Saturday, April 14, 2018

Failed Gardeners of the World, Take Heart

Hold onto your hats!'s a confession --- Let it be known that I'm not a well organized person. I've been that way my whole life. I'm well meaning enough, but being neat, clean, and on schedule seems as difficult to me as climbing Mt Everest. In my professional life I hired employees to keep things in line and on time. Now that I'm running a homestead farm, I'm left to myself. I admit that I'm not good at some of this job. 

I say this because I've heard from folks who have the same problem and see themselves as total failures, or worse yet, they don't even bother to try to live their dream in the first place. They've failed before they've even started. I get readers who say things like, I wish I could live your life but I'd just fail at it. How sad. 

"R" wrote me that a third of his garden failed because he didn't get to it. Everything got choked out by weeds. "T" said she was discouraged because she let her zucchini get as big as baseball bats and most of her bok choy and spinach bolted before she got around to harvesting it. "L" asked about quicker maturing tomatoes because for the past two years her (I'm guessing it's a her, sorry if I got it wrong) tomato plants didn't get into the ground in time  to be able to produce tomatoes before frost. These people want to successfully garden and are looking for solutions. I suspect that there are plenty more like them out there that simply see themselves as failures and don't even try to seek out a solution. Let it be known that I, too, never quite get the weeds under control in all the pineapple beds, I have bok choy that I don't get harvested and bolt to flower, some veggies that don't get harvested in their prime, and some seedlings that don't get out into the garden on schedule. If 90% of the garden makes it, I'm still in the "A" range. Hurrah! I'm on the dean's list! (Old college analogy.)

I'm not a therapist, so I can't offer a "right answer". But I can say that I've done the same things myself but I persevere. I slog on. I look for solutions. I concluded that there are plenty of different solutions out there, I just have to tailor one to fit me. Being a rather independent cuss wanting to be fairly self reliant. I turn to myself rather than go out and hire employees to do it for me. Here's a list of things I do that help to one degree or another. But keep in mind, I often slip back to my old behavior. But I don't label myself a failure........I just say to myself that I need an adjustment. Adjustment - what a nice sounding word. That's far more positive than beating myself up. And it gives me the incentive to try again and improve. I don't ever expect in my lifetime to successfully become a neat freak, but I have waves of doing better interspersed with "falling off the wagon". That's as good as it's going to get and I'll accept that. Life is not about earning all A's and gold stars. 

Tricks I play on myself .....
...make a list, keep it short. When I used to list every little job I wanted to get done that day, I soon realized that I was setting myself up for failure. I couldn't get all that done, so some part in my brain simply gave up. I failed before I started. But I discovered that I do much better listing the top dozen jobs. When I'm done those, I feel great and eagerly dive into others not in my list. Ah-ha, simple trickery at work! How simple it is to trick my little mind. 
...break a big job down into small daily segments. I do this for a planting schedule. For example this Monday I need to sow a small flat of a dozen different varieties. I can do that in a short time. Then the next day's job list will have the next dozen listed for sowing.  For some reason, breaking it up and designating a specific day to do that task seems to work for better me. 
...having a very visual designated spot for something. I leave crap all over the place, with good intentions of putting it away properly later on. That never happens. Yes, I feel guilty. Same thing when I organized my kitchen but I did something different. I actually labeled the shelves as to what got stored I that space. It may look silly to an outsider, but hey, this is my kitchen and it works for me. Without the labels, the place is a wreck. I've seen other people draw the outline of their tools on the walls and shelves of their tool sheds. It's a great trick to help keep organized because it prods you to put the tool back into place. It's a trick that works for some people. 
...I have a routine morning job list that I do before I go onto anything else. It's called my farm S.O.P. - standard operating procedure. Things like feed sheep, check their water trough. Feed chickens, check water, add grit, collect eggs, rake bedding. I have 10 "first thing" items on my SOP and I don't even have to think about it. They have already been thought out and I just go down the list. Bingo...done. Just another successful trick in tricking myself. 
...I have a time budget. This is just so that I can get things done, otherwise I fixate on some particular task, get distracted, putz around, and feel like I didn't get anything accomplished at the end of the day. So I designate set times from whence to whence for working on personal stuff, farm work, house building, etc. I do allow myself to deviate from the program without calling myself a failure, but the schedule surely helps me feel good at the end of the day.  
...I try not to call myself a failure. And I never, never say it outloud. For some reason, if I say it outloud my brain tends to believe it. I'll just say things like....I was a bit distracted today, I was slow, I bit off too big a chunk for today. That sort of thing. 

For all of you who have written to me seeking help when you feel that you have failed, take heart. I have those shortcomings too! And I've been called a failure at times, but after the initial depression I just get pissed. I'm just too obstinate to accept that I'm a total failure. (But if pushed about it, I've been known to purposely fail, then walk away.) I look for solutions to my not-so-perfect effort. I tell myself that I'm learning, I'm practicing, I'm acquiring experience. My solutions aren't perfect, but then I don't expect them to be. Expecting perfection, expecting constant success just sets one up for a big fall. So I try to adjust my goals and visions to fit reality, the real me, not the false me that somebody else thinks I should be. And ya know, if they don't like it, they can go do it themselves....or go eat worms! 

So if you ever get lucky and see my farm, you won't find the picture perfect farm one sees in the magazines. You'll see a functioning, albeit not well organized, homestead that is on the verge of successfully supporting this family with extra income to boot. It's got it's problems, but as Stitch says...... It is small, it is broken, but it is good. (yeah, I paraphrased that from Lilo and Stitch movie)

Keep in mind, you're not a failure, you're just in the learning stage. Things will get better as you acquire more experience. 

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