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3 Garden Pests & How to Defeat Them

This has been an amazing garden season so far. We’ve had more tomatoes than ever before, an excellent variety of peppers, and so much more that we’re waiting to harvest. But wait – where’s the lettuce been? what happened to the carrots? and when will we get sweet corn?

3 words – Slugs, Rabbits, & Deer

In my 4th year of gardening, this is the first time that I’m battling pests other than bugs, fungus, or disease – and I’m so thankful for that! Now I am just realizing that I need to take an even more preventative outlook & approach.

Slugs

Slugs are tough to spot because they typically feed at night, so that explains why I catch them sliming around early in the morning. Rains haven’t been too terrible this year, but when it rains, it pours, and that moisture has been attracting them as well.

When I find slugs in the garden I typically will throw them out of the yard and hope that a bird finds them instead of my dogs eating them. Other than that, there are some real alternatives to give you real results. Sprinkle coffee grounds, crushed up egg shells, or diatomaceous earth around your plants – this will act as a deterrent, plus the rough surface will cause damage to the slug’s soft body. You can also look into wool pellets or slug deterrents that may benefit your garden as well.

Rabbit

These guys have been hanging around ALL season long. At first I thought they were cute. I saw them munching on some grass & weeds in the garden (and didn’t see damage on anything else). Little did I know, they were plotting on me the whole time – carrots ripped up, turnips getting the tops eaten, and the latest, they bashed all the lettuce that was growing so perfect – and that my CropBox customers have been missing out on all year! To solve this problem, I have installed garlic clips – just a clip filled with a garlic oil mixture that smells extremely strong to animals & deters them from an area. I’ve never used them, but when I worked in Sales, I had a large pecan orchard that swore by them to fend off rabbits AND deer.

Deer

This one just really hurts me to have to say. Majority of my crops are grown in the Garden of Gains – at my home. Garden of Gains North is a small plot that I’m growing at my parents’ house. It has been responsible for green beans, cucumbers, & potatoes thus far – and I thought sweet corn. After inspecting our sweet corn this weekend, it is apparent that somebody has already gotten to it – deer!

Though my parents’ live in the middle of nowhere, with a field behind their house, with deer running through their yard all the time – we’ve never had an issue with them eating anything from the garden. Though I think the garden may be reaching its completion at the North location, we will move forward by using garlic clips and also installing netting around future crops we’ll plant there like lettuce, spinach, and other tasty deer treats.

But not too long ago, the ferocious, loving & sweet guard-dog Gizmo had to be put down. I think that her fierce chicken-like bark was just enough to keep the deer out of our yard & to protect our garden & landscape delicacies. It was really sad to hear the news about Giz, but she had 16 awesome years of chasing tennis balls, making friends with stray cats, & being the most loyal dog a family could ask for – Rest in Pupper Peace Gizmo.

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Needless to say, these are the challenges of gardening – battling pests for your food. As you go along in your gardening journey, all you can do is pick up little details to perfect your approach to the next planting.

And to everyone in the CropBox program – THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME THE CHANCE TO GROW FOR YOU! I really appreciate the faith & patience and will pay everything back 10x as I grow & learn through this process!

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What I Learned from Breaking my Foot

It has been 7 weeks since the ER confirmed that my foot was broken after falling 4-5 feet from a tree that I attempted to climb while at a family cookout. Ok, so I didn’t really try to climb it as much as I tried to run up it like a bear or monkey would. According to Kyla, my last words were, “Hey, watch this!”

Usually nothing good comes after a statement like that and this case was no different. I reached a point far higher than I anticipated and once I hit the ground I landed on a tree root, turned my ankle, and instantly knew my foot was broken due to the level of pain that I had.

After the fall I got up, walked (limped) back to the patio area where everyone was sitting, and of course everyone thought I was being dramatic. My Grandpa strapped a giant ice pack to my foot and that was that. I refused to believe it was broken but knew the truth.

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Minutes after breaking my foot

Since the cookout was earlier in the day, we went to Chipotle afterwards and I walked (limped) through the entire line and drove us home. This was another great plot line – I drive a stick-shift and I broke my clutch foot. I powered through the pain with the help of the endorphins flowing, but this would be the last time I would drive for 3 weeks.

For some reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital that night. We got home around 6pm and I knew we would be there forever – plus my foot wasn’t broken so there was no sense in wasting time & money right now!

I laid there all night in extreme pain waiting to fall asleep. Every trip to the bathroom or the kitchen was getting tougher & tougher – around 3am I could no longer walk/hobble/limp, and had to start hopping to avoid the pain. At that point I figured I would just wait for Kyla to wake up & then we would go to the hospital.

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Waiting on x-rays @ the hospital

Little to my surprise, they found I broke my 5th metatarsal, and I broke it right under my ankle – a clean break right in the middle of my foot! In this moment I realized that I broke my foot doing something stupid as hell, now had to rely on everyone for transportation, and basically was going to spend summer 18 on crutches!

But for some reason, I wouldn’t let it register in my head that I broke my foot.

I have too much stuff to do!

What about the garden? How will it get weeded & watered? How am I going to wear a backpack sprayer for applying fertilizers & pesticides while I’m hopping around on crutches? How am I supposed to carry stuff so I can actually garden?

And then what about my real life? No dog walks for a few weeks (taking our first one today). But how would I get to & from work? How would I get home at lunch to let the puppers out? How do I get my coffee cup from the kitchen to the living room without spilling?

These were the existential questions burning holes in my mind – but I tried my best to keep it from eating me alive.

And I believe these are all the reasons why I broke my foot.

Yes, I brought it upon myself, but I feel as though I was meant to break my foot in order to slow my life down. I was getting to a frantic pace of action – always busy doing something, feeling the need to create content / document the garden journey & just do as much stuff as possible – always on. With this accident, it forced me to stop & realize how fast the world can pass you by when you’re busy & focused in your own lane.

But more than anything, it humbled me.

You don’t realize the importance of your freedom until you rely on everyone else for transportation. Whether its hauling my ass to work (thanks Kyla), hauling me home for lunch (thanks Brian), or delivering the coffee from the kitchen (thanks Kyla), we all take the little things for granted until something helps mold our perspectives. Accepting help is something that I needed forced upon me & I am very appreciative to my friends & family for helping me when I couldn’t help myself.

Out of the struggles also come solutions, though.

Gardening on crutches is an absolute nightmare. You have to deal with crutches sinking in the soil, crutches damaging plants (R.I.P. to at least 2 tomato plants), and… you can’t carry anything!

I started getting creative with carrying work stuff in a backpack & for the garden I had won a tool belt on Instagram last year (never thought I’d wear that, what kind of guy wears a tool belt apron-thingy). The 5 pockets got packed with all the tools I needed: Soil Knife, Pruners, Weeder, plant ties, and whatever else would fit. To finish it off, I hooked a kneeling pad on the belt and that’s how I accomplished most of my gardening with a broken foot – by crawling around the garden like a child.

Although I was forced to slow down, I kept pushing myself to do as much as I could. Not only to keep the gardens groomed, but just to prove that despite the broken foot, I was going to keep doing my thing. The first 3 weeks were strong and then I decided, “hey, maybe I should just rest all day instead of part of the day?”

My mind stopped calling the shots and my body stepped in and told me to chill. Week 4 was a relaxing time with much less gardening & going, and I think it was a sort of turning point. At this point I was driving so I was exercising my foot whenever I drove and had to push in the clutch. I think that served as a micro-therapy and applied enough pain to slow me down the rest of the day.

As the weeks went by, I slowly began coming back to life. I was able to start walking – first on my heel, then slowly into a limping walk that allowed me to abandon the crutches. I limped for a week until my foot muscles & ligaments got built up and now I’m basically back to normal!

Although I was mad at myself for getting into this situation, I feel like it was much needed. I needed to slow down. I needed to ask for help instead of trying to do it all. I needed time to myself & time to think. And most of all I needed my mobility taken away from me so that I could appreciate what role Hustle plays in our lives. Ultimately & ironically, I think I needed to slow down so that I could optimize my actions & attack my goals even harder!

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7 Seeds to Sow in April in Ohio

If you don’t like the weather in Ohio – just wait 5 minutes!

