Saturday, February 21, 2015

Learning For Myself

Joanne, via email, pointed out that I seem to like to experiment a lot. "Why waste all that time and effort only to end up with a failure?", she asked. She went on the list dozens of Internet sites where I could find instruction lists in order to do things "the right way" on the first try around. Thank you Joanne for your concern. But I like to experiment for reasons that I suspect many younger Americans won't understand.

 As a child I was encouraged to become independent and to think. I rode my bicycle for miles from home, explored the local woods with friends, took buses and trains to travel to the city museums. I had access to tools and scrap wood, using them to make "go carts", tree forts, and other stuff which generally failed. We visited the local dump to pick up choice bits of trash that we used to make things - "forts", tables, toys, wagons, etc. We had a lot of freedom to learn by the hands-on method. Adults often offered advice as long as it wouldn't result in something a bow and arrows that really worked. Ours were made wrong so never shot an arrow for more than three feet. And the wheels we nailed onto our go-carts never lasted for more than 15 minutes. Adults were wise enough not to point out the engineering mistakes we made when it came to something we could really hurt ourselves with. Now this may surprise people younger than generation was doing this stuff independently in our pre-teens and early teens. Yes, you heard right...pre-teens. No chaperones, no organized play sessions, no adult supervisors. Our parents encouraged us to go out and play. In fact, they kicked us out of the house and we were told to go play. 

Via our various attempts I discovered for myself that there often was more than "one way to skin a cat", as a neighbor was fond of saying. When I got old enough to learn how something should-be-done, I already knew that there was at least one other way it could be done, too. Just about all the kids around me learned this way. 

Nowadays kids don't seem to know that it's just fine to be independent. It's almost like they wait for someone to tell them how it should be done "the right way". Very little independent thinking. Google searches tell them how things should be done, society tells them what kind of house to aspire to, big business tells them what kind of techie toys they should have. Some official somewhere tells them what kind of pets they can have, how their house has to be built, what they can grow in their yards. Speaking of growing stuff, communities now tell you if you can or cannot use compost, manure, greywater, etc. Many places even dictate what dates you can apply compost, manure, even wood ash, plus how much and how it has to be incorporated into the soil, even dictating the soil depth it has to be tilled into. Perchance things are getting too regulated? Nobody is allowed to think for themselves, make their own decisions, experiment and explore? And getting back to my childhood experiences....parents can now get in big trouble for letting their children do the exact things that I was encouraged to do -- be independent, explore, think, go off on my own. 

So I'm an experimenter from way back. The trait has served me well on this developing homestead. When people told me that I wouldn't be able to grow potatoes here, I gave it a go anyway. When they laughed at me for trying to create gardens in lava rock, I experimented until I figured out how to do exactly that. So.....if I didn't experiment I'd be just like so many others around me -- spending my money buying food from the store.

I encourage new gardeners to experiment. Each failure brings new knowledge. And sometimes the experiment works in some wonderful way I hadn't the pallet grow boxes which have been a resounding success. 

I don't get insulted when people like Joanne tell me how to do something "right", I just shrug. And I hope she doesn't get insulted when I go ahead and try doing it some other way. As I've said, there's more than one way to skin a cat! A very good way of looking at things on a basic DIY homestead. 

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