rabbitThe Lesson of Another Peter Rabbit!!

I have no patience-none.  I accept that this is the life lesson I am still trying to master.  But people keep saying I must have patience to put up with situations that have happened in my life. As a special educator for 15 years I heard weekly how patient I was with my students.  They were mistaking patience for tolerance.  I have tolerance-too much I think.  I will put up with situations for far too long.  This lesson I have started to learn is to draw the line and say no more.  But when it comes to critters in the garden, I find I have determination to fight them and no tolerance for them at all.  After all I have put in some much hard work in my gardens.  There is nothing worse than coming out to find tulips beheaded or eaten to the ground, hostas eaten like salad, the bark chewed away on bushes and some dead or having to regrow from the base (rabbits and deer mostly do this annual damage).  Then there are the voles.  I believe their only purpose is to provide a food source for foxes and birds of prey.  They are great destroyers of lawn and gardens.  Impossible to battle.  So I research and find humane ways to deal with the critters.  I chase them like a crazy person, spray plants with citrusy smelling concoctions to keep them from from partaking in the great salad bowl that is my garden.  And I make headway or so I think.  It is a battle of wills and I am stubborn.

My most favorite book as a child and even now as an adult has always been The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.  I so loved the beautiful pictures and the simple story of this disobedient bunny who couldn’t resist the garden.  And rabbits are so cute, soft and seemingly harmless.  Until you come out to see your prized flowers mowed down.  Then you do whatever it takes.  At the old house I even resorted to chili pepper powder and spray which worked to deter rabbits.  Rabbits take the hint and seem to scare easily with pepper.  But I found this was not very humane-how evil did I feel knowing I had just blinded a bunny’s eyes with what amounted to pepper spray.   

When we moved to the new house I was determined to lick this problem with a fence.  The “forever green” area behind us was ripe with wildlife which is why we chose it.  We love it and the critters as long as they stay outside the fence.  After all the fence should be a clear signal to them where their boundaries are.    And I was quite sure my 4 foot high picket fence would be just the ticket so I could still see the wild areas and wildlife and not have them in the garden.  Apparently I did not do my research and forgot that deer can jump quite high and rabbits can squeeze under and through the very tightest of spaces.  So as you can guess I have to be diligent and vigilant especially with rabbits.  Chasing them worked for a little while but the stubborn ones would come back and in winter I couldn’t do much but cover some bushes.  Do you know how many bushes I have.  So the hardier ones are left for the rabbits and deer to prune (forsythias, red twig dogwoods and some Weigelas.

I think rabbits find our gardens an oasis.  A perfect place to hang out, meditate and build a nest especially since we have no kids or pets to bother them.  Every spring I check for signs of any nest building activity to deter them before the babies come.  They have plenty of places for a nest in my seemingly safe yard.  Especially when I can’t get to the pruning and weeding the the garden appears more wild-lots of cover and food.

This spring was like any other- rabbits visiting, me chasing them and spraying prized plants.  But a curious thing happened.  A very young, very little adorable bunny appeared one day on the patio (he is pictured above).  He curiously hopped from container to container and sampled what was there.  Nothing much he liked.  Then he hopped to the edge of the bed where the lawn starts or should I say the clover grows.  And he stayed for quite while eating the clover (I found out rabbits get a lot of protein from the clover).  Then just like Peter Rabbit he ran around and chased the birds.  I was being lulled in until my husband said, “Oh he’s cute until he eats your flowers”.  Snap!  That did it.  I was out the door in a flash chasing him out of the garden.  That was close.  No rabbits. 

And so it went-he would come, I would tolerate him a little, then I would chase him.  He was not getting the message.  But he was cute and he reminded me so of Peter Rabbit.  No!  No rabbits.  As the summer went on my husband would spot him in the garden especially near the veggie garden which was locked down with protective cloth or netting.  I checked to make sure he was not living in the garden.  No just visiting and eating our lush clover.  This became almost a daily event but I found myself chasing him less and less.  After all he was just eating the clover-I hoped.  I think things really changed for us during a flooding rainstorm.  It had poured all day and was still raining when I spotted him on the lawn near one of the beds close to the patio.  There he was eating the clover and shaking off the rain.  He would hop under a bush or big perennial to take some cover and groom himself.   He was just too cute until he started eating the flowers-coreopsis and echinacea leaves.  Well that wasn’t so bad as long as he didn’t devour the whole plant.  I could spare a few flowers.  Oh who was I kidding we were hooked.  We decided to name him.  And so we did-Harry (my husband’s idea).

Harry the rabbit had become a fixture.  We have enjoyed our Harry sightings-watching him grow.  I didn’t even mind when he mowed down my new tender specialty echinacea that I planted.  I can spray it to keep him away from the temptation.  I certainly wasn’t going to chase him or evict him.  He had become a special member of our family-we had set our limits, we were using eco-friendly deterrents and he was abiding by the rules.  Our garden has become his special place and we have moved from tolerance, to understanding each other to cohabitation (and on our part love).  We will watch for Harry this winter and see how he has grown by spring.  Oh and by the way, Harry may turn out to be Harriet.  And wouldn’t that be lovely too!