DIY pine box coffin paint

Jugs of juglans nigra juice

Jugs of juglans nigra juice

This past weekend it was time to bottle black walnut stain.

At Piedmont Pine Coffins, we sometimes use the stain as an all-natural finishing touch for the coffins, one of many options for decoration.

At Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home of the coffin workshop, we often use the stain for homemade (and store-bought) furniture inside the cabins. The anti-fungal properties of black walnut seem to help inhibit mold growth during humid piedmont NC summers.

The dye can also be used for clothing. And, by means of a specially-tough cracker, you can enjoy the nutmeats on top of a late-summer bowl of vanilla ice-cream.

Final mesh filter

Final mesh filter

You can see that mine is a down-home process. First, the walnuts stew outside in rainwater under heaven’s gaze for six months. Secret ingredient, stardust. When the magic moment comes, I screen the slurry into a barrel, filter the effluent through fine mesh into a stock tank, and finally funnel the dye into milk jugs. I now have 17 gallons of thick, inky stain from last fall’s crop, whose nuts, mind you, are ones we simply gather off the ground in our woods and fields.

Cottage industrial spill

Cottage industrial spill

Note the photo of black walnut hull residue thrown in a heap. That’s one mess of a cottage industrial slag pile! Not bad. Here I can’t resist taking a jab at the disaster that is the effluent of a different, gi-normous North Carolina industry: coal ash in the Dan River. The tug of war between energy and clean water.

The shells in the pile of hulls are so tough I wouldn’t be surprised if the nuts inside are still good. There’ll be a spasm of squirrels on that spot.