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Training of garden assistants

A head of cabbage.

By TERESA BAKER filling in for Thursy Baker The Experienced Gardener wore a pleased, perhaps a slightly smug look, when she directed the Head Assistant (Dad) to sniff the cantaloupes at the grocery. The Head Assistant's selected melon did turn out to be very nicely ripe and sweet, but, if it hadn't been, would that place the Experienced Gardener's method in question, or the nose of the Head Assistant? The E. G. had that same pleased, smug smile when she directed her Junior Assistant (me) to try out writing another garden column. Training of the Assistants seems to be going fairly well. Yesterday, the Head Assistant was directed to get a head of cabbage from the garden. But then he seemed to be wandering around the garden, puzzled and frowning, holding that cabbage head. Suddenly he stopped, knelt and set the cabbage gently to one side. Then, with both hands placed on the ground before him, the Head Assistant stuck his face right down in the leaves! A casual observer, with no awareness of garden training, might have guessed Alzheimer's or some strange cult practice. But, as a good Head Assistant, he was, of course, sniffing a large-sized cantaloupe. Other methods for determining a melon's readiness include looking for a yellow tint on the underside of watermelons, or an all-over yellowish look for cantaloupe. Unreliable, but most common, is knocking on a melon with your knuckles while listening. (They never do answer.) The stem of a ripe melon should also show signs of drying up, or pulling loose, fairly easily, from the melon. When it comes to melons, look and sniff. When it comes to training assistants, a patient smile is very effective. P.S. from Thursy: I didn't realize I had my ""assistants"" so well-trained. Now, let's see if they're available for some Fall chores, I have in mind, or will they be too busy elsewhere? Rainfall has been very scattered and brief during the whole month of August. Here at our place, it hasn't totaled half an inch for the entire month. We have watered the melons, cucumbers and tomatoes; but most other vegetables had to do without. Luckily, our bean crop was able to develop before the driest weather. Our water comes from a well, so we're limited in the amount we can use each day. I keep a small bucket in the kitchen sink to catch water that would otherwise go down the drain and use it for watering flowers in the backyard and on the porch. It's surprising how quickly that bucket can fill up just from rinsing off vegetables, etc. As water supplies become more scarce and more expensive, we all need to develop ways to re-use it whenever possible. I can be reached at RR 2, Box 189, Branchland, WV 25506-9751. Questions and comments welcome. Sorry, folks, I have no computer or E-mail, but I do answer all letters.

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