Monday, October 20, 2008

Nuts

I have a T-shirt that reads, "So many books, so little time."
Appropriate, for someone who spends her day working at the local library, thumbing through the latest publications--glimpses of the never-ending stream of best-selling novels cranked out by those famous names such as Grisham and Patterson and Parker.
Only, to return home to a yard of seasonal chores--leftovers from the ambitious plans of an always-too-short weekend.
Sometimes I feel like I'm chasing my own tail.
Caught on the hamster wheel, once again.

Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
fully leafed-out and showing nuts

flowering in spring

And although I should be able to turn my eyes from the scads of Black Walnuts thrown in ankle-breaking regularity across the yard,
I feel they should be gathered for winter.
Collected and processed into the wonderful cakes and cookies with that wild, Black Walnut kick.

A laundry basket and three 5-gallon pails are already full and poised by the back door.
And the yard has been blanketed, yet again--the green-hulled, tennis ball-sized nuts, now dark brown and beginning to show signs of losing their pungent jackets.
Soon, the black hulls will slough off, and, wearing heavy rubber gloves, I'll wash and rinse the rough, furrowed shells, until the black water runs clean and clear.
Black Walnut stains are deep and dark--and long lasting.

Throughout the winter, bit by bit, I'll crack the impossibly hard shells indoors, seated on the hearth of a glowing wood stove.
My hammer and favorite cracking stone, a slab of river rock with the perfect nut-sized depression, stand ready.
Soon, to extricate each delicious morsel, hidden deeply within its elaborately chambered case.

I wonder if this force I sense to gather them is like that the squirrels feel.
And if they, too, sigh deeply each morning, looking out over the yard beneath the walnut trees.
There is yet much to be done.

Black Walnuts in basket

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31 comments:

Ruth said...

I am writing a post on black walnuts and will have to link to yours. I have collected a bag of then, but what a job to get the nuts. You make it sound so romantic! ;-) I will save them for the squirrels.
I always felt that you did not belong in an indoor job, but a library...that is different.

NCmountainwoman said...

I'm sure you have heard this, but we used to put the walnuts in a tow sack (coffee sack would work), then run over them back and forth with the car. Most of the hulls can be removed this way. We would dump them out and spray with the hose.

Walnuts are a lot of work, but definitely worth it. Enjoy them all winter.

KGMom said...

Since I am retired, I technically should have lots of time to read. Right? Wrong! And on top of not having the time, I feel guilty when I take the time.

bobbie said...

Your walnut harvest sounds wonderful to me. It must be a lot of work, but such great reward! I wish I had access to a tree like that.

Anne said...

I like to collect the chestnuts that fall into the street in front of a neighbor's house at the beginning of the season; if I wait too long, the squirrels and cars have ruined my treats. I don't know this neighbor and I hope they don't mind my poaching efforts at 6 in the morning.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.The end results of the walnut harvest must certainly be worth it.Maybe there will be time for reading in winter.

RuneE said...

I think I'll prefer the Novels to the Nuts - unless it is unsalted peanuts!

And BTW, I also prefer to read popular science, history and dull stuff like that...

richies said...

I love black walnuts. When my grandpa was alive, i remember him picking black walnuts all evening on long winter nights.

An Arkie's Musings

antigoni said...

Excellent post!

Pam said...

I'm so envious! As a natural dye for fabrics and yarn, walnut is a favourite and the long lasting stain is just what we textile people are looking for!As well as eating the walnuts use the shells and water to good advantage. Soak a 100% white cotton top in milk or vinegar for a couple of days. Rinse. Boil up that dark walnut water and place in the top tied up with lots of criss-crossed string. Also tie in any rusty nails, washers you might have.Simmer for anywhere between and half and hour to an hour. Leave in overnight. Dry outside for a couple of days. Cut string and unwrap. Look up the work of India Flint in Australia.Have fun!

crete said...

Strangely enough, my post was also about nuts, but picking sweet chestnuts off of trees in Crete, Greece. So far, but maybe not so far away from you.

Ray

ellen b said...

I love the taste of black walnut in cakes and candies! Fun post...

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Seeing these walnuts brings back so many memories of my childhood Nina. My Dad and I would gather the nuts and crack them. My Mother would bake all kinds of goodies with them. I didn't really like the flavor but I loved the family time that was so precious as the nuts brought us together.

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

Just found you, but you seem exactly like someone who would work around books. So beautifully written. My yard is covered in pine needles here in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Brenda

babooshka said...

Nothing nuts about being a book lover. Link on my post to a new book swap blog you might like. Nuts at christmas for me.

Rebeckah said...

I love that black walnut tree picture. Very pretty! Hope you have a wonderful week!

pink dogwood said...

There is a tree with green fruits that looked like your picture on a trail near my house. I need to find out if they are walnuts and collect some - I love the way you write.

Rambling Woods said...

I'm surprised that Ron Popeil hasn't come up with a black walnut cracker to sell on a infomercial...Mine is on nature of course...ABC Letter N

Bear Naked said...

So many nuts --so little time to gather them.
Perfect post and photos for ABC Wednesday letter N.

Bear((( )))

Robert V. Sobczak said...

I don't think I've ever had a black walnut: but I eat nuts every day: walnuts for breakfast ... and recently a mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds for lunch. I know that your post wasn't about nuts, not literally. I'm the same way: its a race against time ... but time moves slow too. It's a duality.

antigoni said...

Beautiful pictures and great post!

D Herrod said...

We used to have lots of pecans in our yard.

Jay said...

There's a house in our village with a walnut tree that overhangs the road, and at this time of year the road is full of walnuts, still in their green jackets. The old man who used to live there used to harvest them, but the new folk are townies and I'm not sure they even know they are walnuts. Such a shame.

Are black walnuts related to ordinary walnuts?

Rumour has it that gypsies used to darken their skin with walnut juice to disguise themselves if needed.

Reader Wil said...

This is such an interesting post. I have never seen black walnuts. You have so much patience collecting and washing them, and then lateron baking those no doubt delicious cakes.Thanks for sharing.

leslie said...

Seems like a lot of work, but so worth it! I can remember my Dad bringing home bags of various types of nuts for Xmas and he really enjoyed getting the old nutcracker out and getting to work on them. :D

ChrissyM said...

Lovely post!

Rinkly Rimes said...

Black walnuts! I learn something new every day! I love your style of writing. I almost feel as though I'm there.

RuthieJ said...

We have lots of black walnut trees around here, but I don't think many people go to all the work of harvesting them anymore and the squirrels get most of them. (Unfortunately, I never acquired a taste for them--pecans are still my favorite.)

Kim from Hiraeth said...

That is a beautifully written piece.

I've got some black walnuts stewing in a jar to make walnut ink. Have you ever made it?

nina said...

Pam and Kim--I've never tried to work with the stain--always avoided it in search of the nutmeats. But, you have made me wonder if I might try! I'll see what I can find to stain.

kbguy said...

Very interesting. I didn't know walnuts grow on trees.