Mini-Post: Feeling Squirrely for Chestnuts

Last Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. The light was perfect, the trees were on fire, it was warm but not too warm, it had just enough crisp in the air to make you know that fall has arrived. In short, perfect. My favorite kind of day. I was happy too, because we had planned a small new-to-us adventure – chestnut foraging! I am calling it foraging although it was more like collecting at a chestnut farm, which I didn’t even realize was a thing. But foraging sounds better to me, so I am going with it.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the place was hopping! Getting chestnuts is serious business – people were leaving with pounds and pounds of them. These are the type of chestnuts you can eat – the type that grow in our neighborhoods, the Horse Chestnut are toxic and inedible. These are the sweet English variety, the kind you hear about in old Victorian stories, or even stories from your own father who grew up in the sixties and has memories of buying roasted chestnuts from a cart and enjoying them. We had sort of anticipated just grabbing a pound or two and then figuring something out after, we were going for the experience and to enjoy the day out together doing something new and outdoors. This figures importantly later, you will see why.

Despite it being busy, I was so happy to see everyone had a mask on, and was distanced. The only place that was crowded was the roasting area, where Farmer Mike was showing people how to roast their own chestnuts, and it seemed like the people crowded around it were usually family groups. We skipped that part anyway, but for the most part, everyone had masks on and was staying well over six feet apart. We sanitized a bucket and headed out to the stand of chestnut trees, and got to work.

We were scrambling around on the ground like squirrels, gathering nuts, going from tree to tree, to pile to pile, exclaiming over the shiny conkers. Lots of getting up and kneeling back down, crawling about, throwing the chestnuts into the bucket as we went. It was a workout for my thighs as well, which were a bit sore the next day… and Billy even had Wyatt strapped to his back in the backpack carrier, so he had a bit more of a workout even. They were a good team though.

Once we filled our bucket up halfway, we decided we had enough, considering we had no idea what we were going to do with them anyway. Roast them for sure. But then maybe cake, like Rowan’s on the Bake Off? Soup? We tossed ideas back and forth as we walked back to the front to pay. I decided to stand in line (which was outside so bonus) while Billy and Wyatt went back to the car.

I waited patiently and then overheard the cashier tell the person in front of me some alarming news – they only took cash or check, and the nearest ATM was miles away. Guess who didn’t have any cash or checks on them? Yep me. I sadly had to dump my bucket out under the trees, consoling myself as I went that some people were going to find the piles and be excited over the jackpots they were finding. I walked back to the car, slightly disappointed, and informed Billy and Wyatt that the good memories of our adventure were to be the only things going home with us.. good thing at least that was the objective. Although, some chestnuts would have been nice too. We decided to consider this a scouting mission, and that we would return next year having learned two things: the first, bring cash. Second, bring work gloves, those sea urchin like protective seed casings are prickly!!

So, we went home empty-handed but at least it had been a good time. And Michigan was at its best, all lit up for fall.