The incessant rain and cool temperatures makes it difficult to get motivated to work outside. While we wait for even the slightest break in the weather, we’re shelling this years’ nut harvest. It’s a great job for dark, sleepy evenings as we adjust to daylight savings. I can do it in my pyjamas, in front of a roaring wood stove, while listening to the ten-year old sing along to bad 80’s music that he’s ‘just discovered’. Once the crop is shelled we’ll tally up the weight and store the bounty in the freezer in small vacuum sealed bags.
Empty shells or poorly formed nuts can indicate irregular watering; poor pollination (nut trees are primarily wind-pollinated) or insufficient soil nutrition. We see some empty and poorly formed shells in both the hazelnut and walnut crops each year. The majority of this years’ nuts have well filled shells so it appears we’re on the right track with the crop qualities we can influence.
I have yet to determine a cost-effective way to sniff and sort out the duds before cracking them. Float tests don’t work (all my walnuts float in buckets of water). Large scale commercial growers use powerful blowers calibrated perfectly so that anything less than an optimally filled nut gets blown off the conveyor belt and into the compost pile. With only 10 trees currently in production we’ll just have to hand sort. Come spring, the producing trees and newest nut trees will all receive another heavy dose of compost; freshly mulched tree rings and regular watering in the dry spells.
In the meantime I’m waiting out the downpour with my feet up, nutcracker in hand humming to the tune of “Legs…she knows how to use them…” Yikes. Add to the to-do-list: introduce junior to a new genre of music this winter.