What’s for Dinner?

Mr. Muscle came this morning and whipped my three raised beds into shape in time for planting. You can almost see the food sprouting out of them already–peas, beans, carrots, kale, zucchini (ONE plant only), pumpkins, spinach, lettuce, beets,  and radishes. Three long boxes, each divided in half–it’s like six blank canvases. My fingers are just itching to paint-plant.

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Three raised beds crafted by the Potter many years ago.

But I have other diners at my table to consider. Because the rabbits also relish my lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, and peas, those seeds get planted in the one box that has a low fence around it. One year I was able to plant a “spicy lettuce mix” in an unfenced area and they didn’t touch it–but it was too spicy for me, too, so that was a lost effort.

For years the peas mysteriously disappeared every spring–every single seed–and sometimes before they had even sprouted out of the ground. I suspected the rabbits of hopping the fence, but nothing else was touched. Eventually I noticed a Stellar’s Jay methodically working his way down the row of peas. Now I also cover the whole fenced area with a berry net.

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Crocuses nestled up against some hyachinths

I found another mystery last year when I noticed many of my beautiful purple crocuses ever so neatly clipped off. Already this year, the bed is looking like a bridal path of scattered purple petals. The culprit? Rabbits again. Turns out their tastes run beyond veggies. Some of the crocuses are eaten right down to the ground.

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No way could I blame the disappearing little green figs on the rabbits. Every fall, after the fig tree drops its leaves, it holds onto a second crop of small, hard green figs that never develop. Later we rake up a lot off the ground, but I’ve noticed squirrels in the tree making off with the rest.

After the peas are up several inches, I can move the netting onto the blueberries. Small birds still figure out intricate, secret routes underneath the netting, but I manage to save some for myself this way.

The August a flock of crows was slashing their way through my beeautiful juicy yellow pears was also the month a crow died in my neighborhood–by sheer coincidence, I swear. When we hung the two wings in the tree, the crows shrieked for a time, and then left. I hange those two wings each summer and I’ve never seen a crow in the tree since.

One summer I saw signs from a bear underneath an old apple tree that had several broken limbs. Every few years a few beautiful deer wander through and sample from the different apple trees. I figure they’re comparison shopping.

The wildlife and I exist side by side. I love seeing them all, even the crows. We enjoy trying to outwit each other, making life entertaining for all of us critters.

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The Dark Side of the Wild

The shriek woke me out of a sound sleep, and then I heard a second one. I’ve heard these other years, but it’s still chilling enough to make me pull the covers up over my head. If I had house guests from the city, they’d have dialed 911 on their cells.

I know, though, that I live next to a woodsy area where raccoons, owls, rabbits and coyotes hang out. I used to think the dreadful sounds were raccoons fighting, and sometimes I think it is. But this spring I think the coyotes are cleaning out the rabbits one by one. And rabbits can produce human-like screams when attacked.

Those cute little critters have overtaken my yard the last few years, forcing me to fence one of the vegetable beds devoted to their favorite crops. Easy job. What was more difficult was watching them eat the crocuses and tulips down to green stubs every spring. They turned up their little button noses at the daffodils.

This spring the crocuses, like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football one more time, somehow gathered enough strength and courage to push themselves up out of the dirt and they’re blossoming! Dark purples, some yellows, a little lavender, so lovely–the first of spring flowers in my yard, along with a few daffodils. Are the rabbits gone? I’ve only seen one in my yard in the last few weeks–and I haven’t seen him since the shriek in the night.

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Crocuses nestled up against some hyachinths

Living on the edge of the wild is not always as idyllic as it may seem. My stately old madrona next to the water develops a disease and rots away. An old crow takes several days to die out behind the garage. I find blue baby bird shells in unusual places. Once I found a dead snake in the bird bath, partially eaten.

My sister also lives away from the city. Several years ago, she described her horror as she watched a neighbor’s young cat being picked up and carried away by an eagle. She, an artist, resorts to the canvas instead of a keyboard, and did a striking portrait of the experience–angry black slashes against a blue/gray sky.

Not always lovely, no.

But still. The bright crocus colors overwhelm the darkness. We’re in that season of rebirth, of new life. The following quote, from Parker Palmer in a colder part of the country, pretty much sums it up from a different angle:

“There is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.”