It's an inspiring time - you could be making a colour chart of leaves, drying and lacquering fruit for wreaths, making spiced crabapple jellies or positioning decorative squashes... but I got down to a city centre park and scouted from one horse chestnut tree to the next (it made me appreciate the variety of trees in Southampton's Watts Park), filling pockets of a satchel with the shiniest and the roundest nuts.
|Vinegar Vs. Varnish|
The biggest part of preparation is how to treat the conker. Traditionally, schoolboys have done all sorts of things - boiling in vinegar, filling them with grit and scrap metal, varnishing, baking, storing for years... Here are my entirely unscientific test batches:
- Neat, raw, unadulterated, au naturel
- Soaked in vinegar for one hour; baked high for half an hour
- Baked in a low oven for several hours
- Boiled in vinegar and salt for one hour and dried in the oven
Oh, and I'm saving some for next year. The old ones are a bit fragile but I'm not too bothered about making the hardest of the hard - I just want some entertaining smashing-up. I'll know more next year.
As for the strings, I didn't go for the traditional bootlaces but I drilled holes and threaded string. When play begins, they might turn out to need more knots.
|Conkers in vinegar; conkers in ink.|
These drawings could form a pleasing pattern but now I'm heading out to see friends and smash nuts on strings - essential for Autumn!