Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My chestnut empire

New things are always a novelty and fun, but I don't think I'll ever get tired of my chestnut tree!  As I mentioned before, it's one of my favorite trees because it's so cool looking.  Now it's chestnut harvesting time and it has been crazy!  (i nearly said "nutty"!)  I had no idea the quantity of chestnuts I'd get - I mean there were clearly tons of them on the tree.  Recently they've started falling, which is when they're ready to harvest.

When they fall, the yard looks like it's covered with sea urchins - and chestnuts.  Inside each VERY prickly hull, or burr, there are 2-3 chestnuts.  Usually the hulls open and the chestnuts fall into the grass.       Unfortunately, the nut wizard I own is the large size (made for apples and walnuts) and trying to pick up small chestnuts was damn near impossible.  It would take a lifetime to pick them up by hand.  Thankfully my neighbors (who are big nut people - in the Ohio Nut Association and all that!) came to the rescue after I'd gone in the house and ordered a small nut wizard online.  He happened to have a stockpile of nut wizards in his barn to sell to nut association folks.  He gave it to me for free!  Amazing!  So I was off to the races, picking up chestnuts.   Now here's how I built my empire - I put out one email at work letting everyone at the facility know that I had chestnuts if anyone was interested.  $1.50/lb.  So far I've sold out my entire harvest plus the next 20 pounds I get (oh yeah, there's more in the tree!) - I've weighed up and sold something like 92 pounds of chestnuts!  My fiance scoffed at first - thinking my chestnut business was a folly - now he's changed his tune!  The buyers are a combination of people who haven't had chestnuts since they were kids, and people who've never had them but want to give it a try.  And the Chinese.  I heard that some of my neighbors sell directly to Chinese restaurants.  I only knew of water chestnuts in Chinese food, but no, they love chestnuts.  One guy bought two pounds to try them (because he's picky about the quality) then said they were awesome and wanted 50 lbs!!  holy smokes!  That's where I oversold my current stock!  I weighed and bagged 40 pounds for him tonight and I told him I'd get the next 10 pounds to him probably within the week!  Then another Chinese co-worker ordered 10 pounds - so hers are next!  It's amazing!   I mean it's not going to pay the mortgage, but it sure is fun!  yes, I've roasted a few myself and I'll make sure to save some back for some dressing, but they're going like hotcakes!  My neighbor recently told us we should be asking $2/lb (he sells at a local farmer's market) so next year my hot commodity may be bring in even more!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

full and finished!

This morning I had to crack a walnut, despite it being uncured.  I just wanted to make sure it had a nut in it and that I wasn't doing all this work for nothing!  It was FULL!  how beautiful is that?

I have some undyed Frogtree Pima Silk yarn that has tried to be 3 different projects so far that have all be ripped (maybe the name "frog"tree should have warned me that it would be nothing but frogged projects!).  I'm wondering if I could dye it with my walnut hulls.  I'm not a huge fan of brown, but I do think it'd be cool to have a walnut dyed cardigan!  I'll have to read up on whether mordants are needed with cotton and all that!  

Speaking of yarn, tomorrow is the Woolgathering and despite the fact that I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head, I'm super excited about it!  And because it seems like I have about 25 projects on the needles that I can't seem to finish, I finished this scarf last night.  Seriously, I was 5 rows away from finishing it - why did I let this sit on the needles for more than a year?  geez.  I blocked it last night and I love it!!  This is some of the Wolle color changing Cotton that we were all going gaga over at last year's woolgathering.  I still have 3 balls of it that I intended to make a Daybreak shawl out of - but haven't yet!  

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I took a couple days off work for a stay-cation, and I sure have been getting some stuff DONE!  In anticipation of the walnuts dropping from my 25 black walnut trees, I made these 4 curing racks.

But before we get to the curing part, we have to get the things off the ground!  I used my fantastic Nut Wizard and got 3 buckets full.  There are tons more in the trees!  2 of the 3 buckets are still sitting out under the trees because i ran out of juice before I could carry them in!

The green hull on walnuts will stain anything it touches (which is why it's used as a natural dye!) so I was trying to be careful and wore leather gloves.  I didn't want to mess up my shoes by stomping on them to get the hull off, so I just did the ones that I could rip off with my hands.  THEN, you have to wash them to get all the fiberous hull parts off - that's the part that isn't so fun.  Oh, this is the point when I realize that leather gloves were a stupid choice because they'd soaked through.  My fingers got a little brown, but not too bad.  I switched to rubber gloves.  Then I rinsed and rinsed in a bucket and I was afraid to dump the water because it's toxic to a lot of plant, so the first two bucket fulls I took out and dumped around a walnut tree.  then i got sick of that and just dumped it!  Some people use a concrete mixer with some gravel in it to get off all the hull.  I do not have a concrete mixer.  I do have a wire brush, so that's what I used.  whew.  This is what I got from half of a 5 gallon bucket.  some were tossed because they were "floaters" - those are ones with undeveloped walnuts.  Not a lot of walnuts.
But about 3 hours of work!

My hands are only a little stained, but I'm not too worried - i'm not a hand model!  I've noticed that it's gotten a bit darker as the night goes on - so maybe it'll be horrible by tomorrow!

Perhaps tomorrow I'll find some shoes that I can sacrifice as stomping shoes and get more done!  After they dry, you have to let them cure on the racks for a month or so.  After that, the fun of cracking them - black walnuts are like the diamonds of the nut world in terms of harness!  I saw a you tube video of a guy using his bench vice, and that's what I'm going to try too!  I know my neighbors all have walnut trees too, so maybe eventually I will get tips on being more efficient!