Wed 8 Sep 2010
If you followed news of the three-month-long Gulf Oil Spill earlier this year, you know how distressing it was to see the victims. Well, it was almost as sticky at my cabin for 12 months before Terry Gray of Inverness Park and I finally capped another gusher one week ago.
For the past year, visitors to my cabin had arrived badly in need of a cleanup, their hands having become sticky from grasping the railing at the top of my front steps. Even the raccoons that show up each night at my kitchen door sometimes appeared to have sticky paws.
A tub of tree sealer sits where sap was dripping onto the railing of my steps.
A year ago, tree trimmers had cut off a pine limb which overhung my roof, and that had caused sap to drip from the wound onto the deck, railing, and steps below. After trying unsuccessfully to cap the leak by myself, I asked Terry for help.
Having concluded a girdle of cloth wouldn’t work because the sap would merely flow over it, I had already tried creating a collar using the inner tube from a wheelbarrow tire. Unfortunately, the bark of Monterey pines is striped with cracks, and sap flowing down those cracks went right past my rubber collar.
It was Terry’s job to climb up on my roof two stories off the ground and slather the black goop all over the stub of the cut-off limb.
But within hours of his doing this, the wound was again dripping sap on my deck and railing.
So I asked Terry to come back and try again, for I had another idea.
This time he used a pocket knife to cut a shallow groove in the dry outer bark in order to divert the flow of sap away from the deck and railing.
The idea sort of worked but not totally.
Some sap continued to land where visitors would step on it and get it on their hands.
So Terry came back for a third try.
By now we were beginning to feel like BP struggling against the forces of nature.
Terry decided to lengthen the groove and build up its outer edge with sealer, which hardens within a few hours. At first, this approach seemed to work, but by morning the railing was again sticky with sap.
On Terry’s fourth try, he raised the edge of the groove even more but decided what was really needed was a wooden shelf to catch whatever sap overflowed the groove.
When Terry came back for a fifth time, he cut a shelf with one side shaped to fit around part of the trunk.
The shelf, which was attached to the trunk with wood screws, looked like it might be the perfect answer. But it wasn’t. The dripping became worse than ever because of sap oozing from the screw holes.
He also smeared sealer on another wound where a very small limb had been cut off the tree.
It too, we now realized, was responsible for an occasional drip.
Terry headed for home fearing that the abandoned shelf’s screw holes would plague us for some time to come and assuring me he’d be back in a day or so to work on the damage.
But there wasn’t any. “You stopped the dripping ,” I told Terry when I got him on the phone. “Congratulations!”
Terry was naturally pleased but remained a bit dubious given all we’d been through. However, a week has now gone by without a drop of sap falling on the deck, railing, or steps below.
Today Terry climbed back up on the roof to check the stub of the sawed-off limb and apply more tree sealer. The leak has indeed been capped, he reported when he climbed back down.
Our persistence had been rewarded, and Terry hadn’t fallen off the roof. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I chortled in my joy.