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.
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.
When our family moved to another home, there were no rabbits — we thought.
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.
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.)
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.
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.”
Truth is, these particular rabbits mostly eat grass and clover so far this spring.
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.)
And truth is, my husband has put the sign up again.
Methinks it’s a sign of surrender.
Photos by Hamlin Grange.
46 thoughts on “It’s A Wild Life”
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!!!
How charitable of you, Levi.
Now – did you at least shout at them in a manly way?
I muttered to myself. Lol. It takes a lot to really get me mad these days. Some plants isn’t enough to do it.
Love this story!
Thank you! Send me a picture of your spring garden! so many readers love your garden.
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. 🙂
And you’ve made my morning, with this kind comment.
Glad you like the story, Susan. When I grow up, I’d like to be a skilled poet like you.
Thank you, Cynthia ((blush)). You made my day. 😀
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.
Interesting and amusing anecdote. You are a good storyteller as well! Enjoyed it. 🙂
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.
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. 😉
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.
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!’
Haha… My husband would say the same, Clare!
Love it! A sign of surrender!
Thank you, Rose! Once in a blue moon, I get a bit clever! Don’t worry – It won’t last!!
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.
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.
Tree wrap next winter, for sure. A big ole barn cat? Who knows?
Great story! I hope you keep us updated from time to time of the continuing saga. Hugs, Natalie 🙂
Will do, Natalie. I’m glad you like the story! Grace and peace.
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.
Then they’ll get the rabbits – but Lord knows what else. Maybe you could rent a fox – for a week or so?
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.
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.
The positioning of it in that photo really gave it something special. I love reading your posts.
Perhaps you should add a Mr and Mrs McGregor to your sign. 😉
Only after I wrote the story did I realize that we have now been cast in the roles of Mr. and Mrs. McGregor. Except the rabbits are safe… we don’t make rabbit pies or stew!!
Nor will you hanker after a rabbit skin coat!
That’s for sure.
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.
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.
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”.)
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! 🙂
Thank you. Glad I made you smile.
You clearly have no choice. You are rabbit whisperers. Embrace your destiny for you cannot avoid it! Phnark.
I’m afraid you could be right, MT. Phnark….
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.
I’m telling you, Aggie — those animals are smarter than us!
Haha. Animals are one of the garden problems that we haven’t had yet. Fingers crossed…
Lovely story. Once you’ve read about the adventures of Peter Rabbit it’s hard not to forgive them their misdemeanours. But they can be a pest can’t they!
I wish we had thought of having a house sign like that – my children were brought up on the stories of Beatrix Potter – my daughter now 21 is even named after her though mostly she is known as Bea!
We don’t have rabbits in the garden but we do have moles – now we’ve had some rain after the recent long hot spell molehills have erupted all over the ‘lawn’. Grrr! But that’s another story for the telling – all about old ‘Moley’ and his friend ‘Ratty’ and of course ‘Toad’ In Kenneth Williams’ ‘ Wind in the Willows’ …