When I was about age 10, my dad began to enjoy my presence. He loved to take pictures, so on Saturdays, he loaded up his equipment and me, his best view finder, into the old Buick in search of a perfect scenic spot. I loved his pictures of fall leaves. The love of fall colors makes me nostalgic and brings me joy.
We do not get the magnificent colors in all trees that Indiana does, but we still have some gorgeous fall plants. Several years ago on my own impromptu photo shoot, I found a grape field so beautiful I had to pull over, jump out of my car, and take pictures.
Hoosiers tout many varieties of maple trees but the foothill community of Woodlake, CA in Tulare County honors the humble white oak or valley oak.
Wikipedia has a list of various kinds of oaks along with where they are found which I found helpful in trying to figure out which kind of oak this is. Google lists images of oaks by type.
It takes hours to compare leaves to pictures to figure out what kinds of trees and plants we see along the roads. I never appreciated people who can spout off names like that until I started writing my blog. I don’t think this is an oak tree because the bark is too smooth. Kiwanis supports the blue signs we see along the highways in our areas that names the crop next to the highway. But most places do not have signs.
While I think this is pretty, it cannot compare to the eastern parts of the United States for color and brilliance. However, in the east, the mountains do not pop up over the tops of the trees. In Hockessin, Delaware even if the mountains were there, you wouldn’t be able to see them because forests line nearly every street and obscure everything but the nearest leaves.
When my first husband and I moved to California, we lived in the middle of a walnut grove. My understanding is that growers grafted English walnut trees to the hardy black walnut trees then painted the trunks to keep the bugs out.
Even though I did not like to eat walnuts, I loved gathering them after the shakers harvested the main crop. The ants and I got the rest of them. The ants did not like what I did next. But it served them right for biting me one day when I gathered walnuts by making a hammock of my t-shirt. I baked the walnuts in their shells at 250 degrees for an hour or so to cure them. My friends loved their presents. The ants – not so much!
I caught this vagrant red beauty leaving the nest and fluttering down to create the soft carpet below the vine for the winter.
I hated walnuts until I moved to Tulare County. We couldn’t have been relocated into a better place than when my first husband and I moved here August 1, 1985, a month prior to the beginning of walnut harvesting season. After about 3 months of blistering hot weather, and by that I mean temperatures of 105+ F or 40.55 C, walnuts are ready to come down from their lofty perches. We rented an old adobe house centered between two walnut groves.
Nobody told me how they got walnuts out of the trees. Walnut trees put up with a lot from us humans. Have you ever been in so much trouble that your authority person took you by the shoulders and shook you? That’s what large equipment, called a shaker, does to each and every walnut tree. Do you know what is in the trees besides walnuts?
Of course you do. Dust. There is so much dust in the air that even the leaves can’t breathe. Maybe the trees are grateful for the shake-up. Leaves are much more tenacious than walnuts, however, and they stay put through the process. Walnut husks let loose of most of their walnuts and drop them nicely into a large dump truck following the shaker machine. I almost got pictures of that happening this fall, but guess what? Forgot my camera – AGAIN! The amount of dust that filled the air would have horrified those of you who think the sky is blue. It isn’t in September. It’s brownish-blue. Even the clouds hide when the dust is flying.
In the days when we lived in the walnut groves, I had all the walnuts I ever wanted. After the shakers came, the gleaners gleaned. They took some of the walnuts that were left on the ground where the shaker didn’t aim very well, and missed the dump truck. After the gleaners finished, the walnut trees dropped the rest of their walnuts sporadically throughout the winter.
One warm day in November I headed into the grove for my daily walk. Lying on the ground were piles and piles of left-over walnuts that everybody had missed. In all the months we had lived there (4), I didn’t realize that walnuts had connoisseurs that weren’t human, but they did. Even after a month of picking them I had not met a non-human walnut-lover, but on this particular day I met them. At first I picked up just a walnut or two, and carried them in my hands. Then I got greedy. I didn’t have a container with me, so I used my blouse, and just made a little sling out of the front of it, and started loading it with walnuts. Here and there I bent down, and added more and more walnuts to my nifty cotton t-shirt/bag. (Yes, I was literally a 30 year-old bag lady.)
With my blouse filled with walnuts, I started itching a little. I couldn’t scratch because I was carrying all those walnuts, and that took both hands. Walking faster and faster I still was quite a ways from our house, when I realized what was happening. I disturbed these inhumane feasters by stealing their walnuts and jostling them. They came out of the walnut shell to check things out. Obviously they didn’t like what they saw, and decided to scare me away from their dinner by biting me instead. Hundreds of them, tiny red ants swarmed out of the shells, into the folds of my blouse, up and over the fabric, right onto my tummy, and up across the top to my neck. Once I saw the little red devils, I dropped those walnuts, and brushed ants off me as I dashed towards the house. I couldn’t fill the bathtub fast enough.
