Monday, 9 July 2012

The day of the contract harvesting

The Simca harvester unloaded

Tania and Kye counting out oil buckets

The harvester shaking a tree.  It only shakes for about 20 seconds, but you can feel the ground trembling under your feet.  It is a highly manoevrable vehicle, capable of spinning on the spot.

Not easy to see, but the hydraulic oil squirted out of the hose on the right

Full bins.  They take 350 kilos of fruit.  I was concerned by the amount of leaf, but Mick assured me that this was quite normal for mechanical harvesting.

Loading the bins onto the truck for the trip to Preston Valley Grove, where the fruit was pressed on Saturday 7th July.

Mick Ryan from 'Preston Valley Grove' came up with his equipment on Friday  6th July.  I had been worrying about this exercise for some time.  Not just the expense, but the Koroneiki are not an easy olive to mechanically harvest, as the fruit is small and difficult to detach.  And I also had no idea how much fruit I actually had.  I said to Mick that the bearing was a bit patchy, and maybe the 368 trees would average around 10 kilos of fruit each, so perhaps 3 tonnes in total?  And then at a 15% yield we would expect about 450 kilos of oil.  So we would need about 30 buckets (20 litre capacity) to be safe. In our 'Murphy's Grove' inimitable style, things did not run perfectly smoothly.  That which could go wrong did go wrong.  First Mick blew a tyre en route, which made him an hour late.  Then it rained buckets,16 ml in two hours, first wet day in about two weeks. (And I was standing in the rain indicating which tree to harvest next, a drowned rat in a not-very- Dryzabone). Then, after about 100 trees, the Simca Harvester blew (very loudly) a hydraulic hose.  Not only did the fruit in the catcher have to be thrown away because of contamination, but Mick, who always has spare hoses for every contingency, this time had left the relevant hose back at his grove.  He offered to come back the next day, but as we already had over two tonnes from only a third of the trees I thought it politic to call it quits. The oil has been returned to the grove in 26 buckets - over 460  kilos of oil at a 22.3% yield.  So my estimates were wildly inaccurate.  The bill is $1805.90, and that is probably discounted because of the glitches.  Is it more economical than manual harvesting? Not if you have lovely relatives doing it for free.  If you are paying $18 an hour to a picker, maybe it is.

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