Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Structure, yes.  But first, look at all our beautiful pine nuts.  Well, look at not-so-beautiful sacks, anyway; you'll just have to take my word for it that they're all full of beautiful pine nuts.  10 tons of them!  All now dried and stored away, waiting for our shelling equipment to arrive (due sometime in December).  

Ooh, and check out this sweet generator!  That arrived the other day too, and after spending a day trying to get it to work we finally realized that at some point in the shipping process someone had bumped the safety "emergency off" button and that's why it wouldn't run.  Reset that and presto! 48 kW of power, at our fingertips anytime we feel like spending $8/hour to run the thing.

But the really exciting recent development is the fact that there is actual structure going up on the site.  I think for the first time it actually feels real, like there is an actual business there.  The foundation, despite taking forever, is pretty much all underground now, so for a while it's just been a couple of stumpy walls and a floor, but now there is actual progress on top of that and a building is starting to take shape!

This is the 7-ton machine that was brought over the mountains into T-land to press the metal into the shapes we need to build the hangar-style building.

While we had the crane out there, we had him also move the temporary roofs we had built over our equipment.  Everything had to get out of the way so that the actual roof could be built, and we are now using these roofs to keep the rain off of our coal and wood.

I'll put a video up that may help to explain this a bit, but this is how the machine looks in operation.

The first step is to press a roll of sheet metal into a "U" shape:

Then, you move that "U" shape over to the next part of the machine and run it back through, where it is bent into, well, a "U" shape relative to a different plane, preparing it to be a part of the roof:

The, you take the piece that you've just bent over to stack it on top of the others.  There is a little machine that works like a giant electric can opener that then crimps the metal together from two strips, to seal them together.  They stack the strips 5 high, sealing each piece to its neighbors:

Then, these 5-strip pieces are lifted into place by a crane:

For those of you who can't watch the video, this is basically what it looks like as the crane gets the piece of the roof together.

Then, these two guys come along and tap two bolts into each section, connecting each "U" to the steel corner piece, which is in turn welded every 2 meters to a piece of steel that is embedded deep into the foundation itself.

And that's where we're at.  Nice, no?  It actually is starting to look like a building!

Tomorrow the crew is planning to finish the first row of roofing, and then they need to put insulation down into each one of those "U's."  Once that's done there's another level of sheet metal that keeps out the rain and looks nice that goes over all of that.  Then we just have to put up the end walls (I know, "just") and we'll be done! 

I figure we still have about a month of work left before the building is at least livable, but hey, that's not a bad thing as it means we'll be ready for our equipment to be delivered in December.  Then we can actually start processing pine nuts, but at this stage I don't even want to start dreaming about that yet.  Too many things in between here and there!

Thanks again for thinking of us - I have a busy couple of weeks ahead with our American investors coming in for a visit and then a trip up north to visit some colleagues, so please keep it up.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nut Factory Starts to Take Shape

So, I don't know how many of you will remember how the business' plot of land looked a few months ago when we started putting up our pine nut processing facility, but if you scroll down a few posts you'll see that this summer it was just a patch of grass with a lot of trash scattered on it.

Then, a few weeks ago we updated you and we had foundations being poured and a metal garage that was being used as a storage facility and a shack for the guard to live in.  Well, now I want to show you where we're at now, because it's quite a bit of progress since then:

This picture is a week or two old already, but when we last left you we were just completing this part of the job - the foundation.  You can see here a couple of the workers working to put a drainage pipe through the foundation wall.

Next on the agenda was a floor; they poured reinforced concrete about 6 inches deep over the whole thing, making sure to line it up with the proper height to match the foundation and also to leave a slight dip in the middle for drainage when we wash the machines with hoses.  As you can see below, a rain proved that they had done a good job leaving a slope to the drainage hole (even though the drain is yet to be installed so the water is just standing).

Next we had our first equipment installed to the site.  Ideally, this would have been done after we already had the hangar there, or at least a roof, but we were running behind and nut season was upon us so we got the dryers out and to the site so that when we started buying the nuts we would have a way to dry them!

While we had the crane out there we decided to unload our furnace as well.  Which was good, because we had been wondering how we were going to get that massive 1000-pound piece of cast iron out of the back of my coworker's truck!

Our first nut purchase!  In the background you can see the initial equipment delivery, in the foreground is about one ton of pine nuts still in their shells.

The dryers weren't set up yet that first day, but the weather was nice and we were worried about spoilage so we decided to set up a tarp and just dry the nuts in the sun.  My coworker's wife here illustrates what a ton of pine nuts looks like drying out on the ground:

We placed a single ad on TV, just a text line running across the bottom of the screen, 3 times per day, with our number and "We buy nuts!"  It was massively successful, bringing us all the nuts we could handle (and eventually we started turning people away because we couldn't afford to buy any more than 10 tons or so this year).

We built very temporary roofs to shield the dryers and other equipment from the rain, and started drying the nuts.  We're only using one of the dryers currently, as our little generator can only run one of them at a time, but it's enough to dry several tons a day and we'll hopefully have all our nuts dried by the middle of next week (plenty of time to make sure they don't mold, we hope).

Nut buying can be an adventure; sometimes the whole village bands together to bring their nuts together in one truck, which means a lot of people milling around the weigh station and confusion as to which sacks of nuts are whose and whether or not we've weighed them already.  After a few hours we had a good system set up and it worked well.  

These people's livelihoods depend in great measure on these nuts, which might be as much as 25% of their annual income in a good year like this one!

The dryer, now up and running, is capable of drying out about a ton of nuts every 4 hours or so.  If, that is, you can keep from eating them all while you wait!

Here's a video of how it all looks, but you'll either need to mute your sound or just ignore the generator running in the background, sorry:

And that's about it!  Hopefully by next post we'll have an update that includes a hangar-style building going up over top of all of this, so check back soon for that. 

Thanks for stopping by, and most of all thanks for keeping us in your thoughts in this busy and stressful time.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Eating "All-Natural"

We've had occasion several times in the past few days to go out and enjoy nature and the foods thereof, and I thought I would turn it into a post.

First, some new friends invited us over for dinner, and afterwards we out to help them harvest their garden.  They even gave us some of the produce!

 The boys love carrots, which seems weird to me for little boys, but I'm not complaining!

Then, this weekend, some of our closest friends invited us to go out and gather pine nuts, as the season is in full swing and why would you miss the chance to be outside when it's so nice?

Steven found the first pine cone and mushroom, and he was very proud:

 We didn't find enough food in the woods to sustain us (we were too close to the road and almost all the pinecones and mushrooms were taken already), so we also brought along shashlyk (shish-kebabs).

Matthew was so proud of his pinecone that we didn't have the heart to tell him it was one of the ones the squirrels had already gotten to and eaten all the nuts out of.

Even though we didn't find a lot of nuts, we still had a great time as a family walking through the beautiful stand of trees.

Even though the nuts were all gone, we still got a demonstration of the way T people gather the nuts.  Either they take a log and beat the tree with it ...

... or, if they're more of an enterprising type, they might make themselves a wooden mallet.  Either way, the key is to pound on the tree (don't worry, tree-huggers, it doesn't hurt the tree!) and get the top shaking hard enough to make the cones fall.

Anyway, it was a great day, and the cones we did manage to find were delicious!  Plus, we had fun together, which was the main goal of the day.

More exciting news on the pine nut facility coming up next week, so be sure to come back!