Tuesday, July 22, 2014

hot steps

Since reading the New Yorker essay by David Sedaris on the subject of becoming addicted to Fitbit (a fancy device that basically counts your steps and measures your level of activity), I have been mulling over the idea that I should count how many steps I take on an average day at the farmette. Though one could argue that measuring steps is not a great way to measure the level of activity in a person who engages in weed pulling for hours on end (surely more active than sitting on a couch, though not if you asked a step measuring device), still -- I am curious.

Ed scoffs at the idea of spending $48.99 on a Fitbit, even if it does get 4.5 stars on Amazon. When I point out that it will display for me all sorts of charts, set goals and even chide me for not stepping up to the 10,000 daily goal everyone should have before them, he goes on line and points to articles describing apps that I can get for free on my rather new iPhone -- apps that will convert my phone into a device that will measure my steps, call me names, draw charts -- the works.

It's an annoying feature of being so close to Ed: he often dashes my excitement in acquiring something, be it new pair of glasses or, in this case, a new (and unnecessary) exercise monitor.

Fine. I download the recommended (free) iPhone app. I check all settings. I turn it on. I walk. Nothing. I mean, it tells me I am taking zero steps.

Ed waves the iPhone furiously and gets it to register 2 steps. I tell him it's like having a scale that misreads your weight every morning. Totally frightening.

We remove the app and go on to the next one. "Moves." Also free.

Well now, this one works! Never mind that you have to have your iPhone glued to your body all day long. It does tally your steps and tell you how poorly you're doing. So that for example, today, when I had two grocery type errands to run and then a lot of weeding of the raspberry beds to accomplish (and man oh man, it was hot out there!), it tells me that I only took 4,821 steps. Annoying!


Now if there only was a device that could measure the pleasure I get from our morning meal out on the porch...


Or from taking stock of the flowers today...


Including, of course, the day lilies...


No such device out there. But if there was, I'd be off the charts.

Ah well, let me take a short walk. I mean, how can I face myself if I don't even hit 7500 on this lovely summer evening?

I glance down at my iPhone as I set out to walk. No steps are added. I walk some more. Stuck at 4821.

You could say that this motivates me to seek out a device that's more reliable. It does not. Even though the counter is (presumably) undercounting, it still was terribly unfun to have something there reminding me of every breath I take on this planet, every movement I make, every song I sing all day long. (Well, it didn't do all that, but you get my point.) I'll walk more, okay? But don't remind me to do it or it'll cease being spontaneous and fun. It'll turn into a chore. Walking through my garden on a summer day should never be a chore.

Post Scriptum (on the subject of bugs)

In response to a commenter's question, I offer these suggestions on how to wage your own mosquito wars (which we seem to be winning this year!) in your outdoor spaces:

If you want a quick fix for your yard -- buy Mosquito Beater -- in liquid form (at Farm and Fleet, for example). We mix it in a hand pump at the ratio of 5oz per 1.5 gallon water. Or, you can attach the store bought container to your hose and fire away! It's very effective and hasn't the toxicity of the the commercial sprays. Our bees and butterflies are doing fine!

True, we'd probably do even better if we used pure cedar oil (Mosquito Beater has other ingredients) and mixed that with water. The Mosquito Guy (a family run company out of Waukesha that has just recently entered the Madison market) did that for us for the wedding and it took care of upwards of 95% of the mosquitoes (for several weeks actually). Literally pushed them away into the hinterlands. If you stepped out of the cedar oil misted area -- they were there. Inside -- nothing.

Furthermore, our own misting (of the diluted Mosquito Beater) is on a spot-only basis -- around the path to the farmhouse where they congregate, for example. So we're not as effective as we would be if we misted most of the yard. But, the yard's too big, we're not fanatics -- we just want a modicum of sanity outside. We live near marshlands and so our bugs can get intense in the summer. This year, with the discovery of cedar oil (and possibly for other reason we cannot begin to ascertain -- more bats? more swallows? fewer raspberry bushes? who can tell...), I have been able to work in the yard for hours on end, with only the occasional slap.  It's really been a game changer for me.

I have to add -- for a strangely entertaining way to keep mosquitoes out of your way (and to kill them effectively when they get inside your porch or house, for example), we rather enjoy using charged racquets. Like this one. There are many on the market. We get the cheapest ones at Harbor Freight (around $3 plus battery) and they're very satisfying! Your inner hunter/warrior instincts come through as you wave the racquet and wait for the spark, zap, then sizzle of the mosquito!  Yeah!