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

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