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Falling walnuts

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Christine Tailer 

By Christine Tailer 
HCP columnist

It was a beautiful blue-sky morning, though a wee bit chilly. I was thankful to feel the sun on my face as it rose over the hill across the creek. From its first touch, I knew that it would warm the day. 

Greg was still up by the goat yard and chicken run, finishing up his morning chores. I was down by the pasture, piling hay into the back of the four-wheel drive green machine so I could trundle it up the hill and stuff it into the goat yard feeder. My mind wandered as I peeled off slivers of hay from the large round bale and heaped them up in the green machine’s dump bed.

I thought of our daughter’s upcoming wedding and imagined her and her true love riding in the Model A Roadster’s rumble seat as it carried them to their reception. I smiled to think of our son, just beginning to learn what it means to be a home owner with all of its attendant responsibilities, and I could not help but think about what Greg and I might get into on the rest of this beautiful blue-sky day. We had spent all the previous day mowing every single blade of grass that might possibly need mowing, all across the entire farm, and there was absolutely nothing that I could think of that needed to be done. Perhaps we might “take some time off” and go for a walk along the creek.

Dump bed full, I reached for the tailgate to latch it closed and secure the hay for the drive back up the hill. No need for the hay to slide out any sooner than necessary. I was just about to slam the tailgate shut when I heard a startling, thunderous boom. That first crashing sound was quickly followed by another, and then another. 

I turned toward the clamor, and felt a breeze blowing against my face. It was really more of a gust than a breeze. I watched as leaves swirled down from the trees and onto the valley road, and as I stood there, my hand on the tailgate, several walnut trees let go of their green hulled bounty. I saw the large spheres drop, some from fifty or sixty feet high. Many landed on the road with loud thuds, but others crashed down on our metal-roofed equipment shelter. Behind me I heard several more strike the roof of the pole barn. Thunderous booms echoed across the creek valley.

Then, all fell quiet. My blood pressure settled back down, but I still stood, watching the last of the slowly falling leaves. Only when I no longer felt the breeze on my face, did I turn and slam the tailgate shut. This familiar sound was a mere whisper compared to the previous onslaught.

I delivered the hay to the goat yard, and then parked the green machine in its customary spot in front of the house. As I stepped out of the driver’s seat, Greg walked out the downstairs door ready to start the rest of the day. I walked over to him, and I could feel the breeze just beginning to pick up again. A strand of hair blew cross my face. I parted my lips and was about to suggest that we go for a walk, but Greg spoke first, and suggested the we head down to the tractor barn and fire up my 1941 McCormick Deering Orchard tractor for the very first time. My heart soared. A walk could surely wait.

I knew that there was still quite a bit of work to do on the 04 Orchard, such as refinishing the fenders and all the sheet metal, but the engine, and its gas, coolant, and electrical systems were now completed and once again happily mounted to the finished frame. I smiled, ear to ear, as off we headed, down the hill to the barn. Just as we passed under the old walnut tree at the foot of the hill, the breeze grew even stronger. Leaves fell and walnuts crashed down all around us. I looked over to Greg.

His work cap offered little protection from the falling hulls, but then it occurred to me, that if we did eventually decide to go for a walk, I could wear my pith helmet. I had worn it often back in my beekeeping days. Its broad brim had served well to keep the veil off of my face when I worked the hives. I reasoned that it could now serve me well as protection from falling walnut hulls.

I explained my revelation to Greg. “If we decide to go for a walk later, I can wear my pith helmet, and perhaps we can invest in one for you. We could be walnut walking twins,” I smiled.

Greg shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’ll take my chances,” and he touched the bill of his cap. I really do think that Greg would look rather dashing in a pith helmet, but he apparently thinks otherwise.

Down at the barn, I checked the 04’s oil, filled up the radiator with coolant, and poured some gas into the tank. Greg checked the wiring, and then, with just a wee bit of tinkering, the 1941 engine  jumped to life, likely for the first time in a very, very long time. I could not have been any happier, but this, my friends, is quite another story. 

For the end of this story, I will simply let you know that later in the day, I donned my pith helmet, and we went for a walk, and the walnuts crashed down, all around. 

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com. 

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