Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Ten years in the trenches

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, though the story has been going on. It’s also been ten years since I took on running this farm as my primary occupation, an event that deserves at least some remark.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand right now. As with most things, my views on farming have evolved with experience and are less likely than ever to fit in with most people’s preconceived notions about an undertaking they know, at best, by proxy.

At its simplest, I still believe passionately in what we are trying to do, but I am less convinced than ever that it can actually be done, mostly because a decade has taught me that our expectations as a society no longer match with what it takes to engage in small-scale agriculture.

Nearly every practitioner of that kind of agriculture I know, including my wife and myself, have had to seek out other forms of employment to cover the financial gaps farming won’t pay. This isn’t just a function of wanting more than we can afford either. Subtracting the cost of operating the farm itself, we literally live below the federal poverty rate, which fact is buttressed only by the fact we grow some portion of our own food.

I don’t say this as a troll for sympathy. Rather, it’s an observation of sheer fact. Despite the fact that every person living needs a farmer to survive, farming itself is a financially losing proposition in America in 2018. Already less that one percent of us do it. Already the average age of a farmer is 58. Already the average farming couple works 2.5 jobs.

I know this all sounds terrible, but I believe somebody has to tell the truth. What sits on your plate any given day has a cost you’re not paying. Those of us stubborn enough to keep doing it pay the difference because we believe in what we do, but sooner or later, passion alone won’t pay the bills. And then what?

In the meantime, we’ll keep trying until the mountain gets too tall to climb and land prices get to the point where the only logical thing to do is sell. The funny part is we’ll probably just buy a smaller place and try again. It’s in our blood that way.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: A time to run and a time to not

Some of you may recall my post from a few months ago now about what I termed “medicinal running”. Granted, I said I was going to provide regular updates, but didn’t, so I figured I would provide them all at once.

From a therapeutic standpoint, I believe the running was doing what I intended, albeit slowly, just like everything else about my current ordeal. I got to the point where I was slogging (jogging very slowly) about half a mile 3-4 times a week. Not spectacular, but it was something.

You’ll notice I said was. While I was able to maintain the 3-4 times a week for about two months, I proceeded to develop an injury in my left foot that got progressively worse until I stopped. I’m okay to walk, and once it stops hurting, I can run 2-3 more times before it starts hurting again.

The moral there, I suspect, is that I’m just too heavy to run right now. That said, I have more than tripled my walking steps average over the same period, and I’ve lost 9 pounds during the same, so this hasn’t been a total loss. If I continue to lose weight, I plan to try running again at some point and once I have better shoes.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: A wheeze on the wind, or the sound of a fat boy running

So, it turns out that, after years of trying to ignore it into going away, the simple fact is the best way for me to jump start the process by which I’m not going to be perpetually fat, tired, and sick is by running.

Yeah, I know, running…

To be fair, I used to run. For a few years in my 20s, I ran 2-3 miles nearly everyday. Then I stopped. That in itself is a long story, but one that likely helped set the stage for where I am now. Now, 20ish years later, I’m going back to the thing I once did, I guess.

One day, perhaps even soon, I hope to document the research that led me to that conclusion so that, at the very least, it’s out on the internet for anyone else searching for answers to judge for themselves, but for the moment let’s suffice it to say that running engages the specific biological pathways that help reduce fat around the liver, which fat is likely one of the main culprits of my complaints.

In several important ways, this running is going to be, lacking a better way of describing it, medicinal running, and the best way to describe this phenomenon is to do so by what it’s not going to be. Unless something in my own psychology changes, this running isn’t going to be about 5ks or marathons, not about PRs or ever increasing distances, and not about proving myself in any other way but one.

Along with a controlled diet and plenty of walking to complement the running, this effort will be about weight loss. It’s a ham-handed standard, I know, but the fact is that at my current weight–295lbs and counting, for those keeping track at home–it’s the single most effective way for me to measure whether what I am doing is achieving my primary goal.

I appreciate every piece of advice I’ve already received about this undertaking, and I always want to hear more of it, but please understand that I hear and evaluate any of it through the filter of what I already know I am trying to do. It may be that something you say helps me advance that cause, and I want to hear it, but please don’t be disappointed if I decide it doesn’t fit with what I am trying to do. It’s not that I haven’t listened. It’s that I am very focused on what I am trying to do.

