Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book News

In yesterday's post I promised another update. Long-time followers of my blog, which I began in 2007 (along with my website www.CancerRD.com beginning in 1998), know that my frequency of posting has been gradually decreasing, and this year I found myself more behind than ever in everything. My hope is that I am learning to handle this reality of being chronically so behind in ways that are helpful.

Being behind means that I am always looking at various aspects of my life in order to prioritize, reduce, and also eliminate some things, even those things that are meaningful to me.

The biggest (and difficult) change that I am going to make in 2014 is to phase out the print copy of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story, which I first published in 1997 and has been in print continuously since then. Nearly 100,000 copies have been sold (no small feat for a self-published book), with all copies having been managed by me, hauled in my mini-van, stored in my garage, shipped out by me to individuals, book warehouses, and bookstores around the country and world with the help of my friendly and supportive UPS, FedEx, and USPS drivers over the past 17 years. I have also done all the book-keeping on this book (there was a time when I had three employees to help me manage everything I was doing, too!), all the updates (I did a major update and re-write in 2010), and marketing (including speaking all over the country since 1997), arrange for and approve the editing, printing, cover art, etc, etc, etc.

Everything I have done has been an amazing adventure that I could not have predicted nor have given any credence to if someone had been able to see into the future back in 1995 and told me that this book would become my life while I was undergoing chemo the second time and so weak and ill that I could not feed myself. Nope, I would not even have had the energy to laugh at such a preposterous thought! :)

I am my own best case example when I have told people over the years that "cancer can take you places that are both unimaginable and wonderful". I also have told people to "never, never, never define your future by only looking at your past". Again, I am a perfect example of that picture. No one from my past, and I mean no one, would have ever picked me as 'future author'. My book found me (somehow I found the courage to say 'yes') and helped me grow immensely as a person.

I hope I have met some of my blog readers over the years and that I have been able to inspire you and others (cancer survivor or not) to take the leap of faith and both dig in and spread your wings as you move forward in life facing challenges known and unknown with a wildly beating heart. I have used the phrase "Active Hope" for years to describe what I have done by taking my poor odds into my own two hands to add maybe only a few percentage points to the outcome.

I am so completely busy with my farming now that I do not know if I'll get around to ultimately putting my book into an "e-book" format. I have not ruled that idea out, but it is not on the front burner at the moment.

In the meantime, A Dietitian's Cancer Story is still available from:

  • The American Institute for Cancer (AICR) where I have donated proceeds from the sale of my book (English and Spanish editions) since 1999. You may order on-line or by calling 1-800-843-8114. There are discounts available for orders of 10 books or more.   
  • Amazon.com (of course, both English and Spanish editions are available there, search by the book title or my name)
  • All bookstores may special order it for you, although I have stopped filling orders to their 'middle-man', so hurry if you want to order from your local independent bookstore
  • Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, MI has personally autographed copies that she will mail out to you or to anyone you specify as a gift. Just call the bookstore and Nicola's friendly staff will take your order over the phone. (734-662-0600)

If you have enjoyed reading my book in the past, please consider ordering a copy to donate to your local library or even your own cancer center's patient resource library. Proceeds will continue to be donated to AICR to fund research focused on identifying nutritional strategies to increase the odds for long-term survival and/or improve quality of life after cancer. I already know which project I am  funding in 2014, and I can't wait to tell you about it when I can officially spill the beans. It is my favorite project of all the great research I have funded since 2000. 

Although I will not stop blogging, I want to end this post with the same short quotation I used on my blog's first post back in June 2007. It is still one of my favorite quotes, precisely because it conjures up a blended sense of responsibility, caring, and wonder in my heart.

"No one could make a greater mistake than he who
did nothing because he could only do a little."

~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

If our paths cross in the future, please introduce yourself. I am inspired by my readers, the challenges you've gone through, your accomplishments, and what you are doing today to cultivate your life, to grow. While I am a full-time (plus) farmer now, I arrived there while traveling a cancer survivorship journey along with you. We have so much in common as fellow Earth travelers, and I enjoy feeling and thinking about that. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013!

Winter has finally come to our south-eastern corner of Michigan, with a full snow cover today, covering up our garlic field with its white, fluffy, and warm winter blanket. The roots of our nearly 25,000 garlic cloves planted during October and November will keep growing, deep into our healthy soil, even during the winter giving us the best possible start to a great harvest during July of 2014.

Phoebe LOVES the snow and could stay outside forever. Here she is in our main garlic field where ~20,000 cloves are planted for this coming season (the overflow of ~5,000 unexpected cloves is planted back in the 2009 field). Her ears are blowing in the wind, and the snow is flying into her face and eyes as I captured this photo. What is far more fun for her is simply racing, racing, racing back and forth, up and down the paths, through the underbrush coming back with masses of burrs of all sizes and shapes, chasing a frisbee, following tracks and smells, dashing at the birds at the bird feeders, and on and on and on. Although not obvious in this 'still life' photo, her zest for life is a joy to watch and feel. :)

"Dog in winter garlic field" at The Dyer Family Organic Farm
I have just written and sent the final Garlic Friends Newsletter for 2013, which gives you more of an update on our farm plus our warmest wishes for the holidays and 2014. Feel free to sign up for our farm's newsletter at our farm's website (www.dyerfamilyorganicfarm.com). It's easy, free, and of course your email address is never shared with anyone for any reason.

Tomorrow I will make another post here with some additional updates. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, choosing your gifts carefully, and spending as much as possible as locally as possible. :)

I want to end with a lovely quote that is new to me, seen in a newsletter from some friends' local company in the Ann Arbor area called Nature and Nurture Seeds:


As you hold loving thoughts toward every person and animal and even towards plants, stars, oceans, rivers, and hills (along with soil - I added this), 
and as you are helpful and of service to the world, so you will find yourself growing more happy each day.   

~~   Luther Burbank


I'm smiling as I type this, and I hope you are too after reading those wise and thoughtful words. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recent Nutrition & Cancer Articles

It is not often that Medscape.com has a series of articles focused on the nuances of nutrition and cancer during treatments. Here are two articles that will be informative as a good overview of the complexities of the topic.

