“It’s a hard thing for us as intensives, to let go of our original vision. And sometimes we get stuck.”

What do we do when we have to shift from plan A to plan B or even to plan Q? What do we do when we have to pick the tomatoes early?

Transcript and notes:


Recorded 25 September 2023.


Hey there. Thanks for tuning in.

One of the things about doing a podcast is figuring out how you're going to actually record your episodes. And one of the things I do, is I keep a little list a running list It used to be in Evernote. Now it's in Joplin.

When I have an idea, I write it down. And then sometimes when I go back to my list, I remember what my idea meant. And sometimes I am completely lost. But today's idea- today's idea, I think, is going to be fine.

I want to talk about picking things a little early. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather has turned to fall. Almost exactly on schedule. Like, poetically so. The equinox happened and now we're having a week of rain. Like exactly the way that it's supposed to work here. And because it's the Pacific Northwest, we have a longer growing season than the East Coast, but a shorter one than California. Than the northeast coast. But a shorter one than California,.

We can't grow- really can't grow- three and a half seasons, the way California can with like a little break. Or even if you have cold frames, no break at all. We need the winter off. Last winter, it got down to 17 degrees outside. That is not a growing temperature for pretty much anything. But here, I can still plant. I was watching videos last week about what you can plant in September.

Now, it's almost the end of September. So maybe I missed my window. Or maybe I should plant in containers that I could bring in to finish off or maybe they won't make it. But that's the last one that I want to talk about, is the "maybe they won't make it." Like maybe whatever you plant won't ripen by the end of the season.

And when I lived in Maine, it was a lot more like that. You would plant tomatoes as early as you possibly could, which was after Memorial Day, usually, sometime in early June. You'd put in your tomatoes, and then you'd cross your fingers and hope and fertilize and have your frost covers ready. And maybe maybe maybe you'd get ripe tomatoes by the end of the growing season. Which often by the end of August or early September, you're done.

So you look at all the growing season lengths and you go "uh, ninety days... uh, a hundred and twenty." I don't know if I can make 120 days. I don't know how we're gonna make this at all, I'm not sure. And things like tomatoes are most vulnerable, obviously, because they require hot. They require fairly good growing conditions. And they require a lot of days of growing.

Leafy greens are easier. They come up early, they don't thrive in the heat anyway. So they come up, you eat them, and then they bolt. You wait out the hot part of the summer. And then if you're really lucky, or if you have cold frames, you can plant something like kale.

But the tomatoes, I want to talk about the tomatoes. Because northern and northeastern growers of tomatoes know this in their bones: sometimes, you're gonna have to pick them early. In fact, the odds are very good that you are going to have a fine crop of green tomatoes at the end of the season, even if you got some red ones.

When I was a kid, I used to read the Little House on the Prairie books. And yes, I know they were problematic, and I even kind of knew it then. But I didn't really understand. Now I understand. I wouldn't give them to a kid to read today.

But there was one book, and I don't remember which one it was- where the winter came super early. And they ended up with a huge crop of green tomatoes. And I think it was Laura's mother who made a pie out of green tomatoes, green pumpkin, something green. And the person she served it to would have sworn it was apple pie.

And that kind of inventiveness, seeing through the expectation, seeing through Plan A to Plan B or Plan Q- is the saving grace. And not just of tomatoes, although yes- of tomatoes. It's the thing that makes it possible to decide to plant something in September. And like, if it makes it, great. If we get a cold snap in early November, maybe it'll be baby greens. Maybe it won't make it. Maybe it won't become food at all. But, you know, we will have tried.

I've left my carrots in the ground, they're usually best after a frost. I don't know if they're gonna make it that long, because we have all kinds of animals in our yard, and I'm pretty sure some of them are going to get hungry. Or maybe I'll just harvest them because I want to harvest them. Maybe in a few weeks. I don't know.

But as an intensive, I always start projects with a clear vision of where I want them to end up. I may not know exactly how we're getting there. But I have a picture of what I want at the end of the process. And sometimes that doesn't happen. And if I only start with a clear vision of what I want, then there's only one path to success, only one path to freedom. And otherwise, I'm just going to feel terrible.

