I remember when I moved into my neighborhood how impressed I was at the number of empty walnut husks seen at the base of the giant elms along Oak Park Avenue.  The local population of squirrels was being fed – very well I should say – by their human neighbors. Since that first winter I too have tried to get out and do my share to keep our friends fat and sassy.

And thus began the Annual Holiday Nut Toss.   

I am a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays.  As such the A.H.N.T. must fall on a day when it is good and cold, preferably with snow on the ground.  In keeping with the Spirit of the Holiday a bag of Diamond walnuts must be obtained for the Holiday Meal.  (Although one year Santa went cheap and got a bag of hazelnuts on sale instead. No one seemed to mind.)

Anyway, today was the day – it was cold enough and snowy enough for the nuts to be tossed. The venues this year were Scoville Park and Austin Gardens.  There are usually a ton of squirrels at Scoville Park, but I was only able call (cluck, that is) three down from their trees.  

I had far more interest at Austin Gardens.  In fact I was able to cluck down a couple of squirrels a good 4o feet from their high nest in the hollow of a big old tree.  All in all I think I fed a half-dozen at Austin Gardens. I can’t be entirely sure as I think a couple followed me across the park once they knew what was in the bag.   

A Red-bellied woodpecker loudly knocked on a dead Black cherry tree searching for insects. Seemingly oblivious to the activity below him, he did not seem at all bitter that his pals had their suppers delivered. 

As the sun sunk lower it was time to pack up and warm up – concluding yet another Annual Holiday Nut Toss.  But who knows, if the economy keeps limping along we may just have to extend the benefit into the new year.

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...

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