Choose something like a farm


Kamal Abdelmalek (right) holds his son Amir (my husband) at a blessing ceremony with his brother-in-law, a Coptic Priest.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything for this little blog. I know, the off season is when we farmers who write should have lots of time and introspective energy to tap away at our keyboards. But I was busy doing our spring cleaning, which I certainly don’t have time for in spring, as well as creating a website for our CSA, Madison Eats Local Food Club, making a nine page planting plan, and scheduling cycles of life for our batches of chickens.

Oh, and spending five weeks in Egypt bonding with my husband’s family during which time my husband’s beloved, gentle, father passed away. If ever the angels and saints rejoice at the arrival of a soul to heaven, surely they are rejoicing now at the presence of this humble servant among them.




Cairo rooftops, as seen from my friend’s balcony near Tahrir Square.

Life in tumultuous Cairo, an urban environment evocative of scenes from Blade Runner, rounded out by donkey-drawn vendor carts on its dusty, bumper-to-bumper streets, and home delivery EVERYTHING, made me appreciate even more my life in rural Madison County, Virginia.

Of course, it’s easy to wax romantic about the joys of the farming life when you’re sleeping in until 9am every day and someone else is preparing elaborate meals from scratch for you every day. (Thanks, Mama Amani!) And often, those meals involved actual fresh chicken procured by Amir’s 94-year old grandmother, who lives in an old part of town where they still can buy live chickens at the poultry shop and have them processed on site. And a snowstorm is far more picturesque when you aren’t the one without power for four days.


Glean Acres in the snow, from Saturn storm, March 2013.

While in Cairo, I benefited from living two blocks away from our Church, making almost daily pilgrimages to the place where I was married and where my husband’s father’s funeral was held. I appreciated the warmth and eagerness to help of so many of the city’s people, who retain some semblance of the hospitality and, well, purity, of their not-so-distant rural roots in the villages spread out along the Nile.

Domed ceiling of the Church of St. Gawargious & Ava Antonious Church in Heliopolis, Cairo.


Welcome, 2013 Chicks of Glean Acres!

I’ve been back at Glean Acres for less than a week, and feel like I hit the ground running. Upon entering our kitchen, I saw boxes of seed potatoes on the counter, along with boxes of onion sets and bareroot strawberries. I found ants in the pantry and mice in the brooder  shed. The plantain and burdock are emerging with a vengeance in my garden plots. Our shipment of day-old chicks arrived yesterday morning–all 154 of them. I had ordered 125. I guess the hatchery was feeling generous! And our friendly neighborhood UPS driver just dropped of my newest hope for a labor-saving device, the Mantis Tiller.

And though I struggle with my new nemesis, the smart phone, with its insidious attempts to drag me into the world of connected zombies and far far away from the simple life to which I aspire, it is obvious God has dealt generously with me.

Today as I ate my breakfast of fresh pastured eggs from our little flock of chickens and rye toast I made earlier this week, a poem came to mind. Actually, a play on a poem by Robert Frost, the title of which has always stuck with me. My poet father passed on his love of word-play to me, and so I hope he, and you, will forgive this little diddy:

O Farm (the nearest one in sight)

We grant your dirtiness the right

To some obscurity of ground –

It will not do to say of blight

Since strife is what brings out your might

Some mystery becomes the mound

But to be wholly infertile

In your reserve is not allowed

Say something to us we can learn

By heart and when alone repeat

Say something! And it says “I worm.”

But say with what degree of heat.

Talk Farenheit, talk Centigrade.

Use language we can comprehend.

Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid.

But does tell something in the end.

And steadfast as a wheel hoe

Not even straying from its veer

It asks a little of us here

It asks us of a certain low,

So when at times the mob is swayed

To carry praise or blame too far

We may choose something like a farm

To stay our minds on and be staid.

What was that? Oh my smart phone just dinged me. My husband just sent me a picture from the memorial service for his father, held today at our church in Cairo. I think I know who might be behind all these recent blessings in our life. Thank you, Papa Kamal, and may God bless you as abundantly as you blessed all who knew you.


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4 Responses to Choose something like a farm

  1. Robin Rider says:

    Welcome home Diana! Come up and let’s get caught up if you can find the time in between all that we do. Love ya.


    Jimmy and Robin Rider

    Rider’s Backfield Farm Beef LLC

    6251 S F.T.Valley Rd

    Etlan, VA 22719


    “Think of us as you are eating, as we always think of you as we are farming and we aim to make our beef the best.”

  2. Diana says:

    Sister Robin, I’ve got five chickens with your name on it. Tell me when I can come visit you!

    • Robin Rider says:

      Come on by tomorrow afternoon if you are up to it; perhaps there might be a meal in it for you two or perhaps not..will have to see how the moon and stars align. I have one measly chicken left and I have been holding off eating it until I got some more; I am hoarding the poor thing thinking it might be my last.

  3. Laura Whittemore says:

    Diana, it’s great to read you again! Welcome back and I hope spring is bountiful for you and Amir.

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