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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mystery Of The Broken Walnut Shells At May Dreams Gardens

Is it a welcome calling card or a sinister warning?

Several times this week, when I went out to get the morning paper, I noticed the broken shells of a single black walnut on my driveway.

Each time I saw those pieces of walnut shells, I picked them up and tossed them in the trash. Had it happened once, or even twice, I would have just thought it was some squirrels passing through.

But it has happened four times this week and it is always just one walnut, so now I’m spending more time considering what it means, if it means anything at all.

I’ve noticed very few squirrels in my yard in the past. My lot was carved out of a giant field on the edge of the Big City, and thus was nearly treeless when I moved here. I say nearly treeless because there was a giant sycamore tree on the lot, but I decided it was too far gone and had it cut down before the house was built. It took them three days and cost me a small fortune to have it removed.

Wait, I’m starting to figure out what might be going on here. Perhaps that giant sycamore tree was a gathering place for squirrels, a mecca of sorts? What if they are all returning, now that I have a few trees for them to frolic in? And when they see that the giant sycamore tree is gone, they are leaving the walnut shells as a warning of some kind?

Where are they getting those walnuts from anyway? There are no walnut trees around here, as in none within at least 500 feet of my house. There could be some in the woods behind the people across the street, I suppose, but I think it would be a long way for a squirrel to carry something like a walnut all the way from those woods to the top of my driveway.

And why my driveway?

I would never plant a black walnut tree, Juglans nigra, in my garden. They are far too big of a tree for a suburban lot and are messy with all the walnut husks and shells, not to mention actual walnut nuts that attract squirrels.

And if the mess isn’t enough to keep a sane gardener from planting one, the fact that walnut trees secrete a compound called juglone from their roots that inhibits the growth of other plants around them, including and especially tomatoes, ought to be enough reason not to plant them in a small yard or garden.

But I digress. I need to remain watchful to solve the mystery of these broken walnut shells appearing on my driveway. I need to look for more clues, more signs. I need to find out… sinister warning or welcome calling card?

15 comments:

Patsybell said...

Maybe your nutty neighbors are feeding the squirrels black walnuts. I find pecan shells in my garden - I don't have a pecan tree. Maybe a world wide phenomenon:Squirrels are about to take over.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Definitely sister warning. You're about to start finding walnut shells and walnuts in your planters, and newly installed plants dug up & replaced with walnuts. Ok, maybe I'm projecting here, but change "walnut" to "peanut," and you've got life at Squirrelhaven.

Kim and Victoria said...

Yeah, probably a new world order with squirrels in charge. They'll be telling us what to plant next. (I saw two of them plotting in my garden today.)

compulsively compiled said...

What about birds? Maybe they are dropping the walnuts to break them and get to the inside.

robin said...

Maybe your paper man/ person likes to snack on walnuts and tosses out the shells with the paper so he doesn't litter up the car.
Could be that one of his customers gave him a basket full of unshelled nuts as a Christmas gift and he is trying to use them up.
If you were the gift- giver of nuts maybe he is trying to tell you something?

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Sounds like my monkeys have been visiting your driveway.

perennialgardener said...

I'm sure the squirrels are just giving you a hard time. They bury the pecans from my tree all over my garden. Every time I go to plant something there's another pecan. ;)

Grace Peterson said...

Hi Carol~~ Methinks you need a Nannycam. Set up a stealth surveillance system. It's the ONLY way you're ever going to solve the mystery. Conjecture won't do here. :)) Maybe you can post the footage.

Charlotte said...

I don't know what the squirrels are up to, but I grew up in a farmhouse with a giant yard full of black walnut trees, so any discussion of black walnuts makes me think fondly of childhood.

Dave said...

A few years ago there was a commercial for insurance where two squirrels ran into the road causing the car to swerve which resulted in an accident. Then the squirrels gave each other high fives. Perhaps the squirrels are doing something similar? Playing a joke designed to drive you nuts? ;)

Rose said...

Just another of life's little mysteries, though I'm with the group on thinking this is a warning sign:)

This story reminds me of a UK blogger who posted her own mystery one day--she found an egg in her yard on several occasions. Naturally, you would think a nearby hen had laid it, but these eggs had a stamp on them! The mystery was solved by a neighbor who saw a fox stealing eggs from porches after the milkman had delivered them.

One never knows what these sly creatures are up to!

Sheila said...

I bet it is the birds! They do that all the time around here, dropping the nuts on a hard surface to crack them open.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I don't think the walnut shells were a warning but a "hint" from Squirrel Local 101. They want you to consider planting what they think is a Cafeteria in your garden. They don't think of those walnuts as mess. They think of them as a delicacy. They think of the tree as a high rise condominium. Your bird bath would be the watering hole for them. Paradise. This is a win win situation to them.

Anonymous said...

After 37 years on this rural Ohio property, I am only now finding squirrels reporting in, including two white ones (not albinos, i.e. dark eyed). There are 2/3 walnut trees in our woods. Lately I am finding walnut shells near a spot on the side of this old farmhouse which I suspect of being an entrance into my walls for small creatures who make noises at night. I am thinking that my shells are a marker telling me that the squirrels are getting in. But do the shells also mean that maybe they have stored some nuts in the house?

Another walnut mystery.

alphonsegaston said...

I had to post as anonymous because my Google account would not work. I am trying again to get my account to work.