The Great Acorn Storm of 2013

Flung across the  landscape by autumn’s rising winds, acorns bounce and tumble, the sound of their fall exploding into the air like the percussive chatter of  firecrackers.  

If you’re standing near a car when the first gust strikes and an acorn-laden oak lets fly her seed-crop, the racket is astounding.  If you’re sheltering beneath a tin roof, the amplified sound is deafening.  A storm of ripened acorns may be less destructive than hail, but it’s no less impressive.

I experienced my first “acorn storm” in the Texas hill country, an area of valleys and ridges threaded through with several varieties of oak.  The sudden swell of redbud in spring, the extravagant yellow blooms of prickly pear, the color-turn of Virginia creeper climbing toward true red may delight the eye, but the oak has its own capacity to surprise the inexperienced or unprepared. 

I first heard the term on a hill country porch. We’d been rocking and rail-sitting, drinking sweet tea and watching the deer when someone mentioned the acorn crop. Stories began flowing about lean years and fat, hunger and starvation. As the tales and details piled up, I began to laugh. “You might as well be talking snow,” I said. “When you call it The Great Acorn Storm of ’78, you sound like a bunch of Yankees sitting around the woodstove, recalling a particularly memorable blizzard.”

The difference, of course, is that acorn storms remain more unpredictable than blizzards. Even when the crop is good, there’s no sure way to know when they’ll fall. Despite my curiosity about the phenomenon, there was nothing to do but wait – through one autumn, then two, then three – never knowing if I’d have the opportunity to experience the full glory of acorns – their great, clacking fall sounding the dinner bell for every woodland creature within earshot.

When it happened, it was just after midnight. A first acorn fell from the oak overhanging the cabin, hitting the tin roof like a gunshot. Roused from sleep to full, heart-pounding  attention, I watched the prowling shadows wrap their fingers around the window frames, stealthy and intrusive.  The same gust of wind that had separated a seed from its tree also set the outside lantern swaying, giving life to the shadows. As the wind laid and the lantern grew still, the shadows settled back into darkness and the night grew silent.

Convincing myself with some effort that neither man nor beast had come to claim my life, I settled back and began drifting into sleep. Then another acorn fell against the tin and scrabbled down the roof, followed by a second. As the wind crossed the ridge and began swirling down into the valley, branches bent and bowed. Other acorns fell, and then more, until the night was filled with their strange, percussive rhythms and the sharp, metallic clatter of their tumble down the roof. It was, I liked to tell my friends later, a perfect storm.

Quite apart from their ability to terrify people new to tin roofs, acorns are interesting. They come in assorted sizes and colors and sport a whole variety of rakish caps. The smooth, small acorns of the live oak are remarkably different from those of the Bur, an oak whose acorn wears a furry, vaguely Russian-looking cap and is the largest American acorn.

Practically speaking, acorns are a critical part of the food chain. Squirrels and deer dote on them, as do mice, rabbits, foxes, and raccoons. A variety of birds enjoy them as well – not only the wild turkey, jay, and woodpecker you might expect, but also water birds like the egret.    

The crop size varies from year to year, partly because of differences in the production cycle of different species.  Bur oak production peaks every five to seven years, and I’m sure this was the year in Kansas. Walking beneath the trees there was like walking on ball bearings, so thick were the layers of acorns.

Most publications from county agents, universities, and arborists note this wide variation in acorn production from year to year. Most also include a caveat against attempting to draw other, more speculative conclusions from the number of acorns produced.

“Speculative conclusions” probably refers to centuries of folk wisdom. For many people, acorns are predictive.  My own grandparents firmly believed an abundance of acorns signaled a harsh winter to come.  A friend who grew up in Nebraska shared a bit of weather wisdom from the plains – Busy squirrel, blizzards swirl – and woolly bear caterpillars have been serving as weather consultants for years.

Beyond natural cycles, the perfect combination of sunshine and rain can produce bumper crops of acorns capable of raising tin-roofed sleepers straight out of bed, just as the crop can be diminished by disease, drought, and freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, many believe that diseased or drought-stricken oaks produce more acorns, not fewer, as a way of ensuring the species’ survival.  During the worst of our Texas drought I heard the theory offered up again and again by people convinced our bumper crop was a last gasp from water-deprived trees.  

Arborists seem divided, but there is something both poignant and hopeful in the thought of thirsty, over-heated oaks setting their sights on survival by creating, nurturing and finally shedding huge numbers of acorns. Potential trees, tiny bits of green-yet-to-be, the acorns cover the ground and huddle beneath their leaves, dreaming of the sunlight and rain that will transform their lives.

When I found my mail carrier running late a few days ago, acorns came to mind in a different way.

He reached into my box to hand me what already had been sorted, and pulled out a number of holiday catalogs. That came as no surprise, since I’ve been overrun by them this year. Some old favorites I expect to receive – LL Bean, Vermont Country Store, American Spoon Foods.  A few remind me of years I looked for special gifts – Orvis, Moonstruck, Whiteflower Farm.  But most I’ve never seen and certainly never have placed orders with – catalogs with names like Monticello, Acacia, Bits and Pieces and, in a bit of delicious serendipity, Acorn.

Seeing my expression as he handed me the catalogs, the carrier said, “Nuts, isn’t it?” Indeed it is. I’ve received at least fifty catalogs this year and they’ve made me slightly uneasy. Designed and distributed to entice shoppers into purchases running the gamut from glittering baubles and luxurious goods to simple trash, they seem to be an unintended sign of something quite different – retail desperation.

In a diseased and drought-stricken economy, with the threat of frozen spending on the horizon, merchants across the country are beginning to take on the appearance of slightly desperate oaks, attempting to ensure their survival by raining down catalogs like acorns around our feet.

As I watch small businesses close half a nation away, as I watch the decimation of entire cities, I hear the rumors and whispers beginning to circulate even in my own relatively stable state.  An owner sells a boat here, a person quits a club there. A friend gives up her gym membership. A family decides against lighted outdoor  decorations for Christmas. A friend stops going to Starbucks.  A single mother’s job is downsized.  In the silence, each fact drops with a thud as we sit up, startled and anxious, wondering about the sound and trying to interpret its meaning.

In Washington, of course, things are neither so grim nor so fraught with anxiety for the Senators, staff, lobbyists and Representatives who make it their business to shape the life of a nation.  As autumn deepens and the cycles of life begin again to turn, as the winds of desolation rise and the clatter and clamor of failing businesses and falling hopes echo across the land,  they seem content to live in their usual ways.

Perhaps, I think, it may be that the sturdiness of their office walls and the splendor of their chambers shield them from the sounds we hear. But autumn has come to America, and the acorns are falling.

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118 thoughts on “The Great Acorn Storm of 2013

  1. I’ve never experienced the kind of acorn storm on a roof that you describe, but I can attest to the variation in the acorn crop from year to year. After the drought of 2011, the Monterrey oak in front of my house went crazy with acorns, and the parts of the lawn close to the tree’s trunk became crunchy to walk on.

    1. Steve,

      I’d not heard of the Monterrey oak. It’s a beautiful tree. In my immediate neighborhood we have mostly smaller live oaks (perhaps ten to fifteen years old), but they were willing to do their part after the drought, too. The acorns in parking lots and along curbs were so thick you’d often see people shoveling them.


  2. Hi Linda:

    We don’t have acorns in Panama, so it’s difficult to relate the story to my own experience. Having said that, I will comment on your narration of politicians in DC.

    “In Washington, of course, things are neither so grim nor so fraught with anxiety for the Senators, staff, lobbyists and Representatives who make it their business to shape the life of a nation.”

    We are in the middle of an intense political campaign in our neck of the woods, and to be a politician is not a very good profession to be associated with. The more I get to know them, the more I’m convinced that they do more harm than good. I wonder what political system we should invent in the future, to get rid of them, or at least to transform them into normal sensible people like the rest of us.



        1. Ah. The old “If nominated, I will not run, and if elected I will not serve” bit. It reminds me of the still-funny line from Bill Buckley. When asked what he’d do if he won his third-party bid to be elected mayor of New York, he said, “I’d demand a recount.”

      1. In Panama the President can not be reelected. It is prohibited by the Constitution; however all the rest of elected public officials can be reelected if they get enough votes. I think this should be modified.

        I couldn’t agree with you more.

        1. I assume the President’s term is still five years – is that right? It makes sense. A five or even six year single term allows for getting some things done, but also provides some useful limits.

          1. Yes Linda, the term is five years, instead of the traditional four. If you have the will to do something during those four years, a lot can be done. Our current President has accomplished a lot in his four years.

    1. Omar,

      That’s right. We may share bougainvillea and palms, but not the mighty oaks!

