What do shredded mini wheats and innovation have in common? Probably about as much as straw bales and home gardens. Straw bales are a common sighting in the Midwest. Every fall, farmland is prepared for the winter. After corn is razed from the ground, the leftover material is rolled into round bundles that look like giant shredded mini wheats swimming in a bowl of dark brown soil. Last week, I read an article in our local paper about a man named Joel Karsten who drew inspiration from his father’s Minnesota farm to design a new way to grow a garden. He calls it Straw Bale Gardening.
The article said that Joel came up with the idea of using straw bales as a natural container for vegetable and flower gardening one day when he was looking at the straw bales on his grandfather’s Minnesota farm and noticed vibrant weeds growing out of older, moldy ones. He wondered if weeds could grow so well there, why not vegetable plants and flowers? Undaunted by the hordes of academics who told him such a preposterous idea was impossible to successfully execute, Joel pushed on until he made it work. Now little old ladies (and people like me) who love gardening but don’t exactly like bending over or getting on their needs to plant and tend for a garden can eliminate all that with straw bale gardening. Even better, there’s no weeding necessary with straw bale gardening!
I love to garden but I hate pulling weeds. I also hate all the unusable byproducts from parts of plants left over at the end of the season and constantly having to work and amend my soil. I love the idea of treating a straw bale, sowing my seeds, running an irrigation hose through the bales and watching my produce blossom from my kitchen window. I also love the innovation aspect to Joel’s breakthrough. I love where the innovation came from – something very familiar and often overlooked. His story reminds me to take the time to observe my surroundings and utilize them for creative inspiration and innovation.
I love words but sometimes I hate writing. The process feels sometimes like pulling teeth – slow and painful. As a professional writer, there are many times I just have to conjure up the copy required for an assignment on deadline. Sometimes, I can push an assignment to another day when I am “feeling it” in terms of writing. But often, I can’t do that. I have to summon the words and complete the assignment because I am on deadline and a client needs it. One of the best ways I have found to overcome writers block is by changing my surroundings. Or, reading something that someone else has written, and written well. I will get up and go for a walk to clear my head and get my mind going. Sometimes, I’ll go for a swim and just let the words roll through my head as I go back and forth across the lane. Sometimes, I’ll listen to my daughter read a book. My point is that innovation is all around us. Often, as in Joel’s case, inspiration for a great idea is right in front of us. We just need to open our eyes and seize it.