I was just reviewing my last few posts and thinking that I am very glad to have been able to share those beautiful flowers...especially considering that they are almost all dead...ha! Happily the gladiolus and sunflowers have begun to bloom, and the marigolds are still pretty resilient.
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I just love how happy sunflowers look!
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fresh picked cucumbers straight off the vine!
If you read my last post, you know that our little garden has been quite healthy, the only question is whether we got more yield from the zucchinis or the cucumbers! I've used cucumbers for salad frozen some in pieces (who knows how those will taste),, and tried to fry them (too much water and not enough flavor); but we've had so many, they go bad before I can give them away (though I did plenty of that too!) With that in mind, I began to consider some alternatives to using the cucumbers fresh. So today, I've included a recipe from my first experiment with pickling. I'd love to hear your ideas, especially since they're so many recipes out there and so many different ways to pickle! So with that, I present to you my very own 
Sweet and Salty Dilled Cucumbers!

My first attempt was inspired by a few recipes from AllRecipes.com and also from my trusty Old Sturbridge Village cookbook: A Taste of Sturbridge
Brine:
4 cups of white vinegar
4 cups of water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup of sea salt
2 tbs mustard seed
2 tbs dill weed**
3 cloves garlic, chopped
dash of  ground black pepper 

Try adding: 
Jalapenos (cut in circles or diced)
Clove of garlic (per jar, if you really want that garlic flavor)
Fresh baby dill sprigs (one per jar)--for extra zing
Onion, chopped (a healthy portion per jar)

as a side note: I may or may not have also added healthy shakes of the following spices (since they're secretly in almost everything I make, including sweets):
crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper

**Every recipe I looked at in my cookbooks and online said to use dill seed--not weed, which I did not realize until after I had already prepared the brine...and which likely led to the unusual flavor of these pickles.

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continually mix your brine as you bring it to a roiling boil.
 In the meantime, bring brine ingredients to a roiling boil. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers. I of course, did not have enough brine solution, or maybe my jars were too big, (make sure to check this ratio before proceeding, unless you're as carefree as I am!) and so I added a bit of water to each jar to have enough solution to cover all of the cucumbers. As a note, I did use hot water, but boiling a larger volume of brine would have been better for sterilization purposes...instead of risking bacterial contamination.  

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this is a good example of too many cucumbers in the pickle jar!
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chop cucumbers into spears
Rinse and cut cucumbers into spears (or whatever shape you prefer, mine were "thick cut" mostly because I hate chopping vegetables). Place cucumber spears into jars (try to distribute them evenly). 
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perhaps thick cut is a bit generous...
I then sealed the jars (self-sealing jars work best, to help pressurize the jar and keep it relatively sterile), rinsed the outsides, and placed them all in the refrigerator. Don't worry if you are not able to seal your jar, the refrigeration will do it for you! 
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ready to eat!
Wait a few days for your refrigerator pickles, and enjoy! (Note, the color and consistency of my brine were a bit...intimidating...so make sure to shake well periodically during refrigeration and prior to serving). These pickles have a very interesting flavor--sort of sweet and salty with a crisp dill finish...and the jars with jalapeno have an excellent heat that I quite enjoy. That being said, they don't really taste like pickles...which is why I named them sweet and salty dilled cucumbers. Additionally, I made a few jars with green beans and jalapenos...though I haven't tried them yet, I expect they taste pretty similarly (it is the same brine after all),
 

I've been wanting to share some lovely specimen from my garden....sooo here we go!

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Hard to believe this is natural lighting with no enhancements! I love the way this asiatic lilly looks beside the greens and the yellow pansy. The mulch is the perfect touch! (kudos bf) though, it looks like I need to start weeding again...
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I snapped this photo just before this columbine finished shedding its first-of-the-year flowers. Can you see the new little buds?
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This little pink poppy flower was quite a surprise, the others having been all orange, I'm glad I was able to get a quick pic of it before it fell off, even if the plant is a bit tipsy. I only hope it flowers long enough to share its beauty with the Shasta daisy that's growing next door...at least there are some violas and marigolds to keep it company!
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I had to enhance this butterfly bush a bit so you could see the bud starting to form...but it's there, I promise! And it quite good company with that happy little viola!
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I just love the way these colors look together--I just wish I could remember the name of the greens! (And the onion has seen better days, I suppose)
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This is my favorite, no sunflowers in the sunflower bed yet, but my little red flowers have sprung back to life and better yet, the bulbs are sprouting!!!
 
It's been a bit late in coming, but I wanted to share with you some of my new additions to my garden as well as to give you a little progress report on the veggies that I recently planted!
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As you can see, my bulbs have not been sprouting, so last week we went out and bought some flowers to brighten up the place a bit
With my seeds and bulbs having failed pretty miserably, I thought I'd stick with the transplanting method... So me and bf went out and picked up a few perrenials (columbine, poppy, lilly) and some annuals (pansy, marigold, viola) to put in some beds around the yard...but first it seemed like a good idea to clean things up a bit.
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Sadly I think we may have lost the daffodils to the heat or the weed killer, but luckily I managed to snap a photo of its only bloom...too bad it is surrounded by weeds and grass.
The bf bought some mulch to help stop the massive weed issue, so after waiting a few days (probably too long), the landlords dropped off some weed killer and bf sprayed down the yard. We then got to work weeding and transplanting. 
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In this bed, in the backyard, I found a place for the poppy beside the returning daisy and a few other small growers.
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Here we have a few pansies planted by some unknown returning perennial and an onion bulb
We happened to have planted a few mostly dead flowers last year, and apparently they were perennials, since some of them have begun to grow this spring. So I planted a few flowers around them to supplement and add a bit more color. 
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A few violas next to this butterfly bush which has miraculously come back from the mostly dead transplant that failed to thrive last year.
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In the corner of the yard, we have a few roses, and what might be daffodils, so I added some onion bulbs and marigolds to supplement the pink color....if anything ever flowers
After a little bit of work, I think the garden came out quite nice. It will be interesting to see if any of the bulbs I planted grow. 
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Here's the final result for the bed in front of the house.
In addition to our newly replenished flower beds, the veggies in our little garden seem to be doing very well! We have sprouts of beans and broccoli from the seeds that were planted two weeks ago. The peppers look great, and we have even managed not to kill the watermelon. We did kill the cucumber but managed to sprout a few seeds...and the strawberry is bigger, although looks like it's had a bit too much heat. With any luck we may actually have some produce this summer.
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We caged the tomatoes, and I know it's hard to see, but there's a solid row of bean sprouts and two rows of broccoli, though the carrots are not sprouting as of yet.
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watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini and cucumber...and a whole lot of weeds
 
It's been a gorgeous few days here, downright hot even! While this is quite lovely, it is also long anticipated, and I can't really blame the bf for being antsy for our recently potted sprouts to get on with it and do something already! So since our pots have remained resolutely barren (and those that were green have since wilted) we picked up a few plants to transplant this weekend.
We bought a few container plants as well, just assuming we may fail to grow anything! I planted a hanging strawberry, and a tomato in a big container...of course I didn't get a chance to decorate all of these, but check out this quick post I wrote for your own inspiration on decorating your plain plastic pots!
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We bought some healthy looking plants to supplant my failed seed project!
We began by digging up the nasty side yard of our little rental house...of course, even though Bf called the landlord before we started, we still ran into a few unexpected burrows cables. To avoid damage and potentially sending yourself back to the dark ages, I recommend tracing out the intended garden area and looking for buried cables before you start digging.
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Bf dug up the nasty dirt with a shovel to turn it over.
After turning over a large (cable free) plot of land, we broke apart large chunks of dirt with a hoe, picked out all of the rocks and sticks and roots, and raked the dirt smooth. Bf made neat rows and we planted a few seeds and transplanted a few plants. The handle of the hoe turned out to serve as a nice measurement for seeds requiring 1-2 inches of soil depth. We added a bit of potting soil to cover the seeds and drowned them in water.
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Some onions were left for too long in our spare bedroom, I've decided to plant them for some extra greenery in a few dead beds around the yard.
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Can you see the little baby strawberry? We planted this guy here in the hopes that he'd adapt to life in a hanging basket better than the bulbs did!
And now for the big reveal.... Ha! I promise to keep you thrilled readers updated on the progress, of course!
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Our little veggie garden! Lets hope they thrive!
 