To that end, I also plan to post a weekly update documenting my progress so that interested parties can keep track and so that I can have a log of what I’ve been doing for my own use. If you are keeping track and don’t see that update, please ask. I need the accountability.

For now, this is what it is: a fat boy running for his life. Literally. Stay tuned to see how it works out.

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Gaming for the Rest of Us: First Impression- Civilization VI: Rise and Fall

Before I can review the first expansion for Civilization VI, let’s get something out of the way. There have been a lot of complaints about Civ VI, and Civ V before it, and I think they all boil down to two basic problems.

First, starting with Civ V, the team at Firaxis tried to incorporate real time strategy elements into the Civilization franchise. I don’t think many people will seriously argue there is even a close competitor to Civilization in the 4X strategy genre, so I believe most of Civ’s competition comes from the RTS genre, of which there are many good titles. Unfortunately, that attempt on their part was a mixed bag, leading to some of the problems players complain about in specific.

Second, and perhaps far more important, Civ has always had an AI problem. Back in the halcyon days of Civ I or II, nobody expected sophisticated AIs, and the game took full advantage of that fact by plain cheating to make the game harder. Modern players with modern hardware expect a modern AI, but the expansive nature of Civilization makes designing a good AI for the game a challenge at best. I’m not saying the team at Firaxis couldn’t do better, but I understand the challenge they face in doing it.

Keeping those things in mind, most of the things I could say bad about the Rise and Fall expansion are things I’ve already said bad about Civ VI itself. The game play is somewhat convoluted, the AI just dumb sometimes, and the execution sometimes excruciatingly slow.

It’s always dangerous to lead with things I don’t like in a review because that’s what people tend to remember, but the fact is Firaxis has one of the greatest gaming franchises in history in its care, and it needs to do better if it doesn’t want to go the way of EA and lose the loyalty of once fantastic titles like SimCity or Ubisoft with the Anno series.

All of the new elements to Rise and Fall add value to the game, but they’re understated and seem to be designed to add that familiar RTS anxiety to a 4X game. It doesn’t always work because I think it faces the player in the wrong direction. When Civ VI introduced things like districts, it was an intriguing advance on Civ’s core ideas. Instead of building on that, Firaxis has doubled down on the 4X in RTS clothing gambit it seems to have committed to in Civ V, and it still doesn’t quite seem to be working all the way.

Overall, I’d say wait on this expansion a bit yet. It’s not really worth the $29.99 Firaxis is asking for it for what you get, but if they’re listening to the community, future patches and DLCs may yet fix some of what doesn’t work as well as it could yet. If they don’t, there’ll be room for a new king of 4X. Or we can all go back to playing Civ IV, probably still the best entry into the franchise so far.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Walking away

Don’t worry: I’m not quitting.

No, instead, this blog is about a realization. It’s one I’ve stated here before, yet at least for me, I’ve realized it in a new way.

As far as my physical health is concerned, walking is going to be what saves me.

Once upon a time, I was a walker, a rambler in the truest sense of the word. Starting in junior high, I started walking to school any day I could, a journey of several miles. Once high school was upon me, I walked except when the weather was the worst for four years despite the distance.

Along the way, I developed an affection for trail hiking that carried me into my mid 20s. Then, a lot of life happened–the details don’t matter so much–and I kind of quit. It wasn’t a sudden thing, just over time, I walked less and less and hiked less and less, until I wasn’t doing it at all.

Since I got sick a year ago, on the days I’ve been able to walk, I’ve felt better, but walking every day has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. My new realization is that I’ve failed to deal with those reasons, and that is what is keeping me from walking.

I’ve decided to change that. First up is dealing with one of the colder Ohio winters in recent memory. It turns out that, since I got sick, I can’t stay warm like I used to. Cold weather takes it out of me, so walking in the cold is a struggle. That’s also an excuse. We have the technology for that, and it’s time I started using it.

So, next week, I have an extreme sports designed balaclava, cold weather over-mitts, and wind-pants arriving. They should do the trick most days when the temperature is below freezing an help eliminate one more excuse.

Next up will be rain gear. And, before you know it, I’ll be rambling along again like days of old.

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