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.

March 12, 2009

A Thousand Stitches

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:50 am

In my arms is an antique indigo blue and tan woven coverlet. I imagine a possible history because it has no spoken history. Sally, a dear quilter friend, moved from northwest Arkansas to Washington state several years ago and gave me this ancient blue and tan coverlet. I had never touched a woven coverlet before. This treasure smelled musty. It is in poor condition and has lost its provenance. But there are clues in the warp and weft to help me recreate the history!

I have finally aired it out enough to be able to work on it.

But, why would someone want to work on this tattered textile? It has huge holes and the sections sewing the 36 inch widths together have pulled apart and unraveled in many places. It is big: 72 inches by 86 inches, and it is heavy.

Woven into the bottom left corner is the information. “Property of L.S. Orleans County.” The next line of letters is missing most of the parts of the letters due to unraveling. My atlas tells me there is an Orleans County in New York state just west of the Finger Lakes region where my father grew up.

The warp seems to be a tan linen and the weft is a dark indigo wool. Since it was reversible, I had to choose which side to use as the right side. I chose the side where the indigo color is the predominate color. I am stabilizing the large holes using cotton thread and a appropriate color cotton fabric behind the holes. I have already used a thousand stitches, I am sure, in the eight hours I have spent starting the repair. The repairs look good. None are glaringly visible. My goal is to stabilize this fragile textile (or someone is going to throw it out someday).

I appreciate each of the unknown women who did not thow it out in the last 159 years. None are my biological ancestors, yet I have a lot in common with those women. I value the textile and the woman who used her life energy to create it. I believe a woman used her home loom to weave this coverlet about 1850. The intricate design of eagles, stars and wreaths would probably have taken years to create!

I hope to have it repaired by the end of the month to be included in the special exhibit (The Drama of Two-Color Quilts) I am doing for our guild’s biennial quilt show. I am speculating that two-color coverlets were one part of the inspiration women had for creating two-color quilts. Doing something to repair the ragged edges of the coverlet is the next challenge.

I have found the web site for the National Museum for the American Coverlet, but if you have other recommendations to me about learning more about coverlets I would appreciate it.

Why spend my life energy doing this repair? My needle is a magic tool humans have used for thousands of years. My sterling thimble was used by another woman before me. The work is tactile and direct. I can visualize the whole and I can use my needle and thread–simple tools– to make it happen. It is everyday honest magic.

March 9, 2009

A Thousand Daffodils

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:52 am

Jeanne has been planning the revival of our homestead garden for the last year. It began with our resolution to have twenty or so large sweetgum trees cut down to recover the sun for our garden beds. Removing those trees was an adventure (and misadventure) to tell about another day.

Pioneer Chimney

Pioneer Chimney

Last month Jeanne and I ordered seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and from Seed Saver. Over the weekend we took advantage of the unseasonably warm days of 70 degrees to start digging and planting our garden. We loosened the soil in several of the terraced beds we made 21 years ago and added mushroom compost and alfalfa meal purchased from Nitron for organic fertilizer. We were pleased by all the earthworms working our soil. (For many years we had access to worm castings from a worm farm.) We reunited some of the purchased seeds with the earth by planting collards, swiss chard, bok choi, and mustard. The kale seeds we had saved from our abundant crop of last year. Of course we mulched and fenced. I had to move a lot of foxglove volunteers out of the beds and relocate them for their spring bloom.

We have over a thousand daffodils blooming–many from the pioneers who migrated to these Ozark hills in the late 1800s! The deer do not munch on daffodils, so over the years those bulbs have thrived and multiplied. Last year after bloom time I divided many of the crowded clumps located behind the chimney you see here and replanted them in new spots around our place. It was hard work then, but worth it this year to see all those jaunty yellow blooms. The celandine poppies tolerate the cold well and have begun to show the fern-like foliage that you see in the photo in the upper right picture. No blooms yet. Lila Rostenberg ( took the chimney photo last spring during our foxglove viewing event.

We have Red Russian kale that overwintered and is ready to eat in salads. Also cilantro and parsley are ready to eat. It was a wonderful warm weekend to be outside digging in the dirt.

With the mild weather, we took the opportunity to get up on our roof to play chimney sweep as we cleaned out the stovepipe of the woodstove. Since Jeanne will be in Kansas City over equinox when we need to move the angle of our solar panels to correspond to the angle of the sun for the best solar gain, we decided to reposition the panels while we were up on the roof on Sunday.

After the outside projects, I finished the binding and label on my last quilt to go in our quilt guild’s biennial quilt show. Jeanne finished the installation work on this new blog and encouraged me to post an entry. This spring we are renewing old projects like the garden and beginning new ones like this blog.

Photo credits: We thank photographer Judy VanderHam for the two photos in the top banner. The flat boulder on the left shelters Paula’s collection of fossils we locals call Bear’s paws because of the shape and resemblance to a large gray paw. Judy’s picture on the right portrays a blooming Celandine Poppy. The Celandine Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) bloom in early spring and are efficient self-seeders. The fern-like foliage is attractive through summer and fall. We thank Lila Rostenberg who photographed the pioneer chimney behind our house. We believe the chimney was built in the 1890s by the Mahaffey family who homesteaded this land.

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