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Macadamia Nuts
7 August 2005

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We have nearly 250 macadamia nut trees on the property.  Even though macadamia trees don't need as much constant attention as the coffee trees, they still require plenty of work.  Most of the work is getting ready for the pickers.  When a macadamia nut is ripe, it falls to the ground.  The pickers simply come in and pick up all the nuts off the ground.  The problem is, they have to be able to see the ground first.

Mowing Our macadamia nut orchard had been ignored for nearly a year.  The trees are still relatively healthy but the weeds were getting out of control.  Here in Hawaii, if the weeds were truly out of control I would need a very large brush mower to work my way through them.  These weeds were just "getting" out of control which means my diesel mower, with some gentle coercion, could work its way through most of the weeds.  As you can see in the picture, it's no exaggeration to say the weeds can get taller than I am.  There are parts of the orchard that are too steep and rocky for the mower.  Those weeds were introduced to the weed whacker.

Once all the larger weeds are gone, then it's time for the blower.  Imagine a three layer cake.  The bottom layer is the rocky ground, followed by a thin layer of macadamia nut filling, followed by the top layer of protective leaf cover.  That top layer needs to be removed so the pickers can find the mac nuts.

Some day, I'd like a large PTO blower that I can tow behind my tractor.  Those things are like a hurricane-on-a-three-point-hitch.  But they're also like $3000.  For now, I have a backpack blower.  Three of them actually.  The first one is so old it's more rust than blower.  It may be salvageable some day, when I have the time.  The second is an excellent blower.  I started it up about a month ago to make sure it was still working.  It started on the second pull.  Then I got it out again two days ago.  I pulled and pulled but the darned thing wouldn't offer up even the slightest sign of life.  Starter fluid, carburetor cleaner, new spark plug, clean filters... nothing worked.  The pickers were scheduled to show up bright and early the following morning and I still had an un-blown orchard.

A trip to town and $300 later, I now own a third leaf blower.  Of course as soon as I started blowing the leaves, the rains came.  Leaves don't blow very well when they're sopping wet.  I had cleared enough trees that the pickers could at least get started.  I'd get up early the next morning and see if I could clear leaves faster than the pickers could pick.

Pickers Ground


Everyone knows that farmers are supposed to wake up at the crack of dawn.  City slicker farmers have been known to occasionally sleep in a tad bit longer.  But pickers sure don't.  I've heard stories of coffee pickers standing in the field before dawn, waiting for it to get light enough that they can tell the red cherries from the green cherries.  Mac nut pickers don't have to differentiate colors, they can start as early as they like.  Luckily, on the first morning, the pickers got lost so they didn't show up until 7.  That gave me enough time to get ready for them.

ATV It's amazing how quickly they can move while looking like they're just plodding along.  They had several dozen bags filled before lunch.  These aren't little bags either.  The pickers filled them but I had the privilege of hauling the bags out of the orchard.  I'd guess that each bag is somewhere between 80 and 100 pounds, depending on how wet the mac nuts are.  I may have filled my little ATV trailer slightly beyond its rated capacity.  I was on my way down the hill with a full load when the trailer came unhitched.  The trailer tongue dug into the ground and the momentum of the trailer bent it right in half.  Now I have three broken ATV trailers and zero working ones.  Anybody know a welder?

In two days, a crew of four pickers managed to pick nearly 10,000 pounds of macadamia nuts.  Unfortunately, we don't have the processing equipment required to husk, dry, shell, sort and roast macadamia nuts.  Instead, all these nuts will be sold to one of the large processors on the island.  They don't do custom runs so I can't get my macadamia nuts back from them.  I can however buy macadamia products from them at a special supplier rate.  That means that soon, hopefully in time for Christmas, we will be able to add macadamia nut products to our growing list of Hawaiian products.

Nut Bags




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