Whitesburg KY
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Mostly cloudy

Looking for walnut tree?

Points East

I have in my back yard, behind the garage, a decent sized black walnut tree about 40 feet tall. During the recent ice storm, when every tree that size here in central Kentucky took a beating and left broken limbs lying all over the countryside, my walnut never shed so much as a twig even though it went three days looking like it was encased in an inch of glass.

The power line goes right through its lower branches, and when the trees across the road started disintegrating — breaking limbs sounding like cannon shots and falling to the forest floor — I was resigned to the notion that the walnut would eventually collapse and take out the feeder of juice to my place. But it didn’t happen.

Nearby fruit trees still need some evaluation as to whether or not it would be better to just cut off what’s left of them, burn the whole pile of brush, and start over. At least three apple, two pear, a plum, and three peach trees were just becoming healthy enough to bear once again since the previous onslaught in 2002. I’m not sure that any of them are worth the effort that rehabilitating them might require, and I’m getting too damned old to start a new orchard.

On the other hand, it might be interesting to see what the stumps and sprouts will produce before I die. I have one peach tree I would keep alive if I knew it would only produce a couple of peaches every year, because they would be huge, stone-free, and everything else a peach should be, and I would guard them against birds and beetles. I have no idea what the variety is called nor where I got the tree — just that I have never eaten a better peach.

Suffice to say I have reached no decision on the de-orchardization matter even though my buddy, Ralph King, is trying hard to convince me that thornless blackberries are about my only choice now if I want to harvest fruit in this lifetime.

In the meantime, the walnut tree just keeps growing and growing. We hull out an onion sack or two of nuts every fall, suspend them on the rafters of the garage for several weeks to dry, and then crack them for maybe a pint of kernels to put in Christmas candy, fruit cakes, cookies and the like that. But this one tree, pollinated by cousins across the road, produces enough walnuts for a dozen families who enjoy the flavor and who might be ambitious enough to harvest them.

It is hard and nasty work, this saving of walnuts, and cracking them requires a heavy hammer and an anvil to do it properly. But the taste is so unique.

Last fall, at the end of yet another drought, I picked up a couple of sacks full and let bushels of walnuts wash away or just lie there on the ground because I was too lazy to rake them up and haul them away. I figured they would rot and eventually become food for the earth as compost, but that isn’t happening.

Several are already sprouting and promise to make new seedling trees which I will gladly give away. And now that the storms are maybe over, three big fox squirrels have taken to barking at me when I pull into my driveway at the end of the day. They are hauling away the walnuts, two or three at a time each trip, and packing them to the woods across the way. And they seem to be saying that if I’d called my dog off last fall, they would have long been finished with this chore.

I will keep you posted, but at first glance it looks like we will have a couple or three dozen walnut trees to give away come June.

E-mail me now if you want to get on the waiting list: ikeadams@aol.com

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