Friday, March 27, 2009

Why Garden? Let me count the ways!

(The beginning of my Cancer Victory Gardens)

Two "square-foot gardens" got started this afternoon for my Cancer Victory Gardens. They are 4' by 8' by 10" high and will be on our back deck where we get the most sun for the most hours of the day. Being on the deck, the soil needs to be protected from the chemically treated lumber used for the deck, so they actually have an untreated plywood "bottom".

(Dr. Dick's "Deck Beds", each is 4' x 8' x 10" deep)

What exactly is a Cancer Victory Garden? It is my personal fruit and vegetable gardens that I will fill with organically grown food to both nourish my body (and help keep me cancer-free) and nourish my soul as I enjoy the connection with the circle of life by having my hands in the soil and my face in the sun and rain. My husband and I have a perennial plot in Ann Arbor, MI with Project Grow's community gardens, and this year are taking over the few sunny spots of much more of our yard and deck than we have used in the past.

I love the play on words that 'cancer victory garden' creates, a dual effort at helping myself with the self-sufficiency of providing my own healthy food and how both the food and the gardening are keeping me both healthy and happy!

Here are some other reasons I love gardening!

• Health benefits (sunshine - vitamin D, increased serotonin)
• Nutrition (safe, healthy food, increased consumption of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables)
• Physical activity (increased aerobic capacity, muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density)
• Environmental stewardship
• Learning opportunities for adults and children
• Participate in research (
• Multiple-sensory experience
• Reduced food costs, increased food access and security
• Enjoy the taste of summer all year long from your own preserved food
• Enjoy dreaming about spring while planning your garden during winter's dark days
• Family & community-building
• Spiritual experience
• Psychological benefits - relaxation and “stress-buster” and solace
• Create and appreciate beauty
• Make money!
• The joy from sharing! (Food Gatherers, Plant-a-Row)
• Planning & creativity (use both right and left side of brain)
• Lasting memories
• Experience joy of nurturing, patience, slowing down
• A sense of accomplishment (improved self-esteem)
• Watching and listening to the birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators
• “Gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor.” (a quote I found on the internet)
"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row" (the "tag line" from my Diana Dyer blog)

My effort with my gardens and this blog is small and personal. However, I am inspired by the words and efforts of friends, colleagues, and other authors who have much bigger dreams and goals than I do:

• Joan Dye Gussow's classic book This Urban Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader (receiving a supportive email note from Joan, as a kindred spirit, after she read an article I wrote in a professional newsletter is one of my most treasured memories)

• The book entitled The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst, is a book I expected to "breeze through" but instead read twice, word by word, cried buckets with its example after example of the beauty about the human spirit overcoming obstacles that make my own seem small, and actually found some 3x5 note cards to take notes! The most memorable line I wrote down from this book is by Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, who said: "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." (Addendum: I actually read this book three times, reading it aloud to my husband on my third read. I think I need to put this book on my 'wish list'!)

• Many of my dietitian friends who are members of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. This quote by Angie Tagtow, MS, RD, Food & Society Fellow from Iowa, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, is particularly inspirational: "Healthy soil grows healthy food and healthy food nourishes healthy people who create healthy communities."

• Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI is dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access. ~~Amanda Edmonds, Founder and Growing Hope's Executive Director. My dietitian book club makes a monthly donation to Growing Hope so that healthy snacks can be purchased for their after school programs.

I feel a deep connection with these visions and hope I can be an advocate and an ambassador for their goals plus in some way help people who have had a cancer diagnosis, too. Although my individual efforts are small, I hope they reap a harvest that is beyond measure, words, and my knowing.

I love the following quotation, which I also used to end my very first posting for my DianaDyer blog back in June 2007. I keep its supportive and encouraging thought always near to my heart.

"No one could make a greater mistake than he who
did nothing because he could do only a little."
~~ Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

I'll post up photos soon of the boxes (posted 3/30/09). We called them Dr. Dick's Deck Beds.

Diana Dyer

(Spring in Michigan - hopefully our last snowfall, which wasn't much and won't last long!)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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