Do you come back to this blog every three days or so to see how my garden is doing? Do you come back to see if the vegetables are really going to make it? Or, dear reader – and you are a dear reader, if you are out there reading - do you come back with a morbid curiosity, like viewing the spewed plastic and metal of a recent car wreck, to see if it’s possible for me to screw up any more when it comes to vegetable gardening?
If it’s the latter, then you are in luck.
On Friday, Good Friday, I spent the entire day outside planting a couple of grape tomato plants in plastic trash cans I purchased from Ikea. I had also bought myself some bags of mushroom compost, with the word “premium” written large across the fronts of the bags, which gave me a solid feeling about them, like buying raisins from Whole Foods. I spread compost, I planted the tomatoes (I drilled holes in the bottoms of the red, modern-looking trash cans for drainage, then filled them with soil and compost, followed by the strong tomato babies; I’ll take a photo for you, they look so cute, and the cans were $1), and composted the lettuces and the baby seedlings. After that, I had a ton of soil and mushroom compost left over, so I got a brilliant idea: it was time to plant the cantaloupe.
(Let me interject a word or two about how I feel about cantaloupe. To say it’s my favorite fruit in the world is not underestimating my love for it one bit, because it is the sweetest, muskiest, orangiest, and tangiest delicioso fruit that I have ever tasted. I have a hallowed respect for cantaloupes that are perfectly ripe, and last August, being exposed to the South Texas cantaloupe for the first time, was a near epiphanic experience for me and for my taste buds. Ripe South Texas cantaloupes, when sprinkled with a little salt, are orchestra seats to a Broadway musical, they are Carroll Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday afternoons in June; ripe cantaloupes are divine and holy.)
Why couldn’t I grow cantaloupes from seed? I had the organic soil, and I had the premium compost. I had read up on their planting, and I knew to spread the seeds 6-8 of them to a 12” hill. I was ready. This time, I was prepared. I chose a sunny spot and created 6 of the most beautiful hills, perfectly rounded breast-like hills, rich with rotted organic matter and little bits of wood. I dropped the seeds into little 1/2” depressions I made gently with my finger, just like the seed package said. I covered them with soil and tamped them down lightly. I showed the kids: Look what mommy did! She followed instructions this time – we are going to have some delicious cantaloupe come August! They nodded their heads agreeably. They looked down at the hills.
“Looks good to me,” spoke my five-year-old sagely.
Early Saturday morning, I ran out to see the cantaloupe hills, looking so fresh and full of burgeoning life, and I sighed. I dreamed of eating ½ a cantaloupe sprinkled with salt for breakfast, just like my grandfather had done every summer morning of my childhood. I dreamed of eating slices wrapped with pale-pink prosciutto, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream like the seed packet had suggested.
Sunday morning, yesterday, we received a great deal of rain and wind, so I covered the hills with my tarp to protect them. As I gently propped up the tarp with stakes and held down the sides with rocks, I imagined a sign over the hills reading, “Please do not disturb! Germination under way!”
Yesterday afternoon, the rain clouds parted and the sun came out. I lifted the tarp and let the little seeds drink up the sunshine. My mind couldn't help but drift again toward eating the future cantaloupes: sliced up with oatmeal, cubed in late summer fruit salads.
This morning, Monday, I awoke to a beautiful day full of sun. I walked out to the garden to view the progress. I glanced over at the hills. While still round and hilly, I did notice that something was different: in each hill were 6-8 little holes poked into the surface of the dirt.
I stepped closer, into the hills. I got very close, peering into the little holes, perfectly round little indentations that were spaced evenly around the tops of each hill in symmetrical patterns, like a sign to aliens. At first I thought that it was just the dirt sinking it little parts, due to the rain and the… settling? Is there such a thing as dirt settling?
I don’t think so. After close inspection, I had come to the conclusion that birds had come and eaten all my cantaloupe seeds. Then I remembered: we had seen the birds in our backyard yesterday while we were inside, watching “Grease” with our kids. My husband had poked his head out of the cushiness of the sectional and said, “Hey, will you look at that? Look at all those birds!” There were about ten of them. We had all walked down into the sunroom, watching them hop, hop, hop all around the yard, flipping their heads from side to side. They seemed to be enjoying themselves; a few were singing. There were a couple of male bluejays, even.
“Huh. We’ve never had that many birds before,” I said.