Foods to Fight Cancer

Extreme Nutrition: Can it beat cancer?

These articles will not answer every question you might have, but they will certainly help get you moving on the path to help yourself, and that just might be the path of asking for a referral to the Registered Dietitian (RD) at your cancer treatment facility, and particularly asking if your center has been forward-thinking enough to provide true comprehensive cancer care by hiring an RD (and better yet hiring an RD who is also a CSO - Certified Oncology Specialist).

These articles clearly point out that "cancer is not cancer is not cancer". Just as your tumor has been analyzed for its individual characteristics, your conventional cancer treatment plan has been individualized for you. So why have your nutritional status and your nutrition care plan not been individualized for you? 

Do not pay attention to the comments after the articles asking for more specific and individualized advice in the articles (I admit that I both grimaced and laughed at the comment asking for just that from a psychologist). These two articles are written well, tapping the extensive wisdom of two highly-regarded sources, Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD and Rebecca Katz, author of The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen. You will certainly learn something from either of their words of experience, advice, and deeply-held compassion for people who have had a cancer diagnosis.

As we enter Thanksgiving Week, I am thankful that some cancer centers have stepped up to the plate by including RDs on their multi-disciplinary team of support and care for their patients. Certainly it is a better picture in 2013 than it was in 1984 with my first breast cancer diagnosis and again in 1995 with my second breast cancer diagnosis.

I am also thankful for my readers and hope you all have a bountiful Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by delicious food plus family and friends who give you the support and love you need to enjoy the day and life in general.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD








Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday's R&R

Short and sweet..........just a half day of getting away from the work on our farm to attend and celebrate a local farmer friend's wedding with other friends. It was a mad rush getting there (we worked on the farm this morning) but we made it across the county to the ceremony at 1:30, spent the afternoon and evening with friends, met new friends, even met someone new who has professionally collaborated with my daughter-in-law in Seattle (wow-what a small world!).

I have been so tired, even my hands and my feet have felt tired from the non-stop and difficult garlic harvesting this year. When I finally realized yesterday that my brain was tired, I mean really slow on both hearing and comprehending, I set down all the multiple balls I have been juggling and took a nap in the afternoon. A real nap, right in the middle of the day! Not a 10 minute power nap, but a 2-hour nap. My word, this is unheard of! It did not rejuvenate me, but I was able to get up and do what still needed to be done.

I worked on the farm until nightfall last night, got up to get farm work done this morning, and as I said, then we dashed to the wedding. However, the time it took us to drive to our friend's beautiful farm plus being able to step out of our car into a place where I was not in charge of anything were two short and sweet events that allowed me to decompress, much like we did last year after we completed the garlic harvesting and then took time to enjoy being with our family over on Lake Michigan.

Wow - I was surprised. This afternoon was good for me, very good. Seriously! I'm somewhat stunned that such a short time has allowed my brain to calm down, clear, and reboot. We are not yet done with the garlic harvesting, but now I can see clear through to the end of harvesting, marketing, and planting (which is well into November). Before this afternoon, I was not sure I could make it that far or (true confession) even wanted to.

Lesson(s)???

"Diana, it's the Universe speaking to you again. Please slow down, but please, please, please remember it's also ok (in fact it's important!) to take a break once in a while, even on a regular basis. I'm so glad you noticed how good attending that wedding felt this afternoon. Please don't let today be the last break you take before the season is finally done." :) :)

"Ok, Universe. Diana here. You have my attention. I'm listening, and I'm feeling my strength and purpose flowing back to me. I can "do breaks". I think what made the difference today were the following: (1) a break with friends, (2) a break off the farm, and (3) a break with no responsibilities, which is maybe the same thing as a (4) break for fun. Maybe adding one more thing to the list would be (5) a break out of my dirty farmer clothes!" :) :)

I now have my 'home goal' (versus a farm goal) set for the winter. I want to get space finally unpacked and cleared out so I can have a room set aside for getting back to meditation and either tai chi or yoga.

Hello world, I'm back. Maybe you didn't realize I was 'gone' for a while. That's ok, as I'm not sure I realized it either until today. I may not blog any more often during the ultra-busy months ahead, but I'm ok.

Maybe I'm a slow learner, maybe I just want to do too much, maybe I just afraid of wasting the good fortune I have being a cancer survivor, I'm not sure really. However I'm back, back from a short and sweet break this afternoon, with a smile on my face that comes from a deep spot, a feeling of happiness and gratitude.

To my readers, please take breaks! I hope you learn from my mistakes, my mindlessness in contrast to mindfulness.

Onward and forward to the second half of the garlic season!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Recipe: Chicken Fricassee with New Garlic

Yum, yum, oh my it was really hard to wait until this recipe was ready to eat because the kitchen (indeed the entire house!) smelled SO good. In addition, this recipe is delicious, so easy, and the main star ingredient, new garlic, is available at your local farmers markets right now!

New garlic, also called fresh garlic or wet garlic, is commonly eaten in Europe at this stage of harvest. The garlic is harvested when fully developed, but not yet hung and dried or cured, so the wrappers surrounding the cloves are not dry but still wet and actually edible, somewhat softer than an apple peel. The garlic itself is crisp, crunchy, and while not completely sweet like an apple, the texture and some residual sweetness in the flavor profile lends itself to frequently being eaten raw.

However, here is an easy recipe using new garlic heads in a delicious cooked dish. It's a modification of a recipe I recently saw in the New York Times.

Ingredients:
1 package boneless chicken thighs (6-8 thighs)
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. butter + 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 very large onion chopped, about 2 cups
8-12 heads of garlic (depending on size and also how 'garlicky' you and your guests enjoy being)
Several large sprigs of fresh thyme (from our herb garden)
1 large sprig of rosemary (from our herb garden)
1 cup white wine (I used a dry riesling)
Fresh parsley as garnish (optional, but beautiful, easy, tasty, and also easy if you have some growing in a pot on your windowsill or herb garden)

Directions:
Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In your Dutch oven on the stove-top, heat the butter and olive oil, add onions and cook on medium heat until browned but not overcooked (5-8 minutes). (Special Note: I used my 6 quart Dutch oven but a smaller one could also be used ok.)

