baking D-I-Why Not homeMADE

Snow (Pan)cake 2023

Our first proper snowfall here this morning, and you know what that means — it’s SNOW CAKE DAY!

❄️👩‍🍳: A longstanding tradition in my family — the day of the first real snowfall, when the ground first snuggles under a full blanket of snow, you bake a “snow cake”.

🎂⚗️: A snow cake doesn’t require a particular recipe. Any white cake with white icing, made to celebrate the first snowfall, will do. A specific cake is not the assignment. The icing can be slapdash or meticulous, whatever you like. The project of snow cake-ing is just about taking time to notice and enjoy the season. If you’re like me, and run around the house calling out “it snowed it snowed it snowed!”, you may already be a fan of winter. And if you’re not, well, eating a fresh piece of cake might just take the edge off. 😉

🎂🎂🎂: I’ve made so many snow cakes over the years, all different shapes and sizes. Decades of them. Vegan, layered, single cupcakes, you name it. Since neither of us is doing great with gluten at the moment, this year I made gluten-free snow pan-cakes: fluffy gf pancake mix topped with simple icing sugar icing, finished with the best sprinkles (<-fight me).

🎂🍩: And… it might be my favourite snow cake yet. It tastes like a donut. 🤯 But without losing valuable icing real estate to the hole. I shall call it… The snow-nut.

Wishing you a beautiful wintery day folks!
🎂🔗: If you’d like a tried-and-true snow cake + icing recipe, you are welcome to use mine, posted here.


birbs D-I-Why Not homeMADE

3D Cornstarch

Compost-aments! 🐦♻️

Ornaments made with just cornstarch, baking soda, water, and… a 3D printer? 😉

🐦🔧: Everyone and their brother sent me Woodlark‘s cornstarch ornaments — and I’m glad they did! 😂 Beautiful DIY ornaments made from the pantry?? Count me in! But instead of making a star garland, I fancied bird ornaments. Only trouble is I didn’t actually have bird-shaped cutters…


🐦🧠: I like to say Maker’s Dozen’s favourite place to work are the places where art+tech+nature intersect. There’s nothing I like more than smooshing different parts of my brain together… Sooo let’s do this!

🐦📝: I started by drawing a few bird silhouettes in Affinity Designer*, imported them as SVGs to Tinkercad, did some tinkering and extruding to make them 3D cutters, then exported them as STLs for my Prusa to slice, dice, and print. Perfect! Time to make some cornstarch birds!

🐦👩‍💻: Bonus — My office is far from the woodstove, but the dehydrator lives in here, and running it makes the room nice and toasty. So instead of baking the cut ornament shapes in the oven, I dried them in the dehydrator. Whipping up a nice batch of ornaments, while also keeping your computing fingers good and toasty — win-win!

🛒📏: I love working with raw materials that are solid enough to be real, but ephemeral enough to go back to the earth when their time is through. And to let my brain cross-pollinate between what can be computed, grown, baked or built. It makes sense the lines between all these endeavours are more porous than they first appear. After all — as maker Felix Schelhasse once so beautifully put it — the kitchen is actually just a workshop for groceries.

Have a good one folks!

*I left Adobe in favour of Affinity a few years ago. Subscription model software is often unnecessary, frequently insidious, and rarely in the customer’s best interests. Fortunately solid alternatives are still out there, if you look for them. 👍

D-I-Why Not homeMADE repair

Re-duce, re-use, re-fill it with chocolate

Upcycled-recycled chocolate calendar adventure! 🍫
🔎🦌: I love searching for things and finding things. Back in our Toronto apartment, Neil would hide quarters around the house for me to find. Like, the same quarters, over and over. Under books, on my nightstand, around my computer.

He’s a good egg.

🍫🤢: Enter chocolate calendars. I still like them, even now, happily knee-deep in my middle age. So I still get them for myself. I like searching for each day’s number. Although because of the middle age thing, I am *much* less tolerant of calendars containing terrible chocolate. (As a child, I didn’t believe such a thing existed…).

🍫⛽: Last year I got a calendar that was really and truly awful. The graphics were great, the ethics were there, but the “chocolate” was like nibbling a candle. A cheap one made from oil industry effluent. Pass.

