Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: March 2014

The Pecan Orchard

Hubs has a teensy tendency to underestimate jobs around the farm. Everyone who has ever helped us knows this and automatically adds several hours to the time estimate that Hubs presents when he asks for reinforcements.

The planting of the pecan orchard was no different.

Hubs called me and the kids down to the pasture armed with a GPS, tall stakes, kite string, marking tape, ground stakes, a satellite picture of the property with GPS coordinates marking each of the 88 trees and the promise of finishing in a maximum of two hours.

It’s a good thing we took water jugs or we might have died before we emerged three days later.

You read that right. Marking took three days. Threes days of stretching kite string over a 7 1/2 acre area, north to south, east to west, and southwest to northeast.

It sounds ridiculous, but do you have any idea how much pressure is inflicted on a person when they have to plan out something that will undoubtedly outlive them and their great-grandchildren? Can you imagine future generations walking among the towering pecan trees and commenting on the terrible job Pops and Granny did when they lined up the rows?

That thought haunted Hubs every minute of those three days.

We tussled with Mother Nature as long as we could, trying to force her into planned perfection. Turns out, she’s the free-form artsy type and we had to throw up the white flag before we completely wore away the soles of our boots.

Compared to the four hours it took four adults and three kids to dig up, replant and hand-water 77 seedlings two days later, marking was by far the worst of it. Well, maybe not as bad as clearing…or woodpiling.

I know it’s not a word. But it should be.

Woodpiling is horrible, it never goes away. I guess that’s what you get when you toss it all in a big pile on the ground because you can’t take any more. At least I’ll be smiling as I throw each and every piece in the fireplace instead of flipping on the heater in the winter. 

The stakes mark where each seedling is planted.     

See that little stick with the orange tag on it? That’s why you mark them when they still have their leaves.

Catastrophic Failure

“Do you hear that sound?”
Oldest looks at me while turning down the radio. “That high-pitched whine?”
I nod and check the gages. Nothing strange.
“Pull over and I’ll check the fluids.”
I find a spot to stop and pop the hood so my thirteen-year-old son can check the car. “Everything seems okay.”
“We’ll have dad check it when we get home.” I’ve come to expect maintenance with a car nearing 300,000 miles. At this point we just want to see how long we can keep it going.
We continue on our way. Fifteen miles from home the battery light comes on, Then the needle on the battery gage plummets toward empty.
Oldest looks worried. “I bet it’s the alternator.”
Great.
“Call your dad and let him know that he might have to come get us.”
The conversation is limited and Oldest hangs up with a tense look on his face.
“How long do we have without the alternator?”
“He doesn’t know.”
I pretend that everything is fine, ignoring the tightness in the steering wheel when I change lanes. I chat up Oldest, attempting to keep him from constantly checking my gages.
The exit to our house comes into view. We make it up to the intersection and everything dies. Oldest helps me wrench the steering wheel to the right where a gravel turnoff sits empty.
Oldest pops the hood and jumps back as boiling radiator fluid spurts out of it’s reservoir. We start calling home but no one answers.
Oldest is pacing. “Why aren’t they picking up?”
“They must be in the back pasture.”
Fifteen minutes later, we finally reach Hubs. Oldest and I sit in the trunk of the SUV singing Bottles of Beer on the Wall waiting for Hubs to retrieve us. 
Four hours and two trips to the auto parts store later, Hubs has fixed the car on the side of the road. He reports that we suffered more than one catastrophic failure under the hood but all is well.
Me? I’m just thankful for the three good Samaritans that stopped to see if we needed help.
It’s a true relief when you realize the large man walking toward you wearing an enormous horse’s head is not attempting to rob you but is offering you his services as a mechanic. 
We politely declined.