Pecan Grove ( Pecan Grove and Senior Residence

October 1, 2012

Pecan Harvest

Filed under: Pecan Farming,Pecan Grove — knewman @ 4:53 pm

This post describes the process we use for harvesting pecans.  Our pecan orchard is relatively young.  Pecan trees don’t produce many pecans until they are 10+ years old.  Our oldest trees are now about 14 years old, but many of our trees are younger and still too small to harvest.  Last year we had no harvest at all due to the drought.

We have 5 types of paper shell pecans, most named after Indian nations such as Pawnee, Cheyenne,  and Choctaw.  We have one variety with the name Desirable.  The Pawnee’s are harvested in early September.  The rest are harvested in early October.  This year the harvest is earlier than usual by a few weeks.

When the pecans are about ready, the crows start coming.  In 2009 we lost most of our crop to crows.  The solution to that problem is “poppers”, like the one shown below.  These devices run off of propane.  Every few minutes they fire with a sound that is similar to a shot gun.  We run 3 of these poppers in the pecan orchard during the day.  One night we forgot to turn them off, and the next day we had a lot of complaints from our neighbors!  The first challenge for the harvest is to find a crew willing to work!  The second picture below shows part of the crew headed out to the orchard.

We catch the pecans from the tree in tarps that are laid on both sides of the tree.  Below you can see the tarps being moved to a tree using 2 4 wheelers, then placed around a tree.  The tractor is driven onto the tarps, the shaker clamps onto the tree, and the tree is shook.

The following link is to a video shows a tree being shaken.  It’s amazing that neither the tree or the tractor is damaged!

Shaking tree

After several trees, the tarps are emptied into a trailer.  When the trailer has a good load it is taken to the cleaner.

For the first harvest we had gleaners who followed after, picking up dropped pecans.  We didn’t continue gleaning though… too much work for too few pecans.  It makes one glad for gleaners that don’t count the cost!

The cleaner lifts the pecans up and dumps them through some brushes that help remove the husk and then in front of a large fan.  The lighter things like leaves, branches and bad pecans are blown out.  What’s left comes out on a conveyor for people to sort out the bad from the good.  The good pecans go into bags at the end of the conveyor.

The following is a short video of the cleaner in operation.  For many of the pecans the husks have not yet come loose, so they are thrown out.  You’ll see the green ones being thrown out in the video.

Cleaner in action

The bags of pecans are taken into the air conditioned/dehumidified “pecan room” and dumped on drying tables.  After a few weeks of drying, the pecans are ready to be cleaned.  The first step in the cleaning process is the cracker, shown below.  It uses air hammers to crack the pecan shells.

The cracked pecans are dumped by the cracker into the separator which thrashes them inside a rotating drum to separate the shell from the meat.  Then an elevator raises them up and they are dropped through a blower.  Since the shell is lighter than the meat, most of the shell blows out into a trash can, and the meet falls to an elevator which raises them again drops them onto the hopper of a shaker table.  At this point the process becomes very manpower intensive.  You see 6 people below picking out shell and bad pecans as they vibrate past.

Finally, the pecans are run through a sizing vibration table which separates them into 4 sizes.  The first, very small pieces, we throw away because they tend to have little bits of shell.  The next 2 sizes we call “pieces” and what falls off the end we call “halves”.  We bag and freeze the pieces and halves.  The second picture below shows the pecans waiting to be cleaned, from the first day of the second harvest, which is currently in progress.  We now have more pecans than can fit on the drying tables… so the best harvest we’ve had to date.

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