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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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Talking about the weather

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days. It’s been a bad few as it turns out.

The primary culprit is the weather. The things going on with me seem to be sensitive to weather and allergen changes, and the up-and-down-again quality of the last week seems to aggravate almost everything.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, the weather will moderate a bit and this will be less of a complaint.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Abnormal weather can mean a new normal

I have to admit that I am looking forward to the weather coming at the end of this week and next week, even if it as abnormal for this time of year and represents what will likely be an early spring and hot, dry summer. Selfishly, warmer, dryer weather means better chances to get outside and walk, and that’s something I really need to do.

The weather also has me thinking about my garden and the springtime activities on the farm. We have a lot of work to do this year, and the earlier we get started, the better.

What kind of things does the arrival of spring make you think about?

DLH

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Worldview: Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Well intended but sometimes wrong

Whenever the weather gets the way it is right now (very cold and snowy), various posts, emails, and even news stories begin to circulate. You know the ones. Those that show something like a snow encrusted dog or other animal sleeping in the snow and exhorting people with the refrain, “If you wouldn’t sleep outside in this weather, your pet shouldn’t either.”

I will grant that, for most urban dwelling pets and people, who don’t regularly stray far from the climate controlled confines of their homes or jobs in any kind of weather, this is sound advice. The fact is that most pets and people are in no way prepared for this kind of weather.

The problem starts when this idea becomes a universal generalization applied by people to all circumstances, many of which they neither know nor understand.

For those of us who care for and live with outside animals every day of our lives, that generalization is wearisome at best. The fact is that we spend nine or ten months of the year preparing our animals, be they cattle or dogs, for exactly this kind of weather by allowing them to develop the very kinds of natural defenses that allow them to live in this kind of weather.

How can I say that? Because I know that most animals, being near relatives of their wild cousins, retain most of the traits that allow wild animals to survive and thrive in this kind of weather without harm. As a result, we make sure they have year around access to sufficient food and water, exposure to the weather when it is good, and plenty of exercise.

How does that help? Because most animals, unlike most people, expend most of their energy doing two things: getting ready to make babies and getting ready for winter. Giving them access to the right food, weather, and exercise lets them put on the right kind of fat and grow the right kinds of coats so that, even when it is sub-zero outside, they are fine.

How could they possibly be fine? Well, the same way you are fine if you are well fed and properly bundled up against the same cold. Outside animals develop multi-layered fur, sometimes as much as four or five layers thick, coated with various oils and structured in such a way that, even in the bitter cold and snow, they are as warm as you are in your coat and mittens.

In fact, for a variety of animals including cattle and working dogs, a crust of snow functions as an additional layer of protection against the cold. That crust forms an insulating barrier against a far more deadly enemy: the wind. If you see furry mammal covered in snow that is not otherwise in distress, the chances are that it is fine. I can say that because, being warm-blooded, an animal in distress in that situation will be covered in melt ice, not snow or frost or surface ice. This usually happens because the animal is sick or has gotten extremely wet. In that case, yes, the animal is in danger and needs aid quickly.

But for the majority of animals that have been properly cared for the rest of the year, being outside in this weather is not as much of a threat as people want to think it is, especially if they have a place to get out of the wind and, if they need to, out of direct exposure to precipitation. Otherwise, I can assure you they are fine.

No, really. They’re fine.

DLH

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Farming: 10-10 Challenge 2011 Update

If you’ve been watching farmers over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the fall harvest has just started. What that means is that they’re going to plant their fall wheat later than normal. You may have discovered the same thing about your own planting, and that’s ok.

I haven’t planted my fall plantings yet either, and probably won’t until next week. But don’t give up, because it’s still worth doing. One of the secrets to growing ones own food is learning to live with the weather, whatever it might turn out to be.

DLH

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Farming: The flow of the seasons

We moderns get very put out by the changes of the seasons, even most farmers. We see the seasons as interruptions of the process we think we should be able to pursue all of the time, and because of that vision, we miss the important processes the seasons introduce.

I’m coming to realize that the reason the seasons put us out so much is because we rarely do certain kinds of work when the season is appropriate. Before we can even begin to correct this kind of problem, we must first identify what the correct season is for each kind of work, and then we must plan our work not just for the days or weeks ahead, but for the whole year, at least in general terms.

This is not just my own idea. Before the incredible rise of industrial agriculture, most farmers understood this premise. They knew how to make their work count for the most in every season because their lives and livelihoods depended on such efficiency.

What we must do now is relearn what they once knew because, in many ways, their way was better. I am not suggesting that we should embrace every part of their way of doing things, but certainly there are aspects of their way that are far better, and there is always the opportunity to improve on what they were doing–what we have now is abandonment, not improvement.

Of course, I’m not really just talking about farming either. Really, that old way should apply to most of life, not just how we create our food. I know that is a grand dream, but I think we should always be trying to make life better, and such a pursuit demands that all viable options remain on the table.

DLH

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Farming: Ice farming

It’s 7 December and it’s 0 Fahrenheit with the wind-chill here in west-central Ohio, unseasonably arctic for this time of year.

Unfortunately, farming responsibilities don’t stop just because it gets bloody cold, so the question becomes how to carry out one’s daily duties without getting hurt. I’m not an expert on this yet, but I can tell you what I do:

  • First, keep in mind that everything will be frozen. Gates, even doors, will freeze shut had have to be coaxed open. It’s really important at this point to check and see whether animal waterers have frozen over. Usually at this point, I’ve discovered the best solution is to just rotate out water throughout the day. It won’t go on forever, and it will keep your animals healthy.
  • Second, keep in mind that this kind of weather will freeze you. Keep covered in layers even if it makes the work harder. I typically wear long underwear under my jeans, a t-shirt and sweat shirt, a coat, gloves, and a knit hat. One thing to note is that you will probably sweat under all those clothes.
  • Third, the dry air and sweating under your clothes will dehydrate you as quickly as the summer heat will. Drink plenty of water and drink it often.
  • Speaking of similarities to summer, take regular breaks in a warm place. If you have to stay outside, find a place to set up a heater so that you can get warm.
  • If you start feeling bad, numb, or uncomfortable in some other way, get inside. Those are all your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Listen to it.

DLH

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