Saturday, January 11, 2014
Winds from the south have pushed the polar vortex system away from us so a walk about outside was tempting. Several slips on thin remains of unnoticed ice added a measure of risk, which younger folk might find exciting, but an actual fall was avoided. The increased likelihood of a fall now ruled out a hike to the back woods. I found something of interest close to home.
Bunny berries is the polite term for deposits left behind by wild rabbits. These were found very close to our single surviving wild arbutus plant. We first found arbutus here soon after we came to this land two decades ago. Sited in the rubble at the edge of our heavy machine opened gravel bank, the plant clung to life but never flourished. It is an old large plant so any attempt to move it to a more favorable location was quickly scuttled. Some years we failed to find any trace of the plant at flowering time. This spring we found the few remains of a well chewed arbutus. Considerable new growth appeared over the summer but no flowers or buds were found. We were encouraged by the plants ability to reestablish itself and thought that blossoms could appear next fall.
An evergreen plant faces danger during the winter months when few plants are green and therefore edible. There had been recent signs that something was feeding on these arbutus leaves. Wildly contorted ground here presents complex challenges to cage construction. Unable to figure out a way to protect this plant, I have left it exposed to the sometimes harsh reality of life in the wild. Chewed edges on the few remaining leaves clearly show that something fed here but I cannot be certain that it was the rabbit. There is no question that the rabbit was close by positioned so that its head was near the arbutus. Bunny berries don't lie.
Our four transplanted arbutus plants and one from seed are safe under their wire cage, edged with tightly placed sizable flat stones. Two opposable thumbs are required to remove this cage. A quick peek through the cage found numerous clusters of flower buds. April will soon be here and we are looking forward to the sight and scent of these first flowers.
Writing of the problem helped me find a rather simple solution to caging on uneven ground. If small flat stones are stacked to fill the low spots, a rectangular plane can be established to support a cage. The cage can be surrounded with larger flat stones to keep it securely placed. Generous packing with screened gravel and chinkers could keep out the red squirrels and other rodents. Why are simple solutions to complex appearing problems so hard to find?