In a Pickle

Actually, I’m not, but it seemed like a fitting title since that’s what I did yesterday–canned pickles.

I’ve never been much of one for a garden. We have our flowerbeds out front, that mostly my husband does the work for (granted, he has a lot more time than I do). While I do enjoy fresh vegetables in summer, it never occurred to me until last year that I could have a garden.

There’s plenty of room in the back yard, except the dogs have the run of it. Isis and Skeet, our current dogs, probably wouldn’t bother it, but our past dogs probably would have. Besides, the back yard is shaded most of the day, so I just figured no garden for us.

Why yes, those are tomatoes in our front flowerbed

Then I stumbled on a blog called Tenth Acre Farm, and realized there’s no reason why I couldn’t grow a few edibles in the front yard! I always just assumed there’d be a city ordinance prohibiting it. But that blog made me check to see, and what do you know, I couldn’t find anything to that effect (this might differ in your locale, especially if you’re in an HOA, so please don’t take my word for it!). So last year, we planted five tomato plants, and a cucumber, since my husband’s favorite thing to eat in summer is a salad made from those two, plus onions. What’s funny is most people don’t even notice the tomatoes and cucumber unless we point them out. Even though there are wire cages around the tomatoes!

It was wonderful! We loved having fresh tomatoes for our sandwiches and salads all summer, and for the first time since I could remember, my husband actually got tired of his cucumber/tomato salad by August! The plants actually did very well in the front flowerbeds, too. I am guessing the dirt is very good after years of mulching and growing flowers, and it also gets southwest sun all afternoon and evening, as well as plenty of water (we have sprinklers). One cucumber plant gave us more than we could eat. We gave away quite a bit, and still had a few cucumbers go bad at the end of summer.

Cucumbers go crazy in our flowerbed. There are a bunch of cukes hidden beneath the leaves.

So I decided why not make pickles? Last summer, I remembered both my grandma and my mom doing this, and didn’t recall it being very difficult. A look through the Ball Blue Book I’d inherited from Grandma confirmed that, so I ordered a canning rack for our stock pot, and jar tongs. We already had jars from my husband’s “moonshine” he makes to give as Christmas gifts. I also needed to buy whole dill.

But by the time I got my act together and got the supplies, the cucumbers went bad, and the plant was dying off. So this year, I planned ahead. We again grew five tomatoes and a cucumber, this time also got a dill plant, and parsley, both of which are also doing well. Conveniently, we started getting cucumbers at the same time as our dill flowered, and as of yesterday, we have seven jars of fresh-pack pickles sitting in the basement. They’ll need a couple months for the flavor to settle in, then hopefully they’ll be as good as Grandma’s (Mom only made sweet pickles). And yes, it wasn’t difficult at all.

Tennessee Update: We got our plans back from the designer on Friday. They had missed a few of our changes, so I emailed them back. They sent back the changes the next day, and everything looked good! So I approved the design, paid, and they sent the final plans later that afternoon. I forwarded them on to the builder, so now our next step is for him to apply for permits. I also sent them to our lender, who will need to get an appraisal to complete our loan. Things are moving right along!

What I’ve Been Reading: Not going to name the book or author of the fiction book I read this week, because it was kind of disappointing. It was good enough to finish, but barely. When I put a book down (or almost, as in this case), I like to analyze why, so I can learn from it. In this case, the beginning was way-too-drawn-out and repetitious. It seemed like the book took so long to get going. It also felt too short overall. I was expecting a more meaty read for the price I paid–at least a novel. This was novella-length, but nowhere on the Amazon page was that noted (I just double-checked). It also missed out on some things I typically expect of books in its genre, which is something we really need to get right as authors. It did pick up right as I was about to quit reading, and the ending was pretty good, albeit a little predictable.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this week was to work through Week 3 lessons and worksheets in Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. And–sigh–only three weeks into this round, I have a big fat fail. And for no good reason. I simply didn’t get to the writing until yesterday, and these exercises are pretty meaty, so… no. I got about halfway through it, and that counted work I did on it earlier today. (On a positive note, setting deadlines did help with my day job–I’m several days ahead of schedule there.) Writing only on weekends is not going to cut it; I need to do a little something most days, if not all. So this week, I want to finish Week 3’s lessons and start on Week 4, working on it for at least 15 minutes a day, five days this week.

What about you–have you tried or learned anything new lately? Ever had a preconceived notion that something wasn’t allowed (or possible), only to find out otherwise? How are your goals going, whether writing or something else? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

5 Responses to \

  1. Lovely story about growing vegetables in with the flowers AND making pickles. Last summer, my daughter canned peaches and ran out of steam (conference out of town) before finishing, so I ended up hitting the internet and canning the rest of those peaches — 10 jars! I was surprised at how easy the whole process was, but I didn’t can ALL of those peaches. Now, re the writing, our RWA chapter just reminded us of the 100-word challenge: Write a minimum of 100 words a day. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty confident I can kick out 100 words on my current project. The thing is that 100 words seems to just grow. Maybe that will help YOU! Have a great week.

  2. Good for you on the pickles. My mom used to can all the time. We had a huge garden (which my brother and I had to weed and pick produce all the time so I hate gardening now) but she canned everything from corn to beets to whatever else we had extra of.

    I love just slicing up a cucumber in some vinegar and salt with onion and letting it set for a day or two then eating them just like that. Yummy. Crisp and delicious.

    I’m so glad the house planning is coming along for you as well. Can’t wait to here more updates.

  3. Wow, Jennette. You are disappointed in your progress but my gosh, girl, you do a lot. Pickles? Yum! I have had a garden in the past, right now though even my flower garden is dying of neglect and heat. I am learning tons. One, I’m learning that I have to figure out a way to prioritize my writing. I get lots of business done but only a little plotting and no writing. I’ve been focused on preparing my manuscript for publication and on making a plan for after publication. Since I’ve no experience in this at all, it’s been learn-learn-learn. But it’s exciting and I can’t wait until the end of August. Good luck with prioritizing your writing.

  4. Rui Chan – thanks! Yes, half done is better than nothing!

    Beth – Mmmm, peaches…. That 100-word challenge sounds like a good idea, maybe I’ll try that!

    Patricia, just add tomatoes to your sliced cucumbers, and that sounds like my husband’s salad. Hope to have more updates on the house soon!

    Lynette, our garden would probably be dying if it were up to me to water it. Luckily, there’s my husband and sprinklers! The publishing work is sooooo much, especially for the first book. There is a such a learning curve, even for me with my graphic design and web design background. Good luck on learning it all – you totally can!

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