November 08, 2010
I told myself 'this year, I will not just step over the walnuts, but I'll collect them with my son and do what my dad once did with me'
Processing walnuts reminds me when I was a kid... when my dad made us all help him :) All of us--my friends too. There was a time I felt I was in danger of loosing my friends because of all the "chores" my dad made them help with. Simple nostalgia drives often drives me to do the things I do. I told myself I wasn't going to step over the walnuts and forget them this year.
In our family, there was always a bowl of nuts on the table... through the winter. Maybe I did it just to have some nuts layng around. Black walnuts have a hard shell that takes a hammer (or a heavy duty cracker) to bust the shell. I recall using a hammer and my dads anvil to crack black walnuts and tediously pick the nuts out of the shells for hours when I was a kid. But the reward was something else. It is something I crave more now as an adult then I did when I was a kid. Here, in our my back yard... the best quality nuts for the taking, and all I need is the desire.
My dad would collect them when they were soft and mushy and would drive over them with the truck to loosen the hulls. I took a more precise approach. Here's the process I employed. I clamped a drawknife in the vise and rolled the walnut over it to cut the husk in half. Then, using both hands (with latex gloves on,) twisted either side of the hull in opposite directions. The greener ones came right out... the darker, harder ones took rolling them on the ground under my shoe.
Cleaning the gunk off is a multi-day process. Put them in a bucket of water and use a paddle on a drill or something to agitate the goo off. The water will be black. Again, this will stain your clothes and hands. I got some holes in my gloves and had black fingers for weeks. Still on my hands as I type as a matter of fact. Nothing will take the stain out, except time.
Afterwards, I put them under some screen or wire to let the sun hit them and dry out. After the hulls are clean enough, bring them in side and store them in a cardboard box in the corner... even near the fireplace. The nut will contract and be easier to get out of the shell.
Do this with your kid, but allow them to become bored and don't force them to appreciate this process like you do. It's only important to expose them to it, so that one day, they may look back as I have... and maybe take it up on their own. Afterall, us Morgan's become a little nuts over time. Take a look at the pictures to see the process.
November 24, 2009
A great group of friends went on an excursion down the Ohio River on a beautiful fall day. I might note, there was some pretty good food too.
On a beautiful Sunday in November, a bunch of us grabbed some boats and put in at the Triple Whipple bridge in Rising Sun, IN and canoed down to the Ohio River. First, the Triple Whipple bridge in worth noting...
It is among the most important historic bridges in the country. The Triple Whipple Bridge was built in 1878, and on that alone it is significant, but it is actually the only remaining example utilizing a triple intersection Pratt system.
Not only is this bridge old, it is large! Any 300 foot span dating to before 1900 is very noteworthy. It is not known how many were built in the United States, but the total cannot have been large. The Laughery Creek bridge, therefore, is not only a rare survivor, it is a rare type to begin with.
We canoed from the bridge, down to the Ohio... then across to explore "Split Rock." We took a lunch break and realized that among us, we had some Pinot Noir and another white wine, several cheeses, pineapple/mango chutney on triscuits, crackers with chocolate and chunky peanut butter, hummus and sesame seaweed crackers, fine-assed coffee... and all this before the famed Rabbit Hash BBQ. It was a total river culinary experience. Thanks to Melissa, who made a recent trip to Finlay Market, for providing the most interesting stuff to eat :)
We jumped back in the boats and did a final 7 miles or so into the wind down to Rabbit Hash, KY. The blazing sun and wind in my face got me some chapped lips for the day. At Rabbit Hash, we heard some good music in the General Store, ate some BBQ and headed back across the river. Thank you God... for another great day on earth, with friends!
October 27, 2009
Check out Jimmy... just soakin' up the essence of the fall in the serene calm of Laughry Creek.
Got a lot of great shots on my birthday day trip starting with the early morning drive over to Darian's. The morning sunrise lit the sky in a dramatic display that I could best describe as beautiful pollution :)
We put into Laughry and did 16 awesome miles of some rapid moving water. I think it was running about 1.5 and it was definitely some fun water all the way down with two very small portage points from some fallen trees.
I was home by 5:30 or so to change the oil in the truck, meet the inlaws and have cake with the family. Another year down and I still believe less is more. No gifts or anything complicated, just a quick outing to air out the brain, then back to roll around with the kids and eat some wonderful wife food. Aside from thinking about an eminent vasectomy, life is good.
October 18, 2009
The first annual "Apple Smash" yielded 47 gallons of cider and a few hours of great fun among our family and friends.
The word for this weekend is most certainly "extraction" - that is, getting the juice from what mother nature has given us. Gently pressing, or violently smashing, it's all good. On Saturday, I helped the Specters press their grapes in Dave's refurbished grape press. On Sunday, we did our "1st Annual Apple Smash" using the cider press my dad refurbished but never got to use. Many years later, it finally did it's maiden smash. Two truckloads of green, red and yellow apples, a dedicated cart, wash, cut and smash crew, and we have 47 gallons of liquid gold. Everyone took home more then enough, and I have enough left to make 20 gallons of apple wine... and 5 gallons of Apple Jack.
Thanks to Dave and Sara Specter, Mark and Tracy Webster, Libby, the kids and my wonderful wife Susan. Special thanks to the Kinkers for providing the beautiful venue, the means, and some mysteriously good coconut curry soup.
With a week of gloomy, dank, cold rainy weather a week before, and a frost the night before, it turned out to be a BEAUTIFUL day and a perfect end to a summer with a very strange crop cycle. I look forward to doing it again next year!
May 26, 2009
For us, spring is a busy time of the year, not just with all the work and school stuff going on, but the needs of the garden, grapes and other horticultural rituals we love to do. There is grape pruning, garden tilling, seed planting and bringing out the bananna trees. I have a habit of propagating anything I prune off my grapvines and jade plants even if it is to hand out to friends. I'm not yet sure of the significance to me of why I do it, but maybe it's just a friendship thing... from our house to yours. If that grapevine takes off and becomes something significant, someone might say, "we got that from the Morgan's back in the spring of 2009."
Hannah did her school play "Jack and the Beanstalk" and we've already been down to Louisville the weekend of the Kentucky Derby to make derby pie with Andy and Debbie... who by the way, made it up the very next weekend to do the canoe and camp trip.
Between the wildlife and floral and fauna in our back yard... to the images of all things renewed, Spring just rocks.
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