      As for politicians, my dad used to say the only way to deal with them is to treat them like an obstreperous mule. First you hit them in the head with a 2×4 to get their attention, and then you explain what they’re to do.

      I suppose a literal 2×4 wouldn’t do too well, but it does seem like there ought to be some way to get their attention. Some are better than others, of course, and some are very good, indeed. But there are too many who are concerned only with their own power and the wealth that comes through their position.

      And there’s the matter of the bureaucracy. It’s so large, so entrenched, so devoted to its own preservation that it’s a terrible problem. Shakespeare famously said, “First, we kill all the lawyers.” Maybe we should throw in a few hundred thousand middle managers, too – metaphorically, of course.

      Actually, I think a good first step would be term limits. It never was meant that legislators would move into D.C. permanently. I’m not sure what I’d support – maybe one six-year term for a Senator and two four-year terms for Representatives. But lifetime tenures need to go, even if some do represent “the best law-making that money can buy”!


  3. Like you, I’ve heard tell that the economy isn’t in great shape, but I had a bit of counter-evidence yesterday.

    In late 2012 a local bank offered a limited-time promotion in which any deposits would get 1.25% interest for a year. Though 1.25% would only recently have been considered ridiculously low, in 2012 (and still today) it was magnanimous, so I deposited some money with Green Bank (yup, that’s what it’s named).

    Now it’s getting close to the time for that promotion to expire, so yesterday I stopped in at the local branch to ask whether the rate would be extended. The man at the bank said they’re still discussing that, but most likely the rate would drop into the range from 0.5% to 0.75%. He said that the bank has more money on deposit than it needs, so there’s no point in offering a higher rate to attract deposits.

    I asked whether that’s because there’s not much demand for loans, and that’s where the surprise came in. The man said that there is a good demand for loans—presumably a sign of a strengthening economy—but that even more people have been depositing money.

    1. There are a couple of interesting things here.

      One is that bank cash reserves are going up across the county, on the “retail” as well as the corporate level.

      A manager at my bank said essentially the same thing you were told – there’s no need to compete for deposits – but her explanation for the inflow of cash was nervousness over the economy. People can’t quite bring themselves to opt for the mattress or the hole in the backyard, so they’re parking money in non-interest-bearing accounts to maintain liquidity.

      And I do wonder what kind of loans are being taken out. If they’re for first mortgages, cars or other durable goods, that would seem to support the notion of a strengthening economy. On the other hand, if people are taking out home equity loans or HELOCs to maintain their standard of living or pay other bills – well, that’s not so good.

      You’ve reminded me of an oft-retold family story. When my paternal grandmother died, Dad said, “Go through this house with a fine-toothed comb. You know she didn’t trust banks.” Sure enough – the money was there, sewn into the hems of the living room drapes.

      Now, that’s liquidity!


  4. Linda, I haven’t seen the “catalog drop” yet, but I am seeing the charity donation requests are running well above normal here at my place. I know most of the money I do give to these guys is spent on sending me requests for more money. I have come to the conclusion that I am worth more to them as a name on a list than I ever was as a donor.

    Your comparison of autumn with our government leaves me with one bit of optimism… Spring will come again and new growth will fill the prairie with flowers… And from some “nuts” mighty trees do grow.

    1. Gary,

      It’s funny – I’d swear the 2014 campaigns have started already. I’m getting more donation requests from politically-affiliated groups than from charities. What’s even more amusing is that the requests are coming from both major parties. It may be a sign that their economies are slowing, too.

      I have changed my charitable giving in the past couple of years. Now, I tend to give to truly local organizations like the Lighthouse Christian Ministries in San Leon. In a few cases, I’ve given directly to people through things like HEB gift cards. When I bought my new car, I donated the old clunker to Kars4Kids. Lo and behold, I’ve started seeing it around town. It apparently belongs to someone who works in Seabrook. It just tickles me to death to see it still on the road.

      Your mention of spring’s return bringing flowers to the prairie reminds me of something else that amazed me when I first saw them – videos of wildflowers blooming in Hiroshima. Here’s the first of the series.

      We’d better hope some good can come from “nuts”, don’t you think?!


  5. Great post, and I’m so proud that the internet is working fast enough to load the page. I’m using a metal colander and have the usb modem poking thru the bottom. It sometimes doubles the speed!

    Living away for a dozen years, i’ve disconnected from mail and catalogs, so I’m a bit wistful to thumb through a few of those to see what’s new!

    happy thanksgiving week, btw!


    1. Z, I haven’t stopped laughing since reading your comment. I got as far as “I’m using a metal colander…” and had a sudden vision of you with the thing on your head. You know – sort of an upscale tin foil hat. Then I got to the USB modem and really started to laugh. What I can’t figure out is… well, exactly how you’ve rigged it. But it does sound like tin foil on the tv rabbit ears, back in the day. Let’s hear it for tech improv!

      I wish I hadn’t trashed all those catalogues now. I’d wrap them up and ship them off to you. Next year!

      I hope all’s well with you and the bureaucracy and your back-and-forth-and-back is over. Tell those people to just give you your papers and be done with it!

      Happy giving thanks to you, too – heaven knows we both have plenty to be thankful for!


      1. now you have ME laughing at you laughing! i’ll take a photo!

        ja- those ‘port migration’ people declined a 48-hour visa and told me that i had to leave and apply out of country to get a short-term visa to return to finish the paperwork with ‘normal’ immigration folks. (they sent me to the port office and said there should be no problem…) the man was having a bad-hair day i suppose…

        all tramites were finished – sigh, attorney asked in quito and got permission, so on monday i should have the 48-hours and will try again!

        yes, we have lots to be thankful for, and i embrace these tiny problems – like migration police and metal colanders for internet booster-receivers – and BATS in the house!!

        1. Bats?! Ah, well. Consider this. In Liberia, fruit bat was considered a great delicacy, or at least suitable for the stewpot. Depending on the species, you might consider it, although the suggestion itself might lead you to think I have bats in my belfry).

          I just gave the cicada another look. It’s truly beautiful and nearly perfect. Maybe I’ll use it as a model for learning how to take better macro shots. My camera swears it has the ability, if I’d just learn how to use it. With three days of bad weather ahead to keep me indoors, I may add that to the list of projects.

  6. The bayou oak trees have had bumper crops this year, but I hope it doesn’t mean severe winter, because I hate the cold. 38 degrees in the deer stand in NE LA wasn’t that bad, but 38 down here where it’s wet and humid chills me to the bone and then some.

    The oak at the camp was full of black birds just last week, and in my usual way, I was talking to them to see why they were there in droves, and they couldn’t answer because their beaks were full of guess what? ACORNS!!!

    Great post, and again, your parallels amaze me and astound me. What a great writer you are. I’m wondering when some newspaper or magazine editor will discover you, at which time your writings will support you totally, leaving you to varnish when the weather is good and you feel like varnishing. (And oh by the way, The Captain taught me that humans can eat acorns many years ago. I don’t particularly care for them. And it would take a treeful, but you can make acorn flour, too. )

    1. Bayou Woman,

      My expertise in edible acorns, acorn flour and such is limited to about fifteen minutes on Google, but I was amazed by the number of sites selling not only flour, and not only acorns, but particular kinds of acorns. You want twenty pounds of white oak acorns? Done. You prefer pin oak? Just send along your credit card number.

      I did see on one site a listing for “squirrel acorns”. Having spent more than my share of time collecting acorns for my pet squirrel, I was interested to see what they considered fit for a squirrel. It turns out they were Red oak. You can buy them raw ($4/lb) or baked and guaranteed insect free ($8.49/lb). Who says the entreprenurial spirit is dead?

      When you mentioned not liking them, it did cross my mind that some are advertised as tastier than others. And it was true that the pet squirrel had his preferences. If I collected acorns from trees in his neighborhood, that was fine. But there were times when I’d bring him acorns from other places and he wouldn’t touch them. We assumed it was the tannin level, or perhaps something having to do with the species of tree, or the soil. Or, he may just have been a spoiled brat.

      I’m with you on that damp cold. I’ve been watching the winter storm warnings creep closer and closer – they’re to Austin, now, and all the way across N. Texas, so Shreveport may be in line. No varnishing until Wednesday, maybe.

      As for all that other – I happened across a fine quotation from Mark Twain the other day. He said, “Obscurity and a competence. That is the life that is best worth living.” He was about as far from obscure as you can get, but still… I liked the quotation. Besides, why would I want to turn writing into a job? (Well, ok. Arthritis, bursitis, back problems and bum knees all would be good reasons, but I’m not facing those yet, so I don’t see any reason to adjust.)

