Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fountain Head

Just about every day at work, I take a walk around a nearby park. It helps me so much to have a 15 - 20 min break, both mentally and physically (stretch those legs, relax those eyes, etc.).

Over the last few weeks I've been watching a crew of workers repair a broken fountain in the park. There are four guys and they've been at this project for several weeks.

Whenever I walk by, three of the guys are clustered together talking and pointing at stuff, and one guy is in the dried up fountain doing the work: scraping, digging, lifting. I admit that I have no idea what they're doing (looks like the pump was broken), but I do know that the one guy in the fountain doing all the work probably isn't doing his best job.

I'm not saying he isn't a good worker. In fact, I'm sure he is. And I bet he was motivated and worked hard the first few days or weeks on the project.

But the manager/leader/foreman/crew chief will beat that kind of work ethic right out of him.

Late last week as I walked by the foreman called the lone worker over and started pointing a pile of miscellaneous pump parts.

"What is this?" he demanded.

The worker started to reply, only to be cut off by a rough shout from the foreman.

"I said to get three blahblahblahs. What's this?"

Again the worker tried to reply, only to be shouted down again.

"What is this? What is this?"

And then I was past the fountain and the yelling faded into the background.

The other two guys, the ones that usually stand next to the foreman and help point at stuff were snickering.

I'm not a perfect manager, and it's always easier to be on the outside and point out possible errors. But I never treat people like that. What good could possibly come from publicly humiliating someone like that? At best, the worker will feel terrible about the mistake (we did not get to hear his response to his manager) and go back to work a timid, unmotivated cog in the fountain repair wheel.

At worse, the worker will quit or do an intentionally poor job.

I'm amazed when I come across people in leadership roles who don't include teaching and mentoring in their definition of leader.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

California Drought: Gardening Impact

I'm well aware that California has little to complain about. We have fantastic weather, to be sure, and easy access to sun, surf, ski, swim, fish, and just about every other outdoor activity. From where I live, it's 20 minutes to the beach, less than 1 hour to San Francisco, 4 hours to Lake Tahoe, and the list goes on.

We also have earthquakes, a very, very high cost of living, and now/yet again a very serious drought.

That graph really doesn't do it justice.

As a child of the 70's I've lived through a few droughts here already, but this one feels worse, somehow. More serious...

And with this drought comes a few lifestyle changes. We never really had enough water for everyone in the state and to keep the native/local species of wildlife intact. But things are bad now and the population keeps rising. Soon we'll have to decide/debate extremely stringent water conservation and how that is further exacerbated by the amount of water we're sending to the Delta and Bay and other places for the wildlife concerns.

And then, there's our gardens. Our lawns are the first to go, though the suburbs do love their lawns. But after that, what else can we cut? Shorter showers, sure. But many homes are not set up to catch rainwater (which we aren't getting much/any of this year) or graywater. 

I may have mentioned this before, but a few years ago a new neighbor bought the house three doors down from us and immediately installed a huge underground water storage tank. Many folks raised their eyebrows. I was very jealous, and even more so now.

I'm glad that more people will move to xeriscaping and native, drought tolerant plants for their yards, but what of the garden?

Here's what I've found so far:

Vegetable gardens usually need about one inch of water (630 gallons per 1000 square feet) per week in the form of rain (ha! it doesn't rain in CA in the summer) or irrigation during the growing season.

Interestingly, the typical lawn needs about the same!

Of course, our garden isn't very big (at least not yet), but I was surprised to hear that they both required a similar amount of water.

I'm sure driplines and mulch and smart watering can reduce the amount of water we need for our garden, but I realize now that we won't be expanding during this drought, and we'll need to look at more ways to save water.