What it had going for it though was great little shapes. So I saved the box and insert, thinking perhaps this year I could give DIY a go…

🍫🛠: Fast forward to last weekend, when I made simple coconut oil chocolates and froze them in the tray. And… success! Ingredients in the photo below: equal parts coconut oil+cocoa powder, plus some sweetener (homemade maple syrup), and good salt — mislabeled here as “vinegar dill pickles”. The cabbage was just also there.

🍫🧙‍♂️: So the calendar of daily disappointment has been remade as one of daily DIY joy, filled with yummy little homemade chocolates.

📝: Improvement recs welcome! I hadn’t made these chocolates before. And while they *taste* delicious, I got some unexpected clumpage and separation in the cocoa powder/coconut oil. Perhaps because my cocoa is dutch processed? Anyone who knows more than me about chocolate (so pretty much everyone), please send me your tips for next year 👍👍

There are some things we should probably leave behind in childhood. Pettyness, selfishness, hitting people when you’re angry… But I submit that if you left things behind that once brought you joy, well, go look for them again. I bet they’re still there waiting for you.

Have a great one folks! ♻️


D-I-Why Not gardening homeMADE homestead

Unwrapping the greenhouse experiment

Well that’s a wrap — maybe unwrap? — on the Great Car Tent Greenhouse Experiment 👍
🎪✨: The verdict is 8/10, would-do-again. We had an excellent year (for us) in green peppers and eggplants. Chiles and jalapeños did well. And an unexpected bonus of two pawpaw seeds germinated in there! Those are now planted on the hillside, with chicken wire protection against the wild roving rabbits of winter…

🌱🥉: The tomatoes did meh, though I’m not sure why. We got fewer in the greenhouse than from the much shadier raised beds. The lemongrass was fine but not riotous. The carrots hated it. The basil was content and industrious.

🌱✨: I try to be like that basil. These efforts are not about being perfect. Or self-sufficient. I don’t think either of those things really exist. Like it or not, we’re all tied to each other to survive. So it’s not about off-grid, but a better grid. Fewer trips to the grocery store for world-weary produce and packaging. More trips to a farmer, or the garden.

💚♻️: And to do my part in that grid, I figure I have to try and pitch in with what I’ve got. Which means trying and learning and failing and trying again.

🍓❄️: When I’m in the garden in the summer, it’s hard not to just stare at everything going “wrong”. Seeds that don’t sprout, produce that doesn’t produce. I had loads of failures this year, as always. From peas to beans to lettuce to carrots. Some even resown so I could fail twice (or more) in one year. Fail fail fail fail.

🐿️🌰: And yet…here we are. Heading into winter with a freezer partially stocked with our own fruits (mulberries + raspberries) and veg (beans, beets, green peppers, tomatoes). And other goodies literally draped around the place. Chile pepper garland, braids of garlic. A little pile of potatoes. Willow dried for Abbie. Teas and herbs for us. Seeds.

And a whole growing season of trying and learning under our belts, with more ideas germinating for next year.

🐿️🔥:I think those ideas need to be cold stratified though, so I’m gearing up to wind down with some glorious hibernation, nestled by the fire till spring.

Have a great weekend folks!


D-I-Why Not homeMADE

Bunnies all the way down

Bunny from bunny! It’s rabbits all the way down 🐇♻️🐇
🐇🧶: This bunny is needlefelted with homegrown angora fur, courtesy our rescue rabbit, Abbie. The chilly temperature declared an end to my maintenance work on our log home for the year. So I celebrated with a bit of impromptu fireside felting, to kick off these long dark crafty nights.

🐇🔥: I love all the critters we live alongside, but I’m probably *in* love with Abbie. Which is probably why we’ve persevered in caring for an *angora* rabbit who *doesn’t like to be groomed*. (Two different vets described her as “…spirited”. That’s my girl.)

🐇🌿: Not grooming isn’t an option for an animal who will, y’know, die if you don’t do it. (That isn’t hyperbole either. See ‘wool block’.) But we have a system now that Abbie finds acceptable. It involves two adult humans with soothing/fast hands (me) and steady/sure hands (Neil), plus yummy dried willow leaves as a thank you snack.

