Monday, July 10, 2017

Granted, I take it all for granted

As I prepared to get stuck in to my fencing work this morning I found myself facing a half-dozen little preliminary chores.

That's the way it goes. You can never pick up where you left off the day before, because little jobs pop up all the time. This morning it was wire needing nailed and clipped back up in a couple of locations, a newly discovered thistle to dig, and a gate to re-tension.

So I did those chores and took a few minutes to watch and enjoy while cattle grazed on still-lush and still-abundant grass.

Some ranching schools of thought hold that you should stock your land right up to the limit of the grassland ecosystem's ability to produce forage without sustaining damage. This is actually not a terrible idea, particularly where rainfall and grass production are abundant.

In our part of the world, where drought is part of the natural cycle of things, it's generally better to understock if you can and to try very hard to keep some grass ungrazed and in reserve.

That probably sounds like it makes good sense and indeed my experience supports the notion. But not everyone runs on the same business model, nor does everyone have the luxury of idling grass above and beyond that which is rotationally rested as part of a long term grazing plan.

The point is that there's nothing wrong with stocking right up to capacity. Good grassland managers can squeeze every nickel out of their grass asset while completely supporting ecosystem health and biodiversity.

I'm fortunate in not having to do so, and that's a luxury I often almost always take for granted.

And that's not all I take for granted.

I've been slower than I like in rebuilding my physical strength and endurance following my seven-month-plus battle with a bone infection. I took on a major fence rebuilding project in mid-June and have been feeling rather sorry for myself for not being able to work as hard and as easily as I once could.

How quickly I forget that I could hardly walk between October and March! I vanquished the infection and regained my health, and then astonishingly took that near-miracle for granted. Sheesh! In the dark days of November and December it appeared more than a bit likely that I'd end up losing the foot. Now the foot is fixed and pain-free and better than before, yet I'm whining about not being as fit as I was in my youth.

This morning after I finished the half-dozen unexpected/expected preliminary chores I developed a strong desire to do some hiking. I was feeling great and feeling strong. The summer heat was palpable and building but not yet overwhelming. The air was close and hot and mostly still, filled with the sound of buzzing insects and the smell of July. Perfect hiking weather.

I wasn't really prepared to hike. I was wearing fencing clothes and work boots, neither of which are optimized for hiking. The work boots in particular would make a long hike rather painful. So I decided to make a short, high intensity hike. I was in a good location, a place with a lot of up and down and very little flat.

"Let's see," I thought, "how close I can come to exhaustion in 45 minutes."

So I set out and really put the hammer down. There's simply no way that I can run when navigating prairie terrain -- not without sustaining injury anyway. I doubt many professional runners could do so, particularly if shod and dressed as I was this morning.

But that doesn't mean I can't move quickly and give the old cardiovascular system a jolly good workout.

As I hammered along I was trying to think about how to describe the experience in written words. It's one of those things that's really pretty hard.

I was overjoyed to find that I had a lot more gas in the tank than I thought I'd have, and that moving along hard and fast (relatively fast) was less taxing and less painful than I'd expected. I knew I'd been making good physical progress over the last 3-4 weeks but I'd been more focused on my shortfalls than on my gains. It really felt good to have robust throttle response.

My heart rate quickly shot up, as did my respiratory rate, but I never seemed to be able to max out, which was a fantastic thing. My legs stayed strong and my muscles seemed to relish the work without complaining. It was very hard work, mind you. My heart pounded and the air roared in and out of my lungs while sweat ran in rivulets. The steep uphill pitches took a great deal of effort, but there was clearly more throttle available. As it turned out, I really needed longer, steeper pitches to push toward exhaustion.

At the end of 45 minutes I'd done 3.59 miles with an average pace of 12.5 minutes to the mile. I was tired but not overly tired and there was still plenty of gas in the tank. I swallowed a half-gallon of water and washed the sweat out of my eyes and looked around.

The prairie was awash in July beauty. It was hot, well over 90 degrees. I was soaked in sweat and seeing a few stars, but already my heart rate was coming down to normal as my breathing eased. My legs felt solid rather than rubbery, and my muscles felt warm and primed for more use.

What a blessing. I'm no longer a young fellow, and my younger self would have been able to run circles around me today. But the physical stuff is coming back nicely, and more quickly than I'd properly realized. There's plenty of room for improvement and I'll keep working on that. But compared to a couple of months ago? Wow!

Feels good.


  1. Good stuff, glad to hear that your physical condition is better than you thought.

    I had never really thought of the cattle to grass ratio thing. Makes sense. Shows you how little us townies really know.

    1. Making progress which I like. I'd better die in harness or I'll ruin lives with my bitching.

      Stocking rates are simple but you have to watch the variables especially soul moisture.

  2. I'm happy to read that you are getting back ( physically ) to where you want to be. Now stop all that whining; look at the rough time that juvat went through in the past week or so and stop your complaining.

    The cattle look great and it's nice to see green in the fields.

    Paul L. Quandt

  3. Nothing better than a good sweat workout! Some even pay extra money for sweat classes {in leotards!} in the big city and don't even get the fresh air and solitude you did that day. I hope there were a few meadowlarks out there. So good you are getting back to normal after that long fixin'.

    You left SanD one month ago, just look at all the miles of fence you have done since! N/SanDiego

    1. I wore a leotard one day but the cows were laughing so hard they couldn't graze. 🤥