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Friday, July 16, 2010

Crop Rotation: Filers vs. Pilers

In my estimation, there are two types of gardeners: pilers and filers. Filers are logical, linear thinkers whereas pilers think multi-directionally - all at once. I admit, Roland and I are pilers. Unfortunately, the practice of crop rotation is a linear activity. So, when my Culinary Art teachers assigned the class to create a 3 year crop rotation plan, I suddenly found myself with a BRAIN CRAMP. I have to actually organize and plan my garden space beyond this season. Yikes! I thought everything gets planted in Spring because all of the seed packets say to 'Plant after threat of last frost is over'. Now I have to consider Fall and Winter crops too and how they overlap with what's already there and whether they're compatible with each other and how to do the switch-a-roo when the summer season is ending, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. A conspiracy of filers came up with the concept of crop rotation.

You see, the way each type of gardener views crop rotation has a lot to due with how they see the world. For instance, filers are who pilers deem anal. A filer's raised beds have hospital corners. When the seed package says to plant seed 2" apart, filers get out the ruler. Their radishes are perfectly lined up and perfectly spaced in perfect rows. Filers keep copious charts, graphs and records all in order and know to the hour when they can harvest their carrots. Filers live for organization, so they utilize their organizational skills to the utmost degree when planning a multi-year crop rotation. Their crop rotation charts looks something like this:Pilers on the other hand often drive filers crazy (with great pleasure, I think). To filers, pilers are a subspecies. Pilers have everything in their heads and can tell you in which pile something is and where in the pile to look. If pilers don't build structural raised beds, their corners morph into weedy wash outs or all the beds start to mush together. Pilers put 50 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound sack. A piler's garden motto is, "We shall leave no ground uncovered!" And that's not necessarily with plants. To a piler, crop rotation looks something like this:

Roland took great pains to build our garden structures to give the illusion that we are striving to be filers so we can move up in the world. However, we're not fooling anyone, really. A closer look will reveal that between the beds are piles of wood for staking, bags of soil and compost, starts that we just couldn't cram in, but didn't have the heart to toss (uh huh), tools, pots full of various herbs and fruit trees and various ensembles of cats who think we built the tomato cloche for them.

In addition to being organizationally challenged, us pilers are often collectors. Roland likes to pile collections of cars, lumber, cats, tools and every scrap of paper that comes his way. I pile books, magazines, plants, boxes of wool and knitting projects, just to name a few. We eventually weed through it and pile the unwanted carbon materials in the burn box as we don't have a pile of compost yet because the pile of cars is in the way. Pilers have piles of stuff that we may find useful in the next century. Pilers keep thrift stores in business because we eventually drop off some of our stash, but seem to come home with more cool stuff we found when we couldn't resist and went inside for the hunt. Filers just dump and run (with their itemized receipt, of course). Pilers like garage sales that filers hold because filers get rid of very useful stuff such as perfectly good soaker hoses that have buggered areas. Pilers like to fix things.

Filers require everything in its place and if the place is full, then so be it, it goes. Pilers, on the other hand, always have room for one more thing and will find space. Pilers don't like to leave 2 feet between broccoli starts because that's open space that makes us anxious. Surely, something else can use that space, never mind the broccoli will take over and shade it all out. If it doesn't work out, we just consider this excess, planting our cover crops early, like killing two birds with one stone. Efficient, you know.

I know some of you are thinking, "But I have both qualities!" I'm happy that your life is well balanced. There is the possibility that you have a lot of inner conflict going on.

Filers would never strive to be pilers. However, as a piler, I often find myself trying to tap into my inner filer because zillions of dollars are spent each year on this endeavor as pilers are considered unable to efficiently function. We all want to be more efficient, don't we? Of course that doesn't last long, as once it's filed it doesn't exist anymore and I find myself wondering, "Now where the heck did I put that?" Eventually, I revert back to my natural state of piling, which makes life so much easier in a sense. Of course, computers have forced pilers to convert to a somewhat filing condition even though you will notice that the way the files are vertically presented on the file management interface, makes them look like piles. With that in mind, I'm typing this blog entry on my lap top which sits on top of a pile of unsorted bills on the wood stove, as the desk is covered with too many piles of seed packets and gardening books on how to do crop rotation.


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