It’s A Wild Life

It is a truth universally suspected that a family in possession of a wildlife painting must be in need of some wildlife.

**

Years ago, my husband’s family had a farm and he and I became custodians of it. The farm was on a hilltop so we cleverly named it Hill Top.

Husband, children and I summered and weekend-ed there. I loved that farm and wanted a name sign for our front gate.  So my husband commissioned a local artist to make one for my birthday.  Author-illustrator Beatrix Potter – she of Peter Rabbit fame and a farmhouse named Hill Top — came to mind.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting wide shot

The moment that sign went up, Peter Rabbit, his parents and all their friends took up residence in our gardens.

They ate us out of home and land. As soon as we planted vegetables, herbs and flowers, they ate them.  There was soya and wheat growing in the fields. But why travel so far, when there’s good stuff nearby?

My husband couldn’t bring himself to hurt them — not with that sign out front. So there we were, hoist on our own petard.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Mushrooms

When our family moved to another home, there were no rabbits — we thought.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Mushrooms2

And then two auspicious things happened:

We visited the old farmhouse.  Our daughter noticed that the new owners had removed the Hill Top sign and begged them to give it back. They graciously agreed.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting CU of Rabbit Face

Soon after, our resident red fox – a predator of rabbits — upped and died. It might have been the sight of the sign that did it.  But there was his carcass, lying across our stream.

It took gallons of expensive fox urine to protect our gardens that year. (If you want to learn more about that inauspicious episode, you’ll have to read my next book.)

And now?

Years after moving to our current farmhouse, we’re besieged by wild rabbits — again. Squirrels too, but they don’t eat shrubs, herbs,  flowers and vegetables.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Squirrel

Last winter, the rabbits were so starved for food that they ate all my clematis vines, plus the barks of several tender young trees and shrubs.

My husband did a very manly thing: he shouted at them.  The rabbits ran  — and immediately returned.

We decided to sympathize. Wild rabbits, too, have to eat.

But soon it was spring — time to plant vegetables.

Husband decided the rabbits should be moved to a nearby nature park.  He set a humane trap filled with things that Beatrix Potter said wild rabbits love: carrots and lettuce and cabbages. But we might as well have posted a sign saying: “This is a rabbit trap.”

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Medium CU

Truth is, these particular rabbits mostly eat grass and clover so far this spring.

Blog Photo - Rabbit cleans self

Truth is, our daughter has named them Fred and Penelope. (At least, she thinks there are only two. But where there are two, there are — or soon will be — a dozen.)

Blog Photo - Rabbit thinks he's hiding

And truth is, my husband has put the sign up again.

Methinks it’s a sign of surrender.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting CU of Rabbit Face

 Photos by Hamlin Grange.

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45 Comments

Filed under A Good Home, Animals, Art, Artist, Country Living, Farm house, Garden, Gardening, Gardens and Wildlife, Home, Life in canada, Nature Paintings, Rabbits, Spring, Wild Rabbits, Wildlife, Winter

45 responses to “It’s A Wild Life

  1. How cute of a story. I sit and look out my study and see the rabbits every morning. Last year they ate over a hundred dollars worth of pentas from my butterfly garden in one night; but I didn’t shoot them. Have a great day!!!

  2. Valerie

    Love this story!

  3. What a fun story, albeit one of some frustration with the little wildlife friends. I really think animals are a lot smarter than we usually give them credit for. I really like the way you told this story; it flowed so nicely! Thanks for an enjoyable start to my day. 🙂

  4. Lovely story and images. This sounds like it could be a wonderful children’s book? And the images have a fun whimsical feel to them. Thankfully, I haven’s seen rabbits in my garden, no offense to your furry friends. XD

    • “My furry friends”? They are not so! They ate my clematis vines!

      Well …. Okay.
      Er… maybe. They are cute little wretches.
      It may have to be a Roald Dahl kind of children’s book.

  5. Interesting and amusing anecdote. You are a good storyteller as well! Enjoyed it. 🙂

  6. Jim

    Great story well told. Love the sign, which evidently puts me in company with the bunnies. Our dogs have run off our bunnies. Too bad really. Its the deer which eat our flowers and food – while the dogs sit idly by watching. Grr. Thanks Cynthia.

    • Hah! Maybe you’re a rabbit at heart.
      Sorry about the deer damage. Nice animals to look at , but not when they chomp down your garden.
      One of our dogs runs after the rabbits – but never catches them. I’m also kinda cheering for the rabbit.

