Honorah Mellarick

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since Jun 26, 2016
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Recent posts by Honorah Mellarick

Chestnuts
My 2 acre property is gifted with three over thirty year old chestnut trees.  I pray always for the wonderful soul who cared enough to plant them.  They are likely an Asian European hybrid planted in the sixties or seventies. If they remain, they will be here for  several hundred years or longer than all the maples  and the old falling down apple trees and pears, and longer than the sixties speed built house I live in.  Right now they are flowering, or the first is.  For the next month they will have these very strange space age flowers.  Each flower is a male and a female in succession.  You need three trees so the staggered succession of flowering allows the fruit to fertilize. Various bees pollinate the trees, but the flowers are after all the honey suckle and fruit trees, and berries.  It is a strong smell but brings in bees to the green beans and seeding lettuce and cabbage type plants.   I thought my one tree was less fertile, but now I realize it is just the first to blossom! In the fall the large tennis ball picker fruits will  open on a warm day following a cold snap and chestnuts will begin to fall. I will need to wear a hat to walk under them to save my noggin. I will need to wear thick shoes as the picker outer shells are worse than giant burrs.  But inside each burr is three beautiful nuts, though sometimes the nuts drop out before the burr falls when the weather is just right. I will protect my hand with gloves. I will stomp the burr with my shoe to break the nut loose. and  I will pick up a several gallons of chestnuts in a bucket, and invite my friends to pick up more. Kids are much faster at this then grownups. No one bothers with the little poorly formed nuts that will be half the crop this dry year. If you were hungry you could dry them and grind them.  We leave them as a gift to the varmints I guess!
Chestnuts are NOT like walnuts.  They are a starch, more like a bean.  They are starch, not a fatty food. You need to soak them in saltwater to get rid of a little wormy thing that seeks them out.  If you do not, they will get wormy over time. Then you wash them and dry them and cover them tight and  put them in the frig and keep them like fresh vegetables.  When they are right off the tree, I chew them with their dark cover over the nut. Of course if they are not just fallen fresh, they need cooking.  In that dark skin over the nut, is exactly what I need for my sore legs (veins). Like horsechestnut, it is a herbal treatment, but unlike horse chestnut it is edible. Dogs chew chestnuts like bones until they are sick of them, and squirrels go nuts. Deer invade my yard, and groundhogs and squirrels.  A chestnut night with a full moon is kind of like a creature party.    
If I needed a garden staple food, if I was hungrier than lazy, I could guard these ripening trees from the squirrels day an night and have ten times what i harvest.  But as it is I work not at all and have more than i need most years.  It is a literal pain to sweep up the burrs in piles.  They are a base under wood chips in most of my gardens near the trees. They decompose in about a year, but until they do the soil is going to scratch a bare hand.
To cook chestnuts, we score the dark skin in an x shape and microwave or put in a toaster oven until they pop.  We also stick them in the crock pot of meat or soup. They do not taste like a nut.  More like a potato really.  They have been deep fried and that is probably the tastiest prep but the most fattening way to eat them.
If you plant chestnuts, get good stock and get three trees AT LEAST to pollinate them. I have hundreds of seedling growing, but if I was trying to get more trees I would airlayer these known good tasting probably F1 hybrids someone bought from a catalog.   In the city it would mean a couple of neighbors would need to plant with me.  These would be people who would care to take care of these trees, a neighbor calls messy .  They are beautiful trees.  The Asian type are low and spreading and would not bother a tall electric wire, though maybe al lower telephone wire..  There is research now producing American type chestnut trees that are disease resistant and grow very tall and straight. Order from OIKOS, a Michigan Nursery. https://oikostreecrops.com/   If you have land that you plan to leave to descendants, or to a conservancy or in anyway keep for a long time, PLANT CHESTNUTS.  They should be far away from OAKS for purpose of cross contamination of pests.  You might never harvest them yourself if you are my age.  However, you give a gift of a staple food to posterity.  Paris made it through World War 2, harvesting chestnuts. Even now many French take holiday when the chestnuts fall.  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/24/its-chestnut-season-in-southern-france/[quote] [/quote][quote] [/quote]The American Chestnut did not succumb to disease until the beginning of the 1900s.  Much of the forest of the USA was chestnut before the blight, and some wonder if this was facilitated by plantings  by aboriginal Americans. The large availability of chestnuts, which seed and reseed themselves with the help of squirrels, was a lot of why pioneers could LIVE OFF THE LAND. There was always this steady fall calorie source to gather for the hungry winter.

There are also black walnuts on this property but they do not seem to be harmful to the chestnuts.  I have no idea how to harvest a black walnut!  What an amazing strong shell.  Inside, the squirrels tell me there is something delicious.  Again if I was actually hungry I might figure it out.
4 years ago
One thing not mentioned-She needs support in  breast feeding! There is much separating moms from doing this basic need for babies.  ALL modern women need help, need encouragement and need practical support to keep this up first for three months, then for six months, and then for the two to two and half years a kid can really use it.    For some this is identifying a lay or pro lactation coach. for my busy daughters, breast pumps were necessary. All used the really cool breast feeding pumps that are made now.  Some pumps are electric, and some are a manual suction, but all are TONS more effective than the stuff I failed at using in the 80s.  Two of my daughters needed to return to full time employment, and these nursing pumps allowed their baby to be fed on breast milk.  In Michigan, there is help for lower income moms with formula, and if you are nursing, the state will provide you with one of these pumps.  There is however need to have clean plastic bags, and bottles to store the breast milk in the freezer, and a magic marker.  So your friend needs to identify what sh e will likely use, and research what is available for her.  Then when she identifies the system, help her with the cost more than you believe extras that make the difference in actually using them. Give her the best in this area!  Also a small osterizer, blender or food processor suitable for baby food.  Babies eat things like Avocado now first, and are started on food so late that except for convenience during travels or at caregiving, they eat family food ground up.  Yes, I know an Amazon River tribal woman would just chew up the food and spit it in the baby's mouth, but a new momo cannot do this with skeptics in the house!  Little storage containers, and strategies are important!  Maybe some really safe and wonderful dishwashing liquid. Never forget sippy cups.  there was a time when babies spilled their milk, but now it stays in the cup!

Expensive baby shampoo and wash usually comes in large bottles.  Moms have various preferences, but it all goes down the drain too fast in a big bottle. New moms seem to use this stuff like water! Encourage her to keep a tiny bottle of soap, such as they give in the hospital, and transfer the big bottle to the little bottle.  Only a tiny drip of soap is needed for that little messy baby and that large old bottle can take her/him through the twos if there are not great spills down the drain.  Or make a pump bottle with DILUTED baby shampoo.  Less soap, less rash on baby.  Laundry soaps need to be thought through.  In every thing, go less allergic, and milder and then use LESS.  Keep a small quarter or eighth cup measure with that laundry soap and in baby clothes LESS is more, especially when the less is directly applied to the problem. Learn to rinse with a bit of vinegar or washing soda but do not crust the clothes with detergent. By the way they will be washing way more laundry.   Access to a dryer and washer are so important.  A laundry set up for clothes lines, inside and out, will help with all these extra washes but absolutely you will need a dryer.

Two of my daughters used the NEW kind of velcro fastened cloth baby diapers. These are easy to put on a baby, even the first time.  The one purchased a dozen diapers and four stretch vinyl velcro pants.  At that time she had a weekly amount of money for diapers.  She would use the cloth diapers as much as she could, wash and use them again.  In between she used paper diapers. When she saved money in the diaper fund each week, she put it to buying more cloth diapers.  With two babies in diapers at that time, she ended up paying for a complete set and mostly used cloth diapers. She did this to get out of a financial hole, and it was really admirable.  Her sister sewed extra flannel diapers for these sets.  We had a pattern, and I helped.  We bought used flannel sheets to make these diapers and garage sale thread.  ALso made flannel wet wipes that were kept in old wet wipe boxes. I believe she made flannel nursing bra pads out of layered cotton flannel.  We generally used patterned flannel sheets.   These were washed with the diapers or towels (pads).  Most babies had special baby towels, but used regular terry cloth most of the time.   Spray bottles of water Once even had a spray bottle of water for the bum in the diaper basket.  All these efforts with cloth diapers  ended for "my girls" (sophisticated educated young women) as time went on.  When they felt so busy they expected to need to hire a helper to keep the diapers washed, they sold the diapers or gave them away, and went to the paper diapers and wet wipes.  TIME is a resource that is in short supply with all young parents, and needs to be respected.  Whether they used the cloth or paper has never been my business but it is interesting to observe that the same struggles and challenges come up. It takes more than one person to raise a child, usually, as it is a lot of work.   You always strive for perfection in the beginning of parenthood and end up just trying to survive and be sane, which is usually a humble good place to be. Amazon prime diaper delivery seems to be where the last two babies have been supplied with diapers.  Hard to beat diapers on your door step.

What new moms really seem to covet are those expensive trendy slings for holding big healthy breast fed babies.  Now there is a also neck scarf that doubles as a nursing hideout for baby.  There is a pillow in a moon shape everyone seems to have for supporting a newborn baby with the first difficult latchings and comforting a tired mom with a big hot sticky kid on her lap later.  Breastfeeding is what baby really needs, whether mom is a crunchy hipsters or an exec or someone juggling an older child's soccer schedule, or all three!    I would say encouragement and help for breastfeeding is the most important gift you can give this new tiny person and the mom.  There are moms that cannot breast feed for some serious reasons.  That is true.  For the other 98 percent of babies our culture needs to help mom give this important gift, even this right, to her babe. Sometimes it seems that it is just plain a tough job, with coworkers attitudes, and maybe a case of the flu.  Really the intelligence and health of the baby may depend on her sticking it out.  Especially in this modern world, where every other kid is allergic to wheat or milk or something.
Grandma of 11 kids who are all bright stars like most breastfed babies.
4 years ago