So Abbie stays healthy, and I have bags of her wooly extras. Some of which we donate to the birds for nest building, some we use in the gardens, some for felted bun-ception fun.

🌿🧪: And fun with invasive species too. The pink used for the ears and nose — technically known on a bunny as the ‘floppity-loppities’ and the ‘wigglesniffer’, respectively — is wool dyed with fermented buckthorn bark.

🐇☁️: I felted the body quite firm, but then added a topcoat of floof. Next time around, I think I might go full floof. It’s the Abbie way.

Have a great week folks!


D-I-Why Not homeMADE technology

Automata: The Scrappy Flying Machine

The scrappy flying machine! 🐦🛠️

🛠️💔: I first posted about this automata in August. When, after months of 5 mins here and half an hour there, it was nearly complete. All I had left to do was glue the handle to the axle… And then the handle broke, along with the axle.

And I asked myself the question that makes or breaks many projects: “Am I looking for an excuse to stop, or a way to keep going?”

🤕♥️: I gathered up the broken pieces — of both me and the automata — and got to work on it again the next day. Because my heart wanted so bad to build this beautiful little frankenbird…

🐦⏳: I still needed to fit this project into the corners of my day, so in one 5 minute block, I cut off the broken handle. In another, I drilled out the broken axel. In another, I started shaving down a replacement… etc etc until a week or so later I glued the new handle onto the new axel onto the old gear and… LIFT OFF!

🐦♻️: It’s the details of this automata I’m most proud of. Because it is scrappy in materials as well as spirit (I like to think it takes after its mom…). It’s made from buckthorn branches, and broken cedar coathangers, and a glue-damaged board, and offcuts, and offcuts of offcuts. The gears are handcut. I bought the screws and washers, but everything else is found, foraged, and upcycled.

🐦✈️: I’ve been wanting to share it in motion for awhile now. It’s got quite the wingspan though, and I couldn’t work out how to film it. But when I came in from chores today I realized the stepladder I was carrying might be a serviceable tripod, if I propped my phone against my hat, and cleared the sunscreen and chicken treats off the front hall table… Success 🙂

🐦💪: I’m super proud of how these scraps of time and wood alchemized into more than the sum of their parts, and built the stuff my dreams are made of.

🐦💡: So I guess my lesson to myself is don’t give up on your dreams when they break. You never know… in the end, they might still fly.

Have a great one folks!
Automata design and instruction by Eduardo Salzane.


homeMADE wild inklings

Painting With Plants Workshop

I do a lot of prep for workshops, so that the day isn’t compromised by something I could have planned for and didn’t. But every single workshop I am taken completely by surprise…

💚✨: Not by running out of paper or not having enough X, Y, Z — that’s the stuff I can see coming and prepare for. But I’m blindsided every time by the absolute joy of sharing raw materials and my experience-so-far with other people, and then watching their own diverse lives and creativity explode all over it!

🌱✨: I love handing a medievalist(?!) a pen I whittled from sumac and watch him illuminate his ‘scrap’ paper. I want to know more about Marigold the cat, and I love seeing someone take buckthorn green and wild grape purple and paint aliens 😂 I can’t hold in my delight at seeing a dozen owls and turtles painted a dozen different ways. From psychedelic to realistic and everything in between. I am chuffed to be told by an actual entomologist that I’m not butchering my aphid story. I’m stoked to be the site of a mother-daughter outing. I want to learn more about the healing powers of plants, and the food forests-in-progress, and what the talented block printers and natural dyers are up to. I’m jealous of that badass vest printed with squirrels and owls, and I’m honoured by the former summer students who wanted to volunteer their Saturday just because they thought this sounded cool.

🏞️✨: Thank you to @lowertrentconservation for hosting this ‘Painting With Plants’ workshop (with a special thank you to Nicholas and Ewa!), and to every single participant for making it as lovely as it was — and supporting beautiful places like Seymour in the process!

