Applying compounding practically

I’ve mentioned this previously – the idea of many smaller activities building towards a larger outcome. Practically this is obvious in the financial world as interest builds on capital and growing money. It’s equally practical in the real world and I have an example from farm activities. For example, this recent weekend saw me out and about with an axe, a hatchet and sturdy gloves hacking out the suckers our plum trees have sent up. It’s an example of where compounding works against you – much like an interest cost on a loan. In this instance, the trees had not been pruned enough the seasons before and had sent up a multitude of tiny new trees – little new trees that had now grown into a thicket around the parent tree.

The initial assessment was dismaying – there were easily 50 small trees, some as high as 2m in height, that had to be removed to get access to the original tree. It’s also notable that the original tree won’t produce fruit while it’s going through this phase. So compounding can work *against* you and over time it really, really did. Sometimes you can get lucky. In my case, I got lucky in a manufactured way – I have a chainsaw. The bulk of the initial problem was then attacked over a weekend – hacking through the outgrowths about 30cm off the ground and carting all the prunings to make a big bonfire (which will be AWESOME down the track). As happens, life gets busy and 6 months later, there are now 30cm or smaller chunks of tree poking up all over the place.

Luckily these had been sprayed already – so they were dead, but I can’t mow in there and the cows leave it alone because they get poked in the nose. Hence my weekend with an axe, hatchet and sturdy gloves. This task looked huge, dirty and unpleasant. I can report it was all three of these things. Some 6 to 8 hours later, the leftover parts are now all gone. Happily though, they are exactly the right length for my little campfire stove so I’ve retained a lot of them. That’s the only happiness out of this. From the perspective of compounding, which is really part of systems thinking, I want to avoid this in the future. So a plan has now been hatched – prune the trees *hard* in winter – this will reduce the number of suckers and hopefully improve the fruit yield. Install fruit fly catchers to kill those little bastards and cover certain trees in bird netting. Our apricots lasted about 48 hours before the native birds smashed them. Even now we see drunk rosellas after they’ve eaten the fermented fruit (it’s pretty funny) and it means we’ve lost a lot of fruit. Never before have we approached this in a systematic way. Farmers don’t get the credit they deserve for the systems they have in place to manage their properties and produce. There’s an awful lot of complexity in there, but making some initial steps and sticking to them helps to minimise this. Potentially this post is therefore about both compounding (in a bad way) and the need for planning and systematic approaches to life’s hurdles.

In summary, many hours of hard work could have been avoided with a better plan. The small efforts I’ve made over the last weekend and the ones to follow will gradually bring our orchard to a happy and productive place. Some of these efforts will be much greater than others, but broken down they’re manageable. I heard that old adage that failing to plan is planning to fail and thought this was an excellent example of failure for you to consider. Now of course the real work begins to keep myself out of a hole like this again! Although the orchard doesn’t quite look like the picture from Pexels in the Featured Image – negative compounding will make it so.

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