January showers bring…February flowers?

Today I drilled holes in pots to make olla pots for my garden to water more efficiently. My greenhouse is THIS close to being done, but there is still a hole on one wall up top and today was windy and stormy, so I climbed up and tacked up a piece of plastic to stop the rain from blowing in. While I was perched precariously on the edge of the fence, small nails held between my lips, a hammer balanced in one hand as I held on and attached the plastic there, I saw a honeybee. It was quivering on top of the greenhouse, doing that weird honeybee dance they do, wiggling its back end. I wasn’t sure what it was doing sitting on top of my greenhouse in the wind and periodic rain drips. No other bees were in sight. There were no flowers near it. It looked fragile, there in the wind in the wrong time of year. It was too warm outside for the time of year. Balmy and weird.

My raspberries are coming up. The tulips and daffodils are fully bloomed. The cherry trees in my yard are bloomed. My lilies are popping little points up through the soil. Usually in February I spray my fruit trees with dormant spray, but you’re supposed to do it when they’re dormant, and little buds were already present, so no dormant spray. They’re young and I’m sure they’ll be fine, but there aren’t many pollinators out in this bizarre weather, which means likely little fruit this year. This is not normal and not a pattern from the past. Humans have caused this and humans want to ignore it in favor of the latest football scores or whatever else that helps us to ignore the obvious right in front of our faces. It’s like we have a tumor on the side of our head and want to just look around it and pretend it’s not there. The spring rhyme goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s not January showers bring February flowers, and these flowers that are here in March were here in February. We don’t give Valentine’s lilies, we give Easter lilies. At Easter. In actual spring. It isn’t spring in the northern hemisphere where I live. We haven’t had the equinox yet. It is still winter here. So many seem to forget this while infatuated with the sunny weather. This isn’t normal.

If your children were in harm’s way, you would try to help them regardless of the outcome because you love them. Shouldn’t it be the same for the Earth, which is us? We are the Earth. We should help her instead of committing slow suicide (though not so slow anymore, it seems).

I’m writing this sitting in warm covers in a snuggly bed. I washed all of my bedding today and it smells fresh and clean, and it’s soft and cozy. I’m so grateful to have a warm bed in a warm house, my dogs snoring softly near me as I write. I’m lucky, and I’m grateful for what I have.

How to Tell if a Cantaloupe is Ripe

Standing in the grocery store aisle, I overheard another customer ask one of the customer service people in produce how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe.  I don’t know, said the clerk.  I think you tap on it and if it sounds hollow it is ripe. He was not correct.  Well, not completely incorrect, but the method he was offering is definitely not the best method for checking the ripeness of a cantaloupe. This is not the first time I have heard this question asked, and I rarely hear the correct answer.

I grew up on a small farm.  Although it wasn’t huge, we grew  many things.  One of these many things was cantaloupe.  In late summer early fall when the sun was still hot, I would run up my parent’s driveway after school, grab a couple of melons, take them into the house, and eat them warm, straight off the vine.  There was nothing more sweet and delicious, the sunny orange flesh nearly melting in my mouth.  My mother had learned to grow cantaloupes (also known as muskmelons) from another small time grower, who probably learned the same way.  Via anecdote, the growth and ripening of the plants traveled to the side of our hill, south facing and perfect for cantaloupes.

The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe is to smell the small circle at the base of the melon where the stem used to be.  If it smells sweet and delicious, the melon is ripe and ready to go.  The thing about cantaloupes is that once they are taken from the vine, they are only ripe a very short time before they break down and decompose. This means that a lot of time in the stores, none of the melons will have this smell.  This is because none of them are ripe. They can’t pick them ripe because they would never make the journey to the store in time. If you find a melon with this sweet smell, eat it within a couple or three days, or it will be moldy before you know it.  Although, as is often the case with fruits and vegetables, you can lengthen the time until they are too ripe by putting them into the refrigerator.

The other way to tell a cantaloupe is on its way to ripe is the color.  Cantaloupes are covered with funny beige lines that look like sea coral.  Underneath, if the melon isn’t ripe, it is a sagey, greenish color.  Once it ripens, the entire melon turns beige to match the funny lines.  A melon without the sweet smell but colored all over that cantaloupe beige color will be ripe very soon.  These ones are your best bet if you aren’t planning to eat your melon right away.

What it is it about thumping that so many people find useful?  When melons aren’t ripe, their flesh is denser.  With honeydews and watermelons, whose rinds contain lots of water, it is easier to tell when thumping on them whether they are dense or not.  Not so with cantaloupes. Their rinds are like burlap and not watery at all.  Someone who has handled large numbers of them might be able to tell, but the method is not foolproof and often people end up with cantaloupes that need another few weeks to ripen.  Use the smell test–it works every time.

That’s the scoop on cantaloupes. Enjoy!