You Shall Be My Pumpkins

By

Last night I tromped down the hill with a hammer, six wooden stakes, and a spool of fishing line to do battle with deer. But it’s not what you think. As far as I know there are no vampire deer in the neighborhood. No, our deer are the usual docile, graceful, and enormously frustrating sort. Frustrating because I’m a wannabe gardener, and they seem to think I’m doing all this work for them.

I planted a pumpkin patch down in the lower part of the yard, just past the young willow tree. I’ve never had much luck with pumpkins, so this year I went all-out. My kind neighbor brought his tractor down the hill and turned the ground, revealing darker soil than further up where I plant my corn. When it rains a lot (well, when it used to rain a lot) I can’t even mow this spot for fear of getting stuck in all that soggy grass–which is why I planted the thirsty willow tree there last year. I’m guessing all that moisture and runoff has been feeding this little section of the yard for a hundred years. Now, by golly, that soil was going to feed my pumpkins.

I bought a hundred feet of water hose and ran it all the way to the patch, raised six mounds of dirt, ringed them each with a little moat, and planted three seeds per mound. After a week or two of watering, the seedlings broke through the soil, and there was much rejoicing at the Warren. That was weeks ago, and now the pumpkin vines have all but exploded with leaves as big as platters, bright yellow flowers, and twenty-foot vines. It’s a bona fide pumpkin patch.

And that’s when the rabbits came. Then the deer. Now, I’m partial to rabbits, as the name of the property (not to mention this website) attests. But I have from time to time, when they’ve eaten my carrots or my baby watermelons or my squash, craved a rabbit sandwich. Still, we have an outside cat who seems to keep them at bay, so I’m usually happy to see bunnies in the grass. But the deer—those impervious deer, with their “innocent” eyes and their “gentle” demeanor—don’t give a hoot about cats. And they know they can outrun Moondog’s maddest sprint. It’s not unusual to see deer on or around our property, so I knew it was a matter of time before they sniffed out my pumpkins.

One morning last week I was coasting down the gravel drive when I saw her: a doe, knee-deep in pumpkin vines, munching away at those supple leaves. I slammed on the brakes and screamed at her. She stared me down and tore another leaf from the vine. I seethed as it slowly disappeared into her maw. I threw the car into park and stomped across the yard, trying to think of a curse that the deer would understand. She chewed, casually defiant, until I got about fifteen feet away, then with two silent leaps she vanished into the woods. I inspected my precious pumpkins and saw five or six lonely, leafless, budless stems, potential jack-o-lanterns who never got a chance to shine.

That’s what led me to yesterday’s expedition with the wooden stakes and the fishing line. I wish I could say I was making a booby trap. I’d like nothing more than to walk out one morning and see that sinister doe caught in a net and hanging from a tree like C3P0 and the gang on Endor. No, I was making an invisible fence. I hammered six stakes into the ground, then strung the fishing line around the patch several times. Supposedly the deer can’t see the line and it freaks them out, or at least that’s what someone told me on Facebook. I’ll have to let you know how it goes.

The point is this: strangely, I love that fence. It’s not even a real fence—it’s more like a spider web, really. But when I got to the porch and turned to see those six simple stakes in the ground, the setting sun glinting on the fishing line, and the weeping willow a few feet away, something in my heart woke up. What a few weeks ago was just another spot in the yard, an alcove of grass surrounded by a sweep of honeylocust, hackberry, and juniper, became something new. In a way, it became newly mine. I claimed it, marked it out, enclosed it in that fishing line, and now it’s not just another swath of grass. Now it’s another place to visit on my nightly walk around the property.

Planting the willow tree last year was the first step; it adorned a blank canvas of lawn. Then my neighbor tilled it, and Jamie and I enjoyed watching the seeds sprout and the vines creep. And it was nice, too, when the plants were established and flourishing. I asked my neighbors, “Hey, did you notice the pumpkin patch?” Until I pointed it out, they hadn’t. But something changed yesterday when I staked that fence and strung the line. I was telling the deer and the rabbits and the neighbors and myself that it was more than just a random congregation of plants; it was a garden. It was protected, and tended to, and had purpose. Out of this wildness, order; out of this vastness, place. God made the world, and in it, he made a garden.

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2)

Yesterday, right here in Nashville, I understood something about God’s love for his people. I chose, out of my whole property, one nook to claim for pumpkins, and that act made the whole place more beautiful. I subdued the earth, and she became more lovely for it. I imagine the rest of the property, the part that grows wild as it will, looks at that little, protected tangle of pumpkins with longing—a longing not to be constricted, but to be cared for; a longing not to be enslaved, but beloved.

Then, of course, I think of the Israelites. From all the peoples of the earth, God chose Abraham and made out of his descendants a garden—a garden with boundaries. God gave them his law not to punish, but to protect and provide. He put up a fence and set his affection on them, that all creation would see and rejoice. My little perfunctory fence isn’t just there to keep the deer out (or to keep the pumpkins in, for that matter). Now I know it’s also there to establish. It’s there to make the whole place more beautiful, to the delight of the owner of the homestead. As it says in Jeremiah 30:22, “You shall be my pumpkins, and I will be your gardener.” Or something like that.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


33 Comments

  1. Donna S

    No book, no sermon, no bible study, has taught me near as much about the nature of God as has gardening and raising children. Love this!

  2. April Pickle

    “I’ve gotten nothing to say.” Just a smile and a happy heart after reading this. “Glory, glory hallelujah.” Thank you, Mr. Proprietor. Your words and new music are blessed gifts this week.

  3. carrie luke

    Good Grief, Andrew. That was just beautiful. I can ALMOST smell the earth and its bounty. I can feel and revel in the fall pumpkins! And I can sense the One from which it all comes forth. A lovely post for a hot, humid, code red ozone, Carolina day. Thank you. 🙂

  4. James Witmer

    I love willow trees. And I love this post. I feel like I understand God’s love a little better. Thanks for having eyes to see, and for sharing with us.

    I’d also like to know how that deer fence works out…

  5. Cynthia Guy

    Thanks for this post! 🙂 It was a delight to read. I too started a garden. My seedlings of butternut squash are slowly taking over the entire garden. My tomatoes have all fallen off the cages and I can barely walk in there to pick them. We have no fence. But we too have deer, rabits, and groundhogs….and about a zillion mice. I’ll have to try the fence idea with the the string. However, thankfully the deer are a little sparce in the middle of cornfields , which we reside. Not too many trees. THough we do have one that makes a daily visit to the top of our sand mound…..digging a hole where the old salt block used to sit. Never saw it when we had the salt block….but it comes now. And we now have a whole about 18 inches in diameter and probably a foot deep. Deer can be more frustration at times than ‘dear’ creatures.

  6. Susan Ramsey

    I hope your fence works, though deer are notorious disrespecters of fencing. I just lived this outrage with my garden that I was so proud of – my first garden in over 10 years. They wait until the plants are just big enough that you’ve bonded with them and then they coldly and casually chew them off to stubs. It’s so violent. My neighbor shared a spray that she swore would keep them away. I’m always skeptical of such things, but since I’ve been using it every other night the deer have left my garden completely alone. It’s worth a try. Here’s the concoction:

    2 cups of Murphy’s Oil Soap
    2 raw eggs slightly beaten
    fill to a gallon with water

    Leave in the sun in a closed container for 2 days so the eggs will rot. Mix well, put in a sprayer of some kind and spray to your heart’s content. I spray the plants and the surrounding ground. It smells horrible – I mean horrible – but I suppose that’s the point. Maybe the deer think “Hey, something died around here, I’d better stay away.” It sounds like your patch is far enough away that it won’t matter. I hope you have a lovely pumpkin harvest.

  7. Canaan Bound

    MK Rawlings knows something of the trials you speak of. 🙂 Makes me sort of sorry for the deer in your situation, though I’d probably not be so caring if it were my own tender vines being consumed. I suppose an “invisible” fence is a rather harmless way of keeping the deer at bay. Let us know how it turns out!

  8. Becca

    Awesome article. Oh, I hope this works.

    BTW, I have access to plans for a deer booby trap, too. Get excited, because it involves PVC pipe and a concrete block. (PETA friendly, of course.) It’s not as amazing as launching a cow off a castle wall, but it will suffice.

  9. Carin Meerdink

    Lovely thoughts, as always! We just bought five acres on a little hill south of Franklin and are loving the rabbits and deer. But, of course, I haven’t planted anything yet that I need to protect. I’ve been thinking of planting a willow near our little pond and looking forward to getting enough boxes unpacked that I can turn my attention outside (although that may be an unbiblical order?) Anyway, very inspiring post. Can’t wait to care for this beautiful little spot we prayed for for so long. Now if I can just convince my husband that we need to name it . . . .

  10. Dave

    Good luck w/the deer. My garden is in the middle of their territory, so they are in my yard many evenings and mornings. Beautiful creatures…and our deer can jump a 7′ fence…so I hope your stakes are several feet high. I built a deer fence out of 8 foot pressure treated 4 X 4s (in concrete) and 1 by 2s placed horizontally up to the 7 foot height. That works and does not look ugly (to me). The deer-repellent mixtures you read about might work until it rains or if the deer don’t come into your garden when the odor has weakened. I tried it and am back to the fence and chicken wire around roses (they LOVE roses and fruit trees).

  11. Lance

    This is a beautiful entry. I longed for the countryside when I read this. And thank you for the wonderful analogy: the garden of Eden, God’s commandments . . . I’m definitely going to visit this blog again!

  12. whipple

    If anyone has read Heirloom by Tim Stark, I can’t help but think of him and the groundhog he…assessed.

    Not that AP would be dare be so barbaric, or, if he was, he wouldn’t tell us about it.

  13. Julie @ Wife, Mother, Gardener

    Andrew,
    So glad that you have found the joy in making something beautiful out of nothing. That has got to be my very favorite part of gardening… the dreaming and designing that makes something new… something beautiful that fits like it has always been there. This post challenges me to think that maybe God made us – made me – with the same anticipation and joy that I feel in thinking about a new garden. He dreamed us up and could not wait to get digging! May He bless your little pumpkins. 🙂

  14. Leigh Mc

    The next time someone wants to know what’s so beautiful about election, I’m going to hand them THIS. Thanks Andrew. A lot. Beautiful.

  15. Rob

    No, no, no. Everyone else is wrong. Here’s the only way to get rid of deer: PAIN. Ever since I armed my boys with slingshots, I haven’t lost a single tomato or pumpkin leaf.

  16. Loren Warnemuende

    I love this. As a fellow gardener (albeit on a much smaller scale and without the deer concern) I love your description of taking a plain yard and giving it shape, purpose and belonging. Our yard was blank in the back and “professionally landscaped” out front (aka lots of lava rock and nasty weeping mulberries) when we moved in and over the past four years we’ve had so much fun making it ours.

  17. Robert Ashford

    Beautiful insight, and wonderful read. Reading about your pumpkin patch makes me long for autumn to come soon. I hope your pumpkins fill in great!!

  18. Bill Spencer

    How many of us use the term of endearment “my little pumpkin” for our children? A nice thought that we are His pumpkins as well!
    Andrew, you met our little boy who was in foster care back in December at the Cleburne TX BTLOG concert. Jacob today became oour legal, official, adoption “littlepumpkin”! Laura always called him that, noiw i think i get it!
    Too, We play and sing You can always come home to me and Good Night My Dear to him every night for bedtime. They are great lullabies!

  19. Dori

    Why not get a dog? I live an area full of deer, but they don’t bother my fruit trees because the dogs keep them away. A thirty pound Australian Cattle dog would love to spend his/her day chasing deer away from your garden and believe me, these dogs, while small, would not be ignored like the cats. Though just about any barking dog, would probably keep away most deer.
    As an animal lover I do all I can to discourage unwanted invaders from my plants and poultry, without having to kill them and dogs are my number one helpers.

  20. Mary Prior

    Interesting; beautiful word pictures; great descriptive writing!!! Felt like I was actually viewing the happenings!!!

  21. Sherri

    After we relocated to Tennessee and planted rose bushes in our front yard, we were told by an old timer that deer HATE Ivory soap so my husband went to the local Walmart & bought up MANY bars; he put them around our roses and the deer stepped right on top of the soap and cheerfully ate our roses. Hoof prints embedded into the soap. Then, we got a Jack Russell dog who was supposed to keep the deer out of the yard but she & the deer played ‘tag’ with each other. We were then told moth balls keep deer away; while I made holes around the rose bushes and my husband dropped the moth balls into the holes & covered them up, the dog dug them up & ate them.
    Suffice it to say we never planted rose bushes again.

  22. Hannah

    The way you tell a story is so wonderful. You have a true gift. The conclusions you come to are so profound. I will consider this analogy whenever I contemplate submission to a God I cannot always understand.:) thank you, friend.

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