Countercultural coffins and urns

In a radio interview I did recently, here are words that came out of my mouth: We always wanted to be countercultural — in an ADMIRABLE way.  Revelatory. Never knew I thought that till that moment. Really, the things a soul will pronounce on when you’re distracted by wires and microphones. I was referring to the […]

The outhouse joke

The outhouse joke. Recently, when coffinworks visitors Marshall and Donald toured our place, it called to mind their growing-up years on a dairy farm in Iredell County and the following outhouse story: My father had an outhouse with two seats. One day one of the hired hands went down to use it. Well he was […]

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 […]

A murder of crows

A murder of crows in both senses — that’s the tale of this post. But my hand was stayed, and to good effect. Read on. A flock of sheep, a brace of coneys, a murder of crows. Well, there’s been a murder of crows in our garden the last couple of years. It’s usually about […]

BCS tractor review: a French kiss

This BCS tractor review involves a fateful and forceful French kiss. Read on. A BCS — “Beast” for short — is an Italian vineyard tractor with two wheels that you walk behind. Ours arrived on a truck one day last week. It’s designed for slopes and small acreage. Since it’s Italian, maybe I should say, then, […]

Tiny house gross domestic product

What’s the gross domestic product at your house? Or should I say, the grossest? Our grossest at tiny-house Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial campus of Piedmont Pine Coffins, has to do with a toothbrush. More on that below. Visitors to the farmstead sometimes ask about hot water and bathing. The calculus behind the question is, Could I do this? Could I […]

The Wattlebee Project

Piedmont Pine Coffins and Melleray Farmstead had visitors Mel, Michael and Emma this past weekend from The Wattlebee Project near Adelaide, Australia. They’re on a study-travel tour of, well, the world. India and Nepal are next, part of a walkabout intended to gather ideas for a project they want to start back home that revolves around […]

Why use pine, plus bonus ruminations

Why I use pine, in seven reasons, as follows. Most are poetical, as you’ll see. First is for green burial: Pine degrades quickly in contact with earth and water. This trait is great for ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust. The second is for business. Pine is not expensive. The last five – the five senses of taste and touch, etc. […]

Green small business on UNC-TV

As a green small business, Piedmont Pine Coffins has benefitted greatly over the last few years from programming sponsored by the Small Business Center at our local community college. So we were happy to talk about it last month with cameras from UNC-TV in Raleigh. I say “we” because half the story below is about my wife’s […]

Harvesting black walnuts

Black walnuts are my favorite free gift of Nature — even beating out morels and poke salad — here at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial manufacturing facility of Piedmont Pine Coffins. For readers joining in recently, at Piedmont Pine Coffins we make simple boxes for burial and we help families reclaim the power of caring […]

Bucket Bath Tiny House Style

A bucket bath in a tiny house. Hmm. As Steve Martin once said, “Let’s get small.” After moving in 2007 to an off-grid tiny house at Melleray Farmstead in North Carolina, I’ve got the 7-year itch. It’s 2014. Confess! Yes, I’m itching for a hot shower. But not that badly. Let me tell you how I […]

The garden gates of Melleray Farmstead

The garden gates at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins, have in their design a nod to our inspiration from monks and monasteries. No, we’re not monks — we’re a small family with a unique small business — but our lives have brought us through twists and turns to an appreciation of the […]

Chatham County, of thee I sing

Live in Chatham County? Then you count yourself lucky. Don’t? Move and likely you will. It was Chatham County’s predilection for the fringe of possible on the fringe of the Research Triangle that attracted us — my father and me, in 2006 — when we were looking for land. At that point Piedmont Pine Coffins and […]

Mount Athos, “kingdom of monks” — part 2

Find below the second part of a 1990 travelogue about Mount Athos. If you’re just dropping in now, here’s the backstory. Mount Athos is the famed monastic republic in northern Greece. I count Mount Athos as one of the foundations for Melleray Farmstead and Piedmont Pine Coffins. Since I like to talk about monastic inspirations for our […]

Mount Athos, “kingdom of monks” — part 1

Mount Athos is the famed monastic republic in northern Greece. I count Mount Athos as one of the foundations for Melleray Farmstead and Piedmont Pine Coffins. Since I like to talk about monastic inspirations for our place, here’s a peak into the old file cabinets and into the archives — into the past that forms us in the […]