Thursday, July 11, 2013

Letting Yourself Fail

It's been a pretty tough year.  In fact, it's been pretty tough since we moved into this house.  All the gardens I had before were, by definition, temporary.  We were just going to live there for a while and, as a hobby, as an experiment, I planted some thing.  But here, things are different.  This house is our permanent home and that means any thing I do to the house, or the yard, fells permanent.  That means it has to be done right, it has to be perfect.  When the whole backyard is nothing but sand, a large blank canvas, this feeling is very intimidating.  Then anything short of perfection can't be labeled as progress, any chance of failure becomes failure.
This is how I've been feeling.
We tried several times to lay out the beds we want in the yard but they never seemed to fit quite they way they did on paper.  My ability to measure and lay out angles in the real world wasn't on par with my computer programs.  Besides, when I spray-painted the bed layout on the sandy soil it blew away within a week.
We tried actually building a bed out of cinder-block (chosen because the resulting beds would be as close to permanent as we could get) but we couldn't figure out how to pour a level concrete footing.  We tried sinking a row of blocks below the soil line instead and got frustrated by our inability to get them perfectly level and straight.
We were offered some sod, leftover from my father-in-law's lawn, and figured it wouldn't hurt to try a lawn.  Unfortunately, without a sprinkler system the watering became too much and the grass dried up and died.  I have a brand new push-mower that I got for my birthday that never even got used once.
It was all very disheartening.  I'd been working on that yard for 2 years and had nothing but a couple of filled in holes and some dead grass to show for it.  Every time I went into the yard for anything I  felt depressed.  I was ready to accept our dust-bowl of a yard, to live with it (or ignore it's existence) for the rest of my life.  There were plenty of things to do inside.  I didn't need to go outside.  I didn't need a yard.  I didn't need to garden.  It was an unnecessary waste of water anyway.
But that's silly.  I want a yard.  I like being outside.  I enjoy gardening.  I've only been working this yard for two years and, if it's as permanent as I want, I hope to continue working it for another 60.  If it is as beautiful and alive as I want, it will never be complete or finished.  It will never be perfect, it will just be continually pushing towards wonderful.
That was the flaw in my thinking.  Every failed attempt as measuring, laying out, building, and planting didn't spell failure for the yard or myself.  It was just one more thing to check off the list as a "didn't work".  Which meant that I was one step closer to finding something that would work.  Yes, it's only one step down what may be a very long road but one step at a time will get you there a lot faster than not taking any steps at all.  The only true failure would be giving up, admitting to myself that I can't do anything with that yard.  as long as I'm trying thing, even if they all fail, I'm not failing.
So this month I am celebrating renewed effort and determination.  This month I'm taking a new approach, tackling the problem from a whole new angle.  This month I've dug holes, poured concrete, and set posts for a new garden bed.  This weekend I'll start screwing boards of composite wood to it and it will, hopefully become the cornerstone on which I build my whole garden.  From this bed I can expand across my sandy lot and shape it into a productive space that I can enjoy.