Jonah Raskin: Good Fences Make Good Boundaries

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Jonah Raskin has resorted to physical measures to enforce social distancing — from the turkey and deer chewing up his garden.

Some of the hardest battles I’ve fought over the past few months have been with wild turkeys and deer, who have raided my garden, chomped on the lettuce and the peppers, and most of all on my beloved tomato plants. The only thing they didn’t touch were my two marijuana plants, though I cared more about the veggies than the pot.

There was a simple solution to the problem, but I was too lazy to embrace it. Finally, my landlord took pity on me, dug holes in the ground, buried posts and stretched plastic netting around the whole area. Then I waded into the secure zone, staked the tomato plants so the fruit wouldn’t rot on the ground.

Truth to tell, it wasn’t just laziness that prevented me from making a fence. I was also philosophically opposed to the very idea of a fence, though I loved Robert Frost’s immortal line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” My friend, Anne Teller, never fenced Oak Hill Farm and her son, Will, who grows grapes and makes wines doesn’t fence his vineyard.

“Deer gotta eat,” he tells me.


He can afford to be generous. He has enough grapes for the deer and also for his red wines. Oak Hill Farm has enough vegetables to satisfy the deer and to sell in the barn and at the open air markets in the town of Sonoma.

Ever since my fence went up, not a single leaf in my garden has been gnawed by critters. The tomatoes are ripening nicely and I’m looking forward to making tomato sandwiches with butter and salt. Now that I have a well-protected garden I can begin to tackle my own demons, though that will take far more time and energy than fence building.

Still, I might borrow the notion that good fences make good neighbors. Indeed over the past month I’ve learned that social distancing is essential if we're to beat COVID-19, and that if I want ripe tomatoes, I've got to keep the deer out of my garden.

With a Perspective, I’m Jonah Raskin.

Jonah Raskin is a performance poet. He lives in Cotati.