During this time of year, our weekends are essentially filled to brimming with projects. The growing season has begun, the weather is warm (sometimes), and we’re racing against the clock to get things mowed, plowed, cultivated, germinated, planted, weeded, built, and cleaned. For this particular weekend, Saturday was supposed to be warm and sunny (it was) and Sunday was supposed to be cold and rainy (it is). And so yesterday afternoon, I headed out into the 71-degree sunshine, armed with a tray of seedling greens and onions, to transplant my first starts of the season. Brian was out there too, working on covering the pathways around our garden (last year they were just weeds and grass. This year, we are laying gravel paths, to which I am very much looking forward).
This Means WAR
I stopped at the first box in the western row, put down my stuff, and stepped back to take a look and make a mental planting plan. And that’s when I saw it. The huge, gaping hole in my asparagus bed in the adjoining box. My initial thought was that is was rats, which wouldn’t have been the end of the world. They like to dig tunnels into everything, including my garden boxes, but at this time of year, digging is all they do. Later in the season, they sometimes help themselves to half a tomato, but that’s about it. Then I realized that this digging did not lead to a tunnel. No, ma’am. It led nowhere, and it was HUGE (*), with dirt flung everywhere. This was not the work of rats. Then I thought – chickens? Did I let the chickens out and not watch closely enough and one sneaked in here and dug a hole to China? That didn’t seem right either, but maybe that was it.
So, I shrugged my shoulders and leaned in to move the dirt and mulch back into place. Once I was closer to the crime scene, my poor eyes were assaulted with this:
A big, fat, beautiful asparagus, that was about to emerge from the soil, chewed down to a nub. I could have cried. It would have been the biggest one yet from my youthful bed, and it would have played a key role in feeding the roots to keep them alive. Instead, it was halted in its tracks by some being that was surely pure evil, a demon risen from the depths of hellfire with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on my garden. I shrieked with outrage and showed Brian the damage, and as I pointed, I finally saw the footprints. There were two kinds – one, a flat, texture-less oval, pointed at one end. The other looked just like a small dog-paw print.
“RABBITS!” I cried, “Ohhhhh ho ho ho, this means WAR!!”
The deceptively-benign-looking, long-eared rodents have been breeding like, well, rabbits, in the lovely little haven we created for them when we started a brush pile in the southern corner of our property, adjoining the lake. There are jillions of them in there, and they hop around in the grass all day long, blissfully unafraid of me and the chickens. If we get a little too close (like within 5 feet), they just pop back into the brush pile, safe and sound. Knowing the potential devastation they could bring to a garden, I have to admit to the occasional fantasy about buying a bee-bee gun and reducing their numbers a bit. However, so far, I have managed to keep them out of my gardens with my various half-cocked riggings of chicken wire and bird netting. They have nibbled a bit on the trunks of some of my baby fruit trees, which has left me blind with rage each time, but I have mostly kept them at bay by swaddling the trees with burlap. And so, I thought we had a truce, the rabbits and I.
Fraternizing With the Enemy
So, I pushed the dirt and mulch back into place, covering up the nub as well and gently as I could, and I went back to my transplanting, all the while, plotting secure enclosures for the boxes and dreaming of rabbit stew. When I finished planting my Pan-Asian mixed greens, broccoli, and green onions in that box, I picked up my things and headed to the middle box in the eastern row to plant my cabbages, cauliflower, chard, and lettuce. I had just put my stuff down and was walking toward Brian, who was bringing me a glass of water, when suddenly – “SQUEEEEEAK!! SQUEAK SQUEAK!! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKK!!” emanated from where I had just stepped, and the weed cloth, which was staked to the ground, showed the chaotic movements of the clearly trapped and enraged creature beneath it. To be honest, the sound was rather otherworldly, and I wasn’t sure what we had under there, but it was surely a scary monster of some sort. Brian and I stood there in silent surprise and confusion for a minute or two, and when it became clear that it was not going to stop and the creature clearly couldn’t get out on its own, we stood back as far as we could, and timidly pulled back the cloth. I was pretty sure some snarling, bloodthirsty weasel or similarly-sharp-toothed and bold creature would come flying out at my face.
Are you ready for this? I couldn’t believe it when I saw what it was. Meet the demon spawn:
It was a tiny baby bunny. Apparently its mom had hidden it under our cozy weed cloth and gone out for a bite of asparagus, and I had stepped on it. I’ve known for most of my life that rabbits are entirely silent except when they are scared for their lives, and then they scream. It’s just one of those things I learned at random and it stuck in my head. I hadn’t had the privilege of hearing this eerie sound until moving here, when now and again an adult rabbit has mistakenly made its way into the dogs’ yard and they have made quick work of it. But even then, that was always a quick, “Scree! Scree!” and then silence upon instant death. This little baby really put on quite a show.
Once we peeled back the cloth, even though it was free to go, it just sat there and stared at us, a deer in the headlights. So, I reached down and scooped it up, thinking maybe I had broken its leg. Once in my hands, it was quite feisty and kicked and squirmed to get away, though, thankfully, it did not scream any more.
And there I was. I had the enemy within my (literal) grasp. I was holding in my hands a member of the next generation of asparagus-chewers, and I was faced with quite a dilemma. I knew I should wring its warm, fuzzy, cute little neck. One less rabbit is one less garden disaster. One less rabbit is a little more bark on my fruit trees, a little less rabbit poop on my shoes, a few less broken canes on my young roses (yes, they chew on those too), a few less half-eaten strawberries. I could end it right here and now. It would be so easy. I could send a message to the rest of the family back in the brush pile – you come in my garden, and you’ll be sleeping with the fishes (er, uh… something like that). Heck, if I didn’t want to do it myself, I could toss it to the dogs and it would be over in the blink of an eye. Totally humane and no waste. I could do it. I could do it right now. I could…. couldn’t I?
I’m an Idiot
While I was pondering its fate, Brian looked over to the brush pile and saw that an adult rabbit had come out and was inching toward us, looking concerned. “Look, Lisa, its mom is right over there. Give it back to its mom.”
“BUT IT’S A RABBIT!!!! They ate my ASPARAGUS!!!” I whined.
“Come on, Lisa, you can’t kill it, just give it back to its mom.”
“Maybe that’s not its mom. I’ll kill it if I want to,” I grumbled, already knowing I was beaten. “FINE,” I sighed, and, like an idiot, I walked it over to the brush pile and put it down just inside one of the rabbit entrances, where it stood for a moment and then disappeared into the brush. Some kind of self-sufficient pioneer woman I am. I stared destiny in the eye and destiny said, “you can’t kill a baby rabbit. It’s too cute.” How true, how true.
* Please note that I already started filling in the hole before it occurred to me that we should take pictures for evidence and the blog, so the picture does not properly depict the hugeness of the original hole.