LIFE IN A NUTSHELL ◽ YOU
November is the time of year my family has been working and waiting ten months for. In the pecan industry, the bulk of our business happens in the last two months of the year. For the Pecan Shed, 80% of our sales happen in 60 days. No pressure right?!
By the time most people are still digging through left over Halloween candy in hopes of finding that one good piece left in the bag, our orchard crew is putting in twelve plus hour days on harvesting equipment as they gather pecans around our 25,000 or so trees. Many mornings the crew arrives well before dawn. Calloused hands and cracked knuckles rub tired eyes and stubbly chins as the crew fill thermoses with coffee and tractors with diesel. They bundle up against the brisk north Texas breeze as the first rays of dawn begin to cast long shadows on the orchard floor. Steam rises from the crew’s strong coffee as they decide daily duties and head to their respective tractor. Many won’t see the barns again until almost dark. Several of the men and women will work late into the evening under the florescent lights of our cleaning barn as they process, sort, sanitize and prepare pecans to be sold locally, across the United States, and even internationally.
These 30 days in November are long, hard, cold, and to be honest…quite nuts at times. The harvesting process is a race against Mother Nature to get pecans picked up before rain slows down procedures or wild animals eat the profit. But have no doubts…to our crew…this is the most wonderful time of the year.
While the farm is buzzing with the sound of tractors rolling through the trees, our two retail stores are hustling and bustling with shoppers. From the moment we turn over the OPEN sign, customers from all over Texas and across the U.S. walk in or call to place an order for our farm fresh pecans. Many have been our customers for decades and we use this time to catch up on family and what’s new with them. Some are new to the area or to our store and we offer them our knowledge of all things pecans (and a few free samples too if they are so inclined). Both stores are a bee hive of activity as customers prepare for the holidays. It can be chaotic but it can also be a lot of fun!
Well after the CLOSED sign has been put out and the retail floor lights dimmed you can find my team still working in the warehouse to box up orders for shipping or to prepare for the next day. We have been known to leave the store close to midnight and return some mornings around 6am. I have jokingly said we just need to invest in cots and stay the night, but so far I have not had any takers. My store staff runs on caffeine, Aleve, cold pizza, prayers, and a whole lot of humor! (We can get a little nutty when we start getting less than six hours of sleep.) These men and women are more than my staff…they are my family! I am so blessed to get to work with each of them. The days are long and busy and mentally and physically exhausting. But have no doubts…to my store staff…this is the most wonderful time of the year.
While the business is booming and I am doing my best to be a good leader for my team and a good support person to the orchard crew, I will admit for 60 days a year I’m not so great as a mom. My girl Dotty has grown up feeling the pains that come with pecan season. These include, but are not limited to…
A grumpy mom living on too few hours of sleep, too many bottles of Dr. Pepper, and too many doses of Aleve
A house that has no groceries because all meals are purchased through a speaker and come in paper bags
Dotty knowing to be on her best behavior because if she isn’t I just might snap and take all my frustrations and exhaustion out on the child I love the most
Very few, if any, holiday traditions…I don’t have the time or energy to do much more than work and survive until December 25th
A mom who is absent from some school parties and events that fall in these two months
Dotty pretending not to notice the forced smiles as I try to fake joy and happiness and cover the tears of exhaustion that threaten to slip over the edge and onto my cheeks
The days of November are hard for Dotty, too. She has spent all 13 years of her life learning how to adjust to them. Some years are better than others and I have tried to get better. But have no doubts…to Dotty…this is not the most wonderful time of the year.
However, she is beginning to understand that these 60 days help me to be able to be more present the other 305 of the year. She is starting to realize that being a part of a family business means the buck stops with your last name. She is learning that being the boss doesn’t mean you get to get off first…it means you get to leave last. She has discovered that success doesn’t come easy and sustained success comes at a cost.
Some might say the price she has to pay is too high, but I would have to disagree. I grew up very similar to Dotty. Only during my childhood my parents were putting in blood, sweat and tears and taking on mountains of debt to make ends meet. Dotty (and I) have it much better nowadays. Plus, I live closer to the fast food places so at least Dotty’s meals are warm when she opens the bag (nothing against my mom…she just had a 30-minute drive home every night. I still can’t stand to eat cold fries!)
While I do remember exhausted and stressed out parents from my childhood, I also remember parents who succeeded when many thought they would fail. I remember parents who showed me by example that hard work pays off. I remember parents who never gave up no matter what happened. I remember parents who hobbled off to bed achy, exhausted, and worried only to wake up the next day, well before my own alarm went off, to do it all over again.
I remember we still had Thanksgiving meals even if some years they were enchiladas from a local restaurant. We still had Christmas even if we didn’t get a tree until December 23rd. My parents still asked about school, sports, friends, and other social activities. My brother even has a birthday in December and I think he got a cake most years (might need to fact check that one…if not a cake I bet he got the cash that the cake would’ve cost and he probably liked that more anyway).
I grew up knowing that 60 days a year things were going to be…well let’s just face it…they were going to be nuts. I still know that 60 days a year my body and several well-meaning friends are going to ask me…are you nuts?! You need more sleep, more water, more dry shampoo…when was the last time you washed your hair?! My kiddo knows that for the next 60 days she will not have a candidate for Mom of the Year living in our house. But have no doubts…for Dotty…she doesn’t have one the other 305 days of the year either!
Because the truth is none of us are Mom…or Dad…or Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, Best Friend, Boss, Employee, Teacher, Coach, Husband, Wife, Doctor, Nurse, Patient, Pastor, Social Worker, Saint, or any other title of the year for any extended period of time. We all have our good days and our bad ones. Some good days string together for a week or perhaps two…maybe even a month (maybe two). Some bad days do the same. All of us are just doing the best we can. And have no doubts…doing the best you can do…well that’s doing enough my friend.