When we moved into our home twenty years ago, we were tickled there were three walnut trees on the property. We didn’t know much then.
Two walnut trees grew close together, like inseparable friends, in our front yard. One was in the back, perfect for shading the deck and eventually holding a tree house with a rope ladder, a fortress (I use the term loosely here) my husband built one year as a birthday present for our son. Our son never posted a “No Girls Allowed” sign, since he had three older sisters who used it nearly as much as he did and who would have ignored the sign anyway. He should’ve posted a “No Squirrels Allowed” sign, but that would have been ignored, too.
The kids had great fun with those walnuts that started dropping mid-summer. They gathered them in little sand buckets, or mixed them with leaves for “recipes”, or pretended they were some kind of treasure, or, on their humanitarian-minded days, even medicine.
I even got in on the action. Did I say we didn’t know much then? Because I think it’s important you remember that. I peeled the green outer coat of a great pile of walnuts one year – free food, right? The brown stain left on my hands lasted a good, long time. The taste of the walnuts – by the way, they are black walnut trees – is what some might generously call tangy and what I call bitter.
I have become an avid gardener. I’m not any good at it, but I like doing something in which I can feel productive and let my mind wander at the same time. I discovered our walnut trees don’t like my efforts. They don’t come right out and say it to my face. They simply kill anything planted nearby, including the lovely little hollyhocks I had envisioned happily lining our picket fence; many, many lovely little hollyhocks planted over the years. Those trees don’t back down. Our apple tree didn’t escape. It bravely and, in its final years, desperately tried to hang on despite it’s close proximity to what by now I knew was one of the very selfish walnut trees. Selfish with one exception: For years our yard has been a regular convention center for squirrels from all over.
I suppose I should have some sympathy. The front yard tree suffers from what happened to its friend, though I’ve told it on more than one occasion to suck it up and move on. One summer we came home to a sight. Well, let me back up for the sake of context and to give me an excuse for my lack of sympathy. Everyone loaded into the car for our trip back from the family cabin and we immediately learned that something was wrong with the muffler. We traveled those four hours unable to speak to one another or to find rest in the peaceful scenery flying by, never mind to sleep due to the incredibly loud engine noise. We arrived home, ears ringing, to find water in the basement due to what must have been quite a storm while we were gone. And, yes, one of the friends had fallen. It was quite a sight. I did not grieve over the fallen comrade. And then there were two.
I know more now than I did twenty years ago. I just nod my head when people remark about the lovely golden leaves those trees show every fall. They hold on to them quite late. This year they dropped the night of the first snow. ALL AT ONCE.