Horses and Hot Sauce
I own a thoroughbred. Well, now 2, but that’s a detail for later. You see, When a thoroughbred is young they take lots of preparation to make things go right. Or right…ish or at least right adjacent. As we planted almost 5,000 pepper plants this week I started to think about the similarities between pepper farming and horse training.
The whole thing is a gamble. You look at the upcoming year with anticipation of what might be. You see the work ahead, the potential problems and you make the best decision you can based on the knowledge you have at the moment. With horses this can be a lot of fun. Well, fun is a loose term, but it can definitely be an adventure. My first thoroughbred was 3 when I bought him. He was big, unpredictable and occasionally just down right stupid. When he gets it right though, he is majestic. A real looker…He knows how to shine and, when he does, he is a winner. Many hours of training and preparation go into hoping that at the right moment he will produce. We have great moments of triumph and moments where I lay on the ground asking God, why was it again I bought a wild beast that disguised itself as a big red horse?
Now this is my first year as a farmer but I have experienced many of the same emotions pepper farming as I have watching that big red horse. The fields are prepped and ready. The plants are babies. We carefully place them in the soil and we wait. It’s difficult work. It’s hot, it’s dirty, seems never ending when you are staring at 5,000 plants.
Somehow though in the midst of all the dirt and work and sore muscles there is hope. You look at the field as you plant row by row and you hope. I hope you grow big and beautiful and produce. Grow peppers grow! I remember my statement to a lifelong farmer last year as I looked out on my first crop. “What if they all die?!!?” I am pretty sure I have fear of failure issues but that’s another BLOG. “Oh, they won’t all die”, he replied. “You did what you were supposed to now you got to let them do what they are supposed to.” Profound…… So, it is with many things in life. You do what you are supposed to and you wait.
Last summer we had the best pepper crop according to experienced farmers that anyone had seen in years! Now the time has rolled around to plant and start anew. As I ordered plants I thought about how scary the whole process was last year and smiled a little as I waited on delivery of our little fields of hope this year.
Now you may be wondering where that 2nd thoroughbred I mentioned comes into play. Well, a few months back we started to horse shop with my youngest daughter. She has sadly outgrown her beloved pony. Best pony that has ever or will ever live! As we started looking I vividly remember the conversation with her trainer. “We don’t mind something young, a project. She’s up for the challenge but hey, one thing, NO THOROUGHBREDS.” Even though I love our big red boy, who is now 10, I have been down that road. I know better. I have matured.
So when I got the picture one night of a cute bay baby OTTB (that’s an off the track thoroughbred for those that want to know my exact level of insanity) I would be lying if I didn’t admit to screaming, “WHY?!?!” out loud before saying, “Ok, yep. Let’s look at him.” He is fabulous. A baby, fresh and full of potential. Hope on four legs. As I agreed to purchase him I laughed at myself. I am crazy, it’s a gamble. Just like those pepper plants we are going to do what we are supposed to do and let him do what he’s supposed to do.
As we approach a brand new freshly set out field of hope this year I am a little less scared and a little more excited. So, do whatever it is that scares you. Take a gamble, set out that field in your own life you never know what it’s going to grow into. Heck, buy a horse! If it’s a thoroughbred though, call me first, I got LOTS of stories about that!
Trespassing with Syrup
Since I became a small business owner, there have been many moments that have surprised me. Probably none more than a late afternoon call asking about gourmet syrup that we carry in the shop from time to time.
I was getting ready to leave when a phone call came in. I decided to answer and what an adventure it lead me on! “Hello mam, I want some good ‘ole sorghum syrup”. Now growing up in small town Alabama, I did know what sorghum was and we happened to have some. “Yes, sir. We have some right here and we will be open in the morning.” Since it was already past closing time I thought surely in the morning was a good offer. “Well mam, you see, I am blind and will have to find a ride into town so it may take me a few days. Do you like good ‘ole sorghum? It’s the only REAL old time syrup. You see, syrup used to come in a can. Do you remember syrup in a can?” No sir, I can’t say that I do. Sorghum isn’t my favorite but I have tasted it before.
