Why Did I Think This Was a Good Idea?

My daughter, Jaska, wrote a great piece on her blog, philosopherfarmer.blogspot.com, about the hard way that really got me looking back at some of the not so smart, embarrassing, ridiculous, costly things I have done running this business for 14 years. I often preface observations about the hard way with “why did I think this was a good idea?”

For example, starting a business that requires a greenhouse without a greenhouse…really, why did I think this was a good idea…mixing soil by the kitchen sink, potting soil everywhere one would not expect to find potting soil, spending 3 hours a day moving plants in and out…from the dining area to the porch to the bench outside and then from outside to the porch to the dining area. Carrying watering cans from the sink to the plants in the dining area and in the basement. Lesson learned the hard way…a greenhouse grower needs a greenhouse.

How about finally getting a greenhouse but not having a furnace…why did I think this was a good idea? Found a furnace to borrow, a friend in construction wasn’t using it, but did I call the propane company and have a 100 gallon tank delivered and filled? No. Instead, Andy picked up a 100 pound tank and hooked it up. I really had no idea how much propane that furnace was going to use. I managed just fine for a few weeks and then the temperature dropped dramatically one night, the temperature alarm went off and there I was, outside at 3:00 a.m. in my nightgown, barn boots and coat, wondering why the furnace was not working. Temperature dropping rapidly in the greenhouse, clueless me working up to a panic, Andy out of town. I called him and he had me check the supply line and tank. There was gas but the furnace was working so hard that it had froze in the tank. His recommendation…use a hair dryer to warm things up. Yup, 3:00 a.m., temperature 10 degrees, I am blow-drying the damn propane tank. Lesson learned the hard way…a furnace in a greenhouse requires more than a 100 pound tank of propane.

And why did I think it was a good idea to try a new fertilizer in my potting soil mix? Ah, I remember…it was organic, supposedly time-release and could be used instead of good old Osmocote. I was looking for an organic option. So, I bought some, but not just one bag, no, a half dozen 50 pound bags. Merrily I incorporated it in the potting soil and began potting up. Did I do a test batch first? No. Within two weeks everything I had potted up using that fertilizer was dead or on its way to dead. Thankfully I had not potted up everything but it was still a substantial loss. I cried the day I sent all those plants to the compost pile. Lesson learned the hard way…run test batches when changing product.

I know there are many times when I have worked 12 to 14 hour days for weeks without a break, that I ask myself, “why did I think this was a good idea?” Times, even now with the proper furnace and propane tanks, that something goes wrong and I am out in the greenhouse at 2 in the morning wondering…Or when the top of the birch tree fell through the greenhouse during a snowstorm and the three shortest people in the neighborhood; me, Jaska, Katie; were attempting to move it and patch the hole without a tall enough ladder…
Siting a greenhouse with trees on three sides…now there is the perfect situation to ask, “why did I think this was a good idea?”

Now, I can look back and laugh. I can say that I have learned much from all of them. The truth is, if I honestly answer that question, “why did I think this was a good idea”, sometimes the answer is “because I did not think it all the way through”; sometimes “it was what I could do at the time”; sometimes it is because I just plain love what I do and wanted to do it and I would figure it out as I went along. Figure it out I have, sometimes the hard way. And sometimes I still ask, “why did I think this was a good idea?”