That’s how the saying goes in Ohio (and in a lot of places around the country) but this year’s weather has been exceptionally crazy! There was a lot less of the sub-zero temperatures, but instead of that, we’ve just been floating between 60-degree days & snow. You know there’s a problem when hydrangeas start growing/budding in late January when you’re in zone 6!

So, it’s early April – the weather is around 70 degrees – spring has come early, right?

Unfortunately – you couldn’t be more wrong!

On the positive side, there are still plenty of things that you can plant to get a jumpstart on your garden!

In the ground

Even though it may be 50-75 degrees for a few days doesn’t mean it will last forever – we’ve seen snow into May before (knock on wood we don’t have to deal with that this year)! However, there are some perfect candidates to plant at this time that will be able to withstand the cooler temperatures.

  1. Kale – this super green is extremely winter-hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as 18-20 degrees. Kale is packed with potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron, and other antioxidants that make it a great addition to salads, or my favorite, smoothies.
  2. Spinach – another super green that can withstand freezing temperatures, spinach can be planted in mid-April & you could harvest your first leaves within a month. The great thing about spinach & kale is that the flavor is actually sweeter when grown in the cooler weather. As you get into warmer summer weather, you’ll notice that your greens will get more bitter – and the plants may even begin to “bolt” or begin to flower – and you definitely don’t want to eat it at that point!
  3. Lettuce – it’s best to be too early rather than too late when planting leafy greens. Cool weather enhances the flavors, while warm weather produces a more bitter-tasting product.
  4. Garlic – depending on the variety, you can plant garlic in late fall (Oct-Nov) or in early spring (Mar-Apr). Again, garlic is extremely hardy to freezing temperatures & the cool weather builds the flavor profile.
  5. Carrots – a lot of gardeners won’t grow carrots because they’re a little tougher to grow, take about 100 days to harvest, and they don’t want to “waste” that space in the garden. In my opinion, they aren’t planting carrots because have never tasted a garden-grown carrot – who knew they had so much flavor! You can literally taste the earthiness & the sugar since it hasn’t been processed & stored for months before it makes it way into your fridge.
  6. Onions –  like garlic & carrots, onions are another root vegetable that develop more flavor in the cooler weather and they can withstand the cold temperatures extremely well!
  7. Potatoes – you can plant potatoes in the early spring as soon as you can work the soil but they won’t begin to grow until the soil temperatures reach about 45 degrees. It is important to grow potatoes in mounds or mounded rows. This ensures that the soil is loose & doesn’t hold too much water. Water-logged soil can lead to rot of the seed potato or lead to disease/fungus issues down the road.

Hopefully this helps if you feel like you’re too late to start your garden – it is NEVER to late to start growing! A lot of gardeners typically start seeds indoors to get a head start on the season. If you haven’t started seeds indoors, now is a weird time to start them indoors because you typically need 6-8 weeks before you can transplant.

If you still want to get a head start on tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, or other veggies that take a while to grow, I would recommend starting them in peat pods or a biodegradable pot that you can just plant straight into the ground. This will give you the option to start early, but won’t keep your plants trapped in a seed tray when spring does decide to stay for good!

 

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3 Tips on How to Care for your Seedlings

You started your seedlings a month ago – they’re growing like crazy, right?

If so – here’s how to keep them growing strong!

If not – this article will help you get them growing on the right track & help to set you up for gardening success this year!

The moment that you begin to plant seeds is such a revolutionary time. As you fill the seed trays with soil, you feel your soul being filled with the hope of growth; the hope that warm weather & bountiful yields are on the horizon. But first, you need to get these bad boys growing – and then you need to keep them alive & healthy!

Here are the most important things to monitor to grow like a pro!

  1. Light – I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s usually one of the hardest things to adjust for, and in my opinion, the #1 reason for new gardeners believing that they have a “black thumb”. Light is the most important thing for a plant to have – it’s how they transform carbon dioxide & water into food that fuels growth. When you start your seedlings in a window in February-March, there a few things you have to realize. You need a south-facing window. During winter & early spring, the sun will travel low in the sky in the south & a south-facing window has the most light exposure. Also, daylight hours are short, not usually long enough to facilitate proper growth because seedlings need between 10-14 hours of light to reach their full potential. If you see that your seedlings are getting “leggy” & stretching out – you may not have enough light and may need to consider using grow lights to get the results you want.
  2. Water – Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but trusting the plants to take care of themselves is another beginner mistake that just happens – you live & learn after a few seasons of “practice” 🙂 You want to make sure that you’re keeping water at an optimal level. What does that mean? Check on the soil – is it visibly dry? If yes, then water. If no, check later in the day or tomorrow. On the flip side, don’t keep the soil so moist that it never gets a chance to dry out. This will essentially drown the seedlings by not allowing air to get into the growing media – not to mention the potential for algae, disease, or fungus growth.
  3. Fertilizer – This was an area that I was always shaky about when I began gardening. Mainly because you think that the plant already has everything it needs. And also because you hear horror stories of people who over-fertilized & “burned” their plants up. The good news is that there’s this cool thing called a label on the fertilizer. If you read that, it will tell you exactly how much you need – in most cases it will even have a recommended rate for seedlings! As a rule of thumb, I usually look at the recommended rate & cut that in half and then will fertilize every other time I water the seedlings. This isn’t to steroid the plants out, but to keep them happy. If you are inconsistent with fertilization, it will affect the pH of the soil & affect the ability for the nutrients to be delivered through the soil media into the plants (this will have to be its own separate, and highly technical article in the future).

So I’m sure this advice seems basic or elementary, but success is on the other side of executing the fundamentals exceptionally well.

And if you want a more in-depth analysis & conversation around seed starting, check out the podcast I did with Tori from Mustard Seed Farm Market

Happy Gardening!

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Spring Fever Anxiety

It’s April – that time of the year when everyone is talking about having spring fever. Here in Ohio we have been getting teased with mild weather since the end of January – and then we’ll get snow, or ice, or both – but this year’s spring fever is different for me. I’m not just anxious for spring, but I’m also anxious for what the spring will bring & how my CSA Veggie Box Subscription is going to do.

As we inch into April I am still waiting on some additional seeds to come in, and quite frankly, it’s making me nervous as hell!

The good news is that I have all of the necessary crops planted:

  • 4 varieties of Tomatoes – Jelly Bean, Tommy Toe Candy, Golden Rave, & Tribute Hybrid.
  • 6 varieties of Peppers – Anaheim, Cayenne, Gurney’s Primo Jalapeño, Habanero, Yum Yum Mini Bell Peppers, & Ghost Peppers
  • Winter Wonderland Kale – I started this out under fluorescent lights & it was thin, leggy and I really wasn’t sure if it would recover. Once I got it under the TotalGrow Broad Spectrum LED lights it completely changed the game & now the kale is going wild with growth!
  • Green Onions – they aren’t growing as well as I would have liked, but you live & learn! The good news is that I can direct-sow those seeds in the soil now & then get the transplants out in the garden once they get to a good growth point – shouldn’t be too long!
  • Lettuce – this has been a huge fail & it’s my fault for using expired seeds. The good news is that lettuce grows fairly quickly. I’m replacing the failed lettuce trays with Buttercrunch lettuce.

The biggest reason for my Spring Fever Anxiety is the fact that I now have customers – I’m growing for a greater purpose other than just for my own curiosity & passion. I’m now spreading my passion into practicality and I think that is why it makes me so nervous. I want everything to be (nearly) perfect – I want to supply my friends & family with a full produce box bi-weekly & that is a much bigger challenge than simply growing veggies – it’s about planning AND growing veggies.

We’re exactly 2 months out from our first round of delivery, so there’s plenty of time to get the herbs, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other small add-ons growing for harvest by then.

In addition, we have about 60 heads of garlic growing in the garden right now along with oregano, peppermint, 2 varieties of raspberries, and blackberries. I think we’ll get a good amount of raspberries this year – the golden raspberries will definitely burst with fruit & it should be the first fruiting year for the red raspberries & blackberry – fingers crossed!

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So far we have 5 confirmed customers and I am expecting at least 5-10 more. I really think that I could handle more than that and the good news is that we’re at a very scalable point in the game. Right now it is all about succession planting for the consumable crops.