      I sure do appreciate the kind words, though. When you bag your first deer, maybe I’ll whomp up a ballad for you, in the manner of Robert Service. We could call it The Women Who Don’t Fit In .


      1. Girl, your replies are as good as an entire blog post! First off, I don’t recall knowing of a pet squirrel, but the fact doesn’t surprise me! Did you have a cat at the time and did they get along? The Capt. cracked the acorn and handed me the entire thing to pop in my mouth. It wasn’t foul, just not something I would chose to eat unless in survival mode.

        About writing to pay the bills . . . I know full well that turning an enjoyable past time into a vocation can kill the joy. Now I wonder if one can ever reverse the damage?

        Lastly, I just love that poem. It’s so true . . . and it applies to my youngest son. I thought about printing it out and framing for him but I fear the wisdom would be lost. Another tidbit of Mark Twain wisdom, if I may? “When a boy turns 13, seal him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.” Termite is 17. I should’ve plugged the hole!

        I look forward to having you whom up a ballad for me with that very title, because I have always been a woman who don’t fit in, LOL!

        Have a great Thanksgiving, Linda!

        1. I had a pet squirrel when I was about 14. He was loads of fun but a bit destructive as a house pet. It’s now illegal to have wildlife in SC without a permit.

  7. Linda, I had never seen fuzzy topped acorns till I moved here. I love the look of them. I think I will get some seeds from the parking lot at Bob’s work and plant them up on the mountain. I may not get the chance to see the acorns, but surely someone will.

    I don’t have an acorn tree over our new tin roof, but I do have a black walnut that dropped some mega-bombs this fall! Wow, are they noisy! So it is easy for me to imagine your fright on hearing an acorn fall in the night. Here in the flat-lands we have an oak in the back that lets loose with small, marble sized acorns. One year you couldn’t have put the blade of a butter knife between them on the ground. That was also the year that I went ‘skiing without snow’ and fell. I landed on my backside and bracing my fall with my left arm got me a tiny tear in my rotator cuff. Any tear in your rotator cuff is BAD, even a tiny one. I never wish to experience that kind of pain again! :P

    And finally, I am sincerely hoping that Steve’s observation on the economy is correct, but I am not going to be holding my breath on this one.

    1. Lynda,

      I first saw Bur oaks and their acorns in Council Grove two years ago. There were very few at the time, and I brought two caps home with me, thinking I had a rare treasure.This trip, under exactly the same tree, there were hundreds, if not thousands. It was completely astonishing. Now that I know Bur oaks grow in Texas, too, I’ll be keeping my eyes open – but they don’t grow in our area. They tend to be found in a strip of counties running from Dallas southward.

      The black walnuts were putting on the same show in Kansas. At Matfield Station, there was a black walnut tree right out front that had shed hundreds of nuts. I filled two big shopping bags with them and brought them home. I’m allergic to them myself, but I have some folks who love them, so it’s worth going to the trouble of getting the nut meats out. Best of all, I found my mom’s old recipe for a refrigerator cookie that uses black walnuts, and I’m going to give that a try.

      Did you have to have surgery for your rotator cuff, or did it just require therapy and rest? I did a number on mine a few years ago and it was painful, but I don’t think it was anything like yours. I ended up with a sports therapist who taught me some exercises, put me on a schedule and said, “Give me a call if you have problems.” Six months later, it was all better.

      As for the economy – well, I could drive myself crazy if I thought about it too much, and I could drive you crazy if I got off on one of my soliloquies, so I won’t. But doesn’t “soliloquy” sound better than “rant”?


      1. I am allergic to black walnuts too! But we have a (new) neighbor up on the Mountain who’s wife loves them. She can take them all if she likes! ;) Well, unless I end up chopping the tree down in spring… (Sniffle-wheeze-gasp) We’ll see.

        I did not have a surgery. I had a stupid Dr. who would not believe me when I told him what was going on. I had to live with the pain for 6 months and along the way my shoulder froze up and I couldn’t even lift my arm. I finally blew my top when he said the x-ray didn’t show anything. I told him, “So what? I get to live with this pain and I can’t even lift my arm up to my chest anymore!!!” He looked shocked that I would burst out like that but I’d had it with him. He sent me in for an MRI and that is when they found the tear. I was then OK’d for physical therapy to gain my range of motion back. It took almost a year for me to be able to fully move my arm and to get rid of all the pain. I have a new Dr. by the way.

        A rant would be fine, but a soliloquy sounds divine. Although it probably would be an echo of what I already hear from Bob every time the news comes on. :D

        1. It really doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis, does it? The result is the same. Both Mom and I were lucky to have slipped into the patient load of one of the best orthopedic/sports injuries clinics in the area when she broke her ankle. Her admitting physician at the hospital was one of the group, and from that point on we were “in”.

          The single funniest moment I’ve had in a doctor’s office came during one of Mom’s appointments. She’d already suffered the broken ankle, a torn rotator cuff, and a torn-up hand from trying to prevent a fall. When we showed up with tendon and ligament damage in the other leg, the good doc looked at her and said, “Confess. You’re secretly playing soccer when your daughter’s back is turned.” He got quite a kick out of the fact that every one of her injuries was one he saw regularly in high school and college soccer players.

          Even Mom was amused.

  8. Of all the blogs and essays I read during this year, this is by far my favorite. I think that makes you my favorite essayist for about the last four or five years in a row. Ken (still missing my Satori)

    1. Ken!

      My goodness – I’m just delighted to see you. I do hope all is well, and that the upcoming holidays are wonderful for you.

      I can understand that continuing attachment to Satori. Morning Star’s up for sale again, and when I got a glimpse of her over at one of the brokerage docks at Lafayette Landing, I had the impulse to write a check right then and there. Unfortunately, my checking balance is about $85K short.

      Those are awfully kind words about my writing, and I do thank you. I love the thought that you’ve been around since the beginning, along with a few others. It’s hard to believe I’ve passed the five year mark, or that I was worried I’d run out of things to say. Hasn’t happened yet – we’ll see how this next year goes.

      Best wishes to you and yours, and thanks so much for letting me know you’re still around. Happy Thanksgiving!


  9. Here’s hoping in the 2014 midterms, a lot of nuts fall out of the trees. We average folks can hear and see the devastation that the economy and a conflict, ego-ridden Congress has done to us. We need to elect people who will listen to us and not go to DC or state capitols to pad their bank accounts.

    On another note – I love the look of acorns. I’ve started to make some felted ones.

    1. SDS,

      I have a friend who’s spent several years working in D.C., not directly for the government but for an organization that interacts with governmental agencies. He often expresses his amazement at the insular nature of the D.C. world. As he puts it, the problem isn’t primarily that they (politicians and bureaucrats) don’t pay attention to the rest of the country – it’s that they hardly seem to know it’s there. Isn’t that just the truth?

      I just saw felted acorns the past week. I’ve seen knitted ones, too, and of course painted ones. But in my opinion, the best ones are chocolate, preferably with hazelnut filling.


      1. Yes – they hardly seem to know we’re here except right before elections.

        I’m with you on the acorns, girl!

  10. Our acorns are abundant here in E IA. They crunch a lot as we go under the oaks. I like them. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Nature has a prolific system there.

    I was amused by ‘…as Robert A. Heinlein wrote, no one seeking office (or power) should be allowed to get it…’ as he is one of my favorite scifi writers. Much truth can be read into that statement.

    As to the economy…what Americans think is true about the distribution of wealth is surprisingly different from reality. It is much more inequitably distributed that what people think. Most of us have no idea how skewed it is toward the select few and away from most of us regular folks. I am including a link to a 6 min. video that explains it. It is worthy of a serious viewing.

    Thanks for your interesting post today. You are a thought provoker.

    1. Jim,

      When I was in the Oauchita Mountains of far eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, I turned up at least four varieties of acorns. What I found particularly interesting was that only one variety was sprouting – every single one of those acorns had split its shell and was looking for a place to set up housekeeping. The others? Not a sign of life. Apparently “different strokes for different folks” is true in the world of acorns, too. I’m sure there’s a book out there titled something like “The Secret Life of Acorns” that would answer all my questions, but I guess it’s going to have to wait. So many questions, so little time…

      Heinlein’s great. I’m not much of a scifi fan, but I do get a kick out of reading his interviews. While I’m thinking of that – I think you’d enjoy taking a look at the blog Stainless Steel Droppings. Carl is a fantastic reviewer of books and films, extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things scifi, steampunk and retro, and just plain fun to read. Be sure and check out The 2014 Sci-Fi Experience.

