Thoughts on Maintaining a Home

Now that I have been maintaining an actual house for almost two months, I have one or two observations. Namely: this is hard!

Don’t get me wrong. I love having an actual house with a yard and everything. Having no one live above me or below me or sharing walls with me is a relief and a luxury that I am treasuring. However. Despite living in a home that is the size of a large apartment, keeping it in a regular state of cleanliness is a challenge for which five years in New York City could not and did not prepare me.

Keep in mind I have 0 children, 1 live-in boyfriend and one (VERY furry) dog. If I don’t Swiffer and vacuum at least once a week, all of my hardwood floors are littered with white poofballs of fur floating around. It might be poetic if my tolerance level weren’t so low, especially in light of the prevalence of and my addiction to watching the show Hoarders. Add on top of  all that a very loving and devoted significant other, but one who is a) a man and b) in law school and you get me keeping up with the housework much more than I ever had to before. (Despite the inherent fact that most men are much less impervious to filth, and mine is no exception, he did do laundry for me for over a year. It was one of the best years of my entire life.)

Come the weekends, we have to address whether we will be doing anything for the yards and surrounding grassy areas. There are weeds and other annoying things that grow without our consent. I do not mow the lawns. I do not mow, period. Thankfully my dude is more than capable and willing to take on this chore. But I had noticed that the exterior of the house was utterly filthy and took it upon myself to grab the hose with its somewhat power-washer spray nozzle and give the front porch, back deck and sides of the house a thorough water scrubdown. I don’t care if the Internet underlines that word in red, by the way. I’m using it as a singular word.

Now. I took a solid hour of using blasting cold water to remove I don’t know how many spiders and their webs, dirt, dust, grime, and flora debris from the porch, deck, steps and side of the house. However, I have two enemies that no amount of spraying will alleviate, as I discovered immediately after completing this outdoor chore.

In our backyard is an absolutely enormous walnut tree. If you’ve never seen a walnut in fruit form before, it looks like this:

It’s like a very small golden delicious apple, except nastier looking. As you can see, they rot easily and when they are opened, the fruit part turns into that black mess you see at the bottom there. Gross.

Having a walnut tree is only cool in writing. These things are everywhere. They fall on the roof of the house at all hours of the day and night, making a hard knocking noise that can scare the bejeezus out of you. (Probably just me, though.) They fall in the street and make a popping noise when you run over them with your car. To avoid walnut, squirrel and bird poop from raining down on the car, we don’t park it under the tree on the other side of the fence. Here’s what a small portion of the street looks like under the tree:

If you think it’s annoying to deal with more than one photo of walnuts, try dealing with this on your property 24/7. They not only never stop falling off the tree and make it difficult to walk a straight line in the yard, but the squirrels are mad for them. Enter Enemy #2.

Squirrels don’t bother me as far as rodents go. I even think they’re pretty cute most of the time. But as fast as the walnuts can fall off the tree, they are scooping them up and cracking them open on my front porch steps and back deck and leaving me with black crumbled debris to move aside with my foot – or power washer, like last weekend. Exhibit C:

In sum, it looks like I never clean my steps and porch because of this ugly mess. Every single day I move a ton of walnuts’ worth of nastiness off my steps, porch or deck, and as soon as I’m inside the house the squirrels think this is their cue to grab more walnuts and open them up, leaving them for me to clean up. (Remember one of the early episodes of American Dad where Roger the Alien says, “Someone will clean that up?” Yeah. That’s what these guys are doing to me.)

I have no clue if there is actually anything to do about this problem. And as far as problems go, it’s pretty low on the Must-Do-Something-About-This scale. But goddamn if it’s not annoying as hell. They’re making me look like I hoard walnut poop. Let’s face it, that’s what it looks like. I don’t want to be one of those people who eventually turns a blind eye to it and then starts bringing it into my home and piling it into every corner and I start calling it my Precious. Hmm. Sounds like I need to watch less Hoarders.

Luckily, it’s autumn and I know that the leaves and walnuts are supposed to be falling off the tree and that come winter, I will have less of this issue to deal with, especially if we get snow. Please God, let’s have lots of snow.

But I am keeping an eye on these little buggers.

My dog would love nothing more than to dine on squirrel any given day of the week. The photo below of Lucas is perfect because he looks so incredibly Wile E. Coyote. I can only hope that the similarity ends with his looks and that execution wise, his high prey drive will actually teach these little porch-ruiners a lesson.


  1. The squirrels never bothered me, but Lucas sure is interested. Let’s hope he nabs one soon! Also, you’re welcome for the laundry and lawn-mowing 🙂

  2. Understand your frustration completely, Zoe The only solution is that you shinny up the tree and pick the walnuts before they drop. Then you put them on a screen in your garage or basement to dry.