See you next time! 💚✒️🌱

foraging homeMADE wild inklings

Wild Inks

✒️🌱: Testing and bottling wild inks to bring to Saturday’s workshop. This is the scrap paper I put down to protect the counter and do quick checks. Isn’t it pretty??

Every splotch and blotch on this paper came from a plant, and can be made at home. From wild grapes and acorn caps and chokecherry berries and…

Some of these colours last longer and truer on the page than others. But what makes them beautiful isn’t limited to how they look on paper.

🐾🌱: Using wild inks reminds me of tracking animals in the winter. When I come across the tracks of a coyote or a bunny, it’s like hearing their echo. Like they’re there. And when I open a bottle of ink I made from a plant, I see sumac’s red panicle in winter and the sphinx moth I met on the grapevine.

🐞⏳: In searching for colour, I learn about the galls of aphids who have been living between sumac and moss for over *48 million* years. How to whittle invasive honeysuckle into a pen. How to find the pinks hidden in avocado stones and buckthorn bark. It’s adventures inside of adventures.

Wild inks are a little more… wild than what you’ll find in the store. A little less vanilla. They’re wilful and ephemeral and full of surprises. And that’s okay. I’m here for the ride. Besides, nothing gold can stay — though that wild grape purple lasts a good long time. 😉

Have a great week folks! 💜


D-I-Why Not flora foraging homeMADE news + announcements wild inklings

Painting with Plants Workshop

Join us Saturday September 30th to Paint with Plants at the Seymour Conservation Area!

🌱🎨: Discover the world of wild inks. Learn about foraging for colour, unlocking the secret pigments of plants and, best of all, make your own “Wild Inkling” art to take home! Together we’ll explore the world of pinks, yellows, greens, browns, blacks, and purples hiding in plain sight.

🌳👍: This workshop is hosted by and in collaboration with Lower Trent Conservation, so in addition to making cool art with plants, your registration supports our local conservation areas. Double win!

(Also I saw turtles basking in the quarry right beside the workshop site, sooo…. triple win!)

🔗: Link to register through Lower Trent Conservation is here. Hope to see you there!
Covid Notes: The workshop will be held entirely outdoors, based in the picnic shelter. Registration is limited.
🌈🎥: Interested in making ink but can’t attend? The Colour of Ink featuring Jason S. Logan (Toronto Ink Company) — author of the incomparable ‘Make Ink’ — is now available to watch free online here.


foraging homeMADE homestead wild inklings

Checking the Jelly Snares

I made wild grape jelly for the first time a few years ago. Y’know how when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail? Well once you’ve enjoyed homemade wild grape jelly, everywhere looks like a place to grow wild grapes… Old display stand? You could grape that. Extra bit of fencing? You could grape that.

🍇🌳: We haven’t planted any grapes here. They were here before us and they’ll probably be here after. Wild grapes are all over Ontario. Once you start looking for them you see them everywhere.

🧗‍♀️🍇: But we’ve set up a few places here to encourage wild grape to bear fruit in spots we can actually get to. Grape likes to climb, so sometimes it runs right up to the top of a tree. Where it dangles my jelly dreams out of reach. Look up, way up, and I’ll call Rusty… and tell him we’re out of jelly.

🍇🚧: But grape also likes to move side-to-side along a nice fenceline. So a couple of years ago when we installed a new fence, we also coaxed the grape growing nearby onto its wires. I checked it today to find it is very happy in its new home! Grapes on grapes on grapes. Enough for both us and the wild critters to snack on. Jelly is back on the menu boys!

🍇=🥒✒️🧵: In honesty the jelly is mostly for Neil, but I use wild grape to make a couple of other things here too. The leaves are perfect to pop in fermenting pickles, and I use the berries to make ink, and the vine to make drawing charcoal. In a pinch, I’ve used the vine as twine.

🍇☠️: A word of caution — wild grape is all over Ontario roadsides, but so are pesticides and poisons. Many cities (including ours) spray their roadsides, so be very very picky about where you forage wild foods. Toxic lookalikes like Canadian moonseed also exist. There’s no shame in enjoying a nice homemade strawberry jam on toast if you don’t feel you can forage safely. Strawberry jam is delicious.

Hope you’re having a grape week folks! 💜