Spring Creations

Part I

The Garden

Rhonda Rabbit liked to wear her big, green apron when she tended her flower garden. It had over-sized pockets to hold snippers, trowels, and flowers. The large garden covered nearly an acre behind her cottage. The forest began just beyond the garden. From just after the kite flying contest through October, it produced the most beautiful flowers in Ballymore. Now in early April, tulips, lilies, lilacs, marigolds, and others were coming into bloom. The residents frequently visited to choose bouquet baskets for their homes.

Not only was the flower garden beautiful, its scents wafted over the whole south side of the pond. Combined with the sweet sap from the forest pines, the effect was delightful. Her immediate neighbours, the squirrels, were well pleased with their location. Grenby Groundhog also enjoyed the fragrances but wouldn’t admit it. He wasn’t being mean. He was just being Grenby.

Caring for a garden that size required a lot of effort, and her children frequently worked with her. They planted, weeded, watered, cut, and arranged. The chipmunks also stopped by occasionally to help. That is, when they weren’t riding on kites or some other such foolishness.

Rhonda was planning her annual flower basket distribution. It was one of her favourite projects. For everyone her spring creations were one of the rites of the season. Each one was homemade and filled with gorgeous flowers and coloured eggs. A pretty bow was attached to the handle to complete the gift. There would be fifteen baskets in all.

This morning, the children went into the woods to gather sticks for the baskets. They each carried a sturdy cloth bag. There were a lot of sticks and twigs on the ground from the winter storms, but most weren’t suitable for flower baskets. They needed to be a certain shape, diameter and length. Colour didn’t matter as the baskets would be painted. The children first hopped south, away from the pond, and stopped in a glade that looked promising. As they were searching the area, a voice startled them.

“Boo! What ARE you doing?” asked the voice. Then, the voice hopped off a nearby branch and landed between them. It was Shane Squirrel.

“You, really should be more polite,” said Rain.

Shane laughed and said, “I’m sorry. What are you doing?”

“We’re gathering sticks for the spring baskets,” answered Robbie.

“Can I help? I know a place where there are a lot of sticks.”

Shane spent more time in the forest than they and knew better where to find things.

“Sure,” answered Rachel.

“I’ll climb up into the trees and lead you to them. It’s not very far.”

In an instant he bounded up a nearby pine tree and sat on its lowest branch about fifteen feet off of the ground.

He yelled, “Let’s go.”

The young squirrel jumped from branch to branch in a southerly direction. Shane was a pretty fast branch jumper and had to slow down occasionally to let the rabbits catch up. After about ten minutes he stopped and pointed down to a large pile of sticks. Unfortunately, the pile was on the other side of a creek that they would have to cross. This was the same creek that flowed from the pond.

Shane saw the problem and said, “There’s a small tree that has fallen across the creek up there,” and pointed about twenty feet upstream.

The creek was about five feet wide at that point. The tree trunk was pretty narrow, but they managed to hop across it safely. Once on the other side, they hopped to the pile of sticks. It was a fine collection. Apparently, the sticks had floated downstream and had been trapped where the creek turned. The rabbits dug through the pile and quickly chose all of the sticks they needed.

However, their bags were heavy now and a little difficult to carry. That would make recrossing the creek more of a challenge. Rachel went first, a little wobbly but successful. Rain was next, a little wobbly but successful. Robbie was last, a little wobbly but,”whoa!” he yelled as he tumbled in the air off of the tree trunk. Splash! Splash! Gurgle! He stood up in the cold water totally soaked and covered with some kind of green weed. Everyone but Robbie thought it was very funny. He also lost his bag, but it was caught by the stick pile when it floated downstream.

As the bag was still on the wrong side of the creek, he had to go back and retrieve it. Since he was already in the water, he couldn’t get any wetter, so he waddled down the creek and picked up his bag. Then, he waddled back across the creek to where the others were waiting and still laughing. After crawling up the bank, he shook himself vigorously, thereby, wetting Rachel and Rain.

“Hey,” they protested.

Now, Robbie got to laugh. Everyone settled down, and his sisters helped him pick the weeds out of his fur. Shane watched the whole comedy from the safety of a dry tree. When they were finally ready to go home, they thanked Shane for his help and followed their own path back the way they had come.

While the children were gathering the sticks, Rhonda was tending the garden. She had woken early and was enjoying the day. One of the pleasures of arising early, was watching her bumblebees begin their daily routine. Of course, they weren’t her bumblebees, but she liked to think of them that way. A few years ago in March, she built four nests out of flower pots, hose, and a few other things. She placed one nest at each corner of the garden and waited. In a few weeks she had bees. She was surprised at how quickly they arrived and always wondered where they came from.

Were they waiting patiently for her to build the nests?

Bumblebees are sociable creatures, and they quickly formed a mutually beneficial relationship with Rhonda and her garden. There were about a hundred bees in each nest, and each morning a squadron of bees could be seen leaving to begin their day. After a quick flyover each group settled down in their quarter of the garden. They kept busy with pollinating and nectar gathering. It also seemed to Rhonda that the bug population had decreased since the bees moved in. She was very pleased with the arrangement and, apparently, so were the bees.

