Trust the process….
Words that have become my mantra lately as I train for my first marathon in October. The nervous anticipation of my weekend long runs are alleviated when I refer to the training plan that I purchased from someone with years of experience coaching marathon runners. I’m reminded that if I don’t do progressively longer runs over the course of six months to a year, I won’t succeed. By trusting his process over my own suspicions, it gives me confidence and ultimately, peace.
I’ve integrated this mantra into my work because I obsess about prairies just as much as I obsess about running; repeating the phrase every time I pull into a driveway to check out a new project or evaluate an existing one.
For new prairie projects, I have to remind myself to trust my own process.
It’s usually around a new home and I’m reminded again that no matter how cool the new house is, the disturbance around it is never pretty.
- What am I going to do with that brush pile fit for Burning Man? I don’t know if my crew can deal with that. I need to find someone to deal with that.
- What about those compacted subsoils? All clay…lots of rocks. That’s at least a day of rock removal. Maybe I could use the rock for perennial beds?
- Look at all that Canada Thistle!! Will the client be patient with the site prep involved to get rid of it? What about the cost? Will I lose the project entirely?
- Woah…look at all the erosion! I’ll need erosion mat. Lots of erosion mat.
- Neighbors all have mowed lawn…mowed in neat criss-cross patterns. How will I make the prairie fit in?
Aaah!! “Take a deep breath, I tell myself. How many times have you done this?”
Logic overcomes anxiety. I tell myself to….
- Slow down. Be present.
- Look beyond the ski hills of topsoil, silt fence, brush piles, compacted clay subsoils and perennial weeds.
- Create a sketch and gather measurements of the property to include house/outbuilding footprints, driveway, canopy trees and property boundaries.
- Evaluate the sunlight, soils, drainage, existing vegetation and erosion potential of proposed planting areas.
- Take pictures of everything! You will need them later.
- Create a landscape plan, budget estimate and timeline for client review.
- Be patient as I wait for their go-ahead. Follow-up, but don’t be a pest.
- Only be sad for a little while if I don’t get the go ahead. Move on instead of obsessing about what went wrong.
- Bask in the glory for a moment upon their approval, draft a contract, secure materials and time and GO!
Evaluating existing prairies is another story. I have to convey confidence to the client who is suspicious of the process.
Their stream of worries are also posed as questions.
- How come I’m not seeing prairie plants? Where are the flowers? I’m getting old you know.
- Won’t the prairie plants be drowned out by the weeds?
- Did you plant that red clover? It’s so thick! Are you sure there wasn’t clover seed in your prairie mix?
- Why are there so many bare spots? Do we need to re-seed?
Even though I tried to mentally prepare them for the obligate “ugly duckling” stage of prairie establishment, every client, no matter how patient, needs reassurance that all will be okay. That their money was not just thrown onto the ground. That they will see flowers in their lifetime.
As I push the clover aside to reveal tiny butterfly weed seedlings in the understory and talk about how they’re slow growing, but investing in a strong root system and how they will ultimately overcome their faster growing but shorter lived clover neighbors due to this diligent investment, clients are visibly relieved. The sometimes trying years of prairie work have built my confidence in the process of prairie establishment, which is then passed onto my clients.
I look at it as they’re buying into my training plan and a prairie landscape is their finish line; a significant investment towards a glorious goal.