It’s late in the year - the start of December and winter 2012 and for the last eight-plus weeks the two mature and majestic live oak trees (30+ years old) in our front yard have been shedding their acorns in an abundance never before seen. While last year yielded an impressive crop, this year has exceeded all expectations… Whenever the wind decides to blow (regularly on the Southern Plains), acorns and later their cuplets (the little pointed hat that holds the acorn) decide that now is the time to sail to earth hitting our roof daily and sometimes in great numbers and with an intensity like that worst hail storm two years ago. The sound was (and is) deafening at times with those little missiles hitting the gutters and back patio furniture and cars with that characteristic out-of-tune ping. Another one just cascaded off the east roof and into our secret garden… We’ve been startled and awakened in the middle of the night because of the noise. Though still revered and hallowed, the live oaks have become a nuisance. We’ll deal with it…
The acorns have literally covered the yard, walkway and street posing a hazard for pedestrians and a supposed treat for the dogs in the neighborhood (not really). We need note that acorns contain a toxin called gallotannin that can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs which can include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal distress. House Guardian Willa dependent on her own special Hill’s Science Diet is also capable of and eager to consume (she’s proved it!) worms, pine bark mulch, ivy leaves, peas, her own poop and, yes, acorns in the absence of foxes, badgers and rats. A doggy harness has proved an able ally and restraint for this seemingly, in earnest, omnivore Cairn Terrier.
The acorn mast has provided protein and fat aplenty to our core squirrel population now conservatively numbered in excess of ten in the two live oak trees. They have also found that acorns make effective weapons against dog and human alike. Recent trips out the front door have resulted in a pelting by the squirrels we optimistically figure intended for the dog – but you can never be sure. Their aim – admirably – is quite accurate right along with a bright red cardinal this morning that dropped a couple of acorn bombs.
When the House Guardian and this not-as-smart end of the leash returned to home and hearth after a recent morning walk, we were greeted by three mallards (two drakes and a female) feeding on the smorgasbord of acorns in the front yard. We stopped, gave them a few more minutes to gorge themselves and then proceeded, prompting an airborne evacuation. We are assured that they will be back as we have seen them before flying low overhead or walking down the middle of the street in the early AM hours. While there are no nearby wetlands, neighborhood cement ponds apparently provide a suitable substitute habitat (no, not ours, please).
For the last seven plus weeks I have been sweeping and raking sidewalk, walkway and yard though failing miserably to keep up with the onslaught. From one day to the next there are seemingly more on the ground than I swept/raked up the day before. Yesterday in advance of house guests I swept the sidewalk, turned around and laughed out loud noting about fifteen newly dropped nuts. Those that don't get bagged and hauled off find their way to the street where with the passage of traffic they are pulverized into a fine dust and then dispersed by Mother Nature.
Arborists educate us that a single mature oak tree can produce over 1,000 pounds of acorns. Gads! It seems that our live oaks have produced that – and then some. We ponder the added weight and burden on those beautiful meandering limbs and have heard of older heavily burdened tree branches breaking under the additional weight.
So, today we again have an acorn ground cover in the front yard and the sidewalk needs sweeping. It’s a nice break from the painting… I should’ve taken some photos… Hope you had a Good Thanksgiving.