Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Rich Pine

Fat lightered wood

If you guessed yesterday’s mystery item was: rich pine, lighter knot, pine knot, lightered, a natural fire starter, fat pine, light wood, heart wood, lightered knot, fat wood, or fat lighter wood you were right. As I mentioned before, the item has many different names depending on where you live. The Deer Hunter was demonstrating how easy it is to light rich pine in the photo above.

The various names mean the same thing: a fire starter created by the natural decay of pine trees. I grew up hearing it called rich pine. A small piece or a few shavings of rich pine will help you build a fire in a hurry. In the past rich pine was also commonly used as a source of light.

Fat wood

Rich pine is created through the decay and deterioration of pine trees. The resins in the wood solidify and become rot resistant and flammable. Not every pine tree that dies or is cut results in the creation of rich pine. I’ve read it depends on the time of year the tree falls, the condition of the tree at the time, and other factors. I’m sure if you google around a little you can find the exact scientific process if you’re interested.

Today most of us have handy lighters and plenty of excess paper to aide in our fire building. In days gone by keeping an eye out for rich pine while you walked about your way was a natural part of life for everyone.

Pap was the oldest Grandchild on his Mother’s side of the family. When he was a young boy his Grandmother (we called her Big Grandma-I can barely remember her) liked to walk in the woods and hunt rich pine. Pap was her helper-carrying a sack to put the small pieces in or helping her drag the bigger ones home.

Granny Gazzie and a young Granny
Granny Gazzie and a young Granny

Granny told me her mother, Gazzie, came to visit for a week after they moved into the house Pap built. Granny Gazzie was tickled pink that her daughter had a new house, something she never had. But the thing that tickled Granny Gazzie the most was when she walked out to Pap’s new garden. It was hewn out of the woods, with trees still crowding close. As Granny Gazzie walked in the edge of the woods she seen several pieces of rich pine. She said “Oh this’ll be a fine place to live. Just look at the wealth of rich pine right here handy for getting.”

The story about Granny Gazzie makes me smile every time I think of it, I remember she got excited about the little things. It also makes me almost laugh because in my entire life I have never known of Granny starting a fire for heat or to cook on. As I think of Granny Gazzie pointing out the rich pine to her, I’m positive she knew well and good that any fires that got built would not be by her daughter. But raising nine children and needing to build fires for cooking, for warmth, for laundry, and for canning ensured Granny Gazzie knew the value of rich pine and after a lifetime of needing it, it would have been impossible for her not to point it out.

Drop back by tomorrow-we’re going to see if we can find some rich pine.



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  • Reply
    Steve Patton
    January 15, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I still got a few chunks in my camping gear. Never know when it’ll come in handy, I aso like pine cones for starting fires.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks Tipper, we call them “pine knots” over here in my neck of the woods, and we try to keep a stash of them for the wood burning stove and the cook stove that we do actually cook on in the winter, just means more heat for the house, but more work for the menfolk, keeping the firewood cut, because my Mom sure does like to burn it. Thanks for a great story.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    I think I’ve heard of these referred to as “pine-knots” before…one summer I worked in VA as a camp counselor, and this is where I learned about them.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    When I was in high school, we used to have this saying about pretty girls. We’d say “Boy somebody must have poured a bucket of pretty all over that gal!”
    Well, with all due respect, they must have hosed your Momma down with it!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    We called it fat lightwood. Our son was the envy of his Boy Scout troop because he always took some fat lightwood on his camping trips. After the first camping trip his scoutmaster asked if we could send more next time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Granny ain’t purty! Grannys beautiful! I reckon Pap had to do some butt whoopin to win her. Gazzie probably looked as good in her day.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Well, my guess was not right, and not, knot right.
    Great post Tipper, I always learn about new things in your blog! I will have to see if I can find some of these in our pines too!
    John Pallister
Twitter @PointlessPicks

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    January 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks, Tipper I enjoy your blog and the stories you keep alive…

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    It appears to me that Pap and the
    Deer Hunter married well. (And as
    Forrest Gump said “that’s all I’ve
    got to say about that.”)
    Since I buy eggs in those paper
    cartons, that is what I save for my
    fires. My fire hardly ever goes out,
    I just rake some coals to one side,
    empty the ashes and commence all over
    again. But when I was little, we use
    to gather the rich pine and pine
    cones for starting fires…Ken

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    January 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    tipper i feel like you… its more special to know that when you find something like that…. its not abundant.. and more precious… in how its made .. and what use it is for.. love hearing about your family.. you are all beautiful .. inside and out
    have a wonderful week.. stay warm..
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    January 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    This is a pleasant picture-Tell Granny she’s purty.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 11:49 am

    What a fabulous picture, obviously good looks are a natural inheritance in your family! You, Chitter and Chatter have a great resemblence to Granny.
    The story of Granny Gazzie beng so happy for her daughter is very touching. Granny Gazzie looks as though she knew how to have fun and enjoy herself!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Really enjoyed this post and the pictures. Thank God for Grannies!!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I’m back…
    Dear Tipper,
    You know what you should do? You should get a picture of you and photo shop in just under your (Mom) Granny and Gazzie, there is room and then on either side photo shop in Chitter and Chatter beside you….Since I believe you are close to the same age as the photo of Granny (Mom)…..
    Wouldn’t that make a neat 8×10 and then in the years to come…
    the girls could (photo shop?) in their pictures of their girls…
    and on it goes….Great (smokin’)mountain ladies….LOL
    Thanks, Tipper…

