December 07, 2011

Pickin' Nuts and Christmas

"There's not enough room in the pickup to put all of these pecans!!" says Dad.  Dad, the bags can be stacked on top of each other - we can indeed fit them all in.  Oh, he says.  "But they're wet!  They need to dry some!"  Yep, but Dad, they're in "onion" sacks - lots of air flow.  They'll be fine.  Oh, OK, he says.

Dad was worried because Saturday was another official harvesting day.  We'd got another 400-500 lbs. off of 8 trees.  Sunday was processing (cracking, shelling, picking) because of rain.  Again.  (Second Sunday in a row, dang it.) 

As usual, I woke up Sunday so stiff & sore I could hardly move, but it's getting better.  Or it was - now it's going to get worse because we have something like 900 lbs. of pecans to get ready for market.

See, I'm the official "picker".  (Jeff and Dad help, too, but I'm the one who is spending hours at it.)  That means I scoop a few handsful of shelled nuts onto a tray in my lap.  I then carefully examine every single one to make sure it's perfect (or close to perfect).  Pecans get something called "black spot" - which leaves, well, a black spot on the nuts.  It doesn't hurt them or change the flavor or hurt people who eat them, but they're ugly.  They scare people, so we make sure there aren't any in the bags for sale.

If possible, I break off the part with the black spot and put the resulting good pieces in one pile.  The perfect nuts go into a baggie.  The bad nuts (the ones with too many black spots, or the ones that are just plain old ugly) and any shell pieces go into a bucket to be disposed of.  When I have a pound of perfect nuts, the baggie gets zipped up and tossed into a box.  When I have a pound of bits & pieces, ditto.

As you can guess, this takes hours and hours to do.  The whole time I'm sitting on my butt, listening to the TV (I'm getting rather fond of Judge Judy).  Or music.  No exercise - and that's a whole 'nother kind of stiff & sore!

Anyway, the decision to actually seal the newly-picked bags of nuts wasn't made quickly or easily.  Dad had been reading again.  He was very concerned about the moisture content of the nuts.  Although we had hashed out what was an appropriate content for selling at market versus freezing them later, the topic had to be revisited.  Dad had had a revelation.

See, the higher the moisture content the more the nut weighs so it takes fewer nuts to make up a pound.  (Did you follow that??)  That's a good thing.  So yesterday Dad had to come over and check the moisture content of the nuts we sealed up 10 days ago.  Yep, they're losing moisture even though they're in sealed baggies.  That's a mystery - the bags still weigh a pound, and there's no visible moisture in the bags...

THEN, he made me count how many nuts were in the "old" pound, versus how many nuts are in the pounds I'd just been processing - the ones we harvested last weekend.

Amazingly (not), there was very little difference because the nuts were only about 1% different in moisture content.  

Meanwhile, I'm not picking pecans.  I'm jawin' with Dad.  No work is getting done except that Doug was processing the shelled ones, bringing me buckets to pick through.

Grrrr.  Can you see the steam coming out of my ears yet?

Dad finally took his hygrometer (the thing that measures moisture content) and went to go run the cracker.

But not until after we'd had another conversation about selling.  See, after we found out that Memphis has a huge flea market the third weekend of every month, and the third weekend in December is the one before Christmas, and we have all these nuts, we decided to try to get a booth down there.  I called last Friday and the lady told me to call back Monday 'cuz the vendors get to reserve a spot for the next weekend if they want.  (The flea market bounces back & forth between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis.)

I forgot to call her Monday.  Oops.  I called her yesterday and hooray!  She had a couple of spots left so we got one.  

Oh, not-hooray!.  That means we've got to take ALL of the nuts we've harvested, 'cuz it's a two-day flea market and hopefully we'll be able to sell everything we've got.

Guess who's now sitting on her butt all day every day?  I picked for 10 hours straight yesterday.  And I'll be doing that every day until all the nuts are done.  Hopefully before the flea market.

I'm cross-eyed.  By the end of this harvest I won't want to see a naked pecan ever again.  

And the worst part is, there's no time to decorate the house & yard for Christmas.  Yep, I'm one of THOSE people - can't have enough Christmas decorations.  We were going to put the bucket truck (not the bucket tractor) in the front yard, stick a plastic Santa in the bucket and raise it high.  During the day people would see the Santa; at night the scene would be transformed into a giant Christmas tree with a star by running strings of lights from the bucket to the ground.

Maybe next year.  Oh, and of course today it snowed.  It's so cold I had to put my mini horse in the barn (he ain't happy).  But it sure is pretty...

And yep, these are our bikes.  THEY look prettier without snow!