If I had a least favorite month in the garden, it would be August.
The beans are punky and tired and done.
The potatoes are dried up and ready for harvest.
The squash and I are fighting the good fight against powdery mildew. But who am I kidding? We lose every year. Let me clarify: we lose every August. I prune all the affected leaves, but the mildew spreads, inevitably, until I am forced to pull the plant. Then again, I am done with squash. I have three varieties, one of which, called Cube O’ Butter, has produced almost 45 pounds of food from two plants. That is a LOT of squash.
But the worst of it? The melons. Melons tease me ruthlessly. And of all the melons, watermelon is the cruelest. They represent the greatest risk, but also the greatest reward. There are vague symptoms of ripeness: a yellowish-whitish spot appears on the down side. The curly tendril on the opposite side of the stem dries up. The striping on the rind gets less pronounced and less shiny. The skin gets ever-so-slightly bumpy. These signs are small. The challenge is in reading them correctly. And then – what if there are two signs and not three? Three and not four? Or only one? What then?
Two years ago, I planted a variety of watermelon called “Sugar Baby”. The plant yielded one piece of fruit. It drank a LOT of water, and took up about 50 square feet. One melon.
I harvested it when it looked right. The tendril had dried up. The bottom spot was the right color. It was mealy. It was dry. (How on earth a watermelon can be dry eludes me, but there it is). I think I planted it too late in the season. And maybe it didn’t have enough light. What was I expecting? I punted. I didn’t do any research. And if I’m not going to do the footwork, how can I expect the results I dream about? My pride was wounded, and I was pretty sure melons were not for me.
Last year, I didn’t grow any watermelons (or cantaloupe for that matter).
This year, when the catalogs came, I started to think about melons again. I bought a plant at Navlet’s. Just the one plant. I wasn’t going to start it from seed — too much work for such an iffy proposition. I planted it in full sun in the front yard. It has plenty of room to run. It has plenty of water and regular fertilizing. I researched the growing time and tracked when I should be able to harvest. I was ready!
My first melon of the season had all four symptoms. The time was right. It’s tendril was dried up, the underside was a beautiful creamy yellow, the green stripes were muted, and the rind had lost its shine. ALL FOUR!
When I cracked it open, it was pastel pink. Pastel. I was crushed. Crushed, I tell you! And then, having that be the FIRST melon of the season, my confidence was shot. It was edible, but just. I became dubious and shy about the rest of the melons that are on the vine.
I cruised by the Sugar Baby every day, checking it out, trying to act nonchalant. The remaining fruit was growing quickly – and I was feeling brave. The second, third and fourth melons… they practically exploded open when I cut into them. And Oh! The Joy! Dark red, juicy, firm, crisp. They weighed well over 12 pounds each, and they get a full 24 hours in the refrigerator before I cut into them.
And got a teaching credential.
And bought a house on a teacher’s salary.
And drove all the way around the United States. By myself.
And changed careers again.
And got an MBA.
And THEN I really screwed up my courage and got married.
These accomplishments weren’t always created out of pain, but often were born out of a decision to stand up to fear.
Quitting drinking was one of the most painful decisions I ever made. It hurt at every level. I lost friends, I had to completely re-invent myself. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
At 45, I was quite positive that if I fell in love, all the pain of past relationships would come back, magnified. I also knew relationships have the power to completely undo me. And so I knew I would most likely stay single. It didn’t sound great, but it definitely sounded SAFE. Then I met Todd. And I realized that a relationship with the right guy does not undo me. It strengthens me. Falling in love with Todd was like falling off a cliff. I was at the same time terrified and assured. Terrified that I had fallen, but completely assured that he was there to catch me.
Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is only by trying that I have any chance of success.