The Birch Still By Margaret Warner Morley

But they got safely over the wobbly bridge, and went on through the forest,only stopping a few minutes to look at a birch-still.

A birch-still is a place where they distil birch-oil out of birch-bark. Do you know how it is done \ Well, you ought to, for you eat so much birch-oil. You don't think you ever ate any birch-oil in your life? Oh, but I knoiu you have eaten it. I am perfectly sure you sometimes eat wintergreen candy and other things flavored with wintergreen. That is, you call it wintergreen; but it is not that at all, it is birch. You see the flavor is the same, and it is much easier to get it out of the birch.

The way they do is to strip the bark from the young black-birch trees, — which of course kills the trees, and that is too bad; but they do it, and chop the bark into little pieces, which they put into a long wooden box with a zinc bottom.

When the box is full of bark, they put in some water, and fit on the cover, and plaster all the cracks with clay until the box is air-tight, — all but a little round hole in the cover that has a lead pipe fitted into it.

Then they build a fire in the firehole under the box, and soon the steam from the boiling water escapes through the pipe that is fitted in the cover. The pipe is coiled up in a barrel of water when it leaves the box, and is kept cool by a little stream of water which runs into the barrel all the time.

Of course the steam that escapes through the pipe is turned back to water when it becomes cooled, passing through the coil in the barrel, and finally runs out of the other end of the pipe into a bottle. There is birch-oil in the steam that goes over, and the oil runs into the bottle with the water, but being heavier than water it sinks to the bottom of the bottle. When the bottle is full, the water runs out at the top; but when it gets full of oil, they do not allow that to run over, — they take away the bottle of oil and put an empty bottle in its place.

Yes, I know that oil is said to float on water, and some oil does, but birchoil is heavy, as I have told you, and sinks to the bottom.

The people take the oil to the store and exchange it for shoes and calico and safety-pins, and all the things they need. The storekeeper sells the oil to the manufacturers, who purify it and make it into flavoring extracts, and then the druggists use it in making medicines and tooth-powder, and the candy-makers flavor some of their candies with it, and the perfumers mix it with other things to make perfumes and scented soap. A great deal of this oil comes from the North Carolina mountains, and is made in the woods as I have told you.

Well, when Little Mitchell's lady had looked at the birch-still long enough, they went on uutil they got to Blowing Rock. And this is a very wonderful place.