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How to problem solve (gently)  RSS feed

 
Theodore Heistman
Posts: 21
Location: Adirondacks
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I have kind of a problem. Overall things are going well, but anyway long story short I am working for a freind as a WWOOFER basically even though we aren't signed up with it officially. But I am working on her organic Homestead type deal for the summer here in the Adirondack Mountains for room and board while my wife works as a kayak guide.

The problem is my host has various gardening problems, which everybody does, like pests, different things not doing well, lack of rain etc. and often she is brought to tears about different things at times. So what I do is lots of research, Permaculture books from the Library, research on this website and other websites.

The problem is that it seems like the better the solition is I come up with, the more resistant she seems to be to it. Even after she finally gives in and lets me try it and it ends up working. Especially then.

For example she had a problem with her beans and she was really distraught over it. From my research it showed symptoms of potassium defficiency. The older leaves were turning brown and curling on the edges, and they were in a place that gets tilled every year for going on 12 years. Anyway, they looked really bad and weren't growing. So I put potash on there and some mulch and some different things in the mulch that were high in potassium, like shredded banana peels and braken ferns. Anyway the beans showed signs of improvement.

She prefers to think its some kind of weird virus. Because then its like some mysterious thing she has no control over. If its potassium deficiency in her soil, I guess the problem is she feels responsible like she was a bad gardener.

She is open to input, and I have had a lot of leeway. She let me build two heuglecultur beds and I have convincerd her to let me basically muclh everythjing she is growing so she has no bare soil. Basically she resisted that, but gave in finally and now its working really well.

I just get tired from the process of trying to help, since for me its just a learning experiences, There is no final pay off for me as I will be leaving at the end of the summer. Its hard to try and sell her on stuff, when I am not really selling anything, just trying to solve problems. I've learned a lot from her too though. She has a lot of knowledge and comes from basically the same value system that permeculture springs from even though she never really officially followed it, but ended up doing a lot of the same stuff convergently.

Has anyone else had these situations?

I mean its not like I argue with her about how to do stuff. I simply try to help when she shares that something is not working.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Sounds like you're actually doing pretty well, since she lets you try different things even if she isn't thrilled about it.....
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5909
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
365
bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
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I personally enjoy problem solving and was so happy to find this site where my areas of interest are coming in this constant stream of information. My husband also is glad I found this site so I dont run every idea I have past him for discussion. He's all about solutions but better at the implementation part. we all function differently. Your friend may just feel protective of something she's put so much energy into and maybe doesn't want to discuss the problems but doesnt mind results. Sounds like you have made a difference in that garden.
 
P Thickens
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
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That is a difficult problem. I can see how you would find it very frustrating. I've experienced similar things and even though such stubbornness apparently happens to everyone, that knowledge didn't make it any easier. Have you tried giving her two solutions and letting her pick? Or maybe finding the answer and then walking through the discovery process with her so that she thinks it's her 'find'?
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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There is a learning process to permaculture as well as the human experience. Permaculture is easy. It comes with instructions. The challenge is the personalities involved in a project and coordinating the ideas and goals of several people, suppliers, and customers in order to reach a measurable result. It is important to conquer frustration by employing patience. It gets easier after that.
 
Theodore Heistman
Posts: 21
Location: Adirondacks
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Well thanks for the input everyone. Overall things are going well and she is generally a really easy person to talk to and very knowledgeable. Basically she can identify every weed, wild herb, bug, insect, bird We see in the area. Maybe I sprung too many things on her and it took her a while to adjust. I had a talk with her and she is happy about how things are going. She is actually going away for a week and feels confident I will be able to hold things down while she is gone.

Its funny that out here in upstate NY permaculture is not really that big and she is the only one in her circle of friends that is a serious gardener. More and more local people are starting gardens and raising chickens though. Personally I had heard a lot about permaculture from a philosophical/political perspective, before I had done it, from people I knew and things I have read-related to environmental issues.

My host has been raising about half her own food for her and her husband for about 12 years now. Last year a friend bought her a book by Toby Hemmenway and that was her introduction to permaculture. I have learned a lot from her. Mostly about identifying wild plants and edible weeds. I make the most awesome salads for lunch these days!

Talking to her, one thing I get an impression of, is that since most of these books are written by people out west or in Australia, she wonders if maybe some things won't work in zone 3 in the middle of a forest with a 90 day summer. I am about 75% sure though that she won't keep tilling, since its a drought right now an the things we mulched with woodchips are still nice and moist underneath.