But instead, what if instead of entering that shoot with one exit, and only one exit, what if I can imagine three possibilities? What if I can imagine what will happen if I have to pick them early? What if I can imagine an alternate route, some kind of alternate route any kind of alternate route.

For example, this desktop that I've been talking about forever that I've been working on forever. At every step, I remind myself that if for some reason it doesn't work out as a desktop, all is not lost. If it's too cupped to be an effective desktop, if it's too... something. If the finished doesn't work, if something doesn't happen the way I planned. I can always cut it in half. And I'll have two beautiful end table tops. Or I can coat it with polyurethane and make it an outdoor table or something.

Maybe it becomes a sewing table. Maybe it becomes a sofa table. Anything that doesn't have to be perfectly flat. Anything that isn't going to be a writing surface and a work surface. Anything that all it has to do is hold a coffee cup off the ground. Or a plate or a platter. Would that be ideal? No. Would it be better than nothing? Yeah. It's not wasted. And I've learned so much, it's not wasted.

There's an alternative path here. It's not wasted.

Recently, I started a project and realized the person for whom I was making the thing was allergic to one of the materials I was using. So I went back to the store, got more materials and started over. Allergies are not something I mess around with. But are the original materials wasted? No, they came out quite nicely. I'll use them for something, just not this something. There's something we're going to have to figure out otherwise. Different materials, no allergies.

It's a hard thing for me as an intensive, for us as intensives, to let go of our original vision. And sometimes I get stuck. Like with that project, I couldn't really move on with my day until I had caught back up to where I thought I should be with that project by redoing it up to that point. Like... my brain became hooked on the place where I was, and the goal that I had, and the plan and the trajectory and everything. And I was like well, I can catch back up. I can just put in some extra time right now. And then I can do it. And then it'll be like I never made the mistake in the first place.

Was it a mistake? Was it an oversight? Who knows. But it needed to be redone. And so I caught back up and then I was able to sit down and do other work. After I caught up. After I dealt with that. After after after.

So sometimes we get like that and it's a kind of captivation that we have; a kind of fascination a kind of hyper focus on that one thing being exactly the way we imagined it. And for me that means that I mostly work on creative projects sequentially because I cannot bear to have everything hovering over my shoulder staring at me waiting to get done. And I know a lot of my ADHD friends do not have that problem. But I do. I don't have ADHD and it shows.

And so sometimes it's useful to have an imagining of what it will be like if you have to pick the tomatoes early. A picture of a confounding green pumpkin pie that tastes like apple. Fried green tomatoes. Probably there's a green tomato salsa recipe, I don't know. But something else, something that will be as satisfying. Not what you originally wanted, but as satisfying.

And then something else that will satisfy the original need. Because unlike a lot of people, we can't just set our needs aside and pretend they don't exist. It doesn't work. We have to take care of ourselves all the way down to the core. Or we lose faith, we lose trust in ourselves. And that becomes a much bigger problem.

I think I'll probably still plant something if I can get some seeds, maybe some kale that seems to thrive here. Probably some hostas. I made a list. A lot of them are things that won't come up till next spring. I'm assuming we'll still be here next spring. And then I'll remember, that I got to do something. I got to do something that lasted.

Of course, in order to do that, I need to find someplace that's got Hostas at the end of September. And then I need to put on the right clothes so that I can go out and get muddy for a few days. But the ground is soft. I had planned to do all kinds of things this summer that didn't happen. And now it's now it's fall. It is mid-fall effectively. It's been fall for weeks. But weather wise, it's been fall for about three or four days.

I'm wearing jeans and sweatshirts and long sleeves and planning, wool sewing projects, and trying to figure out what to do about the moths that seem to be everywhere. Because when I take my time on something- when I take my time on something, I don't want it to disappear overnight. It's not easy to replace. But if something happens, there needs to be a plan B. Visible mending. Turning a shirt into a vest. Something.

I have this image of being able to eat almost anything in my yard. But meanwhile, I'm planting what will grow. And learning. Figuring it out.

Here's the thing about picking things early: it's not always a bad thing: it's not always impatient. Sometimes, the little ones are the sweetest. Sometimes it's just the right thing.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk with you soon.