I believe still in sharing, but with some uncertainty now after the concept was taken to an unexpected extreme last Friday, a day when my respect for the intelligence of rabbits grew considerably. I am fortunate to have quite a large garden which is surrounded by woods and fields; one area has been a kitchen garden since 1930, and I have tried to grow fruit and vegetables there in different ways for the past ten years that we have lived here. Because of stony ground and wet summers it has not been very successful, until this year when a new deep raised-bed system and plenty of sunshine has enabled great success with my vegetables which are growing happily protected in their own walled garden.
The first warning came when, as I was deadheading roses near the beds on Thursday evening, I heard a thump and saw a rabbit leap over the boards around them and disappear into the undergrowth at speed; rabbits are rare and welcome guests here because their ancestors were killed off by myxamatosis from which the population has never recovered, and since it was the first time I had seen one in the garden at all for some time, I was more pleased than dismayed. The next day, however, there was a significant development when I saw, from the house, a rabbit (possibly two working in tandem) jumping into the vegetables, disappearing for a few moments, jumping out, filling its mouth with the dried grass I had put around the roses as a mulch, jumping back into the raised bed, and then emerging empty-mouthed. This happened several times, and my suspicions that it was lining a burrow were confirmed when the sequence changed: the rabbit ran into the undergrowth, eating some of my raspberries on the way, and shortly returned to its new home carrying a baby each time. The rabbit family was moving house.
Later, I saw the burrow entrance at one end of the kitchen garden, and a line of new mounded earth between the beetroot and the red spinach which is the run of the rabbit tunnel: if they go further, they will be under the roses. The rabbits have picked a perfect place to live, protected by high boards and tall vegetation and with food immediately to hand, their own secure gated estate.
My husband has predicted we will have fifty rabbits by next year, and he may be right. Meanwhile, blackbirds are building a nest under the kale, and I realise my luxuriant vegetable plot is not, really, for humans at all: sharing has taken on a new meaning altogether – and how Kevin will laugh.