Cut roots and top/stalk from garlic head, peel any tough outer wrappers from the garlic heads. Cut each in half from top to bottom. (Special Note: If the garlic bulbs are hard-neck varieties, easily slip out the hard stalk from the center of each half.)  Add garlic halves to onions, season with a bit more salt and pepper, stir to coat completely. Place herb sprigs on top of onion and garlic mixture then add chicken thighs in one layer.

Add wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer on the stove top and then cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, covered. Remove lid, bake for an additional 10 minutes or until chicken has browned and juices run clear. Let it rest out of the oven for 10 minutes if you can wait that long!

Serve 1-2 pieces of chicken with juices, onion, garlic halves on top of cooked pasta (I used lightly pan-fried polenta pieces but I almost cooked up some lasagna noodles I had on hand).

Serve with any fresh vegetable as a side. I actually added some left-over braised summer squash and tomato mixture to the Dutch oven mixture while the chicken dish was 'resting'.

Seriously, this recipe is delicious. Don't be afraid of all this garlic. I'm going to make this recipe weekly as long as we are harvesting garlic and have 'new garlic' in spades. :)

I'm going to try the recipe using some thick fish filets, too.

Now for a few photos so you don't have to just take my word on this:



Garlic cloves cleaned and cut in half. You can see where I removed the center core (hard neck) from some of the garlic halves.


Garlic halves and onions in Dutch oven on stove top


Garlic halves, onions, and herb sprigs in Dutch oven on stove top


Adding chicken thighs to the garlic halves, onions, and herb sprigs, with wine and water added to the Dutch oven


Cooked Chicken Fricassee with summer squash and tomatoes added while resting in Dutch oven


Chicken Fricassee plated over polenta rounds.


Chicken Fricassee close up of the garlic half - eat it all! The garlic is now soft and mellow. 

What a great way to enjoy life, with great-tasting food, behind or not. :)

Here's an idea for those of my readers who have a favorite local farmer, no matter where you live. "Love your farmer? Feed your farmer!" Really, I confess that I would LOVE it. Even being 'fed' just one day a month by someone who loves us, to not be quite so far behind as we grow great food for our community, would be deeply appreciated. Yes, you can still offer to volunteer at your local farm by helping to weed or harvest, but don't be shy about asking if your farmers would welcome having someone bring them a meal. I'll bet my bottom dollar that most farmers who are scrambling to squeeze 36 hours of work into 24 hour days would appreciate your offer. Some might just burst into tears of gratitude. :)

Go down to your local farmers market and look for some new garlic! Ask if you don't see it. We're saving some garlic that's in the ground to harvest as new garlic right before we come back to markets so we can hand out this recipe.

I'll end exactly how I started - Yum, yum! :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD








Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday night posts

Last Friday night, I put up a post that I took down almost immediately. I really hope no one had a chance to read it. I actually hit the delete button, which I am pretty sure I have never done before since I started this blog in 2007. Re-reading it when the post was actually live (not just the preview version) gave me quite a start, as 1) it sounded like I was whining, and 2) it gave me chills remembering how 'behind' I was, how overwhelmed I felt two years ago, ending up in the ER which I blogged about in four different posts once things settled down, after I got my thoughts together and had time to share them (here #1, here #2, here #3, here #4).

Yes, I am 'behind', but I am not in the ER.........life is busy, but the vast majority of things not getting done are really not all that important in the big scheme of life. Yes, we look disorganized, the front of the house is still a frightening overgrown mess because our basement still floods (sigh.......) which means we really do need work done on the front foundation of our home (sigh........), but I am not in the ER. :)

So with that realization and relief, I quickly took my post down, decided that the best antidote to being behind was taking the time to cook and letting the Universe send us help if we really need it. :)

It's too late to post up the delicious easy recipe I made last night (I'll do that tomorrow night), but here are few pictures of our chickens. They are just so much fun to watch.


I think there are 8 chickens here in some high grass between our house and the barn. 


I guess our chickens prefer dry feet!


One lone red hen in the coop. She may be the one who prefers to come home at night instead of spending the night roosting in the oak trees behind the coop!


Here are all 8 chickens dashing from under the oak tree to the apple tree in the rain (for some reason unknown to us!). 

Remember, a great recipe is coming tomorrow night!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cultivating, inch by inch, row by row

I changed the photo at the top of my blog today to that of one single organically-grown strawberry in our new garden on our farm. It looks pristine and perfect, and it is, but not without an enormous effort. :) This new strawberry bed has been prepped (cultivated) over and over, weeded over and over, the blossoms picked off these 50 first year plants over and over with a few that still escaped my attention and went on to actually become this one gorgeous berry, giving us a preview of our hopes for a huge harvest next year!



Now we need to finish the fencing around this bed, which also contains our 50 rhubarb plants, 50 asparagus plants, and the additional tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and corn that could not fit into our other family garden (because of rotational space needs). We have already found turtles, which love strawberries, and if the deer find this garden and chow down on everything before we get that fence up and electrified, that will be a very sad day. We have been stopped by rain, rain, rain and the need to finish the first attempt at a chicken coop in order to get our chicks out of the garage.

Time to get outside (now, since more rain and thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon) so here are just a few photos of the chicks and Phoebe, their guard dog:


The coop with the 8 chicks (1 rooster and 7 little red hens) all nestled in a pile together underneath their nighttime roosting spot. 


The chicks exploring their new home. After they have had a few days to get used to their home, when they start putting themselves 'to bed' each night in their coop, then they will be able to become free-range again. 


The chicks free-ranging in one of their favorite spots, kicking the leaves underneath an oak tree.


All 8 chicks are there somewhere, with the white rooster clearly visible.


Phoebe on break from guarding the chicks, hopping in my car while getting its first inside cleaning since we bought the farm


Phoebe doing guard duty. The chicken coop is just to the left out of sight in this photo. She comes running if she hears a bit of a distress call from a chick. She frightens them herself with her exuberance and herding instincts, but she is 'on guard!' She throws herself into the air if a hawk or vulture flies over our farm. I don't expect she will ever catch one, but she lets them know this is a 'no-fly zone' in her view. 

