Monday, November 1, 2010

Bathtime at the Nut House

Yesterday was Hallowe'en.  I am fully aware of that, but the fact of the matter is, I live in the boonies where no young costumed treat-seeker will EVER meander by.  So, it seemed appropriate to take advantage of a glorious weather day to get some much needed yard maintenance performed at the "pond house."   The evening before, as we pulled away from a CraigsList pickup, we witnessed the beautiful red sunset, and determined Hallowe'en would dawn a beautiful day.

Sunset, Hartfield, VA
Sunset Hartfield, VA

We planned on getting an early start, and, as seems our norm, managed to get over there oh, around 1PM... (well, that's early afternoon, anyway).

Beautiful Autumn Day

So, before we headed over, Joe got together some "supplies."  Yes, these supplies included some tools for the tasks at hand, but they also included some empty bins, and some plastic bags, you know, the kind we get a million of every trip to the grocery store.  It was obvious from the inclusion of these items that we had ulterior motives about our "work day" at the pond house.

This is, after all,  HICKORY NUT SEASON.  For those of you who are not aware of this spectacular season, at least at the pond house in Gloucester, VA, this is the season during which I typically tromp through the woods for hours on end, collecting fallen hickory nuts that haven't already been consumed by the copious local wildlife.  Last year Joe joined me for the first time in this activity, and together we collected well over 1000 lbs of hickory nuts.... I sold them all on eBay, as I had for a couple of years.

Road to Pond House

Still, I normally start this activity the last week of September, but work travels dictated I would not be around to enjoy the nut season until late October, so late October is was.  The fall leaves are brilliant right now, and the woods' canopy, with the bright blue sky peeking through the red, oranges and yellows, creates a beautiful environment in which to "exercise."

Hickory Nut Collecting

Exercise is the best way to describe this activity, because the 7 1/2 acres of hickory trees are not laid out in orchard-like arrangements, where a rake or something mechanical could be used to collect the nuts.  We literally walk MILES as we stoop to spy the nuts hiding amongst the fallen leaves, and stoop further to pick each one discovered.  We stoop to crawl under and through lower growing brush that hides our treasures.  We climb up and down the short but steep "hills" that are the embankment to the pond.  And we duck to avoid the ever-falling hickory nuts.  We get a workout.

We thought we should do the maintenance work first and then start nut collecting.  We tried to fire up the lawn tractor and the battery was dead (darn it... NOT!) So, Joe set the battery on the charger and off we went nut collecting.

Hickory Nuts Amongst the Fallen Leaves
Pregnant with Hickory Nuts!
From Pockets to Bags
We were not disappointed with the crop this year.  By the time the light was waning and we returned to complete the maintenance work, we'd collected 67 lbs of the nuts... that weight AFTER removing their hulls.  Well, OK, we obviously are not going to catch up and reach or exceed our last year's record of over 1000 pounds sold, but the squirrels got a serious head start on us this year!

Showing off HEAVY Bag of Hickory Nuts
Nut Collectors at Day's End
One Day's Haul = 67 Pounds

While Joe finished up the yard work, I took the nuts inside and gave them their "bath." There is a reality about hickory nuts grown naturally in the woods.  They are subject to the nut worm.  The nut worm enters the nut during the time the nut is forming, and they feed on the nut until it drops from the tree.  At that point, they bore a hole through the shell and hull (if it is still on the nut after falling) and go into the ground where they do whatever nut worms do to procreate for next year. So, before selling the nuts on eBay, I do my best to ensure what I am selling are worm-free, delicious nuts.  Hence the "bath."

Nuts, Bathed and Drying

I fill the kitchen sink with hot water and dump the collected nuts in, cleaning them of the forest floor dirt and removing all "floaters" from the batch.  Floaters indicate an empty shell... nut meat usually eaten by the worms, but sometimes just never formed.  Once bathed, the "good nuts" are put on towels on the counter to dry.  From there, after they are sufficiently dry, I load them into sacks (multi-use Judy uses knee high pantyhose for her hickory nut sacks.)  These sacks are stacked on the shelves in a temperature controlled environment, where they await shipment. I like to give them about a week on the shelf before shipping, lest a nut or two which passed the bath test still contain the worms... they make their way out within the week and I can separate those nuts with the holes from the sacks.  The mesh contains the worms sufficiently and, as it turns out, these nut worms make wonderful fishing bait!

Fall Fishing Anyone???

By the time we left the pond house, headed home past the now-quiet homes that earlier hosted hundreds of trick-or-treaters, passing by the group of four Sheriff's deputies in the subdivision between the pond house and the main road (very colorful, and when asked what was going on, the deputy said, "we don't know yet,"),  we were exhausted.  It was a glorious fall day and I guess you could say we did our own kind of trick-or-treating!

Reflections on the Pond
Beautiful Autumn Colors


Sharon said...

How much would you charge for 10% of your energy?

If I had that energy, I could go out and get my pecans!

Beautiful pictures of the leaves reflecting in the water!

Leigh said...

Good idea about the water bath... nothing is more diappointing than working so hard to crack open those buggers to find that some little worm beat you to it!

Lovely pics too!

mixednut555 said...

I must confess that your Title "Bathtime at the Nut House" conjured up a different picture in my mind. That of my children getting their baths before bed. And it was a nuthouse!
I enjoyed this post immensely. Especially your beautiful Autumn pictures. I do miss Autumn here in Hawaii.

WV; welock

aswesow said...

It is pretty there. That was the image in my mind too mixednut!

Judy's Corner said...

LOL Sharon,

The energy? Well, honestly, I feel as if I am wasting time if I am not "doing" something... not sure I always have the energy, just feel compelled! And once you start picking up the nuts, it is impossible to walk past a perfectly good nut on the path and NOT stoop to pick it up!

It IS beautiful this time of year on the pond with the reflected reds and yellows of the leaves.

Judy's Corner said...


I confess, I did not dream up the process myself. Before attempting to sell the nuts on eBay, I felt obligated to determine the best way to ensure a worm-free product. I hunted the Internet and found a few suggestions. This bathing works best for me!

Judy's Corner said...

LOL, I know Kat... I had THAT kind of Nut house about 25 years ago... today, well, the Nuts are on the ground... or in the sink... (I think)... I suppose it COULD be argued that the NUTS are the ones spending hours stooping and collecting???

I think Autumn is an awesome season... I join you in your opinion of Winter... nice to visit, but don't really enjoy enduring every year!

Judy's Corner said...

Hey aswe!

Yeah, it is pretty here.... has its moments, for sure!