The melon patch is full of immature fruit – cantaloupes, tropical melons, Mideast melons, icebox watermelons – all of them growing larger as the sweet melons develop their netting and begin to change color from green to beige, and the watermelons, either striped or a solid greenish-black on the outside, turn from white to pink to red on the inside. It’s a highly anticipated time of year on the farm. This is our big fruit crop, after all, and we do want fruit.

Granted, the word “fruit” applies to many savory flavored crops, as well, including most famously the ever-popular tomato. But we’re talking sweet fruit here. Juicy, slurpy, surgary fruit. Fruit to put in the fridge just long enough to chill, then slice open and eat outdoors with both hands, the nectar dribbling down chins, the seeds spit with abandon. What summer treat is more satisfying?

Nothing so exquisite comes easy, however. The fact is, we humans aren’t the only ones who relish the pleasure of a summer melon. Raccoons are notorious for discovering a melon just as it’s aroma begins to develop – yet a raccoon isn’t content with devouring only one. Oh no. Ask any gardener, and they’ll attest to the sad fact that these critters aren’t satisfied until they’ve taken a bite out of, and ruined, each and every near-ripe fruit.

To combat these masked marauders, we construct an electric fence around our melon crop. Theoretically, this happens as soon as melons are beginning to form…although some years we can’t get to it until dangerously close to harvest time. This is one of those years.

We’re facing two formidable obstacles: First, this has been such a successful summer – thus far – and we’re all so busy harvesting for each of our markets, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get much of anything else accomplished. (Granted, it’s a good problem to have, but it is a problem nonetheless.)

Second, we planted the melons right next to the 400-foot row of cucumbers we’re now harvesting and the two crops have collided, despite the metal half-cages that were positioned to steer the cucumber plants in the opposite direction.

While the cages corralled the cukes pretty well, melons pay no attention to barriers and have hopelessly intermingled with the cucumber plants. So rather than being able to string electric wire around the perimeter of only the melon patch, we’ll need to envelope the row of cukes as well, which means one run of the electric fence will be outside the big farm fence. You see, electric wires need to hover over vegetation. If at any point along the electric fence line one of the wires touches a weed, or a wildflower, or a cucumber plant, the current is broken. A raccoon can simply push its way through, and there will be no startling jolt to scare it off.

Already, Farmer John and Davy have done a good deal of mowing, weed-whacking and cutting down small mesquite trees to clear the way for the electric fence. Still more clearing is required before stakes can be driven and wire can be strung. And there’s harvesting to do. And the season’s last round of summer squashes are growing ever taller in the greenhouse, almost too big to plant, even though we don’t yet have a row ready to set them out.

Meanwhile, the melons continue to expand on the vines, their flirtatious fragrance soon to tickle the nostrils of waiting raccoons. It’s all in the timing, and time is running slim. Today’s the day, and our hero is armed and ready for battle.

I have faith in Farmer John. He won’t deny us our summer slurps, I’m sure of it.

* * *

We have so much great stuff for you this week! Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand on Wednesday (remember street parking on Bell Avenue, if the parking lot fills up!):

Rattlesnake green beans (the plants are kind of petering out, so not as many as we had last week); tomatoes — big slicing Bella Rosa, French Tomande, Early Girls, and a few others; three varieties of cherry tomatoes (pink ‘grape’ tomatoes, red ‘grape’ tomatoes, and golden Sun Sugar); LOTS of cucumbers – Suyo Long and Tasty Jade; summer squash – yellow squash, Zephyr, zucchini and a bit of pattypan; three varieties of eggplant; Red Lasoda potatoes; elephant garlic; bunches of basil; bell peppers; Cubanelle frying peppers; jalapeno peppers; super sweet Yellow Granex onions, Red Burgundy onions; some arugula; and whatever else we might find ready for harvest.

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm

Advertisements