Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Something new to learn every day!

After blogging for nearly 4 years, just this past weekend I noticed a tab on my blog where I can see 'stats', i.e., how many people are viewing the blog and which pages are the top viewed and various other aspects of 'traffic'. Perhaps it is a new feature that I have just not paid attention to, muddling along just fine without it, thank you very much. :-)

However, now that I have found this section, I admit that the data are interesting!

For example, who knew that last week, the top viewed page on this blog was my recipe for lupini beans?? Next is my recipe for rhubarb scones, which makes more sense since rhubarb is now in season!

I don't have too much time to play with this feature since we are now in 'wedding count-down' mode with one week to go until my family starts arriving and less than two weeks to go until my older son's wedding. Are we excited?? Yes, yes, yes, but that was an easy answer!

In the meantime, I'm going to have to check out my recipe for lupini beans and rhubarb scones. They might be very nice additions to the the food I am planning for the open house the morning after the wedding!

Do you have a favorite recipe from this blog (or my website www.CancerRD.com) that you would suggest as 'finger-food' at a late morning open house? Let me know pronto so I can think about adding it into my thoughts at this time. I am planning on strawberries (lots of them) but also worried a bit that they won't be ready to harvest locally, so I am thinking of back-up plans that are not too much work because Martha Stewart is not showing up to 'take charge'!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 30, 2011

Green Garlic comes to an end for 2011

Winter is truly behind us as today we finally lurched into summer, easily hitting the high 80's, maybe even 90 degrees! It felt wonderful, to truly finally be warm. I think I can put away my winter gloves for the last time. :-)

My husband spent the day at our 'city house' still sorting and clearing out the dribbles of stuff that seem hard to make decisions about 'keep or pitch'. I weeded the front sidewalk at the farm and then hauled the spading fork down to the garlic field to harvest the last of the green garlic of the season, not the intentionally planted cloves to be harvested early, but those where 2-3 cloves accidentally got planted together instead of just one. Growing too close together to produce full and nicely shaped bulbs later in the season, we dig up these two-sies and three-sies to consume as 'green garlic', a mild-tasting garlic and a briefly-appearing spring delicacy.

We had about 10 pounds after cleaning, the vast majority of which will be headed downtown in the morning to several of our chef friends. However, we saved the smallest pieces and any that were injured during the digging for us to eat tonight. We cleaned the dirt/mud off the roots, chopped off the roots and the small amount of brown tips (only on the first leaf to emerge) and then chopped them up similar to how one would use a green onion, stem to stern, the whites and greens together.

Here is a photo of the chopped green garlic along with a piece of a multi-grain baguette covered with hummus and chopped green garlic. We loaded up the green garlic over a vegetable pizza and figured our pizza might have had the equivalent of "5-A-Day" on our plates!
(Photo: Chopped Green Garlic from the Dyer Family Organic Farm, Ann Arbor, MI)

Just for fun, here are my two favorite bird photos today, a female hummingbird getting ready to land on the hummingbird feeder and then when she was feeding on the feeder. I took these photos while I was sitting on our front porch this afternoon taking a break from the very hard work of digging green garlic out of the muddy raised beds while also keeping my balance in the wet and muddy paths and then hauling it all back to the garage in 5-gallon buckets containing water to keep the roots wet.

The short way back to the garage (one leg of a triangle) was through waist high grass (maybe tomorrow it will be dry enough to cut) or the longer way back was over to the driveway and then up to the garage (two legs of a triangle). Either way, the grass is way too high and the ground way to wet to use our wagon to help haul the loads, so I made many trips to manage it without dropping or spilling anything! I am not complaining because all the trips back to the garage meant lots of breaks to see if I could get some great 'photo-ops'!

(Photo: Female ruby-throated hummingbird coming in to land on the feeder - look at the length of her beak!)

(Photo: Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding) 

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row" 
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bluebird Post

Bluebirds love to perch on posts or branches where they have a good view of the ground in order to see little critters to catch. Thus we have decided our bluebird loves sitting on top of the shepherd's hook outside our bedroom window because it gives him a good view of the ground below.

I finally got some photos today, which I will post below. My husband took some, too, which I have not yet seen. Our bluebird also loves to perch on the top of some metal stakes at the 4 corners of our hops garden, which is all freshly weeded and mulched and thus probably churning with easy to see and easy to catch yummy things to eat that it enjoys. Unfortunately, it will be even harder to get a photo of him on those posts from inside the house because those windows all have their screens on the outside, so the pictures will not be clear.

In addition, yesterday morning while waiting for the 'photo op' of our bluebird, I had an unexpected visitor to the oranges hanging from the shepherd's hook. I still have not seen any orioles eating them (even though I hear them singing in our trees), but while focusing the camera on the oranges hoping my bluebird would show up, instead a hummingbird appeared in my viewfinder and fed from the oranges. Unfortunately, I got so excited that the one photo I actually got is extremely blurry!! You can actually see the hummingbird on the right side of the oranges, but it is rather like impressionist art. :-)

These are not award-winning photographs except in my heart. Instead I feel like they are 'reward' photos for all the hard work and waiting to finally be here on the farm - at last.

(Photo: Blurry ruby-throated hummingbird to the right of the orange slices)

(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the hook with oranges)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the hook with oranges)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the hook with oranges - close-up)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeder with the sun shining on him from the east/left)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeder)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeder)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting in the mud at the bottom of the wall - I know you cannot see him!)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting in the mud - here he is!)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeder - outside our bedroom window)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeders - a better view)
(Photo: Eastern Bluebird sitting on top of the platform feeder)
(Photo: The tree next to the oranges where the bluebird likes to perch on the lower branches to eat what he just picked up off the ground)
(Photo: The wall where the bluebird likes to sit watching the mud below)
And just to show you that all things do often happen as they should, shortly after I wrote this morning that I had not yet seen an oriole at my oranges, I glanced out at them hanging on the shepherd's hook to see if my bluebird was there, and who do I see, but a brilliant flash of black and orange, yes a Baltimore oriole happily feeding on the hanging oranges. I had to look twice!! If I get lucky, I'll try to get a photo of that, too, and hopefully not a blurry one like my hummingbird feeding at the oranges.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bluebirds singing!

Just a quick post this morning to tell you our bluebird again woke me up this morning, same place on top of the shepherd's hook, only this time he was singing. Singing, just a few feet away from me! You can see a photo and hear him singing at this website.

He has been flying to the bluebird house. However, just as I predicted, he already has competition from a chickadee I have actually seen leaving the house.

My friend Julie Zickefoose (I have suggested Julie's blog in the past) has already given me some tips for better mounting to keep the house predator-free (at least reduced risk!) and we will work on that.

While reading Julie's blog last night, I was especially moved by her recent posts about the loss this year of a much loved old oak tree at the end of their driveway (There are 4 posts. I suggest reading them in order; I read them backwards, but I was still very moved by Julie's words and photos). Anyone who has experienced love, joy, and beauty will be able to relate to Julie's tribute to this tree and her grief.

I also saw a quotation by EB White on Julie's blog that I had not read before.

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.     That makes it hard to plan the day."
That is where I am right now! After reading this quotation, I was able to make some decisions late last night about what is pulling me versus what is pushing me. Spending much more time savoring the world is pulling me, and pulling me deeply.  I have had these passages of change at other times of my life. It took a while to recognize them, acknowledge them, understand them, and then have the courage to act on that understanding. 

This needs to be a short post because so much else needs to be done today, so I do not have time to thoughtfully elaborate more fully. However, I again know that the universe unfolds and provides or leads me to what I need when I need it. As I continue my path, I will still be blogging because doing so gives me great joy.

Thank you, Julie, for sharing that quote (The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White is still one of my all-time favorite books) and thank you also for sharing all your gifts with the world. There is so much joy to be found and experienced in our lives, and you are right, most of it is free!

Trust me, as soon as I get a photo of my bluebird on top of the shepherd's hook (I'm taking my camera to bed with me tonight!) or on top of his house, I'll post it right up. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blue skies and bluebirds

I decided it was time to replace the photo with the dreary sky heading my blog, even if it did have a great image of a gorgeous rose-breasted grosbeak at our bird feeders. 

We finally woke up this morning to blue skies, the first morning in a long time. And better yet (if possible), before even lifting my head off the pillow, I looked out the window to see a male Eastern bluebird sitting on top of the shepherd's hook that is holding the orange slices you can see in the new photo at the top of my blog.

I never did get a photo of the bluebird sitting up there, but please try to imagine how stunning the image was. He was sitting right on top of the hook, with the oranges underneath him, facing to the right (west) with the eastern sun behind him just making his blue back sparkle and shimmer. Even when I bolted straight up in bed and woke my husband up with a yelp of glee, this bluebird did not move but (like other bluebird sightings I have written about after our dog Kaya died in January) just sat there and looked and looked and looked into the house as it appeared to be watching us.

It did finally fly away, and at least once today, I saw it fly from the bluebird house we finally put up yesterday. I think we are late (like, what else is new?!) getting that house up this spring, but maybe not. I cannot say why that bluebird was looking in the window so long this morning, but I can imagine to myself that it was thanking us for providing it a home, if not for now or later this summer, then to use next year. However, the bluebirds will have competition. Chickadees also were looking at the house today, and I expect tree swallows with also take a look, so we will have to get all the bluebird houses up that we have tucked away somewhere in the garage.

Here are photos of the backyard bird feeders and also a view of the bluebird house on a post (formerly used as one end of a clothes line, which we'll get re-established one of these days). We can see the bluebird house clearly from our bedroom window, and also from the barn porch, but the view from the kitchen window is obstructed by leaves that have finally emerged on the small oak tree.

(Photo: Our backyard feeders as seen from our bedroom window. No one is there, but the bluebird was sitting on top of the pole holding the orange slices. Our little pond is in the background and our lilacs and redbud tree are blooming.)
(Photo: Looking east from our bedroom window, the bluebird house can be seen clearly. We still have lots of dirt piles around as that part of the backyard still needs work to make sure water drains away from the house instead of back into the house, as was happening when we bought it.)
(Photo: Zoomed/cropped view of the bluebird house. I was hoping to see 'some action' when zooming, but I did not capture anyone on top, looking in, or peeking out this time. I hope it is not too blurry, but you get the idea. You can see high the grass is! We never have time to mow on the rare day that the grass is dry enough to cut.)

Do you recall the quote by Henry David Thoreau about the bluebird that I have used before in my blog? It seems particularly appropriate to use today. 
"The bluebird carries the sky on its back."

I saw exactly that when I first woke up this morning. That does not happen every day! And it is raining again right now, so the grass and the weeds will just keep growing. The garlic is fine because it is in raised bed, but the fields are too wet to get our onions and leeks in the ground. 

There is nothing easy or guaranteed about growing food for our community. Another RD-Farmer friend reminded me today to make sure to stop and smell the roses. I assured her I do. Tonight I am smelling lilacs I brought into the house along with some lily of the valley and remembering how lucky I was this morning to wake up in time to the sky, maybe even a glimpse of the universe, on the back of a bird.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, May 20, 2011

Our Goose Pond

It's a start! Everything we are doing is 'a work in progress'. Here is another example, the beginning of our pond. The photos were shot in mid-April just after we moved our bed to the farm. I looked out the window over the kitchen sink while making breakfast in the morning to see a goose investigating our pond. Then a second goose, complete with chasing, swimming, lots of honking, posturing, more chasing, more honking and finally flying away. This couple never did set up home in our teeny pond, although turtles and frogs have already found it and hop into it or stick up their heads as we walk by.

