D-I-Why Not repair

Thar she blows

Car blower motor, replaced!

Today I changed the blower motor in our car and polished its headlights. Harvested mulberries for jam, picked rose petals to dry, did laundry, and cut wood to build a chicken coop. Some jobs where women have historically been excluded, and some jobs where men have.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

I love to fix things. Though I had pulled out the blower motor once before (to thwart a chipmunk nest in progress), I hadn’t yet replaced one. But the more you repair, the easier it gets, and the more you see the crossovers.

Things are made up of other things, and we humans tend to reuse our ideas. Refilling the spool on a weedwacker is near exactly the same as winding the bobbin on a sewing machine. And a blower motor unplugs from a car just like… well, anything else you plug in. If you have plugged or unplugged anything ever, you’re halfway there!

Grease and solder and thread and metal and wood and seed and wool. Make it from scratch, take it apart, put it back together, love what you love.

Have a great week folks!


D-I-Why Not gardening homestead


Experiment success! Sea of garlic scapes 💚 Three years to first harvest.

🗓️🗓️🗓️: Year one, we graded and prepped the site (microplastics mistake: we tarped, but should have used cardboard). Year two, we removed the tarp (and every little strand of broken down tarp we could find). Then we built a 3′ x 14′ raised bed from offcut hemlock boards. Then Evie (🚙🔋) and I filled and filled and filled the bed. Finally, planting and mulching. And now, year 3 — garlic!

☀️🧛‍♂️: This area gets a lot of sun, the most of anywhere on our property — and is also full of ticks. As in “I’m going out to Tick-ville to check the fence line… and collect a bunch of ticks on my person.” The bucolic beauty of this place comes with stark realities — flaky power, low water — and ticks are an often unseen part of the picture. (Neil has had Lyme disease, and it’s no joke.) Tick checks and tick management inform our rhythms here. So it was A Decision to see if we could make a garden bed work here, where the wild ticks roam.

🤔💭: This area has only a scrappy thin layer of soil, plenty of bunnies, and no water nearby. So we wanted to plant something that could: largely be left unattended; be unappealing to wild critters; thrive in full sun; get by on rain or irregular watering; and, be harvested in short spurts, not continuously over the season. Garlic!

👷‍♀️💧: We plan to build a rain collector out here, and more beds that fit these criteria (Planting suggestions welcome!). But for now we will make giant bangle bracelets with our bountiful scape harvest, and enjoy the fruits, shoots, of our labours.

…After a tick check, of course. 😉

Happy Thursday folks! 🌱


fungi homeMADE

Magic Mushroom

Magic mushroom ✨🍄✨

…As in I asked @hooked.on.hope if she could make me this mushroom, and then as if by magic, she did!!

🍄⭐: Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric, is the fungus of choice for pop culture. It’s the Mario mushroom, the Smurf mushroom, and the mushroom on your emoji keyboard.

🍄📺: It also grows here in Ontario, though it looks a little different than on TV. The variety that grows here has a yellow or orange-red cap, rather than the bright red found further away from the Great Lakes, and in Mario land. See photos below for the Ontari-ari-ari-o kind.

🧶🧡: I find the yellow-orange capped mushrooms at least as beautiful as the red variety, though I’ve never seen them pictured on mushroom posters and paraphernalia. But if you want something beautiful conjured into the world, ask your local maker if she can make your local mushroom. Thanks Mellie!!

🤮☠️: Though opinions vary, I count the Amanita muscaria mushroom as poisonous. Neither fungal nor crocheted versions are safe to eat.

Have a great week folks!



So beautiful for something called “slime mould”

Stemonitis! I want to make a joke about getting tubular with fungus but I can’t *quite* bring myself to do it.

They look like mushrooms who forgot to put their caps on, but Stemonitis is a kind of slime mould. These clusters of cylinders are their sporangia — where the spores form.

Slime mould used to be considered a fungus, but now they’ve all been reclassified outside that Kingdom. Regardless of which kingdom they’re a citizen of, slime moulds are fascinating — “they move and feed like animals” (Barron). They *move*. I highly recommend giving them a Google.

Most descriptions I found call Stemonitis “rusty-brown”. I would describe these ones that way, but many of the Stemonitis I saw looked very purple. It was the purple that caught my eye in the woods. As in, “what the heck are those little purple jobbies??”

This Stemonitis was fruiting on a log that is already well colonized by Chlorociboria aeruginascens (blue-stain fungus). So it’s both a log I love to look at, and a log I don’t look at closely anymore, because I think I know its story. Lesson learned… Again.

Only saw these chaps because I was in the woods looking for nothing, which means I can be distracted by anything, and that’s when I see everything.

Have a great Thursday folks!


wild inklings

Sketchy Pigeon, Full of Gall

Painted with plants — a sketchy pigeon, full of gall.

Sketched this pigeon last night, to try out a new oak gall ink! I’ve been collecting oak galls one and two at a time for a few years now, and decided I had enough to make a batch.

(The story of making the ink is even more colourful than the pigeon, and I’ll pop it up here at some point. Spoiler: At one point a mason jar containing 4 years worth of galls shatters…)

I’m really happy with how the gall ink turned out. I may try reducing some of it further, but as it is now it layers to a nice respectable black. Thanks gall wasps!

This pigeon is a mutt of a few different ideas at once. I wanted to try using my inks for something more stylized and a little looser. So his look is a bit conflicted, but I’m going to take some seed ideas from here and make another. More pigeons to come!

Pigeon is painted with all homemade inks. The inks used here are made from wild grapes, oak galls, grapevine, avocado pits.

Make ink, make art, make everything.

Have a great week folks!



Turtle Power

What a turtle-y awesome day!

A neighbour I don’t know well came by our place this morning for help with a couple of snappers. Apparently she’d noticed our “watch for turtles” sign and our bumper stickers. (It pays to advertise.)

She had one turtle in her pool, and another on her driveway that she thought was about to cross the road. It turns out the crossing turtle was actually laying eggs! Yaaaas!! Later on she had *another* snapper lay eggs elsewhere on her driveway. Word of a good neighborhood spreads quickly…

The pool turtle was a little tricky, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by a willingness to go swimming in your jeans with a pool skimmer… I went on a brief wild turtle chase to the deep end, but in the end I convinced it to get out. (…By lifting it out.)

By wonderful coincidence, we already had an appointment in Peterborough today, so we swung by the magnificent Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre and picked up a couple of nest protectors. Which are now installed over both nests, keeping the eggs safe from diggy little raccoon paws (and mouths).

The neighbours’ kids were amazing of course. Kids just get it. Adults often need help remembering. But kids are like “TURTLES!!” And I’m like “YES!! TURTLES!” Because that is *always* the appropriate reaction to turtles.

Have a wonderful week folks! May we all be lucky enough to see and help many turtles this month. Go team turtle!


gardening technology thinking big

In Seeds As In Software

Some of Maker’s Dozen’s work is in technology. Open source software development. And in open source, you share your source code.

It’s like sharing your recipe. Here, we made you this cake, and here’s how we did it.

It acknowledges the work of the people who came before us, and contributes our work back to the commons, so others can build on it too.

In the early days of computers, this was pretty normal. Most programmers were pretty open about sharing their work with others — so everyone could get the most value from these newfangled machines. But the cancer of proprietary everything has spread so far, that many people don’t even realize the locked in, closed source ideas of technology weren’t always considered normal. Or that open source never went away, and is in fact thriving. (If you are looking at this on an Android phone, you are using open source technology.) That there is a choice. Another way of doing things.

I think about this while I’m in the garden, planting our plants. It’s the ol’ “pull on one thing and find they’re all connected” deal.

Many of our vegetables this year are grown from seeds I saved out of last year’s garden. I love to save and share seeds, to be part of that essential cycle of self-sustenance. But we are miles and miles away from total self-sufficiency, and it’s not really our goal. We can’t grow and save the seeds for everything we plant and eat, even if we wanted to. We don’t have the right conditions here, don’t have the room to isolate plants properly etc etc.

We need others to carry the seeds too. To share back with us. So that there is diversity and abundance and resilience and growth. Plant it, grow it, share it with others. Be a good ancestor.

“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 (Seed Saver’s Network Australia)

Happy Friday folks! Have a great weekend. 🐁🖱️


homestead technology

No power, but not powerless

We lose grid power a lot here. So we’ve learned how to be less powerless about it. The squirrels are all like “hey do you think you have enough dry goods stashed lady?” And I’m like “quit sassing me squirrel! …Are you going to eat that acorn?”

The headlamps are always hung on the hooks with care here… But we also do some things now whenever we know storms, or even high winds, are coming.

Here’s a few of them, in the hopes they might be useful to you too.

  • 💦 Stash water. For drinking and for flushing. My newest trick is to also fill the sink with hot soapy water. Being able to wash a dish during a power outage is wonderful.
  • 🐤 Look after the animals. Baton hatches, fill backup waterers, work out alternate heating solutions. We have options, they don’t.
  • ❄️ Fill a small cooler. Pull essentials we might want out of the fridge and into a cooler with an ice pack.
  • 🧼 Wash dishes — and ourselves if we have time. For dishes, pans that can go on the BBQ or fire especially.
  • 👔 Tie the fridge shut as soon as the power goes. Or put a chair in front of it. Habits are *powerful*! A fridge or freezer can stay cold and foodsafe for ages if left closed. But you throw that under the bus when you go to grab the milk before your brain kicks in…
  • 🔋Charge phones.
  • 🗄️Tidy up. We might be walking around with less or no light. Tripping over that laundry basket you forgot was there is going to suuuck.
  • ☀️Do things that need light while there’s daylight. If the outage was unexpected, that might mean prepping for when it gets dark. But it might be recreation if everything is squared away. Read books while the sun shines.
  • ☕Boil water and put it in a good thermos. There is nothing a cup of tea can’t make a little better.

📝And for next time — make a list of what you’re missing/wish you’d done or have during the outage. You won’t think about how that bathroom has no natural light and could really use a battery powered lamp in it while the power is on, but boy howdy it’ll be top of mind when it’s off.

We hope everyone came through this weekend’s storms and outages safe and sound.



The Freeze Game

Mid-morning on a Saturday, I headed up to the woods for a walk.

Passing Piney, the sole white pine in that part of the woods, I rubbed my fingers in a patch of pine resin dried on his bark. I find the scent intoxicating. I had been having difficulty getting out of my head and properly arriving in the woods, and the smell pops me suddenly and effectively to where I am standing.

I decided to smell the resin for as long as the scent remained, and was happily huffing the pine-tipped tips of my fingers when I saw a large bird flush from the ground, about 10 meters to my left.

I froze, wanting to see it before it spooked further. And focusing my gaze deeper into those trees, I realized it was not a large bird that had lifted from the ground, but the head of a deer. There was a doe to the side of the trail, about 10 meters into the brush. She, like me, had frozen.

A part of me, and I admit it is a large and loud part of me, immediately went to reach for my phone. “Pics or it didn’t happen” has wheedled probably a little too deeply into my brain.

But on this morning, I made a good choice, and left my hands where they were. The moment recorded only by my own devices, rather than the kind I carry around in my pocket.

Now remember I was in the middle of sniffing pine resin on my fingertips when I spotted her, and that is exactly how I froze. I had also just stepped over a rock in the trail, and my feet were in a moment of awkward pigeon-toedness.

And that is the pose I would stay in, until this stalemate broke. “Stillness, in many ways, is the ultimate camouflage.” (~Ray Mears)

It was the deer who broke first. She began tentative small movements. I didn’t react. She made her movements a little bigger. I didn’t react. She bobbed her head owl-like from side-to-side, trying to get a read on the shape she was sure she had seen in motion only a moment before. I didn’t move.

She flicked her white-tail to its alert position, and bounded up the trail. But not the full alarm bound I have seen when deer decide to really hoof it out of harm’s way. A small scale alarm. Just a few meters further up the trail. A little further away from me, and conveniently for me, a little further upwind. The whims of the breeze still protected my scent.

But she wasn’t done with me yet. Though she looked like she might resume browsing, instead she turned towards me again, and, in movements straight out of a cartoon, extended her long neck out and around a tree. Peering at me, as if around a door. I didn’t move. She moved a little further, and did it again. And again. Leaving her body obscured by brush, but extending her neck and head like some North American woodland giraffe.

Unable to get a fix on me — pigeon-toed-finger-sniffing me — she wound her way back the way she had come. Moving even closer to my spot, gingerly, but determined. If she had been a human, her stare would long ago have become rude. Her eyes were fixed on my form.

Somewhere in the recesses of my memory is the idea that if you are trying not to spook an animal, you should take care not to focus your eyes on it. We humans have great peripheral vision, well-tuned to detecting motion. And animals can feel our predatory gaze. The theory passes the gut test — we can feel the eyes of other humans on us, why wouldn’t animals notice the same?

So in addition to maintaining my ridiculous statue pose, I was also trying to ensure that I did not ever return her gaze. I kept my focus diffuse, only allowing my eyes to focus on her very briefly, in the moments she was facing away or largely obscured.

The doe was now quite closeby. Back where she had started, but a few meters closer to me. The head bobbing and staring continued. I didn’t want to cause her stress, but it had only been a few minutes, and I knew our deer-and-human game of cat-and-mouse would be over soon enough.

Moving to my north hadn’t yielded an answer, so now the deer began working her way to my south. She walked slowly a few meters further, now working her way downwind of me. In my current statue position I wasn’t going to be able to see her much longer, as my head was facing to the north and up the trail. So while she was walking behind some trees, I turned my head incrementally south, allowing me to continue to see her as she moved towards the rear of me.

She was now a half dozen meters further south from her starting position. From her starting place, she had gone about 10 meters, north, now back to her starting place, only now a little closer to this strange object. None of that giving her the answers she wanted, she would try a southerly position.

She stopped, and licked her nose. This delighted me! Though I knew it signalled that the jig was about to be up.

In her excellent book On Looking, Alexandra Horowitz describes the olfactory senses of her dog. Dogs keen access to smell-formation that human noses have no access to (though don’t count us out entirely — our nose can tell us a lot!). She describes observing her dog deliberately sneezing and then licking his nose before an adventure in their urban environment:

Sneezing is a dog’s way of clearing everything out of the nose, so the next good stench can be inhaled.

…by licking his nose, he was readying it to catch things to be smelled. You may have noticed that the world outside your door smells brightly new after a rain, when the ground is wet…

Wet air (or noses) allow for better absorption of an odor.”

On Looking, Alexandra Horowitz

This deer, I reckoned, with its similar big wet dark nose, was attempting to do the same. And so she was. Only seconds after she licked and sniffed, she bolted. Tail head high, this time she bounded away with commitment. Downwind, my human stink had inevitably given me away. She may not have encountered many humans before who stood perfectly still with their fingers half up their noses and their toes pressed together, but she wasn’t taking chances. No matter how strange its shape, if it smells like a human, I run.

The whole encounter lasted maybe 5 or 10 minutes, but like so many nature moments, time goes muddy. It becomes alternately fast and elastic or slow and stretchy as treacle. Each detail in high relief.

However many moments passed on the clock, they were each precious to me. We get so few chances at chance encounters. And I am glad that for this moment, I was smart enough to leave my phone in my pocket, and really capture it.


thinking big

A little patch of nowhere

Took the car in for service today. And instead of waiting in a pleather chair beside CP24, I opted to sit outside, in a patch of dandelions by a low wire fence to the highway. You can still find places to be, sometimes, in the cracks of the world. Sometimes you only need be willing to, as the luscious Beau Miles said, look like a d*ckhead.

I am pretty willing to look like a d*ckhead. Not all the time, but most of the time. Whether or not it’s safe to be an outlier — to walk the alleys or sit still in the forgotten spaces — is sometimes out of my hands. It can be dependent on the gender and skin colour and etceteras that are ironed to our identity. But when I can, I try to grab these moments.

The spot outside the dealership looked like a scrub of nothing. One of those patches of grass that is only still grass because it would be too much trouble to pave. But as I stepped closer I saw a giant patch of wild strawberries. With more flowers and nascent fruit than in our whole garden. Then generous trees, just the other side of the fence. And more trees coming up from cut stumps in the fenceline, as though they had simply been coppiced. Three Canada geese fly overhead. Two pigeons conduct their business on top of a truck. A pair of seagulls share a perch at Home Depot with a crow. A patch of phragmites is erupting from under the bumpers of cars for sale. A plant which, turned by the right hand, could be used to thatch a roof. Dandelion that could become cordial or pesto or inks (were it not sprayed) is abundant. A crow carrying a treasure. A red-winged blackbird buzzes so close to my head I feel I could burn my fingers on its vermilion shoulders.

Between and above the din of the highway there are still, incredibly, birds singing. Robins, song sparrows, crows, mourning doves, seagulls. They seem to wait for the transport trucks to pass, and then shout into the tiny spaces, their songs quickly crossing the street.

Ground like this is the very definition of a “disturbed” site, so I think it is quite fair that we don’t feel at peace in them. But the longer I sit, the more it takes shape as a place around me. The sound and fury of the highway becomes white noise, and I can more easily pick out the small movements of the bugs and birds and plants nearby. In its own way, it is quite quiet here. I am left alone with my thoughts and the songbirds.

I am of course complicit, in some of the erasure of real places. I am sitting here because I drive a car. A hybrid car, but a car nonetheless. Made of mined metals and petroleum rubber and built to drive on roads that tear scars across every landscape they touch. There is no ‘us’ and no ‘them’ here. Or if there is, I acknowledge I belong to both.

At eye level, I’m surrounded by concrete and cars and places that have forgotten how to be places. But eye level is only one place to look. Look up. Look down. The ground and the sky often manage to sneak their treasures past the toughest concrete. I prefer when the sights at eye level are more nourishing to drink in. But I’ll take this crack in the world.

Even a nowhere still has a someplace inside it.

Have a wonderful weekend makers.


Recommended reading for looking up and looking down:

Rosemary Mosco’s A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching
Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking
Shawn Micallef’s Stroll
Jason Allen-Paisant’s Thinking With Trees (start with Right Now I’m Standing)