Pine Resin


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.)

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on July 26, 2012  

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  1. 7-26

    Interesting…though a I wonder about the microwave. I’ve been told not to use the microwave to heat herbal teas, raw honey, etc. because the microwaves will destroy the healing properties. Will heating the resin with the microwave (especially repeated heating) destroy the goodness you’re trying to preserve?

  2. 7-26

    What a wonderful resource Adam is for you.

  3. 7-26

    jayeluu, it’s more of a “mechanical” result in the way the stickiness of the resin acts as a wound sealant and sticker-puller, so I don’t know that it would be an issue for those uses. The problem with straight pine resin is keeping it stored. I’ve read about a couple other ways to keep it–combined with alcohol or cooked with honey, to make a salve, and that way you could keep it without having to freeze and thaw to use. I’ll add that to the post in case someone wants to try it–I haven’t tried it yet.

  4. 7-26

    Great to have such a wonderful source of knowledge to learn from. And to help you around your place.

  5. 7-26

    Wonderful post!! And from the pine tree state- our tree and our flower is pinecone!!- a little dab of peanut butter rubbed on your hand where u have pitch and and walla!! We’ve told more people this to their amazement! Adam Is an incredible resource!!
    Rain :)

  6. 7-26

    Thanks for the idea of saving the resin for that purpose. I help out at the sawmill sometimes so all I have ever had to do is figure out how to get the resin off my skin, not add it on purpose. If you need to remove pine tar or any other really sticky substance that is on your skin use Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil. Smells much better than gasoline! All of our sawmill helpers use the SSS because it works. I think it works because the oil loosens the sticky properties of the resin.

  7. 7-26

    Adam is country smart – I would be hanging on his every word! That’s the sort of knowledge that can be a godsend if times ever get tough, and you are forced to make do with what you have. People nowadays are so spoiled with modern conveniences, that most wouldn’t be able to make it on their own anymore, like the pioneers used to do.

    PS – If anything ever happens to my sweet husband, I’m going to get me a hired man. :yes:

  8. 7-26

    Have Adam tell you about fat wood, too! :shimmy:

  9. 7-26

    Your life at Sassafrass Farm just gets better and better. Who knew that the upheaval would result in so much wonderful new (to you) knowledge. Adam sounds like someone who should be cloned so we could all have benefit of his expertise. But since that is not possible we will simply await your passing that knowledge along to us. Congratulations on your wonderful life and the fantastic friends you have made.

  10. 7-26

    Who would have thunk it:::being that they surround my house (pines) that is, next time I have to dig a spinter out of someone:: I’m hitting a tree! What a great idea!! Thank the “Jedi Master” for me:)

  11. 7-26

    Something about this post brings me right back to my childhood, where fun was had discovering everything there was in my own back yard. I’d spend my days exploring and reading about the stuff I found. Cattails and how you can eat the roots, flowers of the fields, animals, amphibians, very good memories. Now I sit on my butt reading about Suzanne doing it. :woof: Makes me want to go out and do that again. Thanks for the inspiration.

    And hear, hear on the hired man. Worth every penny.

  12. 7-26

    Interesting. I wonder what chemical in the resin helps to fight infection? Is it acidic?

    My sheep farmer dad always kept an container of pure lanolin (sp?) in the medicine cabinet for various skin issues.

  13. 7-26

    Oo, I wonder how it would do in soap. I’ve been wanting to make a pine tar soap. I hear it is good for certain skin issues. :fairy:

  14. 7-26

    I saw the Skin-So-Soft recommendation above to remove pine sap, I also wanted to throw in that you can use mayonnaise as well, to remove this sticky stuff, just rub a glob of mayo on the spot and wash away. It’s especially helpful when it’s in hair and you don’t want the chopped look :)

  15. 7-26

    Yellow root = golden seal (in case anyone else was stumped). This post is fascinating. I think we’d all love to have that sort of knowledge at our fingertips. I look forward to hearing about the sassafras roots and what you’re planning to do with them.

  16. 7-26

    My favorite kind of post!

    I love learning about “what did we do before we had ______?”

  17. 7-26

    How interesting! What wonderful things you are learning. Have you ever thought of having Adam help teach some of those things at your workshops?

  18. 7-26

    Sue, yes, I’ve already talked to him about that, in fact!

  19. 7-26

    Mixing the pine tar/resin with honey adds the antibacterial FX of honey to the mechanical properties of the resin. Great duo.
    Ply Adam with anything possible. . .with your penchant for writing, you’ll be preserving some valuable folk traditions.

  20. 7-26

    I was thrilled to hear about the Pine tar, I grew up in the NorthWest and we always called it “pitch”. Adam, you are an inspiration!! Thank you Suzanne for your willingness to share your life with us. Happy Days!!!

  21. 7-26

    Hmmm… maybe you and Adam could write a ‘how to’ book, one day!

  22. 7-26

    Very interesting. Looking forward to more information. Thank you

  23. 7-26

    Adam sounds like someone right out of the Foxfire Books…I have them all & have re-read them many times. I used to keep a blob of dried pine pitch in the kindling basket by the wood box when we used to burn wood…a little bit of it will perk up a fire that’s having trouble getting going..or some good fatwood will too. So interesting to watch you discover these things that are new to you…good post :yes:

  24. 7-26

    My daughter got pine sap in her hair last month. I washed it a couple of times, and it wasn’t coming out. Google told me to try oil, so I poured some olive oil on the spot, wrapped it in a paper napkin, put the entire lock of hair in a plastic baggie and tied it with a rubber band to contain the mess. After 30 min, I washed her hair, and the sap came right out! So, forget the gasoline. Use oil!

  25. 7-27

    I wish I had an Adam clone to share practical knowledge with me & to help around my place. Adam is a treasure! Lucky you.

  26. 7-27

    Oh, the sassafras tea memories I have of a young girl spending summers on Grandma’s farm in Missouri. We would sip hot tea in the morning with our left over biscuits from dinner as breakfast, maybe with some bacon tucked inside, before heading up into the woods. Grandma would take this city kid walking in the woods and teach me wood lore, or just walk and visit early in the morning. As I got older, and so did Grandma, I would get up and have sasser coffee with Grandpa, (Hot Sassafras tea for me, coffee for him) and we would watch the sun rise and he would name the birds coming to the bird feeder. Thank you for the memory jog. Sure do miss those times and my wonderful Grandparents.

  27. 7-27

    When all of the turpentine evaporates you have rosin.

  28. 7-28

    It looks like the holes in the pine could be made by a yellow-bellied sapsucker…. of the woodpecker family. If the rows of holes are in a horizontal line, and about the size of a pencil, you can bet on it. Those little buggers know how to make the sap run. lol

  29. 7-29

    What an interesting post! Makes me wonder if people used pine sap to waterproof things in the past. I love trees and this just makes me love them more. Look how many useful things trees provide us with!

  30. 11-2

    I noted you were using gasoline to remove pine sap, and thought to share something helpful. When my brothers son came out to stay with us a year or so ago, I showed him an interesting trick using bacon grease (though it will work with most other cooking oils). when you get that sap on your hands, “wash” with bacon grease, and then regular soap. It might take a time or two but it will come off. this is a by product of having made soap and wondering why pine sap could be dissolved by one thing (Grease, or petroleum distillates) but not another (water). Thank you for sharing this tidbit of knowledge about using pine sap, as it was something of interest for me today, and helped me a bit :-)

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