Cantaloupe Salvation

You’ve just sliced open a lovely, weighty melon. You’re imagining the sweet juice running down your chin when you bite into a slice. You sink your teeth into it and achieve only utter disappointment.

This, for me, is the majority of cantaloupe encounters, such that I never, ever buy them, regardless of how deeply I adore a ripe, tender honeydew or nearly any other variety.

The way we ended up with the bland, pithy fruit sitting rejected on our cutting board was a different one: our trailing melon vines in the yard had yielded a number of totally unrecognizable, volleyball-sized fruits, vaguely lemon-shaped with a dark green rind. Between us we had no recollection of what the heck we had planted, other than “melon,” and they seemed to have reached a stagnant point of growth and maturation.

So, last night my husband picked the oldest one, and this morning, plunged a knife through it. Even our baby, with the easiest-to-please palate around, wrinkled her nose. The flavor was rather like a cucumber, not unpleasant but not succulent or sweet.

Fortunately, unripe melon, it turns out, makes a spectacular summer salad.

I cubed the melon into bite-sized pieces and put them in a medium-sized bowl. Then I sliced a handful of basil leaves and mint leaves– a mix of grapefruit and apple mint were perfect for this use, though I’m sure most varieties would work wonderfully. I squeezed half a lemon over, drizzled in about half a tablespoon of delicious local honey, and added a teaspoon or two each of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I tossed in about a third of a very small, thinly sliced sweet onion (amounting to perhaps a loosely packed quarter cup), and crumbled over about a quarter cup of bleu cheese (feta would be great, too). Finally, I seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper. After I good stir, I covered the salad and let it sit in the fridge for a bit.

The flavors married marvelously, and I must say, I will be slower to lament my next under-ripe melon. We ate it with cold chicken, and our daughter gave her mark of approval. Perfect for yet another 108-degree afternoon.


Time seems to be racing by beneath me. It can be difficult to get a foothold. Even the most productive days add up to weeks and months insufficiently utilized.

Recent days have included horned tomato worms: enormous, beautiful monsters wreaking havoc on every tomato in our yard. They have to be hunted and removed one by one. I have one in a jar on my desk at work grazing on weeds, just for kicks.

Recent days have included an anniversary– our third, which I can hardly let escape my mouth before adding that we’ve been together eight years, only married three. The day-to-day life with an infant makes a couple of hours together, enjoying good beer and pupusas  and carnitas tacos, so much greater than the sum of its parts. A year ago, this anniversary date might have seemed anticlimactic. Instead, it was blissfully perfect.

Recent days also included a trip to a near-empty lake, where the annual Fourth of July regatta was cancelled for the first time in six decades. The trek to the water’s edge was desert-like, the only shade beneath exposed tree stumps. The air was dusty, but time with family good.

Recent days have included new teeth, a hard-earned prize in exchange for sleepless nights, sleepless days, low-range fever, and general malaise. But there’s a gap in the middle and she’s cuter than ever.

Coming days will include property-hunting, a visit from Grandma, rabbit and chicken harvest, horned tomato worm hunting, and more 105-degree afternoons. Before we know it, July will be gone.


The outdoor thermometer reads 106 degrees. 82 inside our house. It seems to help that the air is swirling around our living room, every fan in the house at work. The ACs rumble and quake out lukewarm gusts.

Outside, the air is thick. The sky is heavy with smog and dust. A distant plume that resembles a spire of smoke is in fact the rising track of a farmer’s useless toil as he turns and grinds and beats his impotent, dry land.

One of the goats died in today’s ferocious heat.

My husband found it when he returned home with our daughter from the feed store. It was one that belonged to the students. We will bury it in the morning, when it’s cooler.

The sheep lie in heaps in their paddock outside our front window. Last year foxtails were a vicious army permeating their wool; this year the drought claimed even the toughest, earliest weeds. The field is packed dirt.

Inside, our skin is clammy but we are not panting with the panic of the open-mouthed, wide-eyed chickens and rabbits as they suffer through the hottest hours of these afternoons.

Night brings little relief, dipping only to the low 80s or high 70s, never cooling enough to turn off the AC or open the windows. The forecast makes it difficult to hope. Highs remain above 100 for the foreseeable future.

And it’s only July. Only the beginning of summer.

We won’t see cooling temperatures or changing leaves or clouds until November at best. Last year the leaves never changed color and dropped charmingly from the trees, but rather turned brown and clung on until the wind ripped them free.

An eternity stretches out before us in anticipation of fall, true fall.

Melons at Large

The melon vines are marching aggressively out of the raised bed and across the yard, curling their tendrils around any anchor they encounter.

Local high school students care for our garden and animals when we’re away. We’ve had to teach them specifically how to water a plant, and we’re often surprised by their interpretation or embellishment on our instructions.

When we returned from Monterey last week, the melon vines looked strange. On examination, we could see that the boys had diligently rounded up all of the traveling shoots, wadding them into a snarled mass atop the raised bed where logic told them plants rightfully belong.

Her Eyelashes

My husband gave my daughter the most beautiful eyelashes. They are impossibly long and full. We recognized them from the very start of her life as we laid on the bed together, marveling at her perfection and familiarity.

He gave her perfect eyelashes, a dimple in her chin, and fine hair. He gave her turned-out ears and a prominent forehead. I am harder to find in her face, although I like to think I had something to do with her button nose and plush cheeks.

It’s her eyelashes that make me consider the future.

She will love her lashes. Others will covet them. Eventually, she will probably paint them with mascara, although she won’t need to.

I wonder if that will bother me. I wonder if she will care.

I wonder if she will hate her turned-out ears and her fine, reddish-blonde hair and her fair, fair skin. I wonder if she’ll hate her cleft chin.

I wonder if she’ll feel beautiful or if she’ll feel embattled with her looks as so many of us do as we grow into womanhood.

I wonder if I will do an ample job building her up, preparing her for this time. I wonder if I will achieve a fair, healthy balance between telling her how beautiful she is and teaching her that she’s more than her beauty. That even if she were not beautiful she would be enough and amazing and perfect.

I wonder how she will be raised– the whole picture of a childhood visible only in retrospect, whatever intentions it is built on.

I wonder who she will be.

I hope I do well; I know she will.

Weekend Breakfast: Huevos a la Campesina

One of the places my husband and I most miss from our college town is a Mexican breakfast joint, its walls littered with colorful paintings and the same friendly trio crowded behind the counter. The food was so good our “usuals” migrated across the poorly scrawled wall-mounted menu. The best chilaquiles on the planet, topped with house-pickled jalapeños. Huevos rancheros swimming in fresh salsa. Frisbee-sized blackberry pancakes.

My go-to on most days, whether between afternoon classes or on a hung-over Sunday morning, was their version of huevos a la campesina.

Since we’re unable to drop into one of the rickety mismatched chairs of our favorite campus café, we make this dish at home on weekends. It’s as fast as plain scrambled eggs, ten times as delicious, and it only calls for a few scoops of whatever salsa is hanging around the fridge and even the stalest tortilla chips from the back of the pantry.

I whip up a few eggs in a bowl while heating a skillet. When it’s nice and hot, I add some oil– coconut, vegetable, whatever– and coat the entire bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the eggs from clinging. Then I pour in the eggs. While they sizzle and begin to solidify, I loosely crumble in a good handful of tortilla chips and start stirring it up. A few seconds later as the eggs come together, I drop in a few scoops of salsa and keep stirring it up until the eggs are cooked.

The whole shebang takes a couple of minutes. No seasoning is necessary because of the salt in the chips and the flavors of the salsa. A sprinkle of grated cheddar is great but totally optional. I typically eat it with jalapeños and a dollop of sour cream if I have it on-hand.

Since it’s so quick and easy, this makes a great weekday breakfast as well, particularly when you have the makings leftover from the night before.

Highs and lows from life on and off our baby-brightened homestead


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