Because we will be discussing a lot of philosophy on this column, I thought maybe it might be kind of interesting to go through a definition of philosophy and talk about some of the basic concepts behind philosophy, so that at least you have some understanding of the approach that I take when it comes to discussing philosophical questions, and see if it’s worthwhile or something that you would like to incorporate into your life: the study of wisdom, or knowledge, or truth, or reality, or ethics, and so on.
So I’ve Googled the definition of philosophy, and there’s quite a number of them. Let’s go over a few, and then we can see where it fits with the approach we take at Philosophers Table.
Definitions of philosophy on the Web include such things as:
I quite like that one. This one I don’t like so much:
The quotes here are:
And another definition,
And another one — this is from Merriam’s:
Now we start to get into capitals a little bit towards the end there, and my experience has been that whenever you start to get capitals — like “Wisdom” is capitalized and “Principle as Creation” is capitalized — that you are drifting into a noumenal Platonic realm, or basically the realm of ideals, which is not what I deal with in terms of philosophy.
Another definition is,
Nice, but “study,” to me is a little bit vague. And here is another one:
Well, I would disagree with that with an energy and an emphasis that I could scarcely express here without launching into a series of acrobatics (because, you know, they’d be so fast and ninja-like).
There’s a number of other ones that I think are quite interesting. Basically, the idea behind philosophy is that there is a capacity for error within the human mind, and because of this, we need a science, or a set of logical propositions, that are going to help rescue us from error.
The first thing to understand when it comes to looking at something like philosophy is that there has to be capacity for error; otherwise, there’s no need for anything corrective. If you think about something like the science of nutrition: we have the capacity to eat poorly (and having come back from an all-inclusive vacation, I can certainly attest that that is, on occasion, a vice of mine as well). So we all have the capacity to eat poorly, and therefore we need a science or a discipline or a methodology for determining how to eat well. We have no capacity to eat poorly, there would be none. Plants don’t have a science of nutrition, because they grow towards sunlight, do their photosynthesis, and live that way; they can’t exactly be tempted by a chocolate éclair, say.
You have to have a capacity for a deviation from an ideal or a perfect state, and because you have a capacity to deviate from it, you need a set of principles by which you can judge your actions and, hopefully, develop them into good habits. The idea behind nutrition is not to get you to forego all pleasurable eating in life and live on water-crests and vitamin pills (actually, that would be bad nutrition, too), but it is to attempt to get you to understand the consequences of your actions, so that you can make more informed decisions about how you want to eat. You can hopefully strike a balance and find some good way of eating, and so on.
A nutritionist will also tell you that eating well is eating a variety; it’s okay to eat a piece of cheesecake or go to McDonald’s once in a while, but good diet combined with exercise and water intake is all related to health, which brings us to another topic that’s related to the topic of philosophy: the philosophy of medicine. There is an ideal state of human health which is never achieved. In the same way that you can’t eat perfectly, you can’t achieve perfect health; we all have viruses running through us, maybe we get a bad night’s sleep, we’ve got a headache, we stubbed our toe, or have some sort of negative consequences going on.
The science of medicine is related in two areas:
The realm of prevention, which is somewhat related to nutrition. That is designed to help you avoid ending up with particularly difficult situations from a medical standpoint. For instance, if you eat too much sugar and don’t exercise and don’t take care of yourself, then your odds of developing diabetes go up quite considerably. Medicine — and this is more in conjunction with nutrition and exercise — has a good deal to say about how to prevent diabetes from coming into being. However, if you end up getting diabetes, then medicine also has something useful to say about how to manage the symptoms, about how to take your insulin, how to do all these things so you don’t end up dying, losing a limb, losing your eyesight, whatever it is, from the problem of diabetes.
Prevention is one aspect of it, and
Cure is another aspect of it.
If we look at these disciplines, then we can say that there is a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things. There’s no perfect, optimal, under all situations way to do things, but just because there’s no such thing as perfect health doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between somebody that’s got a mild cold and somebody who’s dying of cancer.
To use another metaphor, there is salt water in the sea, and there is freshwater in a lake. The freshwater in a lake has a small amount of salt, minerals, impurities in it, and the salt water in the sea has an enormous amount of those things. So while there are differences of degree, in terms of more salt and less salt, it’s still far better to drink lake water than it is to drink sea water. I want to explain that, just because there’s gray areas — like no lake water is perfectly pure, and no, it’s not like sea water is a solid block of minerals and salt — just because there are differences of degree between seawater and freshwater doesn’t mean that there’s fundamentally no difference between them. They’re not just differences of degree from that standpoint.
So while none of us is perfectly healthy — even though I do have viruses and bacteria in my intestines and all that kind of stuff — there is a huge degree of difference between myself, standing here before you in a relatively healthy state (I have no head cold, I haven’t stubbed my toe, I’m feeling good, had a good night’s sleep) and somebody dying of cancer in the same way that there’s a difference in kind, not just in degree, in the potability or the drinkability of seawater as opposed to lake water. Even though lake water contains minerals and seawater contains H2O, which you can drink, there’s still a very large difference between those two states.
When we start thinking about philosophy, relating it to these other fields that we’ve been talking about, I think it’s useful to understand that there is an ideal state in philosophy. We could call it virtue, knowledge, wisdom, or whatever. We’ll not get into the definition of that, but I want to talk about the framework of how philosophy works, why it’s important, why it’s relevant, and why it’s, I would say, absolutely necessary to the pursuit of happiness, joy, efficacy, fulfillment, and all the good things in life.
The human mind has the capacity for error in the same way that the human body has the capacity for error in terms of the furtherance of life. We could say that — a stroke, a heart attack, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or AIDS, or whatever — these physical conditions within the body are deviations from the ideal state of health and the furtherance of life. When we talk about health, there’s an ideal state and there are deviations from it which are correctable.
For instance, when we see somebody who’s 95 years old, obviously they’re not going to be leaping up, taking the stairs two at a time; they’re gonna be laboring up or maybe using stair lifts. We would not say that the 95-year-old person is “not well” because they can’t bound the steps up two at a time; however, a relatively fit, or at least not overweight, 15-year-old boy should be able to leap up the stairs two at a time, and if that boy cannot, then we have some idea that there’s a problem, a deviation. Where correction is possible, then nutrition, philosophy, and medicine are valid sciences, valid approaches to this problem.
To take an extreme example, if you had some sort of ailment that we could only, perhaps, hope to get, where your body changed its metabolic, physiological structure in some manner that eating cookies, ice cream, chocolate, éclairs, all those goodies, that that was the only food on which you could survive. If that were the case, then the science of nutrition would not be useful. If there were only 5 things you could eat, and you wanted to eat them all (they tasted good), then the science of nutrition would not be that helpful.
Similarly, we can’t correct something like aging; we can ameliorate some of its causes, but for sure by the time we get to 110, 120, we’re gonna be dead. Somebody who’s 95 has a different standard of health from somebody who’s 15. The 15-year-old should be able to run around, run up the stairs and so on; we don’t expect that from the 95-year-old, but we would not say that the 95-year-old who can’t bound up the stairs two at a time “is really seriously ill;” we’d just say, “Well, they’re getting really old.”
There’s as yet no medical correction for the "problem" of aging, look at me using some un-hyperboles. Where there is no correction possible, there is no ideal state from which there is a deviation. We say some people age well, some people age badly; some people can play tennis into their 80s, some people are unfit and unhealthy by the time they’re 40 or 50, so there are differences of degrees. But the fundamental deterioration that occurs when we age is not something that can be corrected at the moment by medical science; it can be sort of managed, and the effects can be alleviated, but getting old is not the same as getting sick.
The reason that I’m pointing this out is that we do need to have a standard that we try to achieve as conceptual or cognizant or intellectual beings in the realm of philosophy. There’s a deviation from that standard, and the solutions are not always obvious. Obvious solutions don’t necessarily require a whole lot of information. You don’t need, probably, a nutritionist to tell you that if you’re thirsty, you should drink something; your body’s going to say that to you. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that if you put your hand (if you don’t have leprosy, or something which has numbed your extremities) in a fire, you should pull it out. You don’t leave it in the fire and go, “(sniff) Hmm, now I’m getting hungry,” then call 9-1-1 when your hand falls off, because there’s an obvious solution that’s sort of baked into our physiological nature to deal with those kinds of issues (around: pull your hand back; if you stub your toe, go down and rub it; if you sprain your ankle, you may not need a doctor to tell you not to put a lot of weight on that ankle, because it’s going to hurt you if you do).
There’s a couple of things which I’m talking about here which combine to make philosophy a very interesting science that, relative to other sciences, shouldn’t be overly baffling. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of bafflement in philosophy, but that’s for a variety of reasons we may get into today, depending on my stamina and concentration.
I wanted to point out there’s an ideal state, there are deviations from the ideal state, there are sciences, logic, and approaches which can close the ideal state from the non-ideal state, and that the solutions are non-obvious. Getting on a stairmaster (I don’t know about you, maybe you love it)… I go to the gym and do these kinds of things because they are good for me, not because I get this huge — and I know, you get runner’s high and endorphins — but for me, exercise is a little bit of a chore. Not like playing badminton and stuff, but you know, doing weights and stuff like that.
So if you merely went by your physical feedback mechanisms, your neuropsychological bio-feedback mechanisms, you’d sit around eating cheesecake and wouldn’t go to the gym. Based on our biology, there’s just no way that broccoli is ever going to taste as good as a chocolate bar. The natural impulses that we have would be towards eating sweet and fat things. Obviously, we developed those things because those things are essential for life, but a rarity, and so we needed to have a higher motivation to go and get them; you can’t live on lettuce and tomatoes, you need fat and sugar. So we had strong biochemical receptors, indicators, and feedback mechanisms to get us to pursue those things during the time of our evolutionary development. Now, of course, they’re overly plentiful, and all these problems, but fundamentally, the solution that a nutritionist has to come up with is sort of non-intuitive. When the doctor says, “You need to eat more salads. You need to eat less fat, less sugar, and you need to exercise more,” that’s kind of counter-intuitive because our biological feedback mechanism leads us toward the dessert tray and then the couch. There are certain non-intuitive things that you need to do in the realm of prevention or self-care, self-maintenance, that are important to know about, because if you just follow your indicators, then you’re not going to have much luck achieving your goals if your goals are health and that kind of stuff.
Philosophy also fits into that as well. A lot of things in life are not necessarily intuitive, and yet, if you pursue them, they can be very beneficial and very helpful for you in terms of achieving and maintaining happiness in the world, and having a rich life full of love, joy, intimacy, and all that kind of juicy stuff. Some of that stuff for sure falls into the realm of psychology, which is a subset of philosophy, as all human knowledge really is.
What you want to do when you’re starting to understand how human beings acquire knowledge, and why, and what the purpose is, and so on, is to recognize that there are lots of truths about the world that are not intuitive, but nonetheless are very true. Some trivial (I guess not if you’re an astronaut) examples are things like: the world looks flat, but it’s actually not. The sun and the moon look about the same size, but they’re not at all the same size. When you look at the night sky, and you trace the movement of the stars, it looks like the stars are spinning around the earth; we feel like we are not in motion, but of course, that’s not the case. The idea that they had in the Middle Ages that the stars were holes poked in a black bowl that rolled around the earth: obviously not quite so true. When you see an eclipse, it’s clear that the moon and the sun are like the size of a dime held at arm’s length; when you see an eclipse, it looks like the moon covers the sun almost completely. That’s because the sun is 93 million miles away, the moon is a quarter million miles away, and so it’s the disparity in the distance that creates the illusion that they’re the same size. We have some truths there, for instance, that are not intuitive.
Human beings do have the capacity for error. When we talk about having a capacity for error, the question is, “In relation to what?” This is the fundamental thing. When we talk about health, we want longevity, vitality, energy, and an absence of pain; that’s sort of the general idea behind health. So we know that we’re deviating from an ideal state whenever we experience pain, when our vitality decreases, our energy, our ability to draw breath, whatever it is, begins to decline within us. Similarly, in nutrition, if we begin to gain weight, or we get diabetes, then we know that we are deviating from an ideal state.
The question is, in philosophy, “What is the ideal state, and how do we know that we’ve deviated from it?” In other words, “What is the truth and how do we know the deviation from it?”
Well, if we look at our good friends, the physical scientists (and biologists, to some degree, but I’ll stay with physics for the moment), then we can see that there is an ideal state.
Truth is something that lives within us; there’s no truth in the exterior world. You don’t kick a rock and it uproots a big sprig of truth, or something; truth doesn’t rain from the sky in driblets. Truth is the correlation between internal ideas and external reality. We’re just talking about the scientific method at the moment; we’ll get to philosophy in just a moment.
We’re saying a bunch of things when we say that something is true. We obviously have to say that there’s the capacity for it not to be true because otherwise, there’s no point… nothing to say that there is true or false. Saying that something is true is not a subjective statement. One of the differences between truth and opinion is that truth has external validation. Again, we’re just talking about the scientific method for the most part here. What goes on in science, also very accurate, useful in what goes on in philosophy as well.
When we say something is true, we’re saying that there is a mental concept or thesis. The way that it works in science is that, if I say that objects fall from the sky at 9.8 m/s/s (that’s their acceleration), then that’s a proposition; I put forward a proposition that says that. Einstein puts them forward, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Hawking; all of these people put forward propositions. The proposition is, something falls down from the sky 9.8 m/s/s is the acceleration of it, absent things like atmospheric interference, and so on. So that’s a proposition. It’s not true. You could say it’s true that I put forward a proposition, but it’s not that the proposition has been proven true just by saying it. What you have to measure the proposition against in the scientific world is external, tangible reality. This is very important when it comes to thinking about science, and of course, as we’ll get to in a moment (or maybe we will, maybe we won’t), human conflict.
So if I put forward this thesis, then what has to happen is, somebody (me, maybe) has to go and measure this to actually find out whether my idea corresponds with the behavior of matter in the real world, in the world external to consciousness; it’s not the consciousness, which is not part of the real world, and is biochemical, neurological, and there’s nothing mystical about it (certainly there’s nothing proved about the soul or anything like that). We’ll just talk about the mind being part of reality from an electrical, chemical kind of energy way.
I put forward a proposition, then that proposition has to be validated in the real world. The way that we validate a proposition in the scientific realm is, we test it. Simple as that. We test it, and we do a statistical analysis on variation. The tests are never going to be perfect; they just have to be close enough (9.8 m/s/s, you could probably go to 500 decimal places and it still not be perfectly correct, and then maybe it’s windy, or this or that, so again, we’re back in the realm where there are certain amounts of gray areas right at the core of things. Only in mathematics can you say 2+2=4 and have it be perfectly true; you put 2 and 2 oranges together, and they’re different shapes, weights, sizes, but when you put 2 and 2 of them together, you still have 4 oranges, even though you don’t have a perfect reproduced set of 4. We’ll get into all of that another time). Again, just because there are gray areas right down to the core of things doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between truth and falsehood. This is very important to understand. If I offer you seawater versus lake water to drink, even though lake water is not pure, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll still choose to drink the lake water, unless you want to be sick or something.
From that standpoint, we then take a proposition in the scientific realm, and we attempt to reproduce it through physical experimentation. It has to be reproducible, it can’t be necessarily location-dependent, it can’t be time-dependent. Because we’re dealing with physical reality, which has objective and universal laws, you can’t say, “In Norway, it’s 9.8, and in Iceland, it’s 2.2, and things don’t even fall down in Thailand!” We have to have some methodology by which we compare our ideas to external, physical, tangible reality, in order to validate them.
When we say something is true, what we’re saying is that it’s either logical (logic is a complicated topic, which we’ll get to another time)… When you’re dealing with a theory in mathematics, you don’t necessarily have to produce the things that you’re talking about in the real world. Mathematics is a certain kind of logic that requires independent verification, fact-checking, logic-checking and so on, but it doesn’t require physical experiments in the same way that physics does, wherein you have to go and measure how fast the ball falls down.
When we have a proposition or an idea within our mind, we have the capacity for error. Very fundamental. Earth looks flat, sun and moon look the same size, and so on. Then what we need to do is compare the ideas that we have and the predictability of those ideas, to what actually happens in the real world, and that’s how we determine whether something is true or false.
The question [concerning] the degree to which we are capable of achieving truth and stumbling into error is very important. We’ll spend a few minutes on it now before wrapping up.
But the question that always comes up in this area is really about the validity of the senses, and it’s a very important question because that’s how we get information from the outside world. I know that I’m looking at my laptop, and I know that writing because the cursor is blinking and letters are popping into place, and I know that I’m sitting in my study, and so on, because of the evidence of my senses. Descartes had this theory that it could be possible that we all are like a brain in a tank, and we are being manipulated by an external devil that’s creating all the sensory input in a perfectly consistent kind of way, and so on. That’s a very interesting idea, and of course, he was trying to rescue the Christian deity from a certain amount of skepticism at the time. We can certainly understand why he would want to do that if not necessarily respect the methodology.
Of course, the problem with theories like that is that there’s no (what’s technically a) “null hypothesis;” and what that means is that there’s no way to disprove them. So if somebody makes to you the argument: “Well, you could just be a brain in a tank, and all of your sensory input is being manipulated by some evil demon,” well… certainly possible, certainly possible… However, Descartes (this is the “I think, therefore I am” thing), would say that I may be entirely wrong about everything that I’m getting from my senses, all my sensory input, but that I still exist because I’m being fooled and something is fooling me, and so on. So that’s where he got the “I think, therefore I am.” That was the only thing that he could really feel that had to be true from a syllogistic or axiomatic standpoint, which is that he existed and that someone was fooling him, and so on.
As I said earlier, in order to call something true, it has to have the capacity to be false. The problem with this argument that all our sensory data could be being manipulated by some external demon, we are a brain in a tank, it’s some sick lab, is that there’s no null hypothesis; there’s simply no way. It’s like if you’ve ever had a conversation with a paranoid person, talking to them about how you break them out of their theories:
“Ah, the CIA is watching me.”
“Well, have you seen any?”
“No! See, that’s how good they are! If I’d seen them, I wouldn’t worry as much, because then it wouldn’t be the CIA, because the CIA…” or whatever.
So if there is somebody watching you, then you are being shadowed by the CIA, and if there isn’t somebody watching you, or you can’t see them, it’s because they’re hiding, and they’re really good at it. So if there’s no way to disprove a proposition, it actually has no truth or false value statement and is not something that can really be conversed about.
If I say I’m actually a voice in your head, and you’re not actually looking at a screen, you’re having a dream, and I’m sent from the future… Well, you know, OK, we could have that debate, but how would we know that that wasn’t the case? One of the ways that we can tell dreams from waking reality in a way that even children can master, but which a lot of philosophers seem to have trouble with is, of course, within dreams, objects don’t have constancy; you’re walking along a street, it turns into a river, and then you’re flying, and then you’re talking to a guy, who turns into an elephant… Objects don’t have consistency and physical laws don’t exist; you can fly, I’ve had dreams where I’m walking along the seabed and able to breathe and so on… And you travel without transition; so in a dream, you’re in a ship, then you’re in a plane, then you’re walking in a desert, and then you’re swimming in the sea, and there’s no transition between them. How we know that we’re in a dream state versus a waking state: we know that in the real world there’s object constancy, physical laws, transition time, and they are all consistent and not subject to our willpower, but in dreams, quite the opposite occur.
We can get into that in a little bit more detail, but the fundamental question is that of sensual evidence, the validity of the stuff that’s coming in through our senses. Speaking of which, time for a sip of coffee.
The way that we can appreciate the validity of our physical senses is to understand why we have five of them. Our physical senses do not provide, except in the event of dysfunction (like you’re blind, or you have tinnitus, ringing in your ear), assuming that your senses are functioning in a healthy manner, it’s certainly possible that one of your senses can provide information that you misinterpret. The senses are valid; our interpretation of the evidence of the senses is not [always] valid.
So that’s an important thing to understand when it comes to receiving information about reality through your senses, and that’s what makes the scientific method so powerful; it surmounts the evidence of the senses, but it has to use the evidence of the senses in an alternative way to make it the case.
For instance, back before, I don’t know, geometric measuring devices and satellites, space pictures, how did we know the earth was round? They put a stake in the ground in one place and put a stake in the ground in another place, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, and then at noon, they measured the shadows, and got a sense of that; I think there was a certain mathematical way so when a ship went over the ocean, you saw the hull, and then the mast, and all that went, so it looked like it was going down a slow slope; last but not least, when there was a lunar eclipse (when the earth went between the sun and the moon), as the earth’s shadow went across the moon, you could see that it was rounded.
Although the evidence of the senses when we’re just going about our daily life seems to indicate that the world is flat, we still have to use the evidence of our senses to see that the world’s shadow is round when it goes against the moon, to measure these two sticks to see what their shadow is, to see the ship going down over the horizon on a slow slope and so on.
The evidence of the senses simply requires verification or a systematic organization of them in order to come up with something that’s true, or more true, versus something that’s false.
Just because there’s no perfect truth that we can always achieve doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between truth and falsehood, as we talked about earlier.
I hope that that’s a useful introduction to the ideas behind philosophy. There has to be some ideal state, and generally in philosophy it is the actions of the world in reality, which we obtain through the evidence of the senses and validate through rationality, and we can talk a little bit more about how the scientific method works in terms of its connection to philosophical methods, perhaps, in the next article.
I thought this would be an interesting way for you to at least understand some of the ideas behind philosophy. Why it’s so helpful we can get into in the next one, what kind of decisions it can really help you make, and why, why, why it’s so important to examine your opinions to find out if they’re true or not. And that’s a very powerful and interesting pursuit. I hope you’ll join me for it next time.
This article is heavily based on the introduction to philosophy podcast episode from Stefan Molyneux.
Here’s a question that I get from potato lovers: “How can I grow potatoes in abundance in limited space?”
Growing potatoes in tires can be quite simple and here are my instructions how to do it and have a bumper crop. You get a chance to do some recycling and vertical gardening all together.
Depending on the size of the tires, I first wash them. If they are small enough for me to get them in my pickup truck, I’ll take them to a car wash and wash them under pressure with soap then rinse with water. Inside the tire and outside as well, making sure the tread is free from road grim and grit.
You’ll want to set the tire away from an prevailing winds to keep their foliage from getting wind damage. Make sure the spot you select will be free of most foot traffic and out of the way of activities to avoid the set-up from being knocked over.
Press down any growth on the ground such as clover or grass, and lay a thick mat of saturated newspapers over the grass or area which you will be setting the tire over. Over this put down 2 nice layers of cardboard: one long ways, the other cross ways: you can cut the cardboard away AFTER you position the tires on top of the cardboard. The newspaper will soon deteriorate into the soil, but the cardboard hangs around for awhile, giving added protection against weeds and grass that would come up into the tire.
Whether or not you trim away the rim of the top tire is your decision. Some tires I do trim, others I do not. The bigger the tire is, the more likely I am to trim away the sidewall up to its tread. (This is just my own way of doing things).
Wet the cardboard down really good then start stuffing newspapers, leaves, straw, corncobs, sawdust or whatever you have that will absorb moisture into the inner rim of the tires so when rains come, the organic material will take up the excess moisture and hold it until the plants need it the most: moisture will “wick” away from the inner rim into the main tire container area.
Once the rim is packed with such materials you have on hand or can obtain at no cost to you or for little cost, crumble your topsoil, potting soil and cover the cardboard with 3 or so inches of this mixture, then seat your potato seeds into that mixture. I always add a dusting of hardwood ashes I’ve kept from the wood stove over the potatoes. Potash is very good for root crops.
