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The pine tree is one of the most abundant trees in the eastern woodlands. It also provides useful resources throughout all four seasons. Since the pine tree is a conifer, it does not lose its needles in the winter when many other tree species drop their leaves.
Due to its resinous nature, pinewood burns quickly and can be used to make a fire lay even in wet weather. The dark black smoke that you see from a fire made with pine is a product of the resins from within the wood burning off. Pine is softwood that can make a very effective bow drill hearth and spindle set; be careful to avoid the resins or the set will simply polish and not burn. Pine makes a decent carving wood but is not durable for utensils or other tools.
Pine resin is usually found on the outermost part of the tree where an injury has occurred. This resin, or sap, is like liquid gold and should be collected at any opportunity that presents itself. Carry a separate tin to collect any sap you come across and store it in your kit. As a medicinal resource, sap can act like new skin on a shallow cut and generally works as an antiseptic when caring for wounds. The resin itself is highly flammable and is therefore a great flame extender within the fire lay.
PINE PITCH GLUE
A very good adhesive, called pine pitch, can be made by heating the sap and adding equal parts charcoal and a binder like cattail fluff or herbivore dung. Use a low heat when melting the sap because it becomes very brittle when burned. The resulting glue can then be stored in a tin or wrapped on a pitch stick. Wind the pine pitch adhesive, like cotton candy, on to the end of a stick one layer at a time, dry between layers. This stick can later be heated over a fire to soften the glue for application.
Needles on eastern pines are extremely nutritious and have more vitamin C per weight than a fresh squeezed orange. Also high in vitamin A, these pine needles make an excellent tea for boosting the immune system. Pine needle tea also works as an expectorant and a decongestant. The tea can even be used as an antiseptic wash or fomentation. Not all pines taste the same, so you should try different types to find what you like best. You can fashion beautiful coil baskets from pine needles, although this task is tedious. Dead pine needles are fantastic additions to any fire lay as the resinous needles are highly flammable. They also make good coarse materials for a bird’s nest when making primitive fire.
Certain tree species, such as the spruce, have very long roots that grow just under the surface of the ground. These roots can be harvested in long lengths and used for cord or basket weaving. Once the root is harvested, the outer bark must be removed to make the root more pliable. You can remove the bark by pinching the root between two sticks and pulling the root through, removing the bark as you go. Keep the roots wet so that they are easier to handle. Larger roots can be further split to make the resource last even longer.
The area of the tree commonly known as the fatwood will collect the resins best because it’s where the sap settles. Oftentimes the stump and root ball can be an excellent source of fatwood. Not all tree species have a lot of sap so you will need to experiment with what you have. It is safe to say that all pines will contain some fatwood. Many times, a dead standing or fallen tree will have a root ball that is completely saturated with resin. That is the gold mine! If you find yourself in need of an emergency fire-starting device, remember that fatwood is highly flammable. When you combine the accelerant value of resin with the wood as a slow burning fuel source, you have a natural pairing. Choose an area of a living or dead tree where a branch has grown and cut the branch as close to the trunk as possible. Here you will find at least a few inches of fatwood. To process this wood for starting a fire, locate the dark orange colored fatwood area and scrape this into fine shavings with the back of your knife. This material will ignite with an open flame or a Ferro cerium rod.
The inner bark can be used as a food source. It also holds many antiseptic properties and can even be used as an impromptu bandage. When dried, the inner bark can also be used to make slats for woven baskets.
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