School Lessons

school booksGoing back to school was a scary thing for me.  I have not been to a college class in 30+ years AND I dabbled in college when I was young.  Took a few classes, did not graduate and went on to working, then getting married and then having babies. I have considered going back off and on through the years, but it was not until we moved out to “Big Sky Acres” (BSA) that I really started contemplating what I wanted life to look like now.

Gardening was already in my heart and I had dabbled in that too during the years off and on.  BUT having all this land and a pond, it seemed that the possibilities were endless. So we kicked off our experiment in breaking the ground last year and grew lots of yummy things in a total of 8 gardens by the time we were done.  AND the bug hit hard! I knew there was and is something great I can do with this land. But what????

Trying to figure out what “that great thing is” led me to school.  If I want to grow for a CSA, or have a community garden, or teach people to garden organically I was going to need some education. Experimenting is wonderful, and I will never quit that, but I need some major knowledge to help guide those experiments here.

I cannot say enough good things about the global university program at Washington State University. They have a wonderful Organic Ag program and I LOVED the first semester.  I have just completed that and I have learned alot already.  And I don’t just mean about Ph, Soil Taxonomy, Ions, Cation Exchange, Plant and Human Nutrients, and a plethora of other topics covered.  I learned so much I could not possibly list it all here AND it is stuff I am using which is really great!

The really awesome thing is what I learned other than the scholarly stuff. It has been a challenging few months and it ended well with two A’s but as I reflect my lessons are so much greater.

What are they?

It takes discipline to manage many moving parts.  I love to be casual with my schedule at times and “go with the flow” My creative side loves that. But discipline is what it took to study and still do the other things I needed to do. I wrote a schedule down and stuck to it.  I am convinced that helped me in more ways than one!

It takes support.  My hubby made meals, cleaned house, took the dog to the vet, went to the grocery, and TONS of other things that were falling through the cracks on “my watch.”  He never complained but just continued to tell me he was proud of me and was happy to do anything that was needed so I would not have to.

It takes a dictionary! Yeppers!  I have not opened a dictionary in a long time. and I have become good friends.  The app for my phone even says the word for me so when I read a word like “campylobacter” or “mycorrhizae” or “hemosiderin”,  or “Histisols”my little app can tell me how to say it. 🙂 I can save favorite words too.  That became a great study tool!

It takes a positive attitude. There were many times that I did not have that.  I got overwhelmed with the classes, work and our remodeling that we have going on.  And spring was knocking at the door and I wanted to play in the soil, not just study about it!  Those were the times that I needed my Farmgirl friends that are online, a chat with a daughter or a hug from hubby.

Which leads me to you need to be unafraid to tell your real feelings to someone. There is no crime in asking for help or just telling someone you don’t thing you can do it anymore or that you want to jump out a window, or crawl under a blanket.  Talking helps!

You need to learn to say “no” and honor your time and commitment.  No matter what you are doing in your life today, there is something you need to say no to. There is nothing wrong with making a commitment to yourself, scheduling the time for it on your calendar and then KEEPING IT THERE.  I think as women especially, we tend to let anything and anyone override our commitments to ourselves.  I could not afford to do that this semester and it has taught me that the world continues to function when I say no.

AND I learned that if I think I can, I can. If I believe in something I can commit to it.  If I commit to it and I can hang in there, I can succeed at it!

Success came in the form of two A’s from WSU, but for me it comes in alot of these other lessons that were packaged along with those A’s.  I believe that I would have still learned those things even without the A’s and those lessons along with all the great AG stuff I am learning is a winning combo!

Have you ever tried something totally new and learned not only that new thing but other things in the process?

Happy Unleashing with something new today!



Lessons Learned from a First Time Gardener

DSCN3493I have learned so much since moving here almost 2 years ago. My biggest learning curve has happened this year, particularly since May. That is when I broke ground and started using the land we have and planting food in it.

Looking back to 1/1/13, I had no idea what was in store for me this year (and I am not done yet!)  I look at the goals and intentions that hubby and I set and they were not off base, but they were just scratching the surface of what would really occur.  But you don’t know what you don’t know.  So when we said we wanted to garden a bit and work in the yard the intention was certainly there, but the scope and breadth of what would occur developed on its own while we learned and got more and more excited about the possibilities.

Going from a subdivision where vegetable gardening was not exactly encouraged to 5 + acres is a huge change.  Going from 1 basil plant, a rosemary bush and a tomato plant in a pot to digging into real dirt, prepping soil and growing food at the level that it not only feeds you but you also have a bit left for storing for winter is a huge paradigm shift!

I have learned MUCH.  These are a few thoughts and learnings:

  • You never know it all.  There is so much to learn-species of plants, soil biology, the insect and pest world, seasonal impacts, etc.  So much to learn, but that makes it exciting.  I will never sit back and say “I’m done, I now know it all about gardening.”
  • You can’t control some stuff.  Rain, temperature, amount of sunshine… this stuff is God stuff or nature stuff or higher power stuff.  We may disagree on what controls this stuff, but we all can agree that one human being does not.
  • The taste of stuff that you grow, pick and eat does not even compare with grocery stuff.  I don’t care where you buy it, it was still picked and had to be transported to the store.  I can pretty much guarantee that my commute with my veggies is shorter than any that commute to the grocery.
  • My maternal instincts really kick in every time I walk back to the gardens.  “How are my babies doing?” is what is frequently going through my head on that walk.
  • The excitement felt when things start popping through the soil is cause for celebration
  • AND the sadness felt by something lost is real as well
  • I love learning about soil biology.  Who would have guessed I would EVER say that.  What a fascinating subculture in the soil that I have to partner with to get this food. And it knows more than I do.  I learn from it, it definitely is not taking lessons from me!
  • I appreciate the cycle of days so much more now.  I cherish the early morning hours I had during the spring and summer to work outside at 6:30 a.m.  I don’t have light any more at that hour so I have had to adjust.  Again, something I cannot control, but I do have to work with it.
  • I notice more about daily changes in everything.  Even outside of my garden, when I am driving I notice others fields in a new way. Or notice our grass growth and changes more. Or the trees that need trimming or leaves that are changing. It has just made me so much more aware of the things that truly do change on a daily basis.
  • There is no sleep as good as the sleep you get after 8 hours working outside
  • There is no shower that feels better after 8 hours working outside
  • I love, love, love tomatoes.  I just liked them before.  Now I adore them.
  • Change of seasons is bittersweet.  I am so excited about fall and the new opportunities in the garden that will be all new to be also.  But saying goodbye to my summer gardens and eating the last freshly picked tomato or cucumber has  a sadness to it, but also has a way to cause me to really savor every last bite.

AND the NUMBER ONE thing I learned is that I have a PASSION! I am inspired me to learn more and more and do this more and more.  I have been reading and attending webinars. I made a decision this month to go back to school and learn more.

With that decision did come action.  I am registered to begin classes in January with Washington State University’s Organic Agriculture online program.  Talk about a curve ball.  I did not see that one coming but am waiting with anxious and nervous anticipation.  Will I learn it all?  Not a chance!  Will I love it?  I think so, but only time will answer that?  Will it lead me to do something different with my life?  Most certainly, but I just don’t know what yet.

It is all a journey.  It is all learnings.  I don’t know how it ends, nor do I want to, but I am loving the unfolding.

Happy Unleashing and learning!