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It has been a blessing in disguise to have not begun my garden outside earlier--hopefully the roses and the trees survive all this wet snow!
I have been "closely" monitoring my seed starter now for a while now, and after my initial excitement at seeing little shoots sprouting from my newly planted seeds, I have subsequently killed all the tomatoes. A few days after finding my sprouts, I watered and placed them in the afternoon sun for a few hours. I then took them back inside and placed them in their original place atop the washing machine--wherein I failed to do anything else with them all week. Now it has snowed again, making me grateful that I haven't planted them outside, but certain that it is time to transplant! So I will be placing some of the sprouts in pots and hopefully can save some of these dead little guys!
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Oops! They have collapsed!
Of course, being a master procrastinator, I didn't get back to this project until several days after I wrote the first part of this post...by then, the sprouts were beyond dead--but I figured I'd try anyway. 
I began by cutting up the individual pots from this seed starter. I tried to select a few with some stronger looking (ie: less dead) sprouts. 
After I had cut out an individual pot, I filled a plastic pot with potting soil and dug a little hole. I then placed the pot into the little hole and added more potting soil on top. I think it is easier if you water the first bit of dirt and then add your pot, because otherwise the little pot floats when you water---even if you've added a bunch of dirt to cover it. Another thing to think about (assuming the little sprouts survive this transplant) is the drainage in the pot. Most seeds and bulbs tell you what type of sunlight and water drainage levels are required. For seeds that require more drainage, I placed a few rocks at the bottom of the pot, and tried not to pack the dirt too much. 
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here you can see some of my pots on the counter beside my "Thriving" basil plant. I figured it was best to wait until the snow had passed before placing them outside.
Of course, having finally gotten the energy to plant my seedlings, I had to wait a few days before they could be placed outside...since I didn't want to kill them with frost...Eventually though, it warmed enough for me to set them on the little deck.  Of course, I still have quite a few seedlings left over--so now I need to work up the energy to rake the yard and prepare a suitable place to plant some of them! (I am thinking I should have done that before starting the seeds....oh well!)
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I was so happy to have ~60 degree weather today! I put together another pot and planted one of my peony bulbs! Hopefully I can manage to gets some plants in my potted garden this year!
 
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Look how many seeds have sprouted!
I was feeling pretty proud of myself this morning when I checked on the seeds and saw so many little sprouts that I had to share with all of you.
I've cracked the lid to my seed started and moved it from its former place atop the cabinet above my washer to the top of the washer itself--hopefully it will get more light there--but not too much! Now I just need to think about thinning out the seedlings....maybe for another morning!
 
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This was the view from my window as I began blogging on Monday
I am laughing to myself a bit that I am posting this after a week of snowstorms here in NoCo--we sure did need the water though! With such a dry winter we were almost 8 feet below normal water levels in the beginning of march and now we're up to 90% (though the drought continues in the south). In any case, I am determined to think of spring! 
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Seeds!







So to start my spring right, this year I will attempt a garden. I am typically not terribly good at gardening, so this probably won't end very well--but it's important to try new things, and it sure would be nice to have fresh vegetables! To start my garden, I will need to do a lot of work, and I thought I'd share with you as I went along--so enjoy and feel free to share tips, since I will surely need a lot of advice! Now to business--I bought this seed starter a few weeks ago with good intentions, although with all this snow, I'm glad my laziness kicked in (my seeds may not have done well in this weather, or so I shall tell myself). Anyway, I added a few spoonfuls of seed starter to each tray in the seed starter. This proved to be poor decision making, since I didn't end up needing every tray and then I began to worry I'd forget where I had placed seeds.
To resolve one of my concerns, I decided to make tags for my seeds. I purchased some clothespins from the dollar store and painted them in fun colors. I decided to use magazine clippings to add labels (a la ransom note style). A little mod podge on the painted pin and a little on top sticks the letters and then seals them down. (If you are so inclined, mod podge makes an outdoor formula--but i just used the regular kind).
I wasn't very fussy about letter placement, which I think is just fine--they work well and are pretty cute too!
After my pots were labelled, i added abother scoop of soil and covered the tray with the plastic cover. Now lets hope my seeds sprout!