Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Suffering from a Lack of Focus

It’s become increasingly common for me to have conversations with friends about our growing inability to maintain focus on one thing at a time.  We blame the internet.  Commercial break?  Check Facebook real quick.  Pause in the conversation while you wife sneezes?  That’s a perfect chance to check your fantasy football scores.  Three minutes before you have to go to a meeting? Refresh your e-mail to see if anyone else has written.  Sad to say, it’s gotten bad enough for me that it’s no longer uncommon to stop what I’m reading mid-sentence and check stock prices or to see if any of my favorite bloggers have published a new post.  And if someone posts an online article with links in it, you can pretty much write-off any chances of me finishing the original article.
All this is to say that this sort of internet fueled ADD has bled over into my unplugged life.  It used to be that I could go outside and tackle a project and work on it until completion.  What is more likely to happen now is that I will go out to deadhead the dianthus and I’ll end up working on sprinklers, picking up liquid amber balls of pain and fury, or check my phone to see just how hot it is because it sure feels hot.  Oh look, here comes the ice cream truck.  I wonder what kind of profit they make on days like this.  Do you think that’s a good job or is it just miserable driving around listening to that one song all day long?  What is that song anyway?  I should Google it.  Now what was I going to do with these pruners in my pocket? 

Gardening is supposed to provide us with a break from these kinds of distractions isn’t it? 

Our drought and the heat make these succulents feel like the only responsible plant I can buy right now.

This past weekend being Memorial Day weekend, I decided to make a mini-vacation of it and I took a couple extra days off.  This allowed me ample opportunity to work in the yard in the mornings before the afternoon temps hit close to 100 degrees.  While I worked, I tried really, really hard to focus on one task at a time.  I was mildly successful.  But at after a few hours of weeding, it occurred to me that maybe multi-tasking does have its benefits.  For one, it allows you to use some different muscles and relax others.  The biggest advantage of focusing on one task though has to be the satisfaction that comes when you actually complete something and know that you’ve done it well. 

I installed a brick mow strip to border a new bed I created a few weeks ago. 

I still need to add some sand to the cracks between the bricks and clean up some of the excess dirt from excavating.

I weeded that new bed, a bed I made last year, and the vegetable garden. 

My fenced-in vegetable garden as seen through a young pomegranate tree.

I planted plugs of dwarf mondo grass in a small foundation bed.  I trimmed and pruned the dead wood from several trees.  I hacked off an enormous amount of mulberry branches that were touching the roof of the house.  I extended my drip irrigation system to include a few more plants that were looking worse for wear. 

One of the trees I trimmed was this potted Chaste tree.  When this tree blooms, it's pretty awesome.

I replanted a Strawberry Tree that was competing with the lawn to gain a foothold.  And I thought about, but decided against, cleaning out the potting shed.  But I want credit for just thinking about it because the thought alone made me tired and irritable.

This tree looks so pathetic right now.  Its droopy leaves and sparse
branches make this look like the landscape equivalent of Charlie Brown's
Christmas tree.  Hopefully my decision to replant it now will help
it along and not sped up its death.

I stretched my body and my mind and I came away with a renewed appreciation for what a little focus can do.

Same view as the one above a couple shots but with a different focus.
See, even my pictures can't stay focused on one thing!


  1. It's already hitting near 100 in Sacramento? Jeez. Is that normal?

    I like your chaste tree. I'm growing one here (Middle TN) in the ground. This will be its second full year in the garden. Feel like it's really starting to take off now (though it does take a long time to get started in the spring).

    As for focus, I think the important thing is to was I saying? ;)

    Actually, I do believe we can overcome distraction, but we have to fight against many of the cultural currents of our day to do so.

    1. Hi Aaron - yeah, it's not at all unheard of for us to hit 100 degrees in May. And then it pretty much hovers between 85 and 105 until late September. But at least it's a dry heat.

      My chaste tree takes a while to get started here too. Actually, the first couple springs I had it, I assumed it had died because it took so long to leaf out again.

  2. You said it. I intend to deadhead some roses and find myself brushing the dog. I go to plant green beans and all of a sudden wonder why I'm trimming a tree. It's all the internet's fault. Though gardening is a perfect hobby for an ADD world--as long as we do something out there, it looks better and is fun. (Except cleaning the potting shed.)

    Great post!

  3. Since I got rid of my phone I am able to focus more on one thing but boy it is harder as I age....I find my mind wandering more with chores that are not so interesting but that is normal from childhood on!