My favorite magazine is a weekly and the cheapest one on the shelves. The cover, every week, features some gal who has “lost weight” on a new diet. That’s 50-plus different diets a year. There’s humor in there somewhere.

This is not why I buy the magazine. I’m no good at counting calories and dividing carbs, protein, fats – whatever – for my meals. And to follow the listed meals? Forget about it.

I get the magazine for all the other features in it, the top being that it isn’t wall-to-wall ads. I don’t have to hunt for a story hiding in a plethora of advertising. Indeed, I’m not even aware of the ads, so unobtrusive are they. It has great recipes, heartwarming personal stories, good information on health benefits of certain herbs, vitamins and foods, profiles on far away places to visit – or dream about visiting – a crime-solving story, contests to win good stuff and a crossword puzzle I can do without twisting my brain cells into a knot.

But as for diet and exercise, I’ve developed my own diet. I call it “The farm diet.”

Remembering my childhood days up on Tucker Ridge, growing up on my grandparents’ farm in the ‘30’s and ’40’s, I basically stick to foods that we ate in those days of independence, which meant home-grown, raised, made-on-the-farm foods or free foods from the woods and waters. These were all “organic,” long before the word “organic” came into household use. (And, of course, everyone had sweet well water unpolluted with toxic waste from the aluminum industry or laden with bleach. I thank the Powers That Be for my well.)

Grampa grew the regular vegetables and had berries. He had a big enough strawberry patch to allow people to come and “you pick.” He also had boysenberries, the only one in the county to grow them, I think. He traded berries at the general stores in neighboring towns, (Webster Plantation, which consisted of two long ridge roads – Pickle Ridge and Tucker Ridge – had no stores or any other non-farm buildings except the one-room schoolhouse that still stands proudly at the junction of the Ridge roads).

Grammie, for years, grew an acre of cabbage that she sold in Lincoln, adding to her income from her egg business. (She had 50 laying hens.) I cannot imagine growing a whole acre of cabbage back in the days before electricity was brought to the Ridge. Almost totally dependent on the weather for watering, the only way, in a crisis, was to use the back tanks for water that Grampa Roy had in his capacity as a fire warden.

Cabbage, particularly fermented – sauerkraut – is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. Fermented foods keep the good gut bugs working and a healthy gut is the first and best health program to keep humans hale and hearty. (A cousin once remarked to me: “No one could whack cabbage out of a garden like Mable Tucker!”)

My open space is limited, being hedged in close by the forest on all sides, leaving too few hours of direct sunlight for a successful vegetable garden. Add a heavily clay-based soil and it’s an exercise in futility rather than fertility. I’m gradually switching over to a perennial flower garden. The Japanese beetles approve. Other than some tomatoes and cukes, a bit of chard, I now get most of my vegetables from our local farmers … whose crops aren’t laden with chemicals. We are especially lucky here in Waldo County. We now have 45 farmers growing for the market, partly in anticipation of the new frozen vegetable plant that has taken over the old Moss Tent location.

I hit the jackpot with one of the farms being just down the road a piece who has large hoop houses, giving him a head start on vegetables in the spring and a longer season in the fall. He also has eggs. He also delivers to my door – free. I email in an order, he leaves my order in a cooler on the porch, picks up his check and I’m set with super, just-out-of-the-ground vegetables that last three times as long as the supermarket ones that are hauled from California and have already lost half their nutritive value, not to mention being chemical-laden. With our local farmers, we have a win-win advantage.

I also try to bypass any processed foods. Anything not made from scratch is pretty much guaranteed to be riddled with chemicals, pesticides, growth hormones, GMO’s etc. For one example, most every processed food contains corn, in one way or another, and corn in the U.S. is contaminated with Monsanto’s (the Big Kahuna of chemical companies) GMO’s. A bit of Google research will tell you why Monsanto’s GMO’s have been banned in nearly every country but the U.S., where they have cozy relations with our politicians.

I pay the bit extra for organic butter. I render my own lard from organic fat back, like my Grammie Mable and everyone else used to do. Non-pasteurized lard is one of the healthiest oils you can use – not to mention making fried and baked foods taste better.

Having your own vegetable/flower gardens is one of the best exercise programs going.

It uses your muscles in a natural way while you are soaking in fresh, clean air and vitamin D from the sun. (Vitamin D is vital in protection from a plethora of serious inflammatory diseases, nature’s free medicine).

Exercise, in the stale air of a gym, breathing in the aroma of sweat, or out in the fresh air and sun serenaded by bird song? Tough choice.

Another ‘best’ exercise is plain old walking. (My belief is that jogging and running are nature’s way of getting us out of danger when necessary, not for just exercise. You don’t get stress factors or other harmful side-effects from walking.)

My dog is primarily responsible for getting me out for a walk. And again, there are the added benefits of fresh oxygen and sunshine with the sights and sounds – birds, breezes playing in the trees – of the outdoors. And all free.

And then, there’s my old farm swing hanging between two pines. I can often be found swinging and singing, same as when I was a kid on the farm (no stress on joints), exercising arms, legs, neck, back, stomach, abs, gulping in great gobs of fresh, sun-washed oxygen, (brain food. I need all of that I can get). And no membership fees.

Remember the old songs from farm days like “You Are My Sunshine,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Mairzy Doats?” (That came out in 1943 and that was the name of it). I would sing my lungs out: “Mairzy Doats and dozzy doats, and little lambsy divvy, a kiddly divvy too, wouldn’t you?” It was some years latter that I realized the real words to this little nonsense song was: “Mares eat oats and does eats oats, and little lambs eat ivy, a kid’ll eat ivy too. Wouldn’t you?)

It looks like Ma Nature, this year, is giving us a great spring and summer to take full advantage of her free exercise, good foods and medicine benefits. And we’re smack-dab in the best place for it: Maine.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast. She now lives in Morrill.