Since fall doesn’t really get started here for another couple months, I decided to take Isobel acorn hunting as a way to learn about nature, get outside with the family, and add to our cache of thrifty autumn decorations. I want to make it a yearly tradition as it’s a fall-like thing we can do even if we’re wearing shorts and tank tops and contemplating
The Valley oak would be a natural native choice for acorn hunting, and provided a substantial part of the diet of the native people who lived in California long ago, but lacking access to those venerable trees we went to a stand of Cork oak that I happen to be familiar with. I grew up under these trees.
Years and years ago, these trees were a daily fixture in my life during elementary school. Not one for sports or anything more complicated than monkey bars, friends and I would wander under the polka-dotted shade of the canopy of these trees at recess, imagining we were our own world and collecting the ever-present acorns that littered the ground. Acorns would be collected into piles as if we could survive off them in the winter. One day we planned to pound them to mush and rinse them in changes of water to remove the toxin, like the Native Americans. We probably created a nice nest egg for the birds to find later.
As we walked with Isobel under these trees we pointed out partially eaten acorns and talked about the birds that ate them. We don’t really have squirrels in town, though I’ve seen one or two on occasion. Every now and then the wind would blow an a scattering of acorns would fall all around us, like plump raindrops.
We looked at fat acorns and skinny ones, we marveled that some had “hats” but some came bald, many were shades of green, and yellow, or a rich hearty brown.
We talked about the trees as we walked, too. Eventually the joy of acorns wore off and Isobel became extremely fascinated by a mud puddle.
By the time we were ready to go home Isobel had dumped all her acorns into the mud. Which was totally fine as I collected my own bunch and anyway, I wasn’t going to let her keep them. She might decide she’s a bird and start munching.
Sometimes making your own fun isn’t about what you get. It’s about the hunt.