our garden experiment

The Experiment

Next month, I’ll be celebrating my 6th anniversary of retirement.  

Even though I’ve settled happily into Phase 4 of retirement, I’ll never stop experimenting.

Today, I’m sharing my latest experiment. It doesn’t matter what the experiment is.  The important thing is what I’m learning and the process I’m using to explore a new interest. It’s an easy process and one you can adopt as you seek to live your best life.   I hope that you’ll do exactly that with today’s article.

My goal is to encourage you to apply the process to one new thing in your life.

Never stop experimenting.

Never stop learning.

Your life will be better as a result.

I'm trying a new experiment. It might fail, and that's ok. The important thing is to never stop experimenting. Foster a curious mind. Share on X

how to experiment in retirement

The Experiment

I made a major shift during my editing of today’s post. 

Initially, I wrote about the experiment itself.  As I went through the editing process, however, I realized the real value of The Experiment is the process I’m using to evaluate a potential new area of interest.  It’s a process anyone can use and aligns perfectly with my byline of “Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement.” 

As a result, I rewrote the entire post.  (Note the P.S. at the end of today’s post)

Think about the process I’m using, and how you can apply the same methodology to an area that interests you.

Consider the details of my current experiment as merely a Case Study to demonstrate the process.  Now rewritten, the process becomes the focus of today’s post, but I trust you’ll also find the experiment interesting in and of itself.

With that, let’s get started.

An Experimentation Process For A Great Retirement

Following are the steps I’d encourage you to apply to any area that interests you. Sure, there will be failures along the way, and that’s ok.  The important thing is to teach your mind to embrace curiosity and dare to take the first step wherever it leads.

I. Identify A Potential Experiment In Your Life

What interests you?  Listen to your mind, and think about an area you’d like to explore.  The list may be short, it may be long.  The important thing is to pick one thing to try.  Some ideas:

  • Starting an exercise program
  • Gardening
  • Eating better
  • Playing pickleball
  • Fly Fishing
  • Camping
  • etc. etc. etc.

Once you’ve identified one thing to try, it’s time to move on.

For today’s Case Study, my wife and I are experimenting with gardening. When we completed Our Homestead Expansion last year,  the clearing for the barn gave us an area with full sunlight exposure.  The Google satellite finally flew by and took a new picture of our 6-acre property, showing our new barn, and where we’re building our new garden (the red arrow in the photo below):

The arrow shows where we’re building the garden, adjacent to our new barn. That’s our house at top right.

II. Eliminate Excuses

Your first reaction, once you’ve identified an area to pursue, will likely be why it doesn’t make sense to pursue it.  

  • “I don’t know anything about ____”
  • “I’ll look like an idiot if I ____”
  • “It’ll take to much time to learn how to ____”
  • “But what if ____ happens (insert any form of failure)”

Stop it. 

It’s easy to make excuses.  The real courage comes in deciding to take the first step.  You decided on the area because it interests you.  Don’t stop now, you haven’t even started.  Put the excuses behind you, and figure out how to get started. 

In the case of our garden experiment, we could have easily used the excuse that we didn’t have access to water at the new barn.  It’s too far from our house to run plumbing, and you can’t garden without water.  Rather than viewing the obstacle as an excuse, we got creative and designed a water catchment system.  It was a fun project and eliminated the excuse…

No water? No excuse. Problem solved.

III. Take The First Step

Instead of making excuses, think about the first step. 

What ONE thing do you need to do, and when do you need to do it? 

Thinking in small, incremental steps makes The Experiment less daunting.  It’s surprising where that first step can lead, as the following two examples illustrate:

In 2015, I decided to start a blog.  I knew nothing about how to run a blog, but it was an area that interested me as I searched for hobbies to pursue in my upcoming retirement.  As I wrote in How It Started in April 2015, my first step was to Google “How to start a blog and get a web domain.”  That step led to the words you’re reading today.  Starting a blog was a big experiment, but taking one step at a time ultimately led to success.  I discovered a new hobby and learned that I love to write in the process.  I’ve also designed 100% of The Retirement Manifesto website, and have never outsourced any of the blog’s management tasks.

In 2019, my wife decided to start a charity.  She knew nothing about starting a charity, but it was an area that interested her.  As I wrote in Freedom For Fido – A Story of Finding Purpose In Retirement, her first step was to send an email to a successful charity already building fences for dogs in need. I shared a copy of that email in What A Difference A Day Makes.  Fast forward to today, and it’s amazing to realize we’ve completed 131 fences and given 300+ dogs a better life.

For our gardening Case Study, the first step was to build a raised garden bed.  From past experiments, I’ve learned that I love to build things, so I simply drove a few posts in the ground and got started…

our gardening experiment
The first step in building our raised garden bed

IV. Celebrate Accomplishments Along The Way

As one step leads to another, take time to celebrate your accomplishments.  The experimentation can be rewarding, but it’s even more fun when you can share your successes along the way.  When we finished planting our garden a few weeks ago, I published the following summary of the experiment on my Facebook Page:


our garden experiment with a raised bed
Celebrating the accomplishment of planting our first garden

Now that our garden is planted, my wife and I enjoy walking the dogs to the barn every evening and monitoring the progress.  It’s rewarding to watch the plants getting bigger with each passing day.

V. Enjoy The Fruit

If your experiment is successful, it will eventually bear some fruit.

In the case of this blog, the fruit is hearing from many of you on how my writing is helping you navigate your journey into and through retirement.  I love the engagement in the comments, and reading and responding to your comments has become my favorite part of blogging.  It’s rewarding to know the work I do on this keyboard is making an impact, and I appreciate your encouragement as I roll through my 9th year of writing on this site.

For my wife’s charity, the fruit is “Freedom Day,” when we watch the dogs run for the first time in their lives.  It’s impossible not to smile when we see the joy those dogs are experiencing.  If you don’t follow us yet, check out the Freedom For Fido Facebook page, where we post pictures from every build.  I suspect you’ll find yourself smiling along with us as we enjoy the fruit my wife’s charity produces.

For our gardening experiment, we’ve recently harvested our first “crop.”  It was only a few leaves of basil, but it was a rewarding start.  Before long, our tomatoes will (hopefully) begin bearing some fruit, and we’re looking forward to learning how to make and can red sauce for our pasta meals over the winter.

It won’t be long before these tomatoes are producing fruit…

Enjoy the fruit.


Retirement is a time to experiment.

Embrace the opportunity to learn new things.  If something interests you, pursue it. Stop making excuses, and take that first step.  Foster your creative side, and learn to listen to your curiosity.

Use the steps outlined above, or create your own.  Whatever you do, find a way to weave experiments into your life. Never stop trying new things.  Never stop learning.  

It’s time to plant your garden.

In time, you’ll be enjoying some new fruit.

Ah…new fruit.

Isn’t that what a great retirement is all about?

Your Turn:  What are you experimenting with?  Any tips for other readers on how to explore new areas of interest?  Let’s chat in the comments…

P.S.  As an example of how extensive the rewriting process was for today’s post, I even changed the article’s title and graphics. Below is my initial title slide, which I removed when I revised the title to “The Experiment.”  It’s not the focus of my experiment that’s important.  What’s important is the process we’re using as we try new things (1). As a result of today’s article, my hope is that you’ll apply the process and try something new in your life, too. 

how to build a raised garden bed

(1) That said, I liked this title slide, so I had to find a way to include it…

Now, go “plant your garden”…


  1. Great article, Fritz! Though, I still hope you show us in depth your new garden. Thanks for showing us how you’re exploring new things in retirement. Kudo’s!

    1. Thanks for the interest in the garden, you would have loved the original post – it was focused on how I built the raised garden bed. Perhaps there is merit in the topic, though I felt it would be of interest to only a small portion of my readers.

      1. Hi Fritz, I like your way of writing and their usefulness for my coming retirement. Your property looks very nice for living and taking regular walks. How fortunate you are to live near the famed Appalachian Trail! Definitely, I will love to know more about your garden near your barn. May be a full article on the garden, its construction process and types of “crops” sown can follow.

  2. I am a few months away from early retirement at 55. My hobby is running 100 mile ultramarathons and I plunked the $ down to register for a really big race next year. I am going to stretch myself way out there to tackle a 300 miler and will use the time until race day to experiment how I will complete it!

    Thanks for making great thought provoking content!

    1. Hi Fritz and all. I loved this blog. I did not get the itch to garden until later in life even though I had the gift of a father with a green thumb and 93+ years of wisdom (he has since left this earth). I started dabbling in the garden around 2005. We recently built our retirement home (we downsized ahead of retirement – part of the plan) almost 2 years ago.
      Regarding gardening, I had a blank palette on which to create. Gardening is good for the soul. I am less than 2 years away from retirement and in my office, I keep a running list of things I want to do or possibly learn to do in retirement – so today’s blog truly resonated with me. Thank you and I look forward to your next piece.

    2. Carl, I’m impressed! I’ve always been in awe of folks that can run Ultras. I ran one marathon, and am happy I did it. Now that I’m older, I just don’t enjoy running like I used to. Good luck with that stretch goal of a 300-miler. That’s insane!

  3. I am not a gardener either but started back in 2016 when the underside of our porch needed to be covered (we live on a slanted lot). I went to the nursery, asked to talk to the head gardener (the pro) there and asked him what I had to do to be successful in gardening. He said “Have the best soil ever”. I asked him how to do that and he said “Mushroom Mulch” which was $2.98/bag. He said it’s very stinky so you will need to transport it with your car windows down. (It’s basically manure). But I purchased 8 bags and proceeded to work it into the soil. Then I took my brother to help me pick out plants (he knows more than I do) and and lay them out. The result? I had the most impressive garden that year. Everyone said “Oh you got your mother’s green thumb.” No I didn’t–but like you, I learned from others. It works.

    I don’t have a vegetable garden but plant a large rectangle pot of lettuce. It grows all season and I harvest it each night before making a salad. Maybe one day I will venture into growing vegetables but for now, I love my garden of flowers and grasses.

    Thanks for your inspiration to try a new experiment. I need to do that–time to change things up. Love your posts!

    1. I know that stench. I bought a ton of Mushroom Mulch and mixed it 50/50 with some topsoil I had to form the soil the for raised bed. Better lucky than good. Thanks for the kind words on my posts, I hope you find that new experiment I inspired you to try!

  4. I recently tried my hand at 3-D printing. For some time I debated on making the small investment but with the encouragement of family, I gave it a try and I love it. What is even more exciting is that my wife is always wanting to see the latest print. Your counsel is “spot on” about the need to experiment. Good luck with your garden and thank-you for the words of inspiration.

    1. Good for you, Rob. I’ve not caught the 3-D printing bug, but that is something our daughter is experimenting with. Glad you found something you love.

  5. “Try something new.” A simple, but, at least for me, profound suggestion. I tend to get caught up in the “there’s no way I can do that” trap. For something as basic as a garden, what’s the worst that can happen? Thanks Fritz, for keeping me thinking.

    1. “Simple, but profound.” I could ask for no greater compliment! I hope you break free of that self-imposed trap. As you said, what’s the worst that can happen? Go forth and conquer!

  6. Your article was what I needed today. I overthink most things, including all possible outcomes. I’m usually a positive person but when it comes to starting to exercise, I’m … scared. I’m afraid I’ve waited too long, and that I won’t be able to overcome 40+ years at a desk job with limited spurts of exercise along the way. But today I am taking a different approach and making it a challenge to see how much inactivity I can reverse!! Thank you again for your well written articles. I look forward to your next post.

    1. Nothing better than the right words at the right time. You’re far from alone in being scared to start exercising. Listen to your mind, and get out there and go for a 20 minute walk. Tomorrow, walk 5 minutes longer. And so on, and so on, and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come!

  7. Another great article! We’ve put several of your prior ideas to work. We’re 4 1/2 years into retirement. Your experiment idea somewhat reminds me of the “Rallying Cry” in Patrick Lencioni’s – 3 Questions For The Frantic Family. It covers a broader approach to having a more strategic, purposeful approach to your family. I bet you would like it.
    Thanks for your articles, I always love them!

    1. Great book! The supporting Defining Objectives to support the Rally Cry & then a quick check in of red/yellow/green status. We have used that to really focus. Even had shades of lime 🙂

    2. Two strong recommendations for “3 Questions.” I’ve never heard of it, but just added it to my “Want To Read” list on Goodreads. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I retired in December at 55. We have taken 5 trips since then (6th trip is tomorrow). About 4 weeks ago, I got serious with my diet and exercise and am now down 8 lbs. Have a few more to go. This may not be new for me, but it is new in the sense that I am doing it without the stress of a job. It’s much “easier” now with the tight shoulders of stress.

    My husband retired 2 years ago and he has been working on our “fixer” house – doing these hasn’t really done before, but somehow knows how to do. No fear – he just does them. Never really thought of it as an experiment, but I guess it really is.

    1. Congratulations on crossing “The Starting Line!” Wow, 6 trips in 6 months, what a way to start retirement! Cool that your husband is figuring out how to fix things around the house. That’s a bit of a weakness for me, and an area I’m trying to build the courage to tackle some new experiments…

  9. Hey Fritz!
    You again are on track with our evolving career of retirement we are working on.
    Our newest chapter is a forced remodeling of our kitchen at the same time in the middle of settling my parent’s estate, due to the recent passing of my mother all the while volunteering at the Red Cross.
    The new skills I have learned in the removal and installation of cabinets/flooring/electrical and lightning and then the estate settlement tasks are just mind boggling. Your plan to get through these are right on.
    It’s always refreshing to read a new post from you. Please carry on.

    1. Mike, sorry about the passing of your Mom, a sad reality many folks our age are dealing with. Good for you for developing the new DIY skills. It is amazing how much you can learn on YouTube. We’re talking with my daughter about tackling some remodeling at her place. She wants to learn some skills, and it’d be fun to tackle a few things together. Fingers crossed we don’t kill each other in the process…wink.

  10. Thanks, Fritz. Your experiments and methodical approach warm the engineer spirit in me. I retired about 18 months ago. This January, we chose to “experiment” by attending a new church after 30+ years in one denomination. Seems the change has been good for us and we expect to sign on as new members at another church.

    For me, I started experimenting with Pickleball (4 lessons) and Rucking (20 pounds) this spring. So far, I really enjoy Pickleball and want to sign up for additional lessons. The Rucking makes my local hikes more challenging and vigorous. At this point, I expect to continue down the path with these new changes. You frequently encourage us to follow our curiosity… this philosophy gives permission to experiment. 🙂

    1. A new church, Pickleball and Rucking. Interesting mix, and proof that “experiments” are only limited by our curiousity and courage. I’ve heard a lot about Rucking, may have to consider adding some weight on my back when I take the dogs for the daily 1.5 Mile loop on the trail behind our cabin. There’s a killer hill back there that would be a real challenge with those weights. Also thinking about getting out my old backpack and doing a few overnighters with a friend. Cuz, you know, backpacking is “real” rucking. Smiles.

  11. Nice Fritz, I do a bit of gardening currently and have a nice koi pond to make it a nice space. I hope to do more in the future and maybe explore some eclectic vegetables

    1. Hmmm…a koi pond would be a cool addition to our “farm.” May have to consider that. I’ve also been toying with building a cascading water feature down our side yard, would be nice to hear the rumble of the water as we sit on our back deck. Perhaps I could combine the two, and have a koi pond at the bottom of the cascade…

  12. Thank you, Fritz! Even this am used your “new starting line” phrase with a military service member nearing retirement. I often tell people we don’t *retire* from high school/college, we *graduate* – it’s a new starting line to try things. People usually then get it.

    We reached FI in 2018 & I now work with veterans & horses, something I had not done prior to 6 years ago & find great fulfillment in doing so.

    1. “The Starting Line” is gaining traction – love it! I also like your analogy of graduation being a new starting line. You not only used my phrase, you improved upon it. I love the veterans & horses concept, a great service for those who have earned it. It’s sad how poorly many of our struggling veterans are treated. Well done, Tom!

  13. Well done Fritz. Even after13 years of retirement- I’m still learning!! Long may it continue!
    Every day brings new ideas!

    1. Great to see you in the comments, Erith. Always enjoy reading about your adventures. Hope you have a good one in store for this summer?

  14. Your ideas about experimenting with new things or picking up new cards ( as I think you’ve said ) really resonate with me. It helps to have a wide range of interests. Just wanted to say that I haven’t heard these ideas anywhere else, so keep em coming.

    1. “I haven’t heard these ideas anywhere else.”

      That’s the best compliment I’ve received today, Jack. Hard to create original content out here, pleased to know I have a unique “voice.” And yes, picking up new cards is another common theme of mine. Thanks for the encouragement.

  15. Isn’t it wonderful that we have the time in retirement to “experiment” and try new things? My husband and I are recently retired and are starting to travel. Our first major trip was to the Amazon River in Brazil. I started learning Portuguese through Duolingo about 4 months before we left and felt that understanding a little bit of the language added to our experience in Brazil. Now our next trip is to Norway and I have already started to learn some Norwegian. I find languages fascinating and can’t wait to try learning more!

    1. It is wonderful, indeed. The Amazon River must have been fascinating, good for you for working on the language before you travel, as well. Builds excitement for the trip, and adds a nice learning challenge along the way. Good for you!

  16. This is sage advice at any stage of life, Fritz. There are so many things to learn and do in life. As you point out, you just have to dive in and get started.

    I’m retiring at the end of next month and I have so many things on my list to explore and learn. The challenge will be deciding which one to do first!

  17. Fritz, you crack me up. You are always coming up with new ideas and new ways of looking at old problems.

    I have loved reading your blog from the start. It’s always such a joy. Thank you for all the work you put into enriching all our lives.

    Awesome start on the garden by the way. My wife got the gardening bug a few years ago, now I live in a jungle!

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