Fall is a very busy time as we prepare for our annual walnut harvest. We're also getting everything prepared to package and ship out these fresh, delicious beauties to all of our CORKY'S NUTS fans! The month of October is a plentiful one and, at times, a nerve-wracking one. There's always a little bit of stress looming during certain parts of the growing season. From here on out, it's all up to Mother Nature and timing.
Harvesting walnuts is a very noisy and dusty process. To paint a very simple picture for you, just imagine a very large vacuum sweeping and blowing a dirt driveway. We know a thing or two about being dirty, so the dust doesn't really bother us. Plus, we get to crack open a walnut whenever we get hungry.
Our harvest never happens on the same day each year. Sometimes we begin in early October and sometimes we begin later in the month. Once the first cold front settles into our valley, the husk (see above) peels away and the walnuts begin to drop off the trees. This green, outer layer protects the walnut during its growing cycle and begins to dry up. This is when we start to see the walnut shell emerge.
In preparation for our harvest, the soil in the orchard is planed to a flat surface so the walnuts, once off the trees, can easily be swept up (yes, that big vacuum). Where the stress comes in, is timing the harvest with Mother Nature. If we have a rain during this time, harvest is delayed until the ground dries out. Last year, we had an early rain which prevented us from harvesting a few of our trees. It's not a good day when your knocker gets stuck in the mud.
What is this knocker, you ask? Also known as a shaker, it's a driveable piece of machinery with a long hydraulic arm. The arm grabs the tree, shakes it firmly and "knocks" or "shakes" all the walnuts onto the ground. Next, a sweeper sweeps all the fallen walnuts on the ground into long windrows between the middle of the trees. Finally, the harvester picks up all the walnuts from the orchard floor (yes, that vacuum thing again), dumps them into the trailer, and transports them to our cracking facility just down the road where they are hulled and processed.
It's a glamorous job, isn't it? We like to think so. Just one of the many steps it takes for our nuts to get to you!
CORKY'S NUTS 2015 harvest.
UC Davis video of walnut harvest process (feel free to have a little dance party while the banjo plays).