Monday, November 23, 2009

6,255 garlic cloves in the ground!

It is said that farmers' work is never done, but we have reached our goal and a time to rest for a little bit. Today, during Thanksgiving Week, Dick and I finally finished all of our garlic planting and the mulching of all the beds. Whew! We are both tired tonight, but I am so excited to have come this far that I am making this photo post entry before I fill up the tub for a good hot soak tonight. :-)

We look forward to our harvest next year and meeting so many new people while selling our garlic. Dick has already been told he is the "Garlic Czar" of Washtenaw County, just based on the variety and number of garlic bulbs we have grown in our community garden. Our total in the ground as of today is well over 10x that number. We gave all the help and effort to get this job done a toast and a big sigh filled with gratitude and contentment at dinner tonight. :-)

(Photo: Garlic shoots starting to come up from the very first bulbs planted at the end of October. Dick pulled one or two up to check their roots and saw strong, healthy 3-5" roots already! They got replanted and all these will be just fine during the winter.)

(Photo: Hmmmm, deer or Kaya? Lots of deer wandering through our garden, but these footprints are from Kaya. No damage from Kaya or the deer.)

(Photo: Here you can see stakes marking the very short sections where we have planted new garlic varieties that are "auditioning" for a permanent place in the show next year.)

(Photo: This is the end of the planting of our 500+ cloves that will be harvested as green garlic. These are harvested first in the spring, very small, as if they are garlic scallions. They are planted much closer together than cloves planted to become bulbs, thus we tried the trenching technique, which made the planting go fast, fast, fast!)

(Photo: Garlic all planted, rows all raked, ready to mulch.)

(Photo: Love those tractors! and the wagon used to haul the straw bales to the end of each row.)

(Photo: Starting to mulch the 12-1/2 rows of our garlic. As with everything, there is considerable "debate" about the best way to mulch. Dick and I were talking about other strategies to try next year while doing this.)

(Photo: Diana spreading mulch. Kaya is sleeping (I mean supervising) at the end of the row.)

(Photo: Yes, I'm supervising, not sleeping! I love sleeping - oh, I mean supervising - while lying in the straw - grin!)

(Photo: Sunset - thank goodness I looked up from spreading straw to notice the beautiful sky!)

(Photo: Victory! All done before dark.)

(Photo: Sunset - all planted and mulched and inspected by Kaya.)

(Photo: Sunset over our farm. Time to clean up, put the tractor away, and head home.)

(Photo: The Dixboro General Store - in our new hometown - just to show all my friends in New England that they do not have the market cornered on old, cute and quaint - grin!)

(Photo: Garlic planting celebration dinner - good thing we had food ready to heat up - we were way too tired to go out to eat and also too tired to really even clear off the table for a "photo shoot". In fact, as I was putting my camera away, I saw my napkin on the floor! Most of the ingredients for this meal came from our local farmers. I'll post the recipe for the Sweet Potato and Kale Soup on my kale blog later.)

Twenty-five years ago this week, I was admitted to Evanston General Hospital (IL) for surgery to treat my first breast cancer (diagnosed when I was only 34 years old in 1984) on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. How thankful I am that I am "still here", celebrating these 25 years by finishing our garlic planting for the year.

Off to soak in the tub and to sleep well tonight. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Garlic Planting Fiesta!

After planting nearly 2,500 garlic cloves by ourselves, working out the techniques, we put out a "last-minute" mass email to friends to come help us finish planting when we saw the beautiful weather forecast for the Saturday of last weekend (clear and in the 60's, a real rarity for a Michigan November day!).

Friends came and went throughout the day, helping with various tasks such as separating the cloves, counting the cloves within each variety, raking the raised beds to level them and also remove any obvious clumps of grass still trying to grow, marking the holes for the individual cloves, planting the individual cloves, marking the end of rows with stakes labeled by variety, chatting, eating, enjoying the sun and warmth, and also helping to move a huge brush pile to a more appropriate burn site for a future bonfire (we're thinking about the night of the winter solstice - Dec 21).

My husband is providing our helpers with some local currency that he is calling "Garlic Guilders" to be turned in next year for garlic crops when they come in. One of my sister-in-laws is excited about figuring out how to actually make paper from all the garlic bulb wrappers (i.e., the papery substance that surrounds a whole garlic bulb). We now have bags of this, which we could compost, but are hoping to do something much more creative with it all.

We'll have nearly 50 different varieties of garlic (~ 6,000 individually planted cloves), all from certified organic seed stock or grown organically in our community garden during the past 5 years, all to be grown with organic methods (it will be several years before our crops can be certified as USDA organic), starting with green garlic, then come garlic scapes, and finally the whole heads are to be harvested in July. What an adventure. :-)

Here are some photos to enjoy!

(Photo: What can I say? We are choosing to stay in Michigan but we are still loyal University of Wisconsin grads. Remembering the many years that Wisconsin's football team was at the losing end of a 67-0 type of score, we smile a little broader when Wisconsin spanks Michigan, like it did at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison this day.)

(Photo: Dick beginning the daily process of sorting, separating, and counting individual garlic cloves for planting.)

(Photo: Dick and friends Jim and Barry beginning the process of moving the enormous brush pile, mostly left by the previous owner, to a safer burn location. Guys just love tractors!)

(Photo: Dick and Barry. Not sure what they are pointing at since the burn pile will be moved a long distance from where they are pointing! You can just see Kaya, in her orange vest, between the trailer and tractor. )

(Photo: Dave and Jim planting garlic in the morning and talking about life "post-Pfizer")

(Photo: Friends - Ann (sister in law), Wendy, Cynthia all taking over from Dick the careful job of separating the garlic cloves, counting them, and getting them into a box correctly labeled with their proper variety name to be planted.)

(Photo: Geoff (one of my brothers) doing the important job of raking the next raised bed so that it is level and also removing any grass clods turned under but still trying to grow. The straw will be used to mulch the beds for the winter. )

(Photo: Kathy and Cynthia planting, planting, planting each individual clove.)

(Photo: Kaya, supervising from a shady spot. She had a great day greeting every new person who came - bark, bark, bark, bark, sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff!! She's old but does her "job" well!)

(Photo: Still planting - Wendy, Sandy, and Kathy! Shadows are getting longer, but it is still warm enough to be wearing short sleeves on this magical Michigan November day.)

(Photo: The "garlic girlz", Diana, Kathy, Sandy, Kris, Wendy, still planting garlic as the sun goes down. We were quite a team! Don't you just love Wendy's knee pads?!)

I forgot to take any pictures of our potluck at the end of the day, but suffice it say, we had great food and plenty of it. I cannot wait until we do this again next year.

Many hands truly make light and enjoyable work. It was a day of joy and nearly all the garlic is planted. The only cloves we had left to plant were: (1) a few varieties that are "auditioning", meaning we only had 1-2 cloves of brand new varieties to plant to see how they will grow in our soil and climate, and (2) the very smallest cloves which will be used for green garlic, the first harvested garlic crop of the year, usually only available at farmers' markets (unless you know us or grow your own!).

I'm going to end with a few photos of sunset on our farm. True disclosure, these photos were taken on a different day than the "garlic planting fiesta" but even though the photos from my camera don't do the evening justice, this evening was breath-takingly beautiful. I can't wait until we actually move out here!

(Photo: Shagbark hickory tree at the north-west corner of our land)

(Photo: Sunset looking at the SW corner of our land from the back of our house.)

(Photo: Sunset through the tree line at the SW corner of our land)

(Photo: Sunset at the SW corner of our farm, through the tree-line)

(Photo: Sundown looking at the SW corner of our farm)

We're on our way, shaping the future, one clove at a time. :-) Come buy from us at our local Farmers' Markets next year (Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and hopefully, even a new Farmers' Market in our own new hometown of Dixboro, MI, just east of Ann Arbor) or come help us harvest or plant in 2010!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Washington, DC, Walden Pond, and Words of Inspiration

I'll bring you up to date about our garlic planting fiesta in my next post, but first I wanted to finally share a bit about my travels earlier in November.

I made a whirlwind trip with the initial stop being in Washington, DC, where I was invited to speak about my personal experiences as a cancer survivor at the annual research meeting for The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the organization where I donate proceeds from my book (A Dietitian's Cancer Story) in order to help fund research projects focused on nutritional strategies for cancer survivors. It's an international meeting that brings together researchers, oncologists, and other oncology team members (such as Registered Dietitians) who are all passionately interested in promoting the optimal nutritional strategies for prevention, treatment, and recovery from cancer. It was an honor to have the opportunity to wrap-up the talks about cancer survivorship and lead into the panel discussion on this important area of concern for the millions and millions of cancer survivors in this country.

From there, I flew on to Boston for an annual appointment with a cardiologist who sees many patients like me, i.e., survivors of childhood cancers who have developed cardiac problems in adulthood from the cancer therapy used for their childhood cancer. My problems are what my husband likes to call "problems of success" :-), meaning that the therapy used at that time did lead to long-term success (hey-I'm still here and enjoying life!) even though I'm dealing with some additional health concerns.

My reason for telling you all this is as backdrop for the real point of this post. While in Boston, we stayed with some good friends from Ann Arbor (now living near Boston) who took us to visit Walden Pond where the
well-known writer Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet, and philosopher who lived from 1817 to 1862, conducted his experiment in "living well".

(Photo: Diana and Dick by Walden Pond, November 2009)

Henry David Thoreau's work and writings are extensive and cover many topics. After finally having the opportunity to visit his home site at Walden Pond and to feel his enduring presence there, I am inspired to share a few of his words that have been inspirational to us for many many years. Indeed, as we express our deep gratitude for this opportunity for "living well", to bring love, life, and beauty back to our farm land and house, I could feel Thoreau's spirit at Walden Pond reassuring us that we are doing the right thing at the right time (finally!) for the right reasons.

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?

What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

The bluebird carries the sky on his back. (My collection of bluebird houses finally has a place to be put to use!)

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Someone who is well known came up to me after one of my past speaking engagements to take my hand and tell me that he could not get this quote out of his head when listening to me speak, thinking how fortunate I was to have known deep troubles with my extensive cancer history, which clearly enabled me to both hear the song in my heart and the songs of the universe.)

I am ending with perhaps my favorite quote of all, a quote by Henry David Thoreau about the bird called a wood thrush, which is the bird we heard singing from our woods as we stepped out of our car after closing on our new home. For those who do not know the song of the wood thrush, I have also included links to several sites where you can listen to its mesmerizing song. Although the song sounds nothing like a bagpipe, the effect on me is the same. Both sounds cause me to stop what I am doing, listen with my whole being, feel goosebumps and a few tears, and then all in an instant, feel myself being transported back to someplace very ancient, someplace very beautiful, someplace I been before.

“The (wood) thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told…Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; whenever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”

Here are some links to the song of a wood thrush. I hope you hear one next spring!
1) BirdJam
2) AllAboutBirds
3) A YouTube video

May hearing the wood thrush sing every spring keep us all young in spirit and as vigorous as possible. There is still have lots of living to do, and I am grateful. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD