Monday, November 26, 2012

I have to laugh!

Apparently one of the writers at the on-line newspaper the Ann Arbor Chronicle reads my blog and thought comments and photos in my last post about the piles around our farm was 'news-worthy enough' to re-publish. I have enjoyed reading this grass-roots source of what's happening in my neighborhood since its initial launch in September 2008.

Really, I just had to laugh. I never expected to make the local news for our piles of stuff!

So I conferred with my husband for tonight's update. Piles, piles, and more piles. I realize I forgot to mention that we also have piles of trickle tape for our irrigation next spring, piles (now neatly stacked) of crates for storing and carting around our garlic, piles and piles and piles in the loft of our barn of garlic papers and garlic stems left over from tearing apart our seed stock before the fall planting. Our dog Phoebe has enjoyed creating and using her 'nest' made from these garlic left-over piles (see photos below), but this week we are going to work on cleaning up these piles because we actually have a plan for re-using all of these piles of the garlic left-overs.

We also have piles of spent coffee grounds that we pick up from Moonwinks Cafe every day that we will use as mulch on our hops next spring plus piles of leaves that fell and are now trapped inside our fenced family garden, which will be used to mulch the paths next spring/summer. Last but not least, we still have piles of unpacked boxes in our basement, garage, my husband's office, and one upstairs bedroom.

In all fairness however, we do have fewer piles of unpacked boxes than at this time last year, and our big piles of sand and drainage tiles are gone because those projects have been completed without left-overs. In addition, our pile of 60 bales of straw delivered earlier this fall is also gone because 100% has been used to mulch the garlic we just planted (we do need to order more, so it is likely that we'll have a small pile left over to store on our barn porch this winter).

I want to end by highlighting the loft that our sons built us this past summer (see photo below) to organize and hold our very important pile of scrap lumber. So, we do still have an enormous pile of lumber (needed to build our upcoming chicken coop - my husband is looking at plans right now), but at least we can see what we have now.

Phoebe keeping me company as I work in our barn loft by lounging in the 'nest' she made of garlic stems from the soft-neck garlic varieties. Piles of stems from the hard-neck varieties - which would not be cozy to lie in - are stacked up behind her.

Phoebe looking like a loon on her nest (wearing her orange vest during hunting season) making me laugh at her silliness. 

Our newly constructed loft built into the equipment porch of our barn to store our scrap lumber piles - designed and built by our two sons last summer. They saw a serious need and then took charge to 'get it done'. 

Wait - really - last but not least, I just remembered that we have three more huge piles. One, a pile within a box of used string or bailing twine that we have used for hanging our garlic to dry plus other past projects, which we use again and again as much as possible. Two, we have piles of pallets that we use to lay out our garlic after harvesting before we bundle it up with all that string to hang in the barn loft to cure. Three, we have piles and piles of bricks and pavers that we removed from areas around the house, all neatly stacked until we decide how to use them in a future project. Ok, now I'm done confessing about our piles of stuff. :)

Yes, we are a real farm. We have heard occasional comments referring to us as 'hobby farmers', even 'gentlemen farmers'. No, I don't think so. :) :) We have a lot going on here. Come spend a day with us, or a week, or a month. We work so hard every day (our bodies and our brains) during the growing season that the dietetic student who lived and worked with us for two weeks last summer went home to rest!

Thanks, Ann Arbor Chronicle for making my day! I'm still smiling. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our last 2012 farm newsletter

Here is the link for the final 2012 farm newsletter. We have lots of winter projects (both inside and outside), so we'll continue to be very busy, but it feels very good to have our 2013 garlic in the ground and mulched, with the big push finally done for 2012.

The newsletter has a few photo updates plus information about a private garlic tasting event we will be hosting at our farm as a silent auction fund-raising event for a local non-profit organization Growing Hope . If you live in the Ann Arbor area (or have friends or family who live here), please consider bidding on this item (sneak preview - here is the direct link). As the auctioneer says at auctions, "Please bid high and bid often". All money goes to Growing Hope, a very worthwhile local non-profit organization dedicated to helping people in Ypsilanti, Michigan improve their lives and their community through gardening and increasing access to healthy foods.

Tonight we'll be unpacking some of our holiday decorations. It is almost surreal (and very exciting!) that we have already bought our Christmas tree.

Here is one photo of our barn at sunset (sorry the real 'glow' is behind me), but I love this photo because it shows that we have actually had time to even clean up our family garden, too, something that never got done at all last year (we planted around a lot of weeds this year, including 2011 corn stalks - ha ha - oh well!).

Our barn and family garden at sunset, November 21, 2012

Now you know we are a 'real' farm because we have piles of 'stuff' everywhere. Here are piles of top soil, wood chips, small stones, brush. We also have piles of compost and piles of field stones and larger rocks harvested from our fields. Oh, yes, we also have an enormous burn pile, stacked wood, hmm, I suppose, I am sure!, there are more piles. One thing I have learned is that nothing (I mean it - nothing) is non-chalantly thrown away on a farm. Our goal is to finally, really get organized during this coming winter so we never have to waste a minute looking for what we know is here 'somewhere'! :) 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow (even those piles of essential supplies!) - inch by inch, row by row, 

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Butternut Squash-Tomatillo (and Garlic!) Enchiladas

Here is a new recipe I tried last week (before Thanksgiving). Since it is now getting dark so early in the afternoon, we quit our outside work much earlier than during the summer, which means 1) we have more time to cook at the end of the day and 2) we are not (usually) too tired to do so.

I love experimenting with what we have available to cook, buying as few ingredients as possible, and even adding ingredients (in this case, much more garlic than the original recipe called for plus some black beans for more plant-based protein). I did need to purchase some tortillas, but not much else was needed in the grocery cart. This recipe may seem like it is time-consuming but it easily made 4 meals for us (8 servings), so we ate 2 and froze 2 for future 'fast-food' when we are tired, or even 'lazy'. :)

Ingredients (inspired by a recipe at

1# tomatillos (I used some of frozen tomatillos from our garden)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth (I used low-sodium broth left over from some other dish and then added water)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (from our garden plus I added 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley)
1 whole jalapeno pepper (carefully remove seeds - I used a frozen pepper from our garden)
1/2 cup chopped green onions or green garlic (I used our frozen chopped green garlic)
1 Tbsp. sugar (I used our own honey)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2#) - I just used a typical size squash without weighing it
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, peel, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1-15 ounce can black beans, drain, rinse
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used organic sharp cheddar)
8-8 inch tortillas

To prepare the sauce:
Peel the outer skins off the tomatillos and blanch in boiling water 4-5 minutes.
Place tomatillos in food processor or blender with stock, herbs, green garlic and jalapeno pepper
Transfer to a saute pan and simmer over medium heat
Stir in honey and pepper
In a small saucepan, heat the butter, whisk in flour to make a roux
Add roux to sauce, salt to taste, set aside.

To prepare the squash filling:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut squash in half lengthwise to clean out the seeds (save them).
Place squash on a baking tray (on parchment paper) and roast until soft, 40-50 minutes.
Let cool until you can scoop out the meat and then mash until lumpy, not completely smooth.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin seeds, and onions and saute 2-3 minutes (do not all the garlic to become crispy)
Add squash and black beans and set aside.

To assemble:
Quickly dip the tortillas in the tortilla sauce to soften them. Place on a plate.
Divide up the filling into 8 equal portions right in the saute pan.
Add one portion of filling to each tortilla, spread evenly from end to end, roll it up, and place in a baking dish until full (8 fits perfectly into a 9x13 size pan)
Top all enchiladas with tomatillo sauce
Top sauce with a little bit of shredded cheese
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly in the middle.

Serve with a fresh salad and other vegetable plus some guacamole. Beautiful and delicious!

Here are my photos:

Tomatillos - 8 ounces (still frozen, husks removed before freezing whole)

Tomatillos - 1# boiling for 4-5 minutes

Fresh cilantro, 1 jalapeno pepper (next time I would add 2), and frozen chopped green garlic

Fresh parsley added to sauce

Sauce chopped in food processor (a blender might have made it more of a puree, but I like the chunkiness of this sauce)

Butternut squash roasting (next time I would cut it into 2 halves and roast it flesh-side down in a bit of water like the directions stated - this way dried it out a bit too much)

The sauce on the left, a tortilla ready to be filled in the middle, and a small view of the filling on the right

The 8 tortillas rolled up in the baking pan

The 8 tortillas with sauce and cheese on top ready to bake

The enchiladas baked and ready to eat!

A close up view of the enchiladas - these are very filling with one enchilada easily enough for 1 person at a meal (thus this recipe made 8 servings)

Last but not least, the squash peelings which were saved as special treats for our dog Phoebe who loves most vegetables! Pie pumpkins from our farmer friends Jill and Nate Lada of Green Things Farm in Ann Arbor, MI are in the upper left corner ready to bake in the oven to make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. My husband forgot to save the pumpkin peelings for our dog - we found her eating them after retrieving these peels from the compost pile! We have a resourceful dog. :)

A perfect winter night meal - I am sure we will make this again, even for company. It was that good!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! I know I have been absent a lot from my blogs, but I could not let this holiday go by without sharing and joining all of you on this day with gratitude for so much in life.

