Garden Notes: Small Harvest


This morning when I rise and take Bonnie out for her morning constitutional I notice the dark lingers longer around the edges of the horizon. The days are already shortening and summer has only just begun taking root in my heart. My garden feels it too.

One of my favorite things about returning home from a summer holiday is discovering what my garden has been up to in my absence. Sometimes I return to find the green beans overflowing the vines—ready to be picked and canned. Sometimes my tomatoes are so ripe the plants bend over from the weight of them. Cucumbers await pickling, summer squash begs to be fried up for dinner, and zucchini fairly overruns that little corner of the yard. Sometimes the garden is a happy thing to return to after vacation, like waking from a good sleep on Christmas morn—all these good things seem to appear overnight.

This year was not one of those times. When we returned from vacation this year, thoughts of the mighty Mississippi and the white sands of the gulf coast still lapping at our minds, I found my garden had been invaded. Last year I had trouble with bean beetles and a red-bellied woodpecker, but this year the word about my sweet little garden seems to have spread to all the critters. Deer and rabbits made short work of my bush beans—chewing them down to little nubs. My summer squash were all but obliterated, only a few spindly vines remaining. And my tomatoes? The birds had pecked holes in several, leaving me with a fierce longing for a BLT.

There was not time to grieve. I went on the offensive. I purchased one of those owl statues at our Home Depot and perched him high above my tomatoes, hoping to frighten off the birds and rabbits. I mixed up my milk solution and sprayed my remaining beans to deter the deer. I cleaned out the deadening squash and cucumber vines and fertilized the meager remains.

Then I watched.

To be a gardener means to be slightly obsessive, I’m learning. I haunted the bay window overlooking the back yard for the next few days. If the slightest movement stirred in the garden, I jumped on it. There seem to be less birds flitting about, but a few brave feathered ones have not been fooled by my new garden guardian. When I found more Romas with puncture wounds in them, I upped the strategy: Bird Block. This mesh lining is draped over the garden so plants are protected from hungry invaders. In theory. We shall see.

We’ve been home from vacation for two weeks now, and the garden is coming around. This morning I picked green beans—let the slow work of stringing and cleaning them minister to my spirit. The harvest will be much smaller this year but maybe that is for the best. We are still having trouble getting back into the routine after my father-in-law’s death. My husband tells me he is can’t seem to care about the usual things. It’s hard to mow the grass, do the laundry, get up in the morning for work … it’s hard to go on as if nothing has changed. Some dear friends have brought us meals every night this week. We have been held in love as we grieve. I feel myself growing soft and fat under their care. It feels nice.

This afternoon I am canning the green beans I picked this morning. Soon I will have jalapeños to pickle and can, and I hope, cucumbers. Time has a way of mending things. Time has a way of softening the wounds.

I’m so honored to be featured over at The Life Letter Cafe in an interview with David Miller. I talk a little about my faith journey and Playdates with God. I would love if you’d join us over there



  1. says

    I love your line, “To be a gardener means to be slightly obsessive.” Yes! Can so a gardener of flowers. Deer and rabbits here too. Also Japanese Beetles currently gnawing my rose buds and petals. I got tired of deer feasting on my day lily buds I started covering them with sheets at night ( ).

    So glad you are finding yourself held in love, “growing soft and fat under their care.” May each passing day get easier.

    • says

      Oh, thanks for this little tip, Theresa! So far, my bird block is working, though one little Mockingbird made it under the web and went frantic trying to escape! I was so worried he would break a wing, he was so frightened. I managed to get him out unharmed, thank goodness. And he hasn’t come back 😉

  2. says

    Funny, but our garden is a bit stunted this year — hungry woodchucks and a dry summer– and I’ve been doing my best to view this as divine intervention: I have a summer job which lasts until the end of August. If ever there was to be a year of the delayed harvest THIS IS IT!
    Heading on over the cafe to enjoy your interview!

    • says

      That’s a good way to think of it, Michele–divine intervention. Life has been so busy, I would have a hard time with the usual canning. I hope you are enjoying your summer job! It’s hard to believe we are in August already. My Father-in-law’s illness filled our days this summer. But I wouldn’t trade that time for all the tomatoes on the vines!

  3. says

    The grieving won’t end, but it will change. Give yourselves plenty of grace. Be kind. Everyone grieves differently. There is no wrong way or right way to grieve. Death puts a spin on the normal. It throws us off kilter and causes things to be out of focus for a time. Cling to God and His word. It will see you through the stages and bring you back into focus. Blessings and prayers.

    • says

      Thank you, June, for these wise words. Yes, I’m clinging. I’ve been reading the Psalms this summer and they have been such a balm. I am so grateful for your friendship.

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