Thursday, August 14, 2008

Madness in the Nutty Forest

I love farming. It's great to watch something grow. Then to harvest it. Eat it. Sell it. It's cool.

The craziest part of pecan farming is thinning the crop. Walking up to a perfectly healthy tree loaded with nuts and saying, "We need to get rid of some of these nuts!" My Friendly Cotton Pickin' Neighbor doesn't do that. "Hmmm. We just have too much cotton. Let's get rid of some of it!" If he did that, the neighbors would laugh at him.

But here I go. Shakin' down half the nuts on the tree. There's a logic to this. If the tree has too many nuts, it can't fill all of them and you'll have bad nuts on the whole tree. AND next year, you won't have any nuts because the tree would have used up all it's energy trying to fill all those nuts. So if you shake them down, it's a win-win situation. Except for the punched in the gut feeling it leaves me. I still look at the ground at each and every nut and think, "That's a lot of money on the ground." (I still think I can get a penny for every pecan. It's more like 1/5 of a penny for every nut.) And yet The Great Pecan Man has said, "Shake!" So I shake.

This is going to be a learning lesson for me, since I tried shaking last year and didn't do so well. The Great Pecan Man orders me to shake every nut of the heaviest loaded tree I can find. "Every nut?!?" Yep. Every nut. So Mr. David fires up the shaker and off we go, to shake down a tree.

We shook and shook. Those babies weren't comin' off that tree. But we finally decided we had as many as we could possibly get. Sigh. Look at all those nuts.

Next, the Great Pecan Man tells me to make an "X" on the ground so as to divide the nuts on the ground into fourths. OK. Ground "X"-ed. Next? Count the nuts in one section of the "X". Count 1/4 of the nuts on the ground. WHAT? Count? Did I hear you right? You want me to COUNT all those nuts? Maybe I didn't hear you right. Could you explain this again? He actually wanted me to count all those nuts. Can you see all those nuts?!? That's a lot of nuts! But after pleading and begging, there seems to be no way around it. I must count the nuts. So I do.

An hour later, I have counted 1,928 nuts. So I call the Great Pecan Man with my number. Great, he says. That means....if you.... then you could.... yep. You want to shake 3000 nuts off trees that are as heavy as that one. So go find another tree and shake it, then count 1/4 of those nuts and you should have about 750 nuts.

WHAT?!? More counting. I don't need to do that. I get it. 750 nuts is about 2 1/2 buckets of nuts. So I need to shake down 10 buckets worth of nuts. Got it.

So off we go. I walk around each tree and decide whether it's a 0, 1, 2, or 3 tree. 0 means it's a no shake tree. I didn't find many of those. 1 means it needs a few nuts taken off it. Using the Great Pecan Man's numbers, I decide 1000 nuts would be good. A 2 tree needs a little more nuts taken off it... say 2000 nuts. And a 3 is the heaviest tree. It needs about 3000 nuts taken off it.

We are slow at first. I carefully walk around each tree. Evaluate each side. Look up at those pecans. Then give it a rating. I came up with signs for how big a shake I want Mr. David to give each tree. So he grabs the trunk, looks to me for a sign, then lets it go! Shake! Shake! Shake!

After 2 hours, we are really working well. Mr. David and I have it down and we are just shakin' away. So I call the Great Pecan Man to let him know how well I'm doing. You know what he says? "Did you count?" Count what? "Did you count the nuts you shook off a 3 to make sure you had 750 nuts?" No. Counting is hard. It's time consuming. And it's HOT out here! "Count." So guess what I did folks? I counted. I found a 3 tree and counted the nuts in 1/4. And guess what? I got 721!! When I called the Great Pecan Man to boast, I was pleased with his response. "You're pretty good!"

So Mr. David and I took the weekend and shook trees. We shook about 600 trees. If all the trees we shook were 2s, we would have shook 1,200,000 nuts off the trees this weekend. Whew! That's a lot of money!

Don't look, Abuck!

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