2011-08-04 / News

The circus in the yard

Flotsam and Jetsam
BY DONNA DRAGO

There is at least one bunny – and possibly more – that lives in our front-yard garden. I say possibly more because they all look alike and I can’t tell if I am seeing the same one or one of its siblings.

My dogs are aware of this tiny intruder and have devoted their lives to catching a glimpse of it – maybe even catch it.

The dogs have never joined forces on anything before even though they are by nature pack animals. For some unknown reason they have come to an agreement – and even spend time strategizing – about how to rid the yard of the bunny.

Sky, the old dog, sits in a spot behind a short boxwood hedge where he thinks he is invisible to the bunny. His giant drooling head sticks out way above the hedge, but you can tell by the way he is motionless and barely breathing that he thinks no one can see him. His job is to barely move his head and shoot Stella a look when he spots the bunny.

Once he gives the look, Stella assumes a position much like an Olympic runner at the starting blocks. She freezes like this for many minutes until Sky decides it’s time and makes a clumsy lunge in the general direction of the bunny. Once he lunges, the bunny makes a mad dash out of the garden in the direction of Stella. She leaps into action and charges after the bunny, which runs under the rhododendrons to throw off Stella. This works, because in no time the bunny is back in the garden and Stella is still sniffing around the other side of the rhodies trying to pick up the lost scent. This buys the bunny enough time to finish his dinner in peace.

The bunny resumes sitting in the Swiss chard and happily chews entire leaves while my husband attempts his own ideas about how to get rid of a bunny that likes the produce selection in the garden. When he is not in the chard, the bunny is often under a giant sage plant in the herb garden where it’s fragrant and shady – who can blame it?

My husband reminds me of the exasperated Farmer McGregor in the tale of Peter Rabbit, written in 1893 by Beatrix Potter. That this book was written in 1893 and is still popular tells me that there is no hope for my husband, the farmer, or the dogs, his trusty accomplices, to rid the garden of the bunny. Peter or one of his sisters – Flopsy, Mopsy or Cottontail – is going to just keep on eating the chard.

Among the strategies to keep the rabbit out of the garden is a 2-foot wire fence around each raised bed that is secured in the corners with bamboo sticks. This seems to work while the plants are still seedlings and need to be cared for until they reach a height greater than that of a bunny.

A product called Rabbit Scram is used faithfully. We sprinkle it around each raised bed and the fumes – like a strong Indian curry dish – keep the rabbits (and us) at bay until it rains and we have to re-apply it.

The hit-the-rabbit-in-the-rearend with- a- rolled- up- newspaper method was employed recently, but the rabbit’s reaction was to turn his head to look at my husband with a mouthful of lettuce as if to say, “Hey, pal. I’m eating here.”

The rabbit or rabbits have become more or less fearless. They plop out of the raised beds at our feet and just hop into the next one while we are standing there. We can see the rows of greens moving as they make their way from one end to the other – sampling a leaf here and there rather than destroying entire plants.

When the bunnies first showed up they were the size of a fist. We would point and say, “Oh, how cute.” Now that they have eaten much of the nutritious greenery, they are filling out and looking more like rabbits. They are not quite so cute anymore.

It has become easy to find my husband: He’s the one out front muttering under his breath, something about a pitchfork. I also always know exactly where the dogs are because they don’t want to miss one minute of the bunny hunting game.

My part in this whole game is to find a beverage, sit on the porch above the garden, and be entertained by this circus in the yard.

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