This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Intelligent people who follow what is written about the durability of timber must often feel puzzled, not only at what they read, but at what they see. For instance, the writer of this split up an oak trunk a few years ago, and one post made from this trunk was put in for a hitching post. A hundred yards from this another as a hitching post was also placed. After about ten years, one rotted completely away; the other is sound and solid as ever, and will probably last ten or more years yet. There is not the slightest difference in the quality of the wood, as both are from opposite sides of the same trunk, yet, if different people had this wood to test, how different would their reports be.
What is it which causes destruction in timber?
Some say fungus - that is mildew or moulds. But in Mexico they dip oak railroad ties in creosote, which is destructive of all, even the lowest, forms of vegetable life, yet they are found decayed and worthless in four years. In our country we have had the same experience with gas tar. At one time it was a common practice to use this substance to paint wood, under the impression that it would destroy all decaying tendencies; but experience has shown that tarred wood, especially when the sun shines on it, decays faster than when nothing whatever is used to preserve it. The decay of wood is evidently due to chemical action - and if we can only find out just what these agencies are, we may have in our hands the power to make any wood durable.