Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

March 27, 2009

Is Poisoned Wood Green in Your Eyes?

Filed under: Homestead building,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 10:15 am
Cedar Gate, 5ft wide,4 ft high

Cedar Gate, 5 ft wide,4 ft high

Have you seen the John Wayne-type character with the huge cowboy hat on the billboards that scream, “Go Green, Buy Yaller”? I was outraged by the boldface lie I saw again and again as I drove around town. Jeanne tells me this same ad is all over television too! Treated lumber is treated with poisons to keep insects and the elements at bay for awhile. Do they think we are stupid? True, the treated-and-poisoned lumber carries a slightly yellow cast, but the declaration that it is “green” can only be considered crass commercialism. Any spot on earth that produces this poisoned wood becomes a hazardous wasteland. The workers that produce the chemicals and the workers who treat the lumber with these toxic chemicals are exposed to serious health hazards.

When a consumer buys this poisoned product we are cautioned to handle the wood with gloves on our hands, to use a mask when sawing the wood and not to burn any scraps. I know a carpenter who regularly ignores this warning and burns the scraps at group bonfires endangering anyone nearby breathing air. And what happens to the infants or pets who crawl all over a deck made from this toxic lumber?

Path to the gate

Path to the gate

Extending the life of any wood we must use is a priority for anyone trying to be environmentally conscious. We have used cedar and local oak with positive results. We used rough sawn local oak for the siding and the stairs on our house. After twenty-two years the inch-thick siding is intact because we have a generous roof overhang which keeps much of the rain off the siding. After twenty-two years of hard use in this moist climate, we did have to replace the oak boards in the steps. “Treated” lumber may or may not last twenty years.

Cypress Chair with lichens

Cypress Chair with lichens

Both cedar and cypress are resistant to the damage from moisture. Pine is not and will rot in less than five years. In 1993 I purchased a Adirondack style chair made from cypress. It served us well for two decades living outside year round. The seat has decayed, but the arched back is intact and I plan to recycle the back into a plant trellis. Last summer we finished fencing a large area behind our house to help protect our rat terriers from roaming predators. We chose cedar boards for the gate and employed a talented woman carpenter to craft the beautiful gate pictured here. As we helped to set the cedar posts, we learned from her that a gate needs to be sturdy because it defies gravity twenty-four hours a day.

Only the constant exercise of our critical thinking skills will counteract the misuse or out right lies attached to labeling a practice or product “green”. “Big Daddy” profiteers will try to lure us to their products and lull our sense of outrage at the audacity of their claims. Mary Daly, radical and wicked thinker, warned us about patriarchal reversals of the truth. In this case, the industry that creates poisoned wood declares their product to be environmentally desirable.

At times, even committed environmentalists will disagree about the benefits and tradeoffs they consider advantageous to the health of the environment. “Best use practices” involve judgement calls–we all need to be referees guarding the health of the earth and the living creatures she supports. “Green” has become a advertising “buzzword” worthy of a buzzard’s contempt. (For the uninitiated, buzzards can reguritate at will when alarmed.) At least the buzzards are doing an environmentally helpful chore of recycling carrion. At times outrage is the appropriate response to outrageous claims for “green” products.

Photo credits: Cedar gate on the east side of the house was photographed by Paula in late 2008

March 21, 2009

Everyday Surprises

Filed under: Homestead building,Homestead cooking,Patriarchy,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 12:23 pm
Vintage Superior range

Vintage Superior range with warming oven and water reservoir

A change of plans took me to Fayetteville yesterday. When in town I usually check at one or more thrift stores. Actually, I confess, for the last thirty years thrift stores have been a favorite haunt in my hunt for items of interest. Yesterday I found something I have been looking for since we got the wood range you see on the right!

We found our Superior range in Paxico, Kansas at Mill Creek Antiques as pictured here in the fall of 1987. The brick red color of the porcelain finish was in good condition. I was thrilled about the ample space of the warming oven and the availability of hot water provided by the water reservoir located on the right side. The chrome finish of the towel bar and trim had seen hard use over the decades. (Our research later informed us of the highly toxic nature of redoing the chrome so we chose to leave it as is.) Visit Mill Creek Antiques online and to see more wood cookstoves: (

Jeanne and I opened doors and explored the three draft controls. We discovered the necessities including the ash carrier, grate bolt crank, and the lid lifter. On the back of the range we discovered this beautiful and useful antique cookstove had been manufactured in St. Louis, MO by Bridge, Beach and Co.

We traded for the range and soon bought the book, Woodstove Cookery: At Home on the Range, by Jane Cooper. This author and cook described a useful tool called a soot scraper as a “rectangular blade about one by three inches long which is attached to a long metal rod” used to “root around in the air passage surrounding the oven and pull out the soot and ashes.” We needed one, but until yesterday I had only seen the drawing in her book.

Yesterday I knew it when I saw it standing on the floor at the thrift store with the long handle towering over the blade. I snatched it up. Probably no one else in the store would know what it was or even want it. My soot scraper or stove rake cost two dollars.

This morning I tried the stove rake on our new Harman woodstove and it worked perfectly for cleaning out the ashes that collect around the ash pan. You can see the the clean out opening on the Superior range located below the oven door; it measures six inches long and two inches high; the blade on the tool I found measured four inches by two inches. My new tool worked like it was made for this range! As directed, I rooted around and raked the soot out on to newspapers. As I rooted and raked I disturbed a moveable object on the bottom of the chamber. What I discovered hidden there was a broken saucer of fine china.

Gold script letters on the back read “Theodore Haviland, Limoges, France, Patent Applied for”. I scrubbed the soot off and admired the elegant gold painted on the saucer edge and held it to the light to see the outline of my fingers through the delicate porcelain. My own mother had owned Haviland china we used for special occasions.

How and why did this damaged, but still treasured, piece of china come to be in the clean out chamber of this cookstove? How old was the china? We had guessed the age of our Superior range to be the first quarter of the 20th century. An online search revealed that Theodore Haviland took over from his father about 1890. The “Patent Applied for” would seem to indicate an early date also.

Limoges plate

Who hid this gold-edged Haviland china plate in the antique wood range and why?

Limoges saucer

Theodore Haviland, Made in Limoges, France in the early 1900s

Curiosity about the possibilities sent me to learn more about the china maker. But nothing will likely satisfy my curiosity about the person who placed this unusual find in the clean out chamber of my range. My imagination carries me along. This memento pleases me. Simple surprises in the garden are expected pleasures in spring. Unforseen treasures do show up in thrift shops. Now I am reminded of unexpected treasures that exist in everyday chores like cleaning out ashes.

Photo credits: Paula photographed the Superior range when we first saw it in 1987 at Mill Creek Antiques in Paxico, KS.

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