An Autumn Menu

An autumn scene for an autumn menu by The Messy Baker.

09 Oct An Autumn Menu


Ignore the calendar. Don’t point to the red and orange maple trees or their fallen leaves that smother the grass. Pumpkins hold no proof. No, Autumn doesn’t arrive with the weather, or gourds, or the solstice. It arrives with mice. Each year, the rodents that feast on my tomatoes and dig ankle-twisting holes in the yard attempt to winter over in our home. They slip through the dime-thin gap between the warped wooden door at the bottom of the root cellar and cracks in the basement floor.

And at 3 AM on Monday, Autumn arrived. In our bedroom, wedging itself between the baseboard and the bookcase while the cats chirped in protest and curiosity.

I moved the bookcase to give the cats better access. The Mouse, which I refuse to name, sprinted into the big wicker basket that holds my wool stash. I might never knit again.

The cats lose interest. It’s not prey or the enemy or a flea-ridden carrier of disease. It’s the best toy since the microwave box. They take a nap while I return to bed and have troubling dreams about knitting tiny toques for big-eyed rodents.

The next day we set a “trap” with a cardboard box, a stick and some string. It looks like something out of  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I bait it with pine nuts. I place $5 worth of bait beneath the angled box and question my intelligence. All this sits on a large tray so that when The Mouse falls for my cunning plan, I can simply carry the entire contraption, mouse and all, across the road to the park. I will humanely return Autumn — yes, I have now named the mouse — to the wild. I am sure he won’t find his way back.

As I carefully form the pine nuts into an enticing pile, Autumn emerges from the wool. Before I can move, he shoots down the stairs and dives into an air vent. The cats, recharging on the bed, yawn and cover their eyes with a paw. From fatigue or shame, I’m not sure. My trap is nothing but a tripping hazard for the humans in the house.

This is only Day 4 of Autumn. I dread what Winter will bring.

An Autumn Menu

While I do the cats’ work, here are some recipes to get you through the cooler weather. Perhaps some will make it to your Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Tomato and Sage Soup - The Messy BakerRoasted Tomato Soup with Sage: This simple soup has little chopping. The onions, garlic and tomatoes are all roasted in the oven before being made into a sherry-splashed soup.

Local-CarrotsCumin Carrots with Cilantro Vinaigrette: A simple side with warm spices and sweet honey is perfect served warm or at room temperature.

Apple roasted chicken Apple Roasted Chicken: This is one of our family’s go-to dishes when the cold weather hits. It’s no-fail in every way. The chicken is always tender and the flavours appeal to all ages.

Pumpkin-pie-overhead-1Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pumpkin Seeds: A change of pace from the average pumpkin pie. Candied pumpkin seeds go on top. A ginger crust lurks below.

Concord Grape Pie - TheMessyBaker.comConcord Grape Pie with Crumb Topping: This is not your nice, gentle pie. It’s tart and sweet and very intense. It takes a bit of time but is worth the effort and stained fingers. Top with whipped cream or a side of Concord Grape Sherbet.


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  • Donna
    Posted at 17:16h, 09 October Reply

    Loved this story and hope his relatives don’t soon arrive ~!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:21h, 10 October Reply

      I’m hoping his relatives stay away. But from what I hear, you never have one mouse. You only see one mouse. The others are hiding. Let’s hope the cats discourage our unwanted guests.

  • Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table
    Posted at 09:32h, 10 October Reply

    Haha, I definitely wouldn’t waste pine nuts on a mouse, named or not! Good luck getting through winter! I remember the joys of living in an older house… They say that cats bring their kills to those that they admire the most, as a sign of respect and recognition of their superiority… Well, I remember my surprise upon waking up and discovering that cat did indeed catch a mouse! And promptly placed it lovingly in the dog’s water dish…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:23h, 10 October Reply

      That’s hilarious! I’m not sure whether I would be insulted at my ranking or relieved I didn’t have a dead mouse placed on my pillow.

      Life in an old house is interesting. Life with pets is interesting. The combination keeps us busy and entertained constantly.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It made me laugh out loud.

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Posted at 18:22h, 10 October Reply

    Charmian, send your cats to boot camp! No self-respecting cat would turn down the opportunity to catch a real mouse! You are obviously feeding them too much or too well! And have no mercy on the mouse. They will chew your wires, make nests in your insulation and eqmt, etc. It cost us $400 to repair our lawn tractor this spring as a mouse built a nest in it! This fall, we will be putting poison grain in the shed so that doesn’t happen again.

  • Charmian Christie
    Posted at 18:44h, 10 October Reply

    My cats seem to think mice are animated toys. They just don’t have the killer instinct. Whenever they’ve presented us with a mouse it’s very much alive and unharmed — only soaking from saliva and terrified. We adopted our cats from a friend and they have never starved, which might be the key. We can leave food out after dinner and not worry about them sampling. On the other hand, my sister’s cats were rescue pets and have known starvation all too well. They can’t be trusted around food but are the most skilled hunters. Needless to say she has no mice!

    Regardless, I am a wimp and can’t kill a mouse. Fortunately, the mouse usually escapes and warn others. A week or so of late-night scuffles and the situation usually resolves itself. We haven’t had to revert to stronger methods but if need be, will. Let’s hope ti doesn’t come to that! As I said, I’m a total wimp.

    Good luck keeping the mice out of your tractor!

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