“One for the squirrel, one for the crow, three to come up and two to grow.” In years gone by, this little rhyme must have been taught to kids from an early age as part of the training they would need once the family farm had fallen to the care of the next generation. Thinking about what this ditty really means provides a glimpse into the often hard life that many of our forebears faced during the agricultural year. By merging the harsh reality of farming with the play time verses of their offspring, important generational survival wisdom was passed along.
This summer, I am reminded of this reality myself when I look at my dwindling crop of pumpkin and carrots. The wild rabbits began their invasion early this spring just after I had planted my peas. Peas are usually the first crop to go into the ground and within a couple of weeks I usually see baby shoots coming up from the cold garden bed. This year I noticed that something was very wrong. My peas had come up but they did not seem to be growing at all. Upon closer inspection I found them to be eaten down to the soil. Eventually they bounced back as the rabbits moved on to my beet crop where they spent the rest of the Spring munching on the leaves until all of the plants died.
During the great beet massacre, there were only two or three adult rabbits that I saw very early in the morning. However, as the season progressed into the early summer, I noticed that there were many (many!) smaller rabbits now. They were under the shed and inside of our compost piles. They were nesting in the unused garden beds and hiding in our willow tree. It seemed that everywhere I looked a rabbit was shooting through our fence.
These days they seem to have thinned out a bit. Perhaps it is the raccoons or maybe even a fox that lives out in the woods. My carrots are still disappearing, their leafy tops eaten down to the ground and the very top of the veggies are carved out by tiny teeth. Now, to my dismay, my pumpkins are next on the menu. I noticed this morning that three or four of my biggest pumpkins were ravaged by the little beasts, their sides scored and insides laid bare for my inspection.
I am thinking about getting a couple of cats to help out with the problem. I let me dogs run loose but I haven’t had much luck with them catching anything yet. The coonhound gets sidetracked by ripe tomatoes. Still, as a part of my crop goes to the local wildlife I can’t help but feel part of this world as I see them hopping about. Maybe I am losing some of my hard work but there is still enough for both of us. At least for now. I just have to remember, “One for the rabbit, one for the crow, three to come up and two to grow.”