Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Long Orange Firecrackers

In our home garden, we just picked carrots this week. From one raised bed, my kids unearthed an armload of long orange firecrackers. Picking carrots, potatoes, and root/tuber vegetables is such a satisfying harvest. There is something special about bringing up buried treasure: you're never quite sure what is hidden until you pull it out of the ground.

Most people love the taste of carrots, which are very nutritious and versatile in the kitchen. Their sweet, earthy flavors are a welcome addition to almost any dish, sweet or savory. But quite honestly, the only carrots that get cooked at our house are the ones we buy in the store. The ones we grow don't make it to the kitchen; they are so much tastier that they are eaten first.

Homegrown carrots are so good we tend to eat them all raw. When the kids are pulling up carrots, they don't even want to wash them before taking a bite. Once the roots are rinsed, my kids will eat two or three large carrots before they slow down. We put them in school lunch boxes and they disappear. There's no shortage of vitamin A this time of year.

As soon as we pick carrots, a light bulb flashes in my head. It's the reminder to plant more carrot seeds, which I plan to do very soon!  Carrots prefer cool temperatures, so in the hot days of late summer, give them plenty of water and perhaps a little shade.

In a mild climate, you can grow carrots year-round. If your winters are cold, hard frosts and temperatures in the teens will kill off the foliage, but carrot roots can remain in the ground even into winter. Just cover them with a thick mulch, say six inches of leaves, straw, or sawdust, which should protect the roots for now. If your soil stays workable, you can dig them up as needed over the winter. Otherwise, you should get them out before the ground freezes up solid or else wait until early spring to pull them out. When you buy seed, you can look for overwintering varieties if this is what you plan to do.

For more information on growing carrots and other hardy cool season vegetables, please see my Fall and Winter Gardening e-book (click here for the link). And if you're a parent, involving kids in the garden is the best way to get them interested in eating their veggies. Carrots may be the easiest place to start. If your kids don't like the ones from the store, wait till they taste real homegrown carrots.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Free E-book on Thursday, July 12th

Stay tuned for a free download this Thursday, July 12th. My new e-booklet, entitled Best Chicken Breeds, will be offered for free that day on Amazon. This new book makes a great supplement to Backyard Chickens for Beginners, the comprehensive beginner's guide to raising chickens in your yard, which has been a smash hit.

Best Chicken Breeds covers 12 breeds of chickens that lay lots of eggs, have friendly and calm temperaments, and can fit in small, city backyards. There is a lot of information on chicken breeds online, most of it for free, but it took me many hours to research everything, sort through all this raw material, and synthesize it into what I really wanted: some good recommendations for the best backyard egg layers and pets.

Did you know there are 175 different kinds of chickens? I narrowed down this list to 12 breeds that make the best backyard egg layers and have nice personalities. As a BONUS, I am including an overview of 5 additional breeds of exotic poultry chickens that also are suitable for raising in backyards.

It took me a long time to learn about all the various breeds. Rather than make you go through the same trouble, I am sharing my findings with you in this short e-booklet. If your time is worth more than $1 per hour, then I believe you'll find this book is worth its modest price.

And this Thursday, you can get the new e-booklet for free. Just click on my author name at the top of this screen and it should show you my list of titles, including this one. I hope you enjoy the book and find it useful!