We slept in. A little. Young Ralph and Sophia came bouncing into our bed just as the robins started singing to the sunrise. We all went downstairs for breakfast, which at our house is quite a production. I will do things like grind the coffee beans while Dina makes muffins or something delicious. Typically Sophia will be sitting at the table working on a drawing or a play while little Ralph sits on his side of the table coloring or working on an invention of his own.
We raise the shades so we can see out into the backyard.
The birds seem to have synchronized their feeding times with ours. A few minutes after we start meal time, they begin coming in to visit our feeder, which is positioned just off our back deck – eight feet away of course, to keep the squirrels from leaping onto it.
I knew it was going to be a great day when I glanced over and saw that Dina had made muffins in the shape of dragonflies, butterflies and ladybugs. Some people don’t cook. Some people cook food that is neither healthy nor tasty. Some people do somewhat better by cooking food that is at least healthy even though its not that tasty. Dina rides above them all because she makes creations that are both healthy and delicious – and I don’t know how she does it. No one else seems to either.
There they were, these ladybug and dragonfly shaped muffins fresh from the oven sitting on a cooling rack.
After breakfast, we went out back and worked in the garden some. Little Ralph and I changed out the hummingbird feeder, thinned the radishes and watered the pumpkins (they need lots of water).
Then we noticed a tunnel that something had dug under our very healthy oregano plants. It was lined with fur. I’d heard some birds like to put fur in their nest. What had done this? A towhee? A wren? A vole? It seemed too small for a rabbit.
I decided to set up my motion detector camera. Whatever it was, we’d get a picture of it.
We continued planning flowers and puttering around in the garden – showing up on the motion cam quite a few times.
Around noon we all got in the car together and headed over to Evos for lunch. Our plan was to have lunch then go to the “Touch a Truck” event. More on this in a few lines. We were having lunch together at Evos, when Dina asked if if my parents gardened. It brought back a flood of memories.
When I was a kid, my parents devoted the back third of our modest backyard to a garden that did very well year after year. We raised cabbage, corn, tomatoes among other things. I remember sitting snipping beans together in chairs by the kitchen door – which was blocked by a large square baby blue metal “portable” fan. Portable was a relative term in those days. The thing wasn’t safe. It had a wire grill that you could easily stick your fingers and most of your hand through. And a spinning metal blade that could keep a medium sized plane airborne. But without that fan we surely would have suffocated on one of those hot South Carolina evenings.
Gardening was a big part of our lives then, and Dina’s question made me remember a gardening story from when I was probably about 4 years old. My parents planned the garden meticulously. They rented a tiller and tilled the ground early on.
They also asked around about the best fertilizer.
Some fellow told them about “rabbit pellets” being good fertilizer. Apparently he had a source of copious amounts of rabbit poop and was eager to monetize it.
My parents cautiously asked the fellow what exactly they would do with the “rabbit pellets”.
“Well!” he exclaims, “You just put em’ in the ground and pretty soon everything comes up real good!”
I honestly can’t remember whether my parents actually used the “rabbit pellets” or not.
What I do remember was my extreme excitement, based on what I’d heard the grown ups talking about. I’d heard and focused on the phrase “rabbit pellet”. I didn’t know what a pellet was, but I associated it with the word “seed”. When the fellow said “everything comes up real good”, I got this vivid mental picture of me and my family out in the garden, planting some sort of small brown oval shaped seed-like things (the “rabbit pellets”) and then watching in amazement as two ears, a little furry head and finally a full bunny slowly emerged from the ground. I imagined huge crops of rabbits in all color variations.
It made so much sense!
Over time the truth settled in, and I had to concede – after being made fun of a few years later in school – that no, rabbits and other animals could NOT be raised from seeds.
I told this story to the kids and Dina and it made them laugh.
From there we went over to the University Mall where the town of Chapel Hill was having its annual “Touch a Truck” day. This can’t-miss celebration lets kids climb into firetrucks, dump trucks, even highway patrol cars, and honk the horns, try the sirens and yank the wheel. Its great fun. The climax of the event is the landing and subsequent takeoff of the rescue helicopters (One from UNC and one from Duke of course). The pilot of one of them was telling us how she recently flew up into Virginia to pick up some people who were in a very bad accident.
