Gerald has been busy keeping a large part of the countryside mowed with his beautiful new tractor mower. Easter weekend started this mowing frenzy, and the lawn has never looked larger or lovelier. In front of our house in the circular driveway, there in the middle is a small circle of lawn with a decorative tree that blooms beautifully every spring but much too briefly. Neither of us knows what kind of a tree it is, but I have never believed it was what we ordered because the blossoms are white and not the bright red I thought we were to get.
Nevertheless, it is a sweet little tree, and we often find a sweet nest of little birds in it. So when it was time to mow that small circle of lawn, Gerald saw what looked like a fallen empty bird nest there and carelessly tossed it into the driveway out of the way of the mower. As it landed, he discovered to his dismay that it was the carefully constructed home of tiny baby rabbits. Very upset, he carefully gathered the pitched nest the best he could and put it back where it originally was. His lunch-time story was filled with worry that the mother would not come back to a nest touched by human hands, especially one thrown around as he had done.
All winter when he would leave the house early in the morning to walk to the mailbox or to put wood in the stove in his shop, he would report on seeing an adult rabbit or sometimes just the evidence of tracks in the snow on our front porch indicating one or two had sought warmth there during the night. He enjoyed seeing them, and we were both upset earlier this spring when rabbit fur on the other side of the house caused us to know that some predator had destroyed a nest in the plants there.
When the grandchildren arrived for Easter, they could not resist taking a peek at the little rabbits and join the concern over whether or not the mother would continue to feed and care for them. I heard glowing reports of how adorable these babies were although the peeking was so limited that no one was sure how many were there. I could tell they were searching answers on the Internet, and I feared they would try to take over mothering them, which I figured would be not only a dreadfully time consuming task but one that would end in heartbreak since none of our kind-hearted kids would know how to be a proper mother rabbit. Someone did find the suggestion to put a string over the nest; and if the string was gone the next morning, you could know that the mother had visited and fed her young. The string was placed, and on Easter morning we knew the mother had not let the nest disturbance keep her from feeding the wee ones. The weekend ended with that happy result and the grandkids went home.
Gerald would daily check and hear tiny sounds inside the nest, so he knew they were being cared for. With the torrential rains and much cold weather since Easter, he was impressed with the mother rabbit’s well-built shelter that let the babies survive. Things were going so well that I resisted the desire to look beneath the lid of dead grass and take even the tiniest peek. But I wanted to. Gerald thought they were getting big with little ears growing. I have no idea how long a mother rabbit takes to raise her family, but I was afraid the nest would suddenly be empty and I might never get to see them. So I asked Gerald if he could hold the grass up gently for me to get a peek. Together and for just a few seconds, we stared at the miracle of tiny animals with big ears all snuggled and entwined with one another. We are still not sure if there are five or six. Nor how long they will be there before they hop away to the straw piles behind the shop or some other sheltered spot.
Gerald has claimed to be restraining his spring gardening impulse and, thus, plans to grow less as he has tried to do in recent years. But he is really proud of his onions and is hoping Gerry will somehow get up to help him eat them. .More recently, he has been bragging on his beautiful tomato plants, Then one got eaten off and he wondered if a deer had visited. Yesterday a second plant was gone, and the wet ground showed no deer tracks. I smilingly suggested that probably that mother rabbit is enjoying his tomato plants. I did not add that soon she may have five or six others following her with her teaching them where to forage for food. But I saw the look on his face. The tomatoes may not be safe, but I bet the bunnies will be.