Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, 
it would be a merrier world. 
~~ J.J.R. Tolkien 

I would add dancing, the sun and rain on my face, my hands in the soil, hearing the 'cheery, cheery' chortling of bluebirds during the winter, having a chickadee land on my outstretched hand (or head!) and pick up a sunflower seed, seeing a sparkle of happiness in someone's eyes or feeling the warmth of invisible peace in a heart, and, oh, so much more brings both a lift to my heart and a tear of gratefulness to my eye. These are just a few of the many reasons I greet each morning with hope.

So I send hopeful New Year greetings to all my readers that 2012 will be 'merrier' for you, filled to overflowing with whatever brings you cheer. I have not met most of you and likely never will, but I want you to know that through the Universe you have all touched me in many ways. I know a bit of your story which reminds me of this beautiful proverb:

The story is told eye to eye
mind to mind and heart to heart.
~~Scottish Traveller Proverb

Wherever you travelled last year and will go this coming year, I hope some small part of my story or my writing (some might call my blog one of ramblings, some short, some of 'epic' length this past year) have and/or will in some way touch you in some way with happiness, with healing, and with hope, 'eye to eye, mind to mind, or heart to heart'. 

Thank you for touching me. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recipe: Vegan Lasagna without Tofu!

I love finding new ways of doing the tried and true. Here is a recipe for a vegan lasagna made for my daughter-in-law who is allergic to soy and dairy foods. It is easy, delicious, beautiful, still very healthy and will become a staple for us even when we don't make it just for her!

When I say easy, of course it is more time-consuming than just opening jars and doing a lasagna version of 'dump cake', but it is well worth the time and effort involved, with the time and effort mostly spent just chopping vegetables, something I do nearly everyday anyhow! :-)

Here it is. It was inspired by a recipe I found just typing 'vegetarian lasagna no tofu' into a search engine. Remember that all recipes such as this are very flexible and forgiving. For instance, I added a cup of cubed and cooked winter squash because I had some to use up in my refrigerator. You could leave it out, use another type of squash, or even add something else in its place that you have hanging out to use such as eggplant, zucchini, cubed potatoes, etc, etc.

Vegan Lasagna (soy-free, dairy-free)

(1) Vegetables for adding to the tomato sauce:
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 peeled and grated carrots
1 # sliced mushrooms
5-6 cloves garlic - chopped fine
12 ounces frozen spinach, chopped
1 cup cubed, cooked butternut squash
16 oz. can adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

(2) 2 cups dried garbanzo beans, cooked until very soft and then pureed with a little water or broth if needed (or puree 2-3 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well)

(3) Tomato Sauce
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 pint pasta sauce
Mix together. Season sauce as needed to your taste with basil, oregano, cayenne, rosemary, salt, pepper.  (Note: more salt may be needed than you think because there are no salt-added products used such as commercially canned tomatoes, canned beans, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese etc)

(4) No boil lasagna noodles (I use a whole wheat brand)

(5) 1/4 cup braising liquid for vegetables - I simply used some of the liquid from the quart of the canned tomatoes.


1) Braise onions and carrots in liquid for ~5 minutes or until slightly softened but not mushy.
2) Add mushrooms and chopped garlic. Braise and stir until mushrooms start to soften and give up some of their own liquid.
3) Add remaining vegetables, adzuki beans, nutritional yeast, tomatoes, seasonings as desired and stir together.
4) To assemble, put a ladle or two of sauce on the bottom of a 9x12 baking dish. Cover bottom of baking dish with noodles (don't skimp, I used four full noodles for each layer, overlapping slightly). Layer half of the pureed garbanzo beans over the noodles. Add another 2 ladles of tomato sauce over garbanzo puree. Start layers over with noodles, garbanzos, tomatoes, noodles and then enough tomato sauce to cover well.
5) Cover with foil, bake in pre-heated over at 350 degrees for ~50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting to serve. I did put baking dish on a cookie sheet to catch any spill-overs.  (Special note - based on my own goof - if you make this dish ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator until baking, it will need a far longer baking time!! D'oh! Give it at least 75 minutes in that case.)

Yum, yum - all whole foods and locally-grown or produced foods used every place possible.

(Photo: Final assembly with 3 layers of noodles, 2 layers of the garbanzo puree, some sauce on the bottom and between each layer with the remainder of the sauce on top. It was suggested at dinner that a layer of cheese could go on top of half of the pan. Next time!)

Below is one picture of the deer in our yard. No photo I took does the wide view justice (and most were terrible where the screens completely blurred the photo). I am thinking that Santa sent his 9 best deer to our farm (spa?) to finish eating our field of pumpkins and other healthy abundant local foods for rest and strength before their big world tour on Saturday night. Check to see if Rudolph has an orange nose this year!
(Photo: 4 of the 9 deer grazing outside our window last week at sunset)
Finally, I am including the blessing we read last night before supper. It is an ancient food blessing from the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture in Guatemala.

Mother Earth, you who give us food,
whose children we are and on whom we depend,
please make this produce you give us flourish
and make our children and animal grow....

Children, the earth is the mother of man,
because she gives him food. 

~ Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1992
(provided in the book Bless this Food by Adrian Butash)

In addition, at each meal, we honor and thank all whose hands and hearts helped to bring us our food.

During this holiday season and these dark days that also bring this season the deep sense of hope, I send my hope to each of my readers that you find hope in your own heart and spirit as together we celebrate the beautiful parts of this season and look forward to 2012, a new year that will be filled with health for your body and joy for your spirit.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, December 16, 2011

Action Alert: Please sign this petition for RDs

In a recent decision memorandum by The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity (CAG-00423N), CMS determined that potentially lifesaving and risk reducing preventive services for Obesity could only be furnished by primary care providers in the primary care setting (i.e. MDs, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, and Physicians' Assistants).

These providers are certainly necessary health care professionals in the primary care setting but have (next to) no training in food and nutrition counseling, have no robust 'outcome data' showing their own professions have established benefit for long-term weight reduction, have no additional time in their already over-scheduled days in the clinics, plus all of these providers bill for their professional time at substantially higher rates than do Registered Dietitians (RDs).

As a result, CMS has eliminated the most qualified providers, notably Registered Dietitians (RDs), along with clinical psychologists and other specialists who have been able to produce the best results for weight reduction for obese patients and made a ruling that uses professionals at a higher cost than RDs. The decision prevents RDs from directly billing for obesity treatment services and from providing services outside of primary care setting, and thus limits access for older patients to qualified professionals that would help reduce a very high risk for many types of cancer such as esophagus, pancreas, kidney, colorectal, endometrial, and post-menopausal breast cancer. 

Please consider signing ADA's petition to President Obama to urge CMS to include RDs in obesity treatment. We need 25,000 signatures by January 7, 2012 for the White House to review this petition. (Note: I have heard that this website is often 'slow' and frustrating due to the high traffic it receives. It went quickly for me, but if it is slow for you, please hang in there and slog through the steps to sign in in order to add your name.)

(Note: here is the full link to this petition:!/petition/urge-cms-reconsider-its-decision-cag-00423n-excluding-registered-dietitians-direct-billing-obesity/tql0XYc2?

I have also sent urgently worded letters to all of my elected officials in Washington, DC (I had already sent a letter to President and Mrs. Obama before this petition was created) and a letter to the newly appointed Director of CMS who is Marilyn Tavenner. Her address is:
Marilyn Tavenner, Director
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard,
Baltimore, MD 21244 

In addition, if you are so inclined, please share this announcement on your Facebook and other social networking accounts plus with clients, friends, and colleagues. I have done this, and several of my friends who are MDs have told me they are going to sign it and urge their colleagues to do the same.

We all know and acknowledge there is no single or simple answer to treating obesity (or preventing it), but by not including RDs as providers for an obesity diagnosis and treatment, CMS has shifted the care to health care professionals who are already over-worked, have no training in nutrition and weight loss counseling, cost more to the health care system, plus what is most worrisome to me, are likely to give up too soon and recommend drugs or bariatric surgery for these patients, both of which are more invasive, more expensive, increase risk of more complications (increasing cost and decreasing quality of life), and are not the highest quality medical care available.

I hope you will agree and sign this petition. Note: Anyone can sign - you do not need to be an RD or a health care professional.

I don't know if these petitions have any chance of being seriously reviewed with an action that requires a change at the highest level of CMS, but living here in SE Michigan where Detroit is known as "Hockey Town", a quote that is frequently used is "You have to shoot on goal to score". 

This petition is that shot on goal. I hope you will consider signing it. I did so on the first night it was posted. 

Thank you.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, December 12, 2011

December Farm Days

Just a few photos of our day today. It was surprisingly warm (in the 30's, sunny, and no wind = warm in Michigan during December!), which made heading outside to finally finish up our garlic for its winter nap both inviting and pleasant.

(Photo: Our rows and rows of green garlic, finally all mulched. This year we planted them in our family garden space to make more room for garlic heads in our fields. Green garlic is harvested at the end of April or early May so will leave space for putting in our own tomatoes, basil, corn, peppers, etc, after we sell it. We have misplaced our machete, essential for whacking down the corn stalks, so that will get done later this winter after the eventual organization of the barn and garage sometime after the holiday season.)

(Photo: Our lower garlic fields - the right half was planted for 2011, the left half that is mulched is planted for 2012. This part of our 2012 crop was planted in October before all the rains and floods so these early planted cloves had time to put down a good root structure while also growing many green leaves that are taller than the mulch. We'll finally get the swing put away when our two strong boys come home over the holidays, although I have to admit that I have sat in it more during the Fall months - maybe 2-3 times - than I ever did during the summer, which was close to never! I love the view of the curved gravel road coming to our farm.)

(Photo: 'Welcome Friends' - the greeting at the entrance to our farm - we mean it!)
(Photo: Our upper garlic field, finally all planted and mulched. We didn't finish until sometime in December, I know it was finally after Thanksgiving. Rain, rain, mud, mud, snow, rain, rain, mud, ice, floods, I think we are close to a record rainfall in our area. We have no idea how our crop will be affected by this difficult Fall for planting. Only the earliest planted in this entire field had enough time to develop roots and green shoots. We are hoping all of them are not water-logged at this point and will survive the winter nap.)
(Photo: I know it is hard to see, but the paths are still flooded in many spots, now frozen. Finishing the planting and mulching was difficult, cold work, and even treacherous. The paths were so muddy that hauling wet straw from one end of the rows to the other was heavy, slippery, and 'mucky' work. Next year we'll have all the straw put into the barn and bring it out only on the day(s) when we are actually mulching, which sounds like more work than just putting the bales at the end of the rows when delivered, but I am here to tell you that moving wet, even frozen straw, is even more work and also potentially risky in terms of falling, straining muscles, etc. We are ALL about injury prevention on our farm as we need to show up for work every single day, and there is no time for inaction!)
(Photo: Pine cone suet feeder that I made yesterday. I finally took a day to make our own suet feeders for the winter, which involved finding the grinder attachment for my food processor, figuring out how to use it again without the lost owner's manual, sweeping up - again and again - all the bird seed that is still all over the kitchen, melting and straining the suet, dipping, spooning, dipping, smearing - a cake decorator I am not! I now have several of these hanging all over the place so I can glance out of nearly every window and see one or more of them.)
(Photo: Bows, bows, bows, lights, lights, lights - harder to see - we still need some of each on the barn.)
(Photo: Finally, after years of being mostly packed away, our full Christmas village is found, brought out, and has a new home under our church pew in the dining room instead of on our window seats or under the Christmas tree where it was set up in our old home. It is fun to find new places for decorations, decide which ones are worth hauling out, which ones may head off to the thrift shops, etc, etc. Hmm, this now reminds me that we have not yet found a few other things, like our few pieces of that cute Cat's Meow Christmas Village.)
(Photo: It's hard to choose a favorite part of our village, but here is the barn and farm house in a special place of honor. No we don't have an old barn or an old house, or all the animals - yet, but we feel like we do, and we do have the deer. In fact just an hour ago, we had a group of 8 or 9 deer strolling within feet of the house. I took photos but had already downloaded these, and those deer photos were taken through windows with screens at dusk into the light so they won't be great. Yesterday morning I saw the two yearlings with the younger fawn born on the farm this year right outside of our bedroom. I didn't see momma. I am hoping that she was just hanging out with all her girlfriends, knowing these younger ones are taking care of each other. I'll bet the huge group we saw tonight was the entire baby-sitting co-op, all the neighborhood moms and their kids, on a field trip to the Dyer's bird feeders!)
(Photo: Red Lentil Soup, this very flexible 'stand-by' recipe today is far simpler than the linked recipe, with red lentils cooked in homemade vegetable stock in the crockpot first, then adding 1 quart of our canned tomatoes, chopped kale, curry, and even a tiny tiny bit of chopped fresh cilantro from our CSA Green Things Farm. Dick is making Glazed Rutabagas tonight, testing to see how they'll turn out after being well-frozen in the garden - oops, darn! Where are those 13 children - or interns would do, too! - when we need them - "Your job today ________ (fill in the blank with any name you want to choose!) is to go harvest and bring in the rutabagas from the garden. Thank you! We love you!)

Oh a last piece of fun news. We offered an activity in a local silent auction to support Growing Hope for making garlic brittle with us on the farm, in our kitchen. We haven't heard who the lucky winner is yet, but it was a BIG donation - thank you, thank you!!! We love Growing Hope, love supporting them, and appreciate the donation to them. We have made garlic brittle before (it was inspired by the garlic tasting we did at The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti sometime this past fall), and as unusual as it sounds, it tastes quite good, even great! It will be fun to meet the people who were the high bidders for our donation and it will also be fun to make quite a mess in our kitchen. The large (and still very green) kitchen in this house is one of the reasons we took the plunge to buy this "unending project". We want to share our farm, our house, our kitchen, so bring on the mess and the fun!

Now, there is still time for a little more holiday decorating before we get supper ready. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Love the article, not sure about 'the look' :-)

Here's a great article about a small town of ~15,000 people in the UK with a goal of feeding itself by 2018.

I always tell the students who come to work with us that there is no need for fashion of any kind on our farm, which includes fingernails, toenails, suntans, designer sunglasses, cute tops, cute shoes, etc, etc, etc. :-)

There is no one here to impress! However, maybe I am wrong about all this.  First things first. Maybe I should be trying to look a little better myself!

As I finally finished mulching our green garlic this afternoon, I realized I would be a complete mess if someone came to take a photo of me. Seriously, I would be a 'real' mess, complete with blue jeans that just keep getting more stained, thinner, and maybe even looser, boots with cracks in them, two left gloves (I have probably worn out the right-handed ones), straw all over me, in my hair, stuck to my vest, in my gloves and down my boots, 'hoodie hair', some stray sunglasses left on the farm (not cute or designer), with an assortment of layers on top, some of which were out-grown by my boys.

Thankfully, no one did! So you have to imagine what I looked like as we finally finally finished putting the garlic to bed for the year. I'm not sure 'the look' of the woman featured in this article is for me (is that scarf functional in any way or just very very very long?), but maybe I do need help with fashion on the farm, at least being less messy! Advisers are welcome. :-)

In any case, getting back to the the article, I hope you read it. I loved several things about it:
1) "Aim high, otherwise, why bother getting out of bed in the morning?"
2) "This is a revolution, but we are gentle revolutionaries."
3) "There's a feeling we're doing something significant rather than just moaning."

My husband was saddened however by the black-and-white comment that "men meet at bars and plan wars while women meet for coffee and plan good things", like this effort called Incredible Edible, in which the goal is for the town to feed itself while also helping to  boost the local economy. "That doesn't leave much room in the middle for men", says Dick. I know plenty of men playing major roles in this local food evolution (i.e. revolution) and of course he is one of them (as are many good men I know, including my two sons), but the important point of this story is the awareness that so much of what we can do to help ourselves is in our heart, at the end of our two hands, and right under our feet, both "taking back" our food and sharing the local bounty within our local community.

From seed to satisfaction, from sowing to sharing, I hope you join the gentle growing revolution in 2012, but you can look for your own local growers now throughout the winter and support them with your purchases. There used to be an old ad (I forget what it was for) that said '________ It does a body good'. I hope you'll fill in that blank with "Growing your own food does a body good!" where 'body' = you plus your community.

And you do not need to make a 'fashion statement' to be part of this revolution. Just put a smile on your face, and I doubt that anyone will notice the straw in your hair.  :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, December 4, 2011

One of those great days :-)

Nothing special until late afternoon when a friend came over and the two of us drove a short distance from our farm to find a group of short-eared owls that migrate south to our part of SE Michigan each winter. We knew we had found the owls when we found a group of ~20 cars lined up along the road and 20+ people lining the road's edge all holding their binoculars up. This was a first or 'lifer' for me. What a thrill to see several of these beautiful big birds (I saw 4 different ones) hunting at dusk over the open fields. They were not close, but we still got decent views. I'm tempted to go back again and again to soak in the joy of seeing them weaving back and forth approx 3-4 feet over the fields. However, even with all my straw bale moving to get the garlic mulched, my upper arms were sore this morning when waking up. I guess different muscles are used to continuously hold up those binoculars. So the logical conclusion -to me- is that I must need more birding to strengthen those muscles, too!

Here is a link to see the short-eared owl.

Next up was supper, again nothing special until we tasted the sauce/dip I made to spice up our cooked brussels sprouts, which I made by mixing an equal amount of the 'garlic exilir' recipe from my previous post with some blue cheese crumbles (about 1 heaping Tbsp. each) with some olive oil to blend it all together just using a fork to smash and stir. My husband's eyes got wide and I saw him licking his fork (maybe even his finger?) saying something like 'This is AMAZING!' Yes, I had to agree. We ate all the sauce I made last night, but there are still more ingredients to make it again for something else - easy as pie, actually much easier than making pie!

Last, I found and pulled out all of our University of Wisconsin flags, blankets, t-shirts, and other UW 'gear' collected over the years to make it clear who we were cheering for in last night's first Big Ten Championship Football Game against Michigan State University. I am a life-long Badger fan, finally getting to UW-Madison for my graduate degree and dietetic internship, most of that time (decades in fact!) being happy enough to be on the short-end of the 62-0 type of scores. Garrison Keillor likes to say that type of team 'builds character' for the team, the students, and even the State, and maybe it does, but winning is nice, too. :-) I had to struggle to stay awake for the entire game, so it was a good thing UW finally woke me up at the end of the 4th quarter by decisively coming alive to win the game.  On to the Rose Bowl! U-rah-rah Wiscooonsin!

A good day, a very good day, even a very special day. :-)

Now on to Christmas tree shopping. We do things like this when we can't be out in our own wet fields to finish putting the farm to bed for the winter because, guess what!, it's raining again, raining, raining, and raining some more. However, even with the rain (our pond is now officially overflowing), we'll have a very good day.

I hope you enjoy your day, too!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garlic Exilir - Wowza - this recipe is strong medicine!

I've heard that in Italy, a family keeps the best of what they grow or make (olives, wine, whatever) for themselves and takes the rest to the market. Well, we did do that for our garlic's seed stock, but we still never, never took anything to our local farmers' markets that was not both beautiful and perfect, even beyond perfect. We heard that over and over again from our customers.

If by chance a customer picked up anything less than perfect that accidentally showed up on our table, Dick or I quickly helped them pick out something better, explaining there was nothing really wrong with that little spot, etc, and in fact 'the family' (i.e., us!) would trim and eat that clove, but we did not want to sell it. We only sell the 'A+' garlic to our customers who always smiled and thanked us for the detailed attention we give to our garlic and to them.

The same is true with our seed stock. As we broke apart thousands of heads of garlic to plant our ~17,000 cloves that are now finally in the ground, we would occasionally find a clove here or there with a 'spot' that gave us pause about the health and/or viability of that clove and would throw it in a paper bag that we called "Eat Now!" (Full disclaimer, out of those thousands of heads, we did find two heads that were moldy inside. They promptly went into another bag called the "Burn Bag".)

We have been 'working on' eating that "Eat Now!" bag of less than perfect cloves for the last month or so. However, after reading a recipe called "Garlic Elixir" that called for 1 cup of peeled garlic cloves (developed by Chester Aaron and printed in the book Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil by Doug Oster), I decided it was time to trim up and empty what remained in that bag of sad looking garlic cloves and give them a purpose in a beautiful and delicious recipe. What better time to do that than on a rainy day (ha - another rainy day - what a surprise - we feel like we have been living in 'Seattle - East' for the past 3+ months) when we need to take something to a potluck dinner tonight.

So here is the recipe with some photos. Yes, get ready! This 'Garlic Elixir' really might be a 'cure-all' for anything that you're ailing from. Seriously, this is strong medicine!


1 cup garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed of ends and any imperfections
1/4 cup parsley
1 teaspoon salt (I only used 1/2 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Olive oil - 1/2 to 1 cup (I only used 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon pepper (I only used 1/4 teaspoon and used white pepper)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (oops! I did not have any so I used ~1/2 Tbsp. lime juice)


1) Process garlic and parsley in a blender or food processor until finely chopped (may make more chunky or even more pureed to your liking)
2) I used a small food processor and just slowly added the remaining ingredients, mixing as little as possible to keep the consistency from being fully pureed.
3) If using a blender for the first step, remove the garlic and parsley, place into a bowl and then stir in the remaining ingredients, adding olive oil last to develop consistency of a smooth spread.

The directions say to store in a glass jar, covered with ~1/4 inch of olive oil. Stores in the refrigerator for about 1 month.

Use on anything and nearly everything, such as bread, baked potatoes, pizza base, gyros, bruschetta, in soup, egg salad, a sandwich spread, eaten straight (here is where the 'wowza' comes in!!!), etc., etc. Be creative and tell me how you would like to use this.

Special Note: the recipe does suggest adding other ingredients as desired like capers, anchovies, olives, red pepper flakes, etc., by adding them to the blender/food processor first before mixing the parsley and garlic. However, if you are adding olives, capers, or anchovies, definitely taste before adding any salt!

Photos below show the process and end results. 

(Photo: Ingredients - see even here the lemon juice is missing! The garlic trimmings are on the plate to the right. They went into the compost bucket)

(Photo: Garlic and parsley in my mini-food processor)

(Photo: Garlic and parsley after a few seconds)

(Photo: Garlic and parsley with the olive oil added)

(Photo: All done, ready to serve! Makes about 1 cup.)

(Photo: Our new pond, viewing it through our kitchen window. It is 10 feet deep in the center and is ready to overflow the top, filling from the rain we have had these past two months plus the run-off and ground water finally having a place to collect on our property. Yes, those are more drainage tiles ready to be used if necessary in the left of the photo. Maybe next year we can finally have a dry area behind the house instead of a marsh or a moat!)
We took the Garlic Elixir, pickled garlic scapes, and pickled garlic to the potluck dinner tonight for the vendors at the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers' Market, sponsored by Growing Hope, where we had our first market appearance in June of 2010. We love that market; it is 'just right'. :-) And the other vendors dove in and LOVED the Garlic Elixir, which is not for the faint of heart but will really wake up your taste buds!

As I am now accustomed to doing, I listened to recently archived shows from my favorite radio program Thistle and Shamrock while cooking in the kitchen. I don't know which makes me happier, cooking or moving my body and tapping my feet to that beat. The two shows I got through today were 1) Roots Down Under (Celtic music from New Zealand and Australia) and 2) Canadian Celts, which included my all-time favorite fiddler Natalie McMaster. Funny, I just now remembered that I was dreaming last night of dancing in Scotland. I have thoughts about that, but those are for another day or another lifetime. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - Our pond early on the following morning after the day's heavy rain and overnight snowfall of a couple of inches.  I put this photo at the top of my blog on November 30, 2011.  It's not 'over the top' yet, but this pond is 10 feet deep at the center and was dug this fall. IF it freezes smooth, it will be a great hockey arena! Wait! We need to finish mulching the garlic before we can think of something fun like that. :-) I'm embarrassed to show you photos of the half-mulched garlic beds complete with their 'canals' dug to drain the paths. Those are not pretty, but they were mostly effective (what a hard job for Dick moving that saturated soil). Maybe some of that water from our fields is actually draining now around and then behind the house down into the pond. What a civil engineering project this has become. :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Taking a break from planting

while warming up with some hot tea before heading out to plant another 500 cloves or so before the sun goes down and what do I read? Mark Bittman's column in yesterday's New York Times called "No Turkeys Here", which is a column giving thanks for real food and those who are 'making it happen'. It's a great column, and I submitted a comment saying so. I don't know if it is posted up yet (comments are moderated on the on-line edition of The New York Times, just like I need to approve comments on my blogs to keep spam off - I've never had any abusive comments, but I do get 'spam' comments a couple of times each week that you never see.)

I often am so far behind with reading that I never have a chance to get a comment posted if I feel I have something 'extra' to add to an article I have read. However, I guess I got lucky today! I don't know where it will be in the queue of comments, probably buried, so I will include it here for you to read. However, I do encourage you to read the full article. :-)
Diana Dyer Location Michigan

Thank you Mark, first for making your very first statement of gratitude be for the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil. I could not agree more with you! I am one of the two tired farmers at The Dyer Family Organic Farm/Dick's 'Pretty Good!' Garlic in Ann Arbor, MI. We almost but not quite done planting our 40+ varieties of garlic for our 2012 crop. However, more importantly, thank you for giving thanks. For several years now, I have been blogging off and on at my main blog ( about how much meaning this simple act gives our food, our meal, our life. My husband (the other tired farmer at this time of year) and I read many different and interesting food blessings before our main meal each day, but the simplest one we say is "Thank you to all hands and hearts who brought us this food," which honors each and every person who in some way brought us the abundant real food (never food-like-substances) on our plates.

PS - I'm taking a quick break to warm up before heading back out to the fields to get in another 500+ cloves before the sun goes down. :-)

OK - now I'm heading back out to the fields, again!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

More recipes are moving on over!

I spent a little time last night transferring some of my recipes and past newsletters posted on my website ( over to my new blog by that same name ( where I am gradually moving the content of my website (which will be less expensive and I will have more control of the content and changes/updates).

The recipes I transferred were the Fish/Seafood Entreés, and even though I had already eaten supper, my mouth was watering the entire time. I enjoyed remembering the first time I 'threw' most of these recipes together, and I could even remember the first meal for some of them.

I was surprised by how many recipes are on my website, reflecting on the nearly 15 years that my website has been in existence. I was one of just a handful, no more, of dietitians who had a personal website back in the 90's - my boys insisted that I do that! Thanks, guys, for pushing me into the world of cyberspace. It has been quite a ride, which is still going, of course. :-)

If you click on my blog link above, you will go to the homepage for that blog. It is set up a little differently than this blog with 'pages' where I am grouping post information, rather than 'tags'. You can browse by post entries or just click on the 'page' that interests you, such as Recipes or Archived Email Newsletters, etc, you get the idea.

As I look at all these recipes, I am thinking I could spend a year just making recipes I have already posted on my website and my blogs (this one and my kale blog Maybe that should be a goal for 2012, maybe just for fun or maybe to start thinking about actually putting my recipes into a book. I was rather 'bummed' at the thought a week ago when we had no internet access for some random reason, realizing that I could not access ALL of my favorite recipes - eeeeek!!!

If my blog readers have favorite recipes from my website and blogs, please let me know. I'll put those at the top of my list to make.

Oh so much food and so little time! So much fun growing food, selling food, teaching about great food, buying food from other growers, cooking food, tasting food, eating and sharing food, and last but really first, being grateful beyond words for all of the above. 

Today should be dry enough (and warm enough) to really really almost finish getting our garlic in the ground. This Fall's planting really has been 'inch by inch, row by row'. Our farm's bluebirds have already been flitting around and looking in the windows urging me to get outside and get going! So, sign off I will and get going with the rest of my day. Grateful and happy.  :-)

Happy Thanksgiving (again) to you all. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter's coming!

A little flock of American tree sparrows finally arrived under the bird feeders yesterday, and there is ice on the pond this morning. I guess that makes it pretty official that winter is on its way. I also had my first episode yesterday of fingers getting too cold when outside, even with gloves on! So it is time to find and get all the assorted winter gear to the front of the closets.

We are not yet done with the garlic planting as the fields have just been too wet. We keep waiting for the intermittent rain to stop (a neighbor's rain gauge is currently sitting at 21.5 inches since August 1) but now we just have to get them into the ground. We have ~3,000 more to go plus all of the assorted small cloves that we hold back from the seed stock to plant as 'green garlic', which will be harvested at the end of April/early May, clove and green leaves together and used just like a 'green onion'. Hmmm, yum, yum, yum, the first fresh garlic of the year. :-) We have sold all of this to local chefs the last two years, but next year we'll reserve some of the special green garlic for our Garlic CSA members, too, so they can know the joys of the most delicate of garlic taste in a vegetable!

My husband will be out planting today, sloshing through the set paths if necessary, but I am speaking to the Michigan Dietetic Educators about the "School to Farm Program" that I spearheaded for the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group ( of the American Dietetic Association ( The goal of this new program is to facilitate the rapidly growing interest among the dietetic students and interns regarding sustainable food and agriculture systems by providing them places to have volunteer experiences on farms owned by ADA members (there aren't many, but I am not the only one!).

This should be a fun and interesting day! It was time-consuming but enjoyable to put together a powerpoint presentation (even though I should have been planting garlic!).

I don't know if I will have time to make another post before Thanksgiving. We are traveling to spend the day with special friends. So I want to leave you all with a lovely food blessing that a friend sent me yesterday.

With gratitude and reverence for all life, 
we savor food mindful of all that has contributed to it.   
    We commit ourselves to a more equitable sharing of the earth’s bounty.

            - From UUA Statement of Conscience: Ethical Eating, Food & Environmental Justice

I have posted in the past that Thanksgiving Day is my day in the year that I "mark" as a cancer anniversary since I have had too many cancer diagnoses, treatments, procedures, etc to know which one to count as 'the' one.

May Thanksgiving Day for all of you be a joyful day filled with great food, great company, and deep gratitude for the abundance in our life.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention Webinar

Registration for a free upcoming webinar open to the public is now available.

More information

Frontiers in Nutrition and Cancer Prevention: Online CME Series

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention: Shining Light on the Current Research

Friday, December 02, 2011
12:00 – 1:30 pm EST




  • Discuss dietary guidelines for vitamin D in terms of recommended dietary allowances, tolerable upper intake levels, corresponding serum 25(OH)D levels, and evidence to support the new guidelines
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of data relating to vitamin D and cancer prevention
  • Discuss biological basis by which vitamin D inadequacy or excess influences cancer risk 
Like most nutrients, recommendations for public health, let alone one specific disease, is complex, especially remembering that cancer is not cancer is not cancer, as there are 200+ different types of cancer diagnoses with different cancer biological processes involved.

I needed to miss hearing some of the talks about vitamin D at the conference I attended last week, but I heard enough to know there are concerns about a "U-shaped" curve, which in essence means that more/bigger is not always better and may even be potentially harmful. I am making a strong bet that research discussing this concept will be discussed during this webinar.

In addition, the previous webinar about the potential for curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric that has anti-cancer activity) to impact the cancer process has been archived for viewing and the link to that webinar is also available on-line at with continuing education credits available for Registered Dietitians.

I have not had time to view the curcumin webinar yet, but I know there is enough research already showing potential benefit that I considered opening up new fields on our farm to plant turmeric (until I read about the growing conditions needed and realized I would need to live in the tropics, like southern India, like where it is grown commercially!). 

Happy viewing and learning!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - We're still planting garlic, even with our wet fields this fall and light snow today! It's been a slower than expected planting season. I was composing haikus in my head this afternoon while working in the field to keep my focus off my cold fingers. Here is one I can remember:

Gray fast-moving clouds
November garlic planting
Snow pellets on dirt

Friday, October 28, 2011

Haiku - Waking up on the Farm

No photo, none needed.

Snow-like frost on leaves
Blue jays blasting through tree tops
Red leaves fall like rain

I also posted two more haikus that fell out of my brain today on my kale blog I cannot explain where these came from or why; some type of flashback to high school?, some new opening or re-wiring of connections in my brain?

I don't know a thing about poetry, let alone 'haiku rules', so please don't blast me for what I have forgotten or never knew. I prefer to see (and remember) those blue jays blasting through the tree tops right outside my bedroom window as my eyes focused while waking up this beautiful morning!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row" (and word by word!)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All 1-2-3 blogs mentioned!

Since October is the month designated to focus on breast cancer (research, screening, treatment options, survivorship, and hopefully also prevention!), I was recently interviewed for another blog written by two dietitians (Stephanie Clark, RD and Willow Jarosh, RD) who interviewed me as a featured 'expert', i.e., knowing a thing or two about breast cancer and nutrition. :-) However, I was also very pleased that they included questions in the succinct interview on their blog about gardening, so in the end, all three of my blogs (along with my book and website were mentioned and tied together by very good questions.

The blog written by Stephanie and Willow is sponsored by Bumble Bee tuna with a focus on whole foods, nutrition, and increasing activity. My plant-based and whole food approach to my diet, with lots of physical activity thrown in by both regular exercise and also gardening/farming, is a nice complement to the information provided by their blog. Donations from this blog are given to support a very worthy breast cancer organization based in Chicago called Y-Me? which helped me with emotional support after my first breast cancer diagnosis way back in 1984 when I was only 34 years old.

Why me, indeed! Hopefully some of you will also benefit from Y-Me?'s support services like I did.

In addition, because my readers know of my advocacy for reducing environmental risk of cancer by eating organic foods, I think you will also find the following blog post (Racing for the Cause) very informative, which is also written by another colleague, Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD, and published at

Thank you, Stephanie and Willow and thank you, Melinda for both mentioning gardening (particularly growing organically) as a very achievable and effective way of decreasing your cancer risk!

Note my first recommendation is to start small. No one is expecting you to start a farm like my husband and I did! :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Slowing down, blueberries, or surgery - what is the answer?

Do you know the answer, the path to a cure for cancer, 100% of the time, in each individual? I don't, and I don't know any responsible oncologist or 'alternative' health care practitioner who would guarantee a 'cure' either.

However, there has been lots of 'chatter' on various websites, along with a recent article in the New York Times, about the death of Steven Jobs being 'his fault' for the treatment path he chose for his type of pancreatic cancer. In addition, there has been a recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlighting the recent death of the French neuro-scientist David Servan-Schreiber, PhD, who first wrote the best-selling book Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life and more recently, knowing his brain tumor had relapsed 20 years after first being diagnosed, wrote the book Not the Last Good-bye, in which he essentially says there is 'no miracle cure for cancer' including any diet, exercise, or stress management program that can prevent a cancer from recurring.

Both men lived longer than many with the same diagnosis. Could they each have lived even longer if only they had done X, Y, or Z? There is no way to know if that would be the case, period, pure and simple.

I can say with close to 100% certainty that all of these 'Monday morning quarterbacks' commenting about the 'wrong' choices Steven Jobs made must have no idea, none at all, what it is like to personally face a cancer diagnosis, to seek out, understand, and choose among the myriad of choices, to sort out the potential help from hype from harm, no matter if you are trying to sort through 'conventional' cancer treatments or complementary/alternative/integrative treatments, whatever you want to call non-conventional cancer treatments these days. Frankly, it is extremely difficult for anyone to do that, even 'smart people', even 'rich people', even 'scientists', even 'medically knowledgeable' people, let along if you are 'none of the above'.

In addition, anyone questioning why blueberries did not cure Dr. Servan-Schrieber's brain tumor is putting a lot of hope and faith (and naiveté) in the word 'cure', let alone in any one conventional cancer treatment, one food, or even a total lifestyle. Cancer is wicked, nasty, completely unpredictable, and completely unfair. My father had a quick and awful death from lung cancer, having absolutely no identifiable risk factors. A man who established Ann Arbor's first organic farm in the early 70's had a fairly rapid death after a brain tumor diagnosis a few years ago. A close friend of mine died from breast cancer only a few short years after her surgeon looked me in the eye in the waiting room while telling me that her surgery had 'cured' my friend.

Don't misunderstand me. I am still hopeful. However, I know it is impossible to call the shot accurately 100% of the time. I do not like the word 'cure'. I also do not like the word 'remission'. Cure implies 100% certainty that cancer will not return. Remission implies that cancer will come back. I am somewhere in-between, where?, I am never sure, but when people do ask about my cancers, I prefer to tell people that I currently consider myself cancer-free until someone tells me otherwise.

I cannot say what I would have done had I been Steven Jobs. I cannot say what I would have done if I were Dr. Servan-Schrieber. What I can say is that it is impossible to say what you will do (and no one has any right to question someone else's decisions) until you are right there yourself, facing your diagnosis, juggling all the unknowns and your worst fears with your values, or experiencing your most alive feeling ever, no longer knowing only in the abstract that your time on this earth, in this lifetime, is truly limited.

I have only the deepest respect for each of these well-known men, both of whom showed us how to live a full life after a cancer diagnosis, a life looking fear in the face, a life that made a difference, and a life without complacency. My book, my life, my website and blogs have never offered a 'cure', only reasonable hope based on the best science available for both extension of life and enhanced quality of life for whatever time we each have remaining (whether one day or decades!).

When it is my turn, even if I do die from cancer, I will die knowing I have done both, i.e., extended my life and enhanced the quality of my life. In my opinion, both Steven Jobs and David Servan-Schreiber achieved the same. I have no doubts, none at all, that everything I have done by combining conventional cancer therapies with blueberries (etc), yoga, meditation, writing my book, dashing all over the country to speak, starting our farm, and now trying to 'slow down' (ha ha!) have allowed me to be fully alive. All of this has helped me 'stay hungry, stay foolish' (the send-off phrase that Steven Jobs used during his address at Stanford's graduation in 2005). Both of these men both did the same. Who can ask anything more from anyone who found himself on center stage of the grossly unfair world of cancer?

However, I will leave you with one thing to ask. Please start asking, and keep asking, over and over and over again, why aren't we focusing on finding the cause(s) of cancer that must be all around us? If you didn't read it last year, I do recommend reading the President's Cancer Panel Report of 2010 “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now”. Searching on your favorite search engine will bring you to the very readable document.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall on the Farm

This year we had a long, cold spring that seemed to finally lurch into summer, right before our son's wedding in early June. I think the same could be said for fall's colors. The trees have been green for a long time, then green and dry-looking, then just dry-looking, finally bursting with color for a few days, then, poof!, the winds came and stripped off the leaves just like that (thankfully, leaving our power intact this time), so that today it almost looks like November while still not being quite that cold yet.

We went to our last local farmers' market this past Tuesday, knowing we had scheduled our year-end garlic 'fire sale' at our farm for this weekend, which was a huge hit, bring garlic lovers from as far away as Kalamazoo, MI (2 hours west of us, I'm not kidding!). We are nearly sold out of garlic, but thankfully there is still enough left (1) for us!! and (2) to make powdered garlic to sell later.

We can now totally switch our focus to finish planting the garlic for our 2012 harvest next July. We have ~16,000 (and likely more) garlic cloves to get into the ground during the rest of October and early November, hoping they still have enough time and warmth to get their roots well established. Time will tell on that, i.e., how fast can I plant (hint, hint, I love planting with friends!) and how well the weather gods and goddesses smile on us.

So here are a few photos of the current 'goings-on' at our farm, from pond construction to Michigan State University dietetic students helping us with planting and other needed farm work.

(Photo: Two piles of new organic compost to be spread in the two fields where our garlic will be planted this fall for harvesting in July 2012. Both fields have also had multiple cover crops, i.e. 'green manure', planted and plowed back into the soil for the past two years. The highest compliment we heard today at our garlic barn sale was from a neighbor exclaiming about the beauty of our soil. Thank you for noticing! Yes, we have worked very, very hard since May 2009 to bring health and life back to this land, both literally and figuratively. Although, it is impossible to see, I really took this photo to show the hundreds and hundreds of robins who were 'feasting' on this free lunch, a buffet of life in this healthy compost.) 

(Photo: Our seed garlic hanging in the south end of our barn's loft, harvested in July, quickly sorted into seed, labeled 'seed stock', labeled with the variety, labeled and labeled again, bundled and hung separately to minimize risk of mixing it up with our 'market' stock. These bundles are still waiting for the heads to be broken into individual cloves to plant. We save the biggest and best for our own seed so that next year's garlic harvest will be coming from the hardiest genetic stock that grew in our own climate and soil.)

(Photo: Four of the Michigan State University dietetic undergraduate students who came to our farm to help start our 2012 garlic planting. Here they are taking the bundles of garlic in the previous photo and breaking the heads into cloves. Notice the box, which is clearly labeled by variety. We always work on one single variety at at time, no matter how many workers there are. When you are growing as many varieties as we do (42 this year), labeling, labeling, labeling is the key to our niche at the local markets!)

(Photo: A box of Applegate garlic cloves ready for planting. We planted over 1000 of these huge cloves, which will make gorgeous large heads of garlic perfect for making roasted garlic! Row marker labeled with pencil, which does not wash off as readily as markers, also included in the box.)
(Photo: We plant our garlic in raised beds, the cloves being roughly 6 inches apart, using this string system to keep our rows straight.)
(Photo: An Applegate clove next to cottonwood tree leaves, ready to be planted into the ground. My fingers automatically feel the clove to make sure that 1) it is only one clove, not two that still need separating, 2) the clove is still perfect without spoilage of any kind, and 3) I plant it so that the pointy end is up.)
(Photo: Our last day at a farmers' market in 2011, at the Ypsilanti Downtown market. Today we brought some of all varieties of remaining garlic, 17 out of the original 42, so we needed two tables to display them all. Note the best addition to our stand are the cushioned mats on the concrete between the two tables. SO many people loved it, coming to our booth just to experience standing on it because it feels so good. A friend heard us saying how hard it was on our legs to stand on concrete for 5-6 hours, bought these exercise mats at a second-hand sporting goods store, gave them to us, and wow!, do we enjoy them. Many of our customers told us that they did too. In fact we liked this open booth arrangement so much that we might do it next year, too, even if we don't really need to spread out on two tables. As we put up our tent that day, we noticed a hole - how did that happen? We don't know how it happened, but I think that means we have officially been broken in as farmers' market vendors!)
(Photo: a typical after market dinner, always late, something easy with food I prepared ahead like the red lentil soup complemented with more food we bought at the market or obtained by trading with other vendors. Turnip slices from our garden, plus the cherry tomatoes, fermented garlic scapes, and goat cheese spread all from other vendors. Our dried garlic scapes are sprinkled on the cheese and soup. We also had locally made bread using Michigan ingredients and although not shown, we likely had a glass of my husband's home-made beer, also using all-Michigan ingredients.)
(Photo: Our three bee hives, looking beautifully color-coordinated with the fall foliage. All three have been spectacularly productive this year, although one is currently showing signs of stress. Hopefully we can keep these honey bees alive this winter.)
I recently saw a quotation by Wendell Berry that was new to me. At least the words were new to me even if I already 'knew' them.

"What I stand for is what I stand on"
~~ Wendell Berry
  From "Below" in A Part (1980)

I know I have mentioned that I collect soil quotations and these words seemed like they fit that description. However, I have requested this collection of poetry from our library as I want to read the entire poem to get a more complete feel for the context of this line. 

All weekend long my husband and I deeply appreciated hearing the compliments people paid us on the beautiful garlic we grow plus how much they enjoy our enthusiasm for growing and sharing these multiple garlic varieties with our community. However, I have already mentioned the comment that meant the most to both of us was the one in which one of our customers told us how beautiful and healthy our soil looked. Yes, that was truly music to the ears of these 'old-new' farmers, whose goal was to bring health and beauty back to this neglected spot in our community. To have someone say that about our soil after only two years of healing this 'spot' made my heart melt and was a huge reward for our focused, non-stop life since purchasing this 'vision' in May 2009.

I 'stand for' the health of my community by starting with the health of my soil. 'Standing on' my fields, planting garlic on my hands and knees, feeling and smelling our soil, listening to the wind and life around me, looking at the life I can see in our soil plus knowing how much is also there that I cannot see gives me deep pleasure, beyond words or measure. 

I am sleeping well at night, again, finally. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sunset, moonrise

Two great photos from this past week, just by turning around with the moon rising in the east and the sun setting in the west simultaneously. I know the photos don't do that evening justice - it was beautiful and magical. The best part? It was about 65 degrees. I was marveling at how good it felt while taking these photos, to just need a long-sleeve t-shirt and have no need to be wearing gloves. Soon, very soon, too soon, I'll need layers and layers and layers to be warm, even during the daytime while outside planting garlic, but for just a few days this past week we were spoiled with several back-to-back 70-degree days, gorgeous sunshine, and spectacular fall colors - i.e. 'the peak'.
(Photo: Sunset while standing at the beginning of our driveway looking west through the trees. You can just see the front post lamp in front of our house on the left side of the photo)

(Photo: Full moon rising to the east over the little gravel road that leads to our farm, photo taken from our driveway)

More photos will follow showing current farm activities, but this is what I have finally downloaded at the moment!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD