Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

Suddenly all the sky is hid
As with the shutting of a lid,
One by one great drops are falling
Doubtful and slow,
Down the pane they are crookedly crawling,
And the wind breathes low;
Slowly the circles widen on the river,
Widen and mingle, one and all;
Here and there the slenderer flowers shiver,
Struck by an icy rain-drop’s fall.

~James Russell Lowell, "Summer Storm," 1839

My, oh my.  Rain, rain and more rain.  Another rainy day in the neighbourhood.  So far we are about half way through June and my area saw 53 mm of rain not including today, whereas throughout the May we've managed only 14 mm until the very last day.  And the forecast calls for another four days of rain this week.

Oh well, so far the garden seems to like all this fabulous moisture. Vegetables are growing like crazy, I swear I can stand and watch them grow.  Strawberries, juneberries and raspberries not so much, these little darlings would appreciate a little more sun and heat.

Hopefully July will bring more balanced weather.  The really perfect combination would be the rain by night and heat and sun by the day.  The life is rarely perfect though and that's ok.  Whatever Mother Nature has in store for us we'll buy.  We don't really have another choice.

Have a wonderful start to the week my friends!


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: Qianjiazhai Old Growth 2012 Sheng

Up in a tree 
Fairies sit to have their tea. 

With china cups and china plates 
They eat their dainty fairy cakes. 

The table cloth is cobweb lace, 
A name card sits at every place. 

A warm moss upon the floor 
Just inside the small oak door. 

Wouldn't you just love to be 
Invited to a fairy's tea?

- Author Unknown (to me at least)

I think it would be amazing to have a tea and cakes with fairies, don't you?

It's sheng for me again my friends and this one has been in my tea cupboard since 2013. It's  Qianjiazhai Old Growth 2012 Sheng from Verdant Tea and I have only a little bit of it left. Maybe another two cups worth, that's it.

I remember the day that I first got it.  It was my very first young sheng and I had no clue what I'm in for.  I took generous amount of leaves, dumped it into the teapot and steeped them for 1 minute.  The result was a little more bitter than I care to admit.  I diluted the concoction and took to the internet to figure out what I did wrong.

Well, as I found out, young sheng can take only very short steeps before it turns bitter.  Instead of steeping it for 1 minute, I should have steeped it for about 5-10 seconds.  Quite a difference! Once I did that, the tea was simply amazing and I fell in love with what sheng had to offer.

Now it's been two years since I've tried this particular sheng and I was curious to see if anything has changed about it.

The dry leaves had a pleasant sweet vegetal aroma.  None of the smokiness I usually associate with young sheng but I figured maybe it will come out during steeping time.

Like I said, last time I was steeping this tea for only 5 seconds. Since couple of years have passed I figured I could allow for a bit more.  I steeped this time for 15 seconds.

Just about right.  The taste was smooth, complex and not a tiny bit bitter.  The smokiness I usually associate with young sheng was there, but not as much as I experienced with other shengs.  Now that I remember, this tea was never very smoky to start with.  The smokiness ,which I happen to be crazy for, I first discovered with my second sheng purchase: Master Han's 2013 Sheng Puer also from Verdant Tea.

That's it for my pleasant afternoon with an old friend.  Now back to building a compost bin out of old pallets.  I'll tell you all about it on Monday. :)


Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner: Does your cat scratch around the food bowl?

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” 
- Leonardo da Vinci

Hello my dear friends and happy Friday! Yet another weekend is upon us and I couldn't be happier. Just less than two weeks left until the end of this school year and just over a week until summer solstice.  Yay!  Exciting times. :)

So what about them cats?  Why do they scratch around their food bowl?

 Not every cat does that but Hercules surely does.  After he finishes his food he'll scratch all around his food bowl as if he was trying to bury the leftovers.  Sometimes he'll give just few scratches and other times he'll stay there for couple of minutes scratching from each and every side several times over.  Now there is something worth noting.  He doesn't do this every time and he does this only to his wet food bowl.  I've been trying to figure out whether this activity is connected to a particular wet food or maybe how he feels about the particular food but there appears to be no common denominator.  To a mere mortal such as myself, this appears to be completely random.

I think this activity is instinctual.  In the wild cats try to hide/bury the leftover food to protect it from scavengers. Today's domestic cats, even though they don't need to do this, may have retained this innate behaviour from their ancestors and some demonstrate it to our amusement.

Now, I did say some cats do not do this.  Oliver never, ever scratches around his food bowl.  


Wednesday, June 10, 2015


“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?” 
- Sam Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

Hello my dear friends and happy Hump Day!  Oh the quote above stirred up some amazing memories of long nights spent with Frodo and Sam travelling through Middle Earth.  Every summer I pull out the DVDs and re-watch this amazing trilogy.  Looks like I'll be doing it again soon... I've got an itch to scratch.

Today it's a rainy one in the hood again but this time we got the works together with thunder and lightning. Actually we've got it all.  The sun, the thunder, the lightning and the rain.  One moment is sunny, one moment it thunders and then it pours before the sun comes out again.  Mother Nature cannot make up her mind but whatever comes our way next, the garden is sure to love it.

