Picking up things.

I am finally wrapping up the garden bits at Honey Creek; picking the sad baby butternuts that I didn’t sow until mid-September and collecting the tomatoes that fell or froze because Jesus called them home before their dreams were realized in salsa and juice form.

We’ve been picking up other things, too. We spent a handful of back-breaking hours gathering walnuts to sell at a neat $16 per 100 pounds. It’s something I haven’t done since I was a kid, and no one is getting paid any better twenty-five years later. But the smell is the same, spicy and earth and clean. And I don’t mind the exercise (in the moment; the back ache settles in a little later). My kids don’t know that when I hand them fifteen dollars it’s superfluous because I’ve already spent at least as much hauling walnuts to the shellers. But it feels like work to a kid, and work needs to be rewarded.

Maybe you don’t know the first thing about black walnuts. First: they taste like trash, and second, people still eat them. The flavor is baby diaper with a bad aftertaste that rivals circus peanuts. And folks buy tubs and tubs of black walnut ice cream.
Third, they drop on your yard and poison almost every plant around them. Juglone, it’s called, and I didn’t even know a thing about it until my eleven year old mentioned it in passing (after I’d amended the soil and planted blueberry bushes directly beneath a tree). When the outer part of a black walnut begins to rot it gets black and weepy, so you want to pick them up before they get too old. They’ll stain your hands if you’re collecting them gloveless. It’s no big deal for the average Joe, but bad if you send your seven year old to school the next morning you will feel embarrassed for him (the dirty fingernails are expected, but sepia stained palms are harder to ignore).

But they are so pretty. Nothing is more fallish than seeing black walnut trees along the road, their remaining delicate green ornaments on almost bare branches.

I love it, even if I forgot about it for a decade and a half.
Along the same lines, I’ve begun working again. Gone are my years of perching on a bathtub, toilet training babies and scraping macaroni off the floors. I’m making actual money doing actual outside-the-home work, picking up hours as a substitute teacher.
It’s a new season but a familiar one. A season that’s so pretty, but still full of juglone, stained hands, and dirty flavors. (If you’ve forgotten how rude some people can be, just spend a week with a few hanging-on-by-a-thread teenagers in Vo-Ag. Conversely, if you want to be reminded how precious some folks are, teach elementary Special Ed.)

My big boy shot his first deer during youth season, but we still had to deal with the butchering and gore that comes with killing an animal. We harvested meat, but we still had to season it and cook it the right way for it to taste delicious.

So we’ll still pick up walnuts and welcome seasons.

Beautiful things on a messy table. Both welcome!

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