Archive for January, 2011

Dairy Goat Show at the South Florida Fair

Posted in Goats with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

We took our two little Nigerian dwarf does to the South Florida Fair to compete against the professionals this past weekend.  It was a whirlwind.  We had no idea what to expect.  We put a lot of time and effort into the preparation and jumped head-first into the learning curve.

Grayson and his goat “Mary” did fantastic in their 1st class at their 1st goat show.

Grayson had such a good time at the show and all he can think about now is … goats.  I’m having the same problem.  They are beautiful, intelligent, playful and useful animals.  The goats at this show were some of the most elegant animals I’ve ever seen. 

Elegant show goats.

A class of dairy goats being judged.

The goats are "set-up" to show their dairyness.

Waiting to go into the ring.

Now that’s an udder!

This show was a doe only dairy show… no bucks.  The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) sanctioned the show and the winners won cash and prizes.  When Grayson took his voucher to collect his winnings he decided he was in this for the long-haul.  He won a lot of money and some great prizes.  (There was nothing free about getting to the show though.)

Mia's only 11-years-old and won a gorgeous, engraved, silver belt buckle.

4-H kids are smart and wholesome. They know how to take care of their animals and are not to be trifled with.

The show wasn’t all pursed-lips and seriousness.   There was a fun costume contest. 

The lone ranger showed up. Whoa, Silver!

I made "Silver's" saddle and bridle from a old vest and purse I bought at Goodwill.

Goat busters.

Check out Goodness Gracious Acres to see the full range of costumes in the contest.  She’s a fellow blogger and took some great photos.  She also sells homemade goat soap and other items from her website. 

Mia and Grayson. Mia is the “goat whisperer” and has taken Grayson under her wing to teach him.

Mia is such a special young lady and an inspiration to us.  She got us started with our chickens and has been a huge help with our goats.   Her knowledge of animal husbandry is very impressive.  If we could motivate all of our nation’s youth to be as motivated as the 4-H kids, our country’s future would look much brighter.

Mary is getting a much-deserved hug.

It's exhausting, but worth it.

Our two little does did very well at our first show.  We’re super proud of them.

Come grow with us!

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Muscade Carrots… Not for the Rabbits

Posted in Edible Rhizomes with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by PickMeYard

My daughter and I harvested a row of muscade carrots this morning.  They are absolutely crunchy and delicious!  They would have been even sweeter if I hadn’t waited so long to pull them, but they are still worth writing about.  I ordered the seed packet from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.   According to them, the muscade carrots are a North African variety and rare. 

Harvesting carrots. My daughter dresses herself in her favorite outfits every morning. You never know what the day will bring.

The muscade carrots are a large carrot variety. They have a delicious texture.

After we harvested the muscade carrots I realized they are really large carrots.  I figured they would be good juicing carrots.  When we tasted them we decided there’s no way we would juice them.  They’re way too good.  We will enjoy them uncooked and crunchy.  My kids won’t eat carrots when they’re cooked, but they’ll eat them all day long if they’re raw. (Especially when they grew them.)  I was the same way when I was a kid.

Muscade carrots.

We take the tops off the carrots and rinse them with the hose before we bring them inside.

We cut the green, leafy tops off the carrots and feed them to our bunnies.  The leafy tops are toxic to people but very nutritious for the rabbits.  

A few years ago, I put our harvested carrots in the refrigerator without cutting off the leafy tops and I found them all soft and inedible the next day.  I wondered why the carrots from the grocery store lasted so long in the fridge.  I learned that when the green tops are cut off, I can store my carrots in my refrigerator for several weeks.   Click here for a link on storing carrots through the winter.

All the muscade carrots we can carry.

We’re in zone 9b, so we don’t even attempt to grow carrots in the summer here.   Carrots get bitter and bolt in hot weather. (Cold increases their sweetness.)  However, we grow them every year during our fall and winters.  We find them very easy to grow.  Gardens Alive sells an organic heat tolerant variety called Danvers 126.

We plant our carrots about 3-4 weeks apart so we’re not harvesting a million carrots all at the same time.  We find it interesting and fun to grow different varieties.  It’s priceless to pull a carrot fresh from our garden, rinse it in the hose and walk around our yard crunching on it.  Back to nature!

Come grow with us!

Sugar Cane

Posted in Gardening Experiments with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by PickMeYard

I harvested all our backyard sugarcane before the early, December freeze in Florida this year.  I grew our sugarcane in a round, mulched area where an oak tree died of old age (and serious riverbank erosion) and was completely removed.  

This photo was taken last summer. The canes were still young.

I plant our sugarcane from buds that I get from stem cuttings.   I plant them in the ground when it warms up in the spring and then I harvest the cane right before our first freeze in the winter. Sugarcane grows best in tropical climates where they can keep harvesting their stands over and over (sometimes up to 10 times) because it doesn’t freeze.  The new stalks that grow up are called ratoons.

The U.S. Sugar Corporation is suffering due to the extreme freezes that Florida has endured over the past two years.  They’re having trouble finding acceptable seed cane for next year’s crop.  U.S. Sugar farms 150,000 acres of sugarcane fields.

Newly planted Florida sugarcane. This photo shows what used to be the Everglades.

When I harvest our own sugar cane, I cut the sugar cane down at the base, just above the ground.  Then, I cut off the green tops.  I overwinter the little cane buds and sprouts in a big pot.  I grow them in a different spot in my yard each year.  This is our third year of enjoying the yummy cane. 

Some of our backyard sugarcane after being harvested. My kids eagerly wait for me to peel & cut it up for them to chew on.

Cane starts I collected to overwinter and use for my next crop.

The sugar cane harvest has taught me a skill that I’m quite proud of… using a machete like a Jamaican.  I’ve learned to peel the sugar cane swiftly and easily.  I’ve even started a machete collection.  A kitchen knife will not suffice for cutting sugarcane. 

Raw and peeled sugarcane.

Slicing the sugarcane into small pieces makes it easy to chew on. It's extremely juicy!

I tend to cut up huge bowls of sugarcane so there’s no arguing over it and everybody can have as much as they want. This is a photo of a small amount.

Sugarcane is in the grass family and is easy to grow as long as it has warm temperatures and full sun.  Click here to learn how to grow sugarcane from a store-bought piece.

I’ve recently learned that there are different types of sugarcane.  The type most home gardeners would grow is “chewing cane” which is very sweet and good to chew on.  The commercial sugar cane growers grow “crystal cane” which is better for processing the sugar crystals.  “Syrup cane” is grown for making syrup.  I found a great website from the University of Florida on the different canes. 

Are you wondering why someone would actually grow sugar when most of us are trying to stay away from it? I have always believed that raw sugarcane is very healthy because that’s what I was taught in Jamaica.  They chew it for good digestion and healthy teeth.  We always buy cut sugarcane and juice from vendors along the roadway in Jamaica.  For a sugarcane juice nutrition breakdown, click here.  I’ve never found anything comparable in Florida markets, so I grow my own.

We are hooked on growing our own backyard sugarcane for life.  My family has found great pleasure in cutting and chewing our sweet, sweet sugarcane.  I’m going to grow much more of it this year.  I’ll keep expanding my machete collection and I’m even looking into a household sugarcane extractor.

Sweet, sweet sugarcane.

Come grow with us!