Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Reverence for Wood

Many years ago my husband became enamored with the books of Eric Sloane. Over the years we searched the "used" section at our downtown bookstore COPPERFIELD'S and were able to pick up many different volumes of his work.

Sloane was considered an artist, philosopher, historian and environmentalist. He had a keen interest in New England folk culture, Colonial daily life, and Americana. He wrote and illustrated quite a number of books on tools, architecture, farming techniques, folklore, and rural wisdom. Every book included detailed illustrations and hand lettered titles. A few of our favorites are Our Vanishing Landscape (1955), A Museum of Early American Tools (1973) , A Reverence for Wood (1965) and An Age of Barns (1975).

In this age of reclaimed, recycled, and re-purposed materials Eric Sloane's work can be an inspiration. He saw the beauty and utility of what was being lost in the 50's, 60's and 70's. He tried to preserve it in his books. Now, from those books we can learn about the skills, tools, architecture, and wisdom of what has been lost.

Here are some images of our recycled Redwood front gates. Inspired by Eric Sloane and built by my husband a few years ago.

Materials used: 100 year-old Petaluma chicken barn wood for fence boards (these collapsed barns can be found all over the Petaluma countryside), old barn beams as posts, old barn beam cut-offs for the arbor, recycled deck wood for the gate framing.

Sources: Heritage Salvage, Sonoma Compost, and our own deck re-build. The rusty lag bolts came from the Petaluma Junk Company in the back of Masselli's.

Above, the gate when new. Below, as the gate looks today. The wooden spring on the gate latch was taken directly from Eric Sloane's books. It was made out of scavenged cherry wood and the latch itself is made of scavenged hardwood shelving pieces from a defunct wine cooling unit.

Hopefully, we can do our part to preserve and conserve those pieces of the past that still have utility and beauty. If not, we can learn the useful skills of the past and put them to good use in the future. No one's going to do it for us. We're going to have to do it ourselves!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Problem is the Solution

The Permaculture Principle "The Problem is the Solution" rings true.

Bill Mollison once said, "You don't have a snail problem. You have a duck deficiency". We'll we have certainly found that to be true around here. With our four backyard ducks our garden is completely snail-free. On our front porch can be found a bucket labeled, "SNAIL DEPOSITORY". Our neighbors bring their snails to us and our ducks can't get enough of them. The ducks turn all that good protein into big nutritious eggs year-round. And, our neighbors don't have to put out toxic pesticides to solve their snail problems.

I post our need for snails on our neighborhood Yahoo Group list and the snails just arrive. I do ask that they come from pesticide-free gardens. Snails are dropped off at all hours of the day and night. I check the bucket daily and the ducks know it by sight when it's heading their way. We just call, "duckies!" and all four girls come running up the pathway. It makes us laugh every time. Everybody's happy.

Another example of this principle comes from our much loved BOVINE BAKERY just downtown. Their tag line is "Bringing fresh, organic, handmade pastries and strong, organic coffee to Petaluma and Pt. Reyes Station". They have a abundance of kitchen scraps (fruits, vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds) they don't want to put in the landfill. We use it to beef up the volume of our compost. Whew! It's working too. We have been making some beautiful, hot compost around here. Another win-win.