The Nuttery : Volume 21 Number 3 (2002)

In this Issue...

Winter Meeting 2003

Come one! Come all! to our most popular event of the year - the Winter Meeting. It's the place to find old friends, meet new ones, hear about the latest in nut growing, and enjoy new nut goodies! The Conference Room, The Ottawa Citizen Building 1101 Baxter Road, in Ottawa just off Iris Street take the north exit at Greenbank and the Queensway Saturday afternoon, the 18th of January 2003 from 2:00PM to about 4:00PM

Dolman Ridge - Fall 2002
John Sankey

A threatening but peaceful morning - 15C, and no rain despite the forecast - saw several hundred young Dolman Ridge trees protected against voles for the coming winter. George Truscott & I were joined by six newcomers attracted by a note by Penny Reed in her Citizen gardening column: Joe & Linda Ritchie from Brockville, Dale Crook & Jay Ladell who volunteer with the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Henry Dzuba, and Elizabeth Alexander (who turned out to be a distant relative!)

Although the wetlands of the area are in desperate state after two summers of drought, most of the trees are doing well. The exception is the Wisconsin butternuts there, which appear to have all succumbed to drought even though the walnut seedlings around them are fine. Fortunately, we still have some at the FRP, Oak Valley, and in my back yard nursery.

The Lavant Shagbarks: We Have Nuts!
John Sankey

None of the Lavant shagbark trees set significant seed in 2000 or 2001. This year, on 6 September, Jim Ronson & I combed the entire site again. After hours of climbing and shaking, we had only collected 20 nuts. Then, just as we were about to give up, we found one tree at the eastern edge of the area that was loaded! Not only that, but a red squirrel was just cutting the last of the crop down as we arrived. The leaves hadn't even started to wilt on the dropped nuts!

We collected 466. A dozen were opened to check quality - they looked perfect! (and tasted great too.) They have been planted in the Dolman nursery (2 locations) and at the Truscott nursery at Oak Valley. A first step, but a vital one, to preserve these trees.

A Lavant Shagbark Hickories Committee has been formed, with goal to ensure the long-term perpetuation of the population and associated ecosystem. It's members are Jim Ronson, John Sankey, Travis Hossack (General Manager, Mazinaw-Lanark Forest Inc.) and Linda Touzin (Forester, Ministry of Natural Resources, Kemptville). We visited the site on 1 November together with Len Collett, and have begun the process of setting formal priorities for the site.

Gordon Wilkinson Reports

This spring I replanted some trees that were lost in 2001 because of poor stock. (These losses were recognized in July 2001 before the commencement of last year's drought.) I also added 2 more rows of heartnuts, and 2 long rows of black walnuts, shagbark hickories, Swiss stone pines and Carpathian walnuts. All together I planted this past spring 60 heartnuts, 40 black walnuts, 20 shagbark hickories, 20 Carpathian walnuts and 30 Swiss Stone Pines for a total of 170 seedlings! That was a lot of work for one person over a two week period, particularly given the cold, snow and rain in this year's late April/ early May period!

Upon my return in early October (prior to frost) I discovered that because of this year's drought that I may have lost as much as 100% of the black walnut and shagbark hickory, about 90% of the heartnut, about 60% of the Swiss Stone Pine and 20 to 30% of the Carpathian walnuts. Most of the trees were in a very sorry state - a single barren stick without a leaf, or at most miniscule blackened remains. In one of my new rows of heartnut seedlings only 1 of the 20 trees displayed a healthy showing of leaves and new branches - it was a miracle tree in contrast to the devastation in the rest of the row and in neighbouring rows! I still can't figure out why it did so well in contrast to all its neighbours!

All the seedlings were mulched the same way - a layer of newspapers covered with a 2 inch layer of well decomposed wood chips. I attribute the higher survival rate of the Carpathians to the fact that I added some store-bought soil to their planting holes. My soil is heavy clay. Given the favourable results with the Carpathians I plan to add store-bought soil to all my replacements next year.

In October I pulled up 40 heartnuts with rotting bases from the 3 rows I planted in 2001. These will be the only trees I'll be replacing in the spring of 2003. (I learned my lesson that 170 trees is too much for one person to handle!) I will wait another year before replacing this year's plantings of black walnuts, shagbark hickories and heartnuts in the hope that some of these dead-looking seedlings may spring back from the roots.

The silver lining in all of this bad news was when I expressed my disappointment over this year's results to John Sankey and he offered 25 local black walnut seedlings that he was nursing in his backyard. On top of the offer of seedlings, he kindly drove me to my property and assisted me in planting the seedlings. His generosity was most appreciated and went far to alleviate my feelings of despair.

I'm looking for local sources of heartnut seeds or seedlings. All of my seedling stock to date (except for John's contributions) has come from Southern Ontario sources, and this may be part of the reason for my losses. Please email me at

Agroforestry - The First Decisions
Neil Thomas

There are two probable avenues of approach to fostering agroforestry:
a) the gradual inclusion of trees in a productive but perhaps not very profitable agricultural environment as a means to diversification, and
b) the planting of marginal and abandoned land, recreational farm properties, old hay fields, etc., where, unlike a), the trees will probably be the immediate focus of land management. I believe the first and subsequent decisions are quite different, depending on the avenue followed.

What is the first decision? If we accept that in both cases a commitment has been made to plant trees, then do we use expensive, grafted selections? If you are wanting a commercial orchard in the shortest time possible, then probably yes. In high productivity regions, such as the American mid-West, this may be right, i.e. the nut trees must be combined with other enterprises which will not prejudice survival and growth. I am worried about this approach for the Eastern Ontario region, where we are considerably colder than the Carolinian zone. I am also worried about the almost complete lack of working models where local experience can be compared to US experience.

If your farm falls within any of those categories I listed under avenue b), then I believe, unless you bring a serious level of commitment, and can withstand the financial risks of early tree loss, that you should plant F1 seed or seedlings of known selections, or locally collected seed which has some useful nut characteristics. Remember, there is not yet a local, established market for nuts and nut products grown locally. Work on establishment first. Also, a grafted selection will cost about $30; F1 seed, if you can find it, should cost less than $0.50 per viable nut. Granted, by the time this nut has germinated, been cared for, and planted out it will probably be worth a lot more, but should it die in the process, you will not have lost $30.

A farmer will continue to grow field crops on rotation until growing trees begin to crowd the fields. At that point, several years into the life of the trees, there will be more choices to be made. Our type-b landowner will be battling to control weeds, for which I suggest the use of Roundup, with a backpack sprayer. [Ed.note: a whippersnipper with guard between whip and tree is less toxic to us and to trees.] Once trees are established one can then think about the alternatives, though I think they are quite different from the type-a farmer.

At Lostwithiel Farm we are somewhere in between. We manage about 2000 black walnut on 20 of our 100 acres. Most of them were planted on established hay fields, which we have continued to hay up till this year. The remainder were planted at a wider spacing on a cropped field newly seeded down, where haying will continue. All trees come from nuts from our seed zone; maintaining complete stands has required replanting of about 25-30% overall, with continual variability in survival within fields depending on the micro conditions of the site.

What will we do on the fields which we have discontinued haying? On one of them, just control grass growth with a rotary mower until the trees start to depress growth (here, access with haying machinery is the problem); on the other we shall graze sheep. We think that the latter is a low-pressure option (in terms of the potential damage to the trees - cattle and machinery impose much greater threats). It will take a couple of years to get the system sorted out, but we are optimistic that we'll get ten years out of the sheep-walnut combination before grass growth is depressed to the point that it makes no further sense. Then it'll probably be squirrels-walnut. Oh well...

Ed. note: supporting Neil's choice of local seeds: the researcher who selected the "Purdue #1" cultivars estimated that they would perform 78% better in timber volume than unselected trees, when grown in the Purdue area on good soil. However, they are being sold for $30 per tree. With the conditions described in The Nuttery 21(1), you would need to get $13,000 at 70 years from them, as opposed to $1300 from local seedlings. So they would need to perform 10 times as well as unselected seedlings, not 1.78, to be worth their cost. And, many people distant from Purdue are finding that the Purdue trees do little better for them than local wild stock.

Walnut Council - Our First Meeting
Neil Thomas

About 10 years ago, when I was searching for alternative land use practices which could contribute to a future rural livelihood under general conditions of declining profitability in agriculture, I turned to planting black walnuts. This was as much a bet as anything else, because I am no prescient sage. However, I required a low-input, fence-and-feed free enterprise which I could view as providing retirement income. Black walnut seemed to me to be an ideal generator of both natural and economic capital, which would allow me to enjoy the annual nut crop while contributing to someone else's future fortune.

