Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lessons from the Garden: It takes work

I've been doing an inordinate amount of gardening this summer, and I think I'm seeing connections between gardening and the rest of my life. Today's insights are all about the work involved in gardening:
  • Be prepared for ongoing maintenance work. While there are some things in life that one can finish and be done with, most require ongoing maintenance: Touch up that paint job, work on your relationship, feed the dog. Every time I turn around, the garden needs to be weeded . . . or mulched, or aerated, or whatever. I don't think I knew when I started this how much ongoing labor is required to keep up a garden.
  • Some tasks aren't fun. No matter how many (many!) times I weed, I never really enjoy it -- it's sweaty, grueling, unrewarding work. Again, this is true in so many areas of my life: no matter how much I enjoy something, there are always some parts of it that I just have to slog through.
  • It always takes you longer than you think. I may go out with the idea that I will weed the entire front garden that day, but I'm lucky if I can get a quarter of that done in a day. This is a lesson I never seem to learn -- with every project I undertake, it invariably takes me *much* longer than I expect (this is known as the planning fallacy).
  • Putting effort in early on can save you effort later. If I were to really weed thoroughly in the early spring, there would be fewer weeds later in the summer. But I never have enough time to do a thorough spring weeding, so I pay for it later with many more hours of weeding. This isn't true of all things in life, but it's worth remembering for some things.
  • You don't have to do it all yourself. I do most of the gardening work myself, but I have a landscaper come in to do things that I don't have time, skill, or tools for -- I have them do tree planting and pruning, for example. And then, of course, Q has been a huge help -- not only does he help me weed sometimes, but he spent hours putting in our new, wonderful paths. Again, this is a lesson it's hard for me to learn -- I tend to think I have to do everything myself, but there is no shame in getting help from others.

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