Now, I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve never seen or heard of a farm with a barn full of Ferraris…”. That’s because a farmer’s exotic car collection does not consist of rare luxury, terrifyingly quick motored machines but of something that makes just as much of an impression with beautiful red, yellow, and green paint jobs, intriguing body designs, and loads of cool features. These beautiful motored machines are a farmer’s harvesting equipment, which consist of knockers, sweepers, tractors, forklifts, conditioner, harvester, huller, and dryers, among other things. Each of these machines have a different performance specialties. A knocker is a beautiful tan creature with high powered vibrating pincer like arms that grip a tree firmly to shake all of its walnuts. The knocker is designed to get as many walnuts out a tree as possible without damaging the nuts or the tree. The tires of a knocker are even surrounded by spinning brushes as to not smash any of the fallen nuts. A sweeper is a gorgeous red machine with giant brushes and air circulation systems that organize fallen walnuts into organized rows. Tractors come in various colors and designs that are sure to please. Tractors are used for many different tasks on the farm, whether it’s mowing the field, spraying the crop, or transporting nuts, the tractor is the swiss army knife of a farmer’s machinery collection. Forklifts are very foreign looking with two metal forks that stick out of the front of the machine. These forks can be raised and lowered to move heavy equipment around the farm and to guide walnut drying trailers that hold five tons of walnuts. A conditioner is a pretty yellow machine that removes sticks and leaves, among other things from organized rows of walnuts. The conditioner only leaves behind a perfectly neat row of walnuts after being guided down a row by a tractor. A harvester is comparable to a Ferrari, red, loud, leave-you-in-the-dust fun that is equally expensive. However, a harvester, unlike a Ferrari helps a farmer make their money by picking up walnuts after they have been organized into a row and dumping them into trailer that is later transported back to the barn to go through a cleaning and drying process. This cleaning process is the result of the huller. A huller is a giant, long, green machine that is full of moving parts. Its job is to remove husks from walnuts while separating the good and bad nuts from each other. These nuts are finally sorted and loaded into five ton trailers that are dried by a means of propane heated air dyers. These dyers are comparable to Batman’s Batmobile, equip with a large vent that literally shoots out blue flames that dry the nuts in 18-24 hours depending on the variety of walnut. Those are just some of the breathtaking motored machines that comprise a farmer’s exotic car collection. Check in next week for another post regarding Al’s Nuts!
The images below depict a Flory Harvester.
This week we’ll be talking about the life and death of a walnut tree. Walnut trees can be grown by simply planting a walnut in the ground. However, walnuts grown for commercial sale are planted as saplings to increase the life expectancy of a crop. Walnut saplings that are freshly transplanted into an orchard look very different than your typical adult or even adolescent walnut tree. This is because they look like a post and are painted a bright white color with sun guard to prevent sunburn and have no limbs or leaves. Once a sapling is transplanted into an orchard, a farmer must begin taking care of the baby tree by pruning it for suckers. Suckers are non-producing offshoots from a tree that steal a tree’s nutrients but don’t produce any product. A sapling must also be tied to a metal stake to insure that the tree grows correctly in a upright manner. Walnut trees must also be sprayed by products that protect the trees from diseases and insects. A walnut tree takes on average of 5-6 years to produce enough walnuts of the right size and quality requirements to be ready to be harvested. Once a tree is mature enough for harvest and strong enough to withstand a knocker (a machine that has pincer like arms that shakes a tree strongly enough to allow walnuts to drop to the ground without damaging the tree), a crop may be collected. Trees of younger ages produce less nuts than trees that are in the middle of their lifespan. Most of the time, the end of a walnut tree’s prime is around 25 years, although some trees continue to produce longer than others while other trees may stop producing nuts earlier in their life. With today’s research in agriculture, walnuts tend to be relatively consistent with their lifespans compared to past production cycles. Once a tree dies or is dying, a farmer goes through the process of marking trees. Marking trees is a process that involves a farmer spray painting a ring around the trunk of a tree denoting that the said tree needs to be pulled out. This process usually occurs in May and again in August to ensure that only healthy trees are part of the harvest season, which depending on variety begins in early to mid September. Once a tree has been marked and pulled out by means of being cut down and having the stump dug out by a backhoe, the stumps can either be sold for the quality of the wood or ground up with the rest of the tree in another process. That is the life and death of a walnut tree. Stay tuned for next weeks blog post for the latest information regarding Al’s Nuts!
I’ve lived on a walnut ranch my whole life. Life on a ranch is different than you might think. My family and I don’t sit around all day listening to country music, chewing on straw, watching the crop grow. We are very actively involved each and every day of the year to get ready for harvest, which yes, does give a person quite the farmer’s tan from all of the sun exposure. Harvest takes place from about mid-September to mid-October. Depending on the variety of walnut, a crop may be ready for harvest sooner or later than other varieties. On our ranch we grow five varieties of walnuts; Hartleys, Paynes, Serrs, Franquettes, and Chandlers. Attached below is an image of several varieties of walnut for clarification. Different walnut varieties vary in size, color, and taste of meat. The meat of a walnut is the part of the walnut that is edible within the shell. Walnuts are a highly popular nut, being one of the highest produced/sold agriculture commodities in California. The largest buyer of walnuts in the world is China with roughly 100 million pounds of walnuts imported each year. There is a lot of preparation that goes into harvest, a farmer must irrigate to water trees, spray for bugs and diseases, prune unhealthy or dead branches and remove unhealthy or dead trees, among other things. Believe it or not, walnut trees can suffer from the tree equivalents of cancer, sun burns, and sexually transmitted diseases. The walnut tree equivalent of cancer is called canker, just like cancer in humans the severity and intensity of canker can vary. A tree with canker might live for 15 years or die in six months, it depends on the strain of canker a tree develops. Walnut trees can also get sunburned and actually need an application of the tree equivalent of sunscreen; this is the white paint looking stuff you might have seen on a walnut tree’s trunk. Walnut trees can also contract the tree equivalent of sexually transmitted diseases called crown gall. Trees usually become infected by means of pruning sheers that haven’t been sterilized between the pruning of a tree that has crown gall and the pruning of a healthy tree. As you can see, the life of a farmer is much more complex than one may think and this is barely the surface. Welcome to my blog, stay tuned for more info pertaining to Al’s Nuts.