Monday, January 2, 2012

Lessons of Fish and Gum

My father doesn't like to go fishing.  This fact was hidden from us children for years.  You see, he took us fishing many, many times.  We never cared for it.  But, we went because we thought he liked it.  So we sacrificed for him.  Only years later did he confess he didn't like fishing, but did it because he felt we children needed to know how to fish.  He was the one that did the real sacrificing!  (Especially since he had to put the worm on the hook, and take the fish off!)

My father was always showing and telling us what he felt we needed to know.

Like how to make gum.  We thought gum only came from convenience stores.  "Not true", he said.  "There's a way to make gum."  We were amazed, yet doubtful.  No one else's dad ever talked about making gum.

But, lo and behold, one day we were driving along an old country road, and he stopped the car.  Little did we know - this was the day we were going to get a treat!

You see, he had spotted a sweetgum tree!

He took a pocket knife out, and slowly the resin collected in his hands.  Just a small amount, but enough for all of us to try a little.  Of course, we made him try it first.  He declared that it was "mmm, mmm, good", and it became time to give ours a try.

I can't say that I remember much about what it tasted like, but I think it was O.K., but not really "mmm, mmm, good".  We chewed it just long enough to say we had tried homemade gum.  And my father had given us one more lesson.

I'm sorry to say I've never given this type of gum to my children.  I can imagine that's fine with them.

But when I went for my walk to join in This Grandmother's Garden's walking meme, this beautiful sweetgum tree was showing all its beautiful colors.  And I can never look at a sweetgum tree (liquidambar) without thinking of that day, and that experience.  Even the latin for sweetgum looks like it would be fun to try, almost as if it's taunting you to give it's 'liquid amber' a chew.

Sweetgums are also known for these little prickly balls that fall off the tree.  Painted gold, they make beautiful Christmas ornaments.  They are also a very unstable surface to land upon when jumping off a porch.

But that's another story.


  1. I've seen a lot of sweetgums around my neighborhood, and I must say that I am quite happy not having this tree in my own backyard.

  2. We have three liquidamber trees, and I love them for their fall foliage even though their roots can be aggressive. The prickly "gumballs' don't bother me. They go in the shredder with the fall leaves, and it all goes into the compost. I once read that the gumballs can be used to encircle plants to keep the snails and slugs away. But my snails must have pretty tough hides, because the little critters just slimed their way over the barriers!

  3. That is two things I learned about a Gum tree. There are plenty of those little balls up here and I never thought to paint them. Nice idea.

  4. What a sweet post about a great memory! I would never think to make my own Gum, but I have a similar memory of hiking with my Girl Scout troop and learning about Wild Mint leaves. Those early memories are precious.

  5. Holley, what a loving way you have to write about your father. He seemed to be a really good man! I think I saw sweetgum trees when we lived in the Bay Area in California, but never could place a name to them. Now I know! Thanks for this post!

  6. Well, whodathunkit?!! Very interesting :-)

  7. Aren't memories just awesome???? I have seen Sweetgum trees --but never tried the gum in the trees... Don't think I ever will... ha ha

    My Daddy loved to fish --but he never seemed to catch anything... I do remember one time when he came home with a bunch of fish... Our basement smelled like stinky fish for a week I think... ha ha


  8. Great foilage photos. Your '12 gifts from the garden' post was really lovely. Happy New Year, hope 2012 is a great gardening year for you, Kelli

  9. I love your sweet story...your father sounds like mine...sacrificing for us so we had what we needed for our physical, emotional and spiritual well this tree that is foreign to me!!

  10. Dewi - A lot of people feel that way, because of those balls. They can be quite dangerous if near a pathway. But, I think the trees are one of the most beautiful and I love seeing it - from afar!

    dorothy - Never heard of the balls being used as a slug deterrent! Sorry it didn't work for you. That would have been a good use for them!

    GWGT - I've used these frugal ornaments many times! They look very nice with pine cones, too. Very textural!

    PlantPostings - And I've never tried wild mint! How fun! It's those odd and unusual experiences that stick with us the most.

    Christina - I especially love the big maple-looking leaves, and the way they turn all different colors. My father is special, and I'm not just saying that because I'm prejudiced - he really is!

    Toni - haha Oh, the things you learn from someone who grew up in the country!

    Betsy - Are you sure he didn't buy them? :) Just kidding! But, when we went fishing, many times we finished the trip with a stop at the fish market!

    Kelli - Happy New Year to you, too! I hope you have a wonderful 2012.

    Donna - Dads are special, aren't they? I love this tree, too. They are magnificent when they're old and large.

  11. Lovely! Special memories like that are priceless.

    I've seen those prickley balls, but didn't know they came from sweetgum trees.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Funny enough I never thought you can actually make gum out of Liquidambars despite what the latin name suggests. You learn something everyday...

    Happy New Year btw! :)

  13. Oh this is so interesting! I never knew how gum was really made. Sounds like you had a great dad. Happy New Year!

  14. What a sweet story! I'm so glad you shared it; I'll think of it every time I see this tree. Wishing you a joyous New Year! Thanks for all your kind words throughout 2011; I appreciate your friendship.

  15. Those are great memories, Holleygarden. Fathers teach some amazing things that never leave us.

  16. It seems that your father taught you how to enjoy life - that's a great gift.

  17. charlie b - As far as I know, sweetgums are the only tree with those prickly balls. If you see them on a tree, it's probably a sweetgum!

    Mark and Gaz - I never knew the latin name until I looked it up for this post! So fitting! :) Happy New Year!

    Bumble Lush - I suppose way back, it was quite enjoyable! Happy New Year!

    Cat - Happy New Year! I hope 2012 is going to be a great one!

    Sherry - They sure do. Mine is a sweet one!

    b-a-g - I hadn't thought of that, but yes, he did. He always looks at the positive side of things, and for the good in people.

  18. How sweet your father was trying to make sure you learned and experienced all you could as children. and lucky you to be reminded each time you see such a lovely tree.

  19. charming story Holley. Can make gum from tree and even glue from fish.

  20. You father was very wise... Thank you! Now, I need to try handmade gum, since we have those trees around!
    Holley, I want to thank you for your comment on my post about killing our forest. One of the worst parts of the story is that that person who did it lives in our neighborhood and used to walk his own dog in that forest. When prices on timber went up he swapped another property for this piece of land with the only purpose - to harvest trees and sell them to China... Thanks again!

  21. I love the stories you tell about your family, Holley--this one is especially sweet. I think it's wonderful that your Dad just wanted you to know things were possible, even if you never took to them yourselves.

  22. Marguerite - Yes, he's a good guy!

    PatioPatch - I know glue comes from horses or flour, but I've never heard of fish! Now I've learned something new!

    Tatyana - My husband said that he has tried it before, too, when he went to summer camp as a kid! Give it a try! Although, I doubt it would ever be a hot seller!

    Most owners with timber will either sell the timber before they sell the land, or add that amount into the cost of the land. They were not very smart businessmen if they didn't think of this before they sold it.

    Stacy - I guess even way back then, he wanted us children to know that things didn't just come from a store!

  23. Ahh, what a lovely story to go with a beautiful tree! I have a Sweetgum in my garden and I love it! I always wonder what I could do with those seed heads/prickly balls - I have soo many of them. I think I;ll try spraying them next Christmas. Fab idea!!

  24. Gardening Blog - Nice to see that you love your Sweetgum. Some people hate theirs, because of those prickly balls! I think you'll love them spray painted.

  25. Oh I love this! Reminds me of my own Dad, he taught me how to make gum from the sap of a pine tree. Thank you for joining in, and sorry I'm so late in visiting you. My life has been so full lately, I've missed visiting blogs. Yours brightened my day!

    1. I didn't realize pine made good gum, too! I have been missing you, and am glad everything is fine, just busy!


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