My back yard is the only spot around my house that gets sun, so I have stuffed it with native perennials, flowering shrubs, and vegetables. My main purpose in having this garden is to look at it and see who comes to feast on the nectar and pollen, and lay eggs that turn into caterpillars that in turn metamorphose into gorgeous winged things. I like watching the goldfinches land on tall grass stalks that swing to the ground under their tiny weight, and I have to admit that I like watching squirrels try to figure out why the bird feeder tube stops dispensing seeds when they jump onto it.
This summer I was privileged to watch a litter of wee little rabbits start venturing out from under my one peony. They were the sweetest little things, all eyes and ears. But you know what happened. Before long the bunnies started scampering about in the daylilies, and playing tag among the hostas, and suddenly they had grown almost as big as Harvey.
And they switched from mother's milk to vegetation. First the penstemon stalks were stripped of leaves. Then the snapdragons were deflowered. Then, of course, the asters – all six species – were chewed down to the ground. I don't mind the occasional dainty nibble here and there, but my hospitable feelings were wearing thin.
This morning, as I sat in front of the digital New York Times with a bowl of bran flakes, I happened to look up just as Flopsy, or Mopsy, or maybe Bugs, stood up on hind legs and chomped down on the stem of one of my about-to-bloom purple coneflowers. This was the last straw. I tore open the shutters and threw up the sash, and the rabbit did nothing. I think it was staring at me, but who knows which way a rabbit is looking, with those big bulgy eyes?
"Go away," I cried. The rabbit left the coneflower untouched and picked up a shrivelled daylily blossom that had fallen to the ground yesterday and calmly, slowly, stuffed the entire thing into its mouth. Then it strolled on and began chowing down on the volunteer parsley that had just begun to bloom.
What am I to do? I suppose I could sprinkle the dried blood of dead cows throughout the garden to shoo the rabbits away. I could set havaheart traps and illegally transport the captured rabbits to the national seashore. Or I could start putting chicken wire fences around each of my precious plants.
Whatever I decide, I need to do it fast, because Eastern cottontail rabbits can start breeding as young as 2 months old, which is about last week. And they can have up to 12 babies in each litter, and as many as seven litters each year. Now I am not the swiftest of arithmeticians, but I know that the total of 12 times 7, which is 84, is only the beginning of the population explosion that might be occurring even now under the goldenrod.