I literally jumped out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt, and stumbled over myself while putting on shoes. Intimidating Minnow was already in my driveway. I played navigator and we arrived at a house with six heavy yard waste bags sitting by a driveway in the dark. After we loaded four bags into the back of the truck, Intimidating Minnow reached for the fifth bag. I said, "Wait, we should leave the last two bags for someone else." I received a look that even in the dark I could recognize as a little smile filled with doubt that anyone else would want these green balls of nuisance. "Anyway, if this were foraging I'd be leaving a good amount by the trees. You never take everything."
The black walnuts filled one of my trashcans. I knew I had to store them somewhere temporarily where the squirrels couldn't get them. Some days later, the removing of blackened hulls began. I purchased some latex gloves to wear under my work gloves, and Intimidating Minnow offered to come help. I handed him a pair of the latex gloves and we got started next to some citronella candles warding off the late season mosquitoes. What I didn't realize was that the Minnow put his work gloves on but put the latex gloves aside.
After getting through the majority of the hulling, Intimidating Minnow started mentioning that his hands were hot. I replied that it was indeed rather warm out. We were trying to stay in the shade all morning. But soon after, the Minnow said he wasn't sure he could continue...his hands were on fire. He took off his gloves and the carnage was becoming apparent.
Juglone. It's the stuff in black walnut hulls that dyes your hands black and can cause some bad skin irritations like burning and blistering. Intimidating Minnow was soon at home trying to relieve the pain by soaking his hands in ice water and milk, applying aloe, spreading a coating of olive oil followed by scrubbing with soapy water, and finally trying out some old poison ivy soap I had stashed. Nothing really helped, and his blackened and blistering fingers began to swell. The Minnow seemed...entertained. His hands were in bad shape and he ended up missing two days of work, but it seemed to me has was experiencing some sort of rite of passage. He had a doctor's appointment and his eyes lit up when he told me his doctor "took pictures".
Now the Minnow's hands are healed and the hulled black walnuts which I had put on layers of newsprint in my garage are dried and bagged for future shelling. 882 is the final count. As I cleaned up the garage recently I began singing my own version of "525,600 Minutes" from the musical, "Rent". "882,600 walnuts...882,000 moments so dear...882,600 walnuts...how do you measure, measure a year?..." Three paper bags of black walnuts now sit in my dining room ready to be cracked and savored.
Image credit: Cale Ruiz