Several years ago (almost 10, actually), I became certified as a Master Gardener. Here in Michigan,* to get that certification I took a semester long class through Michigan State Unversity Extension, suffered through weekly quizzes and a final exam, and performed 40 hours of volunteer service related to horiticulture. (I was basically an indentured servant to the Master Gardener Giving Garden -- a very cool small working farm that grows - and then gives away - over 14,000 pound of fresh produce each year.)
To STAY certificed as a Michigan Master Gardener, I need to complete 6 hours of continuing education and 15 hours of volunteer service each year.
I have no problem AT ALL with the education hours part. The entire reason I decided to become a Master Gardener . . . was because I LOVE learning about gardening.
When it comes to the volunteer hours, though. Well. Let's just say I'd rather spend time in my own garden! I have just not found a Master Gardener project that I'm passionate about doing. I do things to keep my certification up -- but I usually don't really like doing them.
This year, I decided to try something a little different. I decided to "adopt" a garden bed in Bronson Park (the public park/"community square" in downtown Kalamazoo) as part of the larger Kalamazoo-in-Bloom project.
In some ways, this is a perfect project for me! My favorite parts of gardening (in that Zen, everyday-maintenance kind of way) are weeding and deadheading -- and that's just what's called for in adopting and caring for a park garden bed.
Plus - the location is very convenient for me, and the timing is completely open -- as long as I keep my bed looking neat all summer long.
And I figured . . . extra deadheading and weeding will give me more time for mindful thinking and relaxation!
Volunteer hours + Convenience + Work I Like Doing + Mindful Relaxation = Win! Win! Win! Win!
So far, my experience is pretty much living up to expectations.
I'll have no problem getting my Master Gardener Volunteer Hours this year. (Win)
I was right about the convenience and the timing. (I even got a "Bed Adopter" parking pass for the downtown meters, so Extra Bonus Points.) (Win)
I do like the work -- although the bed is one of the ugliest in the park. (I am not allowed to design or plant; just weed and deadhead.) (This kills me every time I see it.) (Win . . . if I don't look too closely.)
Mindful relaxation? Not so much! Turns out . . . there's a big difference between gardening behind my fence at home (which is very relaxing and peaceful and private) and gardening in a busy public park! I now garden with OVERLY friendly squirrels (like . . . not even slightly afraid of me AND expecting food please), inquiring children, talkative walkers, and a whole crew of homeless men who live in the park during the summer and love to chat.
It takes some getting used to.
But I'm committed! (And see? This is how they make sure you keep your garden bed looking good!) (Talk about public accountability. . .)
Here's another bonus: Some of my new park-resident friends tell me jokes! Here's one from earlier this week:
Q: What's the difference between in-laws and outlaws?
A: Outlaws are WANTED!
Enjoy your weekend!
* Each state has their own Master Gardener certification/re-certification requirements, just in case you're interested!