that he 'found' the box down the street and it was obviously being put out for the garbage.  Hmmmm... Well, whatever.  

Within five minutes, the box has been placed carefully on our front porch with the young lad from two doors down and his dad guarding it while husband calls the Humane Society.  I tried to give the trio a small can of water ... no interest .. and quickly decided to name them Huey, Dewey and Louie.  Very gender neutral and, yes, I'm aware those names are already taken by Walt Disney's adorable ducks and these were raccoons.  But the names just fit.   

All the while, there is general outrage rippling up and down the block as folks scratched their heads perplexedly trying to figure out what manner of person would discard three baby animals -- ALIVE -- to the trash heap.

Ever resourceful, Husband persevered to find a centre to care for the babies.  He called someone who knew someone who knew another and, lo and behold, he found a wildlife rehabilitator who was knowledgeable and capable with racoons and willing to accept the three little ones.  Turns out this person would soon be associated with a new Wildlife Refuge, which was in the final stages of getting its licence and was located not far from Ottawa.  The Refuge accepts injured and orphaned small animals. 

So off drove Husband with Huey, Dewey and Louie, a couple of old sheets to donate and some money to help with the cost of their food.  The rehabilitator took them in, checked them over carefully and we soon learned that they were very all healthy, very young, should not have been away from their mother, were a bit dehydrated and were being rehydrated and then bottle fed. They would be transferred and cared for at the new Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge when it officially opened.  

Pictures of the three foundlings arrived over the next few weeks to show their progress and eventually, yes, they were successful released into the woods.  I hope they lead a charmed life given the lucky break they got at the start of their lives. 

... which was a long intro into explaining how we came to be driving on a beautiful fall afternoon to the opening of the new Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge.  Nor were we the only visitors.  There were cars up parked up and down the highway and the opening was clearly very successful. Donations were gratefully accepted of course. It is run by a team of cheerful, committed volunteers and is maintained thanks to the largesse of the community i.e., no or little funding from anywhere else. 

The stroll around the Refuge was just delightful.  Lady Goat pictured above was peacefully snoozing in an old bathtub, eyes closed, beard a-waggling, chewing whatever and in complete repose as dozens of people went by her through the gate and into the Refuge grounds.  

The grounds themselves had feeding and water troughs scattered throughout the property and animals ... ponies, horses, alpacas, chickens ...roamed from trough to trough or ambled over for a scritch from one of the guests.  In other areas of the Refuge were large, sturdy cages to hold rabbits and other small or injured folk.  The racoon cages were in the back and not for viewing during the daylight hours.    

And there were Dozens of friendly goats.  The goats are very comfortable around people as they are the Galloping Goat Farm petting zoo, also run by the owner of the Refuge Centre, who uses the funds from the petting zoo to operate the Wildlife Centre.  We watched spellbound as a videographer somehow coaxed two dozen goats to run en masse over small hills, jump a little creek and come toward him as he filmed.  It will be fabulous footage. 

Goats are pushy creatures.  Two persistently nuzzled my left arm which held a water bottle. I learned quickly that you 'pet' a goat by scratching its ears and NOT by touching its horns, which are apparently very sensitive.  No problem, I said, as I gingerly 'pat', 'patted' them.  (The picture, right, was taken by another photographer at the Refuge and shows one of the buildings that house the horses.) 

There was also Patty Pony (my name for her). She seemed blind or at least had her eyes covered with a cloth (yes, picture is sideways... have to figure out how to rotate). She must have been able to see a bit though as we watched her nimbly navigate under the wire fence and head straight for the feed trough. 

As we left the grounds, we said goodbye to Lady Goat, convinced her goat-y friends they were NOT going through the gate with us,  and wished the owner well.  I'm sure we will visit again... or at least donate. 

Volunteer operator was awaiting licence
A Dunrobin woman who says she has spent tens of thousands of dollars of her own money creating a wildlife rescue centre had her facility raided by the Ministry of Natural Resources on Tuesday evening.

Lynne Rowe said she has been working for two years to create the Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge, taking extensive training courses on the care of wild animals, passing exams and building proper housing for the creatures on the four-hectare property where she lives on Dunrobin Road.

She said she has worked to meet all the relevant standards and applied more than three months ago for a licence that she was told would take two weeks to process. She hasn't received it yet.

On Tuesday, at about 6: 15 p.m., Rowe said she was just starting to give a tour to a group of Sparks, the five-and six-year old division of the Girl Guides, when at least four MNR officers showed up.

"They came with a warrant to search my property and they took two juvenile raccoons," said Rowe, who works as a database system administrator in Ottawa and runs the centre as a volunteer service. She said she has received $20,000 in one-time grant money from foundations to set up the centre, but has paid at least as much on her own.

Rowe said she has about 80 domestic animals on the property, which is legal. Most of them are rescues, she said.  Over the years, she has taken in pot-bellied pigs from the Humane Society and lame horses from riding schools. From there she decided to branch into wildlife rescue because the need is so great, so rare are the facilities that will take orphaned or injured wild animals.

Over the summer, she said, many calls came in, the majority for squirrels and raccoons, but some also for fawns. She said she didn't want to turn people away, despite the fact that she hadn't yet received ministry approval.

Now, she said, she will have to appear in court on Nov. 10 to face a charge of unlawfully keeping wildlife in captivity without a licence. She said she's afraid that will prevent her from finally getting the licence.

"Two years of hard work could be wasted," she said. "The irony is that there is a huge need for animal rescue."
No one from the Ministry of Natural Resources could be reached for comment late Tuesday evening.