[font=georgia]Well shelling them has never been an easy process, usually use a rock slab that has a depression worn into it so I can set the walnut on/in and then use another bit of rock as the hammer. One thing that helps is to make sure they are cold/frozen when you are cracking them. Have also used a bit of pipe, a small sledge and a concrete slab to do it as well. A friend of mine just told me today that he actually bought a walnut cracker a long way back. It mounts to the wall/table and he said it works beautifully. I may take a journey his way next week to explore it a bit.
Have you tried making ink with them? I keep several small pouches of the powder around with a bit of quill in my pack/pockets. Mix it with a few drops of water and you have a great writing medium no matter where you are - great for taking notes or leaving sign.
As far as the propagation goes, I am hoping for a decent success. My range has a lot of hickory and oak, so plenty of mast. Hoping that the black walnut will find a niche there as well. I have been working on bringing some more diversity to the land as best I can since we moved here. Been working with paw-paws and have a few stands of them which are growing well now, but still only two years old. I will be adding more of them soon. I am also planning on working with persimmons this year.
As far as the deer and rabbits - yes they definitely enjoy a fresh sapling [groundhogs too!]. Have lost most of my paw-paws that way. First year I simply tied a small bit of colored yarn on them and lost many to the furred folk. What I started doing was covering them with a loosely woven basket, since I didn't want to pollute the land with hardwire or chicken wire cages. Seems to work pretty well.[/font]