Fall(s) Risk: Walnuts

I have no choice: we have so many this year. I’m heading out to collect a few hundred walnuts to shell out over winter. I gotta go. Here’s a snippet from the Floyd County Almanac (now at 30k words!)

“…We’re going nuts around here this fall. It is a heavy mast year, and it could be bad for our health and safety. It’s actually risky to walk some places, so many rolling ball-bearings-on-banana-peel hickory nuts and acorns litter the path. Maybe that’s why they call this season fall? I’ve come close.

The old-timers will tell you that this is over-production of tree fruit is because the good Lord in this way provides extra stores for all the animals that will need more for an especially long and hard winter soon to come that this abundance warns us about. We’ll see what the wooly worms have to say about that!

Walnuts, too, hang heavy with fruit this year, only now starting to drop their quarter-pound  baseball-sized husks with the golf ball sized kernel inside. We try to remember to walk clear of them (or wear protective head gear) not certain an unprotected head would fare much better than if we risked walking under coconut palms. The only thing worse would be if hanging walnuts were triangular. Can you sue a tree for damages?…”

CAPTION: A photo-merge with the iPhone. Can you find Gandy? Notice how the one side of the white house is blue (reflecting the morning sky) and the other cast towards yellow (reflecting the autumn foliage.)

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hi Fred
    thanks for sharing your information about this year’s mast crops. I have noticed that the squirrels in our subdivision have been really busy lately packing nuts and burying them in various locations.

    What I am wondering with this comment, is if you would share your experience with us and explain how you deal with gathering walnuts and removing the husks and drying out the nuts after that? I recall my own father gathering walnuts, dumping and spreading them around our driveway, which was gravel at the time, and running the car over them many, many times. This process seemed to help loosen the husks. I do know for sure that protective gloves of some sort are required if you don’t want to spend months with walnuts Stains on your skin. Having said that, I do not recall how difficult picking up the husks and exposed nuts was for whomever had the nasty chore.

    By the way Fred, I am using my Dragon software to write this comment. Except for not recognizing a word or two due to my poor pronunciation, it did very well. Good Dragon!

  2. Clarence….I just gathered a bucketful and deposited them where we park the cars (as I go on to describe in the book). The husks are easier to remove when they are black than when they are green. We have a handy crank-operated cracker that makes easy work of getting inside the nut. The harder part is teasing the meat out of the inconveniently-convoluted brain-like crannies inside. BTW, walnuts were early believed to be food for the brain because of the resemblance of the nut to the organ–the “doctrine of signatures.”

  3. Mornin’ Fred. We seem to have a larger than normal crop of both acorns and pecans this year. For months now the ripening pecans have been causing over stressed limbs to break and fall to the ground. The limbs that haven’t broken are hanging so low they brush the gound around many of the trees.

    The strange thing is, I am seeing fewer squirrels than is normal. I guess that means less competition for the pecans… I can’t say I’ll be picking up to many acorns though.

  4. You wrote: “The old-timers will tell you that this is over-production of tree fruit is because the good Lord in this way provides extra stores for all the animals that will need more for an especially long and hard winter soon to come that this abundance warns us about.”
    Now that’s what I would call a real sentence!

  5. I like the almanac thread. The novel sounds interesting too but I’m not thrilled with the dystopic future genre in general. I like the almanac’s “be here now” aspect. My cats say it’s going to be a hard winter, they’ve put on weight and heavy coats.