This was an interesting year for gardening. (I’m purposefully avoiding the word “difficult,” because that would just be complaining, and when is anything worthwhile ever a cakewalk?)

The heavy rains from 2018 continued well into early summer. Not earth-loving, soft rains — or even medium rains, which would be just fine. But torrential, earth-eroding rains. And then abruptly, it all turned very hot and extremely dry. Leaf-shriveling dry. This continued through August and September. And then finally, this week, we got some rain and the temperature dropped. Nice, normal, chilly fall temperatures.

My approach is not to baby things too much, though — except for newly planted items, which generally need consistent moisture until established. There have been a few casualties, but it’s not looking too bad, so far.

And then there has been juggling the home improvement projects, which is another post.

We did make a lot of progress, though.

In typical fall fashion, all those black walnut trees are now dropping their nuts. Covered in their hulls, they’re very large! Bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a baseball. The hulls quickly disintegrate into black, slippery blobs. So if you want to gather them, you shouldn’t wait too long. There are several things you can do with them, once harvested: feed the wildlife, nosh on them (though there’s a process to follow, as noted in Spruce Eats or in this charming older story from NPR), or use them for dye.

Whatever conditions came into play this year, there are a lot of nuts. On the bright side, you get in some squats picking up walnuts, but it’s a slow task. After trying a few different things, I found that the flat end of a bow (garden) rake easily pulls them into piles. (At one point, in a moment of desperation and looking for some fun, I even tried using a golf club to hit them into the woods. Do not try this at home.) And from there, you can do whatever you’d like with them.