When we lived in Madison, WI during the 70's, a special outing for my husband and me was to take the time and gas money (our time and pennies were precious with both of us being graduate students) to drive out to Goose Pond Sanctuary, where the Madison Audubon Society had an old farm house, a big pond, a prairie restoration project in progress. Plain and simple, I fell in love with the setting. I remember the instant I knew I would be content and happy if I could be the caretaker for that land and pond and house forever.

To that dream, we added the farm we also wanted to start in the 70's, so our farm, which we finally started when purchasing this overgrown property at the end of May 2009, and our beginning pond project, my bird feeders and the '40+ years of projects' we want to do on this tiny spot on the planet is my own 'goose pond', a dream I never forgot. Maybe we should call ourselves Goose Pond Farm in honor of our dreams when we were young in Madison and just starting our life together. Hmmm, just musing on the keyboard here. I haven't even mentioned that farm name possibility to my husband. Maybe there is a reason our logo developer was sick today! :-)

I expect we'll stay with the name The Dyer Family Organic Farm, but it's nice to reflect where dreams started, how they may have changed or evolved, how they have staying power, and how they give hope for the future.

I know I am doing lots of reflecting in my recent posts. Moving does give one the opportunity to review memories. Getting ready for my older son's wedding (who was born in Madison) also allows me the special time to review the past decades. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to still be alive and well after all my cancer diagnoses and treatments, to have these experiences, to achieve dreams, to reach the happiest of life's milestones.

Here are a few photos of our 'pond', which right now is still a glorified mud-hole (it was actually our borrow pit for the clay we needed for the foundation work for the barn we built last summer). However, the geese enjoyed cavorting in it that day I took photos, deer drink from it almost daily and the yearlings stand up on top of the hills of dirt, and blue jays even have been gathering at the edge (doing what, I am not sure).

They are not in any special order, and I know the geese will seem small. The photos were taken through a dirty window, with a nice digital camera but no fancy lens, from a long-way away, and with some zooming attempts and a little bit of cropping. They are just to 'get an idea' of what I can see from my kitchen window looking at our own 'goose pond'. :-)

It is a start, and step, step, step, and it is headed in the right direction. That is all we can ask of ourselves!

No matter where you are in life, with a new cancer diagnosis or not, undergoing cancer treatments or long done, stage 0 or stage 4, I hope you have dreams, both personal dreams and professional dreams, and that one does not preclude the other, at least not for too long. In addition, I also hope you are moving step by step toward your dreams. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Which is more beautiful?

We saw the sun today for ~ 30 seconds at noon today. It was dazzling! We have almost forgotten what it looks and feels like. Fortunately, even with all the rain, our basement is still dry and our garlic in its raised beds is still ok.

Tomorrow we are supposed to wake up to sun. Even if it is forecast to be partly cloudy, that also means partly sunny! Woohoo! We won't know how to react, except unofficially, I expect a flurry of sickness to suddenly appear tomorrow as people somehow just cannot make it to work (just kidding!).

So speaking of sun, tonight while catching up (haha!) on labeling photographs I have taken, I found 4 beautiful pix of a sunset way back in February. I know these pictures do not fully capture it, but I love finally living where we can see a full skyline and feel the fullness of the earth.

I'll let you all soak in the beauty and then decide which is the most beautiful! As I clicked through them, I thought each one was more beautiful than the next and simply could not decide myself.

I don't know if the sunrise or sunset tomorrow will be as beautiful as these, but I'll be sure to look and appreciate it and then reflect back on this sunset-stunner back in February when we still had considerable snow on the ground, and be grateful that, even without sun, at least we are snow-free. :-)

Now you can see why it was hard for me to decide! I know I took these photos wanting to use one of them as the header for my blog - whoops, well that did not happen! So now I'll look forward to seeing another one (sunrise or sunset) that even surpasses these to use in that way in upcoming months. As I have said before, I just love having things to look forward to. That little habit of mine has carried me through a lot of the uncertainty of being a cancer survivor. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Recipe: Rustic Tomato Pie with Pesto

The first recipe post since moving to the farm! Wooohooo!

Today was fun! First on the agenda was an early morning planning session with the co-owner of Tantre Farm for the 2011 cooking classes offered to their CSA members. Then a trip to the Ann Arbor Wednesday Farmers' Market, looking for any green garlic (our largest green garlic has all been sold to the local chefs, just the small stuff is left for us to use) and other early produce. It was fun seeing the market manager and vendor friends, assuring them that we'll be back in June when the garlic scapes are ready to harvest and sell.

I also talked with several vendors about ideas for food to serve at our open house the morning after our son's upcoming wedding. Then a quick stop at our 'city house' to say hi to my husband (working on the final little fix-it-up projects and beginning his 'big sort') and to put some pussy willow branches bought at the market into the vase on the dining room table.

Finally, my dietetic intern from Western Michigan University and I went back to the farm to begin cooking the rest of the day.

We focused on ways to use green garlic. As I already mentioned, there was none at the market this morning, so we used our own supply of tiny cloves and shoots. it is not cost effective for us as growers to spend our time cleaning up the really, really small green garlic to sell, so we use that ourselves.

