Readers: Ray Beck of Tooele sent us this letter in response to our column last week about walnuts. We're reprinting it almost in its entirety because it explains what works for him when it comes to harvesting walnuts.

Dear Do-It Man: My father, Joseph M. Beck, of Tooele, was a propagator in Utah of both soft-shell (English) walnuts and black walnuts. He has been dead for eight years but it was my privilege to work with him in harvesting and caring for the nuts. I have two Carpathian trees on my lot.

The major problem with raising soft-shell nuts in Utah was not even addressed by the expert from California. This problem, the husk fly, is the primary cause of nut discoloration. This insect lays its eggs on the walnuts in mid-July. The eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into the husk, where they feed until fall, when they turn to pupae. They turn the husk black and cause the husk to adhere to the nut and discolor it. This process does not seem to bother the nut meat but it degrades the shells aesthetically and makes the nuts unmarketable. It's been my experience that the cost of spraying to control the fly is more than the value of the crop. The pupas can be seen as the husks are removed from the nuts. The most economical control of the husk fly is to properly dispose of husks or nuts that are difficult to get the husks off of. It is best to burn them. I don't feel that one should be concerned about the nuts being ripe in Utah. There are many varieties of soft-shell walnuts. My dad had one that produced nuts that were nearly as big as hens' eggs, but the season is short in Utah and they didn't fill up. The Carpathian does fill up here in Utah.

My routine for harvesting is as follows: I wait until the first nuts fall naturally from the tree and I pick them up, remove the husks and put them on a wire frame to dry. Within a week to 10 days I shake the tree and get as many nuts as possible down and process them. A week later I repeat the operation.

How do I shake the tree? I have a piece of 3/4-inch pipe about 15 feet long. I have a hook on one end made from two 90-degree elbows and a 3-inch long nipple. I put this up in the tree over a branch with the hook 6 inches to a foot above the branch. I draw the hook sharply down against the branch.

You had better have a hard hat on because you will be in a shower of nuts. It's important to get the husks off as soon as possible after the nuts are picked up. The husks are easier to remove before they get dry, and they have a tendency to get moldy. The nuts that are black and have dried husks that won't come off easily can be salvaged. Soak them in water overnight. Pour the water off in the morning and by that evening they should be husked and set out to dry. Don't soak them more than eight hours.

My drying frame is a three-foot square made of 2-by-4s with 1/2-inch wire cloth on both sides. There are 2-by-4s on three side. The fourth side has a 1-by-2. There is a 2-by-4 in the middle, making two compartments. The wire cloth is held in place by 1-by-2s nailed on top of it into the 2-by-4s.

I use modified onion sacks (the 50-pound size) for winter storage. I cut the sacks lengthwise down the middle and then sew the cut edges together, re-establishing a drawstring in the top. This gives me two bags that are 5 inches in diameter when they are filled with nuts. I do this to limit the distance air has to travel to get to the nuts because they will continue to dry after they are put in storage. I hang the bags in my cellar and shell the nuts as I can during the winter. After shelling I put them in quart bottles, which I put in the deep-freeze.

I am in the process of shelling the last of the 1992 harvest. I have nine bags hanging in my cellar from the 1993 harvest.