Is there a mechanical way to harvest melons, squash, pumpkins and such?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Terri, Jul 1, 2006.

  1. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    OK, I bring ALL of my impossible questions here before I give up on them!

    Is there a mechanical (non hands-on) way to get the harvesting job done? This is important because I am disabled, and I cannot lift for more than a few minutes before my body quits on me. But, I can drive a car or use the riding mower for hours!

    I would like to raise LOTS of melons and pumpkins, and I can mechanize about anything and everything excepting the harvesting.

    Here is the really HARD part: I do not have a tractor and I cannot afford to get one. If I had a tractor there are likely harvesters I could buy, but my only equipment is a riding lawn mower. Yes, I have hauled the odd loaded cart or fallen tree with it, but it is still just a lawn mower!

    Now, I can have the melon spot plowed/tilled easily enough, and there is a little plow attachment I can put behind the riding lawn mower to make furrows (assuming the soil is soft and tilled) to drop the seeds in and then cover them. Irrigation information is easily available, and the folks who sell drip irrigation hoses will help design a system, if I need it.

    But, one problem remains, and I cannot solve it. A melon or pumpkin weighs 5 pounds or considerably more, which means that I cannot harvest very many before my body quits working. And, while I can afford to hire 1 person for 1 day to work the soil, (though my family will probably till for me), I cannot afford to hire pickers. I will not be raising THAT many!

    I am thinking to sell at farmers markets, donating to food pantries for a tax deduction, and so forth. Out here, if you sell $40 of melons in a day at a farmers market the business has been good. I cannot afford to hire pickers because that is not enough income in a day to pay them. Though, for one person it is interesting!

    Any ideas?

    (And, yes, I KNOW that this is likely impossible as the folks who sell tractors or riding lawn mowers can think of nothing small enough. But, actually the people who come here know MORE than most equipment sellers, so I thought that I would ask!).

    So I am asking! Any ideas? :nerd:
     
  2. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    Hey Terri, not exactly what you are looking for, but how about a "U-pick-patch" and then folks are PAYING to harvest the pumpkins and melons from you!
     

  3. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    A lovely idea, and I considered this, but the neighbors would be livid and likely shut me down! (They can, too, as I am zoned single-family)

    Oh, well! :p
     
  4. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Local teenager? Someone with lots of time, willing to work for an hour or two for cash?
     
  5. Unregistered

    Unregistered Well-Known Member

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    Why not raise something a lot easier to harvest?
     
  6. crystalniche

    crystalniche Well-Known Member

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    Why not grow those miniature watermelons and smaller pumpkins? Those smaller melons sell very well around here and there are a few varieties to make them interesting. Used to be a stand here that sold them for $2.50 each and you had to get there really quick in order to get one. The yellow fleshed ones were very tasty as were the others. My Granddaughter could eat 1 all by herself. I would try those as well as the cantalopes and other smaller melons. Not everyone wants a big melon.
     
  7. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Judging by the fact that the melon farms around me employ large numbers of migrant workers every year to walk behind tractors and manually pick up melons and put them on trailers ... I'd say the answer is no. *shrug*

    Also, in melon farming, there seems to be a huge amount of waste. The fields are covered in melons that were rejected by the pickers (not sure why -- too ripe, maybe?) after every harvest.
     
  8. Richard6br

    Richard6br Well-Known Member

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    Just hire a couple of Mexicans, thats what they are here for. To do the jobs Americans don't want to do. You could get them really cheap too.
     
  9. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    Call the food bank, and offer to trade some of the produce for a few days' help. Or call the mormons...the young missionaries are always on the lookout for volunteer days, when they don't have to go knocking on doors.
     
  10. silverbackMP

    silverbackMP Well-Known Member

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    Try the parking lot of the local home depot early in the morning. Habla Espanol?
     
  11. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    But, if you do....NO MORE COMPLAINING ABOUT IMMIGRANTS, LEGAL OR OTHERWISE!!!
     
  12. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Where I live, people expect minimum wage. Even picking my own blackberries, once I got them driven into town I was only making $7 an hour, which was fine for me but once you take minimum wage out for a worker is not enough.

    Off hand, I cannot think of anything easy enough to harvest: remember unless I am on equipment I am only good for a little bit before I have to stop. I can pick for the family, but any quantity gets to be too much rather quickly.

    I was thinking about melons because they are easy to grow, but I AM open to suggestions!

    Until this year I was picking and selling blackberries (light weight, high price, and anything that didn't sell ended up in my freezer). But, an hour or two of reaching was wearing me down, so I gave it up this year.

    I thought about cherry tomatos on a trellis, but they ALSO need a fair amount of time picking and the price is less.

    Now, HERE is an interesting thought!

    I can put spuds on the ground and cover them with grass clippings.Once the spuds are up, more grass clippings and then plastic to keep the light out because I will not be able to carry enough grass clippings for security sake. Then just enough clippings to keep the plastic from blowing away. Or, perhaps newspapers instead of plastic???

    If I am gonna sell something, I won't even RISK a potato with a green shoulder! I am a fanatic about the taste of what I sell! And, to harvest I need only take the spuds out of the grass clippings....I hope. I can harvest a little at a time because root crops do not wilt and don't have to be refridgerated.

    Bags of leaves can be picked up this fall at peoples curbs: I can pay the kids to load them into the pick up.

    I can do something similar with onion sets, and perhaps beets. Till a 50' strip in the garden to give the roots good contact, then the seeds/ sets are scattered on top, then the grass/leaves.

    The weeds WILL take over, but the really nasty ones are warm-weather weeds so the plants will be established first and hopefully harvested before the morning glories are bad enough to kill them.

    My ONLY problem is that spuds and onions are not hot sellers, and people will go to the big stands and buy them as an afterthought. I don't thing they will come to a potato booth.

    Perhaps I should grow purple and yellow ones as well. To stand out from the crowd.

    I will give this real thought. With spuds, it is not too late to try this out this year on a small scale.

    HHhhmmmmmm..... :hobbyhors

    What attracts me to the spuds is the idea of the easy harvest and big yield in a small area. I would be very happy to consider any other ideas!

    I have thought about asparagus but it takes even more bending than spuds, because there are only a few spears in a square foot!
     
  13. MarleneS

    MarleneS Well-Known Member

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    Most disturbing post about whom to hire to help one harvest their produce...most distrubing. I will give you credit, we of the supposed better way of life have made it possible for some not work and wait for an easier job.
    And before you refer to everyone south of the U.S. border as a singular nationality, think about how you would like to be referred to as Canadian.
    Maybe you could trade off something you can do to someone who can lift your heavier produce, Terri.

    Hugs
    Marlene
     
  14. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    Try the spuds under hay or straw...sometimes someone will give you a mouldy or gone bad bale.
     
  15. silverbackMP

    silverbackMP Well-Known Member

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    I think both my comment and Richard6br's comment were both tounge in cheek; I quit trying to be PC along time ago. Lighten up a little....gees.
     
  16. MarleneS

    MarleneS Well-Known Member

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    Tongue-in-cheek or elsewhere, a sterotypical remark repeated only makes 'em stronger. :)

    Hugs
    marlene
     
  17. zealot

    zealot Soli Deo Gloria

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    Long shears and forks are used to harvest pumpkins sometimes, but it's still one pumpkin at a time.
     
  18. susieM

    susieM Well-Known Member

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    How about getting married, and letting your spouse do it?
     
  19. ladycat

    ladycat Chicken Mafioso Staff Member

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    The potatoes might be a good idea. Try some unusual varieties.
     
  20. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You can grow melons on a trellis, support them with onion bags or nylons.

    How about novelty/sweet corn? Plant the rows far enough apart to drive between, the cobs should be within easy reach from the seat of the mower.

    I wouldn't bother with onions or potatoes unless they are unusual varieties.