homeMADE tracks & scat


I found a pretty perfect coyote paw print in the mud yesterday, and thought I’d have a go at casting it!

2 parts plaster of paris mixed with one part water. I cut the bottom off a plastic ricotta pot to use as a retaining wall for the plaster goop. Carefully poured in the plaster mix, and left it to solidify for 24 hours. I returned this morning to find well preserved wild canid toe beans! I think I’ll mount it by the front door so I can hi-five a coyote whenever I leave the house…

FOX, DOG or COYOTE — How can you tell?

Here are 3 tips to help tell whether a single print belongs to a wild canid (fox/coyote) or a domestic dog. (NB There are exceptions to every rule, hence my liberal use of the word “tend”… 😉 )

1 — 🌕🥚 Round vs Oval. Domestic dog prints tend to have a round shape overall, with toes more splayed out. Wild canid toes tend to all point forward, and the overall shape is more oval.

2 — 🗡️🥄Claws. Wild canids tend to have sharper, pointier claws than domestic dogs. They spend less time walking on hard surfaces like pavement and floors.

3 — ✖️🐾 The X Factor. In a wild canid track, because of how the various pads relate to each other, there tends to be an ‘X’ shape through the middle of the print. See if you could draw an X through the print, and not touch any pads.

My ID: I believe this track is the front paw of an eastern coyote. The dimensions are bang on for a coyote’s front paw, ~2.75″x2.5″. Fox would be a little smaller, closer to 2″, even allowing for fuzzy mud measurements, and it lacks the callus ridge I’d expect to see at least a hint of in a clear fox print. Let me know if your eyes see otherwise, and you have a different ID!

I’m really chuffed with how well this first attempt at casting went. You betcha I’ll be trying this again!

Have a great weekend folks! Don’t forget to set aside some time to play in the mud.



Meet Isaac “Figgy” Newton

April showers bring the juvenile stage of small semi-aquatic salamanders!

I went out this morning to plant some trees, and encountered this vibrant little gummy worm basking in the rain. It’s a red eft, the teenager form of an Eastern Newt. They wander around on land sporting this splashy spotted look for a couple of years, before slipping into a pond and taking their final olive-green form.

I sat in the rain and watched it for awhile. They move like a mix between tired rock climbers and those wooden ducks you push around with slappy leather feet. And for a delightful split second, I saw its wee little tongue! It appeared to be licking a raindrop off the stem of a leaf. Which, btw, broke my brain. Or at least its cuteness gauge. Some beautiful things happen on bright sunny days, but some of them wait for the rains.

Hope you’re keeping a nice mix of warm and dry and enjoying the delights of a good puddle, getting muddy, and unexpected spring encounters!

Have a great week folks!


insects and arachnids wild inklings

Wolf Spider Spring

“Wolfie the Spider” here is painted with homemade inks from the woods and the kitchen: wild grapevine charcoal, saffron bits, oak galls, soot, buckthorn bark, beet skins. Fine lines are detailed with a quill pen made from a wild turkey feather. Find more wild ink art here.

The first signs of spring here flash by like ghosts. A chipmunk dashing from the deck to the feeder. A couple of crows snacking on sumac. An eastern comma butterfly perched on a post to warm its wings.

And then the drips of spring come quicker and closer together. The first turkey vulture, the first sap in the bucket. Buds on the poplars. The first crocus. And then one day the sap is yellow and full of bugs and the driveway is more mud than ice and the sun is stronger and the green has returned.

And in that mix is one of my favourite sounds of early spring: the purring of the wolf spiders.

Sitting on a rock, I hear the dry leaves pulsing around me. Purr purr, purr purr. It’s a love song played by vibration. To woo potential mates, male wolf spiders drum on the dry leaves with their pedipalps. Singing with their feet, hoping a lady wolf spider digs their vibe and decides to make little wolf spider pups with them.

🏃‍♀️💨🕷️: I recognize spiders are not everyone’s cup of tea. They weren’t always mine. When I was little, I was terrified of them. I remember when it began. My parents were sweeping out the garage, and I was holding the dustpan. I can see it — the large spider running for its life ahead of the broom. Ahead of the broom, over the edge of the dustpan, up the handle, up my arm, into my shirt.

I shook for an hour after it was gone.

🕷️❤️🏃‍♀️: But that was then and this is now. If I was about to be swept up, I’d run for my life and into the nearest sleevehole too. We fear what we don’t know, and I have gotten to know spiders. We are now good friends, and a spring afternoon spent with wolf spiders is spent in excellent company.

Happy Spring!



