Part One. Polite.
All this time on my hands is turning into an inrushing of ideas and long list of projects.
This summer on the coast has had the warmest weather of the last several years, maybe even the best since I moved back to the coast more than a decade ago. Out front of our house is a black walnut tree that grows on the property next door and largely overhangs our driveway, providing a beautiful limey canopy under constant bounce and sway from the squirrels in charge of this year’s harvest, which appears to be the best. harvest. ever.
It has been bugging me for a while, this tree–not because of the squirrel spit coating the sidewalk, the driveway, the car, and anyone standing still, along with chewed green hull bits, broken branches, sub par nut bundles, and dirt in general thrown sometimes violently down by the fatting grey squirrels who chuckle at us low-slung humans and our maladroit addictions to whatever purchased ease obediently follows the trajectory of credit card to mouth–but because the tree is full of food every year and nobody bothers with it except for the ruthless and presumably parasite-free squirrels.
So, add to my list of things to do this Fall: harvest what is left of the nuts once they are ripe, and do good things with them.
Among the items I will need in order to proceed fruitfully, are these:
one hammer or vise grips
heavy duty rubber gloves
one bottle of cheap vodka
Sounds like some . . . industrial fun?
Here is the video.
And here is Sacred Earth’s charming ethnobotany page on walnuts. The pristine nut images shown represent English walnuts, not black walnuts, but its archaic recipes of course apply to either.
This wikihow article includes remarks about boiling green walnut hulls for an antiparisitic treatment, as well as links to related articles, including the recipe for cheap vodka black walnut tincture. I have quite a few books on herbal preparations to shore up ones like these, but I find it heartening that such information is more and more available online.
There really is a lot of food growing in the city, once you start to see it. One night I plan to do a little guerrilla foraging. There are the usual volunteers of indigenous berries and herbaceous plants, lots of kinnickinnick, comfrey, dandelion, salal, etc. But I have a couple of places in mind that I plan to visit with a little stealth . . . including a sidewalk-bordering garden with a beautiful spineless blackberry we discovered during one epic urban walkabout. Surely a little cutting, respectfully snipped, would not be missed . . .
Part Two. Impolite.
The first thing I looked into while I was casually considering the walnuts was how to get the squirrels to help with the harvest. I heard about the idea from the permaculture community.
Even though it raised a couple of issues for me, I do not link to the discussion thread that I found on this topic, for two reasons: the first is that I reject the choice of the word “using,” as in, “using squirrels to harvest nuts.” Especially in the context of permaculture, I find this attitude base and unimaginative. Why not think of “working with” non-human species, as opposed to “using” them? Or, since it is as good a guess as any that the squirrels may not consent to cooperation with humans, why not think of “tricking” them? Shows a little more respect.
My so far brand-new, inexperienced, untried understanding of permaculture is that it observes what comprises and what affects the (natural) world, and one’s own locale, with the aim of working with the elements and sectors, rather than against them. A sign of imbalance–such as an overpopulation of squirrels (or deer, or rats, or mice, or mosquitos, or bunnies on campus, or broom, or blackberry, or whatever else thrives in a disturbed environment)–reflects an imbalance in the big picture, a lack of biodiversity. In this sense, the attitude implied by “using” comes off as a domineering and self-congratulatory power trip, instead of a generative, participatory sense of informed respect–not to mention an attitude rich with creative thinking.
The second reason I chose not to post that thread is that its comments devolve almost immediately into a discussion of using nuts to harvest squirrels, which is not the point of the topic, and is a totally unoriginal proposal when it comes to cohabiting the planet with creatures who live alongside us and have the same fundamental need/wish to eat.
These days I feel perpetually grossed out by how the one response you can absolutely count on to the “problem” of “animal” “pests” is to kill them. It seems to me that underlying this reaction is a creeping discomfort about “animals” that are not under our control. In the urban setting, the populations of deer, raccoons, squirrels, bunnies (or whatever) are so upsetting to the status quo that I am reminded of the rhetoric around the homeless, the drug addicted, the elderly, the ill–all the icky embarrassments that warp the veneer of deserving affluence and civilized order, revealing ugly entropy and death. And yes, I am reminded of the same kind of rhetoric that exists, very muffled, around the damn, drunken . . . er, ah, hmm. You know, they who pop up all over town, in our neatly gardened neighbourhoods, our empty green healing spaces, and our universities? off the reservation? refusing welfare? refusing social services? just doing god only knows what they are doing, and upsetting the tourists? without the decency to at least wear loincloths and headdresses while standing silently ready to polish our rose-coloured Pradas and heal our troubled souls?
Part Three. Unpolite.
What is this wildness. It makes me nervous and itchy and afraid. It makes me want to burn my house down. It makes me want to binge and purge and why am I not always screaming with all this violence in my soul? Those damn ticky tacky deer ate my thousand dollars and then looked at me with those eyes like a chocolate pool in the brown sun forest at the end of the world on the eighth perfect day. Why does it not need me. I deserve a massage. It is my right to go to the spa. I need a painkiller, a movie, a gun, an umbrella, a hobby, a helper to take off my mind. This restless skin ripples around me, unsettled, this skin waits to flee me, unpinned. It is my right to want to go to sleep at night. I do not like this wildness. I have a membership. I am on the inside committee. I have a voice. I have a right to have a voice. I have a right to prove I have a voice. I have a right to vote my right to prove myself and my day at the spa and a sleepless night in this rippling skin. I deserve to be earplugged against the wind, rolled over, ignoring the ones who move in-between houses outside, the rabid wolves, the undressed youth, the insane lost, the perverts in bushes, the eyeball hungry, those spectres of death, the angry god, the vanity fair, unstopped desire, unthumbed dam, bacchanalian hordes, remembered touch, unhoused spirit, brilliant nothing, moment submerged, complete, underwater, grown dim, in the green before now, with too much silence when I am off guard, trying to sleep off my vote, my proof, my right, the voice of my rippling skin.