My View from the Ramparts: Reintroducing this blog

As you can see from the history, this blog has languished for a while. Well, it will no more.

What prompted the absence and the change?

It started with the fact that I got really sick two and a half years ago–in fact, so sick I almost died–and I’ve spent the time since recovering. I’m now recovered enough that I am am able to get back into what my wife, Keba, and I set out to do with our farm, Innisfree on the Stillwater.

Further, beyond my work on the farm, I am also working to develop myself as a freelance writer, and it turns out having a solid portfolio is an important part of that process. It seems to me that writing about what I am doing is a great way to populate that portfolio, so here we are.

My goal is to post here at least once a week, or more often if some subject spurs me to write more. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Work or work out?

Ages ago, I developed a hypothesis that I wanted my work to be my work out. At the time, it was a wrongheaded attempt to ignore the fact I was doing neither, but it turns out I also wasn’t completely wrong about the notion.

As part of my effort to improve my health, I have been researching, learning about, and engaging in the idea of natural movement, especially as it pertains to the fact that, even when we work out, we’re often incredibly sedentary in the intervening time, effectively undermining some of the best benefits of our work outs.

Now, I grant, it’s nearly impossible for us moderns to return to our hunter-gatherer roots, but I think we can make specific changes to how we approach physical activity that allow us to utilize some of their genetics we inevitably carry.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made pursuing that goal is to make sure I eat after I engage in physical activity. In short, I work out first, then I eat. It turns out, that’s the pattern our bodies are designed to follow rather than the bell schedule three meals a day. In fact, that’s where exercise “hangry” comes from, and we would do well to listen to it.

The second thing I have changed is how I exercise. I walk a lot, but I have made my walking less structured and more free-form. I sometimes carry awkward things. I have the benefit of having a 185 acre farm with few dedicated paths, so I force myself to walk in the unimproved areas to get the benefit of climbing and having to work my way through.

The result of these changes is that I am working my body more the way it expects to be worked, thereby increasing my overall fitness.

My goal from here is to increase the amount of manual labor I do on the farm, meaning that I intend to forgo the use of labor saving tools when it is possible and safe in favor of doing the work by hand. This labor follows the same pattern as the rest, and I expect it to magnify the results I am already achieving.

In the end, the answer of work or work out is yes, do both. Do as much as you can. Get up and move around often. Lift and carry heavy things. Eat when your body says it’s hungry. Sleep when it says it’s tired. The benefit is there. Pursue it.

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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Worldview: The Rambling Road: It’s been a while

I figure it’s about time for an update if anyone is still paying attention. This year has been a roller coaster health-wise, but in general things are improving, so there’s that.

Recently, I started to re-engage myself with something I haven’t done in a long time: active accountability. In general, that means making a minimalist list of what I want to accomplish over a given period of time so as to be able to check against that list whether I am doing what I said I was going to do.

Some people will probably nod sagely at that confession, but my style of active accountability isn’t quite what most people do (is anything I do quite what most people do? But that’s a different conversation…). For example, rather than having a notebook or a calendar, I have a private blog. I use that blog as much as a checklist as I do a project management system. I tend to limit myself to five tasks a day, even if I know I have time for more because I realize that the stress of over-expectation is the second biggest reason I don’t get what I plan to done (the first being physical incapacity to do it).

The moral of the story is that I use this system to keep the things I am working on fresh in my mind and focused. I can tend to wander off if I don’t only to discover long periods of time have passed without getting anything demonstrable done. Active accountability helps me stay focused when I won’t otherwise be.

Updating this blog is now part of that accountability. I hope to make at least monthly updates, as much because I promised myself and others I would as because the act of writing is both invigorating and cathartic for me.

More will follow.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Discipline

Yesterday, I wrote about being discontented and how that state drives me in so many areas, now including health. Today, I want to write about my bane: discipline.

It’s surprising that discipline is a shortcoming of mine given my natural inclination to plan, but having lived with that reality for a long time, I can tell you without any doubt that I am inclined to be easily distracted and to be lazy when it comes to executing those plans.

Yet, most things in life require some degree of discipline to get done. Even stuff I really enjoy doing has parts to them that I don’t, and that’s where the discipline comes in.

I’m learning that notion now in spades. I’m not in a position anymore to get distracted or get lazy or give up. I have to see this through.

And in realizing that fact, I’m also realizing discipline can be learned in ways I’d never given consideration to. Learning discipline, I’m discovering, is like learning to ride a bike. It takes time and practice, but the more I do it and the longer I do it, the easier it becomes.

In the end, for me, the biggest motivator for discipline is the goal I am trying to reach. In the case of health, I don’t want to always feel this way, so wanting that goal badly enough becomes its own kind of motivation. Motivation breeds discipline.

So, in the end, for me, it’s a matter of settling on a goal I want and pursuing it. Sure, there will be bumps along the way, but I know I can do it. So can you.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Time calculus

There was a time when I was that person who claimed I didn’t have time to exercise. To me then, exercise was a waste because the other things I was doing with my life seemed far more important. In fact, I was that person not all that long ago. But today, as I was walking, I came to a sudden epiphany that my view was myopic in a specific sort of way.

The fact is, for the year and a half before I ended up in the hospital, my health was deteriorating whether I was willing to admit it or not. I lost some or all of many days to illness and fatigue to the point I was no longer able to do the things I needed and wanted to be doing.

If we imagine that state resulting in a loss of four hours of productivity a day as an average, I lost something along the lines of 2,190 hours of useful time due to bad health. And that was before I ended up in the hospital.

In that hospital, I lost six full days, an additional 144 hours, and since I have been home, my productivity has been minimal to the tune of a couple of hours a day, meaning for the last 30, I’ve easily lost 240 more hours beyond that.

In total, since the true beginnings of this current episode, I’ve easily lost as many as 2,574 hours of productive time, and that’s probably a conservative estimate.

In contrast, since I have returned to walking again, I’ve spent about an hour each day. If I were to simply stick to that amount of time, it would take me more than seven years to “waste” the time I’ve already wasted walking.

And, as anyone exercising knows, fitness is not a waste. Rather, since I have returned to walking, I am getting stronger, my head is clearer, I am less fatigued, and I am more certain of my recovery than I have yet been.

So, even when I reach my eventual goal of two hours of exercise a day, I will really be gaining hours more of productive time rescued from what once had been the time waste of my poor health.

I get the logical explanation isn’t for everyone, but the nature of this realization makes me even more eager to continue. I will improve because of what I am doing, and that can never be a waste.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Moving bull

No really, we moved the bull we share with another farm back to ours today. This is the first significant work I’ve done on the farm since I got out of the hospital. With the much appreciated help of friends, it was a smooth load, but I am amazed at how tired I am after what is usually just a short excursion.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures because I was working, but that’s the price of self employment, I suppose.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Worldview: Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: And so much more…

I’ve discovered over the past five years that people have huge preconceptions about what being a farmer means. I know, coming in, I had all sorts of them, and I know I am surrounded by fellow farmers who have deeply held ideas about their profession. One of my first posts on this site dealt with one of them, and dredged up the almost predictable responses (I’m not linking to it simply because I want to talk about something else).

One of the preconceptions I had coming in was the nature of what farm work meant in the first place. Many people, including my onetime self, have the idea that farming is as simple as growing and harvesting a crop or raising and selling an animal. I’m here to tell you firsthand that, whatever kind of farming one does, that could not be further from the truth.

Even at its most monoculture, farming is a polyculture because it cannot be anything else. Farming demands knowledge of everything from agriculture to zoology and demands the farmer be everything from an accountant to a zoo keeper.

It’s not an accident, then, that history notes the rise of farming intertwined with the rise of what we think of as civilization. Domesticating, planting, raising, harvesting, and slaughtering plants and animals for food in more effective and efficient ways is the necessary mother that gave rise to everything we take for granted today, either by inventing the things we have or by enabling the things we have to be invented.

And so, in the end, I can think of few other undertakings as intensive and broad as that of the farmer. Granted, the hurdles are tall and the valleys are deep, but if anyone wants to fully challenge himself in the pursuit of life, the vocation of farmer is a place to do it.

DLH

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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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Worldview: Seven Stone: About the farm

When contemplating weight loss, one of the first places people look is exercise, and if your work is exercise, so much the better.

I came into the undertaking of running a sustainable farm much the same way. Five years ago, I expected that working on Innisfree on the Stillwater everyday would function as a gateway to the weight loss I had struggled with for years.

I was wrong.

In fact, for the first three years I worked here, I gained weight, so much so that I put on another 20 pounds in the first two years I was here. What happened?

It turns out that’s a complicated question that I can only attempt to sum up. In basic terms, my body wasn’t ready to lose weight yet because some other things needed to change first. In specific, my diet needed to change before farm work could help me lose weight. As counter-intuitive as it was at the time, That’s what it ended up taking for me to start losing.

Since then, the work I do on the farm has functioned to help drive the weight loss, but it wasn’t the first reason, and still is not the primary reason, I am losing.

DLH

Read more at my Worldview site...