Let me tell you a story.
When we first bought our house five years ago, I went to turn over the area of lawn I wanted to make into our garden and ended up breaking the shovel, the soil was so compacted. I finished turning over that postage stamp sized patch of hard packed ground with a pick axe, a thankless task that took three hours. (Daughter no. 2 is standing next to me reading over my shoulder and is howling with laughter. Ha ha.)
For the next several years, I dutifully kept this garden mulched as heavily as I could to increase the soil biota, and every time I changed crops, I would dig it over as deeply as I could and add more compost. Sometimes a little was all I had, sometimes I had a lot. I would also amend with a broad spectrum fertilizer and calcium lime each time. Last year, I did two things that were a tremendous help to the tilth of this section of garden, which has continued to be one of the weakest patches of dirt. The first was that I added about six inches of compost and an inch or two of ramial chipped wood (basically wood chips that are predominantly small branches and thus high in bark content), and the second move was cover cropping this area after the main crop was done, using all the random leftover seeds at my disposal. Mostly peas and beans. When it came time to dig over this section of garden this spring, you could distinctly tell where the cover cropping had been compared to the paths and even adjacent garden beds.
And I was amazed at the improvement in the soil. I would go so far as to say it was good garden soil at this point. But here is the point of this story: sure, it's good garden soil now, but for every year up until now, it has been producing some kind of crop for us. Faithfully, year in and year out, this patch of neglected dirt has been giving back to us some measure of what we have poured into it. The lesson for me here is clear: Don't wait for things to be perfect to begin. Because so often, beginning is the step that starts the process of getting there. This soil needed plants and all the amendments and attention that comes with that to reach its current potential. And all of the meals it has given us along the way? Those are as real and valuable as the meals it will give us from this point forward. So if you have access to some soil, by all means, do what you can to amend it, improve it, make it flourish. But don't wait to plant those seeds. Because the act of planting IS a part of that larger process. Think what we would miss if we held back from beginning because we thought we weren't ready. We would never begin.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.