The Upside to Having Our Pipes Freeze

Back in March, I wrote a post, The Signature is a Hint, that featured a photo of a basket from Gertie Youngblood as a “hint” to where we would be moving to. If you missed that one, you can find it here. But don’t forget to come back and read the rest of the story!

So fast-forward to now. We left New Hampshire in April (or was it May?) and moved to McMinnville, Tennessee. The property, in addition to a run-down, falling-apart, barely-standing 1950’s farmhouse (I’m probably exaggerating here, but only a little bit), has a fabulous, wide-open, not-falling-apart, relatively-new, structure that was a church before we bought it. We named it McSoHo and we live in that building. The farmhouse is Eric’s workshop. Every room of it. Some day, we will renovate it and live there, but for now, we’re enjoying McSoHo.

That is, until last week when we came home from Florida. All the pipes were frozen in Mr. Basketmaker’s workshop (the farmhouse) and the furnace condensation pump malfunctioned in McSoHo. So in comes the plumber. And what did we learn about our new plumber?

He is related to the Youngbloods! Yup. His name is Dane and he came back the next day with two baskets for a show-and-tell.


His grandmother married into the Youngblood family and these baskets were given to him my his mother. Dane stated, “They were made by grannie’s kin.” With me being a born-and-bred New Englander, when he said the words ” grannie’s kin” I immediately said “I love that! Grannie’s Kin. We are really in the South!” Thankfully, he laughed and found my interruption amusing.

Both of his baskets are great representations of Appalachian White Oak Basketmaking. Truly, an invaluable handed-down family historical treasure.


So even though our pipes freezing was a nuisance, it turned out to be not so bad after all. And speaking of “nuisance,” like clockwork when I try to photograph something, here’s Chance, running over to get in the picture. This time with one of his own treasures — his white shark toy, dropped right at his feet like he was adding it to the show-and-tell collection!


It resonated with Mr. Basketmaker and myself that in addition to admiring the Youngblood’s work, it was a family business and a way of life — all of them weaving baskets and caning chairs, and Gertie teaching students from all across the country. And here we are, living and working in a small town right next to Woodbury, where many of them lived. Then after we settled in a stretch, we meet one of the Youngblood kin who is in our own home helping us get our furnace back up and running so we can get our way of life back to normal and Mr. Basketmaker can continue doing what he does best… making baskets. All thanks to another basketmaker’s kin.

To learn more about Appalachian basketmaking, there is a great book on the history and craft of this basketry.  Check out Appalachian White Oak Basketmaking: Handing Down the Basket. I have a link to it below.

Five Questions Friday: Canine Discrimination

Q: Can you believe how cold it is down here in Houston?
Eric: No. This is Chicago weather. It seems everywhere we go lately, we bring the cold!

Q: What is worse than being sick?
Eric: Being sick of you?
ha ha, funny. Well, maybe not so funny. The answer is being sick in a hotel room! I’ve been cooped up in here with the dog for the last two days.

Q: Isn’t Chance a great traveling dog?
Eric: Ahhh, I guess for a +50 pounder. Our hotel choices are very limited. Most accept 25 pounds and under.

Q: You keep putting your headphones back on in between my questions. What are you listening to?
Eric: I’m on Pandora shuffling around… some Johnny Cash, Jack White and then wound up listening to some Rap which I really don’t listen to.

Q: What aggravated you this week?
Eric: Having to stay at cheap crack-house hotels because of Chance!
(yes… it’s seriously canine discrimination for larger dogs!)

Working the Line

Mr. Basketmaker will be teaching at the Texas Basket Weaver’s conference, in Houston, starting tomorrow. That means I was working on the “basket kit production line” for the last few days. What’s that? Well, a clever little system he set up when he needs help getting the materials together for his popular mini basket kits.

I’m not very good in identifying all his baskets. I mean, there’s so many! And I definitely can’t remember what size uprights go with what basket. So each of his mini baskets has it’s own little plastic bin. And in the bin he has a sample of the actual basket along with an index card listing out all the various parts and sizes of uprights needed for that particular basket.

So above is the bin for his so-cute mini tool tote basket. And in the background is a stack of uprights he just processed in his workshop that need cutting. I look on his index card and see he needs 2-inch uprights so I get cutting a whole bunch of them. Then I count out the number of uprights needed for one basket and heat seal them in their own little pack. Then I toss the collection of sealed packs into the bin. When I have a dozen or so packs, I move onto the next bin.


It may not look like it, but it’s an organized, and precise, basketry production line. Especially now since we can spread out over several large tables in the open space we have in McSoHo.


Next to my production line, are Mr. Basketmaker’s rim and handle molds for some of his mini baskets. They are drying. They’re also in the way of my production line. But he’s the boss so I cannot complain.

Further crowding my space is the inventory for his mini basket forms or molds. One bin contains all the samples with the basket name written on the bottom along with the word “sample.” Two reasons for this: One, so he (or his wife) doesn’t sell his sample form. Two, I can identify what mold goes with what kit! I have been known to sell a kit and put the wrong mold in the bag!