Walnuts — You’re going down!

Walnuts are one of the major crops in the Greater Daglan Area, and a tasty treat they are. If you’ve been wondering how this year’s walnut harvest has been going, don’t fret. It’s going very well, and very quickly to boot.

On Thursday, for example, I went out for a bike ride in the afternoon and came across all sorts of walnut-harvesting activity; unfortunately, because I had neglected to carry my trusty camera, I couldn’t provide you with any photos.

The next day I tried to make up for my error by heading out on my bike with my camera strapped to my wrist; naturally, I couldn’t find any sign of walnut harvesting anywhere between Daglan and St. Cybranet. However, I did pass through quite a few walnut groves, and came upon a few individuals picking up the nuts by hand. For starters, here’s a view of a typical grove, just outside Daglan:

Walnut trees in a grove just outside Daglan.

Walnut trees in a grove just outside Daglan.

In this next photo, you may be able to spot the individual who’s searching for walnuts — he’s in the centre of the picture, wearing an orange cap.

Look for the man with the orange cap, in the centre of the photo.

Look for the man with the orange cap, in the centre of the photo.

Yesterday, our harvest-spotting luck improved dramatically. I was driving with my wife Jan up towards St. Laurent-la-Vallée (on our way to get a pumpkin for our Halloween jack-o-lantern) when we came across a team of two men, harvesting walnuts the mechanized way.

One was driving a tractor, and the other was driving the machine that scoops up everything from the ground, and blows away the leaves. Here’s the tractor, getting into position:

The tractor is getting into position near a walnut tree.

The tractor is getting into position near a walnut tree.

On the back of the tractor is a set of huge claws that clamp around the base of the walnut tree, and then give the tree a pretty vigorous shake for 15 seconds or so. (It makes one heck of a racket while doing this, as you might expect.) Down come all the walnuts, plus a whole bunch of leaves. In this next photo, you may be able to see the leaves filtering down around the tractor:

There's a whole lot of shaking going on!

There’s a whole lot of shaking going on!

Having given all the trees a good old shake, the man on the sweeper starts to go up and down the rows, picking up walnuts with his machine. Meanwhile, the man who was driving the tractor starts walking around, searching for walnuts that the machine missed. Here are the two guys in action — one driving, and one stooped over with his little brown basket:

Two ways of picking up walnuts -- by hand, and by machine.

Two ways of picking up walnuts — by hand, and by machine.

And here’s a closer look at the mechanical harvester. You may be able to make out the two rotating brushes at the front of the machine that sweep up everything into the machine, which then uses a conveyor belt to move the walnuts along into a storage bin.

The mechanical harvester is sweeping up the fallen walnuts.

The mechanical harvester is sweeping up the fallen walnuts.

Since the weather remained fine today (Sunday), there was still some harvesting going on. As I rode my bike out from St. Cybranet in the late morning, heading home for lunch, I saw some more harvesting taking place in a small grove just outside the village. Here’s a look at the container that was being filled with walnuts:

A nice load of walnuts.

A nice load of walnuts.

So it looks to me like the bulk of the harvesting is done. Next step is to get the nuts into a walnut cooperative for processing. And after that? Walnuts as snacks, walnuts in cakes, walnuts in salads, and walnuts in candies. Oh yes, and walnut oil — delicious on salads.

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This entry was posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Walnuts — You’re going down!

  1. Paul says:

    Interesting post, Loren. I had no idea they just shook the tree to harvest them. I’ve heard that actually makes trees grow faster. We used to have a big walnut tree in our back yard in Port Credit and all we got was a rainstorm of blackened husks when the squirrels got at them each year.

  2. lesley says:

    There used to be a saying/folklaw/advice in UK – ‘A woman, a dog, a walnut tree. The more you beat them, the better they be!’ There might have been some truth about the whacking of a walnut tree, but I think the other two were well off the mark.

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