Bull Nuts…Black Walnuts

I do not know how many black walnut trees I have in and around my yard, at least a half dozen maybe a couple of more. Too many this time of year. I know having one is too many. Worse, this appears to be a banner year for walnuts. 

“Deez nuts”, big ole bull testicle sized fruit lurking in the grass, just waiting to cause an ankle turn or if there is a breeze, just waiting to drop from the heavens like a World War Two Dam Buster bomb.  Thump, thump, thump. “Lawd hep you if you are under one of them.”

I’m watching one of my squirrels trying to carry one. He is funny, he can’t get the walnut through the chain link fence. Okay, he’s figured it out and is up and over. They can only carry them one at a time but they are carrying them with a frenzy. Every squirrel frequenting my bird feeders could work from now until all the cows come home and I’d still be tripping over walnuts.

Red Squirrel Workout | Body Soul and Spirit
Poor guy. https://bodysoulspiritwp.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/red-squirrel-workout/

Black walnuts have already shredded two hot houses forcing me to cut polymer sheeting to protect my bride’s tender plants.  Judging from the nuts still hanging from the trees, I’ll probably be cutting more. Gazing heavenward I wondered if I was beating a dead mule or whether I should head inside for the old football helmet to protect my head. 

Walnuts are not pretty trees.  Walnut trees produce wonderful milled lumber, pretty on the inside, not on the outside.  Sounds like the description of a blind date I once had.  “Well old son, she don’t sweat much and she’s got a great personality.”

When my bride and I renovated our farmhouse, we used black walnut and pecan that came from the property after a run in with a tornado.  Still…I periodically check the counter tops to make sure there are not black walnuts being produced.

The trees themselves are the last to put on their leaves in the spring and the first to shed in the fall.  They don’t shed single leaves but rather they shed entire “fans” of leaves.  Thin, twiggy shoots that clog gutters and defy leaf rakes and blowers and stain the green metal roof black. No beautiful leaf colors unless you like brown.  Left to me I would cut them all down…but of course, it isn’t left to me.

I am in the process of picking up the bull nuts…I mean walnuts.  Big green pods…maybe Jolly Green Giant nuts are a better descriptor? Big green pods turning black, the size of a cue ball.  You look at them and think, “Boy that’s a big nut with plenty of seed.” 

Big nut? No, that is the outer covering, the husk.  The husk is pungently acrid, turns your hands brownish black, and when striped away reveals a small, brown, hard, and corrugated nut.  The actual nut is about the size of a human…no, not a good descriptor. 

U.S.: Commercial black walnut production a "long-term goal" at Hammons -  FreshFruitPortal.com
https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2017/11/20/u-s-commercial-black-walnut-production-long-term-goal-hammons/

I should alert you; the easiest labor is picking them up.  Getting the husk off to reveal the nut is messy.  You will discover the nut itself is so hard it will withstand a hundred megaton nuclear strike.  All nuclear bunkers should be armored with black walnuts.  Okay, just a bit of an embellishment but when someone uses the descriptor that someone “is a hard nut to crack” they were talking about black walnuts. They are nothing like their thin skinned cousin, the English walnut.

An anvil and a five-pound sledge?  Crush them with a vice? Bagging them in a croaker sack and running over them with a car?  Dropping them from the International Space Station?  So much work for so little reward.  Impossible to get the nut out whole. 

Black Walnut: A Favorite for Flavor - State Parks Blogs
Well done whomever you are. https://blindpigandtheacorn./com/cracking-black-walnuts

Oh, but black walnut cookies are so tasty you say…and black walnut pie, or black walnut pound cake.  Sorry, I will take peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, and plain pound cake…or go to the grocery store and buy English walnuts for the banana-nut bread.

I guess good things take an effort.  I remember black walnuts spread out in my grandmother’s old crib drying, the green husks turning black and shriveling like scrotums in cold weather…shriveling, not turning black…unless you are Black of course.

I remember my grandfather’s anvil and ball and peen hammer in use before Thanksgiving and Christmas…I just do not remember the desserts created from them.  My grandmother was not known for her desserts it would seem.  Pounds and pounds of nuts to get a handful of meat.  A lot of hard work invested for low reward. 

I am not even close to getting them all off the ground and have already filled one garden trailer and begun my second load.  I wonder if I can give them away for Christmas gifts.  Here Bro, here is your croaker sack filled with black walnuts…”What, you expected me to crack them.  I love you but I love no one that much.”  “Wait…you can sell them for fifteen smackaroos per pound shelled?  Still not worth it.  I’ll give them away whole.”

The Hunt for Black Walnuts Yields Highest-Ever Price and Tasty Treats -  Hammons Black Walnuts
https://black-walnuts.com/press-release/hunt-black-walnuts-yields-highest-ever-price-tasty-treats/

Well, it is breezy and a bit wet so for my own well being I will not venture out today to the black walnuts.  It already sounds like boulders are being thrown on to our metal roof.  Tomorrow could be a long day. Bull Nuts!!!!

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1DzBqVKFYXlRQRirpJrr5VAdCV9O8YZto-krRTOrnbHNm1h9UWk85RPH8

Featured image of the squirrel on a chain link fence is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/199002877267587450/?nic_v2=1a3SbW1kc

Summer’s End

 

We need water badly.  Little rain for the past month has taken the starch out of the leaves, fall blossoms…and me.  A wet early summer has turned into a dry late summer.  A cold front is on the way…a dry cold front.  Rain is as likely as me eating Pumpkin Spice Spam…well, Spam period.

The dry weather seems to have angered the already angry yellow jackets too…I think my mere presence angers the yellow jackets.  I water my bride’s flowers daily so she doesn’t get carried off or bled dry by mosquitoes.  The yellow jackets appreciate the water, they just don’t appreciate the person laying it down.  Three have expressed a stinging rebuke of me over the past week along with two red wasps adding their own firey reprimand.  Fair is fair.  I dislike them too and retaliate with wasp and hornet spray.  “Die you little bastards, DIE!”  I may be as angry the yellow jackets.

My own anger comes from more than the lack of water or hostile flying assholes.  Less than a week from the Fall Equinox, despite the summer-like temperatures, I can tell the seasons are changing.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.”  Or, if you like the Byrds better, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn”…so forth and so on.

A change in wind direction causes falling leaves to swirl.   The wind still blows warm but the fallen leaves crunching underfoot turns the backyard into a minefield of sorts.  Searching for puppy leavings and not finding any until I step on them.  Not realizing I stepped on a turd taco until I get back into the house.

Being knocked unconscious by this year’s bumper crop of falling black walnuts or rolling an ankle over on those already on the ground when not paying attention.  I hate black walnuts almost as much as yellow jackets.

Oh, Lawd, gutters to clean out and what to do with Linda’s plants as the temperatures fall.  The power washing I didn’t get to do in the spring.  Wood to cut and split. Time to pay the piper I suppose.  “All things have their season” and ’tis the season of doing today what you should have done three months ago.

I’m of two minds…both very small.  I welcome the fall temperatures while lamenting the end of summer and the shortened days.  I don’t know why I lament.  I’ve been very non-productive this summer…can I be less productive in the fall?  Yeah….

Will we even have a fall?  Some years autumn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge lasts for a whole two hours on the third Tuesday of October.  Otherwise, it is straight from summer to winter.  The weather has been so crazy maybe this year summer will last through winter…”But the mosquitoes!”  It doesn’t seem to matter about the mosquitoes.  If they can survive in the sub-Arctic tundra, they will have no problem here.

Bonfires, hoodies, boots traded for flip-flops, Wranglers for shorts…there will be no bonfires if we don’t get some rain and I don’t ever totally put away my flips.

Store promotions ignoring Halloween and Thanksgiving while attempting to sell Christmas tree lights and tinsel.  It’s a month and a half till Halloween Wally World, two to Thanksgiving.  You’ve already turned your garden area into a bicycle area.  Slow it down a bit okay?

Pumpkin spice…pumpkin spice everywhere.  In an autumn beer?  In Spam?  Pumpkin spice should be limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie…well…should be limited.  Does citronella come in pumpkin spice scent?  Pumpkin spice scented Deep Woods OFF!  I’m sure the mosquitoes would love it.

“To every season” maybe my problem.  Every time I turn around it seems I’m facing a changing season.  The realization that there are fewer seasons ahead than behind?  As God or the Byrd’s song reminds me, “A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.”  I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

Quotes are from:

Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8

“Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds, 1965

The image of Pumpkin Spice Spam https://www.spam.com/varieties/pumpkin-spice

For more click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Red, Gold, and Brown

 

I awoke troubled this Sunday morning…not unusual for any morning.  Nothing earth-shattering…maybe our biannual changing of the clocks or the impending trip to my polling station on Tuesday…or the possible outcomes I will find out about later in the night.  I just don’t know where we are headed.  The time may not be the only thing falling back with the season.

Still, I had a beautiful morning walk.  Well, it ended beautifully.  It began cool and crisp.  Fall is finally here…or early winter, it was thirty-nine as I set out.  There were trees with leaves of gold and red.  Leaves carpeted the narrow road I walked, silencing my footfalls but not my thoughts.

I was still troubled and tried to bury myself in the music coming from my earbuds until the earbuds died.  An irritating voice informed me of “low power.”  Need to recharge them more often…me or the earbuds?  There was nothing to drown out my thoughts, so I was forced to deal with them.

I worked on my latest book…in my head.  An action romance, I’m struggling with an ending…no I’m just struggling.  I worked on how my sterling hero could ride in and save the day.  I came up with a plot twist…maybe.  If I don’t go on and write it down  I’ll soon forget it.

Finally, I had nothing to do but look around at my surroundings.

Glancing down I did a hop, skip and a jump, scuttling sideways to avoid the snake.  “Little guy, what are you doing here?”, a corn snake, all red, gold and brown.  With our screwy weather, he hadn’t realized he should be hibernating and was attempting to raise his body temperature on the side of the tar and gravel road.

So cold!  I thought he was dead until I touched him with the toe of my shoe.  He moved…not much but he moved.  What to do?  If I leave him here, he is likely to get run over.  Oh goodness, I’m going to have to pick him up…I hate touching snakes even though I know they are not cold and slimy as I thought as a child…well, this one was pretty cold.

I saw a moss-covered flat rock and a patch of grass bathed in sunlight.  The brown blades of grass glowed gold, the mica in the rock flashed like diamonds.  Unfortunately, they were in different places.   The rock would soon be shaded as the sun rose.

“Stay here little guy, I’ll get you to a sunny spot.”  I needn’t have worried.  He was still too cold to move.  Picking up the rock I moved it to the sun and then carefully moved “Corny” to a perch on top of it before bidding him a fond adieu.

The lake was as calm, not a ripple.  Fog rose three or four feet before disappearing into the air.  Fish rolled in the shadows and the trees were reflected in the water.  There were more reds and golds and a single purple wildflower.  I paused to bask in the golden sunlight finally appearing from the southeast.  I don’t believe I could have summoned a nicer morning with a Vodun spell.

I had to get back home to clean up and dress for church but not before I checked on “Corny.”  He was gone, and I was glad…he must have taken my troubling thoughts with him.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came from http://www.outdooralabama.com

A HOPE FOR AUTUMN

 

After sweating through three clothing changes; the one I walked in, the one I worked in, the one I thought I was lounging in, it’s easy to grasp at straws, but there was something different about the wind yesterday evening.  Thunderstorms had rumbled around and about, none finding us.  With them came a change in the late afternoon wind.   Could there be a herald of better days to come hidden in its breath?

Sometimes we don’t even have fall.  Indian Summer will hang on like an old river cooter battling you for a fish.  Tantalizingly cool mornings turn into blazing hot afternoons with high humidity hanging on until a late October cold snap sends us straight into winter…but there was something whispering in the voice of this northwest breeze.  It was the voice of hope…but don’t get excited quite yet.

My excitement was tempered this morning.  I had to face the fact, it is still late July.  As I met my friend Hawk for our weekly seven miler, I made the mistake of checking my weather app before we began to solve all of the world’s ills.  Ninety-seven percent humidity with a DEW point of seventy-three.  It didn’t matter the temperature was only seventy-three at five thirty in the AM.  Even we South Carolinians living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge know, “it ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”  We returned to our cars covered in sweat, our running clothes five pounds heavier than when we began and the world was no better off.  From experience, I remembered, despite the flip of the calendar, there is little difference weather-wise between late July and August…unless it gets worse.

Still, later this same morning, as the heat rose and the humidity decreased to a DEW point of ONLY a tongue in cheek seventy, there was something about the wind.  As I made ever decreasing circles on my lawnmower I noticed it again, the breath of the wind.  Instead of blowing hot and moist as if from the lips of the devil, there was the underlying coolness of Autumn…like a cool lover’s kiss.  There were even a few leaves falling from the trees, caused more, I’m sure, by the strength of the wind than a change in season.  But they were falling.

I hope for an autumn.  Pumpkins and sweet potatoes, coffee and sweat shirts as I sit around a campfire watching the sparks defy gravity in the thermals created by blazing, dry wood.  Cool, crisp morning air causing me to see my breath rather than drowning in the humidity.  Long vees of geese and leaves changing from green to red, yellow and gold.  I hope for autumn like a child hopes for Christmas morning.

Damn, just saw the extended forecast.  Looks like summer will last into November.  We may go straight from flip flops and tees to long johns and polar gear…but then global climate change doesn’t really exist.

Don Miller has written several books that can be purchased or downloaded at   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

His latest release is a fictional novella entitled OLIVIA which may be downloaded at  https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Don-Miller-ebook/dp/B0742DF8B2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Featured picture attributed to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn