In my post of a couple of days ago entitled It’s Fall And They’re Fallin’, I showed how an amateur (myself) goes about collecting fallen black walnuts from his lawn. Today I will introduce you to a friend of ours, Jasper, whom you may recall from a previous post entitled Bee Hunting In The Ozarks, is an experienced bee keeper, as well as the regions most skilled practitioner of the vanishing art of “coursing” bees.
I would say without hesitation that Jasper (Jay) is an old pro at gathering black walnuts. He is consistently this area’s top seller to Hammons Nut Products, who purchase black walnuts from local gatherers in 12-16 states each fall. Jasper begins his nut gathering each year just prior to the opening of the Hammons collection stations, which, this year, will occur tomorrow.
The first step in the gathering process for this seasoned harvester is to shake the lower limbs of the trees, so that the loose nuts that remain attached to these limbs will fall to the ground. The pole that Jay is using has a hook at the end, which Jay drapes over a limb and then tugs a few times. As you can see from the photograph above, Jay wears a hard-hat while performing this task. If you have even been hit in the head by a large, unhulled walnut that has fallen from the top of the tree, you will immediately understand the precaution that Jasper takes – it hurts!
The photograph above shows the effectiveness of shaking the limbs. Now, one only has to pick up the nuts and load them into the truck. On Jay’s next visit to pick up nuts, he will bring an extension for his pole, which will allow it to reach limbs 20 feet higher than the lower limbs of today’s harvest.
In last Friday’s post, you may remember this photograph, which shows me using an interesting tool designed to make the nut gathering process easier to accomplish. I love this tool. Two years ago, I showed it to Jasper and asked if he would like to try it out. “Sure would,” he replied. About an hour later, when I looked across a pasture to see how Jay was coming along, I noticed that he wasn’t using the tool I had lent him. When I inquired later as to why he had abandoned the tool, looked at me and replied “It just slows me down.”
And this is how Jasper prefers to gather the fallen walnuts – by hand, the old-fashioned way. But that is how the pros do it. Keep this photograph in mind as I take this opportunity to become a little bit analytical.
The record that the title of this post refers to is the personal annual total amount of nuts gathered by Jasper, which stands at over 17,000 pounds of hulled black walnuts, a record he achieved 2 years ago. Jasper thinks he may top that amount this year, based upon the trees he has examined to date. Now for some simple math. Recall from It’s Fall And They’re Fallin’, that we derived the average weight of a small sample of black walnuts that I gathered the other day: .0712 pounds/nut, or about 14 nuts per pound.
Jasper tells me, based upon his experiments, that a hulled walnut weighs about 60% less than it’s unhulled weight. I have not confirmed this, but taking him at his word, we can derive the following. To end up with 17,000 pounds of hulled walnuts, one has to start with 28,333 pounds of unhulled nuts (17,000#/.60). If we take my calculation of 14 unhulled nuts per pound as accurate, then Jasper would have had to pick up a total of 396,666 nuts to arrive at 17,000 pounds of hulled walnuts.
When Jasper achieved this personal record two years ago, Hammons was paying $10.00/cwt for hulled walnuts. So Jasper’s gross revenue from his efforts was $1700. Considering the fuel expense involved in multiple trips to the collection station (about 25 miles distant), as well as multiple trips to many area farms, the net revenue does not amount to all that much income – especially when one imagines the amount of labor involved in hand gathering nearly 400,000 nuts!
By the way, Jasper will celebrate his 83rd birthday in two weeks. Happy birthday, Jay, and we wish you many more to come!