I have a recipe that I have been saving to make called Rustic Tomato Pie with Kale Pesto Sauce. We could not find any kale at the market so we bought a big bag of large spinach (not tender baby spinach) instead (the flavor held up very well!). Tomatoes also are not yet available so we used dried tomatoes, which worked out great. The recipe called for walnuts, but I didn't have any so we used almonds in their place. And we were chatting too much and thus forgot to stop to buy ricotta cheese, so my intern suggested using tofu instead. I had the right amount of firm tofu on hand, so we used that as yet another substitute in the original recipe, which worked just fine.

Rustic Tomato Pie with Pesto

Make your favorite pie crust (or purchase refrigerated pie crust) for two pies
2 cups packed kale or other greens (washed, spun or pat dry)
3/4 cup chopped green garlic (whites and green leaves)
1/3 cup any nuts toasted
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
2-4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup part-skim milk ricotta (or 12 oz. firm tofu)
5 oz. package dried tomatoes (these were soft - soak to soften if tough and leathery)
2-3 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place greens, green garlic, and nuts into food processor and pulse several times until the greens are broken up into smaller sizes. Add cheese and pulse until blended but still somewhat chunky. Add olive oil slowly while the food processor is running, until the mixture becomes like a thick pesto sauce.

Place tofu into a medium bowl. Mix or mash thoroughly into small pieces. Add the pesto mixture and then mix all together with a spoon.

Spread the pie crust onto a sheet pan or cookie sheet, fluting the edges slightly. Spread the pesto-tofu mixture over the crust to the edge of the crust. Top with tomatoes, then fresh mozzarella pieces. If there is any extra grated Pecorino cheese, lightly sprinkle that over the entire pie.

Bake 15-20 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and turn slightly brown and the crust is a golden brown and smelling delicious! Allow pie to stand for 5 minutes before digging in - yum, yum! It would have been hard to wait that 5 minutes, except we were preparing the asparagus during that time.

Served with spring asparagus, quickly stir-fried in a cast iron skillet with additional chopped green garlic added just before serving. The small meal deserved a glass of red wine, but it was the middle of the afternoon and my intern still needed to drive home, so we only talked about how the wine would have added to the flavors of the meal.

This is absolutely scrumptious. I think any green could be used. I also think I will try making this thick pesto sauce and spreading it on a pizza crust for another variation the next time, adding the same or similar toppings. 

Here are some photos:
(Photo: Green Garlic cleaned and ready to chop)

(Photo: Pie crust made with white whole wheat flour - beautifully crimped edges done by my dietetic intern, who also has training as a pastry chef!)

(Photo: Spinach pesto before adding to the smashed tofu)
(Photo: Pie crust with pesto-tofu mixture spread to the edges)

(Photo: Pie crust with pesto sauce and dried tomatoes added on top)

(Photo: Pie crust with pesto, dried tomatoes, and cheese added)

(Photo: Rustic Tomato Pie done, out of the oven and ready to eat!
(Photo: Rustic Pie and Spring Asparagus with Green Garlic)
Here is the message of gratitude I read before eating:

May prayerful peace
flow outward from here,
touching with grace
all those whom you love
and all the earth as well. 

~Our Lady of Solitude House of Prayer
Black Canyon City, Arizona

The house smelled wonderful, like a home. A delicious and beautiful smell. Yes, it is still raining, but the day was beautiful, too. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beauty on a yet another misty, moisty day

SE Michigan feels like Seattle in January or our first trip to New Zealand during their late winter/early spring months - in the 50's, rainy or misty, windy, and gray skies nearly every day. Better than winter in Michigan for sure, but honestly, I am tired of continuing to put away and then pull out my winter coat and gloves!

However, the birds know it is spring and they are coming right on time and cheering up my day. Tonight I changed the photo heading my blog to show one of my all-time favorite birds, the rose-breasted grosbeak sitting on top of a pole holding suet, giving me a great view of his rose-colored feathers on his chest. With the white and black contrasting patterns, his coloration is stunning, in fact just drop-dead gorgeous, even and maybe especially because of the contrast with the gray skies!

(Photo: Rose-breasted Grosbeak showing off on yet another gray, misty, moisty spring day at the Dyer Family Organic Farm in SE Michigan)
He has found a female who is also visiting the feeders, and sometimes I even see them together. So I am hopeful they will nest in our woods and bring their babies to the feeders later in the summer. I love having events to look forward to.

Beauty, beauty, beauty! Birds bring beauty into my life, no matter if it is sunny or cloudy, but seeing such striking colors on such a dull-colored day plus hearing them sing brings me both happiness and hope, which I feel as a lift to my heart.

I am reminded of Emily Dickinson's famous poem Hope. Usually I see it on a card or a plaque in a shortened format. Here it is in its entirety.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
I believe that those who have experienced deep fear, pain, or loss from cancer (or other ways) can truly understand and feel hope as far more than just a word used casually in a sentence (i.e., I hope the sun comes out today).  I also think such people look for and feel beauty in ways that others don't. I had that experience today, with both this rose-breasted grosbeak this morning and unexpectedly hearing a violin being played this afternoon. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course, and what is beautiful to each of us is certainly very different and should be unique and special.

I hope (and I use this word with deep feeling) that each of my readers has beauty and hope in your life on a daily basis, beauty of such exquisite character that it also brings you to tears with no explanation really needed. Such an experience is certainly evidence of being alive, whether you are 'in the chillest land' or high on a mountain top.

What I will experience tomorrow? I wonder what you will experience tomorrow, too. Good night!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Hummingbird Courtship Flight!

I am not a very dedicated house painter, window washer, floor cleaning, stuff sorter. Sigh...........I would MUCH rather be at our farm, outside even in the rain.

