Friday, January 9, 2015

Deep freeze propels harvest

   When I woke up yesterday, the thermometer registered 6 degrees F (-14 C) and I knew we would get a full day in of harvest. With the ground frozen hard, we continued our second pass over the pecan grove (photo at right).
    All day yesterday, you could hear the hum of pecan harvesters working in area commercial groves. Because we have had such a wet harvest season this year, many pecan groves were being harvested for the very first time.

   One of the problems with harvesting pecans from frozen ground is that you also end up harvesting chunks of frozen soil along with the nuts. The photo at left shows a close-up of our second harvest nuts as they appear straight out of the harvester. You can see how many chunks of frozen soil were harvested along with nuts and small sticks. If you look closely you can even see ice crystals within the dirt clods.
    The harvested nuts need to be cleaned while still frozen so the clumps of soil can be cleaned out before they thaw and turn into mud. The photo at left was taken two hours after I brought a sample of our harvest inside. The soil clods have thawed and turned into piles of slimy goo that would quickly coat the nuts if run through our cleaning system.