      As for power? It’s at the very heart of politics, and one of our problems in American society today is that power is as unequally distributed as wealth. Of course, the easy answers to questions of wealth and power aren’t usually the right answers – which is part of the reason politicians keep embracing the wrong answers. Or so I think.

      In any event – be sure to glance at Carl’s site. You’ll find it intriguing.


      1. Nature is loaded with opportunists. The acorns know you don’t make it if you don’t try. Someone is going to get lucky.

        I will check that blog. Got it in a new tab now. Thanks.

        Easy answers are not usually the right answers. How true. You have a good day. This one started off cold here at 8˚ and clear. I stepped out with binoculars to try to see the comet. No luck.

  11. We had only been married a few years when my husband came through the door one day announcing that we were in for a bad winter because the squirrels were gathering their nuts (acorns). LOL I wish I could remember what kind of winter we had that year.

    I guess a lot of Americans are gathering their acorns early and putting them away for a bad time. It’s scary and a little more than frustrating.

    Your pics are wonderful. I have always had a thing for acorns. They are beautiful and serve a useful purpose.

    1. Bella Rum,

      Well, think about this. Back in the day, when my squirrel still was part of the family, there probably were people on front porches saying, “You know, I think we’re in for a bad winter. That woman’s putting in a lot of time gathering up nuts.” (We needn’t say too much about the biggest nut of all, thank you very much.)

      When you said acorns are beautiful and serve a useful purpose, the first person I thought of was William Morris. Given his admiration of all things useful and beautiful, I thought he’d surely have one or two patterns incorporating acorns. I couldn’t find a single one. There were birds, vines, flowers, leaves – but no acorns. It seems curious to me. I wonder why?

      I’ve always loved acorns, myself. We used them as “food” when we had tea parties as kids, and made them into heads for little dolls. Their “hats” were a plus, of course.

      As for the anxiety and frustration – I have a feeling it’s going to be with us for a while, and not only because of the economy. I got a good look at some Common Core materials the other day, and nearly came unglued. If I were a parent today, I’d be even more anxious and frustrated. It’s the kids who don’t have good parents and grandparents who are going to be terribly short-changed. Your grands are blessed.


  12. Who would have thunk? This is fascinating…I’ll never look at acorns the same way again. Brought me back to my Michigan roots, to childhood when we used to gather them up from the sidewalk on our tree-lined street. Beautiful photos!

    1. Monica,

      I like to say, everything counts. Learning to truly see even the smallest part of the world inevitably leads to larger vision.

      As Blake put it, far more eloquently, we’re called

      “To see a world in a grain of sand
      And a heaven in a wild flower,
      Hold infinity in the palm of [our] hand
      And eternity in an hour…”

      Everyone seems to give in to the urge to collect when acorns are around. Sometimes I think the gathering is as important as the acorns. Perhaps it’s a reflexive action, rooted in a time so long ago we hardly can imagine it.



  13. Love the story until the end- but it’s all so true. I’d rather just think about nature. I’m doing the best I can do in this economy and have found good souls surrounding me as we all do what we can do.

    It is true about the abundance of acorns due to the stress and survival response of the tree. Stressed humans would to well to plant more gardens with this in mind.

    I’ve heard hail on tin in a metal barn. Wow. And where I live now there are hickory and walnut trees. Walnuts can be deadly if you get hit on the head!

    But acorns, for me, will always be symbolic of grade school and my best friend David when we sat in my driveway rubbing the prettiest dark acorns on the pavement until the center popped out and we had made beautiful rings for our fingers.

    1. Martha,

      You would have loved Varnish John, He gave me one of my primary rules for living: “You start where you can start, and do what you can do”. You can read more about him here . I need to update that sometime and repost it. He was such a wise person.

      When I was pondering all the black walnuts on the ground in Kansas, I was thinking how wise it would be to park cars away from those trees. Last night, I finally did a search for “acorn damage to cars” and discovered even acorns can leave their mark.

      I’ve never seen acorn rings. It’s amazing how versatile those little bits of the world can be. After I mentioned using them as doll food and making them into dolls, I remembered that we’d use them as play money, too. I wish I could remember what I bought with them!


    1. Thanks, Emily. Sometimes I know where a piece is going. In this case, I didn’t, until I got there. It’s interesting to see how the piece as a whole was necessary for the last line to have its impact – not unlike a single acorn falling on a tin roof.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit, and for the kind words.


  14. Oh my goodness! I can just see you sitting straight up in bed, with your heart pounding, thinking “The end has come!” when those acorns started hitting that tin roof!

    We had a heavy mast crop 2 or 3 years ago and it was just asking for a sprained ankle walking around the yard next door under their big oak tree.

    What gets me in our yard are the sweet gum balls. Tons of them. Every year.

    No catalogs here, knock on wood. Some years, we get buried in them. What we’re being bombarded with is charity mailings and all their free gifts. I’ve got at least six wall calendars, three dreamcatchers, six or seven one page desk calendars, a dozen or so Christmas cards with envelopes, plus holiday stickers and mailing labels galore.

    1. Gué,

      My transformation from city gal to one comfortable in the country is on-going, but there have been some truly funny moments along the way, and plenty of lessons learned. For example: that isn’t Sherman’s Army out there, marching to the Guadalupe River. It’s a single armadillo in the fallen leaves, grubbing around for a midnight snack. And then there was the day I learned cattle guards don’t wear uniforms…

      Here’s something else that will make you laugh. When I made pilgrimage to Leadbelly’s grave up by Shreveport, the cemetery and the area around his grave was covered with sweet gum balls. I picked up a bagful, brought them home and plunked them into a wooden bowl. Eventually I threw them out, but I just was thinking the other day how well they’d combine with the Bur oak acorns.

      A friend explained the blizzard of catalogues to me last night. Buy from one, and they not only make a profit off your purchase, they sell their mailing list to other vendors, who send along their own catalogues. She said she’s seen a few sites now that have a checkbox asking that information not be shared after a purchase is made. I need to pay more attention.

      I do miss the Christmas seals. That always was part of the ritual – Christmas stamp on the card, Christmas seal on the other side. Of course, those were the days of paper and popcorn chains on the tree, cranberry strings, cutting up old Christmas cards for art projects and stenciling snowflakes on the windows. This may be the year for a little of that nostalgia.


  15. Our property has at least a hundred white oaks on it Linda, so we know a lot about acorns. :) But we don’t have a tin roof. I get the experience, however. Growing up we had a tin roof and black walnuts! The bang could sound like a gunshot. A good fall storm and we were in a war zone.

    You are absolutely right about how the wild animals feast when it comes time to harvest the acorns. The ten or more deer who consider our property as part of their territory wander in circles around the house. In addition to gobbling up everything off the ground, they also take everything in reach off of our trees– and that includes standing on their hind legs. Then there are the grey squirrels and ground squirrels and turkeys and jays. The latter like to hide their acorns in Peggy’s flower pots. And you can add bears to your list of who likes acorns!


    1. Curt,

      Bears! I never think of bears eating tiny little things, but of course they eat berries, so acorns would be easy. Here’s a silly question – are their paws flexible enough for fine motion, or do they just scoop things up and accept the leaves, twigs and such as the inevitable side dish?

      I was out at a local farm yesterday and they had the new crop of nuts in. I’ hadn’t thought about the fact that black walnuts never are included. There were pecans, almonds, English walnuts, hazelnuts – but no black walnuts. Maybe the effort required to get at the meats makes them a slow seller.

      You may have solved a mystery for me. I’ve found acorns in flower pots on my balcony, and couldn’t figure it out. It didn’t seem possible that squirrels were getting up here – some balconies have good climbing trees nearby, but I don’t. On the other hand, there’s a famly of jays that does show up every year. It’s entirely possible they’re the ones responsible for the acorns.

      It certainly sounds like you provide a fine spread for your wildlife. If I were a deer, I’d come live at your place!


      1. Hi Linda, I’ve watched bears hold salmon in their claws and eat them like you and I might eat corn on the cob. I’ve also watched them tear up a mountain side digging for a marmot. They can move a lot of dirt. They slurp up ants with their tongues. :)

        Jays are very secretive in burying their acorns. I was lucky to catch one in the act. I have several writing places in and outside our house. Each one looks out and provides a view of what the wildlife is up to. Distractive but fun…

        I’ve learned more about deer behavior in our two years in Oregon than I have over the whole rest of my life wandering in the woods. It is fascinating. –Curt

  16. Ah, well, you know, I think, that raining acorns are dear to my heart. I’ve heard many theories since moving up here, and none have held. We haven’t had a crop anywhere near the one we had at the time I opened the first blog, so I’d say we’re overdue!

