Daily Archives: July 19, 2011

Spells for Getting Rid of Vermin

Someone asked me if I know a spell for getting rid of cockroaches.

I think she meant it facetiously, but… I think I might.


I’m reminded of those Witches’ Bottles:

Take an old pasta sauce jar, or something similar.  Fill it with bent, rusted nails and broken glass, a measure of salt and one or more of boric acid (you can also throw in some baking soda and icing sugar, if you’re inclined – same difference.  But I’d stick with the acid.  I know it works).  Add a live cockroach (if you can, or a dead one, if it’s easier, which it is for a lot of reasons).  Lid the jar.  Seal it with wax.  Mutter at it appropriately (“Get the hell away from me.  Stay the hell out of my house!” works well enough).  Take it far away and bury it.  Ideally somewhere busy, where the passage of feet, bicycles, shopping carts, won’t let it get out again.


Normally, you fill these things with piss, rotting blood, things that repel.  In this case, I think roach poison is more fitting, and more likely to get the point across.


Good luck.


– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Pickles – My First Time (Garlic-Dill Cucumber Pickles)

So I inadvertently killed half my cucumber plant, then other day, when I mistook its slender stem for a leaf-stem and cut through it to clip a hard-to-reach cuke.

Woops. :-\

So I made pickles.  Half from one of the cucumbers (they’re small — not more than about 4″ long) and half from the cucumber slices left over after a party I helped to throw the other night.  (The left-over veggies are finding their way into salads, at the moment, but I’m inclined to see if I can’t find a pickled radishes recipe somewhere, just to try it out…)

My sister makes garlic-jalapeno dills (asparagus and cucumber, both) every year, and gives them out as xmas presents.  I love them to bits, they are delicious.  So – no surprises here – I decided it was high time to figure out how to do so for myself.

I’m going to come right out and say this now (it probably won’t be the last time):  Cooking is emphatically NOT an exact science for me.  Most recipes cooking techniques were developed centuries before standardized measuring cups, let alone candy thermometers, pH-testers, and refrigeration.  So, while, yes, I’m aware that all that sugar, all that vinegar, those spices and that salt, they’re all there for a reason, I’m also not particularly afraid to play with things a little bit.  (The Kitchen Witch school of cooking – and composting, come to that – as opposed to the CM school).

As such, while I totally did the two-day thing where you soak the cucumbers in super-salty water for 24 hours beforehand, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly when it came to the Extras.

This is how I did it:


Garlic-Dill Pickled Cucumbers


1 3/4 C sliced cucumbers (this is two small cucumbers or 1 medium-sized one, more or less)

1/2 C salt

water to cover


For the Extras

1 large (or 2 small) clove fresh garlic, slivered

2 tbsp dried dill weed

1 tsp pickling spice

pinch whole mustard seeds

5 whole black pepper corns

1 grape leaf (this will help keep the pickles crunchy, or so I’m told)


For the Brine

1C white wine vinegar

1/2 C water

1 (heaping) tsp salt


Day One:

Lay the cucumber in a flat-bottom tupperware, layering them with the salt (1/4 C per layer, more or less), until the tupperware is half-full OR you run out of cucumber.

Cover the cucumbers with water, then set a saucer on top to keep them from floating

Put the lid on the tupperware and let sit over night (12-24 hours).  I left mine on the counter, but you could also put it in the fridge

Day Two:

Drain the water off your cucumbers, then rinse them very well and drain them again.

Prepare your Extras so that they are ready to be put in the canning jar.  Don’t mix them together quite yet.

Fill a frying pan (I use a steel one, but whatever) most of the way with water.  Put the lid, ring, and mouth-end of a 2C mason jar into the water (make sure the water can get up inside the jar a little bit).

Turn it on high and let the steam sterilize the jars for a good five minutes once the water is at a rolling boil.  (The inside of the jar should have some water condensing on its sides, fyi).

Take the jar, lid, and ring out of the water (use oven mits for the jar, tongs for the lid and the ring) and set them aside (I put them on a wire rack, personally).

In a small pot, combine the vinegar, water, and salt, stirring and bringing it to a hard boil while the salt dissolves.  Once the salt dissolves, keep it boiling for another two minutes (covering it is fine).

Put the pickling spice, mustard and peppercorns, plus HALF the dill and HALF the garlic into the jar.