For more on purring wolf spiders, I recommend Listen to the Dulcet Purr of the Wolf Spider (Smithsonian Magazine)

A short video from our woods:

D-I-Why Not flora gardening homestead

TPS Report: True Potato Seed

🥔Tuber-u-lar experiment! My favourite flower might be the potato. Before we grew some of our own potatoes here, I’d never seen a potato flower. And maybe it’s because I find them so enchanting that I leave them be, and enjoy them as long as I can. And maybe it’s because I leave them as long as I can, that last year, one potato plant formed an extra surprise: a potato berry!!

The little green “berry” is the fruit of the potato plant. And since it’s not really how we grow potatoes anymore (by planting the tubers, we grow clones of plants instead), and is at least a little toxic to eat, it doesn’t get much fanfare or cultivation.

🐝: But if the weather is just right, and the variety isn’t sterile, and if you have some bumblerbees around, your pretty pretty potato blossoms might get pollinated, and you might end up with a potato fruit!

And if you’re the curious type (🙋), you might just wait patiently until that little green fruit is ripe, and lurk around your potato plant checking until the day it drops to the soil. And then maybe you lovingly scoop it up, and pop it in a little container to dry out and you put a wee “potato!” label on it. And all winter you walk past it on a shelf. And then when you start your seeds in early spring, maybe you crack that now dried up potato berry open. And though you don’t know what you’re doing, and you can’t really tell, maybe, maybe, you see seeds in there?? And you pop the potato berry pieces into soil and cross your fingers and then on THE BEST EARLY SPRING DAY EVER you see li’l baby potato plants!!

It is an awfully long way from sprouts to spuds. So I don’t know if these little potato bebes are going to survive all the way to the garden. But holy potato berries am I excited to try!

❄️🌱: Happy up and down and round and round start to spring folks!
For more info: Since we refer to the tubers we plant as “seed potatoes”, it’s dang hard to google this subject. (Search engines lump “potato seed” and “seed potatoes” as one). If you want to learn more, try potato apples, potato tomatoes or TPS (True Potato Seed). But not “TPS Report”, because you’ll need the right cover sheet for that.


thinking big

Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

A short personal note for context, and then unsolicited advice. After all, unsolicited advice is the meat and potatoes of being a woman. If being a woman came with a slab cake, “You’re doing it wrong” would be finely scribed on the top in festive font. A list of corrections would be iced on every surface, wrap all sides.

First, the personal — Though I am in possession of a fully-functioning uterus, I decided long ago it wasn’t a good idea or necessary that I bring more children into the world. At least not the world in which I find myself, and the world I see coming.

This is probably the decision I’ve made that gets me the most derision, and colourful comments as to my character. Even today, there are many ways of being a woman that seem to be sand in the world’s shorts.

The world makes a pastime of telling women we are either not enough, or too much, or, somehow, both. A trap with snares at both ends. It’s enough to make a person skittish.

So for today, instead of that, here is my anti-advice. “Choose Your Own Adventure” advice. Ready? Let’s go!

🚪🛤️: You don’t have to be a mother, or a wife. You can, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to be strong, neither do you have to be weak. You don’t have to love nature, or science, or philosophy, or art or math or mechanics or history. You can, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to feel a kinship with any particular gender. You don’t have to be close to your family. You don’t have to crave companionship or shun solitude. You don’t have to need help, nor turn away assistance for your achievements to “count”. You don’t have to be mystical or divine or graceful. You don’t have to be pragmatic, magnanimous, conscientious or sweet. You can, but you don’t have to.

And, for any or all of the above, you don’t have to agree with me, as I don’t have to agree with you. But I do hope you will agree with this — that you are enough. Deserving of love and kindness, opportunities and happiness. You’re enough at the end of your journey, the middle, and the beginning. Exactly, exactly as you are.

Happy IWD folks!


D-I-Why Not foraging homeMADE wild inklings

Wild Inklings: 5 years later

This ink sample sheet is now ~5 years old. I made it to test if putting glossy or matte top coats over homemade inks would help preserve their colour (spoiler: nope).

🌳✒️: I made this sampler before I made some of my favourite inks — sumac, oak gall, soot… But it’s proven useful as a tool to see how some inks will age. Some natural inks start out incredibly vibrant, and shift over time to different tones. Buckthorn berries with lye are one — settling from a vibrant green to a mustard yellow. Environment and circumstance play a role too. The wild grape here has settled to more of a rust, while in other paintings I’ve made it’s stayed a bright purple. And that’s fair — I weather a lot faster when left in direct sunlight too.

🎨⌚: It’s a curious reflection and exercise in resilience. The inks will still be there, years later, still present on the page, just not the way they were. Knowing that, though I really enjoy the moments when the colours are vibrant and exciting, I try not to paint around particular hues. (Contrary to Robert Frost, gold is happy to stick around, while nothing green can stay.) So, instead, what’s the crux of a critter? What’s the deeper part that persists, when the superficial stuff goes… squirrelly?