Thanks again.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1142
Location: northern northern california
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personal dynamics and learning to get along with people well seems to be a lifelong lesson. i basically get what youre saying here, these underlaying dynamics and i've been in similar ways with people.

i feel like when people are seeking solutions and are asking and open to it, it becomes obvious and then you can make suggestions, give advice. or there are ways you can bring ideas to people that makes them more receptive to it.

i am not naturally good at this! i'll just blurt out anything i think, not recommended!
so i try....to figure out when that sort of thing is welcome.
people dont really respond well to the unsolicited advice though, even if your intentions are good. even if you already know the answer! and are right! or well maybe your suggestions wont work for them, they have to figure it out for themselves in a way that fits for them..... unless you think someone at a certain time is open to that sort of thing, its best to just be quiet, listen, let the problem solve itself, stay detached.

we could though, all learn a lot from each other if the practice of constructive critism and problem solving together was something people were more open to...

its good to let people work things out for themselves, trust in people to make their own way and mistakes.

part of what helped me more and more is just to learn when NOT to say certain things. seriously, SHUTTING UP ! remembering this, and then backing off and letting people work out their stuff....helps me. just do nothing about it, back off, let it work itself out.

sometimes people just want a sounding board, and not the helpy helperton person- trying to solve their problems.
i mean, actually i'm not even that good at this! natural instinct is run in there with solutions, try to brainstorm with them to work it out. but i try to remember, and get better at just being a listener, letting people have a sounding board rather than try to solve their issues or figure it out.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Theodore Heistman wrote:
Talking to her, one thing I get an impression of, is that since most of these books are written by people out west or in Australia, she wonders if maybe some things won't work in zone 3 in the middle of a forest with a 90 day summer.


She might want to take a look at sepp holzer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwzNXWKyjsU&feature=related
 
Theodore Heistman
Posts: 21
Location: Adirondacks
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Thanks Leila,

Thanks Tyler. I actually showed her that. She still thinks it must be warmer in the Austrian Alps then where she is. I will have to get my own place eventually anyway. There is only so much I can do on somebody else's land. I mean. I'm not considered an authority on this stuff and with good reason, because I am not. But that's the advantage I have. I don't think I know anything. I just see a problem and read all this stuff by Mollison and sepp holzer and Toby Hemenway etc. and try out solutions.

She still says things like she worries that if there is a light rain the water wont get down into the soil but just evaporate on top of the mulch, wheras if there was bare ground it would water the plants better. I know that can't be right. But I figure why argue?

I think I have about as much leeway as I could hope for actually. And its probably good to be skeptical. I mean she is kind of a hard nosed person, not just a patsy that believes everything she hears. If she wasn't a skeptical person that had good values and was very opinionated, she would be spraying persticides and chemical fertilizer everywhere. She's 68. She kind of has been going against the grain all her life, by being organic, being a homesteader, buying fair trade, recycling, being DIY, bartering etc. Doing all these things that are becoming more popular and widespread now. She kind of has come full circle and now upstarts that read stuff on the internet can tell her solutions to problems!

Her place is amazing. I mean she has all these milkweeds all over that place she told me not to weed whack. Now there are monarch butterfly caterpillars on almost every one. Its like a butterfly sanctuary. All on two acres. If I work for her next year She'll probablylet me build a pond.

I have nothing to complain about really, but it is funny how peoples mind's work. Probably all good ideas get resisted at first and then eventually they say that its just common sense and they knew that all along.

 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5909
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
365
bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
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I have to agree with your friend about mulch and a light rain. Depending on the mulch material even an inch or so might not make it to the soil. It is always a consideration here and I've been known to run out in the rain and pull mulches back off. If the ground is already saturated a mulch will definately help alot but in really dry conditions I sometimes leave things unmulched and grow a little buckwheat to shade the soil so when it rains or I water it goes straight into the ground.
 
Joan Fassler
Posts: 17
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Hi Theodore,

I live in the Adirondacks and have been involved in gardening since I was a child. I lived most of my life in lower NYS.
The Adirondacks is a world apart from the rest of New York. http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#
It has many micro-climates because of the mountains and valleys that have to be dealt with as well. A good place to direct her to for information is Cornell University Cooperative Extension http://www.cce.cornell.edu/Pages/Default.aspx
They have classes and links to information on soil. New York Adirondacks is deficient in some trace minerals due to the glaciers. The soil of the Adirondacks overall are high in copper, low in calcium and selenium (for those wanting ruminants). The lack of calcium makes all plants susceptible to molds. Calcium is needed for the germination of grass and winter rye.
You have to be creative because of the low angle of the sun. I have grown green beans and I prefer poles because, like solar panels, you catch more sunshine. I actually leaned the poles against the house at an 60 degrees angle on the south side of the house which added to keeping the house cool. I grew Kentucky Blue Poles beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)and Scarlet Runners (Phaseolus coccineus) side by side one very cold year only a few of the Poles germinated, most of the Runnners came up and the plants were twice the size. The Poles eventually died off. The runners kept going. I researched this and found that Runners are a lot more cold hardy. Watering early in the morning so the leaves dry is also a big help.
 
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