Thank you Detroit News Herald!

Check out this great article from Amy Bell - this amazing world of technology means that I was able to talk to her in Germany last week via my computer. Thank you Amy! ANN ARBOR: Former resident featured on "The Doctors" for her 'mind over approach' to Hodgkins Lymphoma

Today about to head in for my day 8 of infusion goodness from the "red couch" waiting area - one of the residents at the clinic told me that his sister lives in Ann Arbor, saw this article, and asked him about it!

Life is AMAZING!

Watch me on The Doctors talk about Mind over Matter (and my book!)

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Screen shot 2012-01-31 at 8.59.47 AM

Thank you so much Universe, thank you Joni, Samantha, and Carina at the The Doctors and for everyone who made me feel like a princess through out the entire process! Here is the link to the video of me talking! Whooppee!!!

They dubbed me "Cancer Survivor & Eternal Optimist" LOVE LOVE it!!

What a wonderful way to start the day...(and I am going to embed the video here as well, just in case)

Real Time Farms on Heritage Radio!

"The underlying assumption of our website is that you are a farmer who wants to tell your story."

--Corinna Borden on The Farm Report

(hehe, thanks Heritage Radio!)

First of all, the setup for this scene was AWESOME. You are looking out like a fishbowl into the sun drenched seating area of Roberta's.

Erin Fairbanks works with Heritage Foods and she used to be a Deli Leader at Zingermans - and we found each other when I wore a Zing teeshirt to the No Goat Left Behind event in October - Zingermans alumni UNITE!

So Lindsay P and I talked to Erin about Real Time Farms and what is going on... it was super fun and I look forward to doing it again.

A visit to Tilian Farm Development Center: a vision of our local food future

Merely 5 miles north on Pontiac Trail, a vision is taking on substance. Tilian Farm Development Center is about to burst forth with active vegetables, animals, and people. As with so many things, it is nice to see a "before" picture, this is that picture. As I noted in January, Tilian Farm Development Center is the larger envelope enclosing the Four Season Farmer Development Program (FSFDP) currently using 16 acres owned by Ann Arbor Township. The Township's acreage extends for 150 acres around an old barn (with a new roof courtesy of the Township) and a crumbling side building. Three inaugural farms will share the land, the resources, and the community's support as the first wave of entrepreneurship under the Tilian umbrella.

The purpose of Tilian is to create new farms in our area. As such, there will be a rotation of new farmers coming in new every year on two-year rotations. Andrea Ridgard, Project Manager, shares, "the first year of the program is really focused on getting the farms started and sustainable with their own markets. The energy of the program in the second year will be more focused on the farmers leaving the land and surviving on their own."Borden-2011tilianfarmers

The newest farmers to join the Ann Arbor community served breakfast at Selma Cafe last Friday. From left to right: Ben Fidler, Nate Lada, Alex Cacciari, Mark Nowak, and Jill Sweetman.

Of the FSFDP applicants, three farms were chosen as the inaugural cohort. Nate Lada and Jill Sweetman, of Green Things Farm, are starting a small vegetable and egg CSA (memberships available). Alex Cacciari and Mark Nowak, of Seeley Farm , are looking for wholesale customers for their greens. Benjamin Fidler, of Bending Sickle Community Farm, will be doing a pork and poultry CSA. As Nate Lada explained to me when I asked about growing practices - "we are all doing ecologically sustainable practices, using insecticidal soap for example. But we are not going to be certified organic."

The young farmers benefit from the FSFDP advisory committee with a broad range and depth of knowledge: Jane Bush (Grazing Fields egg cooperative and Food System Economic Partnership), Tomm Becker (Sunseed Farm), Shannon Brines (Brines Farm), Jennifer Kangas (Capella Farm), Victoria Bennett (WCC), Jeff Holden (Allegiance Health), and Dan Carroll (Zingermans Bakehouse). Fueled by potlucks - the veterans, "volunteer their time," shares Jill Sweetman, "they have given us advice on our seed order, business planning, doing the llc, and financial stuff."

Tilian Farm Development Center is guided by a steering committee equally impressive in its knowledge and dedication. Jeff McCabe (Repasts Present & Future and Selma Cafe), Andrea Ridgard, Jeremy Mogheter (MSU Student Organic Farm), Dan Bair (The Farm at St. Joes), Shannon Brines, and Jessica Neasfey (SNRE student and landscape designer).

Selma Cafe formed the Four Season Farmer Development Program with funds from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 2 year grant pays for 25 hours of work a week, a mobile hoop house, a washpack (where food can be, you guessed it, washed and packed), a root cellar, and $3000 worth of tools. As such, the farmers have put together a "Tools to Till Tilian" campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise $12,000 to purchase fencing, a tractor, and capital necessities that should last beyond their two years on the land.

If you choose not to contribute to the campaign you can help grow more farms in Washtenaw by literally building a hoop house. The first hoop build of 2011 will happen at Tilian on April 16th. You can sign up here.

The day I visited, the lone chicken coop surrounded by electric fence highlighted the wide expanse of, as yet, empty land. One brave Bantam rooster crowed against the wind and the wilderness. Not for long will he be the only one making noise on that land.

Here is the article on annarbor.com

Visit to Sunseed Farm

In my Farm to Fork series I visit local farms around Ann Arbor and share what I learn.

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"People aren't willing to just eat potatoes and onions all winter long." Tomm Becker, of Sunseed Farm, stands in the one of their two unheated hoop houses surrounded by dark earth and verdant vegetables. "We believe that in order to have a really healthy food system we need to have a year round supply of food. It doesn't make sense to even talk about a food system unless you can supply food in the wintertime."

Tomm learned about supplying food in the wintertime as the Production Manager for the Student Organic Farm at MSU. He and his wife, Trilby, moved to Ann Arbor and started - Ann Arbor's first year round fresh vegetable CSA - as noted in the 2011 Local Food Victories awarded at the 3rd Annual Homegrown Local Food Summit. Borden-hoophousesinsnowatsunseedfarm

Supplying food all year long takes hoophouses (courtesy of Selma Cafe's Farmer Fund and the USDA), a regimented plan for the timing of plantings, and an awareness of which plants to grow inside the hoop during the winter. As Becker explains: "we grow either plants that you can harvest a bunch of times - like the kale or chard or the salad mix - or the really space efficient crops like lettuce, carrots, or spinach." Kale is very efficient, seeds planted in August have been harvested since November - four months. As their August plantings of salad mix and turnip are bolting they remove them and planting new seeds for the summer harvest.

Sunseed Farm uses a variety of methods to control pests and diseases: cover crops, rotational plantings, a broad array of vegetable species, the application of regular dish soap to remove aphids, and spraying nematodes (a microscopic soil organism) on the soil to reduce cutworms. "What we are working to do is to create an ecosystem in which the population of one pest/pathogen/insect is not exploding to the point where it becomes a real problem... [We are] increasing the biodiversity on our farm... to keep the insect pressure down... because when you have healthy soil you can have healthy plants. When plants have what they need they are able to resist attacks."

Another way Sunseed Farm protects and thus feeds the soil in the hoop house is by using a broadfork to loosen the soil for planting instead of turning it over with a shovel or tilling it. "[With a shovel] you might achieve a lot really quickly, but you are really setting back the soil biology by killing a lot of the microrganisms down in there...People have been using a broadfork for a long time, but [Eliot Coleman] brought it back." The 30 inch wide bar has 7 long tines - standing on it and wiggling it back and forth loosens the soil without destroying the fragile ecosystem.

The first week of March, Tomm Becker presented at both the Homegrown Local Food Summit and at the Michigan Organic Conference. He also welcomes interns and apprentices to Sunseed Farm. "I want to help people as much as I can. I don't really see myself in competition with other small scale vegetable farmers. I think that really what we are doing is trying to change the whole food system - helping each other is helping ourselves."

Customers can sign up for three 16 week shares: Autumn, Winter, and Summer. Sunseed Farm is accepting applications now for their Summer CSA share (sign up here). Located five miles north of Ann Arbor off of Joy Road, you can email them or give them a call! (517-980-0893)

Why (and how) we killed one of our chickens

(Note: This article contains very vivid descriptions of chicken slaughter.)

According to Human Rights Watch, the average speed of dead poultry moving past the inspectors in a slaughtering plant is 70 per minute. That means in the time it took you to read this last sentence you would have been expected to examine six birds for the nearly 20 listed items the Food Safety and Inspection Service list in their 2009 directive. Whether it be "pulling the cut skin and muscle back [to look for a] "yellow scabbed areas between the skin and subcutaneous tissue...enlarged or reddened kidneys that indicate infection of early sepsis, [or] ...an overscalded carcass." One second per bird is optimistic at best.

This fact, along with many others about the state of our slaughtering facilities in this country, is why I wanted to kill my own chicken.

John Harnois, of Harnois Farms, was kind enough to teach us one fine October day he set up his metal funnel to hang the bird, a tub of water to scald the feathers and a de-plucking machine for after the deed was complete.

Many people I have spoken to about killing birds dispense with the first part of the process, but Harnois explained he felt it more humane to render the brain dead before draining the body of blood.

After placing the chicken upside-down in the funnel, we grabbed its bottom jaw. Quickly before losing my nerve, I drove the point of a sharp paring knife through the upper soft palate into the chicken's brain. After watching the eyes slowly close, my husband took a pair of double-handed pruning shears and lopped off the head.

While we waited for the body to drain of blood, there was a great deal of movement and activity. The bloody neck emerged once or twice from the headless feathers and the legs scissored back and forth. Watching an animal progress through its death throes is not for the tender hearted.

Once the chicken had stopped moving we took it by the legs and dunked it completely in a large vat of simmering water (hot enough to loosen the feathers, but not so hot as to cook the bird). Deemed ready by Harnois when a few feathers came out to his tug, we held the bird over the rapidly spinning rubber fingers of the de-plucking machine for the majority.

Once the feathers were off, the chicken no longer felt to me like the same animal that pecked and preened and stretched in our back garden. The chicken, without feathers, became a biology experiment.

Cutting around the vent and removing the innards was 100 percent benign in comparison to the emotional bracing it took for me to stab a living chicken through its brain.

Yet without the stab, there is no dinner, which is why I stabbed.

Time to Molt!

(In the video you can see the difference between a molting Buff Orpington and one with full plumage.) The chickens have been part of our lives for 17 months now. The patina of the unknown had faded into a routine.

Thank goodness for Mother Nature. Just when I thought all was staid, she sends the message to our chickens: Time to molt. And wow, a molting chicken is a silly looking chicken. The first inkling that something was amiss began at the beginning of November. Though I was unsure as to why, we had been told to keep track of daily egg production by people we trusted. A few weeks ago, our numbers dropped off precipitously and stayed dropped. Three to four eggs a day became one. I am grateful we had been keeping track of production, because it put us on notice to be more attentive to their subsequent behavior.

After a week of decreased production, more feathers were on the bottom of the coop than I had ever seen before. Our chickens also became highly skittish. Whereas before when we brought out treats, they would say hello – some of them even jumping up on shoulders and knees – now most stayed away.

Diminished egg production and loss of feathers could indicate several fowl situations (pun intended). Mites, lice, poor nutrition, general stress or molting were all possibilities. Just when I had decided to read about mites, I was able to catch one of the skittish birds.

According to the Western Australian Department of Agriculture Farmnote from January 1979, “the three main factors that bring about moulting are: physical exhaustion and fatigue; completion of the laying cycle (as birds lay eggs for a certain period of time); and reduction of the day length, resulting in reduced feeding time and consequent loss of body weight.”

Pullets are expected to produce eggs continuously for 11 months before taking a break to build up their bodies' reserves of nutrients. Our girls started laying in late December, so we were right at 11 months. Day length is certainly shorter.

When I was able to catch a bird, I saw pin feathers coming out of her neck – a molt it is! Pin feathers look like short clear straws with tightly compressed feathers tufting through the very top.

“The first plumage is lost from the head and neck, then from the saddle, breast and abdomen (body), then from the wings and finally from the tail,” according to the Australian Farmnote. As we watch for our birds to pass through the stages of molting, we are reminded of our initial adoration for our backyard chickens. It's probably good for us to take a break from eating eggs anyway.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.