🌱🎉🔄: Making homemade inks also doles out joy over and over. Much more than the intemperate high of a shopping spree. The joy of foraging for the plants, the joy of cooking up their colours, and of exploring their interactions as they run together on the page. Three joys for the price of none. And then the fascination of watching as the created image grows and changes alongside me. It’s not such a bad thing, this evolution and impermanence. Less like a moment lost, more an unfolding adventure.

See the inks in action over on our Wild Inklings page.

Happy March folks!


thinking big

Making Family

Being a maker goes well beyond the workshop, to the thoughtful crafting of culture and community. So with Family Day on Monday, how does a person make “family”?

Make family out of whatever knits you to this world, and holds you together. You can be a family of one. Or, if you like, your family can include critters, or trees, or sunsets. (All three make good listeners and stalwart friends…) Or maybe your family includes a human or two or three or many. A partner, partners, children, wise elders, dear friends… You name it. The possibilities are endless, and none of them are mandatory.

Family is a bespoke creation. And like any good project, it’s a work in progress. It iterates and changes. It gets broken. It gets mended. People now long gone may have built its loving foundation. Or perhaps it had a bad foundation, and you’ve had to start over. That’s alright. How a project looks in the beginning might be quite different from where it ends up. No matter where you start from, creativity, patience, and perseverance may yet yield something beautiful.

With whomever you find care, love, understanding, empathy, and grace… Wherever and however you feel safe, whole, and loved. That’s how to make family.

Have a great long weekend folks!


thinking big

Winter Word: Apricity

Apricity: “the warmth of the sun in winter”

“This word provides us with evidence that even if you come up with a really great word, and tell all of your friends that they should start using it, there is a very small chance that it will catch on. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.”

from Merriam-Webster’s Winter Words

On Saturday morning, I went for a tracking walk with OWA. It was -20 and change, but woodlot folk are hearty folk. A couple of dozen people went tramping around a beautiful property, looking for signs of other critters tramping around.

We were looking at the footprints of a fox skedaddling over a wood pile when the sun suddenly appeared. I don’t always notice the sun’s absence on a cloudy winter day, but I always notice when it re-appears. It doesn’t provide the same blazing heat of a summer sun, but whenever I am enveloped by its brilliant sparkling rays, I am warmed from the inside out.

The time for apricity is passing. I’m certain we’ll have a few more big blasts of snow this year, a lot more treacherous ice, some wintry mix, and at least a couple of surprise storms. But I saw my first robin today, and I’ve been told the sap is already running. Time to tap. I would prefer a longer colder winter, with more time to disrupt invasive cycles, more time for the hibernators to rest. But while we do what we can, it is what it is. For now, I’ll be savouring the last of this year’s winter, while waking my thoughts of the brighter bolder suns that are around the corner.


tracks & scat

Following Fish…ers

❄️⏳: There’s a lot to love about a snowy winter. For one, it gives everybody a superpower — the ability to look back in time.

❄️📝: Because snow’s crisp white pages note every passing. From the stealthiest critter to the tiniest one, in snow, they all leave their mark. Even when their paws or hooves move in total silence, the snow records it. A fisher went this way, a fox went that. Mice scurried back and forth and back and forth and back and forth under this fallen tree. A weasel wandered along the ridge, and a deer did a u-turn.

❄️📚: It all happens before I get there. But snow is a great storyteller, always ready to share its tales. An otherwise quiet walk is enlivened with a cast of dozens, story after story, chapter after chapter.

👃👀🔍: In other seasons, the stories are often written in invisible ink. One day perhaps I will learn how to read the missing moss, smell the earth more thoroughly, notice crushed grasses, follow gentle tracks left in morning dew.

But for now, in the winter, I’ll revel in the bright bold text of these frozen moments. This peak into the recent past. There are still plenty of mysteries — the snow doesn’t do spoilers — but it’s enough to follow some of the plot, meet some of the characters.

It’s storytime. 💙
Wishing you all well in this first chapter of 2023 ❄️


homeMADE news + announcements

Whittle Trees

A few whittle trees, made by this evening’s fire. 🌲
Like many small businesses, we’re overdue for a long winter’s nap.

☀️/🌑: It’s the perfect time of year for rebalance. At winter solstice, when you can drink in whichever your heart needs more — the light or the dark.

🔥/❄️: So we’re off to enjoy firepits and snow banks. Fill our eyes with dazzling ice blues, and listen to the bright loud silence of winter.

💤/🎉: We have wonderful projects we’re excited to share with you in 2023. But before then, we’re putting our devices and ourselves in rest mode. Off and offline. Time to recharge.

Wishing you peace, love, merriment, and a beautiful new year.

~Kate and Neil