Battling Imposter Syndrome

This week is the first time I’ve actually had to come up with a blog topic, instead of writing about whatever comes to mind as relevant. So I decided to take a look at which of my goals I haven’t written about in a while. And immediately realized that I haven’t addressed the farm at all. And that I am terrified to write about it.

Battling Imposter Syndrome

The thing is, all my other goals are, in some way a natural extension of who I am now. Oh, getting the generational home will take a hell of a lot more money than any of has and I’m a long way from being able to look in the mirror and see the old ‘woman’. But they are still closely related to who I am now. I can see the seed of them in myself, even if it hasn’t come to flower yet.

The farm

Okay. Here’s the hard truth: I’ve had a black thumb since I moved out of my parents’ house.

Growing up, I was always in the garden. I was the one who picked the flowers we’d plant each spring out of the catalogs Dad ordered for me. (LOTS of tulips and later hyacinths. Mom hated the smell of the hyacinths but to me, they smell of spring.) I was the one who pushed to have a vegetable garden and had to be talked about of getting fruit trees because ‘they take years to produce anything!’ (I still don’t see why this is a reason not to try. We had the room for more trees and we could have enjoyed apple or cherry blossoms just as much as we enjoyed the blossoms of the dogwood trees I WAS allowed to get. The fruit would come eventually.) I planted, I watered and weeded. I picked the cucumbers when they were ripe and found the tiny strawberries peaking between their leaves. (Store bought strawberries haven’t tasted right since.)

But after I moved out, I couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive.

So am I actually able to keep a garden, much less a farm, going? Or was it just that I had Dad to tell me what to do, when to do it, and to handle the stuff I didn’t know I didn’t know that made the garden I had growing up possible?

What the hell am I thinking trying to get a farm going when I manage to kill cacti, of all things?!

Looking Past Fear

The only way I’ve found to get past imposter syndrome is to bring logic into it.

First, of course, I needed Dad’s help as a kid — I was a kid. That doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t count or I didn’t learn anything from it.

Second, all my experience growing up was with outside plants. That doesn’t translate well to understanding where to put *indoor* plants for maximum light. Or how often/how much to water something in a pot, never mind stuff like fertilizer, repotting, etc.

Third, half the times I tried to grow anything in the past 15 years, I was in a crisis or survival situation. I could barely able to handle the basics of life and self-care, never mind plant care. Yes, I forgot to water or didn’t make sure the plant was in an area with good air circulation (lack of air circulation combined with too much water is what killed the cacti — mold found a nice home and moved in) in those situations. That does not mean I won’t be able to manage plant care in a healthy situation.

Fourth, in the past few years I’ve learned that I am autistic, have been battling a major B12 deficiency for most of the past decade, have bipolar disorder, and that my PTSD was way worse and more pervasive than I had thought. Untreated medical and mental conditions and no support do not make for good project management of any sort. Especially project management involving living things.

So I can’t take the past as a predictor of the future. I need to start from today. Battling imposter syndrome isn’t easy, but it’s doable. And the main thing it takes is just being stubborn.

I’m good at stubborn.

Starting From Today

Today I have a handful of plants, most of them fairly new. There’s a pansy that I picked up because I wanted to have something that I could enjoy without worrying about how to keep it alive. No matter what I do it’s going to die off in a few months. A hyacinth sort of ‘ditto’. We don’t have anywhere to plant the bulb when the season is over, but I’m hoping to find someone to give it to so it will bloom again next year. I’m nowhere near ready to try coaxing a bulb to grow and bloom out of a pot.

I have a fern that I picked up last week. No clue yet how it will do long term. But I have a spot right next to my desk where it gets the bright (but not direct) light it needs and where I can easily check if it needs water.

Finally, I have my last surviving cactus. It’s actually a cutting from one the cacti I managed to kill over the winter. But it seems to be doing okay, it’s putting down roots and has one new branch.

Recently I realized that pot it’s in is way too big for it. So I’ll be repotting it in the near future. We’ll see how that goes.

I have tentative plans to try to grow some micro-greens this summer. It isn’t exactly hard to get seeds to sprout, and it’ll be a small success I can enjoy (metaphorically and digestively).

Okay, TODAY…

(The annoying thing about writing posts ahead of time and having a buffer is that sometimes things CHANGE before the post goes live…)

The re-potting seems to have gone well. This cactus starting as a cutting from one of the cacti I killed. It is putting down roots and a small branch. No sign of mold or other problems (yet). So fingers crossed!

One thing I forgot to mention is that I kept all the cacti alive for a bit over a year before the mold hit. I moved them to a new location where they both got less light (so water evaporated more slowly) and less air circulation, and, well, yeah.

Re-potting the cactus into a small pot that fit it better left me with a lot of soil from the over-sized pot that had been used only a month or so. I didn’t want to just through it out, seemed like a waste. So instead I checked it pretty obsessively for any kind of mold and went ahead and planted the spinach seeds I had tucked away from the last time I tried to grow spinach (which didn’t go all that well). No, I didn’t plant them in the big pot. I have a tin foil cake pan that got to squashed to make cake with. Spread the soil out in there about a half inch deep, sprinkle with seeds, put it in a spot with good light.

See what happens. Hopefully, if I did (and keep doing) everything right, in a couple weeks I’ll have a nice microgreens salad.

After that, it’ll be small steps. I’m at least a couple of years away from having a yard where I can have an outdoor garden. No need to rush. Just take it a day at a time and enjoy the plants I have.

And keep telling imposter syndrome to STFU.

The Farm: Lifetime Resolutions

The sad truth is that to some extent (and I’m not sure how much), I was taken in by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romanticization of farm life as a child. And the more I learn about both the reality of farming and of Wilder, the more that disturbs me. But if that was the seed to my desire to have a farm, it grew into a very different thing based on experience.

Down on the… Backyard

Not much experience, true. But for most of my middle school and teen years, my father and I kept a small vegetable garden in our backyard. Strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli once — that we didn’t harvest soon enough and went to seed.

And I loved it. I loved almost every part of it — picking out the baby plants or seeds at the store, preparing the ground, watching them grow, watering… okay, not the weeding… but I also loved how the stuff we bought at the supermarket never tasted as good as what we grew ourselves.

Supermarket strawberries were more sour than sweet. Our strawberries were a delicious button of sweetness with just a hint of sour. Store cucumbers were watery and tasteless. Our cucumbers, while still milder than I’d prefer, were crunchy and had a light flavor I could enjoy once in a while. And lettuce. I don’t know what lettuce Mom was buying at the store, but it never tasted anything like fresh picked from out back. We grew leaf lettuce, so instead of harvesting a whole head at a time, I could pick just enough leaves for salad or sandwiches.

The garden was a bit of a sore spot between me and Mom. Dad got into just because Dad liked gardening. But Mom wasn’t one for getting dirty. And she didn’t understand why when I was so picky and didn’t eat half of what we grew, I still wanted to keep growing vegetables. Though she did get into it after a few years and talked about planting a row of corn at the back so we’d have fresh all summer.

Two Goals, One Farm

Michael had always wanted a farm too, but their idea of a farm was more livestock focused. They talk about wanting chickens and goats and pigs (no) and llamas and… They also have a more commercial focus for the farm. Which, they kind of need if they are going to raise livestock. Starting with heirloom seeds or even wild plants, the cost of a large garden/small farm can be more than covered in what we save on groceries. (I have a not-so-short list of native and other wild food plants I’d like to grow.) If I have enough extra to set up a roadside stand or a small boxed-food thing, that’s a bonus.

Animals are expensive, both getting them, feeding them, and caring for them. So Michael needs the farm to be commercial in a way that I don’t. Michon is all about the animals too. Ze and Michael will get into discussions about sheep vs goats and why they don’t want guinea fowl. Honestly after ten minutes I lose interest.

I don’t have anything against raising animals, but it’s not where I want to put my time and energy. I don’t have experience or much knowledge to contribute. I’ll give my opinion if they ask for it and have occasionally put my foot down (no pigs). Michael and I both have ‘Farm’ on our list of 5 things to do with our lives. We have rather different ideas of what we want to do with the farm. If this gets off the ground, we will largely be running in parallel (while pitching in to help each other as we can).

That’s not to say I wouldn’t want the farm to be commercial. I love the idea of doing monthly boxes or similar that folks can sign up for. I spent a fun afternoon brainstorming different kinds of boxes, from basic veggies to a native foods box, to a canned and stewed box for over the winter.

But making it commercial is, for me, a nice bonus. The goal is to have the land, energy, and resources to grow food to feed my family for a good chunk of the year while saving on grocery bills.