When the Compost Hits the Fan

No matter how prepared and prepped and planned you are, at some point it happens to everyone. The compost is going to hit the fan. And then it is going to hit you….in the face. Yep, face.


DUCK!!!! Here it comes!!!

Maybe you miscounted your supplies and don’t realize it until you  are mid-workshop 1,000 miles from home and a sad 2nd grader is staring at you as you fumble for an alternative.IMG_1918

Maybe your cucumbers plants are covered in fungus with not a cuke in sight the day of the class salad prep.


Maybe your carrots didn’t sprout in time for the Valentine’s Day gift.


Maybe it starts thunder storming during your workshop so you have to cram all the ladies from the local garden club into a sweltering greenhouse that turns out to have a wasps nest inside.


Maybe the cold weather killed your favorite madagascar palm you’ve babied for 10 years.


Maybe grasshoppers and snails are eating up all your plants,


Maybe it’s a Friday before vacation and as cute and funny as they are, the students are going crazy.


Maybe you want to throw in the shovel and go back to teaching in a nice climate controlled classroom where most all maybes are accounted for…maybe….? Maybe not!


Bring it on fan, I can take it!!

Somedays the compost is going to hit the fan and there is nothing we can do about it. Or is there? When these days happen, don’t worry! It is okay! I promise!!

You’ve probably guessed from the pictures these maybes aren’t really maybes. They are all real life, all happened to me, and not only am I here to tell the story (and make you feel better about any outdoor teaching mishaps), but hopefully help keep any ideas of brown thumbs at bay! So here are 5 tips to keep your thumbs green and keep you outside!

5 things to remember when the compost hits the fan:

1. It happens to everyone. Everyone makes mistakes and giving yourself a hard time about it doesn’t help anything. Mistakes are how we learn (especially in gardening) and every time we make one, we do better next time. Put that inner perfectionist aside and take care of yourself. If you blow it big time, do some quick creative problem solving on the spot or massively apologize and offer a consolation incentive. Then, try again. Now, I triple count my supplies before I leave town and confirm and reconfirm how many students will be in a workshop. Lesson learned the hard way.


2. No one is going to reject you for acts of nature. When there are no cukes for the salad because of fungus or you are stuck in a greenhouse during a massive thunderstorm, you don’t have to apologize. Those all natural question marks are part of what makes teaching and learning outdoors an adventure. Remember how boring it can get being stuck inside all day? Wouldn’t you rather risk getting wet or having to post pone a harvest day for the humongous benefits outdoor learning brings to the everyone involved? I thought so! So instead of apologizing for the act of nature, reframe it and add a few benefits of or quirky facts about said act and keep rolling.


3. Kids will be kids. Somedays (like windy days, full moon days, Fridays, the day after Halloween, random Tuesdays) the students are going to be off the wall. That is the nature of working with children. One day I had a 1st grade student get a wild hair and decide after months of working in the garden, and knowing which plants he can eat, to go over to the butterfly garden and start eating lantana. Bad move. Lantana is not edible, so he started immediately throwing up everywhere and children start screaming and going crazy. Fortunately, he didn’t eat much before the puking and was totally fine, no doctors needed, but STILL it is enough to make you want to give up on gardening for sure! It’s going to happen, so on those crazy days, try to tune into their energy and tone it down by staying calm yourself. If you start to get wound up they will only get wilder. Deep breathing is a huge help and try repeating a calming phrase in your mind amidst the elevated energy.


4. Remember Murphy’s Law? Reframe it. In Gainesville, FL, there are these stickers everywhere that say “If anything can go well it will”. Someone there is on a serious campaign to deactivate Murphy. When things don’t go according to plan, look at it in a new way. If your plants for parent Valentine’s Day gifts aren’t flourishing like you had hoped, type up a quick note about growing together and turn it into a project the students do with their parents together at home! Voila! A new extension lesson on how love helps both plants and families grow!


5. You can always wash off the compost. No matter how much compost that fan throws into your face, and no matter how many times, you can always take a shower and start fresh tomorrow. A little cliche I know, but it is so true! Trailblazers don’t always have it easy and we are the ones who make the path smooth for the ones that follow. For every crazy day in the wonderful world of outdoor learning, come 10 that go just as planned where the flowers bloom right on time, there are enough strawberries in the garden for every child, and huge strides in nature and place connection are made while wonder is sparkling all around.  The work of connecting children and nature is invaluable for our children and the planet, so are you going to let a little compost get in the way? I didn’t think so!


Keep extra preparing, keep triple counting, keep replanting, keep enjoying thunderstorms, and keep thriving off children’s crazy amount of Friday energy!! Remember the wonder and the excitement of picking a first tomato and eating it right there in the garden, of discovering ladybug larva on a parsley plant, of eating broccoli flowers, of the insights that come from nature journaling, and of the peace and vitality that comes from learning from nature together.  It is invaluable and worth every bit of compost in the face!

Share your compost in the face moments and how you resolved them in the comments below!!

Seeds to Sprout:

Have a garden problem you can’t figure out alone? That’s what community is for! Ask on Facebook or Twitter, tag me in a pic on Instagram, or for bigger things schedule a consultation. I’m here to help!

Remember the ilovemyteacher2014 spring sale ends this Friday! Get tons of gardening advice and troubleshooting tips (all generated from experience for sure!) you can reference for years in the book Wings, Worms, and Wonder. Type in the coupon code ilovemyteacher2014 at checkout to get your discount through May 16!

Remember you local extension agent!! They are very helpful with all things gardening. Contact your county extension agent today!


And maybe most importantly, always keep a best friend close by to help clean up the mess! 

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