Pundits predicted a pretty poor showing of fall color this year owing to the drought. 'Lackluster' has been a term I've heard or read several times. In my travels around northern Illinois, especially in the vicinity of the Farm, this has been an early and very colorful fall. Bright oranges, orange reds, and reds have been plentiful and perhaps have been even more noticeable and beautiful than in many years by being contrasted (at least over the past three weeks) by still deep green leaves on some of the surrounding trees. At Redbud Creek Farm a number of people have commented how beautiful the early part of fall has been this year and several observed that this is not what they had been lead to expect.

Those darn pundits—it seems that they just can't get it right. Of course poor prediction about autumn's palette pales when paired with a lot of other porous punditry. Pundit is an interesting word. It's actually of Hindi origin (the main language of India) and originally meant learned scholar or priest. In English it basically means 'expert' but in recent use it seems especially to mean an expert or apparent expert who offers his or her perspective on a particular subject most often in some form of the news or entertainment media.

It has acquired a somewhat negative connotation. Our politicians are always blasting the pundits and I suspect that most of us have a kind of love/hate relationship with people who are supposed to be experts. It is always satisfying to note their poor predictions even if generally they are correct. One of the problems with some experts is their apparent lack of humility. I think it is pretty important to qualify statements and recognize that there are exceptions to rules as well as to keep in mind that life is full of irony.

As a freshman in a college philosophy class I had a teaching assistant who ripped my inelegant essays dealing with various questions. He advised me to temper my perspective and taught me to use qualifiers like 'seems' and 'appears' as well as less strong words like 'might,' 'probably,' and 'perhaps.' He advised a clear separation between fact and my opinion and recommended the use of 'in my opinion,' 'I think,' or 'I believe' when necessary. I named this lesson in humble expression the 'Volmecke Principle,' after that bold teaching assistant who made that otherwise mundane philosophy class into something quite significant. The better commentators often use some form of the 'Volmecke Principle.' I recommend it to them all.

At Redbud Creek Farm we are often called on to offer opinions on a whole range of gardening and growing subjects. I think we take that responsibility pretty seriously and diligently prepare to be sources of expertise. Whether we are answering a question about a subject we've known for years or one we've just attended a seminar about, I hope that we are always practicing the 'Volmecke Principle.'

Besides pundit, another word for expert is maven which comes from Yiddish. The connotation for this word seems much more positive than for pundit, possibly because many people's first introduction to the word might have been in the pleasant circumstance of listening to a Jewish comedian. Whereas pundits seem to offer opinion, mavens offer fact. And best of all there often seems to be a personal endorsement or connection with the maven. 'I would like to introduce the company's gardening maven…' or 'this is our gardening maven, she's been a big help…' At Redbud Creek Farm we want to be your gardening mavens. And we'll be practicing the 'Volmecke Principle' which means we'll be doing our best to give you the facts and humbly share our opinions, but for questions like planting a sun loving plant in a fairly shady spot you won't be getting any absolute answers.

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