The Garden Tour | Side-Yard + Pickle

Hello, and welcome back to the next part of our garden tour!

For today, this post will be about the side yard mini garden, so technically, last month’s post was mainly about the landscaping the front end of our house, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, click here. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which post you read first but if you want to hear my thoughts about these changes, plus the reason why I am even writing these blog posts, you can read them later.


Last fall, we had a miracle happen in our backyard. A single sunflower sprouted up from the ground. The only way it could have flourished was around mid-summer, my mom found me some sunflowers at the store and once they become very droopy and sad, my parents toss them out the back door. Unfortunately, we don’t own a compost contain, so any food leftovers and scarps end up in the back and the cats tend to enjoy most of the food we throw it, however, they don’t eat the dying flowers (thank God!) and it decided to upcycle itself and leave us with a nice present one day!

Everyone seems to know that I am obsessed with sunflowers, and my dad has always wanted to grow a big bunch of them in and around the location of my bedroom window, but I’m very short, even if I am sitting in bed or my wheelchair, so this past spring, we made the decision that we were going to have a wall of sunflowers up against Rumer’s fence. If we didn’t have either of them, I still believe my parents would have planted them in the front anyways. It’s the area where they would have full access to the sun as there are no trees in that whole section, so they have a huge section to grow and spread some joy to the neighborhood.

We actually planted two different kinds of sunflowers, we had the regular yellow and my folks kind of fell in love with the chocolate ones. I was a little hesitant about them because I didn’t exactly know how they would turn out, but they are so beautiful!

In the beginning, we put about five seeds if I remember correctly into five separate pots. They in various sizes but they all seemed to take off around the same time and it was neat to watch them come out of the dirt, and grow little green leaves and stems. Since these were like my babies, everytime I went outside to visit with our cats, I would roll over there to check on their progress. My mom and I were looking at them almost on a daily basis, and since I am a huge namer, I decided to give each pot a name because to name each flower would be too much, especially with the amount we have now.

I became very inspired by the fact that Ukraine’s national flower was actually a sunflower, I thought the pots needed to be named after names used there in a way to honor the people and state. So, with that being said, the first big pot had the largest collection of flowers in it, so I named that one Boris. I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to use this name. It may not be a well-used name, but I took that as a sign and went with it. The meaning behind Boris is fighter, so I thought it was perfect as the Ukrainians are real fighters, it doesn’t matter whether they are on the front lines or left their homes, schools, life, etc. They are survivors.

The middle pots are similar in size and my mind went, “well they’re fraternal triplets!” so they were all named with my favorite girl names, Oksana (means: welcoming, hospitality), Olesya (means: protector, forest), and Olena (means: torch, shining light). Olena is for the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska! And finally, the last pot was the smaller and I was drawn toward the name Lev, which means lion, so it’s smally but mighty at the same time.

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By June, all of the sprouts were ready to be replanted along the fence line and my parents sent like a whole day and a half getting these guys into place, once there they were given a little bit of water and they began to grow.

Since this was our first time with sunflowers in general, we were a bit puzzled when my mom snapped this picture. We were sort of concerned because it looked like we had planted some very weird Venus Flytraps! We did make a note of the inside of the plant had a small hole in the middle and we realized this was where the seeds were, and the little dark green spikes would become the petals. We were thrilled when they transformed but it was cool to see a part that we never knew happened in their way of becoming regular sunflowers.

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Once they began to climb up the fence, they started to change again–this time it was size! Several of the sunflowers were a little too top heavy and so my dad stuck some dowls into the ground next to them to help give them some stability, and they seemed to relish in the support because they are huge, and I mean, they are so big in the middle part they still have issues lifting up towards the sky. So, these flowers really hide among their leaves and other flowers. They are still pretty but you instantly feel bad for them too.

It’s sort of funny if you really think about it; although we only bought (and planted) two packages of sunflowers, we ended up with three different flowers. We expected all of them being in the same size as the chocolates, but then we have a small section with these bad boys! We are sort of dumbfounded at the mystery, but they’ve been fun to watch as the season changes, and we know going into this we would have a bunch of bees come around to collect pollen, and we were right with that assumption, but we’ve also seen some hummingbirds and yellow birds make their way to them in the last month.

Back in late July, I finally got to go around to see them up close and they were somewhat intimidating as they just towered over my mom, sister, nephew and I. It was sweet to see a couple of the newbies (because we have even more flowers traveling up to the others!) and I’m happy to say, it makes really happy to see cars come around our neighborhood to see them. We had an older man bring his wife around to see them the other day and I thought it was so sweet because I love going to other sunflower gardens too! We also have a lot of bees visiting too. Bees are very important to our ecosystem and even though I am terrified of them, I don’t want them to disappear forever because they are probably the reason why we have baby sunflowers below the veterans.

While I was outside, we made a trip to see the other garden along the left side of the house. Nolan managed to find a baby cucumber and pulled it off its stem. He really loves visiting the gardens and picking the vegetables with Mimi and Papaw. He was very proud of his discovery too! A few days later, my mom went by the same section and found the biggest cucumber we’ve seen so far! We don’t know how we managed to pull these things in the same time span, but it happened.

In this garden, we also have some green pepper plants. As a family, we like to snack of chopped up peppers with dip, use them in stuffed peppers (or stuffed mangos as my dad grew up calling them!) and finally salsa!

As the title says, I’ll be discussing our pickling process as well, but we have also made one batch of marinara sauce, and two large batches of salsa. Now, I will not be going into too much detail about the steps to make each one, but I did have my mom take photos of the packages they used to create them though! I’m hoping that’ll be enough, but I also wanted to leave you with their links as well at the end of the post!

On July 16th, we got our first harvest, and the cucumber was really big. I often wonder why my folks don’t pick them while they are somewhat smaller, but it may have something to do with ripeness like most vegetables. I don’t really know. I was never a fan of cucumbers, unless they transformed into pickles… so I’m not an expert on them. Honestly, I can’t physically grab any of our vegetables out of the gardens, which is why my knowledge is lacking in certain areas.

Anyways, the first time my parents decided to start creating our own pickles, they went all in with it and made four different kinds: bread-and-butter, kosher, garlic kosher and non-kosher dill. I have tried one of the dills and it was WAYYY too strong for any of us! Last month, I finally got to try a bread-and-butter and they were much better, very mild and even though they were sitting on the kitchen table, they were not cold, and it didn’t matter because I got to savor the flavors a lot better compared to them coming out of the fridge and my teeth screaming at me because of the coldness!

My nephew was even part of the pickling process, he really loves to help out, and a way to use this to our advantage was getting him involved with stuffing the wedges inside each mason jar and he really enjoyed being able to do this. What was cute though was my dad had this smaller jar that is like a fraction of the others, and he cut cucumber wedges smaller so Nolan could have his own jar! He seemed to love having his own stash in the fridge but since he went home before the jar itself cooled down, we ended up holding onto it for a couple of weeks!

A couple of weeks after my folks completed their first attempt at the pickles, my mom really wanted to make her own marinara sauce, we eat a lot of pizza and spaghetti in our house! Unfortunately, when my mom tried it, she wasn’t that impressed with it, and hasn’t tried to redeem herself yet. The third venture was salsa, and again we love restaurant style salsa so it wasn’t that big of a surprise they would try it out, but I don’t think they expected us to go through seven jars in a matter of two or three months! One of my dad’s ingredients was adding our baby green peppers into the mix and I can’t taste it in there, but I love the flavor of the whole thing! One day, my dad literally made salsa and the only container he could put it in was our lemonade/tea pitcher!

As we continue to harvest our goods, the room on our kitchen table keeps getting smaller and smaller, so much so that the side I eat on was very chaotic and full of empty jars and rows of cucumbers would feel overwhelming! In order to solve this problem, especially with storing the jars that haven’t been used yet, we have this old pie storage, it has to be extremely old and completely made up of wood, but it is large enough to hold three or four levels of our stuff to last a few in the colder months, but we might want to control our intake of salsa if we truly want to do this though!


Next month I will have the final post of the garden tour and will talk more about the whole setup, because it has been a massive undertaking for my dad, but I think in a secret way, he really enjoys fixing it up! It will include the original plans, more vegetables, and how we were keeping the cats and other animals out of it.

I hope you are enjoying these posts; I’ve been surprising myself on how much fun it is to write them for you. I used to do these types of posts when my sister was in her first year of college, but thankfully, the photos are in a lot better quality! Anyways, be sure to be on the lookout for that sometime at the end of October.

How you ever pickled anything before? Do you know of any other recipes we should try to make with our vegetables? Please leave everything in the comments below.

snowflake

The Garden Tour | The Beginning

Hello!

I am finally ready to give you the story of our garden. I say “our” because even though I didn’t do the actual tilling, planting and pull vegetables off the stocks, I am still very much a part of the whole thing. I haven’t had much say on the entire thing, but I thought talking about it on here will bring me closer to each of the sections.


Since we’ve been in this house and after getting our dog Rumer’s fenced yard earlier this year, my folks have been itching to make the front as pretty as possible. We’ve been in this house four years and my mom has had array of hanging flowers on the side deck and eventually the front entrance, but they took the landscaping up a notch once we started to experience spring weather. There were a few times in those early days where the majority of the plants had to go into my dad’s garage for a night or two, so they didn’t develop any frost on their leaves.

The very first thing my parents bought for the garden was a nod to me, as I had found them on Facebook one day and shared it to my mom and she seemed to like them as they arrived a week later. They are sunflower solar lights. They do not need any batteries nor water but just straight sun to shine bright over the space. Originally, they were going to be in the back deck where I love to spend time hanging out with the cats and reading one of my books, but then my mom wanted some as well. I tried to split them up evenly since it came with 8 sunflowers, but dad ended up scarping that idea as a whole and now we have the majority in the front yard and three are in the back yard.

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The sunflowers are in great company to the real flowers along the fence. As you can see from this photo, we have the lights on the inside of the fence while we have a row of plants on the other side, this is actually an almond bush, it was a small section trimmed off the other bush at my nana and papaw’s house. My nana has a section up north and now we have one for our yard.

All of the plants are non-toxic to Rumer so if she does decide to tear into them, she shouldn’t get too sick by them. We’ve had the front part done for five months and she ignores them so that’s great! For the most part, all of our flowers and vegetables are non-toxic to both Rumer and the cats; the cats have hardly made a dent in our gardens. We’ve caught Grumpy, Midge, and Nelson asleep in the big garden in the backyard but they don’t really care about any of the new landscaping, which has really surprised us in the last month or so!

In the front, we have had array of various flowers line up along the fence like the tulips. My parents were really into the tulips, but they were the first to die once we got started with everything. We had orange, pink, and purple tulips and they were so beautiful, but they didn’t really flourish like we thought they would, but by the time we got them it was the end of March, and we were experiencing frosts in the mornings, but we were able to save the hostas and rose bushes they bought throughout March to late April. It was not a good idea to allow my dad to go to Wal-Mart or Menards because he would come home with more plants, especially rose bushes and peppers!

There is a ruse bush closest to the sunflower patch, I will talk more about them in my next post, which was looking really bad at the store and my dad felt kind of sorry for it like Charlie Brown does at the little real tree in Charlie Brown Christmas special. According to them, they left Menards and went around Wal-Mart, but he kept thinking about that sad bush and they literally went back to grab and take it home. Thankfully they did this because it’s been flourishing since the start of April. It is huge! I can see perfectly from the front door and it’s a nice reddish-pink color too! We’re all happy he was able to save it from its humble beginnings and see it evolve over time in the rich soil. If you are really curious, this rose bush is on the left side on the first collage.

While my dad worked mainly in the fence line, my mom focused her attention to the porch. She has had some type of flowers either hanging from the rails of the side deck or on the front steps. We love to make that space in the front somewhat decorated for all seasons!

And since we’ve had a proper porch, she seemed to step up her game with arranging even more flowers around every surface, and we’ve had petunias of various colors like pinks and purples, but she added a couple of different daisies this year, and one of which has become a sort of favorite for me as it has a yellow hue on the outside with a deep purple in the middle; none of us had ever seen this one before but I hope it’ll become a seasonal stable for us.

We also have two cubes at the bottom of the stairs, and there are a bunch of zinnias and another flower we haven’t had before, but they’re called purple waves and whenever I go up next to the screen door I can’t quite see them because of how dad and our family friend built the actual steps and small patio last year, but I’ve learned to live with it as long as they add pretty elements to this part of our home.

Unfortunately, a lot of flowers we planted in the spring are dead, but my parents really enjoy their flowers so as the weather turns, we grabbed others that would relish in the sunlight. The rose bushes are still going strong, but we did replace the tulips with yellow marigolds. The best way to describe what they look like are dandelions when they become bright yellow, but they have more petals, they look like those 80’s or 90’s toy balls with those silky-soft hairs. I hope you understand what I’m saying, because that’s all I have at the moment.

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We have a group of marigolds next to the legendary rose bush and it wasn’t supposed to be, but I think of it as a nice nod to my great-great-great Aunt Mary and her husband Gen, short for General in fact! I’ve talked about them a few years ago, my nana and I found a file of letters and photos that were supposed to be put with Mary when she died, but they never were, and everybody has always talked about their love of roses. Apparently, Gen was obsessed with them, they had all kinds and bred different ones, and in one of the letters we found, his pet name for his wife was Marigold, which is so, so sweet! It does make me sad we weren’t able to give her back the file in the end, but it is a nice memory to have for newer generations.


I’ve been reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder on Spotify, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about how they did back on the wild frontier, and even my mom has said things that would make Charles Ingalls very happy too! We had a storm back in early June that was semi violent and shook our tomato and cucumber plants to the point they were bent a little and she said, “I now understand what Pa Ingalls went through when it hailed and destroyed their field.” Thankfully, we didn’t lose anything, and they felt a lot better than while they watched the wind mess with the larger plants.

So, that’s all I can say about the front part of our house and when I come back with my second post, it will be about the side yard and I’ll be talking about how my folks decided to dig further on the eastern side of our property and tell you more about the process of our sunflowers, and if you know me well enough, you know how excited I am to chat about them. And if you’re wondering if they have names like my indoor plants, they do! I also share our first experience of canning the large cucumber harvests we’ve had lately! So, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this first section and continue learning about little homesteading journey.

What kind of landscaping have you done to your home? For those who live in apartments, what are some of your future ideas to create your own garden? What are your favorite flowers/plants?

snowflake