Bunny Wars


I have just put about $450 worth of flowers and vegetables in my garden. In my imagination, my summer yard will rival the gardens of Babylon and will provide enough food for my wife and I to make morning juicing cost free for at least three months. Kale, collards, broccoli, chard, onions, garlic, shallots, peas, beans, cucumber, potatoes, corn, beets (red and gold), peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes – even edible flowers like pansies and nasturtiums all cover the arid and unforgiving expanse of northern New Mexico that I have enclosed in my personal Eden.

In truth, part of the work is undertaken with curb appeal in mind as we hope to put our house on the market in the Fall. But to be fair, I have planted in abundance for years. Each spring my heart swells with expectation and I dig and feed and supplement with passionate ferocity. By midsummer defeat is already visible as an unending tide of tumbleweed, dandelions and other unwanted greenery rise en masse to choke the more tender but productive things I have planted. As autumn nears, I plan the work of clearing and turning beds, resigned to the fact that my garden only provided an approximation of my expectations formed a few months before.

Still, the catalogues come early in the year, tempting with new varieties posted on glossy pages in glorious weed and insect free color. Surely, this year….

Last year we had a bunny. Not a jack rabbit, a bunny. Brown, wiggly nose, fur that dances in the breeze. He/she hopped around the exterior of the yard content to nibble on the abundant weedery beyond the fence. Kinda cute.

This year we have a dozen. One big, eleven small.

On the whole, I’m quite happy to have visitors to the garden. Finches and hummingbirds, quail and magpies all visit the feeders which I gladly fill. There are a few honored guests. We have a pair of flycatchers that have nested in our portal every year for the last five years. I’m always glad to see them back. Last year new tenants arrived – a pair of Western bluebirds took up residence in our carport and my wife and I felt privileged to have them about the house. The coyotes sing at night and while they are often visible, they maintain a respectful distance. There are even Texans that pass by from time to time and, as there is no economy in Taos without them, we wave and try to appear rustic.

However, bunnies aren’t welcome, at least not in the numbers that they have appeared this year. They are welcome to all the vegetation they can find outside the confines of my garden, but once inside the fence, it becomes personal.

Now I have a dog – a fair sized German shepherd who has horrific breath but a sweet disposition. She sits at the front door and guards us against her perception of vicious threats to my safety. Unfortunately, she seems most threatened by the folks I wait earnestly for – the UPS man and the FedEx driver. One would think that this conscientious sentinel would protect us against the theft of food and flower and chase the bunnies away, right? Oh, no – she sits on the welcome mat and watches them romp, no doubt admiring their free spirits.

If I were a real New Mexican, I’d git me a gun and blow ’em away. Unfortunately, Beatrix Potter ruined any chance I might have of reducing the rabbit population. So instead I actually spend money on liquids that smell of rotten eggs guaranteed to repel rabbits (turns out it’s the rabbit version of Geurlain’s Vol de Nuit) and invest in huge rolls of poultry wire that so efficiently encases my garden that I am prevented from harvesting my own vegetables without risking suture-worthy lacerations.

I can’t believe it. I just discovered that they have made their home in my woodpile. Now they’re neighbors. They drop by to visit hourly. I run outside when they wander through the petunias waving my arms and yelling. They look at me fixedly while munching on strands of about-to-bloom lobelia, no doubt thinking that this kind large animal who has provided them with a fabulous buffet has just begun a ritual welcome dance. It isn’t even June. It’s going to be a long summer.

Someone once told me that Bruce Lee’s sensei taught him two things. First, be like water – adapt to that which is around you and move smoothly past obstacles. Second, never place yourself in opposition to nature.

I only hope that they will leave a few onions for me.