The heavy thud of black walnuts falling to the damp ground is a constant for a few weeks in the fall.
I didn’t know anything about this particular variety of tree nut until we moved to northwest Arkansas. Having spent my childhood in pecan country, Texas and south Arkansas, where even the standard walnut seemed a little foreign and exotic- the black walnut was completely new to me.
When I first saw the big green globes hanging in the trees, I actually speculated that they were a variety of bois d’arc or horse apples as we called them when we were kids. Didn’t take long to figure out that they were a nut under all that green hull and that they dye your fingers a dark walnut color pretty quickly when you pick a few up off the ground.
Of all the trees in the Ozarks, black walnut trees are not the most gorgeous tree in the woods. They can be straggly and rangy looking, the last to set leaves in the spring and the first to show yellow and fall in autumn. Their occupation is to create these hard to crack nuts and then rest for the balance of the year.
We had several on our property, and I must say, one of the nicest looking black walnuts was on the northwest side of the shack. It was not crowded by any other trees, far enough away from the huge white oaks in front and just enough room from the tree lined fence on the north part of the dog yard.
Each season, for however long it chose, it was a full and quite nice shade tree, airy and lacey, given dappled light to the yard swing and perennial lily bed. Bob would sit on the step at that end of the porch, while I sat in the swing and listened to him play his guitar, or we would play ball with the dogs in the shade of that walnut tree.
A cottage industry springs up in the fall as the nuts ripen. A local company will buy the nuts from anyone who shows up with a bag or truck load. So many an afternoon along the narrow Ozarks roads, you will see folks with sacks or buckets retrieving the fallen nuts.
In autumn, when the harvest began, a young family would drive slowly up our little lane, the dad driving and the mom and her two youngsters would pick up the fallen walnuts. Tossing them into the trunk or one year in the back of the station wagon, they would pick the road clean. Each year when they came by, they would ask if they could gather the walnuts from our tree. Of course, that was always fine and we welcomed them each season.
I always hoped it would help them – this was a hard way to earn money. When you took the walnuts to sell, they would place them in a spinning hopper to release the nut from the hull. Once that was done, the nuts were weighed and you were paid $11.00 for one hundred pounds! That took a whole lot of nuts in the back of a station wagon to bring home $11.00.
With each gust of wind, I hear the heavy thuds – its black walnut time in the Ozarks.
**** Dear Readers, I know it has been too long between stories of the shack. I am in the process of editing the previous stories and The Last Really Good Shack will soon have its own blog. I hope you will continue to read and enjoy these little snippets of our life in the Ozarks.
I am so glad to see a post about the shack! I have those walnuts too – several trees. I wish someone wanted them enough to take them away. The squirrels will do the work eventually. I gathered them up once and it took days – all for not nearly enough money.
Hi Kathleen. I found a walnut in its green husk in our back yard this year, miles from any Walnut tree I know about. I feel like I have to look and find where it came from. jane
Hi Jane – did you ever solve the mystery? Curious to know how far it was from its tree – K
I love these stories. One of my most fond memories of my mother is harvesting black walnuts in Eastern Kansas. She would always have on rubber gloves that were black from the nuts and would crack them, dig the nuts out and bake with them all winter. I’m also happy that the Last Good Shack is getting it’s own blog.
Hi girlfriend – what a wonderful memory – love you
Dear Kathleen, I enjoyed your post and look forward to your new blog, and love this one too!
Thanks, dear Ellen. I always appreciate your ‘likes’ – makes me smile to know you have dropped by – and your encouragement means a great deal to me. love, K
What a lovely story! There are several black walnut trees (BIG ones) in the park down the street and I do love them in the summer. This is the time of year it becomes a challenge to walk below them and not turn an ankle on one of the several fallen nuts! I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into collecting 100 lbs of nuts! Love that these stories will have their own blog soon – I do enjoy them!
Thanks, Sarah – It can be a treacherous trying to walk amongst them – that was one reason I was always more than happy to let the little family clean them from my yard. If the nieces were visiting and we needed something to do, I would put their uncles work gloves on their tiny hands and send them out with bags to fill. A little like hunting eggs!
I am looking forward to the shack having its own place – then will rework the main Seasons blog a bit – sort things out a little better, I hope. We’ll see. 🙂 K