Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best Gardening Quotation

"Life begins the day you plant a garden"

~~ Chinese Proverb

Isn't that a beautiful quotation, particularly being read by cancer survivors? The dreams, the planning, seed ordering or plant purchasing and planting in the ground, the weeding, watering, and nurturing of the baby plants to fruition, and then savoring the delicious eating many many months after the first thoughts about this (or next year's) garden. All that sounds like life to me.

I never got anything planted in the raised beds that my husband made for me at the beginning of the 2009 growing season. They have been finally moved out to our new home and farm, a spot chosen for them, the ground leveled underneath them, filled with compost, and are now ready to wait out the winter while I dream and plan what will go into them in 2010.

Those 2010 seed catalogs will be here before we know it. I just LOVE having things to look forward to. Why? I will share that planning future projects has been one of my long-time coping strategies that has been effective for me while dealing with getting through cancer treatments and then the following anxiety (even fears) associated with thoughts about recurrence. There is nothing like planning next year's garden (and even the year after that!) along with the step, step, step of implementation to take my mind off troubles and focus on pleasant thoughts instead, i.e. to begin living again. :-)

(Photo: The boxes were dismantled and moved out to the farm. A spot was chosen and they were reassembled. My husband did subsequently use the tractor blade to even out the ground underneath them.)

(Photo: Compost is in the raised beds, which will be raked and evened out to be ready for early planting next spring. Twelve rhubarb plants were dug up from our community garden and planted today along the side of the boxes where Kaya is tracking the scent of something, probably a pesky groundhog. They will soon be hibernating for the winter but will certainly cause some havoc next year until we get appropriate fences built - grrrrrrrr, which we will need to build anyway to keep the deer from both trampling and dining on our gardens. Another thing to plan!)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shelly's Cancer Victory Garden

I was pleasantly surprised to find this email message waiting in my inbox! Shelly gave me permission to share her experience with gardening (complete with photos!) with the hope that the joy she finds in her garden wll both inspire and empower another cancer survivor.

Hello Diana:

I too am a Registered Dietitian (RD) and am currently undergoing treatment (clinical trials) for stage 4 melanoma. I have been on treatment since my diagnosis 3 years ago, but am doing extremely well - having learned to wake-surf behind our ski boat this summer and with a trip planned to Southeast Asia this January. I previously worked in a children's hospital in Dayton, OH - but now focus on my joy, and taking care of myself.

In addition, I am heavily involved as the Nutrition Educator for the Noble Circle Project (, which is a grass-roots organization focusing on empowering women in the Dayton area for thriving beyond cancer via whole foods nutrition, exposure to complementary medicine forms such a Qi Gong, and group support.

I have been involved with Noble Circle since 2006, and I emphasize a whole-foods based diet. Really getting in significant quantities of high-quality vegetables and whole grains, and then tailoring the diet to work for the individual woman's needs and choices, whether she is vegetarian takes supplements, juices, etc. You may find on the Nobe Circle's website (which is due for a upgrade) that they started out with some pretty far-out ideas that I think were a little extreme for the average participant in our program. I really emphasize that making dietary changes is good, but also how you approach the diet and cancer journey is important: taking it easy on yourself and not using diet as another way to beat up on yourself. I try to move people away from fearing food, and finding ways to be more intimately connected with it - learning how to grow it, cook it etc...I try to emphasize the passion and joy available to us through our food.

I was inspired by your blog, actually all of them, and have been thinking of sharing pictures of my garden with you. My husband and I converted our entire backyard to garden 3 years ago, and as both of us are recovering engineers, we installed a drip line watering system which is automatically controlled. We are away for pretty long periods of time during the summer so it is nice to have the irrigation in place. I think some of the pictures show pretty well how the houses in our neighborhood are very close together, so it proves that you don't need a whole lot of space to grow a significant amount of food!

I plan to expose the ladies I teach nutrition to, to your blogs. We already have your book in our Noble Circle Lending Library. I thought you would enjoy the photos - and now I am off to harvest more brassica and crucifers....

Shelly Knupp. RD

Many thanks for sharing your joy of gardening, Shelly! My husband and I are going to install a drip-irrigation system in the large garlic beds at our new farm, too. I can't wait to have that feature in place and working! However, this summer we would not have needed it. In fact, although it rained and rained in spring and early summer, it finally dried up enough in July to harvest our garlic without it molding in the ground.

Many thanks also for all you are doing to help others during their cancer survivorship journey to become cancer 'thrivers'! The Dayton, Ohio area and The Noble Circle Project are certainly fortunate to have you sharing your professional expertise, passions, and compassion within their collective communities.

I hope our paths cross in the future at some point. Until then, I send you a cyber-hug and all my best wishes for continued health, healing, hope, and great gardening!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where have I been?

Two weeks without a new post begs the question, especially for a brand new blog. I am sorry to say that I need to take an open-ended hiatus from my three blogs. My mother had a stroke on April 3rd, thus there has been no time to think about blogging. She is currently in a rehabilitation facility, but there are still many unknowns and many decisions to make.

I have LOVED blogging (and I was just getting started with this one!). I didn't know what to expect when I first started, but I have found that sharing my thoughts (both personal and professional) plus photos has actually brought me much happiness. So it is only because my time is needed elsewhere for the foreseeable future that I am putting all of my blogs "on hold".

Wherever you may be, enjoy the new life that comes with spring! I'll be back just as soon as I can be. :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, April 6, 2009

Snow in April

Winter will not let go, but spring is coming, even with this recent snowfall. Other parts of the state received much more and this snow won't last long. Then onward and upward to full-scale gardening!

(Photo: Deck garden beds filled with more snow - the compost and dirt not in them yet)

(Photo: Cold frame really really cold today!)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why Garden? Let me count the ways!

(The beginning of my Cancer Victory Gardens)

Two "square-foot gardens" got started this afternoon for my Cancer Victory Gardens. They are 4' by 8' by 10" high and will be on our back deck where we get the most sun for the most hours of the day. Being on the deck, the soil needs to be protected from the chemically treated lumber used for the deck, so they actually have an untreated plywood "bottom".

(Dr. Dick's "Deck Beds", each is 4' x 8' x 10" deep)

What exactly is a Cancer Victory Garden? It is my personal fruit and vegetable gardens that I will fill with organically grown food to both nourish my body (and help keep me cancer-free) and nourish my soul as I enjoy the connection with the circle of life by having my hands in the soil and my face in the sun and rain. My husband and I have a perennial plot in Ann Arbor, MI with Project Grow's community gardens, and this year are taking over the few sunny spots of much more of our yard and deck than we have used in the past.

I love the play on words that 'cancer victory garden' creates, a dual effort at helping myself with the self-sufficiency of providing my own healthy food and how both the food and the gardening are keeping me both healthy and happy!

Here are some other reasons I love gardening!

• Health benefits (sunshine - vitamin D, increased serotonin)
• Nutrition (safe, healthy food, increased consumption of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables)
• Physical activity (increased aerobic capacity, muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density)
• Environmental stewardship
• Learning opportunities for adults and children
• Participate in research (
• Multiple-sensory experience
• Reduced food costs, increased food access and security
• Enjoy the taste of summer all year long from your own preserved food
• Enjoy dreaming about spring while planning your garden during winter's dark days
• Family & community-building
• Spiritual experience
• Psychological benefits - relaxation and “stress-buster” and solace
• Create and appreciate beauty
• Make money!
• The joy from sharing! (Food Gatherers, Plant-a-Row)
• Planning & creativity (use both right and left side of brain)
• Lasting memories
• Experience joy of nurturing, patience, slowing down
• A sense of accomplishment (improved self-esteem)
• Watching and listening to the birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators
• “Gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor.” (a quote I found on the internet)
"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row" (the "tag line" from my Diana Dyer blog)

My effort with my gardens and this blog is small and personal. However, I am inspired by the words and efforts of friends, colleagues, and other authors who have much bigger dreams and goals than I do:

• Joan Dye Gussow's classic book This Urban Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader (receiving a supportive email note from Joan, as a kindred spirit, after she read an article I wrote in a professional newsletter is one of my most treasured memories)

• The book entitled The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst, is a book I expected to "breeze through" but instead read twice, word by word, cried buckets with its example after example of the beauty about the human spirit overcoming obstacles that make my own seem small, and actually found some 3x5 note cards to take notes! The most memorable line I wrote down from this book is by Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, who said: "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." (Addendum: I actually read this book three times, reading it aloud to my husband on my third read. I think I need to put this book on my 'wish list'!)

• Many of my dietitian friends who are members of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. This quote by Angie Tagtow, MS, RD, Food & Society Fellow from Iowa, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, is particularly inspirational: "Healthy soil grows healthy food and healthy food nourishes healthy people who create healthy communities."

• Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI is dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access. ~~Amanda Edmonds, Founder and Growing Hope's Executive Director. My dietitian book club makes a monthly donation to Growing Hope so that healthy snacks can be purchased for their after school programs.

I feel a deep connection with these visions and hope I can be an advocate and an ambassador for their goals plus in some way help people who have had a cancer diagnosis, too. Although my individual efforts are small, I hope they reap a harvest that is beyond measure, words, and my knowing.

I love the following quotation, which I also used to end my very first posting for my DianaDyer blog back in June 2007. I keep its supportive and encouraging thought always near to my heart.

"No one could make a greater mistake than he who
did nothing because he could do only a little."
~~ Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

I'll post up photos soon of the boxes (posted 3/30/09). We called them Dr. Dick's Deck Beds.

Diana Dyer

(Spring in Michigan - hopefully our last snowfall, which wasn't much and won't last long!)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD