The problems with Jar 3 were philosophical more than anything else.

It was, in retrospect, that I’d been too lazy. Less than three days ago I wrote about restarting the third of my three closed jar ecosystems after attempt one took a nosedive over the winter and had become little more than a jar of sludge on my windowsill.

Less than a week into the journey, however, I found myself staring disappointedly at the result. Too lazy.

A gorgeous sealed jar (a hard commodity to come by these pandemic days in a time of limited shopping and online orders) ready for what could potentially be a lifetime of interesting growth and change and enigmatic development, and I’d hastily tossed some crap in from the flowerbeds without rhyme or reason … just because.

In fact, the truth of my self-doubt is more complex. I’ve been watching a YouTube channel in my few spare moments, binge-watching videos where the creator and host builds elaborate sealed and closed ecosystems and then publishes the results as what often amounts to a twenty or thirty minute tutorial… of the highlights.

Here I had spent barely five minutes refreshing the whole of Jar 3 … in real time. And the differences were obvious.

It’s not as if I’m trying to become a YouTube celebrity or compete with the living art that he had created, but I knew I could do better.

By Saturday afternoon the week of rain had cleared into a spectacular sunny day, and with a few seeds of a plan in my mind I set off for a walk with a couple plastic bags, a pocket knife and my iPhone, walking towards the nearby wilderness fringing my neighbourhood as it backs onto the river valley.

Spring turned out to be an ideal time to restart this project.

The walk into the woods revealed a generous collection of fresh growth, bolstered by the recent days of rain. The earth was a little damp and as I plucked through the trees and stepped over the ground covering, I had my choice of small plants, mosses, lichens, and even small saplings from which to pick, pluck and place into my bag.

And I filmed the whole thing, of course.

Between the perfect afternoon lighting and the quiet adventure of such an oddly contemplative subject, I nabbed nearly twenty minutes of footage of myself gathering and then rebuilding Jar 3… which I did in the backyard about an hour after my stumble through the woods.

I emptied attempt 2 into the garden, gave the jar a good rinse out, wiped it down with some paper towels, and then proceeded to build up my soil foundation with a simple but planned approach.

The plants and mosses were added.

Some rainwater from the barrel provided a chlorine-free hydration of the space.

And I collected a small variety of critters from under rocks and deadfall in my flowerbeds to add as a clean-up crew, before sealing the jar and editing my final video:

Only time will tell how the third attempt pans out. Certainly a carefully plotted approach to bringing together a diverse ecological representation from the local biome will give it a much better chance than either take 1 (which is long dead) or take 2 (which probably would have lived but been far too utilitarian.)

And that is, of course, the point right? To attempt to make something beautiful using a living, growing, changing canvas where the only piece one can control is the setup. This was a new setup. All I can offer is that you check back someday to see the masterpiece.

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