Wednesday, October 12, 2011


fall walnut tree

My grandma had a walnut tree in her yard.  Tall and massive, and I’m guessing as old as my grandma, it was situated next to the driveway, near the street.  Even though my grandma is gone now, has been for years, I hope the tree is still there.

It was her fall ritual.  To go out and pick up the fallen walnuts.  I guess that’s how you harvest walnuts.  You pick them up.  You don’t have to climb up and get them.  Not that my grandma wouldn’t have tried. In her early nineties, she insisted on mowing her own yard with an electric mower, the long power cord always trailing precariously around her feet.

Those walnuts.  I remember the sound they made when the tires of passing cars crunched over the ones that had fallen in the street.  Grandma would take a box, or basket, or whatever container was handy, and pick up the fallen nuts from her yard and driveway.  She’d carry them up to her attic where they would dry over the winter, waiting to be cracked open the next spring. She did not own a nut cracker, but seated at an old TV tray in her kitchen, armed with a cutting board and hammer, she would slam the nuts out of their shells, walnut shrapnel flying everywhere.  She would crack nuts by day, and when insomnia struck, she would get up, and slam away in the middle of the night.

At Christmas time, we could always count on getting a package from her, and the contents never varied.  A jar of her mincemeat, and a jar of her walnuts.  The walnuts were like gold. My mother used them sparingly so they would last as long as possible.  (They were also used cautiously as bits of shell were bound to be mixed with the nuts.)

I have my grandma's mincemeat recipe.  Amy and I make a batch every year.  I like to think it’s every bit as good as that which my  grandma made.  I miss those walnuts, though. We buy a bag at Christmas time now, because there is no package coming in the mail. Because there is no longer a grandma who lives at the house with the walnut tree in the yard. 

I just hope the tree is still there.

I’m missing my Grandma Helen today.  I wanted to write this little tribute to her.


  1. I hope that tree is still there too! It's nice that you and Amy buy a bag of walnuts every year, if only to bring back memories of your Grandmother, and have her be a part of Amy's life through your stories of her.

  2. Such a beautiful memory. She sounds like a wonderful woman... a feisty one, too!

    I love the image of her with a hammer and a cutting board. It's just great.

  3. Lovely memories. I sure wish you lived closer. We have two walnut trees and have never done anything with them, mostly because they're such a pain to work with and they die your hands black. I never thought about just storing them until the dried out though.

  4. What wonderful memories!
    My grandma always made her own mincemeat, too. :-)
    We have a walnut tree at the edge of our property...not sure what to do with the nuts though.


  5. Beautiful memories. I love the line about walnut shrapnel. LOL!

  6. Thanks Joanne! I wish Amy could have known her, but I'm trying to share my memories so Amy has a glimpse into her life:)

    Cam-she was feisty! And loud, when she was swinging that hammer;) Thanks for your comment:)

    Lisa-I wish I lived closer too:) I didn't realize they stained your hands-I wonder what my grandma did! She must have handled thousands of them!

    Thanks Kimberly:) I wonder if your grandma's mincemeat was similar to my grandma's. She made it with meat, but I leave the meat out:)

    Melissa-Thanks! It was like a war zone in the kitchen;) I steered clear when she was hammering away!

  7. It's funny how grandparents bring back memories of foliage. My dad would take my grandma for a ride when the leaves changed and because of my grandparents I have a fondness for the Mimosa tree and cottage roses.

  8. What a nice tribute. Your grandmother sounds like quite a character. Perhaps, she end up in one your stories, cracking her walnuts. I thought it was cool that she put away for a year to dry out.

    I love pecans, which we have more of where I live, but I like walnuts, too. I'm not so fond of mincemeat.

    Thanks for sharing memories of your Grandma Helen:~)

  9. I love that image of her sitting with the TV tray and hammer. What a rich little tribute you've laid out here, full of wonderful memories, nostalgia and sadness. Your Grandma Helen sounds like the kind of woman I aspire to be.

  10. Ms. Givens-we used to take my grandma for drives too. She didn't get out much and really enjoyed them Because of her, I also have a fondness for the Blaze climbing rose. She had a huge one by her garage.

    Sara-I am so glad you enjoyed this. I always love your comments:)

    Kim-I try to be like her too. She was rarely idle for long. If she wasn't beating up on walnuts, she was attacking something else with equal vigor:)