We are really close to having all of the garlic in the ground for the 2013 harvest - yea! All that is left to do is treat some of the diseased garlic we separated out from our precious seed stock (arghhhh) and plant it in a separate part of the field to see what will happen next year. If it is healthy and thus edible, we will eat it ourselves and not sell or plant it again.

We are grateful to know that our crop failures this year were only partially due to our own management and mostly due to the perfect storm of weather conditions starting last fall that created the optimal growing conditions for a full-blown infection from a common soil fungus that hit garlic growers across the country causing significant crop losses.  Some of our varieties had a 40% loss in the field and even some of our perfect seed stock (the best of the best) showed signs of the infection when we started to tear them apart to plant with about a 10% loss overall. Some of that is what we will experiment with and only use for our own family garlic.

Of course, best organic practices include rotating fields, which we have done and which we will continue to do on a 5-year schedule, but because it is weather conditions that are the baseline culprit, we will be even more attentive at all phases of the growing season next year to minimize the infection's cultivation and spread and resulting financial loss.

We have lots of winter projects that need our attention, so we will be switching gears next week to those.

In the meantime, I want to give you a repeat recipe because it is so easy and so delicious. It is for a Cranberry Chutney that I am just crazy about. The original recipe came from The Farmer's Diner in Quechee, Vermont, and of course I have made a few tweaks. Here it is:

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup orange juice
3 heaping tablespoons of honey (more to taste if desired at the end)
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1-2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint (I used orange-ginger mint, still growing in our herb garden)

Combine all in a heavy pot and bring to boil. When the berries have burst, take it all off the heat and submerge the pan in an ice bath in the sink to cool. This recipe freezes well and can be used in all sorts of imaginative ways to spice up and dress up other dishes.

Last, a poem by Robert Frost along with the last lines of a poem by Mary Oliver seem perfect for this time of year, giving thanks for the abundance we have in our lives.

Unharvested (Robert Frost)

A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady's fan.
For there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.

May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.

Beans Green and Yellow (Mary Oliver)

how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I'll be back more often in December, I promise!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recipe: Skordalia

I was finally reading a booklet I purchased at an organic farming conference called Growing and Using Garlic, A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin. Looking through the recipes, I saw one I did not recognize, Skordalia, which is a Greek recipe typically made with potatoes as a base (but not always) that is considered a ‘comfort food’. It is used as a dip or a sauce, but in either case, with lots of added garlic.

The word skordalia comes from a hybrid of ‘skor’ (Greek for garlic) and ‘dalia’ (Italian for garlicky). So there you have it, ‘garlic-garlicky’! How in the world did we miss this dish all these years? It makes me wonder what else is still new in the world to us. 

There are many ways to make this recipe. Here is what I did, which is a compilation from many recipes on the internet:
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • 10-12 cloves garlic (I used 3 giant cloves), peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup olive oil

  1. Bake the potatoes until fully cooked (knife or fork should pierce easily)
  2. While potatoes are baking, peel, and finely chop or mash (I did use a garlic press) the garlic, add salt and mix until the garlic is a paste
  3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, scoop out insides. There should be 2-3 cups of potatoes.
  4. Mash the potatoes, add garlic, and red wine vinegar.
  5. Slowly add the olive oil, continuing to mash, until mixture is blended together and a little thinner than hummus.
  6. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  7. Spread on a plate or platter and surround with vegetables (I used roasted beets, which is a traditional way of serving it) or crackers or pita bread
  8. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, garnish if desired (I used chopped green garlic, but parsley would also be fine, or nothing at all)
I’m going to also have fun making this dish using bread and/or walnuts as a base. In any case, Skordalia will become a staple in our list of ‘go-to’ recipes. I served it as an appetizer before going out to eat with friends. I wonder how to say ‘Pretty Good!’ in Greek!

The smashed garlic ready to add to the mashed potatoes along with an example of the size of the three garlic cloves I used, which would be close to the typical size of 10-12 cloves.

Skordalia topped with a drizzle of olive oil, garnished with the tops of fall green garlic and surrounded by roasted beets ready to serve as an appetizer with great friends and great beer.

A new food - that does not happen everyday! I'm serious about wondering what else is new! I'll be on the look-out. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD