I spend winter evenings cracking walnuts while I watch movies. Then I seal the kernels in vacuum-packed pouches and store them in the freezer or give them away for holiday presents.
This is my cracking technique. Line up the nutcracker perpendicular to the slit in the shell. Grasp the free ends of the walnut firmly in your other fist (even tighter than shown in the photo) and gently apply pressure with the nutcracker just until you feel the slit widen and hear the first crack. Roll the walnut 180 degrees and reposition the nutcracker diagonally across the top and bottom of the shell. Slowly apply pressure again until you hear another crack. Usually by this point there are enough cracks in the shell that you can pull one hemisphere off and then firmly pluck the nutmeat out of the remaining cup of the shell. Either pull out the papery packing tissue between the kernel halves or use your fingers to split the nutmeat in half and flick off the packing tissue which should be brown and stiff if the walnut is ripe.
I challenge myself to crack the walnut shell so the kernel comes out whole. Then the nutmeat looks like a brain with its wrinkled double hemispheres. Indeed, in the 16th and 17th centuries, herbalists encouraged the eating of walnuts to boost one's intelligence and heal other ailments of the head and heart. Modern-day research has found that walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and have multiple health benefits (www.walnuts.org).
Other animals frequently harvesting both acorns and walnuts on the Dipper Ranch are deer, Stellar jays, scrub jays and ravens. If I sleep late on these brilliant autumn days, the Stellar jays get me up by rapping shells on the roof to peck a hole through to the nutmeat. On the other end of the day, the deer gather in the willow thicket below the barn at dusk, waiting for their chance at the walnut-strewn yard. Since the deer rutting season and acorn drop occur at the same season, careful driving is required this time of year as the deer recklessly cross roads at night to socialize under their favorite oak trees. The deer look ridiculous eating acorns. To eat these big nuts, they must open their mouths so wide, they lose all their daintiness.
Everywhere I go these days, I carry bagfuls of walnuts and give them away. The birds are carting off acorns overhead to family and hiding places. It's amazing these trees can produce so much food in their own little packages.
One final amazing fact about acorns - you can make a loud whistle with an acorn cap.