Dateline: 3 April 2015
I tell this story fairly often. Maybe I've told it here in the past (after nearly 1,000 blog posts, I can't remember everything I've written). But even if I've written this before, I think it is worth repeating...
Many years ago, I worked for a remodeling contractor. Shortly after he hired me, the contractor hired another guy to help me. The new man's name was Steve, and Steve had recently gotten out of the Army.
Steve was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, and he was an exceptional soldier, as evidenced by the fact that he came in 2nd place in a Paratrooper of The Year competition, beating out thousands of other soldiers for the honor.
The Army taught Steve the esoteric craft of using explosives. As I understand it, he was trained to be dropped behind enemy lines with a handful of other men, and, among other things, blow stuff up.
One day, early in our working friendship, on a job site, I mentioned to someone that Steve had been a demolitions expert in the Army. Upon hearing this, Steve immediately corrected me...
"I'm not an expert. I'm a specialist. All the experts are dead."
The difference between an expert and a specialist was not immediately clear to me, and I asked what he meant. Steve explained that experts are people who think they know it all. Specialists know a lot but realize they can never know it all, so they are always looking to learn and understand more. If you are a demolitions expert, you are in great danger. This concept (without the life-ending aspect) can be applied to all of life.
The difference between an expert and a specialist boils down to a matter of attitude. Experts have a proud attitude, while specialists have a humble attitude.
Steve and I became the best of friends. We had a unique working relationship because we both had the specialist attitude. We realized we had a lot to learn about being skilled in the building trades, and we pursued the improvement of our skills with passion and effort. We eventually went into business together. Those were good years.
The world we live in is full of so-called experts, and I've noticed this is the case with a lot of gardeners. For example, my YouTube video, Four-Day Carrots (now with over 340,000 views) has a fair number of comments from gardening experts.
They assert that my idea for germinating and growing carrots is stupid and unnecessary. They say they can grow more and better carrots in the same area of garden bed. They say their permacultural gardening methods are far better than mine. They criticize me for using plastic mulch in the garden. They criticize me for using old tire sidewalls to hold the plastic down. Such are the gardening experts of the world.
We all have our opinions, and often our opinions are perfectly valid. But from my point of view (that of an avowed gardening specialist) I would never think of criticizing anyone's methods of gardening.
The fact is that gardening is a subjective skill that can not be fully mastered in a lifetime. It is subjective because every garden plot has it's own unique variables of soil and climate; what works well for me in my garden may not work well for you in your garden. And there are so many techniques and ideas for gardening that they are all worth considering.
My garden is not simply a place to grow food That would be kind of boring. Instead, my garden is something akin to a lifetime laboratory of learning. I am continually trying new ideas, evaluating them, and discarding or modifying them in an effort to improve my garden and my gardening skills.
Beyond that, there is the artistic aspect. My garden is akin to a painter's canvas. Every spring I have an opportunity to co-create with God something that is amazing and full of beauty. I do this with the attitude of a specialist, who has so much yet to learn.
Homegrown Food Summit
Speaking of gardening and learning, have you heard about the FREE online 2015 Home Grown Food Summit? It will run from April 6 to April 12. It looks like an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in gardening (and homesteading). I signed up yesterday. Click the link and check it out.
Another Neat Resource