Spring Awakening: The Dirt on Planting 9,000 Peppers in 7 Days

By Olivia St. Denis

Originally Published on 05/24/2018 at Karmasauce.com

A lot can happen to a mind and body while completing a singular task in outdoor elements for several days on end. The Talking Heads may have summed up the experience best with the lyrics to “Once in a Lifetime,” that transcendent tune about when the mundanity of life and the passing of time finally knock you over.

For seven full work days in a row this month, Gene O. and I embarked on The Karma Sauce Company’s pepper planting rituals. A full week of work before that was spent preparing the land to receive the transplants that will eventually sprout some of the hottest peppers in the world.

The typical process -- tilling, plowing, laying rows -- is the cushy part. The tractor does most of the work. I, armed with a hand shovel, tossed dirt along the row edges where the discs have missed their mark. Almost two miles of row later, we’re  ready to plant.

The three of us formed a mighty planting machine: Gene, myself, and the Hatfield Planter. Alternating like AC current, one of us would use the Hatfield to punch holes in the plastic rows while the other dropped plants into its chute where they’d land in the freshly turned soil. After that, we’d lower ourselves to the plant level to cover them with a healthy mound of their new home for the next six months. The final planting step is watering the thirsty babies.

Many, many, many times during the planting process I did ask myself, “How do I work this?” “How did I get here?” And I definitely did say to myself, “My god, What have I done?”

I feel that many farmers would tell you that the hardest slog of all is the mental one. But my first planting season solidified something I’d learned in previous work environments: the key to surviving the mundane is perspective.

If it was hot as hell, I’d take solace in every breeze that rolled over the hill and every cloud that shrouded the sun.

If it was raining sideways, I’d thank the weather gods it wasn’t hot and sunny.

If I became whelmed at the sight of a full row (350 feet!) of to-be-planted transplant containers, I’d remind myself that at least I knew what to expect for the next two hours.

If it was close to the end of a day and everything seemed 10x more difficult, I’d freely shout expletives until the frustration passed.

Next week the final quarter of planting continues, same as it ever was.