Garden Gnome Ecosystems

Creating a sustainable system for gnomes to play in.

Leave a comment

Sustainable Cat Toys

Like most mornings, today I got up and started my day with my daily dose of internet.  After catching up on Facebook, Twitter, and all of the blogs I follow, I ended up on, looking at green cat toys, even though I know that Jack is happiest with a well loved catnip mouse, some crumpled up paper, or a practice golf ball (stolen from my husband’s collection of balls used in science experiments with elementary students).  Nobody golfs in our house.


The toys featured on Modern Cat were all very beautiful, but Jack plays nicely by grabbing the toy in his front paws and licking it aggressively while shredding it with his hind paws.  I’m looking for toys that will stand up to a beating.  As in, I’m looking for plain toys, so that I won’t be sad when he licks the colour out of them and tears them up.  I’m sure the toys blogged about at Modern Cat are plenty durable.

A quick Google search brought up this post, and left me actively considering spending money on cat toys again – specifically “Billy Bob the Cork Ball” and a CatTamboo.  I’ve been looking for a toy on a string for quite a while so that we could actively play with Jack, but the cheap, brightly coloured plastic toys I’ve seen are a little too, well, plastic for my taste, considering they’ll just end up in the landfill eventually.  The CatTamboo seems to be a great sustainable, natural, possibly-compostable alternative.  But I’m hesitant to pay to have cat toys shipped across the continent without seeing them in person first.  Usually a new cat toy lasts a couple days, and then Jack discards it and never wants to play with it again. Perhaps my local pet store could be convinced to start stocking them…  For now, crumpled paper balls will have to do.

Do any readers have experience with these toys?

Leave a comment

Reclaimed Wood and Chickadees

When we first moved in, a kitchen table (black) with a removable leaf and six chairs (black) to match moved in with us. Along with a variety of other outcasts – a giant, dignified floral couch that dwarfed the living room and its matching arm chair, a blue recliner with some questionable stains and a faint smell of smoke, a very pink chair, and a wooden rocker that made the count one too many for the space. A tacky coffee table with fake gold trim.

My kitchen is small. Not tiny, but small, and it lacks counter space. So I kicked out the dining table and carved a dining nook out of my tiny living room (pink chair and huge couch moved to garage, rocking chair that my MIL nursed her babies in went home to their front porch), and bought a writing desk to use as a counter in the kitchen. It also served as a cover for three blue bins to sort recycling into, and space the perfect height for herbs in the kitchen. Perfect! Soon after, we wanted space for homework in the living room, since the bedrooms are hardly big enough for a bed, and the parade of family visiting and using our house to crash means we do keep a spare bedroom. So the dining room table became a desk, but it wasn’t best suited to the task. We made do.

Then the husband found a free piano, and just had to have it. At this point, we had to rearrange the entire living room to fit the piano in, and the dining table desk just wouldn’t do, so it went to live downstairs (I wasn’t about to give up space in my kitchen again), and the writing table found it’s true purpose fulfilled in it’s new role of desk. The herbs die in winter anyways.

But now we had no dining area, no extra counter, and a mess of recycling. I kicked out the microwave and reclaimed some counter space – we don’t use it often, and stairs are good exercise when we do. A few months later I was beyond frustrated with the cluttered wall. “I don’t want to be in my kitchen, you cook lovely hubby” kind of frustrated.

My dad had just dropped off some wood planks taken from the walls in the house I grew up in when my mom redesigned the floor plan, knocked out most of the walls, and added a sun room. I was planning to build some shelves to store homemade beer and salsa in the stairway, since it’s the only part of the house without a window. 3 hour job, max. And then I built this. It took us most of the weekend, and part of Monday. Crazy, for something so “rustic” looking. As in, this is not fine craftsmanship. Nope. But it holds my bins, and my pots, and the apron I made in grade 7 that still fits me better than any I’ve tried yet.

Pegboard Pot Rack with Jack

Jack was a big part of the process. “Oh you’re trying to use a power tool? Let me help. Glue now? I want to play! A picture of it! ME, ME, ME!” This was the first photo that wasn’t mostly cat face. He seemed desperate to be a part of it, so here you go Jack, your tail’s famous.


Not only did it free up two bins worth of floor space, my favourite frying pans no longer needed to live in the oven, and the most used pots aren’t in the ridiculous only-opens-half-way-because-whoever-designed-the-kitchen-didn’t-account-for-a-stove cupboard. The kitchen is obviously a redo. It matches the bathroom, and bits of the remodel were left in the garage when we moved in. So it can’t even be brushed off as a relic of older times with smaller stoves. Nope.

Now to create a dining space in all that free space. I’m thinking floor dining. Cushions and a squat folding table for two are much easier to store and rearrange than six chairs (black) and their matching table (black).

I was going to post a picture of chickadees – there were two in the apple tree in my front yard earlier this week, but I can’t find more than what might be a tail shape in the iPhone photo. I’m going to have to look into the iPhone telephoto lens. That or break out my old camera with zoom.

It was my first city chickadee sighting! All in all, a great week.

1 Comment

Rain in Late November

That sounds like a heartsick song to me, but the weather today was certainly melancholy enough to warrant such miserable writing.

The rain though, was a strange thing to see; by now, it’s generally snow or nothing here.  Today it rained all afternoon, leaving tiny icicles on the tree in my front yard and a slippery sheen on the roads, then switched to snow, and covered the glossy streets with a deceiving, pretty layer.

Almost two weeks ago, it was ten inches of snow keeping us inside and off the roads.  Instead of gardening we made bread.

And took pictures of the evidence that some animals don’t seem to mind the snow.

Discussions of workshops on gardens in the spring persist through winter, but that much snow has me thinking about finals, finishing up a semester, and Christmas break.  Jack, ever the helpful animal, thought he could pitch in with the last few essays.

1 Comment

Salsa and Jack the Cat

First post.  Let me introduce you to the cat, and the purpose of the blog.  I’ll be writing to track my success and failures, because I’ve failed again to keep a garden diary, and I just might do this if it yields a searchable catalogue of what to do right next year.

My first attempt at canning.  I canned salsa, with the help of Jack, the earless cat.  Or attempted to – the salsa is delicious, but the seals might not be quite right, so we’re eating 3 pints of salsa this week, and leaving one can out to test my seal.

We started with the recipe for Traditional Salsa from the Ball website, and followed it exactly.  The salsa simmered, the jars were hot, lids went on,and off again because we forgot to bubble the jars.  Back on with the lids – but I only cleaned the top edge of the jar, perhaps this is a problem – and into the the canner the jars went.  The salsa came out full of bubbles, with the solids jammed against the lid, and the liquid all at the bottom with a fine layer of solids at the bottom.  A quick google search says I might have let the salsa cool too much between the pot and the canner which broke down the pectin that holds it all together, and that’s why the food floated.  But bubbles?  Bubbles are scary.

At least it’s a high-acid food, and we won’t all die of botulism.