Volunteers…

An enterprising squirrel planted a hazelnut in the foundation plantings. He thought to be clever and bury it deep down near the roots of some flourishing St. John’s Wart. His little squirrel brain, with its extensive information of sites of buried food for retrieval in the off-season, winter, must have been ovehelmingly full of detail; he forgot about the nut he buried there.

Early in the spring, I spied a couple of spindly hazel branches making elegant arcs over the leafing St. John’s Wort bed. Aha, a volunteer! I did not have the heart to yank it out and foolish me thought to let it stay, to see just how vigorous the hazel’s growth was to be by summer. So, now, in July, the few branches have grown into a young tree; its canopy swishes with the wind against the bug screen of our computer, music room. When one raises eyes from the computer monitor, a subtle green scrim filters out harsh sunlight. It pulses and shifts with the breezes, a lacy verdant curtain, far more desirable than any self-conscious leafy patterned fabric curtain indoors.

I shall have to foray out with shovel and spade, and rudely dislodge it from the foundation bed. The hazel, I now find out, has a vigorous growth habit. After some more development, its roots will disturb the house’s foundation, and make possible leaks to crack the cement. Such power in a natural vegetative force, to be able to encroach on natural and man-made hard materials. Still, I plan to embrace the rest of the summer season and grant a respite for this volunteer. In the Fall, when its leaves have released their hold on the branches, will be the time to pull it out. Perhaps, even, try to plant it in some other area of our little suburban plot. It would be ideal  for suburban plots to have some fruit and nut trees. Mature hazels produce a good crop of nuts, which are also delicious.

Out behind Rumpole’s woodworking addition, another squirrel has planted an acorn from one of the oak trees two blocks away. As far as I have been able to discern, the parent tree is one of two for many blocks around. Our little acorn seedling had such a bonsai appearance in its early establishment that I didn’t have the heart to dig it up. It has character; a persistent raddled beauty – awkward, its immature branches contorting from the West Winds prevalent on that side of our place. It is now as tall as me-a regular character with its gesturing thin main arms rising from a trunk slowly increasing in girth.

It makes me wonder just how many seasons must pass before the appearance of its fruiting, the acorns which hang in small clusters. It seems fortuitous that I have become interested in preparing my own drawing ink. The acorns will relase oak gall, which makes ink of a lovely character. The ink may not have many centuries of permanence, as all natural dyes it will fade when exposed to light for years. There is something so satisfying in the thought of preparing my own materials for drawing.

An acquaintance has a stand of black walnut trees. She is selling her property this fall, and she has many small black walnut seedlings which have volunteered to grow where they had fallen. Black walnut liquor makes a wonderful drawing ink. I shall ask to buy one of her volunteers and transplant it on the West side of out house; also ask her for the seed-hulls from her Black Walnut harvest this Fall. Soaking the seed coverings results in a beautiful ink. Like an old witch toiling over a vat, stirring, stirring, I can make drawing ink to give to artist friends and keep some for my own use. Then the newly transplanted volunteer will grow over the years and provide both ink and edible walnuts. Perhaps, not right away, but soon in the future.

5 Responses to “Volunteers…”

  1. Writer not Reading Says:

    I love everything about this post, especially the description of the hazelnut tree and its encroachment on the house foundation. Squirrels around here make a habit of burying peanuts in my garden, which I find alarming because my son has a deadly allergy to even the dust. I don’t understand where the squirrels get them, possibly from garbage cans, or people who eat peanuts in their yards. I find them everywhere, even in window boxes. Just yesterday I looked out the window and saw a squirrel balanced on a porch window box busily burying one of them.

  2. ybonesy Says:

    I also loved the description of the hazel nut tree, and I could just imagine that enterprising squirrel. I think, like you, I really hate to have to dislodge trees, well, except for the Chinese Elm, which is truly invasive. But most trees seem so very substantial, so amazing that they grow from a seed to begin with.

    BTW, as I read this I thought, good thing my dear pug doesn’t live anywhere near you or your friend and all those nuts falling off trees. 8)

  3. Deborah Barlow Says:

    I had no idea about the ink. Tell me more when you get a chance. Great post.

  4. suburbanlife Says:

    Writer not reading – G – it must be horrendous to raise a child with such severe peanut allergy – you had to have been on the guard on so many different occasions, and then had to teach him to be constantly on the lookout when he became older. So much of modern food has come in contact with peanuts, peanut oil, etc. Did you substitute Nutella for the ubiquitous peanut butter in your home? It is yummy!
    Those squirrels must have some weird way of finding most of the nuts they bury? Have to otherwise they’d starve over winter. Strange beasts! G

    ybonesy – yes, trees are magical to think about how they come to be, and for how long-lived they are. and yes- it’s a good thing your pug doesn’t live here. The vet bills would be horrendous. Our Jessica, a Scottie, hates squirrels and does regular squirrel patrols when out in the yard or on walks. The squirrels, on the other hand thumb their noses at her, and carry on.

    Deborah – as soon as I recieve my quantity of black walnut husks, I shall make the ink. The oak galll ink will require a special hunt for the correct “apples”, growths on the leaves and stems, sort of like a cancer, which when ground and soaked yield a brownish liquor which can be made to ocidize by adding copper sulphate. i love concocting stuff, so this is right up my alley. I’ll send yo a recipe as soon as I have made one work well. G

  5. lookingforbeauty Says:

    The squirrels around here have a voracious appetite for nuts. The lawn is scattered with their broken shells.
    I think these furry tailed menaces just get too full and sassy to bother going to collect all their loot…. or maybe it’s because they found your tulip bulbs before finding the hidden nut and then made a one sided barter with you – arbitrarily taking the tulip bulb and leaving you the nut.

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