in defense of puttering

put·ter 2  (ptr)

v. put·teredput·ter·ingput·ters


To occupy oneself in an aimless or ineffective manner.

To waste (time) in idling:

There are sort of three modes that I garden in:
intensive: full-on, at-least-an-hour, maniacal, no-stop gardening.
Most of the time, this is me. From the minute I step onto the back of the lanai, I’m keeping a giant list of all that needs to be done, and tackling it 110% I only stop because I’ve been in the sun too long and I need to get into the pool for my swim. But I’m usually out there for about an hour, and I leave before I get everything I want done.

– stealth: quick, storm-is-coming, only have time for bare minimum gardening.
If we have something going on, or need to be out of the house by a certain time, or a storm is coming, I will dash back and do the bare absolute minimum (just watering the plants that look like the Sahara). This is rare, but it does happen. It usually only takes about ten minutes.

and then there’s the third mode, which is my favorite:

There are a few days, a few weeks, when not much is happening out in the garden. All the containers are full, all the plants are trimmed and in good shape, all the fertilizing is done, all the dirt is swept up. All there is to do is wander a little bit, pinch off a flower here or there, snip back a branch, tuck a few seeds into moist soil where there’s room. It takes a little bit of time, when you include generous watering, but it’s very relaxing and fulfilling.

I’m having a few days of “puttering” right now. Sometimes things just come together in the garden (rarely- I can always find some intensive project if I look closely enough) but usually I putter when I need some downtime or when my health becomes an issue.

Last week I started noticing a bunch of deep cracks on the bottom of my feet. I don’t have much feeling down there, which is a good thing because skin cracks freakin’ HURT -at least they do on my hands- but also a bad thing because I don’t always realize when my skin is super dry so I don’t know to take care of it before cracks pop up…  Anyway, I had to scale back my time gardening so my feet can heal up a bit and get a little less tender.

So this week I’ve just been going back, doing a little bit of watering, snipping some new growth, tucking in a few sunflower seeds, admiring new flowers, and shifting things around just a bit. And it feels *good*.

As much as I like to full-on garden, to get my hands dirty, to get my muscles sore, to sweat in the hot sun and then jump in the pool after, to get things *done*, there are times when it feels good just to be *in* the garden as opposed to “gardening”, if that makes any sense.

And puttering can be deeply productive. I get some of my best gardening done when I am puttering. There’s time to make thoughtful decisions, as opposed to “get this plant transplanted quick and these seeds in the soil right this second because there’s still a thousand things I want to do out here today!”

So I kinda disagree with the dictionary definition of “puttering”. It’s not wasting time. It’s not “idling”. It’s certainly not “ineffective”. It’s just a chance to slow down, be mindful, and make some small gestures that might end up making big differences.

Comments 2

  1. Misti wrote:

    Puttering is the best way to garden but puttering always turns into intensive garden very soon because I come up with a list quickly!

    Posted 15 Jun 2012 at 2:10 pm
  2. Moosie wrote:

    Yep know what you mean!

    Posted 16 Jun 2012 at 11:22 am

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