Seriously can't believe we both missed this mess last year when we had to mow every other day because it actually rained. Maybe the squirrels knew last winter would be mild and didn't stockpile as much? Is this a sign that we should store up canned goods and buy a generator before snow flies?
If you want to harvest some horse chestnuts for decorative purposes - or to feed your pet squirrels - you are going to need 4 things:
1. One or more horse chestnut trees
2. A husband with a good throwing arm
3. A dog that likes to play fetch
4. Chuck-it brand Wonder Ball* for dogs
Arguably, you could omit the dog, but then you would have to buy dog toys to use for just a few minutes and that would be wasteful. Also possible that you could omit the husband if you happen to have some throwing skills yourself. For clarification, it doesn't have to be your own husband - this is a perfectly respectable reason to borrow someone's husband. You could even use an unmarried man or, for that matter, a woman if you choose to be open-minded that way - whatever shakes your particular tree.
You are looking for ripe seed pods like these:
Politely request that the husband throw the ball repeatedly into the upper branches of the trees, causing branches to rustle and chestnuts to fall to the ground. Be sure and stand away from the trees during this portion because those little buggers hurt if they - oh, say -hit you on the back while you're bent to look for chestnuts on the ground . . . I'm assuming. This is where the strong throwing arm comes into play because, contrary to the popular belief that squirrels are hard workers who toil diligently to store enough food to last an entire winter, they are actually very lazy and will collect the nuts from the lower branches, thus avoiding excessive climbing, then sit back and laugh while humans try to access the few remaining nuts up there in the cheap seats. (Run-on sentence much?)
After the pods have fallen to the ground, simply remove the soft outer shell. If they're really ripe, the shell may crack open or fall off completely when they hit the ground or the pickup or your back, depending on what's underneath the tree at the time. Inside you will find a treasure. Smooth, shiny gems that look like they are carved from wood, right down to the intricate grain:
The wonders of God's creation never cease to amaze!
**It has been brought to my attention that these may be Iowa Buckeye (also called American Buckeye) rather than Horse Chestnut trees. Either way, the harvesting procedure remains the same.