Categories
art D-I-Why Not flora gardening homestead wild inklings

Fresh Asparagus

Asparagus with a side of asparagus.

Wild ink painting of asparagus, now 5 or 6 years old. Made with wild grape, dandelion, buckthorn, horsetail, acorn, sumac, and a bit of help from avocado pits.

Painting posed in front of the forest of baby asparagus that’s currently under lights in my studio. These asparagus babies are growing from seeds I collected from our micro-patch last year, hopefully headed to start a much larger patch elsewhere.

From time to time these wild ink paintings do get sold or gifted, but I’m always nervous to do so. Not because I can’t let them go, I love to create things and have others enjoy them. But because some of the wild inks change so much over time. (You can see how different this painting looked like several years ago — here) Fortunately there are many kindred spirits out there who not only accept the paintings will change, but find joy in that they do.

Nothing gold can stay, but who knows what new beauty might arrive next.

Have/make a great day folks!

~Kate

Categories
art flora

Watercolour Woodland W..ephemerals


I couldn’t decide which spring ephemeral to paint yesterday, so I painted them all. This quote has been rattling around my brain lately, and inspired me to just dive in and play:

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very quiet if only those birds sing there that sang best.” ~Henry Van Dyke

It’s an embarrassment of riches in the forest right now. The sweet spot where everything overlaps. The bloodroots are just beginning to drop their petals and reveal their seed pods, the trout lily are still blooming in force, there are still tiny spring beauties to be spotted, and the white trilliums are popping open all over, while the mayapples explode up from the ground

I snuck a couple of science-y easter eggs into this painting. Like a tiny nod to — and buckle up for a five dollar word — myrmecochory: seed dispersal by ants. A process that’s very helpful to the spread of trilliums and other ephemerals. And the different shades of trout lily anthers, from bright yellow to brick red. A variation which, last time I checked, we still don’t know the anther to.

…Yes I do make that joke every time.
//
Exploring watercolours thanks to our dear friend Robertson, whose paints I am using. Rob was a soulmate and one of my all-time favourite humans who died of lymphoma at Thanksgiving, so many decades too soon. Love you Rob. Thank you for all your brilliant colours.

~Kate

Categories
chickens

Little Lavenders

6 baby Lavender Orpingtons safely home and installed in their brooder in my office. Neil gently dips each one’s beak in water for a drink, before adding it to the flock. (There is no better Papa Hen anywhere.) They were all eating and drinking and sleeping and preening and stretching and pooping within a half hour of arrival.

They’re perfect. No notes.

Have a great weekend!

~Kate

Categories
D-I-Why Not homeMADE

Dovetails… assemble!

Turning that fail upside down. ⚡🔨

Late Sunday afternoon I found a “don’t be afraid of dovetails” woodworking video that inspired me to pop downstairs to the shop and face my fears. I take care with my cuts, and am always trying to be a better woodworker. But somewhere along the line I decided I would always be a rustic carpenter. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I like to pay attention to the grain, love a freshly sharpened chisel, don’t mind taking my time, and enjoy a good dose of precision. So why had I built this fence around myself? Dunno. 🤷‍♀️ I contain multitudes.

Things in the shop (aka the workbench beside the hot water tank) were going shockingly well. My pins and tails would not be winning any awards besides a pretty Participation ribbon, and if my joints told a story, it would be full of holes. But, like magic, it also held together!! I was so excited I made another set on the other side. Dovetail box, here I come! 🧙‍♂️✨

On the left, you will see what I saw when I put it together. Instead of three sides of a box, I had lovingly crafted… a lightening bolt.☁️⚡☁️

But this is the moment that matters, much more than the one when I decided to go downstairs and give it a try. The moment when I didn’t throw it into the fire (tempting), but instead tried to focus not on what I didn’t have, but what I did. Cut that lightening bolt in half, flip the right side over, and instead of being a complete failure, I could be halfway to success!

The dovetailed rectangle on the right is the same project, one session later. Determination fleeeeeeeeeeeeex 💪

I try a lot of things, and fail plenty, but there’s one skill I have in spades, and that is persistence. I am a determined little squirrel. Sometimes I have to put a project down for awhile, and stamp my feet in petty frustration, or cry an ugly cry, or take a lap. (Red squirrels aren’t really chattering at you in the woods, they’re just muttering to themselves about a carpentry project gone wrong.) Of all the skills, the ability to try again — that’s the one to hone. Fail often, just don’t give up easy. 🐿️❤️

