For better or worse, I'm a perfectionist. I was a straight-A student through grad school (minus a couple B's in the oh-so-high-stakes game of middle school), never once went to detention, and have always paid my bills on time. At the farm, this nutty attention to doing things right has transformed into re-sorting boxes of produce for sale that have nearly invisible blemishes, digitizing our volunteer records and labelling systems to keep things more (in my mind, at least) organized and easy, and turning around on my way home after a long day to double check that I turned the hoses off so they don't blow out. I just have a strong aversion to making mistakes, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it's often as much about my pride as it is about quality.
If pride helps keep the farm running smoothly though, should I really be embarrassed by it?
As much as pursuing perfection brings me satisfaction, I make a whole lotta mistakes. This week I'm going to blame it on the plant sale and unexpectedly running things in Ted's absence. I was hoping to be able to hang back a bit the past couple days, slowly recover from the intensity of the sale mania, let Ted figure out the flow of each day. He's been out with a sick son, though, and I've had to step up to manage the many moving targets we have this week. Excuses or no, I made two mistakes today that my perfectionist brain is still trying to kick me for:
1. I forgot my clipboard. I bring it every day. I forget to put it in my bag some mornings, but it inevitably jolts into my mind before I ride away from my house, and I run up to retrieve it. It has my calendar, sometimes seeding lists, and my endless messy notebook where I scribble project details and work lists. It's where I had jotted all the random details and ideas from my conversation with Ted yesterday about the week's priorities, and a neatly penned list clipped to the top with today's projects and numbers of trays to fill and reminders of which beds to flame weed, and on and on. I remembered when I was about to exit the freeway on my drive to the farm. In a few seconds, I calculated that I could turn around and grab it, but I'd be a few minutes late. I tried to recall what I'd written on that top sheet, figured I'd retain enough of it, and kept driving.
That was a mistake I didn't regret. Indeed, I could recall the important things on the list, had some numbers in my phone to double check my memory, and had luckily drawn out a diagram of a complicated transplanting project, so I could recall it easily and make it happen today. Not a big deal. My perfectionist brain let it go pretty quickly.
2. I forgot to soak a couple trays of tomatoes before volunteers started laying them out to transplant. This mistake, not soaking trays before transplanting, has been pretty common for me. We'll be way out in the field in the hot sun, and someone from the crew will finally ask if it's okay that the root balls are bone dry. Holy s***. No, not okay. We'll run a hose to the head of the bed, drench them, and start over. Every time it happens, I kick myself and try to stamp into my memory that this is one of the steps I'm responsible for. Soak the damn starts, Michaela.
Maybe it was because it was cloudy today, or that the pots felt heavy enough. Or maybe it was just that there were two volunteers ready to start measuring out the rows, and there were more trays for me to gather and arrange, and there were five other things I wanted to do before today's group arrived. In any case, I forgot until about half the first row was already laid out. The thought of pulling them all back together and re-setting them flashed into my mind, and flashed right back out as I watched the volunteers meticulously measuring more pots in the distance.
I soaked the trays that hadn't been set out, wondering if the others will be okay. They'll survive.
When I noticed a couple plants looking wilted, I mentally planned a way to get drip tape in to irrigate the beds before the day's end. Is that a normal overgrown tomato flop, are they in shock from the planting, or are they really thirsty? I had to let it go as other people and projects drew my attention away from the high tunnel. They'll survive.
At the end of the day, Michael staked up all those tomatoes before closing the doors to keep in some heat. He said a few seemed soft and a bit wilted. I told him about my mistake, and we shrugged it off. They'll survive.
It's so funny, how I can be tossing unwanted tomato seedlings into the compost pile in the morning, calculating that we have enough tomatoes to replace any that die in the afternoon, and still worrying about those sad transplants in the evening. Whether or not they survive, it'll be okay. That's one of the secret gems of this farm: we can make mistakes and, instead of suffering or losing, use them to learn and grow together. Mistakes usually end up being learning moments for everyone here, and they remind me what a gracious group of people I work with.
That said, the perfectionist in me is grumbling as I write this. She's thinking, "Yeah, and maybe next time I'll just remember to soak the damn starts." Oh, well. Maybe I will.