Rabbit Stew

In the last two weeks we have tackled back-to-school and readying the house to put it on the market. I ramp up quickly and unwind slowly so it has been a couple of weeks of my feeling like a high-wire performer who has had too much caffeine. I wish it were a foreign feeling; it is not. Usually, just about the time I think I might come undone, my brain starts to send out satellites to see what else we can add to the mix to really tip things over the edge.
Over a week ago, as I was talking to an incredibly interesting woman on the phone, I looked out the back door to see Rosie putting her nose on the ground then lifting it up. Touch, pull back; touch, pull back. Like a ballerina whose shoe hovers just above the stage. “Great,” I thought, “there’s something icky and dead out there and now I have to go get it before the carnage begins.”
So, still on the phone, I made my way across the yard to see what was up. There, in the dry grass was a very still furry creature. I couldn’t quite tell what it was, mole or mouse or rabbit. Rosie stood next to me, looking down at the discovery then up at me to see what I would do. I put an index finger under her collar and brought her inside so I could pick up the boys.
I filled them in on the way home and when we got back they went to investigate. “A rabbit,” they declared, “Really small, but a rabbit.” Sakes. The last thing I needed was a baby rabbit in the middle of my back yard. Later, I was off to “Curriculum Night” so I brought Mr. B up to date and was out the door.
One of my best friends is well educated in wildlife. She amazes my children by picking up turtles and frogs and most things furry. She recently filled me in on chicken sex, but that is another story for another day. She mentioned that the nest was probably very nearby. “I don’t think so. It’s right in the middle of the yard.”
When I got home Mr. Blandings and I went out with a flash light and our rabbit was where we had left him. With a bit of poking around we found the nest was, indeed, just a few inches away, nearly directly in the center of our backyard. And, naturally, our new friend had siblings. Three. “What a dumb bunny. What in the world was she thinking? And he must have been quite a dashing hare to have swept her off her feet so late in the season.” We sort of nudged the loner back into the nest and went inside.
“I really don’t know how I’m going to keep Rosie away from them.”
“I was thinking I’d put up a little fence.” Pause. And a beat.
“You kill things.”
“You kill things. You’re kidding me that you are going to create a wildlife perserve in the middle of our backyard.”
And the mighty hunter indignantly declared, “I don’t kill infants.”
The next day began with tragedy. Our friend from the day before had been evicted from the nest again and had passed in the night. It was a speedy service; we did not tell the boys. When they left for school I purchased some wire fencing and had a chat with my old friend the internet. As it turns out, our bunny was not so dumb. Rabbits nest in the open because their predators are less likely to hunt there. Also, rabbit mommies are not nearly as high strung as I. They do not fret over homework and transitions and the amount of sleep their darlings are getting. They nurse their babies about five minutes a day, usually at night. So basically they deliver their children into a shallow den in the middle of the open and kick some grass and fur over them and come back to check every twenty-four hours or so.
The fence, of course, did not keep out the curious Boxer. I looked out a couple of times to see her looking back at me with rabbit fur on her muzzle. It was not the fur of the young, but the camouflage of the mother; the bunnies were fine. I rolled a wheelbarrow into the yard and tipped it upside down over the nest, propping it on bricks so their mother could drop in if she felt like it. The boys sprang to Rosie’s defense, “She doesn’t want to eat them,” they declared, incredulous that their pal had been labeled a potential mass murderer, “She’s protecting them.”
“Really? You think so? That seems a little inconsistent with canine instinct.”
“She’s seen you taking care of them, so she is taking care of them, too.” Maybe.
We checked every day, lifting the wheelbarrow and pushing aside the dry grass and hair. As their cover began to stir they would jump slightly like the pulse of a heart. I can’t say they welcomed our intrusions, but they allowed the petting and cooing, turning their faces to the side of the den employing the strategy of human toddlers, “If we can’t see them, they can’t see us.” We referred to each as “he,” “him” and “his brother” because it is all we know. They were significantly bigger every day.
Then, about a week into our ministrations, when we lifted the wheelbarrow, one hopped out of the nest. He didn’t go far and my middle son corralled him back in. That night we saw another in the yard. The next morning they were gone.
We haven’t seen them since, dead or alive, and as the boys liked to imagine Rosie the Great Protector, I like to imagine they are happily munching the landscaping of my neighbors and making plans for their own litters in the Spring. I like to think those bunnies made it despite the odds and that sometimes cute and fluffy prevails over hard and sharp. I like to think that sometimes things work out.
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27 thoughts on “Rabbit Stew

  1. The two artemesia I planted by the garage love their spot, and they've grown to maybe 5 times their original size. Big and round and fluffy. And each has a matted down hole in the middle where a pair of youngish rabbits have decided to spend part of their nights. Feel free to walk Rosie around anytime.

  2. I love it when nature invades our tidy lives. I have always liked to save animals – drove my mother crazy. We always had something in a box that I was trying to keep alive. We have foxes and hawks, ducks, geese and large snapping turtles in my very urban neighborhood. They make good neighbors.

  3. So sweet. We have families of bunnies every year, both inside our fenced yard and outside. My three senior Shih Tzus are not sharp enough to discover them, and the fence, installed to keep the dogs safe, keeps the bunnies safe from predators too. I love watching them through my office window, sometimes two or three at a time, munching grass. When a dog or the mower approaches, they pop into one of the flower borders until the coast is clear.

  4. Meg – you know I think there is no higher compliment. Thanks.

    David – it must be that short snout, but I swear we could be right on top of them and she wouldn't smell them.