Have a good rest of your week folks! ✨

~Kate

Categories
flora gardening homestead

Where there’s smoke

Wrestling with wild grape vine, trying to corral it for fall’s jelly harvest, I’m suddenly surrounded by smoke. I freeze, but my brain can’t work out where the smoke is coming from. Unexpected fires are usually from neighbours burning garbage, but unless I’ve forgotten again, it’s not garbage day. And those fires generally make smells not smoke anyway. This smoke is doubly strange — forming low-hanging yellow clouds that are now billowing lazily towards the driveway. I move again, and even more smoke joins this curious yellow fog, and finally my brain solves the puzzle. It forgot to remember where I’m standing — under the juniper trees, their branches so thickly slathered with pollen that the whole tree is the colour of creamy mustard. As I flail the spent vines over my head, I’m knocking the pollen from the tree behind my back, and it is agreeably taking flight in great plumes on the spring breeze. Later, I see a red squirrel do the same thing as me. She’s not tending grape vines, but leaping through the copse of cedars with the sort of gravity-bending abandon only a squirrel understands. She lands at the tip of a branch, and the tree bounces heavily under her four soft red paws. She’s suddenly invisible behind a curtain of exploding pollen. *Poof* and abracadabra, she makes herself disappear.

Hope you’re having a good week folks. Between the big magic of the eclipse, and the daily wonders too. 🌲💛

~Kate

Categories
D-I-Why Not flora inspiration thinking big

This Way and That

Spoiler: It’s Swedish for “That Way”… 🙂

I finally made my first sign for the woods. From a scrap of cedar milled by a friend, and some paint made from linseed+graphite. It’s in Swedish. Whatever else you know about me, you probably know that I am not Swedish, do not speak Swedish, and have never been to Sweden.

But in a sincere effort at “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I based this sign on one found in the forest of Maria “Vildhjärta” Westerberg. I recently watched a film about Maria, and her attempt to rewild and replenish her bark-beetle afflicted spruce woods. Made monoculture by her grandfather, for the immediate gains of her mother’s generation…

“…And now comes the bill, to my generation and to the younger ones…”

The planet is tiny and the problems are shared. We see much of the same devastation here in Canada’s woods. Where the skin of many different trees blisters and weeps. Where so many of the ash, their branches like the tines of a fork, stand tall and bold and dead.

“They were supposed to live long after I have died, and they all started to die before me”

Fortunately, there is a lot of life in a dead tree. As both habitat and nursery. But, as I see it, only, only if we finally learn the lesson of diversity. When a forest is rich in species, it is rich in possibilities and resilience. Where oak and basswood and hop-hornbeam and hickory mingle, and cedars cultivate the edges, and young birch stand in the duff on the slope, until they fall and are replaced by the young maple who were waiting at their feet. Then, though many trees might die, the forest may yet survive.

Our forest is only about 75 years old, and I hope just beginning its life. It has been spared until now because of its difficulty to harvest, its terrain, its distance from roads. It has been protected by that most burly bodyguard — inconvenience. But these temporary injunctions do not protect it against the extreme and erratic weather of climate change, or from those insects imported accidentally, who stow away alongside the cheap goods that we must have at all costs. And so we witness and watch as too many of the trees here die too quickly too.

“I cried all the time…”

But action is a great balm for pain. So each year, we pull up DSV and prune away buckthorn. And in the disturbed spaces, along the edges and where holes have been punched through the forest, we plant more baby trees. Add more possible futures. A diverse forest is a far better forest manager than we are of course, and well-suited seeds will find their own way to fertile openings. But from time to time, we dig in a little hope too.

“After my 100th planted tree, I had stopped crying, because I was so tired physically.”

If you do nothing, despair is guaranteed. If you do something, you crack the door open, and hope might be able to find a way in.

“…At my 800th tree, I started to feel some kind of strength and hope. And I was eager to wake up in the morning…”

I highly recommend the film, “Rewilding a Forest” by Campfire Stories.

Happy Friday everyone 🌳

~Kate

Categories
homestead thinking big

Chainsaws + Birdsong

Hot Take: You don’t have to like NOISE to use a chainsaw.

You can, but you don’t have to.

I hate the sound of most chainsaws. Though they can be used thoughtfully and productively, there is still an abundance of destructive macho BS around them. And that’s just… bleh.

But I do own and use a chainsaw. And I recently took a practical course on how to maintain and run chainsaws safely. Short version: RTFM.

My chainsaw is 16” — and electric. Even while she’s running, you could carry on a conversation. Between cuts, I can hear birdsong.

…I will always choose birdsong.

She’s plenty powerful, and has never been defeated in a task. We get tired before the batteries do. Even if your chainsaw doesn’t go VROOM VROOM, and you never cut down a really big tree if you don’t need to, and your fuel doesn’t take millions of years to produce, you’re still doing a great job. And whether it’s powered by gas or electricity, there are still only two right ways to use a chainsaw: safely and thoughtfully.

