Joe Whittaker and his wife Sherry visited us this past weekend at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home of Piedmont Pine Coffins.
Joe manages Honey Creek Woodlands, the conservation burial ground tucked into the woods at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. The monks there are of the Christian Benedictine variety, and most of the folks interred at the burial ground come from Catholic families. But Honey Creek is open to all faiths. So my good people in Atlanta, those who can still recall the days of our meanderings in Little Five Points and the music of the streets in the southern Highlands, who still remember the days of sham gods and jonesing for Cadillacs, take note: Here’s a great burial option for you. Cheaper and greener, too.
Sherry Whittaker is a teacher, Joe knows monks and green burial, and the pair of them are sustainable living enthusiasts. So naturally we hit it off famously and suffered no shortage of confabulations.
Joe learned the green funeral business from Ramsey Creek in SC, the first conservation burial ground in the country, and has gone on to build Honey Creek Woodlands to its current volume of 3 natural burials per week. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot. A lot of hand-dug graves, that is! When he saw a coffin I was building in the workshop — at a stately 18 inches tall — his said: I’d like to see it stop here — holding his hand at about 12 or 13 inches. Every inch counts, he said, when you’re digging into the concrete that is the red clay of Georgia.
(Umm, Joe, at three per week, I’ll build you coffins as tall as a can of sardines, if you like 🙂 )
Joe and Sherry plan to retire one day soon to a piece of land in SC and take up their sustainable living interests full-time. For my part, I can’t wait to try the rocket stove they told me about. The claim was, if I heard right, boil enough water to wash dishes in 2 minutes — or was it 20? — on fuel of a few twigs.
Man, I’d sure love to kick the propane habit. Twigs I’ve got.