Since we’ve had the ducks, we’ve seen a massive decline in snails. In fact, I wonder what they’re going to eat in a few months’ time. Using decoy and sacrificial plants, together with some water blasting, we are sort-of managing the aphids. With the birds – mostly mynahs, lorikeets and starlings (black birds as the locals call them here) – we have a managed sharing agreement: what’s outside the nets, we share, sometimes reluctantly. Luckily we don’t have possums or cockatoos.
Homeland basically has proper rabbit-proof fencing all around, so the only place they can enter is up the long driveway. And they do! They have even demolished rosemary and lavender seedlings along the driveway, which was supposed to deter them. We’ve had so much rabbit damage over the years that I’ve ended up putting rabbit protection around every edible bush or tree in the front yard. You would think our two biggish dogs would deter the rabbits, but the spoilt brats are obviously sound asleep inside the house at night when it all goes down. The smell of dog poo alone surely doesn’t deter any rabbits.
They started their latest trick this past summer when it was very dry for very long. The little pests started gnawing through the irrigation pipes along the driveway to get to the water inside. At one stage I had to repair the pipe every time before I irrigated, or we lost a ton of water through the gnawed holes. It’s an endlessly long driveway, especially if you have to consider raising or covering the irrigation pipe. I’d basically have to re-lay the whole pipe and replace all the drip feeder pipes to raise it. Covering it all would also cost quite a few dollars, and then it would be an absolute pain if you have to do any maintenance, which you always seem to have to do with drip irrigation.
I’ve tried making the gate more rabbit proof, and it worked for a few weeks, but then hey, they just started laughing at my efforts. There are less of them now, sure, but some still get in and out.
We’ve tried using a rabbit trap that Gaë from next door kindly gave to us, but they just ignore the bait and eat everything else that’s more easily available. We’ve even tried spraying “rabbit pepper” – that’s a biodynamic preparation made from burnt rabbit carcasses. The smell is supposed to totally deter them within a week or two. We’ve had a lot of success with biodynamic preparations (and we still actively use them for soil improvement), but this rabbit pepper was either a dud, or that part of biodynamic preparations simply don’t work.
At Dreamland, the plot is a lot thicker! Although the property also supposedly has rabbit-proof fencing all around, they also get in via the driveway. And sometimes also from the school behind Dreamland when the kids or the falling Eucalyptus branches damage the fence. And who knows where else? But what’s worse, we think there are two burrows on the property where they may be breeding out, but these burrows are in areas that we don’t have access to while Gaë and Pauline are still living there.
In fact, as part of the native planting we did when we started off at Dreamland, we planted a beautiful but delicate little nitrogen fixing groundcover called Running Postman in some of the apple and pear guilds, only to find it had very quickly died off. Initially I thought maybe our area was too dry, that is, until I put the rabbit protection around the guilds too. Now the Running Postmen are flourishing.
Recently, I was so bummed… I re-did the first two (long) market garden beds <<link>> and planted them with bush peas and carrots. They all sprouted beautifully. But the peas didn’t last more than a week. The <<strong word>> rabbits nibbled all pea sprouts – nothing was left! It’s ironic, in the cartoons you always see rabbits with carrots, but they left the carrot tops and nibbled off all the pea sprouts first. And then they polished the carrot sprouts.
There is a trellis fence along the access path to the Dreamland forest garden. The holes are about 2 inches wide and maybe 3.5 inches high, which I thought would be rabbit-proof. However, I once chased a biggish rabbit out of the forest garden guilds and I thought it would be trapped in the bottom part of the access way. But said rabbit just ran straight through the trellis fence, without even slowing down. I checked the trellis – there were no holes in it – the adult rabbit just ran straight through it. So much for a rabbit-deterring fence.
Our two dogs love to chase the rabbits, especially Jet, and they even manage to catch the odd one. Of course, this process reaches pandemonium pitch if said rabbit chooses an escape route through the chicken flock, which it once did when we were there.
However, the council recently put out poison for the wild rabbits all along Hovell’s Creek, which is less than 1km from us (oblivious to the eagles, owls and other birds of prey in the area – can you believe it?) So currently we have to be very careful that the dogs don’t bite a potentially poisoned rabbit. In fact, Jet was at the Vet recently and did an overnight at the “hospital” for either a tumour or a liver disease (depending on whose diagnosis you listen to), but it may have been a poisoned rabbit that cost us those few thousands of dollars. Jet recovered, thank you, but he is still up and down now, more down than up, actually, he is pretty ill.
I’ve inquired about “rabbit catchers” on our local community forum, but the best responses were about ferrets (and what do we do with them in the long run?) and guys offering to come and shoot the rabbits at night. I can just imagine Gaë, Pauline and our neighbours enjoying that!
I’m happy to share with the rabbits if they share fairly, but I’ve had enough of their unfair-share scheme. Don’t they realise you have to let the stuff grow first before you start harvesting? It’s so simple but they don’t get it – they’ll devour the sprouts that could have become big plants laden with food. So at Dreamland I have now bitten the bullet and fenced off the market garden beds too. I didn’t want to spend money on cedar posts and farm gates, and I especially didn’t want to pump more cement into the ground, so I’ve attached very simple rigid trellis grids as gates between the picket stakes. It should deter them enough, as there is plenty to nibble on in the forest garden. The other plus point about this arrangement is that we can now very easily let the chooks in there to perform some clean-up feeding and scratching when we need to get those beds cleared for new plantings.
At least now I can plant a cover crop in the market garden beds again – but more about that in a subsequent post.