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Monday, January 4, 2016



     Did you know that Somers is the Acorn Capitol of the World? Well if you looked outside your house, you probably did. Apparently, this is a bumper crop year for the pesky oak nuts. They're all over the place- the lawn, the patio, the driveway. I was using the leaf blower a week ago, and it's like I was armed with nature's Uzi. Neighbors were diving for cover as the little projectiles fired in all directions. I keep running over them with the car, which results in acorn squash. And don't tell me that the acorn never falls far from the tree, because that is an old chestnut. They still figure out a way to roll into my garage.

     Experts have acknowledged that this is a "mast year," meaning that there were as many as five to ten times as many acorns produced as usual. As for why there were so many this year, those same experts have said, if I may paraphrase, "Beats the hell out of me." People sometimes attribute the increase to weather conditions or global warming. But the oak produces fruit on a two-year cycle, so that 2014's weather means this year's completely nuts. Plus the weather could be vastly different over a large geographic area, and yet you still have gluts of nuts.

     Another theory has nature providing some sort of chemical signal that causes oaks to produce more acorns. I wonder what the reason for this might be? There were about fifty thousand acorns on my lawn this year. Does nature think I need fifty thousand oak trees? Nature seems really out of touch with my needs. Has there ever been a mast year for anything useful, like Baby Ruth bars?

     It's probably like the human reproductive cycle, where it takes a two hundred million sperm to fertilize one egg. About a hundred million of them split off to follow the loud, annoying, brash-talking sperm with what looks like fake hair and an angry-looking pouty-face, and head off immediately in the direction of North Dakota. Another 50 million or so use GPS directions and end up somewhere near the duodenum, wherever that is. Most of the rest are completely unmotivated, and hang around playing video games and streaming on Netflix. That leaves one sperm that arrives pretty much by luck.

     But this is exactly the type of anomaly that throws off the whole food chain. An unusually large acorn production will eventually mean more deer, which eat the acorns. This in turn will mean an increase in the deer's natural predator, the front fender of my car. Do I really need a car with more front fenders?

     If you want to cut the line and get into the food chain yourself, I found a recipe for acorn pancakes. First, you have to remove the bitter tannins from the acorns using a process called leaching. Then you have to remove the leeches from the acorns, since I misread the instructions. Then you grind up the acorns, make a flour out of them, and stir them into the pancake batter. If you use syrup made from maple trees, you never have to leave the forest, at least until it's time for Judge Judy.

     I was just foraging some more acorns from the driveway, and I looked up and there was a squirrel, obviously overweight, and I don't mean to body-shame squirrels or anything, and the look in his eyes said, "Seriously? Acorns? When we're in a mast year for lasagna?"

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