Back at the end of December when I was doing some garden planning, I mentioned my Juneberries suckering and starting to crowd my honeyberries and what I might do about that. Well, now I will not need to worry about it because they are most likely all dead and it makes me want to cry, no it has made me cry.
Apparently the Rabbit Who Ate My Garden last spring and summer took up winter residence beneath my deck—rather, I suspect the residence is beneath my deck judging from the tracks through the piled up snow. I didn’t know the well fed rabbit was residing beneath my deck for quite some time. But when I noticed some of the smaller branches on the bush cherries were broken off I wondered what was going on.
Okay, first I blamed James. The bush cherries are about thigh high and have thin, fragile twiggy branches. Some of them were sticking out into the main garden path, the only garden path we walk and keep clear of snow during winter because it leads to the chickens and our back gate and alley where our trash, organics, and recycling is picked up. James has complained more than once about having to avoid the bush cherry branches poking out a little way into the path. When I noticed they were broken, I blamed him first, naturally.
Of course, I didn’t come right out and accuse him. I casually mentioned I noticed the bush cherry branches were broken and waited to see if he would confess. He said that he had noticed that too. I expected a different answer, and in my surprise I blurted, so you didn’t do it? No, he said, without hesitation. Not even by accident on the way to the chickens? I asked. No, he said.
What the heck? Now who could I blame? Especially since as the days went by more and more branches were disappearing.
I looked closer at the animal tracks crisscrossing the garden snow. Among the squirrel network I spied rabbit tracks, and then rabbit poo, and then a day later, Fat Rabbit.
Before I could think that this was only the beginning of a very bad situation, all of the little twiggy branches with the buds for the coming spring on them, were gone. Ok, so we won’t get any bush cherries this year, they will be ok and in a year all will be well.
Fat Rabbit did not stop with the bush cherries. Over the following couple of weeks I watched all the honeyberries shrinking. And then the Juneberries lost all their branches.
At this point I was distressed. What can I do? The internet said to build wire cages around everything. Too late, and not practical anyway. There was nothing left for Fat Rabbit to eat anyway, because surely raspberry and gooseberry thorns are a deterrent? And as with the bush cherries, surely the honeyberries (six bushes about knee high), and the Juneberry (one knee high bush with about six little suckers), will spend the summer rejuvenating. It will all be fine.
And then Fat Rabbit started eating the shorter raspberry canes! After those were chewed down, the bark on the crabapple tree was next.
I was so angry I asked a coworker how she felt about eating rabbit. She said it seemed like a fine idea to her. I suggested that if she wanted the challenge of snaring Fat Rabbit, she could have a fine stew and a nice pelt. Sadly, she backed down.
Ok, I will relocate Fat Rabbit. I posted an ask to borrow a Havahart live animal trap on my neighborhood Buy Nothing group, mentioning that it is to relocate Fat Rabbit before my garden is completely destroyed and baby rabbits are born under my deck. I got no trap offer, lots of sad emojis, presumably for the garden destruction, and one comment saying that rabbits have winter burrows and if I move the rabbit, I will effectively bring on the animal’s death. Since I had already solicited a coworker to catch, kill, and eat the rabbit, I only felt mildly guilty. But if Fat Rabbit was not going to be quickly and humanely dispatched, I did not want to be party to a drawn out, frozen death.
I spilled my woes to another coworker, and he offered his dogs who regularly catch and kill rabbits in their yard. While this appealed, I decided trading rabbit destruction for rampant-dogs-chasing-rabbit destruction was even worse, and declined the dogs.
Today, as I hung laundry out to freeze dry, I saw Fat Rabbit has started in on the gooseberries and has also begun stripping the bark off the bush cherries. At a loss for what to do, James made a giant batch of hot pepper spray so strong it made him choke and gasp as he was blending it. We have sprayed the crabapple, the gooseberries, around the raspberries, what is left of the honeyberries and Juneberry hoping they are not dead, the Juneberry and aronia in the chicken garden, the black currants, and the plum sapling. These latter plants we sprayed in the hope that Fat Rabbit will be deterred from munching on them too.
If you have any suggestions for what else I might do to deter Fat Rabbit, or if you would like to stop by and turn Fat Rabbit into a stew, please let me know. Once all the snow melts, we will be making sure all the garden fencing is rabbit-proof. My fear is that we will end up trapping Fat Rabbit in the garden. I am not so very worried about baby rabbits. I think once the chickens are out and about in the garden on the regular and hanging out under the deck, Fat Rabbit will not have babies there. Or, if there are babies, the chickens will eat them if they find them while they are tiny.
So now my garden planning has turned to replacing what will surely be all the dead fruit shrubs. I will have to wait for spring to find out for certain. But I am prepared to get more honeyberries and another Juneberry. I am also thinking of getting a quince. Since we have a sour cherry tree that is just getting big enough to start producing cherries, we are going to hold off on replacing the bush cherries.
I always thought the squirrels were my biggest garden nemeses, eating all my corn, digging up seeds, stealing strawberries, taking one bite out of a tomato and leaving the rest, chewing through my pumpkins. Turns out they were just the opening act for the relentless and unstoppable Fat Rabbit eating all my peas, beans, young cornstalks, and now fruit trees and shrubs. Where is the neighborhood coyote and fox when I really need them? Or maybe the big hawk that eyed the chickens over the summer? Or a hungry bald eagle?
A bottle of hot pepper spray seems inadequate, but hopefully Fat Rabbit, being a midwestern rabbit, doesn’t like spicy food. I just have to remember to spray everything frequently. Fingers crossed that it works!
- How to Transform the Way You Experience Winter. This article came along just when I was feeling that late winter exhaustion. I’m still tired, but at least I feel better about it.
- One man’s quest to include bike commuting reports on MPR’s morning programming. This is really fantastic. Our local Morning Edition Public Radio host now includes bike commute information as part of her 7:30 a.m. traffic report. I’m already at work by then so it doesn’t help me, but I have tweeted biking conditions to her a few times since I found out about it.
- Seek You by Kristen Radke. Graphic nonfiction about the loneliness epidemic in the United States.
- The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula Le Guin. Inspired by Marcie at Buried in Print and a LitHub article by Susan DeFreitas about how she read all of Le Guin’s fiction during the pandemic, I am embarking on my own journey to read everything Le Guin wrote. This is an early collection of short stories published in 1975 that has the germs of Earthsea, Rocannon’s World, and The Left Hand of Darkness.
- Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson (audiobook). Stephenson is taking his usual sweet time building everything up with all the details. I have been informed that I have a bad sex award worthy scene to look forward to.
- Cities@Tufts podcast, Fahrenheit 911: Heat, cities and climate literacy from the ground up. Discussion on how the poorest areas of cities are the hottest, why, and what might be done about it.
- Frontiers of Commoning podcast: Sara Arnold and Sandra Niessen on Moving Toward Defashion and Degrowth . What does sustainable fashion actually mean?
- The Gilded Age. I loved Downton Abbey, but this new one from Julian Fellowes is Downton Abbey-eque in late 1800s New York with old money snobs and new money upstarts. The houses are lavish, the costumes are stunning, and I am sick and tired of being asked to care about the lives of rich people. I didn’t even finish watching the first almost 90-minute episode.