Mr. McGregor’s Dilemma

Reader Contribution by Vern
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“How did a rabbit get up there” I muttered to myself. This is a raised bed I use for planting vegetables. It’s 2 feet off the ground; how did a momma rabbit jump that high and have a litter of three in my garden box? To make matters more amusing, two days earlier I had planted cabbage in the same location. What a pleasant and amusing discovery. Nevertheless there it was.

My wife and I had just returned from our winter home in Florida, and, while knowing it was late for an early garden, I proceeded to plant all the early vegetables we enjoy; onions, radish, parsnips and cabbage (all fine fare for a rabbit). The following day as I was inspecting my handiwork, there it was, right in the corner where I had my hands. A clump of fine grass and white fur, all woven into a round cover for the precious recipient’s underneath. Apparently momma jumped up into the box, liked what she saw, and proceeded to start a family, right there in the corner of the box. I never saw it the day before. I gently removed the soft woven dome and there they were; three brown, soft, little rabbits. I quickly put the roof to their home back in place, and chuckled to myself. Aren’t these the same animals that had decimated my young trees just months earlier? Let me explain.

The winter of 2014 in the central Plains was one of the coldest, harshest winters on record. Much snow and high winds were made worse by nights of sub-zero temperatures. I understand the snow piled up around everything, and as soon as one storm was over, another arrived. Of course I had no concerns, since we were snug and warm in sunny Florida. I gave little thought to how the animals that I had nurtured to stay in the garden were making out. They knew what to do. For them it was an everyday struggle to stay alive, even if it meant eating the bark from the young trees just recently planted; and eat they did. Rabbits, deer, mice, all took their turn at foraging on the young soft shoots and bark. What other choice did they have? Eat my trees or die. The end result: eight young fruit trees gone as a result of animals foraging in or near our garden. For a while I was an unhappy gardener.

Then reality set in. Who was I to say who could live and survive on my young trees, and which would not eat and die? I was warm and comfortable in Florida, and they were just trying to survive. My thinking process changed. I no longer was upset about the winter kill in the orchard. After all I have options, animals don’t.

Back to the rabbits in the raised bed: I checked on them every day, and one day they were gone. That made me happy. Next year I will take precautions to protect the trees, and what I don’t will be fair game for my garden friends. God is good.

Photo: Hudgins

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