This year, after having recently joined the Walnut Council, we decided to hitch a newly-acquired tent trailer to the back of the car, and journey south to Maryland to attend the AGM. This promised an interesting program on the inclusion of walnut in a variety of environments and systems - we wanted to see how others had done it.

What did we find? A very enthusiastic assembly of individuals and couples, encompassing a very broad range of backgrounds and interests, all committed, one way or the other, to the establishment of hardwoods for the future benefit of landowners, industry and society-at-large. While not part of everyone's focus, the ecosystem services provided by hardwoods were a key component of the overall message which came out of the AGM.

As new members of the Council, what did my wife and I get out of the meeting? As there was not a single face that we knew beforehand, inevitably and gladly we made new acquaintances. These all openly shared their knowledge and experience, not only adding to our own, but also making us feel part of a broader population of walnut growers.

There were others present at, or even not yet at, the stage we believe ourselves to be - now the active managers of rapidly growing trees whose future productivity depends on intelligent decisions. Several of the talks and demonstrations from the older hands were very instructive, and even under the benign Maryland climate we saw trees and methods with which we could identify, even if, on occasion, we were frustrated to see five-year old trees taller than our own ten-year-olds ...

We view our membership of the Council, and attendance at the AGM, as the beginning of a long process of forming friendships, enhancing knowledge and experience, and, in relation to our own local goals, increasing the presence of hardwood in our rural landscape.

Other impressions? We were very surprised at the high level of subsidy provided to US landowners, given that we have established our plantations with practically no help at all. How sustainable will the stands we saw be over the long run? Will people look after them if eventually they are not paid to do so? (I am reminded of the article in Vol 29, No 2 of the Council Bulletin - Bob Chenowith's experience raises serious doubts in my mind as to the probability ever of a positive return on that $22,000 investment of public money.)

What else? There needs to be some way of characterizing demonstration plots with a simple visual and quantitative image so that when one visits five plots in a day one can leave understanding the relative difference between them in, perhaps, biological and economic output terms. By this I mean some sort of poster at each plot with key data on it, e.g. I'd like to know the rate of annual increase in DBH, relative to the trees' ages and height. Such numbers I could write down and then subsequently relate to the differences in sites, management and other factors which influence growth. If the density were known, this could be extended to a board-feet per acre per year index as a measure of the current performance of each stand.

We enjoyed our first AGM, and we hope to go to others as the opportunity permits.

The Ontario Farm Tax Rate
an additional note

Further information on how to go about getting the farm property tax rate can be found at the website of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. A one-time fee of $50 is charged, also an annual fee of $150. (This $150 is a tax in all but name, required to be paid by every person who grosses more than $7,000 in any one year from farm produce within Ontario. It goes to one of the three recognised farmers' unions in the province.) Since typical rural taxes (outside Ottawa) are in the range of $15 per acre, it's not worth it unless you have 20 acres or more.

However, if an already-registered farmer leases your entire property, you can get the farm tax rate even if the gross income from it is less than $7000. And, you don't have to pay the annual $150 - the farmer's $150 covers your land too. Gordon Wilkinson has done that - a local farmer rents his 36 acres for hay, and skirts his nut trees. Gordon only gets $10 per acre per year in rent - hay is a low value crop - but he also gets the reduced taxes. He also gets the approval of his neighbours because his acreage looks neat and tidy like other farms in the area.

Fair warning - it's a time-consuming process. It took over a year between the time Gordon first made his request and the time a review board finally agreed that he merited the lower tax rate.

The Kerrsdale Data Project
Hank Jones

The Kerrsdale Long Term Nut Stock Performance Data Series is the first scientific quality Data Series testing the performance of commercial nut tree stock in the Eastern Ontario region of Canada. The Series covers some 20 kinds of nut trees, tracking hundreds of individuals from seednut to seedling to first fruit, at a single site in North Stormont Township. To date, the Data Series has over 2500 individual observations, and it will be updated annually with each year's new data. This is the data you need to assure your own earliest nut culture success.

This is a pre-publication announcement. The Data Series, with full professional interpretation added, will published on CD-ROM by Cobjon Nutculture Services, under the direction of Dr. Roman Popadiouk. We will be also including in this current edition detailed analytical summaries, other useful performance interpretations, and the newest data on Year 2002 performance. This CD-ROM will get you off on the right foot in nut culture in the region.

To cover the initial publishing cost, we are pre-selling copies of the CD-ROM for $100 each (tax and shipping included), and are prepared to accept grants and donations as well. Once the fund reaches our target $5000 (our estimated project cost for initial data processing, compilation and interpretation), the production will begin, and the finished CD-ROM will be sent to customers soon after. After publication, the cost of the CD-ROM will be $125 per copy, plus tax, and shipping and handling.

To pre-order the CD-ROM, or to make a donation to this exciting project, call Hank Jones 613-231-4224, or pre-order online. Don't delay - Order today!

The Biggest Butternut

It's now official: a butternut tree on the grounds of the Royal Ottawa Golf Course is larger than any in the USA, in all three measures used by the Americans. It's almost certainly the largest in the world!

The trunk circumference is 6.84 m (269"); its height is 25.8 m (85'); its average crown spread 28.4 m (93').

The measurements were made by Hank Jones, Sergei Ponomarenko and John Sankey on 22 Sept 2002.

Turkish Hazels in Ottawa
Hank Jones

About 1988, the City of Ottawa planted six Turkish Hazel (Corylus colurna) trees at 169 Gilmour Street. They are now from 7 to 10 meters tall, and about 25 cm DBH. In the next property to the west three more were planted a few years later - they are about 5 cm caliper. The tree closest to the original trees next door had one nut cluster on it.

I collected 60 clusters - probably less than 10% of the crop. The bigger clusters averaged 90 g each, with about 8 nuts each; and the smaller ones 50 g with about 5 nuts each. The biggest cluster weighed 110 g. The smallest cluster had 3 nuts and the largest had 10 nuts. The total weight of the clusters was 1.425 kg, and yielded 144 nuts, for an average of 6 nuts per cluster.

My guess is that these trees' total production was probably between 500 to 1000 clusters, or maybe 3000 to 6000 nuts - well worth thinking of for commercial nut production.

Curiously, their involucre is quite different from the botanical descriptions for this species, although there appear to not be any named cultivars in the trade. Spray-painted, they make really neat Christmas tree decorations.

My thanks to Craig Huff, City Forester, for locating the planting information for us.

On Butternut Cake
John Sankey

My son Michael discovered a small grove of butternut trees near where he lives, and they had a good crop in 2002. So, I collected a potato sack full, to relive the memories of my mother who, with her father and siblings, used to make a butternut cake for her mother's birthdays (20 October) early this century.

The collection was easy once there - a red squirrel had cut half the crop of one tree down, and had even piled many of them up. Then I went through old Nutterys to find out how best to turn them into a cake.

First, they are supposed to be hulled. Our growers' manual suggests: 1. cut the hulls in four and split them off, 2. do a peasant dance on them to squash the hulls followed by a hose rinse, or 3. use a cement mixer. Not having either a partner to dance with or a cement mixer, I began with the cutting method.

I tried 1,2,3 and 4 cuts per nut, and found that a single 360 cut followed by a twist of the knife was fastest for me - 8 nuts hulled per minute. But I quickly found another problem - gloves!

You see, butternut hulls stain hands - yellow after one, brown after a dozen, and black after a hundred or so. And, butternut shells have such sharp points that they destroy liquid-tight gloves. Surgical latex gloves don't even survive the first nut - they are punctured immediately. I tried several other kinds, ending up with 'heavy duty' dish washing gloves ($4 a pair) - even they only lasted a dozen or so nuts before they were torn or punctured.

What did grandfather do? I don't know! All my mother remembered was that butternuts ended up on a stump being "smashed" by an axe. I rapidly found that if you try to smash butternuts hull on with the flat end of an axe, everything within at least 10 meters turns butternut yellow, fast! And, the nut meats end up inextricably mixed with shell and hull.

So, I gave up on gloves, hulled the first hundred nuts, then tried to clean my hands. I started with my old standby, Snap (volcanic pumice and soap). All excess goo was promptly removed, but no colour. I tried three kinds of modern painters' hand cleaners - they didn't remove a thing more than Snap. I tried peroxide, Clorox bleach, and Old Dutch Cleanser too. Not only that, but the hull points do an excellent imitation of a tattoo needle - it was over a month before the black dots and lines vanished from my thumbs.

So, if you wish to look civilized after hulling butternuts, locate a very committed dancing partner, or rent a cement mixer.

But then I had a second thought. By the time my mother was born, grandfather had had 30 years of experience with an axe - he supplied wood for heat and a wood stove all his life. Had he by any chance split the nuts, hull on, with the sharp edge of his axe?

Eureka! It works exactly as my mother described. Use the sharp edge of the axe, precisely in line with the length of the nut. As long as you hit within a millimeter or two of dead center, the hull breaks into a dozen pieces, and the shell into 3 or 4, leaving the nut meats exposed ready to be pried out by five industrious children. The colour contrast between white meat, brown shell and green hull is obvious. All you need is a clear area about 5 meters in diameter so the pieces can be found and sorted. And, freed of the necessity of separating hull from shell, gloves work fine (although my mother and her siblings didn't use any).

But, one nut per minute per person is about it for digging out the soft meats from fresh butternuts. Definitely a birthday special. And, I'll bet grandmother paid for that cake the next washday!

A Wonderful Tree
Mary Davis

I grew up in a little town in the Gatineau Hills called Ryanville. You may have never heard of it, but it was tucked in the hills near Mont Ste. Marie. I have many great memories of my youth, but one of them revolves around a butternut tree.

This majestic tree was set in the middle of the road. The tree had been there a lot longer than the road, so the dirt road was built around this great piece of nature. Today, it would be called a median in the city, but for us it was a symbol of how important trees were.

I remember watching this tree throughout the seasons and waiting for the nuts to be ready to pick. It was quite a battle to get the great tasting butternuts before all the squirrels got to take them for their enjoyment. If we, my siblings and I, were lucky enough we would get two bags of nuts for our stash at home so that we could enjoy all the great things Mom made with them. When we weren't quick enough, we got only one bag of nuts as the squirrels got the rest.

We would bring our bounty home where it would be stored for them to get nice and ripe which is when they were the sweetest. Usually the nuts from the previous year's pickings were used as they had ripened enough.

My Mom would make all sorts of goodies for us to enjoy, from cookies to puddings to fudge. The fudge was the best! I would intently watch my Mom getting all the ingredients to make a favourite fudge along with the pot to boil it on the wood stove. Then I would wait to see if she would get the butternuts to chop into fine pieces to add to the fudge. When she did that, I knew it was going to be a great batch of fudge and it wouldn't last long. The aroma of the candy would fill the house and I couldn't wait until it was ready to eat.

Watching my Mom make that confection and then enjoying the great taste of the nuts in the sweetness of fudge is a memory I will always treasure.

The recipe: Add finely chopped butternuts to your favourite fudge recipe. The added flavour will make a great batch of fudge that will not last long.

Ed.Note: Hank Jones confirms that, unlike black walnuts, butternuts do not need to be hulled before storage. The hulls just turn to dust and do not make the nut kernels go off in taste. And, they keep for years in the shell. Here is evidence that they may actually improve with a year's storage!

The Butternut Rescue Team
Hank Jones

As you all know, the butternut (Juglans cinerea) is being decimated by a disease called the butternut canker. Here are some ways you can help rescue it.

  1. Join the Butternut Rescue Team! Call Hank Jones at 231-4224 or email
  2. Support ECSONG and the Forest Gene Conservation Association (233-266 Charlotte St., Peterborough ON K9J 2V4; Spread the word about us and what we are doing to help rescue the butternut. Place our brochures wherever they might get the attention of folks who want to help.
  3. Tell us what you know about the value of butternuts and what they have meant to people in the past, especially personal anecdotes. Send your stories to the Nuttery editor.
  4. Tell your family, friends and neighbours about the butternut's difficulties, the need for rescue, and encourage them to join you in your efforts. Invite a butternut expert to speak to your group. (Call Hank for names.)
  5. Find butternut trees in your area or around the region, and report them and their state of health to the Nuttery for inclusion in our Inventree database and for forwarding to the FGCA. To learn what a butternut looks like, call Hank for a copy of his butternut kit.
  6. Clip butternut articles you find in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Make a scrapbook of them to show others. Send photocopies of them to the ECSONG Library (c/o the Nuttery editor).
  7. Talk to TV and radio reporters and interviewers about the butternut problem and the work being done to help rescue the species. Again, if you want the help of a butternut expert, call Hank.
  8. But, most of all, plant butternuts! Select seed from healthy trees with good crops, and plant them in well-drained deep loam in open conditions wherever there are no butternuts nearby. This will help to keep the population larger for the canker to act on and hopefully reveal more genetically resistant individuals.

Let's work together to rescue the butternut! Join the Butternut Rescue Team today!

Provided by ECSONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.