    Helen – you remind me of my friend. She scooped up tadpoles and put them in a fish tank on her kitchen counter so her son could watch them turn into frogs.

    saypoint – I think your dogs and Rosie could be friends.

  5. Thank you for sharing the bunnies. I definitely know that everything does work out–the problem for me is that it is not always according to my personal plan. Hope that the first days of school involve little drama and the the house preparations are hummmmming along. Good girl, Rosie.

  6. Yes, sometimes nature looks misguided. Cardinal nests in the climbing hydrangea or the twig wreath by the front door. Rabbit nests in the middle of the yard. Foxes living and breeding in the bad of my yard. Raccoons coming up from the creek across the street for a night out. Possums using my rose arch at night for a bit of exercise. MIce in the stone terraces…then snakes…then cats. My garden has a much more active night life than I do! As for the bunny, now. I know biology has the reason. But I also believe in signs: perhaps a little reminder to you that life can grow anywhere. Big hugs your way.

  7. when I lived around the corner, we constantly had the rabbit issue. but you're right a little late in the season. the problem is usually that once a dog, racoon, human has left their scent, the mother won't come back. It sounds like they survived though.

    In the future, you can always call the Swope Park wildlife center. They've been there forever and will take just about everything.

    the chicken sex thing has me curious. I need to google that. Because I've always sorta wondered myself…..

  8. The Dee Hardie comparison is spot-on. I used to love her column in House Beautiful–or was it House & Garden? No matter, it was wonderful. As was this post.

  9. How adorable! Great story. I love bunnies–they're even on my company logo.
    Mine tend to stay outside of the garden fence, but every so often one sneaks in only to be speedily evicted by my dog.

  10. Those bunnies are so precious. What a great story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    We've had dove's nest 2 years in a row in a hanging fern & Lucy races home daily from school to see the progress. Really, really fun for the kids.

  11. ….and I thought you were adding some sort of "fatal attraction" to the mix…you know those sorts of affairs really do add to the mix, and they always seem to be so innocent from the start.
    I love your boys commentaries and Rosies inner great protector.

  12. Enjoyed this post! Wonder if next year these three will return to make nests of their own for Rosie the Protector to stand guard over??

  13. i wonder if this is the sort of happening that inspired beatrix potter? loved the wheelbarrow – inspired! wonderful story. and so happy you don't have a cat!

  14. I have always thought you were another Dee Hardie. Oh, I just loved her tales and kept almost every one from House Beautiful. This story is especially charming.

  15. This is fascinating…as we just had the same experience. Baby bunnies, in the middle of the back yard. We thought the mama was dumb. And alas, it was not the critters we would need to worry about but one of the neighbor kids who decided to ride their bike over the nest " to see if the bunnies were really in there". Lovely. I think they survived….but now are gone.

    ps: I was thinking of getting a puppy about the time we start our renovation. Brilliant, right?

  16. Dear Mrs. B- What a timely and poignant post. Jonathan and I recently watched as a baby dove bird was tended to by its parents for over two weeks in the hard concrete space behind our building in NYC after falling from a nest. Each day the little one got a little bigger until all three flew away after the toddler found his wings. Yes- it does make one think that things do work out. – Daniel

  17. One . . . I still can't believe you're putting your house on the market . . . but very excited to see what happens when you move across the state line!

    Two . . . the bunny! Oh my!!

  18. The boxer was protecting! Boys were correct! Cover is what wildlife need. Water, cover and food. National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat. We are certified!

    I did it with my granddaughter when she was in first grade..!! go to http://www.nationawildlifefederation.com.

    You fill out a form……you take pictures…….you promise no pesticides……no herbicides….no chemical fertilizers! (that is easy…….those are not good for any of us!)

    It was a thrilling experience for me to do with my then 6 year old granddaughter….. (not for manicured "perfect gardens..but can be on condo terraces!!!) she pointed at a "thicket" and said……."Granny take a picture of that…..they will LOVE IT!! It is like an apartment house for birds!

    Guess what? All KINDS OF BIRDS nest in there…and feed in there……..we have more species of birds on this property than you would even believe! 125 at last count!

    We planted cover; we planted plants that fruit…….and flower…….we must have 400 hummingbirds…….not one feeder. Just the plants they love…….

    We have hummingbird nests over the front door….and the front door of our guest cottage….My granddaughter and I were inside the guest cottage…and there were two baby hummingbirds……..in their nest…..they were so big they were sitting atop it! we were looking at them…and one flew!!!!!!

    for the first time!!!!!!!!!!! to the bushes!

    I told Poppy……"wow, that is a once-in-a-liffetime experience!!!" That is amazing!

    She said…….(she was 7) "Granny, do you think it was the girl or the boy?"

    Seizing the moment……I said……"Oh sweetie! It was the girl! The boy will be right away soon to help her!!"

    National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat Program.

    It can be beautiful! Our garden was in Traditional Home…..Garden Design……and Santa Barbara Magazine!

    And it is wild and wooly! A big oak tree fell down……..(sometimes they live even after they fall down in california) this one didn't, But I leave it there…….it is not in the way….it is deteriorating…….and is habitat to all kinds of creatures……..I love it.

    Manicuring and lawns…and that whole thing deprives wildlife. It is really easy to help.
    I love love love your bunny story. we have hundreds….and they burrow …..and they have their babies in ground-squirrel tunnels…..so if you poison or trap the ground squirrels……..you kill the bunnies………

    OH dear. What terrible karma!

    Can't wait to see your next house! It will have a soul……..and you are totally correct about that!

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