Once your potatoes are in place, dusted with wood ash, cover with a layer (not pressed down) of straw, shredded newspapers, compost, or whatever mulch you’ll be using, then cover the top hole with a piece of glass, Plexiglas, or you can rig clear plastic over the top if you have nothing else to use. Glass and/or Plexiglas is ever so much easier on you the gardener, than using the plastic cover is, because the bed must be watered weekly unless rainfall measures 1-inch. You never want the soil to dry out, and potatoes (sweet and Irish) need a lot of water to return you a bumper crop.
Irish potatoes need only 4-inches of top growth. When your tater vines/plants reach 6-inches tall, it’s time to add a 2-inch layer of mulch, and snug it up around the potato plant stems. When it’s time, add another tire on top of the first one. And just keep adding mulch, water, and tires until the stack grows 5-6 tires tall. You may need to drive a wooden stay on 2 or 3 sides of the tires so they won’t blow over when storms come, or when you brush against them, or dogs hit them while chasing a ball, or once night temps no longer offer a chance of frost, you can omit the glass top: if you have predators who might eat the tater vine, you can use an old window screen instead of the glass top. And when the temps get around or above 80 degrees, put a layer of newspaper around the upper edge of the top most tire: this will to deflect heat away from the tire and preserves inner moisture as well.
The first blooms that form, I pinch off. This pours more growth to the roots which is what you’ll harvest anyhow. The 2nd set of blooms, I allow to form and soon after the vines will begin to dry and become mulch. You can “dig” your taters by removing one tire at a time.
If you’ll prepare another tire spot before unloading your tater tire, as soon as you remove one tire, you can roll it over on top of the cardboard spot you’ve just made beside your tater tire, and by the time your potatoes are all lying out on the ground, you’ll have another tater tower built ready to plant into again to make another crop of late fall taters to harvest just before a hard freeze hits your area…depending, of course, on just what area that is.
Keep It Growing!
When I think of Hydroponics I also think of Aquaponics. Aquaculture is the raising of fish and Aquaponics is using fish waste water to fertilize a hydroponics bed. But also there is Aeroponics, which is the spraying or misting of roots and plants with nutrient solutions. Hydroponics is generally thought of as the growing of plants in a water solution alone, which is called water culture. However, some plants are better grown in a sterile medium of some kind like sand, gravel, saw dust, peat, straw, etc. In those cases it is called sand culture, or gravel culture, or peat culture, etc. The basics are the same, which is that nutrient rich water is pumped and gravity fed though the medium and around the roots.
As it turns out, all plant nutrients in the form of ions of various salts can be suspended in water. These "nutrients" are all basic elements. Of the 100 or so elements in the chart of elements table about 60 have been found in plants. And, of that, only a few are considered to be essential. To be exact 16 (wikipedia says 14, different sources vary) are essential and, of those, some are more essential in greater quantity. Those are called macro-nutrients. Those needed in less quantity are called micro-nutrients.
Hydrogen, carbon and oxygen are the main elements and guess what? Plants get most of that from air and water. Of those three, carbon and oxygen are 45% each with hydrogen at 6%. Yes we have all heard that plants breath co2, giving off oxygen, and we animals breath oxygen, exhaling co2. Of the macronutrients we also have the famous NPK or nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the primary macronutrients). The other three secondary macronutrients that most of us don't think about are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Micronutrients needed can be chlorine, boron, iron, manganese, zinc, copper and, strangely, molybdenum. Of those, we might have thought of iron, manganese, zinc and copper, but not the rest. And there are a few elements outside that which some plants might need, such as selenium or nickel. There was one plant, a tree, found recently where they discovered gold in its leaves. There was not enough gold to try to get rich getting gold from its leaves; however, the tree might be used as an indicator that there is gold in the ground beneath it. As far as they could tell, the plant has no use for the gold, it just happened to draw it up with other nutrients.
About 15% of a plant's mass is dry weight. 90% of that dry weight is hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and it gets much of that from the air and water. This means that 1.5% of a plant's weight are nutrients. Of 100 pounds of plant matter, 1.5 pounds are nutrients. The point being the nutrients you buy for hydroponics are very compact compared to the plants they will produce. Or to say it another way, a little plant nutrient will go along way.
If you research you might find information similar the following.
Aside from plant nutrients, another major factor which is to be considered is the pH. 7 is neutral pH. Less than 7 is acidic. More than 7 is alkaline. PH of 6 to 7 is best for plants to properly convert the salts to something they can use. The pH is different for various elements, however. So a plant requiring one element more than others might want a pH that is suited more for that element.
With all but aeroponics, air is needed, as well. This can be achieved with aquarium air pumps and air stones. If you think about it, soil has air in it, and that air is more carbon dioxide rich than the atmosphere. The rotting plant matter and humus and manures help to provide a looseness which gives the soil more air. In aeroponics, the roots are sprayed or misted so air is a constant. In hydroponics, water levels need to be raised and lowered to to help with aeration.
Some advantages of growing with hydroponics versus soil are:
The growing medium can be totally sterilized. This means no diseases, fungus, weeds, bugs, etc. to bother your plants while they are growing. One interesting method for this is using steam, though I'm not totally sure how well this would work out on the homestead.
No bugs (probably indoors only), at least it reduces bugs outdoors.
Lower chance of diseases.
Plant nutrition and pH can be controlled precisely at each stage of plant growth and evenly to all plants at the same time.
You can space plants closer together and get more yield per square foot.
You can automate the watering more precisely and there is less water loss due to evaporation versus flooding or other typical irrigation methods.
More sanitary because you are not using manures, which could transmit human diseases to fruit.
Plants mature faster.
Plants are not stressed as much during transplanting. Transplant shock is not as severe. Start your plants in, say, sand or vermiculite, then transplant to the growing medium.
Pesticides and herbicides are not necessary. Pesticides are not necessary if grown indoors, but some may be if grown outdoors. Herbicides won't be necessary at all; however, you might have to protect the nutrient solution from sun light so that algae won't grow in it.
What might some possible disadvantages be?
Cost and labor in designing and setting up the system, containers, pumps, etc.
If using a medium (sand,gravel, saw dust, etc.), a change, or at least cleaning of the medium, is necessary after so many cycles.
Roots clog the medium.
The nutrients needed probably come totally from industry byproducts. Yes nutrients are terrible dangerous chemicals (satire alert). What? Not organic? If a bag of sulfur can be labeled organic, I'd say these nutrient solutions are organic, too. My concern here is that we are dependent on the systems of support for the nutrients. (Nutrients would be a good prepper item to stock up on with possibly an infinite shelf life).
In soil, apparently we have nutrients as ions, meaning basic molecules that contain any of the 16 nutrient elements. There are different molecules for different elements. We generally call this chemical fertilizers. Organic is where plant and animal matter have been decayed or broken down to the point that it has become these chemical molecular ions. Some of these elements also come from rock, gravel, clays, and sands that have been broken down to where the roots can grab them and use them. Much of the soil is not usable by the plant and is simply good for aeration and supporting the plant structurally while it lives.
Plants roots absorb nutrients via chemical magnetism between molecules. Soil nutrients are - ions which are attracted by + molecules inside the plant cells. Water is pulled into the plant via a suction created by evaporation of water from plant leaves. Nutrients move to the leaves where they are turned into food for the plant and its parts by photosynthesis. Strangely, plants can take in water and nutrients through their stems and leaves, as well as roots. The point is that nutrient solution in contact with plant parts makes plants grow.
I say all the above to give you an introduction to hydroponics. I myself have yet to try this method of growing food. But I'd like to try it for some staple items. Corn, beets, carrots, potatoes and rice come to mind as staples. About the grains, such as wheat, oats and such, I'm not sure on how easy it would be or how to go about it. You may have heard of fodder systems for feeding livestock. This is a form of hydroponics. I would think root crops would be nicely grown in a sand culture. Corn might be best grown in a gravel culture, I would probably support corn with string as it grew. Other plants such as tomatoes, melons, squash, lettuce, greens, etc. might be good grown in water culture.
The basics should all be about the same. You will need some kind of containment for the air, water or medium culture. This container will need to be water tight. Solution will flow from one end to another through it and the medium. Pumps will be needed to circulate the solution. Alternatively, if your setup doesn't actually flow, then changing out the solution will have the same effect. So, on the small scale, pumps are not absolutely necessary. However, aeration will be using the fish tank pumps and stones.
For plants where roots will hang down into the water, something will be needed to support the plant itself. Anything with a funnel shaped hole might suffice. And this might be one good reason to raise your own cotton. After you have sprouted your plants in perlite, vermiculite or sand, or whatever, you can transplant it to the bed by stuffing its roots down through the hole then supporting the plant with cotton. Alternatively, peat or rockwool (an insulation) might be used, as well. Could recycled fiberglass insulation work? For making holes you could get a cone shaped bit from the hardware store and drill the cone shape hole into 1" plywood. If using styrofoam, one might just cut the hole the proper shape with a pocket knife. And styrofoam will float in the water solution.
Alternatively, one might make cone shaped pieces from any plastic material and insert that into a flat hole in flat material. Have you ever made a paper funnel for pouring oil into your car? Same concept. The thing is that you need to have this cone shape to allow the roots to be lowered below into the solution and to hold the stem. Again, some material needs to be packed into the cone to hold the stem in place.
The above table is the atomic mass of each nutrient (element). Atomic mass is defined as 1/12th the mass of a carbon 12 atom. This gives us a ratio for figuring atomic mass of molecules. We can then determine what percentage of the molecule is our nutrient. Using this, we can figure ppm mg/l. That is parts per million milligrams per liter. A good digital scale, such as a scientific or scale used to measure gun powder, might be used to weight out a fertilizer salt to be added to a solution. Just as percent means out of one hundred, ppm means out of one million. One microliter is one ppm of a liter. 1,000 microliters would be a milliliter. PPM, though, is a ratio that is used with any measuring system. PPM for gallons would be 1 millionth of a gallon. And one ounce of a gallon is 7,812.5 ppm.
Sources for plant nutrients
Dry fertilizer compounds
Liquid fertilizer solutions
Teas (manure tea, compost tea)
Home mixed liquid fertilizer solutions
The last one, of course, will be made from the first three. Some compounds are more soluble in water than others. This means they dissolve well and stay suspended. Solubility ratios might be 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:15, 1:60, 1:300, 1:500. Compounds that are less soluble tend to be better for gravel and sand cultures and anything but pure water culture. The end result is that you mix up something liquid that can be added to your tank of water at a nutrient level, which will feed the plants and yet not burn them with too much nutrient. This is called a nutrient formulation. Nutrient formulations are like recipes for nutrient solutions.
Fertilizer compounds should give you amounts of each compound (molecule). It should give you the name of the compound and possibly the molecule itself. You will need to calculate a ratio for each compound. First, you will need to figure the molecular weight of a compound. A nutrient will be one atom in that molecule. You will need to figure the total weight for that element. A molecule may have more than one atom of the nutrient. Online Molecular weight calculator. You could try to calculate molecular weight yourself and then check it with an online molecular weight calculator.
1 mg/l is one ppm. You will divide the nutrient weight by the molecule weight to get a ratio. This ratio will be .2358, for example, or .4231 or .1258. Let's say you need 150 ppm of the nutrient in the solution. This means 150 mg/l. By the way, it's probably best to just calculate this in mg/l and later convert to ounces per gallon if you must. So we divide 150 ppm by a ratio, say, .3092 and get 485 mg of your fertilizer compound to get the proper ppm in your 1 liter solution.
Compounds are usually not 100% pure and may be, for example, 40% up to 98% purity. I would assume the impurities are not harmful to plants and they should tell you what they are. Let's say in the above example the compound was 85% pure. 85% is .85. We divide 485 by .85 and get 570 mg. I made up the numbers above, but you get the point. Now we multiply 570 by the total number of liters of water in our system. Say, 100 liters, which would give 5,700 mg or 5.7 grams.
Factors that affect the formulation might be the following.
