Before I grew flowers, I grew books.

Pre-pandemic, I ran a residency for nonfiction writers at an historic estate in Rensselaerville, NY (the Logan Nonfiction Program). Every day, I got to watch dozens of talented journalists weave their incredible reporting and stories into rough drafts of books, which were shared with everyone over glasses of wine and dishes of homemade tiramisu. Cue plenty of laughter, tears, and blushing faces! Months after they left the residency, I’d receive their published books in the mail (many of which had gone on to become New York Times best-sellers and receive numerous awards), and I’d think back to the days they spent in residency, stressing in my office, arguing in the restaurant about storytelling techniques, and snowshoeing around the grounds during breaks. It was heaven in so many ways, to watch these wonderful people share their life’s work with the world.

Prior to running the residency, I worked in publishing in Austin. I was in acquisitions and most of my job consisted of reading the “slush pile”—the unsolicited manuscripts that came in to us, written by hopeful authors all over the country. As a lifelong bookworm, getting paid to read was truly a dream. And after work, I’d go home and tinker with my own short stories, before falling asleep with a book next to me on my pillow.

Reading, thinking, talking, buying, and attempting to write about books has been my life for so long. And it still is a huge part of my life; it’s just that most of my leisure reading these days revolves around flowers and farming, and not so much around independent journalism in the digital age. (Something that feels right for me, to be honest.) I’ve read so many fantastic books about nature, flowers, and gardening this past year. And I’m looking forward to reading many more in 2021. This time, though—hopefully—with you!

Yep, we’re starting a book club here at Daisywild. And you’re invited to join us. We’ll be reading a combination of genres (fiction, nonfiction, how-tos, maybe even some graphic novels if I can find any flowery ones)—but all the books will be about nature, flowers, gardening, farming, floristry, climate change, horticulture, or related subjects. There are so many fantastic books on these topics out there. I’ve been creating a long list and if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

We’ll meet once at the end of every month to discuss that month’s book; and don’t worry if you didn’t finish it—we’ll keep things casual. The meetings will take place over the dreaded Zoom for now. Once the weather and Covid take a turn for the sunny, we’ll try to meet up in person—either at our farm, a park, or a local brewery. Beers and books, anyone?

For the month of February, we’ll be reading Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Amy Stewart. We're starting with this book because it lays the foundation for talking about the importance of local flowers. If you’ve never worked in the floral industry, it’s also a fascinating way to learn about how the international flower trade really works and gives you an eye-opening look at just how massive the flower business is! I hope you’ll join me in reading it.

Books are part of my story and they’re part of Daisywild’s, too. If they’re part of yours as well, join us! Just sign up for the email list here, and we’ll send you the meetup link at the end of the month. We hope to see you at the end of February!

There is a poem—a simple, dark but uplifting, lovely poem—that is perfect to read during bulb-planting season. It’s called “The Wild Iris” by Louise Gluck and it’s been my favorite for many, many years. (Find haunting audio here, full text here.)

At the end of my suffering / there was a door, the poem begins. Hear me out: that which you call death / I remember.

The half-planted bulb beds stared me down on Saturday as I finished hand-prepping another 50-foot row—this time for allium and lilies. My process is long but feels gentle and healing compared to ripping apart the earth with a tiller. I fork the bed in 2-foot sections, then sit on my knees as I tear out the biggest grass and weed clumps, rubbing them against each other to remove the excess dirt. After this part is finished, I start over again, forking and digging the bed down to a depth of about 12 inches to loosen the soil and remove the biggest rocks.

I truly get to know my soil this way, and all the wonderful worms and spiders that live within it. By the end of the bed though, I’m typically questioning my no-till commitment. What takes me eight solid hours could have been finished in 45 minutes. I forget about it overnight each time, though, like the pain of labor.

It is terrible to survive / as consciousness / buried in the dark earth, says the iris in the poem. That must be how the tiny bulbs are feeling, I thought, buried under six inches of dirt and compost and mulch. Tucked away and waiting. Consciousness / buried in the dark earth.

There’s nearly always a podcast playing while I dig and plant, keeping me company in the hours it takes to do all this work alone. Lately, it’s been any CBC true crime podcast. Saturday was no different, season five of “Someone Knows Something” playing, when my phone alerted me to a text message. My hands were covered with mud, but I had to look—I’d woken up to Joe Biden’s increasing lead in PA and my heart was a butterfly ever since.

There it was: the news I’d been waiting for, hoping for, wishing for, praying for, but was too afraid to speak aloud for fear of a jinx. Biden Wins. A screenshot of the CNN homepage delivered to a group text by one of my favorite people in the world. My eyes welled with tears as I began happily texting it to all my West Coast friends and called my parents to tell them the good news.

As Gluck wrote in”The Wild Iris”: Then it was over. Then it was over. Being a good progressive liberal, I’m under no illusion that a decidedly moderate president like Biden will deliver the world I dream of—an America in which full, beautiful lives aren’t lost at the hands of murderous cops, expensive healthcare, inadequate support, environmental racism, and white supremacist terrorism. A world where universal healthcare, basic income, non-racist policing (or minimal policing), and environmentalism are obvious instead of being seen as radical concepts. A world where we care for each other and the Earth we all live on.

Still, it’s easier to breathe since Saturday. The tightness in my chest has relaxed a little.

You who do not remember

passage from the other world

I tell you I could speak again: whatever

returns from oblivion returns

to find a voice

Our voices were heard, despite the racist electoral college. Whatever / returns from oblivion returns / to find a voice.

I expect my 150 iris bulbs to arrive next week. I’ll need to prep another bed before they get here. And it’s okay. Spring will be sweet and lovely. A great fountain, deep blue / shadows on azure seawater.

Garden Soil


Farm updates + thoughts on the flower life