The next step is to re-sow lettuce. This time around, I’ll start off with half of the tray – that should give us 36 heads of lettuce which should feed my customers for 2 weeks. So essentially, I will reseed lettuce every 2 weeks & do the same with similar consumable crops: radishes, cilantro, green onions, & spinach/kale (not so much because you can continue to harvest from these throughout the spring, but depends on consumption too!).

My reason for writing this post was to air out my irrational feelings of being behind the 8-ball & I think I realized that I am in a great spot even though it doesn’t feel like that! You have to take stock of where you’re at, admit your challenges & defeats, and then develop an attack-plan in order to conquer your concerns.

Gardening is definitely a patience game – it’s about the long-term – but if you aren’t auditing yourself on every micro-action, it is easy to fall behind. I feel a metaphorical sigh of relief after writing this post and I can’t wait to get out in the garden to turn that patch of dirt into a thriving ecosystem of life again!

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4 Lessons Learned on Seed Starting

A little over one month into our seeds’ journeys & you can see that they have all taken very different paths on their journey from seed to CSA.

Evergreen Green Onions & Starhawk Lettuce were the first seeds we planted on February 12th. Both began with decent germination, but I soon saw the flaws in my methods. As the Onions & Lettuce grew, I noticed that germination was spotty, the seedlings were laying down rather than growing tall & standing and I didn’t really figure it out until I planted my 2nd round of trays – I didn’t dibble deep enough holes for the seeds & they were essentially sprouting on top of the soil. This left the roots exposed & did not provide a strong environment for survival.

Lesson 1!

Kale was another one we seeded early because it too is a cold-weather crop. We started it under fluorescent lights and it was doing okay – a little leggy because it wasn’t getting the proper amount of light distributed amongst the whole tray, but it was a whole different story once we put them under the Total Grow Broad Spectrum LED lights – mmm, real light! However, the Evergreen Onion seedlings seem to be doing amazing under the fluorescent – I’ll take it!

Lesson 2!

While everything else is thriving, I look at these empty trays and wonder, “what did I ever do to you Starhawk Lettuce, why won’t you grow!?”

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Starhawk grew great for us last year, so I can’t quite figure out the problem. At first I thought it was temperature – but even tomatoes & peppers have germinated and they typically need a warmer environment (especially Ghost Peppers) so it couldn’t be that. Then I thought it was the trays – but here’s how the Starhawk Lettuce looked in the same growing trays last year:

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Lettuce growing in the greenhouse

So it couldn’t be the trays fault. I know I planted the first tray of seeds too shallow, but I corrected it for the second tray – and still having issues. At this point, the only thing I can think is that the leftover seeds from last year’s planting actually did hit their expiration date – I’m going to keep the faith on these bad boys & hope they decide to come around! Moral of the story, always analyze, refine, and attempt to correct issues early or preemptively if possible!

Lesson 3!

The seeds that I am the most surprised & excited about are the Tomatoes & Peppers. We planted 4 types of tomatoes & 6 types of peppers and saw germination of the tomatoes within 7 days & germination of the peppers within 10 days. Since I am growing some hot peppers including Habaneros & Ghost Peppers, I knew that I would have to add some heat to get them off to a strong start. In order to do that I put them under fluorescent lights which give off heat unlike LEDs which usually don’t add much heat to the system. And I also used seedling heat mats under the trays of tomatoes & peppers, which sped up germination like I couldn’t believe! I’ve always thought that it was hard to get Ghost Peppers to sprout, but I saw sprouts in 10 days! Maybe I’ll try another tray of lettuce & use the heat mats 🤔

Lesson 4!

Seedstarting is always a time of excitement with anticipation of spring, but more importantly, it is a time to analyze your challenges and develop a plan to dominate your garden execution. Here are the 4 lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. Dibble holes for seeds – AKA plant seeds at the proper depth.
  2. Total Grow Broad Spectrum LED lights over everything! (Except, maybe, for onion seeds).
  3. Be aware of the challenges – analyze, refine, correct & always have an open mind to learn from mistakes rather than punish yourself for them.
  4. Seedling heat mats make life better by jumpstarting germination

Seedstarting is my favorite time of the year because I get to dive into my passion of plants & gardening and because it’s conclusion is spring! I hope this helped with your seed starting questions – leave a comment with any further questions or challenges you have and I’ll be happy to answer in the comments or on my podcast on Anchor called Plant Rant!

