First Day of School

Spring is when school starts around Prairie Bench. We live on an ecological reserve, so May is a very busy month. Not only are we rushing to get all of our seedlings in the ground, we are also mindful of school crossings… like the old footbridge, the meadow entrance, and the forest trails.

Blacktail fawn follows Momma doe into the forest trails.
Momma Black Bear leads cub into forest trails.

The bears actually arrive first and move into the forest trails and the deer follow about ten minutes later. In the afternoon, they return in the same order. All the animals are very respectful and share the meadow together. The momma bear is teaching her cub to avoid us humans, and we encourage the distance so the cub grows up safe with no human interaction. The deer, however, are more curious and know us very well, often watching us work in the gardens. Sometimes the deer will leave the young fawns with us like we are on-call babysitters. They run around and try to get us to play hide and seek. Once, one of our designers took the bait and followed three young deer down a trail. They hopped over an object and stood behind it, teasing the human. The object they jumped over was a sleeping bear. Very funny, but no chance the human was going to follow.

Momma playing with cub.
Cub is being schooled to be wary of humans and to watch at a distance.

So much to learn… like the fact dandelions tickle the nose.

Old Wicker Fence

Deep in a thicket of Western Spirea and blackberry bushes we found an old wicker fence made of spirea. Local birds feed off the millet sized seeds of the spirea and the berries in the brambles. The thicket provides a good nesting ground and the brambles offer security. The fence was likely created to protect a garden from deer on three sides and the brambles protected the other.

The spirea twigs are pliable and dry into sturdy sticks. They are easily woven when cut fresh. We’ll preserve the site and leave it as we found it. We did find some oregano, mint, and a few wild potatoes.

The old wicker fence is a mystery deep in the thicket.

Wood Ducks

A glimpse of the local feathered visitors in the pond out back: Wood ducks and Golden Eyes. (We’ll update the page with some pictures of Mallards when they show up.)

Spring is rolling around and a lot of the creations (made of actual wood) we’ve been putting off for better weather can get hauled outside an designed into interesting furniture.

A glimpse into one of the old hazelnut orchards onsite. We’ll thin and trim while leaving nesting areas and turn some of that tough hazelnut into chairs and thrones.

The Owl

This barred owl has prowled the local farms from dusk to dawn and occasionally stops in for visits. We believe this is a young owl by its curiosity and its tidy, short feathers. An older barred owl also visits and looks a little tired and ragged at the tips. The older owl has grander feather cones around the eyes.

An older barred owl watches from above.



The owl is not shy and will sit if you approach calmly and talk to it. The behavior resembles a cat. This owl grooms, preens, and observes our activity. The body size is approximately 40 cm. The talons are very intimidating.


The owl moves about the hazelnuts and is often in a tree that over hangs a small foot bridge. This is a good spot to watch activity on both banks.

Inspired by our visitor, a simple drawing was created to show the calm presence of the owl in its natural habitat. A ‘live edge’ border gives outline to a scene. The drawing was created as an inverse for printing on ‘night’ backgrounds, and as a positive for printing on ‘day’ backgrounds.


We are printing several versions of the owl in ‘day’ and ‘night’ designs. Full sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, and more. We’ll make them available soon! Click here and check out Prairie Bench Fashion….

If you are interested in our original design of the barred owl on a shirt, let us know. will also provide t-shirts to help support local animal rescue.

Revisiting the Garden Gnome House

The garden gnome house was carved out of a solid poplar log that fell during a windstorm. Poplar is not the best wood for carving — it splits and rots easy — but it was big, free, and delivered from the sky in our backyard.

The garden gnomes have their house in a raspberry patch with a waterfall flowing just below the winding staircase.

A Stihl MS261c with the factory bar was used. That’s a mid-sized saw that idles well so the chain can chew slowly without too much gas. This allows for more detail work without revving the saw to high speed. The smaller bar on a MS170 was used to notch out the stairs. See more here…


So how did it do after a year in the sun, wind, rain, and snow? Not too bad considering it had two litres of linseed oil dumped on it. There was some cracking and a polyurethane glue was injected into the deepest splits. The wood was also stained anywhere water collected. Time for another coat of clear sealer or linseed oil as winter approaches.