Pack the cucumbers and the grape leaf (can be torn up) into the jar, leaving about half an inch of head-room between the cucumbers and the collar of the jar.  NOW add the rest of the dill and the rest of the garlic.

Pour the HOT vinegar mixture into the jar, not all the way up to the top (you will have some left over).  Tap the side of the jar for a little bit to encourage the air bubbles to rise to the top and to make sure the vinegar mixture gets into all the nooks and crannies.  Top up the jar a little bit, if needed, but you probably won’t have to.

Cap the jar securely.  Now up-end it in the frying pan again (you may need to top up the water in the frying pan at this point) and boil the water again, leaving the jar in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes before removing it.

Turn it right-side-up and set it on a wire rack (or the counter) to cool.  As it cools, you’ll (eventually – mine took a little while) hear the “plink” of the lid sealing itself to the jar.  If you don’t hear this, you will need to re-can the pickles (or just store them in the fridge and eat them up very quickly).

Give the pickles a good two weeks to let their flavours mingle and develop, then dig in.


Having only made these yesterday, I have no idea how they taste.  However, being as I love mustard and garlic and dill and cucumbers, and my partner loves garlic and pepper and cucumbers, chances are good we’ll quite enjoy them.

As far as things go, magically?  There’s nothing specifically magical-intentional about these pickles.  BUT the dill was grown by my partner in her long-ago garden, and the cucumbers were grown, by me, on our shared balcony this summer, so I’m quite happy to code this as a symbolic entwining of our two green thumbs and a reflection of our tendency to nurture each other.

– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Sour Cherry Jam

I chose the URL for this blog – birchtreemaiden – because, in Thomas the Rhymer, there is a fairy woman who is known to steal fruit.

This is, to a point, me. I hunt for fruit that grows in urban scrub-land, or in parks, or even that which leans over back-yard walls into public parking lots. It’s miserable to see it rotting on the ground[1], so I pick it before it falls and turn it into preserves, or whatever, in my kitchen.

Case in point: The following recipe is for sour cherry jam. It was made with the litre-or-so worth of cherries I picked from a tree around the corner from me.

It turned out a gorgeous pinkish-red colour, and tastes pretty-much like candy. ❤ 🙂


Sour Cherry Jam


2 C pitted sour cherries (starts out as about 1L unpitted sour cherries, fyi)
1¼ C granulated sugar
2 tbsp pear cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar, or raspberry vinegar, but I used what I had)
¼ C water
2 tbsp pectin crystals


Put a small glass plate in the freezer

Boil the hell out of a 2C canning jar + lid and ring (let the steam do the sterilizing and you can do this in a frying pan – handy tip), remove from the water and set upside-down on a cooling rack

Put everything except the pectin in a glass/steel pot and heat it up until the sugar dissolves

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and boil the hell out of it, stirring constantly, for 15-20 minutes

Add the pectin and continue to boil the hell out of it for a further five minutes, stirring constantly

Using a funnel, pour the jam into the sterilized jar

Cap the jar tightly

Set the jar, upside down, in the water-bath again, and boil the hell out of it (making sure the water comes up well over the lid of the jar) for 5-10 minutes.

Take it out of the water and set it, upright, to cool on the cooling rack.

As it cools, you should hear the “plink” sound of the lid being sucked down against the glass and sealing itself.

Once cooled, re-tighten the ring (it will be loose, since the lid sucked itself down tight to the jar), and store as you will.

Eat the jam on toast, or use it as tart-filling or spooned over cheesecake. Huzzah! 😀


– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] Watch the video in the link. She's talking about food as an asset and how up-in-our-heads we, as Western, grocery-store-happy people, can get about food, food waist, food availability, and so on. It's a neat little clip.

Urban Meliad Speaks Out

Hi there. 😀

I’m a queer feminist pagan living in Canada’s capital.  I started this blog because I’m mildly obsessed with urban agriculture, forest gardening, bee keeping, balcony & container gardening, permaculture, foraging, gleaning, and other things of that nature, and those don’t entirely fit with the subjects I talk about in my other blog, Syrens (which deals with sex-positive feminism, gender, sex work, femme, and other topics along those lines).


I’m also a freelance writer – I provide seasonal recipes, and sometimes web copy, for this website, and write poetry and short fiction (often, but not always, dyke smut, sometimes with a speculative fiction slant to it) – and an edible garden planner.


Here, I blog about gardening, cooking, canning, goddess spirituality, animism, and other related topics.


Please stick around and enjoy. 😀



– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden