Fighting the deer for the chestnuts

Posted on October 30, 2010

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If you are of a mind to forage for food, you cannot find a better partner than Lois Dawson. First of all, she knows how to do this stuff. Second, she never gives up. Never. Third, she keeps up a steady stream of encouragement as you flounder about. This is how I acquired an enormous pink bag full of chestnut burrs.

Pretty soon I will have a stash of nice roasted chestnuts in my house. I’ve been practicing, you see. In the course of practicing, I have discovered that I like roasted chestnuts very much.

I was talking to Nora Metz about all this and she said she’d never seen a chestnut growing on the tree. Naturally I invited her to come with Lois and me on our expedition, and naturally she declined. (Nora has been on expeditions with me before, and generally speaking she would prefer to have me bring the fruits of my expeditions to her. She has made it to 94 and is shooting for 100.)

So yesterday Lois and I went up to the chestnut orchard and picked up a combination of shiny chestnuts and prickly burrs containing shiny chestnuts. I didn’t take any pictures because I was busy picking up burrs in my gloved paws. Today I went to Nora’s house for show ‘n’ tell. This is a little chestnut branch that came down in the big wind.

This is a big burr from a completely different chestnut tree, sitting on the welding gloves I used to hold it.

You’ve seen burrs containing chestnuts before, but Nora hadn’t, as she does not have internet. I showed her this one. She thought it was very humorous.

Nora finds many things I do humorous. Mainly, though, we get by on rueful tales about our similar experiences. After show ‘n’ tell, we rummaged through her piles of postcards and photos and I extracted permission to come back to scan a new batch of old tintypes. Maybe, if I am very good, I will be allowed to climb up to the attic and bring down the chest Nora’s grandpa Wendell Evans made for her. She says she can’t remember any more what’s in it, but “it’s really old” and she’d like to look at it again.

There’s another little story in here somewhere–the story about how I brought the new little netbook over to Nora’s so I could show her some photos of the early days at Was-Wagun. We thought she might recognize some of the people because she and Hattie Arnold (Bud’s mom) used to go over there on a Saturday night to wait for their husbands to finish tending bar. We had no luck with the photos–they only went back to the 50s and by then Nora and Floyd were living downstate. Oh well. Off I went to pick up Lois, juggling the netbook and a notebook and dropping the little camera on the front lawn as I left.

Nora’s neighbor discovered it late last night when she headed home with her flashlight. Imagine my luck–she spotted a little black camera in the piles of leaves on the lawn in the dark. I have no idea what it all means, except that I am luckier than I deserve to be and that I should have the little camera surgically attached to my person.  When I went back to Nora’s to pick it up–and for chestnut show ‘n’ tell–we tried it out to make sure it still worked.  It does.  Here is Nora telling the whole story.

This evening I took the bag of chestnut burrs out on the deck and extracted their shiny nuts. This enterprise, which required the welding gloves and a bold attitude, took quite some time, but the results filled one of Dale Reedy’s turned wood bowls and a little casserole dish as well.

I decided that the roasting could wait until tomorrow. Tonight I’ll be picking pickers out of my fingers. Stay tuned.  Later this week we’ll see if the burrs make good firestarters.  Waste not want not.

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