Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wildcrafting and Crafting (Bard College, NY)

(a note on the second floor bathroom door in one of the dorms)

So I'm staying with my "little" brother, who is in point of fact quite a bit taller than me, and about half as wide. He's a senior this year, which kind of blows my mind, but not nearly as much as the massively heady conversations we've been having about Art and Meaning.
I love my kid brother. He's such an amazingly cool person. He's majoring in studio art, and has this wickedly keen eye for design and space, as well as a ridiculously oddball sense of humor. Not only has he been totally generous and offered up his bed -several nights in a row!- he's paternalistically taken me under his squash-muscled wing, showed me around campus, introduced me to his friends, and shared meals from the quasi-awful dining hall.
I think he thinks of me as some sort of visiting pet/sidekick.
I am so tickled by this arrangement, I can't even say.
Tonight there was a craft party in the Campus Center, with "bad" 90's music that quickly turned into actually bad 2000s dance music. Luckily, the sequins were rollin', the fabric was stylin', and the tacky glue flowed in veritable rivers of crafty awesomeness. Glee!

Yesterday I went for a wander, and hung out at an apple farm for a while, learning about cold storage and the effects of temperature on various fruits' sugar contents from an incredibly knowledgeable man named Fred. I'd hoped to get a job picking for a day or so, just for the experience of it, but the boss wasn't hiring, so I said goodbye to Fred, thanked him for the apple and the lesson, and hopped back in the car to see what I could find. The answer? This:

It's a black walnut from this beautiful tree:

Here's what the fruits look like on the ground after I've stepped on them, and next is what I came away with (and used): a field guide to ID trees with, my gloves (now turned completely orange from all the oils!), and in the basket is the bounty: a scant cup or two for this winter, but a beautiful memory of the harvest...

After I harvested the nuts, I stomped on them to get them open, pulled them out from the fruit, and took them across the railroad tracks and down to the Hudson River, where I scrubbed them against a rock and each other until they were relatively clean. Even though I used gloves, my hands (and feet where they got splashed) are still pretty stained, and I have some cuts from the shells - not surprising, since black walnut hulls are so tough, they're actually used as industrial abrasives! The oils/juices are used for dying fabrics, and once upon a time, when I actually bought into this sort of thing, I had a fake tanning spray made with black walnut, which I recall working exceedingly well.
Did I remember that when I started harvesting the nuts? Nope! But I did remember the scene in Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees in which Taylor describes how when she was growing up in rural Kentucky, you could tell who the poor kids were because their hands were stained from picking walnuts. Once again, everything I need to know in real life comes from reading fiction.

Copyright (c) 2009-2014 Jessica Bellantone. Please email me when reproducing content. Thank you! Registered & Protected