One of these things doesn’t belong….

Last weekend, I was sitting on the porch and looking at my upside-down tomato plant, wondering if this strange looking contraption would actually work.

You may have seen the infomercials on TV, and while it is quite pricey for a few metal cables and some plastic, the idea of being able to walk out on the front porch for a fresh tomato anytime I want sucked me in.

I noticed a few small yellow buds developing that weren’t there last week, so I guess for now, yes indeed, it does work. But it got me to thinking about what else I could grow on my vast .07 acre property that would help offset the grocery bills, and help my kids learn about how food gets to our table. Our entire lot is quite shady for the better part of the day so a backyard garden wouldn’t work. The North side is home to my herbs which seem to do just fine with only a glimmer of late afternoon sun, and since the front yard is, well, the front yard and the only flat lawn I have, so I better leave that alone for those games of washerboards by the light of tiki-torches this summer.

No, the only place left is a small line along the side of our porch. Normally you might think that the idea of putting vegetables in with Hostas, a Rose, and some Snapdragons would be strange. But it actually looks pretty good. The Hostas are a relatively low-lying plant, the Snapdragons and the Rose add color, and when these luscious Red Bell Peppers come along, they’ll look great too.

You can do the same thing with design, and with wood in particular. Our house is by no means rustic, but we used a Character Select Heart Pine floor for the main areas downstairs. Why wouldn’t I use something of a higher grade, to fit in with the typical 1920’s architecture of our area? Because we liked it! The knots and all remind you that this is an older home, and we designed our interior colors to play into the varying tones of the Heart Pine. People usually associate the Character Select with lodges or Adirondack architecture, but you can work it in with other elements and still make for a cohesive design program.

One of the coolest uses of our reclaimed wood in a not-so-rustic application is this table we recently built for a media company in New York:

Our sister company, NEW Woodworks built the top from a series of large Oak joists reclaimed from a building in Pennsylvania. If you look around, you see no other wood in the room, yet this 18 foot table fits right in.

As I type this, we’re getting going on a large door project with NEW Woodworks where they’ll be using similar materials in a large office building. Seems as though many architects and interior designers have caught onto the idea of using wood in a new way and in a new place. No reason I can’t do the same in the garden, and no reason you can’t do the same thing in your project.

The one problem you won’t have with your wood though – Squirrels. They seem to be nuts about my new pepper plants.

Keep in touch.


Bamboo – Take a minute and think about it.

Settlers’ Plank Autumn Woods in an Upstate NY Residence – Hard, renewable, and full of color.

A typical day in our atypical business. Valerie puts a call through to me. It is an architect that has some questions about our flooring:

“Hi, this is Jered, how can I help you?”

“Well, I have a project that I am considering using Bamboo flooring for and
I came across your website and wanted to know how your materials compared with

These questions about Bamboo are thankfully something that we’re not getting as often as we were 3 or 4 years ago. Back then, you couldn’t even get your foot into a flooring trade show without tripping over forty manufacturers of Bamboo. But I digress.

“Why Bamboo? Is there a particular reason that you like it?”

“It is harder than wood, more renewable, and you can get it in all sorts of colors”.

“Not quite.”

I politely went on to explain how reclaimed wood is a much more environmentally friendly flooring material, despite the marketing spin put on Bamboo. In particular:

“Harder than wood” – Nope. While the hardness of the flooring varies depending on how it was processed, bamboo falls into the same spectrum as most Appalachian hardwood species, such as Oak, Hickory, Maple, & Ash. Some lower quality floors can be scratched as easy as a soft pine, and won’t last more than a few years under even the kindest of conditions.

“More renewable” – OK, there’s some validity to this. Hardwood trees take decades if not more than a hundred years to mature, whereas Bamboo grows VERY fast ( it is essentially a grass after all ) and matures in 3 years or so.

However, when land is being cleared to grow something, especially in this type of volume, you’re interrupting the groove of mother nature. The process inhibits the growth of other species, eliminates natural habitat for animals, and uses a fair amount of energy just in the preparation of the land before planting even begins.

“There’s lots of colors” – Ever been to a wood flooring showroom? You can get almost any color under the sun if you want it. After all, blue is a natural color of wood, right? While this is much more a matter of personal preference & interior design, we prefer to let the wood do the talking Why cover up the natural characteristics of a material with a stain? It is only going to change over the first few years of installation, likely get darker, and make it incredibly difficult to match should you ever need to do a repair. Skip the stains, regardless of species – you’ll save all the nasty stuff that goes into a stain anyway. If you want something unique, pick a wood with a real color like our Karri & Jarrah!

The one thing that almost everyone forgets about Bamboo – It is not made in the US. There are a variety of companies in southeast Asia that make the flooring, and there are really no environmental regulations in place to ensure that you end up with a safe product. Especially in the cheaper floors, nasty glues & urea formaldehydes abound – Since Bamboo is a hollow plant, it must be cut into strips, steamed, milled, and glued into planks to get to a actual piece of flooring. Beyond the materials used in manufacturing, there are questionable labor practices, low-paid workers in un-safe conditions, and then, after all of that, you STILL have to get to the shores of the US. Since Bamboo is not a domestic product, it is brought in via ocean freight by the container, taken off the boat and shipped to a distributor, unloaded, and then shipped out to a dealer or contractor, and then finally to your home. There s an astronomical amount of embodied energy involved in just getting the wood here!

Our friends at have a great article posted on their site which dives into things even more, if you’re interested.

I’ve harped on the idea of buying a domestically made material in earlier posts, and there’s obviously much more to this particular issue than just supporting domestic labor. So before you rush off to the local megabox DIY store or flooring showroom, stay put and read up on the fastest growing grass on the planet. Think about the idea of putting it on the floor of your house. And then check out Pioneer Millworks and see what we have to offer in a true American-made flooring material.

I promise you – we have woods that are hard, renewable, and available in lots of real colors.

Thanks for reading – stay in touch.



I talk to A LOT of people in my job from all over the world, but mostly in the United States. It seems that everyone is “waiting”. Yet, many of us are asking the question, “…for what?” Are we waiting for a talking head to appear on the TV one night and say “It is OK to now go and spend your money”? Are we waiting for someone to tell us that it WILL get better? Are we waiting for the stock market to bottom out at some mythical number that most of us really don’t know the meaning of anyway?

Here’s some food for thought. Your home is likely the biggest investment you have. And unless you live somewhere that is immune to the current state of things, selling a house right now is an undertaking in patience similar to watching water boil. So why not go for it, and put some of your money into your home, your investment, where you know it will eventually pay for itself? At the end of these tough times, you’ll have lived on a new floor, enjoyed cooking on a new countertop, organized the kitchen in new cabinets, or maybe just relaxed with a fine glass of red wine over a handsome new coffee table. The durability of reclaimed wood will surely outlast the current economic trends – and Pioneer Millworks can supply it any form you wish.

Beyond your home though, when making a purchase, now is the critical time to really think about where that product is coming from. The global economy we live in has had many effects on the earth’s population, from the spread of disease to the expansion of wealth, from increasing trade deficits to shrinking domestic employment….the list goes on and on. But it can get a little ridiculous too – I was quite surprised recently to notice that a simple can of mushrooms in the local supermarket was made in China. Mushrooms. A staple of my pantry, and I had to do some digging to find a brand made in the US, where I know mushrooms grow, because we’ve reclaimed wood from those farms before! For the additional $.20 per can, I can spend the extra money to support our domestic workforce and ensure that my children are eating something better for them. I encourage you to think in the same manner – about how much your job relies on other having theirs, and how we can all help eachother turn the ship around. When you buy flooring that was harvested in one country, shipped to another for processing, and then shipped across another ocean to a distributor, and then on to your local mega-mart home improvement store, it does nothing to support regional and local manufacturing jobs, and you end up with a lesser quality product in the end. Perhaps everything we buy can’t be put under the microscope – but when you’re about to make a big purchase, thats the best time to sit back for a minute and look at what the real trickle-down effect will be to the planet, the economy, and – YOU.

Buy local. Think for the earth. Support your neighbors. Stay in touch.

– Jered