    1. Susan,

      I can’t believe it. I’d forgotten utterly about “Raining Acorns”. You’ve been so successful in establishing an identity for your new blog, I never think of the old.

      When I went searching, to confirm my memory, I was surprised to see how often the phrase “raining acorns” is used. “Acorn storm”? Not so much.

      Considering the number of factors involved in the size of the crop, it’s not surprising it’s so hard to predict. Weather’s obvious, but I’d never considered the natural differences among varieties when it comes to the “production schedule”.

      This much I can say for certain. All last week the squirrels seemed frantic in their search for fallen pecans, acorns and so on. Friday morning about 9 a.m., a strong cold front hit and the temperature went from 79 to 59 in ten minutes, and to 49 over the course of the day. I haven’t seen a squirrel since. I presume they’re all home, enjoying their stash.


  17. Linda;
    A gorgeous essay filled with both the seasonal, laden with pleasant memories, and some somber current realities. Another vote for term limits–its not a career; its supposed to be service.

    When I think of acorns, always along with it is the positive proverb “great oaks from little acorns grow”….that something grand can come from small things. I’ve never heard the din of an acorn storm though, but love the thought of hearing such a thing.

    The storm of catalogues this time of year, while I sympathize for retail and its necessity for the economy, I tend to bemoan the focus on getting and spending instead of finding more meaning in the holiday. We get so sucked up doing obligatory purchases that we lose the joy.

    And, this poem by William Wordsworth is a recurring thought when the catalogues appear:

    The World is Too Much With Us

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
    The winds that will be howling at all hours,
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
    It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
    A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

    A beautifully crafted essay!! Always!!

    1. Judy,

      You may remember the little plaque I posted from the Cass County Courthouse in Harrisonville, Missouri – the one that memorialized the squabble over taxing and bonds, and the shooting that resulted. Across the portico of that same courthouse, there’s this slogan – A Public Office Is A Public Trust. When I saw that, it crossed my mind that, for many of today’s office-holders, it might as well say, “A Public Office Is a Public Trough”. As for public trust – well. You know what’s happened with that.

      I heard a lot of tree-related folk wisdom when I was growing up, and the one about big trees and little acorns certainly was included. For sheer eagerness to achieve potential, you hardly can beat an acorn. Those things will sprout in a minute if the conditions are right.

      When it comes to gift-giving, the catalog senders would be smart (thinks me) to get their catalogs out much earlier in the year. When I was growing up, looking through the “wish books” was pure pleasure. Sometimes, we’d mark toys that caught our eye – and even Dad and Mom might leave a note next to something in the inches-thick Sears. But those catalogs were invitations to browse, not demands to buy. Or, perhaps we were different.

      In any event – yes. Obligatory gift-giving is a transaction more than a gift. It can be completely appropriate – in diplomatic circles, for example – but it hardly suits the spirit of the season. It can help to lay waste our hearts, making them just like the Grinch’s – sizes too small.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope the world gives you gifts aplenty!


      1. I guess it is not entirely fair to mention the obligatory without mentioning the joy of selecting the perfect gift for someone you really care about. I get a kick out of that when I luck into the perfect item and savor the reaction!! We should be doing that all different times of the year I suppose and not just for the deadline occasion!!

        Happy Thanksgiving All!!

  18. Linda, you know this acorn post has special meaning for me. Now I have something new to think about — acorn storms — when I look at my bowl of bur oak acorns.
    Just this afternoon I couldn’t resist picking up a few acorns and leaves from the oaks lining the reservoir at Central Park in NYC. I must have squirrel tendencies, as I can’t seem to help filling my pockets on fall walks.

    1. Rosemary,

      I love the thought of transcontinental acorn gathering. As I mentioned somewhere up above, I think the action of gathering is as important as the object itself. I’m a great gatherer of rocks, too, and leaves, if I’m in an area with something more than live oaks and cedar.

      The nice thing about acorns is that their beauty doesn’t fade as quickly as the autumn-colored leaves. And they do have their entertainment value. You may be in the home of the New Year’s Eve crystal ball drop, but take a look at this .

      Every New Year’s Eve since 1992, a huge copper and steel acorn has been “dropped” from the roof of the Raleigh, North Carolina Civic Center at the stroke of midnight. Why? They call themselves the City of Oaks, so why not? If Mobile can drop a Moon Pie and Key West a beach ball, what’s not to like about an acorn?

      Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels!


  19. In the early 60’s in North Carolina I first encountered acorns; they were not part of the western forests in which I grew up. I quickly found they were the key to where the squirrels were that I had always read about and finally was able to hunt.

    Later, in the high deserts of Arizona I found that the acorns produced from the scrub oaks supported so many forms of wildlife, especially bears and white-wing doves. It did not occur to me that their bounty was an attempt by the oaks to assure survival during very bad times.

    I suspect that the deluge of catalogs is an indication that the retail climate is finally reflecting the hopes and fears of our people as they consider the state and future of the economy. I also understand that those who have very good products to sell will survive and prosper as they always have. And to the ones who don’t, good riddance!

    As for the parasitic life-forms that congregate in the nation’s capitol, I envision a scene sooner or later like that of Odysseus and the Suitors and look forward to it with great relish.

    1. montucky,

      You may enjoy the photo I linked in my comment to Rosemary, just above. It seems that Raleigh, NC, drops a huge acorn on New Year’s Eve instead of a crystal ball. It’s made of copper and steel, and weighs a thousand pounds, give or take. I suspect if you paid attention you could find some “squirrels” among the revelers in Raleigh at that celebration, too.

      I don’t know why I never thought of acorns in Arizona. As soon as you mentioned scrub oaks, it made sense. And I’ve learned why Bur oaks did so well in places like the Kansas prairies. Their bark is terrifically thick, and it helped protect them from the natural fires that burned through.

      I’ve been thinking about those catalogs. It occurs to me that more retailers may be using them as a way to build their internet sales. I received a few yesterday, and looked through them with a new eye. One thing I noticed was the number of items that were listed as “internet only”, and every catalog listed the phone numbers and URLs together.

      Not only that, I discovered I’m what people in the business call a “combo shopper”. I enjoy thumbing through a catalog, and while I’ll go online for searches and comparisons, I prefer to order by phone. It’s possible that terms like “throwback”, “stick in the mud” or “dinosaur” also are used in sales meetings.

      I don’t think my grandparents knew about Odysseus, but they taught me about comeuppance, which is very much the same. I’ll be waiting right along with you.


  20. Black barked oaks (not sure if that’s their real name) line the road we take to our favorite mountain restaurant. When we drive that road in the winter, I always say, “they look dead.” Then again in the spring I say, “they look dead.” Finally in early summer they are suddenly vibrant green and very much alive.
    Maybe our economy just looks dead, or is nearly dead, but when enough acorns (disastrous programs and regulations) hit the heads of all the sleepy Americans, maybe they’ll wake up and do something. I’m not optimistic, but I can hope.
    Love the post. As usual you spin a good yarn and teach us stuff in the process.

    1. Martha,

      I remember your tales of that restaurant. I’m just sure you’ve posted some photos – if not of that particular road, of the area. I’ll go back and look.

      I love trees in winter. The bare-branched season is so short here, but it’s a delight. In late January or early February, if we’re lucky, we’ll get flocks of waxwings coming through. They love to sit in the bare cypress, and are so beautiful.

      Your comment about the trees looking dead and then bursting into vibrant life reminded me of the so-called resurrection fern. Do you have these, or have you seen them? They’re really marvelous, and fun to show to kids.

      Maybe a bucket of water over the head of the sleepy ones would do the job. Time will tell, I suppose.

      Glad you enjoyed the tale. I’ve done a lot of learning with this one, myself.


  21. All the cycles, big and small that we still don’t know. That is the reality, isn’t it? “As we learn more, we learn more of how little we know” terrible paraphrasing I’m afraid.


    1. Jim,

      I think you got it just right. On one end of the scale, scientists can’t explain the unexpected lack of sunspot activity. On the other, there’s no predicting when the acorns will fall. And in every case in between, every answer leads to more questions.

      One thing’s for sure – it helps to keep life interesting!

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Good to see you.


  22. Intriguing story. Being in Louisiana most of Autumn I’ve missed all the action on my tin roof … and to reduce my overwhelm of mail, I’m sure Ray is eliminating the catalogues before he walks out of the post office. :D

    1. becca,

      I call it postal triage. I pull it out of the box, walk over to the trash can by the mailboxes and go to work. Some gets tossed right there, without a second glance. Some gets opened and evaluated, then either tossed or taken home. The rest goes home for opening. I suspect Ray would approve.

      No matter where you are tonight, you’ve got the same weather we do – cold and wet. Stay safe – be careful if you’re driving.


  23. Wonderfully crafted essay right to tying it all together for me with your observation that our politicians are so insulated they cannot hear those acorns bouncing off the roof!

    Perfect timing before Thanksgiving, as acorns have always decorated the cornucopia centerpiece. And interesting timing that just Friday I received the news that due to the Affordable Healthcare Act and its ramifications, I will be limited in my teaching load. First, I want to react but truly when it all shakes out, if I wait patiently, I will get a correction to the memo when they find that I’m already covered and this new policy will not affect me. I wish I could save them the trouble and let them know I won’t be coming after them to “cover me”…thank you very much. Details, exceptions, clarifications forthcoming I’m sure. Stay tuned.

    Congratulations on your five year run. I agree with “Z”, you will continue to be “discovered.” At times I think I don’t have another thing to say, but I’m grateful there is a “drafts” archive where to my amazement, the drafts number 60. Stay tuned.

    Almost as much as your essays, I enjoy the comments. My husband keeps a volume of Robert Service in our living room. I don’t touch it as I want him to be able to find it since it’s an often-read. Like an acorn RS certainly bounced around.

    It’s amazing to me all the varieties of oak, Monterrey Oak, Red Oak, Pin Oak, Live Oak, etc. Some very good friends of ours live on a street called Bur Oak with one “r”. I’ve wondered about that one “r”…but that’s not here nor there I guess. Happy Thanksgiving week, Linda.

    1. Georgette,

      I dithered a bit about the spelling. Clearly, it’s Aaron Burr, but I’ve seen people use both Bur and Burr when referring to the tree. I came across a forestry forum while I was trying to sort it out. If you have an extra five minutes and want to dip into a really different world, here’s a chance. Very interesting. I do think that “Bur” is favored for the tree.

      ” Details, exceptions, clarifications…”. Indeed. If only there were people in charge of things who understand health care as deeply and fully as those foresters understand their wood. The conflation of health insurance with health care isn’t justified, but I suppose people will have to find that out on their own.

      Part of the problem today is that the government is trying to scare people out of their wits in order to drum up support for their programs. Having lived without insurance, and having bartered varnish work for surgeon’s fees, I tend to be more relaxed about these things. There’s always a way to work something out – at least there has been in the past.

      I do love people’s comments. People have such varied interests and experiences, and it shows. It’s fun to follow their lead and see where it takes me.

      As for those street signs – I was amazed to find the gravel roads in Kansas marked with city-like signs. Some have County numbers like our farm-to-market roads and some have regular street numbers, but in one area the roads were named for grasses. You could say, “Meet me at the corner of Bluestem and Brome.” Doesn’t that just have a ring?


  24. Saw a blurb in today’s paper that Virginia officials are concerned over the lack of an acorn crop throughout the state this year.

    1. I heard that, too, Gué, but I’m not sure where I came across it. I did a little casual searching in a blog I read, and got reminded of another creature who loves acorns – the hog, both domestic and wild.

      I did find this publication from Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Very interesting.

      Here’s hoping all the wild creatures can find the food they need. It’s really quite amazing to ponder the differences in yield from one area to another.

      1. Thanks for linking that. “The white oak crop appeared to uniformly fail across the state.” That confirms my observation here, where most of the oaks are white oaks.

          1. Oh, hogs love acorns. Early settlers used to let their hogs run in the woods, to take advantage of the acorn crop, amongst other free forage. In the fall, they’d round up as many of their hogs that they could find, butcher some and pen the rest up over winter.

            There were always a few that managed to avoid the fall roundup, which is one reason why there are so many feral hogs out there. Besides the fact that they breed like, well, hogs.

            1. People are being encouraged to hunt hogs here. They’re a terrible problem. I found a really interesting Smithsonian article . I was particularly taken with the description of the critters as “opportunistic ominvores”. There have been times in my life when I could have been described that way, I fear. Well, except for Brussels sprouts and grits. We all have our limits.

  25. It sounds odd to say this, living in Michigan, but I think things are looking up. Rick’s business (which is dependent on economy in very specific ways and tied to construction) is much improved, more stores are opening and restaurants are packed noon and night. The idiots in Washington make me crazy and I suspect they are ALL idiots, perhaps not by definition but by behaviour, But things are looking up a bit, I think.

    I love acorns. We have a lot of them at the lake. I love their little caps, their shapes, seeing the squirrels run about with them. I’ve never heard of an acorn storm but we are familiar with hickory nuts bombarding us each fall. I love how you — as always — take the story, start in one spot and go round the garden, entertaining and making us all the wiser!

    1. jeanie,

      I’m happy for Rick and more than glad to hear good news out of Michigan. I tend by nature to be optimistic, and I love seeing that optimism confirmed wherever possible. But the evidence varies depending on where we look, and I see trouble on the horizon.

      When it comes to things like packed restaurants, I can’t help wondering whether they represent economic recovery or individual denial. I know a couple of people who are living with radically reduced circumstances, and their life hasn’t changed one whit, thanks to the beloved credit card. The same thing is going on nationally, and has been for far too long. If we don’t change our approach, there’s no doubt there will be serious consequences. The question isn’t “if”, but “when”. (Aren’t I the cheerful one?)

      Hickory nuts. You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. I went looking for hickory nut recipes and discovered they’re akin to black walnuts when it comes to the difficulty involved in getting out the nut meats. That may be why we never messed with them. They’re for sale, though – I found them for $5/pound in the shell.

      If you’re getting bombarded, your price is a lot lower. Have you ever made pie with them? I’ve always thought pecan pies made with nuts I’ve gathered myself just taste better.


  26. There are no acorns here this year. I don’t mean there are fewer than usual, I mean there are none. None that I’ve seen at least and this is the only year I can ever remember that being the case. The acorn famine coincides with what seems to me to be a deer population explosion. No acorns in what is starting out as a harsh winter does not bode well for all those deer. It seems that nature has a way of correcting imbalances.

    We have several tin-roofed barns near our house. The sound of an acorn striking a tin roof is remarkably loud (as you know). When thousands of them are doing it, it sounds like a war zone. Well, actually it just sounds like fall. :)

    Your sense of the economic signs there is very interesting. It seems to be just the opposite here. Buying and spending are returning to their pre-crash levels. Real estate is appreciating rapidly. My old law firm is hiring and having a booming year. I’ll refrain from pontificating on why this is happening, or what it portends, but I will say I hope that in a year with an abundance of acorns folks have the good sense to save some of them for the lean years.

    Loved this post…

    1. Bill,

      Isn’t it strange how things have cycled in your area? This may be just too, too unscientific, but I can’t help wondering if the deer who set out to decimate your crops had a sense that an important food source was going to be lacking. Of course, that may not be true at all. As you know, I’ve been willing to head for the ice cream even when carrot sticks are available…

      It’s good to hear that things are improving in your area. As I mentioned to Jeanie, above, I’ll take every sign of improvement I can find. But again – it depends on where you look. It makes perfect sense that law firms would be hiring. Someone’s going to have to sort through the flood of new regulations coming down the pipeline. On the other hand, those same regulations (and other factors) have decimated portions of our economy, like the shrimping industry. Want shrimp? Head to the grocery store and buy Chinese imports. There is some optimism for the upcoming season – again, we cross our fingers, hope, and Buy Local!

      (Now, that would be an interesting exercise – to return to some of your posts about industrial agriculture and read them in the context of shrimping and fishing. If it keeps on with this cold rain, I’ll have the time to do that.)


      1. I’ve been worried that lack of acorns would cause the deer to eat our winter gardens. But with last nights low in the teens, freezing weather forecast all week and sleet tomorrow, there probably won’t be any winter gardens to worry about.

        We watched a documentary recently about the shrimp/fishing industry recently. Can’t think of the name of it right now but it was alarming.

  27. A wonderful post in many ways. I appreciate the last few paragraphs as you wrap up with many more thoughts. To confess my ignorance, I think I’ve never seen an acorn, not in my neck of the woods anyway, let alone an acorn storm. But it just sounds so surreal. Your photos are all beautiful. I particularly like the last one. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Linda!

    1. Arti,

      I went looking to see if I could find some postings about oaks and acorns in your area. I must say – I’ve never seen so many listings for oak and acorn child care centers, or oak and acorn taverns!

      But I did find a few horticultural and garden sites that made it clear one of the best trees for your area is – the Bur oak. It’s entirely possible you could find some of these big, fuzzy-capped acorns right in your back yard. Well, or at least close. Whenever you find bluejays, crows, blackbirds or woodpeckers, you might find acorns. Keep your eyes open.

