When the Frost is on the Punkin

When I work around the yard in the fall, often times I think over and over of the 1st line of the poem “When the Frost is on the Punkin” written by the Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley.

“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”
“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”
“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”

Translation “when there is frost on the pumpkin and all the corn is gathered and tied together out in the fields”.

It’s like one of those song tunes you can’t get out of your head.

“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”

On Sunday, we finally had a killing frost. It was a hoarfrost, matter of fact. There were little hairy ice crystals all over the plants and lawn, as you can see from the picture above.

So the season is finished.

Now I have nothing left to do but clean up the garden, empty the containers, plant bulbs, make sure the snow blower works, and get everything stowed away until next spring. At the same time, I’ll still be cutting the grass at least once a week until Thanksgiving. Thankfully, I don't have too many large trees, yet, so leaf raking won't be a big deal for me.

After emptying the compost bins on Saturday, I managed to fill one three quarters full again with more plant refuse. As you can see below, at least the vegetable garden is cleaned up. Now on to the flower beds…

“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”

“When the Frost Is on the Punkin” by James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,

And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,

And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,

And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;

O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,

With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes to feed the stock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here --

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,

And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;

But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock --

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,

And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;

The stubble in the furries -- kindo' lonesome-like,

but still A-preachin' sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;

The strawsack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;

The hosses in theyr stalls below -- the clover overhead! --

O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,

When the frost is on the punkin, and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps

Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;

And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through

With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!

I don't know how to tell it -- but ef sich a thing could be

As the Angles wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me --

I'd want to 'commodate 'em -- all the whole-indurin' flock --

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!


  1. Here is a riddle for you: Why do all the gardens in Houston suffer from insomnia?

    Answer: Because they never get put to bed. :)

    I really like your blog. It is interesting and it also has a great feel to it. When i come to a new blog, I try to gauge the feel of it. Am I making any sense?

    Thanks for coming by my blog and commenting.

  2. I had better get out there and clean up before"the frost is on the punkin!" I never look forward to getting a visit from Jack Frost however I did enjoy this poem and the picture it brings to mind.
    Thank YOu for sharing!

  3. I do like the poem you have shared! The vegetable garden looks great. I have to get out to mine before the heavy rain arrives. The clock is ticking, not much time left to put the garden to bed.

  4. Great poem, I can't relate in South Florida we get the punkins at the store and no frost in the winter. I like your blog, I am new to the blogest sphare

  5. Great poem.I love the writing about the summer ended and the frost arriving.He must have been a nature boy, writing about the seasons.I have a book by Robert Frost and he writes a lot of nature poems too..

  6. I love it when I can read a whole poem that I only remember a little of. This is a great glimpse into a much simpler but harder time. I thought as I read it that this love of autumn was born from a REAL relationship with the land ... one I only play at (though happily so). Great post. Thanks !

  7. I was surprised years ago that a lot of people who aren't Hoosiers (from Indiana) do not know of the works of James Whitcome Riley, who wrote the poem "when the frost is on the pumpkin". I have toured his home in Indianapolis and heard scandalous stories about about him (he was a bachelor). He had other poems also, mostly geared toward young children. In Indiana we studied him in school.

  8. I love this poem too. I remember learning it as a young teen. But I was too young then to realize that "frost on the punkin" was a metaphor for grey hair, and "fodder in the shock" was a metaphor for the expanding waist of middle age. Now that I have both, I reread this poem with new meaning. It is really about how the Autumn of ones life is really a great time to feal the crisp freshness of life.

    Try re-reading it when you turn 50 and see if you agree.


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