A few weeks ago, I went on a treasure hunt here at PFHQ. My quest would take me deep into my forest, along old fence lines, and even underground ... a little underground.
I was seeking "fatwood" aka "lighter". Fatwood is the heavily resinous remains of old pine trees and it makes the most amazing firestarter aka "kindling". I've mentioned this stuff before, so bear with me if I repeat myself, repeat myself, repeat ...
Fatwood is so resinous that even here in the land of wet rot and termites, the stumps of old pines that were harvested many decades ago, are still hard as a rock.
That resin is highly flammable hence the desirability of fatwood as kindling.
It gives off a piney thick black smoke, so you wouldn't want to cook over it, but it is wonderful for starting your hardwood fire or even your BBQ charcoal.
It only takes a few thin slivers to ignite seasoned hardwood or charcoal.
Hunting lighter is a great excuse for a slow walk through my mostly oak forest, so I headed south, kicking old stumps and logs as I went. A soft stump meant rotting oak, worthless, while a hard stump that kicked back meant possible lighter wood.
The treasure hunt walk gave me time to think about my place and it's preme history.
My land may be oak forest these days, but once it supported large longleaf pine trees and turpentine harvesting.
How do I know that?
I find the remains of clay turpentine pots and old pine stumps here and there around the property.
The evidence is clear. Before the oaks, a pine forest of large longleaf pine stood here. Probably many of them sported turpentine "catfaces" where the bark had been scored to make the sap flow into a terra cotta turpentine pot hung from a nail.
Somewhere in this blog is a post and picture about catfaces ... pretty old post though.
It wasn't long before I found the lighter stump above. It was lying at the base of an old oak, and could have been easily mistaken for a chunk of oak itself, but it was dense and hard. When I whacked it with my mattock, a rich piney sent arose.
It was half buried in the rich leaf mold beneath the old oak so it took a while to dig and pry it free. A stump like this is pretty excellent black widow, scorpion, snake habitat, so you have to be careful. No biter or stingers in this stump this time.
There's a good chance that this stump was cut when that big oak behind it was a wimpy seedling.
After the excavation, I dragged it out into the sun to dry for a few weeks. This is only the center of a much larger pine stump. The softer, less resinous sapwood has rotted long ago leaving this core of fatwood.
It's hard enough that an axe to the side of it bounces off with a ringing sound. Besides this stump, I found several others which are still awaiting excavation.
After some seasoning, I use the chainsaw to cut it up into approximately foot long sections that can be split easily with the sweetest little hatchet on the planet. I found this hatchet in the woods when I was about 14. No one else is allowed to use it.
It's like it was made for splitting kindling.
That beautiful orangey-red color is pine resin ... the "fat" in fatwood.
I wish you could smell that picture.
I'm still splitting, but I have enough split now to offer some for sale. I've never done this before and am working out some details, so this post is about a week ahead of any price info.
I'll have to be competitive with my pricing since this other guy called "Walmart" sells imported fatwood (looks puny to me) from Guatemala.
Thursday, I'm going to mail a test package of fatwood sticks to some cold people I know up north in New York. After that, I'll know what the shipping costs will be for a nice bundle of this excellent kindling.
More information to come by the weekend.
In the meantime, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested or just want to know more.