      It’s Thanksgiving weather here. The temperature has dropped a bit, into the upper 30s, and it’s raining steadily. In fact, it’s getting cold enough and gray enough that I pulled out the Christmas decorations this morning. Well, and the cookie recipes. If I can’t work, I might as well enjoy myself.

      Thanks for the greetings. A friend has taken on the bulk of the dinner preps, so all I need bring is my fresh cranberry relish and my “famous” pecan pie. I’m looking forward to not being in charge, this year.


  28. Ah, I had absolutely no idea that the trees will produce more acorns when threatened… in an effort to propagate and perpetuate the species. Just fascinating!! I know they’ll do the same with their root systems — dying trees will give over their remaining nutrients, via their roots, to healthier, neighboring trees. Nature is just amazing.

    And I love how you compare the onslaught of the acorns with the downpour of the catalogs — I cringe with them now.

    1. FeyGirl,

      Well, we’ve traded information now, because I didn’t have a clue about that roots-trading-nutrients business. The truth of it is there are things happening all around us, every day, that we’re simply insensitive to. The so-called “green thumb” that some people have may simply (!) be their ability to tune into plants in a way most of us can’t.

      I wish that catalog retailers would just be a little wiser, a little more restrained. If I order from someone, I’m usually happy to receive another catalog. If I order twice, they can take that as permission to send them all. But if one arrives and I don’t order that year, or the next, or the next – wouldn’t they really be smarter to stop sending them? Who knows? Maybe smarter doesn’t have anything to do with it.

      What I do know is that I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one. We’re supposed to have sunshine, even though it will be a little cool, and I’m looking forward to that.


  29. While I’ve never experienced the “acorn storm” you’ve described, Linda, I can certainly attest to the surprise one feels when one is suddenly bombarded by a lone nut toppling from a tree!

    Even my darling Sheltie, during our walks, finds it challenging to stroll beneath one of those oaks, which leave pesky round balls all over sidewalks and streets. And you’re so right about the squirrels — they’ve been scurrying around like mad-men, gathering food for what already feels like a record-setting winter to come!

    I, too, have been pelted with catalogs sent by merchants clamoring for yet another sale in an already-challenging economy. One would half-think it would be easier (and cheaper) for them to let shoppers go online for what they want, rather than sending out publications.

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the “nuts” in our nation’s capital, too!!

    1. Debbie,

      I can just see the Sheltie trying to cope with all of that underfoot. A couple of years ago I used to see a woman walking her dog in the fall, and that poor dog … What he thought acorns were I don’t know, but he’d bark at them. One would fall from the tree, and he’d have to stop and bark and bark. Then, they’d walk on, until another one fell. It really was funny.

      With catalogs, I don’t think it’s a matter of making it easier for us to get what we want. I think it’s a matter of stirring up even more “wants” in our poor little psyches. There are a few catalogs I hardly dare open, because as soon as I do, I find things I’d like to have on nearly every page. I’ve learned not to succumb – although there was that one year with Coldwater Creek…

      I wonder if people window-shop any more? Back in the day, one of the delights of the Christmas season was going downtown and looking at the displays in the windows. Some were just for fun, like the trains, Santa’s workshop and so on. Others had the beautiful clothes, toys and all that. We’d just look and look – but never bought a thing. We’d just go home and put whatever took our fancy on our list for Santa. Sometimes he came through, and sometimes he didn’t – but it still was fun.


  30. The acorn storms you describe make me think of the stately oak tree at the Huntington Library and Gardens. I don’t visit often enough to have caught any of its acorn falls. They are such cute little things, your images make me want to find and collect some.

    The catalog storm, however, is quite another story! It took me several years, but I’m finally off of the main marketing lists — from the tchotchkes to clothes to shoes to plants and seeds to credit cards and even to charitable organizations.

    1. nikkipolani,

      The variety in acorns is a delight. And speaking of the Huntington, have you seen the marvelous concert of Renaissance and Medieval Music that’s on the schedule? What a delight that would be. I need to begin looking about and seeing what’s on offer here. With Thanksgiving so late, I’m definitely behind the curve when it comes to Christmas concerts and events.

      It didn’t occur to me until a day or two ago that I’m no longer getting marketing phone calls. I do think telemarketers and catalog senders eventually get the message. It may be that they’re becoming more skillful in matching purchases with recipients, too.

      In any event – the season is here! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Roomie. I do hope she’s doing well and is going to be able to truly enjoy the holiday. There’s much to be grateful for, no doubt.


  31. Glorious post.

    I grew up under tin roofs and sometimes miss hearing the rain and thundering acorns. Squirrels and caterpillars…and dog fur/horse coats are carefully watched by rural dwellers. But acorn falls are a bit of a mystery.(which is fine – we need those?)

    Post starts off lightly enough – then the shoe drops.
    Outstanding comparison – wish the elected officials could hear the pounding on the roofs.
    Great job!
    (and they must have given up on us – we’ve gotten few “gift” catalogues so far.)

    1. phil,

      The signs are all around. I walked out last night and smelled woodsmoke for the first time – wonderful. And now that the coots,and sandhills and the white pelicans are back, we can all settle in for the duration. Who knows? This might be our year. There was snow in Huntsville today, and if we wish really, really hard we might get some for Santa’s sleigh.

      Letting the shoe drop is better than beating someone over the head with it. I think we’re all tired of the level of snark and hyper-politicization that’s dished out daily. We need to think about these things, but we need to think about them as a nation, not as enemy camps.

      Ah, well. Thanksgiving is nearly here and there’s much to be grateful for – including the fact that the acorns and caterpillars and squirrels are around to keep us aware of the bigger picture!


      1. Wandering outside is the only way to get some sort of balance right now. Really tired of all the deals behind the curtain that affect our lives – but not theirs. Neglecting to mention information is simply lying by omission – and misleading statements/misspeaking – all those stupid phrases…just blurt out the honest truth, please.
        Saw the poor little wannabe shuttle’s tagging? Stupid fools. But someone also wrote all over the real shuttle in NYC.(that place that doesn’t have anything to do with the space program and apparently can’t guard a piece of history)
        Grumpy, sorry – Bad cold, but dinner and dishes done and maybe a nap…if the dogs will settle in.
        Frost on the pumpkins last night for sure!

        1. That lying by omission business seems to be particularly popular just now. And it’s rather a shame that my list of people I won’t even listen to is growing. My assumption is that they’re lying, shading the truth or (how I hate this word) spinning. I have better things to do.

          No, I haven’t heard about the tagging here or in NYC. I’ve been disconnecting a good bit over the past couple of weeks, just to avoid the retail frenzy and the political shenanigans. But I did watch ISON last night – the little comet that could!

  32. Linda, the acorn story is so interesting. I’ve never been in an acorn storm but some years there is lots of pinging on the roof and on the car port. I have mostly live oaks and the trees seem to bear heavily every other year. There are some young red oaks that are about 12 years plus now, These were planted by the squirrels. My large old red oaks have all bitten the dust but one and it had to be topped after it lost a really huge limb. I have no idea why I never planted a Bur oak since it is my favorite tree. I suppose I figured I already had plenty of acorns. I rake some up to feed to my goat only this year there just were hardly any to rake.

    The photos in your post are really good. And I am still laughing about the cattle guards.


    1. Yvonne,

      Well, there we are. Another obvious addition to the list of critters who like acorns – the goats! Our live oaks have had very few acorns this year, even though the rain was plentiful enough during the time they would have put them on. It’s that “internal schedule” again – now that I think about it, every other year does seem to be their habit, with the exception of that tremendous production after the drought year.

      Red oak seems to be a squirrel favorite, at least according to the folks who sell acorns to people who want to feed them to squirrels. I know we have other oaks around here, but I’m not good at identifying them. I need to pay a bit more attention.

      I wondered if anyone would catch that, about the cattle guard. That’s a true story, sad to say. Ignorance may be bliss, at least sometimes, but ignorance can lead to some pretty funny stories, too.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, both two-footed and four-footed!


  33. Thanks Linda, for a rich pathway into a pressing issue. With so many forces beyond our control controlling our lives we are tempted to throw up our hands in despair (this is equally true north of the border). But calling things what they are is always an important first step.

    1. Allen,

      That’s right. There’s deep wisdom that asserts before any demon can be banished, it has to be called by name. And of course, the power to name also confers power to control. One of the most interesting traditions in Liberia was the taking of a new name when someone converted – whether to Christianity, Islam or just plain modernity! People with tribal names would suddenly appear at work and put a note on the bulletin board, saying “So and so” is henceforward to be known as “This other name”. It could be a bit of a challenge to keep up with it all.

      On the other hand, thank goodness for the control we do have. It may be “Black Friday”, but I can stay out of the stores, turn off the radio and avoid sites like Twitter that are filled with advertisements and arguments. Passive resistance, retail version!


  34. Hi Linda
    Your blog and its community provide me here in Scotland UK with a regular flavourful slice of USA life I can find nowhere else…and I agree with Ken from 23/11: ‘Of all the blogs and essays I read during this year, this is by far my favorite. I think that makes you my favorite essayist for about the last four or five years in a row….’ I am a very reclusive blogger ( note to self: must get more interactive in 2014) and yours is about the only blog I tune into on a very regular basis.

    Loved the acorns/ messages to politicians metaphor. We may not get those clattering falls of acorns over here but our politicians seem to suffer the same selective deafness as yours!

    1. Anne,

      I surely wouldn’t describe you as reclusive. You have a number of things going on outside your blog which require the kind of attention varnishing doesn’t. Still, I appreciate your visits and your most kind words.It’s a fact that a cross-section of people stop by here, and that only adds to the interest. It certainly is enjoyable for me to get to know other people’s perspectives on the whole range of things I write about.

      Selective deafness, indeed. It was amusing in my father, who could hear a neighbor open a beer without fail, even while being “unable” to hear my mother’s repeated requests for this or that. In our politicians? It’s not so amusing, even though I sometimes suspect they hear us quite well, but intend on doing as they please anyway.

      No Thanksgiving for you, yesterday, but best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season to come!


  35. I love your analogy and am experiencing the positive and negative images– dying trees and acorn possibilities; downsizing lives and catalogs enticing people with something new.

    I had a catalog dare to follow me to yet another new address. I call that stalking. I’m trying to start a new life. I am throwing my acorns all over the place. I already know that the pilling-after-three-washings clothing this catalog is trying to sell me after a mistake I made two households ago is not my exciting future.

    1. Claudia,

      That’s truly funny – the thought of that catalog stalking you. And yet, that’s exactly what they do – the merchandisers, at least. And even worse are the tried-and-true catalogs, the ones you’ve always trusted, who suddenly have photos that look the same, descriptions that sound the same, and merchandise that’s taken about sixteen steps down the quality ladder. Land’s End did that to me. I used to be able to depend on their tees and such for everything from good quality material to color-fastness. Now? Pffffttt…

      Your own analogy’s pretty interesting, too. There are ways in which we start throwing acorns in a bad season. That’s something worth thinking about.

      I’m so into downsizing right now it’s almost scary. But it’s wonderful, living without clutter. The one place I need to put the brakes on is my photos. I tend to delete things too fast – if it isn’t going to go into a post, it heads to the trash. I think I need a file called “Pics I was going to throw away but didn’t.” The rest of it? Better off gone.

      I hope your Thanksgiving was nice. Nice is seriously underrated these days, but I’m growing fonder of it by the minute.


  36. Apparently, they had a bumper crop of acorns in the New Forest in Britain this year, and the New Forest ponies are one animal that shouldn’t eat acorns. A blog friend relates that of the communal herd of New Forest ponies that are allowed to run loose in the forest, they lost around forty of them to acorn poisoning, and she has put up electric fencing around those trees which overhang her paddocks to try to keep her ponies from eating them. Pigs, on the other hand thrive on them, and there is a lot of history in England about where peasants were and weren’t allowed to graze their pigs on “mast” (acorns) — grazing was not allowed in royal forests as it stole food from the king’s deer.

    I would imagine acorns would not be as loud as hail on a tin roof, or as likely to dent it. Still, a barrage of acorns in the middle of the night or even one, as you describe, would tend to wrench a body from a sound sleep rather quickly and rudely.

    1. WOL,

      Honestly – I can’t count the number of things I’ve learned from you. I’ve never heard of the New Forest ponies, although now I’ve watched a BBC program and read a bit about them. They are beautiful creatures.

      Funny that they can’t eat acorns. I think they’re the first animal I’ve come across that can’t. Well, at least the first I know about. When I was in Kansas, I came across some wild ponies. I’ve got a couple of pics that are ok, although I don’t have a telephoto lens. Shoot – at this point I barely have a camera, but that’s a whole other story.

      Those Royals – always setting boundaries. I’ve got a blog friend who lives relatively near a deer park outside London. She goes over from time to time to take photos, and they’re just splendid. No deer park for me, although there is a Deer Park Prairie remnant just up the road. There’s a town of Deer Park, too, which is mostly petrochemical plants – not so pleasant.

      I think I could sleep though acorns now. Back in the day, when I first experienced them, I still was learning about the country. Oh, was I learning!


  37. I love the shape of the little acorns I’ve seen – I think Pin Oak. Not had them raining down on me, but have had black cockatoos hurling pine cones onto a tin roof, and that combined with their raucous cries, ensures they are noticed.

    Over here, it’s sometimes said with a tree putting on a frenzy of seeds, that it may be a farewell message. Certainly I’ve noticed trees that have blown down in the wind, but with still some roots in the ground, will go into seed very quickly.

    I went searching for our friend William’s acorns, and found this – good to know he regarded it favourably also. Here’s what he had to say in a letter to C.E.Maurice, July 1, 1883:
    “I do not believe in the world being saved by any sysem, – I only assert the necessity of attacking systems grown corrupt, and no longer leading anywhither: that to my mind is the case with the present system of capital and labour. I have personally been gradually driven to the conclusion that art has been handcuffed by it, and will die out of civilization if the system lasts.”
    Amen to that.

    Fortunately, I do not have to deal with ‘junk mail’, but talking with a friend recently, who delivers newspapers, he told me one distributor in this area – only one of several – in a single week had 5 ton of leaflets/cataloges etc to deliver. That’s an awful lot of brainwashing in my book.

    As to throwing out image files…. don’t. :-) You’d be amazed at what looked dreadful or useless once, can be revived or useful given the space of time.

    1. eremophila,

      Good for you! I only searched Morris’s patterns visually, and missed the acorns. A keyword search would have surfaced them – but I’m glad to know the pattern exists. It’s quite attractive, too, although that isn’t surprising, given the designer.

      I’m somewhat more sanguine about the future of art than Morris. Of course, he was a socialist who had other problems with the capitalist system than its relationship to art. It seems a touch ironic for him to declare he doesn’t believe in the possibility of the world being saved by any system when he seemed certain that utopian socialism would do the trick. In fact, he wrote “News from Nowhere” – a utopian piece – as a reaction to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward”, a vision of industrial utopia. But then – none of us is free of contraditions, so there’s no reason to demand Morris should be.

      That five tons of mailings stopped me cold. That’s not only a lot of brainwashing, that’s a lot of dead trees. And as far as I know the “slick” papers aren’t recyclable like plain newsprint – another reason to be rid of the things. I’ve been told there are two primary reasons they’re still used – our post office depends on the mailing fees, and if just one person out of (how many? ten? a hundred?) places an order, the cost is justified. Or so they say.

      One thing’s for sure. If a tree dies for a catalog, it never gets a chance to put out more seed.

      I know – you’re right about tossing photos. I need to devise a better system for filing. I suspect that would make me more inclined to – well, file them!


    1. CheyAnne,

      They surely were all over Missouri and Kansas this year. I wish now I’d picked up more, but I have enough to fill a wonderful little decorative sleigh my mother had – it makes a lovely decoration with holly tucked here and there.

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen pinon, even though I’ve read about it. Something else new to look forward to seeing one day! Every place has its treasures.


      1. I have a bowl of piñon nuts on my blog. I think you can search for it. It’s the trees in most of my photographs, except for the juniper which is wispier and greyer. Remember that Grosbeak bird on high up in the tree tops? the orange and black one? He’s sitting in piñon.

    1. Mary,

      Isn’t it strange? I was out under our live oaks yesterday, thinking maybe the wind and cold weather would have caused at least a few to fall, but I found only a dozen or so. In reports about Virginia’s lack of acorns this year, I’ve noticed some experts saying after an especially productive year, the trees like to take a rest. Well, don’t we all?!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment. Here’s hoping our acorn-less squirrels find other tidbits to eat.


  38. Just wondering, how did you manage to survive in the end? I’m currently living below such a tin roof, and the Acorns have been falling for weeks. I’m by now so exhausted that I can barely go to work.

    Just wondering… I’ve now told the landlord to cut the tree.

    1. Oh, my. It wasn’t a matter of surviving. I actually am rather fond of the combination of tin roof and acorns, even thought it can be a terrible racket. The good news is that it’s self-limiting. Don’t cut the tree – just wait for all the acorns to drop. Maybe you just need more squirrels and bluejays!

      Actually, depending on where you are, the “storm” ought to be over for the year.

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