Gardening and cats

I trimmed back the tomatoes as they had been threatening to take over the entire vegetable plot. Judging from the number of flowers on the plants, we have a lot of pasta in our future.

It reminds me of the time that we brought home kilos of hothouse tomatoes because they were on sale. We’d intended to can the pasta sauce we made until we found out that canning tomatoes involved complicated equipment and the risk of poisoning ourselves. We froze the pasta sauce instead, thick sheets in Ziploc bags that saved us from cooking for a good long while. The kitchen was a mess during the cooking process, but it was worth it.

And now we’ll have our own basil, our own rosemary, our own oregano. One of the things I love the most about keeping a garden is wandering out there and exploring the different scents and tastes. I love watching plants grow: they creep along ever so slowly, but when I remember how small they were when I started, I can’t help but be amazed by the progress.

The cats love the garden, especially Leia. Leia’s always trying to sneak out. She ignores the catnip and heads straight for the grass, which she thinks is the best treat ever. They also enjoy watching the squirrels and birds look for food in the garden, and we sometimes hear the cats chattering away, little jaws snapping the bones of imaginary prey.

As I write this, there are two robins picking through the grass for worms, which are plentiful in our garden. The tree close to the deck conceals a bird’s nest in low-hanging branches. Whenever I go outside to shoo the animals away from the plants they also like to snack on (“Gerroff the lawn!”), I need to make sure I quickly close the door behind me. Leia is invariably right there, nose pressed up against the glass, wishing she was the one chasing squirrels around instead. She meows, but I can’t hear her through the glass–a silent film star with whiskers.

When we do let her out, it’s on a harness and leash. I’ve learned to put my shoes on before I open the door, because there’s no holding her back once the great outdoors beckons. She runs down the stairs and into the grass which is too short to hide her, but she pretends anyway. She nibbles on a few blades of grass, then scampers into the vegetation and crouches. The squirrels chatter angrily. She hides behind the tree, but they know she’s there.

When we first saw Leia at the animal shelter, we had no idea that her long soft fur and princess-like demeanor concealed such a hunter. She seemed the quintessential indoor cat, more given to lounging on cushions than to padding through the grass. Then again, she’d been a stray for a while before the animal shelter picked her up, and she must have had some way of fending for herself. Luke, our other cat (previously named Burch, but renamed)–he was owner-surrendered, although it’s hard to think of anyone being able to give up such an affectionate cat. I’m glad we have two cats. They play with each other, and that often gives us a lot to laugh about. They play hide and seek. They play chase. They play let’s-gang-up-on-the-tall-ones-and-ask-for-food-in-synchronized-meows, which is always fun.

Now it’s time to work. I love working facing the garden, with a cat or two in the area. The cats always seem to know when I should take a typing break and cuddle them instead, and the garden is refreshing even through the sliding glass door.

  • Your cats really sound adorable. :) Leia sounds like our younger dog, Maya. She always loves taking walks and it’s really crazy when she is hyper. She can pull you into many different directions.

    Pets are really great and sometimes they seem human-like in their sensitivity towards our feelings. You and Leia, as well as Luke sound like a perfect match then ;)

  • Victor Calvert

    Safe canning doesn’t really require a lot of expensive equipment, it’s just that it can be a pain, so I’m curious why you said that it needed “complicated equipment”. As for the risks, canning anything other than jellies/jams/high-sugar foods does involve risk of botulism, though that holds true for store-bought foods as well. There are rather obvious signs that canned food is dangerous to eat; you should definitely know what they are even if you don’t can your own. Also, if you’re interested in a more scientific look at cooking, check out Cookwise; it talks about a lot of the chemistry behind cooking.

    Cost-wise, my guess is, minus the pressure canner/water bath canner (*big* pot) and the jars, it only costs about $10-20; it shouldn’t cost more than about $250 to have everything you could possibly need when canning…and that’s if you buy all the nifty tools. You can generally get by with the actual canning vessel, the jars and lids, a canning funnel, and a pair or two of tongs.

    A quick google about canning tomatoes/tomato sauce came up with, which seems to have a sizable collection of recipes aggregated from various ‘approved’ (USDA/FDA/university) sources in the US. One note: they say not to re-use the lids, but it is possible to safely do so as long as the rubber is in good condition (smooth and unmarked), and the lid is flat (which requires care when opening; the side of a spoon handle works well because it’s hard to apply enough force to bend the lid permanently). The worst we’ve had when re-using lids (usually when making jelly) is two out of a dozen not sealing, but usually they all do.

  • Thanks for the great tips! =) We tried canning for the first time today, and the apricot syrup is delicious! We were lucky to find a canner, jar rack, can lifter and can funnel at Walmart, and that sorted everything out. Tomato sauce will probably stay out of reach for now, though, as that needs a pressure canner. I’ll be sure to keep people posted on our culinary adventures! =)

  • Oh, it looks like we might be able to do basil-garlic tomato sauce in a water bath… awesome!