Monday, November 23, 2009

Estate Walnuts

--The very first yellow-bellied racer I rescued from the Dipper spring box. ---

The English walnut trees at the Dipper Ranch are productive every year. The walnut bounty is enjoyed by family, friends , neighbors, co-workers, volunteers, jays, deer, rodents, even delivery guys and coyotes. But not by snakes. Nevertheless, somehow I started making labels for the walnuts that feature a Dipper snake of the year.

Estate bottled wines are defined as those for which 100% of the grapes are grown on land owned or controlled by the winery within the same viticultural region, and the winery must crush and ferment the grapes, and finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process on their premises. Since all the Dipper walnuts are from within 100 feet of my kitchen door, they dehusk themselves on the ground under the trees, I dry them between old window screens under the maple trees or in the garage, and I shell them while watching DVDs in my living room, I hereby declare these are Estate Walnuts.

I don't expect to ever run out of walnuts, snake photos or snake stories on the Dipper Ranch, so there will probably be many interesting Estate Walnut snake labels. One day, they will surely become collectibles.

Today while I was sprawled on the forest floor photographing a huge oak, someone who doesn't know me very well tried to scare me about snakes. I told him "It's too cold for snakes. They are all hibernating." An hour later, we were walking through a sunny meadow and sure enough, there was a gopher snake peering up at me. I moved it out of the way of the ATV. As the last of its tail slithered into the dry grass, I smiled to be humbled by lowly snakes once again.

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