Speaking of the garden, the long awaited time has arrived and the strawberries are beginning to ripen. Every morning I come out and there are presents for me in the strawberry patch and every day there is more and more.  And these presents are sweet, oh so sweet. Thanks to the weather we've been having, the warmth and the sun, the strawberries are extra sweet this year.

This is a third year I'm growing strawberries and it's a first year that they've been really sweet.  The past couple of years the spring has been less than ideal and I guess the lack of sun and warmth manifested itself in lack of sweetness in the fruit.  I'm glad we finally caught a break.

And what comes after the strawberries?  Juneberries! 


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nibble in the big tree

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” 
- Ralph Ellison

Hello my dear friends and happy Tuesday to all.  It's a rainy one for us here in Southern Ontario and that is simply great.  After a very dry May, the rain is great.  All the plant life around me loves it.

The kitties and Nibble maybe not so much.

Ah little Nibble. For the last three days Nibble has been spending most of his days up in the big locust tree.

It's been a little nerve wrecking at first to let him do that but he was becoming seriously dissatisfied with spending most of his days in the cage. Watching him trying to chew his way out of the cage every waking moment of the day was a little more than I could handle and so I decided to give him that freedom he so desperately wanted. Who am I to decide what a squirrel needs?

Over the last couple of weeks he's been progressing quite well. He learned how to crack nuts, got himself addicted to peanuts for few days, discovered sunflower seeds, got himself addicted to those and finally discovered strawberries and juneberries. And he grew, oh he grew and with his physical size grew the appetite for the great outdoors.

That is why this past Saturday we allowed him to explore up in the big locust tree in our yard.  Oh my goodness, if I ever had any doubts that he can navigate the branches of the big tree these doubts were gone right there and then.  I've never seen Nibble move this fast.   He was born to live in the trees.

All fun aside, don't worry, he is not ready to leave us just yet.  Every time I let him out to play in the big tree, I leave his cage somewhere close to the trunk.  I prop the cage's door so that he can go in and out but anything bigger than him cannot.  Nibble goes up into the tree, stays there for several hours and when he's had enough he comes down and goes inside his cage.  By himself.  No kidding.

I know the day will come when he'll be ready to move on and he will not come back.  That will be a sad but victorious day.  Squirrels are meant to be free.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.” 
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hello my dear friends and happy Sunday to all.  I'm having a late start to the day and loving it.

It surely is a gorgeous morning in my neck of the woods. That's very refreshing because this past whole week the nights and mornings left much to be desired.  It's been quite chilly and my peppers have not been loving it, not one little bit.  I lost two cayenne peppers so far and one sweet bell pepper looks like it's going to quit on me too. 7°C nights are simply not acceptable.

The upcoming week looks very promising though. Nightly temperatures of 15°C or over, daily highs mostly in upper twenties with some rain and sunshine.  Tuesday night we are expecting only 11°C but I think we can live with that if it's only one night.

Today Angel and I have an exciting day in store.  We will build a small, two step ladder to climb the first big branch of our Crimson King maple tree.  I have everything ready and I think that will be a fun little project.  I love working with tools.

Now I'm going to finish my late morning tea and watch Nibble perform acrobatics up in the big tree for a little bit.  Oh yes, his exercises have progressed to a new level and he is doing great so far.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: 2011 Wild Mountain Green Puer

Steam rises from a cup of tea
and we are wrapped in history,
inhaling ancient times and lands,
comfort of ages in our hands.
~Faith Greenbowl

Oh glorious Saturday, how much I love you so.  Sleeping in is great, simply great, no question about it.

Lately I've been on the sheng kick again.  This whole week I've been indulging in my stash of raw puer, which is sitting patiently and aging in my bedroom cabinet upstairs.  Many more kicks like that and I won't have much to age.

That's why when Saturday morning came along and the question of what will I be sampling today slipped into my mind, the answer was clear: sheng!  More sheng please!

Sadly the stash of raw puer never tried samples that I've accumulated over time has been brought down to just one.  I had one last sample of sheng puer left to try and this one was from Mandala Tea sent to me back in 2013: 2011 Wild Mountain Green Puer.  I can see that the sample was broken off of a larger brick in a careful manner which makes me happy because that means that most of the leaves I received were left intact.

The dry leaves had a pleasant, smooth aroma of vegetables and forest.  That is one great combination.

Most of the time when I steep raw puer it's pretty simple.  If it's a very young sheng, the steeping time has to be very short or it will turn bitter.  1-2 year old sheng first steep is usually only 10 seconds long tops.  Older shengs, for example 10 year old sheng, can be steeped for much longer, anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes.  My dillema today was how long do I steep 4 year old sheng?

I went with 30 seconds and I think I hit the jackpot.  The resulting soup was light golden brown and the aroma was simply lovely.  Forest, wood, flowers and grapes were just some of the notes I picked up.  Yummy!

Taste wise it did not disappoint either.  The tea was smooth and pleasant tasting and just at the border of bitterness.  It didn't taste bitter but I did get the slight astringency in the after taste, telling me that my steeping time was just about right.  I love when this happens.

My second steep was just about a minute long and yielded darker golden brown colour with the same exquisite taste.  This time, in addition to yummy notes of vegetables, wood and grapes, I also picked up some apricot.  I wonder what another steep will bring.