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Working with Hands - James E. Price

  Backyard Walnut Grove  

I am a rural unplugged woodworker, having been raised in the Missouri Ozarks and grew up thinking that wood was free.


It still is for me and the only wood I buy is boxwood, rosewood, and ebony.

I was impressed by the gigantic walnut trees that someone had planted on our farm every 50 feet around 160 acres and in the cross fence lines. That was sometime in the 19th Century that the nuts were heeled into the ground.

From time to time an old walnut tree would die and we'd harvest it and take it to our family sawmill where it was sawn into lumber. My brother and I dug up one big stump to get the gnarly wood for gunstocks.

We planted a walnut for every tree we cut so the farm which is now much bigger has a bounty of walnut trees. Thirty-six years ago I decided to make my backyard into a walnut grove and moved walnut seedlings to that area. They have prospered and in another decade they can be harvested for cabinet wood. I already had some big walnut trees in my yard and trimming some large limbs have produced wood for some of the small tool cases I like to make.

I will not live long enough to use all the wood in the trees I planted but hopefully future woodworkers will be glad to get some fine walnut lumber for their shop. A note of caution to those who plant walnut trees on their property; they emit a toxin called juglene that kills other plants. So, keep them separate from your vegetable and flower gardens.

Fall is the time of the year when walnuts fall. I pile them around trees and by spring they will all be gone, eaten as squirrel snacks all winter. I shell some for a batch of divinity candy around Christmas time.

This is the mother tree from which I got the nuts for my walnut grove.
That crotch in the fork will have some beautifully figured wood.
It stands but 20 feet from my workbench.

These are big limbs I harvested one year ago. I will re-saw them
this winter for some nice box material.

This is a view of my walnut grove. I planted them rather close so they
grew tall and quickly shed their lower limbs.

Walnuts grow fast in my area. This tree was planted 36 years ago.

James E. Price
February, 2018





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