I was grateful these two new cats could protect my garden.
by Donald Ford — Posted on Apr 19, 2010
Forestry was my focus in college, so I had plenty of experience with plants.
But with all the landscaping I’d done for others, a garden of my own had always been out of reach for one reason or another.
When my wife, Marianne, and I moved to a new house, once again I gave serious thought to starting one. Our yard was far too small, but the city offered plots in a community garden to anyone interested.
Looking into it, I heard stories about the community gardeners helping themselves to others’ bounty. All that hard work just for someone else to make off with the profits in the middle of the night? No thank you! But where else was I going to get a garden?
I often said a quick prayer before heading off to work. One morning I had an inspiration: I’d leave my garden problem in God’s hands. I really do want a garden this year, Lord, but only you know how I’ll get one.
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When I got home that night, Marianne met me at the door. “Do you want a garden?” she asked.
I hadn’t told her how much I did. “What are you saying?”
Marianne shrugged. “Mr. Eucker across the street came by today. His doctor told him his garden was too much for him with his health but he hates to see it go to waste.”
“I just asked God this morning for a garden and here it is. I can’t believe it!” I stammered.
“Believe it!” Marianne said with a laugh. “Then get over there and tell him before he asks someone else!”
Mr. Eucker was thrilled. He showed me his plot—70 by 120 feet. I pictured my vegetables coming up in an array of colors. “Thank you so much,” I told Mr. Eucker, shaking his hand. And thank you, God, for providing for both of us!
I planted corn, squash, peas, cucumbers and green bell peppers. I planted a fish under the potatoes to make them grow, an old gardeners’ trick I learned from my dad.
Each day after work I’d rush home to my plants. They say a watched pot never boils, but that’s not true for gardens. My vegetables sprouted before my very eyes, poking out of the soil, stretching toward the sun and spreading their leaves. The flowers drew bees and butterflies to fill the garden with even more color and life.
Nothing gave me more satisfaction than looking at all my work paying off. I was especially proud of my green bell peppers. Marianne would make a mean salad with them when they were ready. There were plenty for Mr. Eucker to enjoy too. It wouldn’t be long now.
“I’m going to wait one more day before picking them,” I told Marianne one night. “Tomorrow those peppers will be just right.”
I fell asleep dreaming of my up and coming pepper harvest. But when I arrived at the garden the next day there were barely any left! Someone had made off with my prize peppers! “Who would do such a thing?” I asked Mr. Eucker.
“I’ll keep watch tonight,” he said. “If they come back I’ll catch them!”
I dragged myself home, discouraged by my bad luck. All my effort, and for what? God, why did you give me a garden just to let someone steal the vegetables? I might as well have gone with the community plot!
“Did the pepper thieves come back?” I asked Mr. Eucker the next day. “Kids, I’ll bet. Am I right?”
“It wasn’t kids,” Mr. Eucker reported. “Look.” He walked me to the end of his driveway. There lay the shells of my once beautiful peppers. The insides were devoured. “Possums,” Mr. Eucker explained. “They’re stealing the peppers and eating the insides. Apparently they don’t like the skins.”
Marauding kids would have been easier to deal with. How was I going to protect myself from possums? A verse from Malachi came to my mind: “I will keep the devourer from your door, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground.” Keep the devourer from my door! I shared the few picked-over peppers with Mr. Eucker and went home.
I had no doubt God heard my prayers after his gift of the garden, but I wasn’t sure what he could do about possums. I looked across the street as I waved goodbye to Marianne the next morning. What damage had the possums done over night? Don’t think the worst, I told myself. Turning away, I noticed a moving van next door. “New neighbors,” said Marianne from the doorway.
We watched the movers unload boxes. A family climbed out of the car. A man, a woman, two kids and two sharp-eyed Siamese cats. A welcome addition to the neighborhood!
I didn’t lose any peppers that night. Or the night after that. It only took one visit from those Siamese angels to make the possums think twice about pillaging my garden.
By the end of the summer I had a crop of new peppers, along with tomatoes, squash, peas, corn, string beans and cucumbers. Plenty to share with neighbors. The devourer was kept from my door, and I wound up with a community garden after all.