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Give Yourself Permission to Succeed

So often in life we feel as though things are out of our control because we aren’t in a position of “power”.

But true power is never attained – it is earned; it is something that exists within your soul already. You exercise this power by taking risks; taking calculated leaps of faith & fighting for your mission.

Sometimes you lose – most of the time you will lose – learn to love it.

If you always get your way, you will never learn the truth. You’ll never learn the true mechanics of the world and learn what the market desires; in the end it is the market that dictates who/what wins.

Your losses & failures seem so ultimate in the Now – our society celebrates success as if it always happens overnight; instant gratification. And when success isn’t instantaneous, we want to quit. We want to protect ourselves from the insecurity & vulnerability we feel – or fear we will feel. On the plus side, nobody gives as much of a shit about your feelings as you do.

The other good news is that you have 60-100 years of life left (I’m planning on living to 132) to learn from those mistakes & to pivot towards a new path.

Your failure is never an end – it is a new beginning.

If your failure is a dead-end & you see it as your goal’s death, that is a problem with your perception, or maybe your ideas do suck!

How you react & refine it shows your faith in your mission, and more importantly, in your Self.

Give yourself permission to fail.

Failure is the only true path to success & victory because it shows how badly you want It. When you see success as “winning” and failure as “losing” – you lose! Life is not binary unless you want to limit the scope of your mind to that. In success there is room for improvement & in failure there are micro-victories to be celebrated – a little paradoxical, no? Well that’s life – confusing as hell & so complex that we will never fully understand the relationships that intertwine to form our reality.

Giving yourself permission to fail or succeed is the critical component in the equation of life. And if you think of it as an equation, that may be the perfect analogy.

What you want could be the product, sum, or difference & the rest of the equation’s components are in your hands – and then it is algebra from there.

My equation looks something like this:

[Blogx+3Instagramx+YouTubex+(15CSA+add-on products)-Excuses-TimeWaste]² = Greenhouse Grower / Farmer

In other words, I  know that I need to produce content on my Blog weekly, post at least 3 times a day on Instagram, create a weekly YouTube video, build up my CSA (veggie box subscription), and when I take that to an exponential level – I will be on the way to attaining my goals. I’m constantly tweaking that equation with different approaches. When I slip on one platform, then I know I need to increase activity on another in order to balance the equation. And as I fail, I learn – as I succeed, I learn & seek to replicate that or fabricate new ways to succeed further.

Your goals are only crazy if you follow them blindly. If you continue to see your ideas/thoughts/desires surface – maybe there’s something there. If they continue to fail, what is poking holes in your theory? Study its credence & eliminate its influence if you still feel as strongly.

I LOVE telling people that I’m going to be a farmer because I see the smirk, I see the doubt, I see the almost-condescending attitude pouring from them. But I also know the truth of the economics, and more importantly, I know the truth of my passion.

Most people love their cushy office jobs, but I love nature & I love work. I remember helping my parents mulch our house when I was about 8-10 years old and just loving the fact that I was sweating my ass off, working hard in the hot Ohio summer – that is the difference – I love what other people fear or avoid. And on the academic side – I seek to understand as widely & deeply as possible. When you can combine an academic mind with a body that loves work – you have a farmer.

Whether I succeed in the end depends on my short-term actions that map to my long-term goals. Today I start with 15 people who have subscribed to our Garden-Fresh Veggie Boxes, but just a couple years ago I couldn’t even manage to supply myself with enough produce!

The moral of this rant is to chase down your dreams until you catch them. Fear of Failure is the 1 thing that will deter you initially. But what is worse: to try & then fail? or to not try & never know the outcome?

 

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Your Passion is a House Plant

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Why Can’t I take a Step to Start Anything?

Spiral Staircase

Read Danny Neth‘s answer to Why can’t I take a step to start anything? on Quora