Wednesday, October 28, 2009

400 in the ground - only ~5,500 more to go!

We finally started actually putting garlic cloves in the ground today in their freshly made raised beds that had been plowed, disked twice, planted with late summer buckwheat for some green manure, 30 yards of wonderful compost from Ann Arbor (from our city's billions of leaves!), all disked down and into the soil, 14-70 foot beds made and then raked smooth with as many grass clods, rocks, and sticks removed as possible (thank goodness for our trusty tractor!), and finally my clever husband made some multi-point garlic planting dibbles using pieces from an old wooden swing set on the property that we dismantled.

Here are some photos to enjoy:

(Photo: where the road changes from pavement to dirt on the way to the farm)

(Photo: the growing pile of rocks from our fields by the driveway)

(Photo: the 30 yards of compost delivered to spread on the field where the garlic will be planted)

(Photo: the first raised bed to be planted with garlic is the 2nd from the left - the first one just has too much grass in it yet)

(Photo: Dick starting the garlic planting process - yes on our knees and/or bottoms! It took us about 2 hours working together to plant the first 400 cloves)

(Photo - I'm the one with good knees! Up, down, up, down - eventually I realized that with the sun on my back, this was enough exercise that I was able to take off a couple of layers of shirts. Our jeans went right down to the basement into the washing machine when we arrived home. We'll be putting the washing machine in our farm house on the first floor right near the garage entrance to the house!)

Not much to report about progress on our house as the focus has been the steep learning curve for getting the land ready to plant this fall. However, it does appear that the work we have done over the summer to get our basement dry has finally paid off - whew!

A few more photos of Fall at the farm:
(Photos: Two beautiful trees with our beehive in the background)

(Photo: South side of the house - we'll have to work on getting rid of the non-native plant Phragmities - sigh)

(Photo: Looking west side from the house - this is where we will try to re-establish a small prairie)

(Photo - I'm spreading milkweed and other seeds from many of the prairie plants in our current home's front yard landscaping)

(Photo: Kaya in her new vest to let everyone know she is NOT a deer!)

(Photo: Christmas Calico Lima Beans, grown by Tantré Farms and given to me today by my friend Kim. I'll tuck them away to save in order to plant next spring. I love having things to look forward to! Does this photo look familiar? I'll bet it does. The same pose is on the front cover of the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.)

Our fall colors in Michigan have been spectacular this year, positively glowing with bright reds, yellows, and oranges even when the sun was not shining (most of the time these days). With the leaves now starting to drop, we are starting to actually see more of the neighboring homes and fields. Bit by bit, we are getting settled into the neighborhood! We feel so lucky and appreciative for this opportunity to heal this house and land. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who is shaping the future?

I'll state right up front that even though I am not a daily reader, I am a fan of the writing on The Onion. So when a friend sent me the link to the article "Television, Processed Food Couldn't Be More Proud of Child They Raised", I figured it was a good read.

Indeed, it was a good read that did just what The Onion does best, that is, it writes a perspective that is extreme with enough truth in it to make one both laugh out loud and cringe at the same time.

I'll let you read it for yourself, but I'll make a few comments. Mostly, this article brought back memories for me of how difficult it has been to raise our two boys in a world where my husband and I have often felt like salmon continually swimming upstream against the swift current of 'pop-culture', whether that be clothing, food, music, TV, etc.

A moment that was both 'defining and galvanizing' for me was one approximately 25 years ago (my boys are now almost 27 and 32) when a friend visiting our home, looked at what I was feeding my little boys for lunch and made the following comment: "Of course you're tired, Diana, you are still growing, canning, and cooking most of your food from scratch." (the only thing I truly remember about that lunch was having made home-made tomato soup from home-grown and home-canned tomatoes - here is the recipe)

Flash forward to this week - this past weekend, my husband finished our canning for the year (grape-applesauce from apples of an unknown variety that grew on the one apple tree at our new farm that produced fruit this year along with grapes that grew wild on the fence at our community garden plus those we found on the farm's property). I was out of town during this last canning weekend, attending the annual meeting of The American Dietetic Association in Denver. After I got home and he proudly showed off the beautiful sealed jars on the counter, he packed them away in a box that was labeled "tomatoes - 1981."

I'll be the first to say that over the past 37 years of our marriage, there were times that we were unable to grow, can, and cook most of our food from scratch, primarily the years I have been on chemotherapy or recovering. I know first hand how much time and effort cooking takes, let alone growing and canning/preserving food. My family does know what boxed mac and cheese, store cookies, and delivery pizza tastes like.

However, I also believe that there has been nothing more important than the time and effort our family has spent at growing, preserving, cooking much of our own whole, organic food from scratch when we have been able to do so (in addition to also eating together). Both of our boys are now young men who are deep thinkers and very thoughtful about their values and actions. They vote and they are not afraid to speak up and speak out about important things. In addition, they both know, grow, and enjoy cooking organic, local, sustainably-raised food from scratch most of the time. As I reflect on how I have spent my time and energy as a cancer survivor (which has been my boys' entire lifetime), I hope it is not too self-indulgent to have a few thoughts that all the effort for all the food my husband and I grew and fed them while they were growing up has made a little difference. :-)

I am proud of my sons, both now young men, and in contrast to the ending of the article in The Onion (yes, please read it), I do expect to hear a lot from them for decades and decades to come as truly well-nourished citizens are urgently needed to help shape the future of our country!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, October 12, 2009

Holiday Eating Strategies - Already!

What? Holidays already? Yes, the store shelves are filled with Halloween candy, Thanksgiving decorations, Santa Claus and other holiday decorations with even more candy right nest to them! So let the feasting season begin along with the season of parties, extra food and drinks, lack of time to cook and exercise, and the sneaky addition of pounds, pounds, pounds (eek!).

Get a grip - we all know this happens every year, so take the time now to develop a goal, a plan, and many strategies to keep your healthy lifestyle during the next several months.

Over the years, I have kept a running list of recommendations and suggestions I have read in other articles, added some of my own and thought it was about time to put them all together. So before you start the slide into the quagmire of temptations over the upcoming holiday seasons, take a few minutes to read through my list, think about the many ways that you can keep your holidays as healthy as possible, and start now before the pounds start to creep on.

Holiday Eating Strategies
(starts at Halloween through New Year’s weekend)

1. Start the “holiday season” leading up to Halloween - don't wait until the pounds are already showing up on the scale!

2. Keep the Halloween or holiday candy in the unopened bags someplace very unhandy, such as in the freezer in the basement

3. Do not buy your favorite candy (impossible but worth a suggestion!)

4. If you buy your favorite candy (I do), buy the smallest sizes and decide how many you will allow yourself for a special treat that night (I eat 1 small Butterfinger and 1 small HeathBar - I slowly slowly savor them on Halloween night - that's it!)

5. Any unopened candy is returned to the store the next day (yes!)

6. Any remaining opened candy is thrown away (yes!)

7. Keep a daily weight journal (yes, I do this every day anyhow because I use weight fluctuations to determine my own diuretic dosing to manage my congestive heart failure diagnosis, but it is especially important during this holiday time to keep those additional pounds from extra calories in and fewer calories burned from adding up to "too many, too fast"!)

8. Find ways to cut calories
  • drink water,
  • unsweetened iced tea and sodas,
  • club soda,
  • plain coffee or tea instead of sweetened specialty drinks,
  • smaller portions,
  • take your lunch to work
  • limit alcoholic drinks to 1/day for women, 2/day for men (maximum!)
  • See #11 below for reducing calories in your favorite recipes
9. Find ways to both schedule exercise and increase activity
  • Exercise everyday, getting up earlier if necessary (yes, even in the dark!)
  • Park and walk
  • Always take the stairs instead of the elevator, especially for 1-2 floors
  • Clean your house more often (ha ha!)
  • Volunteer to be the family dog-walker and/or snow shoveler
  • If you live in snowy and icy climates, invest in decent long-underwear and shoe grippers to make outside walking warmer and safer (Take the Swedish proverb to heart: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad coats” and I will add boots, hats, gloves, etc! Don’t skimp here!)
10. Find ways to feel less hungry
  • increase fiber at each meal,
  • eat a good breakfast every day,
  • don’t skip meals,
  • add a small amount of healthy fat to each meal or snack,
  • eat a small snack before parties
11. Make your favorite holiday recipes “lighter” by using:
  • less sugar,
  • skim milk instead of cream,
  • broth or applesauce instead of oil,
  • make portion sizes smaller,
  • fat-free gravy,
  • egg whites instead of whole eggs,
  • more vegetables in all recipes,
  • fat-free cream cheese
  • reduce or cut out the salt sources from recipes or added salt at the table
12. Pay attention to food safety:
  • hot foods hot >140,
  • cold foods cold <40,>
  • use small portions on buffets and
  • replace platters on buffets after 2 hours
13. Use "intentional eating", i.e. thoughtful selection, not deprivation!:
  • do not go to a party hungry,
  • do not starve yourself all day before going to a party,
  • drink a non-caloric beverage such as water or club soda to start,
  • save your one alcoholic drink (calories, calories) for something special and after you have already eaten something,
  • use a small plate,
  • review all food available before choosing,
  • think about how will this food or beverage nourish you (i.e., body or soul?)
  • be choosy!,
  • take very small portions of something new or a favorite dish,
  • taste and decide if you really want to finish it,
  • be prepared for pressure - it is ok to say “no thank you”!! when offered something,
  • do not hang out at the food table - get your food and then mingle with and enjoy your family and friends in the rest of the house,
  • always bring something to share that you know is both healthful and delicious
  • choose which one food item you really want to have as a full serving - then consider taking half home to savor tomorrow, too.
14. Set a goal of weight maintenance, not weight loss during this time

15. Use daily (or minute to minute) affirmations - I can do this!, I can succeed!, My long-term health is worth more to me than ________ (fill in the blank), Yes, I can!

16. Each day is a new day to succeed! Don’t define or limit today or tomorrow’s success by “slip-ups” that may have happened yesterday.

17. Have fun making as many red and green food combinations as possible for dishes and/or garnishes by using:
  • Red - cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, tomato sauce or salsa, red bell peppers, pomegranate seeds, red grapes, cranberries, strawberries, red onions, beets, red cabbage, red-stemmed kale or chard, raspberries, cherries, red grapefruit, red beans, red apples
  • Green - all lettuces and other greens, green beans, various green cabbages, green onions, kiwifruit, limes, green grapes, green melon, peas, green apples, broccoli, green peppers, brussels sprouts, asparagus spears (some of these of course may be “out of season” or not available “locally” depending on where you live, but feel free to use them anyhow as special holiday treats)
18. When you do cook, make a point to always always always cook in large quantities so that you can have healthy food on hand to eat during the week all ready to go, either in your refrigerator or in your freezer.

19. Make an effort to have a full night’s sleep each and every night

20. Take the time for a daily stress-reduction activity that is enjoyable to you: i.e., meditation, yoga, spiritual reading, etc, etc.

21. Relax and enjoy the joys of the upcoming holiday season (family, traditions, smells, decorations, baking, gifts, etc, etc).

I doubt that most of these tips are anything new, but instead you will find that they are just a nice reminder of what we are all trying to do everyday anyway. However, I do hope that you will find something helpful in this list to cultivate the enjoyment of your life and health over the holidays!

What did I forget? Please let me know, and I'll add it to next year's list. Thank you! :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD