The Chestnut Tree

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

The horse chestnuts are falling.

The walnuts are falling too and they make more noise when they fall. And boy, if they hit the deck it’s a good “Thud”. But hit the metal deck table? Wow, that’ll wake you up. “KABANG”! We have 4 nice big walnut trees that shade the deck. But they sure make a mess.

But it’s the horse chestnuts that I’m attracted too.

This is the one chestnut tree we have at home.

I planted it from a seed. Mom says she’s surprised it ever grew at all because I was digging it up every day to see if it had sprouted yet.

I would collect the nuts on Sundays along the sidewalk on the way from church. There were several chestnut trees next to the parking lot we used and in the fall I’d be lucky to find some left from the kids at the earlier services.

They’re just so appealing with their large size and smooth shell and the nice brown color. And they’re fairly easy to get out of the husk. Walnuts are messy and stain your fingers and they’re just dark brown and yucky. Acorns are kinda cool, but they’re small and sometimes hard to get out of the husk. But horse chestnuts. I get warm fuzzies just thinking about them.

Here’s part of what I collected. There doesn’t seem to be very many this year. Yet another victim of our cool, wet spring?

Here’s chestnunts in their natural habitat.

And the empy husk, which was almost as appealing as the nut itself.

I had the big yellow Tonka dump truck and I’d fill it with acorns I picked up while playing in the street. Yeah, Mom and dad told me to go play in the street. Not exactly; the oak trees are along our driveway so that’s where I had to go to collect acorns. I was probably about 9 or 10 years old.

I remember when I was about 4 or 5, mom and dad had just built the new house. There was a tree stump in the backyard that I played on. And it seems like there was an upended stump; all roots sticking out, I could climb up in there and find a place to sit in among the roots. That was fun.

I’ve lived here 55 years. A lot of trees have come and gone.


96 thoughts on “The Chestnut Tree”

  1. Wonderful post, Ben, thanks. It sent me back in time to when I was a little girl in Stubbekøbing. At one of the entrances to the park across the street from where we lived, there was an enormous horse-chestnut tree. We kids loved it. In spring when it blossomed, it seemed like it was covered with white Christmas trees. Last I was there, twelve years ago, the tree was still there. The stories that tree could tell. It has witnessed at least five generations romp beneath it, climb in it, and collect its fruit.

    Here’s a video I found on the internet, you might find it of interest that those nuts can be put to good use.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. A dear friend of mine was a poor grad student at Yale in the 1960’s. He tried to supplement his diet by collecting chestnuts and roasting them in his apartment. He had no idea how to actually roast chestnuts, and when they got hot enough they exploded and he had to take cover so he wouldn’t get hit by flying nuts.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Since American chestnut trees are essentially extinct, I assume your friend was collecting horse chestnuts, which are considered poisonous unless commercially processed to remove the esculin. That’s also a good reason not to make flour out of them as the British presenter suggests.

      We used to have a small, sickly horse chestnut, or more properly a buckeye, in our back yard. It would turn yellow midsummer and drop all its leaves by August. The squirrels relished the nuts and they seemed unaffected by the poisonous properties. Ultimately, I cut the tree down because we needed the sunlight more than we needed the sickly tree.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sweet chestnuts, the kind that we roast over an open fire, are grown commercially in the US. They are easily distinguishable from the nuts from the horse chestnut and are readily available late in the year. The horse chestnut tastes terrible, I’ve tried eating it, but it’s beauty both to the eye and the touch was irresistible to me as a child Actually, it still is.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. My maternal grandmother spent her early years in near-poverty. She was a fighter, though, and she ended her life with a healthy fortune. She invented many schemes to bring in a bit of money. Selling walnuts was one. Walnut trees were common around Manchester, Iowa, or they were before there was a wave of walnut tree rustling in the 1980s.

    As Ben notes, walnuts are miserable things to process. My grandmother spread newspaper sheets on her driveway, then had my grandfather drive over them. That split the green husks. I think she then crushed the wrinkled nut shells with a hammer. One of the rare culinary luxuries our family enjoyed was plenty of walnuts.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remember my parents doing that too; spreading them out on the road for the milk truck to run over. And my brother took an old furnace fan and had started making a project of using the spinning fan cage to husk them. I’m not sure he ever finished it. Maybe Dad warned him flying walnuts weren’t a good idea… or maybe it was Dad’s idea to make it; hard to say.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think on farms, where there was an abundance of space, and where it did not matter if the gravel got stained, this was a common practice. My ex, Late MIL used to do that, too, then sell the black walnuts for a pretty penny because they are so difficult to work with. In the years before cars they had the horses and wagons drive over them.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Robin spent several hours with friends making a dye bath from black walnuts. It’s necessary to crack the hulls and boil them to extract the color, then strain out the nuts and hulls and other debris. The yarn they dyed after all that was approximately the color you would get from wool off a brown sheep.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. And miss out on the hours of camaraderie of toiling with good friends on something you’re passionate about? Easier, no doubt, but I’m sure there’s a lot of joy in the process.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Part of the joy, though is in the experimentation. Not all experiments are a success, and there are times when you decide that the labor isn’t worth the results, but you don’t know that till you have tried it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. i could easily disagree
          it appears to be everyone’s favorite color in this chocolate milkshake colored world . houses walls interior design all reek of taupe beige umber and mocha


  5. As a kid we had fabulous maple trees in our front and back yards. I loved them both. There was also a copse of assorted evergreens in a park nearby that was great for picnics between them, crawling up a bit and enjoying the view (or chatting with friends in the next tree over). But, oh, the willow at the Pedersen’s…that was magical. A big weeping willow out in their suburban back yard. Wasn’t much else memorable out there, and in my sepia-toned memory, there weren’t many other trees – though that may be because I so loved that willow. Escaping in through its long, draping branches and leaves was like a curtain into a different world. I loved it in there. I could spend most of our time when we visited the Pedersen’s inside that lovely green curtain, in the cool embrace of the willow. There is a willow by Minnehaha Creek near my house. I would be lying if I haven’t snuck under that one’s branches in the years since I moved to my current house…(and introduced Daughter to the World Under the Willow).

    Liked by 3 people

  6. In our backyard, we have one of a cluster of HUGE cottonwoods. It gives us tremendous cooling in summer (saves big on air conditioning) frustrating snow through most of June, and we always worry that it may topple in a storm and crush our house.

    BUT . . . I used to estimate its age at about 150 years. After seeing a cross-section of an old tree recently cut down in town, I now believe our tree and the others may be closer to 200 years old! Every time a storm rumbles through the neighborhood I tell myself these trees have weathered two centuries of the worst weather MN can throw at them and they’re all still standing. There’s a decent chance those trees might last another two hundred years.

    Chris in Owatonna

    ***BSP*** Looking for a fun, literary family activity to do tomorrow? Come to the Steeple Center in Rosemount from 10-4 and enjoy the Rosemount Country Faire. I and almost 30 other authors will be selling and signing our books. There will also be artists, food trucks, music, and activities for the kids. Here’s the link for more information:


    Liked by 4 people

  7. I want a horse chestnut in my yard!!!!! Have for years. Brought a young one from my cousins in Rochester but it never thrived and finally died. Now I am thinking of trying again with a larger tree if I can figure out where to put it so Trouble Goat can’t get at it. (He killed my young willow last fall by stripping the bark and breaking the main branches…yes, he is Trouble,)

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I want a horse chestnut in my yard!!!!! Have for years. Brought a young one from my cousins in Rochester but it never thrived and finally died. Now I am thinking of trying again with a larger tree if I can figure out where to put it so Trouble Goat can’t get at it. (He killed my young willow last fall by stripping the bark and breaking the main branches…yes, he is Trouble,)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Funny- Yesterday while driving, I was moved to say “thank you” on viewing a beautiful elm tree. Was thinking about things I was grateful for and one of those are trees. I love their winter silhouettes, the pastel colors of spring budding leaves, summer shade and luxuriance and fall colors. We had a huge catalpa that was magnificent- a pileated woodpecker made us aware of disease so we cut it down as it was in a place where it could fall on our house. Ring count showed it to be >90 years old. We loved the blossoms and huge leaves (all of which seemed to fall on the same day) so we put up with picking up the pods. I think I could not live where there are few trees.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hi- Yeah, trees sure are nice.

      On the drive up to Duluth I was marveling at how many trees there are. Also trying to picture how this area might have looked 100 years ago as so many of these tree’s aren’t that old.
      Or 200 years ago. Let alone 500 years ago. Mind boggling!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. There was a time when those beautiful vase-shaped elms lined every city street and formed archways of dappled light beneath. I don’t know if the replacement trees, lovely as some of them are, can ever be their equal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Two comments in response to Bill’s post.

        When we moved into our Mac-Groveland bungalow, in 1976, St Paul was grieving the loss of elms to Dutch elm disease. Juliet Avenue once had a gorgeous church-like arch effect, as did many other streets. I recently read a novel that referred to that phenomenon as “Tiffany tunnels,” a name inspired by popular stained glass shade designs on Tiffany lamps.

        When the elms died the city knew they couldn’t duplicate that effect with the boulevard trees that replaced the elms. Replanting elms would not work, as other cities had proven. More to the point: filling the boulevards with a single species of tree is not wise, for that creates a perfect opportunity for disease or insects (or both) to destroy a great many trees all at once. The city replanted with a variety of trees, although everyone had fond memories of the way the elms formed that graceful arch.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I still mourn the loss of those archways – the street where I grew up had them (as well as most of the surrounding blocks). The neighborhood just didn’t feel as grand in its post-Dutch elm state. It’s still lovely, but not as elegant.

        Liked by 4 people

  10. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Nice post Ben. Thanks for stepping up to do this. I will try to as well, now that I am home and in a routine.

    We have a tree in our front yard that I love. It is a River Birch. We planted it about 12-15 years ago, after taking an ash tree out that was planted in a place that took up room, but did not shade the house. We have a lot of ash trees in our yard and neighborhood. The developers planted them as landscaping materials in the 70s, 45 years ago. So they are big I am not crazy about hem. Big swaths of branches die, then fall out each year. I think one of our neighbors in infected with borers, because we spotted a pile aged woodpecker there, pecking at something 2 weeks ago. We enjoyed watching the woodpecker, though.

    We replace the ash in the front yard with an Ohio Buckeye. That was a goner in 2-3 years. Dirty, yellow,obnoxious. Then we planted the River Birch which has lovely bark and lush leaves. It is 25 feet high so it shades the west-facing front of the house, reducing need for air conditioning. The shape of the tree is pleasing as well.

    The silver maples in the side yard—helicopter seed generators. We will probably cut one down and replace it, then years later do the other one. Those were another cheap, fast growing landscaping tree that just is not that great.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Nice to be home. The next two weeks will be taken up by rehab activities, then pain pills and lots and lots of ice, my new best friend. I was apprehensive about this surgery because of the reputation for being painful, a reputation it most richly deserves. It does hurt. So my apprehension fit the facts. But I get lots of naps, and I just came in from a walk around the driveway with the walker I borrowed from tim, which was just dandy on a beautiful autumn day.

        The surgeon was concerned about the propensity of hospitals to spread infection, so he launches his patients back home the minute they can do the required activities to go home. In my case that was to climb 2 steps and get on and off Tilly, the raised toilet seat.

        At the end of her life my grandma had a raised toilet seat which she named “Tilly”. Mine is Tilly, Jr. in a grand tradition. My aunt, who is sentimental about anything of her mother’s belongings, took it home with her where it resides, hoarded somewhere in the attic.

        Just to be clear, I do not expect my progeny to love Tilly, Jr.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I hope they gave you one of those wraparound ice bags. That has saved my life the last two weeks. Prior to YA’s surgery I was going through 4 to 6 Ziplocs a day because the ice cubes would punch holes in them.


    1. Silver maples are a pain in the posterior. We have those damn helicopters and silver maple seedlings all over our yard from a tree in our evil neighbor to west’s yard. Not to mention, a small forest in our gutters.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. One thing I learned, I think from The Hidden Life of Trees, is that those winged seeds are called samaras. Doesn’t that sound nicer than damn helicopters?

        Liked by 4 people

        1. I think sammara is a much better word. It has kind of a floaty feeling which reminds me of the seeds drifting down from the trees.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. It’s a nice word alright, but if nobody knows what the heck I’m talking about, then what’s the point in using it? Besides, by tomorrow I’ll probably have forgotten it.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve talked about our Big Box Elder in back yard Robbinsdale, but I also remember the mulberry tree on the corner of our lot when I was 10 – we would bike down the sidewalk and circle around that tree, then return – sort of scooping the loop. There was also a limb we could climb to, to just hang out, but it was a tight squeeze to get two up there. And then there were the mulberries!

    There was a very cool willow in our (Marshalltown, IA) cemetery by the duckpond, and in high school we’d go there sometimes and do our homework under it.

    There is a grove of redwoods not far from Ukiah, CA (where stepson lives) – to walk through it is to be in a huge cathedral, esp. on a misty day. You want to whisper rather than talk out loud.

    A book group here just finished this book, which I highly recommend: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. We’re learning how they communicate with each other, even assist each other – which is one reason why a single tree planted on, say, a boulevard won’t survive for long, and why we need more true forests.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. My parents and aunt and uncle were devoted gleaners. We used to get calls from owners of mulberry trees asking us to come pick their mulberries which we ate like pigs, made into jam or jelly (strain the seeds out for jelly) or pie. Very good.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. We had a giant mulberry in the backyard of a home in Ames. I loved it at first. I lost enthusiasm for the mulberry tree when the robins descended en masse on the berries. That turned their poop purple. The ultimate shock came when I was walking to the library to return a book. An overhead robin dropped a fat load of purple poo right on the pages. I was mortified by my complicity in the defacing of a book!

          Liked by 4 people

    1. Another book about trees and one I would highly recommend is The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. It’s about the redwoods and particularly about the people who first climbed up and discovered the ecosystem of the canopy. It’s also about the quest for the tallest tree, which is not an easy task because when you are in the middle of the redwood forest you are unable to get any perspective on the relative sizes of trees. There are also patches of redwoods that are still undocumented.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. The Hidden Life of Trees is the first of a trilogy called The Mysteries of Nature. The other two (which I haven’t read yet) are about the inner life of animals and the hidden wisdom of nature.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. When I was a kid, behind our barn was a grove of pine trees. There also was a ravine that running water was causing that, if I remember right, came through the middle of those trees. So at the end of the trees there was a little ‘fort’ under the roots. I had moved in there with some old metal tractor seats and a friend and I had started our ‘boys club’ in there.
      I can’t imagine it lasted very long. Seems like the first heavy rainfall – or the next spring, it would have all washed away.
      or maybe Mom made me take it down.
      Or maybe it was shortly after that Dad had the entire area cleared and an earthen dam was built to control the water and stop the erosion.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think I’ve talked about several trees here over the years. There was the great big tree with the roots sticking out across the street when I was five. That was the tree that Bobbie and I used to play under with his Matchbox cars. There was the tree of death that killed my chainsaw when we tried to cut it down. And there was the mulberry tree that my sister and I loved. We would go out and squish all the berries on the ground to get the bottoms of our feet purple.

    But I think one of the trees I haven’t talked about is the Olive tree next to the house I lived in during high school. I would climb out my bedroom window, across the roof and climb down the olive tree and then go out to the end of my block and meet my friends after my curfew. And then eventually at 2 or 3 a.m. I would come home climb up the olive tree, back across the roof to my bedroom. I was naughty.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think they are different things.
      A shelter belt (or wind break) is a line of trees specially planted around the building site to provide shelter from the wind.
      Also the county has planted trees to stop snow blowing over roads in places.

      Where as a grove is just a clump of trees not necessarily protecting anything.

      The pine trees I spoke of were all by themselves out in the pasture.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh yeah, our old junk was parked either in a “grove” of oaks on a hillside, or a different line of Oaks out in the pasture.
          Nothing like illegal stills though!


  13. my next door neighbor had the neighborhood tree , climbing, sitting, mooning passing cars, i think it was a boxelder but it may have been an elm

    we had a 1 mile trek to the store where civilization lived in the burbs and on one of those streets they made the road go around the tree in the middle of the street.

    my love of trees was realized in my hippy van days,driving the back roads of the great outdoors in the rockies the west coast the river valleys the mountain hikes. man i loved the variations. the redwoods blew me away but so did the ponderosa the aspens the eucalyptus the jack pines and the white pines the sequoia the countless variation in bark, leaves shapes and presentations
    trees and faces and architecture
    i can study all these forever

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.