Archive for November, 2009

Dangerous work~~It pays to be nuts

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

The joy of this community blog is the literary license, ordained by the administrator, to describe the unusual, the lame, the mundane, those insignificant events that spice our daily lives.  A recent entry described the near catastrophic result of tannin stains on the hands of a clumsy pecan picker.  My first thought was….egads, like the second cousins living in the attic, they never go away.

dscn4207.JPGJoshua Sherrick, about 40′ up in the cherry picker

We have, for years, lived on a 150 year old farm, surrounded by trees, several hundred trees.  One in particular, a 60 foot high eastern black walnut over a century old, was splitting at the primary bifurcation, threatening the granary and the electric lines to the barn.  But worse, the annual fruiting of this tree deposits hundreds, perhaps thousands, of walnut husks every fall.

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Typical wheelbarrow load of fallen nuts.

One of forty loads

The husks, green when they first fall, are the size of a baseball, and quickly blacken both on the inside and outside due to polyvalent metal ions reacting with tannic acid.  This creates an ebony black dye, with no mordant necessary, equivalent to Sheaffer’s Skrip Ink Permanent Black, or Parker’s Quink # 274.  Aren’t you glad you’ve read this far?  Exciting facts, free, and they don’t cost anything. The dilemma: the walnut hulls fall on the old brick driveway, are then run over by our cars resulting in serious stains not to mention the split infinitives.

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The brick drive; not oil stained by leaking old cars

Imagine the horror, like a Watergate scandal; dirty bricks.  After agonizing for years I opted to have the tree cut down by the local guru, Joshua Sherrick, The Cutting Edge professional.  It took three hardworking guys three days, with the very best equipment, to complete the task.

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Cherry picker at work

They sawed the trunk into one foot lengths, split all the wood, then stacked it precisely in the corn crib for two years of drying.  Yield~~ 16 ‘stove cords’, piles measuring 4 feet by 8 feet with an average length of 12 inches, enough to heat the house for two years.

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Pile of logs, awaiting the splitter

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Nice logo on the truck

They used Stihl and Husqvarna gas powered saws

In the past, I have placed a sign on the road, “Free black walnuts”, no limit.  Each year a few unsuspecting victims, enticed by the something-for-nothing virus ( familiar territory for many Airstream owners) show up.  I provide them empty plastic grocery bags, welcome them to the farm and the u-pick buffet, then quietly retreat.  The walnuts have a wonderful taste, are good for cooking flavor, but the shells are hard as rocks.  Cleaning the husks from the shells is a filthy task, certain to ruin clothes, and staining the fingers, much like the pecan pickers learned. 

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For the tree huggers, a trio of ladies in waiting

Oddly, none of the previous visitors has ever returned.  However, we have the fattest squirrels in the township.  And I haven’t thrown away the freebie sign, yet.  We have more fruiting walnuts close by.  You are welcome to stop, but wear disposable gloves and your oldest Goodwill ensemble.       

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;
E-mail cspiher@aol.com