The Wide Angle: The rabbits are at the gates

Published 5:05 am Saturday, February 15, 2020

It’s February. Of course I’m going to start thinking about my garden.

I found myself drifting that way just the other day by posing a simple question to myself: What should we plant this year and how shall we go about it?

After previous years of trial and error and still more error, I’ve found myself in a fairly unfamiliar position, and that is the situation of finally knowing a little bit of what I’m doing.

Email newsletter signup

I’ve got a pretty solid plan of what needs to be done, which is a change from the times before when I clearly had no clue what I was doing.

I’ve managed to move past the battle royale that was the great vine entanglement of two years ago. If you remember, and I’m sure you do, I arranged my garden in such a way that the beans, tomatoes and cucumbers were all in reach of each other. The tomato plants bloomed large and in charge and the beans and cucumbers were reaching out to strangle those tomatoes, resulting in one large knot of produce that any master gardener would shiver at the thought of trying to contain.

I’ve managed to can, which in and of itself is time consuming but hardly a challenge rivaling the trials of Hercules. I’m still going to count that as a victory just because I can.

I can easily ignore the ridiculous condition I left the kitchen in the last two times I’ve done this.

Our kitchen is not that big and it’s pretty easy to lose control of a canning operation. The packaging of Spam I do not have.

The only thing I have yet to have full control of is pests. Every year so far I have failed miserably in keeping rabbits and squirrels out of the garden. The squirrels aren’t that devastating except for all the stinking holes they dig looking for what it is they buried. The problem is that usually my young plants pay the price. Irritating, but not as problematic as it could be. I’ve had some success in simply planting them again and what am I going to do? They are squirrels. I’m not going to build a ridiculously tall fence because they … are … squirrels. I’m not going to close off my fence overhead because that too, would be silly, so I’ll tolerate them.

Rabbits on the other hand are worse than any bug I’ve had to contend with. I’ve tried chemicals to try and shoo them away, I’ve tried sprinkling Buster and Nemi’s contributions to the litter box because I’ve heard that works. Ultimately, I built a fence.

Neither of these things stop the filching of my beet leaves. Maybe I didn’t put down enough of either the chemical or the litter. Maybe the rabbits are the Rambos of bunnies. Either way, they are still finding their way into my garden and feasting like kings and queens. “Let them eat cake!” I wish.

Fun fact: Marie Antoinette probably never said those words and really, it doesn’t make much sense to think that she would have. Rabbits don’t understand humans and they don’t eat cake to my knowledge.

Silly rabbit.

I’m forced to admit that I will indeed need more fencing. The fencing I used last year along with chicken wire. This is what I’ve been reduced to. Poultry incarceration, but if it will save my beets and allow me to carry them through to the end of their growing time, then I’m all in.

I’ve started thinking a little more outside the garden as well. The raspberries out front have shown that I probably don’t need to plant anymore of those. Last year’s harvest, late as it was, was amazing and I’m looking forward to incorporating parts of the plant into my mead-brewing experiment, which I’ll be sure to tell you all about because everybody loves a good trainwreck.

I’m looking to add some more plants and flowers to the front, mostly in an effort to draw more bees to the yard, though last year they proved that the raspberries were a huge hit. I counted nine or more bumblebees on the bush more than once and am not ashamed to say I geeked out a little, which is a little strange because I’ve never known myself to enjoy bees so much in the past.

Maybe that’s another experiment later down the line. Beekeeping.

Back to the topic at hand. The biggest challenge I’m confronted with most every day is simply bringing my plans to fruition. Sure, I could have read books on the subject, asked the proper people or hit the internet, but rather I bought a bunch of plants, planned out the layout and started shoving them in the ground, with the expectation that I would spend many a morning, looking over my bountiful crops, drinking coffee and saying to myself, “Good crop this year, good crop.”

This is a far cry different from the actual words of, “those son of a ………….. (breath) ….. are still getting in here.”

Either way, I expect the experience to be as much of a circus as it’s been in the past. Something new will pop up, and I will handle it with the grace of a gorilla in a china shop … on too much coffee.