Rabbits (says Mr. Lockley) are like human beings in many ways. One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past reaches of terror and loss. They have a certain quality which it would not be accurate to describe as callousness or indifference. It is, rather, a blessedly circumscribed imagination and an intuitive feeling that Life is Now.
It’s time to tell the rabbit story.
It’s like Watership Down meets Peter Rabbit meets Springwatch meets Aesops Fables, but a fitting penultimate post about our first year in the country I reckon. And ultimately a more bearable tale given recent new twists in the tale.
The month that was April…
The last of the snow and the first of the sunshine.
There we are on Easter Monday at home with my Dad, my brother, his wife and my two nephews who are 5 and 2. The garden a blanket of snow.
Suddenly there’s a flurry of movement in the garden.
Look! Someone shouts. ‘Rabbits!’
‘Kids, come and see the rabbits!
‘The Easter Bunny is here!’
The lawn is suddenly covered in baby rabbits and one of them even comes right up to the big glass doors. It’s like being Snow White, or being at Centre Parcs.
‘Wabbit!’ says my youngest nephew smiling and prodding the glass.
The next bit all happens fast, from over the compost heap creeps a stoat, dragging a rabbit by the neck. The rabbit is still alive, jerking frantically as the stoat digs his teeth in.
Stoats can be amazing to watch, they are quite sweet and meerkat like, but they are also fearless killing machines.
Cue frantic distraction techniques as we try and move the younger ones away from the window. The older ones are fascinated however, and my Dad has reached for the binoculars, bagged a front row seat and is giving a running commentary.
I can’t bear to stand there and do nothing, so I bang on the glass, then slide open the door and run into the snow garden, shouting at the stoat.
My brother is quick to point out the stupidity in this on my return, as it scares the stoat off but leaves the poor rabbit to die a slower and jerkier death.
I feel awful.
Sometimes, nature just has to do it’s own work.
The whole time we are also trying to work out how to defend the rabbit that has hidden right outside our window.
Will the stoat dare to come so close the the house?
Eventually the rabbit crawls into a hole in the dry stone wall.
Inevitably, the stoat returns and drags the other, now dead rabbit off in the direction of our shed. I make a mental note not to set foot in there on my own ever again.
My oldest takes some carrots and water and leaves them near the baby rabbit’s hideout.
Excitement over we return to watching Easter telly.
Later that evening I see the stoat running along the dry stone wall, I keep quiet this time, but assume, rather sadly, that he’s come back for the other baby rabbit.
Weeks later I’m gardening. I say gardening, much of my gardening time is spent wandering round our higgledy-piggledy-acre-and-a-bit looking for lost tools.
I lift up the wheelbarrow, which has been abandoned by the kids upside down behind the summerhouse, after being used to carry snowball ammunition. The snow has long gone and has spring grass growing around it at the rate of Jack’s beanstalk.
And there underneath, so motionless I mistake him for a leaf at first, is baby rabbit. I take a second look and assume he’s dead, but on closer inspection he’s just playing dead, I can see his little spine rising and falling with each breath.
I leave him be, a little guilty that I have made off with his metal and fairly stoat-proof adopted burrow.
I assume nature will take his course, or rather the stoat will.
A week or so after that, G comes running in to say there are creatures fighting in the drive. Sure enough Mr A goes out to find two stoat kits play fighting.
Not only did the stoat have himself to feed, he has babies too. A tribe of ruthless killing machines.
But baby rabbit seems to be doing ok. In fact, he’s become a bit of a feature in the garden. His parents must have taught him well. His ears are growing fast, his legs are long and lean, his coat looks shiny.
Last week, and we’re mid May now, we catch him galloping in circles round the pond. Again we leap up to the window, hearts pumping assuming the stoat is chasing him, but no, this circuit becomes a regular stunt of his. We joke about letting Max the greyhound out to relive his racing days.
Last night he returned nearly to the spot where we first saw him. L was editing a film and looked up to see him staring through the window at her.
It was like he was saying thanks.
She said she wished he would go back in his burrow and live there away from the stoat. But I said we can’t live our lives like that can we, always in fear, hiding away?
Wondering what might be happening in another field?
Who knows, perhaps the grass is greener?
Update – 9pm
He just looped past the window. I had my camera to hand so snapped away.
My what long ears you have, with black tips…
My what long legs you have…
That day we saw him first I wondered if he was a rabbit or a hare as we’d seen hares running in the field that day. Sure enough looking at my photos, he has the unmistakable black ear tips of a hare, and the long back legs.
How magical to have a hare living in the garden.
And hasn’t he grown.
Dad’s still not convinced the baby in my snowy picture is a hare though, so maybe the whole thing is wishful thinking, but I’m sticking to my story 😉
We moved from suburban Nottingham to a fairly remote house overlooking the Peak District in May 2017. The rest of the moving to the country saga is here:
Country Living 8 months in – Hello From The Other Side
Country Living 9 months in – VIP Deliveries
Country Living 10 months in – Final pieces of the Jigsaw