There is a black walnut tree in our backyard which is one of several in our immediate neighborhood. Every summer these trees produces hundreds of green walnuts (they smell green too) that are somewhere between a golfball and a tennis ball in size.

As soon as they reach the ground they quickly turn black and the outer shell starts rotting, a process that leaves behind a trail of black goo that will stain almost anything it touches (clothing, wood, concrete, etc). To prevent this, many of us in the neighborhood try to pick them up as soon as they fall. We decided that this would be a great opportunity to introduce the idea of chores to Everett. The walnuts in particular are a good place to start because:

  1. It’s outside, which is where he wants to be most of the time.
  2. It involves animals, which he enjoys tremendously. We explained to him that after we collect the walnuts we will keep them in a pile in the backyard, so we can almost certainly expect a lot of traffic from squirrels and chipmunks through next winter.
  3. Everett is closer to the ground than we are.

We are a couple weeks into this and so far it’s going ok. He certainly doesn’t do his chore without prompting (do any children?), and he wants us to do it with him, but he will do it. One of the men I bicycle with is a family practice physician with four children, and he explained to me that I can’t expect much in the way of help until they reach age 8. So we’ll see what the ratio is of us helping Everett to him helping us. I do note that he is often eager to help me when I work on projects, for example he has his own lawn mower and follows behind me in the yard when I mow the grass.

He is especially interested in helping when tools are involved. If I am stationary and focused on a task then before I know it he will be between my arms, holding the tools and insisting that he can do it. Recently I was using a drill and explained to him that it was dangerous and he couldn’t touch it or get near it, to which he replied “Ok, I will climb on you!”

Interesting note: last year none of these trees produced walnuts. When I asked a neighbor about this I was told that every few years they take a year off and don’t produce. This is interesting in itself, but even more so is the fact that all of the trees seem to be synchronized.

Another note: there are a lot of robins in our neighborhood. Two nests in the front yard (one in the same place as last year), and one in the walnut tree in back. The nests in the front yard each lost an egg (that we know of), the result of which was that one nest was abandoned. The backyard nest seems to be faring better, with two chicks being cared for at the moment.

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