PS - I started a new tag with this post - Chickens!

Cultivate your life (even the same spot, over and over) - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, June 24, 2013

The first frenzy is done! and easy lasagna recipe

It's a mad-dash time between the days that (1) the green (early) garlic is harvested and marketed during late April to early May and (2) the garlic scapes are done emerging.

During those 4-6 weeks when we are in full-motion-mode, my husband and/or I have been writing weekly newsletters, contacting and/or delivering to chefs almost daily, finalizing all details for our Garlic CSA members with them coming out to the farm for their early pick-ups, finishing all details for the applications for the four farmers' markets that we attend, actually getting to our markets fully-stocked with a smile on our faces and the ability to stand up for four hours and multi-task 3rd-grade math, questions about garlic scapes, and catching up with friends (even if we only had 4-5 hours of sleep), held our CSA potluck at the farm, held a U-pick day for the garlic scapes, trying to get our own garden in (in between late frosts and freezes), getting our chicks, mentoring a dietetic student, and a gazillion other things I have already forgotten because they got done or didn't or are still in progress (like a chicken coop, more electric fencing, cutting/raking/baling the hay from our cover crops). Oh, did I mention weeding?

The last newsletter for a month or so went out last night. If you are interested, here is the link. It does have a photo of our 7 week-old hens and the 1 rooster still remaining with us.

I made a very simple lasagna for our CSA potluck dinner this past weekend. Here is a photo (below) before it was cooked. There was no time to get a photo after it came out of the oven, because it was eaten that quickly at the potluck, with people standing around it asking "Who made the lasagna?"

On a day with lots of time (not during the summer), I would make my own super-sauce, but this time I simply used a jar of the sauce that we make ourselves from our home-grown tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. Use your own favorite store-bought or home-made sauce.

Ingredients (brands mentioned for helpfulness, I get no payments of any kind from anyone):
1-16 ounce jar pasta sauce (our own)
1-15 ounce can roasted tomato chunks (I used Muir Glen)
1-1# container of whole milk ricotta cheese (I forget)
2 eggs (from our friends at Bridgewater Barns Farm - in a few months we'll be using our own!)
6 ounce pre-shredded mozzarella cheese (I used Organic Valley)
smidgeon of salt
box of baked (ready to use) organic whole wheat lasagna noodles (Delallo - I used the whole box)
5-8 garlic scapes

Directions: (this is so easy, I almost felt like I was making 'Dump Cake', a processed-food recipe using 'boxes' and 'cans' of ingredients - I've only heard about this, never made it)

1) pour about 1/2 cup of sauce in an 9x13 glass baking dish
2) combine ricotta cheese and eggs in a bowl, mix well, add a smidgeon of salt and mix again
3) layer about 5-6 pasta noodles in dish over that first little bit of sauce
4) spread about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles
5) spread about 1/2 of the remaining sauce over the ricotta
6) layer another 5-6 pasta noodles
7) repeat 4-6
8) over the top layer of pasta, drain the entire can of roasted tomato chunks and liquid, spread to even out
9) sprinkle the package of shredded cheese over the tomatoes
10) if you are fancy and flush in garlic scapes like we are, layer several garlic scapes over the cheese before covering with foil and baking 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I know all recipes say to let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes or so before eating. Nope, we did not do that at the potluck. It came out of the oven, I ran it out to the barn, people dove in, and then the comments started coming. That was that! Really, I'm thankful I took a photo when I assembled it early in the morning.



Our food blessing at the CSA potluck dinner was our short and sweet one, without me needing to dash back to the house (again) for our book of food blessings plus my reading glasses:

We thank all hands and hearts that brought us this meal. 
~~ Diana Dyer

So much else to do. :) Today I am taking a break (kind of) from farming and am going to clean out my car for the first time since we bought the farm. It's been four years. Kaya's nose-prints on the inside windows have been obliterated by Phoebe's and the general amount of dust, but I am going to try to vacuum and wipe off at least the top layer of everything.

No promises about when I can blog next. I still try to post short up-dates on our farm's Facebook page, so look for me there and in our farm's newsletter when it gets going again (sign up is on our farm's website at www.dyerfamilyorganicfarm.com).

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Diana Dyer - LIVE!


Well, please don't get too excited (haha, just kidding here!) because it's not really "LIVE!" but a pre-recorded phone interview (conversation) with me by another dietitian-cancer survivor-author, Jean LaMantia, RD from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Here is the link so that you can download the conversation and listen at your convenience. I think it might be 20-30 minutes and covers a lot of ground about cancer survivorship, food, nutrition, and life after cancer.  To be completely honest here, I have not had time to listen to the link (and likely will not until next winter) and oh dear, true confession here, I have not had time to even skim through Jean's book The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, and I know I won't have time to do that until after the garlic is planted late fall.  

I met Jean when speaking in Toronto several years ago. I have spoken there twice in the past for various cancer survivor events and loved my time in Toronto, and I should add that I loved my time in Toronto once I got there because there were snafus with the border crossing both times, plus I can still remember the cab ride from the airport to the hotel on the first trip, honestly thinking I might die because the cabbie was driving so scary fast. At least I would have died wearing my beautiful new coat. And why do I remember that? Because when standing in line at the airport while waiting for this taxi, a kind young man in uniform for one of the Canadian armed services politely told me that he liked my new coat, and then with a sweet smile on his face, he asked if he could help me remove the tags that were still on the back of my coat. :) :) 

What can I say? I hope that I have raised my sons to be as kind as that young man was to me (and in recognition of Father's Day tomorrow, I think my husband and I together have raised two kind-hearted sons who would be as helpful as that young man was for me). 

