Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shaking Trees

Our internship at Koinonia officially ends tomorrow (Friday Dec 19th) and we start our journey back to Canada. This timing also coincides with the completion of the pecan harvest.

In earlier postings I mentioned the process of sweeping the pecans into windrows and picking them up with the harvester. Most of these nuts had fallen from the trees during high winds or rainstorms. These pecans are called free-falls.

Unfortunately, the big majority of the nuts prefer to stay attached to the branches. This means you either need a very long step ladder or some way to persuade the branches to release the pecans so gravity can do it’s job.

The solution to this problem is a tree-shaker. This machine, as shown in the photo, simply grabs the trunk of the tree and then shakes the living daylights out of it. Nuts come raining to the ground, along with masses of leaves and branches.

We have just completed the second round of tree shaking. The first round was done while the trees were green - as shown in the photo. The second round after the leaves had all fallen and the trees all appear dead.

The other day I noticed something quite profound. Pecan trees tend to be quite brittle and whenever they are shaken, weak branches break off and fall to the ground. This can mean alot of work to pick up the fallen sticks - which otherwise cause chaos for the harvest machinery and unloading process - when the trees are leafy and green. Unfortunately, it is alarmingly more work when the trees are leafless and dormant.

As if that isn’t bad enough, dead trees are very dry and brittle and they shed limbs at an alarming rate. Naturally you can avoid shaking dead trees in the early Fall since they can be easily recognized. In the Winter, the live trees and dead trees look pretty much alike. At least until you shake them! Bud found this out the other day when he accidentally shook a dead tree at the end of one of the rows and major limbs and branches went flying everywhere.

I suppose this might be alot like people. When everything is going along smoothly, we all appear the same. Until something comes along to shake us. If we are spiritually alive, I suppose we should come out all right. If we are spiritually dormant, who knows what parts of our life will come crashing down!
This current round of oil supply/demand driven price chaos and the resulting economic instability, job losses, etc. will certainly be shaking lots of trees in the New Year.

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