Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Data Supports Old Findings

Research being presented this week will support many previous studies that demonstrated women with breast cancer who are overweight or obese have increased risk of a recurrence and death from breast cancer. There are many unknowns regarding these observations, one of which has been if these women have been under-treated by chemotherapy dosing that was too low, because dosing was based on their 'ideal weight' versus their 'actual weight'.

The new study has eliminated that possibility from the mix of unknowns, showing that even overweight or obese women treated with chemotherapy based on actual weight (i.e. higher doses) had increased rates of recurrence and death from breast cancer compared to women of normal weight.

With ~2/3 of our population being overweight or obese plus being overweight or obese increasing the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, it can be expected that at least 2/3 of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer will be faced with this situation. What to do about it is still unknown, a big unknown. However, no one should be waiting for more studies in order work up the courage to ask their oncologist at the cancer treatment facility for a referral to a Registered Dietitian (RD), ideally one with a specialty certification in oncology nutrition (CSO).

The absolute worse thing one can do is listen to people (including friends, family, strangers, or staff) who say 'just don't worry about it, eat anything you want during treatment and then try to lose weight after chemo, radiation, and/or surgery is done'. Why do I think that is not good advice or 'best practice'? This study did not track (or report in this press release) how many of these women with increased recurrence/death had gained weight during treatment, which is common and also tied to poorer outcomes.

The bottom line in my ideal world: ALL cancer patients, but especially those with breast cancer who are overweight or obese, should be referred to a Registered Dietitian who is on the staff at the cancer treatment facility to work together on strategies for weight maintenance during therapy and then weight reduction (slow and sure, no 'crash' diets) afterward.

Optimizing the odds for survival from all cancer diagnoses requires a full-court press from knowledgeable and experienced team members. An oncology team without an RD, particularly one with specialized knowledge in oncology, is a member short of that optimal full-team effort. I know these RDs with the CSO specialization. I helped create this specialty, and I know how rigorous the certification exam is! (I am sure I could not pass it without a major investment of study time.) To a one, these RDs with CSO after their name are very smart, compassionate, and committed to oncology patients. They will be 'your new best friend', and I would insist on having one on my team if I or a family member would be diagnosed with cancer in the future.

Please give yourself the best chance for recovery, and if necessary, take a deep breath and be the squeaky wheel at your cancer center, both for yourself and all those patients following you. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Addendum: 4/12/2012 - An article published today (full article available free of charge) reinforces what I have said in this blog post, that weight management needs to be included as a component of cancer management for all breast cancer patients at all stages of cancer treatment and survival, in order to optimize odds for cancer survival (even if a woman is at normal weight when diagnosed and also before all research is completed verifying that weight loss will improve odds) and perhaps even more importantly, to reduce risk of other common pre-existing or exacerbated co-morbid health conditions such as heart disease. (Weight management and its role in breast cancer rehabilitation, DeMark, W et al, Cancer Volume 118Issue Supplement 8pages 2277–228715 April 2012)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Simple Truth

The simple truth. 
The poet Flannery O'Connor said "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd."

I am working toward the day when those of us who grow, produce, sell, seek, eat, share, care, teach, enjoy, and advocate for 'good food for all', with as much of it locally and organically grown as possible, are no longer odd. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I love weeding :)

It felt SO good to be out walking and weeding the garlic fields today. Last year at this time we were in the process of moving to the farm, then fixing up our 'city house' to sell, then having our older son's wedding in June. There was NO time, not one minute, to weed last year, so the fields were an embarrassing 'mess'. More importantly though, I love being in the fields listening to the frogs, birds, insects, etc.

I know I could use that time 'productively' by weeding and listening at the same time to archived interviews, lectures, or even music on my iPod, but I wouldn't be able to hear the music of the wind, and I would likely miss feeling the wind on my face, too, because I was already multi-tasking two things, which is almost too much for me to do anymore. If I were listening to something on my iPod, I would also likely miss hearing the splash of something landing in our pond. I love looking up from our fields with eager anticipation to see who has found us.

I love weeding. :) Every motion is soothing to me. I doesn't matter to me that 'the job is never done'. I love nurturing our garlic, and I love the feeling of being a member of the community on our farmland, paying attention to these details. (By the way, Dick loves doing other things on our farm as much as I love weeding.)

Field sparrows arrived last night and began singing on the farm today from nearly every direction. I don't know if they are early or not due to our extraordinary warm, even hot, March, but so much else is that they might be. They are a plain little brown sparrow. They are not 'feeder birds', but they do have a cute pink bill and a beautiful haunting song that they sing longer into the summer than most other birds. So I love having them on the farm, even if I never find their nests. It's enough for me to hear my little bird friends, day after day, throughout the day, and nearly into August, too. They love overgrown, shrubby fields, and we have plenty of those. Maybe that is why I hear them in stereo when I walk our land. :)

You are what you grow - cultivate your life - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FOS = "First of Spring"

FOS - I've been waiting and waiting and hoping and hoping that 'our' Eastern phoebe would come back to our farm again this year. Other birding friends throughout SE Michigan have already seen and heard one, so I was trying not to worry but just be patient.

This morning I woke up to a bluebird's 'cheery-cheery' right outside our bedroom window. I sat up to see if I could see it and instead what I saw was a grey and white bird on the tree branch just 3 feet away from our bedroom window, wagging its tail up and down, up and down, up and down. Woohoo!! Only one bird that could be - our Eastern phoebe had arrived. :)

The bluebird was momentarily forgotten with the excitement of the phoebe's arrival, and then even the phoebe was forgotten when my eyes saw a pair of wood ducks flying over the house, over the pond, and then into the woods behind our pond.

I was not even out of bed yet!! I think it is going to be a very good day. :)

Here are the links at to look at and hear these birds:
Eastern bluebird
Eastern phoebe
Wood ducks

I have not heard (peent) or seen our woodcock again. I will get out again this evening to see what I can find or hear. The frogs are almost deafening - however, hearing them, so many and so many different kinds, is music to my ears. I woke up over and over and over again last night to listen to them, even though I can hear them all day, too.

Other people have seen a few early warblers, but I have not seen any on our farm yet. Killdeer are now calling and winging overhead, another sign of spring. Next up on my FOS list is listening for the Eastern towhee ('drink your tea'). However, I wonder what I'll notice before that arrival!

