My View from the Ramparts: Farming in the age of COVID-19

The past couple of months has been a strange time here at Innisfree, as I know it has been for everyone during this time of social isolation and pandemic outbreak.

What’s been strangest for us is how relatively little our day-to-day lives have changed in the face of these challenges even as we see the world struggling around us. That’s not to say we don’t face challenges, but years ago, my wife and I decided to follow the path of making our farm a smallhold homestead and making that decision has changed our relationship with the greater world.

I am a hermit by nature, so I have been long content not to go out much, and my full-time jobs have been here on the farm since 2008. Since last fall, my wife has been employed full-time by the farm as well, and we have had a long-standing dedication to readiness owing to our relatively rural location and personal experience.

So, when the social distancing came, what ended was the incidental trips we tended to make because we could. Otherwise, the farm carries on as normal. I know one of the challenges so many people face right now is being out of work, but since our money comes in clumps at predictable times of the year, we’re no better or worse off than we might otherwise be.

I’m not saying any of this to boast but rather to observe that we’re realizing that our farm-life choices have proved to be even more robust than we imagined them to be when we made them. It’s not an easy life, and it has required some difficult choices and sacrifices to make happen, but we’re realizing it now more than ever they were actions worth taking.

If anything, I want to put this out there for others to consider. This is a viable life choice if you’re willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Plant-based

Over the past several months, I’ve made a significant pivot in my diet toward eating more plants. This isn’t to suggest I’ve become a vegetarian because I still eat meat, but I do so less frequently and in less quantity when I do.

Making this pivot has been a mixed bag. On the positive side, I find I feel better most of the time, I am having an easier time maintaining my weight, my sleep is better, and I have more energy. On the negative side, I find I have a much harder time maintaining my glucose levels on any given day owing to the fact that plants are, by their nature, higher in carbohydrates.

Even with the glucose struggle, I think the benefits outweigh the downsides. Coupled with intermittent fasting and adequate exercise, I think the long term effect will be more weight loss and improved health. To that end, pursuing this course more aggressively is one of my singular goals for the coming year.

I will report back on how it is going.

DLH

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Wordcraft by Dennis L Hitzeman: 2020 Incoming

I have high hopes for 2020. I have several projects in various states of progress I plan to work on this year, and my hope is that you will see some of that effort here in the coming months.

If you’re interested in following my progress more closely than it might otherwise be updated here, you are welcome to follow me several other places:

First, there is my Patreon site. If you join as a $1 a month member, you get access to far more content than you will anywhere else, and higher levels of membership promise even more benefits.

Second, there is my Twitter feed, where I mostly participate in the #vss365 daily very short story writing prompt. You will also find links to much of the content I create in other places.

Third, there is me Wordcraft Facebook page. I update this page with all sorts of different things on a fairly regular basis.

Finally, there is my Instagram account. While it is not exclusively writing related, I do post writing there, especially poetry, on occasion.

I look forward to sharing my progress with you in the coming year.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Take a break

To say that I am motivated to lose weight and increase my overall fitness is an understatement. My overall health is directly tied to those two variables, and moving them in my favor promises a whole host of benefits.

I’m here to say it’s possible to want it too much.

Over the past four and a half months I have pushed myself, occasionally to the point of breaking and renewed illness, only to jump back into it again the moment I was able. I’ve increased my average daily steps from 4,800 a day in January to 11,000 right now. I’ve increased my average hours of movement from 2ish to 4ish. I’ve lost and kept off 25 pounds since the first of the year.

And I’m exhausted.

Now, that’s to be expected, given the ramp up in activity I’ve inflicted on myself, but it’s also unsustainable. Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to suffer a series of chronic warning signs the outcome of me ignoring them I know too well. I’ve reached the edge of my envelope, and it’s time to back off.

I’m telling you all about this as both a warning and an encouragement. Every single thing we do has a long term effect, even if we don’t realize the correlation when that effect occurs. It could be a good effect. It could be bad. But it will be there.

What we have to be aware of is the fact that, if we burn it all up now, there may not be anything left for later. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to back off for a bit. Backing off now may well be the way you push yourself harder down the road.

So, for the moment, I’m taking a break. I’m ramping down my steps for the rest of the month and transferring that effort into more natural movement pursuits and, for the next week or so, getting my sleep sorted out again. Once I have, I’ll be back at it, stronger and more motivated than ever.

DLH

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Wordcraft by Dennis L Hitzeman: On writing and needing a gimmick to write

I’ve discovered recently that I need gimmicks to write. At some level, it offends me that I need to have some trick to convince myself to do what I know I want to do, but the fact is that it’s a valuable bit of psychology that actually works.

For example, I’ve struggled to meet my self-imposed word counts for the first three months of the year, missing March’s altogether. In March, I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April, and even though it’s only one day down, I’m already feeling more invigorated about writing than I have since November and NaNoWriMo last year.

What I’ve come to realize is that both NaNoWriMo and its camp version represent a form of accountability, so very tenuous yet necessary so that I am not lying to myself about the progress I’m making. Needing to write 1667 words a day and knowing others, even if they’re people I only know online, are watching is enough to motivate me to move forward.

Realizing this, I plan to seek out more challenges and the like to make this a year-around motivation instead of April, July, and November. Hopefully, having that motivation will help me move forward on what I want to be doing that much faster.

Hooray for psychological tricks.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Five million steps

Yes, 5 million steps. That’s the number of steps–at least a rough estimate anyway–that stand between me and cutting my current body fat measurement in half.

