Every year, our black walnut tree produces dozens and dozens of walnuts. I had heard that you can make ink from the husks, so I collected about ten of the walnuts that dropped early, put them in a plastic ice cream bucket, covered them with water and let them soak. After about a week I opened the bucket, broke up the husks and threw in a handful of rusty screws, which is supposed to make the ink darker, and soaked the mess for another week.
Soaking the walnuts
The next step is cooking. Since I didn’t want to stink up the house, I took my Coleman stove out to the back porch, filled it up and dumped the contents of the ice cream bucket into a thrift-store saucepan. I got it simmering and then turned it down just enough to keep it hot but not bubbling and cooked it for several hours.
Black walnut and rusty screw stew
I took it off the stove and let it cool and then poured it through a nylon stocking into a glass pickle jar to strain out the screws and walnut bits.
Getting ready to strain it
I cleaned up the saucepan (using the garden hose) and poured the strained ink back into it to cook it down to the desired color and consistency, testing it with a dip pen, and then strained it once more.
I had about 12 ounces of ink and I added a couple of ounces of denatured alcohol, which will help keep it from growing mold.
There are still a lot of black walnuts where these came from, so I will be doing at least one more batch. I might try one without the rusty screws – apparently the ink ends up a reddish brown color without the iron.
This is a messy project with the potential to stain anything it comes into contact with, so I did all of this outdoors and wearing a pair of hair-dye gloves.
The Last Zinnia
I like having flowers to photograph, but I’m not much of a gardener. This spring, I had pitched some zinnia seeds into a small bed near the front porch and they did rather well. These, and the marigolds on the opposite side of the porch, are the only color in the yard these days. I seem to have gone a little heavy on the early spring bulbs and neglected summer blooms. This looks like it will be the last zinnia of the season, but it’s a very colorful one.
A cluster of pokeweed fruit is really photogenic. The berries are shiny black and the stems (OK, pedicels) are this glow-in-the-dark fuschia color. Contrasted with the plant’s green leaves, this is a feast for the eyeballs. I took a picture of one last weekend and it was horrible. It was probably sometime towrard the end of my second pot of San Francisco Bay French Roast, and you can clearly see that the photographer was none too steady.
I decided to kaleidoscope it and post it so you can experience the amazing color combination.
The trees aren’t turning yet, but once in a while I see a single, colorful non-conformist leaf. Fall is on the way.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial
Joyce Kilmer was the poet who penned Trees (I think that I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree….). He was killed at the age of 30 in France during World War I. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a part of the Nantahala National Forest and was established as a living memorial to Kilmer at the request of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The U.S. Forest Service purchased the land in 1936, before it could be logged, so the area features one of the Appalachain’s only original growth cove hardwood forests. The tallest and largest trees are Liriodendron tulipifera or tulip tree, some them as much as 450 years old. They would have been seedlings about the time that Shakespeare was born.
There is an easy two-mile trail through the forest to the area where the largest and oldest trees are located.
Trail through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Trail through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Although the huge trees are the forest’s main attraction, its location in an Appalachain cove gives the area a diversity of other photogenic flora and fauna.
Shelf mushrooms on a fallen tree
Little Santeetlah Creek running through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Although ragweed is probably the cause of my occasional sneezing fits and itchy eyes in late summer, the bright gold-yellow blooms of the goldenrod are my reminder to check my supplies of eyedrops and Benadryl every year. I suppose they bloom at roughly the same time of year, so the more flamboyant plant gets the blame. The bees, wasps and butterflies seem to congregate on these flowers – even our neighbor’s honeybees are frequent visitors.
A paper wasp flanked by a couple of what look like potter wasps
Eastern carpenter bee
Butterfly drinking zinnia nectar
I think he is a silver-spotted skipper; the white spot on his hind wing has a silvery glint when the sun hits it.
We had houseguests last week, which is always fun, but it’s left me in catch-up gear. The rainy weather seems to have passed and it’s sunny and warm so I’ll be able to get out and wander around in the woods a bit with the camera.