Walnut Harvest

October 13, 2007

It’s been a serene couple of weeks during the harvest. The daily routine featured loading up the golf cart with a few 5 gallon pails, driving back to the woodlot, parking under a tree and picking nuts to fill the pails, then driving up to the house for a break.

The weather is fine in the woodlot at this time of year, and while there’s a certain urgency to find the nuts before the squirrels and chipmunks collect them, there’s little real pressure. It’s as good as fishing for the soul.

Grey squirrels adapt very quicky. Last year I harvested very few nuts in the woodlot. The squirrels picked them from the canopy, apparently never touching the ground. All I could see below were nut hulls and coyote scat. This year conditions have changed. The old coyote died over the winter and the apprentices seem to be wary after the confusion of the plowing match, but Zeke the red-tailed hawk had been a formidable presence around the walnut trees. Squirrels adapted by working from the ground.

I sat on a stump one day to reflect and wait for some more nuts to drop. One fell about twenty feet from me, and before I could collect my bones to get it, a magnificent grey sprinted out from under a log, nabbed the nut on first bounce, then stood, open-mouthed, as I swore at him. He recovered more quickly than I, grabbed the fallen nut and took off at full speed across the forest floor. The squirrels are using the cover created from the improvement cut last winter to harvest safely and avoid Zeke.

Then one day last week the trees were full of greys. Surely enough, Zeke was no longer to be found. They must have been waiting for him to fly south.

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