As Rhonda moved through the garden, she noticed that several leaves on her rose bushes looked brownish. The leaves should have been a healthy, spring green. She picked a leaf and examined it. There was no evidence of insects; it was simply brown and dry. That was most disturbing. She reviewed the care she has given the roses. The bushes were three years old. They were properly spaced and watered as needed. She was diligent in removing insects such as Japanese beetles, but it was too early in the season for them. There was no obvious answer.

She decided to send a sample leaf to Bartholomew and ask him if he could look in his plant books. But, right now, the weeds needed pulling. As she was removing them from between the rose bushes, she felt like someone was watching her. She turned to the left, and indeed, there was a worm staring at her from a small hole in the ground. Only his head was above the dirt. As soon as she looked at him, he disappeared down his hole. She laughed and resumed the weed pulling. A minute later, the worm was back. Again, she turned and again, he hid. Now, she kept her gaze on the small hole. In another minute his little head appeared for the third time.

“Caught you,” she laughed, and down he went. Are we playing ‘hide and seek’, she thought.

“I would love to play ‘hide and seek’ with you Mr. Worm, but I have so many weeds to pull. Perhaps, we can play later,” she said.

It was good to have worms in your garden because they aerate the soil, and plants love aerated soil. There were a lot of worms in Rhonda’s garden. A few minutes later the worm appeared again. This time he crawled out of his hole and over to a small brown leaf that had fallen off one of the rose bushes. He pushed the leaf to a nearby pile of weeds, which Rhonda had made. Then, he turned around and looked at her.

She said, “Well, thank you very much Mr. Worm.”

Then, she thought, worms know a lot about soil and plants. Is this worm is trying to tell me something? She picked another brown leaf from a rose bush and placed it at the base of the plant. The worm crawled over to the leaf and also pushed it to the weed pile.

The worm looked at her again.

“You want me to take all of the brown leaves from the plants?” she asked.

The worm didn’t move.

“Okay, I will.”

It took about fifteen minutes for her to prune the rose bushes of the brown leaves. The worm stayed until she was finished. Then, he crawled back into his hole and disappeared. Well, that certainly was interesting, she thought.

Just then, the children came out of the woods. Rhonda was quite pleased with the sticks they brought back but did notice that Robbie was wet. She smiled and said nothing. The creek bath was never mentioned. The children took the sticks out of their bags and lay them next to the cottage so that they could dry in the sun. As you can imagine, some sticks were wetter than others.

The children went inside to have a snack. Their father, Reginald, was in his clothes shop. The shop was just a room in the cottage with tables, two sewing machines, and pieces of cloth everywhere. Sometimes, Rachel and Rain would attach some of the cloths to themselves and run around the yard pretending to be ghosts.

Reginald, with help from the family, designed and made the clothes for the residents of Ballymore. Rhonda designed dresses, but there were not many requested.

Like most of the other animals, Reginald couldn’t read or write. That meant he wouldn’t have been able to take measurements or make clothes of the proper size. Not a minor problem, to say the least. However, it was solved with the help of Sean Swan and Bartholomew. Sean procured a cloth measuring tape from somewhere, and Bartholomew taught Reginald how to use it. Thus Reginald became the Ballymore tailor.

Four times a year, February, May, July, and October he visited each home and took orders for the upcoming season. He would deliver the clothes and other fabric-made items in April, July, September, and December.

Right now, he was finishing a seam on a spring jacket for Merwin Mole. Most of the spring clothes and other items were already made and would be delivered with Rhonda’s baskets.

The day passed quickly and shortly after dinner, there was a knock on their door. Reginald answered.

“Why Bartholomew, how nice to see you.”

Bartholomew Owl entered and greeted them all. Rhonda had been expecting a reply from Bartholomew but wasn’t expecting a visit.

Bartholomew said, “I studied my plant books and have a probable answer for your rose bush problem. The leaf you sent me looks a lot like a picture in one book. It says that a fungus is the likely explanation.”

“Does the book say what can be done about it?” asked Rhonda.

“Yes. The brown leaves should be removed as soon as they appear. That should stop the fungus from spreading, and eventually, the plant will be fine.”

“You’re kidding!” exclaimed Rhonda.

“No, I’m not kidding. Why would I be kidding?” asked Bartholomew.

Then, Rhonda told Bartholomew about the worm she met in her garden.

Bartholomew said, ”It sounds like you have a very smart and helpful worm.”

“It certainly does,” she laughed.

Bartholomew had to rush off to a meeting he had called regarding the new boat, so he said goodbye and left.

Rhonda appreciated Bartholomew’s visit and was very pleased with what he had told her. She thought she should figure out a way to thank the worm. As it turned out, she never saw that worm again; so she didn’t get the opportunity.

Over the next week, the rabbits kept busy making the baskets. The sticks were cut to size and weaved together. It was a slow process but was a family tradition, and they enjoyed it.