So when I was on my drive, December 4th admiring the beautiful red leaves of the vineyard across the street, the walnut trees, my old friends, called out to me, “Marsha Lee, don’t just look at those withered up old grape vines. We’re pretty, too. Take our pictures.”
How do you resist a plea like that? (Even if I did think they sort of looked like they were wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes.) I didn’t tell them that, of course.
How I get rid of ants, and got walnuts ready to eat:
Heat walnuts in the shell in an oven heated to about 200 degrees. When you start smelling hair, you can turn off the over, but I still leave them in there. (About an hour or two. I never had any walnuts seem over done. If you don’t roast them a bit they are kind of chewy.
Shell the walnuts. This is a great TV watching activity.
Store walnuts in the freezer. They keep for a long time.
I always had WAY more walnuts than I could have used in a lifetime. I don’t have any left, but I’ve probably had all the walnuts I can stomach for a lifetime anyway. I do miss having them in my back yard, though.
Today’s featured blog is new to me, Algarve Blog. I was first attracted to the beautiful header, but I read further. Algarve posts about Portuguese culture, among other things. This interests me since one of my good friends is Portuguese, and I learned a little about Christmas traditions in Portugal. You will find a wonderful article about Santas when you read about the Food Bank project. These Santas are athletic. I think you will enjoy this beautiful and informative site.
Will the real Santa please stand up? What are some of your Christmas traditions?
Tulare County, approximately the size of Connecticut, has two climates. One is mountainous – the Sierra Nevada, home of the Sequoia National Park. The other, home of over 400,000 cows, is a temperate, farming-friendly valley. Four days ago as I drove towards the largest town, Visalia, I passed two grape vineyards, one with yellow leaves, and one with bright red. The sun was just breaking through the clouds. It had rained the day before, and everything sparkled like animated ornaments on a Christmas tree. No camera! The cardinal sin of an amateur photographer.
Two days ago, after a minor rain shower, I took my camera and drove that road again, at the same time, hoping to recapture what I had missed. You can be the judge of that. Actually I’m just being polite – you can’t because you didn’t see the first sun-sprayed scene. I’m going to pawn these photos off on you hoping that you will PRESUME that they are as lovely as the first ones would have been if I hadn’t sinned.
This is my heart to y’all. If you see it from a distance, it sort of has that hearty look. The rest of these may all be too similar for you, but i just couldn’t leave any of them out. You know how they talk to you, and say, “Please don’t delete me. Pllllleeeeaaassseeeeee!”
I loved their colors, and the shadows, but I was convinced not to take any home to use for the fancy grape leaf dishes.
By the way, I started a public Facebook page yesterday. I need 30 likes to make it go. I have 27 likes so far. Just 3 more. What could I give as a prize for number 30? hmmmmm
Ah ha – a gold star and a home cooked meal, without grape leaves, next time you come to CA!
When the mountain stopped me and asked me to take a picture of it, I had no idea that right across the street something was begging me even more to take its picture.
NO, it took more than a mere field of cotton. You guessed it – farm equipment doing its job.
It looks small and innocent enough from this vantage point. Wait till you get closer!
You can see why the air gets so dusty in the Central Valley. The sky was so immaculate on Saturday because it rained Friday night – our very first rain of the fall.
Don’t be fooled, You wouldn’t want your fingers down there. About this time I had slid down the slight embankment, and was rushing toward the machine faster than it was coming at me. In fact, it was ignoring me all together. HOWEVER…
As I turned from my engaging activity, I jolted to see, not 10 feet away, a white pick-up with a stern looking man sitting inside staring at me, just waiting. That was a little eerie, I have to admit, but I greeted him with a friendly apology asking if he minded if I took pictures. He didn’t, but reminded me not to get my fingers or feet near the cotton mower. HELLO – like even a 2 year old would back away from a moving grinder like that! But the slight reprimand was a small price to pay for being allowed to be at that place at that time with my camera in tow, fully charged with an empty disk. I didn’t ask to take his picture, though. Maybe he was worried that I was a safety inspector.
Ok, that is pretty obvious, but don’t you love the little opening of light following the mower? I did NOT Photoshop that in. It was an amazing opening in the clouds. How cool was that?
Just so you will be more knowledgeable at the end of this article than you were at the first, I want to clarify something. I mistakenly thought that this machine was a cotton picker until I looked online. I thought the fields looked pretty full of cotton still, but how wrong I was! This machine in my pictures was merely mowing down the cotton remains.
Did you find all my signatures? I’m getting pretty cagey, don’t you think?