There’s a moment, in late spring, when the blossoms are falling off the trees and the light green leaves have burst forth from every branch. This is the longest point in time when you can enjoy the benefits of the cool shade that the leaves provide without thinking about raking. The variety of greens enhances the borrowed landscape of the lake that stretches beyond their branches. This is the moment when all of the benefits of the trees outweigh any downside.
Then sometime in late July a familiar “plink” hits the wood deck floor. Initially, you pretend you didn’t hear a thing. Occasionally someone will look up from his or her book and say something like,
“Did you hear that?”
“Oh, nothing. My mistake.”
You return to your day. What else can you do? What chance do you have?
The oak trees are by far the worst offenders. It happens maybe once in a day, then several times a day until by the second week in August you have to make sure you’re positioned under a deck umbrella for protection. The first rounds of falling acorns are usually small and green and they fall from the sky like large raindrops. Then the squirrels begin their seasonal pillaging. They break open the nuts with reckless abandon and toss the shells overboard. Additionally there’s a barrage of sharp edged beechnut seeds that litter our path. Gone are the lazy summer days when you might step out on the deck in bare feet. You can’t even wear flip-flops: thick-soled shoes only, please! There is no safe place.
The first year we moved in I was driving around the lake and something dropped from the sky and smashed a hole in my windshield.
“I thought it was a bullet!” I exclaimed to Rob.
He examined the extensive damage. “It looks like a rock hit you.”
“Then a rock fell from the sky!”
“It was a black walnut,” our son explained.
I shook my head. “This was green.”
“Did it look like a small tennis ball?”
“That’s a young black walnut,” he said, raising his hands up as if it was difficult to talk nuts with such amateurs.
The large encased nuts became a sport to my daughter and me. We drew an imaginary line down the one-way street and kicked the nuts back and forth to motivate us to run faster until the outer green shell broke apart or the nut rolled out of range into a patch of poison ivy. Once the black walnut season was over it was difficult to prod my daughter out for exercise. Nuts can have that affect on people.
It isn’t like you have any real control over trees, aside from cutting them down and that feels cowardly. It just seems that each nut is a potential tree and we already have enough.
On a last note, I found this great website, Acorns: The Inside Story, which writes about all the wonderful things you can do with acorns including eating them—go figure.