One of the great joys I have in gardening edibles is preserving them for use during the restful wintertime. Beside the jars of canned goodies (salsa, preserves, butters, and such), the bins of root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic), the haul in the fridge (carrots and cabbage) and freezer (frozen cilantro and pesto), I dry a variety of herbs.
At the top of the list of dried, must-haves in order to survive the winter, are mint and chamomile for my tea each morning. Also high on the list is sage for those wintertime pork roasts. At the urging of a dear friend, I’ve begun to steep some of my other cooking herbs in my tea. I feel a whole new adventure in next years gardening opening up as I add more herbs to the mix!
Because I want to leave room for instructions below for making a catnip toy, I’ll tell you that my final dried herb for this blog is catnip or catmint (Nepeta Cataria). I’ll admit to having a dickens of a time growing my own. When I tried indoors, the cats nibbled it to death before it grew large enough to dry. Growing it outdoors hasn’t proven any easier since we have a fair amount of wandering neighborhood cats who insist on frequenting our wildlife-friendly garden. I’ll try again, but will have to cage it to keep it safe.
This week, I’m sharing instructions on how to create a furry, catnip Mousie for your cats. This is a fun, quick, and easy project to do with children. I heartily recommend it as a way for them to create something for their own cats or for gifts to others with cat family members. Warning: you should NOT do this with your cats nearby unless you want their undivided attention throughout the process! I have had to track down mousie parts, before they were completed.
I’m sharing the dimensions for two sizes of Mousie. The larger size may be easier for some children. My cats love both sizes, but slightly prefer the smaller version.
• pattern (see instructions below)
• 1 piece of faux fur (large: 4-1/2" square, small: 3" square)
• 1 piece of batting (large: 2-1/2” x 5”, small: 1-3/4” x 2-3/4”)
• 1 tail (5” of leather cord, or anything else you think might work and last)
• 1 small lump of fiberfil (you can use a cotton ball)
• 1 pinch of dried catnip
• rattle (large: 2 bottle caps, a rubber band, and a bit of dry rice; small: 1-1/2” piece of plastic drinking straw, tape, and a bit of dry rice)
• needle and thread
• scissors (both paper and fabric)
1. Create your pattern from a piece of card stock. For the large Mousie, draw and cut a 4-1/2” square.
2. Measure the center point on three sides of the square and mark with a dot.
3. Connect the dots so they form a “V” (on either side with the centered dot between the opposing sides) and cut the corners off creating a shape that looks like the silhouette of a house (see photo above). For the small Mousie, follow the same directions given but use a 3” square.
4. Use this pattern to cut a piece from the faux fur.
1. For the large Mousie, take one bottle cap and fill about two-thirds of the way with dry rice. (You can use something else, if you prefer. I simply use rice because I always have it and it’s relatively inexpensive. It also rattles nicely.)
2. Place the other bottle cap on top and rubber band them securely together.
3. For the small Mousie, cut a 1-1/2” section of plastic drinking straw (I use the slightly wider-holed variety).
4. Wrap tape around one end of the straw then fill it halfway or less with rice.
5. Tape the other end to contain the rice. (You can test your shaker for your preferred sound before sealing.) When happy, attach tail to the shaker. I tie it on the rubber band, or tape it on the straw.
1. Flatten and slightly stretch the fiberfil and place the catnip in the center.
2. Wad the fiberfil around the catnip and place on the shaker.
3. Take the piece of batting and wrap it around the shaker and the fiberfil.
4. Sew up the seam and the ends of the batting to encase the shaker (this keeps kitty’s teeth safer). The tail should be sticking out one end.
5. Fold your faux fur (previously cut into the house shape) in half, furry side in, along the long center point.
6. Holding short (non-angled) sides together, sew along that short edge only. This will produce a tube.
7. Turn right side out. Stuff batting Mousie innards into the center of this tube with the tail hanging out the end opposite the point.
8. Fold in edges of each end and whipstitch both openings. For extra padding, you can fold the point up and tuck it in before stitching this end closed.
Your Mousie is now ready for play. Shake, rattle, and throw for your cat to capture! If you’re like me and prefer visual instruction, I have created a page just for you!
Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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