Sunday, October 23, 2016

Super-boom black walnuts

I will put together a post soon with the plants I saw on our trip to New Mexico, but for now here's a quick update on the Half Acre: black walnuts, OMG. A strong advocate for edible landscaping I may be, but I'd never advise anyone to plant a black walnut tree on purpose unless you have a large property and you stick it in an area where no one needs to walk. But our 112-year-old house came with such a tree right next to it; it's probably 100 feet tall and does cast shade, so we've put up with it. There's another one in the Way Back pretty much along the side property line. We gave up long ago on cracking and eating the nuts, delicious as they are, because of the mess and effort involved, and when they fall each year we dutifully clean them up so we can stroll safely in the yard, piling them somewhere out back to the delight of the resident squirrel population who enjoy shopping in supermarkets.

In ordinary years this takes one or two days of sustained effort in September or October. But this is not an ordinary year. Black walnut trees vary in nut production due to weather conditions and also, I think, just natural cycles; we usually get a heavy boom year followed by a light year. This year is a super-boom (in more ways than one - the sound of walnuts hitting a roof from a hundred feet up is... well, let's just say it's good no one here suffers from PTSD). I'd say (based on cleanup effort) that we easily have three times the usual boom-year number of nuts. Perhaps this is appropriate considering other aspects of 2016, but it is no fun. So here's what I've done THREE TIMES NOW:



Just some of the piles out there. My tools are landscape rake and flat-bladed shovel. In light years sometimes I'll get bending-over exercise picking them up by hand, but that wasn't an option this year. We need to reseed the lawn anyway...

Here's the growing pile out back:


I'd say it's currently two feet high and ten feet long, and will be added to when I trundle more back there today. And, since I neglected to photograph the pre-raked ground near the house, here's what I have to walk on to get to the pile out back, from the other tree:


Eventually I'll rake those too, but near the house is a higher priority, to avoid ankle mishaps. I should note that danger comes from above, too (though we're down to a couple dozen left in the tree); in all the years we've been here I've actually only been hit a few times (including yesterday, a graze to the arm) but I used to send the kids out in bike helmets when they were little.

Oh, and the new deck? We were really smart to choose brown. (Did I mention how much black walnuts stain?) This is after just two days of not sweeping:


I don't think we considered what a high percentage of the walnuts would land on the deck, or the porch roof (including the far side of the roof, which bounces the nuts down on the patio beyond, which is also where we hang out laundry). It's been push-broom territory out there. Like shoveling snow (brown dirty snow). And all the pots out there have been full of nuts all summer (heavy crop means a lot of early drops). Garden beds, too (need to clean those out by hand). Other plants have been damaged due to branches falling (many more than usual, and in calm conditions). We suspect walnut fall in a windshield crack on one of the cars; we've also lost less expensive things like the rain gauge.

But it'll all be done this week! Then on to the next chore...

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