walnut gathering

hulled, dried English walnuts in shell, grown on Sauvie Island

Last fall, about a week before Halloween, Jeff and I drove over to Sauvie Island for the day with his mom's silent dog in the back of the Jeep. We stopped at the Bybee-Howell house and strolled around the knarled orchard, peeking in the empty windows, watching a pair of small green frogs hopping across the old cellar door.

Shiba Inu, Sauvie Island, October 2011

Then we took Shiba to the beach where she dug holes and snapped at the water's edge while we picnicked on peanuts, cheese, and apples, watching the V's of geese migrating above us, spying from a distance in our jeans, long sleeves, and knit hats on the naked people playing volleyball down the beach.

dog digging hole in sand, Sauvie Island, October 2011

After lunch, driving around the island, we came across a little market with a sign offering U-pick walnuts for 20 cents a pound, so we did, though I was too busy gathering them to take pictures. At first we could barely see any husks amid the leaf debris but soon found they were everywhere under foot. I was glad I was wearing my rubber boots as it was a messy job, and we quickly learned to stomp on the soft husks to squish out the nut balls and toe off the remaining green hull before stuffing them into plastic bags. With our dye-stained hands, we filled two or three bags and paid inside, a total of $4.41. Then we took them to Jeff's house and washed them in a bus tub in the sink, laying them out to dry on a big sheet on the floor of his spare room. Sometime in December, he dumped them back into the bus tub where they sat more or less forgotten till now.

hulled & shelled English walnuts, grown on Sauvie Island

Maybe it's all the squirrels running around town with their mouths full of nuts, but last night while watching TV we cracked open the first of last year's sweet, barely bitter, U-pick English walnuts, picking free of the hard, dry shells flying around the living room maybe a cup and a half of nutmeats. This morning, I mixed some of them into a batch of homemade granola. And we still have nuts to crack all winter.

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