Horrible Imaginings

About a year ago, a friend, let’s call him Mr. Green Fingers to protect his anonymity, sent me a snarky e-mail.  He is a keen gardener and our gardening exchanges always contained encouragement, advice, wisdom and occasionally, the gifting of plants when he had too many for his own garden space.  But after sending some pictures of the location for our vegetable beds, he wrote me, “I especially like your optimistic reference to the future vegetable plot. I have this image of a line of bunnies sitting on the stonewall with tiny napkins grasped in their dirty paws.”

Was this some kind of a joke masking encouragement, or true empathy anticipating any number of challenges that awaited us?  Possibly, it was a prophetic truth, akin to the three witches in Macbeth whose predictions hold the capacity to effect later events in the play.  No matter, I felt decidedly unnerved.  The very idea that our friend, this gardening man, could profoundly influence our garden’s future sent shivers.  We know when the three witches speak of those “Horrible Imaginings” they happen.

While not in the opening act, our character made his cameo hopping into the garden from stage left, as we were exiting stage right for 10 days of holiday.  Blast!   We had lined up friends to water the plants, pinch out anything before it began to bolt, and to harvest whatever looked ready.  But on the morning of our departure, while we loaded our suitcases into the car, Harvey, Bugs Bunny, Peter, Roger or Jessica Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, or if you prefer, Cottontail burst onto the scene and we were powerless to do anything about a possible future invasion from this furry fiend and his colony of mates, grabbing their napkins to feast on the bounty of our garden.

Crockern Farm

The Rabbit

Crockern Farm

Trying to hide while nibbling grass.

Admittedly, rabbits are cute, and some people keep them as pets, but they can cause considerable damage in the garden.  If our garden came under attack, we would suffer heartache of epic proportions because we’ve worked hard.  As if the slugs and weather challenges weren’t enough, do we really need to fend off this little blighter, too?

Despite its late start due to an extended winter and a cold spring, we’ve done well with our summer garden.  Throughout the year, the vegetable beds were under siege from our own chickens, determined slugs, snails, cabbage butterflies, moles and, at times, harsh Dartmoor weather.   Let’s not forget our own learning curve, too, which was steep:  We planted many plants too close together and our companion planting was sequential rather than simultaneous, letting the aphids get the better of our broad beans before the nasturums blossomed to the rescue.   Despite all this, every day since mid-June we’ve managed to collect something from the garden for our table:  A variety of lettuces, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, chard, beets, tomatoes and onions.  Soon to come are the celeriac, celery, purple sprouting broccoli, courgettes, peppers, squash, swede and Brussels sprouts.

Much of where we live, in the high moors, is not ideal for rabbits, who prefer kinder soils in which to burrow and breed like, well, rabbits, kicking out a litter of three to six babies each time.  It’s inconceivable, but the females can become pregnant again one day after giving birth!  We may not have the cultivated land favoured by rabbits, but we are surrounded by gorse, which provides shelter.  We are also surrounded by historic man-made rabbit warrens.  Centuries ago, people built these from stone and earth to provide the ideal burrowing places so rabbits could breed and then be caught for their meat and skins.  Still today in the UK, rabbit is available at the butchers and some supermarkets.  At a local market, I once spotted some dead rabbits hanging next to pheasant and other small game.   And if it is on the pub menu, Roger will always opt for the Rabbit and Bacon Pie.

After our ten-day adventure in British Columbia and Montana, celebrating our 50th birthdays (for the careful reader, our birth year was 1963 – The Year Of The Rabbit! – an unusual coincidence, me thinks) with childhood friends, we returned to find the garden doing well.  Whew!   It is nearly two months later and we still have daily visits from this single rabbit, which has us wondering what happened to the others?  It was a small baby when we first spotted it in June and now it is a medium sized adult.  But, we only ever see the one.  Or, is that is what we are being led to believe?

Usually, when you see one rabbit, you’ll soon see many.  Like Bugs Bunny, these critters are known to be tricksters, and it is possible we are under a cunning illusion cooked up by a warren of rabbits that are planning a stealth operation to devour our garden.  It’s also possible a fox got the rest of this rabbit’s family and it was spared, but we are keeping up our guard.  While I find myself rooting for this one rabbit to survive, find a mate and make a happy bunny family life, I look at the bounty in our garden and hope it keeps to nibbling the grass, commits itself to a life of celibacy and stays far, far away from our vegetable patch.

With a rabbit population of one, we happily welcome this bunny to join the wildlife of Crockern.   But if things change and our garden becomes a bunny smorgasbord, then we may grab our own napkins and cook up a rabbit pie.


26 comments on “Horrible Imaginings

  1. Ohhhhh, I’d have worried for the entire 10 days, if I’d seen a colony of rabbits within even a mile of my garden! We had a baby rabbit in the garden early last spring. It looked cute but when I dashed outside to where it had been seen, I soon realsied it had been happily munching on the growing tips of the strawberry plants which we grow in pots edging the gravel path.

    Mud and I moved the whole lot, some 50 pots, either onto the table or into the greenhouse for protection, The rabbit disappeared after about 5 days, whether to pastures new or as a result of a predator I don’t know. This is the only rabbit we have seen in 11 years and I devoutly hope we won’t see any more.

    I’m so glad your garden survived 🙂

    • We managed to not think about it too much while away, because there was nothing to be done about it. But the drive back up the track was filled with a bit of dread! Since we didn’t see a single rabbit last year, I am hoping for your record of this one being the only one in 11 years….fingers crossed for both of us!

  2. Brenda Skinner says:

    A lovely long ramble about your gardening adventure! But I must disagree with one thing: a female rabbit’s getting pregnant the day after giving birth simply cannot be referred to as inconceivable! 😉

  3. Sharon says:

    We’ve observed a similar recent reduction in the number of rabbits on our Virginia property. Last spring, every morning and evening they were out in force, and now we’re lucky if we see one every couple of days. Is it a natural, seasonal cycle, I wonder? Or is it just the neighbors, who have been rumored to catch them for dinner?

    • I’m thinking it is just seasonal cycles and believe that our fine weather this summer (last summer we didn’t have a summer in the UK) is why we are seeing any rabbits at all. I welcome them back, but do hope they stay in someone else’s garden. Thanks for visiting my blog and I look forward to following yours, too.

  4. I just started readign Watership Down last night. LOL. Weird!!

    My gardening year was frustrating, too. But I have managed to have a good bounty anyway. Good luck and much love!

    • Thank you. And I was just looking at your photos — I think you had a very successful garden. We were pleased and since it was our first year in this place with its unique challenges, we were happy to just learn what might work and what changes to make for next year. Thanks for your support — and I am going to try that recipe you’ve reposted. Sounds terrific!

  5. Rabbits are technically solitary… If you saw this one and it was young when you saw it, it is probably a young female that finished it’s time with it’s mother and has set up a home for itself near your property, away from competing females. Which probably does mean it will have 10 or so babies over the next year, and a few male visitors, but who knows how many of those babes will stick around to nest near-by. Typically they run off to find their own territory!

  6. Joanne Levitan says:

    Whenever I drink chamomile tea I think of Peter Rabbit.

    I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening.

    His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter!

    ‘One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time.’

    So glad that your garden is doing well. I can attest to the tasty potatoes.

    We alas are dealing with pests of our own. An infestation of pantry moths. Ugh! We did not seek congressional approval before launching our attack. After much discarding, scrubbing and a implementing a policy of containment we will place traps to catch and kill the males and hopefully eradicate them from the premises.

  7. You’ve done incredibly well with the veggies! My own little Dartmoor garden which I started from rough moorland about 5 years ago has failed to produce much of any note that didn’t immediately rot. I gave up this year just in time for the best summer in ages, during which my neighbour produced Triffids of every variety, and the slugs (who are so fat they have to use the gate to enter the garden), have dried up in the sun.
    Funnily enough, we have rabbits on Gibbet Hill just behind us, but none in our little enclave till last year when one appeared. He’s still around, and still alone although we suspect he pops back to the warren when off duty. Very strange…

  8. Mmmmm. We have a single rabbit. We see it every day. Bizarrely, it changes size daily – sometimes looking positively baby bunny-ish, other days swollen to 3 times the size. We know there’s just the one because we never see two in the garden together. Local lore has it that where there is one, there’ll be at least 50 within hopping distance. Pah! Old wives tales. Or indeed tails, to carry on with the jollity above. [Did you expect to get off scut-free?] RH (PS Dartmoor was sunny and wonderful, even though we were right in Grimpen Mire / Baskerville territory…)

    • This blog post seems to have erupted in puns and I admit, I love it! I’m glad to hear you had a great time on Dartmoor. Grimpen Mire area is a stones throw — perhaps you spotted our rabbit?

  9. We’ve spotted rabbits a couple of times this summer but luckily our dog likes to chase them. Although she is fast I am pretty sure she won’t be able to catch one. I’m hoping she will just annoy them enough to choose another location, preferably far, far away from my future market garden plot!
    Love your posts! Thanks for dropping by mine.

  10. […] Horrible Imaginings […]

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