Monday, October 16, 2006


DSCN1874, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

A week or two ago, the wonderful and amazing blogger known as Blue Poppy announced that she might have to take a break from blogstreet. Real life was full and happy, and the virtual life threatened to encroach.

I sat there in my little office nodding in agreement and understanding. Then I joined the rest of the commenters who begged her to reconsider. She was part of a circle that had gathered around an ephemeral fire. She couldn't just leave!

I wasn't surprised when Blue Poppy returned a few days later to report that she had underestimated the urge to relay the details of her day, accompanied by photographs.

Once again, I nodded in recognition. Ah, the blogging life. Like the nunnery or a chocolate factory, once you enter the gate, it's not all that easy to get out.

Take yesterday. I had just returned from my weekend in Western Massachusetts and I was bursting with good feeling, the centered calm that two solid days of relaxation brings--and nascent blog posts.

I had collected another ten things--this time (drum roll please) acorns! I couldn't wait to begin my project. Before I'd even taken the suitcase upstairs or fixed my afternoon cup of tea, I was arranging my treasures on
a piece of blank paper.

The only time I ever thought much about acorns in the past was when the neighborhood boys had an acorn fight, and my son Gabe got hit in the eye with one. But now I was all about the acorns. I had acorn theories, and lines of acorn poetry; if I were more musically inclined, I might have even written the world's first acorn song. Or what about a video? Was there anything on You tube about the secret life of acorns? If not, there should be.

I wanted to know what they tasted like; and thinking of Robin Andrea, who recently suggested that we should all be aware of what's edible in our native environment, I wondered how to cook them.

A little internet research produced a recipe for acorn soup, that still is used by some Native Americans. Labor intensive and consisting of nothing but, well, acorns, it didn't sound all that appetizing. But still, you never know until you try it!

For my first Very Scientific Study Ever, I set out to prove that acorns in Western Massachusetts were both much larger and more abundant than they are on Cape Cod. For evidence, I had to look no further than my own yard. Though we have many oak trees on the property, there were scant acorns on the ground--probably because so many of my neighbors have cleared their land of trees in a quest for a more spacious yard.

After I had compiled the photographic evidence for my comparison and made the necessary diagrams, I decided to treat the Cape Cod squirrels and jays to the fruits of my experiment.

"I bet these acorns will be gone within a week," I told my beleaguered family, as I dragged them away from homework and other Sunday afternoon activities to look at the cache of acorns I'd strategically placed in the dirt. I hoped to lure them into a wager on how long it would take for the acorns to disappear.


"See!" I said, excitedly.

"You've really lost it now, Mom," my son said, not interested in joining the acorn pool.

Even my mother, who'd just arrived for dinner, was no help.
"Actually, she was always like that," she confided, as she, too, slipped inside.

This morning I got up earlier than usual. Even before I had my coffee, I went outside in my pajamas to see how many acorns were left. Unfortunately, no one was around to witness the outcome but the dogs, who never miss an opportunity to go outside and sniff around. They were the only ones to hear my whoop when I found there was nothing left but an empty acorn hat, and the little unripened green one.


Of course, now I want to know how the who took them--squirrels or birds, where they stored them, and how the hell they get the damn things open without a nutcracker in sight. Honestly, I haven't had this much autumn fun since second grade when we used to collect leaves and press them in wax paper. Who says my life isn't exciting?


Zhoen said...

Tiggers don't eat Haycorns.

But Piglets do.

rdl said...

I second your Mom and J; actually Luke says the same sort of things about me.

Anonymous said...

What a Renaissance woman -- not only a writer, but a true scientist!

Patry Francis said...

zhoen: I think I'm more of a tigger.

r: These kids! Absolutely no respect.

neil: Next week I think I'll try mathematics. On second thought...maybe not.

NoVA Dad said...

I love it. I pulled a big lesson for myself out of your post -- no matter how busy our the oak trees of our lives get (with families, blogging, jobs, etc.), we shouldn't ever forget to take time to look at all of the wonderful little acorns around us. Take time to look at the small things that we ignore in the rush of our busy lives.

Thanks for a great post!

Kay Cooke said...

I like acorns too - and wrote a story that featured them a couple of days ago.
Have fun.

Patry Francis said...

matt: what a cool interpretation. I hadn't thought of that, but I think that is one thing blogging does for me. It encourages me to look at the little things.

chiefbiscuit: I'd like to hear more about that story!

Anonymous said...

"From little acorns mighty oaks grow" Not sure who said that, and the girl's wanting her computer back so no time to Google it...
I love this post, Patry - and I love that I'm not the only one who gets excited about them.

(Don't you have to leach the acid out of them with several rinses or something? Which makes me wonder about the intestinal fortitude of squirrels...always did think they were gutsy little critters!)

Patry Francis said...

Tinker: So happy to know another acorn lover! I never knew a thing about the
rinsing process required to leach the tannic acid from acorns--until the other day when I started my little "school project." I've been worried about squirrel digestion ever since!

Anonymous said...

Looks like someone was a little more excited about acorn soup than you were, Patry. As a follow-up to your research, might I suggest that you be on the lookout for squirrels with ladles, or crows in tiny chef's hats? :)

*cough* What did the acorn say when it grew up?

"Ge-om-e-try." (Gee, I'm a tree.)

Sorry. Acorns, math -- I tried to stop me from telling it, but I couldn't.

Anonymous said...

hee hee hee hee

That is so adorable! And I love that they left the green one.

While I worked at Whole Foods, I used to compare the sample tables we'd leave out to bird feeders, and I enjoyed watching them nearly as much. Oh, the parallels, the parallels! If we'd left out acorns, someone would have taken every one, one or two people would have sneaked more than one, several people would have told us they couldn't have any because their children were allergic to tree nuts and would have complained that all our samples weren't tree-nut-allergy-safe, and no one would have taken the green one, even for free.

Now, have you ever tasted an acorn? I know many Native Americans included them in their diets, but I don't know how. I do believe they must be an acquired taste. Still, if you try that soup, it will be fun to read about.

Patry Francis said...

robin: A comment that made me laugh out loud, not once, but TWICE...there
ought to be some kind of prize--

sara: How very interesting! The humans reacted very similarly to the squirrels in your experiment--though of course, none of my little rodent friends complained about tree nut allergy. Thank goodness for that.

As far as the acorn soup goes, I'll have to get pretty hungry before I make that. Just thinking about collecting the huge number of acorns required made me tired. I wouldn't mind tasting someone else's though--

The Curmudgeon said...

I like the capitalization: "my first Very Scientific Study Ever."

So your son said you'd "lost it" -- but at least he didn't say you were nuts!

Patry Francis said...

curmudgeon: I think I need to introduce you to Robin. (see above)

Between the two of you, I'm well on my way to the 400 laughs a day a person is supposed to have to maintain good health.

robin andrea said...

I love the excitement of taking a good look around. Great scientific experiment, patry. How do squirrels and birds get into those hard-shelled things? I have no idea.

Patry Francis said...

robin: I'm finding that in science one question leads to another. My next acorn experiment (scheduled to occur sometime in the next fifty years) will explore exactly WHY the acorns are bigger in the other side of the state.

susan: The more I hear about the taste of acorns, and the difficulty in opening them, the less likely it becomes that I'll be making that acorn soup. Funny story. I could really picture you all around that table making faces.

Lorna said...

That is an enviable life indeed; Julia, my grandaughter, and I had a similar experience this weekend with three worms and a bug jar.

Patry Francis said...

Lorna: 3 worms and a bug jar? Cool. I hope you're going to post pictures!

Anonymous said...

This is infectious! I'm going to try it. We have black walnuts here. They're hard (pun) to get the meat out of even with a hammer! And they stain everything black. I love your curiousity. The experiment doesn't seem odd at me!

Patry Francis said...

Colleen: Black walnuts sound a lot more appetizing than acorns. Can't wait to see how your experiment turns out!

liz elayne lamoreux said...

(people leave you the best comments)

i love reading about your glee about the acorns. they are so cute! and i love calling their tops hats. :)

Patry Francis said...

liz: Glee is not a word I use enough, but it's a really good one. Thanks for reminding me that we all need more GLEE!

And yes, my commenters are a constant source of inspiration, humor, and delight.