August 17, 2006

I’ve almost decided that I don’t dislike cantaloupes. My entire life I’ve hated them, those hard, tasteless orange balls that came from the grogery store while I was growing up. After I left home, I certainly would never purchase a cantaloupe. After all, they were yucky. Then the years wore on, and people would come to our stand at the Farmer’s Market asking for melons. Well, I thought maybe we should grow some to sell to those silly people who like cantaloupe. So this year we planted Charentais, Jenny Lind, Tigger and Noir des Carmes. Those are three heirloom melons, two of them are of French ancestry. About 2 weeks ago the dark-green/black Noir des Carmes started ripening. One minute they are impossible to see and the next minute they are mottled green and yellow. We overwatered them, the nearly ripe ones split open and suddenly I had to do something with the flesh of six melons. I sliced them all into a big storage bag, and started eating them. I reluctantly had to admit they weren’t bad. Then we dug the prosciutto out of the freezer and wrapped the melon up in that, which further elevated the experience. Lovely.

This week I’ve been eyeballing the traditional-looking cantaloupes out there, which I thought were the Charentais. It seemed like they were taking rather a long time to ripen, so I thought I’d check. I cut it open, and found the entire insides except for the seeds were bright green. After a moment of thinking, I realized that these must be the Jenny Lind melons (which I thought were honeydews, oh well). It wasn’t quite fully ripe, but it was very, very tasty. Sugary. Just how I tend to like things. So I can only imagine the possibilities for when the fruit is fully ripe. I checked on the internet to learn how to tell when a melon is ripe…we’ll see how that advice turns out. Something about looking for cracked stems, whatever that means. So this means, by process of elimination, that since the thing that looks like a cantaloupe out in the field is the green one, then the green one that looks like a honeydew must be the orange cantaloupe. Lost? So are we…..

There is a side-note I’d like to share. Sometimes heirloom varieties have a very interesting story connected to them. The Jenny Lind melon is named after a real woman. All that is known about her is summed up by this old advertisement: 

It’s sad, in a way, that all that is left of someone’s wonderful talent is that they have a cantaloupe named after them, long after all other remembrances are gone. Still, I guess a fruit is better than nothing.


The flowers are so pretty. Hundreds of feet of zinnias are coming into bloom, both at our farm and at Drew’s. The bold, big flowers in their loud colors just look so cheerful, as do the unusual and striking sunflowers. Flower sales are going very well.

On this last Sunday, our south field changed for the next 20 years…the almond trees are planted. Row after row of perfect little trees, all in a line. You would think that 5.5 acres is a lot of planting, but with a 25+ person work crew it goes surprisingly fast. I continue to be amazed at how much knowledge and experience goes into the preparation for a planting like this. It seems simple, get a shovel and plant the tree. But the soil preparation involved to do the job right was tremendous, as was the installation of a functional irrigation system. Drew makes it look easy, which is the hallmark of anyone that is really good at what they do. It seems so simple, until you try it yourself….

So far this summer most crops have done very well. The notable exception is the string beans, which for reasons unknown are not….making beans. Every year it’s something, so better the beans than anything else. They’re a hassle to pick anyway, so maybe nature is doing us a favor!

August 7, 2006

At this time I must write some words concerning footwear. I spend hours and hours on my feet in the garden, and for years I have worn my trusty Birkenstock sandals that I originally purchased for sailing in 2000. The sandals were sized to comfortably allow me to wear not one but two pairs of wool socks with them. For years now, since no one wears two pairs of wool socks in Arbuckle in the summer, these sandals have flopped around on my feet. I’m not really sure how they stayed on, I guess I’m just used to flicking my feet here and there to keep the sandal underneath them. For at least a year I have been thinking about "getting a new pair of good sandals." Being busy, tending to procrastinate, and leaning toward frugality have all hindered the process. But finally, I went and did it. About a week ago I bought a pair of beautiful Italian sandals, Mephistos. They aren’t striking in appearance, but are really well constructed and about the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn. Sometimes one doesn’t notice how bad it is until the upgrade comes along….these are great for my feet and I wish I had bought them a long time ago. My Armenian frugality really had to get past the price tag, but it was all worth it. As I like to say, "if the tootsies aren’t happy, I’m not happy". They already have dirt on them, but that happens when shoes are worn in the garden. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy a second pair……..

A gopher is ruining my patch of tromboncino squash. Out of the entire garden, I am fortunate that I am the least enamored with tromboncino squash, but the gopher’s days are numbered nevertheless.

Yesterday evening I went to look at one of my zinnia patches and saw clouds of color where a few days ago none was….. Big, bright pretty flowers in abundance just look so lovely. I know the people at the Farmer’s Market will like them…….

Our campaign to regain our house from the depths of bad housekeeping continues. This weekend I spent over two hours in our master bathroom. It was bad. I think about a hundred spiders met their maker, and a whole lotta dirt is not there anymore. I think our strategy is, keep cleaning the house and then go visit the neighbor, that way no one is in the house to get it dirty again….should have thought of this years ago…..tonight is the back porch’s turn.

August 3, 2006

The busy busy-ness continues to snowball….my life is starting to be like that TV commercial in which the three people excitedly watch as their internet business goes online for the first time. They cheer and high-five each other as the first orders roll through the server….then they sit there slack-jawed as thousands and thousands of orders pour in, knowing full well that they have just about no way to cope with their success! 

While our farm success isn’t quite of that magnitude, it is becoming a lot to keep up with. Just this week I decided to formally advertise our CSA basket subscriptions to coworkers at the laboratories where Ken and I work our "day jobs"; a little mid-week program whereby for a flat weekly fee, subscribers get a generously filled basket of assorted produce in season. So Wednesday night has hereby been proclaimed "Basket Night". This means, getting home from work and any really necessary errands between 6-7pm, flying out to the garden to madly begin harvesting. Peppers, squash, cucumber, melon, pounds and pounds of everything……usually harvesting stops when it is no longer possible to see what I’m doing. All then has to go to the central processing location; Drew’s kitchen. Next, everything has to be washed and set aside to dry. Then baskets have to be selected and labelled for their recipients. Then item by item, the baskets are filled with as attractive an arrangement of said produce as possible. Last night I finished 6 baskets at 11:30pm, which included some time to stop and eat dinner. The baskets stay lined up overnight, and the following morning are loaded into the car and delivered. Since the appearance of the baskets amounts to self-advertising, today we have yet more people who want baskets. Great! Except, when will they get done and how will they fit in the car??

When the decision is made to expand a business offering, it is very important to be able to deliver; unhappy customers go elsewhere. So it’s all part of the process of expanding the farm into the self-sustaining entity that I hope it will one day become. Now if we could just clone ourselves so that more people were available to do the work…..still, I wouldn’t trade this even if it is a lot of hard work for relatively little money. Seeing the delight on people’s faces when they admire the produce and can’t wait to look through their basket has its own rewards.