Garden to Table: Homegrown Pickles

Someone on my Facebook page asked me to show a picture of my pickles when they were jarred– this after I’d posted the picture below with the caption ‘Time to make dillicious fermented pickles.’


Here are a few pictures of the process I undertake to create my beautifully delicious, incredibly healthy, and quickly devoured fermented pickles.  While not a recipe per se, it’s obvious just how easy it is to ferment your own pickles with two ingredients, salt and water.

Following are some pictures of the homegrown ingredients with brief descriptions–from harvest to preparing, fermenting to eating.  Feel free to inquire in the comments if you’re interested in learning more.

I made two varieties of fermented pickles, garlic dill (using the ingredients pictured below)…

…and bread and butter.

While I’ve added in nasturtium seeds to the garlic dill batch, there’s great flexibility with add ins for either batch or any other fermented cucumbers/veg.  Carrots, yellow beans, hot or sweet peppers, tomatoes, seaweed, ginger, horseradish, and other roots, herbs, etc, all enhance flavour, colour, and texture to a mix as well as adding nutrients.  For pickles, I keep the ratio to around 90% cucumber, 10% other.  I always add in onion, yum, yum!

All that said, a simple brine of just 1 1/2 Tb fine grain or 2 Tb of coarse sea salt mixed with 4 cups warm filtered water and nothing but cucumbers would be just fine in an anaerobic environment (requiring an absence of free oxygen)  for a few days at room temperature.

I realize the food grade plastic 5 litre fermenting buckets with airlock on top aren’t all that beauteous and lack the aesthetic visual of glass Kilner or Ball jars, but they’re much more predictable and reliable which makes the finished ferments more consistent.

Here are some finished bread and butter pickles being jarred, soon to be eaten.  The pickles are transferred to glass jars that we store in the refrigerator to have on hand while the buckets have their own cool storage pantry.


30 litres of pickles are done so far and the cucumber plants are probably good for another 10 to 15 litres more.  We like using them in homemade tartar sauce, in salads, on sandwiches, and on their own.  A bite of pickle with a bite of strong cheddar cheese is a very addictive combination and one of my favourite snacks for as long as I can remember.

Cheers to eating garden to table, cheers to full flavour foods, cheers to great gut health!

Cheers to you!  Melissa Xx

∗ Incidentally, since writing this I’ve pickled possibly the last of the cucumbers, another 14 litres for a grand total of 44 litres in all.  And I gave some cukes away.  Bumper crop cucumbers.

It’s not that my blog is less important to me…

Screenshot_2016-09-20-11-33-39 (2).jpgIt’s just that the time I have available on social media limits me to using my phone instead of my pc.  Entire blog posts require more time than a quick tweet from the break room at the hotel or a facebook update from one of the back fields does.  So that’s where I’m at these days.  Going with the flow.

This week I’m having fun curating the Twitter account for @smallholderIRL. I’ll be tweeting ten or so times each day as I go through my day.

I’ll have more time sitting here at my pc soon enough as this tourist season is coming to an end.  But for now, let’s catch up on Twitter or Facebook!

Hope everyone is having a fruitful autumn full of good health and happiness!

Melissa Xx

August’s Garden

August is over so it seems time to get my backside in gear and post a few of the many photos I took around the garden throughout the month…


The L, O, & E beds are in view, but the V bed is cropped out at bottom of photo


Here’s the V bed with a good view of the three beds to the right that make up the E.

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Garden to Table: Preserving Tomatoes


Start with some lovely fresh tomatoes of any shape, size, or colour.

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Fermenting Magic

fermenting beetroot

beautifully bubbly beetroot

Anyone who has ever cultured vegetables knows that moment of uncontainable excitement when the first bubbles appear. After three months, one week, and five days of experimenting, at last, I think I’ve done it! It may be premature boasting but I’m confident in those seemingly magical bubbles.

I’ve tossed umpteen grams of veg to the compost and chickens as well as eaten a few less than appealing pounds just to avoid “waste guilt.” Although these earlier attempts used all organic produce, could it be that this last batch was made exclusively with veg from my very own garden?

I would like to believe veg cared for with doting hands from sow to harvest is more conducive to such biological enrichment, and that would be true.  But my failures were more likely due to practice not product as I’d done minimal research and therefore not adhered to proper room temperature and sterilization techniques.  Only time will tell if my confidence in these magical bubbles will be rewarded, but it’s looking good so far…”

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Learning To Love Sewing


A colourful selection of make and paint your own totebags.

I fell in love with sewing at age seven and the passion has never waned.  Taught at my grandmother’s knee, I went on to learn about industrial sewing and design at my first professional position and then tailoring at the next.  I was blessed to have not only one teacher, but three phenomenal women to mentor me, all who spent a good portion of their lives behind the machine developing their sewing skills.  Sure, there were periods of my life that demanded the time I would’ve otherwise spent on sewing, but I knew that someday I’d go on to teach others too.  After spending my lifetime learning the craft (and still so much I’ve yet to know) I’ve chosen to devote the little teaching time I have to children.  In some ways it’s like some of me lives on through their creations and, more importantly, the dying art of sewing might live on through their hands, their hearts, and their imaginations.

needle, thread, concentration

fabric, scissors, imagination

a bit of time, a new creation 

a well deserved jubilation


This years sewing summer camp was as much fun as it was busy.  I added three new projects to last years four and they were mastered by all.  I purchased and borrowed a couple of extra machines and the class sizes were nearly doubled.  At moments it seemed as hectic as bartending on a Saturday night with everyone calling my name to give them attention, but thankfully I wasn’t going it alone as Margaret Maeve and Johnny were there to assist me.

I didn’t get as many pictures of the finished projects as I would’ve liked but I think the ones below express the atmosphere very well– the various fabrics and tools used, the children’s focused concentration, the pride in their accomplishments, as well as the workload we undertook.  It’s truly the kind of work that has rewards much greater than a paycheck could ever furnish and I’m already planning the new projects for next year.

Click on any picture to start a slide show…

I appreciate the children and parents who support my summer camps and also those of you that take time to visit and read what I share.

Thanks!  Melissa Xx


The Elusive Summer


Cornelius on lookout for summer.


notions of summer

hang on a kernel of truth

and hopes are raised up


sounds corny, I know

but, aw shucks, the jig is up-

summer hopes are popped


Another non-summer here in Ireland.  Autumn is at the door…  And at the window, and in the garden.


I do love this time of year though and am enjoying harvesting, fermenting, freezing, and already planning for the next growing season.

The summer has flown by…it’s taken me until past midway through the season to cut my work hours at the hotel by half although I felt it was necessary since the end of last year.  It’s been lovely to get back to work outside the home after a decade of not, but it’s only now that I realize how far off track we’ve gone from our plans of self-sufficiency.  Well, more like spinning our wheels than off the track.  No regrets, for myself and family have benefited from my working away from the home.  And what would be the sense of regrets anyway?  No doubt about it, all is as it’s meant to be.

Johnny and I both want to make a living from and raise our family off our land.  We were both so busy working away from the home this summer that we had to say no too many times to requests for lettuce and veg from local restaurants.  That and other happenings made us realize it’s counterproductive to spend time working away from the homefarm and away from our family.  I feel a burst of energy when I think about how we’ll prepare over the winter to meet next year’s demands but also know that I must plow through the rest of this work season.

On a positive note, sewing summer camp was a great success.  It was loads of hard work, but left all in the family feeling greatly rewarded for it (I’ll share more about it soon). That’s what got Johnny and I sitting down and discussing all that holds promise to support us and all we had lost sight of while being caught up travailing regardless of our plans.  Again, no regrets.

I’m thinking I ought to review my 16 for 2016 list I made at the beginning of this year.  How much of it I’ve actually done will be quite unimpressive.  But, haha, maybe it will be motivating too?!

The haiku and photo are part of a weekly challenge (of which I participate in only sporadically these days).  Ron at Ronovan Writes’ two words for this week’s haiku are ‘up & hope’ and the Four Fab Photo Friends photo word of the week is ‘summer’.

Thanks for taking time from you own busyness to visit me today!  Cheers, Melissa Xx

Christmas in July



Impersonating a Christmas tree, our runner bean tee pee puts on a grand display.


eat fish pie as dusk dusts over the days end

Not too long ago we spent a beautiful few days and evenings with the visiting family of some island living friends.

Amazing weather makes amazing memories and on this night the swimming, dining, and fishing all at the Kilronan pier offered some fine photo opportunities.  Click on any picture to start a wee slideshow.

eat fish pie

as dusk dusts over

the days end

I think any of the pictures could represent this week’s photo word ‘strength’ for many different reasons.  Does one say ‘strong’ more than the others to you?

Haiku fun brought to us by Ronovan Writes, thanking him for the two cool words, ‘pie and dust’.

I hope all who read this are well and so are those you love.

Melissa Xx