Granted, it’s always dangerous to reduce human biology to a simplistic math equation, but the correlation between high percentages of body fat and health problems is pretty strong. It turns out that, when measured as simple calories, half my current body fat adds up to about 3.5 million steps worth of walking. Add in another 1.5 million steps that account for my current rate of walking, and you get 5 million.

At first, that number seems daunting. It is also, far less simplistically, a moving target influenced by all sorts of sometimes inscrutable variables. Yet, it’s also a concrete point; a goal to focus on that helps manage everything else.

If I were to somehow manage to walk that many steps in a year, that’s only about 13,700 a day. Granted, I’m only at 8,000ish a day now, but doubling the number doesn’t seem all that bad, though I’ll have to do more than double if I want that number to be my average.

The point is that we can’t do what we don’t know we’re trying to do. Now I know how many calories 5 million steps will burn. Now I understand what it will take for me to get to that number. I’m just at the beginning, but I can get there.

Now, to do it.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Wordcraft by Dennis L Hitzeman: Coming in 2019

I am hoping to have a productive writing year in 2019. My main goal is to stick with and finish writing the first drafts of what may end up being as many as 10 books in a series that begins with my 2018 NaNoWriMo project. Yes, that is a lofty goal, but I never, every shoot low.

As if that is not enough, I also plan to continue work on my Tales from Beyond Earth story universe, and if history is any indicator, there will be plenty of one off stories and ideas that will present themselves over the next 12 months.

If you are interested in following my progress, check back here, or you can support my work and see more frequent updates at my Patreon site. You can get access to exclusive content for as little as $1 a day.

Here’s to a productive 2019!

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: So, what’s this all about?

It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin an explanation of something that has been coming my whole adult life, so I will start with the event that triggered the birth of this blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital for almost a week as the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by a dangerous elevation of my blood-borne triglycerides. The condition was serious enough the doctors opted to reduce my triglyceride levels by removing them using a process called plasmapheresis. The whole experience was the most intense and painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life, and I realized that I am willing to do extreme things to never have to experience it again.

That brings me to the reality of how I ended up in that state. The circumstances that lead to my hospitalization were not just the result of some unexplained biological malfunction, although there is also that element to the story. Instead, a large part of how I ended up in that state began decades ago when I, for a variety of reasons I suppose I may get into over the life of this blog, chose to stop taking care of my body.

In fact, over the past decade, I had pretty much given up on taking care of myself at all, most often with the excuse I had more important things to do. I didn’t. Instead, that excuse was worse than an excuse: it was a lie.

This blog will be my documentation of the refutation of that lie. Over the course of the next weeks and months and, perhaps, even years, I plan to document my journey away from the lie of not taking care of myself toward the truth of taking care of myself so I can do all the things I do better. I want to share this journey with anyone who cares to follow along for the accountability of it, for mutual encouragement, and to provide a place to document the things I discover along the way.

As to the name of the blog, once upon a time, I considered myself to be a rambler, or as the Irish call it, a rover. I tend to wander without being lost, and have long believed that the journey is more important than the destination. I suspect my journey back to health will follow the same meandering but purposeful path so many other parts of my life have.

So, this is all about finding my way back to a place I should have never left: healthy and productive. I invite you to join me on that road.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Swinging for the fences

The one part of our farming adventure at Innisfree on the Stillwater that has dogged us since the beginning is the fact that we have continued to lease our 100 acres of tillage ground, mostly for the sake of the cash rent. Of course, that lease meant a compromise in the form the use of herbicides and pesticides on that ground every year, but the money was hard to turn down.

Taking back over that ground has always been a part of our plan, and with the upcoming end of the current lease, it has been a regular topic of conversation for us.

This year, as the result of the advent of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the ante got upped with the application of 2,4-D to the entire 100 acres, which fact proved to be a bridge too far for my wife and me. As a result, we’ve decided not to renew the lease and to start working that ground ourselves.

This is a significant step for us, mostly in that it involves a loss of about a third of the farm’s cash income over at least the next couple of years as we transition to new endeavors. Irrespective of the cost, we plan to follow through on this because it is the right thing to do.

Sure, maybe we’re radical and idealistic, but we actually want to leave our little part of planet earth better than we found it for future generations. And so, we will take that ground back over and farm it the way we believe is right.

For us, that means planting about 40 acres of it in grass hay and about another 30 acres of it in fast-growing hardwood trees we plan to sustainably lumber for a variety of farm uses, especially for fence posts for our animal operations. The remainder will function as both a prairie area and for small food plots.

This transition is going to be risky and stressful, but neither of us have any doubt it is the right thing to do. We firmly believe Innisfree represents the future of agriculture, and that fact alone makes what we have decided worth it.

Here’s to hoping and to swinging for the fences.

DLH

[UPDATE: Edited for content]

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Five years on: Disasters, reevaluations, and the straight and narrow

There are few things like a disaster of one’s own making to cause one to reevaluate.

We’ve had more than a few disasters, big and small, since we came back to Innisfree on the Stillwater. They kind of come with the territory of taking over this kind of an enterprise and learning on the fly.

While disasters can sometimes be setbacks and can also be demoralizing, we also use them as a chance to evaluate what we are doing and come up with ways to do them better, not just to correct a specific mistake but also to ensure that our approach is the best one to use.

The result is a cycle of disaster, reevaluation, and recommitment. It would be easy to give up when things go wrong, but nobody ever said what we are doing was going to be easy. Instead, we figure out how to do what we are doing better and move on.

In the end, that’s the only way to succeed at farming.

DLH

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