  7. I held my breath through the whole thing wondering how it would end…ahhhh. We are all in this together–bunnies, peeps and the rest. Talk about getting a sign! (PS, cute as they are, you may actually want to *eat* your veggies, too. We use raised planters for lettuces and the like and anything else gets fenced. Things like hosta (bunny magnets!) are “caged” in portable poultry wire and then “released” when they’re a) big enough to fend off some nibbles and/or b) the clover in the lawn has sprouted enough to tempt the rabbits elsewhere. Now as for the fluffy long-tailed rodents–if someone can tell me a better method than yelling “squirrel!” every 10 minutes out my backdoor, I would be mighty grateful. 😉

  8. You gave me a laugh – imagining you yelling “squirrel” every 10 minutes out your back door!

    You’re right, we’re all in this together, but I sometimes wish for a little less togetherness. The squirrels eat our apples in the fall. Luckily we’ve got more than enough apples to share with them.

  9. Brilliant P and P misquote! Oh, I sympathise with your rabbit trials! We are forever being encouraged on TV, radio and in magazines to ‘encourage wildlife into your gardens’. ‘Encourage it?’ bellows my husband, ‘I need to know how to discourage it!’

  10. Haha… My husband would say the same, Clare!

  11. Love it! A sign of surrender!

  12. I have to say that I had a good laugh at this one. (And nature just might pay me back for it)
    I’m glad you were able to salvage your sign. It would have been a shame to lose such an heirloom.

    • Thank you!

      So you don’t think the sign possesses magical powers — capable of summoning rabbits from miles around? If so, then I’m glad we were able to salvage it too! (Big smile)

      • I think it’s probably the deliciousness of your garden that is attracting them. You might want to think about tree wrap so they don’t eat the bark off your ornamental trees in winter. And maybe a big old barn cat as a deterrent.

  13. Tree wrap next winter, for sure. A big ole barn cat? Who knows?

  14. Great story! I hope you keep us updated from time to time of the continuing saga. Hugs, Natalie 🙂

  15. I have had similar experiences with rabbits killing off dogwoods, witchhazels, and aronias by girdling or chewing them to the ground. There are coyotes in this area, and I hope some take up residence in our neighborhood.

  16. I more than “like” this post, I LOVE IT! The sign is absolutely gorgeous and I love the whole story of how it was specially made for you and how it has a connection with the amazing Beatrix Potter because of the Hilltop connection.
    I so empathise with your feelings that rabbits have the right to live too. I feel the same, which is why I have rabbit proof fenced my vegetable gardens. It is heart breaking when you see your crops destroyed. Sadly, my neighbour shoots the rabbits from his bedroom windows.
    I am so pleased you have the sign back. But please tell me, what is the fabulous large cone-like object at the bottom right of the last bunny photo?
    I am intrigued.
    Karen

    • Hi Karen: I always eagerly await your responses, because they are usually more interesting than my posts! Hah! That is an old clay chimenea – brought out into the open when we want to sit by a fire outside, or toast a few marshmallows and stuff.

  17. Perhaps you should add a Mr and Mrs McGregor to your sign. 😉

  18. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A case of be careful what you wish for. A lovely post and there is nothing worse that trying to find that balance between love of all nature and preserving your carrots! Thanks Cynthia.

  19. Two things you should know – the rabbits killed the fox, and your husband and that sign are like the Pied Piper and his flute. I imagine that sign is some sort of beacon that flashes “Great Bunny Food Here!” 🙂
    On a more serious note – I know you are a kind person and as such you don’t really want to purchase fox urine. It is obtained only through longterm cruelty to foxes. But I don’t envy the conflict with your garden and the buns.
    Love the sign — good luck! J.

  20. Hi J:
    Thanks for the comment.
    Yes – I do think there’s something going on with that sign.
    But it never occurred to me that the rabbits conspired to kill the fox! My goodness, you are clever – I should have thought of that!
    Yup: We did find out the story behind commercially sold fox urine. That’s why I call it “the inauspicious episode”.)

  21. That sign has magic powers! 🙂 And I had no clue about commercially sold fix urine! Wow.. what a commodity to be on the market! Lovely story, Cynthia! I still have a smile on my face! 🙂

  22. You clearly have no choice. You are rabbit whisperers. Embrace your destiny for you cannot avoid it! Phnark.

    Cheers

    MTM

  23. So sweetly funny. Made me smile. This reminds me of my mom’s story of the pesky squirrels, who do eat the pecans. Mom said that Dad started hunting them with his .22, but, soon, she noticed that the squirrels learned to stay out of sight until he left in his big truck.

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