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We are on the Edge of Autumn

Busy Squirrel

Caught in the act of climbing up to the birdfeeder…this squirrel is a permanent resident in our backyard. He and a friend have totally stripped the walnut tree of any nuts.

Walnut Shells

Here is what my sidewalk looks like under the walnut tree…nothing but shells and casings. What a mess! This is the second year in a row that the squirrels have eaten all the nuts.

10 3 10 walking trail Fall Color

There is finally a little color along our regular walking trail and those are clouds in the sky but there was no rain. My daughter Amanda had to take a trip over the Sierra this week and she said that the trees up on the pass are just starting to turn colors…mostly aspens. We may need to take a drive up their next weekend.

10 3 10 walking trail Wild grapes

We saw lots of these wild grapes far up over the walking trail. They look so good and we wondered if they would be sweet or tart. There was no way to reach them since they were far up in the trees where they reach the sunlight. So I will be satisfied with recreating this photo in my nature journal this week since I love the colors of the leaves and grapes and the shape of the leaves is awesome.

Hummingbird at the feeder

One last photo that really isn’t a sign of autumn but I thought it was fun to catch this hummingbird stopping by to sip at our feeder. We have had a bunch of hummingbirds this summer and I even hung another feeder because there was always a fight happening at the two we already had.

Yesterday we worked in the garden and completed the initial fall clean up. There is still some life out there and a few tomatoes and peppers to ripen up. I composted a bit in one box and I will be planting some peas, spinach, and lettuce later today and hopefully we will have another crop before the winter weather hits.

I think we will take a trip to the apple orchard this week if all my boys are recovered from their cold/flu from last week. Nothing like the thoughts of a little apple pie to perk up a sick boy! Of course we will be tasting different varieties of apples as part of the apple challenge….research of course. 🙂

Have a great weekend.

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Squirrel Study: Sad Story of Our Walnuts

Pile of Walnuts

We have a beautiful walnut tree in our backyard and it has always given us an abundance of nuts each autumn. The photo shown here is from a few years ago and shows part of our walnut harvest. Around this time of year, we are usually gathering oodles of nuts to dry and crack to eat and save for our baking.

Not this year.

Grey squirrels came and ate every last nut in our crop. Climbing into the tree, they would pick the nuts wrapped in their green outer coats, strip the casings off, and then proceed to crack the shells to get to the meat.

Piles and piles of shells and green casings dropped to the ground, littering the sidewalk and garden below. I thought surely they couldn’t eat them all, but they did.

I have mixed feelings about the whole situation. On one hand, I love having the furry little guys in my yard and away from my birdfeeders. On the other hand, I would have liked to have had a few nuts in my pantry for cookies and muffins and salads. This autumn will be known as the year with no nuts.

Our front yard also has a squirrel that visits quite frequently. It is a different variety of squirrel and he is FAST.
Squirrel in the tuliptree 2
(I shared this photo a few weeks ago during our tree study…we think it is a Fox Squirrel.)

Fox Squirrel on the front wall

He is busy eating the seeds from the tulip tree.

Squirrel on the front wall 2
Look at those feet! No wonder they can climb and jump like they do!

He nibbles and then scurries off down the street, as if he has a regular route he takes to dine at various spots in the neighborhood.

Squirrel on the front wall 1
He is fun to watch as he bounds down the street and up onto the neighbor’s narrow fence top. My son, who does a lot of his schoolwork in the living room at the table by the window, calls my attention to our resident squirrel all the time. We are getting to know him quite well this year.

The other day as I was driving down a fairly busy street in town, a squirrel decided to run out in front of me. I know from experience that they usually dart out of the way at the last minute and I try not to get too excited. This one seemed to look me in the eye as he sat in my lane of traffic, a crazy game of chicken. Starting to move, he zigged and zagged a little in front of me and stood still again as I got closer. I slowed a bit and started coaching him to “Get out of the way!” At the last possible moment, he ran off to the side of the road and quickly up a tree. Why do they do that?

For the most part, we enjoy our neighborhood squirrels and find a great deal of entertainment value in this rodent. Our favorite squirrel actually walks the telephone line at a busy intersection in town. We see him probably once a week doing his tight-rope act, defying gravity and giving us something to be in awe about with this little one of God’s creation.

Here is our link to our previous squirrel study if you would like to read that one:
Squirrel Study

Watch this video to see another common squirrel in our area…the California Ground Squirrel. This video was taken last spring on a hike we took not too far from our home.

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English Walnuts-Yes, Another Tree Study

Today was *another* cloudless day but we were outside looking to see what we could find interesting in the backyard. The walnut tree now that it has just about lost all of its leaves was our subject of the day. First we started looking at the way the woodpeckers have over the years made numerous holes in the trunk and large branches. Be sure to click the photo to get a better look.

As we examined the trunk closer, we noticed the change in the texture of the bark shown in the photo below.

I was interested in what was going on with it and I somewhere in my memory have stored away that my husband had once told me that they graft the English walnut onto the black walnut tree because the black walnut is a native of California so it is a hardy tree, resistant to pests but the English walnut has a thinner shell and easier to open and eat.

We decided to ask him more about it and to look it up on the internet once we got inside from our outdoor break.

Here is what we found:

  • Did you know that California grows 99% of the United States’ walnuts?
  • That is an average of 303,000 tons of walnuts every year!
  • The Romans called the walnut Juglans regia or Jupiter’s royal acorn.
  • My husband was absolutely correct and the English walnut is grafted onto a black walnut rootstock.

Fascinating! I have never noticed the grafting before in all the twenty plus years we have lived in this same house. If you want to know more about the California(English) walnut here is a link to a simple to read explanation. California Walnut

Here is the pile of leaves under the walnut tree. So many leaves to rake but not many nuts due to the resident squirrel and the Scrub jays.