Friday, August 30, 2013

Earth Etude for Elul 24 - The Humility of Rabbits

by Leora Mallach

I am an educational vegetable gardener, that is to say, I facilitate learning about food and grow vegetables for people to eat. Vegetable gardens don’t happen by chance, but are manicured and maintained on a regular basis. There is pre-season planning, worry and hope as things sprout, groups of students to program with, volunteers to direct and family picnics to coordinate.

When I first saw evidence of the rabbits over the winter I didn't totally understand the implications. Ever the optimist, I thought they could hang out in the ivy, frolic in the playground (once the pre-school kids left) and generally leave me and my vegetables alone. They could have their space, and I’d have mine.

And then they ate my pea shoots.

Planting continued on, and weeks later who was I to tell the 9th grade boys who relished in cutting back ivy that the cute little rabbits had eaten up all their hard work? The volunteer who had gotten so excited when she planted her first seeds, (A trio of Blue Lake, Cherokee Wax and Purple Queen beans) that she took a picture of the patch of soil, would she want to know that her beans were now mere colorful sticks?

I raised my fists at the rabbits. I cursed at them. I chased them. They shook their white bunny tails at me and scurried away.

I called the experts, some helpful and some not. Fencing would have to be dug 6 inches down- how would the beds still be accessible? Would they ruin the aesthetic of the space? Wait it out some said, once the plants are big enough, rabbits won’t want to eat them. An exterminator would use a gas chamber… uh, NO.

The advice I went with was to become a rabbit harasser. I sprinkled fox urine around the rabbit hole so they would think they were being stalked. I had friends bring over their dogs to “leave their scent” in the area. I sprinkled bovine blood granules on the beds next to the vegetables.

When I could take it no more- I bought Havaheart trap. The first morning when I went to go check the trap, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to find a rabbit inside. Although I had located a lovely new home (more then two miles away, by the water, it also included a bridge and a bench, in addition to a wide grassy area) I was nervous. If I hold their lives as sacred, their creation as an act of divinity, then shouldn't we be able to co-exist in teh garden together?

I often wonder what these rabbis are teaching me. I am still learning. In this time of teshuvah, of love, of renewal, of working toward our best selves, I am humbled by the rabbits.


Leora Mallach is the Co-Founder of Ganei Beantown and this is her third year running the organic vegetable garden at Temple Israel of Boston. When not harvesting cucumbers she can be found writing experiential education curriculum, hiking in the mountains, or being crafty.

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