Getting a big kick out of fall as acorns dive bomb
Getting ready for bed here at Clear Creek Ranch includes the usual ritual: brush teeth, lock doors, turn out lights. If my wife plans to read late into the night (anytime after 9 p.m. qualifies), she lays out my blinders – a Lone Ranger’s mask without eye holes. Then she makes sure my anti-snoring restraints and chin straps are within easy reach.
Finally, she negotiates sleeping room for us among the cats sprawled on the bed. Somehow her space is always a rectangle as long as she is tall. On a good day, my space looks like a gerrymandered congressional district. On a poor day, it is a forgotten precinct on the extreme edge of the bed.
While my wife is shuffling cats, I am not idle. There are steel-toed boots to lace up, a hard hat to don, and trees to kick.
Kick the trees? Am I nuts? No, but this time of year our Quercus (oak) trees are full of them – a cornucopia of acorns, to be exact.
There is a reason this time of year is called fall. Acorns drop in droves during the slightest breeze and then, one-by-one at intervals, ping loudly off the steel roof before landing like hammer blows on the deck below. Randomly, all night long – like a slow-motion, insomniac carpenter. Kicking the trees causes the acorns to shower down and usually buys a few hours of silence.
Something weighing a fraction of an ounce shouldn’t be so loud or do so much damage. But when I lash out at a tree’s trunk with my stiff, middle-aged impression of a karate kick, the unprotected parts of my body are pummeled by pointy projectiles. Don’t worry about me damaging the trees. Their bark is worse than my might. And those acorns leave their mark in black and blue. Call me Bruise Lee.
Acorn collecting might be this lazy man’s way to wildcrafting riches, if I could find a use for them. I glued little wiggly eyes on a bunch of them until the novelty wore off. As cute as they were, nobody would buy them. My relatives suddenly suggested en masse that we stop exchanging gifts “because who needs a present to know how we really feel about each other.”
Acorns take forever to compost, and they make lousy fireplace kindling. The local American Indian population used to beat acorns into a powder. Some say they made flour with the result, but I think they just did it out of frustration. The stuff is basically inedible. How could anything so organic taste so bad?
Acorns are the result of thousands of arboreal sex acts – a fertile seed dropping to lodge in the loamy uterine wall of Mother Earth, so to speak, where it will burrow beneath the winter snow and burst forth in the spring like some old Bette Midler song.
Our redwood deck may therefore be viewed as a quirky oaken contraceptive device for those acorns that land there. A form of Quercus interruptus, if you will. And if Mother Nature is going to behave like that in front of someone as impressionable as I – well, I don’t want to hear it.
Which is how I found a use for the smaller acorns that find their way into my pajama pockets after a tree-kicking expedition. Wildcrafted ear plugs, anyone? Would you like yours with, or without, the little wiggly eyes?
Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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