Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: A state of mind

For me, the biggest downside of farming is that my health doesn’t always agree with it, mostly in the form of sometimes debilitating allergies. People often ask me why I keep doing it knowing that I will periodically subject myself to such suffering, and my most often answer is that it’s just a temporary state.

For example, for the past few days, I’ve been doing hay. It turns out that whoever coined the term “hay fever” wasn’t kidding, and as is the case nearly every year, right now I feel like I’m coming down with the flu. I know a lot of people would consider such a reaction to the task to be a deal breaker, but what I discovered a long time ago is knowing this will last, at most, a couple of days, gives me the willpower both to inflict it on myself and to endure it while it lasts.

What I’ve discovered as a result is that hay fever is kind of a metaphor for farming and that farming is a kind of metaphor for life. Sure, sometimes the process sucks, but the fact is the work needs done, somebody has to do it, and the results are usually worth even a little suffering to get there.

So it is and so it goes, pardon me while I wipe my nose.

DLH

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Grass farming

So, after a long hiatus, I’ve decided to reboot this blog. When doing so, it’s often hard to know where to start, so I decided to start with the question we get asked most often: Why don’t we mow our grass?

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The short answer to that question is that our “messy” “ugly” yard that makes our “farm look abandoned” is what real sustainable stewardship looks like. Because we’re not mowing our yard, we’re not spending money on grass mowing, not producing the byproducts of grass mowing, and are providing habitat for all sorts of native species.

But, honestly, the answer is more complicated than that. Yes, we are doing all of those things, but it turns out we’re also grass farmers. Our primary occupation at Innisfree is raising animals for food, and it turns out most of our animals eat grass. When I see a yard, I see a pasture, even if it’s one right up next to my house.

In a manner of speaking, we do mow our grass. We just do it sustainably with animals instead of mowers and gas. For us, the results are worth the “mess”.

DLH

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Seeing the world in bricks: Nanoscale basic mech

I finally figured out a basic nanoscale mech that I like for a project I’ve been wanting to work on for some time. Now that I have that out of the way, the rest of the project can proceed.

2016-05-27 20.27.58

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If all we do is vote, the nonsense this election cycle represents is destined to happen again

Today was primary day in Ohio, a fact made more important by the nonsense this election cycle has come to represent. While it is tempting to blast that nonsense in all its various forms, I believe it is more important to cut to the heart of the matter.

The fact is that, if all we do is vote today and in November, the nonsense this election cycle represents is destined to happen again or become even worse.

Why?

Because the underlying cause of this nonsense is that most voters only participate in, at best, half a percent of the entire political process.

How can I say that? Because, I suspect, most of you can’t or won’t like the answers to the following questions:

  • Do you belong to (as in pay dues to or attend meetings of) the political party for which you commonly vote?
  • Do you know the names of any of that party’s local (as in precinct or county) leadership? Its state leadership? Its national leadership?
  • Do you know anything about the candidates your party has fielded for the offices closest to you?
  • How did the people on your primary ballot get there?

There are many more questions of the like that I could ask, but these four speak to the heart of the problem: for all the angst and rhetoric surrounding this election cycle, most people have no answers to those questions, and it is the lack of answers to those questions that has led to all the angst and rhetoric.

The simple fact is that, for democracy to work, it requires its participants to act on the other 1453 days of the four years between presidential elections and not just the four or eight days that represent voting.

It’s easy to come up with excuses why we don’t have time to participate in that way, but what those excuses add up to is all the reasons we’re going to continue to tolerate the mess we currently have. Democracy demands participation, and without it, democracy becomes a veil for oligarchy and dictatorship.

So, yes, go vote today. And then, tomorrow, keep participating. The consequences of doing otherwise are already apparent.

DLH

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Food: Retuning cheese making

From the beginning, my desire to make cheese was rooted more in a desire to find a way to preserve milk I might actually have in excess at my farm than any other thing. That is, I never set out to make true Cheddar or Ricotta. Instead, I want to make Innisfree cheese using time-tested methods.

So far, my effort has been a mixed bag, partly because I’m not listening to what the milk is telling me. On the other hand, I have learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made and have a much better idea of how to proceed.

For me, moving forward means going back to what started me down this path, and that means rereading Sandor Katz‘s excelled writing on the subject. His approach is fundamentally what I am trying to do, and I’m working to reapply his simplicity to what I am doing.

If you are interested, I highly recommend his book Wild Fermentation (affiliate link). It is simple, straight-forward, and an excellent primer for anyone looking to make a variety of fermented foods, including cheese.

DLH

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