Survival of the Adaptable

I’ve tended to notice that as the elders in my life get older, their ability to make quick decisions decreases. They still make them, some important, some trivial, and some you tap your toes at in an effort to keep from jumping in and making them for them. Still, they do come around, asking questions, looking at a variety of possibilities, seeking professionals or the well informed to ensure they have all the facts. It’s like rolling a chocolate around in your mouth to extract every bit of flavour. They roll decisions around in their heads to check every outcome to make the best choice possible.

I think that in their wisdom and longevity, they know just how many potential disasters there could be in every decision. They also realize that some paths can make life very difficult and others much easier. They want the easier, less painful, no brainer path.

This year, I realize I’m doing the same thing. Decisions are not spontaneously or thoughtlessly made. I tend to ruminate, talk and throw out more decisions than I follow through on. And as I come closer to stepping into the next landmark decade I must learn to adapt to this new process.

John and I have been looking at how to make our garden easier to manage. In our younger years, little thought on my part went into planning the garden. I might dig in new soil, plant the seeds or starts and water regularly. Voila, a hit and miss garden of veggies.

But now that we have discovered Pickleball, are getting ready to move the trailer up Island and enjoy a quiet afternoon playing Crib or reading, although we love the garden, we want it to be easy to care for and not include backbreaking labour.

Looking at it, I see pockets of possibilities, but am torn about how to begin. My decision making has hit the elder stage. I see so many possibilities and I want the one that will make it easier.

I’ve always said I’m a lazy cook, well I’m a lazy gardener too. After reading books on Permaculture, I realized its a philosophy that fits my type of garden, one that self sustains and ultimately is easier to care for.

I just don’t know where to begin!

Adaptation: When in doubt, seek help.

Years ago, when Florence was still living on her own, she mentioned how challenging it was finding the time to write her book and take care of regular household chores.

“I get easily sidetracked by the laundry, getting meals ready, dusting and vacuuming,” she lamented. “I don’t have time or energy at the end of the day, to write.”

“What’s your priority,” I asked. “Clean house or write the book?”

“I can’t write when the house isn’t tidy,” she said.

“Then hire someone to do the tidying so you can focus on writing your book,”  I said, thinking at the time how obvious the solution was. She did and at 98 and now living with us, is working on her second book and has somehow managed to have John and I doing her cleaning!

It’s taken me a year to finally realize that I needed to confer with an expert in Permaculture. I wanted to do it right, not just do it. I had started collecting books on the subject, looked at garden designs and continually put off making the decision as to how I would lay out the new culture of my garden! But then realized that I was spending way too much money on books (Yes I know, I actually thought that) on the subject and not enough time on figuring out the actual logistics.

Take your own advice, Beth.

Enter Connie Kuramoto, horticulturist, past professor at VIU, icon and guru of growing just about anything.

The decision was not quite what I had in mind. I thought it would be me looking at the property and suddenly being struck by a lightening bolt of inspiration for exactly where I would be putting what and exactly how I would begin.

Nope, my haphazard way of doing it in the past wasn’t working now.

I called in the expert and sought help. We arranged a date to walk the garden and then we waited rather impatiently for the date with Connie.

It just happened to be one of the rainiest days this spring.

My yard looks more like a collection of scraps, twigs and garden refuse this time of year than a food producing organized space. Willie’s runs around the house and visits with dogs and people on the other side of the fence, have carved muddy paths through the grass, and cuttings from our lilac bushes and hazelnut tree are scattered about, not neatly piled awaiting the chipper.

In the driving rain and shivering cold, it is not a very welcoming place. I was hoping with her trained eye she could look past the neglect of the past two years and focus on the potential.

Her visit exceeded my expectations.

Even if she only came as a sounding board to talk about my goals for the garden, it would have been worth whatever fee she chose to charge. But not only did we talk about the garden, but she also gave me suggestions for each ‘room’ and then sent me a report to get me started.

It was the impetus I needed to start putting together my favourite thing…a list!! Number one on the list was to take the map of our yard, that I had drawn for Connie, and photocopy it to use for planning and mapping out what I planted and where. I also created a list for each section of the property and what needed to be done in each section. That way, if we weren’t sure what to do, we could run down the list and pick and choose.

It feels like the garden has a new lease on life! Me too!

Adapting to an almost 60 year-old way of thinking and doing things has freed up brain space for other things, like creating an exit strategy for work, planning out my next writing project, getting Willie ready for his next agility trial, taking the time for a massage or two a month and fine tuning my Pickleball techniques.