I have many fond memories of our family cabin high in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. It was a fairly rustic cabin with no utilities or water and an outhouse behind the cabin. We would have to haul water up with us when we stayed there and would use Coleman lanterns for light when it got dark. My mom would cook on a wood burning stove and we had a Franklin wood burning stove in the main room we would fire up if it got a little chilly.
We had a number of wonderful family traditions associated with the cabin, including one I wasn’t too fond of. When we’d stay for several days and we needed a bath, we’d use a wash tub and all take turns sharing the same water. Having eight kids, you can imagine how dirty that water got by the time the last of us got our turn.
I’m sure most of us have special family traditions especially around the holiday season. It’s pretty common to exchange gifts with neighborhood families around Christmas time. Usually they’re small, inexpensive gifts, many of which are homemade treats.
Growing up, we had a very special neighbor gift tradition that with today’s prices would be equivalent to about $80 per family. It involved harvesting Christmas trees up near our cabin and giving as our neighbor gift, Christmas trees to each of our neighbors.
Usually around mid-November, we’d take a truck and trailer up to the cabin with the intent of harvesting around 25 Christmas trees. We’d stop at the Forest Service station and purchase permits for the trees – they cost us a whopping fifty cents per tree!
Not every tree was meant for our neighbors. My mom was quite the Christmas fanatic. She loved all the decorations, music, lights and smells and treats of Christmas and we’d usually end up with a Christmas tree in every room of the house. Since these were very fresh trees, we never had to water them and they’d look and feel fresh for several months. No dried up needles falling off these trees.
When we got to the cabin, there was usually six to eight inches of snow on the ground so we’d have to bundle up to keep warm as most of us kids liked to ride in the back of the pickup while we were looking the best trees. I remember my dad using a keyhole saw to cut down the trees and he would have us boys drag the trees to the truck.
The smell of freshly cut pine trees is such a wonderful smell that to this day, it takes me back to those memorable days of my youth.
My brother and I didn’t have work gloves and when our winter gloves got wet from the snow, we’d usually just take them off as we’d drag the trees to the truck. It would usually take us four or five hours to find and cut down all the trees we’d purchased permits for and by then, our hands were totally covered with tree sap.
Even though the smell was great, the stickiness of the sap was terrible to deal with. Sometimes, our fingers would stick together almost like they were super-glued. And for those of you who have never had the pleasure of having your hands covered in tree sap – it doesn’t wash off!
We would scrub our hands with soup and water to no avail. That sap was there for the duration. We discovered the only relief to the stickiness was to rub our hands in the dirt. Fine, dusty dirt worked the best. It would stick to the tree sap like talcum powder and we were temporally sticky free. Problem was, it made our hands look all the worse.
In addition to washing, we literally had to wait for the sap to wear off to finally get rid of the problem. I was reminded of this when I came across a brief article about the benefits of pine sap. Knowing how to use tree sap can be a real aid in being prepared. Here’s some of the article:
THE MANY SURVIVAL USES OF PINE SAP
Have you ever wondered while camping how long you’d survive off of the land with little to no help? What would you eat? What would do you do to stay warm? What would you with an injury? Believe it or not, there are plenty of plants and resources that you can utilize in the wild that’ll help you survive. Today we are going to talk about the many uses of pine sap.
Did you know that the word pine or pinus means resin in Latin?
Pine trees secrete resin in their bark as a defense mechanism to close wounds from insects and other elements that they are faced with. The pine sap provides a protective hard sealant that allows the injury to heal with little interference.
THINK OF PINE SAP AS MOTHER NATURE’S BAND -AID
Because pine sap is a sticky amber glob that hardens, it’ll keep germs out, boost cell immunity and act as an anti-inflammatory on open wounds. Make sure that you properly clean or flush the area before applying pine sap.
COUGH MEDICINE & CHEWING GUM
Since pine sap is a natural antibacterial, it will stop coughing, slowly kill bacterial infections, and improve breathing when sick.
Did you know that physicians in colonial America recommended pine resin mixed with water as a remedy for ulcers, smallpox, and syphilis?
Pine sap is also edible and has been used as "gum" for hundreds of years. The great thing is it's quick and easy to make. Simply mix pine sap, beeswax, and honey and voila! You now have something to chew on.
PINE SAP FIRE STARTER
Pine trees are one of the best trees to find in the wilderness when it comes to survival. Not only are the dried pine needles great for fires but the pine sap (sometimes known as pine pitch) is flammable and burns very well. Pine sap has been used to make candles, light sticks and just normal fires.
WATERPROOF & PATCH HOLES WITH PINE SAP
Pine sap is naturally water resistant and can be used to repair holes in tents, tarps, boots, canoes and containers. The pine pitch needs to first be heated to a liquid form (not directly over a fire since it is very flammable!) and mixed in with powdered charcoals before applying to the item you’re trying to repair.
Our ancestors have been re-purposing pine trees for thousands of years and we need to share their knowledge with future generations. Whether it be survival, medicinal or for personal uses, we still need to be generous with what we take. First look for pine trees that are damaged or have broken limbs. If there are none, be careful when extracting pine sap.