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Category: Orchard

Beauty from Pecan Ashes

Sometimes failure hits you when you least expect it. When it does I believe it’s important to seek to find beauty in the ashes. That was the case for us a few weeks ago as we sought to find beauty from the pecan ashes. I wish that was a symbolic term, but unfortunately it’s not. If there is one thing that can crush the spirit of a pecan farmer it would be to hear of involuntary pecan ashes falling in the orchard.

Pecan Orchard Spring Cleaning

Burning Pecan Trees
Pecans Trees being cleaned up in the late Winter here in Texas

Spring is always a busy time around a pecan orchard.  By now, we have marketed a large portion of our pecan crop and have been busy in our shop repairing harvest equipment.  The pecans that have been retained for the summer months are being processed and will be in cold storage as soon as completed. January and February were busy months cleaning up the pecan orchards.  There were many stick piles from the pecan harvest and they all have to be pushed up and burned.  This is no small undertaking and is often overlooked by some maintenance teams. Pecan scab can and does overwinter in the fallen pecan leaves, so destroying as many as possible is a management tool. Not only will the pecan orchard look better

Pecan Conservationist Thoughts

It just hit me the other day that I am a part of a pecan conservationist family. It all started when we were gathering up wood to build a fire. We had invited some friends over for dinner and I was determined that we would also spend some of our time around a campfire. My husband LOVES when I come up with ideas like this! 😉

Picking Pecans on our Family Outing

The pecan trees are losing their leaves and the hulls are opening up which means it’s time to start picking pecans! What better time to start than today? This time of year we make frequent trips down to the orchards to see if the pecans are ready. Today just happened to include one of those trips. My guess is that Winston already knew that the pecans were ready because unbeknownst to me he brought a collection of buckets with us. He made it sound like he needed us to go check the trees with him, but in actuality I think he just really needed a few extra hands.

A Walk Through the Pecan Farm

I find that many times we are so wrapped up in the overwhelming job of making our pecan farm operate that we forget what made us fall in love with this way of life in the first place. In order to be a farmer or a farmer’s wife you have to really love doing it. I mean that’s one of the things I first noticed about my husband long ago. He loved farming and he really loved life in the country. And you know what…he still does.

No Perfect People Allowed

I remember when I was a kid it was quite the rage to start clubs and invite your closest friends to join with you. I was a member of The Girls Club in which we would yell “no boys allowed” at the top of our lungs when some little boy would innocently cross our path. Poor thing! I’ve even heard my daughter get into the spirit of clubs with her friends.

Mother Pecan Tree

Found this great article of Famous Trees of Texas! Click here for the original article.

Historical period:  Frontier Texas (1865 – 1899)
Historical topics:  Pecan-Our State Tree, Saved From The Axe
Species:  Pecan (Carya illionoiensis)
County:  San Saba
Public access?:  No access permitted
Tree Tour:  Coming Soon
This tree is the source of more important varieties than any other pecan tree in the world. From it have come such well-known varieties as Liberty Bond, Jersey, No. 60, San Saba Improved, Texas Prolific, and the internationally famous Western Schley (pronounced sh-ly’).

The San Saba Mother Pecan was discovered by an Englishman named E. E. Risien, a cabinet-maker by trade, who became fascinated with pecans. Risien staged the first pecan show in San Saba County to find the best pecan specimen. After the judging, he asked the winning exhibitor to show him the tree from which his pecans came. Risien was horrified when he saw it, for all the limbs had been sawed off except one. The man said that he had used that limb to stand on while he cut the others off to get the nuts!

Risien eventually bought the tree and the land on which it stood. Slowly the tree grew a new crown and once again began producing crops of the prize nuts.

Thinking he could reproduce the fruit by seedlings, he planted the first commercial pecan nursery in San Saba County. In that 40-acre nursery, none of the more than 1,000 pecan nuts planted produced trees of like fruit.

Artificial pollination of the “mother tree” continued for years as he tried to develop new varieties. He would ride horseback for miles seeking suitable “father trees,” gather the pollen-laden male blossoms in his saddle-bags, and bring them back to pollinate the “mother tree.” It generally took about 10 years to know whether he had a new and better variety.

In addition to his pollination experiments, Risien also experimented with budding and grafting pecans when few people knew it could be done.

Records of the first meeting of the Texas State Horticultural Society, held in Brenham in 1886, indicate that Risien won the honor of showing the best plate of pecans. For years after, his pecans were always top winners.

Shaking Trees!

What’s Shaking?

Pecan Harvest is always an exciting time around our pecan farm. Months of preparation have been spent irrigating and spraying the pecan orchard. So the next 3 months will be busy circling trees and chasing the nuts which God has provided.  Millican Pecan has the latest harvest equipment from Savage Pecan Equipment and other pecan equipment leaders in the industry.

How the Pecan Shaker Works

This begins with the shaking of the Texas pecan trees.  Trees generally have straight trunks in which the pecan shaker grabs hold of with 2 rubber pads.  Then, the Savage shaker uses tractor hydraulics to clamp the shaker arm to the tree and locks it into position. After this, the The power take off (PTO) engages from the tractor seat to unleash a man-made earthquake upon the tree and the ground surrounding the area.

Because the PTO is engaging two offset weight, this force showers the ground with the pecan nuts, limbs and pecan leaves.  This all happens in a matter of seconds.  The tractor and the operator is protected from this barrage of pecan orchard materials by a metal roof covering the machine.  the operator will keep the tractor’s power take off engaged for approximately 30 -60 seconds.  Early in the season, longer time is needed to removed the leaves and the pecans.  Once the pecans have dried and the leaves have fallen, the pecans nuts fall out of the trees very easily.

The tractor operator then reverses the process and moves to the next tree in the row and starts again.  After the pecans have fallen, we have other machines that rake the sticks and limbs out of the way of the pecan harvesters.  This use to be done by hand and was my job growing up.  Thank goodness for technology and pecan equipment from me still having to do that job!

 

Pecan Equipment Repairs

I’ve talked in past blogs about working on pecan equipment, but have not given many details as to what we do.  During the harvest season, we operate at “full steam ahead”!  While most repairs can be fixed on a daily basis early each morning, other repairs typically take more time.

Pecan equipment shaking a pecan tree
Pecan equipment shaking a pecan tree

Early in the season, our Savage Pecan Shakers get either shaker pad lube or a shot of grease in the shaker pads to keep them lubricated. This helps minimize the damage caused by the shaker slipping off the tree. If you have shaken enough trees, it is going to happen sooner or later. We also grease the clamp arm. Our pecan harvesters get greased every morning and we make sure all the bearings, belts and chains are tight. I always find it amazing how many pecan equipment issues can be solved with just a few minutes every morning.

End of Season Repairs

At the end of the pecan season, after all the pecans are harvested, the pecan equipment gets a high pressure, hot water bath to remove all dirt and grease. Then it pulls through our shop. We have a well equipped shop to handle most repair tasks. On the pecan harvester, broken or missing “fingers” (pieces of rubber used to collect the pecans off the ground) are replaced. This is a process that takes some time, but worth every minute during the season.

The sprockets and idlers are checked on each piece of equipment for broken teeth and general wear. If one is bad, we usually replace the chain as well. PTO yokes and U joints are also tested to make sure they are tight. While inspecting all these areas, the welder Mig welds all hairline cracks in the machines. We also prime all bare metal to keep it from rusting. If no major parts have to be replaced a harvester is usually rebuilt in a few days. From there, the pecan harvesters and other pecan equipment are stored in the barn until the next harvest season. This is also the time of year when new equipment is purchased and any idle pecan equipment is sold.

Season Preparation

In the cleaning facility and the shelling plant, work is also done to make the flow of pecans more efficient. Conveyors and machines are added, rearranged, and modified to make the plants work at full capacity. Hopper and chutes have to be adjusted and rebuilt when machines are moved. This is always a time-consuming task to make sure the pieces fit together. Mainly due to the limited space in our shop. In the last count we took the raw processing plant had a total of 27 electric motors. These all carefully work together to process and clean the pecan crop each year.

A couple of  months of maintenance on our pecan equipment in the off-season pays big dividends during pecan harvest. These few months of maintenance means that we have less pressure during season time. And less pressure is a direct result of relief from constant breakdowns. In turn, we are able to get the crop harvested and sold which keeps everyone happy!