October – Nature’s Bounty

Every fall we are bombarded with green hand grenades. They fall from the trees with a thud or a thump, and lay on the ground where they become ball-bearings under my feet as I head down the hill to the chicken coop. Then they begin to rot; they squish when you step on them. The squirrels run around gathering the nut from inside the green husks and tap them against the tree trunks with the vengeance of a woodpecker. Yes, it’s black walnut season.

Last year, I called the local extension service to see if there is any place locally that processes these nuts – they never called back. This year, I decided I would take matters into my own clean hands. I put on rubber gloves and gathered four five-gallon buckets of the green husked nuts. Then I spent several hours with a paring knife, slicing into the husk and releasing the nut shell. I ended up with about three trash bags of green husks, and about 7 gallons of hard nuts – and black hands – because the rubber gloves apparently weren’t black walnut proof.

I washed the nuts in a big bucket using a rake to agitate them and get the remaining husks to fall off, drained the black sludge water numerous times, and then put the nuts on the shelves in my greenhouse to dry.

After much research on the web, I settled on “Grandpa’s Goody Getter;” a massive nutcracker with a lever that makes it look like you’re playing the slot machines. With each pull of the handle, I hit the jackpot if the nut cracks cleanly and the nut meat falls out. More often than not, it takes a tiny pair of clippers and a nut pick to coax the meat out of the shell.

Countless hours later, with hands that still won’t wash clean – I have two pints of nut meat. Yes, 20 gallons worth of green-husked nuts gave us two pints of edible nut meat. This IS nuts.

I’ve been researching better ways to do this (and keep my hands clean). I’ll let you know if next year’s nut harvest is less nutty.

Green “hand grenades” that land with a thud.
The nut inside the green husk.
Our industrial sized nut cracker that’s more like pulling the handle on a slot machine!
Tedious work picking out the nut meat.
Stained hands…
And a few nuts!

November — The Black Walnut Trees

We have quite a few Black Walnut trees on our property and they create several problems.  First of all, there are a lot of things you can’t plant near them because they have toxins in their root system and bark that things like apples and pears don’t like – so we have to keep them apart.  Then, the bark or chipped wood is also toxic to horses – so we have to keep them apart.  And then, they provide food for the squirrels who are multiplying like rabbits on our property – so we need to keep them apart!  I’m not sure how.

In addition to those problems, they drop these green-husked balls the size of hand grenades all over the yard.  They are like ball bearings.  If you step on one, it’s likely to take you for a ride.  And trying to cut the grass with all these hand grenades all over the place sends them shooting in different directions and/or dinging up the lawn mower blades.

I spent the better part of a day raking them up, filling a 5 gallon bucket and moving them into some of the underbrush where we don’t cut the grass.  But it wasn’t “a” 5-gallon bucket, it was 20 trips with the 5-gallon bucket, and that’s only from two trees, and more are continuing to fall as we speak.

Putting them in a pile is like creating a squirrel grocery store.  That isn’t going to help solve the squirrel problem, and over time – we’ll have thousands of new black walnut trees sprouting from the black walnut patch.

I contemplated husking them, shelling them and picking out the nut meats – for about two seconds until I remembered that:

  1. I’d need a corn sheller to run the husks through to peel off the tough green outer layer
  2. I’d need rubber gloves because otherwise my hands would be permanently stained black (well, almost permanently – it takes a long time to get those nails clean again), and
  3. I’d probably only get a pound or two of nut meat for all my hard work.

So, I called the cooperative extension service and left a voice mail to find out if anyone has a commercial black walnut shelling operation around here.  Since they still haven’t called me back, I guess the squirrel grocery store is open for business.

It’s a beautiful tree, until it starts dropping green tennis balls all over the yard.
They’re everywhere.
Bucket by bucket, I moved them…
…into a pile of black walnuts where the squirrels can find them.