“He can’t actually start this thing up can he?” Dina asked suddenly in a worried tone.
We were next in line to get into the helicopter cockpit. The kid in front of us was alone…not sure where his parent’s were. He looked to be six years old, sunglasses and a flattop. He had climbed up into the cockpit while the pilot was temporarily focused on telling us the story about the flight to Virginia. The kid was furiously working some knobs or something – I couldn’t see – when Dina asked whether the kid could accidentally start the helicopter.
The pilot began to answer Dina, “Well yeah technically you could if you knew what …” Then she stopped in mid sentence and jumped up into the cockpit.
“Oh honey! Don’t press that!” She says and then gingerly guides the kid out of cockpit back down to the ground. You know, with that special ‘this-isn’t-my-kid-but-I’ve-got-to-get-him-away-from-this’ kind of method. You hope you never have to use it.
Accidental takeoff averted, we got our turn to climb into the helicopter. Then we proceeded to look at the rest of the vehicles. After lots of sirens and horn honking, as well as the required session in the bouncy castle, the kids asked for their organic lollipops (Evos gives them away) and said they were ready to go home.
As we were walking back to the car, my sister called to tell me that Mom was home from the hospital, and I got to talk to them all for a bit. I talked to Mom about the gardening too. It was great news that she was better. We’d been pretty worried at the beginning of the week.
After a while, I came in from planting the zucchinis and Sophia was sitting at the kitchen table working on a secret code that she was planning to send to her friend.
“Hey have you heard of cut out ciphers?” I asked. No, she had not and she wanted to know what that was. So I sat down and wrote several words on one piece of paper. Then held another up over it and traced a box around each word. Then I got the original paper and finished writing a long windy note which incorporated each of the orginal few words I’d first written. After this was done, I took the 2nd sheet – the one I’d traced boxes on – and cut the boxes out. I handed Sophia the first sheet with the windy note, and she read it aloud.
“My Dear Sirs” it began, and then proceeded over the next 10 lines to issue a vague invitation to meet at “headquarters”. It closed with no signature, only a line that read “Your most loyal agent’. Sophia reads it with interest, but at the end says, “I have no idea what you’re trying to tell me, Dad. WHAT is this???”
Then I hand her the 2nd sheet with the cutouts and showed her how to place it over the 1st page with the note. She did. Now only a few words showed up through the cutouts. The rest of the windy invitation to headquarters was covered up. She read the words:
By now advice was flooding in from the web and facebook. This litter of bunnies probably means our garden is doomed. Calls to animal control are in order, and strange rodent remedies from Home Depot. Its the beginning of the end they tell me. Prepare for the bunny-pocalypse.
But I’m not so sure. After all this isn’t the first time bunnies have succeeded in reproducing.
That night the motion detector camera caught several glimpses of the bunnies tumbling around in our garden. Then at 3am a CAT shows up on the cam.
The next night the motion detector cam again catches the cat BUT this time walking away with something that looks suspiciously like a small bunny in its mouth. We were all crushed. Sure we expected nature to balance things out or whatever you call it. But not the very next day. This was just rude!
We said mean things about cats. And kept watching for the bunnies. But they were gone. All gone. A few days later we saw what might have been the mother – by herself. We said more mean things about cats.
The hole under the oregano plants had been closed up as if nothing had ever happened. No more fur – nothing. Covered over with that sad sort of tidiness that settles into a kid’s room when they go off to college.
A few weeks went by. One afternoon we were pulling up into our driveway, when a small bunny came hopping up near our roses. A little fella about half grown.
He hopped across our front yard, in a not particularly hurried way, then went across the neighbor’s yard over to the other side of the cul-de-sac. Under another neighbors mail box – in some bushes – was another half grown rabbit. The two bunnies met up and then hopped over to another yard.
“That’s our bunnies,” The kids exclaimed, “They survived! Hooray!”
Dina and I added some grown up theories about how the mother must have moved them out of harms way, and now look at them, just about all grown up!
So we’re happy that the bunnies seem to be ok – at least most of them.
And, to top it off, the garden isn’t doing too bad either.