However, I got really lucky today and while I was getting ready at the farm to head back into town to do all of the above (arghhhh), I glanced out of my window at the bird feeders and saw three wonderful things!

1) After 50 years of watching birds, I saw my first ever male hummingbird courtship flight display, right before my eyes, right outside our farm window, less than 3 feet away. It was like watching a great tennis match on TV instead of sitting high up and far away in the 'nosebleed i.e. cheap seats' at Wimbledon wondering what was really going on. (I have not done this, but I would love to go to Wimbledon some day even though I know that is where I would be sitting!) 

I could see everything happening. First things first. I noticed the first female hummingbird I've seen this year sitting in a nearby tree. She came down to the hummingbird feeder and hovered and hovered and hovered while feeding (the male always just sits right down!). When she finally sat down on the feeder, ZOOM! another hummingbird comes out of nowhere and flies right behind her and I swear touched her tail. She jumped a fraction of an inch and then sat down again on the feeder and then ZOOM! from the other direction came the other hummingbird again, again I swear touching her tail as it flew by. Again, the female jumped a fraction of an inch, and then in a fraction of a second, this other hummingbird came from somewhere, had completely changed direction and was now flying right at her (and me!). However, before he hit the window and my open mouth, he zoomed in the air about 10-15 feet, then turned right around and zoomed down, flew under her and then zoomed up into the air about 15 feet right in front of her, turned in the air and flew down and under her and then up again, back and forth like this several times (called a pendulum flight) and then the two of them zoomed!! off together. I have NO idea which one was leading this chase as they flew off together as it all was happening too fast!

Wow - way cool! was I in the right place at the right time, finally!, seriously it took 50 years of birding to see this incredible behavior! I sure am glad that male hummingbird did not come smashing into the window at me and apparently actually had a better plan and knew what it was doing!

2) After listening to the male rose-breasted grosbeak singing this week, the female showed up yesterday at the feeder for the first time (alone), and today they were feeding together. Ah, looks like they found each other and hopefully will nest in the woods on our farm! A grosbeak is named a grosbeak for a reason. Their beaks are HUGE and have no trouble at all cracking open sunflower seed shells!

3) While getting dressed, I glanced out of our bedroom windows at the platform feeder in our backyard (where I am trying to entice the orioles with grape jelly and oranges) and got excited but not because of an oriole appearance! Instead, after weeks and weeks of absence, our bluebirds just showed up again, with both a male and a female taking turns just sitting in and under the cover of the platform feeder. As I came and went today, in and out of the bedroom and back and forth between out farm and our city house, I often saw one or the other just sitting there. Other birds came and went and were eating some of the eclectic mix on that feeder (suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts) while the bluebirds just sat on the edge enjoying a view of something out of the rain. Welcome back!

Love is certainly in the air! And only 4 weeks to go until our older son and the love of his life get married. Today is a cold, windy, and rainy day, but with all these signs of spring, we don't have to hope the weather will improve, we know it will and it will be better soon, even tomorrow!!

Now believe it not, it's 8 pm but I'm heading back to the city house to get just one more thing done tonight. Then tomorrow I will be doing something wonderful and something new - my first dietetic intern starts tomorrow, spending 2 weeks on our farm as an official rotation during her dietetic internship at Western Michigan University. I have lots planned for her!

Now off the computer and back to work. In case you have not figured this out, blogging and birding are my breaks, my ways of keeping balance in my life! :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, May 13, 2011

First Fawn Born on the Farm!

I saw what I thought was a brown paper grocery bag in my peripheral vision on the farm yesterday morning just past our small field of hops. Wondering where that blew in from, I trotted over to 'clean up'. However, it disappeared right before my eyes, which seemed strange! Well, now I was really curious and that brown bag was clearly something to check out. Before I knew it, I had nearly stepped on this fawn, which must have been only a day old or less!

The mother was no where to be seen. I think the fawn had been trying to stand up when I saw it (thinking it was a brown bag - d'oh!). Now it was trying to be as flat as a pancake with its nose and eyes facing away from me in the tall grass. 'If I can't see you, you can't see me - right?'

(Photo: First fawn born on The Dyer Family Farm, 5.12.2011 in the morning - just collapsed on its belly with haunches sticking up after trying to stand up - all skin and bones!)

I never dreamed this spot was 'the thicket' where I assumed all deer were born, as this little grassy spot is in plain view! However, when I went back later yesterday evening, the fawn was still there, at first all curled up asleep, and then when I came back with my camera, it was still in the same spot, but this time with a big black eye peeking at me! 'Now I can see you, but you still can't see me - right?'

(Photo: First fawn, evening 5.12.2011 - Sleeping)
(Photo: First fawn, evening 5.12.2011 - Peeking - look for its big black eye!)
We certainly won't cut the grass in this area, but of course, I wonder how many other fawns are lying in plain view, sort of, instead of hidden away in those thickets of my youth, compliments of the movie Bambi!

I was not nearly as close to this fawn as these photos seem. Except for that one time I almost stepped on it, I was at least 10 feet away, trying desperately to zoom the lens on my little camera, see the fawn in the viewfinder, and keep the camera steady, not an easy feat. The mother was never in sight, but I cannot imagine that she was far away and was likely clearly watching us!

I keep my eyes open as every day there is something new on the farm! Now a newborn fawn is a sure sign of spring and getting those fences built for our family garden will be the next job on the list (after we get fully moved with our 'city house' listed for sale!).

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orioles arrive at the wrong address!

Spring has finally and really (again, finally!) arrived in SE Michigan. It is late, late, late, but when the Baltimore orioles show up, the train has finally made it up to speed and is not going to stop again!

While working outside today at our 'city house' trimming out dead shrubbery branches (seen because the leaves have finally! emerged), scrubbing dirt off of the front porch walls, the doors, the worst part of our house siding (it's now 'good enough'), and even the gate leading from our yard to the park behind our home, I heard the happy whistling and churring sounds from the strikingly handsome Baltimore oriole. Better yet, when I looked up to see it high in our silver maple tree, there was not one but three males chowing down on the trees' flower buds, which have also finally come out!

 (Photo: Baltimore Oriole, male, from www.allaboutbirds.org. Please listen to the song at this link. Once heard, it is impossible to forget!)

I had to tell them that I was happy to see them, but the feast I always have waiting for them (grape jelly and oranges) had been moved out to the farm this year. They didn't seem too upset since there was an ample supply of natural food in the yard for them, but I do hope they listened to my invitation and directions. At least they don't have to worry that Mapquest/GPS systems do not work for our address!

The first thing I did when getting back to the farm was to make sure the jelly had not been eaten/disturbed by anyone else (nope!). Now the banquet is ready. I hope they (or their friends and relations) arrive. I'm ready for them at the farm!

There is a great quote by Aldo Leopold (author of the classic book A Sand County Almanac and also  the subject of a new documentary making the rounds called Green Fire) that relates to the month of June, but I like to paraphrase it to the month of May as I think about all the birds both migrating through and arriving to find a home and a mate.

“In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. 

No man can heed all of these anniversaries; 

no man can ignore all of them.”

At this point now, with the spring migration train finally up to full speed, I will not be able to stay abreast of all the arriving birds! I will not see them all, however I hear about them through posts on a birding listerv for SE Michigan, my eyes and ears to what is happening around me that I miss. 

It does not matter if it is birds, flowers, butterflies, or baseball teams, spring is different and contains an arrival, a special event, or an anniversary of some type for everyone that cannot be ignored. Ah....... Spring! What is yours?

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 9, 2011

Waiting for Woodpeckers

Today I worked at making our enormous compost pile at our Ann Arbor home look like a 'feature' (i.e. reduced in size and tidy) for potential buyers. We started our compost pretty quickly after moving to Ann Arbor in 1987. We attended it, turned it, added to it, turned it, used it, added to it, replaced the pallets that contained the two bins on the sides and the bottom several times, used it, added to it, invited our neighbors to add to it and use, and on and on. It has been an on-going part of our life, our yard, and our gardening efforts for 20+ years. 

Right next to it are two cottonwood trees. In the spring of 1988, my older son was looking out of his second-story bedroom window during a thunderstorm to see lightening strike one of those cottonwood trees and blow the top right off, nearly at eye level about 40 feet away. To say that was exciting (i.e. maybe even electrifying!) for him would be an understatement. 

What to do, what to do with that tree? Well, we cleaned up of course, picking up the branches and other debris, but the bigger question was whether to cut it down. I voted to keep it up as I have always wanted to have a 'woodpecker tree' (i.e. a dead tree!) in our yard providing both a food source and a potential home for woodpeckers. Most people cut down dead trees right away for the 'tidy factor' and the 'safety factor', which I can understand, but here we had a chance to provide this special habitat for such beautiful birds, most of which stay year round in our part of the country, and need trees that provide both food and home sites. 

While good in theory, I can't say that my idea was particularly successful. I'm a pretty faithful bird-watcher and bird-feeder and know what birds are in my yard year round, and I would not be able to truthfully say that the tree was a woodpecker magnet. 

Until today! While working at the compost pile this afternoon right next to the dead cottonwood tree, I suddenly heard a jackhammer in my head!! I looked up to see a downy woodpecker giving our dead cottonwood tree a very enthusiastic hammering about 10 feet above me. 

Our son was 10 in 1988 when lightening struck that tree and I had the idea to keep it up for a woodpecker tree. He is now almost 34 and getting married in a few weeks. Wow, it was a long wait for a fabulous woodpecker experience, but definitely worth it! 

That male downy woodpecker gave me a great view of him from the underside, as I was being showered with teeny tiny wood chips, definitely a new experience for me. The next owners of our Ann Arbor home can decide what to do with that dead tree, but I hope they keep it and also use the remaining compost. 

Personally, I think a yard with a pile of aged and organic compost ready to use plus a woodpecker tree are great selling features that should be highlighted in any real estate listing! At least they would attract me. :-)

Whew! Tomorrow I need to use different muscles to give all of these a rest. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday 'doings'

Back and forth, back and forth between our 'city house' and the 'country house'.

I brought back another load of important stuff this morning and got it put away at the farm. The city house is still quite smelly from having the hardwood floors refinished and also difficult to navigate without walking on the floors until the new finish is fully cured in a few more days.

My husband loaded up all the old TV's and other old electronic equipment on our trailer (both our stuff and 'city house' neighbors' stuff, too) to take to the community computer/etc recycle day. I don't know what else he did at our city house to get it ready to sell. There is a long list of 'little things'. Because there is so much to do in both places, we often are working in parallel instead of together.

However, my husband and I did work together this afternoon to do a second harvest of our green garlic, this time specifically walking the fields looking to find where we accidentally planted double cloves. All those we saw were dug up and cleaned up to sell to Zingerman's Deli and/or The Grange Kitchen and Bar early next week. If we leave those doubles (and an occasional triple) in the ground, neither clove will develop into a full head of garlic because they are too crowded. So right now they are just perfect to use as green garlic, and the local chefs just love having us bring it to sell.

A friend came over to take back the honey extractor she had loaned us last year along with some of my 'stuff' that she is using to teach her 5th graders about Alaska. The two of us enjoyed sitting for a while on the bench on our front porch to watch the birds come into our feeders. No windows changing the view or diminishing their sounds! Some birds are skittish but most get used to me sitting there outside now that the weather is warm enough to do so.

I love my friend's bumper sticker which says "Got Nature?". Mine says "No Farms, No Food!" :-)

Next as my husband cleaned up some shelves that someone is coming to get to take away (via our local 'freecycle'), I swept out part of the garage to help make the shelves easier to see and get out. Cleaning out and organizing the garage at the farm will be a long process, but step by step, we'll be able to walk through there (someday even park our cars inside) and know where things are.

I dug up all the invasive garlic mustard I could find (mercifully we have surprisingly little of this horrible invasive plant). 

My husband had to enlarge the entrance ways to his bee hives, and even though it was sprinkling by that time, I walked out to the hives with him. It was my first time in months and months and months to 'walk our land'. I could not help myself, I kept looking for and listening for Kaya. However, even though it was sad to take this first walk without Kaya, I also realized for the first time that I didn't have to worry about her being overly curious and getting stung by the bees, walking through the wet areas and needing to be wiped down !! before going into the house, or always be on the look-out for a skunk.  :-)

I also walked into our woods for the first time without Kaya and was shocked to see how many of our dead ash trees came down this past winter. The path was literally covered with a mish-mash of downed trees. It looked like someone had thrown the sticks in a game of 'pick up sticks'. It was hard for me to pick my way into a small section of our woods. It would have been impossible for Kaya to do so with her lame back legs. I took that opportunity (now that I was in) to pull baby buckthorn trees (another horrible invasive plant) in one little section of the woods under some impressively large oak trees. I had a huge armload, which I carried out to the burn pile.

Underneath all the baby buckthorns I found many native wildflowers, including spring beauty (blooming), trout lily, may apple, and solomon's seal. I hope I gave them a better home, a chance to thrive again, even if it is just a little space.

Tonight I'm going to call my mother, get out my iPod and listen to warbler songs, have a glass of wine, and go to bed. Tomorrow morning (if not raining), I'll initiate my long-standing (34 years!) Mother's Day tradition here on the farm, which is to have an hour by myself to go birding during the peak of migration season. Birding with a baby or toddler in a back-pack or a front-pack can be done (and I have done it with both boys), but I'll confess that 'serious' birding is far more enjoyable and easier without that extra weight and distraction.

Some years my husband played with the boys while I took my hour or so alone, and some years as the boys got older, we planned a day to drive out to a nature sanctuary to take a nice walk as a family. Both were the perfect Mother's Day gifts for me!

I have been a very fortunate woman to be able to be a mother. The friend who came over today did not know I am a childhood cancer survivor in addition to my other cancer diagnoses. Nothing about being a cancer survivor is easy, and that goes double, maybe even triple, for being a childhood cancer survivor.

Without going into detail, just suffice to say again that I know that I am fortunate in addition to being grateful for the opportunity to be a mother. I have been able to raise two sons all the way to being young adults. Each is an incredible human being, and both give me hope for the future our world.

I have been able to make it through many very long, dark valleys to get to the sunshine of both my own and their weddings. What gifts I have received. Even if birding tomorrow morning gets rained out, I am a very happy woman and a very happy mother. :-)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thanks to all my polite friends!

For what? For not telling me that I've been wearing mis-matched shoes. One is an old pair I have used mostly for gardening, the other is my 'less old' pair I have used for going about town. I have no idea how long ago they got mixed up, but I think it must have been a while.

Yes, they are both white with navy blue trim, but yesterday after washing what I thought was my 'less old' pair, I did think it odd when I noticed they had two different colored insoles. Today I grabbed my 'old pair' by the heels to head out to use the shovel and saw how different those two shoes were! What???? Sure enough, when I looked in these dry shoes, this pair also had two different colored insoles.

Sigh..........mystery of yesterday's discovery solved, but where have I been not to notice this myself, either the outer appearance or how they felt on my feet? I feel like quoting Homer Simpson with a good "D'oh!"

Thanks, friends! Now I wonder what else you aren't telling me - haha!

Wow, one more reason to be glad the chaos of the past two years is winding down. Now that I actually look at these 2 pair of shoes, I think it is time to actually buy a third pair so I don't always look like I have been in the dirt when I go to town. Hopefully I'll be able to distinguish that new pair from my two old pair, at least for a few months. :-) Remember when I made a few comments about reading the book The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball? Maybe a few months of new shoes looking respectable is the most I can hope for when living on the farm!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Home, home on the farm

I am pretty sure that today was my first day to spend ALL day at our farm, from waking up in the morning to right now, about 8 pm, and I am not going anywhere tonight except to bed!

I often meet two special friends on Wednesday mornings, but they both needed to spend the time elsewhere this morning. Our Ann Arbor Wednesday Farmers' Market started today, but even that did not entice me to want to drive all the way into town. I could have been doing something (anything) at our other house to finish sorting and moving stuff out, but the hardwood floors are being sanded and stained right now so the noise and smell in the house is awful. I could have/should have done many other things, too, that would have taken me away from the farm.

Instead, I got up early, checked to see if any deer were hanging around the house, checked the bird feeders, filled up the feeders, scrubbed out the bird baths and filled them up, did my exercises to strengthen my forearm muscles to help with the healing of my sore tendon on my inner elbow (called golfer's elbow or medial epicondylitis, although I don't golf and this injury likely came from all the painting and scrubbing I did at the farmhouse over the winter).

I made a smoothie for breakfast, had a shower, actually wiped down the tub and walls, answered some email, watched the eagles on the Decorah, Iowa webcam (I confess, I am a fan and love watching the three eaglets behavior and their growth), found and cleaned our hummingbird and butterfly feeders, made some sugar water, filled them and hung them up. A male ruby-throated hummingbird was there flashing his gorgeous throat in the sunshine (yea - sunshine!!) within minutes.

I sorted some stuff in my office, sorted some of my clothes (very little is organized yet), made some necessary phone calls, and then made a real lunch for me and my husband who was home by that time wet and freezing cold because the hose broke and somehow turned on him as he was doing some outside work at our other home to finish getting the yard ready "to show" when the house goes on the market.

After lunch, I finally planted the 8 baby spruce trees that my brother and I dug up at our other house (all volunteers in our yard from a neighbor's tree). So far, they are only planted in a nursery since we really don't know where we want them permanently. I also transplanted 3 columbine plants we also dug up and brought to the farm, all volunteers and in spots that did not look 'tidy' at our house soon to be put up for sale.

Next, I went to help my husband harvest our green garlic, which is the earliest garlic of the season. Green garlic is the early green garlic shoots with the clove that was planted last fall, all dug up together, washed and cleaned up. It is rarely seen in grocery stores (maybe a well-stocked Asian grocery store), but chefs love to use it in various ways, and you will occasionally see it at a farmers' market.

The garlic taste of green garlic is very mild, and we have found that you get the most 'bang for the buck' in terms of garlicky-ness when it is simply chopped and used raw such as mixed into any type of a salad, blended into a salad dressing, sprinkled over a stir-fry or scrambled eggs, mixed into the ricotta cheese for manicotti stuffing (heated a little, but not at a high temperature of a stir-fry), as just a few examples.

If you do find it for sale at a market, don't be too surprised at the high price. By harvesting the garlic now as the 'green garlic', we are sacrificing the plant that would produce a whole bulb or head of garlic later in the summer.

After spending the afternoon with all this transplanting and harvesting, we were both whipped but very satisfied. Tonight is the start of doing daily farm clothes washing! My husband will take care of washing all the green garlic and preparing it for our local chefs. We will keep and use the really tiny stalks, at least some with dinner tonight.

Right now I'm icing my elbow while typing (the tendon is healing - my pain level is way down from when this all started several months ago). I'm also watching my bird feeders at the end of the day. My thrills are seeing:
1) Both male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds
2) Male rose-breasted grosbeak
3) My small flock of white-crowned sparrows (I will miss them when they move on north soon)
4) Male and female cardinals
5) Male and female downy woodpeckers
6) More chickadees than I can count
7) Hearing a house wren singing during the afternoon near the house I put up for them
8) My husband calling me to see the egret fly over our farm
9) I could go on and on and on :-)

It's 8:30 now and time to make supper. My husband has changed clothes (I did that earlier) and is cleaning the green garlic in our triple sink while watching hockey in the basement. Supper will be something simple like a tofu stir-fry with Swiss chard served over brown rice and sprinkled with chopped fresh green garlic, toasted Naan bread and hummus and olive oil, followed by some frozen yogurt and stewed rhubarb (we need to use up last year's canning as the rhubarb crop will be coming soon!).

We'll be in bed before 11, up before 7, and maybe even during the night too if my husband hears the coyotes again like he did last night (I slept through the whole episode).

A day on our farm. As I said, it was a very satisfying day. I cannot wait until we are here full time. I don't mind going into town to run errands, and I love going into town to meet friends, but I'm weary of splitting time between two homes and completely ready to just have one home to settle in with my mind, body, and spirit. My husband and I were recently (only somewhat) joking about the constant full-speed pace we have been on for the past two years, hoping that pace did not lead either of us to an illness or running away to the sea to be a sailor like Piglet did (or at least talked about) in one of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Staying on the farm for a day,  harvesting the green garlic, and putting up the hummingbird feeder all sound like 'doctor's orders' to me. I'm glad I listened to my own inner wisdom without needing doctor's orders to take care of myself and finally take a day to enjoy our farm.

Sigh..........of contentment. :-)

PS - I missed my dog Kaya a lot this afternoon, realizing that when outside working, I am always looking at or for her, wanting to know exactly where she is (wondering if she is lying down and squashing something) while I am weeding, harvesting, etc. So I had another 'first', my first day of working outside on the farm without her. Our plan is to start thinking about getting another dog sometime after our older son's wedding in June. I want to be able to focus on a new dog and have that dog know its home, without the intense chaos of back and forth between these two homes like we have had these last two years and especially these last several months. I should have anticipated missing Kaya in this way, but I have been too busy and too tired to do so, which made the sudden awareness all the more poignant. 

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Good Read and A Good Listen

While running multiple errands in the car this morning, I had a chance to hear most of a radio interview with Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple and her new book The Chicken Chronicles) as she spoke about 'life's lessons' she has learned after recently beginning to care for her own backyard chickens.

In addition, when I got home, I saw the Washington Post article Why Being a Foodie Isn't Elitist, written by Eric Schlosser (author A Fast Food Nation).

Each author uses different words but is conveying the same message, which is (I'm using my own words now) 'to think about and care about the source of your food and to value the life (lives) sacrificed for your nourishment'.

I want to listen to Alice Walker's interview again, so I'll get out my Christmas i-Pod and (again) figure out how to download a podcast.

The blessing that my husband and I frequently say before meals gives thanks to all life and all hands involved with bringing our food from farm to fork. Eric Schlosser and Alice Walker help us remember to not only be grateful for our food but both thoughtful and compassionate, too.

Each of us is voting multiple times per day for the world we wish to see with the choice of the food we purchase, grow, and eat. I am voting for 'good food for all' as many times as possible. I am not exactly sure what a 'foodie' is or if I consider myself to be one, but by no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself 'elitist'. I am voting for the common good.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD