Column: Nature’s World

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 25, 2005

Top things about August

By Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

&8220;How are you doing?&8221; I ask.

&8220;Oh, I tried out my new toaster this morning.

Smoke came pouring out of it.&8221;

&8220;Did you read the owner&8217;s manual?&8221; I ask.

&8220;No, nobody could read it. It&8217;s what was making all the smoke.

It&8217;s burned to a crisp.&8221;

&8220;That&8217;s against the law in most states, but stupid in all of them,&8221; I say.

&8220;You are the chirping canary in the mineshaft of my day.

I arise early in the morning and go to my front door. I open the door and yell, &8216;You are a day!&8217; Then, having called it a day, I turn around and go back to bed. Other than my burning toaster, everything is copacetic. Oh, except for one thing.

My toothache.&8221;

&8220;A bad one?&8221; I ask.

&8220;I went golfing yesterday with three of the worst golfers to ever pick up a club. I was on the course doing a perfect imitation of Tiger Woods when a fellow on the fifth hole

hooked a shot. The ball must have been going 200 mph when it hit me in the stomach.&8221;

&8220;That was great?&8221; I query.

&8220;That was the first time in two years my tooth didn’t hurt.&8221;


The black walnut tree produces a chemical called juglone.

Juglone can cause toxic reactions with a number of other plants that attempt to grow in the vicinity of a walnut tree.

Hickory trees also produce juglone, but they do so in such small quantities that toxic reactions in other plants are seldom observed.

I wouldn&8217;t recommend using the leaves of a walnut tree in your compost pile because of the juglone.

Symptoms of juglone toxicity range from stunted growth to wilting to death.

Gardens should be located away from walnut trees (and butternut trees) to prevent damage to susceptible plants.

There are some plants that are fairly tolerant of juglone.

Here are a few: anemone, beet, Kentucky bluegrass, burning bush, red cedar, clematis, sweet corn, daffodil, shasta daisy, daylily, elm, winged euonymous, lady fern, fescue, hawthorn, honeysuckle, hosta, iris, Jack-in-the-pulpit, juniper, lilac, black locust, maple, may apple, meadow rue, oak, onion, ostrich fern, parsnip, phlox, primrose, black raspberry, wild rose, Solomon&8217;s seal, timothy, trillium, trout lily, viburnum, Virginia creeper, white clover, and zinnia.

The good news is that Creeping Charlie, dandelion, and poison ivy are able to thrive under the comforting limbs of a stately walnut.

Planting walnuts

Now that you know what you can plant under a walnut tree, you might want to plant more walnut trees. You can plant the nuts and produce trees.

The nuts fall from the trees in September and October. Collect the nuts as soon as they fall and remove the husks by the use of a hand-operated corn sheller, a small cement mixer containing a little gravel, or by placing the walnuts in a bucket of water to soften and then taking the husks off by hand.

Wear gloves and clothing (I believe it is against the law in most states for naked people to husk walnuts) to protect you from the stain in the husks. After the husks have been removed, rinse the walnuts in water. Discard any nuts that float.

Walnuts require stratification (introduction to the cold) in order to germinate. To stratify a large number of walnuts for spring planting, dig a pit and spread out the walnuts in it. Cover them with one to two feet of leaves, sand or mulch, and then add screening to keep out rodents. Small numbers of walnuts can be stratified in a plastic bag kept in a refrigerator at 34 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 to 120 days. When the ground thaws in the spring, plant the nuts one to two inches deep in the prepared site.

It isn&8217;t a bad idea to plant two walnuts at each panting site. Half of the nuts should germinate in four to five weeks. Remove excess seedlings to allow adequate growing space.

If squirrels create a problem by digging up the walnuts you plant, you might want to make use of a tin can (not aluminum) to prevent this predation. Burn a tin can the size of a soup can. This will allow it to rust and disintegrate in a few years.

Remove one end of each can and cut an X into the other end.

Pry the cut ends of the X so they are open slightly.

With the open end of the can up, place one to two inches of soil into the can and drop in a walnut.

Then fill the rest of the can with soil.

Plant the entire can with the sharp points of the x facing up and buried about an inch below the surface of the soil.

The way a walnut tree will grow from this is…well, uncanny.

The easiest way to plant them is to take two bushels of walnuts into the area where you would like a walnut tree.

Just leave the walnuts there.

Your work is done.

The squirrels will bury one bushel of the nuts and come back later to dig them up and eat them.

The squirrels will bury the other bushel and forget where they buried them.

Trees will grow.

Bald eagle

The bald eagle is our national symbol.

Our founding fathers chose the bald eagle in 1782 because it symbolized strength, courage, and freedom.

The largest population of bald eagles is in Alaska.

In 1917, the Territorial Legislature of Alaska responded to exaggerated claims of fishermen and fox farmers that the big birds were preying upon fish nets and penned foxes, by instituting a bounty system. More than 125,000 bald eagles were killed for bounties ranging from 50 cents to $2.

The bounty was removed in 1953, and Alaskans have to abide by the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 which makes it illegal to kill or possess an eagle, alive or dead, without a permit.

The bald eagle has been brought back from the brink of extinction.

This gives us all a chance to feel the thrill of seeing one of these big birds.

Top things about August


Sweet corn, the Holy Grail of vegetables.


Hand-picked tomatoes that set taste buds to dancing.


Monarch butterflies clusters that make the ugliest of backyards beautiful.


We finally have peace and quiet as cicada deafness sets in.

Thanks for stopping by

I shall miss Rosemary &8220;Penny&8221; Wulff, the past editor of Albert Lea Audubon&8217;s publication The Chickadee.

Her goodness made the world a better place.

&8220;He that does good for good&8217;s sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end.&8221; &8212; William Penn

&8220;We either make ourselves happy or miserable.

The amount of work is the same.&8221; &8212; Carlos Castaneda


(Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. E-mail him at