October Treasures

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Gray Catbird and Rose-breasted Grosbeak Sharing a Limb

On any given day there are many reasons to walk the farm—discoveries to be made, wildlife to encounter. This time of year, I like to see what is blooming, hear who is singing or fluttering by, check for tracks around the pond. Every day there is a chance for newly arriving, or passing through migrants. The rose-breasted grosbeaks have been around for a few weeks now, hummingbirds are still defensive around the feeders, a black and white warbler stopped in a couple days ago, and a half dozen house finches have joined the goldfinches at the feeder. Gulf fritillaries are finding fall flowers, and a spectacular of array of yellow asters covers the field along with goldenrod. Persimmons and apples are ripe in the trees, and gift me with their delicacy on nearly every walk, while black walnuts and pecans are not ready for dropping just yet.

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Gulf Fritillary Enjoying the Flower Garden

Yesterday evening, while eating an apple I had just picked en route to the mailbox, I came across a pile of rain-eroded scat at the edge of the driveway. I put on my glasses and knelt down to have a closer look to find that I was not the only one enjoying seasonal fruit these days. Apparently a resident raccoon has been feasting as well—evidenced by the dozen or more persimmon seeds in his excrement—a treasure!
After depositing my letter, I went to the kitchen for a ziplock bag and a paper towel, then headed back to the driveway to collect my newfound seeds. The refrigerator already has several of these bags, and there will be more before the season ends. Every summer I search out native fruit-bearing trees—persimmon and pawpaw—and relish in their sweet offerings. Every year I say to myself, this is the year. This year, I will save these seeds. This year I will plant trees. This year.

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Persimmon Seeds in Raccoon Scat

 

Recently, a friend with a few wooded acres south of here granted me permission to grow some trees on his property. The seeds in my refrigerator are experiencing a simulated winter in preparation for planting there. The cold will scarify the seeds, enabling them to germinate. For a minimum of forty days they will chill, hopefully emerging ready to sprout. Some seeds, like many prairie plants, or the lodgepole pines of Yellowstone, are scarified through wildfires. Others, like the cedar trees that sprout along so many fence rows are prepared for germination in the digestive tracts of birds. Pawpaws and Persimmons like the cold.
Chickadees bring a smile to my face with their chatter, but remain out of sight in the canopy as I count twenty-seven shiny brown flat seeds in the scat, each a little smaller in diameter than a dime. One by one, I pick the seeds out of their crumbling encasement and place them on the paper towel. Then I think about the scat and realize it would be a waste to leave that rich fertilizer on the driveway. I gather it as well, carefully picking every last crumble out of the gravel. I fold the towel, insert it in the bag, and label it: “persimmon in raccoon scat 9/26.” Before refrigerating it, I will sprinkle a little water in the bag to keep it moist and seal it shut. Nothing says Autumn like a back of raccoon crap in your refrigerator!
When I am ready to plant my seeds I will record the date they were collected, the time they were refrigerated, and whether or not they were “raccooned.” By keeping those records, I will learn what processing results in the highest rate of germination. If “raccooned” seeds prove more successful than the seeds only refrigerated, I will have more work on my hands next year, but I don’t mind. Searching the woods for raccoon scat sounds like a perfectly lovely October activity to me!
For now, though, I will pick another apple and continue my rounds to see what other autumn treasures reveal themselves.

 

3 thoughts on “October Treasures”

  1. When the persimmons are ripe (for humans to eat), you might like to try these recipes:

    Persimmon Bread
    Sift together:
    2 c. flour
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    1/2 t. allspice
    Cream together, and gradually stir into the above ingredients:
    1/2 c. margarine
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 t. vanilla
    Add last:
    1 c. persimmon pulp
    1/2 c. chopped pecans

    Mix well. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured 9”x5”x3” loaf pan and let set for
    a few minutes (10 min. or so) before baking. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes at 375 degrees.

    Spiced Persimmon Cookies
    1 c. shortening
    1 c. sugar
    1 egg
    1 c. persimmon pulp, fresh or frozen & thawed
    2 c. flour, 50/50 whole wheat & white
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1/2 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    1/2 t. allspice
    3/4 c. chopped pecans
    1/2 c. raisins

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream shortening, sugar and egg together, set aside. Mix dry ingredients together & stir into creamed ingredients to make a stiff dough. Add pecans & raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 40 to 50 cookies.
    (adapted from Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook by Billy Joe Tatum)
    ________________________________________________________________
    Dymple’s Delight in Mitchell, IN has a mail order business for persimmon pulp (and a cook book–avail. for $4.00). 812-849-3487. Dymple Green, Rt. 4, Box 53, Mitchell, IN 47446 (if still in business).

    Also, Bear Wallow Books, PO Box 579, Nashville, IN 47448 has a cookbook, Old-Fashioned Persimmon Recipes, copyright 1978. When I got mine it was only $3. But I bet it’s a little more now.

    Like

  2. I wrote a reply but then was navigated down a long and confusing path of registration, passwords, checking and rechecking email and then finally back and my comments are gone. I much enjoy your writing but i suspect this is why there are no or so few comments. And this comment may disappear to once i try and renavigate.

    Like

    1. I apologize for any problems, Casper. This is the first complaint I have had like this, and will look into it. I would love to hear whatever your original comment was.
      All the Best,
      Jim.

      Like

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