Around about May the hazelnuts that have been growing in their little brown bonnets begin to ripen in our orchard.
It is then that my dad goes out with fabric bags, and a rolling-picker-upper-device, to pick up the hazelnuts that have fallen.
Then it is a fun week - where a lot of time is spent outside, schlooping around in the dead leaves, scampering between rows of trees, inspecting the skeins of wool left on the branches by the sheep, and chasing the small fantail birds who in turn like to chase our dogs. Fantails are very curious creatures, and quite friendly. They love to hang out in the orchard at any time of the year.
HOW TO PICK A RIPE HAZELNUT:
If the nut has fallen on the ground, this is a sure way to tell it is ripe. But just make sure that the nut easily squiggles around inside its little bonnet casing - for if it is stuck that means the hazelnut inside has gone bad. I learnt this little trick simply by trial and error. You may eat your hazelnut right then and there!
HOW TO ENTICE A FANTAIL:
One method is to take a glass jar or bottle, and a bit of styrofoam, and rub the two together to make the small squeaky chirpy noises that fantails make. My preferred method, however, is to stand very still with branches in your hands, outstretched like a tree. Eventually the fantail will land on one.