Make Something Beautiful

Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something beautiful or to discover something that is true.

William Inge

It is curious that rabbits enjoy the buds of jalapeno peppers. Not the squirrels. They like the tomatoes. They grab the large, almost ripe Roma and scamper up the shagbark hickory tree to enjoy the fruit. I’ve pulled weeds with a rain of seeds and pulp. Despite the squirrels, the rabbits bothered me most last year. I love making my own version of Siracha sauce and gifting bottles to friends and colleagues. I like making gifts in bottles. Siracha and picante sauces in the late summer, Boerenjongens during Christmas, and pickled radishes in the spring. Given the rabbits’ taste for spicy buds, I only produced three bottles last summer.

My answer to this dilemma was to build six, rather large, raised beds this winter. I decided to try the Hugelkulture method. During Covid, a tornado skipped across our neighborhood, downing trees in the woods behind our house. I had plenty of logs to fill the base of the beds. I layered them thick, hoping they might provide a bit of a barrier to the moles that like to come up from the valley and burrow through my yard (although I’m likely just providing them a potluck of rolly pollies and other such insects that have taken up home in the wood).

The Garden. Fall of 2023. Basil Edition.

The garden is on the south side of the house, some 50 feet away from my office where I work to grow Abre. I find metaphors and similes. The tangle of tomato branches and bean stalks representing the chaos of school processes as we try and provide a trellis (or my overused term “framework”) to produce the fruit. The weeds grow like bad state department policies and crazy legislature laws (it seems that every time you remove them, they grow back). We build raised beds and lay down the conditions for growth.

Every office should have a garden nearby. When the work mind reaches its limits and the fingers start to tingle on the keyboard, it’s good to bury your hands in dirt or crush some rosemary sprigs into your palms. I find my thoughts connecting with the breaks. I carry the work into the garden and the garden into work. Georg Junger once said, “Language is thought, and art is turning thought into language.” Building a garden bed, building a company, is an art.

Yesterday, my friend and co-founder Chris told the executive team that we’d launched a particularly high number of Abre installs. We hit a milestone, and a remarkable one at that – far from where we dreamed we’d be when we started this not-so-little project. I see beauty when I reflect on the number of students we serve, the families we support, the teachers we lift up, and the administrators we help.

Winter is around the corner, and this weekend’s project is to create an artistic greenhouse cap for the beds. The aesthetic is important here. I used to use simple pvc pipe and plastic tarps (the rabbits had no problem burrowing through their base). It’s definitely not a thing of beauty (albeit functional). My sketchbook is full of ideas. They’re right next to a growing list of thoughts about Artificial Intelligence and K12 education (a current research project for Abre). And, of course, my daily aphorism reflections. Tied together, I may find something that is true.

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