Aw, Nuts!

It’s fall.  Something about the light and the cool air makes me want to snuggle indoors and write every chance I get.  (My dream life is one of ridin’ and writin’.)  

This time of year is exciting because we finally get to really experience the fruits of our labor.  The hay barn is full (I can’t even tell you how good that feels, it’s like having a huge savings account).  We’ve butchered most of the meat chickens and they are in the freezer.  Dang those guys turned out good — right around 5 to 6 pounds each.  We have some turkeys we’ll butcher in a couple of weeks (just in time for Thanksgiving) and then ducks and geese in December.  

The walnut grove.

The walnut grove.

I managed to pull myself away from my writing perch and go outside to process walnuts.  My family planted a small “orchard” of about a dozen English Walnut trees.  I’ve avoided dealing with them because they’re so dang messy and time-consuming to get to the meat.  Amazing how inspiring a sunny fall day can be.

 I only got walnuts off one tree and filled this huge dehydrator my parents built about 40 years ago.  (Seriously, this thing is mammoth — about 5’6″ high, with fourteen 3′ x 3′ drying racks.)  Still several trees to go, but maybe I’ll finish this week.  Maybe not.  I have never actually liked walnuts.

The Process

  1. The first step is to succumb to the beauty of the day and embrace it.  

    Nuts n' grapes.

    Nuts n’ grapes.

  2. Next, I grabbed a manure fork as it seemed to be the right size to pick up the fallen nuts.  That turned out to be a pain as it picked up all of the leaves and sticks and everything else, so I just reverted to picking up the nuts by hand.  No biggie.

    Using the manure fork.

    Using the manure fork.

  3. I hauled the lug of nuts down to a little station I set up — a sheet of plywood, a pressure washer, a brick, and some old milk crates.  The nuts still have a nasty husk on them that will turn your hands black if you handle it too much.  I dump the nuts into the milk crates, tip them at an angle using the brick, and then pressure-wash the husks from them. 

    Ready for the dehydrator.

    Ready for the dehydrator.

  4. Once they’re mostly clean – which only takes a few minutes – I spread them on the drying racks from the food dehydrator.  I don’t know if drying them is absolutely necessary.  I cracked a couple of beauties open and ate the meat and they tasted fantastic.  You know how sometimes walnuts can have that bitter after-taste?  None of that here.  (I wonder if that’s related to ripeness?)  20161025_145544

Something I never knew about Black Walnuts (and I was so relieved to know that these trees are English instead of Black) — they are highly toxic to horses.  Something about the tree and nuts can severely damage horse hooves in very short order.  

Walnut day was wonderful, today it’s cool, grey, and rainy.  Fortunately it’s also Baking Day!  

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