Existential Questions About Soil Moisture Probes

Existential Questions About Soil Moisture Probes from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

You know that feeling when your soil moisture probe is telling you one thing, but your heart (or really, your hand) is telling you something else?

I’m going to leave it to Keith to cover the equipment articles and give you the why and how of this particular feeling.  My part today is a bit more existential: What does it mean?  How do we cope in a world with such challenges?

The answers aren’t as complex as they might seem though (in terms of existential questions, these are total grapefruits) though they are just a touch painful: what it means when your probe and your hand give you different answers is that your well-worn hand isn’t as sensitive as that computer sitting in your soil over there and how we cope with such a thing is to learn to accept the tremendous help it offers us.

Easy things to say; tough things to actually accept.

Our nervousness over new technology is understandable.  We’re taught, rightfully so, to trust ourselves: our senses, our instincts.  So when this computer comes along and tells us that we’re wrong, and, by extension, that we’ve been wrong, accepting it amounts to nothing less than a paradigm shift, a sea change.  No small thing.  I’ll admit to finally arriving on the other side, but even for me, a happy early adopter of many things tech, the journey wasn’t exactly quick.

But it was worth it as it will be for you.  Making it allows us to uncouple ourselves from prior knowledge and learn something new; it prevents us from letting what we already know keep us from acquiring new, terribly useful practices and skills.

As I’ve come to see it, accepting a new piece of technology into our lives is a five-stage process, or journey, as I’ve framed it here:

Stage One: The first stage is about understanding the concept of the technology and deciding where, if anywhere, it fits in your operation.  Not all pieces of technology fit, so this stage is about determining whether or not the rest of the journey is worth your precious time and effort.

Stage Two: This is the trust phase in which you relearn things and remodel your thought processes—the beginning of the paradigm shift I mentioned above.

Stage Three: In this stage, you overcome fear.  In regards to the soil moisture probe, this is when you finally take your hands out of the equation and see that life goes on quite well.

Stage Four: The fourth stage is part self-forgiveness and part engagement.  It’s here that you get over yourself and come to realize that golly-gee, you’re not a computer after all and isn’t it kind of cool that there’s one here now to help you with the work.  So you start to see what it can really do.

Stage Five: This is the stage of total utilization.  Whatever the technology in question, this is when it becomes nothing less than integral to your operation, much like your cell phone has become integral to your daily life.


It seems to me that mostly, we really do want to trust new technologies, but anxiety sometimes gets the best of us.  Anything new in our lives, after all, brings with it a whole other set of new things for us to grapple with: experiences, thoughts, feelings, and, particularly, questions.  A soil probe, which in a grander scheme is actually a pretty modest little thing, opens a whole new set of questions for us, a fourth dimension in need of exploration.  It tells you what is going on, but not why.

Which is a big conversation.  A pivotal conversation, actually, when it comes to optimization.  Considering the why will get us talking more about when we water instead of how much.  This is both the real question, I think,  and an example of the anxiety of adopting new technologies, like a soil moisture probe, which are both answers in themselves, and the beginnings of other answers, too, as well as other questions and other conversations.