Plant species and variety
Stage of plant growth
Part of plant being harvested (stem, root, leaves, fruit etc. )
Hours of sunlight
Intensity of sun
You will most likely be mixing your solutions from solid fertilizer compounds or from liquid solutions or both. In order for you to use some manure or compost tea, you would have to test your tea solution for nutrient content. This is not cheap or fast. Though there may be some general data already established for popular manure teas. For example, fish waste for a given type of fish in aquaponics. Or for a given compost recipe. Local county extension offices would probably test a tea solution for you and maybe for free. However, most people probably wouldn't bother unless you are wanting to find non-industrial organic solutions.
You may experience nutrient deficiencies. This can be a complicated issue. Testing can be time consuming or expensive. You can get strip test kits from the hardware store. But you, as a homesteader, will basically have to watch for symptoms and then change out or amend your water. I won't really go into talking about symptoms in this article. Conversely, having a toxic nutrient level is usually not a problem. And, again, there might be differing nutrient requirements at different stages of growth. That means there may not be a single generic one size fits all nutrient solution. Some further research and study here will be necessary.
As preppers we might simply experiment with hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. We might have a small system setup so that, if needed, we could fire up the hydroponics system for a few months and produce some staples. Or one might live off the produce day in and day out. In the case of a greenhouse or poly tunnel, we could live off of some of it year round. Hydroponics is not without work, however. It is merely another way to skin the cat.
If you wanted to try aeroponics you might check out www.dripworks.com Drip Works for some drip and spray emitters and other components. However, I don't have a clue if these will clog or stop up due to the solution not being pure water.
We do these "preparedness drills" to better understand our shortfalls and where we excel in situations. You probably have or have had drills on things before. If you played sports you might have done something over and over again so that you got better at it during an actual game. You probably did fire drills at your office or school. These drills were done so that if an actual fire happens you know what you and other are doing and where they are going.
Drills are done to better mentally and physically prepare you and your loved ones by:
Improving confidence: They give you the confidence you need to react in a meaningful way during a stressful situation.
Improving reaction: They are in place so that you act quickly and precisely.
Improving equipment: They are done so that when you act, you do so with the right equipment at the right time.
Many professionals do these types of drills. Paramedics, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and soldiers. They act as professions. They act as a unit. They act as a family.
I was in the military and will use the military as an example.
When you are in the military, you are in a unit that could be deployed at any time. Troops need to be able to very quickly deploy with all of the personal gear, vehicles, maintenance equipment, weapons, etc. Each individual being deployed brings many of the same basic items that every other soldier is bringing. These would be things like a sleeping bag, knife, firearm, ammunition, medic pouch, clothing, identification tags (dog tags), etc. Everybody has these items because they are items each person needs to have. Each individual also brings different items, depending on their responsibilities or MOS. A cook would need to take everything they need to feed the unit. A medic would need to bring all of the supplies they need to field dress wounds. Communications needs to bring their maintenance tools and extra radios.
All of these soldiers are trained to use their personal gear as well as their job specific gear. They are trained on what they have, basic maintenance of the items, how to store the items and so on.
Soldiers also train on what everybody else's job is and how to interact with the other members of the unit. They understand what the other members job is and what they are responsible for. In many instances they are cross trained so that one can perform the others duty if necessary. They are trained on this in different stages and capacities at different times. Sometimes they will do a partial drill which only includes a certain portion of a possible deployment.
Usually these drills are done in levels.
Level 1 Drill: Everybody grabs all of their personal gear and gets ready to go.
Level 2 Drill: Everybody grabs all of their personal gear, loads all of their equipment into vehicles or containers, loads all personal gear into their deployment vehicle.
Level 3 Drill: Everybody does level 2 drill and deploys to a training location.
Doing these drills, keep your equipment up to date and within standards. The drills help you recognize what is required, where the equipment is located, and how to use the equipment efficiently. Without the drills, your equipment would likely be stored somewhere and you would have to stop and think about where they are and if they are in good condition. The process of stopping to think could take time from you in a situation where every second counts.
During a drill, you should be writing down everything on two separate logs. One for all of the things that were done right and one for everything that needs improvement. If you did not have enough of something, it gets logged. If something you had was not enough or broke down, it gets logged. If a process needs improvement or is not done quickly enough, it gets logged.
These drills are not only about stuff but also help to mentally prepare you for actions. These drills are done in repetition in order to instill a mental process so that you can act under pressure. As a first responder, you practice first aid drills repeatedly. You do these first aid drills many times and do not stop. This repetition helps when reacting to a live situation in which people are severely injured, and the first responder is placed into a high stress situation.
In the military this is called establishing muscle memory. The soldier will practice S.P.O.R.T.S with their M16/M4 rifle over and over again. Sports is performed when the weapon misfires or jams. It stands for Slap the bottom of the magazine, Pull the charging handle to the rear, Observe the chamber for an ejection of the round, Release the charging handle, Tap the forward assist, Squeeze the trigger again. This ensures that, even in a high stress situation, you can still perform actions that you would otherwise have to stop and think about. In the case of sports, you are in a firefight and all of a sudden your rifle is not firing. In this life and death situation the soldier does not want to stop and think about what he needs to do in order to get the rifle firing again. Because he has performed SPORTS many times while in a safe environment, the soldier can perform the action without thinking about what to do. It comes second nature. The soldier does not have to stop and think to himself, okay I need to slap the magazine into place and then pull the charging handle to the rear... they just do it.
The same goes with the Level 1-3 drills I mentioned in the beginning. By doing these exercises they are not only ensuring their equipment is always ready to go, they are mentally preparing by repetition so that they instinctively know exactly where they need to go and what their role is. The military has what is called a QRF (Quick Reaction Force). This is usually a small unit that is always on call and has their equipment and minds ready in case of an attack. If their base getts attacked, the QRF team stops whatever they are doing, grabs their gear (which is already packed and ready to go), deploys to their vehicles, performs a quick function test of their equipment, checks that everybody they are responsible for is present, and than meets the assaulter. They are able to do this very quickly and efficiently because they have practiced doing it so many times that it is instilled into their minds. They instinctively perform each of these actions.getts attacked, the QRF team stops whatever they are doing, grabs their gear (which is already packed and ready to go), deploys to their vehicles, performs a quick function test of their equipment, checks that everybody they are responsible for is present, and than meets the assaulter. They are able to do this very quickly and efficiently because they have practiced doing it so many times that it is instilled into their minds. They instinctively perform each of these actions.
This can apply to anything that you know you will have to do in an emergency. Let's look at something simple as an example. The power goes out at 2300 hours (11:00 PM). Without thinking about it, you go to the kitchen counter and pull out a flashlight. If you practice this very same scenario over and over again, you will perform this action without thinking. If not, you will stop and ask yourself "where is a flashlight?"
One more example. Paramedics and first responders will know exactly what you mean if you ask them what the ABC's of CPR are. A.B.C. stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
Breathing (Rescue Breathing)
Circulation (Chest Compressions)
There are a lot of steps here. All of these steps are done without having to think too hard about each one. They have done these drills so many times that doing them has become second nature.
You should set goals for your reaction time and continue doing the drill until you meet your goals. Once you have met those goals consistently you should set higher goals.
My goal is that if we need to evacuate the house with all of my family members, their equipment, and some common (used by all) equipment need to be loaded into the vehicle. I will conduct this drill at a time when I recognize that I am least prepared to do this drill. Maybe I am sitting on my butt watching TV at the time. My goal is that we are ready to drive away from the house with everything we need to survive within ten minutes.
It took us about twelve of these drills before we met our ten-minute goal. The goal was then changed from ten minutes to eight minutes. We then did the drill until we hit an eight minute completion time. In the military, we would have conducted this drill back to back, over and over again, until we met the goal. With your family, this can become very stressful, and mutiny can arise. Because of this, it is best if you conduct these drills with a reasonable amount of down time between each. Not only will this help with morale, but it will allow you to conduct a more realistic drill.
Which Drills are Right for My Family and Me?
This is determined by your risk assessment. If you have not already done a risk assessment, I recommend you do so before you start doing drills. This will help you in determining which drills are the most relevant to you and your family and which need the most attention. A risk assessment is basically evaluating what is most likely going to have a negative impact on you or your family. You are more likley to have a death in the family or suffer from a job loss than you are to have a nuclear bomb go off in your area. In my area, the chances of the electricity going down for a week are higher than the chances of a riot. Therefore, I will first drill for power outages before I drill for defending my property.
I recommend you write down a list of the top twenty events that could affect your family. Just write them down in any order as they come to mind. Then organize that list by most probable.
You’re at 10,000 feet. It’s been a few days at this altitude and you wonder when you’ll stop breathing hard. Not that it matters because if you’re not able to track, shoot, and pack out that elk, it’s likely your family will not survive the winter.
The exhaustion threatens to beat you down. You’ve given your extra rations to your wife and children. Now there are new mouths to feed. You weren’t sure you were going to see them again after it happened. Now that they’ve shown up, rations are going to have to be redistributed. After all, they’re like family.
Building a raft, a snow hut, debris shelter, working a bow drill, digging holes, carrying injured family members – that exercise program you bought didn’t prepare you for any of that.
Fit for What?
Information on physical fitness is a lot like the food supply in the United States. There’s a lot of it and most of it is not good for you.
There’s fitness as sport, workouts to get you “beach ready,” exercise routines that have as their goal nothing more than leaving you in a pool of sweat or vomit, "8-Minute Abs", and body destroying cardio fests.
When anyone embarks on a fitness regimen, the question that should be asked is: “What am I trying to get fit for?” It is particularly critical to have the right answer to this question in a prepping or survival situation. Fitness is relative and depends on the goal.
Your gym work has to support the technical skills you’ve developed and the tasks you will need to perform.
You may be walking long distances; have to engage in hand-to-hand combat; lift and carry heavy objects; sprint away from danger; have the energy to do the planting, feeding, and mending on the homestead; or pack out the elk you shot.
Is it possible to train to accomplish all these tasks and still have time to eat and sleep? What if you weren’t the all-state quarterback in high school? What if you don’t have the time or money for a gym membership? What if you’re in your mid-50’s (like me) or older?
This isn’t about “working out.” Working out is for stressed executives, soccer moms, and former high school athletes trying to relive their glory days. This is about training.
The First Rule
The first rule is to avoid injury. Whatever program you choose shouldn’t hurt you. This is not about competition. Pain and injuries to shoulders, knees, and lower backs are epidemic in gyms.
When most guys go to the gym, they try to do what the culture and our instincts tell them to do: build as much muscle as possible. As guys, we are usually more interested in “show” rather than “go.” There are a couple of problems with this approach. One problem is that muscle mass is metabolically expensive. It takes a lot of energy to move that extra weight.
The big muscled guy will tire out much more quickly because of the additional oxygen required by his larger frame. In addition, bigger muscles aren’t necessarily stronger muscles.
If food is scarce, having a low body fat percentage and six-pack abs will be more of a sign of impending starvation than sex appeal.
In the words of strength coach James Radcliffe, “Bullets are better than bowling balls.”
You could argue that you need to have endurance, agility, speed, flexibility, strength, and quickness. You don’t have time to work on all these specific attributes. These are good if you had the time but I think for a prepping/survival situation, there’s a better way to approach your training.
Your training program should improve your ability to move the way humans were born to move. The training will help you to do it with power, efficiency, and strength. The movements are squatting, pushing, pulling, lunging, rotating, and gait (walking or running).
All these seem simple until we try to do them under load or for long duration.
Going Long or Going Strong?
If you are new to training, or you haven’t exercised in a while, know that almost anything thing you do will get you better (assuming you don’t hurt yourself) for about six to eight weeks. Then your progress will stall. This can be okay depending on your starting condition and the intensity of your program.
[blockquote cite="Strength coach Mark Rippetoe"]Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.[/blockquote]
Think of strength as the big glass that you will pour all the other physical qualities into. Being strong makes it easier to endure.
Sports physiologists talk about different types of strength: absolute strength, relative strength, explosive strength, strength endurance, power endurance. Power endurance is what you want to work on. The following discussion of energy systems will make the reasons for that clearer.
I could get real geeky here but I’m going to try to avoid that. We’re going to be talking about three main energy systems:
The alactic system is used for short bursts of power for sprinting fifty yards, knocking someone to the ground or pulling a slab of concrete off of your buddy. The lactic system is used for muscle-burning activities like running 800 meters, the high intensity exercise programs like P90x, or wrestling around on the ground with a bad guy. The aerobic system is used for things like long distance running or hiking. Which one is most important to train? I would argue that being able to do repeated bouts of explosive, powerful movements (alactic) for extended periods of time (aerobic) makes the most sense. Training these two make the most sense because of the tasks you will most likely have to accomplish in most survival scenarios. Training in these energy systems is also less likely to compromise your immune and musculoskeletal systems.The aerobic system is an important base for just about every movement. Please understand that I am not talking about chronic endurance training of the sort that marathon runners undertake. This will cause you to lose muscle mass and explosiveness and leave you prone to injury and illness.
You are probably stronger in one of these energy systems than the others. When it comes to physical training, most of us play to our strengths. This can be a mistake. At 55 years of age, I can do 15 pull-ups and deadlift close to 400 lbs. at a bodyweight of 178 lbs. I don’t like working on my endurance. The takeaway for me is that the thing I’m reluctant to do is exactly the hole in my armor that I need to cover up and I’ve adjusted my training program accordingly.
Principles Over Tools
I’m as much of a gear head as the next guy. This carries over into my fitness training. It’s something that I’ve only recently gotten under control. There are all kinds of tools to get the job(s) done. You have kettlebells, dumbbells, cables, clubbells, barbells, “ab blasters,” suspension trainers, fancy machines, a universe of running shoes for different situations, and the Shake Weight.
You can actually get everything done with just a duffle bag or Alice pack. Add some gym rings and you can go to another level.
If all you have access to is bodyweight, you can make incredible gains in the areas you need them. I can detail a variety of programs using all these tools in a later article.
You should cross train. What I mean by that is you should combine lifting heavy objects with an endurance activity like ruck marching (start with weight as light as ten pounds and work up to 40 or 50 lbs.). If you have access to a pool, lake, pond, or the ocean swimming is a great addition that can work all the energy systems.
Figure out ways to increase load. If you don’t have access to weights, use big rocks or a duffle bag containing chains or pea gravel wrapped in plastic garbage bags.
Start running hills. This can help ease you into sprinting. Some of us have too much mileage to do anything that resembles fast running and that’s okay. You can substitute jumping and medicine ball exercises to aid your explosiveness.
In the end, your strength and fitness have to complement your technical training. If you can’t repair a motor, take care of your livestock, use a gun properly, or use a map and compass, all the physical training in the world won’t keep you from going over the edge.
Think about pressure testing your strength and skills by entering adventure races, orienteering competitions, local Strongman or Highland Games competitions, and IPSC contests. It can only help.
Who am I?
Hello. My name is Jeff Dols and I am the proud owner of Fallen Oaks Farm. This column will be dedicated to chronicling my journey to transform my 17 acre property into a permaculture farm. Five years ago, my wife and I moved to Loudon, TN to get out to the "country" where we could have more space for ourselves and what would become our herd of dogs, cats, parrots, horses, pigs, chickens, and goats.
After buying the new house, it was time to make room for the horses and pigs that belonged to my wife. They were living out at her parents place since we didn't have room for them at our old house, and there was almost no fencing at our new house. For the first year, we set about fencing off areas for the horse pasture and the pig pasture. I learned a great deal about the many types of soil on my property, and I also learned the important of wearing gloves whilst pounding in t-posts. After several months, several hundred posts, and a few thousand feet of fence, the pastures were finally done and we welcomed the pigs and horses out to the new homestead. From there, we soon acquired a small goat herd so that I could chase my dream of producing my own goat cheese (a dream I am happy to say I have finally achieved). And finally, we added a small flock of chickens for eggs production.
About a four years ago, I became familiar with a gentleman named Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast (thesurvivalpodcast.com). Thanks to Jack's podcast, I became aware of something called permaculture. From the moment I first of heard of it, I was hooked. I began trying to learn all I could about what it meant to develop a permaculture system. If you do not know what permaculture means, that's okay. I will be talking about it plenty in future posts, but it revealed a real passion that I didn't know I had. I've learned that I want to be closer to the land, to know where my food comes from, and to help my community do the same.
It was again Jack Spirko that first taught me the word PermaEthos back when it was in its infancy and was meant to be a community in the wilds of Texas. Needless to say, that vision did not last, and soon turned into something entirely different. PermaEthos would now transform farms into showcases for Permaculture's benefits, and the project would be initially funded by a Permaculture Design Certification course. The sale of the PDC was limited to only 1000 students, and on the day of the sale I recall sweating in the shade (I was putting up more fence) beneath a tall pine refreshing my phone's browser feverishly while waiting for the sale to go live. When it finally appeared I frantically smashed away at my phone with aching thumbs as quickly as I was able, and to my relief I became founding member #150.
Using what I have learned in the PermaEthos PDC, it is my goal to turn Fallen Oaks Farm into a permaculture farm to provide my community with fresh, wholesome food, and to help people to develop similar systems for themselves. I want to be able to show visitors how everything in the system from fruit trees all the way down to mushrooms, it working together and then be able to provide them with the very same plants they've seen. My dream is to become a Permaculture teacher and consultant so that I might spread the knowledge and understanding that I have gained. It's going to be a long journey, but I look forward to every bit of it and sharing it with you. Until next time, take care!
The idea of homesteading has been one that I have entertained for many years. I have always loved the idea of living off the land, tending to a flock of chickens or a herd of cattle. My head was full with the romanticized notion of living off the land and producing everything I could ever need. My garden would never wither, I would never be plagued with pests, my goats would never think to kick and buck as I milked them...I had no idea of the rude awakening that was coming my way.
Don't get me wrong, the past five years have been wonderful, but it has been full of disappointments and hard work. These trials make even the smallest success that much sweeter. You reach a point at which every small victory is something you crave. Learning to put up a fence, watching that first tomato grow, learning to milk a goat, collecting that first fresh egg. All of these first moments that we work so hard to reach are truly wondrous. I truly believe that we are all meant to enjoy these moments. I believe that there is a part of us the needs to be in touch with the Earth. I don't mean in a hippie sort of way, but I think there is something in us that needs to work in the soil, to get our hands dirty, to accomplish things truly meaningful and valuable in our lives. Things that last.
So many of us work our lives away in cubicles and offices because we are taught that is what is expected of us, and that is what normal people do. How many of you have worked away the days in a windowless box not knowing if the sun is shining? How many of you have worked for years in a job that makes you successful by society's standards and yet you feel miserable? How many of you work hard, but you know that if you didn't come to work tomorrow it wouldn't make a bit of difference? I've been there too. Today we are told that happiness resides in the shiny and the new, in the expensive and the extravagant, in deeper and deeper debt. Yet deep down we know that we are not happy. We need something real, something meaningful, something that will still matter when we are gone. We won't be remembered for the car that we drove or the clothes that we wore.
The path to creating a homestead is not always easy, but once I began, I immediately knew that I was finally heading the right direction. My therapy became pounding in t-posts, rolling around rolls of fence, and raising barns. Once the infrastructure was complete, we brought out the four horses (2 miniature horses, 1 mule, and 1 quarter-horse) and our six potbelly pigs. Seeing them out in the pasture as I cam home every day gave me a profound sense of accomplishment, and I wanted more. Soon we added four goats in with our pigs, and three livestock-guardian dogs to look after them. I never knew that watching a goat browse could be exciting, but I was fascinated with trying to learn what they ate and what they didn't.
This lead me to try and identify the plants and trees on the property. I still don't know half of them out there, but I know more than I used to. I started a garden (it's pretty pitiful as you will soon see) to start producing some food on the farm. There are few things as rewarding as starting plants from seed and seeing them grow so quickly. I have even learned a few things about making my own jerky. There is a good redneck story behind that. One of my wife's coworkers saw a deer struck by a car, and she called my wife to tell her about. She called me to tell me all about it and I said, "Get that sucker!". So my wife ended up field dressing this dear with a scalpel (she's a vet) and taking it to the butcher shop. One hell of a woman, I know. Anyway, so we wound up with a freezer full of deer and I learned how to make jerky from ground venison. If you have never had it, it's amazing.
So this post is getting a little long. In the future I will address many of the skills and ideas that I have mentioned here in far greater detail. My hope is to show you how important homesteading has become in my life, and how fulfilling it can be. I had no idea what I was getting in to when I started, but I have acquired so many new skills, and I owe it all to the wonder of homesteading. Until next time, take care!
Today I set out to make some ricotta cheese from goat milk. It is not a easy as making chevre, but you get your cheese faster since it only takes about 4-5 hours from the time you start boiling water to sterilize your pots to the time the cheese is done draining (if you choose to drain it at all).
Whatever cheese you are making, it always begins the same way. You need to boil all of the utensils and cookware you plan to use during the course of making cheese.
Today all I needed was:
8 qt. stock pot with lid
1/2 C measuring cup
1 tsp. measuring spoon
Skimmer - picture a big spoon with holes in it (a ladle can also work)
A strainer or colander with small holes - a mesh strainer might even be best, but I don't have one to try
2 tsp. citric acid
2 tsp. sea salt - You can use kosher as well, but never used iodized salt or your cheese turns green
1/2 cup of heavy cream (heavy pasteurized works fine)
1 gallon goat milk
So to begin, I put my utensils in the pot and covered them with water and waiting until it boiled. I pour off the hot water and use the skimmer to fish out the hot utensils and set them aside on a clean towel.
Making the Cheese
Measure out your 1 gallon of milk and pour it into the pot along with your acid, 1 tsp of salt, and the cream and gently mix it together. Cheese makers commonly recommend using a gentle up and down motion to mix milk rather than the typical swirling around the pan. Now that the easy part is over, it is time to SLOWLY heat the milk to 184 degrees F.
And I MEAN SLOWLY.
If you have a double boiler that can hold a gallon of milk, that would be ideal. I don't have one so I had to scrape the bottom of the pan regularly with the spatula to try to stop the milk from scorching, but I still got a little scorching. It took about an hour and a half (maybe 2 hours) to slowly get the milk to 184 degrees. After that, remove the pot from the heat, set the lid on and wait for 15 minutes while the curds really set up. After 15 minutes, fish the curds out with a strainer, ladle, or spoon and place them in the strainer or colander.
Don't use a cheese cloth!
I made this mistake and it does two things:
The curds are not setup completely and you will lose cheese as it is sucked into the cloth.
The curds will settle to the bottom of the cloth and stop the whey from draining.
Instead, gently place the curds into the strainer and gently fold the remaining 1 tsp. of salt into the cheese. After that you can enjoy it immediately or you can drain it for up to an hour depending on how much moisture you like in your ricotta.
So all in all this is a pretty simple cheese, but it requires your attention for up to 2 hours if you are slow and paranoid like me. If you have any tips or tricks to speed this process up without ruining a weeks worth or milk, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Also, consider letting me know some other topics you'd like to see. Until next time, take care!
Chickens are an incredible addition to any homestead. They are relatively easy to care for, which makes them a great choice for beginners to animal husbandry, and they can give us so much in the form of eggs and meat. A typical way of keeping chickens is in a coop with one or two runs that are fenced in. While this is an acceptable means of keeping chickens, provided that the chickens are kept in a clean coop with plenty to eat in their run, the chickens are not doing as much work for you as they might be. The same is true for free range chickens. They are free to do as they like, but without some guidance, the chickens will choose their favorite areas and potentially over graze their favorite plants. This eventually leads to a pasture that is devoid of the chickens preferred vegetation.
What we can do instead, is use our chickens to improve the fertility and increase the diversity of our pastures, and through good management, we can actually use our chickens to establish a pasture that will help to feed them. The basic idea is that moving animals quickly through a small pasture in a controlled manner will create a disturbance in the soil. This occurs naturally through the chickens scratching the soil, eating vegetation, and trampling their droppings and other vegetation into the soil. I have a small tractor that I keep 8 chickens in. The tractor is about 8 ft. x 8 ft. so the chickens have a good amount of space. I keep them in one spot for a day or two and then I move them to the next spot, and I let the area that I just moved them from rest for about a month. Moving them this way increases the fertility of the land that they are moved on, and creates an opportunity for me to broadcast seeds of my choosing into the disturbed area. The alternative to tractoring is a paddock shift method. This method breaks a pasture into smaller sections called paddocks. The chickens are rotated through the paddocks and seeds are cast behind the chickens. The time spent in each paddock will be determined by the size of your flock, the size of the paddock, and the current quality of your pasture. but by the time the chickens are put back into the paddock that they started in, all of the vegetation should be regrown.
As I move the birds from one place to the next, every area is given about a month to rest, which is plenty of time for the seeds to take root and produce vegetation. My plan is to spread the seeds of plants that the chickens will eat. This helps give the birds more of the nutrients they need, and it cuts down on my feed bills. It is also of note that seeds germinate up to 60% better when the seeds are covered with something like hay or straw.
Below is a list of some of the plants that can be used for a chicken pasture:
Dutch White Clover
All of these perennials can be found here.
Black Oil Sunflower
Many of these options can be found here. I am sure there are more options that I have forgotten, but there are many varieties for you to experiment with and see which plants your birds prefer. Not all seeds will sprout at the same time, with large mixes there can be many different conditions needed for germination. You may be discouraged when your red clover does not sprout in the fall, but you may be surprised next year when you suddenly find it popping up all over the place. As the pasture becomes more fertile and more diverse, eventually you will need to contribute less seed until hopefully even the annual crops reseed themselves to the point that they are essentially perennials.
9 years ago.
This “Facebook memory” popped up today in my news feed while having coffee and relaxing on this long holiday weekend. It is a long weekend on account of:
Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2.
This is a photo I took of myself long before selfies were a thing. I was working as a consulting utility forester, working with major gas/electric utility systems to address their vegetation management needs. Much of this involved working and walking alone to assess the terrain, habitat, and environmental conditions where the work needed to take place – it was a great job. If you’re interested in learning more about this type of work, visit this site here.
There are so many times that I think about what activities I’ve chosen to engage in for a primary source of income over the years. While the decisions I’ve made and the actions that I’ve taken have never resulted in what many would consider a large income stream – they have resulted in happiness and a good quality of life.
This year, I will turn 40. As part of my personal wellness program, I see a counselor regularly. One thing I recently observed is that I *never* find myself bitching or complaining about my work. I’ve created a life where I’ve spent half of my years on this planet working outdoors during all seasons. It seemed natural.
However, it wasn’t good enough. For the last few years, I began voraciously “chasing my dream” of becoming the next rock star market farmer, permaculture farm designer, community organizer, green industry entrepreneur, writer, blogger, content creator, or whatever else I found myself focusing on at that time.
Much of this work was performed to my own detriment. I pursued the “good cause” and failed to embrace many of these principles I stood and for and preached in my own life – specifically “self care.” The article titled “Why Many Farmers Eat Like Crap” sums it up very nicely. I began to hate my #hustle.
This year, I decided this year to step back from the pursuit of those dreams. The reality is that many of those dreams were little else other than someone *else’s* dreams that I admired. I’ve shifted focus to living the life *I* am living…now and in this moment. It’s all I’ve ever done and all that I know how to do.
One man whose dreams I was chasing was Curtis Stone. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Curtis and the work that he’s done. He’s a mentor and a friend. He has always advised people to keep their ideology in their back pocket. I’m going to take this a step further and suggest you put your dreams there too.
That’s not so say that you should leave them there, but sometimes it’s important to take time and reevaluate what you are chasing and why. Sometimes, when we get so caught up in the #hustle, we lose sight of the life we’ve been actively creating for ourselves. Let’s give ourselves some credit every once in a while.
Rather than tirelessly chase dreams, think about the dreams you’re chasing. Why are you chasing these dreams in the first place? What’s you’re purpose in life? If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
You don’t necessarily need to figure it all out right now, because it’s also very easy to sit around getting nothing done while contemplating your navel and the universe. However, I do encourage getting these thoughts down on a regular basis. This will help you identify the purpose in mission is your life. The why.
Last September, I wrote a blog post titled, Three Primary Components of a Deliberate Living System. This post and many others like it helped me determine my why. Blog posts since then have been sporadic at best and the weekly email I used to send also seemed to lose its’ purpose. It began to show in my work.
It bothered me, but I soon decided that I needed to do what’s best for me. I needed to begin practicing self-care first. All of this is relevant and culminates in the content of this long blog post that I find myself writing today. It is relevant because the development and creation of Deliberate Living Systems was based (in part) on the idea of self-sufficiency, freedom, and independence.
As we read at the beginning of the article, “Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2.”
As the forefathers of this country declared independence from the British Empire, I find myself continually thinking about ways that I wish to declare independence from the systems of support and the mindsets that I know. I am my own sovereign being and I encourage each and every person that reads this to understand that this is the truth – but only if you want it to be and allow it to happen in your own way. You cannot live through other people’s dreams…
…you must find your own. You must find your purpose. You must find your way. You are creating your own Deliberate Living System. The primary components that comprise your systems will change, but before you can recognize this as truth, you need to understand and identify what those components are in the first place. I’d encourage you to take some time and do so this weekend.
There is no better time to celebrate Independence Day than to figure out what it is that you seek independence from and how and why you seek it. Declare your independence today and celebrate the life you are actively creating. Moreover, share it with someone and talk about what you’re doing to make it happen. Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.
Live deliberately, my friends.
The post "Independence Day" appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
This series of blog posts will document and share my medical experiences. I’m doing this for several reasons, first and foremost – after this most recent visit with the doctor, I’m realizing my memory issues are real and potentially getting becoming more serious than I initially thought. Secondly, by openly sharing my experiences it may potentially help people.
I’d like to think that the way in which I write allows for a broad audience to identify with different things that I say or write. On the same note, I’ve recently learned that what I say and how I say it can come across at times as offensive, harsh, or abrasive. I also make no apologies for this. My reality is that I’m (brutally) honest. I speak without a filter. The beauty of the written word is that I can go back and edit my words much more easily than when spoken.
Many people reading this may not know my story, so I’ll try and provide some background and context without going into too much unnecessary detail. My name is Rob Kaiser. At the time of this writing on March 08, 2017 – I am 39 years old, living in Medina, Ohio. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. For all intents and purposes, I lived an average childhood with amazing parents in upper middle class suburbia. At the age of 13, the summer before going into the 8th grade, I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological disease known as epilepsy.
As I do in many writings, I look at Wikipedia as a base line for something I am discussing – and I will do the same in this blog post. As defined by Wikipedia, Epilepsy is a group of neurological disorders characterized by epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures are episodes that can vary from brief and nearly undetectable to long periods of vigorous shaking. These episodes can result in physical injuries including occasionally broken bones. In epilepsy, seizures tend to recur and as a rule, have no immediate underlying cause. Isolated seizures that are provoked by a specific cause such as poisoning are not deemed to represent epilepsy. People with epilepsy in some areas of the world experience stigma due to the condition.
Within the community of epilepsy, you will find many other ways to define epilepsy, but for the purposes of this blog post, this will suffice. When I was first diagnosed as a child, the initial treatment was a prescription for Tegretol, otherwise known as Carbamazepine. As defined by Wikipedia, Carbamazepine (CBZ), sold under the tradename Tegretol among others, is a medication used primarily in the treatment of epilepsy and neuropathic pain. It is not effective for absence seizures or myoclonic seizures. It is used in schizophrenia along with other medications and as a second line agent in bipolar disorder. Carbamazepine appears to work as well as phenytoin and valproate.
Almost immediately, use of the medication was discontinued due to what is referred to as an “adverse event” (skin peeling off hands, loss of hair, falling out in patches on head, and severe itching that would leave me writhing on the ground. The second option in my treatment was the prescription of (or as it is stated in my medical records, I was “initiated” on) Depakote, otherwise known as Valproate. Per Wikipedia, Valproate (VPA), and its valproic acid, sodium valproate, and divalproex sodium forms, are medications primarily used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder and to prevent migraine headaches. It is useful for the prevention of seizures in those with absence seizures, partial seizures, and generalized seizures. It can be given intravenously or by mouth. Long and short acting formulations exist.
Historically, the dosages I had been prescribed would be considered a “medium” dose. Blood levels taken twice a year indicate that I wasn’t quite on the “high” side, but also not quite on the “low” side. In addition to making sure that the medication levels were deemed acceptable by the neurologists, levels of many other things are monitored due to what one of my neurologists has referred to as “the toxicity of the medicine.”
Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and a dry mouth. Serious side effects can include liver problems and regular monitoring of liver function tests is therefore recommended. Other serious risks include pancreatitis and an increased suicide risk. It is known to cause serious abnormalities in the baby if taken during pregnancy. Because of this it is not typically recommended in women of childbearing age who have migraines. It is unclear how valproate works.
Moreover, valproate (also known as the trade name Depakote, which I have taken for +25 years) decreases cognitive function (this is especially noticeable in my experience), negatively impacts metabolic functioning, and has the potential to cause premature osteoporosis. In a nutshell, it is believed that high dosages of anti-convulsants (including Depakote) lead to decreased bone mineral density which may contribute to the early onset of osteoporosis. There’s a vast amount of material to cite, and for the sake of the blog post I’ll simply guide you here, here, and here.
It wasn’t until I moved to California in 2011 that I began to learn about the severity of the side effects of Depakote. Given the lifestyle I have led and plan on continuing to lead, early onset osteoporosis and liver damage do not sound very appealing. As I age and approach 40 years, the benchmark of 50 years of age regarding closer monitoring of bone density no longer seems that far off in the future.
Health and Wellness
In the next blog post, I’ll share my experience of how I began experimenting with some alternative and adjunct therapies for the treatment of epilepsy. To conclude this blog post, while the side effects of the medicine I’ve been taking for +25 years were always communicated to me, I suppose I never fully understood how these could affect me in the long term. It took me 20 years to really begin taking my health and wellness into consideration.
We’ll pick up on health, wellness, and the stereotypical California lifestyle next time…
The post Chronicles of a Chronic Neurological Condition (Part 1) appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
What does 48 days mean to you?
For me…today – 48 days is the length of time that has passed since I felt compelled to take the time and bang out one Pomodoro of writing (thanks FocusTime app) for a blog post.
To calculate the duration between two dates, I simply used this website here. I frequent this site regularly and it’s very easy to use. There’s your daily dose of nerd…you’re very welcome.
Deliberate Living System
Moving forward…as soon as I sat down this evening, I wondered what to write. Previously, I had told myself that I would consistently write about one of the Three Primary Components of a Deliberate Living System. These are the Seven Dimensions of Wellness, Permaculture, and Entrepreneurship – and you can read more about that in the blog post linked to above.
However, tonight – I wanted to wing it. I determined the date and immediately I thought about the book 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal, by Dan Miller. While I haven’t read this book in its’ entirety, over the past few years, I’ve run with a crowd that had a big entrepreneurial lean. The Amazon description reads as follows:
The New Normal
Like you, I’ve been spending the last few years preparing for a new normal of my own. Books such as this have given me the insight needed to continue thinking outside of the box. This type of thinking I am referring to isn’t really the cliché corporate-speak “think outside of the box.”
The shift in perspective over the past few years has been a bit more complex than just some thoughts outside of said box. Seeing as books like this gave me a little insight into this paradigm shift, I made sure to read them. I couldn’t get enough. Perhaps you could even refer to what I was doing was “paralysis by analysis.” Then, the urge to “Get Shit Done” bit and I stepped it up.
Not unlike my climb on the corporate ladder resulting in burnout after a few years, I experienced a bit of burnout while chasing the side hustle. Conversations with friends who were doing the same turned from #hustle to #joyandhappiness. Last year was yet another year full of growth and development of my very own Deliberate Living System.
The #hustle has been put on the sidelines for a little while. More than a few projects have been put on the backburner. I am making a conscious effort to live “life on life’s terms” – but not in a reactive and mildly negative way that it can seem like when Dave Ramsey speaks of this…but more of “life on life’s terms” to ensure I am able to experience the full beauty that life really is.
As we all pursue the path of our own individual #hustle…let us never forget to pursue the path of #joyandhappiness. For if we forget to find the balance, we begin to soon become too involved in the details of our life, rather than look at our life as something to be experienced. We may begin to lose sight of the forest on account of all the trees.
The post 48 Days appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
Part 2 of A History of the Sunday Review is where we look at where we are now. This is only appropriate seeing as we read about where we came from in Part 1. You can read Part 1 of A History of the Sunday Review here.
As previously stated, the first installment of the Sunday Review contained:
What’s New in the Blog
The Great Void
Current Reading Material
What’s Coming Up This Week
Life on Life’s Terms
The reality is that the business and the lifestyle that Deliberate Living Systems was founded to embody wasn’t happening in the time frame that I wanted. I was forced to deal with life on life’s terms. I realized I am no different or special than anyone else. Also, I realized that one of the best coping mechanisms I found was to share it all with you in the form of a blog.
Deliberate Living Systems was formed during a very driven time in my life. During the past two years, I began to feel the familiar drifting feeling again. Much of this was reflected in what I wrote. The DLS blog lacked direction and blog posts encompassed a wide variety of topics. Recognizing this pattern, I wrote about it and my observations in a separate blog post here.
Drifting vs. Driven
Continued reflection on this drifting vs driven element led to the creation and development of what I like to refer to as the Three Primary Components of a Deliberate Living System. This blog post was important for several reasons. It helped me identify what was important to me, and the best way that I could share this message and interact with YOU while doing so. I wrote:
While this is an admirable statement, sometimes I wonder if the reality is that when it comes down to business, people may actually WANT specificity. However, I also understand that much depends on the particular circumstance and nature of the work. One thing is for certain though…I am not ready or prepared to move forward with Deliberate Living Systems full time.
Originally, the idea was for the side hustle to become the main hustle. While this may still be the idea, the time frames have changed dramatically based on the reality of life on life’s terms. So, here we are, making adjustments to the original plan, improvising, and overcoming…but an even better way of looking at this may be best described by Bruce Lee, “Be like water.”
Be water, my friend.
Stay tuned for Part 3.
The post A History of the Sunday Review (Part 2) appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
(Photo Courtesy of: Caleb Schuster Photogrophy)
The very first Deliberate Living Systems email was sent in October of 2015.
After presenting at the 2015 Fall Farm Workshop, hosted by J&S Poly Farms – an email list seemed like the best way to keep in touch with all the great new friends who attended my Basic Fall Plant Propagation presentation. It was a great way to keep in touch with everyone and give a big thank you to everyone who supported Steve Harbolt, his family and the other presenters.
Initially, I was slow to send emails with regularity for the remainder of the 2015 calendar year. As we moved into 2016, I was sending weekly emails and sharing them throughout social media. In January and February, I was invited to speak about Permaculture and subsequently began asking people if they wanted to be a keep in touch via email…and the community grew.
By mid-February, I announced to my core group of fans – that the email list was changing. There was more interest in Deliberate Living Systems, and I decided to integrate the J&S Poly Farm email list with everyone else that attended speaking events, along with a few customers, and other people who had signed up on account of interest garnered via social media.
(Photo Courtesy of: Launch and Hustle)
During the months of March, April, and May – the emails contained a good variety of content, and were slightly easier to assemble than regular blog posts, which was important, because time was something that I was lacking. However, while the method of delivery may have been easier for me to compile, I felt that the emails were becoming increasingly difficult to read.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to share…but all of this content in an email was cumbersome. Personally, if I can’t process an email in two minutes, it is turned into a task to be addressed at a later time (based on my task / project management protocol). I decided to address this content in periodic blog posts, and then simply link to them in the weekly email.
Many of the mentors and people I had been following assembled their emails in a similar manner. I was trying to implement patterns I was noticing within my own work. Some people who inspired changes to content creation and email delivery were Diego Footer, Geoff Lawton, Michael Hyatt, Paul Wheaton (via Permies.com), John Ackley, Daniel Vitalis, and Tim Ferriss.
I tried to assemble emails in an easy to read format, especially on a smartphone. I wanted to provide as much information as possible, in an easily-digestible format, in a way that allowed the reader to access what they wanted, when they wanted, and how they wanted. The result was the very first installment of “The Sunday Review” on Sunday June 19, 2016 (see here).
At that time, the Sunday Review contained
What’s New in the Blog
The Great Void
Current Reading Material
What’s Coming Up This Week
Stay tuned for more history on the Sunday Review!
The post A History of the Sunday Review (Part 1) appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
If you’re not self-employed, what is your side hustle?
Do you even have a side hustle? I didn’t until August of 2014.
Less than six months after attending the first Permaculture Voices Conference, I finally put some visions and dreams into action and founded Deliberate Living Systems, LLC.
My permaculture mentors, Geoff Lawton, Mark Shepard, Jack Spirko, Diego Footer, and many others promoted the idea of profitable permaculture through entrepreneurship as the most effective way to fully integrate the ethics and principles of permaculture into our lives.
For several years, I have had my name listed on the International Society of Arboriculture Find an Arborist website. Periodically, I was able to get a side job as an arborist consultation. It was a way to capitalize on a life-long skill set in the green industry.
The intense exploration of Permaculture, attendance at the first annual Permaculture Voices Conference in March 2014, taking a PDC in April/May of 2014 led me to thinking obsessively about permaculture design and application in the landscape…every landscape.
In August 2014, I found myself observing and interacting with an arborist consult customer. During our post-consult discussion, we began talking about landscape design. By the end of the conversation, I had upsold a simple arborist consultation into a landscape design based on permaculture principles for their suburban lot. Deliberate Living Systems was born.
That winter, much time, effort and energy went into the mission and the vision of Deliberate Living Systems. The broad vision needed to be refined. There has been a lot of growth, development and transition since August 2014. Much of that time was spent kicking myself over the failures that I made. However, Joel Salatin has been quoted as saying,
Joy and Happiness
I’ve heard that people say, “If you trade time for money, you’ll never find freedom.” I’m still doing this, but I’m working hard to change that. Whether or not I’ll ever be able to fully do so, I’m not sure, but in the meantime, I’m working hard to find a way to do things that bring me joy and happiness while trading time for money.
If you don’t have a side hustle, what’s stopping you?
If you do have a side hustle, what’s driving you to continue pushing through adversity?
What keeps you putting one foot in front of the other on the road to entrepreneurship?
What does the road to entrepreneurship even look like to you?
Please comment below or email me here to share.
Share this blog post on your own social media below and keep the conversation going!
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In a recent blog post titled, Three Primary Components of a Deliberate Living System, we read that these components are the Seven Dimensions of Wellness, Permaculture, Entrepreneurship. Today, we’re discussing Social Wellness and Social Media.
Social Wellness is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. Our ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers contributes to our Social Wellness.
We relate to and connect with other people in our world a number of different ways. Over the past century, these ways have changed dramatically. Over the past few decades, the change has been even greater.
Currently we are experiencing one of the most monumental shifts regarding our own humanity. This shift is perhaps most noticeable with regard to technology and human connectivity. Connectivity with humans has become integrated with social media.
Let’s examine the term “social media”
Combined: Social media
Personal Social Media Usage
I am a user of the following social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The only accounts that are personalized to/for myself are Twitter and LinkedIn. The way in which I use Facebook and Instagram is via business and/or organization pages, where I create and/or moderate the contact that is shown on those various pages.
Social Media Usage Experimentation
For years, I maintained a personal Facebook account. I also struggled with my inability to effectively manage the way I used it. I allowed it to be a tremendous time suck. Accordingly, on two separate occasions I have “left” Facebook (aka “Hotel California”).
Facebook makes this very easy to do. We have the ability to check out any time we like, but unless we actually delete our account, we can’t ever leave. Disabling your account just puts everything “on hold.” The first time I “left” was in mid-2012.
At that time, there were various reasons for doing so (if you’re curious, just comment below or shoot me a message here), and after approximately 8 months I re-enabled it. The act of leaving Facebook was a great social experiment. Try it.
Currently, I am in the process of another personal Facebook hiatus. I left Facebook approximately 6 months ago and have enjoyed my time away from it. Again, I’m still using business and organization pages, but very deliberately.
Over the past few months, I’ve received feedback on my decisions – both positive and negative. Social media, and it’s integration in the lives we lead and the shift in the societal norm is really quite fascinating. It’s easier to review this while slightly removed.
In addition to feedback regarding my presence (or lack thereof) on social media – there’s also been a lot of discussion about it with friends, acquaintances, and business partners. Again, fascinating conversation on many levels for various reasons.
Have you experimented with the way you use social media?
If you have, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below or email me here to share.
Share this blog post on your own social media below and keep the conversation going!
The post Social Wellness and Social Media appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
It’s been 43 days since I last created and published content.
This has been weighing on my mind and quite frankly, stressing me out.
Until…I read a recent email from Casey Lewis. In the email you can read here, he writes:
This was important to me because I have a tremendous amount of respect for Casey Lewis. For those of you who don’t know, Casey Lewis is a self-proclaimed “Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Realtor, Financial Coach and Amateur Adventurer.”
Casey Lewis and I first crossed paths a few years ago as we took part in something called “The Start Experiment” – which you can read more about in this great Huffington Post article here. I was a part of Group 39 – a bunch of people who didn’t really know what we were doing, but we knew that we were doing *something.* This was such a great experience and if you’re curious about why…feel free to comment below or email me questions at email@example.com.
In addition to the 43 days with no content creation, it has also been about 6 months of hiatus from social media. Well – that’s not entirely true. It’s been about a six month hiatus from Facebook as a personal user. I still am active in the management of four different Facebook pages for various local businesses and organizations. I’ve received some feedback on my lack of presence on Facebook in this way, both positive and negative. It’s been something I’ve thought about a lot lately.
Deliberate Living Systems was created with a grand vision to help people create a systematic approach to living a healthy, positive, and beneficial life. It’s been an rough and interesting road over the past three years, ultimately leading to a (another) sort of burnout around six months ago – much like Casey Lewis wrote in his blog post here. If you haven’t picked up on it – I am a big fan of the work of Casey and have even hired him for some financial counseling last year. Definitely check him out.
His discussion of burnout and taking a break from content creation resonated so deeply with me – largely because the quality of friendships and relationships formed over the past three years since the inception of Deliberate Living Systems, LLC has been of the highest quality. In the development and implementation of my own Deliberate Living System, I have been blessed to have met and befriended people of the highest quality and character. That’s right. I’m talking about you.
You are one of the reasons that the 43 days passing with no content creation was stressing me out. You are one of the reasons that my Facebook hiatus is something that I regularly think about. You are part of the reason why I’m taking the time to write these words, because for everyone one of “you” that’s reading these words, there are at least a few more of us that are out there, that *aren’t* reading these words. As previously stated, the grand vision was to help people live deliberately.
An integral part of my life involves a multi-faceted career in the green industry. One of these facets has been farming, primarily tree farms and wholesale nurseries. Recently, as I’ve begun to develop and create a Deliberate Living System – I became enamored with small-acre intensive market farming and permaculture. Over the past three years, I’ve worked to integrate market farming and permaculture into my life in addition to full-time employment at a wholesale nursery and tree farm.
To make a long story short, I went through a sort of burnout earlier in the year – part of the reason for taking a brief hiatus from Facebook. Also, I went from creating content weekly to bi-weekly. I paid attention to the format of the email, making a deliberate change to the ease of readability, keeping longer content on the blog posts (while still attempting to keep blog posts small and bite sized (around 500 words) for easy reading, something I will far exceed with all of this drivel today).
While actively farming on several different levels and working long hours on other various pursuits, my farming exploration led me to the works and teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka, who wrote: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” Ideas such as this, and improving the quality of life became paramount to the ideas and methods one incorporates into the development and creation of one’s own Deliberate Living Sysem. That was it.
I needed a break. I needed to work on cultivating my soul. I felt beaten down. Retreating for a period of time has been refreshing. It’s allowed me to further connect with people who will more directly impact my life and given me the opportunity to connect with others in an effort to positively impact their lives! Over the past 6 months and ultimately, over the past 43 days, I’ve engaged in periods of living and experiencing life in the way it should be experienced. Real-time, as a human. Live action.
Casey’s words encouraged me that it *is* possible to pick up where we left off. Not only is it *possible* it is *critical* to do this. Our work is never done. Sometimes we need to take a break, just so we know where to pick up when we come back to it. We never stop working, we simply reevaluate. In blog posts in the past, we’ve talked about the ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome. That’s no different here. 43 hours, 43 days, or 43 weeks, in whatever you do just pick up where you left off.
Don’t think about how much you suck that you’ve let this amount of time pass before doing (x), just focus on the fact that best thing you can do is take corrective action for that which you have or have not done and that time is NOW. Stop reading. START. These words and the words of others will always be there for reference at a later date and time. Embrace the #hustle
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to writing…
The post 43 Days appeared first on Deliberate Living Systems.
When doesn’t efficiency matter?
At this very moment, it is 8:54am. I just refilled my coffee after a phone call with Apple Support. I finally decided to call Apple Support after my computer became close to inoperable. The last thing I wanted to do was make a call to tech support.
That’s right…an actual phone call – to an actual human! Can you imagine?!
If we’re doing story time, I might as well provide a little background to what prompted this brief blog post this morning. For well over a month, I’ve been ignoring a message on my MacBook telling me “Your startup disk is almost full.”
Ignoring the problem worked for a little while, but last week – my computer failed me as I tried to show a friend a site development plan. Documents were able to be viewed – but the embedded photos did not load.
Limited computer use this week allowed me to ignore the problem even longer. This morning, however – as I tried to prepare some documents for a breakfast meeting the problem continued. The problem could wait no longer.
After using an iPhone for the past few years, and subsequently purchasing an iPad, I was pleased with the integration. So pleased was I that I decided to make the full transition to Apple products with a purchase of a MacBook pro in December 2015.
In addition to this, I had purchased Apple’s version of an external hard drive system, known as the AirPort Time Capsule. “The AirPort Time Capsule (previously known as just Time Capsule) is a wireless router sold by Apple Inc., featuring network-attached storage (NAS) and a residential gateway router, and is one of Apple’s AirPort products. They are, essentially, versions of the AirPort Extreme with an internal hard drive. Apple describes it as a “Backup Appliance”, designed to work in tandem with the Time Machine backup software utility introduced in Mac OS X 10.5.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Time_Capsule
While I have a very solid computer set up and system, I really have no idea how to use it. My coworker affectionately refers to Apple products as “tech for dummies.” Seemingly appropriate in this case – as that’s what I feel like, and is also a contributing factor towards procrastination in dealing with my startup disk.
However, in exploring how to deal with this, I was also reminded that I had purchased the extended AppleCare Protection Plan – giving me years of technical support, something I had conveniently forgotten about due to great performance.
Realizing this, I entered my information on the Apple Support website and received a phone call from Demetrius Norman (located in the Central Time Zone of the United States). Within minutes, he coached me through how to effectively deal with the problem utilizing the redundancy backup systems that I had previously set up.
This blog post may seem like nothing but a review for Apple products, and in a way, it is. However, quick reflection on this experience leads me to believe that this is just a real life example of how having effective systems in place can effectively save your ass when it comes to crunch time and getting results.
Time for breakfast.
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When it comes to content creation, I often think about writing on topics specific to the industry in which I work. While there may be some benefit to consistency of topic choice in my blog, specificity is no longer the nature of my business.
All too frequently, I judge my success on the actions of others rather than the accomplishments I have made in my own life. Work in my daily life and thoughts shared here with you help me hone and refine my systems for deliberate living.
It’s important that we have role models and mentors, following the framework of those who we respect and value – but the idea is that we learn and adapt so that we ourselves can become the next generation of role models and mentors…it’s needed.
The content published here on this blog and via the email list over the past year and a half covered a wide range of topics. That was covered in detail last month in a blog post titled “Transition and Progress” – which you can read here.
The majority of the content created on the Deliberate Living Systems platform has been about taking active steps to live a more healthy, positive, and beneficial life. In large part, these topics covered four basic human needs:
I am not interested in content specific to the green industry. I’ve struggled with explaining what Deliberate Living Systems is to people. It’s been challenging to accurately describe the mission and and vision behind Deliberate Living Systems.
A company formed as a direct action of attempting to implement permaculture into my life and the lives of others, the mission and vision has been equally difficult to define. The content created has validated this statement…in the best way possible.
Looking back on the content that embraces the four basic human needs is a good start, but through direct action and deliberate living, we can do better. Expanding on the four basic human needs, we can read about the seven dimensions of wellness:
After much thought on the manner in which content has been created and delivered to you, I continue my efforts to ensure that it is done so in a way that is effectively read and processed, so that you can take away what is relevant for your own life.
At the end of the day, I enjoy sharing my life with you in this way and receive great joy when you share your journey with me. The community of like-minded people like us is growing. We are all taking active steps to deliberately improve our lives.
Blog posts will continue covering a wide variety of topics, but will focus on what I’ve identified as three primary components of a Deliberate Living System:
Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Email format will continue being sent as “The Sunday Review” as it has been, but I will try to make a push in an attempt to get it back to a weekly email. Keeping the emails brief and to the point will be easier to create…and easier for you to read.
Please feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family via email or social media. The buttons below will hopefully make it easy for you to do so.
Also, please share your favorite blogs, books, podcasts, etc. in the comments below. I’m always curious so see what you’re reading. I love learning about what keeps your monkey mind entertained and all the various things that make YOU tick.
Many thanks and keep living deliberately.
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If you follow my blog at all, you’ve no doubt noticed that I have not had the time to write any posts this summer. We have been busier than normal with the farm, and most of my “spare” time has been invested into the podcast that I’m doing weekly with Diego Footer of Permaculture Voices called “Grass Fed Life“.
For those of you who really value the information I’ve put out on the blog over the past three years, hopefully you’ve found the time to the listen to the podcast. Episode number 22 (8 Reasons Why You Might NOT Want To Start A Pastured Poultry Enterprise) came out today, and with it there are now over 23+ hours of audio for you to listen to. Contained within that audio is a lot of what I hope you would agree to be very valuable information. In all sincerity, there is way more content there than I could ever write for the blog during the same time period. We have covered everything from production on poultry and pork, to marketing dynamics and business basics. All in all, I think it’s a pretty solid replacement during the growing season for the written blog. But rest assured, I’ll get back to writing more blog posts this winter.
Many of you have been e-mailing and asking about when our next workshop would be scheduled and I’m happy to announce that we have one on the calendar for November 3rd-5th near our farm in Martinsville, IN. The Farm Business Essentials 3-day workshop is going to be intense, and I’m extremely excited about it! My excitement stems from two main sources: First, the curriculum we’ll be covering in this workshop is the meaty stuff that really matters if you want to make a legitimate go of farming for profit. This is the teaching that I really get into and enjoy sharing because it is so profoundly important to your success. Second, I’ll be co-teaching this workshop with my friend Diego Footer. Diego brings a lot to the table in terms of transitioning from one career to another, as he is currently working to build an income source that will allow him to work from home and spend more time with his young family. On top of that, he has spent countless hundreds of hours talking with and interviewing farmers in the regenerative agricultural space. The knowledge base he has to share in a workshop of this nature is incalculable.
I want to be clear that this workshop is specifically aimed at for profit farming, and not homesteading. The main focus will be aimed at helping aspiring farmers and existing farmers create a personal plan to transition towards an intentional part-time or full-time farming venture. We’ll certainly spend some time (about 25% of the workshop) on the “nuts and bolts” of how-to produce poultry and pork as well as an exhaustive tour of our farm. But the majority of our time will be focused on things like selecting the appropriate enterprise(s) for you on your farm at this point in time. We’ll also cover things like how to set realistic expectations for your farm, how to get your family on board and how to create a comprehensive year to year growth plan. We’ll also talk about balancing family with farm business startup, running a business, scaling up production while balancing marketing and refining your farm venture to decrease costs while increasing profits. This is not a class you will sit in and simply listen to the speakers talk – this will be an interactive experience where your participation will be expected in order for you to get the most value out of the workshop! You can read the entire itinerary on the Permaculture Voices website. We also have hotel accommodations listed as well for those of you coming in from out of town (please note the group rate discount code!).
So what’s included and what is the cost?
We have worked very hard to try and pack a lot of value into this workshop, and I think we have done just that. Please note that our three days together are going to be long and intense! But if you are serious about farming for profit, then please consider investing into yourself! For an in depth conversation about the workshop between myself and Diego, please listen to Episode 22 of Grass Fed Life.
$499 PER PERSON – EARLYBIRD PRICING ($599 after October 1)
$449 PER PERSON WITH TWO OR MORE REGISTRATIONS ($499 each after October 1)
We also have 12 VIP Spots Available (as of this writing only 3 of these remain available):
There is no extra costs for these spots. The first 12 registrants will be given VIP status. Each VIP attendee is invited to a special dinner on the farm on the night of November 5, will receive the whole PV3 Broadacre Video Package ($99 value), and get a free 1/2 hour of consulting with Darby AFTER the workshop. Darby will answer any questions that you might have and address any issues that you might need help with. These VIP spots are limited to the first 12 registrants.
There are a total of 25 workshop tickets available. The attendance of the event is limited to make the event more personal and allow a more customized and tailored content for the attendees.
What is else is included:
Lunch provided each day. Local and organic, meat provided by Darby’s farm.
Snacks, coffee, water, and tea are provided throughout the workshop.
Printed workbook containing all workshop notes and worksheets.
Pre-Workshop Videos- Available immediately upon registration.
Darby Simpson: Farm Marketing & Business Planning: Real World Proven Strategies (3HR)
Greg Judy: Successful Implementation Using High Density Planned Grazing (3HR)
Greg Judy: The Economics For Leasing Land, How To Find It and Develop It For Maximum Income (3HR)
Farm tour of Darby’s farm. See the systems in action.
Access to 3 monthly follow up webinars AFTER the workshop to help keep you on track and answer any follow up questions.
30 minute consult PRIOR to the workshop to help make sure that your concerns are addressed during the workshop.
Please note that this is the only workshop and/or speaking event that I currently have on the calendar. If the above content sounds like a good fit for where you are at with your farm, then please join us for this upcoming event this November! I’ll look forward to meeting many of you in person and I promise you’ll get way more value than you pay for at this event. Knowing what I know now, if I could travel back in time and attend something of this nature I would do it in a heartbeat. I feel strongly that this is one of the best investments you can make into yourself, your family and your farm business!
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Part 3 of The Cosmos, the Earth, and Your Health – The Story of Soil In the first two episodes of this series on how soil is formed, we’ve been operating at the cosmic level, talking about the how the elements of life were molded during the Big Bang, inside stars, and in explosive supernovae. […]
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Part 2 of The Cosmos, the Earth, and Your Health – The Story of Soil [This is the second in a series of articles about how soil is formed and its link to health and nutrition.] Where does soil come from? In keeping with the big-picture perspective of this series, let’s tackle that question from the […]
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“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” With these words, the ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes taught us the power of leverage points. It’s a key concept in permaculture design, too. When we deeply understand the system we’re working with—be it a garden, a business, a […]
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Great article! We're all about shoveling dirt to make raised beds and handling firewood! You'd be surprised but just going up and down ladder stairs all day was quite the work out. Kids bike and I speed walk quite a bit and we love the beach 15mins from our house on the 49th parallel in James bay. Keep up the great work!
At that time, I was working 60+ hours a week on average and traveling extensively for work.
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Living the life of a road warrior, I regularly ate fast food and at restaurants.