Spending a few sweet moments in the garden during the early twilight, I was faced with my greatest displeasure in the horticultural realm; thinning the plants. A thick patch of healthy purple and red Russian Kale plants, just a few days above the soil beckoned me to observe their magnificent growth and proximity; an impenetrably dense stand of maroon trees with big strange leaves. My haphazard seed sowing weeks before can be blamed for the task that was before me. To leave every plant in its place, crowded together and struggling for resources, would be to willingly decrease the productivity of my hard working little apartment garden. To thin them would be to send me into fits of indecision, guilt, and stress. My choice, however, is clear. So, a thinning I go. Through the pain and struggle, I remove every other plant. “I will take more later” I promise to myself, “but for now this will suffice.” My hope is that the undertaking of such a dreadful task as thinning the wonderful plants that I have planted will result in healthier growth, higher yields, and more delicious life-giving food on my plate.

Though I might be taken for melodramatic by some in my aching over picking a few small plants, we must all face similar challenges in our own lives. It is necessary for us, in some cases, to thin ourselves to promote growth. Unless you are a cautious “sower” of habits, hobbies, and home improvement projects, you’ve likely got a few things that are competing for your energy and attention. It becomes imperative, in these circumstances, to reign in a bit and take stock of what can stay and what probably needs to go; to find the values and purposes closest to the core. With the sun showing itself brighter and warmer every day, the urge for outside activity is building within me. I must take great lengths to channel my excitement into established hobbies, like fishing and camping, to avoid stretching myself into new and expensive endeavors. What I mean to say is that I absolutely need a stand up paddle board and a mountain bike, but I will exert self-control and stick with my hiking boots and flyrod.

While on a personal level, thinning is very important, the goals and focus of an organization have, perhaps, and even greater reach. In the non-profit world, this can be especially true; the identity of an organization needs to be clear and simple, expressed in its mission. The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks works hard to maintain a singular focus on what we view with upmost importance – clean water. Though the expression of our mission might vary from activities like tree planting to advising local task forces and committees to catching critters in the creek with school children, our mission is always the focus. Our mission is to “sustain and improve water resources for Springfield and Greene County through education and effective management of the region’s watersheds.” To this end, all of our efforts are funneled. Many of our friends and partners within the community have helped us along the way to that end, all for different reasons, aligning with their own missions. This fact represents the beauty of that painful thinning process. No group and no person has to do or be everything. As our missions find themselves entwined time and again we can see that our effort towards finding a focus pays dividends when we work together. With strong purposes in mind, many groups can qork toward a common goal, and each member carries part of the load. We live in a community of focused and passionate groups and individuals where cooperation is nearly inevitable. Without that dreadful process of thinning our interests and energies early on, this sort of collaboration would be difficult indeed.

A young common snapping turtle at Valley Water Mill Lake

It’s time for spring cleaning. What can you thin? If you find good clean water and a healthy environment on your short list, we would be happy to work with you. Thanks for reading.

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

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