A morning well spent

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Last Friday, we had refugees from Orlando and Hurricane Matthew at our house. Two of them were our 7-year-old granddaughters. Since the call for that afternoon and the weekend was all rain all the time, we decided we absolutely had to get them outside before the deluge. And we were right.

So we included them in one of our Master Naturalist activities — collecting nuts. Every year, the Department of Forestry puts out a call for acorns and black walnuts (and sometimes longleaf pine cones) to be used as seed for trees to be planted across the commonwealth. The acorns must be identified by species — a slightly daunting task, as there about 15 types of oak — but the walnuts are simply walnuts.

Fortunately we know a lovely wooded area with dozens of black walnut trees. Mind you, they’re not the size of the one at Fort Boykins, which is the second largest in the state, but they’re old enough to bear fruit. Each tree seems to bear nuts every other year, so one area will have nuts this year, and they’ll be elsewhere next fall.

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The girls were equipped with gloves to avoid staining their hands and a plastic shopping bag to fill. As we drove through the area, we’d come upon 30 or 40 nuts alongside the road. Everybody out! It’s scavenger hunt time! Of course it got a bit competitive, but all the better for the Department of Forestry. Once that area was cleared, we’d dump them in a large cardboard box in the trunk, then climb back in for the ride to the next spot. The girls had a squealing good time.

Along the way we encountered a large box turtle, which we examined closely (with gloves) and played with for a while. It was named either “Sam” or “Ella” for a while after we explained about salmonella, but they finally called him “Orangey” as his legs and neck were brightly tinged with orange, as were the markings on his shell. We released him and watched him lumber off into the woods. Another lesson learned. Another beautiful creature of nature examined. Another animal released unharmed back to its natural habitat.

When the cardboard box was finally filled (perhaps 200 walnuts?), we headed for the playground in that area for some swing time and slide time before heading home.

The trip took us past the Wakefield Peanut Company on Route 460, where the girls got to savor several samples before we made our selections. Note to wildlife enthusiasts — they have “wildlife nuts” for $7 per 10-pound bag, which lasts us three weeks in our feeders.

On to Ivor for some ham at Felts — another must-stop for two girls who enjoy a ham-and-egg country breakfast on a Sunday morning. They’ve met Mr. Felts before. In fact, they’ve been all these places before and miss them since they moved to Florida.

Home for a late lunch just as the rain started — and a good thing, too. It was two more days until they could get outdoors again, then head home.

A well-spent morning — helping the Forestry Department, observing wildlife, exercising outdoors, getting wildlife nuts (and some chocolate-covered peanut brittle), then buying some ham for a gourmet country breakfast. Well-spent, indeed!

 

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.