June Zellers “Neighbors”

Garden with fencing
June Zellers’ current fencing system around her garden. Photo courtesy of June Zellers

This story appeared in the 2021 summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “Neighbors.”

The year was probably 1976 or 1977. I had been on our homestead with my late husband for just 2 years. We had been pretty lucky the prior year: We were far enough out in the woods that we didn’t experience any groundhog or raccoon pressure. Occasionally we would see prints in the garden but experienced few losses. And our first-year garden wasn’t really that productive anyway.

In late June, we were eating breakfast and looking out on our small, unfenced vegetable garden. Suddenly movement caught our eye – a deer, a moose? No, it was a heifer.

Our still incomplete, home-built house was on the northern edge of our 40-acre property. The nearest neighbor – a long-time dairy farmer, probably in his 80’s at that time – was 2 miles away. This neighbor owned the woodlot abutting our property on the south side where he had cleared a small pasture on which he put a few heifers each spring. He was a man of few words but many (I think 14) children. Rumor has it that his wife stopped talking after the thirteenth child.

Well, wanting to be good neighbors, we hooked a rope around the heifer and walked her down to the farmer’s house. He was surprised to see us and couldn’t at all understand why we had brought the heifer back. In his view, she would have returned when it was time for him to bring the cows some grain later in the day. He didn’t seem at all interested or concerned that she was trampling our garden.

He promised to see to fixing the fence at that pasture, although I recall seeing the heifers out on the road more than once thereafter. I also remember that as the summer when we fenced our garden.

June Zellers

West Gardiner, Maine

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