So enjoy the interview/conversation, and if you ever do see me LIVE! (even at the farmers' markets), please don't hesitate to check me for tags that need to come off. I try, but obviously I need (and appreciate) help with everyday details like that. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Heron and Green Garlic Dip

I stayed home this afternoon instead of taking our garlic scapes to our Wednesday farmers' market with my husband since we didn't really know when/if the severe storm sweeping through the country this afternoon would really hit our area in SE Michigan. If it was just the two of us to worry about, I would have gone as usual. However, with a dog that trembles, shakes, pants, and downright quivers when thunder is 100 miles away (let alone sirens for tornado warnings), we decided that one of us could stay home because the market might be slow today due to the impending storm plus one of us should stay home to be able to reassure Phoebe (since the potential storm is supposed to be particularly severe).

So what to do when I am so far behind that I'll never catch up? First Phoebe and I made the rounds of the farm and battened down the hatches so to speak outside, making sure anything that could fly away in the wind was in the garage or barn. Then I decided to download photos that were backlogged and even look at and label them (while keeping an eye on the weather outside and on the TV channel).

I finally changed the photo on the top of my blog today, showing our latest and best new bird on the farm. It is a green heron, patiently waiting for its breakfast to appear on the edge of our pond. I don't have a great camera, and I take many photos through windows, using the zoom, always just hoping for the best, meaning that the photo is not too blurry. I have seen green herons many times over the years, but this was the first sighting on our farm, so it was a special day!


In addition, here is an easy spring-time bean dip recipe using lovely green garlic, if you're lucky enough to find some at your local farmers markets. Ingredients are easy, readily available (other than the green garlic), flexible, and healthy.

Green Garlic Bean Dip

~1 can (2 cups, 15-oz) drained northern white beans
~2-3 Tbps. lemon juice
8-10 trimmed stalks of green garlic so that you are using mainly the bulb end (trim off the roots - they are edible, wash them well and save for a salad - trim off any brown tips of the leaves and then cut off most of the leaves to use later in pesto)

Cut green garlic into ~1-inch pieces, add all ingredients to a large food processor, and blend until beans are smooth and there are small flecks of green stems. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. If it is still too thick, add just a small amount of water to thin it down a bit. Add a bit of salt and pepper if desired. 

This recipe freezes well as most bean recipes do. 






Yum, yum! When green garlic is no longer available, the garlic scapes come next (which is right now in our area of the country this year - their emergence is always variable!), and they can also be used easily in this recipe! Enjoy!

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happiness, continued!

Our wood thrush is still singing from the woods behind our house. Oh happy day!! Honestly, I had a near melt-down of disappointment when I had the thought that maybe what I heard on Sunday was someone playing that song on an Ipod to try to attract the bird from their section of the woods. The thought and worry lasted only a nano-second or two, but I confess that I was relieved to hear it again last night in the early evening (while planting tomatoes) and again this morning (while weeding garlic) from roughly the same area. In each case, the song was 'less than perfect', not what would be chosen for a bird song 'app'. Whew! :)

As if that wasn't enough happiness, today I finally can announce that my friends and colleagues at The Farm at St. Joe's have won a major award for establishing a working farm on the grounds of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. Being a member of the Advisory Committee for The Farm is one of the happiest and most meaningful lines on my very eclectic resumé. I have moved from working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at St. Joe's (the far, far end of the health care spectrum where individuals need extreme medical interventions to be brought back from the edge) to now working my own organic farm plus working collaboratively with St. Joe's on their farm (the far, far other end of the health care spectrum) where our collective focus is now on disease prevention, wellness, and creating healthy and thriving communities.

For the upcoming award ceremony, a short documentary has been produced to show The Farm and its vital work. My friend and fellow farmer Dan Bair says it best at the very end: "Health care is happening here." Yes it is, in the very best sense of those words. Thank you, Dan, thank you St. Joe's, for leading by example, for showing other health care institutions how to truly create a healthy community by nurturing, nourishing, and being stewards of all the resources entrusted to your care.

PS - I'm in the video, but I'm awfully glad that 90%+ of footage ends up on the cutting room floor, because in at least one spot of the filming, I got all misty-eyed about something they asked me which I was trying to answer. :) And an additional full disclosure here, even though my hands are certainly dirty, I did decide to quickly press the front of my shirt just for the filming. I did not want to embarrass my other good friend, Lisa McDowell, MS, RD, who is also in the film and has been so instrumental with helping to establish St. Joe's Farm and to help it put down deep roots.

So for only the second time ever on this blog, I urge my readers to go look at a video. You'll be glad you did, and who knows just how the ripples of good health and happiness will spread? :) :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Four years + five days later

I'm finally trying to get some of our tomatoes into the ground this morning (even though it is supposed to go down to 43 degrees tonight) when my heart stopped! I stopped digging, I stopped talking with our wonderful Sunday morning helpers. I listened, I yearned, I tried not to believe I was only imagining what I had heard, but when I heard the flute-like song of a wood thrush ring out from the woods just behind our garden, it took everything in me not to burst into tears of joy and happiness right then, right in front of my helpers.

I did have them stop digging like I had to just listen to some rare music, even just a verse or two. I didn't need to go find this bird. Hearing it's haunting and even magical music was plenty for me. Those few notes took me right back to some place I've been before. To hear it again for real, not just in my memory, was joyful, a blissful experience. :)

Here are the ending verses of one of Mary Oliver's poems in which she speaks of a wood thrush:

'Such Singing in the Wild Branches'


Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last
for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,
is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

The wood thrush population has significantly declined over the past several decades. So yes, indeed its song may already be drifting away. I hope you get a chance to hear it someday (soon). If you have, if you have really heard it, if you have dropped what you are doing or thinking about to really listen, you will never need a tape or an 'app' to hear it again to fix it in your memory. You will just know it. It has become a part of you, and you will hope (long, even ache) to hear it again like I do. 
I really hope the tomatoes we got planted today (many more to be done asap) are not stunted by the hard night they are going to have. If so, I will simply think of each of them as my "2013 wood thrush tomatoes" and appreciate each one even more.  
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Four years later

We closed on our farm purchase 4 years ago today (the Tuesday after Memorial Day, 2009, not sure of the actual date). We drove right out to the farm with our new keys as soon as we had signed on the dotted line, and while getting out of the car, we could hear a wood thrush singing from the woods behind the house, my favorite bird song in all the world. It sang and sang that afternoon and evening. Sadly we have never heard it again, but its appearance and welcome that day will always sing in my memory and told me we needed to harbor no deep fears about this 'big leap'.