I hope spring is springing, even sprung!, where you are living and that you are having a great day seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, or smelling your own FOS. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - I think I forgot to say, just in case you could not tell, that I love our farm. I still pinch myself with happiness every time I turn the corner off the main road to start the drive up to our farm. When the road changes from asphalt to dirt, I still feel little goosebumps. :)

PPS - I've heard 'patience is a virtue'. It is certainly far less consuming and exhausting than worry, which is most often a waste of time and energy. My phoebe's arrival this morning (bird, not dog) reminded me of that. I can even think of a couple of lines from one of Mary Oliver's poems that mentions patience. I'll find it again to remind myself of that. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Use the good china!

My word, it is still winter (officially) here in the upper Midwest and temperatures are forecast to hit 81 tomorrow and 86 on Wednesday! A friend casually wondered if 'the end' is coming. I said I'd be right over so we could have a glass of great wine together, also suggesting that she should pull up her garlic that is already sprouting so we could also enjoy all the 'green garlic' we could possibly eat. She is a chef and a dietitian and would be in chef's heaven, I am sure.

I could see her laughing, even by email, and then she responded by saying that she uses her good china, and her good silver (including the gorgeous silver serving piece I gave her when we moved last year), and for good measure, she spreads as much love around as she can every single day, 'just in case'. :)

I believe her - she is just that way - I love her to pieces.

And why not treat every day and every person as 'that special'? However, I confess that, no matter what, we are not planning on pulling up ALL of our garlic babies for a gigantic green garlic fest as preparation for 'the end'. If the end is near (or here), they will go down with us and the ship, because 'just in case - in reverse', we need our crop to sell and want our own 'good eats'. In reality, we'll share the love and our garlic if we are the only ones who have any. :)

Here is how our garlic looks today - it is just gorgeous. No matter if winter returns, which it likely will, they will all survive just fine.

Photo: Garlic Up! 3.19.12 - Dyer Family Organic Farm - and most of the paths are finally, finally!! dry enough to walk through without waders. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Launching (lift-off) is near

My website went live in early 1998, way back when I was one of only a handful of Registered Dietitians (RD) to have created a presence in the enormous world of 'cyberspace' with an individual website. My website went up before websites were available for the American Dietetic Association, American Cancer Society, American Institute for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, you get the idea. In fact, both my website as CancerRD and the now enormous and popular website WebMD went up virtually simultaneously, and I have always loved the 'coincidence' of the timing and the similarity of our names.

However, as time has marched on, I have not 'kept up'. I have two, no three, problems. My webmaster from the 90's 'left me' (yes, I was jilted!) several years ago, leaving me with a website 1) I could not manage myself and needed very expensive 'maintenance' because the coding was so old, 2) a website that looked old (so old that in fact I have now been called an 'accidental hipster' because apparently the 90's look is coming back - haha!),  and finally 3) ever since I started my dianadyer blog in 2007, added my kale blog and cancer victory garden blog in 2009, I feel like my brain is both jumping up and down and back and forth. I am unable to keep up with or track of myself!

When writing and publishing my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story in 1997 (yes, way back to the 90's again), way back when I had no idea what I was doing because I was an 'accidental author', I made the decision to trust the Universe that the help I needed with this book would come my way. Thus my job was two-fold: 1) to recognize that help and then 2) invite it in to my life. I have had lots of practice developing that skill.

I forget the exact straw that caused me enough (too much) frustration, leading me to finally put out 'the ask' a while ago, seeking help with a better sense of 'place' on the internet and a more settled place in my mind. A clear answer did not come overnight, but when I finally looked at and tried to understand all the responses I was receiving, I was able to see that all roads were leading to same person.

The process of bringing the various interests of my life (at least those I share on cyberspace) to one place, under one roof, to one home has been easier and more fun than I dreamed it could be. I'm told that we are almost ready to have an open house, that my new website is almost ready 'to launch' and that I need to start reviewing, reviewing, reviewing everything we have done to date.

In a nutshell, everything will be in one place, all three of my blogs, ALL of my recipes, all the relevant content from my website, all easily found and navigated from one homepage at You will still be able to subscribe to each blog on an individual basis. Not interested in kale? No problem! Only interested in kale? No problem - that is the only blog you will receive!

Oh this makes me nervous but excited. I hope there are not too many glitches, I hope I love 'the look' and 'the feel' when it's official, that I love it as much as I have while creating it. However, guess what, Diana? Remember this new website is a home in which I can move the furniture around, I can repaint the walls (all wallpaper is gone, gone, gone - woohoo!), bring in cut flowers from the wilds of our property and put them in a special spot for a day or two and replace them with something else. I am being metaphorical here of course, but you get the idea. I can update at will or leave one room to be the 'comfy' room where updating is not needed.

Please do not expect me to finish all the reviewing to be ready to 'go live' tomorrow. I still have such a long list of 'farm things' to do, and of course, my patient dog Phoebe really wants me to be done with this thing I sit in front of (my computer, of course) at the dining room table while she gazes outside through the sliding glass doors at the pond and fields where she would rather be exploring.

However, it is close, close, close, and I want my readers to be ready and maybe a little bit excited, too.

PS - This new website creation is not 'the opportunity' I mentioned in my last post that needs a decision. I will bring you up to date on that when the time is right, and I can find the time to collect my thoughts. :)

PPS - Also in that previous post, I added in some photos and text about my own white-crowned sparrows to complement what I wrote about Julie Zickefoose's white-crowned sparrows in her book Letters from Eden.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2012 - National Dietitian's Day #5!

I had to be reminded that today is National Dietitian's Day by a dietetics student who wrote on our farm's Facebook page! I am a little embarrassed about needing to be reminded, not having a blog post ready for posting, and I suppose I have plenty of 'excuses', but I cannot hazard a guess how any one of them would stack up on being 'good enough'. So I'll let you decide. :)

Let's see - what did I do today? What distracted me from knowing that today was the 5th National Dietitians Day and posting so late in the day?

1) I got up to take our dog out for her morning romp chasing away any deer who roam the farm at will during the night.

2) I had breakfast, a shower, and then checked my personal email (not Facebook)

3) I read Messenger, the first poem in Mary Oliver's book Thirst - thank you Elaine for mentioning it in your kind comment - tomorrow I will re-read it, thinking about it with another day's perspective. :)

4) I then re-read the poem Swan and also Lark Ascending in Mary Oliver's book Swan - especially these lines in Lark Ascending:

.....'and singing at the same time
joyfully, and yet
as if his heart would break'......

I often feel this, even though I do not understand it. Are joy and heart-break/heart-ache two sides of the same coin? Do they need to travel together? Maybe, I don't know, but I will try to keep my focus on the side of the coin that is joy, keeping the inevitable heart-break, the chronic heart-ache, on the back side, at least in the background, as long as possible.

5) I re-read the essay Letting it Go in Julie Zickefoose's book Letters from Eden - I love Julie's style of gardening, doing it as much for the white-crowned sparrows as any hope for an heirloom tomato. The white-crowned sparrows just love the mess in our 'landscaping', too. :)

Two late photo additions and text: My first white-crowned sparrows showed up at our farm last spring, loving our 'au naturale' landscaping (i.e., a delightful, wild-looking mess). There were 5-6 of them, just slightly bigger than the other small ground-feeding birds, looking and acting just like a tiny-tots hockey team, all suited up and stuffed into their padded uniforms, wearing a great-looking helmet, racing around and chasing the other birds and each other all over the 'rink', i.e., under the feeder. Watching this display after the white-crowned sparrows arrived, day after day, until the American tree sparrows and the juncos left their previously comfortable winter home for their northern summer homes, was one of the funniest things I have ever seen! And then one day, I realized the white-crowned sparrows had left for 'up north', too. I was sad to see them go, because I loved their 'antics'. I was eager to see them return in the fall, and now I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing them again for a few weeks this spring!

(I know this photo is probably fuzzy because it is 'blown up' too much. I still love looking at the great 'white crown' on this bird). 
6) I began designing the front and back labels for the Chive Blossom Vinegar that I will be selling at our farmers markets. (slow work, fun work, playing around with design) I chose and ordered the glass jars on Monday, they were delivered on Wednesday, I began designing today after getting a full visual feel for how large of a space I have to work with)

7) Had a great phone call with a friend, fellow (no, 'sister') farmer, ranging from high-energy dogs to my dynamite daughters-in-law. Oh yes, some talk was about garlic, pigs, farmers markets, and how to market (i.e., sell) our products for a fair price that leads to a living wage, too.

8) Drove to a play date for our dog Phoebe, with her former owners and their dog. (no lying around cooling off in the ponds today - she got WAY too smelly and needed a full-soap bath yesterday, which wore me out - ha! - maybe that is my good excuse for not being ready with a Dietitian Day post today!)

9) I weighed up some garlic for a friend who swung by, through our circle drive, with a beautiful sleeping baby in the car - no visiting - must keep baby sleeping. Phoebe, stop barking! I remember those days so long ago now!

10) Tried to catch up (haha!) on another friend/author's blog. I highly recommend that all cancer survivors read any of the well-written books by Wendy Harpham, MD and visit her blog On Healthy Survivorship. Wendy's blog is her 'labor of love', and I confess that I was a little bit relieved to see that some of her posts are as lengthy as mine can be. Wendy's writing is the reason I still subscribe to Oncology Times. Frankly, I get weary and find I am decidedly uninterested in reading anything about new treatment protocols, etc, etc, etc anymore, unless they are talking about providing services for cancer survivors (or cancer prevention, but not much, if any, of that in The Oncology Times). Instead, I look for Wendy's articles about being a long-term survivor, both struggling and easing her way through life after cancer and life with cancer, life that has included big doses of uncertainty and loss but also joy. Her articles for Oncology Times describe her experiences and thoughts during her cancer journey while wearing the dual hats of patient and doctor, written for oncologists, trying to give them a glimpse with some tools to be the best healer they can be. I also have started a heart-felt note to Wendy, but I need to create a special time to finish it. Notes like that are not just a 'dash it off and be done with it' type of note. :)

11) I decided I have spent way too much time (years) reading about science and food and 'current affairs' (i.e., politics - arghhh) and not nearly enough time reading poetry. I am still dwelling on 'how could I have missed Mary Oliver?' and who knows who/what else, so I signed off of a couple of blogs that make me grit my teeth most of the time, even when I basically agree with their views. (I remember mentioning that I finally stopped listening to the radio, even NPR!, last summer, choosing to spend any time in the car listening to favorite music CDs.) Instead I signed up for Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Thus when I start my day at the computer, I will read a bit of poetry and other literary tidbits, rather than those blogs or reading serious and stupid headlines (like which celebrities wore the same dress and who wore it better? omg - who cares? - sigh.......).

12) Head down to the basement with our dog after first tracking down my husband out in the barn to sit out a tornado warning in the safest room in the house, our brewery and canning room. (Being Midwest born and bred, plus seeing The Wizard of Oz at a vulnerable young age, I have had a life-long healthy fear of tornados and refused to even look at a house more than once that did not have a basement while we were farm-hunting!) While racing in from the barn and to the basement, my husband thought to bring everything we needed for the two of us to finish shelling the popcorn we harvested last fall. During that hour, I got a call on my cell phone (who is checking on us?) expecting my mother. Instead, totally unexpected, it was the farmer who won the poetry slam at the MOSES Organic Farming conference, just letting me know his winning poem was now up on Facebook. His poem brought me to tears, as did last year's winning poem. I'll write more about this later.

13) Tornado warning still in effect for 5 more minutes, however, now the thunder is really close and we get to see how our new dog is shaking, panting, and laying on our feet, her head in our laps, curling up small instead of in her usual stretching and sprawling completely relaxed repose. We're done with the popcorn, time for a beer (for us) from our supply of home-made and locally-brewed beers in the brewery.

14) So much to do, so much needs my attention. So many choices to make between what I need to do, what I want to do, what I love to do. What will I choose to do? Will I make my life crazy-busy, choosing to accept an 'opportunity' that would cause any 'sensible' dietitian to jump up and down with crazy delight or will I pass it up/pass it off? This sounds rather vague, I know that :), and hmm, hmm, maybe just maybe, this pending 'opportunity' that has been 'occupying' Diana's mind for the past month is the reason I am ignoring National Dietitian Day! Too much to think about, too few hours in the day that I don't need to sleep, too few brain cells for effective and chronic multi-tasking (age and late/lingering 'chemo-brain' are both a part of my life), too much of a desire to explore poetry and my birds and have my hands in the soil. One way or another, I'll let you know some of the details, yes, or no, big or little, what is appropriate, when the time is right, what I decide, how I decided, why I decided what to do about this 'opportunity'.

15) Ok - back to a tornado watch for our area until 11 pm tonight - ok - I still don't know what we're having for supper, being rather interrupted late this afternoon when I would typically be starting to think about possibilities. At least we still have power (this is a big concern because power outages happen often with storms/wind due to so many dead and still-waiting-to-fall ash trees, stripped of their beautiful life and brought to their knees by the non-native and invasive emerald ash borer), so scrounging up something will be easy to do. Popcorn! We have plenty of that - just kidding, but that is an option for later tonight if supper is skimpy.

16) So off to think about supper, my husband is off to the barn, Phoebe is still at/on my feet. I'll make a call to check on my mother again in a few minutes, upstairs where cell phone reception is better. I'll close up shop with my computer for the day, make sure Phoebe has one last chance to tell the deer 'scram!', read a bit for pleasure before falling into bed, sleeping well (unless of course those tornado sirens fire off again during the evening).

17) Let me just end by saying that I don't know if I am 'retired' or not as a dietitian. I still pay full dues, still do a lot of volunteer work at the national level for subgroups within my professional organization (The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the new name this year for the former American Dietetic Association). I am speaking next month at our Local Food Summit, billed as a Dietitian - Farmer - Author, so that sounds like I am still a dietitian and definitely not retired! I have three types of favorite emails to see in my Inbox: 1) from our sons/their wives and friends, 2) from dietetic students, interns, and other RDs, and 3) comments from my blogs, all of which I write as a dietitian. So, since 2 out of 3 of my favorite emails have something to do with being a dietitian, I think that means I am not retired.

I see I didn't even list checking Facebook. It was sometime in the late afternoon, before the tornado warning. I take that as a sign that I have very likely forgotten to include at least a dozen more things I did today, things that filled my day but clearly distracted me from focusing on National Dietitian Day. Oh right now I can remember one more - I washed the walls in our mudroom and kitchen where Phoebe had done artwork with her lovely feathery but muddy tail.

Just for fun (and if you have time) here are the posts I have written for the past 4 years on (or near) National Dietitian Day. Someday, I'll re-read them again myself to see how my thoughts may have evolved during these past five years.

2011  I'm Late Again
2010  It's All About Change
2009  There and Back Again
2008  Celebrate National Dietitian's Day (the first!)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thank you

Thank you to all of my readers who read to the end of my previous emotional post (I love cranes and phoebes) and then sent me their heart-felt thoughts, either indirectly through the Universe or by leaving a comment after that post. I have read and felt each of them multiple times during the past week, and I have been deeply touched by all of them.

Thank you for sharing bits of your own story, your own sadness, uncertainties, and also what has brought you happiness. I do believe 'we are all related' (in Lakota, the expression is – Mitaku Oyasin), so I truly feel that I share your path, no matter if you are a cancer survivor or not, as that is not the only 'hat' I wear. Life can be both difficult and beautiful for everyone. I am honored to walk your path and have your trust, even for only a short while with this blog.

I also believe we are here to help each other, so again, if my words and the layers of feelings my words represent have helped you to find peace and beauty in your day or in your world in spite of your challenges and your worries, the beauty you have found along with your peace comes back to me.

I am eager to read more of Mary Oliver's poetry, but I will hold myself back from rushing to the bookstore to buy each of her books. I may buy some, maybe all, eventually, but first I want to wait for each one to come into the library, to read slowly, to savor, to 'taste' each poem and each book separately, rather than become overwhelmed or even 'delightfully stuffed' like I often feel at a buffet of all locally-grown, organic food, all of which has been grown and prepared by friends so each dish absolutely needs a taste and dedicated enjoyment.

While I am waiting for each of Mary Oliver's books to arrive (Thirst is now ready for pick-up), I am reminded of some words I recently read from author-poet Louise Erdrich, whose early writing I stumbled onto and read when I was on chemo the first time in the 80's. I think it is past time to catch up with her books, too. :)

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” 
 Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

How fortunate we are to be here, even with cancer or other worries, sitting under that apple tree, tasting the sweetness of as much of life that is all around us as we can. :) Thank you again, my friends, for walking this journey together.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happiness is............

When we sell our 42 varieties of garlic at three (four this year) local farmers markets, we tell people they are buying and sharing our happiness at being 'old-new farmers' (at last) growing our community's local organic garlic, happiness at being food and flavor educators, plus our happiness at being our community's true front-line health care providers who are focused on prevention of disease by being stewards of the health of our soil, our food, our neighbors, and our local community.

We are doing our best to live our farm's mission:

"Shaping our future from the ground up"

where the word 'our' is intentionally very large, starting with 'our' common soil all the way up to 'our' community.

Happiness is also having a happy wet dog who does not know she is disturbing the frogs' happy mating haven! :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What else have I missed?

Writing my last post about cranes and phoebes took a lot from me to put into words. I have not yet had the emotional oomph to make the time to thoughtfully respond to those of you who took your time to share your beautiful comments (or send them to me silently through the airwaves). I will do that when I am ready to devote myself to re-reading and thinking deeply about each beautiful thought sent to me.

However, right now, I have to admit that I honestly and regrettably consider myself rather 'illiterate', and a perfect example is the fact that Julie's inclusion in her comment of a poem by Mary Oliver was my first exposure to this heart-stopping poet. Where have I been? What else have I missed in life?

I will also quickly confess here that I know I have missed a lot, a lot of really good stuff, because life is just too large to brush shoulders with everything, even being as fortunate as I am to have lived so long.

Oh, I also live in a house called Gratitude, and this poem made me feel as if a new friend was kissing away those final tears of sadness and grief from my cheeks.  My bedside now has one of Mary Oliver's multiple books of poetry. Our library does not have them all, but it has a bundle of them. The fact that the vast majority of them having a waiting list of readers a mile long confirmed that 'I have missed something', something good.  :)

I do love cranes and phoebes. I also love swans. Swans have been a touch-stone for happiness and healing for me for a long, long time, well, maybe even before this lifetime. After years and years (decades) of looking for Tundra swans (formerly called Whistling swans) during spring migration in flooded farm fields during the month of March, the breath-takingly beautiful and very special (uncommon, even rare) Trumpeter swans actually came to visit me on the small pond in the neighborhood where I lived before moving to our farm. Thus, it was suitable that Trumpeter swans ended up on the cover of my book when I finally had a 'real cover' made for the 2002 reprint instead of my having the information in a plain spoken booklet cover that I had done since I first published my book in 1997 (I was and am still a 'substance over style' type of girl).

I give you this backstory to lead into the astounding fact that of all the books of poetry that Mary Oliver has published, of all of those that our library has or doesn't have, of all of those that had the long waiting lists, the one lonely book sitting on the shelf hoping to be checked out was the one with the title Swan: Poem and Prose Poems. Accidental? I don't think so. :) I 'grabbed it', afraid that another hand from anyone, in fact everyone who all apparently know more than I do, would grab it out from under me.

Of course I skipped right to the poem entitled Swan. I'll just give you the last 3 lines. The first 14 are just as lovely but I'll let you have the gift of finding and reading the entire poem yourself.

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? 
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life? 

My older son and his wife are in town for a very sad memorial service to be held tomorrow, for a special friend of theirs who died a sudden and unexpected death, being hit while standing on a street corner by an impaired driver. There are clearly many ways and many times in a life to die, and only a very few of them could be labeled 'fair'. This death clearly was not 'fair'. Cancer is also not 'fair. It is no picnic, no walk in the park, and I wouldn't wish any type of cancer diagnosis on anyone. However, the walk one takes after hearing those chilling words "you have cancer' gives one ample time to change, to have new eyes, a new heart, a clear vision that time is short with the deep understanding that not a day is to be wasted without seeing some small beauty and then sharing that beauty by helping someone else in some small way. 

Here is a photo (a real photo - way before digital photography, at least for me!) I took of the flock of Trumpeter swans that came to see me, swimming toward me. There were six of them, but no matter how I tried, I could only get five in any photo at once. 

(..........such gifts, bestowed, can't be repeated........)
I hope you find your swan, crane, phoebe, your gift, whatever is special to you to see with your eyes or feel with your heart the beauty that is all around us. I hope you also live in a house called Gratitude, whether for one more day or a zillion more, and that you too, look around each and every day for what else you might have missed.

I live for and enjoy finding the next beautiful thing, or person, or poem, or idea, or garlic variety, or kale recipe, or etc, etc (you get the idea!) that I may have missed so far. It may be something entirely new to me or something there all along. In each case, my reaction, with a smile on my face, is on the order of "My gosh, where have you been all my life? How did I miss you?"

I wonder if it is possible to see life in this way, in this light, without having had to live in, crawl, grope, and work one's way through darkness. 

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I love cranes and phoebes

Driving through Wisconsin last week to the MOSES organic farming conference was hard on me. I didn’t expect it. Maybe some of these feelings happened in a small dose last year when driving through Wisconsin, but this year sad feelings came to the surface in spades and spilled out as we drove. 
I love Wisconsin, everything about that State. My deep love started as 'love at first sight' the first time I saw the golden dome of Wisconsin’s beautiful State Capitol building glowing (just glowing!) in the sunshine when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old while my family drove by the east side of Madison on our long, long drive (before interstate expressways were built) 'up north' to my grandparents' small resort on a lake. I cannot fully explain why that image became (and is still) burned into my brain and heart, but the memory feels like what the sudden appearance of a beacon from a lighthouse in the dark night must feel to a lost sailor. 
That experience not only started a love affair, it anchored me.  Sometimes the love I feel for Wisconsin is so 'real', so deep, that it just envelopes me in a comforting embrace like a favorite quilt. Even though I was not born in Wisconsin and did not grow up there, I have spent some time in Wisconsin nearly every year of my life. It would be an accurate statement to say that Wisconsin has been my emotional center, where I have felt at home, no matter where I lived. It has not mattered what part of state I visited over the years, from the magical northern woods and inland lakes created by the glaciers to the drop-dead gorgeous southern farms, the rugged Wisconsin shorelines of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, the winding Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, to the bustling city of Milwaukee and exciting campus life of The University of Wisconsin in Madison. I love it all, no matter what season. I even grew up a Green Bay Packer fan, living in Ohio and knowing nothing about football. :) 
I was fortunate that I had many choices for attending graduate school to study nutritional sciences. I turned down several really 'big name' schools to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison (also a ‘big name’ in that field, just not ‘East Coast Big’). I cried with happiness crossing the state line into Wisconsin as my husband and I moved to Madison in August 1973, and for years and years, until last spring, my computer’s screen-saver photo has been one of me and Bucky Badger arm in arm!

As my husband and I crossed the state line into Wisconsin this year, I felt myself get crabby and sad and cynical. I was grouchy beyond compare, I was ‘beyond the pale’, and I could not stop myself. I was lashing out, doing and saying anything, which I finally realized I was doing instead of crying. I was taken aback with surprise by the depth of what was happening inside of me as we drove across the state. I finally told my worried husband, “I am so sorry. It’s not you! I have to do something, I don’t know what, I need to regain my composure, my center, before we get to this conference, or it will all be a waste of time and money for me.” 
The title of this post is “I love cranes and phoebes”. So where am I going with this rambling about Wisconsin and my sadness? Fortunately, I’m going to a bridge, to another anchor, my new anchor, my new center(s). :)
We were driving on backroads instead of I-94, more-less following our nose west without a clear roadmap or plan, and found ourselves in front of a sign for the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. “OH!! OH!! Stop!! Let’s go in!”, says Diana. This NRW is where the whooping crane chicks are being raised for their re-introduction.  (I LOVE cranes! - the first part of my post title.) Of course, it was still too early in the year for any/many cranes to be back. It definitely was the ‘off-season’, which is always my favorite time of the year anyhow, anywhere. Most of the marshes were still frozen over, and it was very soothing, centering to just stand outside and look, feel, breathe in the smell of the pines in the still, cold Wisconsin air, and listen to the silence (I was listening for red-headed woodpeckers, but none came within my hearing range), imagining what these marshes will sound like filled with life, the cranes and geese, other waterfowl, and more back for the summer, but right now just enjoying the quietness. That was enough for me. :) 
But wait, no, apparently that wasn’t enough. As I wandered through the Visitor Center, looking for a small souvenir Necedah NWR pin to buy for myself, hoping to find one with an image of a whooping crane as a reminder of this unexpected beautiful and soothing place, I found a friend on the bookshelf. I found a book by Julie Zickefoose, an artist and writer who brings joy to my heart with everything she does. 
Julie was in the right place at the right time maybe 10 years ago for me. I consider myself only one of her many zillion long-time ‘fans’ and quickly said yes when a friend asked me to drive over to a Bluebird Festival in Jackson, Michigan where Julie was the keynote speaker, the festival’s ‘big draw’ that year. (And yes, Julie alone is a reason to find and attend a birding festival where she is speaking. Check out her website for her appearances and updates and her blog for a dose of her daily writing - Julie is prolific, and I read every word, in large chunks, not every day.) 
I’m going to try to keep the remainder of this post as short and succinct as possible by simply saying that Julie said ‘the right thing’, to remind me that my dream was land, a pond, a farm. Yes, life had gotten in the way, cancer seems to do that in a very big way, more than once, but it was now time to remember, to revisit, and move toward that long-held dream that started so long ago in Wisconsin when my husband and I were young and starting our life together. 
Since the day I met Julie, I have been moving, step, step, step to my new anchor, our farm here in Michigan. So seeing her book Letters from Eden (yes I bought it and will get her to sign it the next time I meet her, whenever that might be) brought tears to my eyes, tears of happiness, tears of knowing I have a home I love, my own Eden, not the tears of sadness or tears of loss that I had been wanting to cry while crossing Wisconsin this year. 
Thank you, Julie, thank you for being in the right place at the right time, again, for having words to say again, just when I needed you, again. 
I know I have my own Eden on our farm, here in Southeast Michigan, even with its 40 years of needed ‘projects’. Since my husband and I made the difficult, lengthy, and entirely rational decision to stay in Michigan to start our farm, our new life, I have slowly begun to see everything about Michigan with new eyes, new hopes, just like a new love. Not the ‘hit you between the eyes’, straight into the heart love like that ‘love at first sight’ and long love I have had with Wisconsin, but more like love late in life that slowly builds within you so that one day you realize that you cannot imagine life any other way. :) My husband and I have deliberately chosen to finally put our roots down, deep into Michigan soil, building our farm and sharing our love and happiness here within our community. I am guessing that I just needed the chance to grieve one last time while driving across Wisconsin to both identify and acknowledge what I let go with that choice. 
I could easily end there, but isn’t there also something in my post title about phoebes? What is a phoebe? Oh, an Eastern phoebe is the most plain-looking little bird if you only want to look at color, nothing that would say ‘look at me’, ‘look at me’ just by glancing at it. But look again, really look at a phoebe and you will see subtleties in color that are spectacular and would certainly entice and challenge a watercolor artist. Really look at a phoebe, watch it, and suddenly you notice that it wags its tail up and down. 

Really look at it, follow it in flight, and if you are lucky, lucky, really lucky you will find its nest, probably somewhere on your house or barn, under your deck or a nearby bridge, someplace where it is your neighbor, living right with you. Really look at it, look at it long enough to listen, and suddenly you will hear it calling its name “Phoe-be”, unmistakably, like it is introducing itself to you, over and over. Keep looking and you will see its beautiful, alert black eyes, its ‘chunky’ head, its quick flight to catch an insect (snap!) and, if you are still watching, you will be amazed as you see it turn in the air on a dime to head back to the same branch. 
Have I said yet that I LOVE phoebes? :) I loved listening for them at our family’s home in northern Wisconin each summer. I counted it as a ‘banner day’ last spring after finally moving to our farm when I saw our farm’s first Eastern phoebe in one of the apple trees in early spring (the leaves were not out yet). I knew what it was on sight - there was instant recognition, like love at first sight when eyes meet and speak from across the room! “Oh, where have you been? Thank you for coming to see me!” The joy went straight to and deep into my heart. :) You can see and listen to an Eastern phoebe here
I never found a nest, but later in the summer, I saw a ‘different’ bird near our bird feeders with all other ‘usual suspects’. This familiar but different bird was just ‘hanging out’ on a branch, not eating at the feeders. I studied it, looking carefully, and then I saw it fly out a short distance, “Snap!”, and quickly fly back to the same branch. Oh, it was clearly a member of the flycatcher family, but could that be a phoebe? It is the right size, but just doesn’t look quite right, there was extra color on its tummy, which led me to read in and look more deeply at my dozens of bird identification books. Is it a different type of flycatcher? No! A young phoebe! Yes, that is why it was familiar but also different. So this young phoebe either just showed up from who knows where or my spring phoebe had found a mate and nested nearby without my finding it. 
Wait, wait, I am coming to the end here and tying this all up - really. :) 
Back to Julie Zickfoose. During her talk at the Bluebird Festival where I met her so many years ago, Julie showed slides of her beautiful young daughter who she named Phoebe because of her own love for this bird. Oh, how secretly envious I was that Julie had a daughter who she could name Phoebe. I would not have that chance, and I wondered how I could have a Phoebe in my life. Could one ever name a pet of any kind Phoebe? I remember smiling and wondering as I sat listening to Julie’s talk and then forgot about what seemed like just a silly, passing thought.
…………..until several weeks ago (before my trip to Wisconsin where I bought Julie’s book) when I suddenly woke with a start, sat straight up in the middle of the night, and said “Phoebe!!” That is it! That is the name I will call our new dog, our beautiful new dog who came to us as with a seemingly incomplete name, which is “ ‘B’, the dog”.  Thus my husband and I have been playing around with different names for the past several weeks, and our dog seems happy to answer to anything that has a “B” sound in it. So my husband can call her whatever name he enjoys, but I have begun calling her Phoebe. I love the sound of it, I love the images in my mind of a sprightly little bird when I watch my active and very busy new dog. 
Imagine my surprise and pure pleasure while reading Letters from Eden to find Julie writing about her love for Eastern phoebes.  As I read that essay last night, I was able to remember the part of Julie’s talk so many years ago in which she described how that love for phoebes led up to naming her daughter, along with remembering my ‘silly’ thought about using the name Phoebe for a pet. :)
Julie, thank you, thank you for being who you are, thank you for sharing your many gifts, your own life’s journey, and your family (including your own dog) with so many, indeed the universe. Your images from both your brushes and words have brought me so much joy over the past 25 years (likely more, I don’t clearly know). I am sure you don’t meet most of your fans, so I count myself among the lucky lucky ones.  I cannot say thank you enough. 
You brought me back to my center. You are a part of my dreams, our farm, my life and happiness today, and now also a part of our new dog, Phoebe, bringing even more happiness. That is a pretty large and solid center. You brought me back more than once and in more than one way. I am deeply grateful. 
I recently read a beautiful quote about thanks, happiness, and gratitude that seems perfectly appropriate here: 
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, 
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” 
~~ G. K. Chesteron
I know this post is lengthy. I am sorry. I don’t expect anyone to still be reading at this point, as I wrote mainly for myself tonight. Believe it or not, I could have written so much more, but to write any more about my reasons for sadness and sense of loss would not have added anything to the overall gist of what I am experiencing and saying in this post. 
It has been at least 15 years since I did an ‘inventory’ when finishing my breast cancer therapy in 1995, finally giving myself permission for the first time ever to identify and grieve a lifetime of losses experienced due to my childhood cancer with its multiple after or late effects, which does include my two subsequent breast cancer diagnoses and all the multiple and on-going health complications that I manage with a combination of good medical care, vigilant self-care, and duct tape (just kidding here!). I know I am one of the lucky ones, but I guess the need to find the time to ‘take inventory’ periodically (which of course includes more than grieving losses but also making intentional choices about what to keep and what to change in one’s life) just snuck up on me during that recent road trip. Maybe being away from the happiness and security of my new-found centers was needed to allow these feelings to all come to the surface and wash away. 
Spring is here, spring with all its attendant hopes and joy. A pair of Canadian geese are swimming on our new pond, as is a pair of mallards. Bluebirds are looking at houses, pairs of chickadees and nuthatches are visiting the feeders together, red-wing blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds are back (which means they will be pigs at my feeders), robins seem to have stopped their chortling and roving through the farm as a ‘gang’, and I have a ‘mission’ of listening for the woodcock I heard PEENT! earlier this week and hopefully finding a section of our farm where it will do its sky dance. 
We still have mud, mud, and more mud everywhere (including paw prints throughout the house and on the bed). We don’t know how the garlic will make it through this warm winter (the 5th warmest in our county since records began). The paths between the raised beds are still flooded, as are many spots in our newly opened up fields. 
However, I am now at peace and cannot wait, I cannot wait! until I hear the sandhill cranes bugling as they fly overhead to their summer homes, which should happen any day. I also cannot wait until a phoebe shows up in our apple tree again this year. I will be looking for it and listening, remembering not what I have lost, but seeing and feeling the joys and wonders I have everywhere, all around me, every single day. 
I keep a permanent bookmark at the beginning page of the chapter called March in A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. The opening sentence is one of the first ‘quotes’ I memorized because I loved it, not because it was an assignment:
One swallow does not make a summer, 
but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, 
is the Spring” 
Since geese seem to stay all year now, I have changed that opening line to say ‘one skein of cranes is the spring’. This year, I will further modify that opening sentence to say:
One swallow does not make a summer, 
but one skein of cranes, cleaving the murk of March thaw, 
plus the sight and call of one Phoebe, 
is the Spring. 
Welcome Spring :) :)
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Recipe: Cauliflower-Butternut Squash Soup

Here is a very simple soup recipe based on what I had in the refrigerator and wanted to use up. I cook like this a lot, enjoying the process of combining what I see that looks like it will provide a variety of color, taste, and texture, even smells!

Cauliflower-Butternut Squash Soup


1 large head cauliflower
1/2 butternut squash (I only had this much - you could easily use the entire squash)
1 quart vegetable broth (here is where I quickly used the vegetable peelings in my freezer to make fresh broth)
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 teaspoon hot curry powder (to taste - your family might like a spicier soup)
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste (I used ~1/2 teaspoon)
1 kale leaf, chopped small
Plain unflavored yogurt


Cut the cauliflower into florets, peel the squash, remove any seeds and strings from the inside, cut into 1-inch chunks and steam until soft (add this steaming liquid to the broth)

Make the vegetable broth as I have described in a past blog post (scroll down a bit), using the stove top if you don't have time to use the crock-pot, strain and use 1 quart for this soup, saving the rest for another day.

Add steamed cauliflower and squash to the strained broth. Carefully use either the immersion blender or a regular blender to make the soup smooth, remembering you are using a hot liquid that you do not want splashing in your face or around the room (the first couple of times using an immersion blender can be tricky!).

Add the milk and spices - whisk together. Reheat gently if needed.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with chopped kale.  Easy, beautiful, and delicious! Yum, yum!!!

(Photo: Head of cauliflower and 1/2 large butternut squash)
(Photo: Cauliflower and butternut squash in the steamer)
(Photo: Curly kale, chopped small with chef's knife)
(Photo: Cauliflower-butternut squash soup with yogurt and kale garnish, salad, apples, and whole grain bread)
This is a recipe where kale is decoration and edible. :)

Here is the food blessing my husband and I read tonight before our meal. I loved the images of what we are eating, and I also learned about an author I had not known.

When we eat the good bread,
we are eating months of sunlight,
weeks of rain and snow from the sky,
richness out of the earth.
We should be great, each of us radiant,
full of music and full of stories.
Able to run the way clouds do, able to
dance like snow and the rain.
But nobody takes time to think that all he eats all
these things and that sun, rain,
snow are all a part of himself.

~~ Monica Shannon (1905-1965)
Winner of the Newberry Medal in 1935 for her book Dobry

Tonight we ate the good bread, cauliflower, butternut squash, kale and much more with gratitude, thinking about being full of music, running like the clouds with the wind, and dancing like the snow and the rain! 

And speaking of dancing, guess what I found out today? Our new dog likes dancing with me, standing on her back legs, holding hands with her front paws, as she mouthes my hands softly with her teeth (no broken skin thank goodness!). She also had a good time barking (when not gnawing on me) as we danced together to a really great Scottish dance tune by Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster. What a surprise to have her suddenly on her back legs joining me as I took a quick break from computer work this afternoon to dance around the dining room table when this tune was on Pandora! I laughed until tears were streaming down my face. :) Of course this new-found love of her dancing with me will not help me one bit to train her to not jump and lick my face whenever she feels enthusiastic about something! If we ever get a picture of her dancing, my husband will need to be 'on the scene' when the moment occurs.

Soup or dancing? Soup or dancing? Which shall I choose? Dancing, hands down, or paws up! :)

I hope you take the time to remember Monica Shannon's poem when you eat, thinking about the fact that all you eat is all of these things and more, and that the sun, rain, snow, plus the rich earth are now a part of you. I certainly enjoy envisioning that this array of movement, colors, smells, shapes, textures, temperature, and flavors are part of who I am. The image is beautiful, indeed it is radiant. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, March 2, 2012

Real Spring has Arrived!

How do I know, besides the muddy paws I wrote about last night? Yesterday at dusk I heard something, a bird call, I had not heard before when outside. Just one, just once. At least I had not heard it on our farm, even though I have been hoping I would hear it for decades. However, even so, I couldn't quite 'place it'.

Only because I belong to a group of local bird enthusiasts who share sightings and questions via the internet did I remember what I heard last night when the reports came through my computer this morning from two friends, including one who lives in my part of the county, both of whom heard the American Woodcock last night or early this morning saying its classic PEENT! The call I heard last night was much softer than what I have been 'playing in my head' all these hopeful years, which is why I probably didn't immediately recognize it, even though it seemed 'familiar'.

No photo of my own, but here is a link for you to go see a picture of this very cute bird and hear the PEENT! for yourself. Now my quest will be to look for a spot on our farm where the male does his 'sky dance' hoping for spring fling with a very lucky lady woodcock! Every year when I re-read Aldo Leopold's book A Sand County Almanac, I have always had a secret envy of his farm and his woodcocks. Just seeing and hearing one on our farm is enough for me. If I find a mating ground on our farm, I will be beyond happy. :)

A real reason to get up early, early, early!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rocket Dog

Life feels like it is on 'full-speed ahead' these days. It is hard to say why I feel overwhelmed, swamped, underwater, hanging onto a rocket, except my 'project list' just keeps growing. :) I have listed everything on a sheet of paper, which only makes me realize I AM way 'over-committed'. What to give the old heave-ho? I don't know. I enjoy every single thing on my list!

Maybe I'm feeling overwhelmed and even grouchy because March is officially the 'month of mud' in the Upper Midwest (even tho' the entire winter seems to have been muddy this year), and having a dog with muddy paws means that the house is never clean, no matter how many towels are by the front and back door, no matter how many rugs there are by those doors for all of us to 'land on' while we get our muddy boots and paws off. I try not to be grouchy about that........

I am eager to get outside, except being outside anywhere and everywhere is mud, mud, mud! It is funny to see that our new dog does not like muddy feet (she actually springs 10-15 feet through the air to launch herself over muddy spots) but is happy to lie in a puddle of any size! Of course it is not warm outside yet, so now I have a wet, muddy dog, who has so little fur on her tummy that when wet, her outside tolerance in the cold is lower than mine! And her tail! Her long feather with trailing muddy fur - I had my first experience today where she whipped around while I was leaning over to wipe her belly and got a face-wipe with her long, wet, furry, feathery, muddy cold tail! Woohoo! That was a wake-up call, even though I was already wide awake!

Here is a photo I took. Our rocket dog was running flat-out at full speed from one end of the farm to the other back to my husband who takes her out first thing in the morning, but then she saw me, she did a quick left turn and never slowed down. I was outside taking photos of the moon setting at sunrise so, even though I was surprised to suddenly see our dog racing toward me from the side, I had just enough time to turn to get an 'action shot'. I was pretty steady even though I had a furry rocket barreling right at me, so this is actually what I saw, and you can see her in full motion, too!

(Photo: Furry Rocket Dog!)
My objective while attending the MOSES Organic Farming Conference last week was to finalize thoughts about organizing our farm's new Garlic CSA (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture), which is essentially a 'garlic club' where the members pay a yearly membership amount at the beginning of the growing season and will be guaranteed the biggest and best of a wide variety of our harvested garlic. I'm sorry to tell all my readers that our CSA is for local buyers only, so if you want some, you'll need to find a friend in the Ann Arbor area besides us (we only ship to our sons and our siblings), have them buy our garlic, and then they can ship our garlic to you. I finally got our Garlic CSA brochure put together, an email list gathered from our customers who indicated interest in the CSA, and Emailed that out tonight. (Writing this blog post tonight is my 'reward' for getting that big step done.)

Now to get the brochure actually printed up and ready to take to our Local Food Summit on April 2, step, step, step!!

Here are a few more recent farm photos:

(Photo: Cooper's Hawk who first just sat in a hidden sunny spot in the evergreens early in the morning and then spent about 10 minutes trying to slowly, slowly sneak its way along the edge of the driveway to the bird feeders, although was unsuccessful catching breakfast while I watched. Our dog saw the hawk first and began barking "Mom, come, come, look, look". I love that! I actually first thought she had seen a rabbit in the bushes. A hawk is a great sighting! I definitely love our dog!)
(Photo: Male Downy woodpecker - see the red spot on the back of its head, which the female lacks -  right outside the window. Our dog does not bark at this bird!)
(Photo: Moonset at sunrise on my birthday - a beautiful way to start the day and another year of cancer survivorship!)
(Photo: Valentine's Day Dessert - brownies made by a friend from Michigan-grown chestnut flour, local organic strawberries frozen by us last summer, date pinwheel cookies baked from the last remaining frozen dough made during the holidays. Our other big Valentine's Day treat was fresh artichokes to serve at our home-cooked dinner - yum, yum - we ate better than most! I hope my niece CG recognizes the tablecloth she brought us from France. The glass plate was a wedding present, made at the West Virginia Glass Factory where my husband's large extended family on his mother's side worked if they were lucky enough to get a job there instead of the coal mines of West Virginia.)
(Photo: Bamboo to remind me to 'bend, not break', even if my dining room table is now filled with piles of paperwork for my 'too many' projects.)
I posted some of my thoughts about bamboo earlier this year, particularly as I feel it relates to the journey of cancer survivorship, the importance of bending but not breaking with the multiple, on-going, and both uncertain and difficult challenges.  I did finally get my act together to buy some bamboo for myself this year, 3 stems in fact. When I look at them, I remind myself of the challenges I have overcome, the support I have had from my long-term friends and family, and the support I have from my newer friends including my blog readers, thus the importance of three stems and seeing the three of them interwoven. No one gets this far alone. At least I cannot imagine the feeling of being so alone that doing so without help would feel triumphant and not just plain sad and lonely. 

What do I know and enjoy about March and mud? Spring is now truly just around the corner, and all these projects will get done somehow if they are actually important and meant to happen. Truly, these challenges are 'small potatoes' compared to getting through my multiple cancer therapies .......... :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row - I am starting another year!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD