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Friday, September 5, 2014

Rabbit City or Blazer and the Bunnies

I never set out to live with rabbits. They just came.
We have a small, fenced yard with several enclosed or raised gardens. A vegetable and herb garden. A lavender garden, a sage garden, a parsley garden, and so on. We also have a couple of small statues in our yard. One of a bunny.
This year I don’t need a statute to see a rabbit in our yard. In fact, our yard is teeming with rabbits. This is the year of abundant, giant tomatoes and also an abundant supply of rabbits. But surprisingly, the multitudes of rabbits are not eating many of the tomatoes.
Early in the spring we spied a young bunny, casually eating the broad leaf of some type of weed that grows in our yard. We do not spray chemicals in our back yard, or on our small garden, so there are a lot of weeds. We thought the bunny was cute. And we were glad the bunny was eating weeds rather than our lettuce.
We figured the bunny and any hopping relatives or friends, would quickly scoot under or between the slats of our fence and be gone for good as soon as Blazer, our good-natured, 18 month-old collie, ran into the yard. Instead, this bunny headed towards our dog and sat under the forsythia bush inside the yard.
It became a daily game. The bunny would sometimes scoot out of the yard, apparently to tease Blazer into fits of barking as she sat just beyond the fence. Other times, this bunny, or another one, I can’t really tell the sex or identity of any one bunny, would run towards Blazer, then quickly scurry under a bush or an equally poor hiding place and wait until our dog was upon it to make a getaway under the fence surrounding the yard. We were not happy about the risky game bunnies were playing with Blazer but at least, as yet, no rabbit remains were found as a result of a bunny misjudging Blazer’s speed and hunting skills.
The heat of summer and abundant rain followed a cool spring and after a good lettuce crop, largely unmolested by rabbits, our herbs, tomatoes and peppers continued to do well. Soon the tomatoes threatened such an overabundance we were forced to seek new recipes and friends to find an outlet for our supply. I thought about putting out a small stand in our front yard. But we live in one of those neighborhoods where that would have resulted in a threatening letter from the neighborhood association. As well as a neighborhood-wide email warning against any such further vegetable stands.
The rabbits continued to frolic in our yard, in fact, throughout the whole neighborhood and the nearby park. But bunnies ate very few of our tomatoes. A bite here or there. Either they did not like our tomatoes or else they had some other abundant source of food.
In the dregs of summer we realized we had entered bunny nesting season.  Blazer furiously dug and barked under a bush close to the house. When we went out to check on him we discovered he had dug a little below the mulch to expose a number of tiny baby bunnies. He had not injured any of the bunnies so we left the babies in place.
My husband ingeniously devised fencing to keep our dog out but to allow the momma bunny in. That worked for a few days. Blazer was unhappy with the arrangement and spent any time he was allowed in the yard testing the perimeters of the bunny fence. We didn't want him to get a taste for rabbit so we limited his yard, and increased his walking, time in the park.  He did not get through the fence to inspect the bunnies up close again.
Then one day when we had friends over for brunch and Blazer had a few unsupervised minutes in the yard we discovered he was digging furiously in the lavender garden. He had dug all around one of the lavender bushes so that it sat cock-eyed. Running to the yard we pulled Blazer out of the lavender garden and inspected the place where he had been digging.
There, amidst the uprooted lavender branches, sat a very small bunny who was cowering and squeaking. We thought we’d gently put him back in the nest around which the protective fence still stood. But upon inspection that nest was now empty and apparently abandoned.
Not being bunny experts we improvised and dug a small hole in a mulchy area just outside the backyard fence. A place we thought momma bunny might have chosen if she had been a little smarter. The baby squealed as we carefully transported him with gloved hands, but settled down as soon as we added some lavender sprigs over the hole.
Meanwhile Blazer continued furiously digging in another area of the lavender garden. We tried to convince him the baby bunny was gone. But he knew better. As we looked in the area where he had been digging, we found another nest with many bunny siblings. We were not sure we could adequately fence this area. So we carefully dug them out and slid them into a large plastic cup filled with some of the nest coverings.
They all squealed as if we were Godzilla and they the Japanese tourists. But again, upon the addition of some lavender sprigs they settled down long enough for us to transport them the few feet to the nest we had just constructed outside the fence.
There’s a reason for the expression “dumb bunny”. I thought, if you live with rabbits for very long you see just how dumb they are. Why didn't momma bunny build her nest outside our fenced yard where Blazer couldn't go? Then I had another thought. Maybe momma bunny was the rabbit who had been playing games with Blazer all summer. Perhaps she trusted him to be gentle with her progeny and also keep cats and other predators away. In any event, we feared that whatever Blazer’s intentions were towards the baby bunnies, they would have been injured by Blazer’s big teeth and playful ways.
I don’t know what accounts for the abundance of tomatoes or dumb bunnies this year. I've resisted the urge to peak under the nest coverings. But now I see the babies starting to venture outside the nest a few inches. They look fat and well fed. Blazer barks at them furiously from the other side of the fence.
Much as I don’t really want another half dozen more bunnies running around our yard I’m happy momma bunny apparently has accepted her newly-constructed home and our efforts at relocating her brood. Since we aren't hunters, rather than enjoying hasenpfeffer in tomato sauce with oregano, we’re eating all manner of tomato-based dishes and hoping these bunnies go elsewhere when they are big enough, at least for awhile.

There’s one other lovely outcome for us. From all of his digging in the lavender garden to look for baby bunnies, Blazer, and our home, are as aromatic as a lavender bouquet. 

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