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Good post, Tipper. I am so glad to have Blind Pig. I count on Blind Pig and the Acorn to pleasure my mornings and help me relax of an evening.
    Now, my guess is that fatwood is too valuable to burn as regular wood. And pine probably creosotes-up a chimney real quick, if that’s all a body used; but most don’t.
    You know, it’s only two weeks till Groundhog’s Day … then, it’ll get warm right along after that.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 10:11 am

    That’s very cool and good to know. The pic of your grandmothers is so adorable.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

    You can tell it is modern times as
    Deer Hunter is using what appears to be a Propane torch to light the lighter knot! hummmmmm
    Cheatin’ just a hair….Of course these days most folks don’t keep those big red and blue boxs of matches in the match box…(sometimes not easy to locate in your local grocery anymore)
    Thanks Tipper….

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 16, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Wonderful post this morning…as usual…By Jove, I think I got it!
    Our pileated woodpeckers sure can make a pile of fatwood shavings….looking for the six-legged critters that live in the dieing pines….LOL
    Thanks for a great post Tipper..
    I love to hear your family stories….

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    January 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Always heard it called fat wood. I made my fire starters by dipping pine cones in melted parafin. They worked real well and would start burning with a match.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 9:33 am

    This makes me want to take a walk in the woods and see if I can locate any rich pine here on the farm.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    January 16, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Anytime we would go camping we’d always spend time looking for some lightered knots to help with the campfire. I’ve used small pieces to start a fire in a fireplace, but it wouldn’t be a good idea to use a lot in a fireplace or stove cause it burns so hot and it leaves a lot more resin residue in the chimney.. Tipper, I’ve never found any over here close to where we live west of Franklin. I’ve wondered if the “white pines” do that as they don’t seem to have as much sap as the pines further south. I recall a place in Southwest Florida where they dug up the pine stumps and cooked them in huge pots to get the sap to run and made turpentine..I think. You could even see trains carry car after car of pine stumps to plants…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 16, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Tipper, your Grannie Gazzie has such a sweet and peaceful countenance and Grannie is a pretty woman. It is easy to see where you got your good looks and peaceful demeanor. You have so much to pass on to those beautiful daughters of yours.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

    We always called it rich pine or pine knots. I love the smell of rich pine being split. Pieces about six feet long make excellent fence posts that will last for decades. My mother decorates her flower beds with odd shaped pieces of rich pine. I’ve also seen pieces of rich pine used to mark property corners. The main use was for starting fires in wood stoves. We still find small piles of pine knots my great grandmother had collected near her old home place.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    January 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

    What a beautiful memory and story! I enjoyed reading it!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I get a good education on Blind Pig. I grew up without wood-burning fireplaces, stoves, etc., except for visiting my grandparents in Sylva, NC. Very interesting series on firestarters, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    January 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Granny = Tipper = Chitter + Chatter 🙂 Those apples sure didn’t fall far!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 8:31 am

    We called it rich lighter pine. We were always on the lookout for it when we were in the woods. We used to make a day out of going out together and gathering the pine. We would take a hatchet and cut off what we called splinters from the larger pine knots to start our fires. Even I could start a fire in the fireplace or heater as long as I had plenty of pine splinters. LOL

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    January 16, 2012 at 8:30 am

    We always called it fat pine and indeed there was a special wooden box with a lid always on the porch just for the fat pine.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for the memories of many a trip dragging in Pin Knots. In the Old Days of wood stoves we would spot the knots during warm weather and stack them to dry to dry out for winter. They made the whole house smell like Christmas.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am

    It was indeed a prize, we carry a huge box with us when we go camping.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

    just this morning i had to use a few slivers of fat lighter along with the pine cones. i try to use little for my indoor wood stove but chunks for outside wood pit. luv these old “pass me down” tittles.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Thanks for the lesson Tipper, It just goes to show there is always something new to learn in this big world we live in.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Although I didn’t answer the 01/15/2012 Blind Pig Post, I knew what we called the beautiful burning flare: pine knot, and also rich pine. I’ve posted here before that my father was a sorghum syrup maker. He boiled the cane juice in a long copper-clad boiler over a roaring furnace. It took many pine knots to start that fire for six or more weeks, six DAYS a week during the fall syrup-making time! Just seeing the knot ablaze made me homesick for those days so long ago! We also used pine knots to start fireplace fires and Home Comfort cooking stove fires–and “heater” fires when we installed a wood heater.

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    January 16, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Good morning, Tipper.
    Pop called it “lighter.”
    I have fond memories of going out into the woods with him and his hatchet, looking for “lighter root.” When we found one, he’d chop it into large “slivers.” Each piece would be large enough to start one fire.
    I love the rich aroma of lighter pine. It makes me think of simpler times and remember long walks in the woods with Pop.
    All the best,

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