Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/347

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333
ALMOND CULTURE IN CALIFORNIA.

At many kinds of work white men are more profitable to employ than Chinamen, though they demand much higher wages. At picking almonds the Chinaman is preferable at the same wages. Fewer nuts escape his keen eye to be left on the tree or under the clods. He can pick more in a day, and with less damage to the tree and the nuts.

In large orchards a more complicated but still crude and unsatisfactory rubber is sometimes operated by horse or steam power. But the nuts and drupes must still be separated by hand, and probably always will be. The drupes are mostly only loosened by the machine, many of them not even that, and but few of them entirely rubbed off. This last might be done by machinery in the case of quite hard-shelled nuts. But more force is required to remove the drupe than to break the shell of a large portion of the crop. In some orchards every year, and in many orchards this year, the only way to market the almond was to crack it with the drupe on and sell the kernel. Others who did not deliberately crack were obliged to rub so hard that many of the kernels came out, and at the close of the harvest they had barrels of them to sell as shelled almonds. The price per pound is greater than of unshelled almonds, but my neighbors say that the addition to the price does not make up for the weight of shells thrown away, to say nothing of the extra labor and expense of cracking.

Where the picking was done by hand, and paid for by the box, it cost this year, in this vicinity, seventy to ninety cents a box. The box used is what is called the large-sized free apple-box. That is, it is the box which holds an honest bushel, and goes with the apples when they are sold in the market. The first boxes I got from the factory were free apple-boxes, and I supposed that was all right and sufficient, until the Chinese foreman of our band of pickers brought out the box he had used in former years, and I saw that mine were smaller just enough smaller not to arouse suspicion in the breast of the final consumer when he buys apples by the box, and at the same time to save the middle-man, who buys by the pound and sells by the box, a few pounds in each box he sells. He prefers that the producer should ship his fruit in these dishonest boxes, just as the San Francisco butter dealers, who buy by the pound and sell by the roll, caution the farmers not to put quite two pounds in a roll. So I found that my apple-boxes were short-weight boxes, and were losing me the cost of picking about three pounds out of every box of almonds picked; and that this loss would in one season cover, several times over, the price of the boxes. I put this part of the story in for whatever it may be scientifically worth, as a contribution to the study of commercial ethics. I bought the larger-sized bushel boxes as