I know I have blogged about my love for, my attachment to, the wood thrush in the past, but I recently read a (new to me) poem by Mary Oliver about the rare and brief appearance of a wood thrush's song each spring in her woods. In essence her poem was about the fleeting appearance of this rare and special gift, her recognition and acceptance that seeing this bird or hearing its song daily would likely make it 'common' and no longer as beautiful as it truly is.

So I am content to not worry, not fret, not yearn (ooo - that one's hard) or strain to hear a wood thrush sing each spring, but instead, to enjoy the memory that is now incorporated into the very fabric of my DNA, each strand within each cell of my body.

My cardiologist has told me that he wishes he had the courage to tell all his patients to 'start a farm' because he is convinced all the physical work I do on our farm has actually helped to stabilize all of my various/multiple cardiac problems that are secondary to all the cancer therapy I have had. I don't want to burst his bubble (and of course he may be correct), but I have wondered if hearing that wood thrush's welcome on the day we had (at last!) begun a long-hoped-for chapter in our life was the real reason for my stabilization.

Actually I have no need to explain anything. I am just appreciating and enjoying this Spring day (even with its rain, thunder, a frightened and quivering dog, plus a tornado warning).  :)

To end this post, I close with Henry David Thoreau's words about a wood thrush:

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

I do hope that my readers can hear a wood thrush singing somewhere, someday. In addition, if you have your own favorite sound that brings peace and healing plus joy to your soul and DNA, I'd love to know what it is.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Big Leap :)

Today's weather forecast was for a high of 65 degrees with 0% chance of rain. Current temperature is 50 degrees with increased heaviness of rain since around noon or so. We LOVE and need the rain, no complaints about that. And in fact, having an unexpected cold and rainy day has been just perfect for doing an unexpected inside job, like quickly filling out responses to questions required for our farm's nomination for an award!

Think Local First, an organization that promotes locally-owned businesses in our county, has created its  first 'Indie Awards', and our farm has been nominated for The Big Leap Award, which is for a business that 'took the leap' and successfully created new idea, model, or solution despite all the risks. Of course we are both delightfully surprised and honored to have received an email on Friday with the news that we had been nominated (wow - good thing one of us quickly scanned our farm's email account on Friday night), but truth be told, I am not sure we would have squeezed in the time to fill out the tough (but good) questions except for the fact that today (the deadline for submission) was not a day for outside farm work although I weeded during the early afternoon until I was starting to get cold and was also tired of 'dripping'.

The questions were great. They made us really think about our farm and what we are doing here. We had two friends (a fellow farmer and one of my dietetic students who is working with us on the farm this summer) help us brainstorm concepts on Saturday over dinner, I let things percolate in my brain while weeding yesterday, and then I word-smithed some answers this morning. My student helped catch omissions and repetitions this afternoon, and then my husband gave it the final review and finishing touches before I pushed 'submit' a few minutes ago.

Winning is not important to us. However, we are touched to have been noticed and nominated. And yes, I can appreciate anyone who has made a 'the big leap' after evaluating the risks, taking a deep breath, finding the courage to do something hard, and choosing to try to fly high into the unknown instead of staying low in the safe, known, and easy spot.

My father was an entrepreneur, ultimately taking an idea from nothing tangible to a company doing international work. I wish I could ask him if retrospectively he wishes he had kept his company small, doing great work focused in a community/regional area instead of spreading out nationally and to the world. I'm currently reading the book Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, which discusses companies who have done just that (such as our local Zingerman's Community of Businesses).

Our farm's business goals are the same as many of those companies featured in Small Giants:

  • to be economically profitable and thus sustainable,
  • provide the best place possible for us to enjoy working every day (along with any potential employees or volunteers), 
  • to help diversify and revitalize our local economy with organically-grown and produced food, 
  • to grow and provide the highest quality garlic and garlic products to our local community, 
  • and through the care of the soil, land, and water under our stewardship to ultimately contribute to the creation of a healthy and thriving community. 
Here are the responses to the questions we were asked, which really made us think. Frankly, answering them was not quick; it took me all morning. I hope you enjoy reading them. (Every time I cut and paste, the formatting seems to get weird. I do not have time to re-type everything, so I hope the transfer is not too bad.)

*******************

Tell us about your business:

We are a small specialized farm, growing 40+ varieties of garlic using organic growing practices. Although we could easily (and more profitably) sell all of our garlic via the internet, we intentionally sell ~100% of our garlic to our local community (shipping only to our two sons and a small number of friends and relatives who live across the country). We also intentionally sell our garlic to eaters across the full economic spectrum within our community, being as happy to sell our garlic to people using food assistance programs at 4 local farmers' markets within 12 miles of our farm as we are to local chefs at high-end restaurants.

Define success for your business:

Success........yes that it hard to define, as it is different for each business. We'll state right up front that we are close but not yet making a profit (which is only one measure of success). The start-up costs for our farm (i.e. our barn, our tractor) have been huge. However, while a profit is our goal and is necessary for all small farms to be sustainable and provide a reasonable quality of life, we have other measures of success:

  • we have enjoyed the creative (even artistic) process of working together to start a business from an idea and watch it develop, 
  • we both enjoy growing food and working outside as farmers, 
  • we have enjoyed the learning curve of taking the big step up to commercial production (i.e. market gardening) versus home/hobby gardening, plus 
  • we truly enjoy being food educators as we introduce and bring both awareness and discovery to our community of the "wide world of garlic". 


Success can also be measured by the large number of repeat customers we have, the number of customers who heard about us from their friends, the large number of customers who drive over an hour to buy our garlic, the large number of people who ask if they can volunteer on our farm plus the large number who sign up for our farm’s email newsletter, the legion of customers who tell us they can ‘never go back to store-bought garlic again’, and the fact that it was our customers who suggested we start a Garlic CSA.

The goal of our farm is to be a contributor to a healthy community, attaching the word 'healthy' to many outcomes (physical, economic, environmental, social, cultural, spiritual, and likely more). We sleep well every night living our values and knowing we are hitting many of those high notes, while caring for our land as we literally and figuratively sink deep roots into our community. 

Describe your Big Leap

Going from being long-time vegetable gardeners who have been gardening together even before being married (our first date as undergraduates was Dick asking Diana if she would help him weed the beans in his vegetable garden on Purdue's campus), we became 'old-new farmers' at age 59 when we bought 15 over-grown acres (and a foreclosed house in need of major repairs) to start a small specialized garlic farm. There are many ways in which this 'leap' made sense to us, it seemed the natural thing to do, but we can understand how our serious lifestyle change would appear to be a HUGE (and maybe crazy) leap to most everyone else. :)

Here is what our Big Leap looks like in bullet points:

  • We became 'old-new farmers' at age 59.
  • We started the first garlic farm in this area.
  • We jumped from a small community garden at County Farm Park with Project Grow to being market gardeners at four local farmers' markets. (we were growing 500 garlic bulbs of 10 different varieties in our Project Grow garden, 5,000 the first year on our farm, 10,000 the next year, to now planting ~20,000 garlic bulbs annually of 40+ varieties)
  • We went from being very private people to being very public people who are still surprised but enjoy it when someone sees us around town and points out to their friend/family "There is our garlic farmer!".
  • We have both professionally leaped from being focused on the treatment end of the health care spectrum to the wellness/prevention end (Dick led various drug discovery teams at Parke-Davis and Pfizer. Diana is a Registered Dietitian who previously worked at St. Joe’s in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and is still an advocate at the national level for the inclusion of oncology nutrition services as a proactive component of true comprehensive cancer care)
  • Instead of always wondering when and where we would be moving along (neither of us grew up in Michigan nor were we educated here), we made the big decision to stay in the Ann Arbor area forever. 


Describe the catalyst for your Big Leap

Dick lost his job as part of the “Pfizer fall-out” during an earlier phase that was not announced in such a public way as when Pfizer actually pulled out of Ann Arbor. At that point we began to take serious stock of what was to be next for us, i.e., “What are we going to do with the rest of our lives and where do we want to do it?” Of course this was an opportunity, but there is nothing quick or easy about answering that question when it happens as abruptly as it did for our family. 

It took us several years to sort through the opportunities, options, challenges, and constraints to answer this question. To make a long story short, Dick wanted to ‘garden out the back door’ and Diana wanted to ‘create a healthy community’. Combining those desires with our love of being outdoors listening to the birds, growing food, cooking with garlic, and doing our market research at several local farmers markets to see that no one else was providing garlic as a specialty crop, led us back to an early dream of starting a farm. It is still easy to procrastinate and not make the leap, however, one day Diana had the ‘epiphany’ that “we are as young today as we are ever going to be so if we want to start a farm, let’s get on with this!” We did. :)


What makes your business unique?

We are a specialized garlic farm, growing 40+ varieties of garlic. Nearly every aspect of production is by hand and with love. We are not really exaggerating when we tell people that we sell ‘hand-crafted garlic’. 

We sell green garlic in the spring to local chefs and our CSA members, garlic scapes from 20+ varieties at four local farmers markets in June, and then our 40+ varieties of garlic plus garlic braids, garlic gift boxes, garlic sampler bags, “40-clove” bags, dried green garlic and dried garlic scapes, with more plans in the works, at local farmers markets during August and September until sold out. We offer a Garlic CSA to those people who want ‘first choice’ and just cannot get enough of our delicious garlic. To our knowledge, we offer the only Garlic CSA in the country. 


How does your business support the community?

We sell 99% of our garlic to our local community: to chefs and caterers (Arbor Brewing Company, Bona Sera, Tammy's Tastings, Juicy Kitchen, The Ravens Club, Jolly Pumpkin, Moonwinks Cafe, Zingerman's Deli, Zingerman's Roadhouse, The Grange Kitchen & Bar, Cafe Japon, and several more), food product producers (Granny's Garlic Salt, The Brinery, Nightshade Army Industries, Delicious Diversity, etc), and to garlic lovers at 4 local farmers markets (Ypsilanti Downtown Market, Ann Arbor Wednesday Evening Market, Ann Arbor Westside Market, and the Dixboro Market) and Lunasa. 

We happily accept all food assistance vouchers (SNAP, WIC, Senior Fresh, Double-Up Bucks, etc etc etc) at our local farmers’ markets. 

We work with various Farm to School programs in the area to ‘talk garlic’ and the importance of sustainable farming with various age school children (King School, Greenhills School, Honey Creek School). 

We have also offered our garlic products to many local non-profit organizations (Growing Hope, Habitat for Humanity, etc, etc) as a fund-raising item at their silent auctions. 

We’ve helped other farms put up their hoop houses (Growing Hope, The Farm at St. Joe’s, Capella Farms, Green Things Farm). Dick is on the market committee for Ann Arbor's Westside Market at Zingerman's Roadhouse. Diana is on the committee that developed and maintains the Dixboro Farmers' Market in addition to be on the Advisory Committee for The Farm at St. Joe’s. 

We LOVE LOVE LOVE co-marketing through Facebook, our website (www.dyerfamilyorganicfarm.com), and our Garlic Friends email newsletter for other companies who purchase and use our garlic (i.e., The Brinery, Nightshade Army Industries, The Grange Kitchen & Bar, Zingerman’s, etc, etc, etc). 

Lastly, Diana works adjunctively with several local and state universities by providing their dietetic students and interns with opportunities on our farm to get their hands in the soil as they learn that the starting point of sustainable food systems is not ‘we are what we eat’ but instead it is ‘we are what we grow’ (University of Michigan, EMU, Madonna University, MSU, Western Michigan). These dietetic students are also given the opportunity to work on other area farms and with non-profit organizations such as Growing Hope and The Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Healthcare Initiative in order that they may obtain a wider view of the community benefits provided by a local food system.  

Is there anything else you would like to share about your business?

We almost dropped out of our graduate school programs in the mid-70's to start an organic farm near Madison, WI. For a variety of good reasons, we did not do that, so we are both happy and grateful that we have had the opportunity to finally (at last!) come back to one of the first dreams we had as a young married couple. 

The tag line for our farm is 'Shaping our future from the ground up', where the word 'our' is very large and inclusive, starting with our soil and then working its way up to our family, our community, and our society at large. We are passionate about being stewards of our farm's soil, its land and water, plus nourishing a healthy community. We feel that passion and those goals are captured in the following two quotations: 

"Land is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy that flows through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals."
~ Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1948)

"Soil is the tablecloth under the banquet of civilization."
~ Steven Stoll, Larding the Lean Earth (2002)

We will end by repeating that we are beyond grateful and happy to be 'old-new' farmers. While our customers may think they are buying garlic, we are really sharing this gratitude and happiness with them. 

Dick & Diana Dyer

************

Now I think I may take a short nap, another perfectly acceptable activity for an unexpected cold and rainy Memorial Day holiday afternoon. 

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Still no time to blog, but.......

A while ago I chimed in on a professional listserv of oncology dietitians (my friends and my professional peers) with my 2¢ regarding an article recently published pointing out the inconsistent information on the internet about cancer and nutrition information, which caught the attention of Dr. Sanjay Gupta who actually gave it some light of day (instead of having the article just buried in a professional journal).

One of the dietitians on this listserv asked if she could post my listserv response on the website for Meals to Heal, a company that provides home delivery of healthy meals for cancer patients. I agreed (with some tweaking), and it was posted up yesterday.

Please note, I am providing my readers the link to my 'guest blog post' on another website only as a reinforcement of everything I have been writing about on this blog since I started it in 2007 (I have not been paid to write this other blog post, nor am I paid in any way by that company, nor is my posting on that website a 'testimonial' for that company.) For long-time readers, it will contain nothing new (although perhaps I am a bit more frank than usual). For new readers, it will give you a very clear and succinct view of my opinions based on the work I have been doing for the oncology community at-large since my 2nd breast cancer diagnosis in 1995.

Bottom line – oncology centers need to have (more) Registered Dietitians (RDs) on staff, preferably those who are achieved the rigorous credential of being specialists in oncology nutrition with the initials CSO after their name. In fact, I had this very conversation with a friend this morning after she told me of a dear young friend of hers who has just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 40.


"Tell them to get a referral to an RD at their cancer center 'asap'. Do not wait for a crisis, and do not let your friends take 'no' for an answer. Cause a 'ruckus' if necessary. Sending them a copy of my book is a good start, but this young man and his family will need much more of an individualized nutrition assessment and intervention than my book can possibly provide."


Today was non-stop filled with hand-weeding a field that is too wet to cultivate with the tractor and then harvesting, marketing, and cleaning our green garlic. Tonight it has been used as an ingredient for a catered dinner in town for many CEO's who belong to a national organization called Small Giants. It seems like a nice fit since our goal for this new farm has always been to become big enough to contribute to our community while also staying small enough so our focus can stay on "creating a healthy community".  We have tried to encompass those dual purposes in our farm's tag line/mission statement "Shaping our future from the ground up" with the choice of the word 'our' starting with our soil and working its way up to our community.

So even though I have no time to blog, I did it again. :) However, it's almost 9 pm, so now I need to quickly figure out what we are eating for supper and then get back to helping my husband prepare our chefs' orders for tomorrow's delivery.

Oh, and Phoebe had a new experience tonight while we were walking the farm for a break. She saw two turkeys and made them fly, clucking and gobbling away, high high high up and over some trees!

We should all get t-shirts or bandanas to wear that say "Life is Good". :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Spring Morning


I don’t have time to blog, but I cannot help myself this morning. :)

Spring is rushing to catch up, it is literally ‘popping’ before our eyes and ears. It is as if it has been held back behind a dam, but the gates have finally opened, and now, look out!, here it comes. I am used to being able to ‘hear the corn grow’ in the summer, but I think I can literally see and hear spring growing in front of me right now. 

I have been celebrating each bird that has come back, but yesterday I realized that I had not yet heard any wrens bubbling away. I always harbor a little worry that significant habitat destruction in wintering grounds will lead to a noticeable decrease in the spring return of my bird friends. However, not to be denied, this morning (before we had even opened the windows), my husband announced that he could hear wrens singing away. :) :) ("Thank you, Dick! I’m so glad your ears are better than mine. Diana, stop, stop, stop being such a worrier!")

And so just to show you that the universe is moving in sync this morning, I picked up a new book of Mary Oliver’s poetry at the library, could not resist looking in it before I had even left my parking space, so read just one poem where the book opened up. Here it is:

I Happened to be Standing

I don’t know where prayers go
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opposum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really 
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I being every morning.
Then a wren in a privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be 
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air. 

~~ Mary Oliver, in A Thousand Mornings, ©2012

“positively drenched in enthusiasm”…………..I don’t know if I am a worrier by nature or if I have honed this characteristic by being such a long-time cancer survivor ……… but my dearest hope is that I can balance (and maybe even over-ride) my tendancy to worry, to be careful, to be preparing for or avoiding ‘trouble’ (like a truly awful case of poison ivy I currently have that came from nowhere in spite of all my appropriate precautions) with a sense of being alive, deeply alive, flying high plus “positively drenched with enthusiasm” like the house wren I heard this morning.

I am hopeful (am I sending a prayer?) and I would be honored and grateful if this wren decides to set up a home somewhere on my farm where I can hear it bubbling away all day, every day for the next several months, helping me remember the first poem I read from Mary Oliver’s book A Thousand Mornings.

I have had years where I have not been well, years when I have been in crisis mode, years where spring has come and gone and I have not had the energy or capacity to ‘be there’ to see it or feel it, to only know that I missed it.  My hope, my prayer, for you, my friends, is that spring has sprung, has burst, has popped right before your eyes and ears already, and that you are well enough this year to be right in with it as it is happening, and that spring, along with enthusiastic new hope, is happening within you, too.

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD