S03|E05: The Death Machine, 3 1/2 Feet Under, & Eat and Drink the Invaders: Knotweed

In this week's episode, talking about death is never an easy conversation, but as today's episode reveals, people have a lot of questions about what happens to their body once they die. We'll look into the trend of a more natural approach to burial and why it's trickier than it seems. We'll also find answers to a few questions from the team about funerary practices. Plus, Taylor and Sam head to the lakes region to sample wine made from an invasive species. 

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Part 1

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The Death Machine

When Ryan and Sinehan Lessard first started dating, they discovered they have something strange in common: after they die, they both want to “become a tree”. This is the story about a growing number of people who want to forgo standard funeral practices like embalming, caskets and big granite monuments in favor of a more natural burial—and why that’s easier said than done.

 


Part 2

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3 1/2 Feet Under

After putting together the story on what happens to us after we die, the team was left with a few unanswered questions. This is a bare bones explainer (only pun, I swear) and resource list for readers who are interested in learning more about green burial and funeral practices. 


Part 3

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Eat & Drink the Invaders: Knotweed

If you have Japanese knotweed in your yard, chances are you curse at it, hack away at it, do anything to try and kill it. But we thought we should at least *try* to eat it, and we found a guy who even found a way to drink it. 


Inside ken Hardcastle's wine and beer making laboratory | Photo: Taylor Quimby

Ken and Sam check out the knotweed growth on Ken's property | Photo: Taylor Quimby

A bottle of knotweed wine from Ken's cellar | Photo: Taylor Quimby

Sam tries a glass of knotweed wine | Photo: Taylor Quimby


Japanese knotweed growing along side a road in Concord, NH | Photo: Logan Shannon

Best consumed in the early stages of growth | Photo: Logan Shannon

Later in life, Japanese Knotweed gets very woody | Photo: Logan Shannon

Sam evans-brown: knotweed hunter | Photo: logan Shannon


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-844-GO-OTTER (844-466-8837). Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

This week’s episode includes tracks from Podington Bear and Ari De Niro Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Bonus Episode: 3 1/2 Feet Under

Listen. If you want jokes and nuance, listen to Episode 30: The Death Machine. That’s where we do that sort of thing. This is a bare bones explainer (only pun, I swear) and resource list for readers who are interested in learning more about green burial and funeral practices.

What is Green Burial?

Green, or natural burial, is when a body is buried without the use of chemical embalming, big heavy hardwood or metal caskets, and burial vaults. People choose green burial for environmental, religious, and personal reasons. Public viewings and memorial services are still possible, even without embalming. On the whole, green burials are significantly cheaper than conventional burials. When paired with home funerals, another growing DIY movement, green burial can be even cheaper than cremation.

Green Cemeteries

Many conventional cemeteries require a burial vault - and therefore do not accommodate true green burials. However, there are two types of cemeteries that do allow green burial - conservation burial grounds, and “hybrid” cemeteries. Conservation burial grounds, like Ramsey Creek Preserve, are burial grounds that are used to further environmental conservation. These grounds look more like parks or nature trails than cemeteries, and often have strict requirements about things like headstones, flower plantings, and burial density. “Hybrid” cemeteries are conventional cemeteries that have set aside plots exclusively for green burial. These cemeteries are less dedicated to environmental pursuits.

State by State

Different states have different laws about who is and is not allowed to handle various aspects of the funeral process. Some states require funeral directors to be involved, others do not. In order to prepare for your own death, or the death of a loved one, you’ll need to do some research to see what options are and aren’t available.

Cremation Options

If you choose to go the cremation route, here are some interesting things you can do with your ashes, but keep in mind, not all of these services and products get the thumbs up from green burial advocates. So if you’re looking to keep your impact minimal, you might need to do some additional research.

Resource List:

  • Download your state’s “Advance Directive” form
  • Check your state’s funerary laws. Please note: this list was compiled a few years back, so double-check any information with local resources if you can find them.
  • A NH guide to doing a DIY home funeral.

Outside/In was produced this week by:

Taylor Quimby and Sam Evans Brown, with help from Maureen  McMurray, Logan Shannon, Molly Donahue, and Jimmy Gutierrez.

Again, special thanks to all the folks we’ve spoken to for these two green burial stories - and to Lee Webster.  

Our theme is by Breakmaster Cylinder.   

Additional music in this episode from Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Outside/In is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio.

 

Episode 30: The Death Machine

When Ryan and Sinehan Lessard first started dating, they discovered they have something strange in common: after they die, they both want to “become a tree”. This is the story about a growing number of people who want to forgo standard funeral practices like embalming, caskets and big granite monuments in favor of a more natural burial  - and why that’s easier said than done.

This is one of those stories that sort of left us with just as many questions as it did answers, and if you’re in the same boat, send your funeral queries to outsidein@nhpr.org. We’ll see if we can’t track down an answer and get back to you.

Outside/In was produced this week by:

Taylor Quimby, Sam Evans-Brown and Maureen McMurray, with help from Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Kelsey Eriksson, who hosts a podcast called Deathcast - she passed along the idea of doing a green burial story to us, but if you want to hear more about the gross details of embalming and other aspects of the funeral industry - check it out.

Also, thanks to Lee Webster, who is on the board of the National Home Funeral Alliance, and came by to answer some of our weirdest death questions.

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

Music this week from Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions.Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder