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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Worldview: Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: The test of time

I recently discovered that the building housing my coffee roastery is falling down. It’s an old brick garage, quite possibly converted from a carriage house at some point, that had the misfortune of taking a direct hit from a barn roof that blew off a decade ago. We’ve nursed it along to this point, making repairs along the way, but now the needed repairs are far more serious.

My first instinct was to seek out a professional to see how much it would cost to repair it, but then something odd happened.

I looked at the building.

If you could see it–I haven’t taken pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for this–you’d realize like I did that the people who put up that building in the first place weren’t professionals in the way we think of them today–that is, as specialists. The bricks aren’t always quite straight. The mortar work isn’t perfect.

In fact, most of our farm wasn’t built by professionals. It was built by the people who lived here. Ofttimes, they learned as they went, sometimes under the tutelage of someone who already knew, but just as often they just figured it out on their own. The did what they did out of necessity and need.

And the work they did has been good enough to last more than a century. We have a corn crib that could date back to the 1820s, built from hand-hewn beams. Our house was built in the 1840s, likely by the people who lived here from bricks fired right down the road . Our barn was built in the 1860s by the same people. And that garage probably dates to the 1880s.

What I saw when I looked at that garage was the labor of people who cared about this farm the way that I do. It’s not perfect. The years have taken their toll. But it was work they did that stood the test of time.

And it is work I can do too.

So, instead of hiring a professional or knocking it down to put up some ugly, sterile modern building, I’m going to teach myself masonry. I’m going to learn how to rebuild a garage they built 140 years ago. And maybe, somewhere along the line, I’ll have the chance to share what I know with others who want to know.

And that idea, I think, is what this farm is all about. I’m thankful I looked a that not quite straight wall with its not quite perfect mortar. It taught me something, and it’s a lesson I plan to learn.

DLH

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Worldview: The strange reality of getting what you want

I’ve wanted a library, lab, and studio since I knew what those three things were. In fact, one of my earliest verifiable geek memories comes from when I was about seven and I discovered a chemistry set in the Sears toy catalog. To this day, I remember being heartbroken for about thirty minutes when I got the, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” response to asking for one.

Thirty-three years later, I find myself in the enviable position of now having a library, lab, and studio. And, just like that, I have to figure out what to do with them.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I find it easy to dream. I think about things all the time, from the small and inconsequential to the massive and grandiose. So, it has been easy for me to daydream about what it would be like to have places to do things I’ve always wanted to do.

Now I have them, and it’s like my mind is blank.

That’s not entirely fair. I know what I want to do, but how do I pick? Seriously, there’s only one of me, only twenty-four hours in a day, and I have a wife and a farm. How do I decide what to do with these new-found assets in such a way that the rest of my life doesn’t come crashing down?

I’m thankful I can even write about having such a problem, but it still seems daunting for the moment. I’d better get back to the lab. Time’s a’wasting.

DLH

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Worldview: What’s my hangup? A redux

The combination of reading my brother’s excellent blog on his fitness exploits–among other things–and my own recent bout with shitty health have me thinking a lot about health and fitness and whatnot. I watch all sorts of people do things like Crossfit and run marathons and, despite the fact that I know I need to do something, I know for a fact those things aren’t it.

Why?

I already touched on some of those reasons the last time I visited this topic, but I do not think I cut to the core of them. I really have one reason that trumps all the others, I think. First, I will disclaim by pointing out that I understand that almost none of these things may apply to anyone else but me. Second, I ask that the people who may see what I am saying here as excuses or rubbish to consider what I am saying without preconception.

That said, my biggest problem with traditional exercise (yes, even modern routines like Crossfit follow a traditional model in my book) is that the effort itself lacks a necessary layer synergy that I apply to almost everything I do. By synergy, I mean using one task to accomplish as many things as possible in the doing.

For example, I see someone biking or running or carrying something heavy, and I get they’re doing it because they want to feel better and so that they’re better at doing other stuff when they’re not biking or running or carrying something heavy, yet I cannot help but think, “Where are they going or couldn’t they be using that effort to move or build something?”

That may seem like something of a trite response, but the fact is that the lack of synergy I see there is everything to me. For me, if I’m going to bike or run–actually, walk for me–or carry something heavy, I want to be creating things, not expending effort for what I see as the sake of expending effort.

So, why am I not doing that already?

Frankly, because I’m not at a point in my fitness where I am able to do so, or so I tell myself. The fact is that’s not really true. Instead, the fact is that I’m simply not doing things I should be doing out of habit, laziness, and whatever else it is that drives people to avoid doing what they know they should.

So, what?

Perhaps this mea culpa is my own effort to jump start myself by returning to this nagging conversation and to, perhaps, inspire other people struggling with similar things to see that there is more than one way.

We shall see.

DLH

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