Monday, October 17, 2011

Walnut Harvest (corrected)

Dad's Winter Pasttime

[Update: My dad read the post (hi dad!!) and said I had it a little wrong,'s the corrected version.]

The past week has been very difficult, as my little buddy Dipstick - my kitty of 13 years - lost his battle with diabetes late last week.  I'm planning a post about him later this week after I sort through the hundreds of photos I have of him and narrow it down to the best five or so.  In the meantime, I wanted to share something much happier.

The idea for this post actually came as I was wandering around the farm on Saturday while dropping Lindsay off for a week of fun and frolic with her grandparents.  The ground was littered with walnuts from the two big walnut trees in the front yard of the farmhouse.  Walnut harvesting has been dad's past time for many, many years.  I decided to not only grab an opportunity to take a photo for Picture Inspiration from Big Picture Classes (which I've not posted enough of while in the class).  This week's theme was Hand-Held.  I couldn't think of a better model for my dad (I think, however, he would have liked to have anyone other than him in this role - thanks dad - you were an awesome model!)
Why am I doing this again?

Dad walked me through the process of harvesting walnuts so I thought I'd share with you.

First, obviously, the walnuts need to fall from the tree.

Walnuts and leaves
After they fall off the tree you have to gather them up.  I teased dad he should train Sammy to do this as they do look remarkably like his favorite toy - a tennis ball.  Apparently, Sammy believes that he should simply put his tennis ball in the bucket and then have Grandpa get it out and throw it so he can go retrieve it.

Freshly gathered - waiting to get hulled
After you gather them all up, you have to dump them all out again.  You do this so you can loosen up the hulls.  Apparently, the tractor tires do a good job of this so dad usually just drives over them a few times.  The riding lawnmower or some other light wheeled vehicle would probably do the job too.  If you don't have that, grab a hammer or knife if needed.  You need enough pressure to break the outer hull, but not actually break the walnut inside.

Walnuts in the frame
Next, you need to get rid of all that icky outer hull. 

 [UPDATE - According to Dad I had this part wrong]...There is no truly easy way to get all the hull off other than to just simply peel it off.  Usually dad wears gloves to do that so that his hands don't turn black.  Once you get the hull off, you've got a dirty walnut that needs a bit of a bath. have...the walnut
So - if you've got one handy - throw them in a cement mixer and tumble them for a while with water to get off all the remaining yucky stuff.  Dad demonstrated for me by just peeling one, but you'd need to still wash it.  Don't have a cement mixer - my aunt suggests a bucket with a garden hose with the sprayer set to full blast. 

After you've gotten rid of the hull and washed the yuck off - you spread the walnuts back out again - this time to dry.  Dad uses screen wire mounted in a frame that is raised up off the ground a little bit.  This is really about the only expense of the whole thing (i.e. the screen wire) if you either don't use or already have a cement mixer.  Everything else is nature's bounty.  I'm sure you could find some other enterprising way to dry the little things if you didn't have a fresh supply of screen wire lying around.  You can leave them lying around until the first hard freeze - they won't survive a really hard freeze so you've got to get them gathered back up again and take them to your workstation for the next phase.  So - let's recap quickly.  You pick up, spread back out, drive over, pick back up, shell, wash (tumble or spray), spread back out, dry, pick back up, and then move on...(keep that in mind the next time you pay for walnuts in the store...or from some enterprising farmer...cause we're not done yet).

Now, it's down to the basement where dad has set up his workshop.  Isn't he cute?!

Getting ready to demonstrate how we "finish"
He lays the walnuts in a little groove (these were some already dried ones left from last year's harvest.)  Now, the free therapy - and a bit more of a workout - hit them with a hammer - hard! Then put the pieces to be picked in a bucket or bag.

Ready to be picked
Dad spends nights both hammering and then picking (which I didn't think to grab a photo of).  He puts the finished product on popcorn - I prefer them in cookies, brownies, and breads.  Regardless, my favorite part is sitting at the kitchen counter during the winter visiting with dad while we pick out the nuts.

Last of the season
When I drove up to the farm on Saturday, these beauties were waiting on the porch railing - getting some sun to finish ripening.  They are near the last of the season.  Mom and I combined them with peppers to add to a delicious dinner with Aunt Idris and Uncle Ron.  Grabbed a shot of mom's hands working as well!  She and I usually spend time cooking and chatting.

Mom's hands - always working too!
Was wonderful to get a few hours with both of them this weekend.


  1. Love this post, this is what I have been missing from Kara!

  2. Loved reading your post about walnut harvesting! I picked up 2 at the park I go to for photo shoots and peeled off the hull--yuck is right! Now I guess I'm waiting for them to dry out a bit more before hammering open! I'm with you on the walnuts in cookies for sure! (I saw your blog link with your Picture Inspiration photo). So sorry to hear you have lost your kitty--it's hard to lose a buddy:(


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