    When they are dry, the outer shells fall off and leave the whole nuts for you to use. Be sure to wear gloves though as otherwise your hands will turn black.

    Then let the inner nuts dry on the screen. They must ripen before the meat inside is good. Around Thanksgiving they are ready to use. You will need a sledge and a good strong iron block to proceed. Your next step will be to crack the nuts, placing each one on the iron block and trying to mash it with the sledge.

    The walnut shell is very hard and does not give way easily.
    When you finally open one, in order to get the luscious meat inside, you must dig it out in small fragments. The result is an incredible flavor for Christmas cookies or cakes.

    Of course by that time you have gotten your hands nicely browned with the stain. The gloves help some.

    I think after trying that for one autumn, you will find that you keep an eagle eye out and grab the walnuts as soon as they fall and are still a little green and dispose of them.

    That is an experience some people cherish. I remember going to the “timber” in the fall and gathering walnuts. My Uncle Ford would come from Chicago and pile we four children in the car and take us to gather nuts and wild grapes. The “timber” then was a tract of land next to the Middle Fork River, on what is now Route 136. It is East of Rantoul. This belonged to the state of Illinois and was
    open to the public.

    The memories of trudging through the leaves and finding
    hickory nuts, as well as walnuts remains vividly in my
    memory. There were wild grapes, too, and those made a wonderful tart jelly.

    Of course we ended up with stained clothes and hands but it was freedom that the children of today do not know.

    The land is still there, but any of the trees are gone,
    supplanted by nice clean ones which do not leave a mess
    on the ground.

    Hope I haven’t bored you with this tidbit of Illinois history.


  3. Frances, this was such a pleasure to read! I love hearing about these kinds of things because you’re right, people today don’t take their kids to get walnuts and things of that sort. While 98% of the time what I’m writing is going to contain satire or sarcasm, the walnut “problem” only peeves me insofar as the debris on my steps. I hold no inner hatred toward the squirrels. But I enjoy taking everyday occurrences and writing about them because isn’t that what life is all about? Thanks again for sharing! You should start your own blog. Recounting all of those memories from your lifetime would make for great reading.

    • I have done a lot of writing–a family history, several stories about my grandmothers for my grandchildren. I was thinking this morning when my son Mark mentioned that there is Mark Twain event today to publish his papers on the 100th anniversary of his death. He decided that everyone he wrote about would be dead by that time. I pondered on the fact that I have been living almost a hundred years and the tremendous amount of history that has been made in that time.

      From a telephone on the wall with a crank to ring the operator who was two blocks away from our house on a small switchboard because every one in the little town didn’t have a phone. They were a luxury at three dollars a month.

      We also had running water and a bathroom, electric lights, which was not the general condition of many of the houses in Rankin, Illinois.

      I will never forget the Christmas when I was six, my aunt sent us a string of lights for the tree. I don’t think any one else in town had them. If one bulb burnt out all of the lights went out. We were so excited.

      Going back to the walnuts, I forgot to mention that you should at least keep a couple of them and taste the wonderful flavor. They add a great deal to muffins or cake. One of the real treats is a cake made with apples and black walnuts. You would never have to chop the nuts for baking, as you have to dig them out of the shells and get only small pieces at a time.

      Love to read your blogs and am right with you on Mondo. His creations always impress me. You and Kevin need to stop by when you get time. We would love to see you.

  4. I love that this is tagged with “walnut poop.” Nothing like a little Anne Taintor to get ya started. That would piss me the EFF off. That’s when I’d get the chainsaw to chop the trees down. I could deal with everything else (I think?) except for them thumping onto the roof of the house – that would make me bat shit crazy! The whole car issue would piss me off, too. It’s bad enough dealing with bird poop and if you drive out of the city, bug splatter – but that stuff? I’d also be worried about the dog running after the squirrels all the time…seeing as how they can be rabid…or is that only here in NYC? I’m not country bumpkin, as you can tell. You must admit, however, that the amount of dust is SIGNIFICANTLY less where you are than in NYC. All I have to do is leave my window open the TINIEST bit for one day after cleaning, and it’s almost for naught. Forget about how long it takes to accumulate with or without the windows open. I have one word: housekeeper. Kevin…speed those three years up and start makin’ the bacon!

  5. Our house is like 100 years old. Between that, the spiderwebs and the dog hair, dust accumulates super fast. But you’re right, it’s not nearly like it is from NYC with “pollution dust.” The car doesn’t get super dirty from sitting outside, thankfully. And the walnuts aren’t constantly hitting the roof, but enough to make me jump every now and again. 98% of the time our house is nice and quiet! Hope you can visit soon 🙂

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