Spilt milk: a monastic lesson for activists

It was during the time I left teaching to make coffins that our Dexter cow had her first calf and began to give milk. For readers just joining, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins. We make our boxes with hand tools and take our inspiration from farmsteads and monasteries through the ages: self-sufficiency, hospitality, and a […]

Spider time & death-positive conferences

These are the days of the large orb weavers at Melleray Farmstead, cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins. At dusk their webs are everywhere stretched across paths and under eaves and in corners. You root for them, except when you find them with your face in the morning. The orb weavers at the tail […]

Monastic hospitality and green burial

Monastic hospitality links firmly with green burial – both things we’re fans of here at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins. What’s the link? Well, we are all guests, we are all just passing. You might say that we are guests passing through this magnificent Earth. Both stewardship (in our context, […]

Late to the toxic burial party

What one Johnny from SC sent me last week makes me feel like a johnny-come-lately. For memory’s sake, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins. Since August 2013, we promote simpler, greener burial options and help families reclaim the power of caring for our own dead. But how about since 2001? Forester and biologist Johnny Stowe sent me […]

What a good death is

A good death, I told a recent client. Your mom died a good death. “Yes, I think so. Thank you,” she said. Death is having a moment in popular culture. (To be clear, death is always having its moment, isn’t it, just not always as a media darling.) So what’s a good death, and is […]

Trundle Coffin Design #2

This update concerns our trundle coffin design. What’s a trundle coffin? A trundle coffin is an elegant and old-school way of being laid to rest. Other adjectives that come to mind: monastic, radical, elemental. For those just joining in, I’ve written about the basics of trundle coffins here. My perfect green burial would involve a […]

Six feet under is too deep

Six feet under is too deep for a green burial. I’ll demonstrate with a recent animal burial from Melleray Farmstead. For those of you just joining in, Melleray Farmstead is the cottage industrial home of Piedmont Pine Coffins. Here in the summer-lush piedmont of central NC, we live off the grid and have animals and […]

Life, a romantic poem

This poem of a young mother’s delight at her baby girl’s beauty comes from the 1920s. What romanticism: Lord Byron done proud! The author is Susannah Brooks Overton, and her daughter, the little girl of the lyrics, is Sarah Frances Overton Partridge. Sarah died in April this year. Her family printed this poem in the bulletin for the memorial service. Thanks […]

Cool Spring Natural Cemetery

At a monastery in Virginia, death is like a cool spring: the Cool Spring Natural Cemetery at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville. Piedmont Pine Coffins and its cottage industrial home, Melleray Farmstead, proclaim to take inspiration, in part, from monks and monasteries. And it’s true! The retreats and visits I’ve made during the course of […]

Green burial cemetery — what is it?

So what is a green burial cemetery? It’s come up in conversation lately because I’ve been asking family members, How do you want to be buried? Trying, as I should, to walk the talk of a green burial advocate — and plan ahead! One relative said he’d prefer to be buried in a green burial cemetery. […]

Pine coffin party planned

Hand tool pro and Popular Woodworking editor Christopher Schwarz is planning a party to build his own coffin. Foresightful of him! He wrote a blog post about it recently. Word on the street is that they’ll use kerf-bending to make the sides of the coffin. Here at Piedmont Pine Coffins, we plan to develop a […]

It’s illegal, plus other green burial myths

Interested in a simple pine box coffin? It’s illegal, goes one of the top green burial myths. Who wants to be a scofflaw for all eternity? We better look into this and find out. For those readers just joining in, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins. At our cottage industrial home, the off-grid Melleray Farmstead in […]

The perfect green burial

I don’t own horses, and I don’t care to. They’re too big and they cost a lot to keep. So why can’t I get them out of my head for the perfect green burial? Readers of this blog may recall discussion of the perfect life that precedes a green burial, but now let’s turn time’s arrow. […]

Burial vs cremation: WWJBD?

In burial vs cremation, which is greener? Well, WWJBD? No, that’s not James Brown. No, not Jimmy Buffet either. Nor Justin Bieber, Johann Sebastian Bach, or Jessica Biel. Not Joan Baez. Not Jennifer Lopez, either. I just like her, that’s why. Not Jason Bourne. Not Jack Bauer or Joe Biden. Not Julie Byrne. What would James […]

The tree funeral in China and America

What is a tree burial, and how do you plan a tree funeral? Green burial, of course, isn’t confined to the West, and America isn’t the only superpower with environmental concerns. Turns out China needs green burial too. With land for cemeteries at a premium, and with traditional burial costs rising, some Chinese are complaining they […]