I spent most of the day shoveling dirt into my brother’s truck and shoveling it out at the landfill. The spot for clean soil is on the top level of the dump. It has a sweet view. The wind from the north’s been blowing fiercely and kept whipping the dirt back into my face. Directly behind me is a tiered dust bowl of scrap metal and wood, mountains of mulch, flanked by forest. A steady stream of excavators and dump trucks passing by. Wakes of scavenger birds riding updrafts.
I dropped in to visit the old, monster walnut tree at my parents house. Each year it yields more walnuts than we can store and give away. Lots left over for the magpies and crows. My childhood husky use to wander around the yard breaking the shells in her teeth and eating the kernel. I’ve since read in Michelle Rivera’s ‘Vegan Dog Book’, dogs shouldn’t consume walnuts due to their high phosphorus content. Rivera said over time too much phosphorus can cause weakness, tremors, bladder stones and paralysis. Shit, Keena, at least did live to seventeen.
There is always a period in the late fall when my hands, especially my thumbs, are stained black from peeling the dry and slimy husks off the shells. Followed by several nights cracking, exposing the brain like nutmeat, picking out the bitter middle and storing it in the freezer. Walnut kernels are better kept cool or the oils may go rancid.
I spent a lot of my childhood sitting in those branches. Hugging it’s long thick arms. Daring myself to climb higher. I fell out of the trees pretty much every day but it didn’t stop me from climbing back up – either out of stubbornness, or the result of hitting my head too many times. I don’t really know.
The walnuts haven’t started to drop, but some are beginning to turn black. I remember Dad up the tree, shaking the tallest branches making the highest nuts fall and we’d all run around gathering up as many as we could find. We’d make pesto, or eat them in oatmeal. I loved walnuts with apples and plums. Mom’s been pickling them lately. I make jars of raw walnut butter, some with maple syrup, cinnamon, or salt, but mostly I find the mildly sweet, earthy, oily taste satisfying on it’s own.