Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire . . .

Many of you who read this will wonder how I got to be this old without noticing more of the world around me.  I must have been busy cooking, cleaning, raising kids or reading a book.  But since moving to Green Acres, I have become fascinated by the flora and fauna. Case in point, the Horse Chestnut trees in our front yard.  Didn't pay a bit of attention last year, but this year Dave pointed out the not-so-subtle signs of squirrels preparing for the winter.

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?

Anyway, Dave found one of the chestnuts among the empty hulls and when I saw how beautiful they are, I decided I wanted a bowl of them as living room decor.  (Hey, if that is a bad idea - if chestnuts attract ants, or rot and smell like tofu, or turn lime green and stain your good bowl - someone please speak now.)   For the rest of the nature-oblivious among you, horse chestnuts are a member of the buckeye family.  They are not edible like real chestnuts - even when roasted on an open fire - and they are toxic to dogs and cats.  Although they have a nasty taste that will usually cause pets to avoid eating them, it's wise to rake up the shells and keep the nuts out of reach in the house.  Which raises the question of why squirrels eat them in the first place.  Do they have unrefined pallets or are they just too cheap to buy some Skippy?

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!

*Chuck-it brand Wonder Balls are the #1 ranked dog toy according to an informal poll of the administrators of this blog.  Guaranteed to be indestructible by fetch-obsessed Springer Spaniels, Big Red Idiot Dogs who can/will eat anything, and cows.

**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.


  1. What a fun story. They are beautiful! Maybe the squirrels can read the weather so I think you better prepar for a cold winter.

  2. Sounds like a fun way to get a decoration for your house! Honestly, I know nothing about them so I'm not sure if they will smell, etc., but I'm sure they are a lovely fall touch to your house!

    It is interesting that the squirrels seem to like them and seem to be more diligent about collecing them this year. Bible does say God provides food for all his creation, so maybe he lets them know "gather more". I know when we lived in Santa Fe, we had bird feeders out in our backyard. I got to study them and when there were lots of birds eating at the feeders, we would get a winter storm with lots of snow a few days later. Very interesting nature and creation God has made indeed!


  3. Beautful! I can see why you'd want them in your home for the fall. As an Ohio Buckeye I'd say that those don't look exactly like ours but definitely in the same family.
    This was avery fun and funny post :)

  4. Love your post! I can speak for the wonder balls as a dog owner whose doggie eats rubber. The two you gave us (Molly and Gab)are still going strong!

  5. Oh my gosh, who would ever have thought harvesting chestnuts could make such a funny topic for a post?!