(Similarly, whether gas or electric, there is no port that requires insertion of a fleshy male peripheral to operate a chainsaw. So long as you have two arms and a working brain, you’re golden.)

If you want to operate a chainsaw with thought and care and respect for the whole of the forest, you can stand alongside me any day.

…Except not literally of course, cuz we’re operating chainsaws here. You take that path and I’ll work on this one. But we can meet up later for sandwiches.

And listen to the birds.

//
📸: A note on the photo — I wear All The Gear All The Time when operating a chainsaw. Hard hat, eye protection, steel toes, chaps, etc etc. I had this chainsaw out to clean and sharpen it. It has no battery inside. Electric FTW.

Categories
D-I-Why Not technology

Open Source

“You have to cultivate fearlessness.”

~Vandana Shiva

Let’s talk about cucumbers… and software.

When we deliver software to a client, it’s often as something called a binary. That’s the cucumber. The finished product.

Many software companies these days don’t share the seeds along with the cucumber. The fruit is sterile. It comes with no viable means of making another, no source code. That’s closed source software. If you want another cucumber, you have to go back to the company you bought it from — and be charged whatever and however they like for the privilege.

Or you can stop eating cucumbers. Your choice.

When we create software under an open source license, we give you the cucumber — and the seeds. Plant them in your garden, or a neighbour’s. Grow as many as you like.

There is one condition. Some fine print…

You have to keep passing the seeds along.

“Seeds, especially of food and other useful plants, should be taken care of by the people. They are too precious for all of them to be placed under the exclusive control of the few. The more hands that hold them, the safer they will be.”

~Jude and Michel Fanton, The Seed Savers’ Network, Australia

An open source approach recognizes that we are contributors, that our work has value, but also that we are neither the beginning nor the end of the line. We’re inheritors of the work that preceded us, and we want to be good ancestors for the work that comes after. It also recognizes how much our modern world relies on software, and how crucial that it stay open to scrutiny.

To produce good food — or good code — reliably, takes experience and skill. (Both disciplines, for instance, require a good working knowledge of bugs.) And so, many people will choose to have us grow their cucumbers. Just because you have the seeds, doesn’t mean you’ll plant them. But it means that if you needed to, you could. Or your neighbour could, or your children can.

Some problems are perennial, and I don’t know which future will take root. I have very little say in that. But I do live here in the present, where all today’s tomorrows are sown. So I can choose which tomorrows I’ll cultivate. Which future’s seeds to sow.

“It all comes back to gardening.”

~Vandana Shiva
Categories
chickens homestead

Backyard Chickens

On my first night keeping chickens, I sat by my new coop and watched in horror as one red hen methodically ripped out, and then ate, the downy butt feathers of a small white one. The white chicken made an upset little squeak each time.

That was 7 years ago. I’ll spoil my own story and let you know now that both chickens went on to live happy, and fully-feathered, lives.

The little white chicken was SooZee the Silkie. The other was LBJ. Christened that evening, and short for “Little Bully Jerkface”.

A chicken rental service had dropped off the coop, supplies, and four hens. It was everything I needed to keep chickens, except experience.

Beyond fresh eggs, I didn’t have many expectations about chicken keeping. I’d thought about some big questions, living as I do alongside fox and raptors. But I can safely say I hadn’t considered the challenge of “light cannibalism”.

Chickens are a poster-animal these days for living a more self-sustaining life. But there isn’t, perhaps, enough time and space given to the thicker, 3D, questions around them. So many new backyard chicken folks are underprepared. Asked mostly to consider which breeds they find cutest, which colour eggs prettiest. (A: Mutts and green.)

Those are fun questions, but they don’t prepare a person for life with a flock of vicious-but-vulnerable dinosaurs. How to decide whether to keep hens who don’t lay. To handle health and illness, from mites to bumblefoot to avian flu. To prepare for free range birds being predated and killed. Or know what to do when hens are left alive, but mortally wounded.

The answers to complex questions like these are likely to change with experience. But if we don’t start with good questions, we’re stuffed for finding good answers.

As for LBJ, I read up on feather-eating. I learned LB, a red sex link, might be bred to generate eggs faster than her body could handle. I supplemented her feed with bugs. The feather-eating stopped. And LB became my landscaping pal, always keen to help check a pile of dirt. There’s nothing she loved more than tree-planting day.

I started out not knowing much, and now I know a little more. One thing I know for sure though — LBJ was a good egg.

Categories
poetry

Wild Geese