September in the Nature Reserve
A silver Lamborghini turned up to do our almond pick! You'll remember that last year we finally, um, finalised the almond field addition to the nature reserve. It has over 200 trees so for our first year we decided to get in the batmobile...
We've seen these machines in operation before, but to have it come and do our very own trees last year was really exciting.
This year, after cancelling the yearly ploughing (part of the keep it wild project), we called batman and his mean machine again to do the pick. A little worried that there might be too much ground cover growth in the field to do a pick. But he was happy to go ahead and said it would be a few years before the growth would inhibit the tractor.
In our reckoning, given the extreme conditions here, maybe 5-8 years before it'll be too grown over to pick by tractor.
After unloading our crop we talked about his tractor, who knew Lamborghini did tractors?!! He's very proud of his lean mean tractor machine ;-)
As well as picking in one quick shake of the trunk it also de-husks the almonds saving us a huge job. All we had to do was spread them out in the sun to dry. That little pile looks much bigger spread out doesn't it?
Once dry (so the nuts rattle in their shells) we bagged them up, loaded into the back of our car - definitely NOT a Lamborghini - and took them to the factory to sell.
They go through a random check with a handful taken from multiple sacks. This determines how much volume of actual nut there is to shell. Based on this and the current price per kilo, our nuts are weighed and we get paid.
Last year was a good year. In effect batman - ! - was paid half the value of the crop, making it a win win.
This year was a bit of a shock, we had more kilos but the price per kilo was half that of last year - half!
Partly due to the heavy rains in Spring there's been a glut of nuts bringing the price right down.
A more worrying trend is the expanding industrial almond industry in this area. Using illegal bore holes depleting an already struggling aquifer, planting trees too close together to survive on their own and flooding the market with these unsustainably grown almonds - it's making it almost impossible for homesteaders, small holders, crofters and permaculture farms to make a living.
With the cost of the batmobile going up this year we actually came out with less than last year.
We'll be taking the sheep and donkey to the almond field to do a hand pick of the trees the tractor didn't get to. Because our trees are naturally watered by rain, the one's on the top of the hill don't produce enough to make it viable to pick with the batmobile.
Handpicking is a whole other process that involves bashing the trees with a stick, de-husking by hand (the donkey and sheep love the husks) and drying them on an old bedstead before storing or opening with a hammer!
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