Now if you HAVEN’T tasted sorghum before, it is difficult to describe. Somewhere between sucking on wood chips while smelling a rag soaked in turpentine comes to mind, but I digress. If a person loves Sorghum, they love it and that’s that. So I proceeded to tell my elderly caller I would sit some back for him until he could get a ride. “Well, if I can get there I will let you know but I sure do love me some sorghum.” Now here’s the part where it gets interesting. In a moment of heart-string weakness, I blurt out, “I could bring it to you sir…if you really like it that much I could deliver if you are close to town.” Now why I did that I may never know. I could hear excitement in his voice. “OH MY GOODNESS!! I would love that I could have good ‘ole sorghum for dinner tonight. You know syrup used to come in a can.” Yes sir, I remember you said that. He proceeded to give me directions. Now carefully remember the part from earlier where I said he was BLIND.
So I stand there with Sorghum, pen in one hand about to take directions forma blind man. “Well, you go like you might be a going out of town.” Good start. “Then when you pass that old plant but it ain’t a plant no more you turn left on the paved road. Then go a piece and take the second dirt road. When you do that keep going until you see a road that don’t look like nothing on the left and that’ll be my driveway.” So armed with those as my directions I head out. What could possibly go wrong? Believe it or not in about 15 minutes there I sat at a road that didn’t really look like nothing that I assumed was the driveway. I slowly proceeded down the drive.
It was an older small farm with collections of this and that on either side. I noticed a sign up ahead. Oh good, maybe a helpful name. I could possibly confirm I am in the right place. As I got closer the sign read, TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT. Hmmmm…I I thought about this for a second. I wasn’t REALLY a trespasser. I was invited and I did have the good ‘ole sorghum with me soooooo it’s probably ok. I decide in the spirit of adventure to press on. I come to a small house that looks like over the years it’s been added on to accommodate this and that. It looks like thoughtfully arranged legos which are painted whatever might have pleased it’s designer at the time. Or maybe the paint was on sale.
I recall the part where my elderly friend is indeed blind and it makes more sense. I get out of the car and have a flash of “I wish I had told someone where I was going….” Too late. I knock on the door and hear what sounds to be a small terrier dog who is under the impression that it is a Doberman pincer! No answer. I call the number I have on my scratched out directions. “Hello? HUSH PATRICIA! HUSH PATRICIA! ” I can hear him shushing the pint sized beast both through the phone and through the walls. Hi, this is Julie from Alabama Sunshine. I think I am out front with your syrup. “OH, GOOD.. I’ll be right there” I hear footsteps and breathe a sigh of relief. Adventure over, I thought. Then he opened the door. Out dashed pint sized Patricia yapping and barking and growling at my feet.
A little slight man that might weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. He was stooped over and is indeed feeling his way around the door handle before he steps onto the porch. Then I see it. There, on his hip, in a holster is a Clint Eastwood sized revolver! Now here I am with syrup. A terrier biting at my ankles face to face with a blind man armed with a revolver! My mind flashes to the trespasser warning for a split second. “Here is your syrup.” I carefully make sure he has the jar before releasing it. “OH good ‘ole sorghum, delivered right to your door! Who could believe that! You know syrup used to come in a can.” Yes sir, you mentioned that. I told him his total and he produced the biggest folded stack of $100 dollar bills that I have ever seen and asks me to help him dig for the appropriate amount. He stumbles a little sideways and I whisper a prayer that he doesn’t fall setting off the Western movie sized revolver.
We get the money sorted out and I tell him I hope he enjoys the sorghum. “Oh, I can’t thank you enough. I am so looking forward to dinner tonight! Good ‘ole sorghum and biscuits. PATRICIA! PATRICIA!! Where’s my little dog?” She’s just there to the left sir, let me get her. I gently pick up Patricia and place her inside. I tell him to have a good day and I smile and shake my head all the way back to the car.
He hasn’t called again but I sure do hope he had good ‘ole sorghum and biscuits for supper, even if it wasn’t in a can.
Julie Smith Madison , co-owner of Alabama Sunshine