The country garden is everywhere, not just within the confines of a fence. My farm is filled with new wonders to discover every day, and I have a guide. Adam. He works on random occasions here as my “hired man” (which, ladies, is the best kind of man there is), sometimes with his sidekick Robbie, sometimes without. I figured out a while back that Adam was a real country boy and that he knew things I wanted to know, so now sometimes when he finishes working–yesterday, he was resetting my barn stall doors and repairing lingering leaks in the re-coated roof–he is my nature guide.
As a little background, Adam lives on one of those real West Virginia farms where mom and dad have a farm then all their kids build houses and live on the farm, too, and everybody knows how to work. He grew up without running water until he was 16. If they couldn’t make it, grow it, or kill it, they didn’t have it. He and his wife have three children. I can’t remember if he told me they had four or five gardens, but they grow what they eat and do a lot of canning. They raise all the meat they eat. He milked cows before and after school as a kid, and still milks, and the family raises calves up for beef. They raise pigs and chickens, too, and keep bees. He knows how to live off the land, whether it’s cultivated or from the wild.
Excellent. Talk to me, Yoda.
I had him digging sassafras roots for me yesterday (subject of another post), but on the way to showing me the hundreds of sassafras trees on my farm and what to do with them, he stopped at the pine trees. I have several great stands of pine trees.
He said, “You know what to do with that, don’t you?” He pointed at the gooey stuff coming out of a pine tree trunk (aka pine resin or pine sap).
I said, “No. What?”
He told me he keeps globs of pine tree resin all the time. If he gets a sticker, he smears the resin on his finger. It’ll pull the sticker out. If you get a cut, smear some pine resin on it (and wrap with gauze) to seal the wound and keep it from getting infected.
Sometimes you can find the resin coming right out from some natural injury to the tree. He thinks a woodpecker’s been after this pine (above) near the studio. The easiest thing is to find a spot where some resin is already coming out, such as from a branch breaking off or some other natural event. Short of that, you can make a small cut in the tree. If you have to make a cut, check back periodically until you see the resin emerging and start collecting it. You can even tap pine trees the same way you’d tap a maple tree for syrup, but if you’re just collecting a little medicinal pine resin for your family’s use, you don’t need that much. Just get you a good glob once a year and you’ll be good to go.
This is messy stuff, by the way. It just about takes gasoline to get it off you and your knife.
To keep, Adam stores it in the freezer and just thaws it out when he needs it. I wrapped mine in parchment paper so I can microwave it when I need it. The best time to collect pine resin, by the way, is any time sap is running–which is not winter.
Then we went back to the sassafras root harvesting and talking about yellowroot and ginseng. There is so much here on this farm. I want to discover it all!
Note: A couple of other ways to store the resin, without freezing it–I have not tried these yet:
1. Place the glob of resin in a glass jar. Barely cover with 198 proof alcohol. Use a tight-fitting lid. (A canning jar would be great.) Wait 6-8 weeks for the mixture to be ready–use in drops as needed.
2. Combine equal amounts of pine resin and honey in a small pot. Cook until they can be stirred together then cool and store in a tin to use as a salve.
(This is why you have to freeze/thaw the plain resin–unless you combine it with something else, it will harden and become unusable. When I try these ideas, I’ll post an update.)